“If you have to ask, you wouldn’t understand.”

I was reminded of this saying once again the other day. It comes from my old Harley motorcycle days. In my journey through life and all the “strange” things I’ve done and do, I have often been asked, “Why do you do that?” Or its variation, “Why would anyone want to do something like that?” Been here before. Done that. So, here’s the story…

An old biker getting off his Harley and dressed in full black leather riding gear was approached by a little old lady, obliviously mainstream and well to do. She asked, “Why do you ride those things? They’re noisy and just look at the type of people who ride them.” He looked at her and politely said, “Mam, if I have to explain, you wouldn’t understand,” and he walked off, leaving her standing there.

Now, this is not a post about Harleys, although I sometimes miss them. It is a post about my current life and a course I’m just finishing teaching. I have been teaching an OLLIE course through Clemson University. OLLIE for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute presents short courses for retired folks, usually taught by retired faculty from Clemson, that be me in this case. Twenty-five plus years ago I had taught one on recombinant DNA for what was then OLLIE and while I was still a faculty at Clemson. It had been fun. Retired folks signup and take these courses because they’re interested in the topics and enjoy learning new stuff. They are lifelong learners. It is a great program.

The topic of my course, based on my new Guru book, was ” Medicine Wheels, Vision Quests, and Jungian Archetypes.” It was three lectures and one experiential where I will give participants an opportunity to meet one of their own personal archetypes, face-to-face, so to speak. All lectures are done via Zoom.

The course was one of my forays to see if there was interest out there for some of the stuff in which I am interested and to potentially give myself an avenue for a new path as I walk away from my current job from burnout and into the unknown at this point. Not sure where I’m going, but I’ll know when I get there.

In the first lecture, at the end of it, one of the participants asked me, “Why would you want to do something like that?” I smiled, and told her and the very small class, first the old Harley riders response, and then a story of a physician I had been working with many years ago. However, this being a class and all, I took a deep breath and gave her a partial explanation, on which I went much more into detail at the beginning of the next lecture. Then, in the spirit of learning, weaved in my answer over the next two lectures for good measure.

As for the physician story, I had just come back from the vision quest that I wrote about in Guru. Several of the staff had gathered round me when I came back, curious about where I had been and what I had been doing, and all sorts of questions about my experience. Somewhere toward the end of that telling, the physician had walked up and was listening. When I had finished he asked me,

“Why would you want to do anything like that?” Although he had done work with medical intuitive, Carolyn Myss, and was himself pretty good at it, as well as certified in acupuncture. he was pretty arrogant and cocky, and I had bit my tongue with him more than once in our pas in one of his smart ass remarks. It was Payback” time: I looked at him and said, “Well, Bobby, if I have to explain, you wouldn’t understand,” and like the old biker, just left him standing there as I walked off to see my first patient. He never asked me again. Okay, back to my story.

So after all my pains to explain to the lady, on the last day’s lecture, she essentially re-asked me same question, saying couldn’t you have accomplished the same thing with say, a spiritual director, or something else, and not put yourself through all of that?

At that moment I realized two things. First, once again I was reminded that in the spiritual work I’ve done, I am at least two standard deviation outside the population mean, certainly, the local, even highly educated, population. Despite the high degree of education of these folks, she had a masters’ in social work, and many of the participants had at masters and doctorate degrees, this was not going to ever be an audience that was interested in what I had learned and wanted to share. Second, if I have to explain, you wouldn’t understand.


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