So yesterday, for the first time, someone said with his voice "Waheguru ji ka Khalsa. Waheguru ji ki Fateh," and for the first time, I spoke those words to someone other than me or God. Not a big thing perhaps, but to me, completely new. And there was a witness, a friend whom I haven't yet told what's happening to me. There was a little test this week: I recently moved, and there are a few tangles etc, as there often are. On Tuesday I came home to no electricity. Okay: I'll have to actuallyreadprayers instead of listening to them... No fridge, no fan, tv, toaster... so, do I fall into my usual slot: grit teeth, roll a joint and brood in the darkness? My old teeth don't grit as well as once, and there's no pot in my house any more. Plus, brooding is wasteful. So I sat to think/meditate/cool off. First, I had to face the fact that a good, careful and practical Sikh would have been more timely in preventing this; fine, I messed up. Now fix it and move on. I can't fix it tonight, so I'll cook my perishables and say my prayers by candlelight - Guru Nanak didn't have a fluorescent reading lamp did he? Guru Arjan didn't watch tv after supper, what am I complaining about? I slept early and - for the first time - was awake and sharp at 3:30am. I was awake because of early bedtime; I was sharp because the water was COLD! Again: Guru Gobind Singh Ji didn't have heated water when he was on the run from the Mughals, but he kept up his prayers. In fact I think I'll retain the cold morning bath: clear awareness in morning light is not something I am used to. After prayer, on the gallery, watching the sky gleam, I asked, deep inside... "Am I doing okay?" There was a sense of wise, bearded satisfaction. Maybe not A-plus, but progress all the same. Maybe not a joyful hug, but an encouraging touch on the arm. When a day starts like this, it is easier to be nice, to work hard, and stand up for yourself. Of the five enemies, lust tends to be deadliest to me, but on days that start like this, everybody is good-looking and it's enough just to enjoy sharing the world with them. It takes 15-20 minutesto work on my motorcycle. Bikes are risky in any town, and I am sure there are dangerous drivers and terrible roads in a lot of places. Of course, you can't always avoid a little nationalistic hope that your own drivers/roads are a little worse. I spend 15-20 minutes singing "Waheguru" as I hop over potholes and dodge buses. And I smile at everybody - I still ride carefully, but I'm not afraid any more. I have been bearded for fifteen years, but it used to be always neatly trimmed and clipped. I enjoy the grey-streaked curls that now frame my chin, and, when colleagues (who are mostly women) ask "You're growing your beard?" I give my enigmatic grin. The head has attracted more notice; I've been shaven for 3 or 4 years. When the brown fuzz began, the question was: "You growing your hair?" and I'd say yes as before. Usually the question was complemented with a compliment, to which my stock reply has been: "Let's hope we both like it in a month!" Why don't I say anything? I am lucky enough to have some very good people around me: intelligent, liberal, and mostly accustomed to my radical moves. But I am reluctant to say what's going on. I can give all kinds of excuses for this - and I will - but know this first: I am not ashamed. I considered this, but no: I am proud to have been called by Guru ji, proud enough to be a little astonished. I just don't know how to broach the topic to folk who know me all too well. So below are my reasons/excuses for not yet "coming out" to my loved ones. 1. I am just not ready. In my mind I won't declare myself - to myself - until after my birthday: by then I'll have a kara (ordered online), and that is scheduled to be the first day in over 25 years in which I will have absolutely no tobacco - no, not a nerve-settling puff, not even the halfsies I'm sticking to this week. Until I comfortably survive that day, I don't deserve to take the name of Sikh onto myself. What happensafterthat day is anybody's guess. By the way, my local loved ones don't even know the smoking plan yet, so, my sadh sangat friends, I have come out to you. Now I had better succeed, right? 2. I expect the worst. I know, I'm not giving some folk due credit. People who stuck with me through Addiction, Rasta, AA, Religious Orders, marriage and God knows what else. But it's not them I'm worried about, nor even those I expect to mock and shake their heads. It's me. I don't to misrepresent Sikhi, I don't want to be in a position to get impatient, and I certainly don't want to start a theological debate. But... Idowant to be a Sikh, so I must build up my faith. 3. I'll have a lot of explaining to do. A majority of these conversations have to begin by explaining that, no, Sikhs and Muslims are not the same. I hope and pray I can give a faithful account. I may also have to explain that I don't hate or reject any of them. From relatives in the church, I anticipate the warning that hell & perdition will be worse for me because Ihadthe One True Baptism, and turned from it. Try debating that with a Christian Doctor of Theology! (Don't worry, I will) Then again... they too may yet surprise me. 4. It will mean some goodbyes. I certainly can't consort with folk who breathe tobacco and marijuana. When I quit drinking I had to steer away from "People, Places and Things" that might have been a temptation. It's the same now: I don't evenwantto hang around and get stoned, but trying to discuss spirituality - especially a spirituality so exotic to the local mainstream - will mean some frustration. At the same time, I must also consider that some - although I can't think who - might themselves hate and reject me on account of Guru. Only grace will get me through those. Again: I know I just have to say a prayer and do what must be done. Last evening, there was still no light. I washed up and sat for awhile. I toyed with the half-cigarette saved from afternoon coffee. Soon, a truck drove up and a couple men restored my power. I was just turning the radio on when the phone rang. It was perhaps the only Sikh in Jamaica, my Torontonian brother staying in another town. We met online - another digital miracle - and this was the first time we spoke live. While we discussed meeting up, my friend/neighbour came over, and in a couple minutes I finished the phone call. "What language was that?" she asked. "Punjabi." She gave me a look. "All will be revealed soon." She didn't press the point, and I declined to confess. She must know something is up. I appreciate her patience. "Soon," I emphasised. Soon andverysoon, it would appear. In a meeting today, colleagues who haven't seen me for a couple days are curious with their eyes, making me selfconscious. The receptionist repeats her previous compliment about my hair, but says she doesn't care for where my moustache is going. I promise that she will love it in a month. My closest colleague can surely notice the websites I visit... all these folk deserve some explanation... soon. It's a brisk, easy ride home... it's Friday. A quick stop to replace anything that melted, and the computer comes willingly on, singing "Waheguru, waheguru" for half a minute. The local stray cat (who is pregnant and means to adopt me) likes to hear the song, but after she realises there is no food in her immediate future, she drifts out. For all my digitally-recorded sangeet, all my electronic prayer-aids and documents, it's not such a far jump to a room, a table, and a place to sleep, only the bright moon shining in the tropical night. If there's a power cut, will I pick up my flute and try for some pleasant sounds? Read in the candle more of the sweet words that ring in my soul? I don't, in fact, have to wait for a power cut. It's nine o'clock, and I've put the lights off. The gallery overlooks nothing more scenic than a parking lot, but the trees and flowers around the cars are lovely, and the moon gives them a nice silvery cast. I've done fooling with my flute, and hear the night. There is an outdoor nightclub/restaurant that's very popular, and they appear to have an event. Halloween week I suppose. The music isn't bad, and it's distant enough not to intrude too much. The cat - full from my scraps - runs across the lot, chasing a bug I can't see. Every now and again, a car rumbles in or out. Occasional of voices or tv noise spurt from the other apartments. A baby cries, but he isn't serious, and a woman's voice soon has him laughing. Stuff is happening, lives unfolding, and there is a quiet, quiet centre, right... here. No name, no word, not even a thought. Utter silence. A sense of acknowledgment, calm, not laughing, but smiling, pleased. There is nothing but emotion for awhile. It's still early, but I should probably turn off the computer before I get drowsy. But first I should finish something I was writing. Thank you for your attention.