I discover every day how much of a sinner I've been, but it surprises me that it comes not with the shame and self-loathing I was trained into; rather, I gain in confidence knowing what to improve. Guru said He could make a hero out of anybody. As I observe myself, little baby steps over the moments, over hours, gathering into days... I believe more and more. It's difficult to put things in order. I’ve chosen some themes that I hope will help. 1. Professional writing: I am one of those who was scribbling stories and poems as soon as I was literate. Showing off for peers, family, etc. with my efforts, I figured out what was good. A friendly neighbour in a large advertising company enlisted me at 19. I have never been far from advertising since; it has always helped me earn some dollars, and provided an entry into writing/producing/performing in theatre, radio, tv, etc. I’ve written in every medium. I actually have three ready-for-editor novels in my pocket. Trouble is, I have become rather egotistical about it, even if I don't boast. I should have known better a long time ago, but it just hit me: Even knowing God, I cannot describe Him; He cannot be described in words. The Guru has given me this one understanding: there is only the One, the Giver of all souls. The talent/skill I’m so proud of is nothing before the Giver of all souls. A surprisingly liberating idea. 2. "Magic": As a child, I was as greedy in reading as prolific in writing. Among the things that fascinated me were astrology, card-reading, etc. I could cast a birthchart before I was 16, and have read cards professionally. I used to be proud of this, but now I am rather blank. I can't honestly say I am as ashamed as perhaps i should be; I can't erase the past, even if I can throw away my cards and delete my astrology software. I am assured: Listening... the oceans, the lands of the world and the nether regions of the underworld. Listening... Death cannot even touch you. O Nanak, the devotees are forever in bliss. Listening... pain and sin are erased. Waheguru. Waheguru. Waheguru. Waheguru. Waheguru. 3. Drugs and alcohol: I am a recovering alcoholic. I wrote and drank since age 8, and was sure one made the other possible. I stopped before I got sick, dead or arrested by joining a 12-step group, where I would still be quite active if I hadn't changed country. I don't drink, after 6 years, one day at a time (applause). I started marijuana at 13, and have hardly been without it as an adult. Here in Jamaica it's not the outrage it might be in Britain, Australia or North America, or India, for all I know. A lot of we slave-children learned from our mothers' mothers to ease our mind with weed after a day's hard toil. Recently I have come to feel I've smoked enough and weaned myself off. There are still cravings, but... one day at a time. When the hands and the feet and the body are dirty, water can wash away the dirt. When the clothes are soiled and stained by urine, soap can wash them clean. But when the intellect is stained and polluted by sin, it can only be cleansed by the Love of the Name. Virtue and vice do not come by mere words; actions repeated, over and over again, are engraved on the soul. So, Guru has been saving me all along... minute by minute, day by day. How can I not love Him? 4. The Church: I was brought up Catholic. I have an uncle who is the Former Archbishop of Kingston, one who’s a Jesuit brother, and an aunt a Franciscan nun. They are beautiful people. Flawed, but beautiful, like most of us. My Catholic experience was not so bad; I wasn't forced into anything, either by my parents, nor local priests. As a child I loved to pray, and developed my God-relationship in this Christian context. Typical rebellious teenager, I later became an intellectual atheist (I think the term now is "secular humanist"), that is, one who, for "logical" reasons, denies God (stupid boy!). However, in the early 90's, a sad and lonely time, following a financially disastrous theatre project and an emotionally catastrophic romance, I - almost literally - felt the touch of God. And there was an almost-literal voice, irresistible, that said "serve me". Over 20 months, with deep happiness, I talked to people - relatives last of all - and read, and prayed, believed this course was right and followed it. My promise was that I would remain celibate, and go wherever to do whatever the Franciscan Order told me. I gave stuff away, quit my job and moved in with some American Friars, much older than me (some with serious personal problems), and was content. Then the Order pulled out of Jamaica, and I had to decide to stay or go (I hadn't made solemn vows yet). I stayed, and moved in with my uncle the Bishop. For a couple months I was virtually left alone. I had to wait from June to January for the seminary term to begin, but in September, I met a big, beautiful Trinidadian woman, with whom I had a whirlwind romance, a brief, sentimental courtship, and a marriage of seven years. The idea had been to "serve God as a married man", but it didn't work out. Prayer faded, I got lazy. I let the usual distractions distract me. My marriage is worth a whole testimony by itself, but suffice to say it was an important, enriching experience for the most part. By the end - around 2002 - my bond with the Divine One was weak, weak. So many waste away to death engaged in corruption. So many take and take again, and then deny receiving. So many foolish consumers keep on consuming. So many endure distress, deprivation and constant abuse. Even these are Your Gifts, O Great Giver! Liberation from bondage comes only by Your Will. No one else has any say in this. If some fool should presume to say that he does, he shall learn, and feel the effects of his folly. I returned to Jamaica, sober at least. I went back to pre-priestly life: Making good money, enough to give some away and live well. Still fiddling with stars and cards and numbers, still dabbling in a rather aimless sexual relationships, and wondering about my life. Being experienced and fairly capable allows me a fair amount of (legitimate) on-the-job leisure, which I can use in learning from the internet, and that, through its digital miracle, brings me here. I have been reading words I feel I’ve always known. The material is not all new, but it reaches me in a new way... or is it a new place? All my logic and emotion scream follow this! and it is all I can do not to run to you with eyes full of tears. Haste has hurt me before: time is my friend. All along I’ve wanted something to commit to. Something worthy of all my life and strength. Something that can help me make the most of me. Something that can show me what the most of me is. Because there is no fool like and old fool, but I’m not that old, and not that much a fool. I want to acknowledge His demand (request? suggestion?) for service. I see Sikhism and I know it means deep, deep service. It demands fearless commitment, especially in my circumstances. It speaks to me spiritually, logically, emotionally, practically, artistically, mystically, and even registers in my mixed cultural heritage. The only question is whether I have what it takes, and time alone can tell me that. So I am that fellow at the entrance, who wants to come in, but hasn't moved. I know it’s me that needs Sikhism, not the other way round. And as you can see, I need it rather badly; I haven't even mentioned my adulteries, my 22 tattoos, my bald head, 30+ years of smoking, prison time, a short Rastafarian time, nor, for that matter, my art, except the bit you are reading. Given my history, I would be rash to predict what may happen when I come closer. To the Sikhs I have been trying to find for a long couple weeks, all I can now say is that you should never take your faith for granted. It is a marvellously divine and noble inheritance. You (we?) have been selected and marked to try a little bit harder, for everybody's benefit. I love you all. Sat nam.