The Other World
I discover these days that I just don't recognize myself, I find
myself turning to glance into a mirror-only to ask myself, "Who
is that stranger?" And my heart leaps into my throat. I discover
these days that it's that way for me all the time. I come upon
myself as a stranger over and over again. Yes, yes, indeed, I
am a stranger in Paradise. It's not quite clear to me how I got
to Paradise: it wasn't on a train, or a ship, or a plane. . .
I seem to have just shown up there. . . Except that I seem to
remember bits and pieces of the journey.
It began in Australia when I experienced a bubbling up of new
life-sporadic though it was. It seems like it lasted about three
years-actually, I guess it was only two years. On the way home
from Australia we stopped in India, and it was there that the
bubbling became a flowing stream. One day it dawned on me that
the gift of the West is expanded time, and that the gift of the
East is expanded space. But the content is not in itself important.
To others, I'm sure that it even seems a bit mundane. When I got
back to Chicago, to my surprise I discovered that things were
bubbling for my colleagues as well. And somehow in the midst of
that realization, it dawned on me that I was in Paradise, or more
precisely, it dawned on me, that I was a stranger in Paradise.
The joke was on me, for I began to realize that the bubbling and
the flowing river had not begun in Australia at all. I remembered
the bubbling spring and the flowing river where I grew up. Oh,
things really bubbled in those days-my father used to tell stories.
He was the most fantastic story teller! I wish I could tell stories
like he did! I would say, "Do it again, Daddy, do it again!'
And there were only about four stories that I had him go over
again and again. The bubbling was everywhere I turned. Why, when
it rained, it was a real celebration. We used to go out into the
kitchen and the whole family would make donuts. My mother made
the batter; my father cooked them and my brother and I rolled
them in the sugar. Then we would go out on the screen porch and
eat donuts, play cards and watch it rain. Yes, I suppose that
from the beginning of my consciousness things were bubbling for
me. What I began to realize was that I had been a stranger in
Paradise all of my life.
Therefore, as you might imagine, Paradise is fairly familiar
terrain for me. There is the Land of Mystery, the River of Consciousness,
the Mountain of Care and finally, there is the Sea of Tranquillity.
Yes, I know the topography like I know the palm of my hand. But
it is like being an explorer: it's a lot more fun being on this
side of the expedition that it is being in the midst of it.
I remember my first encounter in the Land of Mystery. . . Well,
maybe it was not the first, but it was the occasion in which I
became aware of the Land of Mystery as I had never been aware
before. My aunt and uncle had come out to stay with my brother
and me, while my mother went about a hundred miles away to the
hospital for minor surgery. She would be back in a week.
A couple of days later the telephone rang, and I was in the room
next to the telephone when my aunt answered it. As I overheard
the conversation, I said to myself, "No, you can't think
things like that." The next morning we drove into town, and
on the way into town I said to myself, "No, you can't think
things like that." We got into town and drove by the hospital
and my father came walking down the steps of the hospital. He
was red in the face as he always got on particular kinds of occasions,
and I said to myself, "No! you can't think thoughts like
that." Three hours later my mother was dead. I was nine years
old at the time. Oh! I had been stopped by the Mystery. Why? Why?
FOREVER UNKNOWABLE. It was so unexpected: The Mystery was ETERNALLY
REMOTE. Nothing was secure. But, oh my, the honoring of the Mystery,
the singular adoration from that point forth. Since then the Mystery
and I have walked hand in hand. If you've been to Africa you've
seen how the African men walk down the street with their little
fingers interlocked? That's like the Mystery and me-our little
fingers are interlocked. I've walked hand in hand with the Mystery
And then there is the River of Consciousness. You can't imagine
how I came to know the River of Consciousness. It started when
I was very, very young, with the fact that I never got to do any
of the things I wanted to do. I never got to go hill climbing.
I never got to go swimming because there were only boys and you
know they went swimming in the river. . . I never got to do anything,
because I was either a girl or too little. That is to say, I grew
up with the most fantastic victim image one could ever imagine.
And by the time I got married, I mean, it was highly polished.
Now that wasn't a problem for my husband at all. As a matter of
fact, he played it to the hilt. He won 90% of our fights that
first year, (and that was a lot), solely by using, playing overagainst,
my victim image. Well, as time went on, something happened to
my victim image. It flipped. And I was a child of the fate and
that began to intensify until it illuminated my destiny and I
was able to BE my destiny. That is to say, I sensed myself as
predestined. Now I don't know what that means theologically, but,
oh boy, my Presbyterian grandmother would love that. I sensed
myself with my DESTINY in my hands.
And then there was the Mountain of Care. Now this is relatively
new terrain for me and yet not unfamiliar. One day, well, I don't
remember the context exactly, but I remember that I was particularly
present to the Mystery and it suddenly came clear as a bell to
me that there was no difference from one man to the next. It came
clear that there is no distinction. Everyman is nameless. There
is no quantitative or qualitative difference. No distinction.
That was the experience of the Mountain of Care for me.
Then there is the Sea of Tranquillity. It seems barely within
my reach. It's like I am standing on a cliff, looking down into
the Sea of Tranquillity. It's really weird. What's happened is
that I've discovered I just don't get angry anymore. That is to
say, one of my resources, hostility, is just gone. I don't know
why but I don't have any "natural" hostility anymore.
Oh, I can stage a "mad" all right. You should see me.
It makes my husband so nervous. He is always afraid my colleagues
down the hall will hear me. And I know they can. That makes it
all the more exciting. I mean, when I am really putting one on,
that's the whole point. I had lots of practice with such drama
before my hostility disappeared, so it's really perfected. When
I think the situation needs it, I just stage one. But the difference
is that when I finish the show and turn to go away, there is always
As you can tel, the topography of this Paradise is quite vast.
I am going to spend more time now in the Land of Mystery in the
area of Enveloped by the Mystery. Now, when you go to the Other
World, there is always an occasion-something always occasions
the trip. You don't just decide to go to the Other World. No one
would dare such a venture.
I remember another occasion in which I had been particularly present
to the Mystery just one day after another after another after
another in which I could see that Mystery was everywhere I turned,
and then all of a sudden the Mystery was in me. I wasn't in the
Other World; the Other World was in me; and I was in the Other
World. And when you're in the Other World, you don't go around
observing, judging, weighing up, deciding and acting. You simply
behold; you BEHOLD. And the Mystery took its form in me. It was
as though I wasn't there at all, but I was standing outside myself
watching the whole thing-watching the Mystery. Then all of a sudden,
there is ONLY the Mystery. And then, oh my, awe is everywhere.
There is awe there and there and there. . .
I remember another occasion that flipped me into the Other World.
And these occasions happen in the most mundane moments. We have
for the last two years lived in New York City. Ah, that's quite
a place. You look up at the buildings-awe! We lived near the only
private park in New York City-that's where the Religious House
is-I mean there is awe in that little private park. And then there's
this lady known as the Grammercy Park Lady. She wanders around
with several overcoats on. In the winter time that made great
sense to me, but then it came spring time and she still wore them.
l mean there is AWE. But that isn't the story I was going to tell.
The particular incident I wanted to tell you about that occasioned
my visit to the Other World did happen in New York. It could have
happened almost anywhere, but not to anyone. My husband had warned
me before we married that having the name "Buss"
was utterly unique but not unrelated to other parts of the
universe. That phenomenon is likewise available to our children,
Elizabeth, who is six years old, and Lindsey, who is four years
old. One day the children and I went up town shopping and when
it was time to come back we caught the bus. And my, the AWE, as
we rode along in that bus peering out the window. It was fantastic.
Then we got off at our bus stop and began to walk home when Lindsey
looked up at me and said, "The bus, my last name, they match."
Awe! Unrepeatable! Uniquely manifest! You couldn't have destroyed
the awe if you tried. My daughter tried: "But they are not
spelled the same." But the awe is eternal.
Our awareness may pass on, but the awe never does. But have you
ever noticed that when the awe gets too much for you and you just
can't stand it any longer, you try to destroy it? You begin to
do battle with the Mystery and you begin to bargain with him.
But, the Mystery always wins. He provides me with a kind of immovable
design of the situation. He boxes me in, and in the midst of that
boxing in, he determines-that is to say, the possibility is only
freighted in that box and nowhere else. Finally, that box is the
sole vehicle through which any possibility is actualized and it
is only on the other side of coming to terms with the fact that
the Mystery is in charge that he will bargain with you a bit.
And then he'll let you bargain-once you're utterly clear on that.
And I love to bargain. I'm really good at it, too. I grew up in
South Texas, where if you went across the border, you learned
to bargain. Have I ever told you about my theory about bargaining?
It is different in the red man Ur than it is in the yellow man
Ur. In the red man Ur, what you do is that just as you get them
going on what you really like, then you walk away, and they say,
"Come back, come back, come back, come back." And so
you reluctantly go back. You repeat that methodology about three
times and if you are really good, you get the price down. I tried
that when I went to Asia, in Hong Kong. I'd walk away, and they
didn't tell me to come back. Well, that disturbed me a bit, and
so I did my homework trying to figure it out. Well, it's
utterly different. What you have to do when you go to Asia is
to say how much you'd really like that, and then you shuffle your
feet a little bit, and then you say, "That is really fantastic,"
and then occasionally you drop in that you were not going to pay
that much for it, but you never walk away. You never walk away.
Well, that's free. The other point about bargaining with the Mystery
is that it is never the same way twice.
Well, another thing you have to keep in mind when you are reminiscing
about Paradise is that it doesn't always strike you as Paradise.
One of the occasions I remember was when I was about 4 or 5 years
old. I can't believe I was that young, but I'm sure I was. It
was on the ranch 25 miles from town and there weren't any girls
to play with, but there was one little boy just my age. Though
I was really a good little girl, he was a little bit of a devil.
One day he had some matches, so we began to play with them. Well,
you know, when you get started, it really gets fascinating. There
is nothing to stop you. And so I am sure it was his idea that
we go to the outhouse and start tearing off pages of the Sears
catalogue (for you younger ones, that's not for reading), lighting
them, and dropping them down the hole. My, was that fascinating!
You get a little momentum with a Sears catalogue; they're thick.
And we kept dropping them down the hole. And these gorgeous flames
came up, and they got bigger and bigger and suddenly the whole
outhouse was on fire. I didn't know what to do! I mean I was caught.
Finally, I crept back and told my father that I couldn't tell
for sure, but I thought I saw the outhouse on fire. The flames
swelled, and soon there was nothing. And I knew all eyes-there
were only 8 or 10 people-were on me. My father didn't say anything.
He never confronted me with how it was that that outhouse had
gotten on fire. And so I was left with a kind of vacuum; but during
that vacuum I kept wondering when he was going to mention that
to me. Well, whether or not he knew that I had done it, it dawned
on me who I was; that good little girl, an "outhouse burnerupper."
What a mess, and had I made it! The universal eye was on me. Utterly,
The various occasions that flip you into the Other World somehow
bring you into an intense awareness that has a clarity way beyond
the intellectual. It has a kind of cleanness, a sharpness that
allows you to be particularly present to those awarenesses. It
has to do with what it's like to be a "stranger in Paradise."
And whatever else you know, you're a stranger there; and whatever
else you know, it's Paradise; and whatever else you know, you
know that the only Paradise there is, once you've been there,
is the Paradise of the Other World.
Well, let's talk about the area of Enveloped by the Mystery in
a little different way. It's sort of like having xray vision.
You can see to the dead center of-Jodi Dressler-like that. And
you don't miss any situation, but you are able to pierce to the
center of it. You are transparently involved in every situation.
It is also like having the Midas touch. Everything you touch turns
into gold-only it is AWE it turns into. Then you want to say "on
the other hand," but there is no "on the other hand"
in the Other World. Another experience of the Other World is that
it is like being on an expressway and suddenly you come upon a
detour sign. You're no longer in charge! It's also like knowing
you are being watched through a keyhole. All of which is to say,
you begin to get whirled. The Mystery engulfs you and you begin
to whirl and whirl and whirl. And then if you'll let me, I'll
tell you more.
And you'd better believe it. There is a kind of levitational submission.
It's like you're traveling three feet off the ground all the time.
Travel isn't the right word, because there is no movement, except
a stationary kind. You find yourself all over the whole universe,
only it is like over the whole world because it's three feet off
the ground; that submission is due to the fact that you don't
go out into never, never land, but rather you're related three
feet off the ground. It's like that movie "Around the World
in 80 Days," except you never touch ground. And you'd better
Then sometimes there is a kind of panting, a welling. Did you
ever find yourself utterly short of breath? You weren't running
or anything, just sitting there, and you found that you were short
of breath, and finally you had to take a deep breath and sigh?
That kind of panting, or welling. You'd better believe it!
Another experience of this Paradise of the Other World is a raging
paralysis; all your passions are unloosed, and yet you are utterly
paralyzed. Did you ever wake up trying to scream in the midst
of a dream in which you knew you had to cry out for help and you
couldn't? Perhaps in your dream you were trying to run, but try
as you may you were utterly paralyzed. Or maybe you'd rather talk
about a sense of chastened humility. You show up discovering yourself,
just meek as a lamb. What happened to all that passion?-a sense
that I really got burnt. However you concretize it, you are Enveloped
by the Mystery in raw particularization.
Then there is another kind of a flip, whereby I am no longer a
stranger in Paradise-Paradise is in me, who will be forever a
stranger to this world forever strange. Strange isn't enough.
It's madness. It's madness. Do you want to hear some of it? THE
WHOLE WORLD BELONGS TO ME. It's madness isn't it? It's madness
all right. Do you want to hear more? EVERY MOMENT IS A CELEBRATION.
Let those moments pass over your eyes. Every moment is a celebration.
Do you want to hear more? Like it or not: THIS IS MY FATHER'S
WORLD. Just period. And you may as well say it in front of all
the witnesses, because they will see any way. IT'S NOT MY WORLD:
IT'S MY FATHER'S WORLD. Want to hear just a little bit more, like
it or not? I AND I ALONE AM RESPONSIBLE FOR THE WHOLE SHOW. It's
madness, isn't it? And none of it makes sense. Yet, I know that
I am condemned to be a madman, forever possessed with the madness
of a stranger in Paradise.