It was a bright and sunny day, albeit a somewhat chilly March day in London. Walking briskly toward the café before leading a service at St Chad’s later on, I couldn’t help but notice the scarves wrapped tightly around the necks of passers-by, hats of every colour being worn, and that, others were walking, like me, briskly to generate some body heat. It was a very chilly day. It was one of those ‘no cloud, blue sky, but ‘don’t-stay-outside-too- long’ days that occur around this time of the year, here.
As I opened the café door, the comforting aroma of freshly-brewed coffee filled my nostrils, there was the familiar murmur of indistinct chatter, and warm air enveloped me like an invisible, comforting, almost tangible ‘welcome-back’ hug. A drip, due to the change in temperature, hung on the end of my nose and tickled (and, yes, I left it there, well, at least for a few seconds to enjoy the experience), and my stomach churned in anticipation. This place was my second home….well, third home, but it’s a long story.
Moving toward the only place that was free – a place on the bench, communal table, in the centre of the café, I disrobed and hung my coat and scarf, and knitted hat of many colours (avec un pompon) on the back of the chair, as did everyone else (that is, on their own respective chairs), except the guy sitting opposite me. He, busy typing on his iPad, oblivious to everyone around him, and seemed not to have any outer layers on his chair, and was dressed in an unseasonal open neck, thin cotton-like shirt and shorts! No scarf. No woolly hat. No outer coat.
As I sat down, I caught the eye of the barista, who smiled and nodded a knowing nod, and who started to prepare the usual latte for me, with an oh-so-welcome warm croissant. My stomach ‘groaned’ in expectation, and I pulled out my IPad from my backpack, placed it on the table, to check my emails.
Oh boy. As I trashed most of them – and answered the remaining few, I was caught by surprise. I had trashed twenty ‘buy this’ type of emails, but the figure ’21’ appeared in the trash folder.
‘There is more?’, I questioned, out loud, though I had intended to say it only to myself.
‘Mae mwy*,’ came the reply from the shirt and shorts guy, opposite.
That phrase! Could this be the ‘shadow man’, who had used that phrase before; the one who described himself as being ‘like an angel’, and who had saved that elderly woman’s life by knocking her down and (only) breaking her ankle? It sounded like him, but it was such a brief encounter before, and it was some weeks ago. [[Previous episode, #1]
I wasn’t entirely sure if it was him. But, the hair on the back of my neck stood on end as he spoke, and though I was in a warm café, an icy chill now enveloped me just for a second or two.
‘Pardon?,’ I said.
‘Mae mwy*, it’s Welsh for ‘there is more’, he said in an exquisite Welsh ‘valley’ accent. ‘It’s what you said in English,’ he said, and smiled.
‘Rw i’n dy ddeal di!**’, I replied in my north Wales ‘wilderness’ accent [which means ‘I do understand you!’], and smiled a somewhat sarcastic smile, widening my grin just a little more than usual, raising my eyebrows, and tilting my head.
He continued typing on his IPad, as did I.
A few minutes later he spoke again. ‘What do you see, Tadhg?’.
Having finished my emails, and closing the iPad into the add-on keyboard, I smiled, and now had some time to engage this mysterious, unseasonally-dressed guy, and, perhaps, find out if he was, indeed, the ‘shadow man’ I had encountered some weeks earlier.
‘So, what do you see, Tadhg?,’ he said again.
‘Well. I see the latte and croissant the barista has just brought over!’, I replied.
‘That’s a good start’, he said. I wasn’t sure now if he was being sarcastic.
He continued, ‘I know you know that there are three ways of perceiving reality as your type perceive it, but sometimes it’s just good to pause and take it slow and really know. It’ll help you in the future, for what is ahead.’
‘Do you know, you have me at a disadvantage. I really don’t know what you mean. What is my type? What does the mean? What is going to happen in the future? How will this help me?’, I quizzed him.
‘It sounds bizarre, Tadhg, so I’ll take it slow’, he said, and now I knew he was being sarcastic, paying me back for my sarcasm to him, earlier. ‘We’ve met before. Your kind, which includes all the people in this café, and indeed all the people on the planet have been around, in another form, for some time before physical birth. Think, ‘big bang!’. It’s just that you can’t remember it now in this form, well, at least for a little while, but one day you will, when you’re home again. And your type? We call you ‘the Great Ones’, and if you need more information, as a book-lover, check out C S Lewis’s ‘The Great Divorce’ which will explain more about the phrase and your kind, and your kind’s amazing status’.
He paused as if to let me digest that information, and then continued, ‘Knowing that all that happens in the future is something you’ve agreed to, and you have (before birth), will get you and your kind through some tough challenges ahead in this life. And knowing, that ultimately, all roads lead home will spur you on, will assure you all, immensely. You will draw strength from that. All planned. All agreed by you. A touch of telluric-amnesia, perhaps. And then, finally, back home.’
‘But there’s more’, he said, rather pleased with himself that that was the umpteenth time he had used that phrase. There’s the three ways of seeing things! I know you know about that, but now must know that. Go deeper!’.
I was intrigued. Slightly uneasy that those to my left and right might hear the conversation, which was an odd conversation to say the least, but, as if by magic, they seemed oblivious to me, the strange guy and the conversation.
I looked at the croissant on the plate, paused, then bit into it, chewed and sipped the coffee, and kept both in my mouth, momentarily. I know. An awful habit to mix the two in my mouth, but so wonderful. Bliss! Before I could swallow, he continued.
‘There are three ‘depths’ or realms to everything, including your croissant. Firstly, there’s the shallow, surface understanding. Taking the croissant as an example, I’m sure you can tell me it’s composition by analysis, where it came from by pointing to the map, how it was made, and the marks of a good and bad croissant. You like warm croissant, don’t you?’, he said, without pausing for an answer. ‘That’s first level perception. The senses. The physical. The visible realm.
‘The second level of perception and second realm’, he said, ‘is the intelligible realm, the invisible realm, and understanding of that comes not by the senses but by the mind, by reason and imagination. I’m sure you can tell me about the goodness of that croissant, and the effect it will have on your body, and what that means. Bread is life. You know that. It’s reasonable to believe that. It’s about going deeper’, this man of mystery said, and who now had my full attention.
‘But, there’s even more,’ he continued’, the third level of perception and reality is the ‘why? and beyond’. The spiritual realm. The fact that you need it, to eat, to live, and have been given it, and by whom is a mystery, that is beyond reason, and can only be merely accepted and enjoyed. It’s why each time you eat, first thing in the morning, whether it’s a cereal breakfast at home, or this croissant this morning in this café, you pause and pray the HaMotzi*** blessing over it each time’.
‘Hold on,’ I interjected’. How do you know that? It’s true I do say that blessing over whatever I eat first thing in the day, sometimes at home, sometimes here in the café, sometimes under my breath so as not to attract attention in a public space, and sometimes just in my head. But how do you know that?’.
‘Ah, each time you do that, he replied, ‘I’m right there, invisibly, right by your side joining in, in gratitude, to the Great Provider. I never miss an opportunity for giving gratitude. You know, If your kind in their current state, when they pray, could see the awesome vicarious power you spur into action and mingle with, the magnitude of that pure and loving energy that you invoke and direct, the ripples that permeate from you that affect both space and time itself, the interest of the Great Provider who is always near you (all) and yet draws closer still in awe of you all, you would pray a lot more, and a lot more confidently. I wish your kind could glimpse just for a second the power of it now, that you were all once aware of, when you where at Home, before birth, and see what I see. It’s a powerful gift given to all from the Great Provider. This is the third and deepest level of perception and of reality, and you need to be aware of it, really aware of it, the power of Spirit, and use it in the days of transition ahead. You and your kind.’
With that, he picked up his iPad, walked toward the door, as I tried to fully recall what he had just said. His words were going over and over in my mind. He opened the café door to leave. I knew I had the opportunity of asking only one question before he left.
‘Will you be back?’, I asked. ‘Of course’, he replied, ‘Mae mwy, there is more’.
– oOo –
* Mae mwy [pronounced ‘may moy-oh’] roughly translates as, ‘There is more.’
** Rw i’n dy ddeal di [pronounced ‘RRoo een duh theh-arll dee’] roughly translates as ‘I do understand you!’.
*** The HaMotzi blessing is, ‘Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth’, and is said by Tadhg before eating cereal breakfast or croissant each day. He loves liturgy and ritual, and sees it as a conduit to that third realm, that third level of perception.