In last week’s essay (The Worst Gift Ever), we discussed the concepts of gifts and our ego’s investment in specialness – particularly in the giving and receiving of attack, criticism, and judgment. We closed that essay by looking at how everything in the world, including even the worst gifts ever, could be transformed into the most precious presents.
Today, I’d like to share a brief story of one of those precious presents that I and many others were blessed to receive. He was an author and scholar named Dr. Kenneth Wapnick, perhaps best known as the primary editor and teacher of A Course in Miracles.
When I first encountered the infamous blue book known as A Course in Miracles, I was immediately turned off by nearly everything the tome had to offer, particularly its Christian terminology, bible-like paper, and its blank verse iambic pentameter delivery. Further, I wondered, “How could anyone really believe what this book has to say? This seems something akin to a cult.”
A somewhat inauspicious start, to say the least.
Yet an inner drive – perhaps similar to an urging one might feel when drawn to a particular profession or hobby – kept pulling me back to the manuscript. So as an engineer and skeptic at heart – with a very healthy and well-tuned ego – I felt that if I met some of the original folks associated with this spirituality/philosophy and saw through the charade, I’d finally be able to put this book behind me and move on with my life.
Thus in July of 2004 I flew out to Temecula, CA to meet Ken Wapnick. And what happened next can only be described as massively transformative.
Here was an incredibly humble fellow with a thick Brooklyn accent and a stuttering speech impediment channeling the most loving, egoless energy I had ever experienced in this life. When we first met and shook hands, I immediately recognized all the “gifts” that I had been offering: judgment, condemnation, and cynicism to name just a few. There was indeed a charade to be seen through – my own ego. And so began my more earnest study of the non-dualistic thought-system/philosophy/spirituality of A Course in Miracles.
Ken’s gifted ability to articulate the Course’s message of love and forgiveness touched millions of lives around the world. He died yesterday (December 27, 2013) at his home in California at the age of 71. In the Song of Prayer, which was scribed a year after the Course was published, we learn about another way of seeing death – in which we lay down the body in gratitude having learned the classroom lessons this lifetime had to offer us.
As Ken noted, “Death is just another part of the journey. And it’s a journey that occurs in the mind. We should be grateful for lessons that we learned, and grateful that we can continue this journey for any lessons we still need to learn. Death is just the inevitable step where we’ve gone as far as we can go in this stage of our learning knowing that we will continue – until we finally accept the atonement and recognize that we never left the Oneness of our Source.”
The teachings of Dr. Kenneth Wapnick live on in every student touched by A Course in Miracles. I am grateful for that incredible gift.