By Justin B Wright
I first met Lilian around 1998 while directing the TV show of another producer at TCTV. Lilian was the guest on “Living Solutions with Nancy Seals”, a live psychic call-in show. She poached me (willingly) away from Nancy, and I began to direct her show “A Visit with a Person of High Strangeness.” I had started my own live show, “Dance O’ Dance” with an awful timeslot of Wednesdays at 4PM. It wasn’t until we switched to Fridays at 8PM that we under-stood just how awful the previous timeslot had been. One Wednesday afternoon the only person dancing that hour was Lilian!
In her first book, “And the Moral of the Story is… One Person at a Time,” Lilian encounters grasshoppers on a road trip and looks up the significance. When a grasshopper appears it is in indication of an uncanny leap. I felt an affinity for this creature going back to my childhood. I used to watch David Carradine in the TV show Kung Fu. His character, a Chinese-American Shaolin monk, was nicknamed “Grasshopper” by his old blind master.
Master Po: [after easily defeating the boy in combat] Ha, ha, never assume be-cause a man has no eyes he cannot see. Close your eyes. What do you hear?
Young Caine: I hear the water, I hear the birds.
Master Po: Do you hear your own heartbeat?
Young Caine: No.
Master Po: Do you hear the grasshopper that is at your feet?
Young Caine: [looking down and seeing the insect] Old man, how is it that you hear these things?
Master Po: Young man, how is it that you do not?
When I decided to pursue martial arts in college, I studied an Indonesian-American style known as Poekoelan. My teacher illustrated the philosophy of the style using the rose: beautiful petals hiding deadly thorns.
I also studied the post-modern Japanese dance form, Butoh. My teacher there also used the rose as a powerful symbol meaning the impermanence of suffering and persistence of love. I grew up in Portland, known as the City of Roses. I had a great aunt, a sister, and a girlfriend named Rose. [Technically, for two of them, it was their middle name.]
It made sense that I would choose a rose for my first tattoo, at the Electric Rose tattoo parlor.
When I read the passage in “And the moral…” that mentioned grasshoppers I under-stood that this insect had been one of my spirit animals. Lilian took a trip to Colorado that year and asked if she could bring anything back for me. Without hesitation I replied, “A grasshopper.” She waited in a field for several hours with a friend and caught one for me in a jar. When she gave me the jar, all I saw was what looked like the ghost of a grasshopper in the bottom. Neither of us knew at the time that a grasshopper sheds its skin, or more technically its exoskeleton, like a snake. The actual living grasshopper was still alive and hiding on the inside lid of the jar. He had undergone transformative growth and left his old self behind. I decided then to honor my spirit animal by getting a grasshopper as my second tattoo.
A grasshopper jumps into a bar, and the bartender says, “You know, we have a drink named after you.”
The grasshopper looks surprised and says, “You have a drink named Herbie?”
Several years later, on March 14, I was in Ellensburg and decided to commemorate Pi ith a Pi tattoo. To me it represents the irrationality of life. Pi is an “irrational number” that cannot be expressed as a ratio of whole numbers. When I told the artist I wanted “the symbol for Pi” he gave a quizzical look and assuming I meant “PIE” began to reach for his Japanese dictionary. “No, no, the math thing,” interrupted the girl running the register, and she quickly jotted down the familiar table shaped marks: π. The artist took it on himself to thicken the lines, and now I have something reminiscent of a Wolf Howling at the Moon. By the way, did you know that 314 is PIE backwards? Mind=blown.
I only have four tattoos, and you must hear about the final one because Lilian both inspired and paid for it. It actually completes the set in a way. In 200married but between jobs when I heard from Lilian that she planned to attend the 12thAnnual in Laughlin, Nevada. She needed a cameraman to come along so she could interview some of the world famous guests. The trip was financed by her angel investors, and all my travel, food and lodging would be covered. I leapt at the idea. I sorely needed an adventure like those she’d described in her book.
Let me step back for a moment to explain my position on all the High Strangeness. My father is one of the world’s ultimate skeptics. He’s an electrical engineer who got into forensic animations (cartoons recreating fatal accidents). For him everything has either a rational explanation, or it’s crazy made-up bull$#*! My mother was a lawyer, and things need to pass the evidence test as well or they are inadmissible. Facts are separate from hearsay. Granted, she also has a willingness to entertain certain poetic and mystical notions like: Your Car is Your Way. Her parents originally came from the Indonesian island of Java. Although they (and she) were raised Catholic, there were ancient animistic beliefs woven throughout the community. I heard that great Grampa had a Keris (a traditional curvy sword forged with an alloy of meteorite iron) that protected him in snake infested territory. Oma Selma told me that she was able to see auras. Opa Rudy got deep into the Woo-Woo and often talked about Edgar Cayce, reincarnation, and the Egyptian god Ra. The rest of the family didn’t exactly encourage that kind of conversation. They all basically humored him. That’s what I learned to do. I learned to be a somewhat dispassionate listener.
As the director for Nancy and later for Lilian, I didn’t have to believe all the theories of the guests to make good television. In fact, it’s easier to focus on the technical side of the job when you can compartmentalize the content as “the audio signal” or “the video insert”. It’s a lot harder if you take the myriad conspiracy theories (or cancer cures) to heart. Point being, I have had to indulge a lot of exhibitionistic people who needed their moment of fame, but it was all For Entertainment Purposes Only. That changed with the trip to Laughlin.
Lilian and I volunteered to be judges for the documentary film festival, watching dozens of movies about Angels, UFOs, Aliens, Orbs, and Crop Circles. Many of them pushed the limits of credulity and would not pass the giggle test. An “artist’s rendering” of the “being” you say you saw doesn’t convince me.
However, one subject had ample photographic, videographic, and physical evidence in les. They are undeniably real. The phenomenon has evolved over the centuries from simple circles to intricate football field sized patterns. When we saw the documentary “Crop Circles: Quest for Truth” projected on a big screen I recognized High Strangeness indeed. It was a goose-pimply hair-rising moment, to see the immense scale and quantity of circles being analyzed with honest to goodness scientific diligence. Dad would have had a field day with it, I’m sure. His go-to motto is Occam’s razor, namely that a simpler explanation is more correct than a more complicated one. In the end, he could be correct in assuming every single formation has been man-made, and that’s less complicated than alien leprechauns.
Speaking of leprechauns though, let me bring in another voice, that of Terence McKenna. I first heard McKenna on a cassette talking about “the self-replicating machine elves of hyperspace”. You can apparently only see these ‘elves’ after taking the powerful psychedelic DMT. It’s appropriate that he figure in this rant because of his work around the I Ching, Mayan calendar and novelty theory. He proposed a timewave zero that increases interconnectedness eventually reaching a singularity of infinite complexity in 2012. On December 21st. [8 weeks away as of this writing!] You won’t be able to call him up and say Neener-neener on the 22nd though. He passed away in 2000.
It’s another of his theories that I want to share, however. He was once asked why he thought people believed so many strange things. It was a “Balkanization of epistemology”. One person believes fervently in the channeling of arch-angels and their neighbor is a strict econometrist. We’ve got a lot of mutually exclusive operating systems, so how do we tell the $#*! from Shinola? McKenna brought up Plato’s idea of “The Good, The True, and The Beautiful”. It’s tricky to tell what is good. It’s even trickier to tell what is true. But it is easy to discern what is beautiful. As a species, in spite of our huge intellect, we mostly choose based on aesthetics. Some folks like a lot of stained glass and Latin framing their world view. Others like knocking on doors and handing out pamphlets to give their lives purpose. Still others drink grasshoppers and tell long meandering stories about their tattoos.
I decided to get a crop circle tattoo. I didn’t choose the latest, most detailed version. I chose version 2.0: the ring. Originally, for hundreds of years only circles appeared. Then, one day a ring appeared, and it was an uncanny leap in crop circle evolution. I told Lilian my plan, and she handed me the money. It was 2/3/2003.
I took a bus from our hotel across the Colorado River from Nevada into Arizona. In so doing, I had suddenly gained an hour, as I crossed from one time zone to the next. I had to walk 2 miles to my destination, Time Warp Tattoo. In the end, a black & white diagram of a crop circle ring looks something like a total solar eclipse. Now my tattoos can make a rebus: the sun and moon rose for grasshopper pie.
What I’ve been trying so hard to convey is that if you encounter Lilian, her show, or her writing, the voice of your intuition may get a little louder, and you too may be drawn into a life changing adventure. At our house we get a lot of mileage from De gustibus non est disputandum which in English means “There’s no arguing taste.” Or as the Indonesian proverb puts it “Different men have different opinions; Some like apples, some onions.”
Whether you like apples or onions, I hope you will find something to your taste within this book.
Jusby the Clown, Olympia, 11.3.2012