People Who Look for Peace Get It
A Life Story by Sophia Collier
I had everything, I never hungered, never saw pain. When I became about twelve I began to see the daily pain others bore in the world. So like Buddha, my heart set out on a search. I looked everywhere. I became a loving vandal. I cut the sleeves off my school blazer and wore it as a ragged vest. The other children around me were with me. We were always like some kind of gang, elbowing our way through the world. We always had some grand plan brewing. We winked at each other over text books and dictionaries, smiling audaciously behind the teachers' backs.
Once, delighting my young co-conspirators, I came to school, 12 years old and drunk at eight o'clock iu the morning, just to see if funny old Mr. Cobb with his twitching mandrill baboon eyebrows, would look any different through my drunken eyes. I spoke with large words and I loved unceasingly, pained to the quick by the misshapen forms of Negro children starving in the South. I embraced Martin Luther King and that summer at camp in the northern mountains, soothed by lapping lake water, I learned to sing "We Shall Overcome." And I believed every last word of it.
After camp, I went to a new school armed with Marcusean language and a body six inches taller. I became vegetarian and organized my classmates to skip lunch and send the money to Biafra. This new school was a Quaker school. In Quaker meetings I stood and spoke of revolution and justice, interrupting the metaphysical meditations of the teachers. My classmates and I had no fear in our hearts. We knew what was right. Maybe we couldn't tell you exactly, but we knew.
At the end of the school year, I was expelled. The principal sent a letter saying he "regretted to dismiss a student of Sophia's academic potential…" I was enraged. I made plans to burn down the school. Before I could manifest these firey ideas, again I was taken away to the mountains to be bathed and eased by the calm of the open sky. This year at camp 1 took mescaline and was amazed at the way my concentration would focus on things, fascinated by the many facets within a single object. I told my bunkmates all about my experiences and they understood, we all understood. We felt such unity and communion. We were very special people in a very special generation.
No one understood
The next place I went was Public School where no one understood. Black kids beat white kids and threw books at teachers: Girls smoked cigarettes in stinking toilet stalls. I cried at home where no one could see me not even my mother, for she understood least of all. I appealed to the administration and I skipped a grade, finding work at either level equally boring. Rather than go to, at first just gym class and eventually every class, I wrote poetry and smoked marijuana with the other renegades like myself. We would discuss why things were the way they were. We all had theories: some thought the system was sick; some thought we were sick. We agreed on one thing, things were terribly wrong and maybe, just maybe, we could get it together and fix things.
But in the meantime, the marijuana made us laugh. So we smoked it and laughed huddled together out of view in drain pipes and beside garbage cans. While we smoked, we knew it was not the answer, but it helped us to see
ourselves not as those awful, rigid columns of characteristics that we had picked up, but as fluid entities, understanding each other and changing roles constantly. Our politics were to tear the system down with games and clubs and fires. Afterwards letting the earth eat all the cities and billboards, to sit on the freeways letting no more cars pass and trusting in the sweet rain to wear away the cement and cool the asphalt and always trusting for some migrant bird to bring seed for plants and a new world where we could share our joy, sorrow, and brown bread, unashamed.
I was a city kid in tennis shoes, looking out the dirty windows of transit buses for a way, any way, that I could survive with joy and no compromises on that joy. Looking around the transit bus, I saw the empty and pathetic faces and I would rather die than take my place among them.
The turn of the decade saw the cooling of America. I became inclined to melancholy. I felt jaded at fifteen. The new day seemed old. Among the severe, red rocks of the Arizona desert I had been sent to go to school. I wandered in the desert looking out into the no-color of the desert sand and brush. It was the time for introspection. Happiness seemed the same as sadness. The next year at the same school, I skipped eleventh grade and worked very hard at my studies, seeking recognition as a "sixteen year old genius going to be a prominent woman, medical doctor."
I was all set to complete college in record time, to be the youngest doctor to graduate from medical school. Though during all this work I was just trying to fill my emptiness with other people's love. The glory that I had glimpsed on the breast of a sea gull before flight, the exuberance of the full-leafed tree in the summer breeze, the wonder and humility of the new born foal, none of these did I find in my life. I spent the summer fasting and studying math. Autumn time, I went north to a great grey green sea and sky. North, to Portland, Maine, and a weary ocean-side winter. I was a despondent student watching empty faces crave hollow pleasure. All my fellow students stoned on quaaludes or wine, ruining their bodies against one another.
In the stillness and cold of the Portland snow I still was not numb. I began to live with five other people in an apartment. In January a devotee of Guru Maharaj Ji moved into our apartment. We began to love one another very much. One day I was walking on a snowy beach with her and she told me that the only thing that had ever helped her was to meditate on the thing that Guru Maharaj Ji had shown her. A few weeks later I was oh a plane to New York City to receive Knowledge of Guru Maharaj Ji.