So I'm part of this church, right, or well more like a religion, called Santo Daime. I'm not going to get into the particulars of everything, but basically we take ayahuasca together and sing and dance and learn about life. A religion that takes a hallucinogenic tea as their service? Yeah...that's probably the only way I'd join a religion.
In any case, the realizations are profound, faintly captured by the "Notes from my # trip" posts that I write every so often. I think the biggest realization for me was understanding how you can eventually see someone you once disliked in a different way if you give it enough time and effort. I guess you could say that it makes you respect life more, that everyone here is just trying to make it to the other side, and what we might see in them as distasteful, is just a part of their own battle, a morsel of their entirety.
There's this guy there that I never really liked. I don't know why. Something about his face, about his dress, just rubbed me the wrong way. His outfit was always a bit shabby, and he'd have these strange outbursts of anger at other members. It seemed like nobody really liked him and I used to scowl behind his back during the ceremonies. My friend George once told me about a time when he hitched a ride in a taxi and didn't pay his share of the fare, even though he said he would. I spent the next two days thinking about what I would have said to him had I been there, but never had to courage to tell him so when I saw him later face to face.
This last trip something changed, I think it was because he smiled at me and I guess you could say I saw a humanity in that smile. At the break, he came up and hugged me, and I told him later that I had wanted to hug him the entire time, so I was grateful that he met me half way. We sat down together outside and he began telling me a story. He spoke English pretty well, more fluent than most Brazilians, but not exactly perfect. Either way, it was easy to understand.
"There was this guy I know, he was Japanese."
He pulled his eyes back so I could understand, the international indicator of "Asian". I sat there and nodded, letting the cultural faux-pax pass by.
"I don't have many friends," he said, "but he, he was my friend."
He gave a long pause after that last sentence. At first I thought that was the whole story, and I remember thinking, "That's a damn good story", but he kept talking.
"One time, we eat somewhere. I forgot...forget? I never tell the difference between the two, forgot, forget."
He looked at me for confirmation. I run the two words through my head and tell him either one works, but the more important thing is that I get what he's saying, grammar aside. He nodded and continued.
"I forgot what we eat and what we talk about, but I never forgot that moment." He paused for a moment to reflect, then continued. "To have a friend, spend time with you, speak to you, and listen, that is, a blessing."