Leila, Good Eagle, and 1484

Layla and Majnun — Muzaffar Ali — Wikimedia Commons

I have a tale to tell you. It’s a true story, the only kind I know how to tell. And if an old crossword puzzle can be believed, I might even have been instructed to tell it. It’s a tale I’ve been living for several years and am just now coming to understand.

It involves three dreams … the last two, separated by eleven years; three remarkable and peculiar days; coming briefly together with and apart from a longed-for lover … a raft of questions, a loss of faith, a whole lot of hair pulling, oceans of tears, a new outlook … and, finally: a small sense of understanding.

And now, with a degree of understanding, I’m ready to lay my tale down in these pages, with the hope that any who seek it will find solace.

After exploring a cramped curiosity shop, I wrap what appears to be angel hair (like from a Christmas tree) around a credit-card-shaped disc and slide the disc into the pocket of my jeans. “Leila and Good Eagle are in the Sun,” comes a disembodied pronouncement, as if from above.

I settled upon the spelling of Leila; looked it up in a book of names, learning: the origin is Arabic, and it means “dark night.” Intrigued by the juxtaposition of “dark night” and “in the sun,” I interpreted the dream as sexual.

I was beginning to fall in love (for the first time, really) and had reached the point where the trying on of coupling relationships no longer held appeal (I was becoming disinterested in browsing the curiosity shop). I figured Good Eagle must be the man of my affections, with whom I had a platonic housemate relationship.

An Hasidic man [Although I practice no religion, my heritage is Jewish.] tosses gigantic I-Ching coins [I’d been working extensively with the I Ching at the time]; he indicates he wants a relationship with me. “I don’t want a relationship with you,” I tell him, “I want a relationship with William [my Good Eagle], instead.”

I awoke, while it was still dark, went to the bathroom, returned to bed, and did something I’d never before (and only once since have) been able to do: falling back asleep, I entered the same dream to reiterate:

“I don’t want a relationship with you; I want a relationship with William, instead.”

I probably would have continued on the same platonic path, content with occasional conversations to fuel fantasy, were it not for the most peculiar 3 days of my life.

In mid-May ’94, I had (for want of a better term) a visitation, during which I believed (at the time) I was in direct communication with God, who indicated to me that I should be with Him in his new incarnation, that I should leave the house I shared with William and another housemate, and come to meet Him. Which I did.

Exiting … forever … on the afternoon of the third day, with nothing but car keys and the clothing on my back, I drove to the rendezvous location. Of course, God was not there to greet me. Devastated, I drove to my daughter’s to ask if I could stay with her ’til I could figure out how to reconstruct my utterly dismantled life.

But confused as I was, I still believed in the validity of those 3 days … and assumed I’d simply misinterpreted things. So, on the drive to my daughter’s, still clutching belief, I reasoned that:

Since the promised rendezvous had not occurred …

The purpose of the 3 days must have been to jolt me, to shock me into revealing my feelings to the object of those affections; I called William that night and left a voicemail. “You must know by now that I’ve left and am not returning. If you’re ready to move on, you can reach me at …”

William showed up the next day. I briefly described what had transpired and why I’d left so abruptly. Further conversation revealed that he’d been wanting for some time to travel to Morocco, “Maybe it would be nice to bring someone along,” he said.

Although neither of us made any declarations of love…or even close to it… by the time he left, I felt there was every indication that feelings were … as I had believed all along … mutual.

And an intimate letter he sent a few days later seemed to confirm that impression.

Although I expected it to happen much sooner, we finally did have our first date in mid-December ’94. We were a couple until the end of February ’95.

The degree of sexual intimacy was something I’d never experienced. Perhaps he, too, felt it, calling … the day after we made love for the last time … neither of us aware it would become our last time … to say:

I just thought you should know: You invited me places no one’s ever invited me before.

“Places I’ve never invited anyone,” I said. “Places I never knew existed.”

But during the course of our oh-so-brief coupling, it became clear that he was still in mourning over the final breakup (a year earlier) with his previous love interest. As he expressed it one night, she had given him “open-heart surgery.”

The last time we saw each other (Feb. ’95), he said he didn’t want to get too close to anyone, didn’t want to have too good a time, for he might abandon his Morocco plans.

I wondered about his true reason for pulling away: Was it to follow his Morocco dream? Or was it that he (to paraphrase the pop-culture book) just wasn’t that into me?

At any rate, we both just stopped calling the other.

Our relationship was not only not-to-be. It never had been what I’d believed it to be. All remaining shreds of rug were finally yanked from under my feet.

But with the relationship (such as it was) defunct, what was the meaning of all that had transpired: the 3-day visitation and all that had led up to it (much more than I can include without writing a Russian-novel-length dissertation)?

Why had God/Goddess/the gods/the powers that be put me through all that He/She/They had? And why abandon me? As I tried, amid buckets of tears, to work through my myriad questions, I had what many would call a crisis of faith.

Over the years, though gradually less devastated by those confusing events, I continued trying to make sense of them. Then, in early May ’05, I decided to ask for my faith to be restored.

Liam Neeson [the actor] keeps repeating, “Remember: 1484. You must remember this. It’s very important. Remember: 1484. Say it back to me.”

“OK,” I say, “1484.”

“Remember,” he says. “It’s very important. 1484.”

I flipped through the paper and started working the crossword puzzle (something I rarely do). The clue for 14-Down was, “Actor Liam.” Naturally, I immediately looked at the 84 clues. Across was, “Tell tales.” Down, “Tree branch.”

Although I found the synchronicity with my dream extremely interesting, I had no idea what to do with it. Still, I so loved the symmetry, I had to share the story with my daughter and an uncle … figuring both would appreciate the tale I had been instructed to tell.

Fast forward (through an outward focused … politics, etc … and rather spiritually barren) 1½ years.

In November ’06, I watched a Discovery Channel series on sexuality throughout the ages. One segment covered the view of sexuality in Middle Eastern religions.

The narrator spoke of a Persian Sufi poet, saying that Eric Clapton’s rock classic, Layla (as spelled by Clapton), which was written for George Harrison’s wife, Patti (for whom Clapton had an obsessive love), was inspired by the Sufi’s poem, which held that anyone dying after unrequited love was considered a martyr and, sanctified, went immediately to heaven.

The name of Layla naturally reminded me of my dream from the curiosity shop, with the pronouncement of “Leila and Good Eagle are in the sun.”

The reference to Eric Clapton’s Layla, combined with the topic of unrequited love, led me to do some research online. After following several links, I learned the poet’s name: commonly referred to as Jami.

I learned also that his version of the poem Layla and Majnun was not the first but might be the most well-known … and is likely based on a true story.

And finally, I learned the year that it was written: 1484, the number I was so adamantly directed (by Liam Neeson) to remember.

In his role as Sufi sheikh, Jami viewed love as the fundamental stepping stone for starting on the spiritual journey. To a student who claimed never to have loved, he said:

Go and love first, then come to me and I will show you the way.

Jami’s work is said to be allegorical, using erotic/romantic love to describe the final stage of the mystic journey of the adept … whose soul goes through trials and experiences until he’s transformed into the angelic state.

My interpretation (as always, subject to revision), of the sum of all the above, is that the period about which I’ve written follows Jami’s instruction to his student, “Go and love first, then come to me and I will show you the way.” The period certainly put my soul through many “trials and experiences” … although I have serious reservations about the existence … or even the possibility … of my “angelic state.” But then I haven’t died yet; so, maybe that’s still on the horizon.

I’m left to conclude that, for me:

Falling in love was not an end, but was, instead, a means. A means to embark fully on my spiritual journey … perhaps with more solid footing than I’d had before falling in love.

Over the years, I’ve sought answers to many lingering questions, especially surrounding the Sufi connection.

I had no knowledge of Sufism before the references appeared in my dreams. I felt that: If I could only understand the role of Sufism, the scattered pieces of my shattered life would fall together.

I also wondered where in the world William was (Morocco?) and would periodically Google his name.

Then, two days before my birthday in 2009, I received an email from MyLife.com, telling me: I had a message from William, which I could read without becoming a member.

I clicked on the link and … leery by nature … responded with a couple of key questions that only he would be able to answer.

When he gave the correct answers, we began to correspond, via email. He and I had each found other partners and were in good relationships, so cyberspace has been the territorial extent of our reconnection.

Kuan Yin Sea — Wikimedia Commons

Since William was a key component in the above tale, I filled him in on matters related to it. And with his awareness of the Middle East, I also asked about the Sufi connection.

I want to start by saying that I don’t practice any religion. I am a baptized Catholic and an initiated Buddhist, and try to incorporate some of the principles of both into my life. I am just not a practicing anything. Years ago, though, I found I have a lot of devotional energy that had no where to go. Perhaps it was my love of ritual left over from a Catholic upbringing.

At that point I became a devotee of Shakti, God the Mother. I don’t have a church I can go to so I have had to make up my own practice. I also have a special devotion to Kwan Yin, Goddess of Mercy.

I tell you this because I sometimes feel that the Goddess is sending me to teachers. The Tibetans say, “Every valley its own dialect, every Lama his own doctrine.” And it is a tradition for seekers to go from teacher to teacher. So, I sometimes feel that the Goddess sends me to a High Priestess, for some reason. I have found that I must try to figure out just what lesson is being taught. In fact, I may not be sure if I was sent to help the teacher or if the lesson was for me.

Some of this is working for me as I think about our relationship. I feel I was sent to you. Was it to help you get through a major change in your life? Was it to receive the gifts you give? I think it is the latter.

As I view it now, it seems that both of us went through a period of immense change that challenged our core beliefs and shook up our material worlds. It seems it was more shocking and swift for you. My movement toward change took place more gradually. However, the results were much the same. I “cashed in my chips,” sold my car, gave away my possessions and walked off to Morocco with a small suitcase. My expectation was that the Goddess would show me what I was supposed to be doing. I had run out of money and was headed back, literally on the last day of my “walkabout,” when I met my partner and my life changed in a most unexpected way.

I have never understood how or why you fell in love with me; we had had so little contact up to that point. The message on my answering machine was a tremendous surprise (and a big relief too, since I was very worried about you). I flew to you and into your arms. It seemed very right and natural.

I was in a hurt state after a 5 year obsession that was very harmful to me. The relationship we developed was a tremendous relief to me and was such a comfort. I have never felt anything but love from you and you always treated me with the utmost tenderness. I needed to be treated that way. I loved being in your arms. I didn’t question what you had gone through and were going through. I just believed and was very happy to.

In your writing you mentioned the possibility that I just wasn’t that into you. Quite the contrary, you are so beautiful and I am what used to be called “a sucker for a pretty face.” I enjoyed our dinners and your company. Our intimacy helped to heal me. I still remember and cherish all of our time together.

On the last night we were together, after we made love, you said you really didn’t know who I was. I was shocked. I thought, “Then why are you making love with me?” I thought, I am who you see, what you have experienced. What else do you need to know? After that I didn’t call because I felt that it wasn’t me you were dealing with, it was your own turmoil you were addressing. Right then I needed it to be me. I had had enough of a relationship being about anything but me.

Now I have a different take on it. At the time I was just too worn out to see. Isn’t it amazing how we both were blasted out of our routines and sent out into the world. And isn’t it amazing how we came to some peace and comfort. Even though I can’t say I understand it, I believe in the truth of our time together. I believe in your healing power. I bow before your beauty and tenderness.

You passed your writing along for insight on the Sufi part of it, so I will say some things about that. I can’t promise insight or any words of wisdom. I’m no expert, but I do know some things about it.

As far as Sufism’s place as inspiration to the West, and more specifically you; as you probably know, it is the mystical aspect of Islam. As such, it is in complete accord with all Mystic traditions, both to the east of it and to the west of it. I think, then, that it is not so important where the concepts come from, but what they teach. The famous Sufi teacher, Rumi, (the best selling poet in America, by the way) says “Everyone come. Even if you don’t believe, come. Even if you have broken your vows a hundred times, come.”

The foundation of Sufism is love. They talk about Love, Devotion and Surrender. So, it is not an intellectual exercise. It is about feelings and devotion to all aspects of love in the world, as reflections of the Devine. “Love makes the world go ‘round.”

In that case, I would say that you did (and perhaps do) the Sufi thing. You embrace love, even if you don’t completely understand what is going on. You nurture it. You surrender to it. Perhaps you are right, as was said in 1484, first love, then doors will open for you.

The Tibetans say that there are things that cannot be intellectually comprehended, but can be experienced. I think you must trust your direct experience as real. You know what you experienced, even if you don’t fully understand it. Your surrender to love can only have brought you goodness, even though it was hard to see it at the time (and perhaps for a long time)

So, you don’t have to be a Sufi to embrace their concepts. Or perhaps, if you love in that transcendental way, you already are a Sufi.

Once, while he and I were together, William had raised the topic of marriage. “I’m not saying that marriage is out of the question. But if we were to marry, the question would be: Whose life would we live?”

I had never thought in terms of marriage, and so I gave his statement little thought at the time. But since then, I’ve come to realize that, when it comes to coupling relationships, love, though it may conquer all external forces, is not necessarily the primary factor for success when it comes to our inner drives. I suspect that wanting the same thing out of life may be of far greater importance.

William has found the perfect person for him to build a life with: a college professor, teaching Middle Eastern studies. Each year, they bring a group of students on a field trip to spend a month or so in one of the Middle Eastern countries, to which he’s always been drawn.

I, too, have found the perfect person for me: someone who shares my attraction to solitude. He and I are in this quest together.

William has been drawn to be out in the world. I have been drawn to inner explorations. Had he and I continued together, one of us would have had to have set our nature aside in favor of the other.

One of us would have been miserable, feeling that we were living someone else’s life.

As it is: We each have the separate lives in which we thrive. As it is: Though feelings for each other have changed, they haven’t deteriorated … as they probably would have, were one of us subjugating to the other.

As for the entire experience: I now see it as the start, in earnest, of my spiritual journey. Some preceding events may also have been stepping stones . . . but that’s another story.

Feet on the ground. Head in the clouds. The world dances around us. We, focused on other matters, see not.

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store