August 31, 2011
Greg Pastorius had always been a very busy man. His meteoric rise within Batlay, Royan & Ranahan had been unparalleled by previous analysts. Even Kurt Braun, who had made VP at the age of 39 had to stand back in awe of the locomotion of Greg’s career. Greg was cut out for this sort of thing though. He was top of his class at Dartmouth undergrad and obtained an MBA from University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. He was recruited heavily by the hedge fund firm. Mr. Batlay himself had made Greg the job offer. It had been a wise investment for the firm too. Last week, Greg closed the Bertanando deal in less than 42 hours, netting the firm millions and lining the pockets of the men he eventually wanted to be.
Today was a big day for Greg. Many thought it would be his last day on the 3rd floor. Greg would be the new Senior Director of Quality Assurance. He’d ascend to the 21st or even the 23rd floor. Awaiting him would be sixteen loyal analysts reporting directly to him, an Administrative Assistant and a nice ergonomic chair. Greg was elated today, but not because his stock options would be multiplying by five or that his annual bonus was at 120% of his base salary. Greg had found true happiness on the walk home to his apartment last night.
It was a soft day late in August. The air was cold in the morning and stifling in the afternoon. A true glimpse of Summer aging to Fall. Greg had put in his normal fifteen-hour day and was exhausted and a bit delirious. He had been going at this pace since sophomore year of high school. His drive was relentless and unyielding.
He lived close to the office and despite his weary body, he decided to walk home in the ripening night. As he strode quickly back to his apartment, thumbing his BlackBerry along the way, he took a inadvertently left turn and found himself in a small public garden. The plant life was sparse and minimal. Pathetic really. There were no elaborate ornamentation or high-tech landscaping to capture his attention. This tranquility of the small garden was piercing.
“Great,” he said to himself. “Where the hell am I?”
A tiny finch swooped from the overhanging pine tree and perched on a shrub branch. Delicate-looking flowers, lilies if he remembered correctly, surrounded the base of the shrub. The bird had a small wild berry in its mouth. Greg took a step forward to get a better look. He had never seen a bird so close. He was hypnotized by the finch. The bird chirped and lost its grip on its meal. The falling berry struck an anemic lily and the wrinkled petals shattered.
Suddenly the world was sharp and painful. Greg rubbed his eyes because he realized it was the first time he had seen anything at all. He witnessed the petals falling to cool ground and felt his own feeble leaves dislodge and fall. He looked at the bird through wild, tearful eyes. It had used a young life to destroy an old one. The circle had been completed before his very eyes.
“Wh-what are you?” he asked the bird.
The finch cocked its head as if he knew Greg didn’t understand. The bird chirped a high-pitched call. Its skull slowly peeled open to reveal a red, raw elephant eye. The eye gazed at Greg and sent him deeper into a trance. The bird said in a booming echo, “I am Shiva, Devourer of Planets, Destroyer of Worlds. I am Brahma. I am Krishna. I am you. I am the berry. I am the flower. You are the flower. You are me.”
The tiny bird chirped again and fluttered away.
Greg’s mind was accustomed to the familiar pathways of sight. He observed and analyzed all his life, but he never truly saw anything until that day. He danced with joy all throughout the streets of the city that night. His path was marked by discarded designer apparel, a trail of forty-dollar socks. His eyes were tired. He went back to his home and fell asleep in the hallway of his Brownstone, naked as a finch.
On Tuesday morning, he felt at ease, like the weight of a thousand planets had been lifted from his chest. The path had been revealed to him and he would reveal the path to others.
Greg arrived at work wearing Philadelphia Eagles gym shorts and an old T-shirt with Bret “The Hitman” Hart on the front. No socks. No shoes. Mr. Royan, co-founder and chairman of the firm, was waiting at Greg’s desk. He had made a rare trip to the 3rd floor. He wanted to congratulate his new Senior Director on the promotion.
“There you are Sullivan,” Royan said extending a hand. “Ready for the big move? We got you all the way up on 21.” He trailed off. “Say, what are you wearing?”
Greg took Royan’s hand. His grasp was not one of business caliber. It did not indicate a closed deal or a cent squeezed. It was a warm, smooth touch, reassuring and tender. Royan was discomforted by this lack of frost.
Greg’s mind operated in the space between salivation and salvation. “I’m wearing different masks of consciousness. We all are. Can I accept not knowing who I am, being hidden behind an imposter? Can I accept not knowing my name?”
“What the hell are you talking about Sullivan?” whispered Royan. “Look if your high, all I’ll say is that we’ve all been there. But sleep it off in your office for Christ’s Sake!”
Greg smiled. The smile was not one of business caliber. It did not indicate a shrewd political move or a return on investment. “I’m excited about many things. Eternal possibilities that scrape the curve of a parabola touching God’s timely hour.”
“I see,” Royan shook his head. “I think the pressure’s finally gotten to you.”
“Seeing does not come from thinking. It comes from the shock of the moment. I require an unmasked ego, acceptable to all possible forms of light,” Greg’s eyes drifted to the window, to the Sun. “My mind is like a sail on an ocean. It fills and empties as the wind blows.”
Greg was escorted out of the high-rise building that day. His mind full of clarity at the decisions made. He was on the path to enlightenment. Nirvana awaited him. He would join the holy union of souls that comprise the energy of the earth.
As he walked back to his apartment, his mother called his cell phone. He told her everything. About the bird and the berry and the flower and how he quit his job to pursue the noble truth. There was a silence on the phone.
“You quit your job!” his mother shrieked. “You can’t just quit your job!”
“But mom, don’t you see?” he protested. “It makes no difference. We’re all part of the energy.”
“In a down economy, you quit your job?” she repeated. “You had excellent benefits!”
“Mom, I’ve had my third eye revealed…”
“Harold!” His mother hollered away from the receiver. “Get in here! Wait until you hear what your son did.”
“I will learn to purify my vision, mom. My mind will engage in a new way.”
“Greg quit his job,” she muttered to his father on the other end of the phone. “Your father wants to know if you’re stupid or something.”
“You’re not moving back in with us Gregory. Your dad and I just bought a time-share in West Palm Beach. We’re not going to just sit around and take care of you.”
“But…I just thought the Earth would take care of me. You know, the spirits and the oneness…”
“You just can’t go seeking enlightenment in a down economy,” his mom scolded. “Now go back in there and ask for your job back. Tell them your blood sugar was low or something.”
“Ok.” With that Greg put his socks and shoes back on and trudged back to Batlay, Royan and Ranahan. He waited in the courtyard in front of the lobby, watching the sunlight reflect of the pond in the front of the building. The light waves carried a billion particles that represented all of humanity. A little finch landed near the water. It chirped and lifted into the sky. The sight reminded Greg of his 401k. He’d have to talk to HR to see if he would still have to pay taxes on it.
Greg Sullivan opened the large glass door and walked back into a world of artificial light.