By Suma Varughese
World-renowned author, Richard Bach, in a tete-a-tete with Life Positive.
Richard Bach probably follows closely behind Kahlil Gibran as one of the formative influences of all those who grew up in the ’70s. His roaring bestseller, Jonathan Livingstone Seagull (1970), about a nonconformist seagull who flew faster and better than any seagull would have conceived possible, is a stirring allegory of the spiritual quest that leads us to challenge and transcend limitations. Bach followed his first successful attempt at spiritual fiction with other books like Illusions (1977), One (1989), and Out of My Mind (1999). Most of his books have been semi-autobiographical, using actual or fictionalized events from his life to illustrate his philosophy. Once an Air Force reserve pilot and later a barnstormer, his later books resonate with the philosophical metaphor of flight. Bach is a distant descendant of composer Johann Sebastian Bach.
His second marriage in 1981 to the actress Leslie Parrish, whom he met on the sets while filming Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, figured in his romantic book, The Bridge Across Forever, in which Bach immortalized the concept of soul mate. His divorce after many years, outraged his fans, who were unable to reconcile themselves to the idea that marriage to soul mates do not last forever. About the divorce, this is what Bach has to say:
‘Leslie and I are no longer married. Soul mates, to me, don’t define themselves by legal marriage. There’s a learning connection that exists between those two souls. Leslie and I had that for the longest time, and then a couple of years ago, she had this startling realisation. She said, ‘Richard, we have different goals!’ I was yearning for my little adventures and looking forward to writing more books. Leslie has worked all her life long, and she wanted peace, she wanted to slow the pace, not complicate it, not speed it up. Not money, not family, no other men or other women, separated us. We wanted different futures…’
‘When a marriage comes to an end, we’re free to call it a failure. We’re also free to call it a graduation…’
Subsequently remarried and working now on a new novel, Bach responded to Life Positive via email from Washington State, USA. Excerpts from the interview:
You have been one of the most influential of New Age writers in the world. Looking back, how much of a change do you see in the world around you?
Thank you for that first sentence. It makes all these rejection slips so much easier to take. Most of us would agree, I think, that there’s been an enormous shift of consciousness through the last century toward a wide recognition of the value of the unseen, toward an understanding that we are much more than we appear. I don’t think that’s ever happened before, in history.
Do you believe in a New Age? A time when man will live in total harmony with himself, others and the environment?
We’re already there. We’re already living in total harmony with ourselves, with others and the environment. The appearance that we are not, the belief that we’re mortals clad in physical bodies, trapped on a dying planet in the prison of space-time, that’s a stage with which we are not only in harmony, but which we have created and chosen for the dramas of our dreams of lifetimes. The planet can explode, and not a single life will in truth be lost. But what a thrill for us, this theater in which disasters seem so real, and we can change outcomes by action!
Looking back, what do you think your mission has been and still is?
To demonstrate and communicate, to myself and whoever happens to be interested, the power each of us has over the world of appearances.
What is your spiritual goal? How far have you progressed in attaining it?
Mission and goal, here, may be the same. I’m about three percent toward completion.
In view of your marriage and later divorce from Leslie Parrish, would you say that soul mates could part when they have learnt the lessons they needed to from each other? How has the event changed your views on man-woman relationships?
Soul mates meet and part all the time. They also meet and stay together, when there’s more for each to learn from the other. Leslie and I, like many soul mates, learned major lessons in how to live and how to love. Then it was clear, to our surprise, that our class together was over. We will ever remain, I’m pretty sure, dear teachers and students.
What is the central truth that you have striven to express through your work?
We’re none of us victims, we’re all of us masters of what seems to be.
Are you happy with the way your life has turned out and the use you have put it to?
If by ‘happy’ you mean ‘do I have a sense of well-being about my path? ‘ it’s a yes. I have blundered royally from time to time, but hey, I’ve thought, go easy on the kid. I’m one who enjoys my skill at recovering from poor decisions.
What remains to be done, learnt, experienced, realized? What are the new adventures still waiting to be sampled?
I’ve barely begun to understand and practice what I know in my heart is so. It’s part of my job to catch up with the characters who have whispered through me, and there’s a long way ahead to fly.
Along the growth path, did any of your views, insights, change or expand? Could you name some?
I used to think we didn’t have much control over what happens to us. Then I learned that what we hold in thought comes true around us. Takes practice, but it works every time, as far as I know, for everyone who doesn’t quit practicing.
I used to think we are separate souls adrift in a physical world. Then I learned, after an experience with an amazing burst of light, that we’re not separate at all, we’re one. I used to think that what went on in space-time mattered, somehow. Then I learned it doesn’t. Only thing that matters is how well do we express love.
What are some of the turning points of your life, which has brought you where you are?
The day I found what I love: flight. The day I found what I love, communicating with a few likeminded ‘others.’ The days that I let go of what I thought was common sense and discovered the truth and practicality of the uncommon. These days are still happening, of course.
What was the event or circumstance that first shifted you towards spirituality?
My brother died when I was 10. All of a sudden I could no longer rely on him to find my answers and lead my way. That’s when I started asking who we are and why we’re here (or why we seem to be here). Ask, of course, and we find answers. The shift has been a wonder.
Would you speculate a little on the state of things to come? How will we live in the New Age?
Exactly the way we’re living now. Those who care about lifting mind and heart will practice doing so, and prove their dominion over the seems-to-be. Those who don’t care will practice that, and prove their subjection to it.
How will we earn our living?
Same as now. We will find our gifts and offer them to others, and in return a few others will thank us for them, just as we give our thanks for the gifts they have offered us. Nowadays the thanks are sometimes expressed as ‘money,’ and the system is sometimes called ‘commerce’. There will be some sort of equivalent, I imagine, for quite a while.
What relationship will we have with technology?
A gradually diminishing one, for some of us. There’s nothing that technology can do that we can’t do better with our own enlightened understanding – communication, education, the changing of worlds. Again: practice.
What form will relationships take in the New Age?
Oh, so slowly, we will learn that to love one another is to value and respect each other, and to bind us closest we need to let each other go.
What is your perception of the times we are living in, with its extreme focus on the material and the sensory? With what attitude should we live through these times to emerge unscathed and whole?
A lot of the times we are living in right now focus on the adventure of spirit instead of the material. Each of us decided which world we will choose for our own. We can change from one to the other any instant we wish. No one controls our innermost consent but we ourselves.
What is the promise of these times?
By now you know how I’m going to answer: The same promise of any time and every time – we are free to discover who we really are this minute, and to practise that in our daily lives.
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