I don’t think I’ve mentioned that I talk to buildings. Talk is not an accurate word because buildings communicate by providing knowledge. I pass a building and know things about when I pay attention. I can sense if a building has an active happy life within its walls or if the life inside is troubling or erratic. I can comprehend a building’s reaction to what people have involved it in and what they have done to it. I learned the language of buildings from being the steward of many of Helena’s older buildings For several years, I was in charge of St. Charles Hall at Carroll including the morning when it was hit by the Train Blast. I ran for 15 years the Myrna Loy Center which had also been the County jail for 100 years before me. I was a tour guide at the Capitol and wrote poetry about that great building. I once was on the board at Grandstreet Theater, chair of the Long-range planning committee looking at building renovation. I’ve spent time in the Cathedral of St. Helena, once doing an all-night vigil (fearsome night as I remember it), and now I work in the City-County Building. Helena’s buildings trust me, so I often feel their knowledge being given to me.
Recently, the building informed me of their decision about the old Central School. Central School had existed in various forms since early in the 20th Century. It survived the earthquake of 1935 with damage and recently it had been emptied because long developed structural damage. After all of Central’s years of service, the other buildings told me that Central School was weary and tired. The old school worried about another earthquake and what it could mean for the safety students. It felt its ability to support new educational needs had diminished. It was saddened because it was unable to serve the disabled and sometimes at night had shared in the tears of students who couldn’t go to school with a sibling or a friend because anyone with a disability probably had to go to another school. It was ready to retire. Helena’s buildings gave me this knowledge, so that I could help Central as it currently existed to rest and allow a new Central to be built. I did that by supporting the demolition of the old Central School when the decision came before the Helena City Commission.
One morning as I left my house, I felt a punch in my chest and I looked down the street to where Central sat. I saw the demolition trucks and new from the punch that tearing down the building had started. I felt the impact as did all of Helena’s building as we together shared in the destruction of this part of their communal connection, of this part of history. Most buildings in Helena have a symbiotic relationship. Some buildings never wake up, but most find an awareness that comes from the partnership with humans, an awareness they then share with other buildings. On that morning, I felt the loss of the old building with them. The buildings and I shared in Central’s pain and in its relief, its hope for its next life as the walls began to fall and the wooden and metal supports broke into pieces. I was grateful to share that moment, but I was quickly overwhelmed by the sense of the power of the life of all the buildings together in mourning and in anticipation. As I stood in front of my house I was overcome with fear and doubt.
My head felt surrounded by all the fears I had about my imaginative spiritual life. I doubted myself and for the moment doubted my sanity. The energy that sustained my ability to see the hidden aspects of the world leaked off me and I overcome with panic. What if I was kidding myself having created an elaborate make-believe world of ghosts and entities and talking buildings? What if I was crazy in my daily interactions with what could be a made up reality? What if I…….?
What if I was a fraud, a boy who created an imaginary world that I could construct and change to fit any challenges to my construction. The fact that I held onto the belief that I was given a perspective on the world that I twisted to fit my needs and desires. For a brief moment I was convinced I was a con man and I had played the biggest con on myself. I heard the voices that mocked me, diminished me, belittled me, laughed at me. I was unable to move filled with a deep sense of shame at my failure to live in the real world. I could have succumbed to the feeling of duplicity that smacked me in the face and overwhelmed me physically.
I was almost lost in fear when the phrase “real world” gave a thought I could hang onto. I often taught people to be wary of anyone selling the idea of a ‘real world.” Usually that term meant someone was claiming a false worldview as the “real world” constantly trying to fool other people into believing and shaping their lives to fit a false world sold to them. Taking a breathe I realized these fears weren’t coming from me but were being pushed on me. That thought grounded me and I could see what was happening.
With the fear and doubt swirling around me, I became aware I was under attack. As if on cue, appearing in the trees and in the air around me, a battalion of incorporates attacked me, hitting at my self-esteem, puncturing my confidence, tying me up with self-loathing. I should have realized what was happening earlier, but I had opened myself in empathy for Central School’s passing and the incorporates must have been waiting. For the first time, I realized how much I was seen as the enemy by the various incorporates in Helena. The battalion represented all of the different incorporate forces, the government ones, the religious ones, the educational minions, the tyrants of the art world, the business leeches who all tried to control Montana had joined together to assault me and had watched until I was vulnerable. Forces that demanded allegiance and could not allow for anyone who challenged their point of view. I had been attacked like this before but not with such magnitude. I tried to regain control of my emotions. I barely found any energy to resist because I was struggling not to succumb to the demeaning sense of doubt which the ruthless forces cast upon me. The weight of their attack pushed me to the ground and then I saw a light break through the dark crowd surrounding me.
Pushing aside the incompetents in their various forms, my friend, Jesus, walked up to me, smiled, and took me by both hands. The incorporates scurried away like crawling crazed creatures and Jesus’ forehead touched mine and he took away from the battle to a beautiful place of peace in the mystical mountains between Heaven and Earth where he had taken me several times before: once when I was a child overcome in prayer and fearful of what it meant, once as a young man caught by a sense of worthlessness from other people telling me I was arrogant to believe that I was gifted, and once soon after I came to Helena and felt lost in my direction. Each time he had lifted me up and carried me away to this safe space where he sat with me until I calmed down.