Back in the early 80s, long before he authored, The BIG Picture — Insights from the Spiritual World, Garry and I spent a number of months on the road together, travelling first to a remote almost-nothingness named Trutch at about the 200 mile mark of the Alaska Highway in Northern British Columbia.
The Alaska Highway is roughly 2232 kilometres long. Coincidentally, as our co-conspirator Bill discovered, the odds of being eaten by large, hungry, sabre-toothed carnivores near Trutch as the snow begins to melt are very similar numerologically — about 2231:1. We didn’t have guns (near the top of the list of other things we didn’t have, right after common sense) so we didn’t stick around for long. Thankfully, while we still share a passion for seeking out new frontiers, Trutch got the “boldly going where no one has gone before” bug out of our systems — less risking, more rambling.
Tails between our legs, we retreated to Vancouver, regrouped, got a new bearing and set off on a continent-wide hitchhike that began at the Canada-US, British Columbia/Washington State border; ambled south and then hooked a left, east-ish past the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Montana where Custer last stood in 1876; rushed through Chicago at rush hour (himself windburnt to a crisp in the back of a pick-up belonging to one of only three women with the chutzpah to pick us up); got rescued, sopping, ringing wet in the wee hours of the morning — by a suit in a Caddy — no less — near a Dunkin’ Donuts in New Hampshire after a sleepless, nightlong vigil parked on our packs in the rain; collected a hitchhiking-on-the-freeway ticket from the Maine State Police that I’m pretty sure neither of us ever paid; and finally starved our way through New England and back to our mutual birthplace of Nova Scotia, Canada — therein my justification for paraphrasing Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide title for this post.
Many years later, written a hemisphere away, “The BIG Picture” chronicles the fascinating, firsthand spiritual experiences of seven ordinary people and “explores themes of reincarnation, the relationship between destiny and karma, the divide between religion and spirituality, humanity’s task in creation and a new Western spirituality.”
I found the bridge chapters that separate the seven stories to the next most compelling — Garry’s lessons, understandings and insights. I found the distinctions he makes between religion and spirituality made for a challenging and an enjoyable read. I enjoy reading history, so those references, found throughout the book, were a pleasant surprise for me. The lessons were humbling from the point of view of who I found myself learning them from and in the straightforward, unassuming way they were presented.
I’ve read The BIG picture several times since receiving my autographed copy ☺ I think Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life” is the only other book I can say that about. I flipped back and forth through it more times than I can count trying to find an excerpt or even a single word that might suffice as a succinct review that wouldn’t sound like a fluffy promotional piece by a proud and prejudiced friend.
I did finally find what I was looking for. It’s one word and it’s on the front cover and it best sums up what I took from the book. It’s the reason why this particular collection of “insights” is referred to as “from” rather than “into” the spiritual world.
It is a guide from a place not many of us get to go, and a good one at that — and that’s my justification for the latter part of this post’s title. One of my favourite excerpts from it is, “When we are on a path of learning, many things will come to meet us. Grace happens.” I’m still waiting for the t-shirt.
The BIG Picture has been translated into Polish and is available online at cojanato.pl.