Mr. Athena was a bit of a mystery wrapped somewhere in a riddle. He was sitting in the corner of the cafe by the window in a three piece wool suit complete with a pocket watch that he was holding.
“You're late.” came the gruff reply from a man who seemingly had nothing but time on his hands. “The counter is behind you. Get me a double espresso latte and a slice of that lemon cake on the counter.”
I made my way over to the smiling barista who overheard the prickly greeting that I had just received. “Not to worry, kid, I hear that he is really a nice guy.”
“I'll let you know about that one in an hour, but for now, let me get that double espresso latte and a slice of lemon cake. Maybe that will loosen up that old codger.”
Walking back to the corner table and with the steaming latte and lemon cake extended as a bit of a peace offering, I sat down eyeball to eyeball with Mr. Athena, killer of men. I found myself beginning to sweat in places that I normally ignore as he measured me with his eyes. I figured that the peace offering of coffee didn't quite do it.
“I am actually a bit surprised that you have actually searched me out. I figured you to be one of those folk who are more than content to settle for easy answers and a faith without any depth.”
Mr. Athena took a sip of his latte and after what seemed to be an eternity of deep thought he said; “A little heavy on the vanilla syrup but a good batch indeed.” After a brief nod at the barista, he said “You know that you are in for a bumpy ride here because I have a way of challenging things that many people take for granted.”
“Well, Mr. Athena, I have already invested a latte with a bit too much vanilla syrup and a slice of cake that you have yet to critique, so I guess that would suggest that I am ready, at least until you finish that latte.”
There was a bit of a commotion in the coffee shop as an extremely well dressed man came in accompanied by what seemed to be a fairly large entourage. His following, mostly female, seemed to be in a bit of a wrestling match with their clothes; their ample bosoms and booties seemed intent on popping out while their clothes struggled to keep it all in place. Mr. Athena shook his head “so much gets shoved under the umbrella of religion today. True spiritual leadership isn't self serving; it rather creates a sense of empowerment where spiritual leaders merely assist others on their journeys. It bothers me when I see pastors who deliberately create co-dependency relationships with their congregants in order to create for themselves a profitable following. For what it's worth, it is my desire to encourage you on your journey since I have already gotten from you this perfectly acceptable latte.
“The path that I suggest is one that will challenge you to rethink many of the things that have stifled your wonderfully creative mind. This will not be comfortable for you on many levels, but such is the path of true growth. You won't have comfort in this brief moment with me, but I suspect that this session is what you really want. The things that you deeply desire have a way of manifesting themselves and well, here I am. In many ways, you fulfill your highest destiny every day in all of the many choices you make; often without abstract thinking but instead by heart centered feeling.
“By the way, feel free to call me Paul. I am actually a lot more easy going than most people think.”
Wow. Finally someone that I can't brush off by being overly snippy on the one hand or by regurgitating what they want to hear on the other hand. Paul seemed to be an enigma of the highest order; he was warm yet painfully direct, comforting and at the same time extremely challenging with eyes that seemed to look right through me while at the same time being respectful enough to only go where I was ready to go at the time.
After breaking off a corner from the lemon cake Paul began another one of his long and thoughtful moments. I decided to take a look at some of the ample bosoms that were settling in two tables away from me. I wondered if it would be rude to walk by that table for a birds eye view . . . of course not! Just as I began to slide my chair back to begin my recon mission I was snatched back into the present moment by Paul who noticed my wandering eye and began to speak.
“Let me be very clear as to how our time together will work. I am not here to force you down any specific predefined path in terms of how you come to express your spirituality; I refuse to rob you of the joy of coming to an understanding of who you are and how you are going to express yourself spiritually. I am far more concerned with giving you an understanding of how religious viewpoints are created so that you can view more objectively what you have been exposed to up to this point of your journey. Not that anything that you have been taught is either good or bad but it is more important that you understand that people just like you have pondered the wonderment of spiritual expression and have built a framework of religious understanding which has become the platform of your belief system. Once you understand how that platform was built, you can then build on it to format a belief system that works for you in light of what you have been through in your life.”
Paul took a long look outside and then shared “I find myself talking with many pastors, typically over a cup of coffee here. I find you to be interesting in that based upon what I have seen in you so far, I find that you have that rare ability to think for yourself. Most people are only able to view matters of religion in the way that others have described it to them; it is almost as if they refuse to think for themselves at all. You on the other hand will be fun for me to spend a moment with, and that is in large measure why I decided to join you today, although the latte did swing the deal.”