“Has he confessed or not?” I once asked Lieutenant Drake of the NYPD as he handed me the police report.
“Yes and no, Mr. Moss,” Drake replied. “As his court appointed lawyer, you’ll have to sort that out on your own. He was caught red handed, but claims he’s not guilty. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have several more important—meaning violent—crimes to attend to.”
I remember I went to the room where Albert Noonan was presented to me. A short bald man in his forties, he seemed placid and almost disinterested, yet his blue eyes were alive and alert. I sat across from him, and opened the folder on the table between us. Then we shook hands. His fingers felt cool, and relaxed. “I’m Freddy Moss, Mr. Noonan,” I said. “I’ll be representing you in court.”
“Yes,” Noonan said.
“Yes,” I repeated his flat, uninflected acknowledgment. “Well, it says here that you are suspected on nine occasions to have placed your own locks on other people’s various doors and gates. On the ninth and last occasion you were caught chaining shut the ticket office to a football stadium just before tickets to a rap concert and Dodgers game went on sale. The note in your pocket read ‘Resist nothing except the illusion of ego and its emotions and obsessions.’ Tell me, were you about to copy the man who the press is calling Sargon, or are you really him?”
“Do you really know who you are?” Noonan asked me, without a trace of sarcasm.
“Excuse me?” I said, with some abstraction.
“Names are merely signposts pointing to the reality beneath,” he declared, although his voice remained calm and even. “They are constructs of the ever compulsive mind, which can only label things and produce in you a fear of your own destruction.”
I smiled despite myself. “That’s nice, Albert, but we haven’t got time to discuss philosophy.”
“It is not a philosophy, it is a simple fact. As for time, it is an illusion. Most people live in the past or the future, and yet the past and future do not exist, nor have they ever existed. Everything that happens, happens in the Now.”
I coughed and looked down at my notes again for a refresher. “So. . . may I call you Al, or do you prefer ‘Sargon the Enlightened One’?”
He continued to study me, his sharp blue eyes trying to delve beneath mine. “As I said, names are meaningless. It is the ego, the mind which needs to label things. But the ego or mind is not you. You are behind it. Only the real you can know another person, not your mind. Your mind can only know labels. It labels everything from a flower to a person, but cannot truly know anything.”
“Listen . . . Mr. Noonan? I’m about to lose my cookies here. If I’m to defend you, you’ll have to cooperate.”
“If only that were true,” he said.
“What do you mean, if only that were true? You don’t think I’m here to help you?”
“No, I mean if only you were losing your mind. You think too much, and imagine your thoughts are real things which define you. This is what is wrong with the world. The mind plays an endless game with you, and you identify with it. It hates the Now, and so you are never happy or at peace.”
“Please, Albert,” I pleaded. “Please just answer my question.”
“I have answered your question, have I not?”
“No, you have not. At least not legally, not technically. Are you this Sargon they talk about in the papers, or aren’t you?”
He sat back and folded his hands. After a moment he said, “It was around seven hundred BC, in the Assyrian capital of Khorsabad, that King Sargon the Second used a lock to secure the gate to his fortress. His lock was wooden, and utilized a wooden key which had notches on it matching the blocks or ‘wards’ inside the lock. Over twenty four hundred seventy years later, in 1778, Robert Barron invented the first lever tumbler lock, which consisted of a housing containing springs, metal tumblers, and a rotating inner core called a plug. Unlike all prior warded locks, these pin, disk, or lever tumbler locks were difficult to pick because a cam was involved. Now, of course, certain tumbler locks are secured inside housings of tempered magnesium alloy steel. And since we should live in the Now, this is what matters now, does it not?”
“Do I take that as a yes?”
He just sat there and stared at me.
I sighed. “Let me try again. Are you the perpetrator, alias Sargon the Enlightened, a locksmith from Van Nuys by trade? Please enlighten me.”
He looked away. “The past is given as a reference, for your mind, which clings to such things. In the more recent past I used a special tool steel pin tumbler padlock combined with a nickel alloy hardened steel chain reinforced with molybdenum alloy studs. My chain resisted hacksaw blades, and required nothing less than an argon plasma torch to defeat.”
“Now that your most recent history is straight, at least,” I said, flourishing my pen, “would you mind telling me exactly why you did this thing, Al?”
“Is it not obvious?”
“You mean by the notes left at the scene? What’d you do, anyway, read some Buddhist text, and decide to make your classroom as big as all outdoors?” I paused, and watched his face for reaction. There was none. He was at peace with himself, devoid of hostility or even worry over the consequences of his acts. “And by the way,” I added, hidden curiosity now stabbing me like a knife, “where did the sayings they found come from, again?”
He blinked at the ceiling. “They are from the Ten Grave Precepts attributed to Bodhidharma from the book Isshin Kaimon, The Precepts of One Mind.”
“Oh, of course.” I turned pages in my file, and read aloud. “Okay, the first here is ‘I take up the way of not killing.’ Supposedly you left that ‘precept,’ as you call it, not at an abortion clinic or death house, Al, but at a military drone contractor. . . right after you picked and replaced their front door’s mortise lock with a double dead bolt. Sound familiar?”
He gave me no reaction, so I continued.
“Next was ‘I take up the way of not stealing,’ a note they say you left at Sterling Health Services, an HMO under investigation by a 60 Minutes crew, after you chained shut their administration building. Then it was ‘I take up the way of not abusing animals,’ which was found on a meat packing kingpin’s metal office door, next to his Hummer car dealership, after you clamped a titanium padlock onto the door’s built-in flange. Nice work there, Al. Easy enough for anybody to do, too, huh?”
“Then the next day the note, ‘I take up the way of not speaking falsely,’ appeared on the door to union local 393 of the Teamsters. And ‘I take up the way of not giving or taking drugs’ was found on the locked door to Liquor World off 42nd Street. Then ‘Sargon the Enlightened One’ apparently took a week off, because it was a week later the note ‘I take up the way of not supporting the lies of others’ was discovered on the chained door to BuzzFeed. And yet all this still didn’t get much press, did it, until ‘I take up the way of not praising myself while ignoring those who suffer’ appeared on the exit doors to the pavilion during an awards ceremony two weeks after that. Did you go on vacation out to L.A. then, Al? And how did you accomplish that one without getting caught? I thought those Hollywood awards shows had high security.”
“Even security guards do not always live in the Now, unfortunately for them,” Noonan replied with cryptic ease.
“They’re unenlightened, is that what you’re saying? Like me?”
He nodded, but without any detectable trace of emotion. “Perhaps it explains to you how a person is able to slide five bicycle U-locks into the adjacent entrance door bars while passing outside.”
“Uh huh. . . Well, you certainly got everyone’s attention with that one. They had the fire department out front on live television. And while that was happening a. . . person . . . left ‘I take up the way of not being stingy’ in a note on the windshield of a Mercedes, right after he defeated the alarm and locked The Club onto the steering wheel. What was that about?”
“The car belonged to a star who gave some publicized money to charity, as a tax write off, but not her time. The time she gave was for her own aggrandizement, and the charity parties she attended spent more on flowers and food than was given to the poor.”
“Why take the time and the risk right then, though?”
Noonan closed his eyes, then, and took in a slow, deep breath. Finally he opened his eyes, which I imagined were even bluer. “Time is an illusion,” he said.
I laughed. “You won’t think so when you’re doing it,” I promised him. “You could get twenty years for this, even if you plead guilty and throw yourself on the mercy of the court!”
“Have mercy,” he said, “on yourself. You are the court. Your own judge, jury, and executioner. May I tell you why you are so obsessed with guilt that you must return to it constantly?”
“We haven’t got time for that, Al. We have to prepare your defense.”
“Resist nothing,” he instructed me.
“You heard me, but you are not listening. Your mind is creating a constant dialog, a background noise from which you cannot escape. You need to turn it off, and step out of time’s grip on you into the present. Then you can know your true self, and become alive instead of just labeling things around you. Then you will know there is no salvation in the future, and no resolution from the past. There is only the Now, and it is more than enough.”
“Now, now,” I said, although the smile on my face felt forced.
He leaned forward, looking directly into my eyes. “Yes, now is the time to awaken,” he said, “from your false identity.”
“My false identity,” I repeated, contemplating it for the first time, turning it in my mind in frustration. But my mind, with its old patterns, still animated my lips. “Now, of course,” I heard myself say, “the only thing they’ve really got on you is the stadium box office incident. That precept about taking up the way of not indulging in anger. And resistance. If you’re a copy cat, though, and you’re not this Sargon guy, I may be able to get you off with probation. After all, you’ve got no record up to now. Which means it’s your choice now, isn’t it? So tell me, what’s it gonna be? Not much time. Are you guilty or not guilty, Albert? Enlighten me!”
Some say that Time is an illusion of the mind. Of the ego. Ironically, over time, I’ve since learned that’s true. When my wife left me, taking with her our son Jimmy, she complained of my staying too long at the office, and of neglecting her. Going out the door, she was crying when she said maybe now I had all the time in the world. Which got me to thinking. Until, in my misery, I gave up thinking altogether, and lost my job too.
I don’t know how much time has passed, since, but the one who is known as Albert Noonan goes on trial soon. I will not be defending him, nor does he require a defense. I can only complete his unfinished work, the tenth precept. And so I will take up the way of not defaming that which reflects true self-nature, in that subtle and mysterious realm of the One which does not hold dualistic concepts of ordinary beings and sages. The teisho of the actual body is the harbor and the weir. This is the most important thing in the world–the letting go of ego and of waiting and even of seeking. In the eternal present, its virtue finds its home in the ocean of essential nature, and it is beyond explanation. So let the court decide what it will, I know that Albert Noonan is not guilty. And when his jury has been sequestered–when they are locked away–they will see the Truth, too. -0-
© J Lowe