Clarke definitely made a joke about my hair… but the real joke was that amidst the fear and exhilaration neither of us (Peddy nor I) had any means of recording with us. No video camera, no stills camera, no tape recorder, and no cellphone-all of it was back at the hotel. Thus my first lesson in making documentaries was never to leave the room without a camera as that is exactly when all the good stuff happens. And for those who don't know what I look like let me just say that Clarke and I differ dramatically in our stylistic choices. My long bleached dreadlocks and titanium hoop earrings stand in clear contrast to his thinning British hairline and rimless spectacles. We may share the same taste in sarongs but I couldn't tell from the long blanket that covered his legs. Despite the searing Sri Lankan heat Clarke was very comfortable bundled under his duvet with no AC and nothing but a slow ceiling fan to stir the air.
Before I go on allow me to explain something. I didn't say that Clarke was unreachable in the sense that he was being held in an unknown underground black bunker somewhere. Certainly, if you are able to afford the cost and sustain the 10 to 20 hour flight (depending on where you come from) you will be able to walk up to his house, knock on the door and probably get a quick handshake and a nice picture for your family album. What I meant is that a passionate armada of assistants and agents surrounds him constantly and-under his guidance-ensure that the outside world is parceled based on importance and relevance. Being that I am two generations and several continents removed from Clarke and at least an entire generation below his closest staff member I certainly had the feeling that my honest desire to present his story to people my age would be politely ignored. Or as Clarke put it in his latest Egogram, "Every offer, however reasonable, should be responded to with a 'kindly drop dead'."
Clarke smiled at us from behind his large mahogany desk. Rows of books and a myriad of autographed photos completely covered the wall behind him and to our left side. We walked past a small seating area and were invited to sit down. The unexpected turn of events certainly didn't put us at ease, but imagine our surprise when all of a sudden Clarke declared that he knows me, that we've met somewhere, and that he absolutely knew Peddy, and that we spoke before. We assured him that while we thought about him long and hard in the past few months we never actually occupied the same space and time. He laughed; attributing his confusion either to my "crazy space hair" or the fact that it was a full moon outside… he said that he dreams a lot and that he isn't sure anybody's interested in it.
The first thing I realized when I saw this wonderful mind sitting in front of me is that the carbon based body it was encased in was certainly not immune to the ravages of that elusive of dimensions-time. It's strange, when you study a person for as long as I did, to finally meet him face to face. The symbol he becomes tends to be larger than the actual two-point-six cubic feet he actually occupies. I briefly explained to him that we came all the way from Israel, especially for his birthday, to present him with some gifts and get the most up-to-date snapshot of the human species. I said that while I had questions on anything from extra dimensions to extra-terrestrial intelligence, I was particularly interested in his view vis-à-vis the illogical affair of faith and reason. This seemed to have "switched him on" and he proceeded to deride religion as "a cruel evil invented by the "devil" to obscure "god"." It was certainly one of the better explanations I heard considering the fact that usually most of them seem to fall into the standard formula of RELIGION equals POWER HUNGRY INTELLIGENTSCIA plus TRULY HUNGRY MASSES times THE AVERAGE HUMAN'S INABILITY TO EXPLAIN EVERYTHING divided by AN INSANE FEAR OF DEATH.
Finally he was getting a little tired so we said we'd love to return tomorrow if possible. Clarke checked his calendar and said he could squeeze us in between his morning nap and his afternoon schlaaffstunde. I asked him how he felt and he said that he is being taken care of by his family and that for an ex-diver and Polio survivor he was doing pretty well for himself. I was never a sentimental person and quite frankly, until recently, I was certain I am the best thing that ever happened to me. But shaking the hand that shook hands with every astronaut that ever went to space, that operated the first RADAR, that penned all those marvelous lines, that sent man to the stars, had had a mystic effect on me. Or it could simply be the close proximity to kanyakumari- India's southernmost tip said to be a gateway between this world and several possible others. Clarke asked that we try to come early because that's when he's sharpest. Then he bellowed a loud "shalom" and we were out the door.
As we quietly walked back to our hotel I was lost in thought. I could only hope that we will be able to tap into the man's awesome power of extrapolation one more time and I'd like to think that our Mediterranean naiveté will prove the right way to go. Either way we are one step closer.
Me: how are you sir?
Clarke: ok, ok.
Me: Do you remember us from yesterday?
Clarke: speak up please.
Me: Can you hear me?
Clarke: yes, yes.
Me: You said that you don't believe in god but that you are very interested in him.
Clarke (smiling broadly): or her…
Me: …or her. What have you found?
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