Sunrise Ranch

By Jerry Kvasnicka

I remember dancing to the song “Born to Be Wild” by Steppenwolf back in the late ’60s. As I danced with abandon something deep within me seemed to compel the realization that wildness is basic to my nature. I now feel this is true for all of us. There is an aspect of our divine nature that is wild, a complement to the vastness and intricacy of the divine imagination. As a captivating slice of wilderness demonstrates, nature certainly is elementally wild, and we, being intricately linked to nature, partake of this intrinsic wildness. Our being is not fulfilled until this wildness is allowed expression.

But wildness that is totally out of control can become chaotic and destructive. There are multitudinous evidences of this in the world in which we live. In fact, given the realities of terrorism (for example, the Friday the 13th massacre in Paris by ISIS) the threat of nuclear war, environmental degradation and a host of other seemingly insoluble problems afflicting (and caused by) humanity, a good case can be made that the whole world has gone destructively wild.

Destructive versus creative wildness

Yet there is a wild side of our nature that craves expression and will not be denied. Consistent suppression of this impulse could result in psychological imbalance or even psychosis. So the challenge is to express it in a positive, creative and life-enhancing way, something that I find can only happen when a person is in right identity. When personal identity springs from ego, the “small self” or involvement in the human drama, wildness is bound to be destructive. But when it issues from truth of oneself (i.e., the cohesive power of love at the stable core of Being), beautiful and wondrous things can emerge, all in an easy, natural and safe way.

In the late 1960s, a wild streak ran through the body of humanity creating “flower children” and the hippie subculture along with revolutionary developments in music and other forms of art. I found myself swept up in this turbulent tide, and since I had little idea of who I was and my purpose in life, my inherent wildness expressed itself in unconstrained, rebellious and even violent ways.

New Left and Acid Left

In 1968 it was the “New Left” that consumed my attention. I became a charter member of the Colorado College chapter of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and led marches against the war in Vietnam. I remember demonstrating in front of a line of soldiers at Fort Carson as helicopters hummed overhead. I defamed an army uniform by festooning it with flowers and wearing it to a war protest in front of the local Selective Service office, and by the way, being hit in the stomach by two Vietnam veterans. I remember a party at my house where I served wine and talked to a guest who was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List for blowing up electrical towers.
In 1969 it was the “Acid Left” that took center stage in my life. In other words, I became a hippie. I ran a young adult crisis center for the Colorado Springs Council of Churches. In actual fact it was a hippie crash pad where psychedelic drug use, all-night parties and group sex were rampant. The city’s number one drug distributor lived in the basement and paid his rent with any drug I wanted (LSD, mescaline, marijuana, etc.) on any given night. On my last LSD trip I had to be restrained from jumping off a balcony after going to see the movie “Midnight Cowboy.”

Yes in those years it could be said that I was wild, but it was obviously not a healthy and life-enhancing kind of wildness. Thinking of the chances I took back then it is something of a miracle that I was not arrested and forced to serve time. But I suppose it was necessary to move through that destructively wild period before I could begin to discover the truth of who I am and what I came on earth to do. And coincidentally to discover how the wildness within me could be expressed in a creative and constructive way.

A wild theatrical production

Not long after I moved to Sunrise Ranch and began to seriously connect with the truth of who I am, I simultaneously began to discover ways of releasing my inherently wild spirit in positive and uplifting ways. One project in particular stands out in this regard. It was a ninety minute play that eight of us performed at Sunrise, the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley and at the Colorado Springs center of the University of Colorado.

The play was called “Wizards of the Zodiac,” and featured two astrologers (Zeke Zodiac and Walter Wizard III) presenting a natal horoscope to a client. The first part of the play we focused on all the negative aspects of the chart—the squares and oppositions, the afflictions, the challenges. And when the client was thoroughly devastated by all of this we lifted him up by revealing all positive aspects of the chart—the trines and sextiles, the fortuitous conjunctions and most of all the beauty, wonder and glory of “the thirteenth sign,” i.e. the sign of true being that transcends the twelve signs of the zodiac.

We had no script for the play; our words and actions came spontaneously in the moment. The two astrologers dressed in costumes sat behind a large table that was spread with assorted psychedelic paraphernalia and occult accessories, including several candles, incense, a human skull, a steaming cauldron filled with dry ice and two flasks filled with a wine Zeke had made called “marigold madness,” about 80-proof! We also had a lighting and sound technician bringing special effects and four “dancing girls” who danced and sang at various times during the play to music we had written.

Loosing the divine imagination

I’m quite sure this was the wildest mid-week service ever given at Sunrise Ranch. But despite its outlandish façade, it was not some explosive and potentially destructive outburst from an unconstrained heart. There was Mystical method to the madness and Providential purpose to the preposterous display. We mined the divine imagination and gave it refreshing and radiant release.
The very core and essence of our being is love. In fact love powers everything in the universe. It is an overwhelming and irresistible force that can manifest as integration or disintegration, creation or destruction, depending on one thing: control. Love is analogous to fire. When under control, such as a furnace, fire provides useful heat. When out of control, such as a forest fire, it can be devastating to trees and people.

For the wild energy of love to be creatively and constructively released by human beings there must be the control of truth. But unfortunately the world today is a sad spectacle of love gone destructively wild. A tremendous volume of love is being released but where is the control of truth? Terrorists, for example, are willing to give their lives for what they love, but look at the destruction they bring.

Tempering love with truth

What is the truth? Put very simply the truth is oneness, oneness with each other and, more importantly, oneness with the divine, with the Creator, with Universal Being. It honors the sacredness of all life and the creative process that ultimately governs all life. Once a person connects with this process through the consistent expression in living of the highest and finest qualities of character he/she begins to know the truth. And once this base of truth is established love can express at will in wild and wondrous ways.
My personal template for how this happens is a song I used to listen to over and over again as I transitioned from unconstrained and chaotic wildness to purposeful and divinely-inspired wildness. “Down By the River” by Neil Young features a slow, steady beat of percussion and base guitar throughout. But on top of this beat an electric guitar goes literally wild with a captivating cascade of sounds that used to take my breath away. Improvise, rhapsodize, harmonize, even introduce dissonance, all made possible by the foundational beat and rhythm, which to me symbolizes the truth.

Some words of a poem by Hermann Hesse seem to capture something of this:

One shaft of light breaks through the jagged clouds
That brilliant shaft dissevers teeming generation
Into both deed and war, and in a frenzy of creation
Ignites a gleaming terrified new world.
All changes where the seeds of light descend,
Order arises, magnificence is heard
In praise of life, of victory to light’s great end.
Now joy and pain, words, art, and song,
World towering on world in arching victory throng,
With impulse, mind, contention, pleasure, love.

That brilliant shaft emanates from the divinely wild impulse of love, and in absolute fidelity to the design and control of truth, births unimaginable wonders and magic. For this cause we came into the earth. “And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” Free to be the wild beings we inherently are.

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