Book Launch Event! Come celebrate the launch of The Transmigrant with me on July 13, from 6:30 to 9:30 PM at Victoria Cafe, 70 W 107th Street, NYC (between Columbus & Manhattan Aves).Read More
OK, I must admit, I'm still trying to teach myself that vulnerability is nothing to fear. We all want to be tough, secure, and confident. But everyone, deep inside, is vulnerable, and that's perfectly normal. In fact, the only way to find happiness is by letting your guard down.
If you long to love and be loved, you must first allow yourself to be naked (figuratively) before the world. There's nothing wrong with saying "I love you" first. It's OK to not have the sentiment returned. By saying the words, you open your heart and you become love. Because true love is unconditional. If it's not, it's a need, a want, a desire -- not love.
A few weeks ago, my novel, The Transmigrant, finally went up for pre-sale on Amazon. As exciting as this is -- after all it's my first published novel -- it scares the heebie-jeebies out of me. I'm baring my inner soul to the entire universe and open myself up to criticism, and perhaps even ridicule and scorn. Hopefully, though, there will mostly be praise, but you never know.
Just before pre-releasing this book, I had a bad cold. I refused to stay at home from work and just pushed through until my boss finally told me I looked worse and worse and begged me to stay home. I did. Half a day. Because I'm a tough girl. I'm not a wuss. I don't get sick. So there's the parallel to the release of my novel -- I don't like to show my vulnerability. And it's pretty dumb. And I have to get over it. I will, I have promised myself, accept that I'm sick next time I feel under the weather. It's OK not to be perfect. No one is.
And a such, I humbly open up myself to you, to the world, and hope that you will love my novel, The Transmigrant, as much as I do. Because guess what -- no unpublished novel ever became a bestseller or won any prices.
With and abundance of love,
Kristi Saare Duarte
Capernaum, Galilee, 1 AD
Flap. Flippety-flap. Flap. The yellow butterfly fluttered its black-tipped wings in desperation against the synagogue ceiling, unaware of the open window only a few feet away. On a mat below, five-year-old Yeshua lounged against his father’s shoulder, squeezed in between the other Yehudi men of the village. His gaze wandered to the women’s side of the dividing curtain where his mother sat cross-legged with his younger siblings. They were still too small to understand the words of God. Not like Yeshua. No, God and Yeshua were already the best of friends.
On top of a wooden pulpit at the front, flickering oil lamps danced in the breeze and the scent of incense filled the snug meeting room with magic. Yeshua tried to keep pace with the grown-ups who swayed back and forth, chanting monotonous words of praise. He longed to one day be just like the rabbi who leaned over the pulpit as if he carried the conscience of the entire world on his shoulders and read out loud from the Torah scrolls in Hebrew, the priests’ own language. Yeshua would stand in front of all the neighbors and, with a steady voice, teach them the true words of God. Words of wisdom.
The rabbi brushed his wrinkled hand through the remaining wisps of gray hair on his head and lowered his tasseled head scarf onto his shoulders. When he spoke, the ambience changed like an evening sky, shifting from blazing orange to purple and pink. It became warm and vivid, as if angels had touched everyone’s heart.
“Esteemed men—children of the Lord!” the rabbi exclaimed in a voice that could have awakened even the deadest corpse from eternal slumber. “Do you not see how he loves you more than your fellow villagers? And still, you cannot—should not—ignore his commandments. For you, he created Sabbath as a day to rest, not hurry. Forsake your worries today and revel in the divine. Ah, what a magnificent day to celebrate in God, to enjoy silence and seclusion. To sit still and hear his voice speak to us…”
Yeshua’s chest filled with a tender glow. With paradise. And just like the graceful butterfly above, he remained oblivious of the invisible chains that bound him.
But Sabbath came only once a week. On other days, a sleepy Yeshua rose before sunset and followed his father to the workshop around the corner from their home where he spent his days filing corners of tables and doors with an iron rasp until his hands burned with blisters. That’s what boys did; they adopted their fathers’ trade. It didn’t seem fair: filing wood was for babies. But his father said only big boys could use the fun tools like the saw, the plane, and the chisels. Yeshua peered through the window at the black-headed gulls that soared across the sky, free to go anywhere they chose. And he drifted into daydreams.
One day, as Yeshua was helping his father unpack a delivery of cedar logs for a tax collector’s table, two impossibly tall white-robed men staggered into the workshop. They had to bow their turbaned heads to enter.
“Water,” one of them croaked in broken Aramaic, his eyes bloodshot with thirst. He slumped onto the floor. “I please beg of you. Water.”
The log in Yeshua’s arms fell to the floor with a bang. God said to always help the needy. He squeezed his way between the giants, and ran out the door and around the corner to their house, where his mother was baking bread in the courtyard. “Ama, Ama! Two men—foreigners. Come quickly! And bring water.”
“Who has come?” She frowned but didn’t move.
“Come! They need water!” Yeshua pulled her hand with all his weight. “Hurry!”
Without haste, Ama cleaned her hands, filled a jug of water from the vat, and pulled her head scarf across her face. Yeshua stayed close behind her as they entered the workshop, then crouched in the corner while Ama served the men cool water in ceramic cups. He had seen men like these before, from afar. Fascinating men, straight out of legends, they passed through Capernaum in caravans of hundreds of camels along the trade route between Damascus and Alexandria.
Ama dripped lavender oil onto the strangers’ palms and necks and told them to rub it in with a circular motion until their breathing had resumed a normal rhythm.
“Now, good men, what else may I do for you?” Abba said, and gestured to his wife to leave. Yeshua leaned against the wall and tried to make himself invisible. He was transfixed by these intimidating men with wide-bladed daggers hooked to their belts and fingers heavy with golden rings. And yet there was a kindness, an almost loving presence, about them. One of the men, his eyes like a burning sunset, caught him staring and grinned. His white teeth glistened against his swarthy complexion. Yeshua relaxed; these were respectable men after all, honest travelers. The men unfurled a heavy linen scroll that revealed a circular chart with scribbles of stars, moons, crosses, and triangles. The man who had smiled at him pointed at the chart and spoke in chunks of Aramaic peppered with peculiar words Yeshua had never heard before.
“We come looking for…a ray of light… And three hundred years ago, Prophet Zarathustra… Praise be to God for your help… Planet Jupiter and stars in the sky show the way to us…and there will come…next prophet soon…” The man stopped midsentence and pointed at Yeshua. “This your son?”
“Come to here, boy.” The man reached out his enormous hand, grasped Yeshua by the chin, and stared into his eyes as if searching for something. His intense gaze made Yeshua faint with fear, but he couldn’t look away. Nearby, his father breathed heavily, nervously. Yeshua swallowed. Time seemed to have stopped. And then the man burst out laughing. Thick, short bursts of laughter. Yeshua wriggled free and ran to safety behind his father, where he watched the strangers chuckle and clap their hands. Their cackles echoed around the room.
Why were they laughing?
The man who had grabbed his chin beamed. He mumbled something to his friend, and then turned to Abba.
“Your son, one day, great man. Prophet. What you call it—Messiah. The world waits long time for him, his message.”
“No, no…” Abba shook his head, his voice in shards. “No!” he said again with more determination. “Forgive my insolence, but that’s nonsense. My son is a carpenter. Enough of this foolishness. Why does everyone wish for a Messiah to come and solve all their troubles?” He rubbed the spot between his eyebrows. “Those are the ignorant dreams of victims, of desperate men.”
The strangers rolled up their scroll and smoothed their robes. The discussion was over. The man who had spoken reached into his pouch and retrieved a yellow scarf tied into a bundle, which he placed in Abba’s palm, closing his fingers around it.
Then the strangers disappeared into the dusk as abruptly as they had arrived.
“Abba, Abba, what did they say? What did they give you?” Yeshua couldn’t hold back any longer.
Still shaking his head, his father patted him on the head and untied the yellow silk scarf. Folded inside was a shiny golden ring with a large turquoise stone, a clump of fragrant frankincense, and a jar of myrrh oil. When Yeshua reached to grab the ring, Abba slapped his hand.
Tears stung Yeshua’s eyes. Why was his father angry?
Inside their home, Abba threw the bundle at his wife.
“Look, Maryam. Behold what they gave us. Gifts for a nobleman. A king!” He covered his eyes with his hands. “They spoke of a prophecy. Their charts depict that an extraordinary child has been born hereabouts. But I didn’t understand where. In Galilee? Maybe Judea? The Roman Empire?”
Yeshua put his arms around his younger brother Yakov for comfort, shielding him from the serious discussion.
“They search for him. That’s what they do. They make charts of the stars and planets, decipher them, and then scour the world for this child.”
“And that’s why they gave you these presents? To help look for the child?” Ama squatted next to her husband, baby Iosa suckling her breast.
“No. They reckon it’s—the large one.”
Ama glanced at Yeshua.
He hugged his brother closer. What did it mean, the large one?
“Who are they?” she asked.
“Zoroastrian seers. Devotees of a prophet called Zarathustra, from Persia.” Yosef pressed his knuckles together. “They wish to educate him about their faith. They will return when he’s grown.”
“Oh!” Ama pulled her nipple from Iosa and placed the protesting infant in his cot. “Did you tell them we are Yehudim?”
“Forget it, Maryam. Let’s just forget this.” He tied up the gifts in the yellow scarf and hid it in a hole under the stove.
Yakov squirmed out of Yeshua’s embrace and snuggled up into his father’s lap, but Yeshua couldn’t move. Why had the men laughed? And why did they bring gifts for a king? And who was the large one they spoke about?
Could it be he—Yeshua? Was it possible?
In a town hall meeting at work the other day, the CEO of our company said: "If you don't like your job, if you walk down the hallways with a sour face, don't bother to come to work. We don't want you."
Harsh as it may seem, there's a basic truth in it. People don't want to be around Negative Nellies. Why are bubbly people always popular? Because their happiness lifts everyone else's moods. I'm the kind of person who smiles a lot. AIthough I couldn't say I'm bubbly, exactly, I like to smile and as a child I was called "the girl who always smiles." Until someone told me NO, of course. Then I cried.
However, this smiling, happy persona is not a permanent state of mind for me. Like everyone else, I get annoyed, stressed out, and sometimes I'm just tired. I work a lot, I like to work a lot, but I always seem to take on more than I can handle and it wears me out.
What I did think about this week, though, is how different people treat me when I'm not smiling and happy. It's like I have an obligation to others to stay positive. I struggle with this, sometimes, I feel sorry for myself that I don't seem to have the right to be down. But what's the real solution? Of course I, too, would benefit from being in a good mood all the time. And perhaps this "obligation" is a lesson for me to try to see the positive in every situation (which I usually do), even when I'm tired?
Food for thought. Something I work on and try to improve.
But those days, when I happen to smile at strangers spontaneously, and they smile back ... how wonderful that connection feels, even if it's just fleeting.
As soon as the words “You have every right to be angry, I messed up,” were out of my mouth, peace settled in the room, and I could feel his anger dissipate.
So easy. Before that moment, before those words, my mind had swirled with defensive outcries like, “But you did…” and “How could I have known…”
Luckily, I held my tongue. It was in the middle of the night, I was half asleep, and perhaps what Yeshua calls “Spirit” had spoken through me. When you sleep, your soul opens and connects to the Universe, the All, or God. You become all-knowing. I had messed up, that was true. I had left the bar early, had gone to sleep, and put my ear plugs in. It never entered my mind that my husband might not have a key. It didn’t occur to me that I should have my cell phone next to bed in case of an emergency. I only thought of getting enough sleep. And thus, my husband spent fifteen minutes calling me, banging on the door, and ringing the doorbell before I woke up. He did have every right to be angry.
The next morning, I thought of a conversation I had with a friend fifteen years earlier. We were traveling in Nicaragua and were having drinks at the hotel bar. The more we drank, the more she described everything that was wrong with me. How I criticized people. I was sarcastic and hurt peoples’ feelings. And on and on. I listened, somewhat uncomfortably, but I heard what she said and saw the truth in some of the complaints. After a long time hearing her out, I said: “I know I’m not perfect, and I’m really working on becoming a better person. But I’m sure you also have things you want to improve with yourself.” Her answer shocked me: “No, I don’t think I have any reason to improve.” I felt lucky, then, that at least I knew, at least I tried to become better.
What I did learn from that night a few days ago, was not only to leave a key for my husband when he gets home late, but to accept my mistakes and allow someone else to be angry. Or hurt. I’m going to keep making mistakes. I’m still sarcastic and sometimes I hurt others with my jokes, even though I don’t mean any harm. But I’ve learned to hold my tongue sometimes. Every angry thought, every funny joke, doesn’t have to pass my lips. It’s OK to stay quiet and let the thoughts storm in my head.
To my friend, I want to say that I’m sorry. That night in Managua, I thought I was better than her, more awakened. Quite arrogantly, I thought she just didn’t know herself enough, so it was easier to criticize me than to accept her own faults. I didn’t realize she was mirroring me. In the end, it’s not a competition of being better than anyone else. It’s not a race. It’s a long long journey. And the only one we have to face in the battle is our self.
I’m neither religious nor an atheist. Honestly, I have nothing to prove; I don’t care if Jesus ever lived, or if he was simply the concoction of Roman, Greek, and Egyptian gods which was used to control the masses. So why did I spend the last five years writing a book about Jesus?
At times, I have asked myself the same thing. Especially when trying to promote a non-Christian book about Jesus to literary agents. They don’t get it. Of course, Christian publishers would frown at a book where Jesus studies Buddhism and Hinduism, where he makes love to several women, and where his mother is absolutely not a virgin. And will traditional publishers shy away from a book about Jesus, because—admit it—the Jesus of movies and literature is not a very cool or interesting guy?
Still, every single person I’ve told about the book wants to read it. Why? Because like me, they have wondered why Christianity bears such similarities to the eastern religions, and how Jesus suddenly blossomed into a spiritual leader at the age of 30, after spending his entire life as a carpenter. Could it really be that Jesus traveled to Pakistan and India, to Nepal and Tibet?
Few people, Christians included, have heard about the Russian adventurer Nicolas Notovich who in 1887 discovered ancient scrolls describing Jesus travels, while convalescing in the Tibetan Hemis Monastery in Ladakh, India>
Before I started writing The Transmigrant, I have to confess, I didn’t care much for Jesus. In fact, the mere mention of his name made me cringe. His name called to mind the religious fanatics who attack others on the streets and in the subways, who declare that if you don’t believe in Jesus you will go to hell and burn for all eternity. The most devout Christians often make Jesus sound like a judgmental bully on the playground; if you don’t like him, Jesus will smack you. The person they describe is neither godlike nor holy, and many of his followers are just as mean. Simply, I didn’t like the guy. Not one bit.
Still, the thought lingered: could all these fanatics have misinterpreted Jesus’ words? If the man could heal the sick, and ask people to turn the other cheek, he couldn’t have been judgmental. He must have been connected to God (or the Universe, Brahman, whatever you’d like to call it). Was there a hidden message in the pages of the New Testament? And could I find it?
The first time I traveled in India, in 2005, I walked by a man who sold books in the street. One of them was “Jesus in India.” I didn’t buy the book at that time, but I never forgot about it. The thoughttitillated me, could Jesus really have travelled that far? Then again, I’ve heard people say that Jesus travelled to England and Peru, and all sorts of places. I pushed the idea to the back of my mind, thinking it was pure wishful thinking on part of the Indian, the English, and the Peruvians.
I don’t recall how I picked up Notovich’s book, The Life of Saint Issa, a few years later. But I do remember reading it on my Kindle and realizing how much the story made sense. The more I looked into the story, and learned about the villages across Asia with lakes and meadows named after Saint Issa, the more it trigged something within me. I had always wanted to research and write a book about how all religions in essence are the same. Now I had found my format.
I read the New Testament to search for the true Jesus, and among the many fabrications and distortions, I did find nuggets of gold. Of God. How many people have read the Bible with an open mind, without any preconceptions of what it should say? It became very clear to me, very quickly, which parts of the book has been changed, or written by people who never met Jesus, and which parts still hold some of his words. Research later confirmed my instincts, when you learn what sections were written within fifty years of Jesus’ death, and which were written much later by people who had heard a story from someone who had heard a story who had heard a story. Just like three people may remember the same situation differently, so did these people color their stories after their own beliefs. How much do you remember from the 1970s? How exactly can you describe what someone told you then?
Of course, The Transmigrant is fiction. I’m not going to try to convince anyone that it’s the absolute truth. But the story makes sense. The timeline in Life of Saint Issa fits. And along the way I learned to like Yeshua, the Jesus in my novel, because he is human being with flaws and all, but he means well. I believe in him. And I believe my story is closer to the truth than all the other stories written about him, modeled on the same “accepted” storyline drawn from the gospels that were written by people who had never met Jesus.
You, of course, are absolutely free to believe what you want.
Aside from any doubts based purely on biology, there are many reasons to believe the "virginity" label was added as a second thought. In the time when Yeshua was born (First century BC), women had a very low standing in society. Menstruating and pregnant women were considered so impure that all gods of the time (including the Roman emperors who declared themselves divine) had virgin mothers. This includes the Buddha, Perseus, Hephaestus, Karna, Osiris, Horus, Ra, Bacchus, Hercules, etc.
The first mention of Mariam's virginity is from the Gospel of Matthew, written more than 70 years after Yeshua passed away. Neither Mark, John nor Paul mention a virgin birth. The Marian cult rose under Eusebius (260-340 AD) and Emperor Constantine (280-337 AD), when Christianity became a state religion and the Romans saw a political need to establish a competitor to the important Isis cult. Mother Goddess Mary replaced the Mother Goddess Isis. [source: The Court-Martial of Jesus by Weddig Fricke]
Yeshua's brothers and sisters are mentioned in several places of the New Testament: Matthew 13:55-56, John 7:1-10, Acts 1:14, and Galatians 1:19. Roman historian Josephus and Pope Clement I also confirm in their writings that Yakov, the brother of Yeshua, was the leader of the first assembly (ecclesia, or church) after Yeshua passed away.
Aviram Oshri, a senior archaeologist with the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA), has said: "Basic medical knowledge tells you that a heavily pregnant woman could not ride a donkey that kind of distance without losing her baby." Although medical knowledge was primitive in those days, that much information would have been generally known. Joseph and Mary would not have had access to a method of transportation other than walking on foot or by riding on an animal.
The census, for which they needed to travel the 150 km (93 miles) to Jerusalem, took place in AD 6 or 7, when Yeshua was around 10 years old. And at the time of census no one was allowed to travel. Anywhere.
Besides, there were two towns called Bethlehem in those days, one near Jerusalem in Judea, and the other not far from the site where the village Nazareth would later be built, in Galilee. Logic says Jesus would have been born in Galilee.
The only reason why the Bible editors would have Jesus born in Judea was to fulfill the prophesies of Micah 5:2, where the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem in Judea. Galileans, at that time, were not considered very sophisticated, and a Messiah from Galilee would not work.
"The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ" was transcribed from ancient Tibetan scrolls that Russian explorer Nicolas Notovich found in a monastery in Northern India. They spoke about a journey Jesus made through Asia where he studied Buddhism and Hinduism. But as soon as Notovitch returned to Europe and announced his amazing find, the church ridiculed him and fought hard to deny his claims. After all, in many ways these ancient scrolls contradict the persona invented by the First Council of Nicaea. And of course many historians still dismiss Notovitch as a fraud and claim no one else has ever seen these scrolls. But that's not true. In 1922 the Indian Swami Abhedananda saw the scrolls. In 1925,the Russian professor Nicholas Roerich saw them, and later in 1939 two ladies, the American Mrs. Clarence Gasque andthe Swiss Madame Elizabeth Caspari saw the same scrolls. There are undeniable parallels between Jesus' speeches and the scriptures of the ancient religions. It's much more logical than unlikely that Jesus was in fact influenced by all these religions, although we will never truly know whether he traveled through Asia or just encountered and learned from spiritual leaders who traveled through his own country.