Wheels in Motion

A bicycle, faith and a grand plan will take Paul Flowers around the world, he says, in an unconventional quest for truth.

February 03, 2003|By John Woestendiek | John Woestendiek,SUN STAFF

Where Paul Flowers has been: Florida (born); Wales (toddler); Nashville (teen-ager); ninth grade (dropped out); San Francisco (headed there at 17); homeless (once he arrived); college (off and on); Pentagon (Navy intelligence); divinity school (virtually); and Baltimore (bike messenger, coffeehouse waiter and ponderer of the universe).

Where Flowers is going: New Orleans (to talk to voodoo priests); Arizona (to meet with Hopi elders); Central America (to visit Mayan ruins); Egypt (pyramids); Italy (Vatican); Tibet (Buddhist monks) and Australia (aborigines).

How he is getting there: A recumbent bicycle, upon which - with $42 in his pocket - he got off to a wobbly start on Jan. 26, the first leg of what he describes as a part spiritual, part scientific, mostly unfunded expedition around the world to interview its indigenous elders, visit its sacred sites and seek the answers to life's mysteries.

"I don't want to sound like an X-Files cliche, but I want to know the truth - where we really came from and why we're really here," Flowers said in an interview before his departure.

"There are answers," he added, sitting in the office of what he calls "The Harmonies Project" and scratching the ears of his Saint Bernard. "It's just a matter of looking in the right places and asking the right people the right questions."

Paul Flowers, who seems to have way too much on his resume - and in his head - for a 26-year-old, says he has been looking for those answers about half his life. When he was 13, he said, his mother gave him a deck of Tarot cards, a Bible, a giant amethyst crystal and a book on witchcraft, telling him there were equal truths in all, and that it was up to him to separate "the wheat from the chaff."

If Flowers sounds a bit unconventional, he acknowledges as much when he introduces himself on his Web site:

"My name is Dr. P.W. Flowers, D.D. I am an ex-Naval Intelligence counter-terrorism analyst, and have been doing research in the fields of archaeoanthropology, archaeocryptography, archaeotheology, World Religion, Astrophysics, and Pythagorean Mathematics for several years. But I have strayed from the mainstream belief structure. ... I and my colleagues are positing that the ... accepted theories of the origins and age of `modern man' are completely wrong ... "

Flowers declines to talk much about his family or the year he spent in the Office of Naval Intelligence, but in piecing together his colorful past it's clear that the "mainstream belief structure" is not all Flowers has strayed from.

An only child who says he never knew his father, Flowers is no longer on speaking terms with his mother, Paulette Flowers, a former television writer who lives in Tennessee and writes a syndicated column about country music.

He was fired from his most recent job, at a Baltimore coffeehouse, mainly because he talked too much, the owner says, and at least one regular customer there - after Flowers failed to follow through on his promise to perform his wedding ceremony - is still peeved at him.

Flowers' doctorate in divinity is from an Arizona-based church that has ordained 18 million ministers - anyone who applies, free of charge - and now offers online ordinations in three minutes.

And his stint with Navy intelligence - during which he managed to obtain his master's degree in psychology and the recumbent bicycle he had longed for since childhood - ended with an early discharge for reasons neither he nor the Navy will comment on.

Records show that Flowers enlisted in the Navy in August 2000. Before he was discharged in February 2002, he spent six months in training and another year as an intelligence specialist in the Office of Naval Intelligence in Suitland.

His duties often took him to the Pentagon, Flowers said. He was there on Sept. 11, 2001.

He stayed on the scene several days, helping take food to disaster workers, and during that time he was quoted in an Atlanta newspaper article about the recovery effort.

Today, he sidesteps questions about his intelligence work. "I learned a bunch of interesting things in the Navy, most of which I can't talk about," he says. "I think I learned a little bit more than I wanted to know."

An enigmatic sort, Flowers smokes and is a vegetarian. He has an English accent, though he grew up mostly in Tennessee. His musical diversions include classical piano and the didgeridoo. He stands 6 feet tall, weighs 155 pounds, and sports a red pony tail and goatee. At the house he shared with five roommates on Linwood Street in Baltimore, the answering machine announces, "Linwood Home For Wayward Weirdos."

Those who know him, while admitting he can go on at great length about subjects dear to him, admire his motivation, envy his adventurousness and praise his unquenchable thirst for knowledge.

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