The path is a mechanism

Posted: 15/07/2017 in Freedom, Insight, Writing


This started as a possible response to a letter, hence the quote but moved way beyond that, so it is a blog. Note – Chris McCandless was the young man (in the film “Into the Wild” based on reality) who rejected his upbringing, an interesting film about a young man finding his path.

It is interesting to make contact with people. We (letter?) might well be far apart but what you say still creates sparks within. I reacted to this sentence, and now realise I was reacting to a misread “Chris McCandless could easily have turned to drugs or drink as a way of coping if he stayed in the family constellation whilst simultaneously rejecting it.”. I thought what was said was that Chris McCandless could well have resorted to drugs or drink once on his journey but the misread was that I didn’t remember the family constellation part. I completely agree with that sentence as written. For me once Chris was living in nature on the road hiding in drugs and drink would be the last thing on his mind. So I began asking how did I let it happen, it kind of makes a mockery of the Path that I claimed to be on the Path and yet I became a drunk.

This is well worth analysis, and much of it coincides with the period in my life we have been discussing – my time at Dick Sheppard and before (up to 35). I have always been different from what appears to be “normal” people, but then no-one can know what it is like to be a “normal” person as we can only truly know our own experience. I consider my life until “hitting bottom” as lying dormant inside a body that was running automatically. My adolescent experiences were not something I was involved in; I feel it was self-protection, nature not allowing me to be exposed. My family life was just hiding (for all of us) – television, occasional family trips and sport. It was almost like my father had decided this is what a family should be, and he moulded us into it. I can’t say I felt it as repression but I recall walking for hours around the streets of Sale and around the banks of the Mersey. When I think back to how far I walked it was staggering. Walking was an unconscious escape. If I had been forced to confront the forces, it would have been an almighty conflict. As it is the family all accepted the mould for different reasons, my brother still calls the family dysfunctional but his experience and assessment of it are very different to mine. For a number of years I blamed my upbringing for the depths I sank to at “hitting bottom”, but that was ignorant. How do you blame parents and school for failing to do something that they don’t understand? There were legitimate complaints of a more “traditional” variety but giving me the upbringing to help me develop onto the Path should not be one.

I had the occasional adolescent drink but drink started for me at university. I was there a year early and was young for my age. I was a laughing stock. In the sixth form I had moved towards hippy rejection – no drugs but there was a friend with whom I talked through the night. That must have been sprouting awareness but I recall no content. University drowned all that with booze. People of character drank, those who didn’t drink were boffs – so I drank. I had no friends but hung around with a crowd of drinkers, and they eventually moulded me into a sports (low ability) drunk. I don’t recall any conversations about being drunks, it was what all people of character did. Unlike me however they controlled their behavior when drunk, I drank to get drunk and behave badly. By my postgrad year part of the true me had emerged, and there were long conversations through the night – I was not so often drunk that year, still drank heavily.

After I started work I sought experience through the drink. All the people of character at Scicon (my first job was as a computer analyst/porogrammer) drank, and as it was an office in the West End there was a sense of being where it was at. I blew the work side with a lack of discipline but I showed sufficient ability to my bosses that they hoped I might still be able to contribute. Most significant to the true me was the artist Wendy who took me under her wing (she was working as a typist and ran the in-house magazine) – although at the time I did not see her as important. I was very fortunate to have been at that firm, I still think of them as people of character – not something I would normally say of people in the rat race. I do remember Wendy introducing me to some of her art friends, and I remember an attractive artist telling me I was hiding in my suit. She was right but I am not sure she knew how much.

When the annual salary review showed me that the firm had given up on me, I moved on to a rat race firm that had no character. It was in Sevenoaks, and I was misguidedly persuaded to go there by a Scicon friend. In terms of a job it was the pits, in terms of my development it was the business as I cracked up and hit bottom.

I was at this firm 3 months. I remember the only highlights being to go up West and drink with erstwhile colleagues, and I slowly sank into the crack-up. I was incredibly vulnerable at this time – a month before I cracked up until a month afterwards. I was neither of the “normal” world – making no attempt to conform to the rat race, yet I had not developed the conviction of the Path to be independent of “normality”. I consider that at that time I was extremely vulnerable and might well have been termed “insane”. I rejected normality, could not hold down a job, was a drunk, and had no idea what I was doing. I would not have had the sense not to commit a criminal or insane act. If I had then come across someone in the system assessing me through a lens that did not see what was happening as emerging soul, I could well have had my development completely stunted – even institutionalised. For at least a year after hitting bottom I considered issues of my own sanity and normality, and how I would be accepted, and realised that I had sufficient strength to see myself as sane, and to have a sufficient façade that could fit into “normality”. Because I had the arts people around me accepting soul, I was not isolated, without them enabling me to reject normality it would have been so much harder to grow and develop.

It still frightens me that the system does not have the ability to recognise an “emerging soul”, and I would hope that people in the system with the responsibility for assessing emerging souls would have the integrity to refer such souls to those who accept soul’s existence. “One flew over the cuckoo’s nest” was a movie that rang true to me at the time.

To return to consideration of alcohol, on further reflection I understand better how the alcoholism developed. Unlike Chris McCandless I always sought compromise with the system as my Path ie finding a way of following the Path within the system. And that way is compassion. I understand all the closeness to nature because I felt that, but my compassion drove me to find a way in the system, whilst also finding ways of getting back to nature.

Compassion made me want to relate to people, something which at the time of rejecting society was not always easy. And where had I previously done this? Through the drink. As soon as I got back to London and found a job and somewhere to live I looked for the companionship of a bar. At that time it was just an occasional drink but there was the supposed “friends” that alcohol brought. No doubts at all, for the next year alcohol was concerned with companionship – not drunkenness.

Working in a care home there was a drink culture, and I started to slip into it, this continued through teacher-training year, and by then I avoided examining the incongruity of being on the Path and drinking. Because there were no people on the Path around me (as with the Arts Centre) to encourage me to reject this errant behaviour.

Many teachers used alcohol to control the stress, so starting at Dick Sheppard it was common place to wait until 5.30 to start drinking. Whilst many teachers needed a drink few let it control their lives the way I did. Of course I never saw that because teaching was my Path. And because London was an interesting place for young people, it was often through drink I met them. I even had a year out of drinking when I got spiritual one time – theosophy, but quickly slipped back into the drink when I got disillusioned with them.

When I resigned from DS in 1985 I was actually resigning from teaching, I had become disillusioned with it. DS was a time of teacher development for me. My compassion took me to teaching, and at DS I was trying to rationalise my compassion with what went on there, this compromise being significant in reinforcing my drinking. By 1985 I had decided that any goodwill my compassion created paled into comparison with the lack of education that was happening. I resigned to give up teaching. The Youth Centre magazine then became my life until I fell in love and circumstances took me to Brighton. I then returned to teaching to earn money, and became politically active when the relationship failed until I left for Africa where, in Botswana, I found my vocation again.

I stopped drinking in 1988. Once my relationship took me into teaching again, the relationship and teaching took me to drink, the dominant cause of the drink at the time was the relationship stress. My life then settled just into political activism for a couple of years but I still drank. Stopping was relatively easy and this I attribute to the Path. Stress drinking had become a habit, but the time constraints of the political activism limited the consumption. But teaching, activism and drinking were straining my 36-year-old body. Migraines became more frequent, I went to acupuncture which helped, and then over the week I drowned the help. My acupuncturist said to stop drinking or stop coming. I thought I’d give it a go, I suppose I was embarrassed to be given such an ultimatum. I suffered withdrawal – mainly on Friday nights. After 6 months not drinking was part of my life. However there was no great resurgence of the Path, I dove into politics until semi-exhausted I reduced the politics. There was one novel at the time. And events took me to Africa.

You cannot live in this world with the level of exuberance shown by Chris McCandless. It can be experienced for a while, and then it becomes people trying to recreate the experience. Once over the initial bells and banjoes people on the Path are forced to adopt lives with a certain level of “normalcy” often as teachers of the Path, creatives or recluses.

My back to nature was walking, and my norm was walking holidays or in Brighton out onto the South Downs. Once walking I would regularly evaluate my life in terms of the Path. I remember regular walking during the turmoil of the relationship, and being unable to connect the relationship to the Path; drinking never came up.

I have reached a point in which evaluation is difficult, but I should face it. I have been fortunate to have had a life on the Path, and what have I done with it? Very little. What could I have done? I don’t know. This is a good point to have reached because I am blocked. Have I been complacent? The Path is so wonderful, my achievement is minimal. It just feels like failure.

I remember nothing of the month of emerging from “hitting bottom” except looking into a pub near Xmas and thinking I would like to be having that fun except that it was not real and I didn’t want it – couldn’t have it. But I was up there maybe a month. Where was I?

I do remember the decision. I wanted to work in an office where people were together having fun, that was a decision? London had more going on. I walked into a temp agency, and they forced me into cobol. I had no place to go – just a job interview. And then a Hounslow bnb. Then the job cubicle, the loft room, Chiswick High Street. My first meditation highs. And somehow a reconnection to Wendy.

These are vague memories – not evaluation. Have I been true to my Path? That is not a question because if I was on the Path then I was true. But I was a drunk. And at the end of being a drunk I just taught. When I think about it I haven’t helped Gaia much.

“I have lived and am writing now” comes up, is that enough? No. One of my rationales when drinking was that I needed to get drunk Monday because I had too much energy. Crazy.

You see, I couldn’t answer the question. I went to bed early, sometimes I can just lie there and try to focus (a vague form of meditation), and the answer comes. I fell asleep, and woke after two hours with the weirdest dream, I love dreams like that. I was amongst aliens in human form, and was telling them what earth was like. “I’ll show you how we reproduce.” I took aside one of the sexy aliens and lifted up her skirt, and there was this huge penis draped over where her vagina would have been, with tendrils attaching it all the way up her body. I woke up.

And then came the thought “the Path was a mechanism”. Fascinating. So I thought about my history with the Path. The last time I consciously remember thinking about the Path was out on the South Downs when I was trying to come to terms with the relationship mess I was in. After the relationship I became political – not a spiritual time. It was very important for me to have spent that political time, I learnt a great deal. There is a general spiritual weakness – the failure to integrate the outer. Without that 3 or 4 years of concentrated activism I would not have understood that. Then to Africa where I learnt freedom, was guided to the mid-life review, studying education, then international schools – a step towards the finance of retirement, conversion to Buddhism, and meditation where my guide had meditation to enable control.

So last night my inner guide was telling me “The path was a mechanism”. Fascinating.

How attentive have I been to my guide? That’s not the question. Here is the answer to whatever the question is. I have been so fortunate to have experienced hitting bottom so early with such minimal pain. Having all the potential that finding myself can have, I wasted it with the drink. Once over the drink youthful vitality had gone. I was still learning about life but the youthful energy was gone. My life was mapped out – teaching, a good enough life, but nowhere near spiritual enough given the way the 1%-system controls education. I retired early, and my writing has developed as has my Buddhism. But I have no youthful energy to promote the writing so there is a deep frustration. In truth I only have a desire to write, social involvement has been used up.

So the real answer to the unwritten question is deep frustration at my lack of social impact given my understanding – whatever level that is. But I am now happy writing. Old people write to give back, it’s up to the young to learn from it. That is the way of Nature, do I have anything to offer?

Books:- Treatise, Wai Zandtao Scifi, Matriellez Education.

Blogs:- Ginsukapaapdee, Matriellez.

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