Questioning the destiny of being a reader in a world of nonreaders, like everyone in my extended family and nearly everyone I know, I wonder where I got it and why it stuck. I can remember being read to by mommy at bedtime. Daddy came home from the war and that was the end of mommy reading to baby in fourth year. With him in the house, mommy shut down and baby shut down. A raging ego was in the house demanding all attention for himself, how it stayed until I was able to get away and find my own life. First rule for self: never need to be center of attention. In the last years of high school, I moved to the garage where I found my peace and could read. I listened to jazz and mother complained that the noise coming from my room sounded like a night club. Rock n roll was new in my teens. Parents, hating the music I listened to, told me, Elvis won't last. Frank Sinatra and Glenn Miller will last. Glenn Miller is music. Whatever. Out from under their control, I rented an apartment and read just about all the time I was not working. Didn't know what I should be reading, so I read books from paperback racks that looked like I might like them, best-sellers of the time. Then, one day I walked into a bookstore, feeling like I was in a world foreign to any I'd ever experienced. The memory of it is kind of ghostly. I remember the light in the place. I found Allen Ginsburg's Howl and Other Poems, a turning point.
I couldn't make out what any of it was about, but the language was familiar, the language I used instead of convoluted Nineteenth Century poetry as remote to an American teenager as Bible times. Emily Dickenson, Longfellow, even Walt Whitman said nothing to me, though Allen Ginsburg spoke my own thoughts in my own language. Eventually, I came to laugh at Ginsburg as an American poet, and later, when that arrogance subsided, came to appreciate him again, this time with some understanding. Saw him perform once in Birmhingham, Alabama, at Birmingham Southern. I wanted to transfer there, drawn to the Deep South mystique. The South has had a mystique for me from as far back as I can recollect. I don't mean the politics. The politics in the South is as dumb as everywhere else. I sometimes think about being born in some unforeseen place next lifetime. Where would I like? All places have a dark side balancing the light side. The only place on earth that has a mystique for me in later years like the South had in the early years is a Tibetan community of northeastern India. As with the attraction to the South, it's so romantic a notion it bears questioning extensively before committing. It could be fun acquiring a taste for Tibetan tea that makes Westerners gag. As for next lifetime, I'd rather leave it to karma and see what turns up. If karma chose this last go-round, I needed some serious grounding at the start. If I chose it, I lost confidence in making a rational decision for self.
By now, having at least become acquainted with the soul, innermost self, I'm beginning to have maybe a keyhole peek into soul, itself?, myself?. Exploring the threads of destiny running through the life from first understandings, seeing them weave into patterns, reading the patterns as clearly as in a book by Chris Hedges, I see the tracks like deer trails in the forest leading to the present moment. The first twenty-three years kept the kid tied up in knots within, the kind of knots it takes a magician untie. Out of the Navy, I'd fulfilled all the you-gottas I was born into. It was a Friday. On Monday, I started school. It just worked out that way. A moment in the flow that told me, in retrospect, I was on the right track. At the moment, the weekend was the chop on the chopping block that freed self to start the healing process of untying the knots for the rest of the life, half a continent away from other people making my decisions. I became so jealous of living by my own decisions, I got the name of being remote. The process of untying interior knots became my purpose, the only purpose I completely committed to. I wanted mental/emotional health, wanted to read, to learn. There has never been a day I've missed anything that went before the chopping block weekend, but my hillbilly grandmother.
I don't mean I deny all that went before, I just don't dwell there but to attempt to understand the kid that constructed a shell around self, a fence, to keep out anti-rational influence. I'm glad I was in school during the transition years. It gave ground to stand on while I simultaneously did my wild-thang, drank more liquor than in all the years since. Worked in a bookstore, the ideal. Thought I'd stay with it after school, the corporate bookstores shut down the small bookstores, nothing left to do but find something to do. Came to a place I realized I don't make good decisions for self. One Tuesday afternoon at lunch, it came to me I've gone nowhere by my own decision making. Decided to let chance have it. Chance could only be better at making decisions than my sorry ego. It was like turning on the ignition. Day after day, I just allowed whatever was happening to be, became aware of consciousness in apparent chance, going by events during the day. Came to a place I wanted to step out of my life for an unknown number of days, to think about things, assess, restart. By chance I learned about Meher Baba's Center, between Myrtle Beach Hilton and North Myrtle Beach, between highway 17 and the beach, 500 acres of virgin forest with the path of the King's Highway running through it. A year later, by chance, I jumped on an opportunity to caretake a farm in the Blue Ridge year round. At the time, I thought of it as therapy. Turned out it was good medicine.