- The Marble Game
Good morning. I would be remiss in my duty to Truth if I were to leave you with the impression that the foregoing stories are the essence of my family life. There is another side, which added to the rototilling of my thought, but which, too, gives dimension to the metaphor of spiritual light in material darkness.
You have to understand that I loved my parents. Deeply, profoundly, without reservation.
I am not saying that the greatest spiritual perception comes from the roughest childhood. But I am saying that when you live in darkness you recognize light very well; and you come to understand it and appreciate it unlike people who are flooded with it all the time.
The love my parents had for me (and my brother) was demonstrably clear to me all the time. It wasn't that I had to look for it; it was rather that I had to see what they were doing in a different light.
They loved me continuously, and I knew it.
I think the most powerful demonstration of this was reflected in their protection of me. They protected me from two things for which I shall be eternally grateful--false religion, and false intellectualism.
It is easy to love a child.
It is much harder to love a child so much that you always have an eye out for the long long run. Where you take everything you know, intuitively recognizing the limits of your understanding, and project your education of your child as if he were going to take off from there.
It was a much higher kind of selflessness, in my parents' mind, to disregard the immediate joys of the moment, which they recognized as transient, for the much more elusive goal of evolutionarily advancing thought and being.
They always seemed to approach me and Marko from the standpoint of when we would leave the nest, not from the standpoint of the moments in the nest.
This philosophy of raising children has its good side as well as its bad.
But it took a great deal of risk, love of truth, and belief in growth, and love of life, and willingness to sacrifice the immediate for the long run, for them to expose us to the world of adults the way they did.
At least that was the way it shone through to the little kid they were raising.
At this point I should break away and tell you that we are about to enter the psychoanalytic portion of this course. I mention this now because it should be clearly understood that each of the kindly things I say about my primal family can be construed as a rationalization.
A rationalization in psychoanalytic terms is a conscious, deliberate, and rational statement that contradicts and conceals the truth that is lurking beneath the surface in the unconscious mind. By stating, believing, and getting other people to believe the rationalization one is thus able to conceal the truth about his feelings. One has a natural desire to conceal his feelings about the situation because they go back to when he was a helpless child, faced with an unbearable situation, from which he naturally seeks to hide.
Anybody would use psychological tricks on himself to conceal from himself feelings that are nightmarishly painful, yet which have a real and natural cause. Right?
Well, that is the central tenet of all major therapeutic shrinkery. Which stems directly and irrevocably from the thinking of Sigmund Freud, whose influence on twentieth century thought has been surpassed by no other man.
Keep in mind that everything I say about my family can be understood in a psychoanalytic way to conceal from me and from you my true feelings about them, which are really too unbearable for me to admit to consciousness.
The spiritual understanding of these perceptions is that they reveal what will turn out to have been true and enduring and causative in my family.
I approach things from the latter point of view, as you know, but I will present the former as effectively as I can.
All of this business about my parents' self-sacrifice in the interest of their kids' long term growth and understanding is really a thin-stretched effort to conceal the fact that they had too many problems of their own, and were consequently far too self-preoccupied, to pay attention to the problems of their kids.
At least that would be the bottom line of most psychiatric descriptions of the psychological dynamics of my family as described thus far.
It is this subtle little worm, quietly
devouring the leaves and sap of American and Western cultures that is the target of my
I would like to say a couple of very clear, definite things about family life.
First, what is going on is not what meets the eye. Remember that if what I am saying is correct, what is going on is really something fourth-dimensional, something having to do with our own personal relationship to God.
We are not the offspring of our parents; although every material appearance would have us believe so.
We are the offspring of God. Spiritual. Not material.
Second, everything that is going on in the nuclear family is going on for the benefit of everyone involved in that family, however it is composed, and whatever is happening. Everything going on in early childhood, as with all other times in our human life, is being controlled by Spirit, to the end that we come to discover, each of us in our own way, our fourth-dimensional relationship to our Source, as we shed the material bonds to our nuclear family.
This most often happens by way of our following the guiding stars that we glimpse in childhood as they are revealed to us by way of our parents.
Let me illustrate.
What do you remember about your folks? What are the qualities that bring a tear to your eye? What has power? What are the memories of your childhood that constitute reality for you? What causes this reality to come into being?
I don't care what kind of childhood you had. You remember certain things as being good and real; they are the same thing. And when you run into people or qualities or places later in your life that reflect these same things that you recognize you are drawn to them like a magnet, because you recognize the power of their goodness.
Goodness is God at work in human life.
And once we have seen it we don't forget it.
No matter what kind of childhood you have had in life you have seen goodness at work. And you will seek to reconstitute it in your life, based on what you know, after you have tested out the junk.
Little things. Faint stars.
I learned about love and tolerance from my (through my) folks.
We had a log that sat beside our fireplace, for example. My brother and I used to brand it with a poker. We would sit by the fire for hours in the evening doing all kinds of things in that fire.
Now my folks could have gotten upset, and made a rule about playing in the fireplace. But they didn't. They let boys be boys and screw around with something as dangerous even as a red hot poker.
Swastikas were our specialty. I even made a picture of a guy hanging on a gallows.
That was fun to do. And they let us do it. And that was damn nice of them. By God.
Even though it stank up the house with the smell of burning wood.
That was tolerance, and, that is how you learn it. By example. Or by seeing it reflected in action.
You recognize it. You see how to do it. You are grateful for it. You recognize it as a gift, something you can give others, when your day comes.
This business is simple and pure. It has nothing to do with introjecting fantasized models of an ego ideal.
The goodness of our parents is plain, simple, and we follow it, not because it is theirs, but because it is good. Unless we get hypnotized, temporarily, to the contrary.
One of the nice things about Christmas is that it is universalized beyond the family, so that we are released from the hypnotic belief that selfless affection is properly given only to those we are related to, temporarily.
Tolerance is built upon respect. Respect for the inherent rights of others to grow as they will. Respect is built on the intuitive knowledge that there is something more going on in our relationship than what's in it for me.
Our entire system of government is built upon the assumption of this knowledge.
My parents taught me that.
When I was a young boy we used to go to the ranch during the summer, while my dad went down to Berkeley to work on his doctoral dissertation. "The ranch" was a place in central Montana owned by my mother's uncle, brother of Jeannette Rankin.
The ranch was a playground come true for little kids. Horses, fish that were jumping out of the brook, mystery. And, there was the Missouri River which flowed not far away.
We used to go down there for a swim, my mother, grandmother, brother and I. In fact, that was where I learned how to swim. Paddling around the backwaters while my mother held me up. It was a big day when I graduated to water wings.
God that was fun.
But the best part of all was knowing that my mother would not drop me, and let me choke and drown in the water that was over my head. I knew that she was there to trust.
A lot goes on in vulnerable moments like that between mother and child, which is remembered later, when we are doing the supporting.
That intuitive awareness is fourth-dimensional consciousness.
Protecting the precious life with which you have been entrusted.
This has nothing to do with introjecting feminine ego ideals, or developing the (repressed) feminine side of the personality.
It is good. And we recognize it should be done. Regardless of who's around to pick up the child and assume the responsibility.
Freud is wrong. He is dead wrong. And if you buy it, or allow thought that does buy it to influence you, you are buying into the hypnotic dream that has as its reward the destruction of every spiritual insight you will be blessed with in your life.
Of course, that is an exaggeration, because the hypnotic dream is not stronger than the spiritual insight; but it may take you your whole life to find that out once you start down that path. Once you get involved in it you are going to have to unravel every Freudian thread you have accepted into your understanding.
I am saying this having spent the second half of my life to date doing just that.
It's better than getting into some other hypnotic games, I guess, like killing, or greed, or theft.
I have a visual image of my father's support, like that of my mother teaching me how to swim, when he would take us sledding.
We went sledding all the time when we were growing up. But when the old man took us it was really special. He was huge. I was dinky. So I would jump on his back and we would go sailing down this hill together, laughing, rolling, shooting down the hill together on this sled.
The hill was damn steep, and dangerous. Kids were always getting hurt there. You could really whistle along. There were places all the way to the top where you could get on the track and begin your run. There were points higher than which no sane man would go. We always went up close to the top; but not too far.
I will never forget the feeling of the old man under me as we would go racing down that track. My eyes would go blind from the ice and snow kicking up in my face. But he was fully in control. I could feel the warmth and strength of his body protecting me as we hurtled down defying the ravages of spilling.
I am not a homosexual.
Nor do I have latent homosexual desires that are aroused when I meet men with strong and powerful bodies who like exciting challenges.
I like strength. I like warmth. I like exciting challenges. I like these because they are all good; they are naturally attractive.
They are God speaking to me of the beauty of His Universe.
They are not abstract qualities that remind me (unconsciously) of the physical experience of male and female sexual organs united in holy bliss.
In countless ways, consciously and unconsciously, my parents gave me support, and taught me about love and tolerance.
This cannot fail to occur because this is what people, as reflections of God, are actually made of, no matter what the third dimensional appearance to the contrary. Those qualities will show through because without them there is no life.
Life is fourth-dimensional, which encapsulates the third, when it is seen and understood. All the (seemingly) rotten stuff going on in the third is just prompting us to see the fourth. And, as soon as we do, we see the third-dimensional experiences of the unpleasant as essential for getting us to wake up to the fourth.
Christmastime was perhaps the most important time to our family. We disliked the fraud and hypocrisy associated with Christmas. But we did like the spirit.
Especially my mother.
We had a ritual that was very important to us. We went out a few weeks before Christmas to get the tree. That was an all day major project. We were fussy. We had to have just exactly the right tree, that everybody agreed on.
That took a while.
We went out in the woods, the everlastingly beautiful, clear clean woods, drenched in snow, and found just the right little child to take home with us. We always agreed, in the end, on the right tree. And each year the tree seemed more beautiful and perfect than the last.
It was really quite sacred, and my folks would visibly rise above their squabbles for the occasion.
After we had found just the right tree, usually near a creek so it had a lot of water, and usually a fir of some sort, you could hear the ringing steel of the axe as my father brought it down.
Then we would carry it back to the car. The old man would tie it on top with a rope, and we would get in tired, fully refreshed and satisfied, and drive the thirty or forty miles back to town, where the tree would wait until we put it up the week before Christmas.
Putting up the Christmas tree was a major production.
It had to be perfect.
The old man would cut the tree too long out in the woods so we would have some extra branches. If there were gaps in the symmetry of the perfect shape, which there usually were, he would take his brace and bit and drill holes in the trunk of the tree to fit extra branches into so it looked just right. He used wire or string to support them.
The lights were very important. They had to go in toward the trunk, so they formed a beautiful soft glow behind the ornaments and tinsel. Warko and I didn't get to fool around with the lights. But we could help with the ornaments, and we each had our own special favorites we could put where we wanted.
The tinsel was specially important too. You couldn't just throw tinsel on the tree. Each strand had to be specially hung just right, so that the end product was a glistering apparition, beautifully irradiating the presence of something wonderful.
The crowning moment was when my mom would get the sheet, which was artfully placed underneath the tree to hold the presents.
Gifts were a highlight of this holy time too. We would start thinking about what we were going to get everybody else in the family a full month before Christmas Day. You really racked your brain to try to think of just the right thing that they needed and would like for a special surprise.
These were crucial years for us kids. We got bicycles one year, sleeping bags, another, an electric train, another. Our aunts and uncles, grandmother and grandfather, came to appreciate how important this was, and always gave us presents that made them very much a central feature of the holiday. Sometimes they came and enjoyed it with us.
There was always a lot of booze, and a lot of very close friends stopped by.
But evenings around this time were saved for us. We would sit around the fire and sing Christmas Carols; we learned and sang all the well-known songs, and with sincerity, conviction. Together.
Christmas Eve we would get to open exactly one present, the one of our choice. Boy that was fun.
And Christmas morning we got up around 6:00 AM, got the folks up, and assaulted the spectacular view under the Christmas Tree. Each of us opening one in turn.
I have never been so grateful in my life as I used to be on Christmas Day, when people would come by, because our house was so warm and friendly and open to all.
When I heard the descriptions of the Christmases of those around us I knew that we were doing Chistmas as it was meant to be, that we really had the spirit of it. I would spend all day being thankful.
Christmastime, however, simply reflected the spirit of our house most of the time, actually. It wasn't a big jolt to open our doors to everyone walking down the street. It was pretty much what we did all year long anyway. Dinnertime or not.
If somebody came by our house at dinnertime they simply came right into the dining room, pulled up a chair, and talked, while the rest of us gobbled down our food. There was no strain, no awkwardness, no artificial invitations to join the meal. They just came in and were suddenly a part of what was happening at the table.
Completely free and easy, (earlier stories notwithstanding).
We loved to argue in our family. Ease and openness of discussion were insisted upon, not merely allowed. If you weren't saying what was on your mind my eagle-eyed parents could spot it in a moment and get it out of you.
That was one of the rules--you don't take offense for somebody's honestly expressing his point of view. And if you did, and tried to curb the conversation with your own little prejudices, everybody jumped on you, until the whole thing was dissolved into laughter.
But the importance of somebody's being able to say what was on his mind was axiomatic. Reservation, hesitancy, or dishonesty rose in the room like an unwelcome, universally recognized, unwelcome smell.
Another law was that you don't pick on somebody for his size, for his point of view, or for his unpopular idiosyncrasies.
My mother was the champion of the unpopular leper. She was always defending homosexuals, communists, and dropouts. And sticking her finger in the eye of respected intellectual figures, like Hemmingway and Faulkner.
As I recall, Hemmingway wrote so much about courage because he was such a coward, and Faulkner, although the best American novelist, was still a faggot. Or something like that.
The rights of the little guy, the injured, the disadvantaged were always hallowed as sacrosanct. And if you didn't believe it, or decided you would make a joke about it, you were likely to find yourself in a cat fight, or in the middle of a large, icy, silent, vacuum.
They hated the Boy Scouts, because of what they (falsely) saw as a vast recruitment of new little replacements for the frauds and hypocrites in places of leadership. Or, perhaps because they recoiled at anything that smacked of mass brainwashing.
Yet they always defended our teachers when we would bring home trouble from school. "Just think of what your teachers have to put up with," was the message they gave us. Unless the teacher had demonstrably violated our rights.
I remember one year the old man was instrumental in getting a guy fired from my grade school because he had slugged me in the hall.
The old man was a beacon of courage to me in those days.
For seven years he was the central figure in a plot to get rid of the President of the University of Montana. The guy was a demonstrable bum, and I won't go into the details of the fight, but he eventually resigned after having gotten caught stealing money from the students' treasury.
The old man didn't have tenure, not in the beginning anyway. Which meant that he could have been fired without reason if he had gotten caught in the middle of the faculty effort to overthrow the President.
For seven years I watched this battle. People were getting fired, leaving the school in a rage, threatening lawsuits, telephoning hate messages and threats. Hypnotic warfare was going on all around me.
But I felt totally safe. Because the old man was in control, and he was powerful.
His colleagues called him "the rock."
There was a lot of hate in the town for the University anyway; education was not very highly regarded in Montana at that time, and the town seized the chance to jump in on the side of the President, and against the faculty.
I watched a small courageous band of faculty members, locally known as the "forty-niners," take on the entire social system around them, in the name of what they knew was right.
Most of them were shot down, or left in disgust, careers ruined. But I watched the group hold, and win.
And my old man was right in the center of it.
Our house would literally be surrounded by cars at night. But you couldn't see a one of them from our house. The faculty members, understandably fearful for their jobs and families, would park them at remote distances from the house, and walk to it in the night.
Inside, with the drapes drawn, I would sneak down the stairs and watch the living room packed with people, cigar and cigarette smoke filling the air, as they quietly and determinedly marked out their strategies.
Leslie Fiedler was there at that time. The town was really trying to nail him on anti-Semitism. They tried to bill his poetry as something communistic, pornographic, and Jewish, which was poisoning the minds of the sons and daughters of the state of Montana.
Wow. This was some way to grow up.
I want to thank my family for something else that was indescribably precious. (And this will sound bizarre and strange, given what I have told you, but it is true nevertheless.) It was their emphasis on health and normality, both of which were norms of the highest order dimension, (albeit viewed from within their own mortal frame of reference).
The underlying assumption in our family was that you should give a weed room to grow to see what it's going to become. Even if the weeds are two little urchins like me and my brother. There was a lot of correcting to do, to get us to see and understand and adapt to our environment, but, by and large, they let us alone to do what we wanted to do. And boy did we appreciate that.
Our parents had a lot of problems, obviously, but they visibly reached for and put into practice the highest ideals they could see by which to raise their kids. They were not religious people, or at least that didn't come across. But they had a sense of goodness, of fairness, of life, that they very effectively struggled to impose on us. It was the struggle, as well as the values, that shone through in the dark.
I think the old man took what he knew from life and literature. The old lady was, although the most avid reader I have ever met in my life, she was still a follower of conventions. This was not because she was dumb; it was because she inwardly mistrusted her own instincts, partly because of the broken and fractured way she herself had been raised, and partly because of the fantasy life she lived inside.
Anyway, she went by the book as much as she could in raising us.
I mean things like the ritual of pancakes and bacon and eggs for Sunday morning breakfast. After we all got done with the funny papers, and telling each other which ones to read.
The school year was a solidly predictable routine, all eight years of grade school and four years of high school unbroken by a move. Each year, psychologically identified by the child in terms of its holidays, or high points, was never a disappointment.
There was the before-school shopping spree, and atmosphere to go along with it. The smell of new shoes when one went to Penney's to look at the new styles before school opened. New crayons, except I never got the giant economy size. Snow pants for me and Marko when we were very young.
The first thing to come along, after we met our new teacher, and same classmates for the year, was football. Pee Wee football mostly. Marko and I played hundreds of hours of pee wee football beside the house before dinner. The leaves turned; we had maple trees lining all the streets in our town. And the teams started to play--the high school and University teams. Going to football games on a classic autumn day or evening was a primordial experience for young boys growing up.
We devised every conceivable technique for sneaking into the games. It was an unspoken point of honor that you never paid.
Then came Halloween. Mom always made us costumes. We had a set route, after we were older, and could stay out until later than 7:30. We always came home with a huge stash of loot, and got away with doing a minimum of vandalism.
Although one year Marko got caught at our number one favorite trick. Lighting a paper sack on fire on some guy's front porch that was filled with doggie doo, and ringing the bell and running. This guy had a wooden porch, and he called the cops and the fire department. The cops tracked Marko home in the snow.
This was an error.
Thanksgiving was a real, genuine holiday. We never said grace, but we pretty much acted it. This was a special occasion for special friends to come over. The turkey was always just right, (as far as I was concerned). A little white meat, a little dark. Cranberries. Both kinds, whole and jelly. Mashed potatoes and dressing. Sweet potatoes. Gravy. Two hot vegetables. A dish of black olives. A dish of green olives. A dish of celery and carrot sticks. And two pieces of pumpkin pie for desert.
And Marko and I each got a drumstick.
No Thanksgiving was complete unless one were in pain for hours afterwards.
But this was just anticipating Christmas, which I have already described.
Now it was winter. Which meant two things: snowballs and sledding.
The snow would get six feet deep where we lived. Which is awful for parents, but a paradise for kids, who only lived two blocks from school.
Mother encouraged us to be enterprising at an early age. She had us out with snow shovels going around the block earning money shoveling walks. I actually made so much money I didn't know what to do with it.
The other thing we did was go to the movies, or, "go to the show," as we called it. They would drive us, endlessly, back and forth to downtown every weekend. These were the days of the very tail end of the Saturday matinee serials. Every movie had a cartoon, newsreel, previews, and a feature (or double feature), and we often stayed to see the whole thing twice. We would call the folks when the movie was done and one of them would drive to the theater and walk up and down the aisle till we spotted each other.
I can remember sometimes hiding a little bit from them because I wasn't quite ready to leave yet.
Later, when we were old enough to walk we used to hooky-bob on the way to the show. Hooky-bobbing was when you grabbed the back end of a car going by and hitched a ride from the unsuspecting driver by sliding on your feet on the packed snow on the street.
Basketball games were as much fun as football. There were games all winter long at the University fieldhouse. It was a huge stadium, by my standards anyway, and the fans were exceedingly loyal. (There wasn't anything else to do on those long winter evenings in Montana but drink.)
The crowd got so angry at a guy from New Mexico one time, for breaking our star center's collarbone, that he stood right in the middle of the court and just gave the whole audience the finger. And walked off the basketball court, never to return.
At basketball games we had a system, not just of sneaking in, but of stealing passes and selling them to college students. We would come home from games with a profit in our pockets.
Mom never found out.
There was a lot she never found out about, and never really looked into, which reflected a kind of trust, for which we were always grateful. And learned to respect. Sometimes the hard way.
She could be viciously protective of us, which we loved to see of course.
There was a guy in our neighborhood affectionately known by our family as "Ice Pick Mike." He got the name from terrorizing the smaller kids in the neighborhood, myself included.
He was the kind of guy who would catch my little brother up on the mountain that overlooked our house, and tell him that it was either him or the dog: one or the other was going to get thrown down the mountain, and he (Marko) had to decide which.
This guy and his gang of toughs used to chase me and humiliate me every chance they got all the way through grade school.
Mom sicced the old man on him. We set it up so that the old man was walking up on him just as he was getting me down, and I have never felt the warm glow of strength, protection, and freedom as I did when I watched the old man take care of him.
That kid was so terrified when my old man grabbed him by the collar, bent him over backwards to the ground, and pinned his face up against his own. I knew my troubles with Ice Pick Mike were over.
Mom hated bullies, especially me, more than anything in the world.
I knew she was right. Even when I was wrong and had to eat it.
Marko always saw to it that I got a good helping when it was my turn.
When I was in high school I bought a '51 Chevy with the money I had saved up.
Mother had taught me to work and save. Dad always left enough change on the dresser for me to steal if I got caught short. We never talked about it; but he would yell if I took enough so that some was visibly missing.
That change was a source of security, getting me out of tight spots, like not quite enough money for the show, or throwing in a bag of popcorn, which was an appreciated luxury. It meant a lot to me for quite a long time.
By this time, when I had bought my '51 Chevy, the old man had his '55 Chevy Nomad stationwagon.
I bummed around in my Chevy, working for the school paper, going hunting and fishing, getting drunk. He let me have his machine for special occasions.
I think I loved that car better than any girl that went out in it. At least it was more trustworthy, as was the person who loaned it to me.
But it was a sort of normal high school father-son, father-mother relationship with respect to the car.
There was a period of time, from January to April, where the sun went out, and the gray winter really set in. These were the really difficult days in that country, where you had nothing to do but wait for Spring.
Except for Marko's and my birthdays. Mine was on February 8th, and Marko's on April 18th. These were the only bright spots, except for an occasional Chinook, in the whole period until Spring came out.
Again, we always had a family dinner, with a cake, and got presents from everybody. We could have anything we wanted for dinner. It was our choice.
I always had steak, french fries, and artichokes, as I recall. I developed a taste for artichokes from my folks, who dearly loved them. I don't know why. They were just a piece of thistle.
When we were very young mother would take us to the grocery store with her. She would deposit us by the comic book section, (or "funny books," as we called them).
These were the days when Scrooge McDuck was an item, and we were happy as little pigs as we dived into Donald, and Scrooge, and Porky, and Superman, and Little Lulu. She had to yank us away from them.
And once a month we got to buy one funny book to take home with us.
There was no TV.
TV came in while we were going to high school, and my mother was a self-confessed intellectual snob who refused to bring it into the house.
They believed in reading and the radio.
I remember Suspense.
We listened to the radio all the time, Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Johnny Dollar, Phil Harris and Alice Faye, Our Miss Brooks, I can barely remember the rest. Jack Benny's vault was probably the funniest thing ever put on the radio.
And we enjoyed it together as a family.
Suspense was something that should have been given an X-rating for little kids. That program scared me and Marko so badly we used to arrange our week getting ready for our little hairs to stand on end.
I remember the program where the people from outer space won all the little kids over to the idea of getting rid of their folks. The story was told by the mother of the family. It ended with she and her husband hiding in the attic and screaming, as they listened to the raygun melt the doorknob off the door.
We had an attic just like that.
My favorite radio show by far, though, was Gunsmoke. William Conrad will always be a monument in my mind for the job he did playing Matt Dillon. When he said that being Marshall on the frontier prairie of Kansas was "a little lonely," you could feel the loneliness down your skeleton down to your socks.
I listened to that program every Sunday at 8:00 PM with my chin on the windowsill of my upstairs bedroom. With the windows wide open, and all those quilts stacked up on me--listening to Matt Dillon confront and destroy evil.
After the program was over I would turn the light off. It might be many degrees below zero in the still night.
And I would listen to the absolute awesome
silence of God soak up sound.
I would like you to understand that my father is my oldest and dearest friend. This may surprise you, some of you, but, again, it is true nevertheless. My father has protected me, cared for me, guarded me in my moments of peril, and, above all, he has been the strongest source of light for me to follow during my infant, preinfant, and adolescent history.
Light, you remember, is the Love of God wherever and however it happens to shine in your life. It does not shine as you expect it to, necessarily, but you recognize it when you see it, because you are made of the same stuff from which it is fashioned--spirit--and you recognize home when you see it. No matter what the third dimensional arguments to the contrary might be.
My mother was a genuinely protective soul too, but she had a weakness for conventional hypnotic dreams not shared by my father. She kept getting seduced by lies about her children, her husband, and herself. (Or so the third-dimensional appearance would try to have me believe).
For example, when we lived down in Berkeley while my dad was getting his Ph.D. my mother took me to what turned out to be a nut house for little kids. I think the lady who ran it was a psychiatric social worker, or she might have been a clinical psychologist. She had a one-way mirror behind which she and my mother would stand while she pointed out what was wrong with me.
I think the claim was that I was retarded, but I'm not sure.
This lady was very kind to me, and very encouraging to my mother.
I can remember putting on some boxing gloves and punching her with them until my arms were tired. I don't know why.
When I was a junior in high school I took an IQ test and some aptitude tests that led the school counselor to counsel my mother that I should give up college and go into a vo-tech program.
This scared my mother so badly that she sent me to the mental health clinic associated with the University to go through extensive testing.
Among the tests that they put me through were the TAT, the Rorschach, and one of the personality inventories.
The clinical psychologist in charge of the program arrived at the conclusion that my parents should get off my back.
He advised me, in terms of career objectives, that I might explore clinical psychology as a fruitful area to think about. After I finished college.
But the old man was clearly the supernova in my life.
Let me illustrate.
When I was in the mental hospital for what was called my nervous breakdown back in 1973 the old man and my brother came to Seattle for what was called family therapy.
My brother had bought the business about my losing my noodle. He even tried to show me how to go through therapy, having done so much of it himself.
I remember his kicking a chair as hard as he could when the psychiatrist involved asked him to think of it as our dining room while we were growing up. This was a technique of Gestalt Therapy they were using at the time.
The top gun in our psychiatric ward, a transactionalist who was mentioned in the acknowledgements in What Do You Say After You Say Hello?, got the bunch of us together for a little group session. The old man subjected himself to their questioning and haranguing for a difficult length of time. Afterwards, the top gun took me into his office. He told me I had a lot of work to do with my father.
He said he was not optimistic about the prognosis.
Transactional psychotherapy is a popularized version of good old Freudian psychoanalysis. (The theory, not the technique).
The old man during this time, and during the period leading up to this moment, to which he had been an intimate party, was the only single person in my life who had consistently maintained that I was not nuts, and never had been nuts.
He alone had glimpsed the vision that I had seen at the peak of my mania. He saw the purity and goodness and had remained faithful to me in spite of the hysterically compelling pressures to give in to the view of me as a breakdown case.
Or, as my mother had put it, "The victim of drug psychosis."
Even my wife, who was completely unexposed to this kind of trouble, coming from the family she was raised in, was 100% on my father's case about the lousy father he had been, for the part he had played in my problems.
Only the old man stood entrenched in the conviction that there was nothing wrong with me. That I had shown people too much of what they could not understand. It was they who were frightened; it was I who was doing the handling during the therapy, or treatment.
Such loyalty was not surprising to me, knowing my father as I did.
From the earliest times he was a beacon of love and courage, strength and protective care.
That was why the bellowings and rage didn't affect me that much in childhood. I knew it wasn't really him. I had seen my real dad; I knew him; and I knew how to separate the good from the bad, the real from the unreal. The bad stuff was just a bad dream that you didn't have to pay attention to if you could make the separation. That is, if you could learn to recognize and identify a hypnotic dream when somebody gets caught up in one, and know that it is not really them, and that it has no power over you.
A freudian is not in a position to make this distinction.
It is all inescapably real, the good and the bad.
And, by any third-dimensional objective standard I should have been declared nuts, locked up, weaned out to years of psychotherapy, and given lithium carbonate for the control of manic-depressive psychosis.
Which was exactly what happened.
The old man and I have maintained a true friendship over the thirty-four years of our relationship because of what we see in each other.
It's not that my father is being loving and loyal: that is the third-dimensional view which would make it personal. It is rather the love and loyalty I see in him.
When we "see" love in somebody else, where do we see it? With what eyes.
Love, genuine love, not sexual love, operates in a different dimension. It is simply not present to the five senses. Although they try to turn it into sexual love, which is a self-contradictory concept when viewed correctly.
Fourth-dimensional love, although we cannot see it with material sense, is far more powerful than any third-dimensional attraction. It is what is occurring when a guy jumps on a grenade.
I have learned about that kind of love at my father's knee. I have caught it, developed it within myself to the subordination of everything else in my life. And my father and I, in the maturity of our friendship, reflect it back and forth.
It is the pearl of great price.
It is the basis of that friendship or marriage that you have when you have hit middle age and are looking around at what is left.
The freudians, and all the psychotherapy stemming from the psychotherapeutic model of mental illness, are incapable of looking at love in this way.
They are inescapably tied to the third dimension.
They are tied to a sexual basis for behavior. They are tied to the medical model of health, and all the material laws of doom and decay associated with that. And they are bound to the belief in death, with all the shattering consequences for human psychic life that that particular little belief entails.
All of these points of despair originate and die within the third dimension. Until the suffering that they entail forces us to look beyond the third dimension.
The old man taught me to look in such directions.
He did it more by example than by word.
When I was growing up people loved and admired my folks; I always wondered why.
It was because they were always interested in the welfare of things besides themselves. They were always looking to help the person they were talking to in their house. That was the example they set for me.
One case in particular illustrates what I have in mind.
There was a guy named John Alston, who entered my life, as did many people I have come to admire, as one of my father's students. John was a tough guy. He was on his way to making a living as a prize fighter. But the Korean War came along, and he got both of his legs blown off by a grenade. He remembers coughing while they were carrying him off on a stretcher and a voice saying "Hey! This one's alive!"
John entered the University of Montana and ended up in my father's class, with a deep distrust of academic and intellectual life. He also disliked my old man, and almost walked out of his class at the old man's arrogance.
John is one of the people I look up to in this life. He now rides horses, finished his degree in English, taught, and was accepted as one of the best teachers in the high school which I attended. Now he has reentered a degree program, this time in counseling, where he says he can do far more good.
John credits my old man with "saving his life," in the sense of bringing him out of thuggery into the light of self-sacrificing love for one's fellows. (Although John would never put it that way.)
I have watched my old man do this through the world of ideas with countless people in my youth.
He would spend hours writing comments on an English paper from a freshman student, and end up writing more than the student wrote in the first place. And then give the student an "F" on his paper. And then give the student an "A" for the course.
Probably the single most revealing moment in my father's true character for me occurred in a very dark psychological hole.
I am of the generation made by movies like Blackboard Jungle, which featured the title song, "Rock Around the Clock," with Bill Haley and his Comets.
We lived and loved the part in my group of friends. Leather jackets. White tee shirts with sleeves carefully rolled up twice, or pack of cigarettes rolled up in them. Jeans pulled down to your crotch.
I carried a switchblade carefully sharpened on both sides of the blade.
I also carried something resembling brass knuckles that I had made out of the tinsel off the Christmas Tree in the fire. The tinsel in those days was made out of lead; and it wasn't much of a trick to melt it down into a form appropriate for grabbing with your fist.
I was at my petulant and surly teenage best. Well designed to drive my folks nuts.
We loved to get into little showdowns where my mother would sic my dad on me and we would verbally duke it out.
Well, this one cold. winter evening the tension was greater than words could handle.
The old lady sent me upstairs with my sheets and pillowcase to make my bed. A task I found particularly humiliating.
So I grabbed the sheets and pillowcase and started to climb the stairs....
When the old man stopped me.
"Put them down."
"Go get your coat."
I said, "If I leave I'm not coming back." And I meant it.
And they knew it.
So I walked out the back door, down the steps, and started away from the house.
When the old man comes streaking out the back door with blood in his eye.
We both knew that this was it, and I squared off.
We looked at each other for just a minute, when he said, "Okay, Geoff, you win."
And we walked back into the house together newfound friends.
In retrospect, I can see now that all it took for him to do that, for him to give me that, was love, trust, humility, and courage.