Chautauqua 1

Kids will say this is the old man in me. It’s not just the old man, it’s the zen. Nothing is permanent, everything changes – anicca. And the nearest thing that we have is the anicca that comes from zen, from insight. At 23 I hit bottom, nothing as serious as Phaedrus but at 23 something inside me reacted to all the academic conditioning. I say that but no it wasn’t just that – it was a part. I was arrogant, and had a sufficient gift in maths that academic success at school was easy. University wasn’t. I got there a year early and lushed out – shamefully. I scraped through until my finals when I tried, this was a peer ethos. I got in with the boys – well on the periphery because I was so shallow, and they all scraped through then slogged it for the exams. Such a waste of what could have been at university, what could have been a place of genuine learning. Girls studied, and boys played – drank, chased girls when they weren’t studying. Stereotypes – sure, I wish I had been old enough to know what I wanted to study and studied – that came more when I went back to be a teacher.

So at university I learned to drink and pass exams – I even got onto a masters that gave me another year of playing. And then got a job. That was amusing in itself because I got a good job. There was a question at interview about the error term in a statistical model. I have no idea why my answer was good – we spoke about it when I worked for them; something in me must have latched onto it. Did I know? I think maybe I did because by that time I had studied. I had studied hard to pass my degree, by that time I was hoping for the best. Friends who knew said I had something, I was still not awake (not Buddha awake) so I can’t remember. Until I was 23 I was not human, I had no zen, I was just a person who was just intellect – academic and drunk. So I think the guy at work was right about my answer but he did not understand that someone could give that answer and not be awake.

I remember him a bit, he had bought into it all. This firm was special as firms go. It was a consultancy that sold expertise, it could be considered a consultancy of applied academics. These guys applied their academic minds to a problem, and came up with a real-world solution – that made a profit. The fact that they made a profit meant this place was a bit special – academics making a profit; I am guessing such consultancy is now through universities. This guy bought it all. The pub did business and this guy appeared drunk but never was, people told me this when they were warning me about being drunk. I was just drunk – academic and drunk. There were two highlights that year – the first was the Art Lady and the second was some statistical model theory I developed. I can’t remember what it was, I loved doing it, the guys were well impressed and …. it just happened. The firm let me go, no wage increase; didn’t deserve any. I was just drunk and wasting time BUT I did like that place.

And the next firm turned me over. The good thing about the next place was that it was so bad for me it was good. It was tedious I screwed up got more drunk …. and eventually hit bottom. This time I was sacked – deservedly - over some stupidity. At that time in offices people were stupid but if they brought in the profits it was accepted, I was stupid and a screw-up so when I was stupid I was deservedly sacked. The stupidity was the tip of an iceberg of a childish academic being forced to work at something that was just for profit and that had no meaning for him. I consider the human in me to have been asleep, buried deep under the intellect fuelled by alcohol. But the human fought and out came the stupidity that got me the sack; it broke the pattern of what might have been called a life. I ran to the parents and wandered aimlessly for a few weeks over a Xmas with no idea what was going on.

The human was emerging on his path, the bulb of zen started.

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