Chautauqua 10

Remembering was an important part of Pirsig’s journey, I can’t remember how integrated Pirsig became with Phaedrus in the end – at the moment he sees him as another person. Remembering has a different purpose for me in this platform, these are the memories of an “old man” triggered by what I have read – these are not forgotten memories nor is there a need to integrate with my past. My chautauqua is just remembering.

Here I am interested in how the mind functions in terms of forgetting. Phaedrus was presented as someone to be feared by Pirsig when writing, I am not sure whether that was simply a writer mechanism – maybe I will learn more of that fear. Pirsig, as writer, was a new person waking up in a sanatorium as a new person with Phaedrus behind him – forgotten. When the memory forgets has been integral in my life. Memory in my life prior to hitting bottom has always been negligible. When I was a young adult I associated this with an emotionally-repressive upbringing but now I consider that my zen was “hiding” because I personally didn’t have the tools to cope with that awareness when young. Clear memory comes from zen mind.

I consider my life as a young person with similar disdain that Pirsig had for Phaedrus, my distain is that I recall a child who was immature and violent. Since bottom people have not considered me immature. And I recall only considered institutional violence as an adult, in my personal life I have never been violent – something I’m ashamed to say my younger brother and some family peers would never believe. I consider the childhood violence a combination of pecking order violence in the family, and a selfish demand that completely lacked control by who I am – by zen mind.

There is another aspect of memory failure that I have not discussed yet, and it is in the next part of my life. After I hit bottom I went through a consolidation process in which I was educated by the Arts people and then my compassion took me into child care and eventually into teaching. Once I became a teacher, my path in life was decided – I had to learn how to be a teacher in what society laughingly calls schools. At university I first connected with my addiction – alcohol. The lifestyle there was alcoholism for the lads – the boys, and there were many good people who learnt to be alcoholics there. Fortunately my worst behaviour when drunk was hidden by blackouts, there was a social convention amongst these alcoholics – if you blacked out it wasn’t you; true amongst all alcoholics? There are however behaviours that I do remember with shame – not always when drunk although connected with the drug, this was my worst time of non-sila and I am lucky how little I paid for this behaviour.

When I started with the computer consultancy I drank but don’t recall blackouts or bad incidents – just falling asleep on the last train!! Nor do I recall blackouts in the last job. I drank heavily, my sleep pattern was completely messed up – awake at all hours, but no blackouts, not that drunk; just lonely and living with drink. I see that as a time when I needed to be aware of the mess I was in, but it was as if the real battle in life was taking place in the background. I turned up to work only half aware, was completely incompetent at my job as I was never focussed, and completely deserved the sack. I have had many dust-ups at work but that was the only one I got what I deserved – and am so glad I did.

Over the period of hitting bottom and early afterwards I barely drank – about 2 years, although it was noticed I had a potential problem. But in the job prior to starting teacher training there was a drinking ethos, and I slipped into it easily – drunk but no blackouts. This was getting towards the end of my consolidation process – to the time I recognised I was a teacher. But unfortunately I had re-associated having a good time with the drink. In my teacher training year I studied well but drank too much. It was a good year. I was a mature student, knew what I wanted, and had more going for me than just the college. I was student plus London, and for some reason had reasonable money – enough for the alcohol. Enjoyable. Starting work I easily slipped into my drinking teacher life – work hard, drink during the week and sleep at the weekend. I cannot remember having behaved too unreasonably – just drunk too much. Wandering London drunk was not safe so I kept within bounds except for Fridays where I got drunk, fell out of the pub and into a cab opposite.

When I moved to Brighton because of the relationship the blackouts became a problem, I was living with someone and the relationship was a complete mess. I told her to find me a place to sleep it off, so I would return home and not bother her. But she seemed to want to meet the blackouts so that the next day she had something to hold over me – the things I said when I had no control; no complaints of violence or attempting sex. During that relationship the number of blackouts increased drastically – because I lived in a mess, I wanted to forget what I was in. When the relationship ended so did the blackouts, and soon after so did the booze.

Looking at this part of my personal history there seems no connection with the path or awakening. But for me it is important to understand what the blackouts were. They were the compromise. I had found my path as a teacher but had to compromise as a teacher. Instead of educating I was indoctrinating – preparing for wage-slavery, because of how I was complicit in dismantling the students compassion turned my drinking to blackout. When you add a relationship that I wanted to forget the blackouts increased. However sadly there was always a carrot to the drink, when I was a young adult there were many times I enjoyed when drinking; none of that was path.

The awakening did however continue to consolidate. The first couple of years of teaching were obviously concerned with learning the trade but very soon the long holidays became the focus of my awakening and development, I can remember holidays where I got into myself, studied and occasionally wrote. Only the rare drink. I even remember a theosophy year in which I stopped drinking, attended theosophy meetings, met theosophists and generally did theosophy. But I was not meditating and I did not have sila yet so one evening with a few drinks and I lost theosophy. But there was not much to lose because I was only into the ideas of theosophy. There was so much that was fascinating about The Secret Doctrine, about rounds and giants, layer cakes and clairvoyance. It was so easy to get hooked into the ideas. They spoke of yoga and meditation, and they had courses that involved both but there were so many ideas – my intellect revelled in it. At a training course I remember an old guy looking at me (I was maybe 30 then) and seeing ideas spinning around everywhere, and commenting. I dismissed him especially when on the second occasion (of two) I met him I learned he lived off stocks and shares. But he was right about me, I don’t know if I was right about him as I never knew him. It is odd I remember what he said; I remember the truth – or the zen remembers the truth. Maybe there were those in theosophy who were awakened. What they spoke about was wonderful but it was not awakening itself, maybe some awakened had found a place where they could teach something resembling the truth, who knows? Annie Besant brought Krishnamurti to theosophy and so to me, and he was very formative for me. But when I was into him I was still into ideas – but improving; his ideas about not having ideas were great – empty the contents of consciousness.

Teaching took over my life. Drinking during term and developing the path during holidays. I remember wonderful holiday trips where I just pitched up somewhere, walked and I was on my own. Days on my own along coast paths avoiding towns, holiday destinations avoiding people. This was my life in the UK. Battling with the drink without knowing it, developing slowly as I came to terms with teaching and guzzled ideas about the path from all over, and becoming the loner (not lonely) some of the time, the loner who for some of the year engaged with the path.

The blackouts were in some way a Phaedrus. In my youth I didn’t remember because there was no zen, with the drink the blackouts came when the compromise was too much – especially in the relationship where my zen and I had got so far apart – zen was mostly buried. Phaedrus was a fanatic whose imbalance led to his being blacked out. During Phaedrus-time Pirsig had not found his zen so there could be no balance. His ideas engulfed him making him fanatical about ideas. He identified so much with his ideas, and his ideas brought him into conflict. There were two conflicts. The first conflict was the obvious one – the conflict with the teaching establishment. But this conflict was only fuel for his identity and stubbornness - clinging to the ideas. The real conflict was happening inside – the emergence of his zen. Phaedrus was focussed on ideas, holding onto ideas, living for ideas, living the ideas. Ideas and zen are in conflict if the zen is not in control, and if the ideas don’t know their place. When your whole being is placed into a minor part there is no balance, and potential for calamity. In most cases people are forced into a world of ideas and are trapped in that world by a wage-slavery that prevents freedom. Because most people do this there is a gestalt consciousness, a general acceptance, that this is the way it is meant to be. So when the imbalance within them, their own zen-Phaedrus, starts to emerge, family and social duty are usually enough to maintain control, the zen focusses on the good in that and there is no insanity – sadly there is not a life dominated by zen either. With Pirsig his emerging zen brought conflict and because he was he was so focussed on the ideas and the passion for those ideas his identity became those ideas. He was fighting the establishment, his zen wanted to emerge, and all his identity wanted was more ideas. His passion drove him down a blind alley of ideas, and eventually blacked him out.

I disclaim that I am no Pirsig expert, I have never met the man, he knows not of me or this platform. Is what I say of Pirsig and Phaedrus true? Judge for yourself, let your own zen consider this.

As a young person I had no zen, can young people have zen? Or more correctly, can they have emerging zen?

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