I am reading about the classic/romantic split between the travelling Pirsig and John the drummer, and it reminded me of my time soon after I hit bottom. After being sacked I ran to my parents. It was near Xmas so it seemed like an extended Xmas visit – just under a month. I remember little of that time except walking round Manchester as the offices were closing for Xmas. I listened to the noise in the bars, and felt excluded. There was a double bind. I wanted to be a part of it but never again could I be a part; I kept walking and looking, and in the end I knew that I was never going to be a part again and was happy with that.
Despite the depth of upheaval that was happening inside, there were no bells and banjos moments – although they were soon to follow. The persona was still there, the hollow shell of a man, the suit, the intellect, the shallowness, but inside this zen emergence was trying to get hold. Whilst my parents’ house had been a good place to get over the impacts of the drink it was still part of my repressed past – and of course I needed money. I had dreams of small offices, people working happily together as a family doing what they wanted – none of this career stuff, so with this appallingly naďve objective in mind I returned to London and walked into a temp agency. They took one look at me, my CV, and sent me to a career business computing.
In this recollection I cannot remember my parents once, yet I was there nearly a month. I am not now a selfish person and they were good enough to put me up yet in this turmoil I have no recollection of them. What must they have thought? Packed him off to uni, got a good job, parents’ job done and dusted – well almost no wife, and …. the sack. What did they think of the turmoil? What did they see of it? In later life I saw how society changed some of their parenting strategies, a change that was governed by fashion, this zen did not emerge in them.
As for the return to London, how ill-conceived was that? Where was I to live? I recall a B&B in Hounslow, the job was in Hounslow. Did I just get off the bus and go straight into the temp agency? Will never know, but my zen started to emerge in a Chiswick bedsit that was the base for a Hounslow commute – a compromise between Hounslow and Central London maybe? I hated the job and remember nothing about it other than manuals and a cubicle. But this time I had one thing that I never previously had – discipline. I had decided to hold down the job – and this was the zen. In fact I had played the discipline card so well that when I resigned my supervisor was surprised.
But the job meant nothing, it gave me the money to tide over the beginning of my new life. And that life was based in the Chiswick bedsit where all kinds of wonderful things started to happen. What I remember were bells and banjos. I think I did yoga, I think I did some meditation, I think I did some writing, but what I did get was bells and banjos. There was still walking - Chiswick High Road, Hammersmith, Chiswick money but my zen began to be free. I remember a covered area, a cooker and such a sense of cosiness that came from what I can only call life engulfing me when I returned from work to settle. At the end of my few months in Chiswick my compassion was in charge.
Compassion started with a weekend volunteering to take Down’s kids on trips. A few weekends and I started working in a kids’ home. I saw that as stop-gap and moved to teaching. I was a teacher, it was the right move, it’s just that in 1%-world there is no teaching.
Somehow whilst at Chiswick I reconnected with the Art Lady, and there was an Arts Centre. I somehow managed to straddle the art and science world as a science fiction writer. But there was so much more to the classic/romantic in my life at that time. They said “I was black and white and no grey”, I remember much later a friend calling me a right f---er, so maybe they didn’t grey me enough. I remember a revelation when discussing that so many areas of maths were just isomorphic, but I haven’t got a clue what that means now. But their Arts and my zen clashed with my training, and my mind was opened up to so much more. With the compassion I could never go back. Sadly I didn’t move forward too well either because of the drink.