Chautauqua 7

A key component of mature aging is evaluation, this is about evaluating. Evaluating is the order of nature, it ought to be a part of giving back but profit directs society to be youth-orientated. As older people we have experience that sees repetition of mistakes amongst others. I look at my own country from afar and keep thinking “why haven’t they learnt?” For me watching what is done has with it a lifetime of experience, and I see young people being enslaved with the same lies of fashion, Britishness and other illusions that ensnare them into toeing the line. I have recently got into the music of my youth again, and the lyrics of the 60s and 70s ring true now. What did we do with that awareness? Nothing, it is now worse. And yet a ray of sunshine, those songs could have come out of Occupy; what will they do? Yet the “revolution” that was the 60s had much wider participation than Occupy – it was fashionable, and yet we did nothing – things are now worse. But maybe it was because it was the forces behind fashion rather than a genuine awareness?

What happens to all the evaluation of the 60s and early 70s? Why can’t society learn from that wisdom?

Of course old age brings with it one factor that society does not want – freedom. The old do not have to scrape to the bosses because their income is independent. Of course the old do not have the energy, they do not have the exploration. I rave about Occupy, I want to encourage young people who see the truth after the years of wage-slavery in conforming classrooms – a conformity it was my job to engender. I have watched 30 years of changing labels worshipped by clones who cannot hear people decrying their indoctrination. I have watched young people enclave in peer groups ignoring the words of older people because they see what is in store for them. As a teacher how can I expect young people to listen when they see my being cajoled by young thugs, and they see their parents committed to work routines. Why not have fun before becoming slaves? Especially if they can see no way out of their own slavery whereas the rich kids appear to have so much more freedom. Whether this plays into the hands of the taskmaster matters not, they are young – why not use what little freedom they have.

If people evaluated, perhaps this suffering would not continue.

Getting caught in the wage-slavery is much more a retrospective dilemma than what happened at the time – it does not make the need to recognise the servitude any less. Emerging zen brought with it compassion that showed itself first by working in assessment centres – for some reason a degree in maths qualified me for a position there; I am grateful that it did but why? Emerging zen needs to compromise with society. The computing job had discipline without compassion, at the assessment centres I developed discipline with compassion.

At that time I was flying, and my zen was the pilot. My relationship with the people from the Arts Centre developed, balanced by working with my compassion at the assessment centre. Then I met a friend from Belgium on holiday in the UK and he invited me to stay with him. Soon after arriving in Belgium we went to the Ardennes where I had an encounter with Castaneda. “Journey to Ixtlan” was blowing my mind at the time, and I was living with “death over my left shoulder” and other such spiritual aphorisms. With Castaneda spinning in my mind I was walking and got lost – intentionally. Trusting in my ability to find myself I walked until it was time to find my way back to the farm and I walked. I had no idea of time of distance of direction – I walked. Until I came to a road and lost faith in what I was doing and followed the road back to the farm – I later discovered I was almost at the farm and following the road extended my journey. In one day I developed a deep trust in myself, and a distrust of what the system offers. Walking has always been a part of my life – not now in hot climates, but it can be dangerous. Nearly 30 years later I was in China at a skiing village. I went for a short walk up a nearby hill, not far just a space between me and the village. Fog came down, I lost sight of the village. I retraced my steps and got completely lost. I got hot, and tied my walking jacket round my waist. Scrambling through the scrub the forest took my jacket. I was completely lost in a cold mountainous area without clothing – and panicking. I walked and met a road, logic told me to go one way. I did for a short way going downhill, I turned went uphill and arrived back at the hotel. I was on my own and no-one ever knew. No spiritual messages here, walking can be dangerous.

Once my friend was out of the holiday context and he was back in his work environment we found there was little in common, probably more to do with my deep commitment to the path being all that mattered that made me tetchy. So rather than Belgium and friendliness I ended up in a cottage miles from anywhere – so lucky but the path has those breaks. What began was a deep period of consolidation. I picked up books from the British Council library, and just wrote about what I read. Not good books like Pirsig just books. It was a summer of consolidation – zen consolidation. It was the writer in me. I am not a writer but I write a lot – I write to learn. Writing in me is important but it is not a passion that eats me up – although at that time I was thinking it might be. It was an important summer but I returned to a new assessment centre. The Arts Centre had closed and it was effectively the end of my flirtation with the Arts. But I am forever grateful for what those people brought to my life – my zen.

At the second assessment centre compassion consolidated and I stayed a year. But I was still uncertain and I decided to travel the world – an ill-fated trip. I reached what was at the time a nice fishing village on the French coast of Normandy where I duly lost all my money. Fortunately the youth hostel owner let me stay a while and then leant me boat fare back to England; the sila in me apologises because I don’t think I paid him back. Why didn’t I work – travel the world? Instead I made up my mind to be a teacher, and went back to do a PGCE.

Unfortunately in the second centre I got back into a drinking routine – this drinking is what slowed my forward movement.

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