“To open yourself up to need, longing, dependency, and reliance on others means opening yourself to the truth that none of us can do this on our own. We really do need each other, just as we need parents and teachers. We need all those people in our lives who make us feel so uncertain. Our practice is not about finally getting to a place where we are going to escape all that but about creating a container that allows us to be more and more human, to feel more and more.”
– Barry Magid
So grateful to have a “container” by which I can exist in – because that means I am still breathing. However, what kind of world am I creating for myself. My upbringing was all about outer appearances, and the success of my life was measured not on the relations between people, but rather the external products of home, family and work. For my upbringing, creating a “shangra la container” was external not internal. My mother was obsessed with the material. My father worked seven days a week to make this material world possible. Their children, me and my three sisters, measured our success based on our material/social gains. For me, I dropped out rather early in this endeavor, but never really shook the idea of the material world. I struggled in so many ways.
The materialism inherent in building a home and hearth where I feel a sense of solitude and safety has always been precarious. Smoke Rise in the 1960’s and 1970’s existed as the ultimate community built upon corporate materialist ideals – gated mansions, three car garages, acreage, private social facilities for tennis, swimming and horseback riding, cocktail parties every night, community country club like celebrations, and a censored association where only the “right” people could build. This exclusive homesteading provided CEO’s of the 1970’s a refuge from the outside world to protect their values and ideals, and perpetuate the great “have’s” mentality. Overtime, the ‘haves’ and the ‘haves not’ became glaringly all to clear.
My parents, although never overtly saying so, consistently referred to “others” and their problems as those without solid moral values – something unamerican. Dad would infer those “people” (the socially other side of the tracks people, urban racial communities, unions or ungrateful immigrants) either took from the system, or were not grateful of the opportunities our American government and businesses offered. For my parents, the “others” were always the problem.
Although I never engaged in direct conversation with Mom and Dad about these problems while growing up, I sat, saw, and listened to their commentary, and then assessed my take on social conditions based on my ground up perspective. Conversations sat behind me, while I watched TV in our family Den during the Walter Cronkite news, or the Huntley Brinkley Hour. All to well, this child understood their slurs, as judgmental fears trying to figure out the causes of riots and social unrest splayed across the screen. My parent’s solutions to the social decay always blamed those “have nots” and glorified their opinions with Neo-conservative rants from their large black leather chairs they occupied nightly, while the children sat obediently on the floor in front of them looking innocently up to the screen. Although my sisters quickly became disinterested in the news and moved to either their bedrooms or the piano, I always remained there. While watching the TV images, and examining each move and attempt by reporters to seek objectivity, my parent’s commentary between each other carried on to help narrate the program.
Every once in a while I would turn to see their angered faces at the shape of the world they strove to isolate themselves from in their “ivory towered” village. Growing up within this dynamic eventually wore at my sense of identity. The chaotic early 1970’s only brought more insecurity, thus more volatility and blame. Looking for the scape goat preoccupied my parents, and made me feel for the underdog more. I saw myself as the underdog, the social miscreant – that which was not loved by society but scorned by it. Why I was the only child who did not adopt my parents mindset I do not know. I often asked, “why am I so different? Why me?” My first answer, and the one that stuck until the end run, blamed them and judged their intelligence – they were not evolved enough to understand the mutual relationships between groups. By judging the very essence between intelligence and place, I put them in a box on a shelf, and began to remove myself from their rooms, quickly becoming the odd child out, often missing from the dinner table. After years of watching and listening to those conversations, my assessment of our mutual dependency between parent and child, turned to a desperate individualism on my part. Eventually, I saw myself as the “have not,” and the world I was living within, that place of property and prestige, could no longer serve my sentimentality. So I ran away, first emotionally, then physically.
Running into the arms of substances that could not talk back, I sought to a new form of mutual dependency, the other side of midnight different from the world I was running from. Substances, the quest to find them, and the world they lived within, became my new dependency – my higher power. Each time these substances visited, they were like family loving me – my heart’s euphoria as a distorted perception of love. My substances loved me and needed me as much as I needed them, and they became the world away from the world I longed to forget. The people who provided the substances became the parents to my needy child. Together, we were the “have nots,” the forgotten, the blight society created from its unreachable materialism. We all marched as one.
Youth has resilience as long as the young can stay alive, and my tolerance for pain was great. I survived the near death experiences in a world that sought to steal my breadth. Eventually my idealism, my pink cloud, gave way to living on the daily edges of death. As other’s witnessed my decay, they were forced to look within themselves and ask, “How did this happen in our family?” This question plagued my materialist father, and in his desperation to find an answer, he took desperate measures to do whatever was necessary to save his child.
In an instant, the doors locked behind me. This clinical institution, which required insurances or hard cash to get a bed, provided a haven for me to face who I had become. My parent’s love, beyond the material, allowed me to surrender in a weakened moment. The padded rooms did not change my fears or potential capabilities, rather they provided a means to come to a decision about what I could become – the ideal me. In the moments when the doors locked behind me, I had a choice. Although the material world had to save the material child because that is it’s purpose, the child must choose their place within that world – to either go on to the bitter end – jails, institutions and death – or to find a new way to live. Mutual dependency became a necessity – of quest of finding a place to create a container that would allow me to be more and more human, to feel more and more a part of something good.