Friday, 25 November 2011

The Swami’s Underpants

In a cave by a stream lived a swami, who had one pair of underpants. When they got dirty he’d take them off, and wash them in the stream.

One morning, one of his disciples saw him and said, incredulously: “Swami, are you kidding? This is outrageous! You’re standing there naked, in full view of anyone who happens to be passing. You need another pair of underpants. If you have two pairs, you won’t need to stand here stark raving nude in front of the population at large every time you do your laundry.”

“Hey, don’t worry about it,” replied the swami, “nobody cares about whether I’m naked or not; I’m just an old guy, washing his smalls.”

“On the contrary,” his disciple told him, “it’s completely inappropriate. You have to show some respect for other people. Nobody walks around naked these days; you need an extra pair of underpants.”

So the swami relented, and said: “Ok, go and get me an extra pair of underpants.”

A week later the swami was washing his underpants in the stream, when another disciple saw him, and exclaimed: “Swami, you shouldn’t be standing there washing your own underpants; you’re a sannyasin! It’s not your duty!”

“Really?” said the swami. “If it’s not my duty to wash my underpants then whose duty is it?”

“That’s what wives are for,” replied the disciple. “Wives wash underpants. You need a wife, Swami.”

“Ok,” said the swami, who could see where this was going, “go and get me a wife.”

So now the swami had two pairs of underpants, and a wife to wash them for him, because he was not a doer.

One morning his wife came to him, irritable, restless and discontented, and said: “Now you listen to me, Swamiji! Do you think I’m here just to wash your underpants? Well, I’ve got news for you! I’m a woman, and I have needs! I want you to give me a baby!”

“Mother of God,” said the swami, “really? Okay, if you need a baby to be happy, I’ll give you a baby.”

And so he did.

So now the swami had two pairs of underpants, a wife to wash them for him, and a baby. It was no longer feasible for the family to live in his cave by the stream, so the swami had to buy a house in the suburbs and take a high pressured job in the City to pay off the mortgage.

Before too long the swami wasn’t a swami anymore, and had no recollection of ever having been a swami, all because one day, years ago, he’d succumbed to the desire for an extra pair of underpants, and it had been his undoing.


Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Bike

When I was a kid I had a bike. It was a big, red, shiny bike. It was a Raleigh Grifter, no less, which is probably the heaviest and most cumbersome bike that has ever taken to the road. It was also the 1970s - the era of Evel Knievel, daredevil stunt rider - and like any young boy of the time, I spent all my time building ramps in the street, pulling wheelies, and jumping off whatever high surfaces I could find. I broke a number of bones (my own, and those of my friends), and found myself in a lot of ditches (a habit which was going to repeat itself throughout my adult life), but like a big red shiny stallion, my Raleigh Grifter always stood waiting, silent and ready, for the next bone-shaking stunt.


Recently, at the age of forty, I learned to drive, and bought my first ever car – a Citro├źn Saxo – and did pretty much the same thing with that. Unfortunately, the Saxo was neither as heavy or as – let’s have it right – HARD as the Grifter, and within a matter of weeks it was a trembling wreck; a mere shadow of its former self.

It occurred to me today that recovery from alcoholism is much like riding a bike. When I first got the bike I had no idea how to ride it, but someone showed me the basics and off I went. After a couple of minor injuries I picked up confidence. Now I could do it with no hands. Confidence was replaced by cockiness, playing chicken with the traffic and pulling wheelies left right and centre. Squares and highway code fanatics would wag their disapproving fingers and mutter: “pulling wheelies is not for the likes of us”, or “I’ve had this bike for thirty years and I still don’t claim to know how to ride it,” or “you think you know all about bike-riding, but one of these days you’re going to come off your bike, and then you’ll be sorry”.

Well, I’ve come off my bike a few times now, but am I sorry? No. No I’m not. I love my bike and can’t wait to get back on it; to go racing off into the distance looking for the next death-defying leap. If you ask me, that’s what bikes are for.


Wednesday, 2 November 2011

L.S.D.

I haven’t written anything much for a month or so, because I’ve had other fish to fry: like putting a rock and roll band together in a desperate attempt to avoid being forced into some mind-numbing back-breaking job in a munitions factory, or having to “volunteer” for paid drug research programs or whatever else the Tory government that nobody voted for decides that I need to do for the fascist machine to justify my existence to my countrymen, who are brainwashed by their newspapers and years upon years of ignorance. So I thought that this morning, while I have a few minutes, I would put finger to keyboard (so to speak) and write just for the sheer sake of it. And – for no particular reason – I decided that I would write about LSD.

Like Aldous Huxley, Timothy Leary and their contemporaries, Bill W, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, was a big fan of LSD, and – let’s face it – who can blame him? Bill – like Huxley – considered the psychedelic drug a valid means of enlarging his spiritual life, and he wrote about it excitedly, and at length.

Unfortunately for Bill, he wrote about it on the first thing that came to hand – Alcoholics Anonymous headed paper – and it wasn’t too long before the still adolescent fellowship decided that he had to be stopped.

                “Bill,” I like to imagine they said, “it’s all very well and good for you to be enlarging your spiritual experience through voodoo, Ouija boards, ritual magic and animal sacrifice – we have no opinion on what religious bodies our members identify themselves with – but all this lovey-dovey hippy crap is taking it a step too far. Sort yourself out man, before people start to think you’re some kind of goddam drug-addict.”

As for myself, I took a lot of LSD. A lot. I never saw anything that wasn’t there, I never had a “bad trip” and it did me no harm mentally or physically. What it did do was blow my mind so profoundly that all mental activity was suspended and I experienced life as it is: non-dual, spontaneous, surprising, and happening everywhere, all at the same time. It was the first time in life that I realised – to quote Bill W himself – that “a mighty purpose and rhythm underlay all”.

Job done, you might think. But you’d be wrong. No experience, however profound, lasts. And before too long I was back in my usual dualistic, linear mental groove.

I don’t want to take LSD today, in spite of the fact that I am somewhat of an apologist for it. The fact is that I am also living a twelve step program, and trying to influence my experience through the means of any outside objects (be they drugs, relationships or whatever) is in direct opposition to practicing the very principle that keeps me sober: step 3; reliance upon a higher power, or, if you like, accepting life as it is.

And the fact is, that when I accept life as it is, I begin to be curious; to pay more attention to it: and I notice that hey, it is spontaneous, surprising, and happening everywhere, all at the same time.