Today’s sermon is based on the classical text from the wonderful punk band The New York Dolls.
Chapter One — Personality Crisis
Versus 1 to 20
And lo, David Johansen did scream “Personality Crisis — you got it whilst it was hot, but now frustration and heartache is all you got!!”
A quick scan through the lyrics seem to affirm an accusatory position regarding (I’m guessing) a former girlfriend. Words such as Butterflyin’, Celebrity and Prima Ballerina pepper the song. One is left with the distinct impression that said lady might have been a little bitch, although this being the late 70’s and punk just emerging from the woodwork, it was also possible that this was a one-sided appraisal by David, who himself had not been behaving in a gentlemanly way either!
Ah, the heady days of Punk. What a wonderful self-image we wove for ourselves.
I was 16 when it all kicked off, being was a nice middle class boy with a penchant for drink, girls and a little organised violence (i.e rugby) put me in the perfect place!
I had a small income (from daddy), so buying a pair of PVC trousers and fitting a mohair jumper with safety pins wasn’t too difficult. In a stroke I had blended into a new crowd. We spent nights in dodgy bars, dance halls and dingy flats, drinking, dancing and occasionally smoking something stronger than No6 Cigarettes.
I briefly made it to the heart of the scene by become acquaintances with “Nasty Phil” singer and harmonic player with Edinburgh Punk band The Cheetahs. (Nasty Phil, wasn’t that nasty after all it turned out, he even had an Andrex puppy blond Labrador. The Nastiness came when he used to get stoned with the puppy, and laugh as it staggered about, off its tiny nut..) Their classic lyric was “I Don’t want to be Radio-active” — a huge concern to us all at that time
The Summer of love
As young people growing up in the 60’s and 70’s we had passed the first flush of the Summer of love, which had quickly dissolved into the Winter of discontent. My youth was studded with Miner’s strikes, and the ever present possibility that life on Earth would end shortly. (A few short years later, a friend who had come into a large sum of money, bought a house in London that featured an atomic bomb proof shelter in the basement!)
When we are young, we rely upon the guidance systems set up by our parents, schools and religions.
The teenage years are about testing that theory. Some people pull on a tweed jacket like dad, some people a purple ripped mohair jumper.. Not like dad. (Not to mention the spray on trousers, eye-liner and Donkey-jacket…)
We try to discover what we believe, if the diet we’ve been fed by the previous generations still make sense..
Punk was our personality crisis. It was our Rage against the Machine. Every generation invents a new way to express themselves. Our Trend was Punk.
As a generation, we viewed ourselves as anti-establishment. The Establishment from before was still a hangover from the Second World War, and from Empire. By that time however people wanted Peace, and Empire was seeming outdated and ugly.
That slice of anti-establishment-ism has served me well I feel. It’s forced me to question so much about the middle class public school values I was given (didn’t ask for..but was given none the less..)
In later years it saw me question everything around Climate change and the Environment through a project called PositiveTV.
The “search” led me to question religion too. When we see the number of wars fought in the name of religion, then quickly one has to ask about the foundations of the belief systems that would let this go on. From questioning religion, one quickly finds Quakerism and Buddhism. These thought systems seem to be much more peace loving in general. However, by this stage I was analysing whether I wanted to be part of ANY system.
The move towards “Spirituality” in the 90’s sense (As opposed to the Victorian ideas of contacting Spirits) was a welcome path.
The path seems to have started California, the home of LSD, The Hippy Revolution and a place with a large Chinese population. A blend of LSD opening the mind, and Daoism’s non-doctrinal openness, started to spread.
So many people from the USA and Europe had also ventured to India to look for teachers, this melting pot of information from The Upanishads and The Vedas joined the melting pot and formed Spirituality.
The basic teaching was, “you are the source of everything, you no longer need to go through the filter of religion”
This freed me from the Church, but locked me into a new “church” with a slightly more open mind!
If you are following a guru of any sort, no matter what they are preaching, you are still having the information filtered for you. As much as it looked like freedom, it was still a prison, just an open one!
By declaring that I was aligning myself with the Dao in the 1990’s, I was still following the teachings of Lao Tze, and Chang Tzu. The detachment and the flow were still part of the dualistic nature of our Universe.
Personality Crisis and Quantum Physics!
Here’s where the Personality Crisis comes to the forefront.
The more one digs into Quantum Physics, the more one looks at Spirituality, the more one studies Qigong and Daoism, the more one starts to comprehend the underlying structure of “The Universe” we inhabit. (Or, the more one gets a tiny chink of an idea of how this all might work! To think I have it all, would be insane..)
Slowly, one realises that Consciousness is the root of everything. From the basic understanding of the “Double Slit” experiment that requires and observer to make it work, to the Californian “You create your reality” — the underlying message is the same. Your consciousness creates everything in this dualistic world.
It’s both good and bad news. If you focus yourself, stay in the flow, don’t separate yourself from Nature, then you give yourself a good chance of things going your way. (You have to be crazy to think that you had the power to actually manifest money into your bank account by tomorrow though..)
Bending the Universe to your will is NOT in the game. Allowing the Universe to flow you to the right place IS the only game. Maybe the Universe needs you to have the full bank account. Make sure that if you do get a sudden windfall that you use it wisely and in keeping with your life’s mission, or it might well flow away again!
To think that anything in your life has ever been WRONG is totally folly. Your relationship to your life’s purpose is the only thing you ever did wrong. What the Universe wants it gets. If you ignore your calling, you get a warning shot across your bows. If you decided to become an arms dealer, you’ll get yours in the end! We call it Karma.
We all know if you are consistently being a “bad” person then shit things will keep happening to you. But it’s an ever more refined set of ideas. If you decide to work hard every day, drink hard every night , then you are still going against the natural flow of your life. Something hideous like Cancer is lurking round the corner. The Universe has many rich and varied ways of telling you that you are “off course.”
Let’s look at another extreme (here’s your first clue, The Universe doesn’t do ‘extreme’) you decide that you want to dedicate your life to a religion, live in a monastery, and never speak again. How many of these people are declaring “enlightenment” after 20 years on the mat, and how many gibber into old age homes for retired priests? (Would 99.9% look too small a figure to you?)The This life might seem glorious, but it’s still 100% against the natural flow of things!
Here’s the scenario. I give you a lovely house, I make sure you are fed and watered every day, I fill your bank account monthly, so that you want for nothing.
What would you like to do to fill your days? (If the answer is “Sitting on the couch watching TV,” then maybe we have a little more work to do.. Looks like I’m going to have to help you learn! “listen inside people!”)
Freed from all bounds, what would you do? Help street kids in Columbia, send bicycles to Africa, farm organic hemp in Kent, work for the Environmental agency, work for a charity, work for a think-tank to guide government policy on climate change!? The ideas can be as small or as huge as you can imagine. The only thing you have to remember is to make sure the direction is “true” and that you stay connected and in the flow. As doors graciously open for you, step through them carefully and thoughtfully. If the doors remain shut, then they were just not your doors!
Be Patient! Rome wasn’t built in a day..
As long as you feel happy, isn’t that enough!? Fill your working life with your joy, and you’ll never work a day again!
The only thing that will de-rail this process is your Personality!
Oh oh, that Tricky Personality!
It’s time for your own personality crisis! Your Ego will tell you “I’m not good enough to do that” — “I’ll always have to work at this shit job to survive” — “I’ll never get out of debt” — “I’m not worth it” — “This path is just too dangerous for me!”
Every time a thought like that comes across the bows of your brain, STOP! Catch the thought and analyse it. (Maybe you’ll have to start by recapping your day, each evening seeing where you made mistakes, what you could have done better.) As time goes by, you’ll get better at catching these thoughts in motion. Ask yourself “Who (inside of me) said that statement!?” “Who thinks I’m not good enough?” etc..
One of my students once said to me “when I can’t meditate because of all the noise in my head, I try to pigeon-hole all the voices, all the different people in there”
I so got that!
My Dad, my teachers, my family, my friends, had all left voices in my head too! Voices that were all to happy to chirp in at the slightest opportunity! This then, is the Crisis. You need to identify who’s speaking, what past pattern was triggered, and start to find ways to break that idea down.
Talk to that person, reason with them, tell them kindly that you’ll no longer respond to that idea, and that you are going to ignore their advice.
You never get it right first time, sometimes it might take one hundreds tries, before you catch the idea.
The Ego is tricky too. It dresses your “Dad” up in different ways, and I don’t mean Tweed Jacket or a three-piece suit either!
Just when you think that the pattern around “anger” that seems to have been picked up from your father’s short temper, has been dealt with. Then It’ll raise its ugly head in another way.
Still catch the thought, spend a while looking for its root, and then you’ll no doubt realise that it comes from the same root personality, just disguised in a different way. Be strong and persevere.
Where does your own personality crisis lead?
I’ll let you know when I get there! However, I can say that with each passing day, it brings longer spells of happiness and joy. It makes life much more simple. The calmness that comes with the internal quiet is lovely.
Ultimately, the suggestion is that one can find one’s “Trueself” and abide in this Unity Conscious state for longer and longer, until…who knows..
One thing I can say is that as you peel away these layers of personality, the “trappings” of daily life start to seem ridiculous. The millions of games people play just to waste their waking hours, the reading, the research, the Gaming, the Television, hours absorbed by one’s mobile phone. Need I say more.
The bliss of lockdown has been my deep reconnection with Nature. I was given a great gift at the beginning of lockdown, of some excellent quality Bose in-ear headphones. They lie on my desk almost unused! These days I walk with a quiet mind. As thoughts appear, they suddenly seem like over dressed and over-made up actors, who have suddenly been pushed out into the spotlight, but who have forgotten their lines, or who are a bit shy to get started. In the harsh light of clarity and silence, they are starting to look obvious and stupid.
Large facets of society suddenly seem ridiculous.
My “Life’s Work” suddenly seems very clear and necessary. My boat has drifted gently in the middle of the stream, and is now pointing down the river. Sure, there are still rocks just under the water, maybe a few rapids to negotiate, but the river seems to get wider and deeper every day.
I feel the presence and power of the Ocean, steadily pulling me home.