I was a boy like any other, loved more or less, living in a dingy lane in Calcutta, a stone’s throw from the New Market. In my formative years, I went to and from school in the Himalayan foothills. In later years, I settled in the hills of Southern California with wife, two teens, a dog. Whatever joins these dots must account how an ordinary boy grew up to have the extraordinary idea of changing the world by expecting everybody to exchange the gift of unconditional love.
Five traumata mark the milestones of my life. The 1st was when an ayah, bathing me in a tin tub, held my head underwater to stop my bawling. The terror of drowning became a balled-up engram in the pit of my belly. It was a do-or-die energy that surfaced whenever I felt challenged, impelling me to win medals in track and prizes in scholarship when I was sent to boarding school a few years later. That was my 2nd Trauma. On the surface, I excelled, got along, played soccer, went on rambles. No X-rays could have detected the gaping wound in my soul.
When I emigrated to Hollywood, after years of institutional motherlessness, I had crossed an ocean but was still at sea. Trying to fit into the wrong crowd, I clashed with my parents and ran away from home. The soul-searing experience of being a teenager on the streets, dependent on spare change from strangers to survive, was my 3rd Trauma. Returning home malnourished, I fell ill, got a severe case of religion, and cooped myself up in my room studying the Bible. I tried my hand at the graveyard school of poetry. Writing saved me from going off the deep end. It helped me chart my escape from Western religion by way of Eastern mysticism. In college, I got a bachelors in English and switched to the history of religion and ideas. I began a paper on Hitler, but it ballooned to book-length proportions, and I dropped out to pursue it on my own.
It was when I quit college that my real education began. I got involved with a woman I thought I could trust, little realizing she wore her morality like a suit of armor. When I learned how she lied and manipulated me – almost like my personal, pocket-size Hitler – it was my 4th Trauma. I was thrown for a loop, shaken but determined to find out why anyone would act like that. I devoured a range of books on psychology. I signed up for an array of personal growth workshops. Before I knew it, I was enrolled in that seat of higher learning, the heart, and began a journey that led me to an exploration of child abuse, and the discovery that I was a victim of it.
My readiness to heal from four traumata prepped me for the Big One. The granddaddy of all traumata. What is a baby drowning in a bathtub compared to mankind drowning in a deluge? Or boarding school blues, running away, relationship betrayals compared to our ancestors being wrenched from the security of a maternal universe, bereft of all communal supports, and left to survive an earth-shattering breakdown of trust in a providential order? It helped that it didn’t happen to me personally, or even collectively like 9-11. It was a cosmic 9-11 that happened at the dawn of history – a flaming attack from heaven that demolished the edifice of nature in billowing clouds of doom. It raised my consciousness of history and culture as nothing else did.
By redressing my personal trauma I came to understand my life. By addressing the trauma of world catastrophe, I came to understand the plight of man. It opened up a rich seam of ideas just as events made it clear the time was ripe for real change. Never before has power been so vulnerable – and never before have the vulnerable been aware of how much power they have.
At day’s end, I came back to Tennyson’s flower in the crannied wall. If I could understand what you are, root and all, I would know what God and man is. We are that flower, innocent and beautiful. If we understood it, root and all, we would know that love is the end-all and be-all of our existence. Its loss is so traumatic that it leaves human beings without inner purpose or direction, at risk of falling apart without a class of superhuman beings to impose a semblance of order from above. And if we grasped that flower as a whole, we would know the loss of love is so traumatic that it leaves our species at a loose end, in danger of running wild, going crazy, without a class of pseudo-divine authority figures to impose a semblance of order from above. Like I said, if I could understand what I am, root and all, I would know what God and man is.