Joseph Anger was considered tall for his age, but he wasn’t heavy-set. In fact, “skinny” would be closer to the truth. So when his young school peers, who were between the ages of ten and twelve, badgered him, as they regularly did, he did not feel up to the confrontation, and he learned to withdraw more and more to avoid such scenes entirely.
Part of the problem for Joseph Anger, or Joey as he was called, perhaps lay in the fact that he was an only child, and his mother, Susan McLean Anger, had unrelentingly doted upon him since the day he was born. Joey’s father, who was a sober man, but entirely committed to his work of farming, had done little to socialize Joey, or to give him that comfort of acceptance which so often springs from paternal love alone. Neither had Joey learned the talent of social interaction which so naturally flows from having siblings, particularly when, as was the case, Joey lived in a remote farm house on the outskirts of his small Town of Cartersville. Mrs. Anger, fearing that her son may not have the innate talent required for success, did little to encourage Joey to improve himself, and rather took positive steps to discourage him from getting too involved in anything which might prove failure. And Joey likewise learned that it was better not to expect much of himself, and he accepted the apparent dislike which many of his classmates had for him. Joey was not proud of himself.
The most recent battle fought upon the dusty school grounds had taken place three days ago, on a warm and brilliantly sunny Friday afternoon before Thanksgiving weekend. A number of the bigger boys who generally hung around together, and who were considered to be in the popular group of students, took exception to an article of clothing which Joey was wearing. His mother had bought Joey a sweater which had designs of footballs, golf balls, tennis balls and baseballs on it. This seemingly athletic sweater somehow did not conform to the image that others had of Joey. And the crowd of boys (who considered themselves to be athletic) determined to let Joey know of their observation and objection. Michael Tinsdale was the pack leader, and he served up the opening challenge by wryly questioning, “What’s a nerd like you doing with a sweater like that? Since when do you play golf?”. Joey did not respond. He just narrowed his eyes somewhat, and looked to the left, avoiding them, his arms hanging limp by his sides. But they persisted. “Hey”, said another, “We were talking to you! What’s with the sweater!” Joey answered in a low, defensive way, “None of your business”. He hated the sweater his mother had bought for him. He knew that morning when he put it on that it was wrong. He should have listened to himself, he thought. “Well”, said young Tinsdale, “we’re gonna make it our business, you skinny little rat-shit!” And with that, Tinsdale threw both his arms straight into Joey’s chest, while neatly catching one foot behind Joey’s left leg, sending him flat to the ground on his bony bottom. No resistance here. Joey moved like a crab on the dirty ground, feeling the small rocks press into his palms, edging himself backwards, away from the menacing crowd which seemed to have grown in size and consistency as he stared up at them wide-eyed. “Leave me alone”, he said. The bigger boys laughed collectively. They had had enough. There was no more fun to be had here. “Yeah, Joey”, said Tinsdale, “we’ll leave you alone…You look better alone, especially with that dumb sweater. Golf! Ha! What a joke! C’mon lads, let’s get outta here!” And with that, Michael Tinsdale and his party of five other boys, pushed off, shoulder to shoulder, laughing and occasionally looking back at the pitiful Joey, who had managed to lift himself off the ground and was bent over, carefully brushing off his dark pants, rubbing the gravel from his hands, eying his adversaries through moist windows. Joey was crushed. Again.
Because it was Thanksgiving weekend, the Anger family had big plans to spend Sunday dinner (which would be at the noon-hour) with numerous members of their extended family. They would all meet at Joey’s Aunt Hazel’s (Mrs. Anger’s sister) since Hazel and her husband, Ralph Cottam, had the longest dining table and other make-shift tables, which could accommodate not only the twelve adults but also the fifteen children, who ranged in age from two to twenty-three, all in the same room. Some of the children, who were studying in Toronto, would not be able to make it home, but most of them would be there. For Joey, the best part of the weekend was being able to distance himself from the school. Joey was really beginning to dislike school, and Sunday night had become an increasingly difficult time for him as he contemplated the return to the dreaded classroom and school grounds. He saw little more than the invading faces of Tinsdale and his crowd of symbiotic henchmen. At least this weekend, he could put off the worry by another day, for the Monday holiday.
On the Sunday morning of the Thanksgiving dinner, Mrs. Anger asked Joey why he didn’t wear the new sweater she had bought for him. Joey found it near impossible to resist or contradict his mother. And, this time, he had no reason to fear accusations from the likes of Tinsdale. So he put it on. It made him feel weird, since he had vowed last Friday that he would never wear it again. But he tried to push those thoughts to the back of his mind. What did it matter, he thought to himself. Who’s gonna notice? And he was right. When Mr. and Mrs. Anger and their son, Joey, arrived at the Cottam’s house around 11:35 that Sunday morning, there were already so many people and so much commotion in the household, with the air thickened by the smell of roasting turkey and sweet potatoes, and fresh baked bread and nuts, that one hardly had time to notice who was in the place, much less what they were wearing. Joey was thankfully able to melt into the crowd, mingling inconsequentially with his cousins, and saying little but “hi” to his numerous aunts and uncles. He would plant himself in front of the television with a number of other children, and that was that.
For Joey, these sheltered moments, away from school, surrounded by the undemanding and unquestioning members of his immediate family, were really little more than temporary relief. He still harboured his own fears about his lack of ability. No matter how much he might be able to blend in with the wallpaper, or his babbling might sound like a television ad, he continued to feel trapped in a self-imposed prison of incompetency. It was only four months previously that the Board of Education had sent around a formidable looking woman who purported to test the intelligence quotient of each child in the school. When it came Joey’s turn to be interviewed, he had completely stalled. The woman had placed a number of ink blotches on a piece of paper in front of him, asking him to interpret what each of them meant to him. Joey was speechless. He had his ideas about what they were, but he had no confidence to say it. The woman pressed him again and again, less friendly each time, until finally she threw up her hands, as much to say the child is an idiot, which is exactly how Joey had felt at the time. To make matters worse, the educator had confided the information to Joey’s mother, who naturally took steps to trivialize the whole affair. But Joey was left with the distinct impression that, no matter how much his mother had sought to dismiss the significance of the examination and the educator herself, he had still failed.
In fact, Joey did fail. Grade VI. The following year, he was back in the same classroom, but without Tinsdale. And even though Joey was bigger than the other children, he still felt smaller. Stupider would be more to the point. For good or bad, he had company. Jake Giles had also failed, so the two of them now formed an alliance, though last year they had had little if anything to do with one another. Joey and Jake kept to one another, sort of outsiders, secretly trying to be more “cool” than their younger classmates. They even tried smoking cigarettes on more than one occasion, and their use of vulgar language seemed to be on the increase. Day by day, Joey and Jake became less and less involved with their community. They did everything possible to extricate themselves from class projects. And even the teachers seemed to acknowledge that there was nothing much that could be done about these two boys, whom they considered doomed to ultimate failure in any event, so why waste the effort on them. They would likely fall into that less than praiseworthy category of “drop-outs”.
For Joey, his continued presence in school was little more than purgatory. He was constantly scheming about ways to get out of the school system. Even though Joey acknowledged that he was stupid, somehow he felt smarter than the others. He felt as if he knew something they didn’t know. Yet, he was clever enough to admit to himself that perhaps he was just making excuses for his own inadequacies. He knew, for example, that he was better looking than most of the other boys, but he never seemed to be able to attract a girl-friend, not that it was necessarily to one’s advantage to have a girl-friend, but it was just that so many of the other boys who were Joey’s size seemed to have a girl-friend, and he thought it would be nice. Likewise, Joey knew that he could learn the material he was being taught, but after being subjected to that unsuccessful IQ test, he harboured deep fears that he might in fact fail to produce, even if he really tried. So he didn’t really try. He just maintained sufficient effort to get himself through. And he did. The second time, it worked.
As Joey continued his plodding progress – or punishment – through Grades VII, VIII and IX he became more and more reclusive. He really didn’t have any close friends, and in fact he had learned the ability to make so-called friends without ever getting close to anyone, and certainly not allowing anyone to get close to him. He avoided school plays and students’ council; he played some sports, but not aggressively; and his grades were passable only. Joey was just coasting, and he wanted out. He was bored with the system of the school, which was imparting no real knowledge to him. At least when he worked with his father on the farm after school and during the summer months, he was doing something useful, something productive; and he handled jobs that were for adults and people with responsibility. In school, he may as well have been a discarded bit of junk at the back of the room. Nobody paid any attention to him, and frankly he didn’t care much for anyone else.
And all the time, he was plotting. Plotting what it was that he was going to do with himself. Sitting back as much as he did, Joey was able to view the world about him in a considerably different light than the other students. Not being involved in the race to answer questions, nor to win the favour of the teachers, he rather spent his time assessing the values that drove his colleagues. Aside from marks, he perceived that his fellow-students were impressed by the material world surrounding them, the influence of television and movies, of fashion and style…of money, in a word. People with money seemed to form the bottom line of what was considered acceptable to others. And Joey put his mind to getting it. And he wasn’t about to put up with any interference in his quest. For years, he had withstood the assault of others around him, making him feel small or stupid, and that was about to end. He was displeased with the way things had gone up to now.
But putting these thoughts into a plan of action was more than he could determine. Joey just could not bridge the gap between what he wanted and what he had. And he felt certain that as long as he was in school, there was nothing that could be done about the situation. So he muffled the idea, and put the whole matter on hold for the next three years. He would have to wait out the mandatory period of study until Grade XII. But he kept thinking about it.
Working and living on a farm meant that Joey was not unfamiliar with machinery, some of it big machinery. And because of the remoteness of his family’s farming business, it wasn’t long before Joey cultivated more than a passing acquaintance with repairing equipment of every description. Indeed, it wasn’t long before the many neighbours of the family noticed the work he was doing, and they in turn asked if they might hire him to do work on their own equipment. Accepting these jobs proved to be very profitable for the young Joey. And, with almost a vengeance to make up for lost time (or, more properly speaking, lost respect and acceptance), Joey marshalled his many evolving and natural talents for business and bargaining, and soon he was not only cutting his own trail, but he had become a leading edge in the local business. And it hadn’t gone unnoticed by either Joey or his former school friends, that Joey was making money, and lots of it. He began to employ others to assist him. He even had a new truck. And the world of fashion was not lost on him. Almost overnight, he had awoken to the fact that he was good looking, and he was doing something about that too!
But he still didn’t have any close friends. Nor any girl-friend. But that didn’t matter. He was busy amassing money, living at home with his parents, keeping his nose clean. Initially he had had a bit of an indulgent period with booze, drinking beer with his buddies, but he soon recognized that those activities cut sharply into the success of his business, and he wasn’t about to jeopardize that. So he dropped the booze. And to a degree the socializing, unless it was with someone or people from whom he could learn or extract something of use to himself. Joey had mobilized his entire being to “becoming” somebody, but he still didn’t know who he wanted to become, he just knew he had to get there.
It was around his twenty-third birthday that Joey met Sandra. They had been at a local party of young people together and were somehow naturally attracted to one another. As it turned out, the reason for their attraction was quite simple – it was intellectual. Sandra, like Joey, had had her hurdles to overcome in life. She too was a sober and hard-working person, dedicated to expanding her own horizons and developing her talents. Small wonder that the two of them, being the “odd balls” of the party so to speak, were drawn to one another. Their conversation led them deep into the night and culminated by Sandra recommending to Joey that he read a book called “The Power of the Subconscious” by Dr. Richard K. Dempsey.
In point of fact, Joey had no interest at all in such an esoteric subject matter. Nor, as one might reasonably conjecture, was the interest feigned as a ruse to catch the attention of the young Sandra, who was not at all unattractive. What did interest Joey was that the subconscious was something beyond farm machinery. And, equally if not more important, it was something that he hadn’t heard other people talk about before, especially his friends and former classmates. This was clearly an opportunity to get his feet wet in a new pond. And Sandra was helping him do it. Joey also confessed to himself that the prospect of tapping into this ethereal power was not entirely lost upon him. After all, he reasoned, maybe there is more to me than meets the eye. Perhaps, he thought, I have talents I have not touched, or resources within myself that I can use to my advantage. It all fit nicely with what was becoming Joey’s quest to reinvent himself. His confidence level was already rising, and he hadn’t even read a word of the book yet. But Sandra’s account of the matter had stimulated him more than anything had touched him for years. He was onto something, and he knew it. But he had no clear idea where it was leading him. After all, he couldn’t afford to let this intrusion into his life disrupt the business. He still had that to attend to. Yet somehow he could feel the ropes unravelling. His ship was about to set sail and move out of the harbour. It was a disconcerting feeling in a way, much like the unsettling sensation of falling out of love with someone, when you know in your heart you must go, but it feels so totally foreign and uncomfortable to do anything about it right away. He wanted to stall the matter for the moment, but he was driven forward. He bought the book and read it.
Oddly enough (considering his historical dislike for school), Joey appreciated the language of the book. It was certainly a more difficult literary work than he was accustomed to, but it nonetheless spoke to him. The words somehow seemed to be the very words he would have used himself to describe the concepts the author was promulgating. Or at least words he would like to have heard himself use. He even memorized many of the salient passages of the book, and delighted in sharing them with Sandra when they reunited to discuss its contents. She embraced the concepts with equal fervour, and the two thus pushed themselves further along the path of self-discovery and inquiry.
In the meantime of course, Joey continued to run his business. But, like school formerly, he was losing interest. He felt that the business had for him run its course, and it was time to move on. Again, he faced the question, “Where to next?”
Joey slouched back into the big leather chair in his new office in the City, cradling the telephone on his right shoulder, writing cryptic notes, tapping three of his left-hand fingers rapidly on the table desk. “Hullo? Hullo? Yes, I’ll wait. Thank-you.”, he said blandly into the telephone. He was calling a hot-shot in Toronto whom he had heard and read about. A motivational speaker, someone who had written several of the books which had become for Joey a logical sequel to the first book Sandra had given him about Dempsey’s book about the subconscious. Joey had already developed the opinion that the subconscious was the new source of power, no longer just money and position. A woman’s voice came over the receiver, “He’ll take your call now, Mr. Anger”, said the telephonist. “Yes”, shouted the voice at the end of the line, “this is Arnold Sheil”. Joey’s first thought was that Sheil’s voice sounded higher-pitched than he had expected. “Mr. Sheil”, he said excitedly, “this is Joey Anger, How are you this morning!. Thanks for taking my call! You don’t know me, and you’ll probably think I’m off my rocker, but I was wondering if I might be able to meet with you for lunch in Toronto in the next couple of weeks…I have something that I think you would find interesting.” “And what would that be, Mr. Anger?”, replied Sheil, apparently less than intrigued. “Well”, began Joey, “it’s to do with your books…motivational stuff…but with a different twist. It’s got something to do with healing of diseases…sort of an extension of your line of thinking, but more directed towards very serious health concerns that some people have. It’s sort of like self-improvement, like you talk about, but more associated with real health concerns. I think there is a lot in it that would interest you.” “That’s really not my line, Mr. Anger”, replied Sheil flatly. “As you may know, I work for corporate organizations, helping their people with marketing”, he continued. “Yes”, said Joey, “I know that, Mr. Sheil, but I..I have been applying your principles to more life-and-death situations, not just commercial undertakings, and I think there is a lot of room for expansion of your formulas to those other areas as well. I could send you some material which I have put together – my lawyer and I have put together – which takes your ideas from your various books and gives them application to the ideas I have developed to help people overcome their illnesses…everything from paranoia to cancer…and we – my assistant and I – have case studies to back it up. I really think you’d find it interesting, even if you don’t want to pursue it”. “Well, what’s your background in this area of health, Mr. Anger? Do you have medical training?”, asked Sheil, pressing the point. “No, I don’t”, said Joey, “but my assistant has university training in neurology, and she is helping me research these matters”.
And so the conversation continued for another twenty minutes, before Arnold Sheil finally agreed to see Joey, more out of respect for his perseverance than his particular interest in what this apparent up-start had to offer him. And after the two actually met for lunch three weeks later in Toronto at the Senator Restaurant on Parliament Street, Joey later regrettably admitted to himself that the meeting was of little value for either of them. They just had not connected. What Joey had in mind somehow didn’t seem to stir anything in Sheil, and in fact Joey harboured a substantial degree of mistrust about the bona fides of Mr. Sheil, who seemed more interested in $5,000 a day for a lecture than any humanitarian value of healing people. If nothing else, however, Joey came away with the feeling that “If that asshole can do it, so can I!”. This observation was to be the second major stepping stone for Joey in his ascendency to self-discovery, though he didn’t know it at the time. All he did know – just like those days in school – was that he knew something other people didn’t know, and he just had to find out what it was.
Joey soon saw that he had a credibility gap. No matter how much he read – and he had read a great deal in the past five years – he recognized that all of the authors and other people of distinction of whom he had read, or with whom he had come into contact, had credentials. They had degrees behind their name. Initials and letters for something or other. Qualifications. Tangible status. And he had to get something like that as well.
In keeping with the forward-thinking nature of his study, it is not surprising that his field of action took him to California. In particular, the course of study being offered was one of “stage hypnosis”, and included in the syllabus was the assurance that, having once completed the course, the student was eligible to receive a B.S.H., Bachelor of Stage Hypnosis. This, Joey thought, would be a nice beginning. In fact, that’s exactly what it was…a beginning. Within the next twenty months, Joey acquired a collection of no less than five degrees, diplomas and other statements of professional qualification, all concerning the area of mind control and utility. He was on his way to implementing the synthesis of all those ideas he had acquired over the past number of years, for the purpose of assisting people to cure themselves of their maladies. All he needed now was patients…clients…someone on whom to test his theories, and preferably someone with enough money to pay for the privilege of exercising his principles. In keeping with his own theory, Joey aimed high. He could see the value of volume, and that meant going to where there were sick people. Not just one person at a time, in an isolated situation; but rather many people in one secluded environment. The “Henry L. Rowling Foundation” proved to be the target. Rowling’s high profile as a successful Hollywood screen actor, and his personal struggle with the disease for which he had established the Foundation, assured Joey of a ready venue for releasing his powers of the subconscious mind. Now, the only problem was to get a foot in the door.
Joey had over the years been associated with a number of local lawyers from his hometown, mostly in his dealings in real estate, which had been quite numerous due to his rapid climb in income and his ability to invest rather than spend. One lawyer in particular had caught his attention, Cecil Campbell. Campbell was an older man, someone who had been in the Town longer than any of the other five lawyers in the area, and he was known as being somewhat eccentric, but reliable. As it turned out, Campbell and Joey had crossed swords a number of years ago when Joey had first entered the real estate market, but they had, with the lapse of time and a good measure of compassion and maturity on Joey’s part, overcome that hurdle, and, like a wound that has healed, the bond between them was stronger than ever. Campbell was obviously fond of Joey, and Joey congratulated himself that he had found a trustworthy advisor as he launched himself into his new career. Both were correct in their sentiments.
Joey went to see Campbell about the Rowling Foundation matter. Joey felt that a letter from his lawyer might be just the thing to open the door to some further entreaty and discussion. Campbell, however, did not like the idea of Joey making an amorphous gesture to the Foundation, designed to catch the interest of the Directors by a somewhat specious allure of the promise of money, a so-called “bequest” to the Foundation What Joey was really offering the Foundation had nothing to do with money, but everything to do with spiritual and subconscious powers, features which might well not sit happily with the Board of Directors, just as the plan did not sit well with Campbell.
When Joey and Campbell met the second and third time to discuss the matter, it became readily apparent from their heated discussions that Joey wasn’t about to be put off by Campbell’s moral considerations. Such matters had historically not been of much concern for Joey in any event. Joey viewed himself as someone who had grown up in a difficult – or at least potentially difficult – world, where submission and moral niceties were little more than invitation to self-destruction. He had no clear idea of where he had acquired such an attitude, but it was for him unquestionable that the end would merit the means, especially when it was his personal success that was at stake. Joey had in these circumstances little consternation in accepting that the laudable goal of curing people through hypnosis and application of the power of the subconscious more than adequately justified the ruse he was proposing to lay at the doorstep of the Rowling Foundation. Campbell would, however, have nothing to do with the matter. This disappointed Joey, because he valued Campbell’s opinion and support, not to mention the excitement he derived from the efforts of the two acting in concert. Yet Campbell, by his own admission, was not the man Joey was, nor would Joey ever be satisfied with the small successes which Campbell had achieved as a “small town lawyer”. Joey still had bigger and better things on his mind, and he could see little value if any in putting his entire plan off-track because of a temporary scheme which could eventually be explained away, all the more so in the light of triumph if his proposal worked. He would contact the Rowling Foundation as planned.
In spite of Joey’s extensive readings, he still had a sizeable hesitation when it came to putting his thoughts to paper. For years, he had had the financial privilege of relying upon the professional guidance of his lawyer, Cecil Campbell, in that department. Campbell acknowledged that he had a facility with words. Furthermore, Campbell, for his part, had welcomed the opportunity to help Joey, since – unknown to Joey – Campbell saw Joey as one with considerable creative spirit, a department in which Campbell felt himself personally lacking. Thus, the two combined to form a comfortable working team when it came to putting the ink to paper. But on this occasion, Joey had to go it alone, without Campbell’s words or his computer. Joey found that the task of writing to the Rowling Foundation was more formidable than he had imagined. While he knew what he wanted to say – and the plan was for him very clear in his mind – he somehow couldn’t manage to know where to start, or how to say it without spilling the beans, so to speak. He wanted to extricate himself from the dilemma by asking Sandra for assistance, but he knew that she too had asked Campbell for help in the past, and that made Joey reconsider the value of asking her to help him now. It was at times like these – at these seemingly inconsequential crossroads – that Joey harboured serious misgivings and doubts about what he was doing. He worried that all his thoughts were little more than undeveloped dreams and hopes; that his plans were like wispy clouds that could be blown away; that he had done little more than read the great thoughts of great minds, and that he had neither. This was definitely the weak link in the chain for Joey. He simply couldn’t put his thoughts on paper. Yet, he knew that to succeed, he must learn to do so. In his own subconscious mind, Joey knew and recognized that the step from the mind to the page was the step that held the key. He would have to learn what that key was before he could go any further, much less write a letter to the Foundation, and not to mention any academic concern about the moral propriety of his scheme.
In the process of setting up his own office in the city, getting a new place to live, buying all the usual household items and just learning his way around the neighbourhood, Joey lost sight of his immediate plans for the Rowling Foundation. Other matters had assumed a more pressing and less remote nature. For the first time in his life, Joey felt himself being swallowed up by the environment around him. And he didn’t mind it at all. He was meeting new faces on almost a daily basis, and he seemed to have endless topics to discuss with them. Ideas seemed to flow from one to the other; business proposals were limitless. And the people whom he had met on his not infrequent trips to western Canada and United States were now as close as next door with the popularity of electronic mail and the internet. No more was Joey a slave to his work, or his customers. He felt a new-found freedom, not only without, but also within. He could see the path opening up before him, a welcome invitation to walk into wide open, uncharted spaces, letting himself fill the void that once was his sheltered and insular life. Like most people, Joey’s past played a role in shaping his personality. He had been taught the lessons of modesty, politeness and the cultivation of an unassuming nature. Now, however, while not exactly wanting to be front and centre, he recognized that he had but one life to live, and he wasn’t about to forego the testing of the waters that were lapping at his toes.
It was at this stage of Joey’s life that he became aware for the first time that what he wanted and what he was were not mutually exclusive. All his life Joey had harboured the view that his vocation was something separate and apart from himself. Fixing machinery, after all, had not been something which even Karl Marx might have considered a spiritual extension of the labourer. But now, as Joey spent more and more time in the relatively relaxed venue of intellectual and spiritual investigation, he was likewise increasingly inclined to see the disappearance of that imaginary line between what he was and what he did. And the mixture was a true tonic for him! His entire being was being reshaped on almost a daily basis. Everything was new and exciting! Doors were opening up before him as never before. He responded to people openly, as they did to him. And he was responding openly to himself, letting himself vent the desires and frustrations which years of living in the country had prevented him from letting go.
Joey was very aware that the privilege he enjoyed – of being able to indulge himself in these spiritual and intellectual pursuits – was unique, and set him apart (though he certainly never lost that instinctive control and temperance he’d been taught by his family). He wasn’t someone who advertised that he had money, that he was, as the saying goes, “independently wealthy”. At the same time, he had determined in his own mind that he was not about to let things slip by, leaving him in the dust. He had an agenda which now included more than establishing his own business for its own sake; he was about to rebuild himself from the ground up, and it was this metaphor which opened the way to what followed next.
There was no question that, upon leaving Cartersville, Joey had experienced something akin to an old coat falling from his shoulders. The mantel of his past had unquestionably fallen away. But, just as each one of us faces the inevitable as we came into this world, Joey nonetheless felt bound by more than the umbrella of his former Town. The real substance of his being was still very much entangled within him, and he knew that he would first have to disassemble that before he could begin a period of new growth and development. His casual attempts at changing his exterior appearance had proven less than satisfactory. Somehow the symbols of wealth which had spoken to him so loudly and clearly on others were to him little more than trinkets and tinsel. His new wardrobe, while it temporarily satisfied his amusement and sense of adventure, did however little to convince him that he had tapped the well of his own being. Joey had indeed become a thinker, and he was discovering that the material world was doing little to address, much less satisfy, his thirst for something deeper. He could almost touch it, but whatever it was, he couldn’t get hold of it. He thus felt that he had to peel away all that surrounded him, all his past, all his conditioning, reducing himself to a metaphorical skeleton – the bare bones, so to speak.
As he began to distance himself from the material world (for purposes of examining himself more closely), Joey became oddly aware that his facility in the material world was actually increasing. The less he wanted it, the more he got it. Joey had for years relied upon the advice of professional advisers, including stock brokers, but he always retained control over the ultimate decision. As the economy took on a more favourable air, the market activity increased accordingly. Joey worked this to his advantage, able to score success almost in spite of himself, since he approached the matter with almost a lack of interest, and certainly without an aggressive desire to make money. So, while his investment portfolio hummed along nicely, he by contrast was delving further and further into his own self-analysis. There’s an old saw that we see in others what we see in ourselves. Joey was able to see the best of others. So intent was he to find personal happiness, to see the joy of being alive within himself, that anything he saw in others which made them happy, was for him a good thing. Joey wasn’t envious of others. He complimented himself upon his ability to enjoy the well-being and success of others. But like his professional advisers, the “others” in his life were not about to dictate to him. The same patience that characterized his investment strategy also marked his personal growth.
It is in the context of this somewhat wide-eyed yet optimistically cautious approach to life, this fundamental feeling of bienfaissance de la vie, that Joey began to lose faith. His former positive approach to life was becoming for him a verisimilitude. There began to creep back into the cracks of his life, into his early morning thoughts in the damp cool of his bed chamber, into those scattered mental flashes one gets while waiting for the light to turn green, a distinct sense that maybe, just maybe all this was for naught. While he didn’t know the poet J. P. Kaffefy, the matter had been put succinctly by poet when he wrote, “There ain’t no ship to take you away from yourself; you only travel the suburbs of your own mind.” Joey was feeling that all his efforts to date were amounting to little more than a pointless and circuitous voyage into an altogether too familiar and unchanged world. He was going in circles. His cheeriness was subsiding. His many successes seemed oddly empty for him. And while he wasn’t becoming desperate, he was becoming disappointed and more frequently disposed to take exception to others. Until recently, Joey’s approach had been enquiring, amused and predisposed to kindness and sharing. But now, he was for reasons which he could not explain, set apart and almost suspicious of others. Perhaps, he thought, he had gone too far, too fast. Perhaps he was no more genuine than that motivational speaker he had met. Perhaps – and this was closer to the real truth – he would never become the man he had hoped he would. Grave depression began to set in. After all, he had made significant and temporarily irreversible decisions in the past number of years. He had the feeling that he had bound up his external world in the same way his inner feelings were in knots. It was a horrible feeling of doubt and mistake; knowing that you have done things which have not profited oneself or at least fulfilled the hopes that had been. Finally, Joey felt quite vulnerable and flat. If this is what it meant to rebuild yourself from the ground up, he was doing a fine job of it.
There surely is no man who has not felt disappointment, especially perhaps after a period of relatively sustained success. And no matter how exciting and alluring a change can be in one’s life, eventually things begin to blend in with the wallpaper and the babbling of one’s friends starts to sound like a television ad. Joey had been in such a frenzy to start over that he had pretty much convinced himself that as long as he wasn’t doing what he used to do, he was doing fine. But it wasn’t turning out that way. While he enjoyed many of the new friends and acquaintances he had made, he doubted at times the substance and depth of those relationships. To his credit, Joey had continued to be able to rise above lust in any relationship, so he didn’t have that particular problem to overcome. Joey was distinctly a man who wanted to develop full and profound relationships, built upon self-awareness, mutual respect and trust. He was discovering, however, that such relationships do not materialize without a good deal of time and experience. The mere fact of leaving home and resettling in the City was not the recipe for successful relationships.
All this introversion was happening for him against a backdrop of a very comfortable life-style for a young man. He drove an expensive automobile, lived in a large penthouse overlooking the water, and had cultivated the habit of dining in the upscale hotels and restaurants around town (he had a positive disdain for the old beanery in his home town, where the locals gathered everyday for morning coffee). In his effort to distance himself from the past, he had also distanced himself from a lot of the people he once knew and associated with in the country. He found that his new shiny appearance made him feel uncomfortable in their presence, and rather than risk the possibility of being accused a dandy or a pretender, he just avoided the scene. In his new environment, nobody knew what he used to be. There was of course nothing particularly wrong about what Joey used to be, other than for him it was a ball and chain which he had always felt had kept him from changing. Oddly enough, just as it was that his past had kept him where he was, now the present was doing the same thing. In both environments, he was up to his knees in concrete and not likely to change. Whether he liked one over the other was not important; it bothered him that he was becoming as set in his ways as he had felt before. It was the inertia that upset him. Some people in this world are quite happy to do the same thing everyday, and in fact rather enjoy having the shopkeepers of the community time their clocks by the routine of one’s conduct. But for Joey this was anathema. Perhaps he felt that it reflected badly upon his ability if he were not able to change and reform himself at will. He was back at that point of his childhood, staring at the possibility of not being talented.
In his search for a new aspect, Joey had embraced some rather esoteric philosophies and disciplines. While there was a kernel of readily identifiable truth in all of them, there could be no doubt that the window dressing and feathers put the truths beyond the scope of most people. His ideas were for most a bit kookie, to put a soft spin on it. But for Joey and his friends, the principles were fodder for a good deal of prolonged discussion, not to mention the spring-board for conferences and delegations in other cities. The other matter which sustained the indulgence was that these mind developing theories allowed the students to continue their own self-absorption, while giving the appearance of improving not only themselves but their pocketbooks. It was beyond question that the bottom layer of these rarified pronouncements was money.
It is worthy of some enquiry whether all of us confound ourselves with our own way of living and intellectual undertakings, while simply trying to maintain a standard of living. To say that one is better than another, that one is supercilious and the other is genuine, is perhaps not only unfair but maybe not even germane. After all, what does it matter what it is that supports us each day in our own universe?