A couple of weeks ago I came across a school report card from when I was eight years old. It was interesting to see what I was interested in back then and somewhat to my surprise, the subjects that I apparently excelled in were subjects that interest me still; art, religion and music. I did pretty well across all subjects but those three were singled out as areas I did well in. Who knows why we lean towards certain things and not others? Or why we find interest or passion, vocation even, in a particular art form or field of study. But there it was on a folded piece of paper, written decades ago, inscribed as it were in a young life.
I was browsing in a book shop earlier this week and saw the Krishnamurti book in the image at the top of this post. In my early teens I decided to hitchhike to Greece one summer. A friend of mine was working as an au pair for a Greek family for the summer so I thought I would make my way down there and pay her a visit. It was really pretty easy, I got great rides and before I knew it I was in Brindisi in southern Italy catching a ferry to Corfu. I had no real idea where I was going and I had some time to kill before I had to be in Athens so I followed a few people to a place called Sidari and spent a few weeks sleeping in a tent on a nude beach.
On the boat from Corfu to the mainland I met an American, from Santa Barbara, and we spent a day walking around Athens and exploring the city. Before we parted company, he handed me a book and said that it was important to him, the only book he had bought on his trip, but he wanted me to have it. It was a Krishnamurti book. I had no interest, or at least was not nurturing any interest in religion at the time, but I took the book and read it a few times on that trip. I don’t know how much it impacted me, I know that among the garbled and blurred memories of that time, that moment and that book have always stood out, but I didn’t become a follower of Krishnamurti or anyone else at that time.
The writer Frederick Buechner wrote about his ‘conversion’ and described the strange turn of events that brought him to a moment where the axis of his life shifted. He had been attending a church famous for its preacher’s oratory and expository skills but found nothing in the sermons he heard exceot for an appreciation of the man’s giftedness and ability, but a throwaway comment about ‘great laughter’ brought him to a new place of self-understanding.
“And then there came one particular sermon with one particular phrase in it that does not even appear in a transcript of his words that somebody sent me more than twenty-five years later so I can only assume that he must have dreamed it up at the last minute and ad-libbed it and on just such foolish, tenuous, holy threads as that, I suppose, hang the destinies of us all.”
Foolish, tenuous and holy threads, that’s how our lives are pieced together I think. All too often we present life as some all-encompassing grand narrative, born of a divine plan or scheme, but personally I think life is made up of ‘episodic blips,’ as Simon Critchley the philosopher says, threaded through with moments, singular moments, but usually unremarkable at the time, that take us in particular directions and maybe, just maybe, hold together a fragile shape that is our lived life.
While I find it curious that my interests, or at least some of them, remain very similar to what they were when I was a kid, I don’t ascribe larger meaning to that. There are so many factors to take into consideration and I have added other things along the way. What is of interest to me, is that it was never one thing with me, my interests have always been wide, and that hasn’t changed. Curiosity may have killed the cat but it hasn’t killed me.
P.S. I will be offering a class on my Patreon page in the new year where I will be talking about curiosity and other technologies for survival in the 21st century and I will tell you why that proverb about cats and curiosity has been completely mistranslated-so stay tuned I will release some more info soon.