For a few months all this page said was:
The rest of this story will be posted soon (honest) 24 apr.
Then on Aug 30 I posted the following (in this case “soon” was 4 months):
So the story continues…
I’m afraid that at this point no matter how I end this it is going to seem pretty lame. Sorry about that but here goes.
To understand what I think all this was about you really have to know a few things about Climates, Tensions, and Roles.
When Silo asked me how I liked Mexico my external response was to sputter some incomprehensible sounds. Internally this corresponded to a state of great physical and mental tension; after all it was like the fulfilment of some childhood dream. Here I was exploring the ruins of an ancient civilization with a man that I considered (and 40 years later still think of as) the representative of a future civilization, a master of wisdom, a world changing force, the paragon of truly awake humanity – you get the idea. No wonder I was barely able to walk beside him let alone answer his questions. Besides this general state, his simple and friendly query immediately triggered a series of associations that went something like this: “If I say I don’t like Mexico I’ll sound like a gringo asshole. If I say I do like Mexico I’ll sound like a tourist…”. Not very reasonable on my part but there you go. Instead I stammered and sputtered and did a number of other things except answer his question.
What had that been about? It was an odd situation even though it lasted only a fraction of a moment – nonetheless it stayed with me. Of course I didn’t like the unflattering image of being a shallow neurotic even in brief, occasional flashes. Happily, it was an image that didn’t surface often, but there it was an uncomfortable, undigested, maybe undigestable morsel.
Things started to click into place in an unexpected way when, a few years later and thousands of km away, I finally heard him explain the theory of roles, and especially when he gave examples of what occurs in the absence of roles, or excessive roles, badly configured or erroneous roles.
For now we can take the term role to mean a collection of related behavioural habits. It’s not just that I might have a role for work, that’s very different than my role as a friend, or parent, etc. Rather, that “I” consist, in some sense, largely of more or less fixed sets of behaviours that are triggered by particular stimuli. Sometimes those roles are well configured, i.e. that is they are well adapted to the situation, they fit, they are adaptive, they work. On the other hand, they can be more or less out of step.
Imagine the boss whose role is like a parent with children, or the reverse a parent whose behaviours seem more fitting for an employer. Roles can be too flexible or too rigid, at times leaving the sensation that there are, as it were, too many or as if one didn’t have a role for that situation. This latter occurs, for example, when you the roles your personality is built out from don’t quite do the trick for the novel situation you find yourself in. Of course, as with everything *(contributions to thought) roles admit degrees of being well configured or erroneous.
Where’s this all heading?
Most importantly for our little tale, roles are something you develop as you age – in as much as aging normally involves an exposure to more and more complex situations. Leading, one hopes, to the famous “wisdom of age”, i.e. having been exposed to more situations one has some sense of how to respond to them next time, can draw on the earlier experiences to respond to similar ones, etc.
When Silo, told me repeatedly I was too young. I didn’t get it. What was he saying? However, at the time he told me I was too old. I had made certain observations and had corresponding theoretical models to believe not only that I got this long delayed “punchline” but that I had at that moment arrived to corresponding observations on my own.
In each of the meetings from the first in Mexico, to the meeting in Corfu and that first meeting in Gran Canaria I found myself tense and climatic as we would have said: i.e. inappropriately tense, and awash in continuous emotional upheaval concocted from feelings of inadequacy, the fear this would be discovered and of course that I would be revealed as a fraud and interloper. Top this off with the feeling that I was the only one who didn’t understand Spanish, that all the others were old friends, and I didn’t fit in, etc. etc. Of course later (decades later) I was to discover that I was far from alone in all that.
To say that I didn’t have adequate roles for this situation so far from my experience until then would be understating the situation. Correspondingly, I had all the climates that correspond to lacking well configured responses, and those feelings of being out of place, in a vaguely hostile and certainly difficult environment, being lost, and so on, all fed-back inhibiting behaviours that would have allowed a more relaxed and open interaction.
NO ROLES = I WAS TOO YOUNG also I suppose a subtext of don’t worry you’ll grow into it.
Before going to the first Canaries meeting (and there was no way I was going to let a little emotional discomfort stop me) and later to the second I thought a lot about my experiences in these kinds of gatherings, including the weeks I had spent in San Francisco studying Crafts and Disciplines (though Silo had not been there to draw my attention to my overwrought internal state). I realized that I knew people, I was an old-hand, I was with friends, etc. And I made a plan to intentionally relax, and construct roles that would “work”. And so I did.
And I when Silo popped the punchline that had been ripening for almost 5 years, I knew what it meant and I knew it was true – well I thought I knew what he meant and I believed it was true.
I WAS TOO OLD = TOO MANY ROLES, NO SPONTENAITY, NOT OPEN TO THE CHANGING ENVIRONMENT
It was amazing. I knew it was true but how did he? I had just been thinking about how my relaxed attitude, comfortable (seeming) role was all bullshit, a playing at those things, an “as if”, un “como si” Sure he was really perceptive and all that, but did he know how the joke would play out when he started it years earlier, or was he “merely” responding to what he saw on each of those occasions. Did he make this joke or did I?
It was one of the questions I always thought I’d ask him before the end. I even had it on the list of final questions I’d written on my way down to what I knew would be our last chance to spend time together (a surprisingly short list). In the end I didn’t ask.