Monday, October 26, 2015

A Man without a Country

Alan by no means appears the strapping type who would cross continents and traverse oceans in an eight year drive to meet the peoples of the world. He approaches instead the diminutive. We sit across from one another in couch chairs one afternoon last week talking under the bamboo roof of the guest commons at Hostal Rosario del Villa in Cuenca. He laughs easily and looks about 42 years old, wears a worn baseball cap and appears altogether nondescript, perhaps even somewhat undernourished.

Istanbul, Turkey

Alan’s assured cadence and deep voice tell a different story. Those reflect a personal need molded onto a framework of intense curiosity which for almost a decade has stopped at nothing to find universal commonality no matter country or culture.

Cusco, Peru

So is Alan a traveler? “I can’t really characterize myself as anything,” he says. “I can just say that I travel because that’s part of my life.”
A part of his life that’s more consequence than choice he says.
Alan had been working with computer software and hardware in the Silicon Valley high tech era, and started part time, taking personal growth courses and studies. It generated full scale change but not until Alan rammed into a dead end wall years later.

Koh Phangan, Thailand

He has always enjoyed helping people, he explains, helping people discover their hidden aspects, helping people to resolve differences, helping people to better understand their motivations.

Time after time people encouraged him. You’re so good at doing counseling, they said, you ought to practice full time. So he got out of the high tech field and without a psychology degree that is in fact what Alan did for about the next six years.

“I thought about (getting a degree) for many years” he says, “and every time I went to go something stopped me. The main thing is they weren’t actually seeing people, they were seeing statistics in general and I wanted to see people in specifics.”  

He says he did it until he got really good at it. He could figure out their focus of attention, see the things inside themselves that they wanted to change. But Alan says almost everyone wanted to change superficially, for instance, how to change to make more money or how to develop a more likeable personality.

“Is that all people really want?” thought Alan. “They were satisfied with what to me was just a beginning. It was just bread crumbs. And people were delighted with it. And I wasn’t. I needed a path, I needed to go somewhere.”
He felt frustrated doing life coaching because to use Ecuador as a metaphor, people wanted to hear about the country but only one percent ever traveled to it. No one wanted to actually go. People didn’t want a change that turns things inside out or the change that pulls the root of the self out for brave examination.

It was like people “watching the travel channel but then turning off the TV," says Alan.

Buenos Aries, Argentina

This was the dead end experience that birthed the consequence of Alan’s travels across the globe. He visited Asia, South America, the Middle East and Europe. He lived in Buenos Aries, Santiago, Spain, Istanbul and Cusco, Peru. He went to India. He began searching for a commonality among people that unites despite habits of language and culture or country and belief. He “ticked” to find what made other people tick under the clothing of their heritage and cultural upbringing.

This tick is what Alan describes as “intent.” It’s a third aspect that forms a triangle of being along with the nature and nurture aspects, our genetic and environmental aspects. No two intents can be exactly alike Alan is saying, not a one can match exactly that of another. Alan argues these intents are the stuff that make us tick.

While traveling for these many years, Alan has lost contact with his country of origin and to the extent his English has been expunged of American slang. He speaks a neutral English which German or French people can understand.  

Santiago, Spain

“I’m an American in the official sense," he says, "but I don’t see the world through the eyes of an American.”

I don’t know how Alan’s awakening took place. I don’t know if it was like the rise of a morning sun over the horizon, or whether it came as a thunder clap that dismembered the lone tree on an empty tract of land. But according to Alan it was a discovery that contradicted his almost canonical belief that inside everyone exists something which unites them to others of the same species.

…”that came as a big blow to me” he says, “…we were really not…. everybody has something that makes them tick but that’s the only thing they have in common.”

When the interview progresses to this point I’m beginning to wonder if in truth the design of an individual’s being is so unique it cannot ever unite in fundamental fashion with the being of another.

Alan’s finding overturned and undermined the very purpose of his world travels and led him to go on to write a book published last February, available on Amazon in print and digital forms entitled, “The Story between Us, Living and Relating from Being.”

Alan required anonymity to tell his story, and as the author of his book, he’s known simply as Alan S. 






Monday, October 12, 2015

Family History and Legend of Courtesy Lost

He said he would do it--- and he did. He plunged his short sword into Emperor Calígula. He rid the Mediterranean world of a tyrant. He executed the assassination and shed the blood of a beast till death. Cassius Chaerea. His name appears in my book two thousand years after the event. And there is no one around entirely like me to honor the one who was entirely the man Cassius Chaerea.

My family originated in America from Louisiana territory, vast French property sold by Napoleon for $3 million to the just formed USA.  In the few years before Pearl Harbor, the whole lot moved to California. They moved across an entire continent. Fathers and mothers, grandparents, aunts and uncles and great-grandparents. Families with surnames DeCuir, Bell and Porche transplanted themselves anew. They left New Orleans’ parishes for cities named Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Francisco.They succeeded. Aunts and mothers raised families and taught in schools and sold stock. Fathers played music, built houses and sold insurance. 
So my blood is inherited south---French, English, Scottish, black African---Indian and Jewish. I call it gumbo and praline. That’s cornbread and grits when Grandma talks French to Aunt Sue in the kitchen.   

Alexis and Cornelia Porche on their wedding day.
Papa my Jewish maternal great grandfather had been a cotton broker and raised two families. He’d laugh uproariously while tossing dish candy out the window to his daughter’s grandchildren darting about in the yard below. I’d count Papa’s change and buy his white owl cigars.

That world in which I used to live---when most people went to church on Sunday or didn't necessarily lock their front doors---it's vanished.
In those days fifty years ago the sun lit bright the parks and lakes of California. White clouds in blue sky were swept by wind over landscapes of brown and green. A young woman walked alone unafraid at night on Market Street in down town San Francisco.
It's not as bright these days and I take a look from a particular angle.  

Catholic University of America students at Mass
See, in the old days my family prayed at Catholic church. We kneeled and prayed the rosary in our home with other Catholic families in the neighborhood. Protestants let us do our thing without comment. They didn’t deprecate Catholics. Protestant and Catholic people became friends and didn’t fight about religión.
But during Jesus movement days twenty years later, together with evangelicals, I looked inside a cathedral packed with Catholics singing with arms upraised and my Protestant companions scoffed at the sight. Why?
I believe it’s an example of disregard which dwindling courtesy enables. I know it's an impossible stretch, but maybe the start of this loss of courtesy in some mysterious way began the day Emperor Caligula announced he was a god---that somehow being the hidden seed to today's school shootings and rampant drug abuse---that evil spirit keeping people afraid out of fear.