Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Malingerer--Part II

I was gratified to hear from my fellow-malingerers yesterday in the "Comments" file. I did actually see the Sopranos' finale--a day late. We missed it Sunday night, having missed the previous two episodes while we were in Europe, so we caught up with our recordings last night, on our return to Los Angeles. Onion rings, eh? Not sure of their therapeutic effect, Anonymous, but I agree that they made a great ending to the series. After all that agony and gore, it was good to end up with a laugh of relief and dismissal. Garlic, Carly, yes, I know of its health benefits.

But back to our sheep. I was tickled to hear from Quink, whose website I quickly surfed to--a satirical take on the British boarding school and a gathering place for some of its victims. Skimming through the site, I found a quote from the novelist Evelyn Waugh, a product of my own alma mater, Lancing College. He had as little love for his experience there as I for mine. In my last year at Lancing, my co-editor on the school literary magazine had the cheek to write to the by-then eminent Waugh, requesting a submission for our journal. Waugh responded--but dismissively: all he had ever learned at Lancing, he wrote (and I paraphrase here: this was many years ago,) was how to avoid hard work. My friend wrote back to ask permission to publish the response, and to ask if Waugh could give his assurance that he would never write for our distinguished magazine, to spare future editors the trouble of writing to him. He received a postcard in response (and this I remember word-for-word): "Yes to both questions, E.W."

Here's some of what Waugh had to say about the boarding school experience: "Anyone who has been to an English public school will always feel comparatively at home in prison. It is the people brought up in the gay intimacy of the slums ... who find prison so soul-destroying." (Decline and Fall). And "Our form-master is one Woodard, a new parson who, people say, is related to the misguided old gentleman who founded us. He seems quite decent but undoubtedly means to make us work - a fad I abhor in masters." Waugh's acerbic wit was surely honed on the miseries of the public school experience.

Anyway, thanks to Quink for putting me back in touch with that world. I wonder if he ever came across an organization called Boarding School Survivors? I came across this support group for those living with the wounds of boarding schools back in the early 1990s, when I had begun to do some men's work over here wih The Mankind Project here in the U.S. Satire is one way to salve the wounds; some form of psychological/emotional therapy is another, for those who are beyond finding it funny. I happen to like both approaches. "Quink"? That must be the dreadful blue or purple Parker's liquid I used to get all over my little fingers as I struggled for mastery of the pen and nib at prep school.

I never suffered the kind of abuse that Dr. Steve describes in his comment. I was ritually strapped and caned, but ony because that was the accepted form of punishment in the ethos of the private school in those days. I was also buggered by a dirty old math teacher at the age of twelve--a not uncommon experience, often overlooked if not exactly condoned by that same ethos. And my natural teenage appetites for sexual exploration were all satisfied with boys: there was no one else around to play with--or to fall in love with. The first time I fell in love with a girl was the actual, very same day that I left Lancing, when my parents arrived to drive me off with a French girl in tow--an exchange student who had come to spend a month with them. Her name was Jeannine, and I fell in love with her instantly.

So much "stuff", eh? All grist for the mill of learning to understand myself, and learning to see what still stands in the way of the spiritual liberation that is the quest of my life. Another word about Dr. Steve: readers may recall that I spent a couple of hours in his office in the weeks before I left for Europe, and found him to be a healer of the very first order, keen of hearing and sensitive of touch, and one who combines insight with a true feel for the body's energies. A man, then, who--as he suggests in his comment yesterday--has learned to listen to the powerful voice of the body-mind, and who has transformed the experience of those abusive wounds into the remarkable ability to heal.


Quink said...

A great post: your generation really had it quite amazingly bad. Do you ever wonder what ever happened to any of those terrible people?

Also, very kind of you to give the Crap Public Schools Association a plug.

I had indeed come across the Boarding School Survivors organisation but I was actually a dayboy and, as you say, I much prefer to use satire to salve such wounds as I have (and have a lot of fun in the process). As a recent correspondent put it to me when recalling the recent suicide of a contemporary:

"Bit of a downer really, but never mind, always better to fill yourself with vodka and meths and then chuck yourself off a bridge than spend all night blubbing".

Cruel, but so, so true...

Interesting you should mention Lancing: I've just had an article published and I've mentioned Waugh's insecurity about the place in the opening two paragraphs. I've just blogged about it here, where you can download a copy.

And "Quink". I used to blog under that pseudonym on blogger and, rather than go to all the trouble of changing it when I changed blogs, I've just carried on. Yes, it was inspired by the ink - it was on my desk when I was trying to think of a suitable pen name.

PeterAtLarge said...

Hello, again, Quink. Good to hear from you. I've ordered a copy of your book--sounds like an entertaining read! I'll be able to dream about the Dickensian Old Days. If you'd like, drop me a line to my email address, PeterAtLarge@mac.com. That way I'll be able to communicate off-blog. Cheers, PaL

PeterAtLarge said...

"My generation," by the way: I went to Lancing in 1948!

Quink said...

Just the generation I meant (I wasn't thinking of the place in Woodard's day!)

carly said...

The hermit buddhist in Amongst White Clouds says, sweeping his hand across his gardens, home, and his mountainous reality, "All of this is the practice. It's not just sitting quietly somewhere."

Wow. a buddhist with taothink.

Amongst White Clouds