becoming a self in history, becoming a self in my street
In the years leading up to my 40th birthday, all sorts of things came to an end.
First was my father’s life. He was not afraid to die, but everyone around him, indeed the whole American
civilisation, was terrified of death. That was the great turning point for me; something was very profoundly
wrong with this whole culture. Then came my career as an academic scholar. My younger colleagues rose up
against me, destroying a very brilliant school in my field. Although my intellectual endeavour continued
uninterrupted, I was never again a real member of an academic community. Around then I was losing my
status in the family, as my marriage suffered mortal wounds. The Anglophilia that had sustained me from my
first arrival here was also disabused. Looking at myself, I reflected that having once been a progressive Jewish
American scientist, I found myself being something very different in all respects. I remembered the poem,
“Breathes there a man with a soul so dead / Who never to himself hath said / This is my own, my native
land…”. My first response was counter-cultural, expanding consciousness in all the usual ways. The next twenty
years were gruelling but very educational. All the layers of my previous belief systems were peeled off. Then it
began to get easier.