becoming a self in history, becoming a self in my street

Jerry Ravetz

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.