My journey started almost 30 years ago in a town called Tamworth in NSW. I was brought into the world as the second son in a family of 4 and life was kind to us. My dad worked hard as a timber merchant so my mum could stay at home for the duration of our younger years, which meant we had the constant attention of at least one loving parent – a luxury not often afforded in today’s world.
My brother and I were 15 months apart and rambunctious to say the least. Looking back, it’s a certainty that in the same way moving water wears away at mother earth, we wore away at our mother’s patience. When disciplining children there are only so many times one can pull the same trick and our parents were more than creative, believe me. Therefore, after a hearty breakfast we were often ushered outside to climb trees and run around our large suburban backyard. Much to the dismay of our neighbours, it wasn’t long until we felt we should expand our playground and started making tree houses in their backyards. I can see my parents now, shaking their heads in disbelief as we staggered home before dinner, covered in dust and carrying dads new hedge trimmer. It seemed like a pretty good idea to hollow out our neighbour’s entire hedge so we could hide in plain sight. Being a timber merchant and a builder, dad put together a 20ft high swing set and a 3 x 3 metre cubby house with a winding stair case that ascended 6m up a massive iron bark gum tree. One might be thinking ‘these boys could never bite off enough of the apple, they got spoilt and always wanted more’, others might ponder ‘they sound like escaped monkeys from the zoo’. Whilst we did have it good, there is no doubt, the following truth might put some perspective on what beckoned us to be so rambunctious, or rather, why we felt we needed to act out.
If you haven’t heard of the bloodline religion, The Brethren, you have now. I have no reservations calling it a cult, since in many ways it acts as one. However, the people within their sanctum are typically very kind, caring people with strong values; no one joins the church you must be born into it. They are practicing Christians, but more accurately I would call them biblical extremists. They follow the principles within the bible very closely, but since the text is over 2000 years old they have no qualms filling in the gaps when it comes to how to confine you and how they reprimand those whom seek to act out. We had no television, no radio or music, going to restaurants was forbidden. We went to church every night of the week and at least 3 times on Sunday. We went to public schools, but there was no sport, we had to be picked up at lunch time so we didn’t eat with the other children. There was no such thing as sleep overs or after school visits. Churches had big fences with barbed wire which were padlocked whilst in session. Inside they resembled a velodrome of seats with a speaker box in the middle, much alike the political realm. Just like the hollowed-out bush from my childhood, the Brethren were hidden in plain sight, engaging with society but distinct from it. It didn’t make much sense to me, but it was considered normal by those closest to me, so when it came up at school I accepted that we were different and that we’d always be treated as such by the outside world.
2 years after the birth of my little sister, the world as we knew it changed forever. I remember finding it quite embarrassing that we had been ‘shut up’ from the church. I yearned for the safety of normality, but at the same time the doors to the big bad world had opened and the promise of its forbidden fruit was exciting. We had a good life in the church and no apparent reason to leave the institution, nor our entire extended family. We had seemingly everything we would ever need: A beautifully loving family, many friends, plenty of home-made food, a strong sense of right and wrong. But, something was missing. Something deep within the evolutionary coding of our beings. Something that I know looking back was the reason for these two young boys and their rambunctious ways. Something that was being drummed out of us, by those who seek to demonise delving into the unknown. Denying us a chance to thrive, to expand the limitless borders of possibility, in a world we were taught was going to drag us under.
After several months of excommunication and many outrageous requests by the church for my parents to prove their worthiness, the church sought to make an example of us. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, rebellion was in our blood and they knew it. It was at this fork in the road that Mum and Dad made an incredibly courageous decision and decided to step out of the cave and into the fray. We said goodbye to everyone outside our little family of 5 and we looked ahead with clear eyes, broken hearts and the promise of a world we were seldom allowed to even speak of. The new-found freedom brought a palpable energy into our home and it was as if the list of ‘do nots’ had become the list of ‘to dos’. 23 years later our family is thriving and happy, but it took much of those 2 decades and much suffering to finally fully heal. The only reason we can say we are better off now than we have ever been, is because we held strong as a unit, without judgement, and allowed ourselves the self-exploration necessary to overcome the many throes of today’s reality.
I wanted to share this with you good readers as I believe within the fabric of this true story you can see the prevailing’s of the human spirit. The primordial light within us all that demands we adapt and survive. The deep coding within us that invokes adventure and the realisation that when we jump into the dark abyss of the unknown, there are forces at play which help us to thrive.
There is no such thing as a normal life. Everyone has some form of unique twist in their becoming’s that is unlived by another. Each and every person interacts with his or her environment slightly differently and the feelings which bubble to the surface as a result of this ‘play’ will often dictate our actions when we next encounter that experience. Although it is easy to speak so laconically of emotion, the repercussions of each experience are complex and diverse; they’re unveiling reliant on an individual’s ability to explore their memories and become mindful of themselves.
Memories can either consume you or guide you. There is always a choice, a choice I believe I made at a very young age. A decision influenced by my family, as they embarked on a journey that has been quite remarkable. I’ll never forget the feeling of suddenly being a stranger in a world I had always known so well. Imagine almost everything you thought you knew about the world and its works changed in an instant. Leaving you with two options. Dilapidated capitulation or inoculated transgression. In workman’s terms – moan and be unremarkable or equip yourself with knowledge and climb till you see daylight. The choice is to question why or to accept your reality as if we are frozen in space.
I was too young to understand the complexities of such circumstances. My lovely parents, on the other hand, saw an opportunity and stood up with to face a new world armed with little more than a sense of adventure to shine its light through the hazy mystery of their addled perceptions. They fought the demons of despair while they watched their old and new worlds collide. Defiling the fundamentals of many beliefs which had guided them for almost 30 years. And in doing so, establishing in me fundamental beliefs that have guided me and will continue to do so for the rest of my life. What I’m talking about, is in the very essence of your DNA; your natural instinct; your will to act out with integrity, to challenge the status quo, look for a better way, to go against the grain. You are courageous seekers of truth, you have a force within you that resonates with the natural world like no other and that’s called love, you are inquisitive, you like to explore, to be adventurous and to question why. If you find yourself believing that you must always be the way you’ve always been, you are arguing against growth and change. In Plato’s ‘Allegory of the Cave’, we can see a message for humanity which still rings true as there is nothing new under the sun – Step out of the “cave” into the light and do not stop trying to tell the others what you’ve experienced on the outside. Be the change and you will change the world around you!