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September 27, 2004

They may not mean to, but they do

Parents exist for the care of their children, rather than children existing for the "self-fulfillment" of their parents, a concept that has difficulty penetrating the narcissistic, self-absorbed "therapeutic" ethos of the boomer generation.

- me, here

Tim Guest, "Bringing Up Me", The New York Times, 2004 September 26.

When I was 4, my mother became a disciple of the notorious Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. She took a Sanskrit name, dyed her clothes orange and began to do loud meditations in our living room. Soon she left me with my father -- they already lived apart -- and flew off to the guru's ashram in India. She replied to my shaky letters with variations on the same answer: ''I'll be home soon.'' When she claimed me back from my dad, she dyed my clothes orange too. For the next seven years, I bounced around the world behind her, living in Bhagwan's communes in India, England, Germany and Imbler. Bhagwan invented radically new ''dynamic'' meditations and therapies; he took nitrous oxide and spoke from a dentist's chair; he encouraged his disciples to surrender totally to him and to live their lives to the extreme. For my mother, on a rocket-ship rebellion from her strict Catholic girlhood, Bhagwan offered everything she had long hoped for: the path to enlightenment but with free love, drugs and rock 'n' roll thrown in.

For the children -- at least, for me -- Bhagwan's communes were a different proposition. As each adult struggled to prove himself or herself the most egoless, we competed to show who had the best break-dance moves. As they abandoned the consumerist dream, we fought over Legos and ''E.T.'' toys. Intent on building spiritual togetherness as a model for the world, my mother and her friends ignored some of the more practical needs of the children under their feet -- forgetting, for example, to take us to the dentist or to clip our fingernails.
When I was born, my mother swore she would never let her child suffer the way she had: she felt that her Catholic childhood had crushed her. She gave me what she had longed for.

Posted by jeet at 12:31 AM