As a small child I was not just a believer, I knew that God was real. He was behind the curtains in Catholic Mass and I was scared that if the priest was careless and the curtain slipped we would all be incinerated by the all seeing eye.
The film Song of Bernadette particularly disturbed me, more than any horror movie has since. I lay in bed at night feeling that the Madonna (that is the Mother of God, not the pop star) was outside my bedroom door, waiting to burst in with accompanying choirs of angels and ruin my life. She would doom me, as she had Bernadette, to a life of suffering. With special effects better than any Hollywood block buster, her light came in rays through the cracks. So I pulled the covers over my head praying in a repetitive mantra that she stay outside. “I’ll be good,” I prayed, “Just don’t ask me to be a Saint.”
Then as now I had an inner voice, or daemon, that saw through my more ridiculous antics. When my mind was still, just before sleep, or in times of heightened awareness it spoke to me with a voice of wisdom I instinctively knew as the truth. It pitied my fear and prayers but assured me that what will be, will be, if fate marks you out as a fall guy you’d best make the most of it. But this was something I did not want to know or hear, so I disregarded it.
I displayed other bipolar/lunatic symptoms. About the age of five I flew down the stairs. It wasn’t just flight, it was the ecstasy of weightlessness and absolute freedom. Though it only lasted seconds it was the best I had ever felt and probably set me on the path of hedonism. I remember running into the kitchen and telling my Mother that I could fly. I can’t remember her reaction. She has since suggested that probably my father had lifted me and run with me down the stairs, but I know this is not true. Having experienced altered states since, I believe that a temporary chemical imbalance in my neurotransmitters had set me briefly tripping.
So for me, at least, the age of miracles had never ended. But if we fast forward to the age of nine, the magic was much thinner and the world more solid. And belief in the divine was now more of a habit than a constant presence.
I can’t remember exactly what I was in trouble for, possibly a lack of effort in my school work, or just playing the fool (which I still do). But to me the situation was epic. It was a Friday afternoon, a time a child is supposed to be happy, but I was outside the headmaster’s office awaiting final judgement.
When the bell ended the school day I hoped I was off the hook. But Mr Harris appeared at the door and told me to be back before nine on Monday morning. He looked grim and I feared the worst; expulsion or execution.
As a child I was a worrier (a habit I have fortunately managed to kick) and that weekend was terrible. I felt like I would never be happy again. So I prayed furiously and fanatically for deliverance. Anything, I prayed, just don’t let it happen. I even considered running away from home. But mostly the weekend was spent in manic, mechanical mantra, “Please don’t let it happen” over and and over again.
But Monday, as it always does, duly arrived. I went to school like a condemned boy. But as soon as I got through the gates I knew that something had changed. Outside the Head’s office, Mr Johnson, the deputy head, was looking quite unlike his usual self and told me to go straight to assembly where an announcement would be made to the whole school.
Mr Harris, we were told, had died of a massive heart attack. A wave of shock passed through everyone, some children cried. But I was paralysed by guilt, I knew that my prayers had been answered and that I had, to all intents and purposes, killed him.
Obviously just a coincidence, of course I had no responsibility. But even now I cannot be a hundred percent sure. Indeed if we switch religious paradigms to an Eastern perspective, one could see karma at work. It was Mr Harris’ death and the consequent changes of staff that lead to the employment of Mr R, the deputy head who went onto groom and sexually abuse me. So, at least as far as the superstitious parts of my psyche were concerned, I got my payback.
When I grew up, I gave up on religion but (much to my rational minds disgust) retained a mythological outlook, at least in my imagination.
But Mary and my daemon, despite their semifictional status, were right, I was condemned to a life of suffering. But that has been not so bad, it allowed me areas of personal growth and breakthroughs of awareness denied to most. And I’ve had some amazing thrills on the way. But at least one more prayer was answered: I am not and never will be a Saint.