Six Childhood Facts

Six facts about me as a child, with due respect to Pavitrata.

1. No fast fried pleasures, please

I never spent my pocket money on junk food as a child. Which is not to say that I didn’t like junk food, or to suggest merely a lack of money, but rather that spending hard earned, all too easily lost riches on something lasting but a fleeting moment—the temporary sense pleasure of food—made no sense to me at all.

I remember my early bewilderment clearly, not really understanding my peers as they downed sodas and crisps wantonly, their pocket money flagrantly, and I am not an adult who remembers not his childhood—to a large extent, no small thanks to meditation, it lives and breathes in me still.

It is a great shame this innate childhood common sense became less than innate as the years passed by, a growing worldliness, wisdom of the “ways of men” passing me not.

2. Pop music not so popular

I couldn’t bear popular music as a child. I listened to and owned nothing but classical music until the age of nine, and according to my mother used to cry in my early years if anything less refined was played. I taught myself to play the piano, memorising more by ear than note pieces by the great composers, and used literally to shudder at the sound and sight of punk bands then at their height.

MozartThat all changed with the advent of synth-pop—I skipped screaming electric guitar anthems, safety pins in your nose, furious drum solos, and went directly from Mozart to Madonna; Cyndi Lauper, Howard Jones and Nik Kershaw in between.

I was pretty normal from that point on. As a teenager I dreamed of haircuts and concerts, rather than wigs and concertos, and gave up the piano for the guitar after an intense battle of wills with a piano teacher, who told me on the morning of my Grade 3 exam that, lest my results harm her reputation, she was disowning me.

I did fail, by all of four marks, but more due to the fact that I didn’t feel inspired to practise, than any glee sought in tarnishing a disagreeable piano teacher’s name. I had refused to learn music theory; she had refused to teach me as accustomed “by heart.” I may not have been vindicated by my grade, but they have schools today devoted to the instincts I was following.

3. Football was my life

Football was my life for a number of years. Growing up in rugby mad “God’s Own” I rose at ungodly hours to watch “that other game,” fleetingly available when broadcast from the other side of the world, then spent morning, lunch and evening playing same with friends; otherwise just kicking a ball alone.

I was told by a coach at age fourteen that I had the talent to go to the highest level, if I could but “get the right attitude as well,” but it was meditation rather than football that coached me in the power of self-belief; trained out of me, ten minutes practise a day, my nagging, dribbling sense of self-doubt.

4. Turning Japanese

I was fascinated with Japan from an earliest age. When offered the chance by my mother to buy a book on a special occasion, I chose a children’s guide to this implicitly intriguing land of kimonos, karate and kabuki. Soon afterward I demanded lessons in karate, and attempted several times to learn the language—with more enthusiasm than steel or resolve.

Upon adulthood my fascination has waxed rather than waned; a more than decade-long marriage to the practise of meditation just one example of my un-struck appetite for things Nihon.

“Japan is a country filled with infinite beauty. It has an image of a beautiful flower garden. This beauty is expressed through inner peace. Man has seen many things, but of these things peace is new. Japan is offering this new treasure to the world.

“Japan has some other very special capacities to offer. Japan produces such small, beautiful things. God is infinite and finite-larger than the largest and smaller than the smallest. He is both the ocean and the drop. He is inside me as a human being and, again, He is inside the vast sky and ocean. In Japan I see God the Creator in His small aspect, but at the same time, so beautiful and powerful. Here I see the finite expressing the Beauty and Divinity of God in such a powerful way, and I am deeply impressed. It is like the difference between seeing a child do something and a grown-up do it. When the child does it, I get much more joy. In Japan’s case, the child is Japan’s childlike flower-consciousness-a beautiful flower is reaching the highest in terms of beauty and purity. As soon as I think of Japan, my mind feels beauty, my heart feels purity and my life feels humility. I could write hundreds and hundreds of poems about Japan. In fact, I have already written them in the depths of my gratitude-heart.”

Sri Chinmoy, Excerpt from Japan: Soul-Beauty’s Heart-Garden

5. Altar-ed states

David and GoliathI was raised a Christian. Not that I actually enjoyed going to Church, or Sunday School—in fact I would beg my mother every Sunday to leave me at home to watch “Big League Soccer, yet I studied and memorised the stories of faith, courage and heroism in my Picture Bible unbidden, and would pray most evenings without prompting.My last visit to church was around age thirteen, a time when my local congregation, almost completely absent of fellow teenagers, was split pew and rafters over the siting the altar—two metres this way or that I kid you not.

I don’t claim to be high and mighty but I do have a good eye for low and petty, and my hunger for spirituality and inner truth would from this point seek a different nama-rupa—name and form.

6. Interest in a mythical, mid-Atlantic clime

AtlantisI have always been fascinated by tales of the lost continent of Atlantis. A childhood cartoon, of futuristic cities and technology existing beneath the surface of ocean, caught for only several episodes before sadly it went off-air, evoked hazy, strangely familiar memories that could not be placed; dreams that felt more like memories and that found another flame in stories my mother would tell of her mother, how she spoke cryptically of the existence a long forgotten, long ago buried land—to me a tantalising suggestion that there might still exist a living, breathing link through memories passed to an ancient, mythical mid-Atlantic clime.

Make me a Meme

Write up your own list of childhood facts and I’ll mention you here:

  • Pavitrata: Six Childhood Facts—Pavitrata, the “cheerful fellow” who got the ball rolling
  • Sumangali: My First Meme—Mummy, mummies, cheese and the reading of minds make for a quite outstanding list of childhood facts
  • The 6 Childhood Facts Meme—Tutus, patent leather shoes and the forbidden fruit of chocolate feature in Sharani’s walk down childhood’s memory lane.
  • pavitrata
    Posted at 13:22h, 20 June

    Hi John,

    Very evocative and highly readable. I have tried hard to look between the lines for any trace of dysfunction or maladjustment so I wouldn’t feel so left out, but, damn it, you were clearly a well-balanced kid! Surely, like Tom Waits in his ‘Kentucky Avenue’ ( ) you must have ‘broken all the windows in the old Anderson place?’ at some stage?

    BTW, Atlantis gives me the fantods, but I share the same feelings about Japan.


  • Sumangali Morhall
    Posted at 20:09h, 20 June

    Thank you for the two great reads, John and Pavitrata. I tried to think of my own list, just for fun. There are no Malayan graveyards or anything so grand or intriguing, but they may bring a morsel of entertainment:

    1. I would not say a word until I knew I could deliver it perfectly, so I spent most of my time silently listening, and the rest sounding like a 50s newsreader. My mother spoke to me constantly like a friend rather than a baby, so I randomly picked up long words which made me sound cleverer than I was. I nearly gave an old man a seizure in a Sussex railway station when, tottering in a knitted dress and lace-covered nappy, I pointed up at a poster for an exhibition in London and said “Tutankhamun” with newsreaderly gravity and archaeological grandeur.

    2. My mother and I used to be able to read each other’s minds, which might be why I have never really learned how to lie; there would have been no point. We used to play a game called Mastermind, where you have to guess the opponent’s choice of 6 coloured pegs, and the order in which they are placed. The games never lasted long, in fact they would often be over in one turn, but we used to play for hours.

    3. I would only eat junk food. I hated fruit and vegetables. I hated exercise. I ate copious amounts of sweets every day but I was always wraithly thin and I have still never had a filling in my teeth.

    4. I became a vegetarian at age 13, due to my love of animals. It was rather alarming for my mother, especially as nourishing me was already so difficult, but she took it very well. In the early 80s it was not so easy to buy vegetarian food. Had I been from one of those grow-your-own-muesli, knit-your-own-yoghurt families it would have been easier, but I was not. In those days being vegetarian was all about cheese.

    5. I used to think I had magical powers because if I held one finger up to my eye I could see through it. It took me many years to work out that it is possible to look at one thing with one eye, and one with the other, so the two images are superimposed. Precocious in some fields; shamefully retarded in others. (I’ve never told anybody about that).

    6. The rest is what Pavitrata would call “dysfunction or maladjustment”, so I’d better leave it at 5 🙂

    Sumangali Morhalls last blog post..English as a Fecund Language

  • nuno duarte
    Posted at 16:25h, 22 June

    hi,nice blog,with great topics,congratulations…………greetings from switzerland

    nuno duartes last blog post..Portugal com futuro assegurado

  • Sharani
    Posted at 08:26h, 23 June

    Hi John,
    Here is my first meme blog post of childhood facts! It should show up in the commentluv as the latest post, yes?

  • Jaitra Gillespie
    Posted at 12:03h, 23 June

    Thank-you Pavitrata. It’s probably true, I was a well-balanced kid, but balance went out the window, dysfunction or maladjustment blown in when I became a teenager—I broke all the windows and then some in a very short span of years.

    You can read just a small sampling of my walk down Kentucky Avenue—which mostly I have yet to write about—in Miracles out of Mountains out Molehills, an article which incidentally had the dubious distinction of being banned from a certain forum for inspiring writing 😉

    Jaitra Gillespies last blog post..What Matter Age?

  • Jaitra Gillespie
    Posted at 12:06h, 23 June

    Gosh Sumangali, another comment worthy of being a post in its own right! Can we swap childhoods? Yours sounds much more interesting—mind reading, mummies and Mummy beat out old football boots any old time!

    Jaitra Gillespies last blog post..What Matter Age?

  • Jaitra Gillespie
    Posted at 12:08h, 23 June

    Hi Nuno, thanks for visiting, and commiserations on Portugal getting knocked out of Euro ’08 🙁

    By the way, can you have a word to Ronaldo for me and convince him to stay at Man U?

    Jaitra Gillespies last blog post..What Matter Age?

  • Jaitra Gillespie
    Posted at 12:09h, 23 June

    Well done Sharani—I highly enjoyed reading your childhood facts, even if tutus and patent leather shoes aren’t my cup of tea. Good job!

    Jaitra Gillespies last blog post..What Matter Age?

  • Sharani
    Posted at 15:01h, 23 June

    Hi John,
    thanks for rolling that meme ball. I had fun looking at old family photos given to me by my parents and had to nearly tear the house apart to find the one of me poised for a ballet recital.

    While I travelled in a rather stereotypically female universe as a child, we do indeed intersect in the love of Japan. Even as a child when I went to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado most summers, we would meet Japanese tourists also on vacation and I was always extremely impressed with their generosity and friendliness. They would give us presents like it was Christmas and we were family even if we just met. From my knee high to a grasshopper perspective, this was WAY cool!

    Sharanis last blog post..The 6 Childhood Facts Meme

  • Cadouri
    Posted at 13:24h, 14 August

    Great facts! Let me contribute with my childhood facts:

    1. I always was the type of the “trying to be cool” kid.

    2. I always loved and still love movies with mafia.

    3. I was and still am a huge fan of Christmas and dining on Christmas with family.

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