1 December 2010
With Dad ensconced in his new home, life got simpler. That week, my surgeon gave me the all-clear that I had my body back, which left me floating with happiness. The old routine was readopted, my muscles began knitting back together and, with some glee, I returned to the book.
Meanwhile, Charlotte – who goes through stages of admitting we’re an item and stages of finding me over-the-top and excessively imaginative – was invited to a workshop in Scandinavia run by an academic who teaches ‘Original Play’, a touch-based form of communication he claims is common to all animals. On the workshop’s last day, Charlotte flew me out for her amusement, which led to …
Charlotte and Pete’s adventures in Swedeland
The capital of Swedeland – Stockholm – was built by the Vikings on the 24,000-isle archipelago that separates Lake Mälaren from the Baltic Sea. I arrived on Friday morning and wandered alone from island to island, drinking gigantic lattes in candle-lit, old-city cafes. There were Swedes everywhere, all talking foreign.
We’d rented a flat from a Finnish lady called Reijha, who boasted of her two gifted daughters in the USA: one a yoga teacher, the other a famous circus performer and trapeze artist. I spent that first afternoon in Reijha’s snug, plant-filled apartment, editing a book about philosophy written by my chief spiritual advisor, Ash, and allowing my mind – long bound upon the treadmill of work and duty – to spin free. When Charlotte arrived, we explored the city beneath light-blue skies and she told me about the man who’d run the workshop, Fred Donaldson.
Mr Donaldson’s unusual academic interests began (in the USA before the civil rights movement) when he’d had the cheek to take the middle-class kids (he was teaching sociology) out of the classroom and into the ghettos they were reading about. After getting booted out of several universities he was appointed a professional ‘play specialist’. Five years later, he took his ideas into world and has now ‘played’ with 260,000 living things from several species, including (wild) wolves, dolphins, lions and bears.
He notes a number of cross-species features of Original Play, including non-competition, and characterises it as an alternative to ‘fear’ or ‘contest’ activities. Mr Donaldson claims that not one of the quarter-million beings he’s ‘played’ with diverges from the naturally occurring physiological patterns he’s observed, and teaches that today’s children are too-quickly conditioned out of this hard-wired behaviour. So, as Charlotte and I strolled along the shore beside vivid autumn yellows, I mused upon this new idea from within the ghost of the machine of our collective consciousness – a case of the nature beneath nurture and an endowment of Creation, rather than an artefact of culture.
Analysis of my first pop at the publishing industry
The Jolly Pilgrim is an intellectual project wrapped in a rock-and-roll, of-our-time, human-interest story.
The sales documentation is calibrated to communicate that cerebral red meat. But the book’s opening records the light-hearted adventures of a hippy cycling through France. That opening’s purpose is to draw readers in and fix its double-narrative structure in their minds. My chief concern is that it’s page-turning.
The story then intensifies as new threads are, theme-by-theme, woven in: the vital statistics; the talking bicycle; the heart-break; the philosophy; the Abrahamic deconstruction; the shattered dreams; the war against bees; the comments on consensus reality and the cosmic thesis. By the time you reach chapter 10, that intensification has metamorphosed the irreverent travelogue into a tool for mind-melding people across generations and a hypothesis regarding the underlying nature of the collective human experience.
Pacing is everything.
Blurting out an explanation of human civilisation in the first 8,000 words would not be conducive to a well-balanced piece of art. One has to have faith that publishing professionals will recognise a tapestry being woven when they see it, but my experience is that they read the opening and only see a travel story.
It was then suggested that I change the opening into something more representative. That would be short-sighted. This isn’t an exercise in communicating with literary agents, it’s an exercise in sharing ideas around the world. The book is a vehicle. Persuading an agent to read the manuscript may be proving tricky, but it’s just one more hoop.
My eyes are on the endgame.
The point of all this is not a cool website, a clever marketing campaign, the pride in having published a book, a sense of personal fulfilment or an excuse to shoot my mouth off. The point is to put something really special and unique into your hands at the end, which will make you feel better about who you are, why you’re here, what you’re part of and where it’s all going.
And that is a goal about which I will brook no compromise.
But first I’m going to have a little holiday. Fate has called me back to meet two of the people I met during my pilgrim days. I’m writing this at Heathrow Airport, Terminal Four. I’m off to board a flight to Mauritius.
Mauritius, vital statistics:
Surface area 2,040 square kilometres
GDP per capita US$6,838
Capital Port Louis
Official language English