A Few Polite Ordeals
By sean mcnulty
IMOGEN (to camera): Here at the Kindred Eye, we aspire to longevity, for long life, through right-minded pursuits. We work. From the plentiful lands around us, we are able to generate daily yields in berries, herbs and vegetables, allowing us not only to endure as a community, but also to donate generously to numerous charity and humanitarian organisations throughout the year. But most of all, we meditate. Our objective: inner knowing. Each day we gather for regular meditation sessions and tap into the divine within ourselves. And at appointed times, workshops, healing sessions and seminars are held in which our instructor guides us in shedding the material baggage of our past lives....Hmm. Past?
ELDER: What’s the matter?
IMOGEN: Don’t you think the word former might be better? I’m not sure about the word past. It might read as reincarnation to some, colloquially. Past lives, you know.
ELDER: (thinking) I hadn’t thought about it. Yes, it might. Leave it. Let them think what they think.
The Kindred Eye was in its early days. No-one could accuse it of being an absolute original, employing as it did largely mundane breathing and visualisation methods, but Elder had injected at least some creativity into his emerging system, especially with regards meditations: there were sitting meditations, walking meditations, eating meditations, even fucking meditations, which had grown more popular with members in the last few months, as they began to lose interest in board game meditations, which had once upon a time been the most popular pastime-med of choice in the house.
When not meditating, members of the Kindred Eye performed various group exercises devised by Elder himself which to an outsider would look somewhat uncomfortable for the participant. You might refer to the following as ordeal therapies, though Elder would proclaim them to be a more polite form of ordeal than that which the Synanons in California were known to inflict:
De-egotising: in which two subjects were made to sit opposite one another and engage in mutual disparagement. Elder called it The Rinsed Face as the goal was to get to the end without a single tear to prove that your defences were strong against the menace of ego; if your face was at all wet by the end of the ‘truth-telling’ you remained soaked in self-interest and much more work was required of you.
The Word Bin:
In which subjects were asked to choose words from their former lives which they now acknowledged were unacceptable and these words were subsequently banned for all to use in the house. The aim of the game was self-control but it was a tricky task to get around as certain words chosen for the bin were either difficult not to say by accident or they were easily mistaken for other familiar sounds: the problem of homophones. Once Everly Stewart with the best of intentions chose the word war to be banned and didn’t it cause as much for everyone, as other one-syllable words were frequently mistaken for it, by way of pronunciation and variations in accent, such as the word word itself, on top of utterances like wha’, woe, and woah which were common for some, for Sullivan, Elder and Knox respectively; and not to mention Crispin Collins who had to forgo half the songs he’d written in the late 1960s.
Everly Stewart was distraught that day.
They weren’t given to practise The Word Bin so much anymore.
Screaming at newspapers:
The newspaper reflected all that was undesired in the modern world: the politics, the consumerism, the lies.....so what better object to howl one’s neuroses at. How deserving it was to receive all that human pain right back in its raggy face. One could sense an almost physical transference of traumas occurring with the paper trembling under one’s hot screaming breath.
Individuals were required to stand in the room naked and recite poetry from memory, usually long and rather difficult to remember poems by the likes of John Milton. The audience was expected to respond to any errors made by the speaker by getting up and pinching their naked skin. Like a number of exercises, Elder had yet to clarify the purpose of this one, though some members, such as Frances Buckley and Abby Kane, speculated that it was all just something Elder had cobbled together for his own amusement, for never once did he participate himself, and obfuscation came naturally to him.
Yet he got away with making his students uncomfortable with these exercises by claiming each one, though reformed by him, had in fact been developed over the centuries from solid spiritual disciplines in the East, later bolstered in the West before being returned to the East for perfecting and then back to the West for adapting.
Ordeal therapy. Transactional analysis. Confrontation forums. Deprogramming games. Whatever. Subjects were at least pleased for fucking meditations when they happened.
Image: By the author