The dull drip and the shallow salesman
At the interview stages in Manchester I’d met Dave Martins, who I thought was a characterless drip with no chance of landing the job. On the other hand, he thought I was a shallow salesman. We were both wrong.
Dave was one of two friends who were instrumental over the years in getting me to hospital when I was hypomanic, quite possibly saving my life. The other was Tom Priest, who will crop up later in this post.
When I filled in a joining form on my first day at GEC I lied about my many months of mental illness by not mentioning it. But what do you do if you’ve got a stain like that on your record?
If you lie and the illness comes back, you’re liable to be sacked. If it wasn’t for Tom, this would quite likely have happened to me. But what if you’re honest about it? Even in these alledgedly more enlightened days, what employer will take you on? If you were an interviewer and you had the choice of two equally able applicants, one without mental health baggage and one hauling a luggage carousel of it, which would you choose?
I can’t directly advise anyone on this one. It’s one of those ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ decisions.
One of the first people I met was Nula. She lived a stone’s throw away from me. Walking home one day in my first week, she said she was a Christian. I asked what sort of church she went to, i.e. Catholic, C of E etc and she said something that mystified me.
“I’m a born again Christian. It doesn’t matter which church you attend, as long as it’s one that’s Bible-based.”
No one had ever said anything like that to me before.
She invited me to a local gathering which took place each Sunday morning in a big old house called The Stoker, which was scheduled for demolition to make way for a bypass.
The OOB and the Odyssey
At this early stage I didn’t realise what an incredible Odyssey my life was becoming. I still turned my Vision / Out of body experience (OOB) around in my head. https://www.marcprospero.com/blog/2019/meeting-god/
In fact I still do. More than 30 years later, I still remember it with absolute clarity. There is no doubt in my mind now that this was God, but back in 1986 I was constantly asking myself and anyone whose opinion I respected whether they thought it was real.
Had I met God, or was this just a delusion, a product of a poorly mind? It was incredibly important for me to know, alongside the nature of the ring cloud / halo high in the sky, directly over my head. (See ‘the smoke ring’ at https://www.marcprospero.com/blog/2019/the-fiery-flames/)
I felt sure that if one of these two experiences was real, then the other one was too.
I researched as many out-of-body (OOB) experiences as I could to see if they were in any way similar to mine. They were significantly different – most people had their OOB when they were clinically dead on an operating table. Normally they travelled horizontally along a tunnel towards a bright, welcoming light at the end. They met departed friends and family in a paradise-type place and were gently informed, “Now is not your time. Go back, we’ll see you in a few years’ time.”
At the time of my own OOB I wasn’t dead, as far as I know. And I went up a tower, not along a tunnel. I hadn’t met deceased family members or friends. Why was I given an experience so different from others? And was it God that I’d met?
Either way, my encounter had opened my very closed mind. Whatever it was, whoever it was I’d met, the experience was beyond any science that I knew. No longer could I be a Richard Dawkins-style rip-down-every-believer atheist.
I’d become a seeker.
For all of those reasons, I was happy to go to the Stoker.
Having been brought up in the austere liturgy-based Roman Catholic way of doing things, I was amazed how informal and friendly the meeting was. A couple of people played guitars and we sang songs, and someone stood and gave a short Bible message about having a personal relationship with Jesus, again something I’d never heard of.
One of the things that was new to me was the bread for communion, being a couple of rolls from the local bakery instead of ‘the host’ (the white circular unleavened bread that the Catholic church uses.)
I stood against Tom Priest for Chairman of the Graduate Trainee Association, a social group at GEC, but lost narrowly. My reasons for standing were to get experience of leadership and to have something impressive on my CV.
As it happened, the first time the committee sat they decided they wanted me and I was appointed Vice-Chairman.
More to come soon!