A book that changed me

Books: BAREFOOT DOCTOR on R D Laing's 'The Politics of Experience'
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The Independent Culture
When did you first read it? It first grabbed me between the ears and shook me by the pineal gland on a bleak, dreary December day in 1975. I can hear him laughing at me now from wherever dead geniuses hang out, as it always was a challenge finding exactly the right words to say around him. Partly because he was such a master of the language, and partly because he issued an unspoken challenge to compete with him if you dared - which I invariably did. Even as the inevitable loser, it was exciting to watch how he'd tear me to shreds, metaphysically speaking.

Why did it strike you so much? I was struggling with the various split- off chunks of my 21-year-old psyche and was feeling quite alone in my "madness". The world seemed like a loony bin, and that troubled me. The issues of status, being accepted into the social group, conforming or rebelling, being hero or anti-hero, were playing large on the main stage in my personal festival. I had to read each paragraph three times until the meaning penetrated, causing a series of what I can only describe as explosions of illumination, deep within the most secret recesses of my consciousness. Here was someone who seemed to understand the social alienation I felt, and could formulate the thoughts with which I'd been grappling with such superb eloquence and finesse, that I resolved there and then to seek him out and insist he teach me everything he knew. By the time I'd shed some obligatory tears over "The Bird of Paradise" section at the end, I knew I'd found both my vocation as a healer and my teacher - a maverick messiah of the highest order. I blagged an appointment and persuaded him to be my personal professor of psychotherapy. Now, 23 years later, I find myself the peoples' healer and cosmic lad of modern Taoist folklore infamy!

Have you re-read it? I read it again recently and, though RDL springs in and out of fashion like a drunken jack-in-the-box, the style hadn't dated, the concepts were still revolutionary, and I still had to read each paragraph three times. The world seems like a loony bin still, but that thrills and delights me now, because I'm a loony too! And here's the book that did it to me! So I only recommend it to those possessed of ample psychic hardiness/foolhardiness.

'Barefoot Doctor's Handbook for the Urban Warrior' is published by Piatkus at pounds 7.99