I was born in a town in Northern Ireland into a Catholic family in 1969, the year the current ‘troubles’ started.
This was when Catholics could not get jobs and discrimination was rife because the protestant dominated state, which had been divided with the other part of Ireland was formed and was controlled by the protestant majority, which had loyalties with Britain. We had come from a heritage of everything Irish and alignment with Irish traditions. The year I was born troops from Britain had moved in and the civil rights movement supporting Catholics was at its height, supported by both Catholics and Protestants. A group called the I.R.A was formed to fight against the British troops, and shootings and bombs and killing happened on a daily basis. Anyway that was to give you a bit of a background. I was born into a family who supported the removal of British troops and the civil rights. My mothers family strongly supported the provisional IRA (military) and my fathers the Official IRA (political with some military). We grew up in an estate which was basically working class and extreme in the sense that there was nightly raids by the British , hijacking shootings etc. The British had introduced internment, which meant they could lift any Catholic which could be of the ‘correct’ age and jail them without trial- this again caused greater unrest. I had three sisters and two brothers, two sisters older. My father was an alcoholic and this added to the problem. Money was non existent and he drank what there was. My mother was a hardworking, non drinking angel. She worked night and day to keep us alive. One time when I fell she carried me two miles to a hospital while pregnant because I couldn’t walk!
Basically from the start we got it was uphill. So a typical night for me was bed early before my father got home. I remember falling asleep to the sound of a vacuum cleaner. It wasn’t that my mother cleaned the house late it was her protecting us from my fathers drunkenness. That of itself created problems for me getting called in early from my friend’s who teased and taunted me about going to bed. I of course denied I was sent to bed but could never answer their questions about different TV programmes, which would have been on at seven o’clock because I hadn’t seen them!
My job at night was sometimes to get the sick bucket for my father, a blue potty is what it was. I would lie in bed and listen while he vomited or fought with my mother. Of course when my father was sober he was the best father in the world. I can remember one day he came home from work with a jar of sweets. We never had sweets. I do not even think we ate them, we just placed them somewhere and looked at them, promising we would eat them when the time was right. He was a hard working man when sober and was also known as quite a tough man in the area- tough but kind. I guess we all were. I learned to fight as soon as I learned to walk. I learned how to attack British tanks with stones not long after and enjoyed the spills of the bigger guys after an ice cream lorry was hijacked. Of course it was dangerous and some nights we had to turn of all the lights and sit still while the army raided and walked through the gardens. The army would turn off the lights in the town to help their cover. We never spoke to the army and even as children when they asked questions like’ has your father any guns?’ we would tell them to ‘fuck off back to England’ I knew they were tough, but we were tough too and they were on our ground!
Anyway the purpose of telling you the story of the ‘Trouble’ was that one day it had an impact on our lives, which stayed for some time. I had been used to strange men entering our house and coming and going. I remember one day going down stairs only to meet this strange bearded man on our settee and he scared the life out of me! He was later killed or blown up along with another man by his own bomb.
Anyway when I was five years of age (I know, I have been talking above about an age of being born until about twelve) the army surrounded our house, my mother’s brother Paul had been attacked at my grannies house by the group that my father supported. It turned out my uncle Paul was shot dead and my Granny, who had tried to stop the gang, stood in front of him to protect him and she took several bullets to. My other uncles as far as I can remember were interned in jail and the whole thing was a mess. I was a child but I was also quickly a man. I grew up quick but behind all the mess and alcohol and fighting I was a child crying out to be loved.
I took it on myself even at an early age to try to help. I would clean and polish, help my mother, make breakfast for my Father and mother and do whatever I could to help. I would get up at seven thirty and go to eight o’clock mass by myself. My mother would have rosaries and I felt it was good to go to mass. My mother was a leader, a person with incredible inner stubbornness. However one day when I was about eight years of age my father and mother were having a fight as usual, but we were quiet and listening because my mother used to say to us: ‘do not open your mouths or you might send your father off on one’
I never forget standing in the room and after listening and watching years of just about everything, I heard my mother say to my father: ‘I am leaving you and I am going to take the baby and the girls’. Everything in my world collapsed at that moment as my lips moved, but no words came out. I wanted to say ‘Mummy what about me?’
My mother left and for a few days everything in my world seemed to end.
I went to my favourite spot which was lying under my bed wishing I could die convinced the only way anyone would miss me is if I died. I cried out ‘God why can’t you help me?’
I do not really remember after that but for the next few years things got better. My uncle died of alcoholism, but this spared my father to go to Alcoholics anonymous and when the guys from AA came around to the house, I listened with awe at what they said. I listened to my father’s tapes of a guy called Chuck C and even as a child I identified with him. I too was lost. I spent the next two decades searching all the books and religions and anything that spoke of ‘truth’ I could find. I tied bishops and priests in knots when they started talking about the New Testament etc. My family grew very close and my mother and father opened a business and we moved into a three bed house in anew area. My father was now walking the walk, he was living the AA programme and I as a searcher was watching and witnessing the change in front of my eyes. I then understood it was not to be found in any book or place and that no person could give it to you. It was up to me to understand that everything I ever needed was within me and all I had to do was to let go.
To a certain degree the habit of search and the pull of adding more information is still there and I have not reached that state called enlightenment, but I look around and I feel gratitude for my life. The fortunate things that have happened and the incredible ability to overcome any obstacle through a deep underlying faith, which says simply: ‘Father, I know not what you are but I believe you are greater than I and all things in the universe have been formed by you, including me. So I walk with faith that you go before me to make the crooked places straight and I know I am part of you , because no man formed me’
Therefore I suggest to all you people in ETTV that there is nothing to get or add or attain. No amount of being good or bad or reading or adjusting or running away. Nothing can be added to you to attain enlightenment. Everything you need is within you and at some point you must say to yourself. I give up, either there is a god or there isn’t. I can not add anything. If there is a God I am ok and if there isn’t I am ok too. Of course these are my words and not yours. You will someday find your words and in the meantime let us share our experience, strength and hope and our negatives, positives , anger, frustration with the knowledge we have no where to go.
Then maybe grace will touch you as it did a child crying for love and it can take you in its arms and rock you asleep.
So that is the reason why I do not believe anyone can attain enlightenment, they can reach the point of surrender and acceptance but that will be in spite of what they have added and not because of anything they have learned in the sense of information. We are all on a journey and we are all here because we still are searching to different degrees. We long to find our way home and are search just happens to be here at present but we have no more of a chance as the guy who is searching down the neck of a vodka bottle. The problem is a little bit different but the answer is the same. To understand God or higher consciousness is with us all the time and will never leave us even unto the end of time.
I love you all.
P.S. I understand it’s all just a story.