In an ironic twist of fate, with the collapse of his preaching career, he ended up driving trucks in America, and spent ten lonely and often frustrating years in the cab of a freightliner. His radio tuned to the more extreme end of the talk radio spectrum. I found it impossible to have a conversation with him during that period. He was channeling Rush Limbaugh.
A diet of hate and fear is profoundly unwholesome. For every waking moment to be filled with a noxious stream of paranoia undermines vitality, it drains the spirit. It was his pain, that legacy of bereavement and his inability to articulate his grief that drew him to this procession of apocalyptic venom-spitting evangelical radio preachers.
It was only after he sold the truck and began working with a crew of supportive, nurturing friends that this hyper-stimulated state engendered by a toxic mix of isolation and pain began to dissipate. He sent me a letter on yellow legal stock apologising for preaching when we should have been talking.
My arrogance was such that I, by way of response, left a message with a relative who frequently talks with him requesting that he download Skype. I considered snail mail too quaint, too outdated for a busy, published author of my standing.
It was nigh on eight years since I ejected religious superstition from my life. I left it behind me on the cerebral scrapheap, that towering monument to the unattainable. I now found comfort in the solidly anchored rationalism of Dawkins and inspiration in Bentham and Mill’s coldly reasoned Utilitarianism. The smug pleasure of my victory over the irrationality of the Christian extremists was bolstered that night by a marathon session immersed in Hitchin’s debates on YouTube.
The sense of consternation that engulfed me as I stared at the broken bits of my wonderful tipper truck scattered on the doormat at the foot of the stairs darkened my life. It was a bitter lesson. It marked the end of that phase of childhood innocence. Wariness flooded in to take its place. This was the paradigm shift that nudged the child over the cosseted threshold of toddlerhood into a harsher world where the things you love can be broken, a world where pain and loss are inevitable.
Sometimes a person experiences an event that alienates him from his fellows, that leaves him feeling untethered and insecure. In his efforts to rebalance, he will do everything in his power to level the field, consequences notwithstanding.