I examine here the process of redemptive change, informed by an integration of the relevant sciences and humanities - but focusing throughout on a particular case study (you're not going to guess of whom).
From high school drop-out to vagabond to heroin addict to overdose(r) to suicide attempt(ee) to ex-convict, to graduating magna cum laude from the most beautiful college in the country (or maybe just in Florida, I dunno - it was prettier than prison, that I can tell you), to teaching sociology, to multiple grad degrees and getting licensed as a psychotherapist (a central goal I set in prison) - that's the bold letter story.
But in many ways these culturally fashionable markers don't capture what happened to me. In one sense it's validation that the internal changes in my experience of myself were not just an illusion. “By your fruits you shall know them” - that alteration in my way of being was potent. Not just in the obvious bigger ticket things, but all across my life and particularly the little things.
And that's what the focus will be on here.
There are still some details that are not perfectly clear about that process. I aim to clarify this through writing on it (conveniently the ideal time to write is while still in the discovery process, while the mystery is still fresh), and before I grow too old to make much use of it.
To climb the mountain, slough through the despond, or get thrown overboard while on board a ship with a superstitious crew - whatever I need to do to get back to that something resembling redemption. And talk about it.
Or, as the great Poet once said, die trying.
There's an old saying that the deeper you delve into the personal, the closer you get to the universal.
Will that be the case here? I don't know. But something tells me we're more likely to make it to the promised land if we go together.
Join the crew
There may be others here interested in taking a dilapidated thing barely resembling a life and turn it into something else, something redeemable and worth redeeming. That’s my focus - other folks who have been or are at the fringe but are seeking a meaningful path forward: drunkards, layabouts, artists, vagabonds, ex-cons, and so on.
Or maybe you're a voyeur, or someone interested in folks at the edge or generally the process of change. Who am I to quibble with those who want to read what my quibble produces (no more bad puns, I promise!).
My name is Thomas Berry. I'm a contrarian by nature, a devil's advocate confronted with the challenge to build or find a better hell.
What you get
The best advice I ever read on creative ventures is to provide what you want, on the idea that you are unlikely to be the only one who feels this way. And at least this way you're running with something you know to be true, as opposed to speculating about what other people “really" want.
So what do I want in a newsletter? I want a newsletter that is released often enough that it justifies the expense, but not so often as to dilute or compromise the work I'm supporting.
For an example of the latter, I've never followed a weekly columnist for any extended period of time. Invariably I'll find them either repeating themselves too much or that the general quality just doesn't stand up. For whatever reason, for the kind of writing I like, it requires more time in the kitchen (while the cook is outside smoking a phat one). But how much time?
I've settled on 3 weeks because a) it appeals to my contrarian nature and b) because it's closer to the one month mark that many novelists I admire stuck to in releasing their work. Close to a month but a week shorter in a nod to modern sensibilities (i.e. impatience) as well as the reality of the degree to which I am motivated by deadlines, even if self-imposed (and even more so if I know I have an audience that will harass me if I dilly. Or even dally). I might move it up to 2 and a half weeks (to be even more contrarian!) because while 2 weeks seems too short 3 sometimes seems too long. But I'm starting out conservative before I start defunding the police and all that (no more political jokes, I promise!).
Note 01/03/21: I’m changing to rid myself entirely of any internal or external expectations of how often I publish. It will come when it comes.
I'm highly resistant to laying out precisely what I'll cover across the board (as the guy I worked with at Kings Kid Deli once told a customer right before he got fired, “This isn't Wendy's. You don't get it your way”).
One of the troubles with being a contrarian is that I'm often a contrarian against my interests. I don't discriminate and my ability to stifle a bad joke to progress my cause is pretty much non-existent. Such is the case here.
But I can say this: my interests will show up on the page. And my interest in human beings and the process of change has been a stable part of my life since freshman year of high school. For better or worse it's bound up in the fabric of my being.
So this newsletter is essentially written to me or someone (lucky enough to be) like me. It's what I've been looking for - there's nothing like this out there, it's entering a giant void and I hope it pushes the conversation forward.