Spirit Grooves Blogs

Published on December 18, 2014

I have been an entrepreneur all of my adult life. Sitting here in winter with snow all around, unable to go outside as easily as summer, I thought I would write a few things about being your own boss and surviving beyond the edge of the beaten track.

The "beaten track" has some advantages, like a paycheck and security. If what you like or love to do fits a paying job, that's the gig to get. However, if you are like me and have what has been described as an artist's temperament, the square peg does not fit the round hole. We can either conform or pay the piper, wherever that may lead. I want to talk about where that led for me.

In my case, there just never was a question. I started skipping school in kindergarten, so my mother told me, and it went downhill from there. Sure, I had one great teacher in the fourth grade, Mrs. Althouse, who got my interest, but she was followed in 5th grade by Mrs. Ryder and she was a martinet. Whatever peeped out in fourth grade threw in the towel in the 5th and just clocked out. I managed (was forced to) to survive until high school, at which time I was expelled a couple of times and finally just walked out and hitchhiked to Venice Beach, California, trying to become a Beatnik. I have written about that period elsewhere.

Of course my parents, both graduates of the University of Michigan (and fraternity and sorority folk) were not happy about Michael, and various kin pointed out that I was headed toward working at the carwash. Even without a high-school diploma I ended up taking some tests and was actually smart enough to be admitted as a freshman to the University of Michigan, but (and this is typical Michael) after three long weeks I decided that college was no different (for me) than high school. I dropped out, to the horror of everyone I knew. Now I was blackballed.

For me, it was all about living free and I just couldn't wait to get my hands into life; forget about the training wheels. I not only dropped out, but closed the doors behind me. I was glad for the fresh air.

From then on I have lived by my wits, trading on my innate sensitivities to somehow survive. I was no good at working for others, either. I behaved badly and always knew better how to run their business than they did. This is not an endearing trait with employers. So I cut ties and so did society of me. It was a mutual agreement. I was left to my own devices at last, to sink or swim, with no safety net. I guess I needed that fear component, less I become complacent.

What I did do was "hang," and I worked as little as possible. It was a fulltime job for me just monitoring my own consciousness, so I took whatever job gave me the most time to do what I liked. As it turned out, that was cleaning toilets in a building for some local businesses. I could be in there and out on any given day in under 30 minutes and still have 23-1/2 hours left to do whatever I felt like. That and an occasional trip to the dump in my old 1966 Dodge van, I was happy as a clam.

Basically I did this (as in "nothing") for something like ten years and loved every minute. I became what only could be described as a phenomenologist, someone who studies the domains of consciousness from the standpoint of the first person. I remain one to this day.

Well, I also became an astrologer, started and played in a band for many years, read about every book I could, and generally was a man about town. I found that I could enjoy all of the ambience of a university town, Ann Arbor, without ever being forced to crack a book, and I did.

As for making money, I can only liken myself to one of those rock climber who scale a sheer cliff, handhold by handhold. Sometimes I saw myself as a spider moving by handholds across the web of life. If the word was not so declarative I would say I was discovering that I was by function a shaman. Now I know that word is exciting, but a shaman is simply someone who has fallen through the mental cracks of life and, instead of going insane, eventually stabilizes and rejoins society, but with special knowledge. And that knowledge is that of their own experience of wandering beyond the mental pale and surviving. One thing about a shaman, they are able to spot others who have fallen through society's safety net and help them regain their footing in life. That's what I have done as a counselor for many years. I can thank LSD for pushing me beyond the pale and forcing me know alternative experiences to those on society's menu, like it or not. And I did.

I can see I am wandering a bit here. I find I do this when I have too much to say, start to spin the story, and usually never get to the point I meant to reach until much later. My story is like as a kid who has lost his inner tube, when the waves generate by swimming to get the tube pushes it just beyond reach. My preface becomes a story in itself. If I find time, and there is interest here, I will talk some more about how to survive doing what you most like in life, which is what I have done.

[Self-portrait that I painted in my mother's basement during a brief visit to my parent's house in the spring of 1967, using mom's paints. I was just really waking up to life at that point. I know, it is kind of a scary painting, but marks that time, nevertheless.]