Peter Volkofsky | Author & Life Coach

Peter Volkofsky is an author, spoken word poet and life coach. In 2017, Peter published his thriller Mia's Magic Wand. In 2015 he published Beautiful Quest as an Ark House imprint. Peter has been married to his wife Penelope for thirty-three years and together they have reared seven children.

Catalytic (cat•a•lyt•ic)

(adj.) a process that precipitates an event

The Vision

Individuals and teams reaching their goals.

PETE'S BLOG

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Who Is The Fortunate Son?

Number One Son plays loud music, angry but somehow sweet; which I like the sound of but don’t catch the lyrics, cause I’m the old dad these days and he’s in high school blur-land. I could tell him about bands like that, which I liked when I was in school, but there’s no way I’m going there; don’t want to be one of those kind of dads. Even so, it’s awakened something in me, like a breeze from a secret place of young mates, motorbikes, footy and a girl who doesn’t even know who I am.

If I’d asked, Number One Boy would have showed me lyrics like these…

‘What do I got to, what do I got to do to wake you up?

To shake you up, to break the structure up?

Cause blood still flows in the gutter…’*

So, I’m secretly blaming him for taking me back here, reminding me of the still very alive in-love-with-anarchy boy that I am. And, the decades roll back in time and I walk across the dusty lino of home and there’s mum in her chair, crying over a newspaper with a picture of Aussie soldiers boarding a ship to Vietnam. It has to be 1968, my almost-in-high school life. I keep walking. Mum doesn’t usually cry much. Whatever that is, it looks bad. Let’s go find the dog, the rifle, the bike and some pigs to shoot.

But it won’t go away. No too far down the track and it’s back to ditto: same year, same floor, a news broadcast is interrupted. A guy called Robert Kennedy has just been shot—um, didn’t they just shoot that King guy? None of us says anything, we just listen and go on. Mum would have wanted to say lots of things, but it’s hard to say much when your body is about done.

A year has passed. I’m in class watching a clergyman in a rippling black robe walk towards my room. I know what this is. It’s mum’s turn now, she’s finally gone—and me and my brother are in the principal’s office, sobbing. It’s so hot and stuffy and embarrassing. Everything dies in this world. Just have to go hard, as fast as you can, before you’re done too.

Year ten comes around and I’m back in class, keeping the head down, waiting for the bell. Yes! Out in the sunshine and off to listen to that music on the common room stereo, which I would love to own—but which the Rat Pack effectively own.

Not that I care. I love the music, which this bunch of shaggy haired year-eleven guys put on the turntable whilst they float in the deepest of the deep time of high school land.

These boys look like they might bash you, but I doubt it. I sort of don’t exist to them, cause I’m only just out of year nine, in year ten. And they leave my big brother alone and he leaves them alone. I think they’re impressed that my brother has rippling muscles—and later—were impressed when he knocked out a fella out with one punch.

Today, they notice me hanging close, but I think they understand that it’s cause they’re playing Fortunate Son. I so love that crisp, raspy voice and the unashamed mockery of The Establishment right here in a school.

‘It ain’t me, it ain’t me,

I ain’t no military son, son, Lord

It ain’t me, it ain’t me

I ain’t no fortunate one, one…’ **

I don’t fully know what they’re singing about, but I get the sentiment that the bosses are kind of like predators: there’s a fight going on and I’m with the Credence boys and the Rat Pack.

Years pass and I’m embedded in a movie theatre soaking in the The Matrix and hearing Number One Son’s music again—understanding more than ever why he likes it so much. No way I’m telling anyone this, but to my mind the lyrics are a mixture of Zep, Jethro Tull, Credence and Rodriguez… on steroids: and I’m loving being in the year ten dreaming again: longing for some kind of happy anarchy life where I can go bush, shoot pigs, marry the girl I’m falling in love with, who doesn’t even know who I am—and hoping I don’t get drafted into the wars. Like what Rodriguez is singing about…

‘Gun sales are soaring; housewives find life boring

Divorce the only answer smoking causes cancer

This system’s gonna fall soon, to an angry young tune

And that’s a concrete cold fact…’***

The school era is coming to a close, and to be fair, this school has been good to me. I’ve loved much of it and hated some of it. But on this particular morning we are told that we need to ‘find our station in life.’ The implication being that if we find our place in the system, it will look after us. A cold shiver runs down my back and I want to vomit and run away. It’s as if part of me is thanking God for the Rat Pack, my big brother and my mum and dad who all know this is not true—who have protected me from this filthy lie that’s trying to own me.

What annoys me most is the assumption that life’s pains and problems will be managed reasonably well if I just acquire enough wealth, and be democratic and polite: ‘trust the system’ in other words. What annoys me even more is the assumption that I would be dumb enough to believe that.

And yet—here tonight, while I write this blog—the message is still being put out there by highly educated, intelligent people; suggesting that democracy, science and good management will make us better human beings and—to put it crudely—‘save the world’.

It wasn’t so-called ‘jail birds’ and ‘low socioeconomic people’ who gave us Auschwitz, it was a sham Christian society, sociologists, doctors and scientists who gave us Auschwitz. When will we learn? Rage Against the Machine, Credence and Rodriguez were right: humans and systems will always fail us, so let’s stop pretending.

I could be wrong but I suspect that a big part of the outrage in our world at the moment is the annoyance at the assumption of our leaders that we are dumb enough to believe that if society is western, Christian-ish, democratic and scientific enough, we will acquire all the power and knowledge we need to tame the terror and eliminate the darkness. But it’s been tried and done and failed a thousand times. George MacDonald warned us that the ‘quickest way to make a child bad is to try to make them good.’ How scary then if we try that coercion stunt on an entire society.

Walter Brueggemann reminds us: “In every affluent culture it is believed that enough power and knowledge can tame the terror and eliminate the darkness.” ****

 

* Rage Against The Machine. Wake Up, 1992. Produced by Garth Richardson. Songwriters: Tim Commerford, Zak de la Rocha, Tom Morello, Brad Wilk

** Credence Clearwater Revival, Fortunate Son, 1969. Album: Willy and The Poor Boys. Produced by John Fogarty.

*** Rodriguez. This Is Not a song, It’s An Outburst: Or, the Establishment Blues. 1970. Album: Cold Fact. Produced by Dennis Coffey & Mike Theodore

**** Walter Brueggemann, Spirituality of the Psalms (Fortress, Augsburg, 2002), p. 29.

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The Life-Ready Bar: Part III

The little girl from Easy’s family claps her hands and steps forward, eager to drink.

‘Don’t touch it, Suzy!’ her mother yells, pulling the girl back.

‘Why, Mummy?’

‘Can’t you read?’ she says, pointing her sword at the door. ‘It says “death!”’

‘And that smell coming through the door,’ Easy says, ‘has to be a dead body.’

‘What’s the noise?’ Ivy asks.

‘It’s our friends on the other side,’ the angel says, ‘having a dance party.’

‘Hey,’ the African says, looking at Ivy. ‘What if I take your girl to the lolly shop?’

Ivy turns to look and a roll-a-door opens on the far wall, revealing shelves of lollies.

‘Us too, please,’ the older boy says.

Ivy nods and her children run off after the African.

‘How good is this,’ Easy says. ‘Forget the door. We got a lolly shop and a good view. Let’s set up camp here.’

‘Not a good idea,’ the rough man says, sitting down and leaning his back against the wall: the little girl seating herself next to him and standing the goblet between them. ‘Things aren’t what they seem in this place.’

‘Like what?’ Easy asks.

‘People like us bring more troubles than you could ever dream of,’ he says, pulling out a cigarette and lighting up. ‘Tell him, darling,’ he says looking at the tall girl.

‘What?’

‘About the troubles,’ he says, blowing a stream of smoke up at her.

‘It’s not all bad,’ she says, laughing and tossing her hair. ‘We bring lots of fun, too.’

‘So, you know how to party,’ Easy says, looking her up and down.

‘The infection seems to have started already,’ the angel says, looking at the girl.

‘What you talkin’ about?’ Easy asks.

‘The way you looked at me then,’ the girl says. ‘You saw the glory in me—nothing wrong with that—but then you tried to extort it; to use the Higher Power.’

‘You mean God?’

‘We don’t use God here.’

‘No, I meant by “Higher Power” did you mean “God?”’

‘It’s problematic,’ the girls says, glancing at the angel. ‘Think of it this way: the Higher Power is infinite, which means not able to be trapped in time, space—or vocabulary.’

‘What the hell?’ Easy says, taking Ivy’s hand and walking a few steps away.

Ivy pulls her hand from his and sits on the floor, shaking her head.

‘In your present state,’ the girl says to Easy, ‘you look, you taste and you try to trap God.’

‘What’s wrong with a bit of fun?’

‘It’s no joke, sir, believe me. Sooner or later—for your own sake—the divine mercy will intervene.’

‘Ah. So, they’re gunna throw me out?’

‘You’re missing the point,’ the angel interrupts, running the edge of his sword across the door. ‘If you let the infection take its course, your whole family will begin looking upon each other the same way. There will be no love, no us and no home.’

‘Already got that, Mister Angel.’

‘We do not, thank you!’ Ivy says, scowling at Easy.

‘But it won’t stop there,’ the girl says. ‘Next thing, every sunrise, river and flower; even the mountains and oceans will be seen as fair game: as something to use, to devour.’

‘So much for a quiet night in a bar, ay sweetheart,’ Easy says, sitting next to Ivy. ‘It’s like we’ve caught some bloody virus!’

‘Yes,’ the angel says, ‘and while ever you’re infected, the divine mercy clouds its creation—for—until you humble yourself and accept the cure—you will only ever cope with the faintest of tastes.’

‘Better than nothing, I guess,’ Easy says.

‘True. But until you are cured, ‘restrained goodness…’9 is all you will be trusted with, lest you go insane with appetite and turn all of paradise into a ravaged misery.’

‘That’s just wrong,’ Ivy says. ‘It’s evil to put a guilt trip like that on us.’

‘Only to those who insist on seeing temporarily-veiled good as evil.’

‘Maybe we should just get out of here?’ Easy says, turning to Ivy.

‘I don’t think we—’

‘She’s right,’ the girl interrupts. ‘You’re stuck here between life’s door and death’s door.’

‘But it’s not all bad,’ the angel adds. ‘You’ve already tasted how delicious the Higher Power can be, in Ivy. You could say it’s—’

‘So delicious it’s irresistible,’ the girl says, raising an eyebrow.

‘I’d rather we didn’t go there,’ Ivy says, looking at Easy.

Easy takes her hand, sure he’s just seen her blushing. She never does that.

‘Which brings us back to the door,’ the angel says, ‘and to that clock,’ he adds looking up at a huge clock on the wall. ‘We’re running out of time.’

‘Bullshit!’ Ivy says, putting her hands on her hips. ‘The time on that clock hasn’t changed since we’ve been here.’

‘Very observant,’ the angel says, slapping his sword. ‘Just a little trick we like to play on new arrivals.’

‘Trick?’

‘Time doesn’t seem to matter much here. It’s like you’ve got forever to think about the door.’

‘Meanwhile,’ the rough man says, stubbing out his cigarette and standing up, ‘we’ve become more of a problem for you.’

‘To hell with your problems,’ Ivy says, looking at Easy. ‘Come on darling, let’s call the kids and do it without these people.’

A shadow floats across the room. An enormous black, sharp-beaked bird glides down to the floor and bird-walks towards Ivy.

‘Help!’ Ivy screams.

‘Not so fast,’ the angel says, drawing his sword and taking a swipe at the bird.

With a screech and a furious flapping of wings, the bird flies away. One long feather floats.

‘What was that all about?’ Easy asks as the angel sheathes his sword.

‘Ivy summoned her.’

‘I did not!’

‘You did, actually, when you said, “To hell with your problems!”’

‘How was I to know that?’

‘You know now—and without these people you won’t even make it through the door.’

‘Why?’

‘Because you’ve fallen in love with the crow,’ the tall girls says, walking to her sister and sitting next to her.

‘I have not!’ Ivy shouts.

‘But you have,’ the angel says. ‘She always comes when you sing her song.’

‘I didn’t mean to,’ she says, sobbing. ‘And how can these people help us, anyway?’

‘They’ve given up the fight to stay dead: having been there, done that with the crow. Now they’re on the mend.’

‘Like they’re zombies in recovery?’ Easy asks.

‘Well—if by “zombies” you mean beings that want to walk around and stay dead at the same time, that would be you, now, not them.’

‘No way,’ Easy says, walking to the door and putting his ear to it. ‘And another thing, the music coming through this door is amazing.’

‘I rest my case, the angel says. ‘You have only just begun to taste the joys of becoming dead.’

‘I love this door,’ Ivy says, walking to the door and breathing in. ‘The sweet fragrance coming through here is so beautiful! Strike me dead if it’s not heavenly.’

‘Hey guys, what’s made you so happy?’ the African asks, walking back with the children, their arms loaded with lollies.

[Much of this dialogue is inspired by Charles Williams’ works: The Figure of Beatrice and Romantic Theology. See also 9 Charles Williams, The Figure of Beatrice (The Apocryphyle Press, Berkeley, CA 2005, 
[Faber & Faber 1943]) p.48]