Sunday, January 16, 2011

the juchnovetski incident

I met my first cousin recently. He specializes in wills and trusts conflict. I was teaching him how to catalog my biofather's estate. The estate of which my own share consists of the biofather's art supplies (mostly paintbrushes) and his own artwork. Which is pretty funny, 'cause — but I'm not here to talk about that —

It was Poland. Warsaw University. Mid 1990s. I'd been invited to present a paper I call 'The Grammatical Nature of God' at this huge international conference. There were so many countries represented that earphones and simultaneous translation of the papers were de rigeur.

It was the Plenary Session. First day of the conference. The keynote speaker was speaking. I had my earphones on. Even with the translation I was completely lost. Not a clue what he was talking about. So I started browsing through the enormous program. There was a long list of the participants, and one name caught my eye.


I had heard the name a number of times but had never seen it in print before. Always pictured it starting with the letter 'Y' but the 'J' made perfect sense. I had been told what a rare name it was. It was the biofather's name before his father changed it to something more patrician sounding and English. Biofather told me that, yes.

"Nobler than others." An arrogant lot, his line. And proud even of that.

I had never met a Juchnovetski of course. Although, I had been told that there was one of them in Paris. Biofather had tracked him down, but he had recently died. I had thought often of seeing if there were any more of them in Paris. But was there really any reason to bother? I mean, what would I say? Sociophobe, remember?

So. Flipping through the conference program. Finding that name. I started looking around the vast auditorium.

The biofather's face is completely distinguished. In more than one sense of the word. The family 'look' is notable. Stands out. They're tall, with a fairly prominent bone structure. The men have square faces, and most of all, deep dark penetrating eyes. Charismatic eyes. Commanding voices. Sardonic. Sarcastic tones.

So. All this is wrong, of course.

I know that now. I know that today. I learned that yesterday in Los Angeles, teaching my cousin how to properly inventory an estate.

I sat there with the earphones on staring at the Juchnovetski in the program. Not paying attention to the keynote speaker. I looked out at the crowd of academics. Didn't see any square faces or penetrating eyes. Couldn't see much at all, really, because everyone was either face front looking at the speaker, or they were doing what I was doing: flipping through the program and looking around to see who they might know. Nodding, when they caught the attention of a familiar face.

Conferences are all alike that way. Maybe all we really want to do is catch up with our friends and hear what they're working on these days. Oh. And sleep with them from time to time. Most likely these basic conference customs were equally valid in Poland. But I'm not sure. I only knew one person at this conference. And I was being put up at the Anthropology Museum on campus. Just me in this huge empty apartment in a huge empty museum full of long dead skulls and stuffed primates. And a night guard. You'd think it would be a perfect place for a sociophobe. But no. It's much more fun being phobic when there are people around.

So. The speaker is droning on and on in my earphones. And I focussed more and more intently on how on earth I was going to find Juchnovetski in this sea of mostly male Eastern European academics.

When suddenly, the droning stopped. The English translator sounded confused. She hesitated and sputtered. I looked up.

The Program Chair of the conference, Professor Kutchinski, was walking up to the podium. He interrupted the keynote speaker right smack in the middle of a boring sentence. And asked him to move aside. You could see him being asked, but nothing was translated.

And then Kutchinski stood at the podium. Glanced around the auditorium, and said loudly and clearly:

"WILL PROFESSOR JUCHNOVETSKI PLEASE STAND UP." And he looked around, left and right. And then I swear, he caught my eye and looked away.

And out of the sea of middle aged academic male faces, not very far from me at all, this balding, round faced academic slowly stood up. No penetrating eyes. No square jaw. No mischievous sardonic twinkle of the nobler-than-thou variety.

And I got a good look at him, and thought: That's no relative of mine.

And Kutchinski, at the podium spoke loud and clear, and the translator translated, having gotten her act together and doing a better job describing the action.

"Thank you," the Program Chair said, "you may sit down now."

And the obedient Professor Juchnovetski sat down as if nothing had happened. And he continued leafing through his conference program. And the Chair turned to the keynote speaker, and said (with simultaneous translation), "alright, you may continue now," and went back to his seat on the stage.

And the keynote speaker continued his talk exactly from the point he had been interrupted.

And that's the story. That's always been the story. It's a good enough story. I use it from time to time as an excellent example of transmission and reception, when I teach these techniques in my Body, Mind, Spirit class where we explore stuff like this.

Focused attention.
Clear Transmission.
Distinct Reception.
A completed circuit.

We practiced this over and over for three years in George Leonard and Michael Murphy's experiment in Integral Transformative Practice (ITP). And there it was — working for me when I needed it.

But today, the story feels different.

I look at my cousin, the estate dispute lawyer. And he's the spitting image of Professor Juchnovetski at that conference long ago at Warsaw University, when I gave my paper on 'The Grammatical Nature of God' to an audience which included a flock of Polish nuns with earphones on, come specially to hear me, thrilled to pieces at the miracles of the Hebrew language (and not, as I had suspected, having come to throw stones at me).

And I am as certain today that Juchnovetski is indeed a relative of mine, as I was certain long ago that he was not.

And I am certain today that the square jaw and dark, critical eyes I always associated with the biofather genotype are the exception rather than the rule in this genetic line. A fluke of nature, perhaps. Or just the idiosyncratic arrogance of arrogance.

And maybe all that phenotypic looming and booming and fuming aren't actually from the Juchnovetski side of the family after all.

No comments:

Post a Comment