Brian Michael Barbeito’s When We Fell In Love

Before I discovered books and writing I was not at all involved in either. I was a hockey player and school was just something to pass the time, so not only I was not involved in books and writing outside of school, I wasn’t that involved in those things in school. I just stared out the window or tried to catch some sleep at my desk if I thought nobody was watching. I was bored there, and when I interacted, seemed to get in trouble often for disrupting others. I didn’t take any of it seriously, and did not like the structure, the teachers, or really the idea of learning anything at all. I know now this has something to do with a stream of endeavor or an idea people call nonduality, and have talks and write books about. I was in a sort of nondual state, and was fine the way I was, not really understanding why something like education had to be added to it.

It was around sixteen I think, when something changed. There were two factors in the change. Joseph Campbell talks or writes somewhere about destiny books. For me, it was a destiny documentary. I was walking across a room at the family cottage one Saturday or Sunday afternoon, and by chance, someone had left the television on and the film called Volcano, An Inquiry into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowy, was playing. I don’t know why, but my head turned to the screen and then my body stopped, and I began watching.

I sat down.

And in a way I never got up.

There was something about the figure and the work, and also the presentation of such, which captured me instantly. It was like falling in love, but maybe with something a bit dark. Whatever the case, I felt on some spiritual level that what was being talked about in that documentary, also had to do with me. And it did. I resonated deeply with it all. I didn’t know there was such a world. The writer, the publishers and editors, the content, literary biographies, even Mexico, which I have been to three times. Of course I eventually read Under the Volcano, and other works, plus a biography called Pursued by Furies.

The other thing that happened was that not too long after that I needed to buy a book, at a place called Fairview Mall, in the bookstore there, to have reading material on an airplane ride to Florida. I picked out a certain book they had on a rack near the cash register for its cover. It had a tall ship. As I write this, I think maybe back then, in the bookstore, subconsciously, I connected that tall ship with a mural of a tall ship on a building that I often saw in Pompano Beach. I had been swept, at night, into the ocean, as a child, and almost died, not too far from that tall ship mural.

I don’t know for certain.

But I think that is why I was attracted to the cover.

I assumed it was just an adventure story by someone about the sea. But it was Lord Jim, by Joseph Conrad. When I began to read the words, I know it was different, what I term psychological literature. The settings or mise-en-scene of a Conrad are obviously just those, settings in which emotional and psychological journeys and make-ups are examined by the writer.

Knowing that in the world there had been people like Malcolm Lowry and Joseph Conrad, began to open whole other worlds of reading, and later writing, to me. I read a lot, and on different topics. I think writing one’s own pieces, whatever form they take, just happen organically after that. It is all romantic, like a journey to Mexico or a sea adventure itself. To me there is no difference between a writer, an essayist, or a poet. They are all ‘a poet,’ because poet is the most mystical or adventurous term, to me, of the three designations.

So, I, an ice hockey player, got into it by accidentally noticing a documentary, and by judging a book by its cover.

I then became something else.

I liked the idea of all that ‘something else’. There are people that resonate with it, and people that don’t.  But that’s fine, and you can do it on your own, in your own time and space and even way. I thought up a saying. I don’t know if there is a similar phrase somewhere, but I haven’t heard it. My motto is simple. It goes, ‘It is better to be even a bad poet than a good anything else.’