Reading RC Literature Again

Good morning, beloved Co-Counselors, brothers and sisters! It is a beautiful morning in western Massachusetts (USA). I am enjoying thinking of all of you, in all of the different time zones around the world—some of you just waking up, some having already had long days full of adventures and challenges. Some of you are in RC classes right now, reconnecting with each other and with our cherished theory. I feel more connected with you this morning because I just spent an hour reading many of your articles in Present Time.

You see, I have been experimenting with reading Present Time one hour at a time. To understand this, you need to know a little more about me and my history with RC literature.

I came into RC when I was twenty-three years old. I had been spared some of the heaviest distresses about reading. As a middle-class person I’d been expected to read; but more than that, my family had a genuine enthusiasm for reading. Some of the safest times in our house were when people were too caught up in [engaged in] reading to go after each other [attack or criticize each other].

When I joined RC, I was ready for it and for RC literature. I loved the theory. I got it [understood it] right away and started reading everything. I remember reading and re-reading the short description of RC on the back of Present Time and our other journals and thinking about its implications for the world and my life. I realized then that if this theory was true, the implications were truly limitless and I was at the start of a long and exciting journey to have the life of my dreams. I was absolutely right about that.

I also remember when Jim Dubois and Liz Friedman gave me a copy of What’s Wrong with the “Mental Health” System and What Can Be Done About It, by Janet Foner and others. They gave it to me because my mother had been in and out of “mental hospitals” and heavily drugged for ten years. I was also about two years out of a psychiatric ward myself. I had lived through what was wrong with the “mental health” system and was finally getting the information I needed about how wrong it all was and what could be done. I remember sobbing in a session, saying, “This is all my family needed all along!”

My love of RC literature continued, and I became a go-to person for RC literature in my Region. When I started teaching RC, I always assigned reading and would purchase the literature in bulk. People still call me when they are teaching fundamentals, as I usually have multiple copies of the introductory literature.

But along the way something got hard for me about reading RC literature and I stopped reading it almost altogether [completely]. Present Time and the Teacher Packets would arrive and remain almost untouched. I’m still not sure what happened, but I have more clarity after a series of sessions about it.

I had a regular weekly mini-session on the phone with another RC leader. At some point we added an additional weekly mini-session, and I decided to devote that to my RC leadership. At another point I started working every week on my relationship to RC literature. I re-evaluated and gained two insights.

The first was that I felt obligated to read RC literature cover to cover [from beginning to end] but would bump into [encounter] articles that felt boring or too hard. One time I experimented with cherry picking [choosing selectively]—reading only the articles that I found appealing or interesting. That resulted in my reading a lot more than nothing at all!

The bigger insight was that I stopped reading RC literature in part because of undischarged feelings about the death of Harvey Jackins. I felt sad because he wasn’t writing for Present Time anymore and I missed him. I cried and cried about this. I was surprised the next time I read Present Time and realized how much of Harvey’s writing was actually still included. Getting a little discharge helped a lot.

I think I had a fantasy that this tiny chunk of discharge would make me magically and spontaneously read RC literature again. That wasn’t the case—when I stopped having those minis, I went back to not reading the literature.

What turned the corner [changed things] for me and led to my recent experiment with reading RC literature was a non-RC online class on time management. The instructor talked about thinking about each item in our lives—whether it’s an object, an e-mail, a thought, or whatever—and processing it: What is it? What is its home? What’s the next step? So when Present Time arrived, I asked myself these questions.

What is it? It is mandatory reading. I am an RC teacher, and it is my job to read Present Time and know about the latest RC theory, even if I don’t feel like it. (Of course RC literature is much more than that, but that was my answer at the time.)

What is its home? I put the journal on the side table in my living room, for easy access.

What’s the next step? The next step is to read it. In this time-management approach, any item that takes more than fifteen minutes needs to be scheduled and put on your calendar. Thus you need to estimate how long it will take so you can make an appointment with yourself to do it. I decided to schedule an hour and see how many pages of RC literature I could read in that amount of time.

I tried scheduling it in the evenings but found myself blowing off [ignoring] the scheduled reading sessions. Finally I made an appointment that I actually kept: at 8:30 on Saturday mornings.

I sat and read for an hour, keeping track of how many pages I read. In my first hour-long reading appointment, I read pages one to thirty-three, about a third, of Present Time. In my second, I read pages thirty-four to fifty-nine. This morning I read pages sixty to eighty-six. (In my next appointment, I will read the final page, the appreciations page, page 87.)

This means that I can read all of Present Time in about three one-hour chunks. Whenever possible, I can protect Saturday mornings from 8:30 to 9:30 for reading RC literature. And during that time, at my current pace, I can read each new Present Time and also make progress on other RC literature.

Since I started reading the April 2017 Present Time, the July Present Time and the Teacher Packet have arrived. I will read the July Present Time next, followed by all of the items in the Teacher Packet. Perhaps by then the October Present Time will have arrived, and I will read that. Then I will be all caught up on new literature and can begin a program of reading and re-reading older RC literature—for example, all of the Present Times that I skipped, Harvey’s books, and all of the other journals and pamphlets. I have a lot of interesting reading ahead of me.

I plan to read every piece of RC literature ever written. If I live for a long time, and read at a pace at which I can keep up with what’s new and also make progress on the rich archive of older things, I can get to everything—and then start re-reading my favorite things.

I know I am describing reading RC literature as if it’s a mandatory homework assignment. I think it is that, and more. Reading the April Present Time, I realized how much Present Time is like a compilation of love letters from people I know, or will someday know, all around the world. I learned new things about my RC friends—for example, that Amy Calendrella went to the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. (USA) with her mom. I read the inspiring story of what Beth Edmonds and Dan Nickerson did when there wasn’t enough room for all the interested people at a community meeting. I got insights I have brought into my sessions, such as Karl Lam’s description of the confusing effects of discouragement. I was reminded of all the tremendous experiments after the U.S. election of Donald Trump and of articles I want to write, for example, about the wide-world “election-loss support groups” I led following the election. I got practical tips from Tim Jackins for how to build or rebuild an RC Community, which affirmed my own ideas of what I want to try next as an RC teacher.

And I reconnected with my beloved Harvey—his words echoing through the decades right into Present Time; his thinking as sharp and bold and uncompromising as ever, reminding me again that we have a unique opportunity with RC and that he expects me to make a sharp break with distress, trust my own thinking, and live my life according to the highest standards.

I want to thank all the people who write for, edit, and produce RC literature. Even though not all of us are reading it right now, eventually all of us will.

Glenn Johnson

Greenfield, Massachusetts, USA

Reprinted from the e-mail discussion listfor RC Community members

(Present Time 190, January 2018)

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00