Saturday, February 03, 2007

Dear John


I was looking something up on Wikipedia and found an entry on John Money. That was how I learned of his death. I'm not sure why no one contacted me, I'm not sure why I didn't know, but the shock of his death sent me reeling. I had studied his work long before I met him having read him in University. Over coffee a friend asked me if I wanted to come and hear her uncle lecture at OISE in Toronto, I agreed not even knowing what the lecture was about.

Her uncle was John. Money. The famous sexologist.

I was blown away by the lecture by his brilliant frankness and his need to speak his mind and the truth as he saw it. Invited to meet him for lunch, Joe and I both jumped at the chance. Several lunches or brunches later he was talking about a person that he was counselling through the mail (!) and about the thousands of pages of letters that he had accumulated that documented this young man's life and his drift into a form of depravity. I said, that would make a wonderful book, John just smiled and said that the reading, collating and organizing of the material was just too daunting.

The next time we met John said, "I've found someone to work with me on that book you and I talked about last time." I was pleased and asked who he had got to do all that work.

"You," he said.

That began the journey that lead to the book, "The Breathless Orgasm". During the time we worked on the book I felt like I was in an intensive study course. John wanted to teach me how to 'think,' how to reason. He wanted me to understand deviance in a new and different way. I remember working on a passage of text and John spending over an hour on the phone with me coaxing me to find the error I had made. He wouldn't tell me, I had to find it, understand it and fix it. He was a hard taskmaster - but he was never harsh.

We talked occasionally over the years and I loved getting letters from him that were sent on used envelopes with stamps over stamps. I trusted him to show him some of my early work and he respected me enough to be honest and direct. He was a fine teacher. He knew when to be gentle, he knew when to push and he knew when and how to kick laziness up the backside.

In later years his career came under fire and some of his ideas attacked. This is the fate of those who think creatively and those who cut a path. I'm often asked what I 'think of the Great John Money now" and I think the same as I did before - I'm sure he made mistakes, big ones even, but I also think that he made mistakes not because of arrogance but because with trial and error comes, um, error. It's tragic that some were seriously hurt because of those errors. I know from knowing him that hurt was never his intention. It wasn't like he could look things up in a book, those books had yet to be written. So, the man I sometimes read about in newspaper articles wasn't the man that I knew. And loved.

There are hundreds, maybe thousands, maybe more, who John's work touched personally. I know the impact that he had on me. I owe him a debt of gratitude that a mere blog posting will never repay. I owe him a good chunk of my self esteem, a good chunk of my skill at 'seeing' a clinical situation and I owe him a thousand and one good memories.

Mentors are amazing people.

They see in you what you do not see in yourself.

They wish for you what you can't even dream of.

They push you where you fear to go but need to tred.

John Money mentored me like I mattered.

I am a lucky man to have known him.


Anonymous said...

Dear Dave- Even though we don't know each other, you write in a way that reveals who you are, and I feel I do know you. A bit. And because you are a virtual friend (we are virtually friends), I was saddened for you at the loss of your mentor. You just gave a beautiful eulogy. I think I want to read your book( it's not about asphyxiation, is it?)Frances

Anonymous said...

Dave, how profoundly fortunate you were to have had a mentor! If hindsight is 20/20, then getting a mentor is like getting corrective lenses for one's professional education. I've heard people talk about their mentors, and it sounds like a lovely thing.


Anonymous said...

Well written article.