During my adolescence I would lose much of the religiousity and feeling for the sacred that I possessed as a small child. I developed a passion for Science and anything to do with Computers which gradually evolved into an obsession with learning about the Brain and also the idea of creating Artificial Intelligence. Towards the end of my Adolescence I would start to enter back into more Spiritual and Mystical modes of being.
At around the age of eleven after entering high school my development accelerated. I did well in most subjects at school even though I didn't do very much work. I mostly didn't hand in homework and was constantly late in the morning, but probably because I did well in class and in exams, I seemed to get away with a certain amount of indiscipline. I also tended to avoid school quite a lot and enjoyed the extra free time to do what I wanted.
Around about this time, a TV show would have a great impact on my life. It was called Cosmos, and was a 13 part series of Documentaries presented by the Astronomer and great popularizer of Science, Carl Sagan. It presented the big view of science, covering everything from the birth of the Universe, the stars and galaxies, to the evolution of life and the emergence of humanity and civilization. I was probably already predisposed with an interest in things technical, mechanical and scientific, but it was probably the TV series Cosmos that really ignited my interest in Science.
So I remember as a teenager I would play around with chemistry sets at home. I had a telescope and took up Astronomy for a while. I also took a great interest in nature and liked to study about plants and animals. I would spend lot of time in the surrounding countryside outside of Ipswich. The natural world has always been something very close to my heart.
Later on in my teenage years I became swept up in the home computer craze of the early 80s. The younger of my two older Brothers bought a computer in 1983 when I was 13 years old and this would change my life forever. I really became quite obsessed with computers and computer programming. I devoted a lot time teaching myself how to program. I would spend hours and hours totally engrossed in the process of designing and coding little computer games and science simulations. I absolutely loved it. I also spent a lot of time playing computer games as well.
During my teens as I became more and more engrossed in Science and anything to do with Computers, I can see now that my little mystical and spiritual world retreated. My mini toy religion that I’d created as an infant no longer seemed as meaningful or as relevant to me when my head existed in these technical realms. However there were certain times when this feeling of the sacred, that I had much more in my early childhood, would return. This would be triggered sometimes by nature and natural events, perhaps a full moon, a stunning sunset or perhaps a walk in some peaceful woodland. Nature would be my temple and this is something I retained all through my life. Other times I would regain my sense of the mystical through a process of reflection. I remember that all through my childhood I was interested in philosophical matters. This interest would intensify in my early teenage years. I would spend a lot of time thinking about the purpose of life, who I was and what was the nature of reality. It was at around this time that I developed a certain tendency sometimes towards solitude and mental reflection. During these times of contemplation I would occasionally fully regain my mystic mind and feeling for the sacred that I had most of the time as a small child.
From a very early age I enjoyed avoiding school. By the time I was around 15, I avoided school a lot. Perhaps when I was 16 or 17 the days I attended school became fewer than those when I stayed away. The irony here was that I valued knowledge, loved to learn new things and thrived on intellectual challenges. The problem was I saw school as an impediment to my learning and intellectual development. A lot of the things we learned at school I thought irrelevant and the pace of learning was far too slow. Also some of the teachers didn’t know to how to keep a control of the classroom which meant only very little teaching actually went on. This problem was compounded by the often low quality of the instruction. So I had decided from a quite early age that going to the lessons at school was a total waste of time and avoided school as much as I could.
I would spend this free time, that I created for myself, writing computer programs and learning all about computers. But most of all I loved to think and read. I also enjoyed cycling all around the countryside surrounding Ipswich, Sometimes instead of cycling to school I would take a massive detour and cycle to a seaside town called Felixstowe which was about 10 miles, or so, away. I did this because it nice to walk along the sea front and it was a great context for thinking about the larger questions of life. Also there were a lot of video arcades there with all the latest games. It felt great to be doing my own thing.
However this apparent lack of interest in education and avoidance of school created a lot of tension between me and my parents especially because, as mentioned in an earlier chapter, there was and is a strong emphasis on the importance of learning among members of my ethnic group. In fact, for me to gain a good education and formal qualifications would have been a main and critical criteria by which they would judged their own success and effectiveness as parents. Like a lot of Chinese and especially Hakka parents the idea of getting their children educated to at least to a University Degree level was high up on their list of aspirations. So my truancy and free spirited approach to things was a major problem for them. It led to a lot of conflict and argument. But I was willful and stubborn as a teenager and full of rebellious energy. At the end of the day there wasn’t much that they could have done to alter my behaviour. My recalcitrance was compounded by a sense that I knew better what was good for me. Also in my immaturity and naivity, during my teens I didn’t really give my Mother and Father due respect. In my mind at that stage of my life I thought they were a pair of under achieving low ability individuals. I had no idea that in their youth they had undergone a sort of mythic quest of their own and had embarked on a perilous adventure. They had actually achieved a lot more than I gave them credit for.
They had started from a context of upheaval and poverty which is what Southern China and Hong Kong would have been during and just after the Second World War period. My Mother was born during the War Period which was characterized by upheaval and famine. After the War and in the changes brought about by the Communist Revolution, her family had their land and properties confiscated, so were reduced from a state of relative affluence. Her Father didn’t fit in well with the new regime and towards the end of his during during the Cultural Revolution, that occurred from 1966 up to the death of Chairman Mao in 1976, found himself in prison for no real reason other than dissent. He was released after Mao’s death and died himself shortly afterwards. At some point during my Mother’s childhood, my GrandFather had pointed his daughter towards Hong Kong and told her that’s where her future would lie. So as a young woman my Mother made the perilous escape across the border from China to Hong Kong, dodging border guards, trekking across dangerous mountain paths and swimming across rivers. After a spell as a factory working she married my Father.
My Father had grown up in Hong Kong and would have been in his early teens during the War years. He remembers vividly the Japanese invasion and was forced to labour in their building of fortifications and defences. As a young man he recalls doing paid work for the British Colonials as a manual labourer, shipped off for periods of time to other nearby outposts of the, by then fading, British Empire. Though he doesn’t actually know exactly where he’d worked, perhaps Burma or some such place. Later taking advantage of the oppurtunity to work and settle in the United Kingdom, he made the long boat journey to England. This was something of an adventure for him seeing all sorts of new sights and strange people who would have never before encountered. The boat would have stopped at various stages to pick up more passengers. He recalls how made a port of call in India and picked up a rich diversity of passengers there. It was a real journey into the unknown. Once arrived in the UK he worked long hours as a waiter in the first Chinese restuarants which were springing up at the time and lived the classic immigrant story, sending money home and eventually bringing the family over too. Though before the entire family came over, my Mother had started working in the UK too with my Grandmother staying in Hong Kong to look after my too older Brothers. After my Mother became pregnant with me, she returned to Hong Kong and stayed there until until the entire family came to the UK when I was about 2 years old.
The story of the early lives of my Mother and Father is one of hardship, adversity and struggle. The hardship of life during wartime, the upheavals of the Communist revolution and the poverty of the period following the War. Then there was all the adversity and struggle they faced in trying to make it in this world. Working their way up from nothing, the adventures involved in coming from China to Hong Kong and the coming from Hong Kong to the United Kingdom. Then there was the struggle of trying to become established in a far away country, not speaking the local language and encountering the basest forms of racism and discrimination. They worked hard and were sustained mainly by the hope and desire of a better life for their offspring. Their courage and determination was encouraged by the dreams of an easier and happier future. So they did their toil, labour and sacrifice basically in order that I could enjoy the potential of a comfortable middle class existence in a reasonably properous industrialized country. This was the adventure and undertaking of my parents that had occurred in their lives and which had created the circumstances that I found myself in during my childhood and teens. And of which I was almost completely unaware while I was growing up.
I remember there was a generally feeling of restlessness in my teens. Ipswich was small quiet town and felt far from all that was happening in the rest of the World. It was the kind of place where once you get to a certain age then you’d start to think more and more about leaving. Often I would day dream about escaping from this uneventful back water of a town and embark on a life of adventure and exploration. I would imagine myself as Luke Skywalker, one of the main characters in the modern myth Star Wars as saw my situation as similar to his at the start of the film. I was a bored youth living in a non descript rural town far far away from where all the action was going on in the World. But I wanted to be part of it, to be part of the action. While cycling to school I would see the American A10 Tank buster planes flying overhead on their training flights. The Cold War between the NATO Alliance and the Warsaw Pact was still going on at the time. I imagined I was like Luke Skywalker gazing up in the sky looking at space ships belonging to a far flung galactic empire. In my case, these particular vessels were emissaries of the United States Empire and Ipswich, Suffolk was like a distant outpost.
A feature of my life as a teenager was that I wrote songs and formed a little three piece rock band with two friends, one playing drums, the other bass guitar and myself singing and playing rhythm guitar. This activity came about through a general passion I’ve always had for music but at this time also a teenage love affair I had with the American New Wave Band Talking Heads. However my interest in this musical sideline steadily diminished as my interest in technical and philosophical matters increased during my late teens.
I can now with the benefit of hindsight that the band was important for my development in that it gave me training in the process of standing in front of a crowd of people and giving some kind of performance. We performed live in various Ipswich pubs around half a dozen times. The response from the audience, which consisted mainly of other kids from school, was generally bad. My band mates played well but my performances usually ranged from bad to embarrassing. I did have my moments where things sounded reasonable but overall I didn’t do very well. However in the wider scheme of things, I can see now that these early unremarkable forays into live performance would help to prepare me for later on in my life. The negative feedback and ridicule I had to endure would serve to toughen me up psychologically and make it easier for me start public speaking in my adulthood. This teenage baptism of fire would especially help prepare me for communicating very controversial heretical ideas that can ellicit hostile reactions from some people.
Something happened at around the age of 16 which helped to set the course for much of my early adult life. I rented the science fiction film Bladerunner from the local video shop and watching it seemed to crystallize a fascination that has seemed to be a part of my life from very early on. This fascination involved the idea of human-like robots and Artificial Intelligence. These were the stuff of 70s and 80s Sci-Fi films, TV series and also the Science Fiction comic books, all of which I can see in retrospect formed a significant part of my childhood. It was this coupled with my near obsession with computers, that gave me a firm and vivid idea of what I was going to do with my life. There was character in the film named, Dr Eldon Tyrell, who had designed the artificially intelligent brains of the human-like robots called replicants, who were the focus of the movie. I was thoroughly inspired by the film. So much so that I became gripped by the thought that the purpose of my life and destiny was to discover how the brain worked and unlock the mysteries of the mind. I also imagined that as a natural result of these efforts I would give to the world Artificial Intelligence, become rich, famous and all the other things that over ambitious teenagers dream about. My mind was made up, I now had to realize my chosen path.
The rest of my time before leaving home would never be the same after this and a definite course had been set up for the rest of my adolescence and a large part of my adult life. I started to study really hard, on my own initiative, all the books and material relating to the mind and brain sciences that I could get my hands on. As a result of this concentrated study, I thought for the first time what a good idea it would be to go to University in order to help take things further. Also at around this point in my life I was getting really restless and greatly desired to leave home and move away from this small town called Ipswich. So my attendance at school improved slightly, particularly after I was offered a place at University and so had to put in some work in order to make the grade. And so my mind seemed to come alive some more. The rest of my time as an adolescent living with my Parents; was spent preparing for my ultimate goal and also working fairly hard to obtain a place at the University of my choice which luckily, I managed to do by scraping together enough credits in order to get in. This I did in 1988 and London was the place I went for my studies.
Leaving Home and going to University
Leaving home was quite a dramatic experience. I found myself transported from a small quiet town into the heart of busy London. I went to Imperial College, part of London university and initially lived in their halls of residence. So my first entry point into my new life away from home was in the South Kensington and Knightsbridge area. Quite a contrast from my hometown. I remember feeling a bit overwhelmed with London at first but the sense of freedom from being away from home was exciting.
I quickly became disillusioned with the course I was doing which was Computing Science with a high content of Artificial Intelligence subjects. I discovered that what was known in academia about Artificial Intelligence and the best theories about how the brain worked, were at best primitive or else plain wrong. This caused me to become a bit of a renegade student. I embarked on a course of self study and decided for myself what I would need to know in order to figure out how the brain worked.
During my first year in University while living in University halls of residence I had a almost nightly ritual of walking to some shops nearby that opened 24hrs a day. When I first discovered them it was a revelation to me, the idea that I could go off to buy snacks and drinks in the early hours of the morning. Being quite nocturnal as a student I was a constant visitor to these places typically doing my shopping at 1 or 2am in the morning. On my way back I would often sit in the cemetry of a church which was on the way there and next door to where I was living. I loved to sit in this church yard while eating the food I’d just purchased. I remember spending a lot of time sitting in that church yard in the middle of the night, it was great place to have a long undisturbed think.
During my three years at university I hardly ever attended, only showing up for exams and also to chase up course work from some of my fellow students. On many occasions I was summoned to the senior tutor's office and several times threatened with expulsion. But by some miracle I always managed to pass the year and get through to the next. Though it was always very close so I would spend the Summer holidays back in Ipswich, not quite sure whether they would take me back or not for the next academic year. At the end of my time at University I even ended up with a degree, though only a pass ranking. Technically I knew I’d failed so I was very pleasantly surprised that the university decided to give me a degree anyway. It certainly made my Mother very happy.
The funny irony is that during my time enrolled at University, but not attending much, I studied a lot! Though I spent hardly any time studying my course material, except during the Spring and that was in order to pass the exams. I read far and wide but where my time was mainly focused on, was the study of the brain and related fields such as Psychology, Cognitive Science and Artificial Intelligence. I was extremely focused and my thirst for knowledge was immense. I seemed to read constantly and when I wasn’t reading I was thinking. The only other activity which took up significant amounts of my time during this period was guitar playing. I had only a few friends at University who were on a similar wavelength to me and with whom I could discuss matters of mutual interest. Mostly my time was spent alone and completely obsessed with anything to do with the Mind and Brain.
After University I stayed in London for a few months during the Summer and Autumn. I continued to live in the same lodgings in Cricklewood, North London, that I’d found to accomodate myself during my final year in college. During this time I was in an in between state wondering what my next move would be. I did use this time productively studing and learning new skills. I continued my studies of all things relating to the brain, behaviour, computers and artificial intelligence. I devoured books and spent many hours a day reading or thinking about what I’d read.
The Science Fiction novels of Philip K. Dick
Something worth mentioning which I believe may have influenced my life profoundly a few years later on is that I developed a passion for Philip K. Dick science fiction novels. It was one of his books that was made into the movie Bladerunner, which had really crystallized my goal in life of working out how the brain worked and then using this knowledge to create artificial intelligence. It was because of this earlier encounter with his work, through the film, that soon after finishing University I decided to buy a couple of his novels. I read them pretty quickly and was hooked.
I found myself reading 1 or 2 of his books every week for several months on end. I believe they subtley influenced my mind to see things in a different way. This is because in his books he is always exploring metaphysical and philosophical questions such as what it to be human, what is reality and the relationship between people and machines. His novels played with and challenged our notions of time, of God and what the future would be like. His vision of the future was not shiney, efficient, streamlined and pristine. Instead the future worlds he described were flawed, grimmy, wracked with humanities problems in dealing with a difficult dysfunctional technological world that seemed out of control. And in these worlds he would create storylines that explored human relationships with each other and also humanities relationships with machines.
In his stories he often explored religious themes, though sometimes in a disguished form. I remember reading his books would put me into deeply reflective states. I would really ponder some of the scenarios he described. I think reading so many of his books in such a short space of time, definitely had an effect on me. In particular, in one of his books called ‘Valis’ he uses fiction in order to describe his quest to understand a series of mystical experiences that he had. It was his exegesis and attempt to better understand and come to terms with God. In the book I recall he described God as Zebra, an imminent, close yet camouflaged and hidden thing. I remember this description and passages surrounding it, really put me in a sort of powerful semi religious state where I could feel a strong prescence or sense of God. I remember thinking to myself that I’d not experienced this sort of thing in a very long time. I remember thinking to myself that this was a state of mind that was quite common during my childhood but that I had lost in the years of my teens and adolescence.
Anyway my interest in Philip K. Dick novels lasted about a year with my consumption of them steadily declining after the initial intense few months and then tapering off. In retrospect it acted for me as a philosophical stimulus and made me ponder interesting questions.
A move to Hong Kong
In the Autumn of 1991 I decided to move to Hong Kong and live for a while. In the back of my mind I had this idea that somehow I’d be able to make a lot of money quickly, and then not have to work and be able to finance myself and my studies. And so in November of 1991 I sold off most of my possessions, packed my bags and got myself a one way ticket to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong was the place of my birth, but I knew nothing about the place, as my family had emigrated to the United Kingdom when I was only two years old. And I had never returned until making this expedition in my young adulthood. It was something of an odyssey of self discovery, a chance to visit my roots and perhaps learn something about who I was.
At first things went well, and I was very excited to be in an exotic part of the world. It really seemed like an adventure at first. I was filled with the optimism and boundless energy of youth. However I was also quite naive about various aspects of life. Anyway... things quickly deteriorated. I didn’t speak the most commonly used local dialect so had to get by on just using english. Also the money I brought over from the UK started to run out. I found it difficult to get a job and was increasingly frustrated by my language barrier.
Once the novelty of being in a different part of the world had worn off I then started to become more aware of the negative side to my circumstances. Also I was constantly being stopped by the police and asked for identification. This would typically happen when I was walking down the street or shopping somewhere. Why this kept happening was due to two reasons. Firstly the time in question was before the 1997 hand over of Hong Kong, by the United Kingdom, back to the China. So back then the local Hong kong police had a big problem with illegal immigration by chinese nationals seeking financial opportunities. So carrying ID was mandatory and all illegals were detained and subsequently deported. The second reason why I was constantly being stopped by the police is that my physical appearance was subtly but distinctly different from the locals. This is partly because I belong to a particular minority cultural/ethnic group, as described in an earlier chapter and some of us display unusual physical characteristics which distinguish us from most chinese people. I stood out a bit even when walking down the street so the police would pick up on this.
So here I was in Hong kong, broke, unable to communicate and feeling harassed by the police. I was feeling a little lost and despairing. I didn’t know what to do but an advertisement in a newspaper would seem to set my life on a new course.
I was reading the main english language newspaper of Hong Kong, the South China Morning post when I chanced upon an advert from Cathay Pacific airlines. The advertisement was calling for trainee pilots, no experience required. They’d train you up from scratch and then put you into the control deck of a jumbo jet. The advert caught my eye because it was an unusual job to see advertised and also because it took up most of the page. But at first it didn’t really interest me. Being a pilot just wasn’t one of those things that excited me very much. However I saw the salary offered, thought about the opportunities for travel and then I thought about my current situation. There was only one sensible thing to do under my present circumstances. I sent off for an application form.
Soon I found myself spending a lot of time going to and from Hong kong airport where Cathay Pacific airlines had their headquarters. There I had to go through a lot of mental tests, medical examinations and interviews. Just about everything was examined, ones eyes, physical fitness, mental agility and reflexes etc. It was a lot of time consuming hassle but amazingly I managed to pass.
So I got onto the initial stage of the training program and was sent off to do basic flying training. At first I was really quite indifferent about whether I succeeded in completing the training program or not. But as I got deeper into it, I started to really get into the idea of being an airline pilot. It really started to seem like a useful way out of my present predicament in life. I can remember getting quite excited by it all, it seemed that a host of new possibilities were opening up. I can also recall that, in my naivety, I seriously thought that once my training was complete, I could pursue my on going studies into the brain and mind while working full time as an airline pilot. I got the idea in my head that I’d be able to read my neuroscience books while the auto-pilot looked after the plane. I also pictured myself studying scientific papers about the brain and artificial intelligence, in fancy hotels all around the world, in between all the long distance flights. In retrospect, it all seems really silly now, but I was young back then and eager to have it all. So it was with this mindset that I set off for Perth, Australia.
So I found myself living on the grounds of an aerodrome located in a place called Janderkot, which is like a suburb of Perth, Australia. We lived in some pre-fabricated dwellings, a dozen of which were clustered together to house all the cadets who used the aerodrome’s planes and airfields. The daily routine would consist of a couple of flights supervised by an instructor. There was an early morning session and then another one in the afternoon. Also there were classes where we sat in lecture theatres and were taught relevant facts. At first I quite enjoyed it and liked the views from the plane while in the air. It was quite exciting. After the days training was over we would all relax and take it easy. Sometimes we would drive to Perth city centre and look around the place. I recall that we had a barbeque just about everyday and the food was very cheap to buy.
But then something happened which caused my interest in becoming a pilot to start to waver a bit. I can recollect the events which triggered this subtle change of mind set. It was due to my coming across some old magazines which quite inspired me and re-awakened a side of me that had been dormant for a while.It happened like this. One day my fellow cadets and I all drove together to Fremantle which is a nearby town. My impression of the place was that it seemed rather new age and hippy. We went to the town market and I stumbled across a pile of magazines from the late 70s called ‘Omni’. I was an avid reader of Omni in my childhood even though it was quite an adult magazine and a mature read. My Older Brother used to buy it while he was at College and would pass them on to me. The magazine was a mix of technology, science, science fiction, psychology,ecology, arts and spirituality. It used to so inspire me in my pre-teens and used to fill my head with all sorts of weird and wonderful ideas. It definitely had a powerful influence on me during my childhood. Anyway... I bought a dozen or so copies and read through them over the next few days in my spare time. This had the effect of making me introspective and really stimulated the intellectual side of me. I seemed to re-discover my passion for learning and in particular my interest in brain science and artificial intelligence.
Over the past few months, while I was struggling after moving to Hong Kong, my studies into the brain and mind really got sidelined a bit. But now I once again felt an intense motivation to learn about the brain and think about artificial intelligence. I found myself spending more and more time on my own, away from the other cadets. My brain seemed to really come alive with interesting thoughts. When not flying or in the lecture room, I would spend all my spare time reading and thinking about other things. I remember going for long walks in the middle of the night in the countryside around the airfields. The sky always seemed to be clear and the stars looked so bright. My immediate surroundings were really conducive to having focused concentration and so I had a lot of good ideas around this time. This state of affairs continued for a while but then something happened which would change the course of my life once again.
A borderline mystical experience and a message in the Sky
I was on a training flight and coming towards the end of the session. So I was maneuvering the plane, positioning it in order to make the final approach for landing. Everything was going fine but as we approached the runway I got a message from the control tower requesting that I use another runway because the wind had suddenly changed direction. The aerodrome had three different runways, all facing different directions. This was so pilots could avoid landing against strong cross winds, which could make things difficult. Anyway, so I did a lot more maneuvering and got the plane on course to land on one of the other runways. But then again it happened. We got another message from air traffic control telling us the wind direction had changed yet again! So we were advised to use the third runway. All this was a bit disorientating. For the second time I had to maneuver and re-position the plane for a third attempt at landing. While I was doing this a strange thing happened. Very suddenly everything went white and the loud noise of the plane’s engine seemed to fade away into inaudibility.
This may not be widely known but sitting in the cockpit of a small single engine aircraft is a very very noisy experience. During all flights, headphones are worn. This is for two reasons. Firstly to protect the ears and hearing of the pilots. And also in order to allow communication between the occupants of the plane using the intercom system built into the headphones. It would be very difficult to communicate otherwise. But even with the headphones firmly in place, the sound of the engine is still pretty loud. So for things to suddenly go quiet was a pretty dramatic change of perception.
Outside it was a grey and cloudy day but up in the air things still seemed pretty bright. However, along with my hearing going quiet on me, suddenly seeing only white light everywhere was very shocking indeed. I still had a sense of my body and who I was but it was as if I had been transported to some other place. At least it felt that way. It was as if I was no longer in the plane. This state persisted for what felt like several minutes. All the while I could still think. I recall that I was in quite an anxious state. The best way to describe my situation is that what was happening to me was a lot like one of those times when one wakes up in dream, realizing that one is dreaming but is unable to wake up in reality. But then I started to feel completely different. I felt calmer and in less of a panic. After this I felt a strong presence of someone or something and it was communicating with me. It was not talking to me in ordinary language, with words that I could repeat. It seemed to be communicating with me in pure thought. It was as if I was given thoughts to think that were not my own. Somehow these thoughts came from outside of me but were then projected directly into my mind. The message that I received if put into words would be something like ‘Wai, this is not your purpose in life’, ‘Your destiny lies elsewhere’ and ‘You’re needed to carry out a certain role in this World and this isn’t it’. This seemed to go on for quite a while.
Then all of a sudden I snapped out of it. Suddenly the loud noise of the aircraft returned and I see the sky all around me. Through my headphones I could hear the flight instructor saying to me ‘Wakey! Wakey!’. I realized too, that I was hyper-ventilating and also knew immediately that this heavy breathing would be clearly audible to the instructor through the microphone on my headset. God I thought, I’ve really screwed up. Very quickly I snapped back into action and got to grips with controlling the plane again.
I must have seemed passed out or having a seizure of some sort.But judging from where the plane was I couldn’t have been gone for that long. Certainly not more that 10 seconds or so. However it felt as if I had been away from the plane for many minutes, perhaps half an hour but this was impossible. Anyway... I proceeded to land the plane, it was a rough landing as I still wasn’t totally together. After taxiing the plane back to the hanger I went back to my cabin. I was quite shook up and many thoughts were going through my head. I knew that flight was a disaster and would look very bad on my record. I started to become resigned to the fact that perhaps I didn’t have the ‘right stuff’ after all. My hopes of becoming an airline pilot quickly unravelled. I felt despondent and uncertain about my future.
The time came when our performance as cadet pilots was assessed by the airline in consultation with the flight instructors. Sure enough as I expected, I was failed and expelled from the training program. I felt devastated by the decision. It was the first major failure in my life. Even though I never wanted to become an airline pilot until I saw the newspaper advertisement, as I went through the selection process I found myself desiring the position more and more. By the time I arrived at the aerodrome I seriously wanted to fly aeroplanes for a living. But that opportunity was no longer open to me, my ticket to a secure and stable life vanished into thin air. Now in retrospect I can look back on things philosophically, but back then it really felt like a major disaster.
I returned to Hong Kong and feeling a bit of a failure, concentrated totally on my studies into the brain and mind. It was the only thing that could give me real satisfaction and take my mind off things. Immediately on my return I was in a state of melancholy for a bit. I recovered but then when Spring came, the weather turned very miserable. It didn’t stop raining and it started to get very hot and humid. This together with the stresses I was going through already put me into something of a borderline psychotic state. I just managed to keep a grip on things sufficiently to get by on a day to day basis, but sometimes my behaviour would get a little peculiar. In the middle of the night I would sometimes wander about in the country side around the New territories in Hong Kong and think about how the brain worked. Sometimes I would sleep out in the open air. And sometimes I just wandered about all night without sleeping as my head would be filled with thoughts that kept me awake. My mind started working in ways that were completely new to me. I really had a lot of interesting and strange thoughts that my mind would quite spontaneously generate.
During this time and also long after as well, I recall that I would think about the message I received in the sky. However it could give me little help in my predicament but it perhaps did give me a sense that somehow my life had a higher purpose and meaning to it. The strange experience that I had in the airplane back in Australia, probably gave me an awareness of a feeling of destiny. With the benefit of hindsight, I can see now that this almost certainly helped to provide me with the necessary hope which enabled me to go on pursuing my long term aims. However my situation in Hong Kong became very unhappy and it was going nowhere so I decided to return to the UK.