Reviewed by Antonella Townsend
Like a sponge, a child soaks up other people’s realities. The blank canvass of life is painted on by another’s brush. (p. 257)
The front cover and title, Sex, Drugs and a Buddhist Monk, along with a run-on sub title: A stepping stone towards a silent mind, really does give the game away. Readers certainly do know what to expect. Nevertheless, curiosity got the better of me and it turned out to be one of those ‘once picked up, hard to put down’ books. Its author, Luke Kennedy, was once a nightmare. And, a leader of a gang of fellow nightmares. The kind of young men that the general public would like to see locked up with keys that were subsequently misplaced – forever. However, apparently, people do change.
The back cover informs readers that Luke was an obese, anxious alcoholic and drug user and abuser. As he tells it, he was on the road to some kind of improvement but one last crazy holiday to Thailand almost killed him before saving him from his biggest enemy – himself. The crazy, mindless, testosterone/ego fuelled action will leave calmer readers breathless, and female readers so grateful not to be male. Of course, this action-packed account has to be read, no point recounting any of the hair-raising antics of Luke and his brother Rueben. Of greater interest is why was Luke such a madman, what was wrong with him, what changed him, and, for whose benefit is he writing this. Luke’s story provides insight to these questions.
Reading the first chapter, ‘Loud Mind’, it might occur to the reader that Punchy (Luke’s nickname) was possibly on a trajectory of an attention deficient disorder. He and his cohorts were attacked from within by their own minds, quieted only by alcohol, drugs, and the concentration needed to commit armed robbery. Unsurprisingly, this chaotic life-style ended up in court, where the judge declared that an 18-month good behaviour bond plus a $5,000 fine was his very last chance; a prison sentence would loom large and long should he offend yet again. This motivated Punchy to be a little less punchy, well on the streets anyway, he began to train as a boxer. So, this was the beginning of change, although derailed when his brother persuaded him to take a last big party bash in Thailand. What follows is hair-raising, I can’t go there again. But something good can be gleaned from the most difficult of circumstances.
Luke encounters a monk who, apparently, gave him an experience similar to Scrooge’s ghosts of past, present and future, in Dicken’s Christmas Carol. I was wondering if Luke had wandered into magical realism at this point. Nevertheless, some very interesting observations are made. I particularly liked the comparison between mobile phones and time, both being tools constructed to organise our lives but now shape us often to our detriment. Also, the idea of ditching what doesn’t serve you; friends that are not energising but draining you, or for that matter, books, television programmes and foods. And how being actively grateful for what you do have can improve perspectives on life. There were more life-changing lessons for Luke, or for that matter anyone reading this material. His story illustrates that it is possible to change over-active minds without pharmaceutical help.
Luke is now a motivational speaker inspiring audiences from primary and high schools to businesses and prisons.
By Luke Kennedy
Gelding Street Press