By Bennet Wong and Jock McKeen
Being: A Manual for Life and Joining: The Relationship Garden are now available for sale at The Haven. In this article Ben and Jock describe the context in which they created these thoroughly revised editions of their best-selling books.
We have retired several times, and then returned to new professional endeavours, integrating our previous experiences into our new enterprises. When we met, we were both medical practitioners. Then soon after, we had our first retirement.
Thirty-seven years ago, we closed our practices in Vancouver and moved to Cortes Island to lead our first long-term residential program together. We had thought we would return to the city after three months, and recommence our medical ventures. But we never did. We retired from medicine, and began our new careers as teachers and group leaders. We began to write about our perspectives on health, healing, psychology, life and relationships. At this same time we were immersed in our personal relationship experiment.
We published the first A Manual for Life in 1992, based on papers and articles we had written about our work and ideas. In 1998, we published The New Manual For Life to distinguish it from the earlier, less comprehensive title. Over the years, we have been pleased, but somewhat puzzled, with the positive responses we have had from readers of these volumes. In 1996, we published The Relationship Garden to provide more details about relationships, for our program participants and others interested. Again, we were surprised by the positive responses. We knew the material worked for us, but we didn’t really think we had managed to get the experiential “feel” of what we had learned into print.
When we first wrote them, we were deeply engaged in the process of leading many seminars every year, and running The Haven, wearing many hats. So, the books suffered from not having our undivided attention. Thus, we have been somewhat muted in our own regard about these books, thinking they were still kind of helter-skelter and hodge-podge, and definitely uneven in tone and perspective. But many people reported that they found both books to be helpful references as they investigated their lives in earnest ways. One friend, who owns a B&B in Montreal, showed his enthusiasm by replacing the bedside Bibles with copies of The New Manual For Life!
Our next retirement was in 2004, when we passed our ownership of The Haven into the Haven Foundation. This second retirement was short-lived, since we were soon working with a global telecommunications company based in China, doing training for their 3000 managers around the world. We had been travelling to Asia to conduct seminars since the late 1980s, and many Chinese-speaking people had come to The Haven to attend translated programs. From these experiences, our relationship with Asia had progressively deepened. Then, with our management training globe-trotting, our perspective was again enhanced, on personal growth, on East-West philosophy, psychology and medicine, humanistic business, and just about life.
We retired again in 2008 (we think for the final time!) when Ben became ill. After his successful surgery, we have been living quiet contemplative lives, discussing and reviewing many items. Ben’s granddaughter Katrina arrived in 2009, and we joined the Grandpa league; this has brought richness and changes that perhaps only other grandparents can fully appreciate. Aging and retirement and health challenges are now increasingly familiar territory to us. We are living happily and quite peacefully. We sometimes miss the socializing with our friends and colleagues. But, we are living each day fully, and enjoying our very quiet existence together. So, when we began to work on these “new editions” we came with a substantially broader experience, and a less interrupted focus.
When The Haven offered to make 30th anniversary editions of our two books, The New Manual for Life and The Relationship Garden, we initially saw this as a straightforward revision and clarifying of the texts that would result in two new updates of the previous books. But along the way, something happened, and now instead of merely new editions, we actually have what amount to two new books, dealing with many of the topics of the previous volumes, but in a much more integrated and contemporary fashion.
Unlike the previous volumes which we edited ourselves, this time we have had the careful eyes of Toby Macklin as the editor, and his probing queries brought a fresh look at both works. We had already developed a very fluid and creative working relationship with Toby after his editing of A Book About Health and Happiness and The Illuminated Heart.
This process of thorough revision has been kind of like a housecleaning where you throw everything out into the yard, and then decide what to keep or modify, and where to put the pieces once you keep them. In effect, we pulled the books apart utterly, and gradually put them back together as we want them to be now.
The result is that these two dissimilar books now are of equal size, with the same voice consistently throughout, with only minimal repetition of topics. They are now not separate; they are companions in relationship with each other. The books have become a pair, more integrated with each other, and (we hope!) an easier read. Indeed, they got married to each other. They are now officially a couple!
Just as we personally have changed and developed through our various retirements, the original books are now being retired to make way for the birth of something new. So, these are now new books, focusing on many of the same areas as the first ones, but with a much broader and more seasoned perspective. We chose new one word titles to depict their field of discussion. To show the continuity, we decided to keep the old titles as subtitles, and having new main titles. Now they are Being: A Manual For Life and Joining: The Relationship Garden. After we had settled on this, we noticed that they are the “B and J” books.
Ben’s vision is now limited by macular degeneration. Thus Jock has done most of the writing, in constant consultation with Ben. Jock wrote:
My goal in The Illuminated Heart and in these two new editions has been to accurately and sensitively render the simple, yet profound perspectives that Ben has lived and taught. For me it has been a privilege to live and work with him, and to put into practice what he dreamt up. For indeed, the ideas were largely his at the beginning. I have been an eager learner and adopter, and I do credit myself with diligence and discipline in genuinely living what we taught. But I have always quietly thought that Ben has not received enough acknowledgement for his sage and panoramic vision.
I was happy with the Heart book, and it brought to clarity for me how dissatisfied I have been with the earlier books, which were cobbled together as accretions of papers and presentations, and then “somewhat” edited by myself. After Toby’s sensitive editing in The Illuminated Heart, I really wanted to have this leveled at the earlier books.
Now, as I read and re-read the manuscripts for Being and Joining, I have feelings of relaxation and enjoyment, realizing that we are getting closer in print to how Ben originally uttered a lot of these ideas.
Responding to this, Leanne McIntosh replies:
I like what you write. Being and Joining are love letters. Yes, they render the perspectives Ben lived and taught but it is you, Jock, who is bringing these perspectives into print with ever more clarity. That you do so with heart speaks of the inclusive relatedness that confirms Ben and in so doing confirms yourself and the seamlessness from which each emerge.
We feel very satisfied with these two new B and J books. They address ideas and philosophies that have worked well for us and our relationships. We now feel more confident that they reflect the state of our own lives, both personally and professionally, and we are happy to release them like balloons into the sky for others to see and enjoy.