Of Scottish stock he was born in Pennsylvania during WWII to two farm kids from Kansas who chose to leave home and seek the world in Chicago, New York City, Doylestown, PA and finally Chapel Hill, NC with a brief sojourn to DeLand, FL. His father was the first college graduate in his line and became an engineer building airport runways up and down the East coast of the USA during WWII, while his mother kept the home fires burning.
John was raised in the bosom of a liberal college village eventually emerging as the huge institution of UNC we see today as one-third of the Research Triangle comprised of Duke University at Durham and NC State University in Raleigh. However, as an only child he was left to his own to create friendships and socialized behavior which has continued to be a challenge based on early conditioning from parents who knew no other way than the isolation of farm life and fear of appearing to be weak by expressing love and gentleness, ad infinitum back past generations. Early involvement with music helped John find his way to first feelings of self worth and the approval of his peers while his dad had difficulty expressing love or approval of his son as did many fathers of his generation. Alcohol also became an issue clouding familial happiness.
The local airport proved to be John’s safe place, where from the age of twelve, he would hang out and develop a visceral relationship with the machines waiting quietly in the big hanger. Isolation became tolerable, in fact, preferable to the darkness found in his home across town. At fifteen, John was sent to a boarding school after a bully made his life unbearable. This turn of events opened the door to many opportunities and perhaps even a slim glimmer of self-love after quitting football and organizing a pep band and playing popular music on the piano. However, coed socialization was devoid and after graduating, he flunked out of his first year of college in favor of more music, alcohol, and partying.
Suffice it to say, John was well on his way to eventual cataclysm after suffering two early divorces and another thirty years of living alone and looking good while slowly dying inside. Five years of Jungian therapy starting at age 30 kept the suicidal bear away from the door while shifting from alcohol to cannabis/cocaine as drugs of choice.
Then, after testing positive in a FAA mandated drug screen and suffering the loss of everything including his airline pilot credentials in 1995 at the age of fifty-one, John came to live with his widowed mother while finally establishing a path to recovery with fervent twelve step work and a job making ninety calls a night in telemarketing of real estate. He soon found his own apartment and four years later, after working his own HIMS* recovery program, he resumed his aviation career including requalifying as an FAA check airman and flew on forest firefighting missions for ten seasons while resuming his interest in music and creating an album entitled Vintage Café Society Blues.**
The purpose of this expose' is to show credibility from life experience and subsequent education within several recovery modes and concomitant work. Gifted teachers appeared and much was gratefully absorbed while beginning to give back some of what had been received through offering twelve step sponsorship and becoming a principal actor in an annual production of a very successful community theatre Holiday show – now his twenty-fifth year.
So, now comes the next chapter – creating a safe space for himself and others to find light and love while accepting fears and suffering as markers along their chosen path. To embrace the absolute Wonder of It All and the unknowing freedom we can grant ourselves in search of the divine within everyone and everything – starting with ourselves.
*FAA approved Human Intervention Motivation Study, a certified recovery pathway back to the cockpit.
**Vintage Cafe Society Blues - available in the Big John Shearer section of this website.