HomePublicationsThe Tracker MagazineVol 2, No. 1, Winter 1983

The Tracker Magazine - Vol 2 No. 1, Winter 1983

An Analysis of Tom Brown Jr.
By Jim Spina

The old state roofed barn creaks arthritically in the late spring breeze while swallows flutter and sing away their nesting chores. The scent of wood smoke, cedar, and musty old barn wood pervades the air. Out on the black-topped highway sleepy morning commuters wind their way toward smoky city caverns while silver jetliners soar above dark-feathered hawks and vultures. The cars and airplanes create strange juxtapositions of movement against the rural landscape. Inside the barn, all present have been welded together into one mass of spirit and brotherhood. The thirty-five men and women seated before the speaker are enraptured and silent against the hardwood-planked floor. The speaker is a tall man, his suntanned body covered only by a pair of old, faded bluejeans. As he speaks he paces, barefoot and catlike, in front of his audience. He is like a caged wolf but his movements add strength to his words and his piercing blue-gray eyes flash with the fervor of his intensity. The air is electrified with expectation, even the barn swallows become mute as they succumb to the force and power of the moment. The ancient and decaying barn is not immune from the feeling, for as its spirit is consumed and becomes one with the earth, so too does it become one with the speaker, transferring to him the power and wisdom of the earth through the boards under his feet. And likewise does the speaker share this wisdom and knowledge with all who sit within the ancient one. The wonder and magic flows through everything, for all have contributed - the earth, the ancient old barn, the speaker and the audience - and now they are as one.

The above, only partially describes the daily atmosphere at the Tom Brown School. To relate each student’s own personal reactions would encompass many volumes, for each person arrives at the school with his own unique personality and experimental contributions, and leaves much more self-enriched, a more total being. People on the outside describe it as an almost magical aura surrounding students of Tom Brown's School. If any one reaction can be said to be universally shared, it is, perhaps, the feeling of brotherhood that develops among students and between the students and Tom Brown. The normal masculine compulsion to compete with other men quickly melts away and is replaced by a oneness of spirit between Tom and his male students. Women, too, are drawn to Tom Brown, as he speaks, for the fire of his message reaches everyone at heart level. Many students find that they cannot experience this melding of spirit anywhere else in their lives, even among their closest family members. People do tend to blend close together at the school, and for some it may be the first time in their lives that they can talk with other people who "really understand" them. It is not very hard, in our modern society, to be lost and alone in a crowd of "friends", for the world seems intent on losing itself on steadily narrowing materialistic trails.

During my few visits to the Farm in Asbury, I have taken the time to speak with many brothers and sisters attending the courses. Through these conversations it has become apparent to me that people are very much satisfied with the courses and the quality of instruction. If there is any one underlying dissatisfaction I have detected among a few, it is the relative inaccessibility of Tom to the students while at the school and at times when they have met him on his lecture tours. Complaints have ranged from: "When I took the course I thought I'd have more time to speak with Tom alone"; "He didn't even recognize me when I met him at my college"; "He seemed so distant and aloof". How can these situations come about? How can the same Tom Brown that almost mesmerizes the class with his warmth and brotherhood ignore or not recognize a former student? The answers to these questions may not be too readily apparent unless we give the matter some close thought and move ourselves around to Tom's side of the Medicine Wheel.

Let us begin with Tom's inaccessibility at the school. We all arrive at the school with our own unique lives behind us. We have read Tom's books and already feel a kinship to the man and his precepts. Through his books we have begun to feel as though we have known him all of our lives. In essence he has become very special and close to us before we ever get to meet him. Now we find ourselves in a classroom with 30 to 40 other people, each of whom feel that same burning "closeness to Tom Brown, and that same "need" to see him alone. Realistically, this would be an almost impossible task, even for Tom Brown. Were Tom to grant each student even one hour alone with him would take him almost 40 hours to accomplish with a class of average size. Any important ideas that may arise during this one-to-one conversation would be deprived of class interaction, which is so very important for true learning to be achieved. The person peaking with Tom "may" learn an hour's worth of knowledge that the class would lose but he would then lose all the time taken by his fellow students. The loss to all would be far greater than any possible good to be gained. Also, we must bear in mind the fact that Tom Brown has a family and is entitled to his private life. Tom is a very busy man, being constantly besieged by commitments from people all over the country. He is able to set in little enough time for relaxation with his family as it is, and we should not ask him for more time for us. It is true that we all share a brotherhood of our minds, but we must always remember that Tom, like each of us, is an individual first - then he belongs to us. If we don't allow him to be worthwhile to himself he cannot be anything worthwhile to us.

To find the answer to why Tom may seem distant and fail to recognize a former student, we must begin with what we know of his personality. Tom Brown is an extremely intense person, especially when he is speaking before a group. We can see this intensity bear fruit during his lectures which evoke vivid mind pictures of his knowledge and experiences. Tom precedes even a routine lecture at the school with much mental preparation. His mind becomes focused solely upon bringing forth any and every facet of expertise he can render his students. During these preparatory times he becomes almost oblivious to his family and friends and may even become annoyed if a disturbance breaks his train of thought. Tom's intensity is nurtured by his personal dedication and spiritual devotion to both his subject and his students, which may seem a contradiction if he fails to acknowledge a student by name or seemingly ignores another, but this can be explained and understood in view of his single focused, almost trance-like state of mind during a lecture. We must also remember that almost 10,000 people have attended classes at the Tracker School; add to this the countless number of people who have attended his outside lectures or met Tom since The Tracker was published and you only begin to realize the enormous number of people who expect Tom to know them. We must always bear in mind that Tom Brown is human and subject to human faults. We cannot expect him to be able to remember over 10,000 names and faces just to assuage our feelings.

We who share Tom Brown are very fortunate because we also share a very unique perception of the earth and its creatures. This perception has been enhanced by Tom’s teachings, but for most of us it developed from within a long time ago. This is the real reason for our strong affinity toward Tom and his School. This makes us all very special brothers and sisters, but we must bear in mind that Tom's uniqueness and our special brotherhood is always overshadowed by the Great Spirit and our Earth Mother. Our respect and dedication must always be directed first to them. Tom Brown is only a very gifted teacher, bestowed with the universal gifts of skill and knowledge that were once common to all men but have since been erased by civilization. We should not attempt to award sainthood to him. His importance comes from what he teaches, although it is sometimes all too easy for many of us to took toward him as some kind of prophet just because our hearts tell us that he teaches truth. For us to blindly follow or expect superhuman feats from a man can be a dangerous path to tread. We must always keep things in perspective. The strong sensations felt by many of us come from the depths of our spirits as we approach our oneness with the natural world. From us will come the keys that unlock the doors to the lost culture of the Native Americans, for the natural laws we are just now discovering have been around since the dawn of time. They have lain dormant for too long and now are shouting to be heard above the din of our cities. The spirits of the New World have been abused for too long and must be placated by our respect and reverence before they can begin to act in our behalf. Tom Brown teaches this reverence and respect, and we can feel the spirit world responding as we learn.

We must always remember that what we've learned is a valuable asset that should be shared by everyone. It is strong medicine that can awaken the spirits that have slept for centuries and these spirits will reward us and our future generations. We feel these spirits stir and move when we learn to "really see" the world around us in its harmony and splendor. Observing the wonders of a glorious sunrise or a majestic waterfall give us all strong emotional feelings. At Tom Brown's School we learn to see the same wonders in an ant walking across a dewdrop-speckled leaf. At such times we come the closest to the Great Spirit, and we subconsciously strive to repeat these wondrous experiences. Tom Brown and his School are our windows to these glimpses of the power and works of the Great Spirit, but we must remember to keep him within this context, for, like a glass window, he too is fragile and can be destroyed by abuse or misuse.

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