Posted by Simon Parke, 15 July 2021, 9.20am
There are many ways to reflect on our lives.
One way is to consider the what, the how and the why of it all. I recently blogged about it here.
To recap, the ‘what’ of my life is what I want to be? What do I see as my offering to the world?
The ‘how’ of my life is how I will bring this vision to life in the world? Where and in what will my aspirations be embodied?
The ‘why’ of it all doesn’t seem immediately important.
But the ‘why’ is here only for our protection; to make sure that our vision is actually ours and not a dull echo of someone else’s.
So now, I use this model myself; sometimes it’s good to pause and take stock. Your story will be a great deal more interesting.
But here’s a bit of mine…
What do I do?
The What of my life - and sometimes its good to simplify - is reflection on the exchange of energies, within ourselves and in the world beyond.
Bored already? I agree – such transactions are not hugely sexy or apparently relevant, as my withered fan base painfully reveals. (Note to self: childhood abandonment issues on display here, Simon.)
But I am what I am and what I am is a sail in the wind of human transactions. This starts with what I do to myself; what I do to others and what others have done to me and presently do to me.
But it doesn’t end there.
This constant exchange of energies has long fingers, touching the psychological, the spiritual, the social and the political. It touches family, work, friendships and governments.
In fact, the story of the forces at work within us spills all over the place, happily and unhappily, brutally and kindly.
Nothing is beyond the reach of this energy exchange. We do need to mind the space within us and between us.
What transactions are occurring as my boss speaks, as my mother speaks, as a colleague speaks, as the government minister speaks? Are they life-denying or life-giving? Helpful or unhelpful? Abusive or kind? Manipulative or free? Key question: how do they make me feel?
For better or worse – and it is sometimes worse - I have a gift of discernment in this territory.
So the ‘what’ of my life is being a boatman on the river of transaction which runs with such power through our world, bringing both life and death; desolation and joy.
How do I do it?
The How of my life? In a profound sense, I have no idea; because I am not in control. I’ve given up on that.
But without my planning - in fact, almost behind my back - life has somehow created outlets for me to ponder and work with these themes.
At different times, this has been through satire, priesthood, parenting, counselling, retreats, workshops and writing – both fiction and non-fiction.
Satire and priesthood are largely behind me now, though nothing is ever completely left behind. (And I’d return to Spitting Image in a heartbeat, if the door opened.)
But instead, here I am, CEO of The Mind Clinic, which takes safe, confidential and insightful listening into organisations of all descriptions.
And here I am seeing people privately, Zoom or face-to-face; and off to lead a retreat next week. And none of this was ever my game plan.
The one-to-one therapy space, like the retreat space, is for individuals to reflect on, and work through, the transactions taking place within them selves.
These will inevitably impact on their relationships with others and, if they have one, with their God.
How can you know God if you do not know yourself? Answers on a post card…
Family transactions are a key part of this investigation, one that has been critical for me; and not always easy.
Life is difficult.
And I continue with the ‘How’ in my non-fiction writing. This includes books like The Journey Home, Solitude, The Enneagram and One Minute Mindfulness. These offer insights and meditations towards the discovery of the forces at work inside us.
My novels – like the Abbot Peter mysteries, Pippa’s Progress, The Soldier, the Gaoler the Spy and her Lover and The Secret Testament of Julian – are similarly interested in the dynamics taking place within characters; dynamics which become their behaviour, both delightful and murderous.
The energies within Oliver Cromwell, Charles 1 and Julian of Norwich, for instance, have significant impact on their decision-making; and their decisions affect history.
Oh, and then there’s Jesus! Giving Jesus an interior life was key to my recent novel, ‘Gospel, Rumours of Love.’ What transactions occurred within this most remarkable of men? What was the source of his resilience? And the source of his laughter?
Apart from Buddha and a few other honourable exceptions, historical lives were largely unexamined by those who lived them. It wasn’t a thing then. But to be honest, that’s true of most present day lives as well; it isn’t a thing now, either.
How I proceed in life is never certain. I wish it were otherwise but it isn’t. Nothing I have planned for my life or striven for has happened. My rejection/failure record is remarkable for its length and my disappointments too humorous to mention. (Note to self: this self-pity is OK, Simon, but don’t stay there. It rots resilience.)
All that has occurred has simply arrived at my door or been called into life by others; mainly the latter. As I say, I am not in control.
I would like a plan and the sense of identity that brings; but tomorrow doesn’t exist so a plan must wait; as must my identity.
This is the how so far. But who knows about tomorrow?
Why do I do it?
The Why of it all - in an echo of my own faltering journey - is awareness and freedom; one is the path to the other.
It is about us coming home to ourselves and to the world; no longer a stranger or enemy to either.
Awareness matters because we cannot say goodbye to something until we have said hello to it. What is hidden from our sight, whether by repression or simple familiarity, cannot be released. And there is much we do well to release.
Freedom arises as we begin to unhook ourselves from a treadmill of unhelpful transactions, both inner and outer.
And sometimes a sense of our glory breaks free – though this is gift, and nothing to do with me. I have known it, however, such gift has shaped me; and I have seen it in others – I am a witness to remarkable transactions for health.
Prisons walls do fall. And that’s why I do what I do…because prison walls fall; because part of me has been saved from the flames and is hopeful.
That’s way too much about me, however.
What’s your what, how and why?