June 29, 2010
Something so strong
A woman told me a story this weekend, and it stays with me. There's something unresolved here, yet something so strong.
When she was younger, this wonderful woman knew a priest who had worked on the Burma road in the war and still bore the scars, a broken man in many ways. He took her with him when he went on a difficult parish visit.
His churchwarden had just lost two sons in an accident on the beach. The children had been digging tunnels in the dunes and the sands fell in on them.
The mother and father were distraught. The churchwarden had only one question: 'Why the hell has this happened to us?'
And the vicar? The vicar said 'Why the bloody hell shouldn't it happen to you?'
And then he hugged him; hugged him tight.
This incident is probably not in any manuals of pastoral care. And maybe only a priest who had been broken on the Burma road could say it.
Something unresolved, certainly, yet something so strong.
June 25, 2010
Just had to respond to some of Marzena's queries about the Solstice. May day or Beltane is the first day of summer when the animals were taken up to the shielings or summer pastures and general fertility and friskiness is celebrated all over the rural parts of British Isles in May day processions and fairs still so the Solstice is mid-summer. At the celebrations of both Solstices, which I celebrate, the beginning of the new journey of the Sun is part of the celebration. So at the Winter Solstice we think about the coming light. It does feel odd when it is so dark and likewise in the Summer to think about the darkness when most of us haven't had our holidays yet.
For me though, this year especially, to hold the outward extravagant outrageous Summer energy together with the beginning of the Sun's waning journey towards the shortest day and darkest time in those few days of stillness when the Sun is still before the turn was incredible. At the still point both the dark and the light are held. I was telling this to a friend who said that St Ignatius said the same - when in consolation do not forget your desolation and when in desolation do not forget your consolation. This is so true in my experience. I also love it that stillness is written into the patterns of nature. The sun standing still (Sol-stice) before the turn, so do the tides before they turn.
Like Marzena and like some other folks I've spoken to, whatever is going on in our lives the sun around 21/22 seemed to bring about unlooked for moments of joy and happiness which I welcome along with a bit more stillness!!
June 22, 2010
I have been truly happy today. My reason? Nothing really, just a bit of longed for warmth and sunshine on my skin. Or is it too much to ask and expect in this new age of austerity.
Summer Solstice, Midsummer's Day, beginning of Summer, longest day of the year..
What I find puzzling is how confusing all this is. How can a 'mid- summer' day be also the first day of that summer. What's more: if it's the longest day, then surely it's downhill from here, at least with regard to the amount of light. So more like the beginning of the end, really.
Anyway, faced with a huge budget deficit of my own, and hence no fancy holidays this year, I hope there will be more happy days like today this coming (or is it going?) summer in London.
And today, there is still time for a glass of Pimm's before the sun goes down. True bliss..
June 21, 2010
It is what it is
Well, we finished the Mozart recording in a couple of days, with Andy Havill putting in a great performance, along with the Pawel on sound. We also had the film crew in one morning, producing a little video for youtube which will be out soon. (I was three hours in make-up. I was the opposite of Spock. They were trying to make my ears less pointy.)
Did you know that Mozart found it so hard to find work that for a while, he took to composing music for a clock maker; music played on tinny little pipes inside the clock. It sounded really terrible, and something of a come down for the genius who'd written for orchestras and choirs across Europe. But it paid a little money to a man in debt to most of the people he knew.
On Saturday, I was speaking at 'The Tree of Life' festival in Silsoe, Bedforshsire. Silsoe is an ancient little village, but miles from anywhere, apart from fields, and the organisers struggled to attract the crowds they hoped for. The publicity suggested it was the biggest event in the world, but the reality was something different. Whatever the throng were doing that day, they weren't doing it anywhere near Silsoe.
Punters were outnumbered by stall holders, who included among their ranks a remarkable number of palm readers, under-employed and twiddling their thumbs - instead of someone elses.
I enjoyed my time with the little group that came to keep me company, however. Whatever the circumstances, people are people are people; and all of life, however diminsihed in appearance, quite perfect.
'It is what it is' as people kept telling the depressed organisers, in a kindly fashion.
June 17, 2010
The cadences of Mozart
I'm in the recording studio today. There yesterday, back today, recording the audio version of my book 'Conversations with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.'
Its a fascinating conversation; but never would you guess that this rather unaware individual could reach down inside him and produce the beautiful cadences he did.
Our cramped and fearful presentation of ourselves belies the music beneath; melodies of our own in arias of sadness and joy.
Can you hear them?
June 13, 2010
Some bloggers are like buses - nothing for ages, then two of the same arrive together.
But this is just the Way (it is), or as the Taoist would say - the Tao. Speaking of which, I like this Chinese story by the Taoist writer Lieh-tse:
"A man noticed that his axe was missing. Then he saw the neighbour's son pass by. The boy looked like a thief, walked like a thief, behaved like a thief. Later that day, the man found his axe where he had left it the day before. The next day he saw the neighbour's son, the boy looked, walked, and behaved like an honest, ordinary boy."
I try to remember this story, whenever, in the grip of illusion of Perception, I feel that my life sucks. Then the next day, the same old life seems to me perfectly liveable and even charmed. The same marvellous old life .. that simply just.. IS.
Treatise on emptiness
In the bookstore yesterday, a poem found me - quite accidentally, but perhaps not surprisingly - in the poetry section.
It is by Adam Zagajwski, one of my favourite poets, and it goes:
"In a bookstore I accidentally ended up at the section on Tao, or more precisely, by the Treatise on Emptiness. I rejoiced, since that day I was perfectly empty. What an unexpected meeting - the patient finds the doctor. The doctor doesn't speak."
Now I'm looking forward to a perfectly empty evening, with just a bit more Zagajewski in it, perhaps.
Here is another brilliant line from him, which makes me chuckle : "There is nothing worse than another's ego". Ah, MY ego.. that's quite something else..
June 12, 2010
The patron saint of therapy
I've recently had cause to be immersed in the various gospels which record the life and words of Jesus. So I've been with pieces of work nominally attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Thomas, Philip and Mary Magdalene
As we know, in terms of authorship and creation, the gospels are not straightforward affairs; and so the search for Jesus within them is not straightforward either. Each of the writers has 'their Jesus'.
Where does this leave us today? Most will find in these gospels a remarkable figure; but as for the exact nature of his genius, they may differ, finding in him what they need to find for themselves.
The Gospel of Thomas, unlike the four canonical gospels, makes no attempt to tell the story of jesus' life, but is rather, a collection of sayings. Many of these echo those found in Matthew, Mark and Luke; but many others do not. Some believe the gospel of Thomas is the earliest gathering together of Jesus' teaching.
Why am I saying all this, most or all of which you wll already know? Well, my verse of the week has come from Thomas, (famous for doubting) as it relates so accurately to much of my work as a therapist:
must continue to search
until they find.
When they find,
they will be disturbed;
and being disturbed, they will marvel
and will reign over all.
In my experience, there are many who like to search; and then there are quite a few who find. But then of course comes the disturbance; disturbance at what they find. And this really does weed out the genuine from the pretend. Once disturbance is reached, many want to retreat, try something else. 'This obviously isn't working!'
So they close up, get angry, close down, withdraw, and tell themselves stories how they always thought this would happen etc etc...
But for those able to live the disturbance, walk through the wall of fire, allow the dissonance, for brave people such as this, the marvel, the wonder - and of course they reign over all.
Is Thomas the patron saint of therapy?
June 04, 2010
On its birth certificate: Field
Re-employed as a waterer of parks now the rain has stopped, I was yesterday hosing just south of Kings Cross station.
In 1710, it was a field some distance from London, bought by two churches to be a graveyard. It was a novel idea to have a grave yard away from the church and burials initally were minimal. People wanted to be buried next to the church, like folk always had been.
Fortunately, in 1725, a rich type died and was buried there, and after his lead, others followed suit. 'If its good enough for him...' etc etc. Indeed they followed suit with such gusto that by the mid 1800's, the grave yard was full, and the burials had to stop.
By now, of course, it wasn't a field outside London at all, but a graveyard surrounded by buildings, and one wise soul thought that it would make a nice little park for the locals. This idea was popular, not least because the graveyard had fallen into serious disrepair, as graveyards often do. The dead struggle to be heard on the matter of upkeep.
And here it is today, still a park, looked after by Camden Council, and changed very little from the initial design of 1860.
Still a field, still a graveyard, still a park, still a glory - ahh! We are so many things in our unfolding lives.
June 02, 2010
Music to my ears
I went to see the violinist Nigel Kennedy doing a gig at the Royal Festival Hall at the weekend. He turned up - in accordance with time-honoured rock concerts tradition - 40min late, but the performance was worth waiting for.
Its theme was Chopin, in both classical and modern interpretations by Chopin Super Group led by Kennedy. Not for purists or people who claim to only listen to 'classical' music then.
The genius of Kennedy (apart from his astounding talent and virtuosity, obviously) is that he defies any attempts to label him. Classically trained, with brilliant and bestselling recordings of major violin concerti, sell-out concerts all over the world etc., he was keen in his youth on trashing hotel rooms and generally behaving irreverently. But that irreverence is much more interesting when applied to not respecting the categories or boundaries between different kinds of music, rather than not respecting social norms. The latter can be tiresome and boring.
In Kennedy's world there is no Classical Music, or Jazz Music or Schmazz Music. There is only Music and he feels free enough to mix and mingle as he sees fit. The result was an exhilirating celebration of Chopin's music that ended with a rock rendition of Polonaise in A-flat major. Let's do the 'fucking Polonaise' a bit better, said the clearly enjoying himself Maestro, as a prelude to an encore.
Believe me, there was nothing flat about it!
June 01, 2010
What I'm doing waving at your window
I'm not sure if I'm fit for purpose, but I'm here. Just don't expect too much. (Fill in your own raspingly dismissive response.)
And the cause of my emotional disshevilment? In the last couple of days, I've finsihed the first rock-breaking draft of 'Conversations with Jesus of Nazareth'; done a Church Times piece the Mind Body Spirit festival; worked on and sent off the next six 'One Minute Mystics' for the Daily Mail; and got a quarter of the way through the last draft of 'One-Minute Mindfulness' for Hay House.
So yes, I'm a spent force, emotionally; and a poorer one also, because I should have been earning today, watering the London parks. But with rain forecast, I was fired at about 6.30 this morning. This was entirely wise. The 'Lonely figure with hose in park as the rain pours down' scenario is both sad and pointless.
So today, I'm doing nothing more than saying hello; it's enough for me to stagger to your street, find your home, and wave heartily, while looking for a slight movement of your curtains. Yep, definite movement. Hello!
If you're out, or staying hid inside, I'll leave a note.
But I was here, on the first day of June, half-sane but whole-hearted, and wishing you a good evening.