September 30, 2011
Forwards or backwards?
So are you a forward person or a backward person? It's not quite as it sounds.
In a recent interview in Empire magazine, film star Brad Pitt revealed himself as someone who must go forward. 'If I'm walking out the door,' he says, 'and I've forgotten something I can't go back and get it. It is something in my nature.'
And apparently this forward movement extends to his behaviour in the car. 'If I'm driving down a road,' he continues, 'and I miss a turn, I have to keep going forwards. I can't reverse, it's some kind of psychological defect. I don't know the reason why. I don't like to go backwards. It's just not what I'm good at.'
But there are others who are very good at going backwards - even if they wish they weren't. I know a woman who struggles to leave home in the morning. It isn't that she can't wake up, but that she has to check everything before leaving - and then go back and check again just in case.
The anxiety used to focus around the question: 'Did I lock the front door?' Unlike Mr Pitt, she would sometimes return seven times to check. More recently, she began to wonder if she'd turned the iron off. She'd go back again and again to check.
Leaving home was becoming an issue until she came up with a solution: she now takes her iron to work. Brilliant! Though whether this is a long term solution is doubtful. There is the suspicion she'll soon need to be bringing the cooker as well.
The real problem is her distracted spirit which is unable to live in and trust the present; and a distracted spirit soon becomes anxious. If asked to help, I'd suggest some calm breathing before she leaves home and a present commentary like this: 'I am standing in my bedroom. I am turning off the iron. I am now closing my front door. I am locking it.' Focus on your present - and get to work without an iron in your pocket.
Overall, my sense is that forward is our natural movement, confident and free. We can't go back and if we try we fail.
In fact there's only one reason to pause, turn round and retrace our steps - and that's to apologise.
September 27, 2011
Tolstoy on Shakespeare - Ouch!
The famous Globe Theatre on London's South Bank have announced details of a festival that will see all 37 of William Shakespeare's plays performed in 37 languages, from Urdu to Swahili, over six weeks in 2012.
Many will no dobt be pleased but arch Shakespeare-basher Leo Tolstoy would have been furious. Have you heard him on the subject of our national treasure? If not, then sit back and enjoy this extract from my 'Conversations with Leo Tolstoy' published by White Crow. (As ever, the conversation is imagined but Tolstoy's words are all his.)
Tolstoy does not admire Shakespeare; but then perhaps you think he's vastly overrated as well?
WARNING: IT'S A LONG BLOG. PROCEED ONLY IF INTERESTED.
S.P. And so onto Shakespeare, sir - towards whom you show both hatred and contempt. Everyone else loves him; but you beg to differ.
LT: My disagreement with the established opinion about Shakespeare is not the result of an accidental frame of mind or of a light-minded attitude toward the matter. On the contrary, it is the outcome of many years' repeated and insistent endeavours to harmonize my own views of Shakespeare, with those established amongst all civilized men of the Christian world.
SP: But you haven't managed that?
LT: I remember the astonishment I felt when I first read Shakespeare. I expected to receive a powerful aesthetic pleasure, but having read, one after the other, works regarded as his best - 'King Lear,' 'Romeo and Juliet,' 'Hamlet' and 'Macbeth,' - not only did I feel no delight, but I felt an irresistible repulsion and tedium! And I had to wonder: was I the one who was senseless in feeling works regarded as the summit of perfection by the whole of the civilized world, to be trivial and positively bad; or, was the significance which the civilized world attributes to the works of Shakespeare, itself senseless?
SP: You're not averse to disagreeing with the world.
LT: My consternation was increased by the fact that I have always felt keenly the beauties of poetry in every form. So why then should artistic works recognized by the whole world as those of a genius - the works of Shakespeare - not only fail to please me, but be disagreeable to me?
SP: Did you find the answer?
LT: For a long time, I could not believe in myself, and so during fifty years, in order to test myself, I several times recommenced reading Shakespeare in every possible form - in Russian, in English, and in German.
At the present time, being desirous once more to test myself, I have, as an old man again read the whole of Shakespeare, including the historical plays, the 'Henrys,' 'Troilus and Cressida,' the 'Tempest,' 'Cymbeline' - and do you know what?
SP: I think I can guess.
LT: I have felt, with even greater force, the same feelings! This time, however, feelings not of bewilderment, but a firm and indubitable conviction that the glory and genius attributed to Shakespeare unquestioningly - and which compels writers of our time to imitate him and readers and spectators to discover in him non-existent merits, thereby distorting their aesthetic and ethical understanding - is a great evil, as is every untruth.
(Tolstoy then dismantles 'King Lear', piece by savaged piece. Being unacquainted with it myself, I do not pass comment until like a dog putting down a gnawed bone, Tolstoy finally ceases talk of the play, having made the whole thing appear entirely absurd.)
LT: Such is this celebrated drama! However absurd it may appear in my rendering - which I have endeavoured to make as impartial as possible -
SP: - of course -
LT: - I may confidently say that in the original, it is yet more absurd. For any man of our time - if he were not under the hypnotic suggestion that this drama is the height of perfection - it would be enough to read it to its end, if he had sufficient patience. He would then be convinced that far from being the height of perfection, it is a very bad, carelessly composed production, which can not now evoke among us anything but aversion and weariness. And what is more -
SP: - can there be more? -
LT: - every reader of our time, who is free from the influence of suggestion, will also receive exactly the same impression from all the other extolled dramas of Shakespeare, not to mention the senseless, dramatized tales like 'Pericles,' 'Twelfth Night,' 'The Tempest,' 'Cymbeline' and 'Troilus and Cressida.' But sadly, such free-minded individuals, not inoculated with Shakespeare-worship, are no longer to be found in our Christian society. Every man of our society and time, from the first period of his conscious life, has been inoculated with the idea that Shakespeare is a genius, a poet and a dramatist, and that all his writings are the height of perfection.
SP: Doesn't he at least create good characters?
LT: In reading Shakespeare's dramas, I was, from the very first, instantly convinced that he was lacking in the most important, if not the only, means of portraying characters which is individuality of language; the style of speech of every person being natural to his character. This is absent from Shakespeare.
SP: But Falstaff's good fun, surely?
LT: Falstaff is, indeed, quite a natural and typical character; but then it is perhaps the only natural and typical character depicted by Shakespeare. And this character is natural and typical because, of all Shakespeare's characters, it alone speaks a language proper to itself. And it speaks thus because it speaks in that same Shakespearian language, full of mirthless jokes and unamusing puns which, being unnatural to all Shakespeare's other characters, is quite in harmony with the boastful, distorted and depraved character of the drunken Falstaff. For this reason alone does this figure truly represent a definite character. Unfortunately, the artistic effect of this character is spoilt by the fact that it is so repulsive by its gluttony, drunkenness, debauchery, rascality, deceit and cowardice, that it is difficult to share the feeling of gay humour with which the author treats it. Thus it is with Falstaff.
SP: But I know many of our leading actors love to do his plays. Some say it is the height of their profession.
LT: Shakespeare, himself an actor and an intelligent man, knew how to express by the means not only of speech, but of exclamation, gesture and the repetition of words, states of mind and developments; or changes of feeling taking place in the persons represented. This gives good actors the possibility of demonstrating their powers; which is often mistaken by critics for the expression of character. But however strongly the play of feeling may be expressed in one scene, a single scene can not give the character of a figure, when this figure - after a correct exclamation or gesture - begins in a language not its own, at the author's arbitrary will, to volubly utter words which are neither necessary nor in harmony with its character.
SP: But like many people, I own a book of Shakespeare's greatest lines and sayings. They're wonderful!
LT: Thoughts and sayings may be appreciated in a prose work, or in an essay, or in a collection of aphorisms - but not in an artistic dramatic production, the object of which is to elicit sympathy with that which is represented. Therefore the monologues and sayings of Shakespeare, even did they contain very many deep and new thoughts, which they do not, do not constitute the merits of an artistic, poetic production. On the contrary, these speeches, expressed in unnatural conditions, can only spoil artistic works.
SP: So what is the first requirement of an artistic work?
LT: An artistic, poetic work - particularly a drama - must first of all excite in the reader or spectator the illusion that whatever the person represented is living through, or experiencing, is lived through or experienced by himself. Shakespeare is devoid of this feeling. His characters continually do and say what is not only unnatural to them but utterly unnecessary.
SP: And unless I'm mistaken, it's not just literary style. Isn't it also that you find Shakespeare the man immoral?
LT: The subject of Shakespeare's pieces is the lowest, most vulgar view of life. It is a view which regards the external elevation of the lords of the world as a genuine distinction; and which despises the crowd - that is, the working classes. It repudiates not only all religious, but also all humanitarian, strivings directed to the betterment of the existing order. And the most important condition, sincerity, is completely absent in all Shakespeare's works. In all of them, one sees intentional artifice; one sees that he is not in earnest, but that he is merely playing with words. What then signifies the great fame these works have enjoyed for more than a hundred years?
SP: I appreciate your time on this subject. I know it's a discussion you have had many times before.
LT: Yes, many times during my life I have had occasion to argue about Shakespeare with his admirers. And every time, I encountered one and the same attitude toward my objection to the praises of Shakespeare. I was not refuted when I pointed out Shakespeare's defects; not at all! They said only that they were sorry at my lack of comprehension and urged upon me the necessity of recognizing the extraordinary supernatural grandeur of Shakespeare. They did not explain to me in what the beauties of Shakespeare consisted; instead, they were just vaguely and exaggeratedly enraptured with the whole of Shakespeare, extolling some favourite passages: the unbuttoning of Lear's button; Falstaff's lying - or Lady Macbeth's ineffaceable spots!
So there we are. Now - do you agree with Tolstoy's take on the Bard?
'Conversations with Leo Tolstoy is published by White Crow.
September 26, 2011
Planet Earth. Episode 17. London
'Planet Earth' is a good programme but actually quite dull compared to my flat.
We've had mice on my staircase - all six flats teeming with them; some residents are being driven mad just by listening to their scurry and scratch in the walls.
Personally, I've been on the 'mouse case' for some time and with a mixture of intelligence, sticky tape and wire wool (mainly the latter two) I have brought their visits to an end. But aware that they'll be back - they'll always be back - I keep poison in little plastic tubs in strategic mousy places.
But the freeholder has finally been persuaded to pay for a visit from the council anti-rodent squad, the Professionals, and they were around this morning. I got the flint-faced 'Show me to the kitchen' Rhoda - who took a look at my poison pots and sighed.
'They'll have to go.'
This was like asking a king to take down his castle walls.
'It won't work,' said Rhoda. 'Their kidneys have worked out a way to deal with it.'
'Oh I see.'
Now don't get me wrong - I'm all for the wonder and resilience of creation but just occasionally it can be quite irritating. Resilience is good - just not in my kitchen.
So Rhoda's now putting down some new poison which will be more of a challenge to those brilliant little kidneys. And she looks up and asks about ants.
'Do you have ants?'
Is she Mystic Meg??! How could she know? I have rather ghostly, transparent ants in both my kitchen and bathroom.
'Yes, I do have ants. Surprisingly, in my bathroom as well as here.'
'Not surprising, love. They need water like any other animal.'
And there was me thinking they just liked to scrub up of a morning.
'It's no use killing them by the way.'
'No, the queen ant just replaces lost worker ants. Killing them changes nothing.'
'So what's to be done?'
'We have a new poison - the worker ants take it to the queen and it sterilizes her.'
'That's a bit below the belt,' I thought, but I suppose needs must.
Still, my kitchen was beginning to feel a little like Jurassic Park so I decided to lighten the mood.
'Well, at least I don't have any bed bugs!'
'They do downstairs,' mouthed Rhoda, a la Les Dawson.
'The flat downstairs?'
'Yep. And believe me, you don't want them.'
'No, I don't.'
'Well, I must be off,' said Rhoda, checking her last mice poison box, squeezed behind the oven. 'I hope I've put your mind at rest.'
September 22, 2011
Marching to his own tune
One of the little boys I work with is an extremely bright two year old. He enjoys finding out about things and when he becomes focused on a new idea he loves to investigate it fully. He is a unique individual and enjoys marching to his own tune.
This often means he fully incorporates whatever has taken his interest into his play. He likes to dress up, for instance, become a character and act out stories and scenarios. He can find it difficult at lunch time, however, when he needs to give up his costumes, props and special toys.
But together we have reached a compromise, which is this: he will put his special things into a low cupboard that he can open by himself and after his dinner and sleep, he is allowed go and retrieve them.
He has been the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man and the Scarcrow from the Wizard of Oz and even spent time as Dorethey complete with wig.
More recently he has learnt the story of the Billy goats Gruff and uses puppets to retell the story doing a fantastic impression of the big bad troll.
However after a trip with his mum to see the changing of the guard his new interest is now soldiers and marching.
The good nursery teacher can always dredge up a song for every occasion so this week in class we have been marching to the Grand old Duke of York rhyme and learning the song 'Soldier, Soldier will you marry me?'
As part of good nursery practice we take turns to focus on individual children's interests and today I decided to do a little bit of one-to-one work with him. So we went to the office to download some pictures of soldiers, we took our pictures back to the class room and set about making him a marching baton and a bearskin hat. (It's amazing what a carboard tube, an old cereal box and a piece of fur fabric can become.)
He looked at the pictures, helped me with sticking the tape and waited patiently while I sewed the material together at the top.
When we were finished he was delighted with his new costume and couldn't wait to show it off, so he went marching around the school, into the offices and classrooms to show everybody.
He was having a whale of a time and couldn't have cared less when one member of staff pulled me aside and remarked that she felt we shouldn't be encouraging children to march and that somehow she felt it was glorifying war.
At one time someone making a negative remark like this would have upset me, but today my thought was this: how incredibly sad that an adult can put their own issues onto something perfectly innocent!
Here was a little boy enjoying exploring an interest and having fun, but this individual could not see past her own agenda and she certainly could not get into his imaginary world.
What did I do? I carried on marching and singing the Grand old Duke of York at the top of my voice.
Following the example of my two year old friend, I'm learning to trust my instincts and march to my own tune too.
It's simple. Isn't it?
Our teenage years are about throwing off the simplicity of childhood; and adult life, about simplicity's slow recovery.
The unfolding and unfurling young life must complicate; but the adult life must forever simplify.
It was these thoughts which prompted this poem a few years back. I discovered it buried in a box of my old material yesterday, at the bottom of the pile on a very top shelf. So here it is, above ground again and still blinking in the sunlight.
It's called 'One':
Two ideas, but one sun
Three schemes, but one earth
Four seasons, one journey
Five heroes, one source
Six angles, one truth
Seven shallows, one depth
Eight confusions, one rest
Nine rejections, one welcome
Ten noises, one silence
Eleven edges, one centre
A million love songs, one heart beat.
September 21, 2011
Two types of art
I was thinking about the poet WH Auden today.
I remember him saying there must be two types of art:
Escape art - for people need escape as they need food and sleep.
And Parable art - the art that shall teach us to unlearn hatred and to learn love.
It's an interesting way to reflect on the entertainment we choose for ourselves.
And I understand the distinction he's making, but don't believe that ultimately it's true.
Everything is a parable if we have eyes to see and hearts to receive...apart from QVC obviously.
September 19, 2011
Another way of knowing, another way of being
Someone kindly sent me a prayer the other day.
It drew me in, slowed me down and became rather beautiful.
Perhaps it will be beautiful for you; and if not beautiful - you may not be the praying type - then at least time not poorly spent.
It's written by the Australian Michael Leunig who I know primarily through his beguiling, troubled and wondering cartoons. But that's enough biography. Let us to the prayer:
It's called 'The Three-Mile-An-Hour God'.
Dear God, we pray for another way of being, another way of knowing.
Across the difficult terrain of our existence, we have attempted to build a highway and in so doing have lost our footpath. God, lead us to our footpath.
Lead us there where, in simplicity, we may move at the speed of natural creatures and feel the earth's love beneath our feet.
Lead us there where, step-by-step, we may feel the movement of creation in our hearts.
And lead us there where, side-by-side, we may feel the common embrace of the common soul.
Nothing can be loved at speed. God lead us to the slow path; to the joyous insights of the pilgrim; another way of knowing; another way of being.
September 16, 2011
Mozart - as you don't know him
I had a fascinating chat with someone the other day. And it arose from what follows, which is an extract from my 'Conversations with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.'
They had just read this chapter and it had opened some doors for them. I offer it to you in full, including my introduction. As I'm sure you'll know by now, the conversation is imagined, but all Wolfgang's words are his. And some you may not expect.
Is this the Mozart you know?
Intro: I discover many things about Mozart in our brief time together. I meet Mozart the composer, Mozart the son, Mozart the performer, Mozart the victim, Mozart the scathing, Mozart the romantic, Mozart the husband, Mozart the entrepreneur and Mozart the penniless. But beneath all these things is Mozart the eternal child.
It was his sister Nanerl who said: 'Outside of music he was, and remained, nearly always, a child. This was the chief trait of his character on its shady side; he always needed a father, mother or other guardian.'
Certainly you could not be with Mozart for long without experiencing his impish humour. He loves all games, dances and surprisingly perhaps, making masks and costumes. Here is a hyper-active mind, and we played endless games of billiards, none of which I won - despite sensing that even as he chalked his cue, he was composing and orchestrating some some new aria in his head.
I sensed he felt that he had to be happy; that he was not allowed to stay morose, but must always be cheerful and optimistic, with a child's hope in the future. Even when his talk touches on frustration or unhappiness, it's always balanced with a joke and talk of future plans which may make things better. Hope was always around the corner for Wolfgang; and sadness not a choice.
SP: You wrote wonderfully playful letters. Here's one to your cousin.
WAM: Ah yes!
'My dear cousin!
At last I have the honor to inquire how you are, and how you fare? If we soon shall have a talk? If you write with a lump of chalk? If I am sometimes in your mind? If to hang yourself you're inclined? If you're angry with me, poor fool? If your wrath begins to cool? Oh! you are laughing! I knew you could not long resist me and in your favour would enlist me. Yes! yes! I know well how this is, though I'm in ten days off to Paris. If you write to me from pity, do so soon from Augsburg city, so that I may get your letter, which to me would be far better.'
SP: I liked the ending as well.
WAM: 'I must conclude, but don't think me rude; he who begins must cease, or the world would have no peace. My compliments to every friend, welcome to kiss me without end, forever and a day, till good sense comes my way; and a fine kissing that will be, which frightens you as well as me. Adieu, ma chere cousine! I am, I was, I have been, oh! that I were, would to heavens I were! I will or shall be, would, could, or should be - what? - a blockhead! W. A. M.'
SP: Your cousin brought out your playfulness.
WAM: Dearest, sweetest, most beauteous, fascinating and charming of all cousins, most basely maltreated by an unworthy kinsman! Allow me to strive to soften and appease your just wrath, which only heightens your charms and winning beauty, as high as the heel of your slipper! I hope to soften you, Nature having bestowed on me a large amount of softness, and to appease you, being fond of sweet pease.
SP: Though you could be course - not to say rude - as in this one here.
(I pass it to Wolfgang.)
WAM: 'Oh, my arse is burning like fire! I shit on your nose and it will run down your chin! Do you still love me, my dear cousin?'
SP: And surprisingly she did, as did the Cannabichs, with whom you had many a merry night as described in this letter to your father:
WAM: 'I, Johannes Chrisostomus Amadeus Wolfgangus Sigismundus Mozart, am guilty of not coming home until midnight last night - from ten o'clock until the said hour at Cannabich's. I did some rhyming in the presence of said Cannabich, his wife and daughter. Nothing too serious, rather light and frothy actually, nothing but crude stuff, such as muck, shitting and arse licking, all of it in thoughts and words - but not in deeds! And believe me, I would not have behaved so godlessly if our ring leader known as Lisel - namely Elizabeth Cannabich - had not inspired and excited me so much. I must also confess that I thoroughly enjoyed it all.'
SP: And the confession went on; in a rather unapologetic sort of way.
WAM: 'Yes, I confess all these my sins and shortcomings from the depths of my heart; and in the hope of often having similar ones to confess in the future, I firmly resolve to amend my present sinful life. I therefore beg for a dispensation if it can be granted; but, if not, it is a matter of indifference to me, for the game will go on all the same!'
SP: And of course in another letter, your lack of news leads you on to the subject of the lottery.
WAM: 'I am well, thank God! But have no news, except that in the lottery, the numbers 35, 59, 60, 61, and 62 have turned up prizes, so if we had selected these we should have won; but as we did not put in at all, we neither won nor lost, but merely laugh at those who did the latter.'
SP: You do seem determined to be happy. Perhaps that hides some melancholy?
WAM: Not one of those who knows me can ever say that I was morose or melancholy. I daily thank my creator for such a happy frame of mind.
SP: And you looked to your creator for ultimate assurance.
WAM: Oh yes, I live, with God ever before me. I recognize his omnipotence, I fear his anger; I acknowledge his love, and his compassion and mercy towards all his creatures.
SP: And this God is your rock?
WAM: He will never desert those who serve Him.
WAM: If matters go according to his will, then they go according to mine; consequently nothing can go wrong! And I must be satisfied and happy.
SP: The child who must be happy and searches always for the rainbow in the rain.
P.S. Have a good weekend.
September 14, 2011
What is bad language? Reflections on rage.
What is bad language? I was pondering this over the weekend.
Two sporting stars received generous media attention for saying rude things in the heat of battle last weekend. One rant the papers could print and one they couldn't.
The one they couldn't print was delivered by James Haskell, the English rugby player who responded forcefully to his eye being gouged out by a large Argentine forward. And which of us doesn't know how that feels?
Unfortunately for James - though not for the youtube community - his words were picked up by the referee's mic, leading to spluttering apologies from the broadcasters. The papers used all their spare asterisks to record his language rendering the sentence entirely meaningless. I'll ****** you ******* **** *****off my *****ing ****.
Why bother, really? But buried in there somewhere are 'dickhead' and 'cunt'.
After the game, however, he was apologetic as his contrite twitter reveals: 'Just want to say sorry for the bad language. I clearly shouldn't have sworn, bit of pressure out there. Onwards and upwards.'
The following day it was tennis player Serena Williams in the dock during the final of the US Open. Penalised for hindering her opponent with a premature shout, Ms Williams laid into the Eva Asderaki, the match umpire:
'Aren't you the one who screwed me over last time here? Yeah, you are...I truly despise you...you're a hater and you're just unattractive inside...wow, what a loser.'
No need for asterisks here but enough venom to make a cobra proud. Unlike Haskell, however, she felt no need to apologise. 'I don't even remember what I said,' she remarked afterwards. 'I think everyone when they play kind of 'zones out'.
What interests me is that we must asterisk Haskell's venom but not the arguably more poinonous variety of Williams. What strange values we have.
Our fascination with sporting anger presumably arises from the repression of our own. We are both intrigued to see strong feelings let rip and smoothly self-righteous that we are rather more in control of our feelings. In our world, having enemies is not unusual but we tend not to call them by that name. As someone once said to me, 'No, I don't have enemies - people I struggle with perhaps, but not enemies.'
We find it hard to be honest about our hostility. Sometimes people recount a nasty incident to me and I say: 'That must have made you very angry.' But they can rarely admit to anger. 'Oh I wasn't angry,' they reply demurely, 'just disappointed.' Or, 'No, not angry - just sad; sad that they behave like that.'
Sad! Disappointed! Bemused even! Anything but their true emotion of incandescent rage.
So thank God for the spiritual writer Henri Nouwen who wrote candidly about his venomous feelings as he lay in a hospital bed: 'In my mind's eye, I saw the men and women who aroused within me feelings of anger, jealousy and even hatred. They had a strange power over me. They might never think of me but every time I thought of them, I lost some of my inner peace and joy.'
On the whole, I prefer rage expressed to fury in fancy dress; anger revealed rather than congealed. Words out are the beginning of a conversation and perhaps a moment of honest realisation; words kept in tend towards depression and the creation of a phoney and self-righteous persona.
A few asterisks now and then is not the end of the world; indeed, it may be the beginning of one.
September 13, 2011
Like a caged bird free
So at 5.57pm yesterday evening, I finally sent off the manuscript for 'Solitude - recovering the power of alone.'
I'll speak more about the book another time.
But for now, I note only how hard it is to let go.
Left to myself, like a very sick person, I would have gone on tinkering with it until kingdom come...reworking sentences...rejigging dialogue...trying different words...axing sections...adding sections...removing semi colons and replacing them with commas...pondering structure...
That's why I set myself a deadline of 5.00pm. OK, so I was 57 minutes late but it could have been much worse.
It was a struggle but I won. As the little hand approached the six and big hand approached the 12, I wrestled the text from my sweaty grasp - let go, you bastard! - and released it into the air. It flew away like a caged bird free at last.
And now it is no longer mine. It was once but not now. Back then I knew it and nurtured it well. But now? Now it goes cheerful and laughing into the public domain, quite its own person.
Books, like children, must be on their way.
It has outgrown me wonderfully; from here on, it must answer for itself.
September 09, 2011
A different sort of battle
I'm travelling down to Battle today, in Sussex, the site of the Battle of Hastings. 1066 and all that.
But today our battle is not with a Norman invader but with sadness as we say goodbye to Roy.
I'll be taking the funeral of a lovely man whose final years were dragged into the sand by Alzheimers.
I was particularly moved by a farewell written by one of his children:
'If I can be half the man you were it will make me happy. Your alzheimers has been cruel to you these last ten years. I wish I could recall your last true words to me but I can't. Besides you didn't need to say anything - your love was always shown by your actions. I don't know how much you were able to understand but I hope you could see the love that was all around you till the end. You deserved so much more.
As your extended family continues to grow you will be remembered for so much.
GOODBYE DAD... Rest in Peace.'
September 08, 2011
The three things
A friend is writing a piece on the response of those in power to the riots.
He was struggling a bit yesterday so texted me asking for help. What would be the three things I'd say to those in power?
The three things? Did he want me to write the whole piece??
(The 'Mmmm' is not so much me reflecting deeply on the matter but is concerned mainly with whether I can be bothered to reply. You must remember I'm not being paid for this.)
I then wondered what the Desert Fathers would have said.
Probably something like:
'Look. Weep. Live.'
And I'm not sure I can better that.
While you almost certainly can.
September 06, 2011
Jumping off high buildings
I've made the jump, my friends.
(And why, when I'm trying to type 'friends' does it always come out as 'fiends'. It significantly alters the meaning, even if it has its own truth. You'll say its Freudian; and I'll say it's 'Too much, too Jung.)
Anyway, as I was saying, I've made the jump and I'm now free lance again.
I'm not exactly sure what I'll be free lancing at; but that's the adventure. It isn't an adventure if you know the outcome.
'Jumping' is a good image and I'm now thinking of the man who jumped off a 13 storey building and on passing the sixth floor was heard to say: 'Well, it's all going very well so far.'
In a way, I feel purged already. We must all live with our labels to an extent; but we must be wary of becoming too attached to them.
This is why it is good to jump off a cliff now and then. When we're hurtling towards the ground, our various labels don't matter a great deal.
And as I sit here now, mine don't matter at all.
Of course sometimes when we leap off a building we get a nice surprise. I close with a true story that you couldn't make up.
Did you know that a few years ago a man jumped off his balcony determined to end it all but succeeded only in landing in a balcony a couple of floors down?
To cut a short story short, a woman lived there, they met - as she peeled him off the wall - and eventually they married.
(Yes, yes, he fell head over heels in love. Whatever.)
Anyway, I hope its safe landings and happy endings for you today.
September 05, 2011
The Gift of Space
Recently I had the opportunity to house sit for a friend, which enabled me to spend time alone.
As I share a home with two grown up daughters and a grandchild and I also work in a happy but often busy nursery school environment, time alone is not something that I am used to getting. It is far more normal for me to be fighting for quiet moments.
But being given this space really was a beautiful gift and as I felt myself relax and settle into a new routine, I began to notice and become aware of things that were happening inside.
On the eveings that I visited my own home to pick up things, I noticed that I was eager to get back to the uncluttered space of my friend's house, I found that I wanted to spend time alone and this is not something that I was consiously aware of. I knew it was good for me to spend time alone, but I didn't know it was something I actually wanted.
As I became more aware of enjoying this time alone I realised I am no longer frightened of my own company, that I am willing to receive anything that arises. I may not always like it, but I am willing to receive it.
When I am alone I find it easier to listen to what is going on and I can tune into the different messages that arrive in my inner space.
I find it easier to decipher the helpful small clear voice and expose the others for what they are. I can allow them to speak, dismiss them kindly if they are mad. Hold them and heal them if they are hurt. Reassure them if they are anxious or fearful.
When I acknowledge and listen to these voices, they melt away freeing up clear space inside.
Space that is willing to hold all things in a non judgemental way.
Space that welcomes company but does not wish to cling to anything or anyone.
Space that nurtures change and growth.
Space that calms my fears and tempts me to be courageous.
A coming home,
A return to my true essential self, the one that existed before the world got her claws into me.
In space my need to cling to false identities disapears and I do not need to be known as someones daughter, mother, teacher or friend.
These relationships and others are still there but I do not need them to feel good about myself.
I am recovered and known, I am content with simply being, I feel at one with all and my natural balance is wonderfully restored.