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The Original "Getting Real"

The Original "Getting Real"
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Sunday, 29 March 2009

No Man Is An Island

It's fascinating to think that all over the world there are 'pockets' of people who devote themselves to following their own spiritual paths and sending out messages of peace and harmony. From the African, Native American Indian, and Aboriginal peoples, following the paths of their ancestors, to the monasteries of Asian Buddhists and the European communities from Taize and Lourdes to the witches of Glastonbury - people, following different routes all seem to come from the same Source and to the same experiences. The mystics of all faiths and all ages say the same thing - whether they follow Tarot, Tantra, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Paganism or any other faith - the true mystics speak only of what comes from within, not without. These people are the ones, I am sure, who are far better equipped to see us through the changing times than all the politicians who come and go, spouting and speaking and saying nothing. The silent ones speak so clearly. In their silence they speak of the unity of people in way that is very different from socialism or communism or control. The noise of politicians is a cacophony. The silence of those following the paths of ancestors or their own hearts, is the music of the spheres, that unites everything. The superficiality of noisy speeches and telling other people they somehow need someone else to take control, is so meaningless, like the Tower of Babel. And yet, we all live in the same world, with the cacophony and with the beauty; with the grabbing and with the giving; with the frightened people telling us to be afraid, and the truly unafraid telling no one to do anything because they trust what we all know in our hearts anyway. And, we're all in it together, and the whole working out of it all is beautiful! In the spiritual places, it's all so obvious that no one is denied; no one is outcast and there is absolutely nothing to fear.

To quote John Donne: No Man Is An Island - and everyone, therefore, is vital to the whole works!
No man is an island, entire of itself
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main
if a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were,
as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were
any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls
it tolls for thee.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Lark Rise to Candleford

How beautiful is the BBC version of "Lark Rise To Candleford", and how Sunday evenings are not the same since the last series finished a couple of weeks ago! The programme appeals on so many levels. There is humour - some of which makes you laugh out loud - and there is beautiful scenery, always a problem that seems insoluble but that is always solved one way or another, and a whole host of truly intriguing characters. But there's something else, too. There's a popular idea that somehow 'good' is dull and 'evil' is fascinating - hence the plethora of increasingly gory murders and violent films and programmes. In 'Lark Rise..." however, there are no real 'baddies' and yet it is endlessly interesting. There are all human foibles of the kind we meet everyday - jealousy, snobbery, gossip, nosiness, drunkenness and excessive piety - but they are treated so gently as the characters are so endearing. The long-standing rivalry between Lark Rise and a neighbouring village was sorted out not by violence but by the villagers of Lark Rise approaching their neighbours with gifts. Yet, the humour prevents this from being a sickly-sweet piece of piety. Deep psychological and timeless issues are brought into play, and the simple wisdom of the 'old wives' with their cures and their understanding are presented so beautifully.
It's small wonder that this series is so popular nowadays when it appeals to something deep within us that harks back to a time of communities of people caring for one another; respect for the land and the old customs; the gentleness that lies in all of our hearts. Congratulations times a million to the makers of so beautiful a programme! Roll on the next series!

Monday, 23 March 2009

Shakespeare's Sonnets

Shakespeare's sonnets are so filled with psychological insight, aren't they? This one, I think, is one of the best!

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

"I Do Not Love Thee"

The first poem I ever learned by heart was from Palgrave's Golden Teasury by Caroline Norton. I still love this poem...

I do not love thee! - no! I do not love thee!
And yet when thou art absent I am sad;
And envy even the bright blue sky above thee,
Whose quiet stars may see thee and be glad.

I do not love thee!- yet, I know not why,
Whate'er thou dost seems still well done, to me:
And often in my solitude I sigh
That those I do love are not more like thee!

I do not love thee!- yet, when thou art gone,
I hate the sound (though those who speak be dear)
Which breaks the lingering echo of the tone
Thy voice of music leaves upon my ear.

I do not love thee!- yet thy speaking eyes,
With their deep, bright, and most expressive blue,
Between me and the midnight heaven arise,
Oftener than any eyes I ever knew.

I know I do not love thee! yet, alas!
Others will scarcely trust my candid heart;
And oft I catch them smiling as they pass,
Because they see me gazing where thou art.

Friday, 20 March 2009


March 20th made it seem necessary to turn this room from its wintry blue to a brighter daffodil sort of shade for the first day of spring. Who decides what names to give paints? What it says on the tin is rather confusing - the 'golden yellow' I first tried, turned out to be a sort of muddy brown. 'Surf' is very dark blue (which is lovely) and various other blues were more purple than anything else. Other colours are more vague - like 'Biscuit' (what kind of a biscuit, a bright pink iced biscuit? A chocolate digestive? A Garibaldi spotted with currants?). Eventually, the room became rather coast-like with the sand and sea merging (because I can't paint straight lines!).

Nature - like the beautiful butterfly on Andre Hilliard's photograph - is filled with such a cornucopia of colour at this time of year, which is so striking after the black and white winter. I wonder, though, does everyone see the same colours as we look at them? Is my green, the same as your green? Is my blue your yellow, and your red my black? Interesting, too, how colours aren't there when there is no light on them. In the darkness, there are no colours, so perhaps there are really no colours at all - only light reflected in different we bring out the light in each other, and as, without the light of our spirits within us, we are dull and empty.

Ah well, my keyboard is speckled with yellow and blue but if I turn out the light, it won't be there!

Joan Baez read, on one of her records, a beautiful poem by Yevtushenko, called "Colours". How beautiful it is!

When your face appeared over my crumpled life,
at first I understood only the poverty of what I have.
Then its particular light on woods, on rivers, on the sea,
became my beginning in the coloured world
in which I had not yet had my beginning.
I am so frightened of the unexpected sunrise finishing,
Of revelations and tears and the excitement finishing.
I don't fight it, my love is this fear,
I nourish it who can nourish nothing,
Love's slipshod watchman.
Fear hems me in.
I am conscious that these minutes are short
And that the colours in my eyes will vanish
When your face sets.

Monday, 16 March 2009

"The Simple Beauty of Nature"

"The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy," wrote Anne Frank, "is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy amidst the simple beauty of nature."

She's so right, isn't she? Such serenity comes from ancient trees that weather storms, witness so many people passing and just go on growing and being what they are here to be without a care in the world; and rivers rolling on regardless of who is and who isn't in power, untouched by 'economic downturns'. You never see a dog that is worried about losing his job, or a duck fretting over the collapse of a bank, do you? You never see the sun in a bad mood, or the moon or stars concerned over the impression they make on their neighbours...And we, humanity, consider ourselves the wise ones! Nature teaches everything.
"Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor store in barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them...Look at the lilies of the field; they neither toil nor spin, yet not even Solomon in all his splendour was arrayed as one of these!"

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Upside Down

One still, calm day, looking into the lake and seeing the reflection of the trees was so mesmeric that it was difficult to know which were the real trees and which were merely reflections. Then came the thought of, "What if what is seen as the real trees are only the reflections of something far more tangible and beautiful?" The trees in the lake were upside down, but, in a way, that is how the world is, since our eyes perceive everything upside down and only our brains turn the images around.
In Christian churches there's a jolly hymn that says God is "turning the world upside down."
To have your world turned upside down is not a pleasant experience really because it's so much easier to know where everything is and who is good, bad and ugly. Nothing, though, is ever quite as it seems, is it?
In Tarot, there is the 'Hanged Man' who is suspended from the consciousness of the 'masses' (as in all we take for granted) and sees the world from upside down.
The whole notion of reversal is fascinating....For example, imagine if everything we ever prayed for with all our might, was not our praying to some external Deity, but the internal Deity praying to us to see the Light, move out of the way and let it happen. Or what if, rather than being at the mercy of fate and disease and all kinds of afflictions, all those things were at our mercy? We - humanity - brought them into being. We, humanity, can eradicate them not only by hours of research in a lab, but by simply switching thoughts and suspending the beliefs we cling to.
For anyone who believes there is more to life than simply living, working, eating, sleeping and dying, there is surely a Deity who is totally malevolent and creates illness, tragedy and cruelty, and we spend our lives on our knees trying to appease Him, or there is a rather weak Deity, who wishes we were all better than we are, or there is Life expressed in us - a Deity with enough faith in us as to entrust us with thinking and creating individually, free of the notions that somehow to suffer is 'good' or life is nothing but battling against fate.
It's so much easier to be asleep and to think that we must take whatever life throws at us, but when we get our minds out of the way, and listen to our hearts and souls, it really does turn the world upside down, don't you think?
Supposing all the things we pray for, are really the God within us being polite enough to pray to us and ask us to allow them to happen?
Oh! What heresy! And what freedom and Truth for everyone (and it was the Church authorities who called lepers outcasts and who condemned and crucified Jesus :-) ).

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Late Have I Loved Thee

I do not like St. Augustine. I do not like his understanding at all, or the way that he viewed humanity as the 'massa damnata', or the way that, after his own many wanderings from a path and his rejection of the influence of his mother, he decided women were basically temptresses and humanity is horrendous. And yet, in the midst of his writings, there is so much beauty:
"Late have I loved thee,
O Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved thee!
Lo, thou wert within,
but I outside, seeking there for thee..
rushed upon the lovely things thou hast made
Created things kept me from thee;
yet if they had not been in thee they would have not been at all.
Thou wert with me, but I was not with thee.
They held me back far from thee,
those things which would have no being,
were they not in thee."

It's so fine a balance between seeing wonder in all, and seeing the Life or the Divine expressed in all things, and seeing the 'things' as separate from everything, wherein they become 'idols'. I don't understand at all why a man who could grasp the reality of The One Life in everything, could then write in so legalistic and judgemental a fashion that separated the expression from the One expressing in so divisive a way.

I believe we are all expression of the The One life. How can the children of God/Light, be born in original sin? It's surely nonsense from start to finish. We are 'great and wonderfully made' and the sooner we get over the sense of being at the mercy of tyrannical fate, the sooner we grasp our reality, the better for the world and for everyone.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Monday, 9 March 2009

New Shoots

Many years ago, I came across an old record of the music of "Brother Sun and Sister Moon" in Italian. Having seen the film many times before, and having taped the music to an old cassette, hearing it in Italian - in Francis' native language (when I was among Italian people) seemed to make it even more beautiful.

A couple of weeks ago, I planted some seeds in a window box but, since the window box wasn't 'right' and the seeds might not be suited to indoors and this very variable climate, wasn't sure if they'd grow. Each day I followed the instructions - kept them moist, tried to keep the box where there was sunlight etc. etc. and there was nothing but wet, muddy soil. Then, a couple of days ago, a small shoot appeared. I loved that shoot! It was smaller than a blade of grass but something had happened! And a day or so later many more began to, the little box is filled with tiny green shoots that (according to the instructions) will grow into beautiful blue and purple flowers. For so long it looked like nothing but a muddy mess and then there was life! The joy of seeing it is immense.

It's all so similar to what goes on everyday. For what seems like a thousand years, poring over the muddy mess of trying to succeed as a writer and then there is is small shoot, something smaller than a blade of grass and one day - like today! - you wake up and see a whole garden come to life! The books take off; people like what you write and all the seemingly wasted hours of poring over mud seem worthwhile!

The beautiful song by Donovan, from "Brother Sun and Sister Moon" says it all:

If you want your dream to be,
Build it slow and surely;
Small beginnings greater ends
Heartfelt work grows purely.

If you want to live life free,
Take your time go slowly.
Do few things but do them well
Simple joys are holy.

Day by day, stone by stone,
Build your secret slowly.
Day by day you'll grow too
You'll know heaven's glory.

If you want your dream to be
Build it slow and surely
Small beginnings greater ends
Heartfelt work grows purely

Friday, 6 March 2009

Learn to Labour and To Wait

A strange thing happened this week that was very lovely! After months of railing and struggling to work things out as I wanted them to be, a major problem happened that I couldn't work out. It was an absolute impossibility but what was strange was that there was an idea that somehow there was a solution. Contrary to the the usual notion of having to find the solution, I stepped out of the way and a miracle happened. How big a lesson is that? Things do work out, if we stop standing in the way of them. Longfellow's wonderful poem, with the line 'Learn to labour and to wait' captures it so perfectly - what a great poet he was!!!

The whole notion that we are little no-marks, pushing against the tide, praying for a happy outcome misses the point completely. We are truly amazing beings and when our 'little selves' get out of the way, miracles really do happen! Patience, I guess, is everything...

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
"Life is but an empty dream!"
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
"Dust thou art, to dust returnest,"
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, - act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time; -

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labour and to wait.

Monday, 2 March 2009

John Keats

Dear John Keats, whom Yeats described as "a small boy with his nose pressed up against the pastry shop window," seemed to go through life with such a fatalistic view that his untimely death was almost inevitable.

In my youth, I adored Keats' poetry - his sense of things fading and the tragedy of being unable to hang on to what was beautiful captures all that we feel when we are young. Things appear so beautiful that it seems they cannot last...and yet, and yet....

What if Keats had gone into the pastry shop and bought the cakes? He could have done, had he so desired. His tragedy seems to be that sense of imminent doom; his decision that beauty is unattainable on earth. His poetry is filled with tragedy - the tragedy of 'feeling' youth that cannot see beyond its own immediate emotion. "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" - a euphemism for his consumption, and "Ode to a Nightingale" are utterly beautiful but speak to that sense of gloom that is within us all, rather than to the sense of hope, of faith of our not being at the mercy of the elements or fate or whatever life seems to throw at us.

Having been such an admirer of this brilliant poet (and doctor, whose attempts to publish his work were met by such ridiculous responses as: "Stick to doctoring, Mr. Keats, you'll never make it as a poet!") I can't help but think his own self-absorption culminated in the self-fulfilling prophecy of his early demise. All the same, his words are very of my favourites (after "Ode to a Nightingale") being "Bright Star":

Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art-
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors--
No- yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever- or else swoon to death.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

The Wild Goose

"The wild goose comes from the north with the voice of freedom and adventure. He is the yearning and the dream, the search and the wonder!" (Borland)

Ah, as the first light of Spring begins to dawn, there is so much to learn from Nature!