Vaccination Vacillations

Vaccination, Impfspritze, MedicalIt was a difficult choice – to be jabbed or not to be jabbed.  Once I finally made my choice, there was the next obstacle; should I make my decision public?

I decided yes – to both.  Many reading this will be mystified as to why it was such a difficult decision.  After all, for the vast majority of people on BOTH sides of the argument, it’s a ‘no brainer’.  Either they believe implicitly in the science and can’t wait to be vaccinated or they are convinced that all sorts of nasties are being injected into the arms of unwitting victims, which will have dire consequences.

I have friends on both sides of the fence.  Not since the English Civil War, I would imagine, has opinion been so divided and intractable.  Politely begging to differ is no longer an option.  Walking down the pavement in my town, and many others, I’d imagine, 30% of the population are masked and hooded, glaring furiously at anyone passing them and veering into the path of buses to avoid close contact with a human biohazard.  Another 30% jeer nastily if you step aside to let them pass and make a concerted effort to come as close as they can, ostentatiously hugging and kissing anyone they vaguely recognise.  That only leaves just over a third of the population who will nod or smile in a friendly manner and go about their essential business as best they can.

The trouble with me is that I make very little effort to ‘fit in’.  I ponder my decisions carefully, but doing what others do because that’s the line of least resistance has always seemed weak and rather a cop-out.

‘Aha,’ you may say. if you reside on that side of the fence, ‘So you are one of the subversives!  You’re a conspiracy theorist.’  Well no, actually.

‘Aha,’ you may say, if you are from the other side, ‘So you are one of us!  Not one of the sheeple.  You have seen the hidden agenda!’  Also no.

I was once accused by a friend in bright felted garments and dreds of being ‘not alternative enough to fit in’.  I ventured the suggestion that being ‘alternative’ seemed to me to imply not fitting in.  She shook her head sadly and told me I should at least wear some beads….

Still, back to the vaccine.  You see, I am not generally a huge fan of allopathic medicine.  This does not stem from any deep mistrust of the medical profession.  I take from them what works for me and go elsewhere if others can help more.

Globuli, Homeopathy, NaturopathyWhen my daughter was 8 or 9, she had severe stomach aches.  I took her to the doctor who asked many questions, prodded her a great deal and pronounced her quite healthy.  The pains continued.  In desperation  I then took her to a homeopath who asked many questions then gave her some tissue salts which cleared up the pains within days.  It was my first encounter with homeopathy, but certainly not my last.

When I had sciatica, which was excruciating, I again went to a doctor.  I gratefully accepted the physiotherapy appointment he offered but declined the painkillers and the second prescription which (he had the grace to blush) he admitted was to neutralise the side-effects from the painkillers.  I used the sheet of physio exercises and found an excellent acupuncturist.  Together they healed me.

For broken or dislocated bones, it’s doctors every time.  For most other ailments I usually elect for some kind of complementary treatment.  I’m a great believer  in energy healing and it has proved very effective for all manner of problems throughout my life.  It does have limitations though.  I noted that whilst radionics, for example, has been amazing at sorting out everything from allergies to breathlessness to digestive problems, it was not effective with a respiratory virus that laid me low the Christmas before last.  A relative had a similar issue with a viral disease.  It’s as if viruses somehow get through the net of energy healing.  I have only this experience as evidence, but – as I said – I make my own choices based on what works for me.

Three of my good friends have seen fit to spam me relentlessly with anti-vax propaganda.  Maybe they see me as ‘one of them’, or perhaps their evangelical zeal (Oh dear, how I HATE evangelism!) induces them to send it to everyone they know.  Perhaps they think they are ‘saving’ me.

I’ve read and watched some of it.  Most of the posters claim to be ‘spiritual’, although the tirades of sarcasm, scepticism and arrogance which invariably follow give me some cause to doubt that assertion.  I’ve never understood why spirituality seems so closely aligned with conspiracy theories.  Goes back to not being alternative enough, I suppose.

Then there’s the pro-vax propaganda; burbling Prime Minister, a train of look-alike Secretaries of State and the scientists who are now media personalities in their own right – JVT with his endearing long-winded metaphors that usually get lost in the middle, Sir Patrick with his headmasterly severity, Jenny Harries with her gentle, well-modulated points and Chris Whitty with his earnest, passionate appeals.

Pendulum, Quartz, Chain, AlternativeBoth sides have statistics galore.  You can argue anything with statistics.  So which way to jump?  I finally decided to use a method of choice that would horrify the scientists and probably bemuse many of the conspiracists.  I took my trusty pendulum, tuned into the part of myself the scientists would deny existed and asked it questions.  Like I say, I believe in energy.  I believe that my body knows at a deep, spiritual level what is right for it and although my conflicting thoughts can get in the way of decision-making, this simple method is sensitive enough to pick up my body’s truth.

‘If I have the vaccination, will it be beneficial to my body?’  Pendulum swings sideways – NO.

‘If I have the vaccination, will it be harmful to my body?’  NO.

‘If I have the vaccination, will it lessen my chances of catching Covid-19?’  Pendulum swings front to back – YES.

So the decision was made.  Not beneficial per se, but effective in preventing me from catching a disease that my age, fitness levels and weight suggest could be serious.

I have lived completely alone throughout the pandemic.  Not so much as a goldfish to talk to.  Days on end with no human contact.  I have not left this divided little town for many months.  I have not seen grandchildren, children or my much-loved elderly aunt for over a year.  I have missed train rides, coffee or lunch with friends, bus trips around the beautiful Somerset countryside, trips to shows and museums…  I opted for the jab.

So thank you to all who have tried to help me towards my decision.  Thank you to the delightful, thoughtful and efficient nurses and stewards at the vaccination centre.  They gawped in amazement when I said I was not on any medication at all.  “What – NOTHING?” cried the nurse, re-checking my DOB.  Nope.  With the medical profession, I take from them what works for me and go elsewhere if others can help more.

On ‘being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts…’

It isn’t, to the Western mind – schooled as it is in science and reason – a comfortable place to be.  It feels risky, subversive almost. There are times when even the most hardened venturers into this zone yearn for more solid ground.  Many have teetered on the edge and scurried back to the reassurance of what, in their world, is believed to be real and provable.

The poet Keats coined the term Negative Capability to describe this other state.  He defined it thus:

Capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.

I found that quote in the second of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials books – The Subtle Knife.  His character Mary sees it as the frame of mind one needs to access in order to open to communication from a level of consciousness normally concealed behind the current world view.  Lyra, his young heroine, immediately recognises it as the state she enters to read the alethiometer – her divination machine.

Fractal, Abstract, Yellow, Design, LightIf you are reading this, you have almost certainly experienced that state.  It has overtaken you as you painted, wrote, sang, created or became so absorbed in any task that you moved beyond time and rationality, lost yourself in something wider, stronger and vaster and briefly allowed it to override your thoughts and rationally derived aims.  What you created during that period of Negative Capability will have been sublime.  If it is a work of art or craft, you may have wondered where the inspiration came from and why it surpasses what you produce while striving to impose order and perfection in the accepted way.  You will be aware – and perhaps alarmed – that time has passed of which you have little or no memory.

A musician friend tells of how she would enter the space during an operatic performance and ‘come to’ afterwards in a panic, wondering whether her singing had kept pace with the accompanists.  Poets and writers are, of course, able to review the words which arrived from their sojourn in this otherworld, but are still left wondering where the inspiration came from.  I’ve often been aware that certain passages in my books ‘wrote themselves’.  They are easily the best passages – far superior to those where I’ve wrestled with syntax and thesaurus to capture the right mood.

As should be obvious, though, the ‘irritable reaching’ towards the rational and familiar is difficult to resist.  It’s like trying to remain in a dream once you have realised that you are dreaming.  There is no proof, and proof for us has become the touchstone of all that is rational and acceptable.  Whenever we stray there, despite the inspirations and gifts we receive, we must tolerate as our companions Uncertainty and Doubt.

What a choice!

Girl, Space, Mystic, Brain, MysticalFor poets and artists it’s one thing; for those who venture into the world of the seer, the channel, the diviner or the clairvoyant, the experience is harder yet.  This extract, for example, written by my friend and erstwhile collaborator William, hints at the complex balancing act involved in remote viewing:

It is necessary to be able to correctly focus at the correct time while ensuring the knowledge held is sufficiently minimalistic to avoid involuntary logical assumptions clouding the receipt of information through remote viewing, but sufficient to ensure the information received can be interpreted correctly.

So the person who strays into the realms of Negative Capability must be willing to retain only a modicum of what we commonly know as logic and fact while being prepared to accept a quite different and infinitely more nebulous source of psychological information.

The rewards can be astounding but the path takes courage and a willingness to embrace, or at least make close contact with, what Keats calls, “sensations rather than thoughts”.

But Where Was Me?

Grandmothers should be wise.  It’s one of those archetypal attributes of the crone, isn’t it?  So when I fall short in the wisdom department, it bothers me.  

A little over a year ago, my grandson and I were chatting about the first house he lived in – a place he dimly remembered, having moved away when he was a toddler.  His younger sister was confused.  She insisted they had never lived in a house with two huge trees in the garden.  When her brother pointed out that this was before she was born, she became almost hysterical.

Baby, Child, Girl, Pouting“But where was ME?” she demanded, her eyes filling with tears and panic.

That was when I fell short in the wise grandmother stakes.  I knew my answer to the question, but I would have struggled – when put on the spot – to find the words to explain it to a tiny child.  Even if I had managed to leap that hurdle, I was anxious about straying into the sphere of beliefs.  I’ve spent a lifetime as a teacher carefully and meticulously respecting a wealth of different creeds and cultures.  I knew my grandchildren were being brought up with a nominally Christian belief system.  Christianity has plenty to say about an afterlife, but is curiously silent on before life.  It talks vaguely about dust and ashes, which, I felt, wouldn’t help much.  Did I have the right to impose my own beliefs on those they were being brought up with? 

So I failed.  I gave the child lots of comforting cuddles, chatted to her about how excited we’d all been when she was born, and generally distracted her without ever answering her very important question.  And it has bothered me ever since.

When I came to write my children’s novel this year, I decided it would give me the opportunity to revisit the events of that day and to provide Ruby Rose, my fictional toddler heroine, with a fearless crone figure who is more than happy to address her question head on and provide a suitable response.

It was one of those parts of the book that quite happily wrote itself, while I obediently pressed the keys.  Interestingly, Misty often took control of me, as well as the situations in the story, when she appeared in the pages!

Misty waited for the girl to settle down and for the pounding of her heart to slow.  “Now,”  she began, finally.  “That was a very sensible question you asked, my dear.  I’m going to answer it for you, but you will need to listen very hard.  Can you do that?”

Ruby nodded miserably and Stellan sat on the grass at Misty’s feet, because it had never occurred to him that there could be an answer to that question.

“Before you were your mama’s little girl and Stellan’s little sister, Ruby, you were living in the Dreaming Place.”

“What’s the Dreaming Place?” Ruby asked, sitting up.

“It’s a place you know very well.  Why, you go there every night, while your body is in bed, having a rest,” Misty replied.

“You mean when we have dreams?” asked Stellan.

“Exactly.  Haven’t you ever thought how odd it is that your body stays in bed, fast asleep, while you are off doing all sorts of other things?” …

“That is strange,” agreed Stellan, who had never really considered it before.

“So,”  continued Misty, in the same calm, gentle voice, “while we have bodies like these,” she tickled Ruby Rose gently on her arm and the child giggled, “we live in them for most of the time and just put them down to rest at bedtime.  Before we are born, though, and after we have died, we spend all our time in the Dreaming Place.  That’s where you were when Stellan was a little boy and Bella the cat lived with him.”

Both children were silent for a moment, while they considered that.

“Weren’t I lonely without my ma and my pa and my brother?” Ruby wanted to know.

“Not at all,”  Misty replied.  “You were having too much fun!  You see in the Dreaming Place, you can be whatever you want and go anywhere you like.  You might have tried being a fairy or a brave explorer or even a dog or a cat.  What do you think you would have been?”

“A fairy who could fly in the air and do wishes!” Ruby announced.

“Well that would be quite splendid, wouldn’t it?”  Misty smiled.  “But after loads and loads of dreaming, you decided that what would be even more fun would be to become a little girl with a body.  You see, in the Dreaming Place there are things we can’t do.  We can’t feel happiness or pain or full up with delicious food or the softness of an animal’s fur when we stroke it.  You decided to find yourself the most perfect family for your new body to live with.”

“How did she find us?” asked Stellan. 

He couldn’t decide whether this was some kind of made-up tale to calm his sister and cheer her up or whether Misty believed all she was saying.

She smiled at him.  It was a serious smile, not the sort of winking smile grown-ups give when you and they both know they are pretending.

“As I said, in the Dreaming Place, you can go anywhere you want just by thinking about it.  Once Ruby Rose had decided she wanted to slip into a body and find a family in this – Waking Place, she travelled all around the world, deciding which would be the very best family for her to live with.  Eventually, she chose the family she wanted and when your new little sister was born, here she was!”

“I was very clever to choose my nice family, weren’t I, Misty?” Ruby smiled.

My grandson is reading The Glassmaker’s Children at the moment and maybe, when she’s a few years older, his sister will do the same and find a belated answer to her question.  

 

The Art of Magic (and the magic of art)

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Pablo Picasso

Oekaki, Drawing, Children, GraffitiThat from the artist who also claimed that it took him four years to learn to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to learn to paint like a child.  It’s a perspective that interests me.

About thirty years ago I recall a family picnic on the banks of the River Stour on the Essex-Suffolk border.  My 18 month old son (now a professional graphic artist and illustrator) seized his father’s sketchbook and pencil, stared intently at the reeds and bull rushes growing at the water’s edge, then proceeded to draw a series of vertical and near-vertical lines on the paper.  It took him seconds.  His first representational landscape drawing!  The child moved on to other ways of exploring the environment immediately.  It was as if the drawing was some kind of instinctive yet fleeting need to capture the 3D world in just two dimensions.  He didn’t, as his older siblings might have done, compare it to his father’s sketches or seek anyone’s approval or praise.  In fact he was confused by our excitement and delight.

A tiny child will not seek out the ‘right’ colours or consider shapes and ratios.  What they do, though, when you think about it, is pure magic.  They use their crayons to create the significant people and objects around them at that moment in time.  Their art freezes an aspect of the swirl of life and movement and emotion they find themselves in and places it on a flat sheet of paper.   How very different that is from our own self-conscious attempts to draw a representational image.  We are hung up on how realistic it looks, whether our lines are straight or whether the perspective is right.  Most of all, we are worried about how others will judge it.  That, I suspect, is the ‘problem’ Picasso was referring to.

“That’s a lovely picture.  Would you like to tell me about it?” we were taught to say when I was training to be a teacher.  It avoided the problems of, “What a beautiful picture of Mummy!  Oh, I see – it’s a green tractor with lots of mud, is it?  Right.”

Gradually we ‘help’ the child to fit their depictions to the conventions of art in our world.  In medieval times, drawing the mother or self far larger than other people would have been quite acceptable.  The convention was ‘important people are shown larger than less significant people’.  In our modern world the convention is photographic, so a person shown large is closer in physical space to the artist’s viewpoint than those standing further away.

 

Light, Effect, Light Effect, Magic LightAnd what of magic?  I would argue that this, too, is something a small child experiences and responds to in a very natural, comfortable way and trying to regain that instinctive connection to the magic inherent in their lives takes many years, once the child has been trained to put it aside.

We allow – even encourage – small children to fill their lives with magic.  We tell them of Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny and read them stories or show them videos of unicorns and dragons, magicians and heroes with fantastic powers.

At some point, though – perhaps around the same time we start insisting that humans should be drawn with bodies, not just a circular head with legs and arms – we begin to teach them what is ‘real’ and what is ‘pretend’.  What many of us don’t recognise is that this is just as arbitrary and incomplete a world view as the one we are asking them to leave behind.

Magic has a strong similarity to art.  When painting and drawing we encapsulate three dimensions in two.  With magic, we bring multiple dimensions into the three that form what current convention sees as our world.  (Again, I suspect our ancestors would have viewed it quite differently.)

In the children’s story book I’ve just published, I made sure enough magic was embedded within it to at least allow my 8-12 year old audience to keep wondering.  My metaphysician (yes, of course there had to be one!) observes three members of a family who find themselves confronted with a magical ‘coincidence’ as follows:

The lady in the blue dress looked from one to the other of them – the mother, who was slowly shaking her head and muttering, “Extraordinary…”, the boy who was now clutching his cheeks and laughing with amazement and pure delight, and the small child beside her who was still young enough to understand how real magic was and therefore not surprised at all.

I’d love to think that a few children reading The Glassmaker’s Children will recognise the magic my young hero Stellan rediscovers and notice how, by using attention and intention, both he and they can find way of surviving and thriving, despite the setbacks and challenges they encounter.

 

Small note:  I originally set up this blog (back in 2012) to publicise my first book.  Since then it’s be come more of a vehicle for my metaphysical ramblings, and I’d like it to stay that way.  For that reason, I’m placing most of my posts about The Glassmaker’s Children on my Open the Box blog.  This one, for example, explains the particular challenges my two young characters face as they battle to cope with a narcissistic parent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Always End With a Story

Tale, Story, Pirates, Fantasy, TreasureAs a parent and as a teacher, I ended every day with a story.  It felt the right way to finish things off and send my own children off to their dreams or my pupils off to their homes.

As I await the artwork for the cover of my own new story book, I thought I’d share some of my favourite children’s books – the ones that most intrigued and inspired those children I read to.

I grew up reading and adoring the Arthur Ransome Swallows and Amazons tales.  However by the time I’d reached adulthood, having a major character called Titty was a barrier to reading it aloud to kids!  I did try once to read it to a class – attempting to substitute the name with ‘Tammy’, but it didn’t end well.  56 eyes watching intently and 28 mouths sniggering each time I fluffed it or (worse) forgot…  I gave up.

Lewis Carroll was one of my favourites to read aloud, due to the sheer brilliance, audacity and anarchy of his stories and poems, while Philip Pullman’s range and scope always left me and my listeners gasping for more.

I lost count of the times I read Michael Morpurgo’s Kensuke’s Kingdom aloud to classes of 10 and 11 year olds and I still can’t read the final chapter without shedding a few tears.

Some of my favourite children’s books fall into the genre of ‘issues’ stories.  I suppose mine does as well.

On more than one occasion I would hand a copy of Jacqueline Wilson’s The Suitcase Kid to some poor child whose parents had separated and decided it suited them best if their offspring spent a week at a time in each home.  The issues affecting step families were also deftly dealt with by Anne Fine in her wonderfully balanced series of short stories published as Step by Wicked Step.  Both these authors have produced a range of carefully crafted stories to fit many of the challenging issues besetting children and I’ve read many of their tales to those in my care.

Ordinary Jack.jpgPerhaps my favourite – if I had to choose one – though, is not an ‘issues’ book series at all but a set of comedy tales called The Bagthorpe Saga by the brilliant Helen Cresswell.

I adored everything this lady wrote, but was surprised and delighted to discover how the series affected my middle child.

‘Ordinary Jack’ is a thoroughly charming but – as the title suggests – very normal boy who has been born into a family of hilariously dysfunctional, but high-achieving oddballs.  He yearns to have many ‘strings to his bow’, like his siblings and parents.

My son was the only one in our family with dyslexia – a way of being that has served him very well in adulthood, in his profession as a data analyst, but one which caused him huge problems as a schoolboy.  Despite our best efforts, he suffered with a lack of self-esteem, so finding Jack in these stories was, for him, like discovering a soulmate.  He longed for his nightly story session and we worked our way through the entire series.

I suppose if there is one thing I could wish for my book – The Glassmaker’s Children – it is that some child somewhere will discover my Stellan and relate to him, his personality or his situation, so that his or her own life is positively affected.

 

 

The Glassmaker’s Children is available on Amazon at this link for the USA

The Glassmaker’s Children

The Glassmaker's Children by [Jan Stone]Yes – apologies.  This blog has been very quiet in the past few months.  There’s a reason for that, which I’m about to share with you.

Life during lockdown was very different, obviously.  One of the most positive and welcome changes during that time was the opportunity to chat via video link with my grandchildren every day.  Their mother works from home, so I agreed to do some home learning with them each weekday morning, to give her some time to herself.

Every ‘lesson’ ended with a story session and we got through a fair few books during that time – Tales of Mystery and Imagination (my favourite picture book ever), The Arabian Nights, The Firework Maker’s Daughter, Stig of the Dump and much more.  The five year old – quite understandably – drifted away unless there were plenty of pictures, but the eight year old sat and soaked in every word, day after day.

When the summer holidays started, lockdown eased and the lessons ceased, I found that my love of children’s literature had been rekindled (unintentional pun there!)

As a parent, teacher and mentor, I’d often been able to find the perfect book to help a child dealing with family or personal issues – low self-esteem, bullying, family splits and so forth.  The book I’d never been able to find was one that explained – in a child-friendly storybook format – why, if we do indeed at some level choose the family we are born into, this child chose the parents or siblings they did.

That’s why I decided to write it.

I hadn’t been prepared for how much it would consume my life – waking and dreaming.  Stellan and Ruby Rose, my main characters, became utterly real to me.  Perhaps, since they’ve now been created, they really live in some other reality.  I’d like to think so.  At any rate, one night, during a particularly vivid dream, Ruby and I headed off on an adventure quite unrelated to the story I was writing.

Often I suddenly ‘knew’ what would happen to them next, without consciously planning it.  I caught myself thinking, “Oh, yes, clever!  That links well to chapter 14,” although the new idea had suddenly appeared unbidden in my mind.  Maybe I was being helped…

I did become rather obsessed.  There was the day the doorbell rang when I was in full creative flow and I found myself answering the door to the courier there in a Welsh accent, since I’d been writing dialogue between characters in a Welsh village at the time!

 

It’s only available on Kindle so far, but I’m hoping to get it into paperback within the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, if you know any 8-12 year olds who might enjoy a story about sorcery, self-discovery, adventure and the magical chemistry that permeates all of our lives, do send them to hunt it out on Amazon Kindle, where the first few chapters are free to read.

 

 

Stitching a new garment

Iphone, Smartphone, Apps, Apple IncA week ago, my phone pinged.  One of those Facebook PM things.  I’ve been getting a lot lately – little gifs of cute cats, uplifting pictures of sunsets or seascapes, prayers in pretty fonts garlanded with flowers or rainbows, even the annoying ones that instruct you to send the flickering candle or whatever back to the sender and on to all the women/true friends/grandmothers etc. you know…  Kind thoughts, sent with love – people doing what they can to connect.  I send a smile icon back or a heart or whatever I feel will best please the sender so that I can then move on with my day.

Life at LIME Cottage right now is not Netflix, gin and scrolling through social media.  It starts at 8.30 with lesson preparation (daily multi-age primary school phonics and English resources posted online for harassed parents – opentheboxweb.wordpress.com).  God I hate phonics!  A ridiculous system, but that is what the kids have been learning, so that’s what needs to be done.  At 11am it’s a video call with the grandchildren.  Their mum gets an hour to work from home unhindered while I chat, read stories, deliver the wretched phonics and writing, cram in a bit of maths and help the little ones to make some sense of the way the world is now.  A quick lunch, a daily walk or burst of gardening then on to the afternoon job – sewing scrubs and gowns for a local care home.  It’s all very organised in our town.  The coordinator sends out packs of fabric and patterns via masked and gloved volunteer couriers and our team of makers gets to work, each in their own home, just as the spinsters and weavers of yore may have done in this very house before industrialisation came.  My ‘working day’ ends at 4.30.  I check on the salads and tomato seedlings growing around the house on sunny windowsills then put some dinner together.

So it was surprising, really, that I heard the ping.  It was from a lady I’ve been in touch with for many years.  One of those social media friends I’ve never met, and never will, but somehow feel I know.  We exchange messages from time to time and, I confess, as I opened the file I was half expecting another cat picture.  She likes cats.  What I saw instead stopped me dead. Image may contain: text  It was this:

My words reflected back to me!  She had sent me a screenshot of a passage I wrote all those years ago – back in 2012 – in my book LIFE: A Player’s Guide.  No explanation came with them.  Perhaps she had stumbled across the image and found it helpful, or perhaps she guessed that, at a time of such utter disempowerment, they were words I needed to be reminded of.

Either way, they worked.  I was transported back to the time I wrote it, returned to a state of optimism and reminded that what I’m doing now is valid.

 

Let me go a bit deeper here.

You see I’ve known a world-changing disaster was coming for a long time (see last post for details).  Stashed away somewhere in a cupboard upstairs is a rather expensive multi-use survival tool, some packs of waterproof matches and a self-sufficiency handbook.  Their time may or may not come.  I wasn’t expecting it to be this way, but I knew some cataclysm was heading inexorably towards us.  My source was impeccable.

I’d been told that me being a teacher would be important at this time – hence the time-consuming daily lessons.  I’ve been trying my best to follow the scant guidance I’d been given.

I was told more, though.  I was told that although technology would remain in tact and be beneficial, ‘finance’ – the economy – would undergo seismic changes and this in turn would have a huge effect on people.  It would, in fact multiply the changes occurring in society, leading to an attitude of altruism and general goodness prevailing over the cut-throat world of inequality, exploitation and global destruction.

It is that prediction which had been bothering me.  I’d had 15 years to prepare for this.  Now it was here, I fervently wanted to see that change.  I read eloquent passages and watched inspiring videos from people around the world stressing that we must not return to the old ‘normal’, that we need to change and that Covid 19, for all it’s cruelty, was giving us all a chance to stop and wonder and see the disparity, foolishness and waste of our old world.

Sew, Protective Mask, Sewing MachineAnd what was I doing about it?  Making a few bits of PPE for the local nursing home.  Growing a bit of veg.  Liking and sharing the positive ideas on social media.  Tiny drops in the ocean – pathetic!

Reading that message from my friend (and myself), however, helped me to rediscover the bigger picture.

Yes, in terms of the physical self, there are limits.  Once I begin to think of ‘me’ as thought and energy, though, everything changes.  There are no limits to thought or energy.  They are not confined within single individuals.  Thought is a million times more contagious than any virus.  It spreads through the aether, gathering energy and impetus from everyone who acknowledges and shares it.  Once the intention that we choose these beneficial changes in our world has been held, it grows exponentially.  It becomes our creation.

There is nothing – no multinational corporation, no bunch of self-serving policiticans, no reactionary lobbyist who can stand against the groundswell of opinion that is forming as we sit in our separate homes but combine our intent.

As I sit over my sewing machine this week, I will be pondering the deep and abiding changes that are happening in my thoughts, my energy and those of the world community around me.

Sonya Renee Taylor’s words express it perfectly:

‘We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-corona existence was not normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack. We should not long to return, my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.’

Foreseeing the Unthinkable

The year was 2005. I remember the day clearly. We were on a train journey together – me a middle-aged schoolteacher and him a 15 year old kid. Something had been troubling him for a few weeks and he finally felt ready to talk about it.

This was no ordinary adolescent. This was my friend Will, a young man with extraordinary powers of perception and a deep innate knowledge. The medical profession might label him as disordered, but I knew better. He was highly sensitive and picked up on things to which the rest of us were largely oblivious. I’d known him since he was 6. I trusted him and knew better than to dismiss any of his revelations. That’s why I kept a note of the things he said that day. That’s why I remembered them and waited for the time they would come to pass.

That time is now.

“I think I know what comes next,” he said, miserably. “It’s not a nice thing to think about – lots of death.”

It’s hard to remember back to our mindset in those days now, early in the century. We’d had tsunamis, hurricanes, volcanoes and there was a collective impression that something major was going to happen in or around 2012. The world was going to end, maybe, or transform somehow. Will wasn’t speculating, though, he was SEEING.

Suddenly he said, “You being a teacher could well be important.”

Coronavirus, China, Mask, Doctor“There will be a chain of disasters. There will be a significantly reduced world population. It’ll be a bit like Noah’s Ark. The technology will remain in tact but people will change. I will be a survivor and – I think – some kind of leader. People will like me and listen to me. I won’t be a doctor but my skills or knowledge will be something like that.”

I was struck, as he spoke, by how stunned and surprised he appeared as he told me his vision. I asked how the future could be so clear, given that we create it with our thoughts and intentions and have only probabilities ahead of us.

Unlike most humans, though, Will is not confined by time. He can operate in a state where everything is simultaneous. Think of Einstein’s quote: “The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” and you’ll see where Will can be.

“There are infinite routes,” he agreed, sadly, “but they all seem to lead to this point.”

He returned to his precognition at several points during the following months and years.

In 2006, my journal tells me he was very angry and frustrated, being unable to find the words to explain what he foresaw.

Graph, Growth, Progress, Diagram“There’s things to do with finance,” he said, “but it’s much more than that. You’re missing the full significance of what I’m telling you.”

Finding verbal language inadequate, he resorted to attempting to record it using mathematics. He scribbled this on a scrap of paper:

F((p=n) >(p=B))

All I could get out of him was that there would be a transformation involving finance and the number of nice people would be greater than the number of bad people. Society, he was telling me, would undergo a deep and abiding change.

The next relevant note I have is from an article he wrote, dated 2011. (I’m giving the dates partly so that those of you who have copies of our little book The Words of William can check the entries there. That book was published nearly 8 years ago.) He was discussing the effects of a cataclysmic event on the world’s neuro-typical and autistic spectrum populations.

Foretelling social distancing and widespread self-isolation, he spoke of how there would be a reduction in the need for social skills (a distinct advantage for those who experience difficulties with social interaction).

He also predicted “the advance of technology creating a greater reliance on machines and also reducing the need for social skills.”

His final statement from that day is enigmatic and yet rather hopeful. I’ll reproduce it here just as he wrote it. This section is about the workings of the autistic mind.

“What I suspect to be more the case is the different way of thinking, viewing information and processing that information in a different way – whether consciously or not – to provide a better understanding (or different one which could be more relevant in a different or changing world) of what’s going on around them and also potentially have the ability to provide more accurate predictions of the future which could easily prove to be a valuable survival skill and very beneficial to non ASD people around them.

“I think there could be very beneficial relationships between the two groups of people.”

So there we have it.

The world has been awash with portents and predictions as long as there have been people to make them. My feelings are, though, that Will’s words are a gift that may contain a few hints to enable us to negotiate our way through this cataclysm.

Next time I will post about how these small snippets of prediction could be of help.

Meanwhile, if you are, or live with, one of these highly sensitive people – autistic or otherwise gifted with ‘different ways’ of viewing the situation – please communicate with them and see what wisdom they have to share.

Be safe.

The Curing

I feel safest with stories.  They soothe me.  And the old stories are the best of all.

Today I want to share an old story with you – one that came to me and was most anxious to be shared.  Even the synchronicities that drew this story to me tell a tale in themselves.

I live in England, where currently entire households in which anyone has a fever or a cough must self-isolate for 14 days.  When my grandchild developed both these symptoms, her mother was faced with trying to work from home and care for both children.  I live far away, but decided to have a daily one hour video talk session with the children, giving my daughter a chance to get some uninterrupted work time.  I’m an ex-teacher, so we play maths games, draw, read, write and learn together.  It’s a delightful time for all of us.

I went to my still fairly extensive children’s book collection (who can throw books away?) looking for stories that would interest a 5 year old and her 8 year old brother.  Almost at once my eyes fell upon Hugh Lipton and Niamh Sharkey’s beautiful ‘Tales of Wisdom & Wonder’.  It’s a glorious collection of folk tales from around the world.

On day 1, we read the first story, a delightfully silly tale of a monkey who demonstrates that we should be very careful what we ask for.

Last night I sat down to read the second story – a Cree tale called The Curing Fox – in order to re-familiarise myself with it.

The first sentence told of a little girl who became desperately ill with a high fever, dreadful cough and breathing difficulties.

Ah.  My initial instinct was to put this one aside.  Who knows what fears and nightmares the children are having as Covid-19 spreads through the world?  Then I thought deeper.  Why, of all the stories in my bookcase, had I been led to this one, at this time?  That almost imperceptible tingling that tells me synchronicity is drawing me in had appeared.  I read the story.

Mr Lipton tells it wonderfully, but here is the briefest summary:

The child’s anxious parents summon an ancient wise woman, who listens very carefully to the rattling in the girl’s chest.  She tells the couple that she hears from it that a small, sickly female fox is undertaking an arduous journey through the snow outside.  When the child coughs, the wise woman hears the sound of the fox’s paws breaking through the crust of the frozen snow.  The father offers to track and bring back the fox.  As he journeys, the wise woman is able to track his progress, and that of the starving fox, by observing the little girl’s illness; when she senses that the hunter has stopped for the night and lit a fire, the girl has a high fever.  Finally he catches the fox, cradles her in his arms and takes her back to the village.  The mother is told to feed the fox.  It then curls up and sleeps.  The child, too, falls into a deep sleep.  Eventually, both fox and girl awake at the same moment.  The parents are asked to feed the fox again and then release it.  The little girl watches from the doorway as the fox runs off.  As it disappears, so does her illness.  The wise woman asks them whether the fox cured the girl or she cured the fox.  The mother replies that the woman cured them both.  The old lady just smiles.

I sat and pondered the wisdom of that story.  Half awake and half asleep, I thought my way back into that First Nation culture and bank of knowledge that showed such subtle yet deep and abiding connectedness.  I wondered at the idea that the symptoms of an illness could, with the right level of focus, lead the wise to find and alleviate suffering elsewhere.  I marvelled that, in taking steps to alleviate that suffering, the illness itself would vanish.  Further and further I meditated my way into the meaning this story held for me.  I thought of the symptoms – the fever, the choking cough, the inability to breathe.  Clearly the girl stands for us in our present crisis.

And the fox?  What does she represent?

The words that floated into my heart were, “Think of the World’s cough.”

 

It was from the Cree that this prophecy came:

 

 

The Wisdom of Corona Virus

Before I begin…

Today is my 69th birthday.  I am embarking on my 70th year in this now rather wrinkly and saggy skin suit and still enjoying every day and relishing the pleasures of life on the Blue Planet.  However my working life as a teacher – which I loved – is now over.  I spend my time enjoying the company of nature, family and friends, reading and writing and making tiny, intricate models out of upcycled junk and discarded items.  No one needs such trifles, but the creation of them nourishes my soul and others get pleasure from them.

Because I can now lay claim to being ‘old’ in Earthly terms, I feel able to write what follows with a clear conscience.  These things would be far harder for a younger person to say.  It may shock and upset many, for which I am sorry.  That is not my intention.  I’m not being mischievously provocative.  I’d just like to encourage others to stop for a moment and consider what this virus is showing us and doing for us.

 

Coronavirus, Virus, Pandemic, EpidemicAre you able to pause, put aside the prejudices fed to you by media and gaze on the beauty and perfection of these organisms?  They have intelligence.  It enabled them to evolve this new, unique form.

Humans are quite ready to see this Covid-19 as a wicked, scheming adversary – one that will take all of our collective powers to defeat.  Could we instead see it as a benign, caring entity that looked with concern and compassion at our predicament and evolved to ease some of our most intractable problems?  A step too far for many, perhaps, but worth considering.

Pollution

Imagine, for a moment that we are discussing a wise and benign entity.  It sees the massive pollution rife in China.  It sees the pollution attacking the lungs of China’s people – weakening them, lowering the quality of their lives, lowering their resistance.  Breath, after all, is life force, prana.  China knows this, regrets what is happening, but can’t solve the problem.  Industry has taken control.  Profit matters more than quality of life.  Does it?  Corona Virus strikes and vast numbers of those people, their lungs already compromised by breathing in those poisonous fumes, are struck down.  China simply has to react.  It closes schools, colleges, factories…

The satellite images have detected a significant decreases in nitrogen dioxide over China. And this happens:

Photo taken by NASA of pollution levels over China this year.

Yes, many lives have been lost.  Death – like birth – is almost always a traumatic and messy affair.  It makes huge changes to the lives of those around the person concerned.  I know I am fortunate to believe firmly that my Self is eternal and this physical incarnation just a small – though important and fascinating – episode in its development.  I also believe that Self is able to choose the time of the personality’s arrival and departure in terms of a human life.  I’m not saying (this is a tricky one to explain) that any victims of the virus decided at a conscious level to die.  I’m suggesting that at a higher, spiritual level, the entire entity decides on the correct time – for that being’s evolution – to move on to another state.  At times of mass death, whether from a natural disaster, war, an act of terrorism or a disease, every soul concerned has – at that higher level – elected to move on.  Perhaps part of that decision is based on a desire to force those of us remaining to rethink certain aspects of life.

Will China return to its former levels of pollution?  It will be interesting to see.  Will there be a knock-on effect from this to other industrial nations?

Covid-19 is also affecting travel throughout the world.  I heard yesterday of a school in England requiring all staff to sign an agreement not to engage in any non-essential travel abroad.  Again, air travel is recognised as a major pollutant, yet foreign holidays have become an accepted part of life.  Is the virus holding this up to us for consideration?  Will we find alternatives and make changes to our lives?

Population and Age

Hospice, Wrinkled Hand, Elderly, OldThis is the single most important factor that leads me to believe that the virus could be intelligent and benign.  We have an intractable problem in our world with the ageing population.  Doctors are able to keep people alive for longer.  This is generally considered to be a good thing.  However longevity takes precidence over quality of life.  It has to.  The alternative is unthinkable.  Thus – in my country, at least – many elderly people become increasingly weak and frail, needing to be cared for by exhausted relatives or in nursing homes.  They spend their final years relying on others to provide all their daily needs – even the most intimate ones – while they sit or lie helplessly waiting for the end.   I have watched, at very close quarters, both my parents and both my grandmothers finish their lives that way.  It is that – not death – that I dread.

Covid-19 is highly selective.  It infects all ages, but children recover easily.  Not until after the age of 50 is there even a 1% chance that it will be fatal.  Even then, only those with weakened immune systems or underlying heart/lung problems fall prey to it.  From age 70 onwards, the incidence of death becomes higher.  At 80 it climbs still more sharply.

Speaking as an old person, I welcome this.  I have no death wish, but there are things far worse than death.  Those lingering years, stripped of all purpose and dignity seem to me infinitely worse than a few days of fever, aches and pains and a bad cough.  Our scientists, doctors and politicians are powerless to change the problems caused by and for this ever-growing elderly population.  Perhaps the virus has arrived to rescue the situation – to humanely deal with those who would choose a quick and timely death.

The Sick and Vulnerable

Ah, but what of those who have weakened immune systems for other reasons – people who are ill but would soon recover or those with conditions requiring care in institutions?  They are vulnerable.  They should be protected.  Yet in my country we place them in hospitals where the essential work of cleaning and sanitising is given to people on zero hours contracts, people living in poverty, people who – if they become unwell – can’t afford to take sick leave, or their families would have no food.  Thus the outrageous treatment of these vital workers may well cause the virus to spread around hospitals and other institutions.

Like China’s pollution, these injustices have been brushed aside for economic reasons.  The Health Service is overstretched, we are told.  We simply can’t afford to pay these people more.  Now, though, can we afford not to?

 

Certainly this strain of Corona Virus is harsh and uncompromising.  It is no respecter of sensibilities and traditions.  It is forcing every one of us to rethink multiple aspects of our lives.  And in many respects, perhaps that is no bad thing.