Vitruvian Lines – Part 3

Image result for vitruvian manIn the previous post, I spoke of how well the role of an ‘outlier’ would suit those who fit within the square, rather than the circle of Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man – the sensitive people who are more comfortable on the fringes of a society.

It would seem highly likely that the ancient outliers held a position of very high status within nomadic or migrating groups, since they were responsible for everyone’s safety and the success of the journey.  What happened to them, though, when the travellers decided to settle and build permanent homes?  I suspect that they retained their revered status within the tribe.  There is a small but important piece of evidence for this.

Within the last year – so I learned from a recent BBC archaeology programme – it has been discovered that Avebury – the world’s largest stone circle – originally had a building at its centre, and that building (which predates the stones) was … a house.

Grass, Landscape, Outdoors, NatureAt first, this seems something of a let-down.  For years we have venerated and romanticised these stone structures as the site of religious rituals, meaningful astrological observation or sacrifice to pagan gods.  Are we now to believe that they went to the huge effort of building a stone circle, a series of elaborate avenues and other complex structures to honour a simple house?

I suspect that is exactly what they did.   The symbolic importance of the first settlers’ homes would have been immense.  This was the starting point for a new way of life – a new beginning for their society.  In myth, traditional stories and legend, the House of a clan, family or tribe is revered – not the building itself, so much as the dynasty it represents.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that our distant ancestors chose the site of that first home to build their stone circles as a gathering place.  The interesting thing about stone circles, though, is that they very often have outliers – stones placed at a distance from the main structure.  Often these stones mark a particular view, such as the only position from which a sunrise can be viewed in a gap between distant hills on the solstice.  They can also mark the beginning of a causeway or avenue leading to some other important place.  I think the idea of a central gathering place was hard-wired into these people, but so was the need and reverence for the outliers.

So does the structure of a settled society render outliers/ ‘square fillers’ obsolete?

Absolutely not.

In many primal societies people with this special skills-set – heightened senses, an ability to link telepathically to other times or places, other dimensions, even, and a degree of separation from the everyday life of the society – are appointed as shamans, healers and seers.  Their role can be to travel between worlds, to care for the psychological health of the group, to look into the future or past to provide the answers they need or to uncover the reasons for sickness or misfortune.  They are the psychic equivalent to the outlier – visiting regions the rest can’t reach and feeding back necessary information.

Humanity is always journeying forwards.  We have seen that these talented and unusual individuals are not particularly popular with leaders and experts in our society’s structure.  Some, though, manage to have a profound effect despite officialdom.  When they do, they are responsible for creating the huge shifts in perception that move society into new areas.  The Einsteins, the Teslas and the Newtons are able to access insights and understanding simply not available to the common man or woman.  These people work silently, compulsively, alone and – for reasons we’ll see later – are able to make huge leaps to a higher level of understanding of how the universe really works.

I’m fully aware that so far I’ve written well over 3000 words on this subject and not yet addressed the core issue I promised to discuss – an explanation of how autistic perception works.  Stay with me.  The first few sections were an overview, showing how our present Western society isn’t structured to encourage or promote autistic perception, while others apparently are or have been.  They have also demonstrated the persistence of autistic perception and touched on its value to society.

The next section will begin to look more closely at what it involves, while after that, I’ll attempt to draw in research from three very different disciplines so that we can finally examine what autistic perception is, how it works and the benefits for the population as a whole.

Advertisements

Vitruvian Lines – Part 2

Society, another way

I’m trying, in this series of posts, to identify the key differences between two aspects of the human population.  To avoid the usual derogatory associations that beset people who are medically or educationally labelled as different from the majority, I’ve borrowed Leonardo’s wonderful Vitruvian Man (which he borrowed from Vitruvius) and used the two overlying figures he depicts to represent these types of people.  Image result for vitruvian manThere are those who fit neatly into the circle.  They are those commonly called neurotypical.  Then there are the others – the people who, we are told by the experts, have differently wired brains.  These are those who fit the square.  There wouldn’t be a problem, unless someone tries to fit a square into a round hole.  In the previous post, I used that analogy to consider how our society is structured in such a way that it attempts to do exactly that.

Now, though, I’d like to consider other ways of structuring societies and see whether there could be a more comfortable space in them for our ‘square fillers’.

As I mentioned last week, a triangular power structure has held sway in the West since written records began.  Humanity is far older than writing, though, so by thinking back to a time before scribes and civil servants organised us all, we may find something different.

Despite the earnest efforts of social anthropologists, archaeologists and academics, very little is known, and far less understood, about our distant ancestors – the people who migrated vast distances across Africa, Europe and beyond.

For millennia, the hunter-gatherers moved gently across the landscape.  They would take refuge in caves or build temporary shelters, but they often needed to follow the food supply, so movement was their natural way of life.  A tribe which is constantly on the move and living a hand-to-mouth existence has no need of leaders or experts.  Consequently, I think it safe to assume that their society would have been structured very differently to ours.

In order to safeguard the youngest, oldest and otherwise vulnerable members of their group, they would have to form a protective framework as they moved. The pace of the group would, then, probably be slow and steady.

Mountains, Ridge, Climbing, Open SpaceCertainly there is safety in numbers and it isn’t hard to see the advantages to the group of travelling in this way.  Fairly obviously, though, there are certain shortcomings.  What this culture would need is for certain individuals to move slightly away from the central group and to perform a different function.  The hunter-gatherers would need outliers.

An outlier is someone with a relationship to the general group, but somewhat apart from it – on the periphery.

If you think, for example, of a herd of migrating animals, the general mass remains together in a central hub but certain individuals purposely take themselves to the edges and beyond.  Theirs is a more exposed and potentially dangerous situation, but they serve the valuable purpose of scouting for possible hazards or useful food sources that would be missed by the main group.  Without the outliers, the entire colony would stand less chance of survival.

If you think about it, the skills these outliers develop will be very different from those of the rest of the population.   Imagine a group of humans on a long journey, with most crowded into a central group and a few staying on the edges and heading off to scout around.  Who would have the highest levels of sensory stimulation – a member of the mass or an outlier?  Clearly it would be the outlier.  He or she would need highly developed senses of sight, smell, hearing and touch in order to be alert for danger or sanctuary, while members of the central group would have little sensory stimulation beyond the sound, smell and sight of their fellow travellers.

By contrast, an outlier would not need to be particularly involved in everyday, low-level interactions with others, since he or she is on the fringes of the group and only needs to communicate about matters of urgency.  The central group, on the other hand, would need the ability to engage in ‘small talk’ and general chatter to maintain a peaceful co-existence.

As will no doubt have already occurred to you, the characteristics of an outlier in a migratory group resemble some classic features of autistic perception – heightened senses, often to the point where they can be uncomfortable or even painful, and limited social and communication skills.  In other words, those with autistic perception could be ideally suited to the role of an outlier.

(I wonder whether the fascination so many ‘square fillers’ have with trains and other modes of transport is some deep ancestral memory of this role.  Fanciful, perhaps, but possible?)

Next time, I’ll consider the status of the outlier in those nomadic societies, and what might have happened to them when peoples began to settle.

 

Syncing without Trace, but Czeching

I wish I could trace them – the tracks of my synchronicities.

Sometimes they feel like cross-hairs gradually coming together, to home in on the target, but it’s far more complex than that.  There are many strands and they cross and recross, ricocheting off one another in an apparently random mess, until gradually and subtly they begin building up a pattern.  Finally, with no clear idea how I got here, I find myself standing at the centre of an amazing piece of sacred geometry and the whole thing is laid out clearly for me to see, like those transit patterns the planets make with each other.

(Is that how astrology fits in?  Is it sacred geometry working out at a macro level??  Maybe Pluto or Uranus are not ‘influencing’ us – they’re just making the patterns of the synchronicity working through our lives visible.  Sorry: digression.)

So once I’ve had the ‘Aha!’ moment, I can try to work back to how I got there.  What was it that pushed me to open this file or buy that book?  I think – if I were the kind of person who could create such things – a diagram or flow chart would work better.  Alas, all I have at my disposal are strings of words, so they must suffice.  The process is not linear, but this attempt to unravel it will be, since that’s the way writing works.

  • Phone, Communication, ConnectionI publish a post on here which includes this image.
  • Someone comments on it and directs me to an interview with Stan Grof.
  • I become intrigued and read a book referred to in the interview.  At this point the lines of synchronicity are shooting off in multiple directions; one even points at synchronicity!
  • Grof intrigues me and, like my grandfather, he is a Czech emigrant.
  • The book tells of psychiatric regressions, with patients picking up ancestral stories from their bloodline, which were later authenticated.
  • In a quite different part of my life, I am buying a piece of Moldavite for a friend’s birthday.  I don’t know why.  I simply have a very strong feeling that this person needs Moldavite, now.
  • Intrigued again (being intrigued is a very strong indicator for synchronicities at work, I’ve found) I begin researching Moldavite.  I discover it comes from the site of a meteor impact, many centuries ago, and is only found at this one place on Earth –  in The Czech Republic.  ‘There it is again,’ I think. (Repetition/dêja vu is another indicator of synchronicity.)
  • While I’m musing on that, I start exploring that country, trying one more time to locate the village my grandfather came from.  I’ve tried on many occasions.  I knew its name from the postmarks in his stamp collection, which I inherited, but the German language forms of many border towns’ names were eradicated after WWII and I didn’t know the Czech equivalent.
  • This time, though, I find it.  I’m delighted and make a mental note to explore some more when I have time.
  • After an exhausting and rather frustrating day, I decide to have a quiet evening watching TV.  I select a film called The Secret Life of Bees, a rather sugary tale of life, death and the civil rights struggles in the American deep south in the sixties.
  • Incomprehensibly, I find myself weeping uncontrollably throughout the entire movie.  I’m identifying so strongly with every aspect of the story line and characters.  It feels personal.  It feels as if I’ve been there and experienced that and the pain is still unbearably raw.  Yet I haven’t.
  • By the end of the film, I’m a red-eyed, snivelling wreck, with a mountain of soggy tissues beside me.  ‘It’s just been a hard day,’  I tell myself.  I need to go and do something enjoyable.
  • I head for the computer and go back to researching the Czech connection.
  • I find the village my grandfather came from on Google Map.  I wander through its streets and peer across the mountains he grew up in.  I even find the post office where my ancestral relatives sent the letters whose stamps now lie, old and yellowing, in his album.
  • I read other sites, with histories of the area.  They tell how this once prosperous mining town, with rich seams of silver and agate crystals was ravaged by the Thirty Years War, fell into decline, was subsumed by the Austro-Hungarian empire and the native Bohemians persecuted and viciously suppressed.  This continued for decades.  The young men faced compulsory 10 year military service in their oppressors’ army.
  • So that was why my grandfather fled to England!  He died when I was a young child.  My father was embarrassed to talk about his origins while I was growing up.  Bohemia had become part of Czechoslovakia by then and was part of the feared Eastern Bloc during those Cold War days, so Dad pretended he came from Austria.
  • Finally, I feel I understand my heritage.  I know why the Bees film affected me so deeply.  I accept that ancestral memory still travels through my consciousness.  I see why dissolving prejudice has been such a huge part of my life.
  • I turn away from the computer – and stare straight into the eyes of my grandfather, whose pastel portrait hangs on the living room wall.  I pass it a hundred times a day, but at this point I really see it.
  • And he is smiling slightly.

The Book of Caw

Book, Story, Fairy TaleI was woken this morning – as I am almost every day – by Caw.  And I knew, suddenly, that the Book of Caw needs to be written.  Maybe by me, maybe by someone else.  Who can say?  All I know is that the image of The Book of Caw is lodged in my mind now and the only thing that will move it on is for me to start writing.

So what is Caw? I imagine you asking.  (And why are sentences – proper ones – so elusive this morning? I ask myself.  Probably because the words are coming from somewhere where punctuation doesn’t hold sway.  I’ve visited that somewhere quite a bit recently, which would explain a lot.)

OK.  An easy way out of the definition conundrum would be to say something like, ‘Caw is Oneness, or All That Is’.   That, though, is so all-encompassing as to be almost devoid of meaning for us – a bit like asking someone to imagine an infinite universe…  Fortunately, Caw can be explored in many ways, and each of them helps us to discover more of the truths behind the truism, and to apply them to what we know of our own existence.

Say the word aloud, and you will immediately have one of it’s aspects – Caw is core.  It lies at the very heart of every facet of existence.  It’s the point we come back to, after our little forays into the game of materiality.  We have Caw strength at the centre of our existence.  It’s unmoving, solid, steadfast and entirely dependable, yet it will flow with us, wherever we go.  (Yes, there’s a paradox there – the first of many.  Always think ‘and’ rather than ‘or’ with Caw.)

If it were an acronym, CAW could be formed from, perhaps, Consciousness Applying Will.  In that sense, it is placing intention into consciousness – or vice versa – in order to manifest or create.  That, after all, is how our miniverse here is fabricated.

Animal, Beak, Bird, Black, Claw, CrowLet’s stop metafizzing, briefly, and bring Caw into our familiar material world.  As I said at the start, Caw wakes me each morning.  It is the sound of the corvids – the rooks and jackdaws and magpies that restlessly circle  my cottage, squawking to one another, playing some complex aerial game of tag and scattering black feathers in my garden.  I won’t even begin to delve into the folklore that surrounds this family of birds, but it’s found all around the world.  They are mysterious, intelligent, cunning and wise.  Certainly not light and fluffy.  They have a gravitas that commands attention and respect, verging on fear at times.  Caw is all that.

Chess, Rook, Castle, Piece, GameCaw is the rook on the chessboard, too.  Sometimes hiding in the corner, biding its time; sometimes castling – not afraid to reveal itself in order to protect what is of the most value.  Then, when the time is right, striking suddenly – covering vast distances in a dead straight line to get to the core of the action.  Caw is that too.

Caw is gnosis, knowing, deep knowledge that comes from a point of insight and certainty.  It is not born of opinion or consideration.  It is not gradually acquired through study.  It is our direct link to the Akasha and it comes in instant flashes.  Once recognised, we know – absolutely and with utter certainty – that this is right.  It cannot be any other way.

That is in no way an exhaustive account of Caw.  Other aspects will occur to you, and they will all be valid, but I will let that serve as an introduction.

 

To work with Caw, we need to dispense with a few sacred cows.  We need to try to rid ourselves of:

  • cause and effect
  • common sense
  • rationality

There is, of course, nothing wrong with any of them, except that they only work in 3D.  They only apply to the mechanistic model of the universe we built for ourselves with our cosmic construction set.

To work with Caw, we need to put aside that much-loved toy and move into reality.  It is Caw that will lead us there.

 

Long, long ago…

Fantasy, Castle, Cloud, Sky, TowerI’ve had this theory, for quite a long time now, that my life is based around a fairy tale… and just maybe everyone’s is.

Let me try to explain.

Imagine that, at the very start of becoming human and beginning this great adventure of playing at being physical creatures in a three dimensional world, our greater, non-physical, soul selves created a sort of master plan for human life to play out in.  Let’s imagine they (we) came up with a set of archetypal storylines, each involving a journey – an adventure of some sort with heroes and villains, difficult choices and wise ones who just happen to appear at the right moment.

Now imagine that, no matter what else we forgot about our origins and our true purpose, however muddled and confused we became by religions and sciences and politics and cultures, our greater selves would find a way to ensure that these vital blueprints for living out physical life could not be forgotten.  They would be hardwired into us.  Every generation would feel an innate urge to share them and pass them on to the next.  We would not be able to lose them.  Is that possible?

Heroesjourney.svg

Diagram from Wikipedia

Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell and many others have written about the mono-myth, the hero’s journey or whatever they chose to call it.

Here it is at it’s most basic.

I suspect, though, that there are several variations – a collection of mythic journeys – and that, maybe in our pre-birth planning stage, we selected one to work with, in just the way you might select a video to watch, a book to read or a game to play.

Here in the West, the remnants of these blueprints are gathered in the collections of Hans Andersen, the Brothers Grimm and (in the USA) Mother Goose.  The same storylines, though, exist all over the planet.  They are in folk tales, soaps, Hollywood movies and Shakespearean dramas.  There’s always a twist in the tale, an unexpected choice, a reversal we weren’t expecting, to keep us interested, but the themes remain, because we need them to.

I won’t tell you which story is mine.  It’s a bit too personal.  You see, you know the story too well, and if I were to reveal its name, you’d know my life.  My character is on a long journey, seeking for something.  Various other characters and situations appear and distract me, lull me into a false sense of security.  Then, all of a sudden something happens to remind me of my quest, and I feel angry at the wasted time and set off again to continue my search.  There’s nothing trite or trivial about this journey.  It’s not even just a matter of life and death; it’s more than that.  It’s my soul/sole purpose and I need to get on and complete it.

I wrote about this theory at greater length, although probably not particularly well, in Life: A Player’s Guide, because I knew then – back in 2012 – how important it was.

Since then I’d forgotten.

But something happened this week to bring me back to it, so on I’ll go, hoping that now I finally have all the gifts, all the helpers and mentors and all the luck to complete my quest and reach a happy ending.

 

Trying to Re-Member

There’s a group I attend from time to time here in my town.  Each week they provide cups of every kind of herbal tea you can imagine, biscuits or cake, and a speaker.  The talks range over many areas and subjects, but they must always be positive.  That seems to be the only rule.

Abstract, Background, Pattern, ArtisticI’d never heard of that night’s speaker, but his subject was ‘The Eight Elements’ and partly because I’d been pondering on elements for quite a while and partly because he was speaking as a follower of Krishna – a Truth quite new to me – I decided to go along.

The gentleman stood calmly before us, looked around the room at the sea of faces and announced, with total certainty, “I’m not the only person in this room who has been to the breaking point.  I’m not alone in having reached a point in my life where everything I lived for, everything I believed, everything I cared about was swept away, leaving me lost, broken and utterly alone.”

All around the room, heads nodded slowly, solemnly, mine included.

The talk was excellent.  Krishna’s take on the elements was oddly familiar and linked in well with the Egyptian, Greek, Shamanic, Medieval and alchemical ideas I’d been reading and thinking about.  What I was left with above all, though, was that idea of the breaking point – the need to go through what feels at the time to be a crisis, a disaster, a destruction of all you’ve held dear.  It is the tower card in the tarot – the card I used to fear above all others, back in the days when my life was settled and sorted (although very far from perfect).

I thought of the many friends and family members I’ve seen hit that point, whether through a sudden incapacitating illness, a financial meltdown, a job loss, a relationship breakup or what’s commonly called a nervous breakdown.  Often – as in my own case – it’s a mixture of several of these.  Like the body of Osiris, we are broken up, hacked into pieces and scattered in the waters of Life.

Shell, Broken, Empty, Close, LeaveThere follows a time of the most awe-ful emptiness.  We shut down.  We exist from moment to moment, day to day, with no clear idea of how or why we are still functioning.  This is the time we need to hide away, to withdraw from everyone and everything, knowing at some instinctive level that we require peace, and that healing will eventually flow from this.

Despite the kindness and ministrations of others, there’s ultimately only one place that healing can come from.  It comes from within.  It comes from our soul-selves – the part of us that is, and has always been, whole and complete.  Slowly and painfully, we begin to re-member ourselves – to put ourselves back together.  This time, though, we will be different.  We will have shed the limiting beliefs that we are not complete without money/ health/ family/ possessions/ career/ home/ friends or whatever we relied upon for stability and identity in the past.  That’s not to say we won’t regain or rediscover some of these, but they will no longer take centre stage.

Now we will have re-membered who we truly are.  We will recognise that we are whole and complete in ourselves.  We are not – primarily – parent or employee, partner or owner.  We are infinite aspects of the great I AM and as such, we have no limits.

“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self. Therefore, trust the physician and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility.”

Kahlil Gibran: The Prophet

 

Having Fun

Munich, Oktoberfest, Ride, Carousel, FunRight now, at this point in my life, I’m having fun.

Should I feel guilty about that?  Would I be more worthy if I focused (as many wonderful people I know do) on wars and famine and the-state-of-politics and all the other worrying aspects of our world?

I dare to say it: no.

My life – all six-and-a-fair-bit decades of it – has had it’s share of disasters, problems, heartbreaks and despair.  I’m now – in hindsight (which is a much cosier place to view from) – thankful for all those difficult and testing times.  They’ve etched lines on my face, turned my hair white and allowed me to understand myself and others far better than if I’d had a safe, comfortable time reading the papers and keeping the house tidy.  (I do neither of those things.)

At this point, I have no major problems in my life and I have the most inordinate amount of fun.  If you’re about to say, “Oh don’t say that, you’re tempting fate”, you are missing the point.  In those terms, I don’t believe there is any such thing as ‘fate’ – or, for that matter – a vengeful deity of any kind, which must be appeased and bowed down to.  I don’t believe that I have a preordained ‘lot’ that will come to me, whatever, or can only be avoided if I follow the rules, or store up good karma.

I believe that I create my life.

Now the devil’s advocate will be saying, “So if that’s the case, how come you created all those heartbreaks and disasters, huh?”

I don’t mean that I create the whole shebang consciously and meticulously (although I have come across a few people who are just about able to do that).  However I am coming closer to a conscious awareness of the process.

Since I started to see myself as moving through a thixotropic aether (see my last post for details if you have no idea what I just said there) rather than a vacuum which happens to have a bit of air in this particular portion of it,  I’ve altered my way of viewing life.  It’s great!  I’m loving it.

The Sand Dunes, DuneThe way I considered it was this:  Quicksand is thixotropic.  The more you bash and flail and struggle, the more unyielding it becomes.  If, though, you very softly and gently relax, flow with it and – causing as little resistance as possible – swim slowly and carefully towards the edge, you can gradually escape.

The thing is, if my whole life is a journey through this substance, just crawling out once won’t help that much.  There isn’t, in this existence, a place of safety, where no perils or challenges can possibly occur; physical life just isn’t like that.  I could argue that it’s one big sea of quicksand.  Once I know how to deal with that, though, it stops being a problem.  I can drift gently through it.  I can get used to the way it pulls and sucks at me.  I can stop seeing it as the enemy and just resolve to move lightly through it, not taking it too seriously, not resisting it.  I can start to enjoy it’s texture and the whole adventure.  It was my choice to be here, after all.

So I’m not living in some kind of fool’s paradise.  I know just how it all works.  I know the hazards and dangers, but that is not going to stop me enjoying myself.

Like I said, I’m having fun.

When Worlds Collide

People, Bus, Commuting, Public TransportA three hour coach ride passes so much better when you find yourself seated next to someone interesting to chat to.

My neighbour yesterday was, it emerged, travelling to London for a brief, bittersweet half day with her daughter.  It was the girl’s birthday.  She’d booked herself into a posh hotel in the West End.  They were to have champagne, then lunch somewhere luxurious.  The daughter would unwrap her presents then – ‘a comfort sack’ with such items as a thick duvet, pillow and covers, hand warmers, hot chocolate mix…  Tomorrow the young lady will take all her spoils and return to Greece, where she works for the UN, caring for the refugees.
“It’s so desperately cold there, Mum,” she’d told her mother. “Just so desperate”.

Lesvos, Island, Mytilini, GreeceI wondered how it felt for that young woman to move between those two quite different worlds – her opulent English lifestyle and the squalor and tragedy of the transit camps.  How must the smells, the sounds, the sickness and pain feel to someone who has grown up in such a different culture?  How, indeed, must it feel for the inhabitants of the camps, wrenched from their lives in such violence and terror?

 

“And you?” my neighbour enquired.  “Why are you going to London?”

“Oh,” I said, with a slight smile, “I’m probably going to enjoy a few hours in the British Museum.  And I might be meeting a friend.”

Well it was a long journey, so gradually my story came out too.  If we did meet, it would be no less shocking and difficult a transition for my friend than her daughter’s move to Greece had been.

Sport, Exhausting, To Clench TeethJust as the refugee camps would seem overwhelmingly disgusting and sickening to us – their sights, smells and emotional charge far beyond what we feel able to cope with – so our world is, for people like my friend.  For him, and so many other super-sensitive people who live with autistic spectrum perception in its many and amazing forms, our world – in all its raw, visceral physicality can be almost too much to cope with.  Their senses are easily overwhelmed by what, to us, would seem trivial.  Their anxiety never sleeps.  Their fears grapple constantly at their throats with sharp, threatening fingers.  Small wonder so many would prefer to remain in the insular, relatively safe surroundings of the worlds they have built for themselves.  Why – given the choice – would they venture out into the uncertainties of our unfamiliar and terrifying world?

The answer is the same as for the young lady working for the UN – compassion, humanity, generosity of spirit.  They want to help us.  They want to build bridges.  They want to reach into our world and show us their perspectives.  If they manage it, we will be so much richer for it, but if they don’t, we have no right to criticise them.  Every single day, they struggle to do what they can to reach into our world.  And there will be days they just can’t.

When I reached London, he was still at home, holed up in an agony of indecision.  If he managed a meeting, it would be the first for many years.  The least I could do was to make it as easy as possible for him.
‘No rush,’ I messaged.  ‘I’ll head for the museum. Text me later if you feel able to meet somewhere.’

An hour later I was a stranger wandering in the world of the Abyssinians: huge bas-reliefs of Kings and courtiers.  ‘Spirit helpers’ with the heads of eagles and small handbags held objects like oversized pine cones against the backs of the humans’ heads.  Why?  Pineal gland connection perhaps?  What was in the bags?  What favoured realm had these beings descended from, to help their human counterparts?

Then my phone pinged.

‘I’m going to come.  I’m in central London.  Shall I meet you at the British Museum or elsewhere?’

‘The museum’s crammed with people,’ I told him, when I’d had a moment.  ‘Let’s meet in one of the squares nearby.’

On my way out I paused to stare in awe once again at the Rosetta stone, that magical jigsaw piece that had given the modern world a way into the world of other races at other times.  For me, at that moment, the stone became a talisman, allowing my world and my friend’s to come together for a short while.

Seat, Iron, Metal, Bench, Seat BenchBloomsbury, like much of London, has many lovely, peaceful squares – small oases of calm and greenery amidst the hubbub of traffic and commerce.  I selected a calm, pleasant open space where I felt he’d be most comfortable, sat on a bench and waited.  I sat at one end and placed my bags beside me, knowing he’d need more body space than most would consider normal for lifelong friends.  I remained seated when he arrived.  No exclamation of delight, no bear hugs or grasping of hands.
“Alright?” he said simply.
“Yes,” I said quietly.  “And well done.”

Old friends.  Old friends.  Sat on a park bench like bookends.
Paul Simon’s song echoed in my mind from another of my distant worlds.

I’d written much of what I wanted to say on paper.  He finds the written word easier to handle than speech – less unpredictable.  So for the first few minutes he sat and read in silence.  Then we talked.  He kept his eyes fixed straight ahead; body language and facial expression are confusing for him, so it’s easier if he cuts them out.  Still there were deep discussions and moments of humour, with both of us laughing out loud.  There were connections and shared memories of times when we’d spent so many days and hours together.  It was wonderful.

And because I know he finds transitions difficult, I made the decision on when to leave.  Or perhaps the weather did, as the rain that had been threatening all afternoon eventually began to fall.

Neither of us said, “See you soon.”  Who knows?   And what does it matter?  Our worlds had come together for that short while without any explosions or disasters and we are closer for that experience.

We Need to Talk

Legs, Shoes, Shadow, Alone, PersonI live alone and, yep, sometimes I catch myself speaking aloud – to myself, obviously.  My utterances are quiet; of the “Okay, what next – do the washing or check email?” variety.  I try to keep a cap on it though.  Don’t want to end up as one of those compulsive mutterers.

I used to live next door to a guy (also a single person) who spoke – nay, bellowed – to the TV.  The partition wall between our rooms was thin, and he would join in vociferously with Question Time – a current affairs discussion forum on the BBC.
“Turn off his microphone!” he would roar.  “Don’t let this fool have airtime!  You are a disgrace, sir!” and so on, and on.

So is speaking aloud something we all need to do?  I think the urge to do so is pretty strong, judging by my experiences on a bus journey earlier this week.

Trolleybus, Transport, City, PassengersTalking Passenger 1:   He was scruffy but clean and of indeterminate age, dressed entirely in shades of grey and beige.  As he stood aside before boarding, to let an elderly couple off, he greeted them effusively, despite apparently not knowing them:
“No, no, that’s fine. I always check to see if anyone needs to get off first. Have a wonderful day, won’t you.”
The driver was greeted in similar vein: “Thank you for your kindness,” when given his bus ticket.
Sweet.
When he sat down, the conversation continued unabated, despite having no one to talk to:
“Oho, what do I see? A newspaper! Excellent!”
He went on to peruse the sports section then to use the paper as an improvised trumpet. This clearly pleased him, as he repeated it several times.  He kept up a commentary on his journey until leaving the bus in a small village.  I watched as he walked across to the war memorial, sat on its steps and continued to chatter amiably to himself.

This gentleman appeared to have a very comfortable life, I decided.  His monologues clearly soothed and satisfied him.

Many of us, though, would fear ridicule for chattering away so freely to ourselves.  A companion (or at the least, a mobile phone) becomes a necessity for many.

Businessman, Talking, Phone, MobileThe bus was unexpectedly diverted at one point and almost everyone grabbed their phones and began chattering excitedly.  Some were legitimately warning a relative or workmate that they would be delayed; most were simply calling hapless friends or family members in order to share the news with someone.  For a moment I was tempted to do the same, before realising that no one I knew would be even remotely interested in hearing about my slightly lengthened journey.

Talking Passenger 2:  A mother with a small child, aged about 4.  She got on in a flap, asking the driver why all the bus timetables were wrong.  He explained that, for reasons of their own, the bus company had seen fit to change the 171 bus to a 37, although the route and times had not been changed.  Well yeah, they do that sometimes.  Ours not to reason why…
Anyway, this news clearly disturbed the young lady.  She needed to process the information and to do that, she evidently needed to talk.
She turned to her little boy and told him, “We won’t be able to get the 171 any more.  They’ve stopped it.  We’ll have to get a different bus now – one called a 37.”
The child nodded, mutely.
This clearly wasn’t enough for her. She repeated the information twice more.
Finally the boy replied, very pragmatically, I felt, and in a comforting tone, “But it had a W on the front, so that means it’s still going to Wells, doesn’t it?”
She had to agree that it did, and finally felt able to fall silent.

I had to change buses in that very city, and found myself seated in the bus shelter alongside…

Woman, Dog, Coffey, Coffee ShopTalking passenger 3: “Oh that’s right!” she said, suddenly, loudly and in a voice heavily laced with sarcasm.
I started, before realising she was talking not to me but to a small terrier, wearing a neckerchief.
“Yes, why don’t you! Put your muddy paw on Mummy! Now my raincoat’s got a nasty smear on it.”
The dog wagged it’s tail cheerfully and attempted to clamber on to her lap. It clearly didn’t get sarcasm.
“Get OFF!” she bellowed, angrily.
This time the message was clear and her pet withdrew and busied itself by chewing a discarded sweet wrapper.
As our bus pulled in, a teenage girl held the access gate open for the lady.
“Thank you,” she said, “but the driver isn’t ready yet, so I’ll wait here. Not,” she added, cuttingly, “that you can hear a word I’m saying, with those headphones stuck in your ears!”
A man nearby smiled sympathetically, “Yeah, dogs!” he responded. “Never listen, do they?”
The lady turned on him. “My DOG hears every word I say!” she announced, imperiously. “It’s those young people with the headphones – they never hear you.”

She clearly needed to be heard.

I suppose, to some extent, we all do. And, yes, we need to talk.

Why else would I be writing this blog? 🙂

Dear Self…

I have a friend who is experiencing the most terrible of times.  She is heartbroken, flat, without hope, overwhelmed and filled with grief.  Her pain and suffering are not illusory (despite my continuing belief that life is a game – it’s real enough while we are playing it) and the problems seem insurmountable.

I considered writing a letter to this friend, suggesting how she might help herself emerge from these black times, but that feels wrong.  I haven’t walked in her shoes.  I can’t tell her what steps she should take.

So instead, I’ll write my letter to my Self – the Self I was in 2008: the year I had left my teaching career, my painful, trustless, crumbling marriage, my beloved grown-up children, my home and friends, and moved to London to care for my mother.  Woman, Old, Face, Portrait, White

She couldn’t acknowledge her dementia, couldn’t see why life was becoming uncomfortable and confusing, so directed all her anger, fear and spite towards me.

I’ll write to the Self who lay shaking and crying on the spare room bed, after dodging most of the vicious blows and scratches for barring the front door at 3am and not allowing Mum to ‘go to the hairdressers’.  The Self who had turned the gas tap off on the hob again, after finding it hissing, and was wondering how long before the house would explode.  The self who knew that – one way or another, even if she didn’t blow us up – we both had to be out of that house within the next three months because there was no money left.  The Self who had nowhere to go and no one to turn to.  Those are shoes I’ve walked in.

Dear Self,

I know how black it feels.  I know how heavy all those fears and injustices are.  I know it’s 3.30 in the morning and you’re at the darkest hour – in every way.

You’re asking yourself what you have done to deserve this.  The answer is: you have grown strong.  This isn’t retribution; it’s a rite of passage.  You have given yourself the opportunity to be tested as never before – and to overcome each and every difficulty, to emerge stronger and more confident.

You’re protesting that you didn’t want this ‘test’ – you want to go back to when things were easier: not great, perhaps, but easier than this.

It doesn’t work that way.  Your life has been moving towards this point for quite a time now.  It’s here, and I’m here to help you through it.

Me?  Yes, I’m yourself – one of the millions of Selves you create with your every thought and emotion.  The me who is writing this lives eight years in your future.  She’s happy, comfortable and lives a full and independent life, surrounded by like-minded friends, with a pretty home of her own, inspiring children to teach and learn from and a garden to tend.  She has all you now dream of and more.  I don’t expect you to be able to imagine that life yet, but it’s waiting for you, dear Self, once you get through this time.

You think you’re alone.  You’re not.  All your past and future Selves are there with you.  They send you exFace, Soul, Head, Smoke, Light, Sadperience, wisdom and inspiration.  They are as real as the Self you are, lying on that bed.  You are – how can I explain ideas you haven’t yet encountered? – ‘entangled’ with more other Selves than you can imagine.  Everyone you have cared for and loved, shared with and learned from is there with you.  Just like those little sub-atomic quantum whatsits you’ve read of in science books, you and those people – the ones you see as ‘living’ and the ones you think of as ‘dead’ – become forever entangled.  That means you only have to lie there in the night asking for support and comfort, and they will come flocking to you.  You know, already, that we are more than our bodies.  You know we are also spirit.  That is how they reach you, care for you and hold you up, if you can just allow them in.

Dad’s there – of course he is.  He knows exactly what you’re enduring.  Grandma, too.  She’s barely left your side.  Trust that they are with you.

Now I want you to look into your life.  Yes, I know, the one that totally sucks.  Only it doesn’t – not TOTALLY.  I want you to find something in there – and it can be a tiny, seemingly insignificant something – that is better-than-awful.

Park, Hirsch, Enclosure, Animals, AntlerYour body, for example – it’s working pretty well, isn’t it?  Certainly the sleepless, interrupted nights aren’t helping and the IBS has flared again, but your senses work, your legs, your arms…  Take that body tomorrow – once Mum’s gone to the daycare centre – and give it a treat.  Take it to the park.  Leave the sack of worries at the gates.  Stroll in the sunshine and watch the squirrels and deer, the movement of the trees and grass, the ripples in the river.  Listen and smell and immerse yourself in nature and don’t allow yourself to give a single thought to the worries or fears.  This is your healing time.

When you get back to the gates – yes – the problems will still be waiting for you.  There will be a difference, though.  You’ll have created a piece of your Self they can’t get to.  Nurture that ‘safe’ fragment of you; spoil her rotten!  She deserves it – YOU deserve it.

You don’t need others advising you about what to do, or telling you how much you matter to them or protecting you.  You’re very slowly and wonderfully growing into the Self you can be – that strong, independent woman you were born to become.

It will keep hurting for a while, and there will be problems to overcome, but trust.  You’re going to come out of all this just fine – and it will be you (with a million Selves to back you up) who does it.

Love

Your Self   (please…)