Rules of Engagement – in Education and Beyond

Some mystery person has been looking through many of my old posts this last week.  It’s encouraged me to revisit some of my older jottings.  

Rather short of time this week, so I’ve decided the article below is probably worth a second look.  Sadly, I no longer work at GLOW, but this should serve as a fitting tribute to the amazing young people I knew there.

 

Back when I was a schoolteacher in Essex, I’d greet my new cluster of 10-year-olds on the first day of the school year with their first task – to write our class rules.

Rules for Students Fall 2009-2

It was a depressing and arduous process.  I’d start by writing up my own contribution: Have Fun.  The children would look sideways at each other with that, ‘yeah, right!’ expression and proceed to make their own suggestions, gleaned from six years of experience within the education system.

No swearin’.    No spittin’.    Don’t hit no one.    Don’t rock on yer chairs…….

Patiently and gently I’d encourage them to transform their list of negatives to positives – aspirations rather than prohibitions.  They’d look bemused, try hard to please me, but be far more comfortable with their familiar set of regulations – they were much easier to break.

I should add that all the teachers who had encountered these groups of children before me had made similar attempts to foster positivity.   Perhaps we made limited progress eventually.

 

At GLOW, there is a shifting population, so the rules are ready and waiting.  New arrivals either agree to our code of conduct or decide this place isn’t right for them and leave.  We have only four rules, but they are binding and non-negotiable.

The first I brought with me: Have fun.

The other three were lifted from Conversations With God:   Be Honest.    Be Responsible.    Be Aware.

They work.  Conflicts are rare within the group, despite widely differing backgrounds and ages (currently 7-14).

When one child approached me this week to tell me he was becoming frustrated that a smaller child was repeatedly breathing right in his face, I took the younger one aside and reminded him of the rule of Awareness.

“Being aware means watching how your behaviour is affecting others in the room.  If the other person is clearly enjoying this game – laughing and joining in – by all means carry on.  If he’s looking annoyed, unhappy or asking you to stop, then you must decide whether it’s a good game for both of you.”

He looked surprised, thought for a moment, then nodded and stopped.

We’ve talked a lot about bullying.  Many home-educated children have experienced this in the past at school or within their neighbourhoods.  We’ve reached an agreement that’s it’s an unfortunate affliction affecting those who feel powerless or fearful, and therefore choose to boost their own self-esteem by attempting to lower that of another person.  Once the children are able to recognise the neediness of the bully, they can move beyond fear and towards some level of understanding (while taking steps to keep themselves safe, obviously).  However they are in agreement that bullying in any form is not ok.

Activities are provided but participation is optional.  If someone prefers to sit out, that’s fine, as long as they remain responsible and aware and don’t stop others from having fun.

Sometimes there is an element of striving to excel at a task – making paper aeroplanes, for example.  Each child works to improve upon his or her prototype.  We then come together and decide on the best features of each.  ‘Put-downs’ and bragging are absent.  The children have reached a consensus that ‘I win’ necessitates ‘You lose’, and that doesn’t feel too good.

When an activity is finished, everyone takes joint responsibility for helping to clear up and tidy the room.

All sounds quite utopian, doesn’t it?  It certainly feels that way.

 

Last night, though, I found myself wondering whether GLOW’s rules are preparing these children for life in the outside world.  Let’s take, um, politics, for example…

I’m a resolutely apolitical person.  I have no particular allegiance to any party or dogma.  I think life is far more complex than that.

I do however feel deeply saddened by the adversarial system of politics that currently holds sway in my country (the UK) and many others.

Let us, if we can, suspend judgement for a while and accept that those who have chosen to become politicians have done so with at least some intention to provide fairness, protection for the weakest, controls over the most powerful and a ‘decent’ society for all, in whatever way they feel that should be done.  Is it not a shame, then, that their only recourse, once they have entered the political arena, is to score points off others and shout them down?

The House of Commons at Westminster: This engr...

If a spokesperson for the blue party suggests solving a problem by doing A, B or C, the corresponding member of the red party is duty bound to berate this idea, to roundly insult the ‘honourable member’ in as snide and unpleasant a way as possible and to give a range of reasons why A, B or C is completely ridiculous.  This happens regardless of the merits or demerits of the original idea and often in spite of that individual’s personal feelings about it.

Should a member of one party publicly agree with something suggested by their opponents, a bevy of spin doctors will hastily point out that their representative didn’t actually mean to appear to sanction what must, of course, be a bad idea, given its origins.

Have you ever thought how much time and money this unpleasant and pointless haggling and bickering wastes?

I understand that groups called All Party Select Committees manage to sit round a table, put political allegiances aside and debate the actual pros and cons of particular matters.  How pleasant it would be (and – still better – how unappealing to our media moguls) if all politics could be conducted in such a way that consensus, not the outmoded whip system, became the norm.  Individual politicians from different walks of life and with varying points of view could look dispassionately at a range of options, debate them quietly and respectfully and vote for the ones they felt would best serve the country.

The braying, squawking and old-school playground behaviour could cease and we’d have a political system fit for purpose in the twenty-first century and worthy of the young people who are discovering a better way of being.

The GLOW kids could even suggest a suitable set of rules for such a political system…

Wishing to be your writer

The Dreamtree

The Dreamtree (Photo credit: Thorsten Becker)

This morning my dream became my reality.  This morning I discovered that a lady in California – someone I’ve never met or spoken to – has placed me on her personal list of Inspirational People.

Now wouldn’t that be a coincidence, if such things existed?  They don’t.  So it’s what Deepak Chopra would call ‘synchrodestiny‘.   It’s a perfect example of the power we all have to attract what we focus on.

Earlier this week, on the most bitterly cold day Somerset could muster, two friends came to my door bearing gifts.  As they struggled in my tiny hallway to remove backpacks, winter coats and boots, they began to thrust these presents into my hands – some vegetable spaghetti gourds, a beautiful framed photograph of a toadstool, a tub of home-made cake, and a book which, they told me, I ‘needed’.

I thanked them, made steaming mugs of tea and we settled in the living room to chat.  I’ll call them Frank and Iona, these friends.  Both are warm, wise and very special people.

Our conversation moved to the intentions and aims we were putting out for the future.  Iona seemed happy and settled in her chosen path.  Frank seemed suspended between exhilaration and consternation at the huge range of possibilities stretching before him, given his multiple skills and talents.  I was wondering which direction to take too.  Since publishing Life: A Player’s Guide last year, I’d been plied with much advice on how to publicise it, take it forward, move into other media and so forth.  Much of it felt uncomfortable, tacky or inauthentic.

My friends gave me another gift.  They listened gently and reflected back to me my own wishes and dreams.  Frank summarised:

You don’t want to become famous, like the American Mind-Body-Spirit superstars who are blocked and shielded by their media machines from their readers.  You don’t want your output to be priced in hundreds of dollars, so that only the rich can access it.  You want to keep writing.  You have more to say – particularly about the special, and often misunderstood, young people on the autistic spectrum or with other so-called disorders.  You want, above all, to get your message to all the people who need to hear it.

That was all it took.  No marketing strategy was required.  I set my intention and knew that the Universe would do the rest.  It always does.

The story doesn’t stop there, though.  Not quite.  You see for this method to work, we need to be very specific about what we are intending.  That message has come through loud and clear over the last few years from a wide variety of sources.

Jonathan Livingstone Seagull

Jonathan Livingstone Seagull (Photo credit: mortenjohs)

The evening after Iona and Frank had visited, I picked up the book they’d handed me.  It was a novel by Richard Bach.  I smiled, remembering how Jonathan Livingstone Seagull by the same author had shaped my life when it first came out – how it had changed and expanded my perception and helped me to find aspects of myself hitherto unimagined.

That led me to thinking about ‘my’ other writers – those who had helped to shape my life with their words:  Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, Neale Donald Walsch’s Conversations with God, Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Jane Roberts’ incredible Seth books…

I felt a deep inner glow as I remembered them, and a deep longing.

THAT was what I was wishing for – to be one of your writers!   I would love to write the words that will enable you to find deeper and more wonderful parts of yourself.

Maybe I’ve already done so.

Maybe those words are yet to be written.

I’ll keep writing and I’ll keep focussing on my intention.  If my words are meant to reach you, they will, because both you and I will have intended that.

Shifted or Shafted – Whatever Happened to 2012?

new dawn over Tor
Sunrise at Glastonbury Tor on December 21st 2012.

Erm, was that it then?

You were expecting what, exactly?  Epic, Hollywood disaster movie scenarios?  Beams of something-or-the-other from that cosmic alignment with the galactic centre?  The much vaunted birthing of the New Earth/Age/Consciousness?  The End of Time, perhaps?

Hasn’t it all gone quiet?  Apart from this, of course……………

What if I were to suggest that everything has shifted – in the most fundamental way possible?  Allow me to share my take on the 2012 Shift with you, but remember this is just MY truth.  It may not be yours, and that’s fine.  We all have our own truths now.

So – A New Cycle:

When we were very young and new to all this, it was made nice and easy.  If we wanted to cycle, we were given a dear little toddler trike with three wheels for extra stability and in most cases a watchful parent who checked up on us continually.  In Life: A Player’s Guide I call this humanity’s infancy – the time when all the rules were made for us by ‘God the Father’ and we would be rewarded or punished according to how well we behaved.

As we got older we wanted a bit more independence.  We graduated to a bigger bike – one of those brightly coloured ones with the two little stabilisers at the back, just to hold us steady.  We pedalled off, ever further from Our Father and into what we called The Enlightenment.  Here, the twin stabilisers of Reason and Science allowed us to think (or ride) for ourselves, but they held us in check, saving us from tipping too far.  This was humanity’s childhood.

The time was bound to come when we wanted the stabilisers removed.  We longed to ride off by ourselves, taking true control of our journey.  No doubt you remember that transition from your own childhood.  It involved some very painful falls and knocks before you mastered the skills.  Possibly that patient parent was called back into action, holding on to the back of the saddle and puffing along behind you, wheezing, “Keep pedalling! (puff… gasp) I’ve got you…”

I’d argue that this is exactly where we’ve been for the past few decades.  We’ve had an explosion of channelled material,  self-help books, articles, workshops and gurus offering all the support we could possibly need.  Many of us have had dreams, inspiration and ideas from guides, spirit, angels or whatever aspects of Consciousness we believe in.

Cycling

Cycling (Photo credit: Neo-grapher)

We’ve grown in confidence with that  guiding hand on the back of the saddle.  But then there’s a moment when we realise we can’t hear the footsteps any more.  They’ve let go!  For a moment we wobble madly, but we stay upright.  We’re doing it – we can ride on by ourselves!

 

You can build your own reality now.  It’s all been building up to this.

You know that you are made of atoms, and those atoms are made – quite simply – of energy.  It’s your consciousness that decides where you put all that energy.  You’re steering the cycle yourself.  Those are your hands on the handlebars.

So give it a try.  Put your energy into, say,  catching a cold.  Work at it  and you can have one within 48 hours, or decide not to.  It’s not luck or chance.  Many people put huge amounts of energy into being ill.  Others don’t.

I’d suggest getting into the habit of directing your energy into positive places all the time.

I’d suggest giving none of it to judging or condemning yourself or others.

I’d suggest searching out the wonderful, the inspirational and the beautiful – in the world and in the mirror.

I’d suggest – because I’ve no right to do more than suggest – that when you’ve mastered that, you’ll find that you’ve shifted into a New Cycle.

More advice – should you want any – is available in my book Life: A Player’s Guide

 

Who is playing Version 2.0 of the Game of Life?

Imagine a huge 3D video screen – bigger and brighter than anything yet invented.

On this screen, imagine a massively exciting, unpredictable and totally addictive role player computer game playing out.   Untold numbers of fully functional little avatars are scurrying around, busily engaged in their tasks, quests and challenges.  They interact with one another and drift apart, making new connections and gaining extra experience as every moment passes.

You are participating in this game.

Yes, right now.

You call it life.

And before you tell me that it isn’t remotely exciting, let me point out that you have completely free choice about where you go and what you do.  There’s plenty of interesting and challenging stuff out there… just be careful what you wish for.

 

The real question is this: How exactly are you participating in the game?  Are you one of the on-screen characters, or avatars, as they’re called?  Or maybe you’re the person controlling them, the one with the game controller in your hands.  You could even be the designer and creator of the game – the one who came up with the whole idea.

I would argue (in fact I do, in my book Life: A Player’s Guide) that at some level, you are all three.

Insofar as you are linked to the rest of the creative energy of the Cosmos, you have designed and built this amazing, astoundingly complex Game of Life within a 3 dimensional matrix of time and space.

Game Controller

Game Controller (Photo credit: RambergMediaImages)

 

Given that you have a consciousness that extends beyond your physical body, that is the part of you which selected the avatar, chose its start location and the challenges it wanted to explore.  That  greater consciousness continues to provide guidance and set up opportunities for the on-screen character throughout the whole game.  That part of you is holding the controller.  As in any game, though, there are unexpected twists and turns, hazards and surprises.

 

If you’re playing Version 1 of this game of life, though, you won’t be aware of much of that, because there’s an in-built ‘amnesia chip’ that leaves you believing this 3D action on the screen of life is all there is.  You’re so caught up in the on-screen action that you have more or less forgotten the rest.

In Life: A Player’s Guide I put it this way:

You are more than your avatar. You are a perfect holographic part of the creator. You are conscious energy; so is everything and everyone around you.

 

Some people, most of whom started ‘playing’ within the last 30 or so years, are experimenting with what we might term the upgraded version.  These people are playing Version 2.0 of the game.  They have an enhanced awareness of the multiple dimensions involved.  In short, they’re less caught up in what is happening on the 3D screen and more aware of all that’s going on around and beyond it.  We can call that the Cosmos, the Multiverse, the Mind or whatever you like.

These people are regarded with deep suspicion by the vast majority of the Version 1 players, who find their differently orientated brains and altered focus strange, worrying or just plain weird.

Having worked in education for many years, I have become an interested spectator.  I have listened in awe and delight to the growing number of young people who have knowledge, innate skills and comprehension far beyond my own.  I have watched parents, the media, the ‘experts’ and those in authority attempt to classify, suppress and ‘normalise’ them.  I’ve watched as they are drugged with Ritalin, branded as disordered, forced to abandon their inner knowledge or derided as geeks, nerds or weirdos.

Yet if we Version 1 players can move beyond our fevered attention to the game and look beyond the screen for a moment, we will start to recognise the gifts our psychic and wonderful young teachers are bringing us.

Though we seem to be sleeping there is an inner wakefulness that directs the dream, and that will eventually startle us back to the Truth of who we are. —Rumi

 

Autistic by any other name?

I know I’m not alone in being neurotypical but utterly fascinated by the autistic mind. (How many other people loved Spock the best on Star Trek?) I want to explain why this way of being seems to me so interesting and exciting.

Let me begin by saying I have a big problem with many of the names/labels applied to people whose minds work this way.

I’m not wild about the word Autism. The first bit’s fine – it’s from the Greek ‘autos’ meaning ‘self’, and I’m quite happy to think of my autistic friends and contacts as being very unique individuals. It’s the ‘ism’ tag I don’t like. -Isms imply a lack or limitation, whether they are medical or social in origin: thus dwarfism and autism can be lumped with sexism or racism. They’re ugly words implying an inability to reach a desired potential. I’m with the wonderful and inspiring Satish Kumar here, when he says, “Let all ‘isms’ be ‘wassums’!”

I also object strongly to ANY label that includes ‘disorder’ or ‘dysfunction’. They both imply ‘dissing’ or disrespecting. They’re often seen with the words ‘suffers from…’
Now I’ve come across many people in my life who felt they were suffering in some way. Many of them had a condition which felt very limiting to them. I recall overhearing a group of six-year-olds planning a ‘let’s pretend’ game together. “Let’s pretend,” said the one with Cerebral Palsy, “that I can walk properly and…”
She was suffering.

Yet I’ve never heard anyone on the autistic spectrum complain or object to the way they are. On the contrary. Those who use words to express their feelings will tell you they wouldn’t swap lives with a neurotypical person for anything, and their reasons are always the same. They know they have abilities and skills the rest of us lack. Yeah, yeah – and vice versa, of course. The fact remains – they are differently ordered, not disordered.

So, given that I’m so picky about labels, which will I be happy with?
My favourite to date comes courtesy of a very special man called David Rowan: Autistic Spectrum Perception. That works for me on all levels and it gets to the heart of it. There’s a tremendously broad spectrum of individual ways of being which co-exist under the autistic umbrella. That diversity is to be appreciated and celebrated. And just look how different it sounds when Disorder is replaced by Perception. It removes the idea of ‘They’re not normal-like-us, so there’s something wrong with them’ and replaces it with a recognition that an autistic individual has levels of perception that differ markedly from that of the neurotypical population.

Now we have the label sorted, I’d like to explore that perception.

What follows are my own observations, based on ASP people I know and books, articles and other information that has come to me once I identified within myself a desire to understand. I’m not a neuroscientist; not a scientist, even. I’d welcome comments and corrections from others – particularly members of the ASP population.

A very dear ASPie friend once wrote me the following email. He was explaining his conviction that the increasing number of individuals diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum could provide our world with an advantage, should climate change or some other cataclysmic condition change our way of life dramatically.

What I suspect is the different ways of thinking, viewing information and processing that information – whether consciously or not – provides 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 2 groups of people, though I’m not convinced that non ASD people would be able to develop the ability to think in the same way; particularly when not everything is necessarily done consciously.

It reminds me of Temple Grandin’s famous quote:

Who do you think made the first stone spears? The Asperger guy. If you were to get rid of all the autism genetics, there would be no more Silicon Valley.

Neither of them sound like they’re ‘suffering’ with anything, do they? Far less ‘disordered’…

So why and how are the ASP population different? I unexpectedly picked up some pointers when I watched the following Ted Talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight.html?source=facebook#.UOlP0c_KPz0.facebook

An amazing story in its own right, but Jill Bolte Taylor also eloquently explains the differences between the two hemispheres of the brain. She mentions that in the neurotypical brain, the corpus callosum has 300,000,000 connections that link the two. What is the effect of that?

It means that in every new life experience, my right hemisphere is thinking in pictures, in the ‘now’ and absorbing vast amounts of sensory information as energy. This is connecting me to every other source of energy in the cosmos. It’s huge, transcendent and – if I could only focus clearly on what it is showing me – it can provide unending streams of information and allow me to connect telepathically with everyone and everything else.

At the same time, though, my left brain is analysing the new data in a very different way. It is methodically sifting through its vast bank of memory files in order to categorise my experience – identifying how it relates to past events and computing logical steps to follow in order to minimise discomfort or produce a favourable result in the future. This part of my brain thinks in language. I could live very successfully by listening to the chatter of my left hemisphere, except that I tend to get distracted by all that sensory and emotional stuff coming from the right.

Thus my NT (neurotypical) brain is playing some ultra-fast game of ping pong with every new piece of information that comes to it. That allows me to understand idiom, sarcasm and all those complex interplays and nuances of meaning that can only be interpreted if we are able to use both hemispheres together at an optimum level.
The downside is that I find it difficult to quiet my brain chatter and meditate, for example, or to apply clear logic to a complex problem without noticing my desire for a coffee or a walk in the park. I sacrifice depth of perception for mental agility.

In the ASP population, the linking mechanism between the two sides of the brain, the corpus callosum, is differently formed. It’s not as thick. It’s often not symmetrical. It sometimes follows winding paths, deep into one hemisphere or the other.

Depending on each ASP person’s unique brain profile, the way they experience a new situation will vary. What they can all do, though, is to partially or even totally block off the stimuli from one side or the other. As my friend pointed out, this isn’t always intentional or conscious. However it allows them to delve deep, deep into the information provided by just one of the hemispheres.

Spock was super-logical, with a brilliant left-brained mind. Yet he also possessed tremendous telepathic powers and could link at will to the mind of another. Remember that Tesla, Newton and Einstein are commonly now regarded as having been autistic and you can see where the advantages lie.

Fascinating.

I strongly suspect that as we begin to work together, with both populations using their specific skills as equal and opposite partners, we will find massive mutual advantages. The first step is for the neurotypicals to drop their chauvinistic idea that anyone different to them is ‘disordered’. The second is to find alternative ways to link with those ASP people who don’t tend to think or communicate in language. (Suzy Miller in the US, among others, is doing pioneering work on this.)

What comes next is anyone’s guess, but I’m betting it could be extremely exciting.

The battle of the brain – an in-sight

Ok, so I live alone and I’m a writer. Those seemed two very good reasons to take it seriously when I noticed that the vision in my right eye had become noticeably cloudy and blurred over the last week or so.

My brain began its battle. One side was telling me, “You create your own reality, remember – so you can fix this. Just focus on getting rid of it.”
The other side was just as insistent: “This is your SIGHT we’re talking about here. Get it checked out. Get round to the doctor.”

After several days of mood swings and brain battles, I finally decided yesterday to make an appointment with my GP. To my amazement, he saw me that morning. I told him my symptoms and suddenly he looked very serious. Within seconds he was on the phone to the hospital, telling someone there about suspected retinal detachment.

Half an hour later, I was in my friend’s car as she skillfully negotiated her way around detours and diversions (Somerset still has some lakes where there used to be roads) and got me there for my emergency appointment.

Several hours of stinging eye drops, excruciatingly bright lights being shone into my eyes and even the insertion of a lens (which gave me great sympathy for all those Star Trek actors who had played Borg – it looked just like theirs and was very uncomfortable) I was given the diagnosis.

My retina was still firmly attached. The problem was a small but unfortunately placed cataract. Because of its position and type, removal would involve 2 or maybe 3 long operations under local anaesthetic. It might get worse or it might stay as it was for many years. I could opt for an operation there and then, or I could leave it until my sight was badly impaired. It would make no difference.

Then the doctor looked at me. “You know I deal with eyes all the time,” he said. “Compared to most people I see, you have excellent eyesight. I accept that you have noticed a deterioration, but it’s not huge.”
With that, he sent me away to decide what to do.

Last night I slept for 12 hours straight. I fell asleep almost as my head hit the pillow, but not before the battling sides of my brain finally reached a truce and gave me their joint response:

Stop trying to focus on what you can’t see. Celebrate and enjoy the vision you have. Put your focus there from now on.

Now I understand why I had this whole experience. So much of my life is spent wishing I could understand more, grasp ideas and find solutions for this and that problem. I’ve given relatively scant attention to what I HAVE learned and discovered; to what I now know and can do.
Time for a shift in emphasis, I feel.

Incredible Hulks

Everything has its shadow side. That much is obvious. After all, we are participating in a game based around polarities.

It helps to think of it like a set of balance scales. Some of our experiences just wobble slightly either side of centre, but the huge ones have an equal and opposite reaction.

Today I’m thinking again about those special young people I talk about so much – the ones who are labelled indigo and crystal on one side of the scales; mentally ill and disordered on the other. I call them the Version 2.0 kids. You’d need to read Life: A Player’s Guide to understand why.

These people are NEVER in balance. They swing from one polarity to the other. Those of us privileged and challenged to be close to them witness the astounding wisdom, insight and light they are bringing to the world. We also witness the fury, frustration and terrifying outbursts of aggression and violence. They are two sides of the same coin.

At the time of writing, the world has just witnessed a particularly extreme example of the latter. Most of us may try, and fail, to comprehend what was going through the mind of young Adam, as he gunned down little children and their teachers. I’d hazard a guess that most of our Version 2.0 young people can understand.

At the weekend I ‘happened’ (no such thing as coincidence) to meet two people who had young adult sons on the autistic spectrum. Both described how their boys spend most of their lives holed up indoors, needing support and supervision and prey to massive swings from being brilliant, eloquent and enlightening to being abusive, angry and out of control. There are countless other families sharing this experience in silent desperation and praying that their kid doesn’t become the next mass killer.

As I’ve explained in other posts, these young people are stress-testing LIFE. They (and, of course, those of us who are close to them) are seeing how life plays out if there are no limits to the levels of enlightenment and ‘endarkenment’ that can be reached. Each of them is an incredible hulk, shutting themselves away for our protection until they can find a way to move beyond polarity and into unity.

When is a prank call a wake-up call?

The 14-year-old boy was trying to put his vision of December 2012 into words for me. He was clearly shaken by what he was seeing and as confused as anyone looking into the future might expect to be. He didn’t make a habit of this, but he was one of those special, Version 2.0 kids and sometimes he just ‘saw’ things. I was used to him picking up a book I’d been reading, for example, and without glancing beyond the cover, summarising the information it contained. This was a bit different, though.

“How can you possibly see the future?” I was asking. “Surely it’s only potential as yet.”
“Oh yes,” he agreed, readily. “There are infinite possibilities… It’s just that they all seem to lead to this one point.”

So for the last seven years (the conversation happened in 2005) I’ve been watching with interest as one after another of his predictions has come true.

“It will all start with finance,” was his opening line. He explained as best he could that the financial world would go through a drastic and sudden change. He saw a deep polarity between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ developing and said it would have an effect on everyone. We would all have to re-think our relationship with the financial world.

In 2008 I texted him. “U predicted this.”
“Yep,” he replied.

The financial crisis, which still rumbles on, was the first of these events – the ones that take accepted aspects of our daily life and shake them to the core, until we wake up to what’s going on and decide to make some drastic changes.

Here in the UK, we’ve followed up with the MP’s expenses issue, the media intrusion debate and the maelstrom unleashed over allegations about a deceased DJ’s sexual behaviour. Other countries have had their own political, financial and social awakenings – the so-called Arab Spring being the most wide-ranging and important. Quite suddenly, shabby, unpleasant but long-tolerated practices cease to be acceptable. Dirty linen is hauled up for public inspection and washed very thoroughly.

The changes are happening at a personal level, too.
“It will be a bit like Noah’s Ark,” the boy told me. “Not the same as that, but something like it.”

Watching pictures of people’s homes, cars and livelihoods being washed away by the extreme floods this year has witnessed in many parts of the world, I can see what he meant.

The Chinese glyph for ‘crisis’ is, I learned recently, a mixture of two others – ‘disaster’ and ‘opportunity’.

The loss of life, given the huge amount of devastation, has been relatively small, but the changes at neighbourhood, family and individual levels have been massive.

Based on what my prophetic young friend told me, I’d suggest that this World Shift – the much-heralded 2012 End of Age – is not about mass destruction so much as mass transformation.

What if you’d always indulged in some rather dodgy work practices because everyone around you did, and then found yourself at the heart of a massive scandal? A disaster for you, but an opportunity to become more authentic in future. What if you’d dreamed of giving up your job and ‘following your bliss’ but been held back by knowing you had to keep up the payments on the car and the house? Suddenly they’re both washed away in a flood. Where does that leave you?
With both a disaster and an opportunity.

So, then, what if making prank calls to innocent victims had been a seedy but accepted part of your professional life? No one could doubt, after watching the interview, the depth of horror, remorse and pain those people in Australia are experiencing, or the deep changes the recent tragic event will make to their lives. Perhaps, though, they – and others engaged in similar forms of ‘entertainment’ – are being given an opportunity to make some core changes.

Our individual and collective wake-up calls to live a more honest, authentic and transparent life, free of subterfuge, sleaze and unkindness began with a tap on the shoulder. If we ignored that, the taps became more insistent… and if we reach the end of this Great Age without heeding that call, surely we can expect the kind of sledgehammer blow we are seeing around us.