Cracked Vessels – Letting in the Light?

Today I’d like to share what I can only haltingly call a vision, and the synchronicities and trains of thought associated with it.

Let me give you some context:  I had been in deep discussion with a couple of friends about my experiences as a teacher.  I’ll diverge into a brief ‘then and now’ to give you a flavour of those times…

Around half a century ago, when I was training to become a teacher, a debate was raging in educational circles.  Should children arriving in full-time education be seen as ‘vessels to be filled’ or ‘candles to be lit’?  A report by Lady Plowden and her committee – the go-to document of the time – concluded the latter, and I embarked enthusiastically on my chosen career as a lighter of small candles.

Today, of course, any such discussion is rotting beneath some long forgotten carpet, where it was swept several decades ago.  I quietly left the educational establishment and set up shop in an alternative teaching and mentoring setting when it became clear that the balance had settled firmly on the side of the empty vessels, to be crammed with as much junk knowledge as was deemed necessary to prevent troublesome teachers and students from having time to encourage or indulge in creativity, imagination and critical thinking.

Somewhere in the middle of all that, when the swing towards the ’empty vessels’ model was firmly in motion but before the quality of independent writing was judged by the number of similes, metaphors and examples of personification a child could cram into each paragraph, or obscure aspects of grammar guaranteed never to enhance or crop up in any aspect of life were stuffed into the minds of ten year olds, I found myself quite unexpectedly teaching in a specialist provision for children with speech and language difficulties.  It was this time of my life I had been considering as I went to bed on Friday night.

I was in that hypnogogic state, poised between waking and dreaming, when the ‘vision’ (what else can I call it?) appeared.  I saw containers – vases, perhaps or maybe orbs or bottles.  Each was cracked in its own individual way. some had a maze of hairline cracks, others a single fault line.  What fascinated me, though, was that through every fissure, a dazzling light was shining.  The light was not visible through the solid parts of the containers, just through the places where the cracks allowed it to appear.

“Remember this!” someone or something was telling me.  “It’s important!  Don’t let the image drift away.”

I lay for some time, trying to commit what I had seen to memory, toying with the idea of turning on the bedside lamp and attempting to write or draw it, but the helpful something in my ear assured me that I’d get more clarity through dreaming about it, so that’s what I did.

By Saturday morning I had an idea of what the vision had been about.  It was, as you may well have guessed, an image stemming from my sad thoughts about the ’empty vessels’ – the hapless children in our education system who day after day are ‘filled’ with largely pointless facts and knowledge, despite the sterling efforts of teachers to sugar the pill.  The cracked vessels represented the youngsters with what are variously called ‘special needs’, ‘additional needs’ or those with otherwise non-standard perception and cognition.

 

My teaching career increasingly nudged me towards a fascination and delight in working with those judged to be on the autistic spectrum or with some form of communication difficulty in the written, spoken or receptive aspects of language.

The instructions passed down to teachers from our leaders were to patch up the cracks in those ‘faulty’ vessels, to enable them to resemble their ‘undamaged’ peers and then to allow the ‘filling’ to continue.  That is what I was paid to do in the Speech and Language Unit – get them as close to normal communication skills as possible and return them to a cheaper, one-size-fits-all mainstream classroom.  Fortunately, as the leaders and inspectors had no specialist knowledge or understanding of such children, I had far more leeway than my mainstream colleagues in the way those children were taught.  

Those leaders didn’t see what I saw.  They didn’t know that small children with no intelligible speech could communicate perfectly well with others via telepathy.  They didn’t discover the deep, amazing and stunning twists and turns of the young autistic mind.  They couldn’t glimpse the creativity of the dyslexic when freed from pen or laptop and allowed free rein in the realms of shape and space.  I’d somehow slipped into a world where heightened senses and awareness way beyond common experience held sway.  Those children discussed out of body experiences, viewing ‘funny lights around people and animals that change with their mood’, remote viewing and the like as if they were everyday events.  For them, they were.

Perhaps those in charge of education didn’t want to be dazzled by the light shining through the cracks in the extraordinary ‘different’ children.

Egg, Cracks, Food, Nature, Blur, Dark

My vision and the dreams and ponderings that followed it left me with a conviction that the light shining in was vital to our world and badly needed to alleviate the darkness.  I was reminded of one of my favourite books: The Crack in the Cosmic Egg by Joseph Chilton Pearce.  Was this light appearing within those cracked vessels heralding a breaking of the eggs that hold in a deeper Gnosis or understanding of Cosmic Laws?  Perhaps each of us is, at some level, a ‘vessel’ – but not an empty one.  Perhaps we all hold within ourselves a brilliant light, but one we have hidden inside a container while we go about our humdrum daily tasks.  Perhaps the youngsters I had met on my journey through education were, in a very real sense, the light-showers or shining ones…

…Or perhaps I was a semi-deranged old woman falling down yet another of my many rabbit holes…

On Saturday night I settled to enjoy my current bedtime book: Gayle Kimball’s The Mysteries of Reality: Dialogues with Visionary Scientists.  I was reading an interview with Bernardo Kastrup PhD about contemporary idealism.  He pointed out that if, as the materialist scientific paradigm suggests, all thought experiences occur within the human brain, any impairment of that brain should result in more limited experiences and thoughts.  However, he explained, the reverse is true.  The body of evidence showing enhanced mental experiences (such as those described above in relation to my students) in those with certain types of brain damage or impairment, due to such events as bullet wounds, hypoxia or chemical impairments, strongly suggests that in such cases the brain’s filter system becomes more porous, disrupting the boundary between the brain and greater levels of consciousness. 

A synchronicity, perhaps?

 

Another Look at Reality

In my last post I floated the idea that even if we were able to somehow travel back in time and communicate freely with people from a bygone age, there would only – at best – be certain aspects of shared experience.  This, I argued, is because ‘truth’ or what we term ‘reality’ is a subjective interplay between a person’s mind, brain and the objects and events that form to produce each person’s perceived world.

‘Aha,’ you may say, “If that were the case, how would you and I share a common view of a scene before us?  Even a short discussion would prove that our vision of what lay around us was identical.  We could even take photographs to demonstrate it!’

Well certainly we citizens of the 21st century share a common perception of the objects and events around us.  Perceptive reality has strong links to social cohesion and the ‘training’ we were given in infancy. 

Fantasy, Fairy Tale Forest, Girl, ForestOur culture has a slightly strange take on sharing our World View with new arrivals.  A rich mythic tradition is passed on to our children – Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the tooth fairy, giants, goblins, elves and trolls appear in huge numbers of their storybooks and the bedtime tales we share with them.  Talking animals and fabulous beasts abound.  Then, as the children mature, these wonders are, one by one, consigned to a scrapheap of untruths.  Those stories, they are told, were ‘just pretend’.  Now they are expected to cast away such childish delights and focus on a world that can be seen, prodded and proved to be ‘real’. 

“So are dinosaurs real?” asks the confused child. “What about dragons?  What about Father Christmas…?  Why did you lie to me?”

Parents and carers struggle to justify their actions.  They are doing as their parents did.  They are rearing their young in the way our society dictates.  Once they reach the age of 7 or 8, even the child who knows she once saw fairies in the garden or glimpsed a fiery dragon from her window has put such things aside and conformed to the accepted and shared idea of how reality looks and feels.  Mostly.

Stonehenge, England, Uk, MonumentOf course there are still different perceptions within our common perceptual framework.  If we imagine a hypothetical twenty people standing and regarding Stonehenge in the 2020s, all would probably be in agreement as to the size and bulk of the stones, the green of the grass, the colour of the sky, strength of the wind and sound of the passing traffic on the A303.

One observer, though, might be hugely excited at the sight of a military aircraft flying over the scene – an aspect of the experience missed totally by others.

Another of the people might be high on a hallucinogenic drug or have what is currently called a ‘mental illness’.  That person might be seeing quite different colours strobing and wheeling around the stones and hearing sounds or voices the rest of the observers would not be aware of.

A third might be a synesthete.  He or she might be tasting or smelling the colours and textures in a manner quite alien to the rest.

Perhaps two or three members of the group might have psychic sensitivities which allowed them to see spots of bright light or hazy halos surrounding certain stones or perhaps glowing crystals buried deep beneath the ground.  They might even perceive shadowy figures from other times.

Winter, Snow, Landscape, Trees, SnowfallAs is the custom in our age, more or less all these visitors would take out their phones and photograph the scene before them.  If they then compared the results, all the images would show the grass, the stones, the path and so forth, yet some would include mysterious orbs or thin coloured arcs of light.  Depending on their personal World Views, these would be variously interpreted as aliens, angelic beings, reflections of light from mundane sources or pieces of dust on the camera lens.  Each, of course, would be entirely correct, according to their World View.

I would further suggest that if the group of 20 people were standing around Stonehenge in c2500BC, their perception of what lay before them would be markedly different to that of the 21st century visitors.  Their common take on ‘reality’ would link to their shared prior experience and social conditioning and their society almost certainly perceived the world around them in markedly different ways, with senses responding to stimuli in a manner that we could not grasp.

Clearly, I have no way of demonstrating this.  Those ancient people standing on a wind-blasted plain in southern England left us no written record or clues as to what was going through their minds and how their world looked to them.  They simply, for their own reasons, created a massive structure that survived into our age.

Fortunately for the curious among us, not all World Views are as poorly recorded.  Next time I’d like to take you to a culture that has been meticulously documented by its people, in a language we can read and understand.  In certain ways it is markedly similar to our own, but in others quite, quite incomprehensible.

Perceptive Reality – A Time-Traveller’s Guide

The restrictions of the past year have made it an ideal time for the armchair traveller – or time-traveller, often, in my own case – to indulge in flights of imagination and contemplation.

Stonehenge, Stone Circle, EnglandI will happily spend many hours watching documentaries or reading about archaeological discoveries and documents from other times and places and wishing I could see the temples and sacred places as they appeared in their zenith.  That alone, though, would be no more than mere sightseeing, which to my mind is a fairly empty and pointless activity.  How often I’ve stood and gazed on some great and ancient construction – Stonehenge, the temples of Malta, the Orcadian landscape around the Ness of Brodgar – and yearned for an understanding of the circumstances, the significance, the reason for their construction.

Yes, I can read the guide books, digest the various expert theories, wonder at the brilliance of the technologies that created them, but I lack the World View of those who built and used these structures.  So, of course, do the experts.  They can make educated guesses but might I be so bold as to suggest that in a time when religion is fragmented, science, business and technology are the closest many have to gods and upheaval is everywhere we look, 21st century people are not best placed to frame any possible mindset that could explain the concepts and ideologies behind the enduring wonders of the past as we gaze upon them?

The Roman Empire is an exception.  We have no problem understanding that.  It is so close in morality and intent to our own recent past that we can comprehend their purposes, intentions and ideals with very little difficulty.  Their buildings, military and societal organisations make perfect sense to us.  I will often flick through film and TV drama choices and note that the majority of people in our culture apparently find pleasure and entertainment in watching the murder, death and the anguish of others as much as Romans did in their amphitheatres.

Just as, according to the infinite monkey theorem, a monkey spending long enough at a typewriter keyboard could theoretically type the text of Hamlet, so an infinite number of World Views are bound to throw up some close matches.  That’s not to say we have any sort of continuum that leads logically and developmentally from Rome to here.  This has nothing to do with evolution.  World Views come and go, for reasons I hope to consider in subsequent posts.

(Let me just suggest in passing that any society which believes itself to be at the pinnacle of human development has enough pride to be heading inexorably towards a fall.)

I believe a World View is something more than Zeitgeist, too, although there are more parallels with this idea than with the evolutionary one.  I’m not denying the spirit of a particular generation as being easy to recognise in retrospect.  The 20th century alone threw up several of these.  For me a World View is something deeper, more pervasive and far longer-lasting than a decade or so’s trend.  Perhaps it is the spirit of a Great Age…

Peru, Sacsayhuaman, Sacred, Scenic, SiteThe societies who constructed the Great Pyramid, the Stonehenge and Avebury landscape, the polygonal-walled buildings of Peru or the structures of Göbeklitepe, for example, would have technologies, ideas and concepts of the world so radically different to our own that endless scrabbling in the dust to unearth pottery fragments or the contents of spoil heaps will give us little or no idea of their beliefs and intentions.

Each generation of antiquarians and archaeologists has a view on the purpose of the structures, that view arguably having more to do with contemporary interests and fixations than that which provoked the original constructions.  Thus an ancient site may have been variously viewed by later visitors as a geoglyph,  a landing site for spacecraft, a centre for human or animal sacrifice, a temple for religious worship, an astronomical calendar, a tomb (big favourite, regardless of whether or not there are human remains), a place of pilgrimage or for rites of passage.

So could I, as a time-traveller with many months or years at my disposal and a Babel Fish stuffed firmly in my ear, ever learn to understand the World View of the culture who created one of these enduring monuments?

Probably not.

I suspect that the only point at which our understanding would meet would be in the physical as I perceive it and that, of course, is not where their World View resides.  I might learn vast amounts about their technologies, their methods of construction and the way in which their societies are organised, but the all-consuming beliefs and reasons for constructing such structures would not, I fear, be apparent to me.  Our views of reality would differ so fundamentally that there would be little common ground.  It is very possible that the structures themselves would not reveal to my senses the experiences those who created them would have.  There could be sounds, sights, emotional and spiritual experiences freely available to them which to me would remain hidden.  I recall being quite convinced of this when standing in the chambers of the Hypogeum of Ħal Saflieni.  I could see the walls, the carvings and the colours but there was so much almost palpable unavailable experience there just beyond my ken.

Seth, through channel Jane Roberts, explains the reason for this, with his customary clarity and eloquence:

Your many civilisations, historically speaking, each with its own fields of activity, its own sciences, religions, politics and art – these all represent various ways that man has used imagination and reason to form a framework through which a more or less cohesive reality is experienced. 

And that is the nub of it.  Reality is perceptive, not as our scientists fondly believe, objective.  My own Guides put it rather more bluntly:

Reality is barely existent.  There is only thought.  

In future posts I hope to explore aspects of different World Views and their varying perception of ‘reality’, as it is a subject I find fascinating.

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.

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.