Guidance…

Well that was unexpected.

A request from a potential new Facebook friend.  The name’s distantly familiar.  So is the face, when I take a look at his profile, and those dim bells clanging at the very back of my mind are telling me he’s somehow connected to the school I worked at, before everything changed.  His profile says he’s from my old town.  Slightly bemused and curious, I press the Accept button.

An hour later, the young man messages me.  He’d been a student teacher at the school for a few weeks, it emerges, while I was working there.  We’d chatted several times in the staff room.  I feel slightly less embarrassed now that my recall was somewhat dim.  In the intervening years, he’s moved around the country, married, had children and is now back there and doing my old job – teaching Year 6 at the same Essex school.  Somewhat synchronous…

He tells me about life there these days.  Sounds ghastly – endless new initiatives imposed by clueless, reactionary politicians, ‘special measures’ imposed on the staff, ‘academy status’ whatever that is – more and more control from above, obviously – and packs of disaffected kids prowling the building and contemplating escape.  I suddenly feel very safe and cosseted by my present easy lifestyle.  Also mildly guilty for getting out when I did.

Then he totally amazes me.
“I read your book,” he says.

Available in paperback and Kindle editions

Really?  I can’t imagine anyone in Essex reading my book.  He tells me it inspired him and that he now has a totally new attitude towards education and is considering getting out of the crumbling system and educating in other ways.  He’s been on a Forest Schools course.  He’s thinking about working for a local wildlife trust and using that as a base for educating.

Good grief!  What did I write in that book?  It’s been a long while since I read it, so I take it off the shelf and have another look.

It most certainly isn’t about education, or how to educate.  It does have a rather teacherly style, though.  Re-reading it makes me wince slightly.  Did I really explain a multi-dimensional universe by instructing the reader on how to make a paper model?  It reads like the script of a 1980s episode of Blue Peter, for those who know what that is.  And yet it kind of works…

English: 42, The Answer to the Ultimate Questi...

What I was trying to do, when I put it together, was to write a book about the meaning and purpose of Life, the Universe and Everything which avoided all the wafty new-age psychobabble, mystical ramblings and cliches, (How DO you insert an acute accent on WordPress??) that were so prevalent when it was published in 2012.

The video game analogy is hopelessly overworked; the style (in an attempt to draw in a ‘youth’ audience) veers much closer to patronising than I’d now wish, yet it still has a sort of raw charm and honesty, I suppose, and a few ideas and insights which I haven’t seen expressed anywhere else.  Not a complete waste of time, then.

So how the young man discovered it and chose to read it, I’ll probably never know, but I’m all about encouraging everyone, myself included, to move out of the comfort zone and into newer and greater experience.  That appears to be – so early indications are suggesting – what 2016 is all about.

And what is the message for me?  There definitely is one; it says so in the book:

These synchronicities act like a sort of mental sticking plaster and are strong enough to hold the two of you together; to keep you talking and interacting until you both get the information or experience that you need…

Is this episode telling me to stop faffing about and to get on with writing the next book… and making it better?

Probably.

 

A Little More than a Like?

‘It’s Lucy’s birthday’ Facebook tells me.  It asks whether I’d like to send her a greeting.

Lucy was in one of my primary school classes long ago – the first of many classes of 10-11 year olds I taught.

An interesting age group, that.  Somewhere between child and adolescent.  Somewhere between being the big ones at little kids’ school and the little ones at big kids’ school.  Somewhere between being revolted and fascinated by the opposite sex.  Somewhere between trying to look cool and disaffected, and having an absolute thirst for knowledge.  Quite a challenge, all in all, but it was still my favourite age group, and Lucy’s class was – by and large – one of my favourite classes.

So I clicked the ‘Write on Lucy’s timeline’ button and discovered that she is now 24.  I sent a little message, wishing her a great birthday, and thought no more of it.  Later in the day, though, I found she’d replied.

“Thank you,” she said, “but it will never be the same as when you wrote it up on the whiteboard.”

Happy Birthday

For a moment I was puzzled.  Then I remembered.  Yes, I DID do that!  I used to keep a note of the birthdays of every child in my class.  Then, when their big day arrived, I’d go in before school and cover the classroom whiteboard with a large, multicoloured message, decorated with flowers, balloons or whatever I felt would appeal to that child.  The rest of the class would see it as they came in and all – even the ones who didn’t know that child particularly well – would wish them a happy birthday.  A lot like what Facebook now does, I suppose.

I was amazed that Lucy had remembered that simple act over a decade later, especially when I’d completely forgotten.

Life’s like that, though, isn’t it?  We do the simplest of things and sometimes – just sometimes – they can have an effect that will last and last.

Happy Birthday, Lucy!

The Matter of Life and Death

Facebook logo

I’ll call her Cherry.  Mutual friends will understand why.

And yes, the manner in which I discovered the news was – when you come to think about it – an inevitable product of the world we live in.

Cherry and I began teaching at the same school on the same day.  We also, by some odd quirk of fate, gratefully accepted a voluntary redundancy package some seventeen years later and left on the same day too.

It was a small school, with a small staff, so we saw plenty of each other and got along just fine.  The word ‘colleague’ sounds rather harsh and impersonal but I can’t say we were ever friends as such.  I knew her kids by sight and a little about her life, and she knew much the same about me.  I knew nothing of her dreams and fears, her aspirations and beliefs, as colleagues usually don’t.

Cherry tree blossoms

Cherry tree blossoms (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When we left work I moved out of the area.  She stayed.  Unsurprisingly we lost touch.  That was until, quite out of the blue, I received a Facebook friend request from her.
‘How nice,’ I thought and happily accepted.

So for the last few years, Cherry and I have ‘met’ via Facebook.  I’ve ‘liked’ many of her posts with a trite little thumbs up symbol.  She’s ‘liked’ many of mine in the same way.  I noticed, but never spoke about, the fact that we had far more interests and ideas in common than I’d ever realised when we used to see one another every day.

Around New Year, Cherry stopped liking my posts.  She also stopped adding her own quirky interesting pictures and videos.  I have to confess I barely noticed.

And then, a couple of days ago, I flicked Facebook on and noticed a red 1 next to the little speech bubble icon.  Someone had messaged me.

With hardly a thought, I opened the message.  The name of the sender was unfamiliar at first, despite the ‘Hi Jan’ greeting.  As I read on, I discovered that it was Cherry’s daughter.  She apologised profusely for informing me via Facebook, but it was the only contact she had – and she wanted me to know that Cherry had died the day before.

Cherry.

Dead.

I had no idea of the circumstances, and it certainly wasn’t appropriate to send back a string of questions.  I sent a short message of thanks to the daughter and sympathy to the family and switched off.

Every day we receive news of cyber deaths; personalities we never met but felt we knew have photos and obituaries posted up on social media and we react according to the degree of vicarious attachment we felt to those people.  This was my first personal cyber death announcement and it shocked me to the core.

You see I had no context for Cherry to be dead in.  Accident?  Illness?  Quick or lingering?  Painless or agonising?  I couldn’t know.  Cherry had simply ceased to be a human being and THAT was the thought that stayed with me.

For the next two days, she was seldom out of my thoughts.  I’m not afraid of death.  I have complete and total belief in the eternal, undying nature of our greater selves and the transitory nature of incarnation – a game we play for a few 3D decades to gain experience, interact physically with others, bring Love to our corporeal existence and expand the Cosmos.  I’m free of any fear of divine retribution or judgement.  I knew that Cherry, in terms of her own essence, was still very much alive and aware.

What was affecting me – in a way I would never have expected – was the thought that as I went about my everyday, mundane tasks, she was not.  I cleaned my teeth.  She didn’t.  I went shopping.  She didn’t.  I relaxed with a cup of tea.  She didn’t.  All of these taken-for-granted earthly experiences had been Cherry’s to share.  Now they weren’t.  I’ve had many encounters with death, but none has affected me this way.

It was still bothering me last night, when I was fortunate enough to join a meditation channelled by a friend in the US via Skype.  Before the main meditation took place, her Guides turned to me and asked whether I had anything troubling me.  Rumbled.  So I told my little story and explained that I couldn’t understand why this was bothering me so deeply.

“Let’s breathe together while we find your answer,” they said, through my friend’s voice.

To my surprise and delight, they made contact with Cherry.  She wanted me to know she was fine.  But I already knew that.  Then they explained that although we’d not had a close relationship, there was still a connection.
“When you dream or leave your body in other ways,” they said, “you make contracts and agreements with others.  You and this colleague made an agreement that when she died, she would use her death to show you what an amazing, wonderful, precious experience life on this planet is.”

What a gift that was.

Thank you, Cherry.  I hope very much that – unknown to my conscious self, perhaps – I was at some time able to give sudden, special insights to you in return.

I wish you well on your cosmic journey from here on and congratulate you on completing another round of corporeal experience.  I’ll welcome that transition when it comes to me, but meanwhile – thanks to your gift – I’ll value these everyday physical experiences and feel profound gratitude for being human.