Sunday, January 30, 2005

Groundhog Day? 

It's a long time since I've had such a vivid dream: in full colour, with almost photographic clarity, and a soundtrack as well.

I heard the sound of an aeroplane and looked up; high above were two light aircraft, then coming into view was a third, a tiny lightweight plane, built for low speeds and tight manoeuvres. Only this one was much, much lower than the others - almost skimming the ground. With a shock I saw it headed straight for the front wall of a house; surely there was no way it could pull up? (The scale was bit strange - the plane was no toy, but it had about the size and turning circle of a car). But it managed an impossible manoeuvre, pulling into a vertical climb with it's wheels almost touching the wall of the house, then looping the loop - it may have escaped first time round, but it seemed it could only postpone the inevitable, not escape it - the best it could do was to endlessly repeat that avoidance manoeuvre. So it looped once more, but on third attempt stalled just after it had cleared to roof, and fell back to the ground in front of the house. I ran to help, but somehow someone had come out of the house and whisked the pilot - his brother, it seems - indoors, traumatised but apparently not seriously injured. But I couldn't go in.

It makes sense; I'm in that plane, without the height or speed to clear the obstacle ahead. I've already avoided it a number of times in my career; looped the loop to escape, but always the manoeuvre has led me back to the same place. And I can see it coming again.

So, this time, will I crash? To break out of the cycle, perhaps I have to. And if so, scary though it may be, perhaps I escape uninjured, but find myself on the other side of that door.

True or not, I can see how that reflects what's hidden at the back of my mind.

Later edit: Just thought I ought to add: the parallel I was drawing above is with a long term career issue, nothing to do with the previous post's worries.

Saturday, January 29, 2005


Tired. Not sure why exactly; think I get enough sleep. (See - too tired to write in proper sentences). Weary feels like a better word, although it doesn't change anything; still weary, still not sure why.

Maybe it's this: I've been here so many times before; a great opportunity presents itself, one of those unexpected possibilities that appears apparently out of nowhere and seems tailor-made, just for me, just for this moment - and I get so wound up by it, wanting to make the most of it, that thoughts stop flowing and become knotted, frozen, fragmented - insert whatever string of unhelpful adjectives you like here; that's what happens.

Out of the blue, courtesy of Michael, I have a place in Jon Strande's 100 Bloggers book, you see.

I've been looking back through past posts to see what I might pull out for the book. Suddenly my words look like a schoolkid's stumbling attempts, totally out of place. Looking back, although I can remember writing things I felt pleased with, I can't for the life of me think why. No, really. Yeah, I know - Andy's being miserable again (no change there, then). But like the grief cycle, this is something I just have to work through in order to come out the other side. So it starts out "Oh, wow! I get a place in the book", then it turns into "Shit, what am I going to put in it?", then I figure nothing from the past really fits (either it doesn't stand without the context, or it's too long, or too self-centred, or too negative…), but I'm too wound up - from a few other things as well, not least of which is total incapacity at work - and in too detached a frame of mind to write anything new that will have any feeling to it.

I was hoping to be able to pull something together about my counselling experiences; blogging as personal development. But I reckon that a 1000 word overview would inevitably be distanced from the immediacy of those experiences, and any one post... well, I couldn't find one that stood alone.

Is it that bad? I don't know; but like I said, I know I have to work through it to come out the other side. This is just my (desperately ineffective) way of handling it. And like I said, I've been here before - and know that, whatever other failings I may have, I do occasionally have a knack of pulling a rabbit out of the hat at the last minute. Let's hope I manage it this time.

Life error 

Just found this over at Suw's


Thursday, January 27, 2005

An Opening Space 

I've talked before about my difficulty with "switching heads" between a work persona and something that feels more authentically me. I'm feeling the effect of that now, as I write, and in feeling it, trying also to be more aware of just what it is.

Swapping personas is part of the issue, but it isn’t a simple see-saw alternation between two ways of being; it feels now more like the contrast between being imprisoned and being free. Same head, but one has thinking tightly constrained by the confines of a narrow job role; moreover, a deep-rooted inherited work ethic and a natural tendency to submit to authority, add bolts and bars to the prison.

The other head though is free to explore, to play, to burst out of those confines; to create, to occupy a generative place of fluidity and possibility.

I had a few hours freedom yesterday.

I met Michael Herman for lunch; we'd never met before – not in real-space, only in blogs – but it’s been said many times how blogging bypasses so much of the conventional social process of getting to know someone, so that we hit the ground running.

Today I've been back in a more constrained place, and the head I'm wearing can't quite access that same level of freedom and buoyancy and immediacy. Immediacy more than anything seems to be key; paying complete attention, both to the other and to my felt response - although not to the jabbering voice-in-the-back-of-the-head response, which is best ignored.

Anyway, that's mostly by way of preamble, to attempt to excuse words that will most probably be slower, heavier than I want them to be.

Michael captures perfectly something of the process and feel of that conversation; I wont repeat that here, but there were some parts of the content though that felt especially significant for me, that stood out from the flow; rocks on which I could stand and look around, in a fast flowing river of ideas.

“What was your first language?”
I missed the meaning at first.

But of course I learned English. Did I have no access to meaning before I had a spoken language? We talked about how language constrains, how it channels thought; how difficult it can be to tie felt ideas down in words and how something gets lost in the process. What do we have before words? When a thought, an idea, a feeling first comes into existence where before there was nothing, what form does it have? How does it represent itself? In shape? Colour? Sound? Gut feel? That train of thought links back to and extends what I was trying to grasp just the other day – how to listen to that primordial voice of soul. Language is so often two dimensional in a three dimensional world of experience, and we all too easily limit ourselves to that space which language is adequate to describe, although poetry extends a little way beyond, giving a glimpse of experience beyond words.

Funny how insights occur. As Michael spoke about Open Space, I was gazing up into the curving, spreading brick vaulting that formed the ceiling of the Café-in-the-Crypt, and suddenly saw the significance of the alternative term: opening space, seeing it as a process, not an action or a goal or a result. I'm not sure those words have captured quite what I mean; I intuitively sense something significant in that –ing; words are trying to tie that sense down, and not altogether succeeding. Creating possibility; allowing for a larger ideas-space. In fact, that even seems to be feeding into how I'm thinking here and now, this moment, in these words – not a complete thesis or a closed description, but a step of thought-expansion.

And then, something that may become very real for me before long: when weighing up the safe, conventional path – the one we think we can see a long way down, precisely because of its conventionality – against the maverick, unknown, tangential alternative: how do we really know where either will lead? Answer: we don’t. It’s only conventional expectation that leads us to assign notions of safety or risk to these paths. We just don’t know how any road is going to turn out.

But I think that the voice which speaks only in the First Language has an idea of which it finds more attractive…

Thanks, Michael: space is opening

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Holding a lantern... 

"The sadness I have caused any face
by letting a stray word
strike it,

any pain
I have caused you,
what can I do to make us even?
Demand a hundred fold of me - I'll pay it.

During the day I hold my feet accountable
to watch out for wondrous insects and their friends.

Why would I want to bring horror
into their extraordinary

Magnetic fields draw us to Light; they move our limbs and thoughts.
But it is still dark; if our hearts do not hold a lantern,
we will stumble over each other,

huddled beneath the sky
as we are."

~ Rumi ~

(Today’s poem on Panhala)

“…it is still dark …if our hearts do not hold a lantern… we will stumble over each other…

Wonderful, magical words that seem to hold more than can be described in mere words… but then, that’s the wonder of poetry.

(I've been doing a lot of stumbling lately...)

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Soul :: part 4? 

This kinda follows on from a trail that ran cold several months ago…

This post has been brewing for a while; or rather, fragments of thought with a common theme keep occurring to me, but I've not been able to piece them together into anything coherent - the thoughts are too broad, too indistinct. But beyond the fog, I know there hides a clarity I must pursue...

This is all around those deep questions that sound too trite to take seriously - or is it that they're too huge, too scary? Questions like: "Who am I?", "Why am I here?"

I've been conscious for some time of operating in two distinct worlds – or worlds that I keep distinct from each other - the external world of speech and action, and the internal world of thought and emotion (okay, in my case more thought than emotion, but that's another story...). I've been aware of switching between two states, neither of them satisfactory: over-engagement with the inner world of thought and introspection, with consequent disconnection from the outer world, alternating with a martyr-like submission to the demands of the external world.

It doesn't make a lot of sense - I claim to crave a deep connection with other people, yet the reality is that I hold myself aloof, seemingly preferring the solitude of my inner world. Recently though - that is to say, since the start of the counselling process nearly a year ago - I've become aware of a third world, or a third aspect of self, that seems distinct again from the other two, the outer and inner worlds.

I wish I could put this better... I'm stuck at present in a rather detached, rather emotionless, almost scientific way of thinking, and the language I use will probably reflect that, but I want to get something down here; maybe it'll free up my thinking and allow it to move on; maybe someone else will have something useful to add.

In amongst all the external routine and inner turmoil, I get - very occasionally - flashes of something quite different. Messages from an inner self?? Not the inner self of intellect and never-ending internal debate, nor the inner commentator, forever judging and criticising, nor even the watcher who monitors and safeguards, preventing the wilder excursions of the others from going too far. No, these messages come from somewhere much deeper within; they feel trustworthy, coming from a place where only honesty, integrity and wholeness can exist. My true core being? My soul?

Does that sound fanciful? An elaborate construct to bolster an attractive but entirely artificial notion? It feels that way sometimes, and yet...

These "messages" as I'm calling them don't come very often. And they're always non-verbal; this part of self doesn't use language, doesn't think and communicate in terms the rest of "us" (that is, aspects of me) readily understand. ‘Gut feel’ gets closest to it; a visceral response to sights, sounds, sensations, that I sense is more than "mere" emotion; something deep within responds to an experience and tries to flag it up to my dulled mind: “Look; do you see this? This represents who you are; this surge you feel in your gut is me, calling you, telling you, shouting at you in the only way I can, but you’re too wrapped up in yourself to listen. In any case; you don’t WANT to believe.” Only like I say, there are no words, just a dimly felt sense.

In a way that I can't explain, I know that this is my truest self making himself known. Having been walled away all these years, the processes of counselling, of journalling - yes, and of blogging too - are just beginning to loosen some of the bricks in the wall.

I'm sure this has been said many times - that our highest calling, our highest purpose in this world is no more - and no less - than to be the person we were born to be; fully to manifest who we are.

So back to those questions. Who am I? Why am I here? The answers aren't somewhere "out there"; they're somewhere in here, and they're looking for a way out. I need to learn the language of the soul in order to be sensitive to its messages; I need to still the drive of the external self for action, need to quiet the incessant babble of the inner self, and listen...

The cost of creativity? 

I work for an organisation that has declared its intent to be "the most creative organisation in the world". It's also just declared the need for the most radical cost-cutting programme in its long history, with the loss of several thousand jobs. And nowhere have I heard anyone recognise the conflict between those two themes, let alone say how the conflict is to be resolved.

Creativity, according to complexity theory, thrives in an organisation "on the edge of chaos" - a place criss-crossed with a network unofficial linkages subverting conventional hierarchical channels; a place where ideas spring up at grass roots level according to need instead of being driven top-down; a place where there is room to play and experiment - room measured in time, in space, in money, in cultural freedom.

Our organisation has been described as a loose affiliation of autonomous fiefdoms - occasionally warring fiefdoms it has to be said, but for the most part it's a set-up that works. I nearly said a structure that works - but the one of the main reason for its success, I believe, is the looseness of its structure. Sure, there's a hierarchy, and some of those fiefdoms are more hierarchical than others, but in amongst that there are a lot of very creative people who just do their own thing, regardless. And some do their autonomous thing at quite a senior level, because they learned their creative craft at the cutting edge.

The trouble is, that autonomy gives rise to a lot of things that the cost-cutters beady eyes can identify and put a stop to. For example, our organisation invents a lot of wheels - surely it's more cost-effective just to invent the wheel once?

Well, that may depend on how you define cost effective. All those people busy inventing their own wheels may result in a bigger corporate wheel spend, but what the accountants' perspective misses is the intangible benefit of people's pride and commitment and empowerment and ownership of their work that derives from using a wheel that they've crafted with their own skills, that does exactly what they need it to do, when they need it to do it - unlike the standard one-size-fits-all corporate model.

In a traditional command-and-control structure, there wouldn't be a problem. If you want a wheel, you'd have no choice other than to go to the stores and withdraw a 'wheel, size 1, users, for the use of'. No other means of procuring a wheel would be open to you. End of story. But command and control is, as we know, rigid, inflexible, unable to respond rapidly to change.

So we try and build a flexible, creative organisation, and we employ flexible, creative, people - and then we impose rigid command-and-control constraints on them, and so create an organisation at war with itself. A conflict of philosophies - creative versus controlling - becomes a conflict in the workplace, and a climate brews of suspicion and mistrust of wheel-users and wheel-builders alike, as each takes up a secretly defensive position to guard their interests. Secret, because alongside that intent to build creativity, we also have a corporate value that declares how much we trust one another. Of course, all this is hidden behind a mask of smiles and rhetoric, but all the while, the police plot the downfall of the insurgents, and the insurgents plot ways of nullifying the power of the police.

You see, this is one of the things that most frustrates me in my job. The corner of the organisation where I work is one where hierarchy and strict management-by-cost rule, where we're forever battling to force people to use our standard wheel; where the talk is of "policing" the organisation to ensure there are no user-crafted wheels hidden away in secret corners. I don't doubt it keeps the corporate wheel budget down, and to be fair, there are other, valid, reasons for wanting to keep that degree of control and consistency.

But I find myself having to fight an increasingly marginalised corner, in a climate of withheld knowledge, suspicion and political manoeuvring - and that goes against the grain for me. Maybe I’m just not cut out for the rough and tumble of corporate life, but I favour trust and mutual support over intrigue and in-fighting. My head may understand why we do what we do, but my heart’s with the pirate wheel-builders.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Vanity; all is vanity... 

I happened to be Googling for images of Wasdale yesterday, and was gobsmacked to see one of mine, there at #3 on the first page.

I started looking for others… as you do… Vanity? Surely not - curiosity, pure curiosity…

Anyway, that must have been a lucky hit. Most of the others didn’t seem to feature anywhere; I only found a couple more. But I admit it was nice to find this one filling the #1 slot for Sgorr Dhearg.

“Are looking through all your pictures to see where they come? That’s soooo sad….” said a voice behind me.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

In and down 

"Spirituality, like leadership, is a hard thing to define. But Annie Dillard has given us a vivid image of what authentic spirituality is about: "In the deeps are the violence and terror of which psychology has warned us. But if you ride these monsters down, if you drop with them farther over the world’s rim, you find what our sciences cannot locate or name, the substrate, the ocean or matrix or ether which buoys the rest, which gives goodness its power for good, and evil its power for evil, the unified field: our complex and inexplicable caring for each other, and for our life here together. This is given. It is not learned."

"Here Dillard names two crucial features of any spiritual journey. One is that it will take us inward and downward, toward the hardest realities of our lives, rather than outward and upward toward abstraction, idealisation, and exhortation. The spiritual journey runs counter to the power of positive thinking.

"Why must we go in and down? Because as we do so, we will meet the darkness that we carry within ourselves – the ultimate source of the shadows that we project onto other people. If we do not understand that the enemy is within, we will find a thousand ways of making someone 'out there' into the enemy, becoming leaders who oppress rather than liberate others.

"But, says Annie Dillard, if we ride those monsters all the way down, we break through to something precious – to 'the unified field, our complex and inexplicable caring for each other,' to the community we share beneath the broken surface of our lives. Good leadership comes from people who have penetrated their own inner darkness and arrived at the place where we are at one with one another, people who can lead the rest of us to a place of 'hidden wholeness' because they have been there and know the way."

Parker J. Palmer, in 'Let Your Life Speak', quoting Annie Dillard in 'Teaching a Stone to Talk'.

Thank goodness: a writer - two writers – who acknowledge that as paradoxical human beings we are both radiant beings AND full of shadows.

I grow a little tired of hearing from writers who seem only to want to acknowledge the positive facets of humanity; teachers who tell us that, deep down, we're really all perfect beings and it's just a crust of imperfection that sits on the surface preventing us seeing the good within ourselves and each other.

I believe that in our core being we are both perfect AND flawed; that is to say we carry within us, at all times, seeds which may grow into great good AND seeds that may grow into great evil. To deny that is to deny the reality of who we are; to deny the voice of our own experience.

The paradox of humanity is that we are both of these things at once. We don't have to take sides as to whether, at heart, we're irredeemable sinners or haloed saints – the reality is that we have the capacity to be both, and in holding that capacity, we in effect ARE both, and both at the same time. However much we try to empower one and disempower the other, neither capacity will ever entirely leave us.

I'd like to say more, but I'm finding it harder and harder to connect with the thinker and writer in me. As I read Palmer's words this morning, it was as if I heard snatches of a once familiar melody – but I couldn’t complete the tune.

Saturday, January 15, 2005


Ever heard of global dimming? Maybe you’re more in touch than I am, but although I thought I kept abreast of environmental issues, until an hour ago I’d never heard of it (more here).

Airborne pollution comes in two types - greenhouse gases which give rise to well-known global warming effects, and particulates – tiny solid particles of soot, ash etc. These latter give rise to the visible pollution haze that hangs over our big cities and industrial areas; they contribute to respiratory disease but it now seems have an even more alarming effect, namely global dimming.

It works like this: the pollution particles provide sites for water vapour in the atmosphere to condense into droplets and so forming clouds, but these droplets are much smaller and more numerous than those that form in pollution-free clouds. And it turns out that clouds made up of smaller and more numerous droplets are more reflective than their clean cousins, so much more of the suns rays are reflected back into space. Less sunshine reaches the ground, or the oceans – hence global dimming.

Greenhouse gases cause global temperatures to rise, but global dimming has the opposite effect; it causes them to fall. It now seems these two forces have been working in opposition, yet most world climate models to date take no account of global dimming. As ever in our arrogant way, we thought that we knew all there was to know about the link between greenhouse emissions and global warming – but if global warming has been kept in check by global dimming, what happens when we alter the balance? Global warming turns out to be a much more powerful force than we imagined; take that check away, in effect take the brakes off, and suddenly we find that greenhouse emissions have a far greater impact that we first thought.

The thing about interdependent systems – such as those that support life on our planet - is that their behaviour is never simple or obvious. There is strong evidence, it seems, that the terrible African droughts of the 1970s and 1980s which led to the worst famines seen in modern times were caused, at least in part, by global dimming. The chain of causality goes something like this: The growth of industrial activity combined with limited pollution controls in Europe and North America in the middle of the last century gave rise to an increase in airborne particulates in the northern hemisphere, and particularly over the Atlantic ocean. The polluted clouds reflected more sunlight back into space and the temperatures dropped. This caused changes in air circulation patterns which took the rain-bearing clouds away from sub-Saharan Africa, hence the droughts. Simple, and catastrophic.

So what do we do? If we go back to allowing airborne particulate pollution so as to keep global warming in check, we risk disease and ever more terrible famine. It’s no good patting ourselves on the back over our success with clean-air policies if we don’t achieve equal success in reducing greenhouse emissions – that way, global warming will run away twice as fast as previous climate models suggested. The predictions may sound like scare-mongering, yet they are entirely plausible: in our lifetime we see melting of the Greenland ice-cap causing sea levels to rise 25 feet, submerging many of the world’s major cities; tropical rain-forests become tinder-dry, burn, and turn to savannah or even desert. The scariest part is that it may only take 20 years to pass the point of no return on the road to some of these changes. Time is running out fast.

There really is no option. We have to understand that our planet is not a stable, static system, but sits for ever on the edge of instability, with all kinds of opposing forces – climatic, tectonic, demographic – existing in a precarious balance. Humankind has become powerful enough to upset this balance; we have to stop treating our planet like a sewer.

What will it take before governments look beyond their own survival at the next election and start taking these issues seriously?

Doubtless there will be sceptics. They may even be right. But as a famous physicist once said: “If you doubt every new idea in science you will be right 90% of the time, but you will be wrong the only time it matters.”

"Why were you not Moses?" 

“…from our first days in school, we are taught to listen to everything and everyone but ourselves, to take all our clues about living from the people and powers around us.


“We arrive in this world with birthright gifts – then we spend the first half of our lives abandoning them or letting others disabuse us of them. As young people, we are surrounded by expectations that may have little to do with who we really are, expectations held by people who are not trying to discern our selfhood but to fit us into slots. In families, schools, work-places, and religious communities, we are trained away from true self towards images of acceptability; under social pressures like racism and sexism our original shape is deformed beyond recognition; and we ourselves, driven by fear, too often betray true self to gain the approval of others.


“It is a strange gift, this birthright gift of self. Accepting it turns out to be even more demanding than attempting to become someone else! I have sometimes responded to that demand by ignoring the gift, or hiding it, or fleeing from it, or squandering it – and I think I am not alone. There is a Hasidic tale that reveals, with amazing brevity, both the universal tendency to want to be someone else, and the ultimate importance of becoming one’s self: Rabbi Zusya, when he was an old man, said, “In the coming world, they will not ask me: ‘Why were you not Moses?’ They will ask me: ‘Why were you not Zusya?’””

from “Let Your Life Speak” by Parker J. Palmer

I understand that question only too well: Why am I not Andy? And of course, it begs another question: Who is Andy? If I could answer the second, I could perhaps do something about the first…

Thursday, January 13, 2005


“Your attention please; this train will not be stopping at Warren Street station. I repeat – this train will not be stopping at Warren Street. This is because the escalators are not working.”

Sighs; looks of stoic resignation; one woman pushes her way out through the crowded carriage, muttering under her breath.

Two minutes later the train stops at Warren Street station; the doors open, people get on, everything appears normal. No announcements. Puzzled faces at first, then I smile unconsciously at the irony. Looking around, my eyes meet the eyes of other smiles and so the smiles broaden in recognition of a shared thought. Not that it’s funny; but the situation accords with our perception of a public transport system that barely knows what it’s doing.

And for those few precious seconds, our protection of our own inner space is dropped a fraction, and our shoulder-to-shoulder isolation from each other is temporarily broken. That act of recognition, seeing and reflecting a smile on another’s face, momentarily joins us together.

But then the doors close, the train moves off and as the moment passes, eyes drop as we all studiously avoid meeting another’s gaze. We’re alone again in a crowded carriage. Normality has returned.

Saturday, January 08, 2005


Yeah, I know... the composition isn't what it could have been. I needed a 28mm or 24mm lens (bad workman etc...). I'd just rounded a corner in the path, and there ahead stood this beautifully shaped tree, it's silhouette forming the outline of a candle flame. But all I had was a 35-135mm zoom, and if I stepped any further back the bushes at each side would have obscured the shot. In hindsight, perhaps I should have lost the base of the tree in order to get the top, like the very tip of flame, in the shot. Ah well, we live and learn...

[For Photo Friday]

Thursday, January 06, 2005

A hand reaches down the years 

My paternal grandfather died when my father was only a few years old, at the time of (although not as a result of) the First World War. As the elder brother, growing up in the lean years between the wars, my father took on the mantle of head of household even while still in his teens. He became chief breadwinner and decision maker, learning always to make decisions based on the good of the family as a whole, finding that in seeking a balance between his own needs and dreams and those of the family, more often than not he would end up putting his own wishes in second place below those of his mother and younger brother.

My father was a man of strong principles; during the Second World War he knew would be more than simply unwilling to kill another human being; he would be physically being unable to do so, even when ordered, even if his own life depended on it. His beliefs simply would not allow it, and his beliefs had total authority over his actions. He offered to be trained as a battlefield medic - probably just as dangerous as being an infantryman - but there was no place in the army for a soldier who refused to carry a gun, so the only course left open to him was to register as a Conscientious Objector and join the Non Combatant Corps.

I guess it was these same principles that led him, paradoxically, away from following his dream. He had married just before the war in 1939, and by the time he was discharged from the army he had a young family of his own. For a while he and his wife - my mother to be - entertained a dream of becoming wardens at a children's home, but the pay would have been poor, and with memories of the hard times of his childhood and the sense of obligation he felt now to three generations of the family, he chose to play safe and go for a job that was secure and steady, if rather dull. Before the war, both he and his brother had worked in a local branch of one of the major banks, so it seemed a natural step to take a clerical post in the bank's London head office.

By the time I was born, ten years after the war ended, he was well embedded in that job. His primary purpose in working had always been to support his family, and over the years I guess that became work's only purpose for him. Probably it became too painful to remember that there might ever have been any other purpose, and so I grew up with the clear notion that that was all that work was about – doing something that was essentially dull and monotonous, in return for a wage that allowed one to pay the bills and live with one's family in security and moderate comfort. As my awareness of the wider world grew and I discovered what parents of school-friends did for a living, I can remember a certain sense of injustice that our family's life was as it was, yet somehow I never quite escaped the grasp of the underlying principle, a principle that seemed to go right back to the origins of humankind, reflected in the words of the Biblical Genesis legend:
"To Adam he said,
"Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,'
Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat of it
all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return."

"…through painful toil… by the sweat of your brow…" - there was a time when those words seemed to sum it all up for me. Not as divine retribution, simply a statement of the way things are. We might reduce the pain a little, make the toil a little less physical, but essentially life's hard. It just never really registered that life could be anything different.

Why bring all this up now? The power down the years of parental influences has been a topic of some recent email conversations; it is truly astonishing just how much influence parents can have, even throughout our own adult years and beyond.

I nearly fell into a trap once again yesterday, a trap which has it's origins in my father's youth; the trap of believing that it's wrong of me to have any expectation other than that life’s a bitch, then you die. I've still been having counselling, and yesterday was the first session since mid-December. By what right, I thought, do I spend good money on airy-fairy activities like counselling, chasing some abstract delusional notion of self-actualisation, looking for meaning, looking for purpose? Straining after the most stratospheric levels of Maslow's hierarchy? Especially now, at this time when so many are struggling to keep a foot on the very bottom rung of life's ladder? And so I went into yesterday's session with every intent of calling a halt to the whole process there and then.

But I didn't. Not yet. Cold, logical, rational self said end it. But another part of me, hidden for many weeks now, made itself heard, said no, and refused to let go. It was quite a struggle; maybe I'll write some more about that later, but I’ve written enough here for now - in writing this I wanted to become clearer about of one of the factors that wouldn’t allow me to do something for myself.

I still have huge difficulty accepting that I'm spending money on myself which could be going to relief agencies. But I know a line has to be drawn somewhere. I could for example sell my house and move somewhere smaller, and the proceeds would probably pay for temporary shelter for thousands. But I'm not going to do that. Neither, I guess, would you. So there is a line, and once there’s a line, it's position can seem arbitrary.

Anyway, if I stop counselling now, I stop one step short of something that may be just as vital as gifts of money. I stop short of rediscovering the capacity for love.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

the country they call life... 

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~

[found here]

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Thank you 

Euan referred recently to what he termed the support network that has gathered around this blog. For me, being a part of this global community is one of the most valuable, meaningful, worthwhile aspects of blogging, and it’s greatest reward.

The turning of the year seems like a good time for me to say a heart-felt thank you to all of you who offer me such support, encouragement, coaching and companionship. This blog wouldn’t be here without you – thanks.

Ever wondered... 

...what it's like to soar like an eagle?

This is amazing...
(Found via Yves)