Darkness in Falls Summer

When darkness falls in summer
it tumbles quickly
as the gloaming recedes,
fading into star sprinkled night
of a sudden between
one breath indrawn
and soon released.

The clouds glow
in a phosphorescent white,
too bright too pure,
clinging to the last shimmering
rays of sunlight as we move away
spinning silently and at speed
opposite the day.

When the sky is clear
the stars blink on,
a thousand million suns
ignited as disordered beacons,
insistent points of brightness
cutting through the black,
where once the illusioned blue sky
spanned wide beyond our reaching.

The night so short in some places
it is never truly dark,
and for several months
stars disappear from view,
the sun barely tickling the horizon
giving no respite from the light,
testing the ability of most to cope
longer than a brief few weeks,
for we are made for light and dark
for day and night
for one sun to shine then many.

The darkness falls quickly
at the height of summer
knowing by some unimaginable wisdom
it must be swift to beat the day
before the single light emerges
inexorably setting the east ablaze,
rousing us from sleep
stealing our dreaming time,
teasing us up to work and play and be
whilst giving in return
a shorter interval of rest less time
for secret assignations with the self.

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We say we know

We say we know,
but we do not understand the way,
we do not perceive the paths
torqued and tortuous
through the deeply shadowed
regions of the self,
the secretly inhabited
landscape of the soul,
the mysteriously wrought
structure of the heart,
where desires dwell
where hopes haunt
where wishes wander
unvoiced unfulfilled unannounced
to the consciousness of the mind,
which could not bear the revelation,
could not endure the unveiling
of the hidden terror
of the unacknowledged fear
of the dangerous truth,
that we are all more
than who we appear to be
and less than we believe we are.

Commodification of The Self

I spent a good part of today doing three job applications. Two were fairly straightforward, tweak my CV and write and punchy cover letters. The third one required four statements. They addressed the job specifications; particular skills applicable to the job;, why did I want to work there; and what from my leisure, volunteer or membership based activities would be valuable experience related to the job. These took all afternoon, fiddling with words, which normally I enjoy, to a strict limit.

Needless to say I was exhausted when I finished and immediately finished my cup of tea and fled the house for an hour to take a walk to clear my head and refocus my eyes and mind.

During my break for lunch as I was dowsing my scrambled eggs in lime pickle and chopping the cabbage and tomatoes for my salad I thought about the whole process of applying for jobs. I have been doing it now for over 18 months. It occurred to me the implications of selling yourself in your application, CV and cover letter, during your interview. I’ve had five of the latter and  umpteen of the former.

All of a sudden it felt quite odious, the entire notion of making myself into a commodity. I grew up with a father who was a brilliant artist who could have made a mint in the art scene in New York City, where the taught and studied at the League. Instead, after his dramatic conversion to Christianity, he decided he could not ‘prostitute’ his art to make money. Rather when I was four he packed us up and moved us back to Indiana near where he was brought up and his mother and most of his siblings still lived. We did not have an easy time, but but he stayed true to his principles and we managed. In an instant today, I really understood some of what he was getting at by refusing to play the game and selling out.

I do not think that getting a job is selling out my beliefs or principles, but the process of selling myself I am struggling with. It’s not that I don’t interview well, because in most cases I do. But it’s the notion that I’m not only the product, but the ad agency that is difficult. It somehow feels dehumanising to objectify the self, alright myself, in such a way. It puts me on the same level and the tin of cat food on the counter or the washing up liquid on the corner of the kitchen sink. Of course I seldom by brands that are advertised, but I am subjected to the ad campaigns on the television, in magazines and by mail shots. Sending out applications, CVs and cover letters I saw as an ad campaign for product me. All of a sudden I am a direct participant in a process I find basically manipulative and false.

It’s hard enough dealing with trying to find a job that provides the finance to live on and allows you to live. This other bit is an overlay that whilst taken for granted and put out as a good and necessary thing in all the job seeking advice, might not be so good after all. At least not for the soulself. My CVs, cover letters and application statements highlight what I do, but not who I am. I am more than what those documents reduce me to and reinforce what society values. And for the most part a lot of what modern society, or maybe more appropriately what contemporary culture, values is not what I value: excessive consumption; greed; build in obsolescence; a blatant disregard for the future in an effort to make the most profit for the least number of people.

All part of the game right now though. A game I’m forced to grit my teeth and play, as almost all of us are. It’s also why it’s so important for me to go outside, to walk in the fields and on the footpaths around the village. Doing these things provides an opportunity to be real. To listen to the gods, ancestors and feel the Spirits of the Land, to seek connection and communion with them. To be reminded I am not what I do. I am what I feel, perceive, see and sense through my physical and spiritual beingness. I am  how I love and respect those around me, human and other than human. I am not a commodity. I am the intention I live into reality and manifestation. I am a presence in the world manifested at a particular time with a destiny to discern and fulfill.

With a bit of luck I will find a job that allows me to do just that. At least that is what I hope. That is what others and I pray for me.

Welcome message to a Small One

Dear Small One,

You are only eighteen days old now. You do not know me. I know you because your daddy is the vicar here in the village where we live. I was introduced to you on the street by your mum, as she was trying out your new pram, when you were a week old. You were small and beautiful and contentedly asleep. And, it was evident to me, you are surrounded and protected by the love of your family.

I do not know if you are an ‘old soul’ or a newcomer. I have not held you, nor have you touched my hand, which is how I usually sense such things. As I am not family member nor close friend of your family there is no reason I should have had the opportunity to engage you in such a way.

But, having met you I feel there are some things I wish to share with you as you start out on your life journey.

1. Always be open to wonder. Never allow anyone to explain, or try to explain away, all the mystery of life. There really are things we do not need to understand. There are those that a best left to our faith or imagination.

2. Look up at the clouds. Allow yourself to see the great creatures and remarkable skyscapes created by the Cloud People.

3. Walk through the fog. Enjoy that the Mist Folk are giving you a multi-sensory hug.

4. Don’t be afraid to get wet on a rainy day. Lift your head to the sky and let the rain splash down on your face. Be refreshed and cleansed.

5. Take the time, especially when you are an adult to stretch out in the grass under a tree on sunny summer’s morning  and let the leaves dapple the sunlight across your face. Or do the same on an autumn afternoon, letting the leaves drift the first and only time they will dance free of the tree that held them and for which they worked all their lives.

6. Make friends with trees and the hedgerows, old ones and young ones, for they are wise, forgiving and comforting presences.

7. Listen to and be nourished by the stories of your religious tradition, but also find out the stories of other faiths. What separates us is mostly how we understand and express that which is most important from a spiritual perspective. I do not any longer share the faith in which you will be raised, although I was raised in it as you will be. Please remember that religion is not inherently good, any more than religious people. Institutions and people are not perfect, though some more than others claim to strive for perfection or proclaim they possess it and hold the truth.

8. You will find, sooner or later, that life presents you with good times and ones that are not so good. You will experience, because we all do, moments of inexpressible joy and seemingly unendurable grief. These are to be lived through and with. They offer us lessons and opportunities to grow.

9. You will learn that many horrible things can and do happen in the world. Life is as perilous as it is wondrous. There are going to be floods, droughts, avalanches, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and wars.  The first three are not infrequently the result of shortsighted human action or blatant inaction; the last is caused only by the ignorance, greed or stupidity of humans beings.

10. Do not give into despair though. For nature also gives solace and joy, in the beauty of birdsong and dragonfly dances; puppies and kittens to cuddle; okapis and elephants and frogs, among countless others, to at which to marvel. You will also come to experience directly the wisdom, generosity and intelligence of human beings and share them with others.

11. Live your life with honourably and with integrity. Know what you believe and value. Be able to express those not only in words, but in works. The doing of your belief and acting from your values will be by far more powerful than just speaking them.

12. Know that you are never, ever truly alone, you have Guardians watching over and traveling at your side. You may not see them, and as you get older you may not sense them in the same way, but they are there. When you feel something has brushed up against you and there is no one around and the air is still, it will be one of them reaching out and reminding you.

13. Always, always say thank you. Thank you for life and for being alive, everyday. Be grateful for small things, that seem almost too insignificant to notice. But do notice and respond with gratitude. And do this not to be noticed, but because you are aware of yourself and the world in which you are blessed to share in.

14. Know and come to experience that you are related to every single creature that lives or ever lived on this fragile and amazing planet. The physicists and chemists are right when they say we are made of stardust and thus enkinned to all the animals and plants, the soil beneath our feet and the clouds floating above our heads. But our ancestors knew this before there were any scientists. They knew because they sensed it and felt it.  So, allow yourself to sense and feel it,too. This is knowing that is far deeper and more reliable than the knowledge written in the textbooks  you will study as you go to school.

Finally, and perhaps most important of all, know and remember that first and foremost, you belong to yourself. Your essential being belongs to you. Your body is yours alone. You belong to yourself before you belong to your family or your God. You have the freedom, the right and the responsibility, to share yourself only when, where and with whom you choose. Share without coercion. Share without fear. Share from love. Share only from love.

So small one. . .

May your journey through life be one filled with experiences of wonder, serendipity, challenge, companionship and love.

Rejoicing in the hope a new life brings to all of us, I offer you my blessing as you go forth to make your way in the world.