B4Peace: Art, peace, memory

This month’s Bloggers for Peace Challenge from Kozo is about art. I am not artistic, but I do like to look at stuff.

“Remember, each one of us has the power to change the world. Just start thinking peace, and the message will spread quicker than you think.”~Yoko Ono

For the month of May, we will focus on art. I believe that art has the ability to transform the soul. If art can change a soul, then it can change the world. What piece of art makes you a more peaceful person?

As I was growing up we had a most wonderful next door neighbour. In fact we had two, but mostly he was at work, so I knew her better. Auntie Brown was from Aberdeen and talked in a strong Scottish accent. She was bright and cheerful and very down to earth. She had a grandson about my age, who visited occasionally and played; he kept a rabbit at his grandmother’s but it was a mean rabbit which bit, so I didn’t like it very much. My friend Joanne had rabbits and they were cuddly and much nicer.

Auntie Brown would take me out when she went to the shops, just for the company. She listened to my stories and talked about all kinds of things and taught me to make cauliflower cheese. I would often visit when I came home from school as a teenager because we could share a cup of tea, and my own house was cold and empty with my parents both out at work.

Her husband worked at the local undertaker’s. Once when I was doing a school project on trees I went to see him at work to ask about coffins, so he took me and my friend into the workshop to see the caskets in various states of completion and told us all about how they were made. Apparently elm was the best, although this was before Dutch Elm Disease put paid to that. I remember worrying about how people would be buried without enough elm trees. I was a strange and introspective child.

One day Auntie Brown saw me coming in from school and called me into her house. They were planning to emigrate to New Zealand now Mr B had retired, to be closer to their family who had moved there some time before.

“I want you to have this,” she told me in her rather high-pitched voice.

198310 photo of painting

She indicated the picture on the wall. It was quite large.

“I love this picture, but it’s too big to take with me and I would like to think of it going to a good home. Your mother said she didn’t want it, but I knew you liked it…”

There was hope and desperation in her eyes, and her voice was all trembly. It was also true that I did really like the picture.

“Thank you,” I said. “I love it. It can go in my bedroom.”

And my dears, that is just where it went. My mother complained and my dad put up a nail for it and there it stayed until I got married. Then it lived with us for a long time.

It was not a high quality print, and was a little ruffled from the damp in Auntie Brown’s old Victorian terraced house. The frame was falling apart and all skewed, and the backing was warped.

I had always liked it and I loved it more as time went by. I loved it because auntie Brown had loved it and then had trusted me with it. I loved it because it reminded me of her. I loved to sit and stare into it and make up stories about what was happening off in the distance or to the side. We spent many happy hours, that picture and I, listening to music and dreaming teenage dreams and living adventures when the dull suburbs were too tedious to bear. It moved from house to house with me, hanging drunkenly in the living room or dining room, wherever there was wall space, until one day it simply became too old and tattered and worn to last anymore and we had to say goodbye.

It’s imprinted on my brain. It lives on in my memory, more clearly than some people I have known and more clearly than Auntie Brown’s face (although her voice and her love are still sharply in focus). I like the picture in a generic way because I think autumnal woodland scenes are pretty; I love it because of the people and memories it shows me, like ghost pictures within itself. When I look at it I see the trees and water, but I also see myself making cheese sauce on Auntie Brown’s cooker (always use a wooden spoon!) or sitting in her narrow garden with a tea cup and a biscuit, or walking to the shops in November fogs (hold my hand so you don’t get lost!), or shouting greetings over the six foot fence as we both went up our respective paths, or most ridiculously and desperately spooning whisky into my poor old catfish in an attempt to revive him (whisky will make him better; it makes everyone better!) or trying to make sense of Jane Porter’s “The Scottish Chiefs” (William Wallace was a great man, you know; they ought to teach you about him school, like back home!).

A picture can tell stories when words may fail. You know the quote. Sometimes we have no words for what we want to say (although I seem to have hurled quite a few in my attempt today. Yet still they don’t tell you half of it.)

Perhaps all I need to say is this: when I look at that picture I remember feeling loved, and peace is all around me.

Namaste.

For more, please read:

http://cardcastlesinthesky.wordpress.com/2013/05/02/float-upward/

http://fishofgold.net/2013/05/01/remaking-the-peace-symbol/

http://everydaygurus.com/2013/04/29/monthly-peace-challenge-art-thou-peaceful/

http://bloggers4peace.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/kozo-cheri-asks-that-you/

The Incredible Shrinking Man

When I was little I had one of those candlewick bedspreads. It was pink, obviously, because I am of the chromosomally advantaged gender. I liked to pick out bits of fluff from the pattern to make new patterns so after a while it looked pretty manky.

The other thing I liked to do was pretend the rows of fluff were paths or rivers and that the bedspread was a tiny country with tiny people I could imagine living in the countryside or towns. I would bend my knees to make mountains and marched an army to the top and back down, like the Grand Old Duke of York. That’s what soldiers were for, of course, marching up and down in peacock displays or else meeting mysterious old women by the road and obtaining magic tinder boxes and finding treasure. Otherwise soldiers were pretty useless and just part of the decoration.

The tiny bedspread world was less the result of a god complex than a rather over-active imagination from being read too many stories about cheerful ladybirds or adventurous ants.

When I was slightly older, my friend and I played wild games where the Earth was a living being and we were involved in all kinds of exotic adventures trying to put out forest fires or stop men in suits from building dams or destroying wildlife. Mother Earth would tell us about dolphins needing help somewhere and off we would go to help them. I suspect a teacher had tried to explain the Gaia Hypothesis to us before we were quite ready for it, so we interpreted it in a way that worked for us and rampaged about the playing fields and the riverside, getting muddy and breathless and feeling virtuous for saving the planet.

Meanwhile the miniature worlds I created started to turn into stories for Composition class or more complex games with models made from lego or plasticine (or sometimes, rather messily, both).

My dears, I am sharing this rather bizarre set of memories because they seem to have come to a point recently, as if Life has been leading me here. I know, I‘m a bit slow on the uptake. Bear with a poor old lady.

As I grew older still I discovered fractals. To be fair what actually happened was the kind of odd process by which children often obtain precious knowledge. I watched TV.

My teacher at school had recommended that I watch “Star Trek”. He was officially the Best Teacher Ever and I have written about him before. However, among his many fine qualities was his ability to work out what would inspire a child. For me he chose “Star Trek”. He was so right. I may regale you with my own personal mission to boldly split infinitives one day, but not today. Suffice it to say, I was a science fiction enthusiast for life.

So when good old Auntie Beeb decided to run a series of classic science fiction films later that year I was glued to the television. One of those films was “The Incredible Shrinking Man” and at the end of the film, where the eponymous hero shrinks to a sub-atomic level, I was introduced to the concept of cellular structures replicating macro structures. A cell is a tiny galaxy. Our galaxy might be a tiny cell.

My mind officially exploded. I went to talk to my teacher the next day and he started showing me fractals. Bear in mind I was only about ten at this point, so understanding was limited. What I understood was that the small bits of the universe replicated the big bits, potentially endlessly, like two mirrors reflecting each other.

I imagined the Incredible Shrinking Man falling forever through galaxy after galaxy, seeing civilisations rush past him, appearing as a massive cosmic cloud and reducing to human size over the years and finally dropping down into the next cycle of galaxies. It felt sad and lonely and exciting and thrilling all at once. My imagination kicked into overdrive again.

I also listened to music on the radio (or “wireless” as it was then) and heard all the hippy tunes, including, memorably, “Woodstock” –

We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon…

So I grew up with the firm and clear perception that we were part of the universe not only psychologically and spiritually but also physically. We were all made up from the matter that created stars, and we dissolved back to star-matter after we died. We were immense and tiny all at once, containing cells containing galaxies containing cells….

I never doubted it, I never questioned it. I read about Mandelbrot when I was a teenager, and carried on reading science fiction, exploding my mind again and again with new possibilities.

Now I have started to try to meditate this truth becomes yet more self evident. I can see this erratic, stumbling, drunken meandering from childhood to middle age has led me to an inescapable conclusion.

We are everything and nothing, enormous and tiny, mortal and eternal.

We are legion.

We are one.

Namaste.

Bloggers4Peace: Children

Kozo set the Bloggers4Peace challenge for April to focus on children.I will be honest my dears: I have struggled to write this post this month – because I can’t solve the problem. This is my fourth attempt and I have decided that time is running out so here it is. You see…

I know what I want to say about respect and dignity and broad horizons and love and hope.

I know I want to talk about children observing that the actions of adults are reflected in the words they speak; that my children see me walking the walk, or not; that those of us who claim to be for peace genuinely have to live our testimony to peace and justice and environmental awareness.

I know I want to quote helpful and inspiring people like the Dalai Lama on building world peace by teaching all children to meditate. (I think that’s right – if not, it should be.)

Oh my dears – I so want to say those things. But the hollow truth is that I don’t live up to those ideals, and all I can do is share my struggle. I have no answers to the difficult questions children ask about bullying and hitting and fighting and war. I can only say I don’t agree, and sometimes I can say why, but often I cannot even do that.

While the Offspringses were growing up we focused on peaceful actions and words, and attended Quaker meeting. We read about the awesome Ferdinand the Bull and avoided stories where violence was presented as a solution. We tried to live peace and sseriously explain war when they saw it on the news.

But school and TV and friends intervened. There’s a moment when your child leaves you to go to nursery or school and then returns a different person. Suddenly all the games are good guys vs bad guys and shooting and shouting; parental intervention is boring old news. I was glad of a classical education so that I could compare myself to Sisyphus. There were days it felt that bad.

Of course I don’t have to worry now. They have grown up and left home. Oh, who am I kidding? Of course I still worry; it’s in the job description!

My children do not appear to be psychopaths, so that is a good sign. They are articulate and rational, so that is a good sign. As parents we cling to such signs of hope.

I believe they have to discover their own truths, not just repeat mine, but I have made clear they can pursue any career with my blessing except a military one. It’s my line in the squelchy, North Yorkshire ground. So even my love appears conditional, although I have tried to explain I would still love them if they signed up, yet simultaneously be very, very disappointed. I’d have the kind of disappointed face you see on a small child who discovers Santa is not real and the puppy he thought he was getting for Christmas is actually a pair of socks knitted by Aunty Gertrude, who appears to think he is bilaterally asymmetric. Imagine that face. It would be mine if one of the Offspringses announced their new career in the machine of death. Honestly, they could even be an estate agent, I could cope with that.

So who am I to teach children peace? All I can do is admit it’s hard.

I’m just not sure where that gets us. Read these other posts for more constructive ideas!

Namaste.

That forgiveness thing

See, I had a bad day today and I need to forgive someone and I don’t feel I can. I feel they put my mother at risk when they had a responsibility to step in.

I can make up reasons for their actions. But I can’t absolve them. They were tired. They were under pressure. They had to clean up a lot of mess. They don’t get paid enough to put up with it. They think I am there when I am not.

None of that makes it OK.

Suddenly all the nice words and well-meaning thoughts dissolve and I shout and swear and cry because some idiot left my mother when she needed care.

Fortunately there’s no harm done, and mother is fine. But they didn’t know that.

So already I am going back on my fine sentiments and not forgiving. I managed to forgive myself the other day – it was hard. I can forgive other people for being annoying, or for being unkind to me, or for all sorts of things. When they mess with my family I just see red. It’s the Rubicon and they have not only paddled at the edges, they have waded the full width ad climbed out on the far bank.

I will hold them accountable for their actions, and report it. I will tell the company not to send that carer again. I could do all those things and forgive as well. But I am not sure I will. I think I will fail to let it go.

And why? Holding to account is about expecting people to take responsibility, and does not rule out forgiveness. But I am not forgiving.

I am thinking of Kozo’s post about fear as the cause of suffering, and I can see what is happening here. I can understand, in my head, that it is my fear of failure as a daughter that is driving my inability to forgive. In a way I am not forgiving myself, because I feel I should be providing the care, even though I would be terrible at it, and my mother and I would both be unhappy.  I understand, but my heart cannot feel it is true.

One day I’ll get there. Not today.

And yet, and still, and just because, namaste.

Equinox and Equilibrium – Bloggers for Peace

Things must be bad. In fact, the Apocalypse may be as nigh as a very nigh thing. Today is the Spring Equinox in EBL Towers, and possibly across the whole Northern Hemisphere, which takes its lead from here, and the weather is so cold that even the weather elves on the BBC were complaining about it on the Breakfast News. The BBC Weather team are resolutely of the opinion that all weather is good for something and it isn’t just about being sunny all the time. They will occasionally try to look a little sorry if it has rained for 51 weeks of the year, but only if flooding means they can’t get home for tea. Otherwise they tend to take the meteorological high ground (again, useful if there is flooding), and explain that the weather is not a convenience for humans but a Force of Nature, that farmers need some rain, and that you should just wrap up warm and stop complaining. Obviously no one takes any notice because complaining is compulsory in Britain in order to satisfy the expectations of tourists and generate national income. Once all the visitors go home we relax and party like it’s 1999.

So today when not one, but two, of the elves muttered about the fact that it was unseasonably chilly and you’d never think it was Spring, would you, I got goosebumps and a feeling of Doom. Who were those presenters and what had they done with the actual weather people?

Despite hideous prediction of flood and snow and blizzards anywhere north of France, here in the northern part of England known as God’s Own County we have some cloud and chilliness. The birds are still singing, although we may have to run a soup kitchen for the hedgehogs: apparently the cold Spring may be killing them. They don’t want to get out of bed in the cold, and they don’t have enough snacks to keep them going.

If I may side track for a moment, I have been thinking about how to respond to Kozo’s monthly Bloggers for Peace topic on Flash Forgiveness.

Then I realised that today was a good day to give it a go. Already I have forgiven the grumpy weather elves for being grumpy about weather. Whether or not they care what I think.  I have allowed my initial irritation to fade away and turn into material for a blog post. I know you’re all pleased. I can see it in your eyes.

After digesting the news – bloke with red briefcase about to commit daylight robbery on the general population – I forgave the government for being total idiots. Today I am trying to think of government as a kind of scheme for keeping troublesome toffs off the high street.

I turned instead to my knitting projects. Always a great source of calm and balm for the soul are the knitting needles; in extremis I can use them for not being forgiving. The shawl is finished bar the fringe, which I plan to do later today when I am back from the hospital, so I started work on the fair isle yoke of the jumper I am knitting.

Did I mention the hospital already? I’m going back to see the consultant today after various traumas and cancellations and reinstatements. Honestly, the admin at that place is horrendous. Today though I am forgiving flashwise, so let’s just say that the individuals I talked to, and there were very many of them, were all kind and helpful. It’s clear they need me to go in and completely redesign their admin systems from scratch and deliver a few seminars and workshops for management on how to run a piss-up in a brewery, but apart from that they are fantastic. Anyway, today I find out if I am going back for a further operation or not, and if so, whether that is tomorrow.

If I suddenly go quiet for a few days, then the answer to both questions was yes.

Back to the fair isle then. I started the first round of pattern, which is the really important one that sets it up for the whole yoke. I did my 25 stitch pattern of knit 5 in yarn one, knit one in yarn 2. I got to the end of 250 stitches and realised what a seven year old could have told me: 5+1 does not go into 25.

You nit-wit knitter, EBL! The pattern has an extra stitch on the repeat to make it work, so that you have four lots of 5+1 then a final 1.

This is why knitting and maths are the same thing, my dears. This is why you have to know how to count and do your times tables. The lad Gove may care to note: it is probably the only real use of times tables that you have as an adult, so unless he expects the employment crisis to be solved by making everyone knit their housing benefit, he should go back and try again in redesigning the curriculum.

However, today I am being flashy about forgiving, so poor old Govey gets another chance (try harder next time, boy!) and I have to do the hardest thing of all. Can you guess what it is yet? You, at the back? Speak up!

That’s right. Ten points to Hufflepuff. EBL has to forgive herself.

Well, my dears, that was a low blow. Now I also have to forgive Kozo for putting me in this distressing position. I do, my dear, with many hugs!

Forgive myself? How hard can that be? Oh, wait, pretty hard, as it turns out.

It means I have to admit I may occasionally make mistakes, and not just big mistakes that anyone can make, but little, silly, inconsequential ones that are just ridiculous. I do realise that those of you who are not wedded to the Craft may be bemused by all this talk of repeating patterns and so on. Any of you who knit will be aware it’s a relatively common issue. And if EBL, which is to say “I”, had actually just read the pattern instead of diving in with needles blazing, it would have been simplicity itself.

So I undid most of the 250 stitches (the first 24 were fine!) and I had a serious conversation with myself about forgiveness.

The good news is that it seems to have worked. I knit as a thing to do, not because I want the product by a fixed deadline, so taking a little longer to do it right is not a big deal. I know I should read the pattern properly, and as there is no rush, I will allow myself time to do so. Doing and undoing are all art of the same thing; they are about creating the final jumper. The universe does this kind of thing all the time, making rain and rivers and floods and droughts, and life and death, over and over. Today the Great Wheel turns another quarter and we have Equinox. Today, in sympathy, I can turn myself and forgive.

After all, if someone else had done it I would have said “Oops! Let’s just undo it and start again. It’s not a problem.”

So in the end that’s what I said to me.

Now I have done five rows and the pattern is set and looking good.

Of course, in the midst of all that I realised I was late for a meeting which I had agreed to dial into (I have a day off). So I had to forgive myself all over again. As things happen in threes, I am waiting for the next opportunity to practise my new-found skill.

My dears, if forgiving other people is hard, is it easier to forgive yourself? Or is it the other way around?

Other Forgivers for Peace include:

http://bloggers4peace.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/kozo-cheri-asks-that-you/

http://everydaygurus.com/2013/03/18/say-cheese-for-forgiveness/

http://cardcastlesinthesky.wordpress.com/2013/03/17/spring-approaches/

http://iangudgercs.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/things-that-erode-peace/

http://ejjudge.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/powerless-a-bloggers-for-peace-post/

http://hopethehappyhugger.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/sharing-time/

http://heartflow2013.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/be-true-to-your-words/

and so many more!

Namaste.

 

Forgiveness – Post for Bloggers for Peace

As a proud member of the Bloggers for Peace Anti-Massacree Movement,  I have committed to posting a blog for peace on a monthly basis. Kozo has provided the theme for each month, and this month it’s Forgiveness.

On boy! That’s a challenge to be sure! My dears, EBL is not of a forgiving nature. I emulate the oak and not the reed. When someone hurts me, then I am hurt and they must pay. It takes a long time for that raw, burning sensation to ease sufficiently for me to shrug it away, accept the scars and conclude that life is life, and we all make mistakes, unintentionally or not, and occasionally with far from hilarious consequences.

I can think of two or three examples where I have not yet quite forgiven. On the other hand, where I have been a bit more grown up about things, I know that feeling of relief in letting go. The lightness, the energy released, the gladness, the smug feeling of superiority…wait, that’s not right, is it?

Because, my dears, there is a teensy little bit of me, a small devil inside, that says when I do forgive and let go, it’s for my benefit and no one else’s. I may feel better but if I don’t or can’t pass that on to the forgive, then they may remain outside a state of grace.

I am thinking of when I am the one in need of forgiveness. There are many occasions where that applies, let me tell you. What does being forgiven feel like? Is it equally light and joyous? Well, I’m not really sure, because most of the times I can think of, those times when I have been badly behaved, no one has ever come back to tell me that I am forgiven. I am left hoist on my own shame, dangling in the wind, chained by remorse and fettered by guilt. No one has freed me. I don’t know if they have forgotten and moved on, or if my evil deed still somehow eats at their soul.

The one person I know who forgives me is Sigoth. I am confident in him. We forgive each other as part of the contract between us. We are safe. It’s just as well, because I am horrible sometimes, but he knows it’s no more than a storm thrashing the waves to a tsunami, and that underneath the strong currents of our relationship will continue to carry us through.

Lucky us. An ongoing relationship allows us to be forgiven and forgiving. Many of my interactions are less permanent in nature. They have less foundation and less of a maintenance programme. They are more like a tent than a temple, and so they can be damaged and worn by carelessness, and founder on the rocks of aggression.

Because at the end of the day, it’s aggression that needs forgiveness. A snide remark, bullying, genocide, theft, dishonesty, cheating, hurtful gossip, physical or mental abuse: they are all rooted in some kind of power play stemming from aggression, from the need to be bigger and stronger, to be the car in front, leader of the pack, in control of another’s life in some small, or large, way. To win at all costs.

Why would anyone feel that need. Why do I feel that need? Every time I am mean, that is what I am doing. It may not be possible for the other person to forgive me, either because they are not in that place psychologically, or because they never see me again (a shop assistant, say).

For me to be released from the self-loathing that realisation later brings, I need to forgive myself too. If I do not despise myself I am less likely (I hope!) to do more mean things later. It’s not about letting myself off the hook, it’s about recognising and loving and holding in the light that weakness and human frailty which belongs to us all. It’s about admitting I am like everyone else, prone to mistakes, that we are all made of the same stardust, and we all can try to make it shine.

I find that when I can do that, it is also easier to see that frailty in others, and so to go on and forgive them too.

I am trying to remember that feeling very clearly so that next time, and already I am sorry that there will be a Next Time, I can move past it more quickly and possibly even head it off at the pass.

Other Bloggers for Peace have already written on Forgiveness, including:

Namaste.

Brain Hurt

It is true that I have been slipping recently, reneging on my promises. As the year grows more mature, my good intentions begin to feel the strain.

A few months back I decided to try and spend less time watching TV, because it rotted my brain, and more time doing life affirming activities. I made a list, because, well, lists are Good. What I discovered was that I liked doing some of the things more than others, and I have kept on doing them more and doing the other things less.

“No problem,” I decided. “It still is better than TV.”

I have also been watching some TV, but it’s TV I want to watch ie DVDs, rather than just switching on and seeing what Auntie can serve up.

So it’s all going well.

Did I sound convincing? Were you fooled? Even for a moment?

No, neither was I. Sad face.

I have been knitting more, and am enjoying it. I have also been reading a bit more and revelling in being able to do so. What has been slipping is the yoga.

I don’t do exercise. I was the fat kid always chosen last for the sports team. I wasn’t unfit, as such. I cycled a lot. I walked a lot. Actually I was good at shot put and javelin and discus. I’m guessing I have some kind of Viking heritage somewhere back in the ancient past.  I was probably a Valkyrie in a former life. It’s all coming back to me now – the mead hall, the sagas, the thundering hooves and corpses.

Yoga, then. I started doing that last year and found it useful, if frequently hilarious due to being middle aged and unable to stand on one foot without falling over. I liked the gentle pressures and the link to breath and the meditation.

I have not kept up with practice, and I don’t know why. I do know I will have to stop for a few weeks following the operation. This was very frustrating last time. Perhaps I am preparing for that again. However, I suspect I am just inherently lazy and slipping back into my comfort zone, and this morning I paid the price. I watched TV.

Instead of getting up to do my practice I watched the news. It featured Nigel Farage. If you are from the UK I need say no more. If you are not, he is a politician who appears to think Britain is some kind of super power, possibly of the imperial variety, and therefore be living in another century.  If you really must, you can probably Google him, but be warned, he is not for the faint-hearted.

He makes my brain hurt.

It will not surprise regular victims of the Bag of Bits ™ that EBL, your friendly neighbourhood blogger, is of the woolly liberal, tree-hugging persuasion. I have views which can be described as left-ish. On occasion, in my rather nice, middle-class, bleeding-heart way, I can be radical about some things, such as pacifism, the value of education for its own sake, and the Disestablishment of the Church of England.

As such, I endured him for a few moments, then discovered I agreed with something he said, felt defiled and decided to do my yoga after all. To be fair, the thing he said was that Cameron was not to be trusted, so I was not quite as lost and depraved as it may seem. However, my entire practice was spent with my breath hissing through clenched teeth. My meditation tried in vain to get past him. He was there, at every breath in, and breath out. I inhaled his ghastly pronouncements, and exhaled his dreadful smile. He rose within my fevered brain like the Eye of Mordor.

Finally I asked the universe for a hug.

Do I sound needy? At that moment I was, my dears. And at that moment, I also was hugged.

So now I hug you, whether you want it or not. I hug you all.

Namaste.

 

Chaos stalks me

I have had a couple of days off this week and decided to take a chance to catch up on some creative projects. What bliss! No work for 72 hours that was not of my choosing. I started reading a new book, I worked on the Alleged Novel. I worked on the knitting project and did some yoga. By today, the third and final day, I was feeling good. Oh so good.

My friends, it should have been a warning.

When I feel too good, it is likely to be too good. This is not just my depressive personality talking. It’s experience, my dears, true and uncompromising experience. I should have heard Chaos stalking me, because it snuffles quite loudly, but I wasn’t listening. That is how it gets past your guard, you know, You stop listening.

It all began with a slightly desperate note left on a piece of toilet paper. To be fair it was the only paper the carer could find in mother’s room, so quite ingenious really. But what the note said was they had run out of some of mother’s tablets. Now the tablets are supposed to last until the weekend because we order them every four weeks and they provide four weeks’ worth of drugs.  For whatever reason, this time we ran out.

So there I was in a flat panic. The surgery insists on 48 hours notice and mother needed those tablets in the morning. I anticipated an argument on the phone. I imagined they might refuse to provide the tablets she needed (although I didn’t think it was likely). I imagined a huge row. I panicked about what would have happened if I had not had a holiday and if I had been away all week, like I usually am. Sigoth would only have seen the note in the evening after the dispensary had closed. There would have been no tablets.

I literally paced up and down the dining room before I felt able to call the dispensary. The phone went to answerphone because the dispensary closes between 12 and 1 o’clock. This drives me mad, because usually you can only phone in your own lunch break and so it is really hard to get through. No matter, I only had to wait until 1 o’clock.

I waited until ten past, to be on the safe side. I still got the answerphone but someone picked up on the third attempt. She was very nice about it and Sigoth and I drove into town after he finished work and picked up the tablets. Mother will now be drugged to her eyeballs again.

So all’s well that ends well, as they say in Stratford on Avon. Yet again I catastrophised needlessly. And yet, and yet – I usually am away. It was luck. And I know every day that such small crises can appear from nowhere and my world turns upside down. Suddenly in the middle of a working day a phone call overwhelms me, and I phone back and email and rant and rave because I am not at home and able to do the simple thing needed.

That upheaval is the chaos stalking me, and when I can do the simple thing, I don’t immediately recognise it. I feel the disaster before I feel the solution.

This stress denies my claims of restful creative endeavours. That’s how stress works. When you aren’t actually pacing or chewing your fingernails to the root, or pulling out hair, then your hard fought sense of peace and equilibrium can be shattered in a second. Peace is a fragile thing.

It’s so easy to snap from peace to panic; so hard to go the other way.

These events are not personal. No one is setting out to make my life difficult, although unwittingly they do. The carers don’t think to tell me about waning medical supplies in good time, but on the day they run out. The dispensary didn’t really plan to close just as I needed to call them, or require 48 hours’ notice just to frustrate me, but to allow them to cope with requests in good time and presumably reduce mistakes and stress for their own staff. Knowing that doesn’t help.

What I now need to work on is the return ticket, from panic to peace. I need a mantra, or song, or picture to bring my feet to that path.

And once I have achieved that I will have the secret of world peace. Watch this space.

Namaste.

Saving the world one book at a time

We were talking about Mali the other day at work. Well, it was that or reading 189 pages of a contract. Our brains cried “Foul!” and even the solicitor agreed.

In particular we talked about the loss of the Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Learning and Islamic Research (although we said “Library”) in Timbuktu, set on fire by the Islamist Militia as they left. The Institute was a new one designed to house the incredible collection of manuscripts and books dating back 800 years.

Our solicitor is a well-informed person of taste and discernment.

“Never fear!” she declared. “Many books were indeed saved!”

She sent me this link to prove it.

Months of secret planning spared Timbuktu’s manuscripts

by Rukmini Callimachi

This is a story that deserves telling again. The man who had cared for the collection for 40 years removed the books and manuscripts one sack at a time in the night, sending them away to safety. It took him two weeks under the noses of the hard-line militia.

Abba Alhadi took simple steps with great courage to achieve what he needed to do. I am incredibly moved by this story; it tells me that small steps can and do make a difference. It gives me hope. It inspires me.

Rufus Jones memorably said:

I pin my hopes to quiet processes and small circles, in which vital and transforming events take place.

The noise and bustle of larger events, of wars and protests and news conferences and summits, seem so far removed from most of us, so unattainable and unshakeable by our little doings, that we can lose faith. Today we can read about this man and know we too can make a difference, just by doing what is needful.

Other Bloggers for Peace speak more eloquently on their blogs:

Namaste.

 

Bloggers4Peace February Madness

The Bloggers4Peace monthly challenge is upon me, and it weighs most heavily.

When I saw Kozo’s challenge to create an advertisement for peace I must admit I felt my marrow freeze. Then I closed the window, which was open, encouraging icy tendrils to wander about the house, and snuggled under the blanket to think about options. Kozo has suggested that we construct an advertisement for peace by:

  1. creating a simple advertisement, like a slogan for peace; or
  2. writing a poem or a song that can become the “Imagine” for our generation; or
  3. creating a piece of art/photo that we can post on billboards that will promote peace; or
  4. writing a short story or screenplay for a short film that can be made and broadcast for peace
  5. And having fun

Well, to be honest my dears, I panicked. I am not an advertising person. I do consider myself somewhat creative, especially in the face of project meltdown, but my ideas for promotional material are generally met with derision. And now you want me to expose my inadequacy to the world for the sake of peace?

Well, if that’s the hardest thing I ever have to do, I’ll take it.

So, it’s project initiation, people. What advertising works? I suppose anyone who knows that can make a whole pile of money. I do not have a whole pile of money. Ergo, I have no idea what works. It’s not a promising start to the Peace Advert Campaign, nor for my claim to logical fluency.

Let’s not be downhearted! Dredge your extensive memory banks for adverts you enjoyed, EBL, and seek inspiration!

Let me see…there were those crazy mashed potato robots on the moon, and the dancing Guinness man. And the Coke advert, always the Coke advert. I quite liked Jack Dee walking on girders. Similarly who could forget the bald man in the photo booth or the Secret Lemonade Drinker?  Clearly what works for me is an element of humour and/or a catchy tune (and frequently, alcohol).

Then there are those other adverts where the tune invades your brain like leprosy, until the cells begin to necrotise. I hesitate to refer directly to them in case the infection spreads. Already I hear some of them clamouring in the background, like zombies shuffling towards me to eat my soul. No, I don’t want to advertise Peace that way! You. Shall. Not. Pass.

Images of peace are in danger of presenting a cliché: meditating buddhas and flowers and sunsets. Beautiful, I enjoy them immensely; the world is so effortlessly amazing while we poor humans struggle to produce anything so fine and fail to recognise the beauty in each other. Can I also whisper it though – perhaps a little…boring? For me these images can also reinforce the stereotype of passivity. To quote a leaflet I picked up recently “Pacifism is not peace at any price, but love at all costs.” I’ll add I also find those juxtapositional things irritating too. EBL is easily irritated.

Nevertheless, I strained my brain to think of how to make “love at all costs” appealing. It sounds a bit sacrificial otherwise. Think about telling people what’s in it for them. Well, what is in it for them?

I believe inner peace enables us to do more, to achieve more, to be more. I thought about the feeling of winning. And I thought of how the universe seems to hold its breath as great moments happen, and for a fleeting moment everything becomes balanced and at peace.

I thought of the breath I might take before stepping out of a plane to do a parachute jump (for charitable rather than military objectives, of course!).

I thought of Johnny Wilkinson preparing to kick the winning conversion in the World Cup in 2003.

I thought of a skier about to propel themselves down the slope.

I thought of Blondin crossing Niagara Falls

Like some Old Saint on his old rope-bridge,
Between another world and this,
Dead-calm ‘mid inward vortices,
Where little else but danger is.

I thought: are these images exciting and compelling enough to enable people to consider how inward peace leads to greatness; to learn that fear and rage and violence lead only to more of the same? As the wonderful Oscar Wilde said:

As long as war is regarded as wicked, it will always have its fascination. When it is looked upon as vulgar, it will cease to be popular.

Perhaps when war and violence are seen as worse than vulgar, as actual blockages to getting what we want, we can move to that consummation devoutly to be wished, Peace.

Other bloggers working to promote peace include:

With all my heart, to all of you, namaste.