B4peace: The Enemy Within

Every month I try to post an entry on Bloggers for Peace. It is an interesting challenge, and certainly has produced some fantastic reading for me as I consume the outpourings of other contributors. I want to thank Kozo for this idea, because I think it has been a fantastic exercise, and one I hope will continue beyond December. But in November we are ramping up and facing an even tougher gauntlet:

This month, I want you to open your arms to your enemies. Think of a person, a place, a nation, a culture, a religion, a gender, or an ideology that you view as a enemy.

Well, I think any of you who have been with me a while will know that this particular writer has her own challenges and frustrations in this area. Your EBL displays only too human an outburst when provoked. I try to rise above it, I really do, but it just doesn’t happen very often.

But to call these people enemies… To think of the queue jumpers and crazy drivers and tabloid journalists and royal family sychophants and yes, even paedophiles and mass murderers and abusers of the vulnerable as enemies feels like a tall order. It has been to my amazement that actually I really do feel like loving the sinner while hating the sin, albeit in my very own, EBL-esque way.

Don’t get me wrong: most of them need locking up for the good of society. Such as the ones who risk my and Sigoth’s lives as they hurtle past us on a blind bend because they just have to be the car in front, regardless of speed limit, driving conditions or visibility, or the drunken lorry driver who crashed across the central reservation of the M1 and killed my friend, her husband and two small girls.

And don’t get me started on the notable deliberate evil-doers, such as Joseph Kony, Kim Jong-Il, Than Shwe, and so on – I’m not even starting on the list of consensually agreed “bad guys” from the 20th century or earlier. Frankly, their mothers are ashamed of them and they all need to sit in their rooms for a long time to think about what they have done, While they are there the rest of us need to make sure those doors are secured so they do not come out again to do more and worse.

Let’s not forget the inexplicably anonymous folk either. For the terrible things done on a personal level to friends and acquaintances, it is better for them to comment, but I want to be here for you if you need me.

So all in all, I can see a whole shed load of bad, but I just can’t get to the enemy part. I see danger because of their actions, and I believe we need to respond, without sentimentality, to it. Tough love means making people confront the consequences of their actions. If they ever do, it may destroy them; if they do not, then they must remain apart, unfit to join the bulk of humanity, which for all its petty flaws can pretty much agree on what is beyond the pale, when you get right down to it. If these villains really can’t get there, then they are damaged or sick and need to be mended. In my opinion violent criminals are by definition insane and should be placed in Broadmoor until either they are treated successfully for their ailment or until they die; either they can be fixed, in which case we rejoice, or they can’t in which case they are contained. Whichever.

Then we come to politicians who provoke mean-spiritedness and stigmatisation and several –isms. They need a sharp talking to, and I’m the one for it, let me tell you. People who follow their lazy ideology need some bringing up to speed on treating others as they would like to be treated. Journalists of the same water are included in this category, for the sake of completeness. Honestly, the effect of their rabid headline son the likes of my poor old mother is frankly in contravention of the Geneva Convention on Human Rights (in this case to live without fear).

But enemies… not so much.

I admit to being surprised at myself. I can rant for England about people who think wrong thoughts (in my opinion) or do stupid / bad / hurtful things. You will know EBL has Opinions and may venture to enlighten you on occasions.

But enemies…

The shock of it came a couple of days after I started thinking about this challenge, when I finally realised who the True Enemy was, the one person I despise and loathe above all else, whom I never forgive for their mistakes or cut any slack or excuse. It was a painful moment to understand I did have an enemy. It was me.

You see, my dears, I really don’t like me very much. I may not be alone in this, but nevertheless, this week I realised I actually like myself less than those people I have just listed for you. At first I disliked myself more for being so stupid as to think that. I am reasonably certain I have done somewhat less harm in the world than they. But still they evoke less visceral reaction that when I think of my own mistakes. I blame myself for everything. And I wonder why I suffer depression! How stupid of me! (See what I mean?)

Well now, that clever Kozo has made me confront my unreasonable behaviour, and I need to think more about this, in the quiet of my own head. Enemies are exhausting. All that hating helps neither of us. I can’t try to be better if all I get is kicks and sneers. I can’t expect myself to improve if I keep demonising and demeaning me.

“You, yourself, as much as anybody else in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” Buddha

So while I go away and lie down in a darkened room, I suggest you read what others have written more memorably and poignantly in response to Kozo’s challenge. It’s going to be quite a ride!

http://everydaygurus.com/2013/10/31/monthly-peace-challenge-love-thy-enemy/

http://fishofgold.net/2013/11/06/to-my-enemy/

http://grandmalin.wordpress.com/2013/11/03/november-post-for-peace/

http://cardcastlesinthesky.wordpress.com/2013/11/10/a-happier-thanksgiving/

http://lauriesnotes.wordpress.com/2013/11/02/b4peace-monthly-challenge-a-quiet-prayer-of-thanks/

Namaste

B4Peace: Imaginings

So says Kozo:

Let’s visualize what a peaceful world will look like. For this month’s peace challenge, I challenge you to publish what your dream of peace looks like.

So then:

Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

Can you really? Because I find it really difficult and that is a depressing thought to start this month’s B4Peace Challenge. Kozo, in his infinite wisdom, has reminded us that we can dream peace if we choose to, and asked us to write about what that dream looks like.

Faced with the task of day-dreaming for a good cause I girded my neurons for the challenge and sat back expectantly. My brain stalled.

Describing a world at peace is like describing an alien spaceship; if one actually came along we probably wouldn’t recognise it and think it was a meteorite instead, or at least something within our experience. And there, my dears, is the rub. Within our experience.

When I was young and green in the spring time of the world I studied philosophy at university. My parents nearly died of shame but that is another story. I studied philosophy, which turned out to be rather less exciting than I had anticipated. However, one lecture I do recall was interesting, because the learned professor talked about Flash Gordon. The film was just out in the cinemas, and he had been to see it. Ah, happy memories of Brian Blessed as Prince Vultan, booming out his lines…

Anyway.

The point the learned professor was making, and he made it well if I can still recall it more than 30 years later, was that when we make up a “new” idea, that idea is actually two or more old ideas stuck together. Prince Vultan? A man and a bird. A unicorn? A horse and a rhino. His argument was that anything we invent is actually old stuff recycled.

So, back to the new idea of what the World at Peace would look like.

I might think of it as an old idea (eg the world) minus something  (eg war). But that leaves me with a gap and so the idea is rather flat and dull. It also begs the question of “what is peace?”, and I would jump right back and say peace is not an absence, it is a presence.

Still with me? Good show!

Sometimes being at peace is calm and quiet and reflective, but sometimes it’s a moment of transcendence. This brings us into the territory of Jung, but fear not, fellow travellers, we shall overcome.

The world at peace will contain both kinds of experience on a continuinuinuum, or possibly a long line.

A-B

Sometimes we will dance and sing and fill the skies with our joyful noise, and sometimes we will sit and wait quietly in the certainty of calm. We will still have sadness, I am sorry to say, and loss and grief, but we will have the strength and capacity to manage them. When we lose a loved one, we will know that they and we have lived good lives. Our children will grow up being loved. They will be happy and confident. Those of us who love book-ish things will enjoy the creative explosion that peace will allow; those who love sports will enjoy the Olympic Spirit at every event, roaring their team on to win, full of excitement and drama, but without the shadow of hooliganism or violence, because it really is just a game. We’ll play and work and live and die to the fullest extent of our human condition because war is crippling and peace heals us all.

A world at peace, for my money, means we ditch those inconvenient and brutish emotions of fear and anger and disgust, and turn instead to positive and life affirming ones. Our children grow up secure and therefore confident. There may be mental illness or sickness, but we will know how to manage them, and support those who suffer, because suffering will not end so long as there are toes to stub and death to mourn.

There was an episode of the original Star Trek series where poor old Kirk fell through a wormhole of some description and ended up split into an aggressive and a passive version of himself. It was all enjoyable hokum, but even as a child I didn’t understand why the non-aggressive version had no drive or energy. I still don’t. I am motivated by more positive emotions too, by joy and a wish to do well, and by the desire to produce something beautiful, by art perhaps. There is a confusion between energy, or vitality, and aggression. We need to separate them out.

In a way the world will look much the same but inexplicabley different, like an image in the mirror, or a TV show dubbed into another language.

So, allons-y, mes braves, vers paix!

Namaste

Dark

Well my dears, it’s been a while, but here I am again.

Busy, you know. Thinking of you all but just plain busy. Things may be turning a corner soon though. Hope springs eternal.

This weekend the clocks changed, by which I mean we agreed as a nation to move from British Summer Time to Greenwich MeanTime, the real time by which the world spins.  So tonight we ate dinner with the dark night looming outside instead of merely fading light. And this year for the first time in my memory my mother didn’t remark upon nights drawing in. It was a tradition almost, that every year when the clocks changed she would mourn the loss of light in the evenings.

This year she is unaware of the change. By this token is her decline measured.

This weekend I finally caught up with the Internet – it seems to have managed without me for the last couple of weeks. Who knew that could happen; I had been concerned.

Anyway I came across a quote by Robin Williams:

I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not, the worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel all alone

When we completed dinner without the obligatory nod to winter’s imminence, I realised that in a way we were both alone. And that the pain of living with a relative with dementia is that you live with someone who makes you feel alone, because they are no longer present with you.

I’m sorry this is rather depressing to share. I have much to be thankful for regarding my mother. We are able to provide care for her that allows her to be happy. She is not aggressive or hard to deal with. She is cheerful most of the time. She eats well and asks for very  little. You can make her smile just by saying hello.

But when we sit together in a room, neither of us has anyone sitting with us.

John Donne claimed no man was an island, but perhaps dementia makes islands of us all.

May you enjoy the presence of loved ones, even those who are far away but can phone or email or tweet.

Namaste.

B4Peace: When I’m weary…

Every month, Bloggers for Peace sets us a challenge to post for peace using a theme or topic. This month, rather than wordify peace to perdition, Kozo has suggested we find a shorter, inspirational quote.

I love reading an in-depth post on peace, but sometimes I need a quick fix. At these times I love seeing an inspirational quotation posted in an artistic manner. For this month’s Peace Challenge, I challenge you to post a quotation that will bring peace to the world.

Well, my first three choices were snapped up pretty quickly by smarter, faster bloggers than yours truly, so I sat down and thought really hard about the kinds of quotes that keep me going in the face of adversity, be it clever-clogs bloggers or otherwise. I tried to think of a quote that I might mutter under my breath when I needed to feel peaceful, of calm, or just less murderous.

We all want peace, right? Well, OK, maybe some people don’t. But you and me, we do, don’t we?

There are days, though, when I get tired. When all my efforts are rebuffed by the mean old world and his wife. When no matter how hard I try, it seems I am getting nowhere. And when I am working for peace, doubly so. I mean, just look at the mess in the world right now. I can feel the ache in my heart because I can’t fix it. I’m a fixer, you see, and I just can’t bear it when I can’t find a way to fix something. I fall apart with frustration and misery.

What about you? Do you have those days too, or is it just me?

Well, one of the poems that most sends shivers down my spine is Wordsworth’s Valedictory Sonnet to the River Duddon. I’m not a huge Wordsworth fan. Daffodils are all very well, but let’s not get carried away with them. This poem is different though. It’s a triumph of hope over despair. When Wordsworth moved away from the river he wrote this farewell, and declared his belief that no matter how frail and insignificant we seem (cue Carl Sagan here!), we can still make a difference. In fact, we can be greater than we know and what we do can live on after us.

 

It reminds me that perhaps my feeble efforts will provide a glimmer of light to someone, one day, in a surprising way. Perhaps it is not all in vain.

So when you’re weary, feeling small, when tears are in your eyes, Wordsworth will dry them all, like a bridge over the River Duddon.

Other bloggers have written more movingly, amusingly or just plain eloquently than I, and you can soothe your minds with their offerings:

http://grandmalin.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/september-post-for-peace/

http://rarasaur.wordpress.com/2013/09/08/kind-of-a-stupid-game/

http://fishofgold.net/2013/09/02/peace-through-insignificance/

http://fecthis.wordpress.com/2013/09/03/bloggers-for-peace-monthly-peace-challenge-quote-this/

http://lauriesnotes.wordpress.com/2013/09/01/18811/

http://publictransituser.wordpress.com/2013/09/02/monthly-peace-challenge-quote-this/

Namaste.

 

Drunkenness and death and harmony

Today was an office closure day, following the Bank Holiday on Monday. The company I work for has a set number of these in the year when they close the office and enforce a day’s annual leave. It can be inconvenient for project deadlines but I didn’t care today because the weather this weekend has been glorious and it continued to be glorious today.

I sat in the garden eating lunch and enjoying the peace of nature around me. The local sparrowhawk swooped down upon a cluster of unobservant sparrows and narrowly missed spearing some dinner. A cat pounced into a shrub and emerged carrying a small bird in its mouth, and looking superior as it tip-toed along the wooden fence. Drunken butterflies whirled madly from the buddleia to the mint and back, weaving unsteadily like the English cricket team retaining the Ashes. Fortunately I did not notice any urinating upon the grass, although no butterfly was able to confirm or deny that particular rumour.

Nature red in tooth and claw invaded my peaceful garden. I admit I didn’t mind. I was in a circle of life kind of mood.

In fact I was more interested in an observation of Sigoth’s that cabbage white butterflies are hard to photograph because they close their wings when they land, whereas the Peacocks and Tortoisehells tend to open them out for display. I watched the various butterflies and Sigoth was right, as usual. It took him ages to get the picture of the cabbage white with its wings open, but at least it kept him off the streets and made sure he got plenty of fresh air and sunshine.

butterfliesDrunken butterflies are a feature of the late summer garden, along with the honking of geese flying south and the chatter of swallows and martins converging on the telephone lines before setting out for Africa. In this way is our little village connected to far continents.

I have been failing to complete some meditation every day and I notice the difference. My brain is whirling like the butterflies. The birds reminded me of our connections to the rest of life and for that I was grateful. You and I are connected even when I fail to update this blog or to keep up with yours. I carry you still in my heart. One day this project will be done and I will have more time for other matters, such as our chats here.

Meanwhile my dears, I send you all my love.

Namaste.

One with everything

My dears, last week I acted completely selfishly and took the opportunity of having a training course in London on a Friday to grab a weekend with a friend whom I had not seen for a while. I abandoned you all, but such is life. Now I’m back from melting in her garden over a jug of Pimms and sharing the latest of the highbrow jokes in The Independent.

From British Classic Comedy website

For example: A Buddhist monk approaches a hotdog stand and says: “Make me one with everything”.

Boom, as Basil Brush would say, boom. The old ones are the best.

Possibly the heat melted more of my brain than I realised. It’s hotter than the Med for goodness’ sake. I blame the Government. Seriously, I do. If they had manned up and dealt with climate change we would be enjoying the usual drizzle and English hobby of muttering about the weather. Now we have to go around saying things like “Well, it was never this hot when I was young!” which is completely not how it should be. I’m not confusing weather with climate; don’t get me wrong. But too many weather exceptions have been achieved over the last few years to make me comfortable.

So anyway,  I drank Pimms, came home, and packed immediately to go to work away for the week.

Now I am back home again after a week from hell, where I have had to pass on some brutal truth and try to pick up the pieces of both the thing that was wrong and the impact on the person in question. Which is a convoluted way of saying I got to play Bad Cop because no one else would do it. It’s my speciality. I’m good at the Headteacher Voice: you’ve let the school down, you’ve let your teacher down, but most of all you’ve let yourself down…

Sigh.

I’m not very good at it really, not in a constructive, caring, development opportunity way. I’m just good at the Voice which makes people stop and hear, rather than ignore and carry on doing what they were doing. It’s not pleasant, either as a Voice or as a recognised ability.

More sighs. Not many jokes there, I can tell you.

If we are all one with everything, my Voice, the special capital letter one, is either the equivalent of self-harming, or it’s the immune system fighting off infection. I’m not sure which at the moment but I hate upsetting people. Really I do. I know people may think I don’t because I am always the Bad Cop, but I do.

One with everything, though. It’s come up a few times over the week. Firstly in the jokes in The Independent, most of which I understand but not all. Then thinking about the project which is having problems – well, we need to get it right for the good of the company and the customers. Finally today, a friend was talking about a bereavement. Sharing the memories of a person we have lost and the grief of those left behind is important for everyone. We are all one.

I keep thinking of the point made by Stephen Jay Gould about the miracle of Life. He talks about how Life has been constant on this world for so many billion years from the first bacteria and single-celled organisms up to the complexity of today. There has not been, in all those countless eons, a single break. Not for one fraction of a nanosecond has Life ceased to beat; if it did it would have to start all over again from the beginning.

It’s not like a heartbeat which can stop and then be restarted (Defibrillator, nurse! Clear!) and return the person to their whole, gloriously complicated self. If Life stopped that would be the end of it. To start again it would go back to first principles. It’s more like a soap bubble, expanding and expanding, reflecting the light in rainbows (and possibly unicorns for all I know). Once it bursts you can take the raw material and create a new one but it’s completely new and different in its own complex, wonderful way.

For us to exist, there has been a pre-requisite of soapy water if you will (and I can stretch a metaphor until it screams, people), stars have been born and died. We stretch back to the immeasurable past and into the immeasurable future.

We are one with everything.

Namaste.

Addiction with EBL

Humans see pattern everywhere, even when they don’t really exist. Usually there is no pattern, just coincidence. Sometimes the patterns collapse into meaning.

I am not prepared to say whether my experience this week was coincidence or some kind of spooky world consciousness kind of thing. I was feeling frazzled. I was tired and a little worried that by agreeing to take on a project on top of my existing workload (which is already out of control), I was losing the battle with my over-active God-complex.  I was open to a new way of looking at things.

I agreed to take on a project that is in an almost desperate state. One that is likely to fail. One that could be damaging to my mental equilibrium. I agreed to work extra hours instead of reducing the time built up during last year’s marathon effort delivering a major OJEU tender and system migration to unreasonable timescales. Yes, I agreed to take on a Death March Project.

I can’t resist being told that no one else can do it, that no one else has the skills / experience  / capability. How stupid am I? I bet you never knew people fell for that line of nonsense.

“EBL saves the world again!” scream the headlines. “Without her we would all be lost!”

It’s official. I am insane. But there are those words: almost, likely to, could be. I grew up watching too many superhero cartoons.

I got back home after being away for a hectic week at work, and decided to relax by catching up on some blog posts. First of all I found that Rohan7Things was expounding wisely on self-discipline and Internet use.

“That’s good stuff,” I thought, frittering time away by using the Internet. “That’s what I need to do – after all, I have cut back on my blogging, so that’s all good. Hah, this stuff is easy!”

Who am I kidding? How deluded can I be? Pretty deluded it seems.

Next I read Rarasaur, who fell off a wagon. Even the mighty Dino of the Blogosphere, the Blogosaurus herself, has limits. Who knew?

I looked at my life. It snarled at me.

There I was thinking I was doing well because I resigned from Governors. Already I have been told I am about to be asked to pick up some jobs at our local Quaker meeting, and already, without knowing what they are, I know I will say yes.

My reasoning is this: all work and no play makes EBL a dull girl. If all I do is work, then I don’t enjoy my life. I need to be involved in activities outside work for balance. So it’s good to take on those jobs, right?

We-e-e-llllll….

Let’s say a friend has given up some voluntary work because it was too demanding and she had been doing it for nine years and felt stale and tired and wanted a break. This is all hypothetical, you understand. This friend has a fairly busy job and is often away from home. She works quite long hours, although not excessive hours like junior doctors. No more than 50 a week. Quite reasonable really; usually only 45 in fact. Civilised hours.

Now she has been asked to take on a trusteeship and another role in her community, on top of her other voluntary commitments for fundraising.

Did I mention she is also a carer? Well, she is.

Then there is her desire to pursue, in a completely selfish manner, some trivial hobbies for her own amusement. She had a rota for those but it has fallen apart recently.

She has just agreed to take on a Death March Project.

I have to admit that looking at it, it doesn’t sound so clever. Even so, I suspect I will still say yes.

My father died of stress in his sixties. I need to take that seriously.

But I will still say yes.

Only the good die young. What’s the point in living longer if you do nothing with the time?

Perhaps the first step to dealing with addiction is to recognise the problem and admit to being powerless over it. What I need is a Twelve Step Programme for Workaholism, like this one here. I scored 15 / 20 on the test, which is a bit scary.

So that’s another project to do – dealing with it.

How common is this, and is it because of the period of change our societies are going through? Or am I just a hopeless case?

Namaste.

 

Together we are stronger

This month’s Bloggers for Peace topic asks us to consider our relationships. My brain ferments such questions. Today I uncork for you some early brewings.

You know how it goes: one minute in the privacy of your head you are thinking deep and meaningful thoughts; the next, someone else, outside your bony skull echoes them in public. It happened today.

To start at the very beginning: I am reading a book. I know, who’d have thought it? It’s about the Civil War, by which I mean the English Civil War in the 17th century. The book itself is a peculiar mix of history text book and historic fiction. It’s a bit peculiar but fascinating.

As you will no doubt be aware, there is nothing civil about a Civil War, and the English variety was no exception. It tore apart the country, respecting no person, destroying trade, harvests and cities, families and friendships. It was as uncivilised as war can get, with civilians being used as human shields or hostages, or just target practice. Your immediate neighbours, with whom you had lived cheek by jowl all your life, might suddenly mutate into the Opposition. One man was for the King, his brother for Parliament, and they were followed for better or worse by daughters, wives and children. Both armies, and their camp followers, slogged through ice and snow, rain, sun and mud, starved, died of fever, disease and trench foot (this war was fought in trenches in some cases, just like the calamity in the Somme in the early 20th century), as well as wounds and quaint medical practice.

At the end of it all we, the people, killed the King for treason. We had a contract, you see, where in return for his life of privilege and riches, we could expect his service through good governance and a dedication to our collective welfare. He believed he had a Divine Right, but it turned out he was mistaken, fatally so.

The execution of the reigning monarch would have sent shock waves through an already fractured society and across the Channel throughout Europe. As everyone returned wearily from the years of war to try and rebuild their lives, it would have been hard to trust their neighbours again. During this period a number of extravagant and radical religious groups flourished, in part by offering to replace the lost trust and sense of community desired by a shocked and stricken populace. Among them were Quakers.

It didn’t last, of course. In the end we brought back the king, a new one, whom we held to account. Well, it was that or give up Christmas, and as Narnians will tell you, that is not much fun. The English reserve as their inalienable right the opportunity to celebrate a mid-winter festival. It’s the long, dark nights, you see. You have to take your mind off them, preferably with alcohol.

In my more old-fogeyish moments I sometimes feel we are experiencing similar upheaval today, as communities fracture under the pressures of modern life. There seems to be a lack of connectedness which, I think, can result in the total lack of love for others evidenced by bankers, care workers and certain celebrities. Obviously, many bankers, care workers and celebrities are kind, nurturing people; it’s just we hear about the others. Equally these behaviours are not new.

Whatever the causes, or not, and whether it’s true, or not, people do like to feel part of a community. Some communities may be closer than others, but no one likes to feel alone always and forever.

So there I was, sitting in Quaker meeting and thinking about how we are the same as those distant forebears of the 17th century, when someone stood up and said:

How can we make the meeting a community in which each person is accepted and nurtured, and strangers are welcome? Seek to know one another in the things which are eternal, bear the burden of each other’s failings and pray for one another. As we enter with tender sympathy into the joys and sorrows of each other’s lives, ready to give help and to receive it, our meeting can be a channel for God’s love and forgiveness.

Well now! There’s a thing. Because I had been brooding over Isaac Penington’s letter from 1667, which begins like this:

Our life is love, and peace, and tenderness; and bearing one with another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another; but praying one for another, and helping one another up with a tender hand, if there has been any slip or fall

Isaac lived through a terrible period of history and he, like others, wanted to leave behind all war and occasion for war. He was a religious man, and saw love and peace and tenderness as a calling from God.

These times are not as religious as then, although it seems superstition is rife instead. We have learned so much and most of it is magnificent, as Professor Brian Cox likes to point out in excited tones.

Reason is a mighty instrument, but reason without love is empty. Reason does not soothe tears or smooth away bad dreams. Compassion and wisdom, as some might say, are the way to enlightenment. Or as Bill and / or Ted would have it:

Be excellent to one another

Namaste.

 

Bloggers for Peace: Better to have loved and lost…

Can you have a relationship with someone you have never met? Can you have a relationship with a favourite author? Certainly in the Age of Celebrity there appear to be many people who think they have a relationship with characters from TV programmes or films, or with actors, whom they never can meet.

I am fairly confident in assuming that many of you are avid readers. Certainly I believe it to be so when you are such great writers. It does not follow that if I read I can also write; however, I am certain that if you write well, you must read broadly too.  So regardless of any pretensions to writing well, I will admit I do read broadly and will further assume that this is true for you as well.

I love certain authors. I never interact with them directly – well, almost never. Recently I felt very daring and left a message on a top author’s blog expressing gratitude for his books and letting him know how much they had meant to me over the very many years I had been reading him, since the 1984 in fact.

Do you have a favourite genre? I have probably said before that I am a big science fiction fan. I may be repeating myself (I’m too lazy to check) but one of the reasons I fell into a long term relationship with a number of science fiction authors, in my devil-may-care, the-more-the-merrier, I-read-around-a-bit way, was that I read an essay/article by someone erudite. It may have been Brian Aldiss, I’m not sure, but what he said was that the reason science fiction was an interesting, even essential, genre was that it gave you space to explore really big and difficult questions in new ways without the baggage. You could look at relationships and society and history and science and politics and elitism and autocrats and racism and human rights and, when you get right down to it, what it means to be a human being, with freedom and honesty and integrity. If you wanted. He suggested that when you were writing in the real world, you were constrained by real world limitations and expectations and the status quo. Actually he might not have said any of that, but it’s what I took away from whatever it was I read.

Science fiction was exciting at an intellectual level, not just a boys’-toys (excuse me, chaps), Flash Gordon, shoot-the-aliens kind of way. It had a weight and heft that mattered. Plus I learned all my science from Star Trek (and my history from Jean Plaidy but that’s another story, quite literally).

Within the honoured throng of writers there is one to whom I was devoted, because he wrote about really positive possibilities. He confronted difficulties and he didn’t fall into some kind of dystopian nightmare, framed by Ridley Scott in rain and darkness (yes, I do mean Bladerunner – as if Philip K Dick wasn’t depressing enough in print). He saw people overcoming our current idiocies and taking science and prodding serious buttock with it until we had a society worth living in. There was also pain and despair and very dark humour, and exciting spaceship fights begging to be screened at an IMAX, and artificial intelligence that was cool and clever and actually quite human at the same time.

Obviously a humble purchaser of his books such as myself would never dream of crossing his shadow. He was too clever and cool and brilliant for the likes of me. I bought everything he published, science fiction or not, and it was all amazing (well, maybe one dud if I am truthful).

On 3rd April Iain Banks announced that he was unwell; that in fact he had been diagnosed with late stage gall bladder cancer.  I signed his message board to express my sorrow and appreciation.

On Sunday, 9th June, he died.

Can we have relationships with people we have never met. I’m not sure. Do we need reciprocity? Does his writing books and my consuming books represent more than symbiosis? And is symbiosis a relationship of a kind?

I don’t know, but I feel a loss, and am sad to think I will never read new books by him. There are fantastic new writers to meet yet, but each writer is unique and so cannot be replaced. Iain Banks’ warmth and humour and challenge will be hard to follow. He railed against stupidity and promoted compassion. He helped me think about what it means to be human. He wrote many wonderful things, but in summary they all come to this:

“Fuck every cause that ends in murder and children crying.”
Iain Banks, Against a Dark Background

Meanwhile, read other blogs participating in this month’s Bloggers for Peace Challenge:

http://everydaygurus.com/2013/05/28/monthly-peace-challenge-peace-at-home/

http://mylittlespacebook.wordpress.com/2013/06/07/what-do-duck-fights-have-to-do-with-peace/

http://cpgutierrez.wordpress.com/2013/06/11/accepting-the-challenge/#comment-2568

http://retiredruth.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/monthly-peace-challenge/

http://ponderingspawned.com/2013/06/11/sing-sweet-nightingale/

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

Namaste.

What I did on my holidays

Did you miss me? I know, I know, but I’m very proud of how you coped without me, and I’m back now.

Lindisfarne Abbey

I went on a little holiday, a few days up north on the Northumbria coast just opposite Lindisfarne. It’s one of my favourite places and we had a wonderful rest. We forswore the Internet for five whole days. Somehow when I got back home I found I didn’t want to go back on-line. The thought of all the blogs and emails and news and social feeds and stuff was just too much.

Sigoth felt similarly so we decided to spend more time de-cluttering when we got home and have made many trips to the dump and to charity shops with our un-necessities. I even resigned from Governors. We feel like we are entering a new phase of our lives; it’s an age thing I suppose.

In any case, here in the northern hemisphere the world is turning its face to the sun and the evenings are filled with light until bedtime and the birds are up and shouting outside my window before 4 am. In those circumstances my mood changes and I want to be doing different things, or perhaps similar things differently.

Does that happen to you? In the summer I like to work more with my hands. Even though it’s hotter (well, a bit; this is England after all) I still want to knit. Fortunately I seem to have numerous young colleagues procreating so baby items are the order of the day. I take the camera out and about to photograph yet more trees and fields and birds, fuzzily and with a tendency to a slope down on the right.  I bake scones for Sunday tea in the garden.

In the winter I read and write and spend time on-line. I knit still, blankets and chunky jumpers. It’s all about cosying up in front of the fire with the lights on as the sun teases me with a quick game of peek-a-boo for a few minutes around lunchtime, then goes off to play with the more popular clouds in the South. If it’s not too cold I take photos of frost on spider webs, or the snowy lane. I make soup and casseroles.

This summer the Internet just felt winterish. I can’t explain it any other way. So I took extended leave and did the other things for a few more weeks. Today I have spent a larger than usual amount of time reflecting on things, with a quick spot of meditation after waking up, some meditative circle dancing, and then meetings for worship and for business (these latter two being Quakerly activities). I realised that I don’t want to stop blogging and that I needed to ease back into it at my own pace.

So that is that and here we are. It felt odd not to miss the blogging but to miss the bloggers. I hope you are well. I don’t think I will have time to catch up properly with you all, but I have been thinking about you nevertheless, wishing you peace and joy and perfect happiness.

No doubt come the solstice as the Great Wheel turns again, I will find my way back to keyboard more often. EBL at her computer is as seasonal as the Canada Geese on the reservoir. Some winters they stay longer and some they leave sooner, but every year they return.

Namaste.