Friday, June 24, 2011

Deprivation breeds appreciation!
It  is a sad fact of life that we are more likely to appreciate something when we no longer have it. No doubt this human capacity is a required paradox which pushes us to grow and to learn and is part and parcel of being human, as is the capacity to hold two conflicting beliefs at one and the same time.

It is as if we need some inner turmoil to move us on, to help us grow, to ensure we become other than what we are now. I remember when we lived in Bombay being struck by the way plants would struggle through the narrowest of cracks, bedded in a miniscule amount of soil or sand in concrete walls; it was an indominitable will to live.

Is that what the life force demands of us? Do we need to struggle to honour it? I am sure some struggle more than others, or at least are more aware they are struggling.

And if we see the struggle as something positive, as something we need to do for our own good, does it make it easier? I think it does. Finding meaning in things seems to allow us to tap into that life force and make our way through things which would otherwise damage or destroy.

The feelings rage and fall through time
from distant pain, long days of grief
and barely held rememberings of sorrow.

I sail upon the moments long forgotten,
which rise  again in currents new and strong;
a washing through of hard-edged lies and whispers.

Within the suck and spew of watered telling
of fears, emotions, stories whispered coldly,
I hold and trust and breathe myself anew.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The difference between being alone and being lonely

There's no doubt that there is a difference between being alone and being lonely and it is a difference I have learned over many years of spending long periods alone. There are degrees in that alone-ness in that sometimes it is just being completely alone with Greg away and no friends or family nearby, as it is now here in Malawi and being at the farm with friends and family a breath away. The latter is considerably easier than the former.

In this aloneness there are no nearby friends and those who are far away, along with family, are mostly sleeping in the darkness which covers that part of the world. But, even if I had someone to call, beyond Greg in South Africa, the phones don't work internationally most of the time. Well, mine doesn't.

And this weekend there is no-one in the compound but me and the guard/s. Our Thai neighbours, Pawan and Pawadee have left on holidays, the house across the way where our Danish neighbours lived is empty, the guest house is empty and from midday Saturday to Monday morning, Limited and Andrew are not here. It isn't so bad because Greg is back tomorrow but it is alone time all the same.

My longest alone time was years ago when we lived in Angola when I was on my own for six weeks with I think one visit from a work colleague, who finally bothered to drop in. I saw people of course, walking to and fro in the compound but my Portugese was pretty bad and their English was minimal so communication was difficult.

And the telephone connections in Africa in the late nineties were truly abysmal and the internet connection erratic. My companions were the wild cats which lived in the roof and yes, I did start talking to them. But I saw it as a discipline, a monastic practice in a way and because the experience had come to me I saw it as necessary; a spiritual discipline in essence.  It was  a very long six weeks but as a practice at aloneness it was excellent. I divided my day into sections of cleaning, cooking,reading, working, writing, meditating and finally, music, wine, an excellent dinner and a movie, if the television was working. Otherwise it was a book and bed. But consumed in small portions the days passed in a fashion both rewarding and fulfilling.

I am good at being on my own. I have learned to be through many years in India and Africa and it is not that I am short of things to do or even bored. It is just that the absolute aloneness which comes with no partner, friend or family nearby is odd even when one has things to do.

I find I catch the silence, the emptiness, the solitary nature of this world every now and again and it feels strange. I suppose one notices it more in the Third World where often, as is the case here, there are really not many places one can go and feel a sense of belonging, or even find a pleasant distraction. The aloneness wanders with you at such times and never more so when isolation is increased by a lack of language. 

When I am completely alone in the house the sounds seem louder.Or perhaps it is because I am seeking something other than the sound of my own breath or the keys as I type. I hear large birds walking on the roof; the pipes stretching and tapping as they expand and contract; the hum of my computer; occasionally a car; the creak of my chair as I uncross and recross my legs; the sound of my breath .... the sounds of silence. I am complete in myself alone and yet so conscious of being incomplete. That may only make sense to me but that is because it is a feeling and feelings can be difficult to reduce to words. 

Being completely alone somehow condenses everything into Self; an odd sense that the world begins and ends in one. Which I suppose it does. In a way. It's a reminder of how much of what we are is a reaction or response to others. Perhaps being alone we can see ourselves more clearly in that way which teenagers need, to step beyond the parental shadow to see more clearly their own shape and form. When we are alone we can see more clearly who we are; if we choose to look. But that too can be frightening for some.

I understand at such times why those who live in crowded communities and shared housing, as Indians and Africans do, are unnerved or even traumatised by being alone. It is a Western thing, a modern thing, this being used to aloneness. It is no doubt in the world as it is, a worthwhile skill. It is also impossible for some to learn, of that I have no doubt. When you are used to never being alone ... in India even if family is absent there are always servants ... it must be terrifying to be utterly, completely alone.

Growing up in my world I can get used to spending time alone without sight or sound of others but growing up in the Third World where privacy is a word which does not exist, I am sure many could not or would not get used to it. Is that a gift or a curse? Probably both.

It makes me ponder how hard it is for those who have been together for years and who suddenly lose their partner. Now that must be the oddest thing of all. Even within the worst of relationships, and I have watched this with friends, there is such a sense of loss, of sundering apart, of terrible aloneness even when there is no loneliness.

We are communal creatures and to that end our more individual, separated world in the West is not the norm. It is our friends and family, the connections we make and maintain, which keep us physically and psychologically healthy.  I am sure it is why when we are alone we are more likely to talk out loud to ourselves, and even to answer, while smiling at the oddness of it all. It is why, I am sure, that people who live alone often have a pet.... something which moves, connects, relates and responds.

We were not made to be alone. We were made to be connected. We are connected of course, always, at other, unseen levels, but we also need to see, feel and know we are connected at a material level. Even sitting here, writing this, which someone else may read, or not, there is a greater sense of connectedness than if I were simply writing in my journal; that repository of words which languishes in file or book or drawer.

It is reaching out which gives our lives meaning, purpose and soul. It is connecting which makes us both human and alive. We can be alone without being lonely, but we should never spend too much time alone because that is not good for mind, body or spirit. Remembering why it is we need to connect with others keeps us re-weaving and re-working the web of relationships which make both us and our world.

Alone I am no more than myself; with another I am much more than I ever might be.

The Self is shown in silent times,
in shadowed, lonely days
when words are mere remembering
and touch, a dream delayed. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Within the dreaming dance of life, full starry worlds unite.

These words came to me today and I will turn them into a poem. I haven't felt like writing anything about anything but I have been busy editing a manuscript so it probably does not matter. I am sure it does not matter.It is the living of life which matters; not the changeable particulars of action.

I wonder if I am subbing myself before I even write and yet the chances of anyone reading this blog is so minimal it hardly matters. Ah, ego, always there crimping, limiting, editing and confining.

Greg has gone to Namibia to attend the funeral of a young colleague. Rod Thuron was in his early forties and had been sick with cancer for probably a couple of years. He leaves two young children and a wife. I have yet to see anyone recover through allopathic treatments, whatever their age may be, and the comment, read long ago, that chemotherapy is nuclear war against the body and more people die from the treatment than the disease, rings true again.

I suppose people become more fearful when they face such illness and too afraid to look elsewhere but one can only wonder if, in those years, Rod did not think that perhaps conventional medicine was failing him! I don't know if it is still true but I read years ago that chemo has an 80% failure rate and I remember thinking, no-one would ever be able to sell a product with such a failure rate unless it were immersed in the myth, fantasy and desperation of modern medicine.

It is not that modern medicine does not have strengths because it does, immeasurable on many counts, but equally, in so many areas it fails pretty much constantly and not only that, in the failing it subjects people to a drastically poorer quality of life through its procedures and treatments. Then again, easy for me to say. Although recently a young friend in his early forties turned away from allopathic advice to have his layrnx, voice-box and God knows what removed and took an alternative path to complete healing. He might have failed of course but his rationale I suspect was given the options he would rather be intact and dead than carved up and possibly still dead.

Anyway, it is a solitary time on my own despite the busyness and the presence of Limited and Andrew around during the day. Our Thai neighbours are heading off tomorrow for a few months so I shall have a seriously solitary Saturday before Greg gets back on Sunday.
Deprivation breeds appreciation and looking at the challenges others face, consideration of the sorrow of others breeds gratitude for every minute of every day without such challenges. 

I went shopping at the local Sana this morning to buy cleaning goods. They are cheaper at Sana than Foodworths. The sun was shining and the road was busy with people walking and cycling, wandering into the road, ready to be missed as one must. I spend so much time in the house, through choice of course because we only have the one car and Greg takes it to work ... and where would I go anyway... I am happy enough working and doing what needs to be done. But, being out today made me realise I spend too much time within the walls. It is only when we remove ourselves from the known that we can see it clearly for what it is.

Within the dreaming dance of life,
full starry worlds unite and in
the turn of death and birth
we come to know ourselves. 
It is within the watchful place
of mind and time and now,
that Soul will speak and guide
our mind; that all will be revealed.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


All these blogs and nowhere which reflects what is going on in my life. I suppose poetry reflects that in its own way as an artistic expression of an inner life and Blantyre Street touches upon one aspect of it and A Spiritual Life records the spiritual and Literary Faction the writer but not much of the overall 'Me' in it.

I do have my journal which I write but I am not sure I am brave enough to bare all as some bloggers do. One may ask why bother if it is not 'warts and all' and that is certainly something to ponder but my journal is something which may never be read by anyone and I like that element of privacy. I have come to appreciate at a more mature age why many writers and keepers of journals and diaries have burned their writings in older age.

Is that cowardly? I suppose it depends what is in them? If it protects others then it is probably simply wise. And perhaps they look back and realise how much has changed and how much seems narrow and limited with the hindsight of perspective. Or perhaps I am making excuses.

Whatever the reason I have decided it is time to be true to Cassandra and to turn what has become a poetry blog into a journal blog; exploring, recounting and detailing things in my life which are important enough to write about. I am not sure important is the right word. Rather, things which I feel a need to write about.

Perhaps I will strive for balance given that I am very aware that my journal too often records the darker, lower, demanding, challenging, even depressive aspects of my life. Perhaps the need to write is not there with the joyful and the mundane but it should be. I shall endeavour to weave the deep and meaningful with the shallow and meaningless although in truth I don't believe anything is meaningless, nor for that matter, shallow.

Perhaps it is the mundane and the extraordinary I wish to 'paint in words' although both categories are judgements dependent upon belief and perception. Perhaps it needs to be whatever takes my fancy, regardless of classification; something more in the tradition of a diary, a simple recording of the days no matter how banal or profound. A goal at least.