Where am I
It is a Sunday morning in January and I am in the Magdelin Islands and decide I need a walk to clear my mind. The walk stimulates my thoughts to all that has changed in my life in the past six months and since I left Newfoundland some ten years ago. My reflections caused me to contemplate, once again, the question of “who am I”. It is a question that I have struggled with for most of my life.
As the thoughts flowed, the first free flow that I have felt in some time, I contemplated my disconnection. A disconnection from where I had grown up, the material things that had been part of my life for half of its duration and most of the things that I had considered dear to me. My thoughts move to a greater disconnection that I have been experiencing most recently. Evidence of this was in the lack of inspiration for writing, something that has eluded me for months.
A spark of an idea surfaced, perhaps this lack of inspiration was because I had ensconced myself in my mind. In other words, I had been living only in my mind, a mind somehow disconnected from my soul, with no means of embellishment of thought or insight other than from the external world. By disconnecting from my own soul I had become detached from the greater soul – the font of all inspiration and new ideas. Yes, perhaps on this Sunday morning I had made a discovery!
As I contemplated more, I happened to meet a woman who had shared a workshop with me here in October (when I was last here). She was reading a book on psychology and reflecting on the difficult time that she had had adjusting since she had arrived in the Magdalens to take a job.
We discussed change, life and difficulty. She asked about my writing, of which she had seen some, and whether I was writing from the perspective of body, mind and soul. In fact, I had given little thought to this in what I had written. But, how strange my earlier thoughts of disconnection would lead me to this meeting and this discussion.
I explained that I thought that the soul “just is”, the center of our being and the center of a greater being (God in Christian terms). I believed that our minds and bodies were only peripherals to something much more substantial – perhaps even invincible. If we could only recognize this strength our fears would dissipate and we could become our true selves.
We discussed the need for nourishment of the body, the mind and the soul. I remembered somewhere in the bible, that it spoke of nourishment for the soul and it was through “prayer” – meditation to some. In other words, the body and mind need external nourishment while the soul receives it from within. Thus the need to walk, to stop and to reflect. We need create place and space to point ourselves inward and to tap the well of universal strength to nurture our true selves – what our souls really are. We disagreed on many things in our short dialogue, which was made more difficult by my lack of French, and her halting English. But, we did communicate despite the barrier of language, cultural differences and different perspectives. I was reminded, as I thought, that all these things are purviews of the mind – communication is much deeper.
All this brings me back to my original thoughts and something, which, perhaps I never fully understood, that it is neither the physical place nor our job, but how we live that matters. The dilemma that I have realized this morning is that “where” is important. I now know that I have been somewhere else than in my soul. I have been in my mind, and because of its disconnection to my soul; it has been full of misconceptions, fears and retributions.
It took me to go somewhere, which reminded me of Newfoundland, where I grew up, to reconnect my mind with my soul – to the real me.
I realized how easy it is to disconnect, to try and carry on alone, using only the limited resource of the mind and bypassing the unlimited wealth of the soul. How simple it is to forget that the internal nourishment of the soul enhances the external nourishment of the mind, maybe better said, it counter balances the negative nourishment that the mind can accumulate. How simple it becomes to disconnect from one another, missing out on the mutual strength that togetherness provides.
Everything gets out of balance when we no longer know “where” we are and disorientation sets in. How important it is to reconnect ourselves to familiar environs, to appreciate where we are in life. For, without points of reference, we wander through life lost souls in a wilderness of fear. It is this fear of the unknown that causes the clouds in our mind, which subsequently shrouds the light of our true selves – our souls.
Fear – life’s inhibitor
As I sit here on this Sunday morning contemplating the knot in my being and it’s meaning, I am led to reflect on how many times that I have experienced this. The times are too numerous to contemplate.
This knot that I am feeling relates to the least human aspect of our being and the more basic sense of our need for survival or when we are contemplating that our survival is at risk. Why then, with all the spiritual underpinnings that we have as humans do we experience this sense of wariness? Why is fear still the most significant emotion that we feel, often blocking out the most human of emotions love? How much do we miss through the influence of this most negative of thought processes? Perhaps, therein lies the answer. Because fear is imbedded in a thought process, albeit one that stimulates feelings, whereas true love is beyond the mind and is rooted in the soul.
Yes, I have much to contemplate on this sunny Sunday morning. First there is my work situation, which is difficult, perhaps even impossible. Then there is a contract that is to be developed. Beyond this current position is an outlook, which is nebulous at best. My commitments and obligations currently are significant which impede me from making any rash moves. But, then in earlier years during such “crunch times” I have often acted hastily, often at my expense. I did survive each time but the moves took me into dimensions, which were perhaps as arduous as the circumstance from which I had removed myself. Perhaps this is the real lesson in this particular episode of my life.
When I look over the past year of my life and all the changes that I have created I wonder if that was the result of more rashness. My time in Scotland was pleasant but it did have its stressful moments. I endured many emotions and actions similar to what has been experienced here. The difference was that there was no brutality. But, I did feel the need to leave because of changing circumstances and a feeling that my work was complete. The opportunity to relocate to Quebec just appeared and allowed my escape. When I look back, I am not sure what it was I needed to escape from.
Here I am once again contemplating what appears to be another of my life’s seemingly completely intractable situations. I realize that part of my dilemma is not being able to step back and remove myself from the feeling of being caught in the center, “the vortex” of the circumstance. Feeling on one side the pull of people who “need” the support, guidance and encouragement that I appear able to able to provide. But, then on the other feeling the heat and fury of one who is loosing control and sees me as the catalyst for this happening. This untenable place is exacerbated by my own feelings of inadequacy in resolving all these issues.
There are many escape routes, in any circumstance and many lifelines that go unnoticed when we are in such a quagmire. Our tendency is to wiggle and squirm and try to find our own way out. What we do instead is to dig ourselves in even deeper (and tie the knots that bind even tighter). The challenge is to find space that allows us to feel safe, to relax, to rejuvenate, and to rest in order to conserve our energy for the real lifeline, which imminently, will appear. Escape is not merely movement, escape ultimately only happens when we give in to ourselves, our circumstance and to the issues from which we are attempting escape. But then giving in is not the same as giving up. We need to give in, to regenerate ourselves, for the next push to free ourselves from quagmire in which we are immersed.
What is fundamental to this whole process is our need for support, for encouragement and for those who have access to the lifelines. There is a fundamental need to find others who have shared similar experiences and can provide the wisdom, reflection and advice to lessen the fear.
This relates well to where we all are today in society with fear such a predominant factor in our existence. We no longer appear to have the support structures in place to provide these “safe environments”. Society has become so transient and busy that people neither have the time or the wherewithal to develop the safe places that allowed a sense of belonging and security, which was the basis of community in other times. Our local support base has been eroded and relegated to the realm of professionals and organizations, no longer family, friends and those who genuinely care.
It is when we feel genuinely alone that fear appears to grow, to take over, to penetrate our thoughts, influence our minds and trigger our darkest emotions. Dissipating this fear becomes quite a challenge because the fear takes control, closes our awareness, shadows our openness and diminishes our creativity. Our only thoughts eventually relate to escape – how to exit this particular dark place where we find ourselves.
The challenge is to give in to the emotion that this fear generates, let them encompass us, wash over us and move on, much as the waves encompass the stones on the beach. Each waves changing minusculy the appearance and shape of the stone. Yes, in the human context each wave of fear apparently removes some of the surface of what we are but brings us just a little closer to what we must become.
In the scheme of things, like a stone we start from a tiny speck of something, evolve into a mountain then gradually get washed back to a tiny speck over our lifetime. The most interesting aspect is that the tiny specks only become greater by accumulating around the other similar specks. People are much the same, we can only become greater by building around us others who support and encourage and stand beside us when the waves of fear wash over us. And in life, like the stone on the beach no matter how large we have become, we will be forced by the attrition of the life’s wave action to stand-alone once again. Our greatness in life will rely on our ability and willingness to attract others to our side. But in the end no matter how good we felt we were in life we will be brought back to our individual selves- just a speck in the context of existence.
Love – life’s strength
I am sitting here this morning overlooking the partially frozen ocean contemplating, reminiscing and wondering. Perhaps I am also in “wonder” about all that has happened over the past year and one half since leaving Scotland. I have been awake since before six spending my early waking hours seeking guidance for the day, for direction and for life. As always, the guidance just doesn’t appear. Yet, I know it will in its own time.
It seems as if I was more connected when I was in Scotland than since I arrived here. Although there, I did have many ups and downs and lots of doubts about my work and where I was going, it seemed that there was more guidance and direction of some sort. But there I was able to sit by the sea, as I am this morning and draw sustenance from its vastness and depth, glean understanding from its ebb and flow and put into context the waves of energy that affect us all in their rise and fall.
As I sit here this morning, I know that I did spend time in Scotland just sitting and watching the ocean. This was especially so in Cruden Bay, where I could sit by my large living room window, both in the daytime and night time, and see the ocean, hear its thunder and feel its quiet. Even in the other places that I lived I would just go and walk the beach or sit in the car or even read a paper as I sat beside the water somewhere. I don’t do that now, even though I am near water in Beauharnois but it’s not the ocean. My life seems so frenetic perhaps even frantic, as I try and put all that is in disarray in order, as if I could.
I guess I have felt the need to make everything “perfect” and orderly when, in fact there has been no order to it (or should I say order as I understand it). The more I try the more disorderly it becomes and the more stress I put on everyone and the more stressed I become. Always wanting to do “what’s right to do” instead of doing “the right thing”. This was something that I learnt and wrote when I was in Scotland.
Yet, when I look out the window this morning I see that all is perfect, despite the snow, the ice and the cold. Everything is just as it should be, ordered by a power much greater than our own. Perhaps “power “ is the wrong word maybe it should be a “love” greater than we possess. This kind of love is so great, that it lets things (and people) be as they are with no great need to fix everything that appears to be going amiss at any moment or point in time. This love is so strong; that it knows everything will work out, in its own way, in its own time, perhaps not as we expect, but as it should be in a world, which is perfect.
Order like structure is such a misnomer because neither can be perfect, neither can it be rigid nor can it be predicted. Both must be reflective of the many components and elements of which they are comprised and the reactions that are imminent as these are mixed. Order and structure have to reflect the movement of time and space, much the same as the ocean and the land have to reflect the shifting of the tides. This natural order and structure is ever so subtly shifting in a continuum. This movement is much more intensified, when affected by the pull of the moon, the swell of the tide or when affected by the tempests of the wind. We, as humans and one component of life, have to keep reminding ourselves that we are part of this order and structure and are affected similarly by these aspects of nature (what’s natural), as are all the other creatures and elements.
Yes, it seems as if I have occupied this space before – in Halifax and in Scotland and I guess so in Newfoundland. Each time having to come to terms with the vagaries of life, the natural order that won’t change, even with our strongest push or pull and the storms of life that come and go. Each time there is something new and different to learn. Always though, it is having to come to terms with my own lack of power to change that, which won’t be changed, nor affect that which won’t be affected. There is the realization that the learning made available by the power of life and the essence of living is increased only slightly with each experience, no matter how dramatic or subtle the happening.
What seems to be constant is this realization, and where I always arrive, that life is about love, love is about life and “power” is an anomolity that creates disorder and strife in what could be order and calm. And, I do know that I prefer order to disorder, calm to strife. I have to appreciate that I have to learn to love more and control less. I have to reinforce within myself that love will create the greatest order that life can allow. It is love that will bring calm and peace to confusion and disorder even that which I have been experiencing over the past year.
Home – life’s longing
I have been giving a lot of thought lately to “Home”. Why, I’m not sure. Perhaps it is because of the transient nature that my life has had for the past number of years. Maybe it is because of the number of places in which I have lived – each having to become home. Then, there has always been this feeling of being outside, not part of and somehow not belonging. Yes there has always been, as long as I can remember, the feeling that this is not where I belong – that home is somewhere else.
I have explored these feelings in some of my other writings; I have discussed them with my family and have given much contemplation to where they emanate from. I know it is partly due to the fact that we grew up in Newfoundland, with an immigrant mother (Scottish), which made us different and not really “one of them”. I believe it evolves from our own mother’s “longings” for home after arriving as a war bride and not having the opportunity to visit home for over twenty years. I appreciate that it also comes from our dad’s having to return home after six years of worldly “adventures” as a sailor on a minesweeper in the Second World War. How does one fold oneself back into from whence you came when you have such opportunity to see the bigger world with all its wonder – good and bad?
I have been fortunate to explore these issues in my work over the years. This has occurred through visits to expatriate Newfoundlanders across Canada where “home” has been given mystical proportions. It was evident in my work in Scotland where those that have left throughout the generations are considered to have achieved something more than those that stayed. It certainly is visible in my work here in Quebec where after years of strife English and French alike appear willing to create a new home, despite the machinations of politicians of all stripes.
But, what is home. Is it the mystical place of memory, which many people pine for after they leave, but when they eventually return, find very different? Time and change does that. Is it the place of our roots from which our forefathers left for a myriad of reasons? Or is it the place where we set down our own roots, creating a home, finding ways to belong, to fit in and to feel valued. Perhaps home is even more mystical than that. Maybe this traditional sense of home is not even achievable in a world where vagaries of mystery are supplanted by cold hard facts of research. We have created in this world a belief, that home is less important, has little value and only the basis of emotional tales. Of course, the tales have a value in that they can be sold for commercial benefit – it appears the financial benefit is the only one that has significance.
Home to me has a number of dimensions. There is the physical home or the place of our physical shelter. This in itself has so many dimensions that one sees when one is fortunate to travel. Money and resources are only but one dimension of this particular aspect of home. I have been with people who have resources but couldn’t avail of material to create the kind of home they would desire and I have been with others who were content with their own minimalistic homes no matter their resources. The opposite is also true. What I have discovered is that people who have created “home” in their physical shelter will welcome and share it with you no matter its frugality or grandness.
There is the emotional home, the warm secure place that provides safety, an environment to relax and be oneself. Even the so-called homeless, for the most part, discover or create this aspect of home in the fringe areas and squalor that become their home.
Then there is the home of the mind, that repository of memory of what home used to be, even though the memories have become shrouded by emotions, clouded with nostalgia and softened by the passage of time.
And, of course, there is the fundamentally important spiritual home, that which provides the very connection to life itself. This aspect of home is what really enables us to put the other aspects of home in perspective.
We have, in this era of life, created a world where home, in all its facets, has been diminished. Our physical home is but another asset to be traded for economic return when the time is right. It is only of economic importance and has to be shed when the economic returns are diminished. When the communal economic environment shifts, as it always does in any environment, people are encouraged to abandon home and move elsewhere to where the opportunities are greater. Little thought is given to the investment (other than cash) that one puts into creating a home.
Over the past several years a very narrow view of home has emerged that suggests that there is no place we can or should call home. We need to be more mobile and transient to avail of the so-called “opportunities” that are developing elsewhere. It is a fact that people have always moved during times of distress, economic hardship or significant political shifts. People have always been encouraged or forced to move by governments to solve whatever dilemma they felt the need to address. But, those same governments have always failed to recognise, or were unwilling to accept the dilemmas they cause for the very people whom they moved. Our own Canadian history tells us of the hardships of this migration. It also is full of the traditions (reminders of home) to which people so arduously held dear.
The emotional aspect of home has been fragmented with the growing detachment of people to any concept called home. How else do we explain the growth in emotional illnesses and the development of a whole sector that provides counselling, guidance and treatment? The traditional home with extended families and long term friendships have been traded for consumerism, manufactured entertainment and created diversions from the benefits that home provided and the responsibilities that home required.
So driven have we become for the security of things, that we have negated the safety of relationships with others. We have willingly diminished the very foundations of home. These foundations were created with a belief in self, of family, the importance of friendship and a spiritual power greater than all the others combined.
We have thus generated a real crisis in our society today, one of spiritual disconnectivity within ourselves, and ultimately, a disconnectivity with life itself. This can be evidenced in the growing restlessness emanating from the sense of alienation, aloneness and emotional stress with its ensuing visible rage in people of all ages.
It will require a renewal of awakening of the value and benefits of “Home” to stem the tide of dislocation that we are witnessing in the world today. Creating the much acclaimed “Global Village” will only happen if we respect the needs of people to have their own sense of home in whatever locale or village they decide to reside and live their lives
Peace – life’s torment
I sat with a group today over lunch and the topic of peace arose and it caused me to ponder – what indeed is peace. I have found little of it my life as it appears that there is this restlessness that appears each time as I get to a “place” in life where perhaps peace appears to be within reach. Just as current stresses become settled the need to shift arises to test and try me. =
Yet, the most talked about issue in the world today is peace and how we might achieve it. That was the tenor of the discussion by the people, with whom I sat today, who appear to me to be at peace with their lives, with their place and with their beliefs. But, they want peace for others just like their own sense of peace.
I wonder, as I am prone to do at times, if they can even comprehend what peace looks like to those who are mired in poverty, those whose spirit has been abused and tormented or those who have been recently and continually bombed without even knowing why. Would these poor people even recognize peace, as we so envisage it in this developed world, because, even peace in this world is threatened by those who suggest change, ask why or complain.
But, there are those who are going to force our brand of peace on others, whether they want it or not. We are witnessing it today as we interfere once again in Afghanistan. They will have peace even if it means killing all of then – then at least there will be peace in the land or so it is suggested. What folly, for immediately as those in power are shifted, others move in to divvy up the spoils, lay claim to the resources and share up the land. Before anyone knows it, conflict arises and peace is short lived, if it appears at all.
This seems to be the way of humankind, ever since they arrived on this planet. If we are not in conflict with others, we are in conflict with nature and if not with nature, and then we have this innate ability to be in conflict with ourselves – the mind versus the soul. Conflict seems more the norm than peace, yet we continue to strive for peace, another of life’s ideals, unachievable perhaps, just sent to try us.
Because in life it appears that only the things that try us, cause us to grow to learn to achieve. There appears little benefit in the things that bring us comfort, otherwise peace would rein and the trials of life would not appear. For aren’t all of life’s trials brought on by ourselves through our desires, ambitions or greed – the need to have what we want even if we don’t need much less use whatever it is.
So here am I once again contemplating my own life, wondering what’s next when I am still dealing with the trials of my current endeavor, still with all of its own trials and tribulations and bringing angst to my life. Just imagine, I am sitting today with a group discussing peace from the vista of a restaurant where there is service, food and plenty and my mind was full of beginning notes from a book called “Death on the Ice” that appeared in front of me yesterday at a second hand shop in Chateauguay. A book about the early seal hunt in Newfoundland where seals were more important than men. This book describes the atrocities inflicted on men and boys by one whose belief in God was only surpassed by belief in himself.
The crazy coincidence is that I promised a copy of this book to a young woman in the Gaspe last spring as she returned from the Magdalen Islands and was puzzled that no one wanted to discuss with her the seal hunt and its decline. I suggested that she read this book and she might understand WHY. But WHY is not a good word these days in our world.
We shouldn’t ask why the Trade Center was bombed much less raise the issue why we are bombing Afghanistan when all that is left from prior Russian bombings are mud huts and mine fields. Nor should we question the pictures that appeared on the screen from Kabul immediately after the Taleban left, showing television shops, fancy goods stores and the like, that appeared to the most important thing to those that remained in this devastated city. These people all of a sudden became crass consumers for western goods when a few days before they were facing starvation and destitution let alone heavy bombing.
But, I do ask why – why one would think that anyone with an inkling of knowledge of real life would believe the propaganda of those “bringing” peace to Afghanistan, at any cost, even life. And I do ask myself why I am not at peace with myself, despite my own creature comforts, an income and a family who care. Why the restlessness, the need to do more, to work all day Sunday just to prepare for the week ahead.
What is the answer and where can it be found. Of course, at my deepest place I know the answer lies in the trials, the torments and in the restlessness. That is where the real peace lies in recognizing who you are, your very deeps roots and the need that I have to find ways to make it a little more comfortable for those unable, at this point in time, to do it for themselves. Maybe in some way that is what eventually will give me peace, knowing that with a little help sometimes people can be encouraged to find their own place of peace and, in so doing, bring some peace to this restless world.
I am an idealist, but also a realist, knowing full well that most of the ideals people set for others bring more conflict than peace and that ideals, are dreams to be searched for but never arrived at. For deep down we all know that, when we arrive at the peace of life we will have completed this life’s journey and beyond that, we can only hope. It is in the hope that the real peace exists and in life’s dreams there are the true blessings. Peace, ultimately lies in the never-ending search for the spirit (God to some) and the journey of discovery that this search provides.
My message to those who would espouse peace, if I had the courage to speak out, would be to find your own peace and let others find theirs. That doesn’t discount the fact that we might provide a helping hand to those who struggle the most, or comfort for those that may never find peace. What it does say though is that everyone needs to experience their own journey to peace and we shouldn’t rob them of this journey by inflicting them with ours.
Despair – life’s learning
As I am reading the Globe and Mail on the 29th of January I am struck by two articles written about Newfoundland. A feeling, which may be akin to nostalgia appears, a feeling enhanced by a large dose of Newfoundland through movies, books and old acquaintances which all have appeared over the past few months. I say akin to nostalgia because I feel nostalgia usually has with it at least some degree of positiveness.
What I am feeling this morning is a much deeper sense of foreboding. The feeling, because it is a mixed sensation, maybe sparked by a lifetime of memories. This feeling is weighted by the reality of seeing another attempt at systemic rape of resources, and diminishment of Newfoundlanders by those from away (of course aided and abetted by a few from within). But then, it has always been, that those from away know what’s best for Newfoundland.
These attempts to pillage Fisheries Products International (FPI), under the guise of Free Markets and Globalization, are just the latest saga being wrought on the poor and the unfortunate of that province by those that supposedly have. It is just outright plunder not dissimilar to the feudal lords of times just past. This endeavor, if allowed, will again wipe out more local communities, family legacies and quality of life. But supposedly, this is what we call development in the 21st century. Development of what I wonder
As I witness these shenanigans being carried out, with local support, so called corporate legalities and less than gentle persuasion, I wonder. Here we have a place with untold natural wealth, that has spawned innumerable brilliant and hard working individuals and a sense of passion and patriotism unlike any seen anywhere by those that truly belong. Yet continually, blind eyes are turned to the evident devilment, ruthless pirating and blatant patronage that rivals the most corrupt regimes in the world. Again I wonder.
I realize that it is the way it is, the way it has been since settlers struggled to survive in this land since it was first discovered. People were merely chattels, like the natural resources, to be used by the wealthy, the powerful and the brutal who had control. The brutality is evident to any that have a glimmer of history. It is evident in the very ethos of “being” to those that live in a place without belonging. Newfoundland is the place where I was born, and lived but never quite belonged.
To those who belong the brutality has most often been hidden, by the promise of a better way, by the illusion of better prospects or the delusion of creating something much bigger and better that is in existence elsewhere. The brutality has always belonged to those who managed to have control and who could make the biggest promises and offer the greatest dreams. It has been the domain of the many saviors who have come to rescue Newfoundlanders from their very depths of despair.
Yes, I sit here this morning reading about the latest savior, come to lead Newfoundland to another promised land of a more efficient, more viable and more rewarding fishery. All it requires is a little sabotage, much complacency and a good deal of gullibility. And I do wonder how this could ever happen in such a modern, sophisticated and intelligent world. I really question how such travesty can once again be perpetrated in a world when moral outrage to terrorist acts now has no bounds.
Why then is there so much silence by the educated, the wealthy and the privileged. Surely it is they who will ultimately pay a hefty price for the folly of a few. Why indeed are so many willing to allow this skullduggery, remnant of a feudal time when merchants ruled this land? Why no outrage to the eventual forced out migration reminiscent of the political resettlement folly of more recent times? Why no mass uprising of such a wholesale rape of resources that rivals many of the outright resource giveaways of times not even very long ago? This time there is not even the illusion that it is being carried out under the guise of development.
As I reflect beyond my reading and scan the world I realize that it is perhaps just a human trait. It will take the realization that all is lost, that the scalawags have it all or the dastardly have had their way before people will rise up and demand their just rewards. We see it in Argentina; we witness it in Afghanistan and feel it in the massive dysfunctionality that is Africa. Ever so sadly it is our grandchildren who will ultimately pay the real price for our passivity, neglect and lack of courage. I do wonder, will we as humans ever learn.
I do believe, in the depth of my heart, that we are about to learn the historic lesson of all previous generations. That lesson suggests we, as humans, still have not learnt that there is another way rather than need and greed to exist on this planet. We only have to look beyond the bravado of the United States, the political gamesmanship so evident in Canada and the corporate follies of big business and governments everywhere to realize that lesson time is nigh at hand and reality is once again going to show its more pragmatic side.
Perhaps this time, we will learn that there is no savior, only people themselves, who, with faith and belief in a higher power and respect for themselves and others, can change the world, into a more equitable place for all. It is only people collectively, who can build a society where caring, sharing and compassion prevail, where true freedom and justice are the cornerstones of living and the appreciation of nature and its resources are the purview of everyone (and not the right of a few).
But as I read the second article about the upcoming 100th anniversary of Newfoundland’s anthem the “ Ode to Newfoundland” the negativity faded. I was reminded of the resilience of humankind and the wellspring of hope that maintains us beyond the pragmatism of realism. I was heartened as I read once again those words and recognized a spirit that aspires us to continue, to seek, to search and to dream of a world where despair is unknown, where brutality is non-existent and respect is shared by all. It is often the little things, the faded memories, the friendly reminders or the simple tunes that bring forth the aspirations buried deeply within each of us.
Into the Light – life’s passage
It is interesting to reflect on life and its many phases. It appears as if a person in moving through these phases experience a sense of newness, apprehension, familiarity and comfort and eventually through to a place of both impasse and no return. It seems that it is only when one reaches this stage that there arises a compelling feeling to stop, to reflect, to be still and listen. The particular form of listening required is not particularly attuned to what is happening outside but to what is happening inside. Only after the impasse is recognized and deep reflection entered into does life open up, allowing a slow but steady passage to a new phase or perhaps another journey that life has prepared for us. As a person gets older each new passage is more arduous and it is little wonder that so many people regress, hold back and even stall the journey that is life.
So many people at some point cling to and hold onto what they have, rather than push on to explore what is still possible. That is true for individuals and for societies alike for societies are but collectives of individuals who gravitate to the same thinking, often without realizing this fact. Diversity becomes reviled and sameness becomes revered.
As one traverses the path of life each phase brings strange journeys. Newness has to be accepted, acclimatization becomes the challenge and in this change process many trials come our way. Oftentimes, these trials become so overwhelming that we fall into despair, the darkness so pervasive, that we fear ever finding our way “into the light”. Some come to appreciate the dimness of their space and accept what is, others forget, for a time there is a light. But life is so persistent that it gradually and slowly accumulates the trials until it becomes untenable to stay in a particular space. This is usually because the space where one finds oneself is not where that individual is supposed to be.
Life, I believe, comprises an easy tension providing flux, movement and direction. Sometimes we find this tension to be much less that easy, even stressful and that is when one needs to explore ones space, why the tension and how it can be lessened. We can rail against it or we can shift with it. Everyone resists to some degree, many get used to the stress the tension provides, some complain of the pain that is caused while others move with the flow of the tension. Comfort can be imagined in any of the above. Comfort with place, people, and common thought or even in a sphere of pain is much appealing. Such unnatural comfort really leads to stagnation, unease, apathy and eventually despair. Genuine comfort lies within.
To understand this, notice the disparate places in the world and how their numbers continue to grow, or consider those areas with plenty moving towards disparity. In each case comfort of acceptance builds discontent and expands until an eruption occurs that shakes people to the very core of their existence. Two current examples are Argentina and Zimbabwe.
Argentina, once a land of plenty, is in the midst of turbulent change. Societal comfort and complacency allowed corruption to invade and surround its whole institutional base. Over the years recognition grew of the reality of the issues and a grassroots movement appeared and set in motion a form of revolution. The despair which people felt with their circumstance provoked a major shift in thinking and tolerance.
Zimbabwe demonstrates that artificial comfort and complacency allowed a very brutal regime to move into power. The repression has led to revolt by local and grassroots people and retaliation by those in power. Yet, the most brutal of punishment, even death inflicted on people “to keep them in line” by the governing authority appears not to deter people’s desire for change. This demonstration of the strength within and people’s desire to live and experience genuine comfort is telling. The necessity to move “into the light” is very mobilizing.
It appears that it is only at the arrival to the depths of despair that people step back, reflect and contemplate their circumstance and that which is influencing it. It then becomes apparent that it is the influences that have to be interpreted and understood. What need to be changed are these influences along with the spiritual dimensions within that these influences affect.
It is the time of reflection that allows the light to seep into the very dark caverns that we have built within our minds. These glimmers of light allow true perspectives to unfold that provide the direction in order to find life’s true light. Opening to this light is one of life’s necessities, if one is ever to experience true and meaningful comfort. Why we have to await the ultimate darkness of despair is obviously one of the fundamental mysteries of life.
TRUTH – Life’s fragility
I have been giving a lot of thought of late to truth and its impact on one’s life. Truth is such a nebulous concept with different meaning for different people, different contexts for different events, and different realities for anyone who even contemplates its meaning.
My own concept of what’s true is being tried and tested by current events in my life. I have been having long and serious reflections on what really qualifies as truth. Are my “truths” in any way relevant to the “truths” of others? Indeed, there are times when I wonder are my own truths even relevant to my own being. Such is my dilemma at this particular point in time. The question causing my struggle relates to what I believe to be true and what I am currently experiencing – is there any degree of reality in any of this.
I ponder, wonder, contemplate and think and still find my current experiences surreal, not real at all. But, there is no doubt of what I am experiencing, handling and with that which I have to cope. There are many times in my everyday life when I wonder is this all-real or is it just imaginary. I have been taught to believe that what is real is truth, in other words truth manifests itself in our experiences, thus our realities. I often wonder if, perhaps what I am experiencing is someone else’s truth and reality instead of my own.
But, when I reflect, I feel that my own life has been so intertwined with others, in my work, in my play and in my being that truth entails an entanglement and sharing with all those in the world. I have always felt a close affinity with others even those who are distant. Many of my personal experiences have related to those at a distance who were in need at a particular time in life. Maybe this is my dilemma; my truths are so entangled with those of others that it is difficult to fathom those that are my very own.
But, then if we really believe that in life there is at least one truth, that of life itself, why should it cause me concern. Indeed why should I even feel the need to contemplate this truth – that is life itself. Maybe its because others feel they have another truth, and rightly so, they should hold whatever truth that makes sense for them. While we all hold fast to the truths that we have accumulated, learned or had passed onto us there is a strand that runs through all of these which is truth itself. For if we believe that truth is life then to have life, to experience life, and to live life in any form suggests such commonality.
As I look around our own society and throughout the world I see this common element called truth (and life) as most fragile. Because we are unwilling or unable to recognize truth as a most basic of requirements for existence we treat it with little respect, with little value and with little hope.
Perhaps this is because we each wish our truth to be accepted by others and we wish our truth to be “the one”- that is the real truth. The fact is that every truth is the real truth because it is ours, it comes from within and it relates to our experiences – recent and long ago.
How then do we manifest all these truths? How do we rationalize their reality in the life that we live? How indeed do we come to some human consensus that there are elements within our own truths that are real and meaningful and others that are fanciful and illusionary and related more to need and desire than to actual necessity?
These are major contemplations for all of us these days as we live out our lives in dysfunctional societies. The dysfunctions relate to many things – they relate to our past as they do to our present. They certainly relate to our future as we struggle to become the person, the people or the society, which we feel we should become. Why we feel this compulsion, this need, and this necessity to “become” anything is a mystery of life and subsequently of truth.
There are those of us who “know” so we perpetrate our truths on others because we fundamentally believe these “truths”. There are many ways this happens in our societies, through education, religious belief or governance. There are as many extremes, some believe that life should just happen without education, religious belief or governance while others believe that without education, religious belief and governance life couldn’t exist (at least not for very long). Then there are even those who have given up believing.
Different scenarios are being played out each and every day in our own lives as we attempt to influence others with our truths. They are being played out societally as we witness so many different actors trying to influence, impose and even force their truths on others. Globally we witness the West, led by the United States attempting to convince the rest of the world that its truth is the best. Weren’t they the winners of the cold war and resultantly the owners of “right” within the world, which entitles them to push their truth on everyone else? The realty is that others don’t necessarily buy into any of this because their never just is one form of right just as there can never be only one proponent of truth.
Truth, though nebulous, is but an element of life itself, perhaps the most important element and but the most fragile. When we attempt to promote our own version of truth to others do we realize how fragile we make life for them? If fact, do we even contemplate this in our own daily living as we go about our lives – living the truths that we have come to understand, believe or have adopted. Truth truly is life’s most fragile element.
We have witnessed untold lives lost over the truths that people have fixated in their lives and we can anticipate more as people cling most tenuously to their truths as life’s turbulences cause shifts and changes.
How real are the truths that I have adopted as my own is a question that I have been contemplating more and more over the past few months. How effective are these truths in living my own life? More importantly, how destructive have they become to others as I continue to perpetrate them.
I consider my own life and its genuine fragility in terms of humanness and hope and wonder are my truths real or are they just outdated thoughts in a changing and different world. I do contemplate what I have come to believe as true. My current circumstances lead me to wonder whether there is any semblance of truth in what I have become, or is this truth like that of so many others, just a disguise to real humanness, real life and real truth.
In life one must reflect on its reality or how one experiences this reality and contemplate the truths that we are prone to accept. I treasure the fact I am able to examine truth, reflect on its nature and contemplate its real effect on my own life and that of others. For in this examination hopefully we find the truths that are required for us to continue onto the next phase of our lives.
Truth to me is fundamental to life itself, it necessarily provides challenges and it often provides difficulties. Truth in its finality will see one through these ups and downs, not false truth but truth as life itself. For without truth there is no life without life then there can be no truth. Truth itself is not mine alone, it belongs to a power much greater than any one individual, and it belongs to each and every one of us and more importantly it belongs to life itself.
To be free truly free one must live life in truth and with a truth that is meaningful. It requires that we accept the truths of others, even if at times these truths are detrimental to our own contemplation of truth. Life without truth is not life at all only a mere sham of existence and makes life itself that much more fragile.