Autumn then.

Art, blogging, daily living, illustration, Life, poetry, United Kingdom
purleigh-footpath2

I do love a shadowed footpath – Purleigh

Autumn then. Nothing quite like the march of time to remind us of our transient nature. I love the seasons here in England – the definition of different states of nature as the year progresses. And they do progress – have you noticed that? Whatever we do, however clever we think we are, time has the last word. Every time. I think about death alot. I always have, since being 6 or 7 years old. It doesn’t make me anxious. Losing someone I love to it makes me feel anxious. I don’t want that to happen. But it will. That’s what being alive has taught me. It doesn’t last forever. Be kind to those who love you the most because its easy to be careless with them. More than anyone else. Prioritise. Give attention where you want it to go. Remember there is never enough time. It’s not morbid, it is liberating. Cast off the shackles of ‘should’ and decide where you put your love. Today. Do it today. Do it now

watercolour

Biscuit comes to say hello, Purleigh dog walk.

 

I am Taliesin. I sing perfect metre

I am Taliesin. I sing perfect metre,
Which will last to the end of the world.
My patron is Elphin…

I know why there is an echo in a hollow;
Why silver gleams; why breath is black; why liver is bloody;
Why a cow has horns; why a woman is affectionate;
Why milk is white; why holly is green;
Why a kid is bearded; why the cow-parsnip is hollow;
Why brine is salt; why ale is bitter;
Why the linnet is green and berries red;
Why a cuckoo complains; why it sings;
I know where the cuckoos of summer are in winter.
I know what beasts there are at the bottom of the sea;
How many spears in battle; how may drops in a shower;
Why a river drowned Pharaoh’s people;
Why fishes have scales.
Why a white swan has black feet…

I have been a blue salmon,
I have been a dog, a stag, a roebuck on the mountain,
A stock, a spade, an axe in the hand,
A stallion, a bull, a buck,
I was reaped and placed in an oven;
I fell to the ground when I was being roasted
And a hen swallowed me.
For nine nights was I in her crop.
I have been dead, I have been alive.
I am Taliesin.

 

 

From tales of the Mabinogion, Celtic oral tradition, by  Anonymous

blog.jpg

All illustrations my own, please do not use without permission.

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The only philosophy

Art, blogging, daily living, Life, mankind, music, wellbeing

Poecard

 

From pure sensation to the intuition of beauty, from pleasure and pain to love and the mystical ecstasy and death — all the things that are fundamental, all the things that, to the human spirit, are most profoundly significant, can only be experienced, not expressed. The rest is always and everywhere silence.
After silence that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.’…..
………….But the most complete experience of all, the only one superior to music, is silence:
When the inexpressible had to be expressed, Shakespeare laid down his pen and called for music. And if the music should also fail? Well, there was always silence to fall back on. For always, always and everywhere, the rest is silence.”

From Aldous Huxley ‘Music at Night’

When I was seventeen I had my first adult trip to London. That is, I and two friends travelled unescorted from the Midlands to London in order to go to the theatre. The play was Amadeus, about the composer Mozart , and it changed my life. I remember walking out into the landscape of London at dusk with the music still playing within my head, and my heart felt as though it had expanded. I loved my life, I loved the paving stones, I loved my two companions dearer than I had loved them before, I loved the light, the sounds, the very air I was breathing.

I had experienced the transformative powers of listening with an audience to the exquisite sounds first heard by Mozart, then passed on by him to the world for all time.

I was seventeen quite a long time ago. I have lived several lives, some of them have been my own – to paraphrase Stanley Kunitz. I know more and less than then. I know more facts, more detail, more pain, more sorrow, more joy, more excitement – and yet I feel I know less. I am less prepared for life at 55 than I felt at seventeen, when nothing felt improbable, and I felt hungry for experience.

Yet last Sunday I returned to that state of euphoric shared experience when I hear Karl Jenkins conduct his Requiem for Peace ‘The Armed Man’ as well as other scores at TheRoyal Albert Hall to commemorate the Battle of the Somme. Was it Nietszche who said ‘Music is the only philosophy?’ On sharing that concert with how ever many in the auditorium , I felt again the transendence that

music can bring to me. Nature too sometimes moves me to the same level of consciousness, but music can take me there so quickly, so efficently, a motorway route to a temporary bliss. Bliss – what a good word – encompassing sorrow inside it as well as joy, that bittersweet sensation of tasting death and yet steering away.

I wanted to thank Karl Jenkins. This is it. A thank you from the depths of my being for showing me what humanity looks like in its greatest form, a generous, powerful force of love that knows no boundaries. There are no boundaries.

 

Benedictus -The Armed Man -A Mass for Peace

 

 

‘let life take it’s course.’

books, Life, poets

“But your solitude will be a support and a home for you, even in the midst of very unfamiliar circumstances, and from it you will find all your paths.”

 

nightingale

I have sons and stepsons- five young adults – and I am vexed about the same concerns for all of them.  How can I help them to live well in the world?  And every time I ask myself this question I come to the conclusion that I can’t. I am still struggling with the question myself as we all do.  I know in the rational part of my mind that each individual must ask their own questions, find their own path to some sort of equilibrium.  That said, there is the other part of me, the spark of optimistic longing that wants to share that wealth of experience from authors and artists that have resonated with me, moved me, performed some magical alchemy that has allowed me to feel some sort of transcendent moment which makes life worthwhile, meaningful, exciting. It’s also why I write a blog, a catharsis of sharing what I have found valuable to my living. A howl into the wilderness to connect with other lives, belong to a tribe where I am accepted, nourished, nurtured.

Thus I come to the nub of today’s post – the illuminating writing from Rainer Maria Rilke in ‘Letters to a young poet’.  The words of that hopeful young man  preface the Penguin Little Black Classics version, as an older version of himself  speak for themselves.

‘And where a great and unique person speaks, the rest of us should be silent’

-Franz Xaver Kappus , Berlin , 1929.

I will choose some of the text of the letters and share it here, but recommend the book to be read in its entirety,

On being asked to give criticism to the poets verses, Rilke writes to him ;

‘You ask whether your verses are good.  You ask me that. You have asked others, before, You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you worry…let me ask you to give up all that.  You are looking to  the outside, and that above all you should not be doing now.  Nobody can advise you and help you, nobody. There is only one way. Go into yourself.’

‘…read as little as possible in the way of aesthetics and criticism (of works of art) – it will either be partisan views, fossilized..or neat wordplay, where one opinion will triumph one day and the opposite the next. Works of art are infinitely solitary…. Only love can grasp them and hold them and do them justice. – With regard to any such disquisition, review or introduction, trust yourself and your instincts; even if you go wrong in your judgement, the natural growth of your inner life will gradually, over time, lead you to other insights.  Allow your verdicts their own quiet untroubled development which like all progress must come from deep within and cannot be forced or accelerated. Everything must  be carried to term before it is born. To let every impression and the germ of every feeling come to completion inside, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, in what is unattainable to one’s own intellect, and to wait with deep humility and patience for the hour when a new clarity is delivered. ‘

Rilke doesn’t just advise the young man about art – it is fuller than that – but expresses his views on sexuality too – ideas about how to take deep pleasure in mature love, acknowledging that man often gets it wrong when  ‘he loves only as  a man, not as a human being’. If I could just take that line and impress it on my progeny, that would be enough.

More to follow!!

 

 

 

That freedom

blogging, daily living, Life, lifemeaning, photogaphy, poetry

gull

 

With That Moon Language

 

Admit something: Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me.”

Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise someone would call the cops.

Still though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect. Why not become the one who lives with a full moon in each eye that is always saying, with that sweet moon language, What every other eye in this world is dying to hear?

 

 

-Hafiz

For the sake of a life.

blogging, Life, poetry, poets, reading

                              The Layers   by Stanley Kunitz

 

layers

I am repeating myself because I sent this poem out into the ether earlier in my blogging life.  It bears repeating. I remind myself from time to time about what I want from this one and precious life.  Nowadays the buzz word is mindfulness, but the concept behind mindfulness is as ancient as time. At least as ancient as man’s consciousness began to reflect upon its self-awareness.  Our lives are different to those that were lived by the peoples of ancient civilizations, but in the perspective of the brain evolution, that span of time is just a nano second, so it is worth reflecting upon how humans in the past have reconciled themselves to the parodoxes that appear in all our lives.  You can choose from the philosophers who all have a different take , or the religious men who all have their differing stories they want to share, or you can listen to the poets.  The poets assume nothing of the reader, do not desire any allegiances, demand no tithes.  They write about the human experience because they are stuck in it. And in that attempt to soothe themselves a line of energy transmits from them to the reader. Sometimes it simply vaporises and never arrives anywhere, it just disappears as a coil of smoke will disappear into the air. Other times it sends an electric current through the reader and the reader is changed forever. As all the food that we eat, the sights that we see, the people we meet all impact on the messages our brains control our minds with, so with words.

savour

Get yourself a superpower and change the world.

Art, blogging, daily living, illustration, Life, United Kingdom, wellbeing

kindsight.jpgKindsight is my new name for a human superpower.

It is the magical property that inhabits the living. The force that overcomes the sour, the hardened, the exhausted and the weary.

It is our saving grace.

In a world that appears to value money over everything, kindsight is the antidote.

It is the superpower that we see performed in the everyday, in the chaos of what it means to be human.

It is the difference between animal and artificial intelligence.

It is the practice of compassion in a busy, consumerist, exhausted world.

It is the application of compassion in your life. The life you live today. The life where you wake up tired and the toaster isn’t working and the children are bickering and the dog has just peed on the floor. It is the practice that overcomes your battle weary state of mind and prevents you from throwing a two year old tantrum. Because the dog didn’t know what it was doing , and children will always bicker before the school day begins, and toasters break.  You put on those metaphorical glasses and begin your day with kindsight – you don’t yell at the kids – they begin their day without the humiliation of a scolding, and the dog is blithely unaware of its ageing and incapacitated bladder.

 

Kindsight changes you.  Kindsight changes everyone.  In a secular world , compassion becomes ever more necessary .  We tore up the rules, and so we have to write ourselves a guide book , because isn’t that what religion has given human beings for the last couple of millenia?  In different guises, under different theologies, guidebooks to help us live co-operative, meaningful lives.

 

Kindsight is the superpower that you give yourself.  It is a sort of cyclical transformer. The more its used the more powerful it becomes.  You know that yourself – you’ve witnessed random acts of kindness from strangers – and paradoxically, strangers are often those most willing to show it.  Why aren’t those closest to us willing to show the same levels of compassion. It’ s our families and our colleagues that often suffer the worst sides of our selves.  It’s because it’s hard to show kindness when we’re stressed and tired. And we’re often stressed and tired.  That’s why kindsight is the superpower that will change your life. It’s a gear change – that’ s all it is.

 

With the benefit of kindsight we can change the world.

Barely there

Art, daily living, illustration, Life, LOVE, poetry, wellbeing, zen

wvx

With That Moon Language

Admit something: Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me.”

Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise someone would call the cops.

Still though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect. Why not become the one who lives with a full moon in each eye that is always saying, with that sweet moon language, What every other eye in this world is dying to hear?

-Hafiz

Images  Anne Corr

Renounce and Enjoy – oh, and read alot.

blogging, Life, literature, wellbeing

lifeI love that. Renounce and Enjoy. Three words that make a mantra. Yesterday I was listening to a great podcast by a blogger I follow, Jacke Wilson (History of Literature – Upanishads II)

I was soothed by his voice, and interested by his content because;

a) I love literature and it was titled ‘ History of Literature’ – no brainer then.

c) I have been fascinated by the history of spiritual development ( wanting to have some myself, being a Godless creature. I may need to realign that – I don’t think I am Godless, but unwilling to belong to the nomenclature ‘God’ as it  carries so many connotations.

I really enjoyed sharing his curiosity- it mirrors my own- what is there? who am I? and I have been discovering slowly over the past few years that I am drawn to the understanding about the connectivity of everything to everything else.  I have moments that beam into my day where I feel this truth. There’s no reason for it, no rational explanation that I can expound, no theology that I can share, just that momentarily I FEEL it.

This week has been extraordinary for one reason – Death is in it.  It is playing as a soundtrack in my head and I have no idea why – this is how it started.  I was driving across the country as is our usual custom on a Sunday, preparing for the work week in a different county to our home.  I spend this time either talking to my husband, listening to the radio, or in quiet contemplation.  On Sunday I talked.  I talk to him and he listens. It is a way of thinking for me. I had been considering a T.V drama I had  watched wherein a potential terrorist was going to blow him and his partner to smithereens in a public place to maximise the devastation. In the drama it shows the young man with his wife, explaining how they would be together after death, and used the metaphor of it being like moving from one room to another. Bear with me – I do not advocate terrorism (au contraire) but this is important.  Watching the drama play out brought something positive to me.  The metaphor was one that I could feel.  I have no strong belief about afterlife – my gut feeling is the body dies and we are gone. But my whole life  I have understood something other than this rationalisation. I was 11 when I encountered a death that was meaningful – my uncle, much beloved.  He has remained alive in me all my life, he has influenced my thoughts and my behaviours, he has helped me to be more the person I want to be than I would otherwise have been.  Is this life after death then? My husband and I have always been disturbed by the possibility of either of us dying- we don’t want to be left alone.  This is what this drama brought out in me. We will never be alone.  If I die first I know my loving presence will be felt every day by him, his presence will be felt by me if he dies.  It occurred to me in that discussion that possibly those who have died may feel  the vibration (forgive the word) of the love that continues in the living. Who knows?  Maybe Shakespeare knows I love him. Perhaps not personally, but maybe he feels the weight of love. How heavy is love anyway? Perhaps it should be better described as the lightness of love – for isn’t that what love does? Illumines and sheds burden?

Later that morning the radio played a marvellous monologue by a Bishop about Death – and learning to live well  with the knowledge of its inevitabality -“Courage is not being unafraid. It is to be very afraid, yet to overcome our fear and refuse to flinch. It is the best lesson life teaches us.”

Three Score Years and Ten

Jacke Wilson explains that Gandhi said if all the Upanishad and Hindu scriptures were to disappear but the first verse of the Upanishads were to remain, Hinduism would still exist. On being asked to make a summary of Hinduism , Gandhi chose three words  ‘ Renounce and Enjoy’.

And what Jacke does on the podcast is to bring his humanity to his attempt to understand what he’s doing on earth – he speaks directly to me, tells me it’s o.k to be human in the face of spiritual challenges. Like me he wants much of the world but not all of it, he wants some of religion, but not all of it, he wants more from the world, and more from religion than is available.

I fall down all the time at trying to be the person I want to be – but I keep trying , and I don’t even know what direction I am travelling in, I have no ultimate destination in mind even, I just know there is more to me than the me I have found to date. And like Jacke, its literature that led me to that well of sustenance.

And literature generally leads back to people, so really it’s other people that have illumined parts of my psyche that would otherwise remain in the dark – dead people too – Shakespeare, Montaigne (via Sarah Bakewell- thank you!), T. S. Eliot, Rumi, Iris Murdoch, William Golding, Herman Hesse.

 

Many thanks go to Jacke Wilson for bothering to do all thinking, the reading and the recording for the podcasts.  They are on my list of what to listen to – I recommend them heartily. Here’s the link to the first part of the one on the Upanishads HIstory of Literature, Upanishads Part 1

Why have ye no routhe on my child?

Life, poetry, society, world

eye wordpress

Why have ye no routhe on my child?

Have routhe on me ful of mourning;

Tak doun o rode my derworth child,

Or prik me o rode with my derling!

More pine ne may me ben y-don

Than lete me live in sorwe and shame;

As love me bindëth to my sone,

So let us deyen bothe y-same.

A medieval  lament for a lost child sums up my feelings today. ‘Routhe’ means compassion , those lacking in compassion are thus said to be ruthless.

Where the spirit meets the bone

blogging, philosophy, poetry

miller

 

 

Today I heard Clive James, the well known and loved writer and presenter talk about his imminent death and what he was thinking about while still in the here and now.  His regret centred on not feeling that he had been kind enough, that he had not paid enough attention to generosity of spirit, nor to being a good enough husband .  I expect many of us feel regrets  – some more than others and some without facing death as a close encounter – there must be time for reflection in all of us.  Kindness seems to be an underrated virtue, one almost meeting scorn and mockery in our cynical age.  There’s a tide that may be turning – in the words of Plato – ‘Be Kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle’.

It may be no coincidence that Clive James is also a poet – it behoves a poet to be reflective, and one of poetry’s great gifts is that it often takes us down a path that leads us to some introverted consideration that questions our behaviours and attitudes.  A good poem is like a shortcut to something we need to know about ourselves, a spotlight that focuses our attention and drives us to exploration.  Poetry is a signpost that can direct us to to where we want to be, to who we want to be.

Richard Porty wrote  in an essay “Pragmatism and Romanticism”;

‘Shortly after finishing “Pragmatism and Romanticism,” I was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer. Some months after I learned the bad news, I was sitting around having coffee with my elder son and a visiting cousin. My cousin (who is a Baptist minister) asked me whether I had found my thoughts turning toward religious topics, and I said no. “Well, what about philosophy?” my son asked. “No,” I replied, neither the philosophy I had written nor that which I had read seemed to have any particular bearing on my situation. I had no quarrel with Epicurus’s argument that it is irrational to fear death, nor with Heidegger’s suggestion that ontotheology originates in an attempt to evade our mortality. But neither ataraxia (freedom from disturbance) nor Sein zum Tode (being toward death) seemed in point.

 

“Hasn’t anything you’ve read been of any use?” my son persisted. “Yes,” I found myself blurting out, “poetry.” “Which poems?” he asked. I quoted two old chestnuts that I had recently dredged up from memory and been oddly cheered by, the most quoted lines of Swinburne’s “Garden of  Proserpine”:

 

We thank with brief thanksgiving

Whatever gods may be

That no life lives for ever;

That dead men rise up never;

That even the weariest river

Winds somewhere safe to sea.

 

and Landor’s “On His Seventy-Fifth Birthday”:

 

Nature I loved, and next to Nature, Art;

I warmed both hands before the fire of life,

It sinks, and I am ready to depart.’

 

It doesn’t seem melancholy to me to begin to consider the brevity of our lives – it seems sanguine to work out while we still have life how best to use the minutes and seconds.  Life is busy, demanding, inconsiderate in it’s relentless drive to succeed, to impress. I like the impressions of poets and philosophers – they help me get to where I want to be.

Richard Rorty (1931-2007) was an American philosopher best known for revitalizing the school of American pragmatism. He served as a professor emeritus of comparative literature at Stanford and was the author of several books -http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/richard-rorty