This blog will range around a range of things. But at present it is covering something I never thought I would land up writing about: my experiences as a person with cancer. Bone marrow cancer or myeloma.
The account starts in late 2019 here, but most people read backwards in time from this latest page.
Perhaps there’s someone you know who might benefit from finding out about this blog.
I’m glad you’re here. Best wishes, Palden.
I live in West Penwith, Cornwall, in the southwest of Britain.
‘Penwith’ means far beyond. It really is. Cornwall is a different nation from England. Penwith is at the far end of it.
Look for the red marker on the map – that’s where I live. Far beyond. That’s where these notes are written from.
In the last few days, in my chemo-fatigued floaty reveries, I’ve thought of lots of things to write in this blog, and they all went thataway into the ethers – so if you picked up on any of them, just remember, our thoughts are less our own than we like to believe, and they might have come via me and not necessarily from me! This said, I’m reasonably good at elucidating things on the inner levels as well as in words, and throughout life I’ve often felt my psyche operates a bit like a telephone exchange, so you never really know…
A lot has changed in the last week or two. The new round of chemo treatment kicked in last week, and a rather nice, diligent nurse has visited me twice now to administer it. My perceived age went from 80ish to 95ish in a few days, and it has been at times difficult. But I learned a lot through last year’s chemo experiences and am much better prepared and adjusted than then. Much of the secret lies in reducing goals, simplifying, disengaging from former concerns and abilities, and keeping everything doable and within reach. I fall back on my methodical Virgo side and, that way, I can get through my daily routines quite well, and slowly, with rests in between.
I’ve stopped my creative writing (except this blog) because this draws on my bigger-brains, and they are taking a rest. Complexity, length, perseverance and big thinking aren’t available. Anyone who brings me complication or requests can wait or sort themselves out by other means. But I do manage smaller tasks when my energy is up – and I have to wait for it. I can write this blog today because I’m powered up on Dex, an anti-cancer steroid.
To keep myself focused and kid myself I’m doing something useful with the remains of this incarnation, every few days, when I can, I’ve been working on the Meyn Mamvro online archive – a gradual process of scanning magazine pages, image-editing them, inserting them into a bookflip app and making PDF files of them, sorting out the web-page for each issue, and uploading. That takes 2-3 hours for each issue, and I’ve reached issue 35 out of 100. This sounds complex and long, but when you’re a natural archivist and editor with decades of drudge behind you, and if you’re a Saturnine Virgo like me, well, I can do it on autodrive – when I can.
Soon afterwards I engage in landing procedures (tea and munchies, music and, if I have the brains for it, something to read) and head for bed, flagged out. I’ve also been doing bits of work on the online ancient site maps of Cornwall that I’ve been developing since 2014. It’s good to do this, and it’s great when it ends too.
Well, we all develop our excuses for being alive. These are our chosen forms of self-punishment as the price we pay for a life on Earth – exciting and stimulus-rich as it is. If, for you, it isn’t, it might be take-off, not landing procedures, you need to develop further.
You see, when this world was set up, they were creating something that hadn’t been done before. By a combination of intervention and natural evolution, they tried to make Earth into a suitable place for the cultivation of individualised free-will amongst a growing mass of volunteer souls coming from everywhere in the universe. It is an advanced supertrooper training for those who are ready. What they didn’t then know was that strong gravitational fields of the kind that exist on this planet would have such a downward-pulling effect on consciousness, causing us to forget why we came, and to doubt that readiness. Also, they did not anticipate that we would build whole cultures and civilisations around this forgetting, such that we would lose track, locking ourselves into believing that our physical reality and our interpretation of it is the only reality that exists, that we are alone in the universe, that there is only one life we can live, and that ‘me’ is the most important thing in it.
What’s interesting with this is that they didn’t quite know how possible it was for beings like us to split and divide our psyches so thoroughly as we do, such that our two or our multiple sides would start operating semi-independently – our left and right sides, our conscious and unconscious. Westerners are particularly good at this, but every people has its own ways of defying its true nature. This has led to flights of possibility, genius and creativity that are utterly new (God would never have thought up the Beegees, condoms or nuclear bombs), and to a situation where we humans have developed a habit of working against our own best interests, causing ourselves and each other immense suffering in the process and even risking destroying this world, our playground, and thus even undermining our capacity to rectify the straits we’ve got into.
That’s pretty unique and very strange, and the problem is that no one else in the universe has had this kind of experience, so they’re not sure what to do. If I got my son Tulki to helicopter you over to Idlib province in Syria, or Yemen or Borno state in Nigeria, and drop you there, you wouldn’t know what to do either. Mercifully he’s in the air ambulance business, so if you’re nice to him he might fix for you to be saved! But The Management don’t interfere like that, because we came here to develop free will, and free will must develop freely. Humanity suffers a particulary psychological ailment called CSOCDS – compounded sense of consequence deficiency syndrome. This syndrome obstructs our free will, reducing us to the belief that one party or another in government, or VWs and Toyotas, or chattering on Facebook, or believing any belief you like, is what freedom means.
Anyway, as you can see, when I get into the right state, my crown chakra still can cough up a few gems. Please understand, you’re doing me as much a favour as I might be doing you, by being there for me to write to. I spend a lot of time alone, and there’s something special about this advanced ninetysomething age I’ve been thrust into and the perspectives it gives. It’s good to share it.
It has something to do with the loss of powers that comes with advancing age, and the question of whether we can make something positive and useful of it, for what it is. It’s part of the life-cycle, part of the completion that many souls omit to make as death approaches – the repair, the forgiveness, the releasing, the remembering, the forgetting. The dedication of one’s life to nothingness, to the fact that even we, in our self-preoccupation, will be forgotten, washed away in the ongoing tide of human history.
I feel strengthened by the prospect of reincarnation. This isn’t a belief – except inasmuch as the idea that tomorrow will come is a belief too. It’s a knowing, a deep knowing, a bit like knowing that you are the you that you are.
Our current incarnate lifespans are made up of quite different lives – the person I was in my teens, twenties and thirties is not who I am now. Though there’s a continuity too. In my observation, up to the age of about forty I was learning and developing new things, with a peak around ages 15-24, and after forty, in a way, it wasn’t about learning new things any more – the task was to uncover the further nuances, dimensions and intricacies of what I had already learned and developed. To really do them and work them out to a degree where, by the end of my life, I could own up to my successes and failings and come to some sort of completion, some sort of peace and balanced assessment of where I’ve really got to, and its genuine net worth.
I’m happy to say that, seen from this viewpoint, I think there’s a net positive result – but it’s not for me to mark my own homework. I’ll leave that to Yamantaka, St Peter, the Holder of the Scales and the Guardians of the Gateways. I have regrets too, and in the 16 months since I was diagnosed with cancer, starting on a different journey, there has been a lot of letting go, forgiving and self-forgiveness to do. Letting go of capacities and vitality, of my driving licence and freedom to travel, even to walk, and letting go of making plans for the future.
After all, in this last week I’ve already entered spaces inside myself where I’ve wondered how much it’s worth carrying on much further. Carrying my body around and being in this world has become so much more difficult. My bones are creaky and sometimes I have to push them to move. Making a cup of tea requires energy-saving procedural strategies.
But I’m a survivor too, and I’ve been granted a tenth life, alhamdulillah, and I shall be here until I am better somewhere else. I’m also blessed with such good support from Lynne and others, and it makes me happy that they seem to enjoy and benefit from doing it, as far as I can tell. Even the nurse this week – who had grown up in South Africa – was questioning me about my humanitarian work, and I felt I was saying more to her when answering than was apparent.
My commitment is that I shall recognise the moment to disengage from life when it comes and I shall make it a conscious choice made in peace and made totally, with all of my being behind it. I’ll die because I did it. If anyone starts fussing about wanting me to stay alive, or to save or heal me, just to avoid addressing their own fears or regrets, well, take the lesson, because it will knock on your door too one day, and it’s best working this one out in advance.
The good thing is the inner states I get into. I started meditating in 1975 and got serious about psychic innerwork by 1985, and somehow, years later, I didn’t expect to receive such a remarkable spiritual boost as cancer has brought me now, at physical age 70, currently leapfrogged to 95. Opening up to pharmaceutical medicine – I’ve been clear of all that for decades – has been a mixed experience of violation and revelation, trial and blessing.
When I go into these chemo-induced, fatigued, dulled-out reveries, I’ve been going a long way away. I’m so grateful that Lynne has what it takes to witness me floating off and for that to be alright – and perhaps she’s getting a ‘contact high’ which might be useful to her one day. It certainly gives her space to get through the compelling four-volume novel she’s reading! When I return I sometimes have an innocent, wide-eyed, childlike look, rather like an ET getting a first glimpse of this world through the sensual peripherals of eyes, ears and body, and I think she knows that’s also true, and that it’s not wholly the Palden she knows that she is seeing for that infinite moment of timeless seeing. Which she allows herself to see, because she can.
But then, as the Council of Nine would say: ‘No one is here by accident’. Did you really believe that your journey begins and ends on Planet Earth? If so, why honestly do you believe that, and is it worth re-examining?
But now I’m losing energy and I must end here. Thank you for letting me share a few tasters of the strange life I am living now, here at the end of a long peninsula on an isolated farm in Cornwall that even trusty satnavs take people the wrong way to. When I tell people about this, they still follow their satnav and not my directions. The irony is that it’s so easy: just turn right at Penzance and left onto our farm road. But no, the satnav must be obeyed, and doubt rules okay.
I must get a drink, take my pills, sort out a few things… and if I have enough energy I’ll get out a seat and go and sit in the sun for a while, before bed. If these tasks empty my batteries, it’s straight to bed. That’s what life is like right now.
Oh, and here’s a last throw-in – another of those insights I’m getting. It just popped up from behind. The future is not going to be as difficult as many people anticipate, and amazing solutions are coming in the 2020s-30s, and everything balances out in time. This is not a message of complacency since we do not yet have a sense of the scale of the mobilisation humanity is going to enter into in the coming decades – and it is this mobilisation that will make things easier by quite magical means, particularly by generating increased social and global resonance and the incremental overriding of dissonance – cognitive dissonance, well known by teenagers as hypocrisy and doublethink.
The cork popped when Covid came, and the fizzing is building up wave by wave, in just-more-than-digestible doses. It’s the people who find themselves at the frontline – today in Belarus and Myanmar, and just round the corner from you, and particularly in the developing world – who are pushing things forward. The main message came through ten years ago in the Arab Revolutions: it’s all about losing our fear. This is the project for the coming years: losing our fear.
Love from me. Thanks for being you and being with.
Drug and therapy list, if it interests you: Pharma: DVD (Daratumamab, Velcade, Dexamethasone), Aciclovir, Co-trimoxazole, Zolodronic Acid. Holistic: Quality natural-source multivits, Magnesium Citrate, Astaxanthin, blueberry powder, probiotics, cold-milled oils – mixed into breakfast. CBD oil, colloidal silver, shilajit, kombucha, Vit D+K2, lysine, unchlorinated springwater from up the hill, an E-Lybra machine, periodic homoeopathics and radionics, and a Schauberger Harmoniser. I keep a time-gap between taking holistic and pharma meds to avoid conflicts. Spiritual: Lynne’s presence and dedication; prayers, support and healing from family, soul-family and people close and distant; adventures at the cliffs and ancient sites of West Penwith; life-lessons learned and being learned; positive thinking; and People Back Home (I open myself to their inspection and consciously let them in).
In this blog I seek to share some of the things that come up for me, as a cancer patient. This one was written while I was on the amphetamine cancer drug Dexamethasone, and perhaps it demonstrates the scatty mindset it generates – though hopefully not as disastrously as what happened with Donald Trump when he was on it. So here we go…
I was thinking back to a time thirtyish years ago when a number of us were cooking up an idea and designs for a complex in an old, deserted industrial estate outside Glastonbury, including a holistic hospital, conference centre and university. I also worked on a campaign to change Glastonbury into a county borough with special planning status – one idea was to initiate a ten-year programme to make Glastonbury into Britain’s first totally traffic-free town.
All this didn’t happen. It couldn’t. It was far too big a stretch for British people to encompass, and it grated with the politics, media-manias and vested interests of the 1990s. But I need that holistic hospital now. It doesn’t exist. I cannot resort to holistic healthcare because there is no all-round system for supporting a cancer patient – not something I can afford, that is within my limited travel range, including availability of an ambulance, paramedic or nurse if I had a need.
The best chance for this was killed off thirtyish years ago when the Bristol Cancer Help Centre was discredited, defunded and closed, for entirely political reasons. There are a few options further away (such as the Care Oncology Clinic), but these are just not doable, for me, in the state I’m in. Besides, these options didn’t appear quickly enough at the moment I needed them, when I had to make urgent life-or-death, next-day choices.
As I wrote this I was sitting once again in the cancer unit at Treliske hospital. The tea lady came round. The guy sitting next to me, with his arm hooked up to a chemo drip, requested strong coffee with three sugars in. It’s amazing that this is permitted in a cancer unit. I was sitting there surrounded by cancer patients getting pumped up with drugs, some at £1,000 per shot, and most were sitting with their mobile phone radiation-generators held just one foot from their prostate, stomach or breast, irradiating themselves.
Somehow, they don’t feel it. Somehow, the medical profession studiously ignores this, even though the figures for epilepsy, headaches, anxiety, depression, alcoholism and domestic violence have risen sharply in the last year, thanks partially to all the wi-fi radiation generated by the video-streaming so many people are doing, for hours on end.
A nurse came round who was there last week. We had had a conversation about humanitarian work – she had a wish to do something like that. Good on her. Many believe they would have to be taken on by a big NGO, and I encouraged her to think and act independently, to go as a freelance volunteer humanitarian to a country she felt drawn to in her heart. I think she was rather stirred by that conversation. As has happened so many times, I found myself appearing in a person’s life to act as a magical prompt, a timely whisper from the soul, giving a jog from The Fates.
I also mentioned to her that you don’t have to completely change your life for this: do three months every year or two and you will serve optimally as a humanitarian. Keep part of your life anchored and normal so that you can handle stirring, chaotic and emotionally challenging stuff more easily, and so that you can bring a certain calm and openness to the people you’re mixing with. Above all, follow your heart: you will fall in love with these people and they with you.
So this week I brought her a copy of Pictures of Palestine – a humanitarian blogging from Bethelehem that I wrote ten years ago. It reads like a travel book, telling of a three-month stay in 2009, talking of ordinary life in Palestine’s West Bank and the daily life of an activist humanitarian. (You can get a free online copy here.).
Such a life is not as excitingly romantic as you might imagine: there’s a lot of waiting, drudge, complexity, chaos, broken plans, roadblocks, funding problems, form-filling and plenty of assholes to deal with. You land up wondering whether you’re actually helping, whether you’re making just minuscule ripples in a vast, turbulent ocean of need, or even whether you’re part of their problem. After all, we Brits have given the world loads of problems: my own maternal grandfather was in General Allenby’s army invading Iraq and Palestine in WW1.
Working in conflict and disaster zones is deeply rewarding: life is lived more fully and intensively. In our rich, safe countries where too much, not too little, is the problem, we live with life’s settings at three or four, but outside it the settings are pretty full-volume and tonally rich. Relationships are deeper, life is more intense, risky, edgy, uncertain and alive. This said, an old friend from Devon, Gillian, was killed not in Bosnia or Palestine but in a taxi-crash in Luton, near London, on the way home from the airport – life takes strange twists.
Here am I, stuck in Britain, homesick for Bethlehem. Missing old friends there, and missing its amplified humanity. In Palestine I would not have access to the cancer medication I’m receiving here but I would be under all-embracing human care because Bethlehem has pretty fully-functioning clans, communities and families – a family of forty can take in a cancer patient without great difficulty. The warm, dry climate of the Judaean Desert would be better for the aching arthritis I’ve acquired through my cancer treatment – a side-effect of violent pharmaceuticals I might not have needed if that holistic hospital had come into being in the 1990s.
This is why I like living at the far end of Cornwall: the people here understand the frailness of life – sometimes the storms here can be frightening, and Cornwall has long traditions of marine rescue, mining accidents and self-sufficiency. Living here is more edgy, a bit more alive, and we’re all in it together. Except we live under English colonial governance – Boris and his cronies.
Out here in the ‘Celtic Fringe’, during 2020 we left the UK in our hearts: we have better governance and more social solidarity, and Covid and Brexit have accentuated it. When Covid came along, we looked after each other. My shopping lady, Karen, who has breast cancer and osteoporosis, and who knows nothing about meditation or all the cosmic stuff I’m into, is nevertheless an amazing walking angel: she knows what it’s like being human and she’ll do anything she can to save souls while she’s still alive. She’s a good example. If she went to Palestine she’d quickly be taken in and made an ‘honorary Palestinian’.
The gift of cancer is that you start valuing life in a new way. If you so choose. You have to get straight with people too. It’s amazing how many people think they know what’s right for you. The people who don’t do that become your true friends and helpers. The English do have a habit of marking their own homework, assuming they’re right and telling everyone else what they ought to think – and this is why they are losing the Celtic Fringe.
I have this right now with a dear old English friend and brother who wanted to come and visit for some time and space in Cornwall. But while I’m on chemo, taking immuno-suppressant drugs, I can be seriously affected by the slightest infection of any kind, even a common cold. I’ve had to tell him straight that he has more likelihood of killing me than I have of killing him, and that’s not equal or true friendship, so please modify his behaviour when he comes. He’s welcome though: we’re soul-brothers.
I don’t take the same stand on Covid as many people do. I can relate to anti-maskers and anti-vaxx types. People are free to follow their conscience. But there’s something far greater here than individual freedom: you are not free to impose your values on others. You may not harm others because of your beliefs. Social and transnational solidarity is a key issue for the whole 21st Century: we will not survive the future unless we all work together.
So it is imcumbent on people who are unhappy about masks and vaccinations to take extra measures to protect their fellow humans, to avoid imposing on the vulnerable and to recognise that freedom applies to all of us. This means behavioural change, such as social distancing and emphasised thoughtful behaviour.
“Who wants change?” – and everyone shouts Yes! “Who wants to change?” – silence. This attitude undermines humanity.
This pandemic is the beginning of a big, long, total, global process of social change, and every pandemic in history has lasted 30-40 years. There are more crises and crunches coming – Covid has uncorked a formerly stoppered bottle and the genie is now out. We have an intelligent virus in our midst that has come to change us because we’re reluctant to change ourselves. It’s faster than us – nature’s answer to artificial intelligence. And it raises many other questions, such as that of social control – and Covid dissenters are at least partially right on this point.
The 1920s pursuit of individual freedom, understandably born out of a legitimate breakout-reaction to the Spanish flu pandemic and WW1, brought about a political disunity that allowed Nazism to gain power by 1930 in Germany. Take a lesson from this. Today, overblown individualism is helping the rise of a privatised form of totalitarian control called Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon, now becoming embedded in governments too – the Stalinists’ dream come true – and few people really notice.
For the triumph of evil it is necessary only that good people do nothing. That’s a quote from 18th C philosopher Edmund Burke.
As a lifelong dissenter I have exercised my personal freedom, and this has brought blessings and it has also charged a price to me and to others. I had to learn to stop being a male crusader and to wait for people to come, of their own choice, toward my way of seeing things – and only a few actually did. Who wants to learn astrology when there’s a mortgage to pay? That’s a big lesson in itself. Visiting cultures outside the rich world changed me: I saw societies that were economically deprived yet socially richer than in the materially rich world, with communities that work better, in real terms of mutual support.
This was blatantly obvious in Israel and Palestine: Israelis are by nature individualists while, as one Palestinian put it, “We have each other, but they just have themselves“. Though the Palestinians have repeatedly lost the battle, when you cross through the checkpoints from Israel to Palestine you’re entering a society that, despite everything, is strangely happier, more secure and more free. Despite everything. By social consensus.
In Israel, many people would say to me, “Why do you come here to interfere when your own country has plenty of problems?“. In Palestine people would say, “Willcome in Falastin, and why you not bring your children too?“.
Now the Celtic countries are pulling away from England, our former colonial master. We have each other, relatively speaking, while the English have themselves, and many prefer things that way. Seen from here, England seems to care more about money than people, yet in so doing they lose economically in the longterm. Brexit, born of an eruption of English exceptionalism and media-owning offshore tycoons’ profit margins, is now demonstrating the point.
I’m half-English and half-Welsh, but I have become one of the ‘new Cornish’. This isn’t just a matter of moving here and bringing English ways with you: it’s necessary to change, to become Cornish. Besides, the Cornish winter gets rid of people who think it’s a holiday paradise that’s here for their leisure. Celtic nationalism welcomes anyone who is truly here, in body and in heart – your bloodline is secondary. The Cornish are a European minority respected more by Brussels than by London.
So these issues are personal to me, as an English-Welsh new-Cornishman living closer to Dublin than to London. When I visit others’ countries I sit on the floor with them and pray with them in their mosques and temples – when invited. I’m not a big-booted Englishman, and one of my underlying purposes has been to help redeem the shadow of the British Empire.
There’s still an Englishman in me though, and here I wish to honour the human side of the English, that decent, fair-minded, broader-thinking aspect of Englishness that the rest of the world loves and respects. You find a lot of these amongst humanitarians abroad, and the carers, nurses and charitably-driven people here in Britain. The people who, when all is said and done, hold this world up. My partner Lynne is one.
She sobbed deep tears last weekend because of a new wave of realisation that, when I die, she’ll have a yawning gap in her life. She was feeling it in her heart, in advance of the event. This wasn’t self-pity – it was far deeper. After passing away I shall be with her in spirit but that will just not be the same, whatever anyone says. It has something to do with that special quality of love we humans can generate, here in this benighted world, stuck between a rock and a hard place – a kind of love that doesn’t exist up in heaven, where love and soul-melding come more naturally and easily.
We have a tremendous power to love despite everything. Paradoxically, those who have gone through it, feeling the full power of the pain and the joy of earthly life, tackling life’s questions instead of avoiding them, seem to love in a profoundly real way. It’s rather like the wise maturity that some ex-criminals, terrorists, druggies and alcoholics can gain when they pull back from the brink – a benefit gained from having visited hell and returned, much the wiser. Some of these people are the most principled, human, courageous people around. By their actions, not their words and beliefs, you will know them. And there are lots of words and beliefs flying round nowadays, including mine.
Bless you all. Be yourself. Have your beliefs. Be willing to review them and consider everyone else too, for none of us is free until we all are free. From now on, personal freedom has to balance with collective needs, worldwide, and Westerners are not the only people with big ideas on this front. We’re just 15% of the world’s population.
It’s strange. Everyone is busy angsting about Covid and here am I, as usual focused on something else entirely – in this case, right now, cancer. Or, more precisely, chemotherapy. I feel like I’ve aged ten years in the last week. Dragging myself around, feeling the gravitational weight of living on a dense-gravitational planet, holding up my weak back and gasping at shooting pains in my bones, feeling a deep tiredness with life, a tiredness with its daily routines, with yet another breakfast, yet another day. OMG, not again.
Thoughout life I’ve always sought to light up the lives of others around me, with varying degrees of success, sometimes getting confused with the dark shadows in my heart, always picking myself up for another round, another try, another angle… and sometimes, burned out, drooping and flopping into life’s mudbath, the slough of despond, to go down, down into the murky depths of human struggle, the jihad, the holy war of inner conflict, the war with the axis of evil in the human heart… and for what?
Lying in bed in the semi-delerium of chemotherapeutic drudgery, with the BBC World Service bringing the heroic crowds of Yangon, Minsk, Santiago and all stops to Hong Kong to my bedside, ringing around in my night-bedarkened cranium… lying there hearing the complaints of my fellow countrypeople over the time spent queueing to get inoculated against a virus that is too intelligent, too agile to tamp down so that we can all return to normal, return to a comfortable purgatory, a purgatory that all makes perfect sense, expressed in dollars and cents, pounds, shillings and pence…
The normality of democratic freedom, a freedom to choose our own washing powder to dissolve the persistent criminal stains of omission, commission and perpetration that permit us our apparent freedom. A freedom to supply munitions for the bombing of faraway Yemenis so that we can pump up the employment statistics, share values and the great god GDP, just because those Yemenis are less than us, somehow less deserving of the certified serving of chocolate and tax bills that make up our cherished freedom.
I had an extended moment of revelation. One of those moments when you see something you’ve long been perfectly aware of but didn’t really dare to look at. I saw how lonely I’d been throughout my life. I was born in 1950 in a baby-boom maternity home that was about to close – the last baby to be born there. All the staff was there, watching. I wasn’t too sure I wanted to be born, to start that long trajectory of landing procedures leading into the tangly web of life and its involvements.
Up in heaven I had known I could do it, but now I was not so sure. There were all these people waiting to celebrate my birth, not because it was me but because I was the last, the last before they all got transferred somewhere else or had to find new jobs. It was the back end of a tragic baby boom when our parents tried so hard to replace the devastation of war with new hope and a constant stream of dirty nappies (diapers). Someone probably had some postwar rationing-busting plonk and munchies for that moment and they celebrated the last baby while I lay there wondering what was to happen next.
Yet I grew up into a teenager who looked at my dad, who had fought in Egypt for our freedom and lost a leg in the process, telling him we weren’t free. We were living in a totalitarian society where, at least for us but not for the Commies over there or for the starving children in Africa, our chains had been coated with carrots and cream. My parents thought something was wrong with me – after all, if I listened to that raucous, long-haired noise of 1960s pop music there must be something wrong. No, Commies weren’t like us, and any sympathy felt for them just showed what betrayal and subversion these youngsters were capable of – perhaps they were enemies in our midst, traitors to the cause, undermining freedom when, really, they ought to be grateful and get a proper job.
Like many in my time and like so many right now, I was struggling for truth. Now, half a century later, here am I, churning in bed with a war in my heart, struggling to plumb the depths of truth. Oh why, oh why do we fail to see? We’d prefer to destroy our planetary nest than to do without the security of chocolate, tax-bills and easy answers – it’s safer, it’s normal. If some dictator, some oligarchy, turns down the screws on another few million people, well, that’s life, and it all makes perfect sense, expressed in dollars and cents, pounds, shillings and pence.
Yes, struggling in a war against cancer that is being fought in the muddy battlefield of my being, in midst of that soup of fears, doubts and shadows that make me human. In that moment of seeing it became so clear how I had created this aloneness pattern myself: my pattern, my incrementally-repeated choice. In the pursuit of my percieved calling, my struggle to help humanity and shift society’s tiller in a new direction, I had walked away from so many. I had shrugged shoulders, let go and moved on. They had paid their price and I had paid mine. I’d shared so much redemptive love, care and awakening with so many people yet, in another way, I’d engaged in a life of struggle to reach across the light-years of distance, to try to reach to another human star-soul in the vastness.
Here I was, an ageing man churning in bed, wading through his demons, missing loved ones near and far, blessed with a seeing, a revelation of fact-sodden truth, a statement of futility, an audit of the enormity of the task of generating light in the muddy morass of earthly life. It’s a light that struggles even now to illuminate the stone walls of that prison of the soul that is me.
Before you rush to assure me it’s alright, send me reiki and pray for me to ‘get better’ – whatever that really is – and before you lapse into the belief that I’m indulging in negativity, please stop. Please sit and look at the phantasmagorical disaster-zone of your heart: sit with it. It’s there, it’s uncomfortable, yet here lies a key, a lost chord, a lump of gold sitting between the dragon’s paws. It invites you take a deep breath, let go of fear and pick up your birthright. It’s lonely and dark down there, but here lies the key.
Today I go into Treliske hospital for another round of pumping up with drugs. As a denizen of a rich country I am privileged to receive this, as if it’s a birthright. The Dara is already giving me the shits and the Dex is dragging me into a place where nightmares transmogrify into explosions of light and back again with bewildering rapidity. This treatment feels foreign to me, but these are times where my own vision of reality fails to accord with that which apparently is believed by the majority. What’s important to me in my own manner of perceiving is not what’s important to the medical system I have resorted – it doesn’t understand it. But this is the dilemma of being on Earth – no, of being in this civilisation at this time on Earth. We all share it. Stuck between a rock and a hard place – all of us. Serving our time. Doing what we feel is best yet making a pig’s ear of it, drowning in the disappointing pointlessness of constructed belief.
But this grinding action, this grating and milling, it generates light. Awakening before dawn, before the crows did their morningtime auditory armada of swoopy crawing in the dawny gloaming out over the farm where I live, and my demons were irking me. But now dawn has come and the sun is up, shining through the big windows of my hovelly palace – it’s called The Lookout because that’s what you do here, look out. The demons are scarpering in the dawning light. Vacating space until they can come again on another haunting mission. Perhaps it all was a nightmare. Or perhaps it’s the truth of my being. At this moment I cannot judge.
But when I was sitting there shivering, having just lit the woodstove, listening to a robin on the dog-rose outside, perkily tweeting hello, I realised, well, better to grind this stuff now than to leave it until the moment of my deathly transitioning. Better to grow while I can, to see clearly without the grey-tinted glasses of daily routine – the one that looks at the clock, telling me to get ready to be picked up for the journey to the cancer unit at Treliske. Yes, it’s now time to get normalised, to keep to the timetable no matter what. Get plugged back in to the matrix. Get ready. Take your pills. Do the business. Be responsible.
For those of you who are familiar with that quackish charlatanry called astrology, you’ve just read an unpremeditated description of a transit called Neptune opposition Saturn. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, well, that was your choice, and that’s okay too – we all have to live with the consequences of our choices, with the particular way we arrange the furniture and wall-hangings in the prison-cell of our souls. We all share this dilemma.
Paradoxically, nearly eight billion people are alive today yet we all face an aloneness that has never in human history been achieved before. We all have our demons, believing they’re unique to us without realising that they are but minuscule variants of the demons we all share – demons to which we give power, with which we’re fully capable of polluting and destroying our planetary home. For the demons out there are demons within us and the redemption of both go hand in hand.
It’s okay, really. Everything is okay in the end, and if it’s not okay, it’s not the end. Some people tell me they’re so sorry I have cancer, but I find myself wondering why truly they feel this, or whether I should be sorry for them instead. It doesn’t matter. In the end it’s all an enormous phantasmagorical Youtube video, an epic production of illusions showing in five dimensions on the custom-made cinema-screen of our psyches. Who needs a subsription to Netflix when we have this? It’s free and it’s right here, with no need for shipping in from China.
Ee, there’s now’t so strange as folk. God must be amazed at us, at the imaginings that we in our billions can cook up. It must be distressing for him to see how we blame the Chinese for what they’re doing to the Uighurs when it is we ourselves who are doing it whenever we buy yet another packaged product in our supermarkets. Or perhaps he laughs when he sees us languishing in our beliefs, including those that construct him into a God that, as John Lennon in one of his own moments of despair, identified as a concept by which we measure our pain.
Now it’s time to put the kettle on, shower my creaky body, dress up in my togs and get my ass to Treliske, for another round of the never-ending Youtube movie that is life. Chemotherapy, sometimes a high, sometimes a low, provided for free on ‘our NHS’ so that we can spend a little more time on Earth struggling with that darkness and light. Is this the life we came for?
Don’t fall for the idea that I’m suffering more than you. This is the life. This is the playground in which we are playing it out. Here’s the ketchup to squirt over it. And there’s the kettle, ready to disgorge its contents into my teapot. Here we are. The oldies amongst us will remember this, from the back of the Whole Earth Catalog: we can’t get it together – it is together. Perfectly together. This is where we stand. All will be well. But to reach that point of calm certainty in your heart, it’s necessary to dig down in the deeps, make love with those demons and live to see another day.
Now for the next bit. Peace, sisters and brothers. Palden.
The picture above is of a lunar eclipse over Bethlehem, Palestine, in 2011 at the time of the Arab revolutions. The Youtube video is a song by Roger Waters called Perfect Sense, from his 1990s album Amused to Death.
I knew everything was going to be okay when I reached reception at the haematology department, gave my details and received a ticket. On it was the number nine. Those of you who know me well will guess what this signals.
Have you ever observed day signs? I’ve been an intel gatherer for yonks and over the years many people have asked me where I get my information. Apart from being a knowledgeable geopolitical and historical big-head with an Aspie’s feel for hidden agendas, one answer is observing day-signs (omens), a magical way of information-gathering. Another is intuition/instinct, another is use of the pendulum and another is horary astrology (doing a chart for the moment when a matter arises or a question is asked). Of course, if I said this to many people I’d lose credibility or get accused of superstition, blasphemy, devil-worship or any other handily available accusation. But attentiveness to day-signs answers otherwise unanswerable questions. I was given a sign and it said ‘Nine’. I knew all would be well.
So there was I, later sitting in the Headland Unit at Treliske hospital. I’d had blood samples taken twice, I’d been ECG’d, weighed, measured, interviewed and briefed, I’d signed the assent form, taken four different pills plus ten of Dex (Dexamethasone), and then I had to wait an hour before they were to shoot me up with Dara (Daratumamab) and Velcade.
Well, at least these drugs are legal – that’s a change. It might sound strange, but I’ve had an issue coming up over this last year and, for me, it’s quite profound. It’s a tiredness with things not changing, even after a long time. One example is the ‘war on drugs’ which, to me as an aged hippy, has meant 55 long years of enforced criminality. Yes, me.
For half a century I’ve been living a very different life to the average Westerner but, despite all the talk nowadays about minority rights, things have not changed fundamentally, after all these years.
When I was 21 I stood on top of a mountain and made a vow to contribute significantly to world change, and while I knew it would take a long time, I so much wanted to see the world tip irreversibly into positive change before I was to die. But it looks like I’ll have to commute that joy and sense of relief to my next life. That’s quite a big let-go, but I made it last year. As I often say, history takes a long time. And we teach best what we ourselves are learning.
Anyway, back to the cancer unit: the journey had begun. It was a bit like the feeling I’d get on one of my humanitarian tours of duty, when the plane would take off from Heathrow on the way to the Middle East – I’d have gone through all the anticipations I could dredge up in the preceding days and weeks, and now it was business and I was dead calm and collected.
Some people think I’m brave, facing cancer treatment in the way I do, but there’s a simple answer to that: I’m not getting bombed or shot at, so cancer treatment is relatively easy when you see things from that viewpoint. Yes, I was getting nuked with EM radiation at Treliske (I’m electrosensitive) and bombarded with pharma-chemicals. And, amazingly, they didn’t even have any gluten-free biscuits or soya milk for my tea in the cancer unit, but this is peanuts.
Get upset with things like that and you’ll be useless getting shot at. This was a real problem in Syria, in the earlier days of the conflict in 2014. You couldn’t tell who was shooting at you or for what reason, because there were then about seven sides to the battle. They could shoot at you from any direction. At least in most wars it’s ‘the other side’ doing it, and you know roughly why and from which direction.
Anyway, that’s not the case here. My life is being saved, and for this I am grateful – without chemo treatment last year I would already be dead. Here I was, installed in an armchair, well out of it on drugs, and it felt okay. The main problem was not the chemo, it was my neurological system and brains squealing with EM radiation. Few people realise how discriminatory, insensitive and oppressive it is when they spray radiation from their mobile phone over an electrosensitive person like me, commonly regarded as an awkward person making an unnecessary fuss over nothing in particular. Yet radiation exposure is a direct cause of the particular cancer I have (myeloma). It’s a bit like being vegan 20-50 years ago – looked on as bloody awkward and deluded, and these people need to get a grip and get a proper job.
The nurses were keeping me in to observe how I reacted to the Dara. Fair enough. But there was just one problem: the doctors and nurses have little experience of people like me and they use ‘normal’ as their standard for judging everything. But I’m not normal. I have the benefit of having had a good diet, a growthful and meaningful life and, as a result, a more robust immune system and attitudes than the majority of people, and I can inwardly supercharge any therapies applied to me with consciousness work. Last year, my chemo treatment was cut from eight to six to five cycles of treatment – I did really well.
Inshallah, perhaps I’ll bring them a few surprises this time round. I had done a lot of inner preparation in the preceding days and, once the Chinese-Filipino male nurse, a nice chap, had shot me up with chemo drugs, I went straight into meditation, cross-legged in my chair, breathing myself down, modulating my energy-field to accommodate to the drugs and calm my heart which, in response to the Dex, an amphetamine, and the radiation, was pumping quite hard.
After doing this I went really deep and I was totally ‘gone’ for perhaps twenty minutes. I was consciously yielding to the drugs and my healing angels, who presumably needed me to hand over control so that they could manage the process. It was one of the deepest inner journeys I’ve had for a few weeks. When eventually I came to, I looked at the other cancer patients sat in their armchairs and hooked up to their drips, and the nurses going around doing their duties… experiencing all this with the perspective of an ET getting a look into this strange world through my eyes.
God bless these cancer patients, busy ingesting chemicals and most of them sitting fiddling with their phones, communicating with anxious daughters and neighbours to fix pickups. They’re all nice people, all facing cancer and reduced life-chances. They must wonder who this old guy dressed in his copper-coloured Arabic jalabiya was – a foreigner or a weirdo? But then, in Cornwall, it’s not like England, and this isn’t so strange, and when they hear I come from West Penwith, stacked full of oddbods and veterans of the revolution, they just nod, aha, okay.
God bless my nurse, who had been so worried about hurting me because I had so little subcutanous fat on my stomach to shove his needles into. No fat – not normal. But then, I’m not getting shot at, only shot up, so it was no worry – he was just being a bit over-conscientious. Later he came by and said, “Have you met the Dalai Lama?”. Yes, I had, though I’d mainly been involved with the Sixteenth Karmapa and his own amazing squad of lamas back in the 1970s. The nurse wanted to talk about the Tibetans, Uighurs, Hong Kong and Taiwan – he’d figured I understood these issues. He was deeply concerned about China – like so many emigrant Chinese, many of whom have lived outside the Middle Kingdom for generations, he still cared deeply about his country and people.
He said that, when I’d gone into meditation I had gone deeply quiet and the whole room had changed. I became aware that, although most of these people will have read and heard about meditation, few will actually have felt the darshan, the vibrational radiation, that can arise. There they were, stuck in their armchairs with nothing to do, while this guy at one side of the room was going somewhere that, on some level deep in their psyches, they knew they needed themselves to visit – faced as they too were the with threat of death.
The nurses were being overcautious with me though. I was supposed to leave by 4pm but someone had come in insisting I be kept there till 6.30, just in case. I told them this would not be necessary. But they could not go against authority. I showed them the places where I had been injected, which weren’t bruised or swelling, and reminded them that I had just hobbled all the way to the surprisingly well-stocked W H Smith’s at the main entrance and back, to get some gluten-free snacks which, astoundingly, they did not have available even in a cancer ward when they dished out refreshments. Eventually they ran out of excuses and I left at 6pm.
When I got to the main corridor, the guard, who had seen me go past on the way to the shop, now decided I couldn’t go that way to the main entrance. “But I’ve just walked 90% of the way there and you allowed me to do that”. “It’s the Covid regs – sorry it’s a pain in the ass”. He was a nice chap. “Well, I understand that, but it’s not a pain in the ass I’ll get but a wet bum, because I’ll need to sit down on the way and, as you can see, it’s raining…”. Nevertheless, old peg-leg had to walk round the hospital to get to the car park to find Lynne, who was going to take me home.
We got home, lit the woodstove, had a cuppa and detoxed from the day’s encounter with modern civilisation and its rules, timetables, regs and electrosmog. I was buzzing on Dex, and Lynne had to tolerate my rattling away for hours with my mind on overdrive until eventually we went to bed. She said she could smell the chemicals in my body. I lay there churning until I drifted off.
But I was alright. I seem to be tolerating the Dara (Daratumamab) well – that’s the new drug I’m on. The Velcade my body recognises, and I had had no problems with it last time. The Dex, meanwhile, though it charges its price in side-effects, does work well, and last winter I could feel that it was one of the most effective drugs I was taking. But it’s a bit like a cross between speed and cocaine in its psychoactive effects, and it heightens my Asperger’s symptoms a lot.
I’m on two other drugs too – an antiviral called Aciclovir and a kidney protector called Allopurinol – but I’m on a lot fewer drugs than last year, and that’s a relief. My body-psyche is more familiar and less shocked by the process than it was last year, and I don’t have the excruciating back pain I had then – so in this second round it is different.
So the anticipations I had had were just that: anticipations. Thus far, it is unfolding well. It’s difficult being on chemo, and writing this blog has been hard work, but it’s not as difficult as I thought it might be, and the Dara is easier on me than the Cyclophosphamide I was taking last year, which felt like being hit by an armoured bulldozer.
For the first time I’ve met my doctor and cancer nurses in person. Last year I had been treated at Torbay hospital in Devon, so the people at Treliske didn’t know me. During Covid lockdown I’ve had only phone and video consultations with one person, Liz, my doctor. So I felt quite on my own through much of 2020, as if held at a rather impersonal arm’s length during the Covid crisis. But now we were up close and personal.
I liked John, a fortysomething CNS (clinical nurse specialist). I think he figured me out quite well and had met people like me before. I get the feeling he’d done his fair share of raves and festivals before he had kids and got a ‘responsible’ job, so I was within his range of experience. This was true also for another nurse who, at a slack moment, came to say she too was a vegetarian – but I could tell she kept it quiet amongst her colleagues, rather like it was the 1980s – and to ask me a few questions about meditation.
And if you’re wondering why the number nine was significant to me as a day-sign, well, The Nine, some high beings for whom I wrote a book in the early 1990s, who jokingly used to call me Paladin Saladin, are at the root of my ‘spiritual genetics’. They’re like meta-grandparents who had placed the order for the weaving and construction of my soul. So, to me, they were signalling that they were with me and it would be alright. And they were, and it was. And so it goes.
Sometimes, early at dawn when it’s too dark to photograph it like the other birds shown here, a little wren flits to my window. It surveys the scene, sees a few crumbs on the breadboard, flutters down, feeds and looks around, then flutters back up and out. What a gift. It doesn’t know that it has become a healer of the highest order – or that news of this would stretch across the world. So wren and I are doing a good business in crumbs – and this morning, guess what, it had crumbs from the last of Lynne’s Christmas Cake! Bonus.
Slightly soppy Jupiter in Pisces that I am, I’ve been leaking tears recently, and it’s fascinating to discover what it’s all about. Several things seem to connect up to get it going – some are very positive, such as the little wren. One is about me, one is about people I know and have a connection with, and one is about the wider world.
I’m starting chemo on Monday 1st February and this will last 5-6 months, probably followed by a few months of fatigue and other side-effects. If I don’t do chemo, then the blood cancer I have will gradually hollow out my bones, I will get more collapses of vertebrae in my back and bones going brittle, I’ll become seriously disabled and eventually I’ll die, quicker than otherwise. I don’t have great expectations, but the chemo might give me a few more years with which to complete things, inshallah.
To holistic crusaders who think there’s a better path to follow: I’m on the same side as you, and if something had come up that was sufficiently convincing, based on real experience with my particular cancer and who and where I am, and if there had been a sufficient support system that I could afford, I would have done it. So thanks, and I know you mean well, and I have chosen this path, and here we go…
But it scares the hell out of me too. Mercifully, I’m not unused to that: before working in conflict zones or entering risky situations I’d grind through my stuff in the days and weeks preceding, though increasingly I found that, on the day, I was fine, balanced and fully present. It worked, mostly, in those things I could affect. In those things I could not affect, which are many in chaotic situations, I just had to take my chances. And here I still am.
So at times I’ve been feeling vulnerable and shaky, digging around in my fears. One big thing to overcome is lingering resentments over the way things have been in my life, that have not changed for the better, despite all that I and so many others have done over the years. This is coming up now with the doctors I’m working with. As a longterm vegetarian, meditator and consciousness-explorer, also very underweight, I believe I should be dosed with medications about 30% below the norm. In the last few days I haven’t taken a single pill or shot of chemo yet, yet my body and psyche are already going there, as if autonomically inducing it. My medical results have been pretty good: last year my chemo treatment, standardly eight cycles, was cut to six, then five. These results the medical profession just calls ‘good luck’. In this they are incorrect. I’m lucky, yes, but these outcomes arise from choices I have made and positive inputs that are way outside their zone.
Back to the fear. It is activating pain from the past, about being, or feeling, misunderstood and treated inappropriately, being judged and penalised for being who I am – and I’ve had a good load of that! But it’s still going on now to some extent, and I’m unhappy about that. On the other side, I do trust my doctors, and while they do want the best for me and to get things right, they can also make my life more difficult than it needs to be. Owing to institutionalised taboos against alternatives in medicine, and because doctors lack experience of holistic solutions and odd people like me, they don’t take seriously those things that are serious for me – particularly concerning pharmacological side-effects.
To be honest, this is also the case with some holistic practitioners too, who might be qualified, and who might think they know, and they mean well, but some of them also try teaching their grandmother to suck eggs, or they err a little too far on ideology, or they lack specific experience, incorrectly applying knowledge about tumorous cancers to my much rarer leukaemia-like blood cancer. With a rare disease and an unusual person, this can be problematic, being misjudged from both directions! Though I don’t want to seem entirely critical either, since doctors and healers are genuinely helping me too. However I am yet to find someone who is competent, experienced and unbiased in complementary and conventional medical fields together – integrated medicine.
One other thing I’ve had anticipation about is the task of training friends and people how to behave with me, as a cancer patient. Most people don’t know how, so they leave me alone, and this isn’t a solution – especially with people I’d like to see. Others get awkward, or try too much to help, or they’re so sorry or anxious for me – and I just need people to slow down, make us both a cup of tea, be a friend and act naturally!
Here’s a tip for dealing with someone with brain-fog: instead of asking me what I want, tell me what you’re proposing and let me say yes or no. Or just do it anyway – keep it simple. This gets around chemo-brain and the frontal-lobe issues it brings – making decisions, finding words, remembering details and following long explanations.
Here’s another one: please don’t ask me ‘How are you?’! I am asked this multiple times per day, and you’re requiring me to do a systems check and report this to you verbally and then to deal with your responses and concerns – and, believe me, it’s tiring and repetitive. I write these blogs to report what’s happening. If we do meet or talk, please just treat me like a ninetysomething, have a good conversation or communion with me and you’ll then find out how I am. My state can change on an hourly basis anyway.
Anyway, I was feeling vulnerable over all sorts of things. It’s good to bring it up, stir it round and get some of it out of the way – because many of the experiences we have in life are there to teach us. If we learn quickly and willingly, on or ahead of time, we unmanifest certain kinds of difficult learning experiences. Or they become testing experiences instead, where the Universe checks whether you really mean it, emotionally and in your cells and bones. Again, progress in tests depends on our capacity and willingness to go make something good out of a bad situation – and working through fear, guilt and shame in advance really helps us deal with such situations when we’re actually in them. And what we fear and what actually happens are two very different things.
So I am working on welcoming and befriending the process I’m about to go through and doing the best I can with it, on all levels of my being. Really, it’s the only option.
I get emotional over other people too. There’s a woman I know in Ghana whose child died on Friday night – Kwame was perhaps three or four years old and he died of pneumonia. I paid for some medicines but it was too little, too late. God bless Kwame, little soul – he had only a short life. His mum doesn’t even have enough money to bury him, so she’s stuck and rather overwrought. This is the case for many people in countries where health and social support systems are weak, or where paying for healthcare makes the difference between life and death. I cried not so much for Kwame, who returns to his Maker, but for his mother Grace, and for people like her (Lynne is one), who are left with a gap and a shadow of loss or regret when such things happen.
Then I get emotional about the overall world situation. Problem is, I’ve been dedicated to world transformation for fifty years and the new age hasn’t started. I could perhaps have done more, though I’ve done my best, but I’m now deeply sad for the world. The price it has paid for not getting the message fifty years ago is enormous – and there’s more to go. If necessary change leading toward ecological rebalancing, social and economic justice, peace and appropriate development had started back then, the situation we face today would be very different.
I’m a philosophical guy with a longterm sense of history, and I deeply believe things will work out better than many people fear – eventually. But I feel such grief over the way things have gone, and the pain and damage involved. Yes, there have been advances, but the fundamentals have not yet been addressed. This grief is what Germans call *weltschmerz* – the pain of the world. In my meditations I work to reduce the heat and increase the light in world situations and I’m very much a believer in the maxim ‘Don’t complain about the darkness – light a candle’.
When I go to my Maker, then to see things from that perspective, I have a feeling this innerwork, of all the things I’ve done, might be what I’m most satisfied with – even though, here on Earth, it is difficult to see what benefit it has brought, and even though, especially in the now-defunct Hundredth Monkey Project and Flying Squad, we did have definite instances where miracles happened.
Sometimes my tears come up from nowhere. I think of someone, or I hear something on the radio and, whatever I’m doing, I start wobbling, so I stop and give space to that precious and revelatory emotion that’s surfacing. Personally, this is important: I learned to cry only when I was about 30 – and it was an enormous loss that did it. Back then, it wasn’t just my own self-pity, but I felt so much regret for the others who also had lost in that situation. It cracked me up and cracked me open, affecting them a lot too. This experience was important for me as an Aspie: it taught me to look people in the eyes. Aspies are often regarded as feelingless and emotionally neutral, but actually we’re flooded with feeling, often confused where to put it and how to deal with it – so we go blank and get short-circuited.
This loss set me on a path of commitment to pursuing my purpose. It’s the case for many altruists and server-souls: intense pain and dilemma can unleash one’s superpowers, if one so chooses. One supporter of Alexei Navalny in Russia recently said, when asked why she was risking so much by demonstrating in the streets, “I could not bear the thought of not being there” – and this is what changes history. There comes a point where you lose your fear – or, at least, a crucial chunk of it.
Fear is natural. In the animal part of ourselves it warns us of danger, alerting us. But the deadening, sleep-inducing, inculcated and inherited fear we all have challenges us to use it to move forward, to do what we fear, to do it anyway. Though intelligently.
So I start on Monday, getting shot up with Dara, Velcade and Dex, and a load of other stuff to compensate. It involves three visits to Treliske hospital and multiple home visits from a nurse. I reduce my holistic treatments during this period, to minimise complication and avoid conflicts between holistics and pharma. Certain things, like CBD, Vit C, colloidal silver, basic nutrients and other things, I continue because they help the process (Lynne’s flapjacks too). There are other helpers, including an eLybra machine (radionics-like) and homoeopathy. There’s a mighty inner influence from Upstairs, from healers, meditators and well-wishers round the world, from Lynne and close-by supporters, from my adopted homeland of West Penwith and the landscape of the farm where I live. And my tears are part of my arsenal as a warrior-soul. And, fuckit, the past is past and this is today, the next stage on the path. All is forgiven that I’ve uncovered so far, and I’ll try to deal with the rest when I get to it.
I hope to report the whole process, as and when I can. If possible to the end. This said, I must be self-focused in the next few months, and I won’t be very interested in or respond to many people’s questions, concerns, worries and neuroses. Or endless Youtube videos. But personal, briefly-put, interesting thoughts are welcome – I’ll probably see it but you might or might not get a reply. My day will gradually go down to about six hours, probably.
I’ve said this before and it’s worth repeating…
Everything is okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.
This is one of those that’s worth writing on your toilet wall for further contemplation.
Now for the next bit.
Love, and thanks for being alive,
The pics are of birds who have visited my home in earlier years – including one wren who seemed to like hanging by a Tibetan thangka on my wall.
While they’re down here for the G7 conference nearby in St Ives, I was thinking of inviting Mutti Merkel, Justin Trudeau (I once met his dad) and a few of the others for kombucha and Lynne’s gluten-free flapjacks round the campfire – they’ll get an airborne dance by our swallows too. That new chap Joe can come if he wants. My son Tulki will fix a security stake-out with his army friends, and my son-in-law Perra will pick up my guests and drop them in the field in his helicopter. If that Trump guy tries to disrupt things, we’ll stuff him down an iron age fogou with one of the wrathful goddesses – good at emptying testicles in the most agonising of ways – until the summer solstice sun shines in and lets him crawl out through the creep. That’ll keep him quiet for a while. Except there’s a problem.
I’m being kept alive by a group of amazing protector-goddesses. That’s a great asset, and not the problem. Chief goddess Lynne, who minds everything from my soul to my toes, has stretched my understanding of what grace and blessing truly mean. Goddess Panacaea is embodied by Penny, who in another life probably was a first lieutenant of the highest order, and the Great Shopping Goddess is Karen, an angel who genuinely demonstrates the truth that by their works shall you know them. Sheila, Miriam, Jennifer, Faith, two Helens and my three remarkable daughters also play a part – a benign conspiracy if ever there was one.
Then comes Goddess Hygeia, my doctor Liz, whom Lynne and I had a video call with on Monday. She keeps my blood and bones going – key issues in the blood cancer I have. My readings are up: paraproteins were 3 in September, 9 in November and 13 now, and light chains have gone from 368 to 785 to 1,000. So, to intercept the returning Myeloma before it starts eating up my bones again, Liz has decided I should go back on chemo. So I can’t have contact with anyone, even if they’ve had one of the much-vaunted Covid jabs, because any infection could knock me for six. So the G7 will just have to stay in St Ives.
A year ago I decided not to have a stem cell transplant, opting for a maintenance strategy, and chemo was part of the deal. (See here.) Time’s up now, though the timing is right: I’ll go through the worst during the back end of winter and, inshallah, as I start improving, spring and summer will come. It will take five months, plus a few months’ fatigue and brain-fog, so it’s rather a long haul. I’ll tell you what it’s like when we get there. If I don’t answer messages or e-mails, please be patient and don’t take it personally. I’m starting in a few weeks from now.
I’m so fortunate. I live in a lovely place and this feeds my spirits. A saturnine workaholic till I drop, my work keeps me alight too – currently, the two main challenges are getting my book Shining Land published on paper and raising funds for the Tuareg out in the desert in Mali, to pay the three teachers at their village school (both of these tasks not as simple as you’d think). My innerwork gives me a focus too, especially during long hours stuck in bed. And yes, I’ll be hovering around the backrooms of the G7 conference twiddling etheric puppet-strings.
So I have reasons to stick around until incarnate life is no longer the best arena. It’s up to the Management, really, and though Liz (visibly worn out from overwork) is doing her best, there’s a greater medicine than this, the power of spirit and the resilience of my soul, that makes the final decision.
My tutor and companion is Lynne. While no stranger to slicing vegetables and servicing old crocks like me, and one of the most loving, caring women you ever could meet, she’s really interesting too, and she holds hands with my soul. I mean, think about it: your partner is on a death sentence and, in anything from six months to ten years, he could be gone. It takes a heroine to stick around for that. Living with an Aspie also has its challenges – when confronted with personal, emotional situations I look blank and befuddled like Commander Data, and human guile passes me by like water on fish scales. Lynne doesn’t have much of that and seems largely to handle me, but the next bit is even more trying for her…
Many people might have an image of me as a thoughtful, well-behaved, decent kinda guy, but when I’m on the steroid Dexamethasone – part of my chemo treatment – my character changes. I become argumentative, defensive, impersonal and confrontative, and my eyes take on a rather fierce, empty, heartless look. Would you like to see your old man turn on you like that? Last winter, Lynne was shocked to the core by it – and the worst bit was that I wasn’t aware I was doing it. The good bit is that, since I’m not too much of a bitter old man with a chip on his shoulder, I didn’t go as far with this as I might otherwise have done. When the treatment ended, gradually I came back, but if our relationship were less deep-rooted it would have cracked there and then. (You’ve now seen what it did to Donald Trump too – I warned you! (Here.)
There’s another thing. Cancer has prematurely aged me. Falling into the cancer abyss in November 2019, I was zooted forward to the age of 95. Recently I’ve come back to about 83 – my physical age is 70 – but in the next few months I’ll probably go back into my 90s. This is physical, affecting my movement and strength, and mental, affecting my frontal-lobe capacity to make decisions, find words and handle life’s details, and it has enormously changed my perspective. Before cancer I was ten years older than Lynne, but now, behaviourally, I’m 20-30 years older, and that must be weird for her.
Before cancer struck, I was a veteran – I’d been through deep shit and it had honed the content of my character. Well, kind of. In the 1990s and after, many long-haul veterans in the movement for change started thinking about elderhood, and I have sat in a few elders’ circles myself. But I always felt uncomfortable: I was a veteran but not an elder.
The difference clarified for me only after cancer changed everything. An elder is genuinely withdrawn, standing back – not just matured or retired but half-dead and pretty incapable. This loss of energy and engagement has a deep effect, and you start seeing things differently – a bigger agenda and perspective takes over.
Elderhood is not a status issue. One qualifies by dint of the burnishing of one’s soul, and this involves sitting with death, no longer active or competent in a worldly sense – just peeing or getting dressed becomes a big task. Your duty is to sit there, watch and see, occasionally speaking truths that lift people out of the fray, the treadmill and the madness of crowds. You have to step beyond the nowadays rather self-indulgent conservatism of old age. If you’re neither heard nor believed, you must watch quietly as the consequences unfold, in acceptance and without judgement. The only thing you can do is offer an optic to help people see more clearly. You can’t even participate in decisions – others now carry that load.
Lynne is a wise woman before her time, and unassuming with it, but she’s more involved in the fray than me, bravely juggling a lot of balls in the air, as I once did. If I last ten years, she’ll be 70 when I perform my pilgrimage to that enormous refugee camp in the sky. What then, for her? She has no shortage of assets – a brilliant astrologer, awakener and anchor to many, and a natural grandmother – but in her love and commitment to me she faces a yawning gap, and in that emptiness at such an age starting a new life isn’t easy. I’m going to leave her. This is big for her, both difficult and life-enriching.
I’m going to do my best to have a good death, and not just for my sake. No one’s going to inherit any money from me, but in this life this was not my wealth, and it gets boring being rich and powerful anyway, so this time I’m trying to engineer a different bequest. There’s something important we all must get to grips with: when we die, our body stops operating but we don’t. So whenever I pop my clogs, keep your antennae up because I’ll be sending out deviceless messages straight into your psychic inbox, but only if you keep your connection open and whitelist me on your internal spam filters.
In this sense, Lynne won’t lose me – our story doesn’t end there and our saga didn’t start here. Neither will anyone, unless you choose otherwise – we shall meet again. We still have a big task to do. We have a problem on Planet Earth, and this is not just about us and our planet. We’re holding back progress in the universe. This must end. This was fully explained in the book I wrote for the Council of Nine in the early 1990s, called The Only Planet of Choice – essential briefings from deep space.
Earth is a training ground for supertroopers – yes, you – and a hot-housing soul-hybridisation experiment for seeding the universe with possibilities that even its Creator couldn’t think up. We’ve got to get this right. It’s on us: we’re the only ones who know how to work with Planet Earth. The good news is that, if we break through on this mess we’ve created, it will be a breakthrough of cosmological proportions, never done before. If we fuck up, there will be eight billion sad, angry and lost souls for the universe to deal with, and a wasted mega-project, and the problem is that our fuckups, pain and trauma are so great and unique that others don’t really know how to sort us out – it’s beyond their experience.
I’ve worked in refugee camps and disastrous situations, but I cannot fully comprehend what it’s like being the journalist I know of in Rafah, Gaza, who returned home after writing an article to find her compound bombed and all 35 members of her family dead. Moreover, she’s chosen not to hate the Israelis for it. It’s like that. I can empathise and do what I can, but the scale of her loss and her choice is beyond my experience.
So we have to stop this war on Earth: not just the shooting, but the environmental, human and psychospiritual destruction we have built into a seemingly unstoppable institution. That’s why we must meet again, one sunny day.
There are men involved in my life too – Tulki, Anim and the Chief of Tinzibitane – even two souls in India that I’ve never met, Navin and Vishnu, who have greeted me every single day for ages, plus others like the two rather laddish fortysomethings I live next door to – but I’m now very much in womankind’s hands.
In 1968 I went to a talk by Germaine Greer and was shocked to learn of women’s oppression by men and the patriarchy – I’d never even thought of it before – and something in me clicked. It has been tricky spending fifty years as a man on the side of feminism – sometimes seemingly being blamed for all of the sins of my fellow males – but I am so happy to say that, while there’s further to go, they’re on their way, and I honour my bravely desperate sisters for that, surrounded as I am now by brilliant examples of how far things have progressed.
Lynne would not call herself a feminist but in some respects she’s well ahead of the game. She serves her family and fellow humans yet she’s no slave. Her qualifications to teach are in her bones and her smile, not on a sheet of paper. When she lights up people’s lives she’s not just glimmering. When she breaks down she’s no victim, when she’s strong she’s perceptive and empathic, and when she’s troubled she doesn’t throw a fit. She probably feels uncomfortable with my extolling her virtues in public but this isn’t starry-eyed romance – it’s really real – and if she hadn’t walked into my life I don’t think I’d be here now.
So I’ve learned a few big lessons in this last year. Healing is not just about doing medication or therapies – and I have one foot on a pharmaceutical and one on an holistic pathway. It’s about cultivation of spirit. Get real: one third of you, my readers, will get cancer – and yes, I too thought it wouldn’t happen to me. You’ll get it because you’re ready to go through that mangle and because it’s the greatest gift of your life. If you don’t get cancer you’ll have no shortage of other hurdles to jump. So do it well, live as if this day is your last, and die well too.
Apart from making a contribution to the world on the way, you came for this. So make your choice. And if you’ve already made it, what’s the next step? Because even if you’re near the end, there’s more to go. You won’t get this kind of opportunity back home on the Pleiades, or wherever you came from. They don’t have chocolate there either.
The most amazing thing about Lynne is that she knows deeply that healing and loving me doesn’t involve holding onto me: she’s chosen to walk this journey with me, whatever happens and however it needs to be. I’m so grateful for that. This matters so much to someone in the last chapter of their life. She could have taken an easier path.
So I’m in good hands.
Bless you all, and thanks for reading. Palden.
With photos by Lynne, sweater by Sheila and hat by Maya.
2020 has brought us all a lot to think about and, for many, a lot of time to think about it. ‘What am I here for?’ and ‘What’s it all about?’. Some folks have had big reveals and pointers, others have had to dig deeper than ever before, and some have made little or no progress, and some have been run off their feet and burned out by it.
I’ve always been rather purpose-driven. When I was about ten I wanted to be prime minister. By 15 I won a big public speaking competition with a notes-free speech about why Britain should join the European Community – seven years before it happened. Does Brexit, 55 years later, mean I’ve failed? By 18 I realised that politics was too dirty for me. So I followed another path and you got Maggie Thatcher and Tony Blair instead.
It took until I was about 34 to acknowledge that I was at last on track (when I started the Glastonbury Camps). It just had that feeling. Before that I felt like a footloose jack of all trades and master of none. When ‘received my instructions’ I quaked and resisted, but then I realised that, if I didn’t do it, it would not happen. And it needed to happen.
God doesn’t come down and say ‘This is your life-purpose‘. It’s not like that. It’s just that, when you’re more or less on it or you’re heading towards it, you feel it – you’re in the right place at the right time doing the right thing, even if others disapprove, discourage or block you. If you aren’t on it, you feel stuck in a blind alley, getting nowhere, with a meaningless life, as if you’ll stay like that forever. Depression and feeling an unfulfilled calling are closely related.
Purpose is programmed within us. It’s already there. Before getting born, we had a discussion with our angels about the purpose, the motivation, for going to the trouble of birthing ourselves, growing up and living a life on earth. Incarnation is hard work, even for people born in privileged circumstances. Two key things were covered in that discussion: what you were to learn and master, and what you were to contribute. Then you signed a contract in your soul, and it still holds.
Quite often you get clues when you’re about 8-12 years of age – visions of what we want to be when we grow up. Then, during your teenage years, this vision can be clouded and lost (often not helped by parents and careers advisers). These early-life visions can be literal or symbolic. I wanted to be an airline pilot. When I was 15 they ruled that short-sighted ginks like me couldn’t be pilots (that changed back later on, but too late for me). So that door closed. But later in life I realised that I had taken thousands of people on long journeys, up into heaven-worlds and landed them safely at the other end. Mission kinda accomplished.
By 18 I was aiming to become a diplomat, but by 20 I was involved in a life-changing near-revolution at the LSE that ended all that – yet in my adult life I’ve scored some pretty good informal diplomatic hits. So the vision and intention were symbolically correct, but the way things panned out was very different.
As life goes on, our purpose reveals itself through situations that present themselves. We find ourselves doing things we hadn’t foreseen but, when doing it, we feel remarkably fired up, or we make a difference, or we do something really meaningful, sometimes without even realising it. Even washing the dishes or cleaning the toilets can make a big difference in some situations – the chef at a peace conference can save thousands of lives without even knowing it, just by cooking good food for the delegates. So note this and follow it, because there’s your clue – even if it doesn’t make money, look realistic or gain approval, if it fires you up, why aren’t you getting on with it?
We must be willing, if necessary, to tread that path alone. In the Arab revolutions ten years ago, a big issue for people was ‘losing our fear’. Sometimes we must stand up and be counted – and if we hold back we can regret it for the rest of our lives. Like the near-revolution I was a part of fortyish years before, the Arab revolutions failed in the short term yet they started deep changes that will outlast the dictators who tried to stop them.
Here’s an interesting truth: it’s better to fail in something that ultimately will succeed than to succeed in something that ultimately will fail. This concerns posterity and holding out for what is right – and taking a bet that it’ll work, even when you’re not sure, and everyone and everything are against you. Even if you have cerebral palsy. Even if, or perhaps because, you’ve been damaged, disadvantaged and traumatised.
Three things block this coming out process: fear, guilt and shame. Too many people take the safe route in life, to please their family or fit in with the rules, or for fear of loss of security, or fear of being singled out and blamed, or fear of being exposed as unworthy or unable. Human society is riddled with such fears. Our planetary disaster is happening because billions of people are withholding their gifts, setting aside their callings and playing safe. We cook up good reasons to justify this but, in doing so, we are choosing complicity in a collective crime against humanity.
Out of fear, we hold back. This becomes a habit and institution. Then we forget what our instructions were, what the agreement was. Instead, we eat, drink, entertain, worry or work ourselves to death – unless or until a crisis shakes it up, strips our defences, propels us into unknown territory and slams the door shut behind us.
This withholding is dead serious. It means we’re omitting to make our contribution. It’s ours to make, and someone else isn’t going to replace you. Since so many are withholding, there’s a shortage of active server-souls. People have questioned my humanitarian work, believing it is dangerous (yes, occasionally it is) and encouraging me to stop and ‘be responsible’. But then, when I ask them to take my place because the work still needs doing, they wander off.
‘Charity begins at home‘ – sorry, for me that’s only a half-truth. Charity truly begins where the need is greatest. Need pulls the brilliance out of you.
The world is short of active altruists, and the suffering that arises from that is tremendous. It’s all about that old lady down the road who is alone and unvisited, because everyone was too busy and no one thought, no one imagined what it might be like to be that old lady. The world has a crisis of caring, and it’s all to do with withholding our gifts, callings and missions. Playing safe is a very dangerous planetary neurosis.
This brings us to a key issue. It’s not just our option to pursue our life’s calling: it is our duty. It is an imperative. If we don’t do it now, it won’t go away. This is a choiceless choice. Especially in these parlous times.
This isn’t about great and dramatic things. If you’re gifted at embroidery, do it. If you’re good at ‘just’ raising kids, or ‘only’ growing cabbages, you’re here for that. If you can bring light into the life of a hungry or lonely person, do it. Because, when you’re on your deathbed, these are the things you will remember.
And it changes. Life-purpose presents tasks but it is not a job. You can’t resign. It takes on different shapes, progressing as life goes on. One of my big life-lessons and contributions has been in ‘right leadership’ – something I did better in my fifties than in my twenties. I’ve scored a few goals, brought some benefit and made mistakes too. But I learned. It has gone from home-birth campaigns to organising biggish events to helping burned-out Palestinian social activists.
There are paradoxes. Nelson Mandela once confessed that, in his life, he had faced a deep conflict between serving his family and serving his people. He could only do one of them. After all, if you’re doing things that can endanger your family, should you stop serving your people to protect them? Or will your family also benefit if you can improve things for your people?
One of my gifts has been a capacity to struggle for, uncover and articulate insights that other people don’t quite get. I’ve been a speaker, author, editor, broadcaster and a pretty good contributor to public discourse. It didn’t make me rich or famous but I’m really glad I did it and shall continue till I drop – even possibly afterwards. Since I’ve been about 30 years ahead of the times, my work has not succeeded as much as it otherwise might, but after I’m dead it might lift off – you never know – and I’m leaving an online archive of my work just in case.
But perhaps it doesn’t matter. We can never fully see the results of our work and the part it has played in others’ lives. ‘Non-attachment to the fruits of our labours’, is how Buddhists see it. The aim is not to have an impact – it is simply to do your best. Once, when I was in Palestine I confessed to a friend that I didn’t feel I was making much of a contribution on that trip, and I might go home and come back later. She looked at me straight and said, simply: “Balden, when you are here we feel safe“. That hit me hard: sometimes, you don’t even need to do anything. I learned that what I thought was happening didn’t match what actually was happening.
Here’s another thing. Often we think this is all about giving. No, it’s all about interchange. It’s arguable that the people I’ve helped have given me so much more. If you wish to experience true generosity, go to poor people’s houses and countries.
Life purpose has its ins and outs. I’m good at thinking clearly in wider situations but I’m useless at articulating personal feelings on my own behalf – though I’ve done decades of work on myself to change this, and I’ve only made a little progress. But there are things that each of us must accept too: in my case, it’s Asperger’s Syndrome (high-function autism), and that’s what Aspies are like and what we’re good for. Greta Thunberg is a good example – and society is more open to her directness than was the case for me and my kind fifty years ago.
I’ve been nailed and hammered by so many people to be different from the way I am, yet I’ve found that trying to be what I believe others want me to be does not end up well. This has been painful – to be judged as a bad father, a failure, a fascist dictator, a goodfornothing, a criminal and even traitor. “When are you going to get a proper job?”. Something in me, rightly or wrongly, has soldiered on. I have regrets, but I don’t regret it.
There is no right or wrong: there are simply outcomes. Write that on your toilet wall. We’re called to create the best outcomes we can, and for everyone. Become an expert in making something good out of disasters. Don’t indulge in your failings, inadequacies and wrongs – they go on forever – but throttle up your gifts, assets and contribution. Don’t leave it till later, because later means never.
In my life I’ve been a philanthropist without money. My wealth has been magical, not material. Sometimes I’ve thought of myself as a healer of perceptions. People outside the rich world see me coming and they think, ‘Ah, a European – he can raise funds for us’ (Christians do this more than Muslims). No, this is not what I’m here for, and I’m not good at it. I’m here to help with magic solutions, to raise people up, and it has been a challenge to hold to that because people and projects do indeed need money, often very legitimately so.
The worst bit is that some people get so fixated on the funding bit that they accuse me of being rich, mean and selfish, and they miss what I actually can contribute. It’s better to teach someone to fish than to give them a fish – a common saying in the humanitarian world. (Another is: teach a man and you teach a man, but teach a woman and you teach a generation.) I’ve had to learn to work for a good cause not just because it’s a good cause, but because it is run by people I can work with, and because it fires me up, providing a context in which to serve and contribute best.
So, if you’re struggling with life-purpose matters, here’s a recommendation. Do whatever lifts you up, and avoid whatever weighs you down. This is radical. It’s also far more practical than you might believe. When I was 50 I had a ‘dark night of the soul’ crisis and this truth emerged from it. It doesn’t mean taking the easy option – often you must take the scariest option. A lifelong peace activist, I realised that I had to head for the heart of darkness, so I committed to working in Palestine, sensing that justice for all, not exactly peace, is the main objective there. Justice brings peace, but peace doesn’t necessarily bring justice – so more conflict will follow. If Palestine and Israel can break through, the world’s conflicts will change – and wars and violence block world progress far more than we understand. So what lifted me up was the challenge to follow a difficult path.
Twenty years later, the Palestine problem continues and assholes still prevail, but this work hasn’t been a failure. Deep historic turn-arounds take time, often longer than a lifetime. Brian Eno once said, “I have a feeling I’m part of something that should be much bigger than it is“. Yes indeed – the last fifty years have been a frustrating time for change-agents. But many of the greatest breakthroughs in history were groundlaid by forgotten people you’ve never heard of – the people who prepared the way for those that history recognises. Without these forgotten heroes, you would not have the freedoms and blessings you have today.
Getting cancer and becoming physically disabled wasn’t part of my plan. But it has given me new purpose. I might live one year or ten, and this uncertainty is an awakener: what can I lay to rest and what am I still dissatisfied with? It has reminded me that, no matter how difficult things are, everything in life is a gift. If you choose to see things that way. So even if you feel you have no purpose or you can’t find it, that’s your gift, your resource, your background, and do your best with it. That’s where it starts.
Or perhaps you’re doing it but you downplay it, or you fail to see what’s happening as a result of your being there, or you feel you’re such a rotten, godforsaken shit that you’re a no-hoper.
When I was twenty I read a book by Alan Watts, a psychedelic guru, that deeply stirred me. It was called The Wisdom of Insecurity. Yes, the wisdom of insecurity. Sorry, folks, but in 2020, normality was suspended and this is what we’re being shown. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and pitch in. Make steps. Do it. And if you don’t do it, stop beating yourself up about it. Good luck.
This is for people who are alone or feel themselves to be alone. This issue is frequently framed in the terms and perspective of the peopled, while many of the alone tend to be outblasted on this subject by the beliefs of the peopled – the idea that aloneness is something to be rescued from.
Here’s the rub: being alone is not a bad thing. Feeling lonely is difficult, though it also has its gifts. Aloneness and loneliness are two different things: one is a fact and one is a feeling.
Part of me has always been a hermit (the other part public), so I’ve been here, in that aloneness place, many times throughout life, sometimes willingly, sometimes not, and loss has been a big life-issue for me. At present I am alone for about two-thirds of the time and I live in an isolated place, remote from the madding crowd, a place of buzzards, jackdaws and gulls.
Loneliness has various components. One is the feeling of lack of company and closeness – missing people. This is exacerbated when it’s unwilling (as with refugees, people separated by fate or by difficult choices, and the bereaved or alienated). But it can be hard even when chosen. When I moved to the far end of Cornwall I knew that old friends were unlikely to visit me and I miss them, but it was my choice – instead I talk to them in my thoughts or online.
The issue is not just to look at the hard side and judge aloneness in terms of what is lost. Everything in life has its compensations. Sometimes it’s difficult figuring out what we’re gaining from adversity, but it’s important to look at it. A lot of the hardship that we feel involves judgements we impose on ourselves and others’ judgements we take on our shoulders. This has been my story and one consequence is that now, in late life, my backbone has literally given way (as a result of bone marrow cancer) yet this experience has really helped me shed a lot of that psychological load.
I’ve long been an author, editor and online content-creator. To do what I feel called to do, I’ve had to put myself under lockdown many times. When I wrote The Only Planet of Choice in 1992 I was out of sight for 20 months – some people thought I’d moved away! Generally, my self-imposed lockdowns have been regarded as anti-social – as if I’m uninterested in and don’t care about people. But no, if I don’t lock down, how can I do what I’m here for, that people like me for and seem to benefit from? The funny thing is that, writing another book in 2020, suddenly I haven’t been anti-social but doing exactly the right thing! My 2020 lockdown started in October 2019, due to cancer, not Covid.
There’s another aspect to aloneness. Lack of stimulus and interaction can lead to a literal slowing of the psyche. This helps if one needs to unwind from a busy life, but after a longer period it leads to a crisis of energy and orientation. This is happening for many aloners, and it affects the old particularly, and those with long-Covid and fatigue – and prisoners too. I’ve noticed it in myself. I’m pretty creative, and I don’t just sit there, yet I’ve been drying up recently. By degrees. Talking to myself too much.
I overcome this in three main ways: inner journeying, pursuing an interest and going out in nature. Recently I’ve been wading through history books about the Ottomans and the conflicts of the Britons with the Saxons 1,500 years ago – that’s how I get through long hours in bed.
I think inner journeying is important for people who are bedridden or fatigued – and we do it anyway, in our woozy inner meanderings. But it can be done more proactively, and there are methods and ways to encourage it. Make it into a project. You have been given a gift of aloneness that gives you space to do this, and for much of your life you have not had such opportunities. Make a project of your inner musings and wanderings – put it to use.
When you’re alone, it’s really good to get on with activity projects too. I usually have some things that demand thought and focus and some things that are easier or more druderous, some that are creative and some that need some discipline. This is something you can do with your life that has little or nothing to do with other people: it’s yours, and no one can change that.
A solitary time can be the birthplace of something new. All of the big projects I’ve set in motion throughout my life have been conceived when I’m alone. The quiet isolation has given me vision time, inspiration space, healing, resolution, exploration and enrichment of the human in me. This is a choice – a personal one. It’s what Buddhists call a turning in the deepest seat of consciousness.
It often involves coming to peace over many issues. We need to stop beating ourselves up, running ourselves down, diverting ourselves with fear, guilt, shame and self-doubt. These blockers cause us to withhold our talents and gifts. Get this: if you care about this planet and about humanity, then activating your talents and gifts is not a choice but a duty. It’s what you’re here for, to rise to the best of your potential and to make a contribution. Forget should. Do what you can, and creatively, and your way. Whatever that is. That can include things that society or the people around you don’t necessarily deem productive or advisable.
Even if accepting aloneness doesn’t lead to dramatic outcomes, or even if we’re slowly dying, there’s something profound here about coming to peace. We all have regrets, painful memories, shadows from the past. I do too. We need to recognise them, even cherish them, and release them. They do little good, except to teach us what not to do again. Sometimes we can act to redeem these issues with the people concerned and sometimes we cannot.
Even if we cannot, releasing them still, in a funny and mysterious way, relieves the situation with people we no longer even have contact with, or we cannot face, or they might even be dead. In all interactions and conflicts it always, always, takes two to tango, and we can do something about our bit – the emotional tangles within ourselves that have complicated the issue for us and for them. Shed that load. Forgive and be forgiven. Move on.
Then there’s the fear of madness, deep in the Western psyche. Fear that you’re losing the plot, disengaging too much from groupthink and from that safe set of deeply embedded, culturally-defined judgements that were hammered into us as we grew up, about what’s right and wrong. Well, here’s a thought: in my life I have led and been part of hundreds of sharing circles, and it has been clear that many of the most insightful contributions in such circles have come from the quiet ones, the ones who struggle to articulate themselves. The ones who anticipated that they’d be misjudged or they’d say it wrong. But they can bring forth gems that they’ve mulled over very carefully, and sometimes quiet people hold the ace cards.
Quietness and disengagement are not madness, and just because society harps on endlessly about ‘mental health’, it doesn’t mean you ‘have a condition’. You see, society is mad, absolutely insane, and everything is seriously upside-down. Madness simply means that you differ from a mad consensus. You might be on your own with that, except for people who understand you, but that’s not the main issue. The main issue is that our world today is steered by people who are so busy and peopled that they don’t know themselves well enough. They don’t have time and space to look at what’s really going on. There’s something in aloneness that allows us to anchor to deeper verities, and the majority or the dominant consensus in society can be based more in hearsay than in reality. This is a global problem. And rural areas (most of the world) are being governed by people in big city buildings.
There’s more to say on all this, but I’ll stop here (my brains are giving out). But here’s a message from old Paldywan Kenobi to friends and strangers out there who are on their own: be alone well. Do your best with it. Exploit its possibilities. This transforms loneliness into an aloneness that is at peace with itself.
Oh, and one more thing. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Lynne, my partner, and I, are together about one-third of the time (she lives two hours’ drive away), and sometimes we miss each other. Yet, sincethis is so, we have an amazing relationship that works really well. For me, aloneness makes those relationships that I do have so much more meaningful. You can be close to people even when you’re far apart, even when you don’t know where they are and what they’re doing.
Sometimes I find myself thinking of a faraway or long-lost friend, having good inner discussions with them, and then, later, I find out they’re already dead! So, with people you love, even if distant or gone, listen, and talk to them inside yourself, because you are together at that time. If anyone accuses you of being mad, just remember, they’re afraid. Afraid of their aloneness, afraid of getting caught out, exiled to the far-off realms of ‘mental illness’.
For the truth is, together or apart, there are light years between all of us. Yet we’re all here together, and this is it. No one is here by accident, and this is what we came for. So if you find yourself alone nowadays, remember, do it well. There are probably a billion souls on Earth who are alone, whether stuffed away in a high-rise or hidden away up a mountain, so you’re in good company.
Okay, I’ll leave you alone now. Time to put the kettle on. Love, Palden.
I’ve had good news. I talked on the phone to the haematologist at Treliske hospital in Truro (about 40 miles away) and she seems pleased with my results. Although the readings from blood tests are slowly rising – this is to be expected, but I could be worse than I am – the PET scan I had a couple of weeks ago, to see whether any further damage was being done, turned out well. So I do not need to go back on chemo right now. I’m glad, because I’m tired of getting poleaxed by medication and fatigue. I need to revive before the next round.
But that’s not what I want to write about.
As promised, here are my thoughts on the next ten years or so. There’s a combination of a historian, futurologist, astrologer and seasoned observer coming through here, and long hours in bed have meant a lot of time to ruminate on these things.
I think the 2020s are going to be both difficult and more encouraging than the 2010s. Covid is the beginning of a process, and there are more storms to come – that’s the difficult bit. It’s going to be an uphill grind. Or a different kind of grind than the one we had before.
Looking more longterm, this process started around 2008-12, when the overall balance of global trends tipped critically, and it has been ramping up over the last ten years: the world crisis is no longer a thing of the future but it’s now present and here, in all departments of life and coming at us in waves. We have entered the inevitable period of price-paying for the profligate lives we’ve led in the rich countries and the destructive aspects of the world system we’ve created. Some of us saw this coming way back in the 1960s, but the majority didn’t agree or want to look.
During the 2010s we needed to be given gritty, distressing challenges to get us engaged, to grind us down and prepare us for what happens next. It was in many ways a dispiriting decade, but a lot of good things bubbled underneath. Many revolutions failed, but many people were changed by them. Covid is in a way a climax of that phase and the beginning of the next one. It’s a punctuation point.
The issue is this: since the world has delayed action on necessary human and planetary issues, there’s a lot of catch-up to do, and a lot of damage has been done. We’ve lost fifty years, and things can’t wait. Events are taking over. This is no lnger a matter of opinion.
There’s a long way to go before we find the full range of solutions – it will take the whole 21st Century. To progress, we need to be accelerated into a process of change that will take us out of our comfort zones and confront us with hard facts. Humanity needs to get itself mobilised. Now it’s a time of consequences, imperatives and seeking solutions.
Though a few might think it’s the only option, an all-out catastrophe would not help. Catastrophes hurt, disable, stun and set people back, and they are not the best recipe for change. We need to make big choices and get behind them – even if we’re arm-twisted by events to do so. What’s needed is a deepening series of crises that tip us incrementally into change-processes, forcing us over a succession of thresholds and pushing us to get really real about our situation and its many details, nuances and implications.
It’s especially about human society. Without substantial changes in our group psychology and behaviour, we will not get through the century intact. This concerns cooperation and sharing, and it brings up collective emotional issues about identity, power, who decides, and how much we really care about nature and human nature. It concerns Us and Them.
So people across the world are variously cleaving into progressives and resisters, new tribes and old tribes, and this is the new politics. Ultimately, humanity has to realise it is one tribe, but this will come clear only when Ronald Reagan’s late-1980s Reykjavik Proposition comes true: humanity will unite when it realises it is not alone. But without humanity cooperating as one planetary race, there will be insufficient resolution of environmental issues, tech hazards and the wide range of potentially fatal issues that face us now.
So we’re being accelerated, and it is reasonable to expect further crises ahead, and particularly multiple crises happening at once, or cascading crises with proliferating implications – as Covid is with the social and economic issues it has precipitated. The urge to restore normality is an unconscious reaction to this acceleration, part of the process of letting go of the past. Normality will not be restored, no matter how many dollars and scientists you throw at it. But there are still options. It’s just that the new normal is going to keep changing.
The 2020s are likely to be very different from the 2010s. The shit will increasingly hit the fan. But something else has been bubbling up underneath to meet this and change the equation: a growing surge of new ideas, perspectives, attitudinal changes, technological advances and challenging situations that nevertheless prompt progress and positive developments – as in ‘necessity is the mother of invention’.
Astrologically, an interesting and rare configuration is approaching in the later 2020s for which my best description is ‘cultural florescence under duress’. This will not be easy because we’ll be battling with more crises. But the difference is that the tide will be flowing more strongly then, and this loosens things up. It allows creativity, innovation, new ways of seeing things and new reality-configurations. There is likely to be a battle of ideas, perspectives and loosening positions, and a generational change in which Millennials will be coming to power (and my own generation will be dying off).
One of the big questions will be, do the people exist for the system or does the system exist for the people? Questions of systemic control, the rights of the individual, the needs of the collective and the balance of the three.
This will not be the old workers-and-capitalists battles of the 20th Century: it will be between progressive people and ideas at all levels of society, and resisters, some of them indisposed to change, some victims of change, some of them vested interests, and many who are older, marginalised and disoriented. These too need to be considered, because this isn’t any more about my side or your side of the argument, it’s about the complete outcome of all arguments, for all people and in all areas of life.
So we have come to a need to rehumanise society. Another issue concerns social willingness to cooperate. If change is imposed, and if governments and those at the top of society fail to act in people’s overall benefit and society fails to come together to cooperate, then resistance, exceptionalism and non-cooperation will ensue, complicating things terribly – this issue has been tested in the Covid crisis.
So we’re likely to get an escalation of both problems and solutions, and we’ll be challenged to see when solutions are actually solutions. If we judge events on the basis of past norms, there will be a plethora of problems, but if we judge them on the basis of the possibilities they offer, they become a solution. Much hangs on this. In the Covid crisis, from which everyone is so anxious to escape, we have been given multiple solutions but we fail to see them – we choose to focus on the problem side, on what’s being lost. And yes, things are hard.
This year we have wobbled over a tipping point, toward rehumanising society and making the world more fit to live in. Millions of people are thinking deeply about their lives and about life itself. The rich world is at last starting to become aware of its consumption patterns, which need to reduce radically. And the developing world needs to find new ways of developing from those that have existed before.
Then there’s ‘mental health’, a term based on the presumption that conventional normality is good health. Chaos has broken out in people’s lives, and for many people it’s really hard work. Many, including me, have also had to face being very alone. But calling it a ‘mental health crisis’ avoids the main point.
We’re in a rather necessary spiritual crisis, affecting everyone in varying degrees and ways. For some, this has been really tough – the bottom has dropped out of their universe and many people are flailing. It’s all about facing our demons and fears and, as individuals, communities and societies, we all need to face them. Old values, expectations, judgements and preferences are becoming obsolete, and there’s a lot of grasping at straws, blame and escapology going on. This is a transitional inner growth crisis for many, a time of what disaster professionals call ‘epistemic insecurity’ – confusion over what and who to believe.
In the later 2020s, specifically around 2024-2028, we’re coming into an avalanche period, a torrent of events and issues – but I don’t think it will be as blocked and struggly as the 2010s were. There will be pain and also increasing relief – relief arising from a cumulative adjustment to and acceptance of what’s happening. But the pain often comes first and the relief tends to follow. We’re in the pain bit for now.
Conservative forces from the top to the bottom of society are beginning to realise that things are changing anyway – and this applies also to that part of ourselves that prefers our comfortable routines, habits and security. The part that wants to be the exception. The part that says, ‘I’m up for change as long as it doesn’t affect me’.
There’s a rule in geology: the erosive power of a river increases as the square of its volume. That is, when volume of flow increases three times, erosive power increases nine times. That’s what we’ll see in the 2020s: the erosive power of events. The flow and volume of change is increasing, and it’s eroding anything that gets in the way. Whether we like it or not, it’s coming at us.
But the good news is that a flood also clears out the channels and generates energy. The challenge for us all, for individuals, communities and nations, is to get used to living and operating in a far more tumultuous and challenging world.
What is the gift in that? It will make it easier to face the 2030s and 2040s. Because things are not going to slow down.
But there’s an extra issue here. Whenever the world fully accepts change, things will progress faster but it will still take time. Forests take half a century to grow. People need time to adjust and sort things out. Innovations need trialling. Cities take years to redesign. Soil takes time to reconstitute. This means that, even when the big decisions have been made, it will take decades to find out whether it will actually work. By the 2040s this could raise world neurosis levels to a peak – or it could bring a new kind of sanity. This is new territory – we’ve never done this before and we don’t know what will happen. So the decades following 2030ish could be a nail-biting period.
To put a time-perspective on all this, the two big dates of the 21st century are these: 2048 and 2065. The changes we’re in now are operating in a time-frame from 2012 to 2048ish. I won’t go into that now (my book Power Points in Time tells all), but it’s worth flagging up here.
The 2020s are part of the run-up to 2048 – astrologically a Uranus opposition Pluto. The conjunction, the beginning of the cycle, was in 1965-66, and the square, the growth-crisis, was in 2012ish. So 2048 is the climax of all that started in the 1960s. The 1960s were a time of dawning awareness that all was not well on our planet, and that we faced daunting times. Times that we now are in.
2065 I would call the beginning of the start of the future. The time of nail-biting might well be over, and we’ll know the facts of our situation – the crunch-time is likely to have been around 2048, followed by a rather shell-shocked post-crisis period following it, dealing with pressing realities and taking stock. By 2065 I would imagine that, whatever the state of the world, we’ll have a clearer sense of what comes next. It’s a Neptune square Pluto, the crunchpoint of a cycle starting in 1892.
So Covid has upset the apple-cart. The starting gun has been fired. And, to be honest, even though things are hard, do you really want normality restored? Do you really want to go back to the way things were before? It’s strange to say this, but in some respects, since cancer took over my life a year ago, it’s been coming clear that it’s the best thing that could happen to me. But I do also choose to see it that way – not just in my head but in my bones.
Well, that’s what I think anyway. Whether my prognoses resemble the reality to be, we shall see. None of us can presume to know the big answer. That’s quite amazing, really.