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.