Happy Gregorians

and tempus fuckit

Pendower Cove, Land’s End, Cornwall

Happy Gregorians, everyone.

Though really, I’m not greatly concerned about new year.

You see, one of the problems with our calendar is that it has no particular basis in natural energy. As a dating system it has managed to get itself used worldwide, renamed the ‘Common Era’. But it is European, instituted by Pope Gregory Thirteenth in 1582, as a correction to the foregoing Julian calendar, which was even more useless than our current one.

Luckily, the Gregorian New Year’s Day is near enough to the winter solstice and, if anything in a cycle can be called its beginning, solstice qualifies as the beginning or the root-point of a year. So New Year’s Day is close enough to the solstice to fool our underlying perceptions into believing that New Year is solsticial in flavour. But the thing is, New Year’s resolutions would probably work better if they were resolved at winter solstice.

There’s an interesting flavour to this New Year of 2023. It feels like we’re tipping into a long slide, a growing cascade of accelerating, compounding events, all scrunching up against each other. There’s that stomach-churning anticipatory feeling that you get just before doing a high-dive or heading down a slalom run. It’s too late to back out now, and the stage is set for a cliffhanger, the full plot of which nobody knows.

In the end, wobbliness isn’t such a bad thing, because this intensification is by necessity loosening things up, and we need that. The world has been held in a state of denial for at least fifty years, and reality is dawning. At last. Yes, the shit is hitting the fan in myriad ways throughout society and, globally, and this is very difficult for large numbers of people, and some are buckling – especially those at the bottom of the pile. But that’s a question of economic justice, not just the bad luck of a tough world. This fan-hitting is necessary because things have been held in arrest for too long. We’ve been burning up the world. This is a planetary emergency. We have to get real. It’s happening.

Longships Rocks, off Land’s End, Cornwall

But a paradox comes with the pending avalanche of events we’re likely to see in the mid-to-late 2020s. As acceptance and mobilisation increase, things will in some respects get easier, even when they’re getting more difficult. At present we are burning up so much energy trying to keep an obsolete show on the road, trying to resist facing the fullness of our situation. That uses up a lot of energy and it creates a lot of friction. It concerns a simple rule of car-driving: before you depress the accelerator, release the hand-brake – otherwise you wear out the engine. But also, you wear out the brakes – and that’s what’s happening now, in 2023. The brakes are wearing thin.

In some respects the grating, grinding prelude to a crisis is worse than the peak of a crisis. During an actual crisis, real, cathartic change happens – positions shift, facts emerge, stuff happens and the consequences of old problems become the starting place for the new. Like it or not, that’s the way it is.

I’ve had a tendency in life to gravitate toward edgy, dodgy situations. We humans are quickly stripped down and, to survive, we have to pull out everything we have. We have to cooperate like never before, often with people we’ve never met, and do things we never thought we’d land up doing. This is an amazing process and, throughout life, some of the most profound relationships I’ve had have been in situations like this – short yet intense, a sharing of mutual risk, adversity or insecurity.

It bonds you. It calls upon abilities you didn’t think you had, or you didn’t think were useful. But when necessity and urgency are tugging at you, you just do what’s necessary, as best you can, with what you have. It’s full-on. Very alert. At times miracles happen amidst the tragedies, against the odds. One reason I started the camps in the 1980s is that camping takes us out of our comfort-zones, making us available to new things – it’s a form of positively-induced suffering that suddenly morphs into the best time you had in your life.

Of the camps I ran in the 1980s, some of the best had the worst weather. At one camp, in 1987, we had a force eight gale on the first night. We brought down the marquees, people had to abandon their tents and everyone piled into the geodesic domes, the soundest structures in a gale. I lived in a small dome and thirteen people joined me, huddled together, all privacy and comfort lost, waiting out what seemed like an endless nightmare. Morning came. We crept out slowly, blinking. The morning was sunny, dripping and quiet. The storm had gone.

A new camper came to me, saying that she had to leave – she couldn’t manage this. She looked wan and shellshocked. At that very moment, a member of the site crew came down the field with a big tray filled with mugs of tea, nonchalantly calling out “Tea, anyone?“. The lady burst out crying. She accepted her tea, and a biscuit… and she stayed. Fifteen years later she was still with us, by then doing world-healing work in the Flying Squad. Moments like that are really touching. When you tread the edge and cross the threshold, change happens. Comfort zones aren’t the best place for finding a new life.

Over the decades I’ve come upon heart-wrenching moral choice-points where the options have been playing safe, being sensible and putting my own wellbeing first, or making a big, sometimes decisive, occasionally life-saving difference in the lives of people by taking a risk. There’s often an unbridgeable gulf between them. I’ve tended toward taking the second option. This has happened again recently. It gives me a feeling of ‘this is what I’m here for’.

In late life, I’m happy about people I’ve helped or saved. It has charged a heavy price, not only to me, yet it was worth it in the end. For better or worse, it has been my choice and, in some people’s view, an avoidable pathology they’d have preferred me not to live out. That’s difficult. I seem to have spent my life apologising for being myself. But I did it anyway.

Sadly I have not been able to tell some of my best stories because they can endanger people or lead to unwanted outcomes. You might have noticed that I’ve gone quiet about the story I was recounting to you recently. Well, it’s now one of those. It’s a real test of my mettle. If you’re so inclined, please do keep praying. Apart from that, I’m going to rabbit on about other things for a while.

This seems to be a family pattern: my aunt was not permitted to talk about what she did in WW2 until 1988, poor woman, and she received a medal for it only in 2008. She worked with Alan Turing at Bletchley Park. After that, she was probably the world’s first government UFO investigator, without really knowing it – on debriefing bomber pilots returning from Germany in WW2, she was logging their encounters with ‘foo fighters’. At first they thought it was the enemy’s secret weapon, until they found out that the enemy thought the same thing. I don’t work at that level, though I do have a few eyebrow-raisers to tell. But it isn’t wise or right to do so.

There are some good stories too. I happened to follow the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem through a checkpoint, entering Israel from the West Bank. Guns go up. Oh shite. They’re all aimed at the Patriarch, but I’m standing a few yards behind him. “Do you have any weapons?“. Now that’s a silly thing to ask a Patriarch, but lots of silly things do happen in that benighted land… Silence. “Yes“, says the Patriarch. Uh-oh. More guns go up. “Reach down slowly and get it out.” Right now I’m wondering whether I ought to move. Nope, better stay there, Palden. Don’t lift a finger.

The Patriarch, not exactly young and sprightly, reaches down slowly, pulls out and holds up… his Bible. Quite a few of us were trying hard not to crack up laughing, including a few of the soldiers. He had fifteen soldiers by the short and curlies. They’ll remember that for the rest of their days. That’s an example of psycho-spiritual peacebuilding through the teaching of pertinent lessons.

Ships passing in the day, and Wolf Rock lighthouse

It was a hot day in Al Khader, near Bethlehem, and a new squad of Israeli soldiers was taking over in our area (they changed every couple of months). Eight or so were standing around down the hill, where the boundary lies, sweating in their uniforms. I moseyed down slowly, deliberately relaxed, to see if I could do some bridgebuilding. I had a bottle of water. One, with a French accent, asked where they could get some. I said there was a shop 200 metres back. Pushing my luck, I said I could take one or two of them there – they’d be alright. They weighed it up. They seemed to like me. I told them to keep their guns down and just relax – Israelis get really nervous and edgy in Palestinian areas, because of course all Palestinians are terrorists – and we walked slowly up and along to the shop. You could feel eyes watching.

We went into the shop, they got some things, the shopkeeper was quite friendly and chatty, and we walked back. There was a moment of connection where we all saw the ridiculousness of the situation we were in. When we got back to their mates, I said, “These people in Al Khader are alright if you’re alright with them. They won’t give you trouble if you let them be. You’ve just had a demonstration“. I think they got it. In the coming days it seemed to work. Besides, the soldiers weren’t really bothered. They were probably rather relieved to have an easy posting.

People sometimes ask me who or what I work for. I work for good-hearted humanness, however best I can judge it at the time. If I am financially supported, which is unusual, I accept contributions only if the sole requirement is that I use the money well – if there are any other strings, I say No.

I had to learn this the hard way. Shortly after the intifada, I went to Bethlehem with some financial backing and a list of nine tasks, then to spend the next month learning that it would be possible to achieve only one of those tasks – the circumstances just weren’t right. I got nervous: how would I explain that? One day, not long before leaving for home, I gave up, accepting my fate. An hour later, in rolls a van and, lo behold, every person I had needed and failed to see during the last month was inside. It was all sorted within hours. Phew. Magic.

But that made me decide to free myself from such concerns in future, because in high-chaos situations, improvisational freedom of action is absolutely necessary. Going into a chaos zone with plans, as too many Westerners do, is like trying to swim with a weighed-down straitjacket on, and it causes everyone else too much run-around. Yet strangely, high-chaos zones do allow magic to happen.

Magic happened there. But there’s one problem with trusting that magic will happen, because it doesn’t happen just because you want it to, or because you believe your agenda should be everyone else’s agenda. It happens when it is in line with the Universe’s bigger chess game. We get occasional glimpses of this but, quite often, we don’t – not at the time. Quite often we just have to make a choice and do our best. And remember: not doing something also has consequences. In our time we are getting lots of consequences from things not done, in recent decades and throughout history. We live in a time of consequences.

We are more free now to get things right than ever we have been in human history. Life is asking us not to give up on the brink of a miracle. Well, that’s one of the big lessons I seem to be learning at present. Don’t give up just because everything seems to be against you. Though sometimes we must change tactics in order to progress with our overall strategy. In the end, if you’re trying to move a mountain, it’s all about ‘Thy Will be Done’ and ‘the highest good’.

In the Middle East, whenever they make a statement about something yet to happen, they tack the word ‘inshallah’ into the sentence – ‘If it is the will of God’. In English we say ‘All things being well’, or ‘With luck’. We need a neat new word like ‘inshallah’. It would help us get over the arrogant belief that we are masters of destiny. Which we aren’t. At times The Great Cosmic Steamroller hoves into view, and woe betide us if we’re moving slower than it does.

Now that’s a pleasant thought for the new Gregorian year! But there’s truth in it. The more we’re willing to shake things up, the easier it gets in the long run. In the next year or two we’re moving from a time of rules to a time of crowds.

I saw a joke yesterday. It went…
Breaking News: aliens now implementing a points system for people who want to be abducted. Too many requests.

If you’re on your own this New Year’s Eve, so am I, so we can be together in the ethers.

Here’s a hug to everyone, with love from me, Palden.


An interesting radio programme on BBC World Service about the current state of people on humanity’s frontlines: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3ct380b

Blog: https://penwithbeyond.blog
Podcasts: www.palden.co.uk/podcasts.html

Carn Barra, Carn Les Boel and Carn Boel, as seen from Carn Guthensbras, Land’s End, Cornwall

It’s Coming

Though it is a question of ‘What?’

This is not a christmas card. This is Kvikkjokk in the north of Sweden, north of the polar circle, last year. It’s where my daughter Maya lives. It was -30C there last night.

There’s one robin that comes from the thicket above my cabin, and another who lives in the brambles down below the barn.

Problem is, being male robins, and with breeding season coming, they’re doing their territoriality trip – much to the consternation of the tits and the blackie, who also want to get to the feeder just outside my door.

When you spend much of your time alone, issues like this do matter! But it’s a welcome diversion too because, as you might imagine, my thumbs haven’t exactly been twiddling very much recently, and I’ll welcome an off-duty break one day.

It hasn’t snowed here in Penwith, though it went sub-zero and icy in the last few nights. Stuck out in the Atlantic and bathed in water that not too long ago passed Miami Beach, we’ve been about 5 degrees warmer than most of Britain. But then, though Brits love to complain, whatever the weather, up where my daughter Maya lives, north of the polar circle in northern Sweden, it was -30C last night – and the sun won’t rise until mid-January. Welcome to Planet Earth, dear friends – this is what you get on this world, and this is what you chose when you decided to come here.

I get cold feet. I’ve got this weird thing called Peripheral Neuropathy – a side-effect of chemo drugs where your nerve-endings die off. So I can feel the inner feelings in my feet but not the outer ones – and I never knew there was a difference until the Good Lord (or whoever) gave me cancer. This also means I don’t feel the cold in my feet very much – which goes to show how, in life, you win some and you lose some, and that’s the deal. I still have warm double socks on though.

An Indonesian Christian rock band in Bethlehem

One of the narratives of my life has been about dealing with paradox. My mother did love and care for me but she didn’t have the time and presence to mother me in the way I needed – that kind of thing. But that’s alright: it gave me some mother patterns to work with. Or this: my Tibetan name means ‘radiant merit’, my Arabic name ‘servant of the light’ and my Brahmin name is god of the sun, but there’s a shady side to me too, who gets involved in gritty, underworldy, heavy stuff. I’ve been exposing this side of me in the last month, with the strange thriller I’ve found myself in.

It goes to show, I’m not a holyholy meditation teacher at all, but a lawbreaking aged hippy charlatan who does nasty things, corrupts dishy young ladies, leads people astray and ought to be locked up forthwith – a danger to civilised society. Be warned.

I’ve been breaking the law recently, paying bribes. In West Africa, if you don’t pay enablement payments, nothing gets done. However, as my late senior barrister friend Keith used to say, in his endearingly bombastic Leo kind of way, “I, dear boy, am a purveyor of the Law of Man, but you, sir, are a purveyor of the Law of God”. Well, that’s a bit over the top, but there’s truth in it too, and sometimes divine will does need to prevail, whatever anyone thinks. So I’ve paid some bribes because, actually, it’s usually just to pay the guy’s phone bill or taxi fare so that he can do what you’re asking for and perhaps take a few bob home to his missus.

Well, if they want to arrest me for that, I’m over here. It’s a professional expense, and not the least of the sins I’ve committed. I’ve been a traitor, consorted with terrorists, smuggled tofu though Israeli checkpoints (they think it’s Semtex), taken on false guises and a few other things I’d better not mention.

But on the other hand, bad as I am, my life-saving stats measure well against any doctor or paramedic, and I’ve had the pleasure of uplifting thousands of people, and many of the bad things I once did, or decidedly didn’t do, are now, a few decades later, strangely approved of. It took a while. Some people think I’m brave, though my rather naive Aspie response is simply, ‘But why is that unusual?’.

Manger Square, Bethlehem, full of people

I have another weird Aspie thing too. I have an aversion to Christmas. I don’t do it. I’ve always felt unhappy feeling obligated to be happy and congenial when, at the time, I’m feeling contemplative and quiet. So I have a no-compromise approach that, before Xmas, is frowned on and, after Xmas, is envied.

On Xmas Day, if the weather allows, I’ll be out on the moors or the cliffs with a flask and a pie, attending to the top of my head and a few related matters, and if the weather is bad I’ll be huddled round the woodstove, propped in my chair or inner journeying in bed, busy not drinking sherry. Unless I find another person who would delight in an utter non-Xmas with me, I’ll be on my own, and that’ll be alright. You might wonder why.

Well, it’s a time for wrapping up the past and looking toward the future, and I have rather a lot of both at present. That’s solstice, the turning of a tide.

But it’s also a time when, rarely, the Christian and Westernised elements in the world suddenly get excited about peace and goodwill for a day or two. This is really good. My only reservation is that it suddenly ends around lunchtime on Xmas Day, when everyone starts blotting themselves out with food and booze, only to regret it afterwards.

Manger Square, Bethlehem, Palestine, at Christmas

Nevertheless, as a guerrilla planet-fixer with an esoteric style, I find it’s worth scooping up some of this goodwill for good use. After all, there are at least a billion people on Earth who really need some peace and goodwill to be shoved their way right now. If not, truth be told, the whole eight billion of us.

So I spend my solstice-to-Xmas doing consciousness work. It’s secret – don’t tell anyone. It’s a good time for doing some gentle infiltration of the collective psyche, to strengthen that thought: goodwill. If you’re on your own this Christmas, then, wherever you are, stick up your antennae and see whether you can find me in that ‘reality-field’ and come join me. Try 11am and 2pm GMT, Xmas Day.

I’m always there on Sunday evenings at 7pm GMT too, for half an hour.

Ten years ago I was in Bethlehem at Christmas. The slightly sad thing is that Christian numbers for the Christmas Pilgrimage are much diminished nowadays, so Muslims make up the numbers – Palestinians do appreciate Bethlehem’s global name-recognition in such a forgotten land, and Jesus is also one of the prophets of Islam.

The Catholic Xmas is a bit like ours in NW Europe, with a lot of the jingle-jangle, and big concerts in Manger Square with Christian singers and bands from Germany, Indonesia and Nigeria, and a few Papal delegates thrown in. And why on earth do they import Father Christmas to Bethlehem, already replete with Christ Mass primacy, when most Palestinians have no idea where Estonia is or what slieghbells are?

Then comes the Orthodox Xmas, which is a bit more sedate, very ornate and quite delightful to a jaded old heathen like me. The chanting is done with deep faith and mystique, and the archangels and cherubim really do seem to hover around.

Then in mid-January comes the Armenian Xmas, which actually, if I were Christian, is the kind of Christmas I’d prefer – ruminative and richly calm. Either way, they’re all resplendent with candles, incense, chant and reverence – that’s very different to the mosques, where there’s nearly no ceremony or pizazz, just quiet prayer. They both have their virtues, but give me an ocean clifftop or a desert outcrop anyday, and I’ll be happy.

It looks like I’ll still be on duty over Christmas, monitoring the West Africa situation daily. Here’s the latest news from there.

Phyllis, now three, some time ago

Phyllis, the child, is happy and in good shape. She underwent an amazing turnaround last week, going from fever and coughing blood to wanting an ice cream in two days flat. I think you lot, with your prayers, played a key part in that. She is now staying with Dr Isaac and his family. Phyllis seems to be a great kid, easy to have around, and everyone loves her. I’m so happy about that. She’s special, that one.

Felicia… well, she’s improving, but we hit a setback two days ago. She has been reviving, and three days ago we moved her out of hospital into accommodation near the doctor and his wife. She was awake and becoming able to function, but she fell over, and it was bad. She needed two blood transfusions, a drip and medication. I’ve managed to finance that. So, it’s tenuous with her at present.

Those of you who have been giving your prayers, healing and positive thoughts to Felicia… may I ask for another round? Please hold her and raise her up. She has brain injuries from the ‘accident’ two weeks ago (they were rammed, actually). We think she’ll be alright, and she’s in good care, though she isn’t out of danger yet.

I want to put in a word for Dr Isaac and his partner Millicent and their children. They have taken in Felicia and Phyllis. They live simply and have their own family concerns, but they care a lot, and they’re definitely not in it for the money.

One of the greatest benefits I’ve had from my humanitarian work has been meeting simple, good-hearted folk like these who are the real saviours of our planet. They just get on with it and hold the world up. They do so much of the mopping up of the world’s mess.

Here’s Dr Isaac

The people I’m involved with in West Africa, and also my handler with the fraud investigation company, are all good and remarkable people. In this business, you develop ways of finding out who you can and cannot trust, and everyone depends on each other, and there’s a certain implicit code of behaviour, and you bond closely with people you encounter when sharing intense situations with them.

The Syrian Orthodox church, Bethlehem, Palestine

In something like this, to use an old sexist term, it sorts out the men from the boys. The people who hang with you through thick and thin are often amazing people. Dr Isaac is like that. He lost his job for us (though I think he’ll get it back). He risked his and his family’s lives. He’s gone several extra miles. He’s a man of faith and a good doctor who deserves more than a one-room home for his family.

I’ve met many remarkable people, and he ranks high, a true server, a doctor of whom Hippocrates would be proud. We’ve known each other for three rather long weeks. God bless you, Isaac. People like you convince me that this world will survive. My daughters, son and grandchildren do that too.

I guess I’m a sucker for crisis situations because it brings out the best in many people, and I like working with them, and it brings out the best in me. I’m not good at normality, you see. I’ve always felt I’m there to help the helpers, the social healers and the frontline people, and it’s an area of deep late-life satisfaction now.

Here’s the Mosque of Omar on the other side of the square. Sensibly, when they invaded, the Muslims under Caliph Omar didn’t take over and convert the church. Bethlehem has had very good Christian-Muslim relations throughout history. I wonder why?

As an independent ‘freelance humanitarian’, for want of a better term, I’ve held to certain principles I feel are important such as: ‘don’t give a person a fish, but teach them how to fish’, and ‘teach a man and you teach a man, but teach a woman and you teach a generation’. There’s even William Blake’s statement: ‘the path of excess leads to the palace of wisdom’ – and war is excess to human need, in my judgement.

I feel also that, as an educated, white, male, privileged Brit whose ancestors built the empire and kept it going, and living through its downfall and seeing its very mixed outcomes, I have a bit of an urge to complete the job. I’m not a great believer in reparations, guilt or sorrow – I just like to get in there and do something to help people have a better life and rise to their full potential. To the extent I can.

People have asked who or what I work with. To my surprise, at present it’s for a big bank – though that’s not my style. One of my PodTalks, The Only Planet of Choosing, gives clues. I’ve worked with all sorts of people, but the bottom line for me is their humanity, and progressing humanity’s evolution. My focus has been community-building, conflicts and crises, and helping social leaders stay on the rails.

You have to have your wits about you. This is strange because, as an Aspie, I can be at times apparently naively open but it’s not exactly that – it’s because I sense people’s hidden motives and agendas, and I often get delayed-action clarity on what’s really happening. So I look blank for a while. Then it all comes. So I’m best working with others, inputting what I’m good at. Such as total attention, hyper-focus. When I’m on form, I’m brilliant, and when I’m not, I’m best back here in Cornwall, out of everyone’s way.

Which is where I am now, on the farm, and it’s a dark and rainy pre-solstice night, and the owls and crows are all tucked under their wings down in the woods and hiding from the feather-ruffly wind. Wherever you are, may all be well with you.

Don’t worry too much about your circumstances, even if they’re tough at present – look at your attitude, and be innovative. Find simple ways to be happy. We all get inner friction and pain, but these are things we can reduce, even if we can’t reduce the adversity. That’s what’ll get us all through.

Well, that’s what I try to learn, anyway.

With love from me, Palden.

Blog: https://penwithbeyond.blog
Podcasts: www.palden.co.uk/podcasts.html
PodTalk | The Only Planet of Choosing (1h 13m):

The Church of the Nativity began as a goddess temple (hence the Virgin Mary came here), then a Greek Apollo temple, and only then did it become a Christian Church. The front entrance is really low and you have to duck to go through – this is to force Crusaders to dismount and it stopped their hunky stallions from entering the church. But the Israelis just roll bombs in. Interestingly, in Bethlehem, I don’t get a feeling of Jesus – it’s Mother Mary’s or Mariam’s town, and the matriarchs there definitely let you know it

Events

And the way they change things

Hello everyone. Where have I been? Well, Paldywan’s back on the holy warpath.

Sounds a bit strange, that, but it has indeed been strange. Mars, customarily the god of war, is to me a god of encounter resolution. Sometimes, life leads us into a fight – but the destruction involved depends a lot on how well we deal with the conflicts within ourselves. A great general in history once said, “Every drop of blood spilt charges its price” – it’s true. So the aim is to achieve the best all-round outcomes with the minimum of damage, but it’s a rollercoaster, the stakes are high and often the full results are slow in coming.

It wasn’t my choosing – I fell into it. I have this strange karmic pattern where I’m standing there, suddenly finding myself in the thick of it and sometimes able to pull off a remarkable solution – or at least, avoid the worst. In this instance I served as a honeypot, unwittingly attracting and exposing a crime ring involved in fraud, kidnapping, drugs and probably anything. By dint of doing the right things in the opening moments, I landed up being the only one who could follow it through – online from my desk, here on the farm.

But then, I wasn’t exactly unwilling. I’ve been feeling frustrated recently, physically unable to complete my humanitarian work, and this kind of stuff is the kind of thing I’m good at. Being rather hyper-focused, I’m calm in crises. “Ah, we have a situation” – some Palestinians used to quote me, trying to imitate my English accent, with a cheeky smile. As an Aspie, while I’m seemingly not very good at close relationships, in other contexts I can get inside the head of a person with a gun and talk them down, if necessary. Well, thus far it has succeeded, though there have indeed been ‘situations’.

I thought I’d left all that behind when cancer came my way three years ago, but the universe had other ideas – a few weeks ago I was requisitioned to play the role of a knight or a bishop in someone else’s chessgame. Again.

It’s an anti-fraud operation, now in a few countries. It’s delicate, changing hourly and daily, and I’m handling part of it. The short story is that, when I was blackmailed a few weeks ago, the first three blackmailers were small-time amateurs trying their luck to make a few bucks (two apologised afterwards), but the fourth was different – it emerged later that he was part of a crime gang, though we didn’t know it at the time. An anti-fraud agent – a really good chap, from Britain – handled the case and eventually had it wrapped up, deleting the fraudsters’ computers. Peace descended. Or so we thought.

Then suddenly, I received cries for help – the gang were coming after him, armed, and he needed to get away, pronto. They captured him, together with a woman, Felicia, who had bravely sheltered him, and her three-year old child, Phyllis. Suddenly, I was their only lifeline… and it went on from there. I managed to connect with his anti-fraud company (they work for banks), and since then I’ve been helping them.

The story went on through all sorts of complexities for twelve rather long days – it was demanding and I had to pace myself. That’s why I haven’t been blogging. After a week I managed to free Felicia and Phyllis, then further complications happened, and following that Felicia and another anti-fraud agent working for the company were attacked while driving in a car. Both have been in hospital at death’s door for some days, though on Wednesday (newmoon) I heard from the doctor that she had regained consciousness – what a relief. Meanwhile, he’s still on life-support. The unfolding situation is still rather hair-raising.

Poor little Phyllis is for now in the caring hands of strangers (I’m fixing arrangements for her), and the original British agent is still in captivity somewhere. Here am I, hidden in the far beyond, coordinating online with doctors, agents, taxi-drivers, handlers and sundry oddbods, fixing money, fixing heads, and with three or four lives at stake. Just a normal day on Earth, haha.

You meet some amazing people. A taxi-driver witnessed the attack, took the two people to hospital, then took them to another hospital and stayed with them for two nights and a day. I have just heard that he has lost his job as a result. What a good man – we’ll help him restore things. The doctor I’ve been dealing with has also been remarkable, though his wife probably doesn’t see him much.

Many people urge me to stay out of this kind of thing. Well, yes, but you’re also asking me to let these people die. That’s an option I don’t spend much time thinking about. In the middle of a crisis like this, you bond quite quickly and deeply with people. The first agent, in our last exchange on Skype before they got him, said he’d like to visit me on the farm one day, and I said, “You’re on, that’s a deal”. We haven’t spoken since, but I’m holding that thought, and I think he, wherever he is, is holding it too.

This hyperfocus business is strange. Another task I needed to do at the time was to reduce the length of my book Shining Land and remove some of the pictures – the removed stuff will go on the website. Bruce in Glastonbury, who is typesetting the book, recommended cuts because book production costs are rising and I want to keep it manageably priced. I’d been putting off this job but, when the above operation started up, happening in bursts throughout each day, I used the betweentimes for re-editing the book. It was a way of staying focused during a testy, turbulent, unsettling fortnight. So the book is now done and sent back to Bruce.

When I was diagnosed with cancer in November 2019 my life changed. Then last winter a crisis took me down deep and, by summer, it bounced me back up again, raked out but sensing there was something in life left to do. I seem now to be in a new chapter. My relative disability, aloneness and isolation, more a problem six months ago than now, mean I have time and space to do things – at least, those things I can nowadays do. Near-death and ‘chemo-brain’ have taken me through a level shift in the way I see and understand things, and while in some respects I’m saying similar stuff to 30-40 years ago, something is coming out between the lines that’s deeper, wider and stronger. Which goes to show, even fearsome things like cancer can have their blessings, if we let things be that way.

Having emerged from my shell during 2022, I’ve been cogitating what to do in 2023. What’s taking shape is this…

First, a number of Magic Circles – covering 21st Century esoterics and living as a stellar soul with an earthly contribution to make. Some will be like the Magic Circles of 2022 and at least one will involve a talking stick circle and energy-work.

Second, an online series of monthly Magic Moments (in the far beyond). These are for friends in other countries, those unable to attend Magic Circles and any Magic Circle attendees who wish to join in. Each month I’ll highlight a bundle of useful knowledge and insights, about the universe, time, the nature of our times, ancient wisdom, parapolitics, psychic geoengineering, inner aid work, healing, rescuing souls and whatever else comes up at the time – that kind of thing.

Each of these events will stand for itself, so you can join whatever you like, whenever you can. They will roll along, each rather different, unfolding as they will. They’ll all be reasonably priced and as accessible as possible. I might do one or two events for fellow cancer and terminal patients, if that is sought. Details will follow in the New Year. If you’re good at organising and have outreach in your area or network, please contact me if you’d like to host an event.

Then, third, while doing the above, I’ll be watching to see if some participants are up for starting a world-healing project with longterm aims, to continue and grow after I’ve gone. This is Version Three of earlier world-healing projects of the 1990s and since (the Hundredth Monkey Project and the Flying Squad born out of it). If and when a workable quorum of people forms, such a project can start.

There are people and bits to fit into place, and it’s an organic group process resting on who turns up and how it develops. I have a packet of seeds to hand over, with a little experience in growing them, but the garden will be evolved by the group itself – my shelf life is limited. In the 2023 Magic Circles, amongst other things we’ll have some tasters of this kind of inner work that will be useful to you whether or not you’re interested in the project. Without wanting to sound grandiose about it, there’s something ‘heaven blest’ about this, and some people might like to work within a reality-field of this kind.

Ultimately it’s all about gradually cranking up group synergy to a level where a group’s healing power is greatly increased – and the world needs it. This takes time, since a group is as strong as its weakest links, and it needs approaching in a somewhat matter-of-fact, steady and diligent way, starting at the beginning and giving it time. The Flying Squad managed 20 years, doing amazing work, though where we didn’t succeed was crossing generations and replacing ourselves with new members – so we ran out of numbers and steam. Third time lucky?

I might have only three or four years left for midwifing this idea: its success rests on the circle of people who step in and work together. The project will be pitched so that it is not too demanding in terms of commitment, because beavering away at this work longterm is more important than creating dramatic firework displays that then fizzle out. The basic commitment involves a meditation, wherever you are, once a week on Sundays, plus two or three weekend meetings per year, and there will be scope for greater and lesser involvement, to reflect everyone’s circumstances and availability, which can also change over time.

If there are people who feel right doing this, and if the right critical bits fall into place, then we can start, perhaps in late 2023 or in 2024. It will start in Britain, but folks in other countries will be able to participate remotely and, you never know, it might spread. If this sets a bell dinging, think about it over wintertime, and I’ll come out with more in a while. This is just a tender germinating seed at present, but it might one day become a tree. We shall see. Also, if option three doesn’t lift off, then options one and two will still be good.

If there’s one message I’m moved to convey, it’s this: whatever your path, and whatever your calling, do pursue it.

Now is not the time for holding back and awaiting another day. In whatever way works for you and lifts you up, whatever is your ability and contribution, it is time to come out with it and do it. If I can be of assistance in that, by doing what I do, then welcome. As I keep quoting, ‘For the triumph of evil it is necessary only that good people do nothing’.

I have some personal bits to put in place. Any offers? I need a part-time, nimble-fingered, literate PA with digital and communication skills and the sort of character and availability that would work well with a person like me. You don’t have to be in Cornwall, though that might be helpful, but the main thing is that we need to be able to sync well with each other. I also need an experienced techy Zoom moderator for the online classes, located anywhere, for a few hours each month. I’m looking for a further minder and companion too, living in Cornwall or Devon, to work alongside Penny – it’s occasional, not hard, you need to be a driver, there might be trips away, and I’m looking for someone for whom it would be uplifting and right. I can pay only expenses but, when it works well, there will be ample magic payoffs.

I’ve been quiet yet it hasn’t been quiet. Been going through some big emotional let-gos too, which have been both a wrench and the lightening of a weight. When I’ve wrapped up this operation sufficiently I’ll enjoy a getaway trip away sometime, somewhere. West Penwith, stuck out in the Atlantic, is a windy place in winter, and it sure has been whistling and whooshing around, with sunshine and monsoons in quick succession.

The cattle are down in the lower fields and the birds hide in the bushes and trees when they find the Atlantic coming at them with full-on gusto. The crows and jackdaws down in the woods, hundreds of them, work up a racket when dawn is coming – they’re my alarm clock – and in the evening they do flighty, crarking displays before settling in the evening, reminding me that it’s time to start thinking about dinner. I forget these things, you see – it’s an unhelpful aspect of hyper-focus.

Please put in a prayer for Felicia, child Phyllis and the two agents, both of them good men. I want them all alive and okay. It means a lot to me. Thank you for that. This is not the greatest of the world’s troubles, but if we all deal with our own little chunk of reality, together we’ll make inroads into turning this world of ours into the kind of place it really needs to be. Gaia needs a laying on of hands.

Thank you for reading. You mean a lot to me too.

With love, Palden

Podcasts: www.palden.co.uk/podcasts.html (or on Spotify, Apple and Google)
Shining Land: www.palden.co.uk/shiningland/
All the photos here are from West Penwith in Cornwall, where I live – and a reminder of summertime.

World Work

Inner work to aid humanity’s evolution

The Isles of Scilly from the West Penwith mainland, Cornwall

I’m not a lightworker or a conventional prayer-circle type. But I believe we need to take a multi-pronged approach to ‘world work’ – meditative, religious, psychic and process work to assist the world. I’m esoterically more activist and gutsy – it’s born out of a political background, humanitarian experience and an aged-hippy approach to life.

If you do psychic work over a period of time, in conjunction with inner friends or ‘guides’, then you’ll tend to develop an operating style between you – and that’s what happened to me. It’s not that I’m an advanced psychic. It’s more that I’ve been at it for a long time, with formative and defining inner experiences along the way.

An example: when I was 41, in an inner process I found myself walking backwards toward the abyss – a vulnerability we humans just aren’t happy with. I had tremors of fear but just had to go over the edge anyway. Tipping backwards, I fell into the void, falling, falling… until an instinct made me turn, spread my arms like wings and fly… Since that moment, I’ve been able to set my mind more free, and my busy brains don’t interfere so much.

One bizarre benefit of cancer has been the inner experiences that have come with it. Forced to spend time in bed, I went on adventures. It gave me a sense of usefulness at a time when I was wondering whether it was all worth it. But no, the management clearly said “Don’t ring us – we’ll ring you“. Well, you do get some comedy sometimes!

I’m of the opinion that, if you give a flower to an asshole or shower them with light, it will likely be a turn-off and inappropriate, with the opposite effect to what was intended. Billionaires and terrorists don’t change just because you want them to, and you wouldn’t either. You have to get in there, make friends, gain trust and work it out, as if there, relating to a real person – albeit perhaps to their wiser, more feelingful self.

Sometimes I’ll give a backrub to a mountain jihadi, or sympathise with the rigours of a politician’s life, or make an etheric cup of tea for an old lady – ‘confidence building measures’. It goes on from there. Dialogue with them as a guest in their space. When someone can see it’s in their own best interests to change, they’ll change (though not always). Typically for stroppy humans, if you push them around, they’ll resist.

If you want to penetrate a computer, work with climate issues, deal with a natural disaster, do longterm work with ‘megatrends’ (like population growth or deforestation), it’s a question of getting right inside the matter, stepping into people’s shoes, seeing what life looks like to them, getting into the back office, ferreting through the datachips or feeding helpful ideas to people in need.

One key thing is social attitudes and particularly the freeing up of groupthink, cover-ups and polarised positions. These can involve societal resistance or oligarchies who like to believe they’re in control. Changes in attitudes form the basis of world change. A valid notion here is unconcealment, the exposure of things people should know of and think about – whether withheld, or people don’t want to know, or it is simply thitherto not known.

This is not about steering things in ways we want to see things go: it’s about helping humanity accelerate its evolution. Humanity’s group soul knows what it’s doing even if we humans don’t. Sometimes the ‘wrong’ thing seems to have to happen in order to catalyse a wholesome and fundamental change. This concerns defining moments – events embodying big issues and forcing critical shifts or decisions. By this means the collective unconscious and force majeure leak into real life.

In 1995 a circle of eighty or so of us worked with Bosnia – a powerful and moving session lasting some six hours. We heard later that, while in session, some drunken Serbs had bombed a marketplace in Sarajevo, killing 60. This was sobering, shocking – definitely not our intention. What had gone wrong? Yet, a week or so later, this defining event made NATO go in, ending the war within a short time. Something ‘bad’ led to something ‘good’ – though we couldn’t and wouldn’t have designed it that way. We can’t say we made NATO go in, and that wasn’t our thought, but the synchronicities, considering the war had gone on for three years, were too close. We must assume some involvement, even if but to oil the works or connect some dots.

One of the big lessons here is: carefully consider what you pray for. Also, only take on doable challenges, and be willing to follow them through later on.

The main idea is to help foster forwardness and a sense of progress – it’s like midwifery. We cannot force progress but we can do our best to facilitate it. Deep change doesn’t happen overnight, and sometimes we must work at it over time. Humanity’s problem is that it feels blocked, jaded and discouraged, as if nothing will make any difference. So the key issue is to help people gain a sense of relief and momentum – get a taste of the benefits of accelerating evolution.

It’s a matter of getting our politics, cultural judgements, ideologies, values and comfort-zones out of the way. This isn’t easy. It helps to have travelled outside the rich world to see things from another angle. Be aware of the way the media and your education shape your thinking, and listen more closely to events than to what people say. Study a little history, background and smallprint. Step over your beliefs and conditioning, using sensitivity, imagination and intuition to experience things from the inside, to see the dynamics going on underneath. It’s a challenge to set ourselves aside – though just for half an hour or so.

There are many ways to do world work, and if you resonate with what’s written here, then give attention to feeling your way forward, developing your own path. Use the inner tricks, tools and background you already have.

Here’s a crucial, human bit: we need to connect our own issues, pain and challenges into this, to power it up emotionally. We know what our own pain is like, and plenty of people round the world are in similar or worse situations. So they can act as a psychic entry-point. You can see life through their eyes. In recent months I’ve experienced heartbreak, and plenty of people in Ukraine, or Palestine and Yemen (the two main places I regularly focus on), have heartbreak too, and we all need a bit of there-there, and thus we can serve each other well.

With cancer, I tune into cancer patients, because it means something personal to me and I know what it’s like. The feeling-tones around this gives the work more grace, astuteness and firepower. If you’re a nurse, a truck-driver, a gardener or a pensioner, tune in through your own situation and its problems and joys and use this empathically to connect with others.

There are holistic and surgical/pharma treatments for disease. In this context, disease can encompass riots, volcanoes, storms, wars, famines, insecurity, collapses and ‘black swans’ – events no one expected. Holistic treatment works best for building conditions for good health and immunity, while surgery and pharma are best when it’s too late or too serious. This kind of meditation is more surgical, applicable when deep matters of principle are at stake.

But it depends really on whether this is your thing. Or perhaps you might be best continuing with what you already do, with a new slant to it.

There are all sorts of methods and procedures, such as mopping up dead souls after disasters, working to raise the level of the collective mood, inwardly supporting threatened species, love-bombing and truth-mining a conflict zone, or working with whatever comes up in the news that really gets to you. If it’s Ukraine, work with Ukraine because you will also assist other places and situations where similar issues apply. One longterm aim is to remove enough problems from the overall system so that its inherent, homoeostatic self-healing capacity can revive.

Sometimes it’s an A&E and intensive care job, and cutting out a tumour or infected organ can save the whole body, if that is the only option left. That’s how focusing on specific acute issues and crises can help the world as a whole. Don’t forget to support the helpers too: the on-the-ground activists, good-hearted people, dedicated public servants, people who hold society up and do the donkey-work, and people who take brave initiatives. I’ve even found myself sitting with an abandoned dying person in an apartment block in Sian, China, and it was good for both of us. He found a comforting welcome on the other side.

If you do this once a week for a year, out of fifty meditations, ten will be really worth it. When done in a group (three upwards), even if remotely at a chosen time, it powers it up. Stick with it. Don’t seek results – just do it. Give it time. This is a life-long work. It can empower other stuff you’re doing or give meaning to what you might believe to be a meaningless, insignificant life.

Based on earlier experiences in the 1970s-80s, in the 1990s I started a large-group project doing ‘inner aid’, the Hundredth Monkey Project, which pioneered much of this approach, and later a smaller group, the Flying Squad, continued in this work for twenty years. They’re both closed now, but the meditation time-slot, agreed with the Council of Nine thirty years ago, is still open every week on Sundays at 7-7.30 GMT (8-8.30 BST). I’m there, every week, wherever I am, dead or alive, and with a number of others (I know not how many). Tune in on that channel if you wish. If you continue over time the management will give you a direct line.

In my experience there is more personal growth in ‘world work’ than in personal growthwork. You find that out by doing it. The more you do it, the better you get. So just work at it, don’t make a big deal, keep motivation simple and intelligent and, remember, it is for the highest good, for the wide, longterm benefit of humanity, our planet home and all who live in her.

Thanks for reading. We’ll be covering this in my forthcoming ‘magic circles‘.

Love from me, Palden


If this subject interests you, here is an article and a report I wrote in the 1990s. My thoughts have developed and changed in some respects but it all still holds. I’ll revise them sometime. Or not, as the case may be.
www.palden.co.uk/consciousness-work.html
www.palden.co.uk/psychic-work.html

The Flying Squad site is worth a look:
www.flyingsquad.org.uk

My podcasts: www.palden.co.uk/podcasts.html

Carn Les Boel and its seal caves. This cliff sanctuary sits at the western end of the Michael Line

Far Beyond yet Amazingly Close

and round in circles

In August and September I’m going to be doing three ‘magic circles’ – An Afternoon in the Far Beyond with Palden Jenkins.

I’m really happy about the way these are working out. They’ll be in Glastonbury, Avebury and Buckfast, near Totnes, in Devon.

If you’re able to come, it would be really good to see you and share this with you.

Since getting cancer in late 2019, and with only some time left, I’ve been reflecting on what I need to pass on before I go. Over the decades I’ve had privileged exposure to profound experiences and played my part in the movement for change, and there’s something from all this that I want to share, while I still can.

Photo: Sunny Tresidder

I’ve always worked on creating energy-spaces, tastes of the world we’re heading towards, taking people deep and high, though keeping it simple. You get a taste of this in my blogs and podcasts. I can be quite metaphysical and political too, with a way of connecting wide-apart dots and helping people see and feel things they half-knew but hadn’t quite got.

I have a few friends Upstairs who will be in on this, so everyone present will get some personal treatment! You see, in this ‘last chapter’ phase of my life, though I’ve done all this kind of thing many times before, it feels like it’s going to a new level. It feels right to do this. We’ll do three ‘magic circles’ to see how it goes, and how I hold up, and then see what’s next.

All of the information is here: www.palden.co.uk/magic-circles.html

So I shall be venturing upcountry from the far beyond (I live right at the far end of Cornwall), and if you’re able to make it I’d love seeing you.

I’m doing an evening talk in Glastonbury too (date not fixed yet) called The Tipping of the Scales. If you live in or around Glastonbury or are visiting at the time, you might find it rather interesting!

Gurnard’s Head, an ancient cliff sanctuary on the north coast of West Penwith, Cornwall

Three Wars Old

What wars do

Thinking of people living in places like Kharkhiv in Ukraine, and what it’s like to be on the receiving end of war, here’s an article by a young Gazan, called ‘Three Wars Old’, about her experiences as she grew up. What’s remarkable here is that people like the author, Samah, can be far more balanced and accepting of their benighted situation than we would expect, when we see things from our own viewpoint of living in a (largely) safe and comfortable country. Not that it’s easy for her. I’ve learned so much from people like her.

Some years ago I was involved with We Are Not Numbers, an NGO which trained young Gazans to write articles about their lives in English for worldwide consumption. It is so important for people in wars to know that other people round the world know what’s happening to them. They feel isolated, unseen, uncared about. One of the functions I’ve served in the Middle East has been the simple task of ‘witnessing’ – sharing people’s experiences, hearing their stories, letting them express their feelings and feel heard. This is a great healer in itself.

Later, the NGO started training young Gazans in working with video, supplying the necessary equipment and support (smuggled, probably). This bore fruit in the last Gaza war, when young Palestinians communicated freely online on Youtube, letting the world see fully what was happening to them. And the world got it. In a way, they won the propaganda war in that instance. That’s the amazing thing about Palestinians: they get beaten every time, yet they never lose. That’s called resistance.

You hardly ever hear of cholera, widespread starvation or absolute destitution in Gaza: whatever their situation, they act together to deal with whatever comes at them. They’re well organised and have the right attitude. Nevertheless, once upon a time I asked a young friend who had been a male nurse in Gaza, asking him what had been the most difficult thing about nursing there. He said: ‘Holding down a person while we operated on them without anaesthetics’.

This kind of thing is a personal matter too. Warfare arises from the deep belief that other people are different from us, a threat, and they’re hurting us. This happens in everyday life, in our own lives. In recent months, struggling with a deep emotional issue, I’ve been faced with my own self-defensive patterns of falling into this, of thinking badly of others, flailing around in aggrieved resentment and pain which rears its head and grinds around in my psyche when I’m wobbling and grinding my stuff. Then I get a battle between that side and the understanding, empathic, compassionate side of myself, which sees things completely differently. In a way, that’s even worse, with the contrasts of viewpoint and feeling grating and scraping against each other.

I grind and wrestle, sometimes getting lost, sometimes getting found, churning inside over and over, digging in the pain and feeling the pain of the other person or people too, lost in a confusion of exaggerated inner dramas. Yet, like spilt petrol on a wet road, there’s a beauty that emerges, a peace that dawns surreptitiously from underneath. It comes eventually. I come to a smiling peace again, worn out perhaps. So I’m at least making progress. But even then, when I feel I’ve laid something to rest, it can come back with a vengeance later on and I’m back to square one. It’s relentless.

Isn’t it strange? We humans, we make so much more difficulty for ourselves than we need to make. We externalise our grating struggles onto others – talk of crimes against humanity, we’re all at it. Confused mass murderers, us lot. Go on, own up. Look at what you’ve done. Don’t worry though, ‘cos I’m much worse than you, and you can take consolation from that! I’m the worst sinner around, hehe.

Well, that’s a part of us. But there’s another part too. It really is a matter of which part we choose, and how we then deal with the other part that got sidelined. This is what is at stake in wars. We humans create horror and destruction for each other – and even the winners never truly, fully, permanently win, and all that is won is eventually lost. It’s tragic. This seems to be in the nature of things on this planet. We share a home and threaten to blow it up, just to prove that it’s ours, not yours. We do it because we refuse to sort out our differences by other means.

Our fundamental interests are actually shared, and we sit in the same boat. It’s not about you and me, it’s about us. We have a dilemma, and something needs to be worked out.

It’s not just about diplomacy, treaties and cease-fires. It’s about that inner conflict, the feeling that others are out to get us and do us in, and that we’re the best. This will take generations to heal, and this is one of the key areas of focus in the coming decades. It’s a deep emotional issue and, in a way, the wars of today are, with tragic repetition, acting it out.

It’s difficult to believe, but over time there is progress. Regarding Kharkhiv or Gaza or Yemen or Mali, the devastation is exhausting us, taking us up to the fence where humanity has to choose. For, as a Bosnian said in the video from Sarajevo I posted on Facebook a few days ago, ‘In war, who loses? – everyone‘.

Samah in Gaza demonstrates how even those who have had the worst happening to them, grilled by the painful intensity of life, can become remarkable people. I think she has a future.

Times of Intensity

…and not the last.

Hebron, Palestine, but it could be anywhere

I grew up in what in the 1960s was a violent and polarised city, Liverpool, learning in my teens that, in any conflict, it always, always takes two to tango – even when one side is the victim and another the oppressor. This can be a difficult issue to see and to own, whether or not one is involved in a conflict, and especially when people suffer horribly. There’s a natural tendency to take sides – and taking sides is important because issues and principles are involved in situations like Ukraine today, or in any conflict, big or small.

It is possible to take sides, or to stand up for one’s own interests, while also acknowledging that it takes two to tango. This is a key element in war strategy too: right now it is not good strategy for Russia and NATO to provoke each other too far, since they risk starting an action-reaction escalation reaching levels that fundamentally self-harm each side and everyone.

This has a restraining influence – deterrence. It can happen in the personal sphere too, in our own arguments, even with ourselves. It is a key element in peacemaking: both sides are in some way responsible – even if the balance is 80-20 or 70-30. We can support one side for entirely valid reasons, while ‘tango’ holds true nonetheless. War is filled with paradoxes.

There’s an ugly reality getting acted out in Ukraine, the ‘theatre of war’ for today: to quote Bertrand Russell, ‘War is not about who is right, it’s about who is left‘. This looks likely to prove true in coming months or years. So a miracle solution is needed here.

Talking of viruses, have you noticed how, when one war (such as Afghanistan) comes to an end, another seemingly unconnected war (such as Ukraine) can quickly start up? The issue here is that we have allowed the war virus to be firmly rooted in the human psyche, such that it becomes default behaviour. When the host population is worn out, the virus hops to another vulnerable population, until we change the default pattern.

So, immunologically, by addressing the factors that feed the war virus and the vectors of its transmission, and giving extra support to ‘medical interventions’ such as peacebuilding, diplomacy, de-traumatisation and citizen contact across the lines over a period of time, so that a new immunity can be built up. But to do this the media need to focus on peacemaking, not the excitement of conflict, and at least half of negotiators and peacemakers should be women, and the voices of the young should be heard.

Foghorns at Pendeen Watch, Cornwall

One of the most dangerous things in our time is polarisation, during a time when, to address the main issues in the world, cooperation is more necessary now than ever – globally and, despite Brexit, Europe-wide. Social consensus, cooperation and human care are so much needed – this was demonstrated during the Covid lockdowns. Environmental, climatic, population, social and justice issues will make little progress without care, pluralism and inclusivity. This means consensus not only amongst our lot, but also with that lot over there – even with banksters, extremists and other demons.

There’s a further thing: when people and nations are getting on with explosions and atrocities, they are not getting on with the essential questions that, in the end, harm us all. They are blasting out the subtle, tender, human aspects of life with noise and violence. War is a tragic diversion, a terrible habit of humanity that is used unconsciously, and by elites, as a way of evading the big questions. It’s ingrained in all of us.

This applies in our personal relationships: each party in an argument might consider the other wrong or flawed, feeling justified in standing up for itself, yet both parties together fail to fulfil the core purpose of their relationship unless their argument progresses toward resolution. This doesn’t mean everything has to be peaceful and smoothed over: differences of position need sorting out at an earlier stage, before they get complex and damaging, in the knowledge that fighting charges a higher price to both parties than reconciliation. Fighting rarely sorts out the fundamental causes of conflict, instead laying down further historic pain and trauma for future eruption and processing. It goes on and on.

Teenagers get used to it quickly

This said, I honour, respect and support the choice of Ukrainians to resist, now that we are where we are. I would too, in their situation. I’ve spent years working with Palestinians, and I feel their resistance is justified, not because I believe Israelis are wrong but because, ultimately, what the Israeli state has been doing is not right for Palestinians, Israelis or anyone. If I were in Ukraine, I’d be in the resistance – in my case, doing furtive and dangerous things in the background (I have Mars in Scorpio).

Would you keep your head down, be a refugee or join the resistance? It’s quite important to be honest with ourselves about questions like this, at this time.

One strange thing about war situations is this: it gives people a tremendous, if tragic, opportunity to discover their true gifts. It’s a free-for-all in many different senses, and some of the acts of humanity I’ve seen in conflict situations are unforgettable. And people quickly find out what they’re really good at.

Polarisation, a virus of the psyche, has no simple vaccination. It oversimplifies things when a conflict escalates and breaks out, even if it is but a conflict of ideas or values. Conflicts are a complex calculus, often going way back into histories and threads that otherwise have been forgotten. When they break out, the rules change drastically and damage and pain escalate horrendously as a result. Referring to the past to justify one’s position becomes less and less relevant because, in war, the past few days’ damaging events can override them.

In the end, apart from fighting to exhaustion, the only way to resolve a conflict is to focus on the present and future needs of all concerned parties, because that’s what’s being forged and the outcome is longterm or permanent. To some extent, everyone is right and everyone is wrong, and this needs recognising. If we cannot establish these as global norms, we will not really resolve the bigger issues we face in the 21st Century. It’s that simple.

Ideas and sentiments replicate virally and, although some folk, and some countries like Britain, see themselves as scions of freedom, they can also be obedient carriers and sufferers of the polarisation virus without really knowing or owning up to it. The same applies to people who buy into conventional public groupthink, which settles so easily around simple catchphrases, formulae, heroes or villains, denying wider perspectives, tending to see things one-sidedly and seeking to pre-decide issues. Driven by an urge for comfort in numbers, individuals can suspend consideration, subscribing instead to verified and authorised rationales made official by the loudest pundits, or by convention, or by authorities or corporates with the power to persuade or control, both in the foreground or the background.

When social control mechanisms rear their heads, as we’ve seen in recent years, we tend to blame governments, corporations, Big Brother, Reptilians, foreigners or whatever, yet thereby we confirm our own infection by the virus, helping to replicate it. People accused of wrongs are too easily demonised, stripping them of humanity, so that others can feel they’re right. Poor thinking, often befogged by reverberating public sentiment, is so easily captured and trained, and our media and social media excel in it.

The virus arises from a kind of separation trauma deep in the heart of humanity. It emerged as competitiveness, warlordism, stratified social power, a sense that others are a threat and that nature is there for conquest, accompanied by an increasingly cultish elevation of self-interest. In Britain I think it took hold around 1200 BCE, at the end of the megalithic era. Different people are differently affected by the polarisation and groupthink, and to step outside their thralldom can be quite traumatic because all our beliefs, our world, can disintegrate – which is why many people don’t do it. Best done in youth, though it’s a struggle then, too.

Bedouin women in Sinai, Egypt

In this respect, I recommend spending time outside the developed world, not as a tourist but in the villages and streets, and not just for a week, and running on economy – things look and feel very different. Learn how to sleep on the ground, cook with one pan on a fire or how to accept the generosity of quite poor people.

I’m writing all this not only as a geopolitics and history buff, but because I’m personally in a deep and moving conflict of my own in my life right now, and the challenge is to remember all the above in my dealings. This is difficult – stepping outside myself sufficiently to be as objective and fair as possible, yet standing up for and successfully communicating my own position and terms at the same time. It’s a matter of feeling my pain, guilt and fear while, as much as possible, not being dominated by them. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t, and when I fail it adds to the hurt I cause.

It’s strange too since, as a cancer patient, I have to be more attentive to my needs and interests than ever before, and I’m in new territory. It presents a dilemma. I need others’ support like never before, though I’m not up for playing the victim cancer sufferer either – an attitude that has a downward bearing on my health and spirits. I have no right to expect others to make sacrifices for me, only a hope. I’m at risk of getting mashed even by others’ often quite normal, acceptable actions and ways, bless them, and particularly by their non-actions or omissions. Yet, up to the right level at least, I do need my minimum needs met, without lapsing into a stuck constellation of relationships where I’m asking favours and demanding support of a time-pressed circle of rushed helpers, neighbours, friends and family, most of whom are doing their very best, and for whose inputs I’m genuinely grateful.

Yet in our society helping others is seen as a choice, carried out when we have time or inclination, when in many societies it is a natural obligation and priority. In war, it’s all hands on deck or get out of the way. Indeed, it’s likely to be all hands on deck in coming decades, though not necessarily because of war. Evolving a balance between freedom and obligation is one of the great tasks of coming decades: the balance of private preference and wider benefit, local and global, and human needs and ecosystem priorities. And it has to work, otherwise it’s hard times.

So in my heart, the war in Ukraine (also in Sahel and Palestine) and the difficult personal conflict I am in, are digging over similar ground. It’s literally heart-rending. In moments of despair, part of me even wants to go to Ukraine, not to fight, but to weigh in on making people happier and doing some backchannel work – I have the experience, and an old cripple on sticks like me is quite good cover when hobbling through checkpoints and handling scrapes. I’m likely to die before too long anyway, which means that, though I do have fear, it doesn’t impact quite the same as it usually would – and you gotta go somehow.

But I don’t have it in me to go, really, physically and financially. My time for that is past, and sometimes I go through pangs about that. So, I’m doing what I can from here, re-engaging in a new level of psychic work, from my eyrie here on the farm, and from occasional hilltops and headlands in West Penwith. I find the Kremlin is psychically not as well guarded as the White House or even Number Ten.

This confluence of personal feeling and war in Ukraine is interesting because, while currently experiencing my own pain and loss patterns, my geopolitical inner efforts are able to come from a more deep and feelingful place, and both are somehow inwardly connected. Many Ukrainians, like cancer patients, have death hovering close to them, and there’s a deep vulnerability and a bizarre openness to that. This is what part of me has deeply sought, in my involvement in conflicts in the past – a sensitivity and emotional permeability that makes me more human, and it comes up in risky, edgy situations.

I’ve sought this in loving and caring relationships too, only to come up against my own limitations, pain and switched-downness. I’ve made some progress, but in truth I can’t say I’ve resolved the matter at all. I look and sound pretty sussed out, but really, I’m both happy and unhappy with the way I’ve handled life and its ins and outs. I haven’t fitted easily into the world. It’s good to be honest about that because, when we come to dying, the whole story of our lives show themselves in a new and different way, and it’s better facing awkward truths beforehand. It’s not self-pity, it’s straight old reality-as-it-is being revealed, and ultimately that’s relieving, helping with karmic untangling.

And life goes on. In health I am kinda okay, with room for improvement and a few problem issues that trouble me, but I’ll get there. In spirits I am soldiering on and holding up, and I’ve been having some lovely adventures out in nature – and I keep looking for the gift in situations. Astrologically I’m on a few big Saturn transits, so whaddya expect?

Springtime is coming here in Cornwall, and some bonny days have appeared since newmoon, and the plants are yawning open, and the geese will probably head north soon, and the tweety birds are chomping birdseed and fatballs at a rate of knots, and it’s no longer dark when I wake up, and Saturday was the first day I didn’t light my woodstove in the morning. And I enjoy blueberry porage for breakfast.

Amidst the hurricane of flying crap happening now, above all hold steady – and I shall too. This is the second of quite a few big crises in the 2020s, and it’s best to forget ‘normal’ and to develop new ways to find our ground. Here’s a re-tweet: I sense that the future is having an increasingly causative effect on the present – the past is getting wiped away faster than we would like. We’re getting sucked forward into successive cliffhanger situations where we, as humans, are obliged to make bottom-line decisions – kinda last-chance saloon stuff. Perhaps this applies to my personal affairs too, or perhaps to yours. Such brinkmanship is a way to prepare us for change, because guaranteeing the future involves making a quantum leap where absolutely everything is up for review and change, and we’re all involved. It’s hair-raising and gives no security, and it’s what we’re being confronted with now, in the 2020s.

Love from me, down’ere in Cornwall. Palden.

My podcasts are at www.palden.co.uk/podcasts.html
And all my stuff can be found here: www.palden.co.uk

Intelligence

Latest podcast

Intelligence.

One of two – the other comes later.

This is about using our intelligence more deeply. Putting instinct and intuition to work.

I’ve hovered around the edges of the intel world in my humanitarian, peace-activist and consciousness work, and here I tell a few tales of things that happened, some of the ways I’ve done it, and some of the lessons learned. Might be useful to some of you.

This and the podcast that follows soon are also both about ‘higher intelligence’ – drawing on sources far beyond our normal reach.

But first, the waves of Kilgooth Ust or Cape Cornwall, on a mighty-rollers day…

Makes one wonder where the power really lies.

You can find my podcasts on Spotify, Apple and Google Podcasts, as well as here on my own site:

http://www.palden.co.uk/podcasts.html

Cape Cornwall

Far Beyond Timbuktu

A people-sized aid project in Tinzibitane, Mali

Some of the villagers, in front of the school

In the 1300s-1400s, when Europe was reeling and depressed after the Black Death, Mali was the richest place in the world – the source of much of the gold that eventually financed the rise of Europe (and eventually its takeover of Africa in the 1800s). It isn’t like that any more.

Those of you who have been following me for some years will be aware that I have been helping and supporting a small village of desert-dwelling Tuareg people called Tinzibitane. The village is roughly 60km west of the historic town of Timbuktu, in the desert.

Lessons!

The Tuareg are an ancient people, formerly the camel-truckers of the Sahara. They’re different from other West Africans, and they aren’t treated well. They’re Muslims yet they have their own ancient traditions, with Goddess roots to them going back millennia. Some Tuareg have become jihadis, further north in the desert, but this village is not involved with that – and you’ll notice they’re educating girls and boys equally. The women of the village are strong.

In Tinzibitane they have a wise chief, around my age (71), and my contact, Anim Touareg, a Millennial in his thirties, is likely to become the next chief. He’s a good man, and a single father (his wife died some years ago in childbirth – we tried to save her but it came too late). In my illness, with cancer, the chief prays for me, and I pray for him too.

The village

Over the years, various of us have been helping finance the re-stocking of their camels and goats, the sinking of a new well in the village, and the building of a school there, after a time of devastation (drought and war) around 2012. They are educating their kids in a Tuareg way. The alternative is to send the kids to the towns for education – and, this way, the young people are lost, heading for the cities and for Europe when they grow up. We are seeking to change this, to help the villagers meet the 21st Century while retaining their traditional desert life – and this means helping the kids stay in the village by educating them in a Tuareg way.

The new well, with the school behind

I am no longer able to run fundraising campaigns fully on their behalf and I need some help with crowdfunding and similar things. I’m good at writing material and liaising with the villagers but I can’t deal with the necessary details around crowdfunding and the necessary networking. I’m not fast enough and my memory for details isn’t as it was.

School dinner

So I am looking for one or two people who might help me with this, willing to do the necessaries that I cannot do and to stick with it for perhaps a few months, working online with me. It needs some focus, work and commitment, but not too much, plus some necessary support-raising skills. This is a really good cause. The aim is to raise money to pay the teachers, who come from other parts of Mali to stay in the village and teach the kids. They are dedicated teachers but they cannot keep their own families alive and happy without pay.

Tuareg women of the future

If anyone is interested, please contact me. This is a people-sized, small-scale enlightened-development project. The Tuareg of Tinzibitane are a self-sufficient people who don’t like to ask for help, but they do need support in dealing with money-interactions with modernity and the outside world. It has felt good working with them over the last seven or so years – they’re good people, with integrity, and they’re taking life in their own hands. I need some assistance in helping them.

Anyone interested? If so, please contact me. They also make remarkable handmade crafts, which you can see on Anim‘s FB page.

Back Roads

A place I love that I can’t return to

Recently I haven’t been in the best of health and spirits and I shall write a blog about that soon, when my energy is right. But if you want clues, listen to my last podcast Popping Clogs and Kicking Buckets.

Meanwhile, I’ve begun a kind of preliminary goodbyeing process, and in the last 24 hours I’ve been wishing I could be back in Palestine, with friends and ‘family’ there. So I was moved this morning to post a chapter from Pictures of Palestine, to share this feeling with you.

(If you like this chapter, you can download a free PDF or e-book version on the site, or order the print version.)

It was written in 2009 but, while details in Palestine have changed, the situation has not, and this chapter in essence has not dated.


The Back-Roads of Palestine – arriving in Bethlehem

“Where you want go?” “Beit Lahem”.

“Where you from?” “Britaniyya.”

“Ah, my son, he in Leicester, doctor in hospital.” I’m never sure whether to be happy or sad when they say things like this, but most Palestinians seem quite happy that at least someone in the family is chasing a future abroad. It’s their family insurance policy.

I was the first to the yellow eight-seater VW service bus, so I would have to wait for more passengers to appear. That was fine – I wanted to assimilate being in Jericho again. Everyone was friendly. If ever you come to Palestine, be ready to be overwhelmed with hospitality – it’s quite moving and takes a while to get used to. It’s not a front. People come up and shake your hand, saying “Wilcome, wilcome to Falastin”, and they really mean it. They know it takes some resolve to get here.

I went off and found some Egyptian mango juice and Jericho springwater to guzzle. The dense Jordan valley heat was like an engulfing blanket but, being thin, I’m fine with that – it’s chilly, damp British weather I have a problem with! I went over to some guys standing around talking. The usual friendly questions. Where you from? What your name? Where you going? How many children you have? What you doing here? They’re often interested in my age, and eyebrows raise when I tell them – Palestinian men of my age often look older and more worn than I do.

I took photos of some of them – they seemed to love it. But some didn’t want it, gesticulating ‘No’ with a quick wave of the finger, and I knew why. It’s politics and security: they or their family have had trouble with the Israelis, or they supported Hamas or another faction, or they had a history, or their brother was in jail, or… Long ago I had been in similar straits and I know what it’s like: it’s not just that you want to avoid the gaze of the powers that be, but also that you don’t want to keep reminding your friends or even yourself that, rightly or wrongly, you’re toxic property.

Eventually the service taxi-van was full and we were off through the streets of Jericho, an ancient city with an 8,000 year history. We left the town, driving some miles up to the main Jerusalem highway and then turning right, following the road as it ascends through the Judean desert hills. It sweeps through the valleys, climbing up and up just to reach sea level, marked by a sign in Hebrew, Arabic and English. After making good progress, still uphill, we suddenly slowed down and pulled off near the Ma’ale Adumim interchange onto a bumpy, crowded road and into a scrappy Palestinian township near Al Azariya.

Ma’ale Adumim is one of the biggest Israeli West Bank settlements, a Jerusalem orbital town and an asset Israel is unlikely to abandon, whatever foreign politicians want. This new town and the roads servicing it, built on confiscated Palestinian land, split the West Bank into northern and southern halves, rendering Palestine territorially sub-functional as a nation.

But we were not going to Ma’ale Adumim. Instead, we hit a bumpy side-road which, for Palestinians, is a key trunk road linking the northern and southern West Bank. It weaves through a small town, then weaving along valleys and up and down the high hills, with sharp switchbacks, steep inclines and loads of traffic. In Britain we’d regard it as a back-country ‘B’ road, but actually it is ‘Palestine Route One’. Nowadays it is being modernised but in 2009 the only sign of its trunk road status was the density of traffic.

Some of the areas it drives through are poor and dilapidated, the houses quite scrappy, the land stony and dry. Garbage, wrecks and piles of rubble are heaped here and there – an alienated landscape where the locals have lost their care and pride. They’re probably rural refugees, thrown off land the Israelis have taken, such as at Ma’ale Adumim. It’s one of the tragic aspects of this country. But then, many Palestinians harbour little hope, so they’re unlikely to invest in longterm improvements. They half-expect the Israelis to come in some day, wreck everything again or drive them out, and they do have reason to anticipate that.

Yet there are some pretty nice houses along the road too, in other locations. Palestinians who are go-getters or beneficiaries of the PA or foreign agencies take great pride in their new-builds, many of which have a fine vista and attractive courtyards with flowering trees and bushes. It’s as if their optimism compensates for their others’ lack of it. It also reveals an emerging class divide between those who benefit from foreign subsidies and advantages and those who do not. Palestine has its haves and have-nots and they nowadays live in quite distinct economies.

The road is exciting to travel as it climbs up steep hills and tips into deep valleys, weaving through an impressive limestone upland landscape, passing through hilltop villages with prominent mosques and affording views stretching many miles. Yes, this is a trunk road – but it’s heartbreaking too. Privileged Israelis drive along their fast, wide highways while Palestinians have to heave up, down and around on side-roads like this: transportation apartheid. Although the West Bank is occupied by Israel, its cars have different number-plates from those of Israelis, conferring different driving and access rights. Go up the wrong road and you could, on a bad day, experience a sudden hail of bullets at worst, or interrogation at best.

It’s not easy, living under military occupation

We passed through only one checkpoint, which today was open. The Israeli soldiers leaned against their booths and bollards, talking to each other and idly gazing at passing traffic. Poor guys – what a job. There they stood sweating, posted in an unfriendly spot next to a Palestinian hilltop village, perpetually on guard against a foe who nowadays rarely materialises and might hardly exist.

In the distance I could see the Herodeon, near Bethlehem, a prominent conical hill and ancient site going back millennia. It looks like a volcano but it was shape-enhanced in ancient times and contains, allegedly, the tomb of Herod the king. Naturally, we didn’t head straight toward it – our route was still sinuous and tortuous. After another twenty minutes we pulled into Beit Sahour – Shepherds’ Fields, referring to the Christmas story – near Bethlehem. The family that made up most of the passengers in the bus was dropped off right outside their gate. The remaining woman asked me, on behalf of the driver, where I wanted to be dropped. I decided to go to Manger Square in central Bethlehem to catch some food, take a rest and ascertain where Ibrahim Issa was to be found.

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

There I bundled out of the bus dragging my wheeled bag, my precious technology bag over my shoulder. Containing a netbook computer, camera and lenses, digital sound recording equipment, DVD and card readers, cables, plugs and adaptors, with room for travel papers, passport and a bottle of water, this technology bag is neat – but rather a wrench on the shoulder muscles.

The Christian taxi-drivers near the Nativity Church, seeing a Westerner – who of course must be rich – started hollering at me for my custom. You learn how to gesticulate ‘No’. One bright young driver with a pleasant face got my attention, though I still said no to him. I wanted to sit down and have something to eat. He shepherded me to a nearby café and within seconds a pitta stuffed with salad and falafel was set in front of me, along with fresh carrot juice. What a relief! All the taxi-drivers stood round asking questions and smiling, all very amiable once they’d realised I was no source of business for them right now.

I rang Ibrahim, but no answer. Did I have the right number? Hmmm, what next? Leaving my bag at the café, I went wandering. As I returned, the young taxi-driver signalled me: “I help you. What your name?”

He took me to the Hope Flowers School at the far end of Al Khader, west of Bethlehem, but it was locked and deserted. On the way I noticed that the town was in visibly better shape than on my last trip in 2005, just after the second intifada, during which the Israelis had wrecked Bethlehem and still then staged periodic incursions and searches. But now the separation wall had been built and Bethlehem, imprisoned behind it, was safer and more relaxed. The security wall protects Palestinians from Israelis as well as vice versa. This relaxation of tension was visible on the streets. Another sign of progress was the condition of the trees in the central reservation of the Hebron road leading to Al Khader.

These trees, planted in 2005 by the Earth Stewards, were all intact and growing! I had joined them – mostly Dutch, German and Austrian green activists – in a tree-planting project organised by Hope Flowers. Ibrahim had known the Earth Stewards when he lived in Holland in the 1990s and he had organised PeaceTrees as a joint project with them in Bethlehem, not just as an ecological but also as a social empowerment project. The trees’ continued existence showed that something had worked – the locals had got the message.

During the intifada people had lost hope. It had followed a period in the 1990s when peace and progress came close and then ebbed away, prompting the uprising, a mass expression of sheer frustration. Israeli measures taken against Palestinians were terrible and Bethlehem had been an epicentre of conflict – remember the shoot-out at the Church of the Nativity in 2002? By 2005, when the intifada had subsided, the locals needed jump-starting with initiatives to help them improve their lives and encourage them to invest energy in the future. The regular experience of seeing houses demolished, parts of town wrecked, buildings shelled and people carted off had given Bethlehemites a feeling of futility and pointlessness.

By planting a large number of trees in a very visible place – the main road’s central reservation – we caused mild fascination at first, followed by interest and questions. Then people joined in, then energy and enthusiasm grew. We wrapped up the project by saying, “If you don’t look after these trees, they will die, so it’s up to you” – and we left. The trees survived: someone had made sure they were watered and cared for. PeaceTrees had worked.

The Old Town of Bethlehem

As the young taxi-driver and I returned to central Bethlehem, he told me that he was a student of accountancy in Hebron and drove his uncle’s taxi to pay his way. He wanted to be my friend and I promised I would find him again. Subsequently I had a number of lifts with him, and only half the time did he charge me. He dropped me off and I headed up to Manger Square, standing there awhile, taking it all in. A wide, large square, milling with people.

A man approached, asking in quite good English whether he could help me. Adnan took me to his shop near the square, where he sold souvenirs – olive-wood religious objects, Arabic dresses, Bedouin rugs, decorative inlaid boxes and allsorts. Some of the woodwork was exquisitely carved and the rugs and clothing came in lovely colours, all with a very hand-made feel to them. Mint tea appeared and people came and went as we talked. Adnan discovered I was a webmaster and asked if I would help him make a website – I said I would consider it. He rang a friend who knew Ibrahim – an answer would come soon about where to find him.

I got out my computer and skyped my cousin, then my son and then my ladyfriend back in England, to tell them I’d got here. I wanted to share it with them. A small crowd gathered round, goggling at this visitor’s neat technology, and they said hello on Skype, all very thrilled. My son just said, “Cool”, and carried on tapping on his computer. Then he looked up and suddenly saw several faces looking at him through the screen.

“Who’re they?” “I’ve finally got to Bethlehem, and these are some of the kids here”. “Cool”, he repeated, in his perpetually unfazed way, still tapping keys.

My ladyfriend was dumbstruck at talking live to some real Palestinians. Palestinians are people you hear about on the news, you don’t expect to talk personally with them on Skype. Everyone helloed, and she helloed back. While I was talking to her, the calling to prayers started up – really loud, since we were right next to the Omar Mosque. She was visibly moved at the sound, as it hit her that I was really there. She and my cousin were serving as ‘ground control’ back in England, and it was fitting to share with them my first taste of returning.

Eventually the grapevine worked and Ibrahim Issa came to fetch me. I’d last seen him five months earlier in England during one of his speaking tours. He had looked tired, not really wanting to stand on stages giving speeches, and I was concerned about him, wondering whether he was burning out. But today he was his sprightly self, at ease, smiling. He’s rotund, like a cuddly bear, with a character-filled face and a bright countenance.

I feel brotherly toward him, as if we had made some mutual contract way back in the mists of time, yet I’m old enough to be his father. We hugged in the middle of the street – much to the interest of onlookers – and looked at each other for a long moment. I knew he felt some relief that I was back and had probably wondered whether he would see me here again. Foreigners come and go, saying they will return, but only a few reappear.

Hope Flowers had started as a kindergarten in 1984 and by the late 1990s it was a school with 500 pupils. It shrank after 2000 during the second intifada, as the Palestinian economy tanked and hardship set in, but now the school is growing again and a community development centre was started in 2004. I’d been working with the school from Britain, running its website, writing and editing grant proposals, newsletters and outreach material. Now, one aim of my trip to the school was to re-work the website, then perhaps to edit some teacher-training manuals, possibly even help Ibrahim start writing a book about peace education. That was the idea.

The story of the Issa family and Hope Flowers is poignant. Ibrahim’s father Hussein, an advocate of non-violence, found himself in a dilemma some years ago when Ibrahim narrowly escaped paralysis, shot through the back by Israeli soldiers. Later, Ibrahim saw Palestinian radicals accuse his father of treason because of his commitment to reconciliation. The family was under attack from both Israeli troops and Palestinian radicals. Ibrahim knew the situation was complex but, to quote him, “The most painful thing for me as a child was that I couldn’t recognise the difference between a peace activist and a collaborator – it took years until I did. Palestinian radical groups also couldn’t recognise it. When I grew up I started to see the difference”. But some Palestinian radicals and Israeli Zionists still don’t see that difference, and this makes life risky for people who work for reconciliation.

In 1991 Ibrahim moved to Holland to get out of harm’s way. He studied engineering, got a job and became a permanent émigré. He attended courses on ecology, non-violence, community-building and psychotherapy too, mixing with interesting people, some of whom later came to do stints as volunteers at the school in Palestine. Then his father died unexpectedly in 1999 and Ibrahim was asked to return. This involved leaving a secure, promising Dutch life to jump back into the Palestinian frying pan, taking on a burden most sane people would turn down flat. I greatly admire his steadfastness.

Hope Flowers

Returning to Bethlehem in the midst of the second intifada, Ibrahim joined his sister and his mother in running the school. Later another sister, a teacher, joined them, as did Ibrahim’s new wife, once a kid at the kindergarten. They run the school with a remarkable team of teachers, managers and supporters. It felt right to work with these people – I like them all very much.

Now Ibrahim and I went to a café, had a drink and munched nuts, smoking apple-flavoured hubble-bubble from an ornate water pipe. We discussed what I would do during my three months’ stay. There was certainly a lot to be done and three months might not be long enough.

Ibrahim told me of difficulties he currently had with a faction in the Palestine Authority (PA). It was the product of an awkward public debate concerning the value of negotiating with the Israelis. Ibrahim, a committed peacemaker and bridge-builder who had had regular contact with peace-oriented Israelis, was under suspicion as a collaborator, and this was complex. The PA, seeking to establish control over an ungoverned non-country, had applied a mixture of Western regulations and Arabic bureaucracy, with not a few personal fiefdom issues thrown in, making life difficult for ordinary people. A peacemaker in a conflict-polarised society is susceptible to accusations of collaboration.

The discussion in Palestine about how to relate to the Israelis was heated and ongoing. Palestinians had bent over backwards to comply with international agreements as part of the 1990s peace process, and yet in Palestinians’ perception the Israelis hadn’t budged an inch on crucial issues such as settlement-building, land-seizures, Jerusalem or refugees. The result had been continued losses for Palestinians and a growing number of them were now convinced that negotiation and accommodation were pointless, even though very few wanted any return to conflict. Negotiation had been worth trying in the 1990s, but it had not delivered. It’s a tragic predicament: if you neither want to negotiate nor to fight, what do you do?

Hope Flowers had been teaching the kids Hebrew to help them understand the Israeli mindset. When the kids were older, this would help them deal with Israeli people and officials. The school set out to help the kids understand the perspectives of the very people who had killed or jailed their own fathers, uncles and relatives. This was not a matter of agreeing with or sucking up to the Israelis, as some suspected. It was a matter of following the old military adage, ‘know your enemy’. It was a key issue in preparing Palestinian children for a time when the nightmare of conflict ends – which it shall and must do one day. But in 2009 that day was receding and there was simmering frustration in the air.

Some Palestinian officials didn’t like what the school was doing and didn’t want Palestinians having connections with Israelis. Ibrahim, who had learned to be patient with Israeli arbitrariness and obstructionism, even having been arrested by them for allegedly harbouring terrorists, understood this viewpoint well. But as an educationalist and peace-builder, he stood up for dialogue with people on the other side just as his father had done.

Westerners, with a tendency to see things in black-and-white terms, oversimplify the intricacies of this situation, failing to understand such sharp dilemmas. “Why don’t Israelis and Palestinians just make peace?” Well, as Rabbi Lerner, a Jewish-American thinker, once pointed out, both sides suffer from PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder – they’re super-touchy, super-reactive and suspicious – and untangling this mess isn’t as simple as outsiders would like it to be.

It had taken me some 20 years to understand the intricacies of the Israel-Palestine situation, and only visiting the place had brought better comprehension. I started as a peacemaker working on both sides, with the best of neutral intents, but found myself gravitating to the Palestinian cause. I was not turning against Israel, but I felt that they shot themselves in the foot by the hostile attitude they took toward Palestinians. I work where I can most assist, and while Palestinians seemed to appreciate my input many Israelis didn’t seem to think there was a need for me to be there. So I ended up working with Hope Flowers.

That’s also why I had sobbed from the soul when I arrived in Jericho earlier that day – there was something personal and emotional about all this. As a British dissident, I had had nonsensical and painful experiences that would shock many people, so I could empathise with the Palestinians’ dilemma. I saw Ibrahim’s dilemma too – that of a peace-bringer whose work is regularly screwed up, not just by Israelis but also by the double-standards of Westerners and the militancy of some Palestinians.

Perhaps Palestinians embody something that exists within many of us when we are repeatedly let down by forces beyond our control, when Murphy’s Law applies itself over and over, or when the narrow interests of the powerful few prevail incessantly over the needs of the majority. It’s a futile feeling that, whatever one does, nothing will really progress. This kind of thing happens everywhere but, in Palestine, people have internalised it and adapted to it more than is healthy for them.

I stayed at the Issa family’s place that night and next day Ibrahim took me to the school, where I was to stay in the volunteers’ accommodation on the top floor. Back again – and now to work.


Things don’t change a lot in Palestine, but one good thing that has changed is that Hope Flowers’ methods and philosophy is now being replicated across the Palestinian school system in the West Bank – this was a major breakthrough a few years ago. However, the school still struggles on financially under, as always, difficult constraints.

The book’s website is here: www.palden.co.uk/pop