Royal Cornwall

Going through the Grinder

The Judaean Desert, Palestine

I was in hospital yesterday, Monday. I’ve been ill for two weeks, and four days ago it got a lot worse. I was exhausted, in pain, fatigued and raked out. My stalwart helper Penny took me down to Penzance hospital on Sunday evening where, after the customary endurance test of waiting too long, a rather brilliant young doctor prescribed me antibiotics. Although I really dislike antibiotics, and have had to rebuild my biotic system over the last year since the last load, I knew I was in real danger, and it would be necessary to nuke it. Modern medicine is good in crises.

For me, it’s a matter of strength of spirit too. Recently I’ve been getting worn out, and my survival capacity has been flagging. In recent months I’ve been struggling somewhat with circumstances around me, and when the illness started I wasn’t strong. As the two weeks of illness progressed, I was getting exhausted. As it happened, Lynne was ill at her home too (much from overwork, and if there were a proper allowance for family and friend carers, such as £500 per month, down from the £1,500 that professional care would cost, it would make such a difference for her and for me).

In post-lockdown Britain we’ve gone back to the ‘no time’ syndrome – the basic psychosocial cause of the care crisis – which, for many people needing care and support, means we just have to sort ourselves out quite a lot, whether or not we actually can or should.

I am still shielding – being on immunosuppressants, I have to avoid infection. Some people don’t respect this, and one person who is most likely to have given me the infection is one of those. But, on the other hand, people who are more mindful of infection tend not to visit at all. Then, some people over-care and want to help too much, and this is awkward, when all I need is friendship – and if I need anything I shall say so. Some people chatter too much, and when they see me get tired they suddenly leave – when really I just need them to slow down, accept my different states of being, and simply be here with me, or even bring their knitting. Much of the time I don’t need fixing, healing or helping – I’d just like some company.

But as an astrologer, I know this is part of my deeper process too. Those of you who are astrologically literate will probably chuckle when you hear the major transit I’m on: Neptune opposition Saturn. It’s a test of spirit, a state of adversity, a loss of control, an uphill grind, and… you’re on your own with it, whether you like it or not. The fascinating thing is that, even though I was quite well set up in my life circumstances, in the end, and at the time I needed help, circumstances had it that I had to go through it alone. And here’s the rub: on a deep level, I manifested this. It’s me, my pattern. Realising this instead of complaining about it, I began to make a turn-around.

Hebron

Within a day I was in the hands of the young doctor in Penzance, probably Indian, who referred me to the Royal Cornwall hospital at Treliske, Truro, 45 miles away. Yesterday, when I told the doctors at Treliske (one Irish and one Russian) what he had prescribed for me, their eyebrows rose, and they said he’d done exactly the right thing. This is the other side of the Neptune transit: my guardian angels were with me.

Although it was hard (mostly involving waiting, again) at Treliske, some quite remarkable things happened. In hospitals, there are a lot of people in pain or an altered state, and to some extent they are helpless. Some of the conversations I had were remarkable, and I was able to bring some people something to think about, or a smile, or a shift of mood – and they to me. The nurses and doctors were amazing too. The Nigerian x-ray technician was surprised when I asked where in Nigeria he came from. “No one ever asks me that”, he said, pensively, “They just think, ‘Ah, he comes from Africa'”. He came from Kano in the north, so I greeted him in the Islamic way. Here’s this lovely black guy in Cornwall, an overwhelmingly white region, and his face lit up.

There was a guy in the A&E waiting room who was under guard of two police. They’d brought him in for a post-arrest injury check. The guy couldn’t handle it – he was a laddish guy, physically quite powerful, who solves every issue with a fag and a can of beer, or a flailing fist. He was really in difficulty – he couldn’t face himself and his situation. Others moved away but I didn’t. Eventually, after an outburst, I eyeballed him with my rather penetrating eyes and said, “I’m a smoker too”. He was surprised. I had him nailed. “And I’d like a smoke too. But it’s not going to happen.” He went quiet.

Then I said: “I sat in jail once and it was a real shock. But, d’you know what? It was a turning point in my life. It made me make promises to myself about how my future was going to be.” Pause. “And good luck, matey, and I really hope this is a turning point for you.” At that very moment a nurse came out, calling my name, and I hobbled off with her for a walk down a few endless corridors.

Later, one of the police asked me, “So what have you been doing in your life to be able to do that?”. I told him this guy was easy compared to some Israeli settlers. I also said that meditators like me would say this guy had a restless monkey-mind – he couldn’t face himself, couldn’t just sit. So I addressed his monkey-mind and the guy was stunned that this stranger was giving him attention and speaking to him sympathetically. It changes the agenda and shifts the monkey-mind into a different gear. “My wife says things like that – she does yoga”, said the policeman.

Tuwani, a settler-harassed village south of Hebron

So, I’ve been going through another chapter of soul-education. On the one side, life has been really hard, and my batteries were getting low, and I was in danger. On the other, I was being given some really meaningful interactions that lit me up. Particularly concerning one thing: I’m an inbuilt social activist and humanitarian and I’ve been really missing it. I miss the engagement, the interactions, the risks, the full-on challenges. But now I cannot mix with people easily and I cannot travel. I’ve been crying tears over this recently. Yet here I was being reminded that, although in recent years I’ve been focused on Palestine and the Tuareg in Mali, humanity is everywhere in need. In our society, hospitals, police and first-responder situations form the frontline. And from a soul-education viewpoint, the people involved, as victims or as rescuers, are at the deep end of human experience.

And here’s another rub: we all have our stories, but every one of us will visit this frontline personally, sooner or later. This place of vulnerability and dependency. How we deal with it very much affects our experience of it and what we gain from it as an evolving soul. Ultimately, it concerns dying. It concerns facing our stuff. It’s best to do this ahead of need. But if we don’t, when we’re faced with it, it’s good to roll with it and use the experience to clarify something deep and profound – life-secrets that we often don’t get until we’re really flat on our backs and helpless.

So today I am back home, still fatigued, still quite unwell, though something is turning round. I must return to Treliske next Monday for an assessment. The last two weeks have been really hard. You’ll get a sense of this in my next podcast, recorded from bed in the depths of this crisis a few days ago. My hope and intention is to keep blogging and podding until I no longer can. After that, it will depend either on your psychic capacities or on someone doing some blogging and podding for me.

Two old Bedouin meet a Palestinian Christian, Bethlehem

But there’s more life to be lived first. I’ve been reminded that I’m in the lap of the gods, and all plans and statements about the future are provisional. Lynne and I have both been floored and bedded, 100 miles from each other – a strange solidarity of such kindred souls. And Penny has been a star: driving to Truro twice in one day is not the greatest of pleasures. As for me, I seem to have got through another crunch – though there were times I began to wonder.

God bless the doctors and nurses: they’re overstretched and they handle it well, but once they get to your case they can be brilliant. I really liked the Irish doctor. Once he’d done his doctoring duties he voiced concerns over Brexit. I told him that, on behalf of my fellow countrypeople, I wished to apologise to him and his fellow Irishfolk for the way we have seriously let them down. Again. He took it with a smile.

One thing I found interesting was that, though they all practiced due diligence, the doctors and nurses did not seem anxious about Covid. In fact, as I was leaving in the late afternoon, I was asked, almost in passing, whether I’d had the jab or not, and the nurse who asked seemed quite unworried when I said I hadn’t.

As I say in my podcasts: thanks for being with – there’s more to come.

Love from me. Palden.

Out Of It

Inner journeys in the far beyond. And back.

I was awake at 4.30 this morning, listening to the wind rattling in from the Atlantic and wondering which would be better – stay in bed, lost in hypnopompic wanderings, or get up, light the woodstove and start my day? I got up. I’ve been ill this week with a weird infection. Trouble is, when you’re on cancer immunosuppressants, this is to be expected, and I was due to get something sometime. Still shielding after two years, my immune system hasn’t had much exercise. And I’ve been in bed.

But my immune system, though under test, seems to be in good enough shape – I seem not to be under serious threat. I’m so lucky to be able to lie on a raised, built-in bed from which I can look out of my big windows, even though today I’m watching the wind strafing the trees and the birds getting blustered. I’m on Vit C, antioxidants, homoeopathics and allsorts. I lie there with a porage-head, aching body and swollen glands, though I have a normal temperature. I watch the world outside and at times get a feeling as if the folks back home are using my psyche like a camera to get a look at it.

There’s always something to gain from an illness. In the previous weeks I’d been feeling scrambled, dealing with the intricacies of being semi-disabled and mentally constrained in a busy world that has no time for folks in my state. But this illness has zeroed all those concerns. It took the past and future away, dumping me in the moment. And I’ve been travelling again. After all, I’ve lost my driving licence and I’m rather a traveller-soul, so I’ve substituted wings for wheels.

One of the Boscregan Cairns, Nanquidno, West Penwith – a paltry 4,000ish years old

Someone wrote a while ago, asking me to talk more about my meditation methods. Thanks for that, and I’d love to. But there’s a problem. I don’t follow a method. I just follow my well-worn, habituated ways on a pretty spontaneous basis. I do what comes up. That doesn’t answer the question, but in a way it does.

You see, I started exploring consciousness on acid and other psychedelics in the late 1960s. This was a form of direct access to deeper realms, and that’s where I started. My first experience of meditation was when I was sitting in jail (as a student protester), sharing a cell with three Sikh immigrants. I asked them what they were doing when they were praying and muttering to themselves. They taught me something close to Vipassana, mindfulness. Bless them – I never saw them again. They were probably chucked out of Britain.

Then, by age 25 I was doing Buddhist meditation with the Tibetans. This is far more magical than mindfulness meditation, involving visualising the deity sitting on top of your head (in detail), repeating the mantra and making prayer, then letting the deity dissolve into light, which floods into you, so that you become the deity. Then you stay there, in stillness, being the deity. This trained up my inner sensitivities, and the lamas’ blessings, company and teaching really helped. They healed me after the trauma of being in a failed revolution and being hounded and exiled. I had also had a near-death experience at age 24 which had scrubbed much of my memory and identity, and their protection truly saved me. What memory I have of my life before age 24 is reconstructed, not direct – except, interestingly, for glimpses of spiritual and deeply moving experiences earlier in my life. Those memories seemed to have been stored in a different part of memory.

But then, later, one of the Lamas said I was not here in this life to be a Buddhist. This was a shock but, within a few days, I knew this was one of the greatest gifts they had given me. I had always been eclectic, and my psychedelic past had given me a direct experience of the world of spirit. The Lamas had plucked me from the jaws of disaster, put me back on my feet and sent me forth.

The situation in the early 2020s

By then I had realised I was quite psychic. This isn’t special – any more than, say, making music or cooking food. There’s a burdensome side to it too. Everyone can do it, but some are brilliant at it. I wouldn’t call myself brilliant, but I’ve made deep choices to pay attention to and increasingly trust my inner promptings, funny feelings and periodic inspirations. The more you listen, the more you get it. But here’s the key bit, and this applies to meditation too. You have to choose to give yourself over to it, to learn how to set yourself aside. You have to give permission to energies and entities bigger than you to participate in your life. You have to learn to trust the capacity of your soul to learn, and trust that all will be well. You have to lose your fear. All this happens bit by bit, as you cross various thresholds. It’s a life’s work.

To get back to the question… at present, therefore, I practice a number of things. I do quiet meditation when needed – it’s important to come home to myself, escape the complex spider’s webs of human concern and see things more as they actually stand. As a cancer patient, I do a healing session with my ‘inner doctors’, once every few weeks. I let them examine me and my energy-bodies, and operate on me. I find it really works.

Sometimes I just sit there with booming brains and a never-ending stream of neuroses – though giving proper space to them can also be healing, to a point. Sometimes I do world-healing work, bringing light and healing to other cancer patients worldwide (what Tibetans call tong-len), or to trouble-spots, or I visit crisis places and surround them in light and protection (similar to lightworking), also working to unblock and unconceal things that bring darkness, pain and obstruction to the world.

Sometimes I do inner aid work, where I carry out more specific humanitarian-type work in crisis zones I’m focused on, or I pay attention to a particular issue – mainly global (I tend not to get involved in British politics with this, because of risk of personal bias). Afghanistan has had my attention recently, but I also pay a lot of attention to ignored places such as Yemen, Syria, Myanmar and the Sahel. I do not take my cues from the mass-media. Before this I do some inner prep to get myself in the right state, and if I’m not right, I don’t do it. Afterwards I try to round it up and review it. We used to have a group doing this together, and we’d send in notes of our experiences, so see what common threads were appearing and to observe our work on it.

Sometimes I practice ‘meditative availability’ – I hand myself over to ‘the management’ to let them use my psyche, to give them access to this planet, and to let them do their business through me. Sometimes I go into a stream-of-consciousness, a kind of channelling where I get occasional ‘downloads’ – a bundle of insight that suddenly comes, that sometimes can take weeks or even years to unpack.

One of the stones at Boscawen-un stone circle – a stripling at 4,300 years

And sometimes I sit or lie there feeling utterly useless and uninspired, but I generally keep on with it, because that’s what happens, and it’s part of the game. And sometimes more is going on underneath than we’re aware of. Either way, over a period of years you start notching up loads of inner experience, which interlocks to an extent with daily life, but also it runs independently of it. And there are paradoxes to it: for example, when I’m ill, I sometimes have particularly rich experiences.

Sometimes I scan the consciousness that lies within incoming Atlantic weather systems – in Cornwall we get them full-on, and they carry messages. Sometimes I become aware of old soul-friends, or I spend time with my family, whom I cannot meet in real life. Sometimes I talk with the ancient spirits of West Penwith, the area where I live – sort of inner research. Sometimes I float off, to have completely unexpected experiences. Yesterday, in my illness-delerium, I found myself pulled out and taken back to my home world. That hasn’t happened for a few years. It chirped me up no end to be with my people again – they’re so far away, in consciousness-reality terms.

These are the kinds of things that go on in my so-called, for want of a better word, ‘meditations’.

There’s something important here. When doing innerwork, it is crucial to avoid imposing biases and preferences on others. It’s important also to ask permission – ‘May I?‘ and ‘Can I?‘. If the answer is ‘No’, or ‘Try another approach’, then take note. This isn’t about projecting our own judgements on situations, and it isn’t about ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. The primary orientation is ‘the greatest good’, and sometimes that can mean difficult stuff. For those of you interested in this question, there are two links below that discuss the issues more fully (stuff I wrote in 1994 and 2002).

It’s time to end and I must return to bed before my energy-batteries run down. I’m quite unwell, but it’s funny how the psychoactive component in some illnesses can churn up interesting things. Besides, lying in bed all day isn’t hyper-interesting, so taking a break from it now and then, to dodder around my home doing basic chores, can be welcome. This morning, at 7am, I managed to sort out all my monthly payments – phew. The worst bit is answering those anxious messages asking why I hadn’t answered the previous message. When you read this blog you might get a different impression, but the true and short answer to the inevitable how-are-you messages is, ‘Half dead, and still alive!’. But I did manage to write a blog.

Bless us all. We need it. Then spread it around. Lots of people need it. Especially the people we don’t think of so often.

Love, Paldywan

Two articles on consciousness work and psychic work:
About doing consciousness work
Psychic conflict resolution work

Helping

This isn’t really a question of politics or ideology any more. The word ‘crisis’ comes from ancient Greek. It means a situation prompting us to distinguish, choose and decide.

Lynne and I went adventuring, visiting a 2,000 year old iron age settlement here in West Penwith. What I love about these places is that it’s possible to get a feeling of the lives of people who once lived there, long ago – of grandparents sitting by the fire, children playing, grown-ups coming and going, busying themselves with tasks and chores.

This settlement, Goldherring, had a workplace feeling: it looked as if many of the buildings were functional workshops and stores while only some seemed to be residential.

There was a chill, rather cutting springtime wind, even in the milky sunshine, so we squatted down in the sheltered remains of a roofless iron age building, erected about a hundred generations past. Out came the tea flask and biscuits – necessary ingredients in antiquarian investigations – and we sat there chatting about life two millennia ago and life as it is now.

Goldherring was occupied in three or so phases in the late iron age, the Roman period and early medieval times. Apparently the first lot came from abroad, since items from Brittany were found in the lower archaeological layers. Later on the place seems to have been a forge, the home and workplace of a specialist craftsman. The Romans didn’t have a great impact down here, since they never invaded Cornwall – stopping at Exeter – though they influenced the place, rather like USA or China influence us now, here in Europe.

Like many people I’ve been quite shut away and mostly alone for what seems like a very long time, so when Lynne comes to stay it’s A Big Event, and when she leaves there’s rather a large gap. We aren’t unused to it: over the last five years we’ve had a hundred-ish long weekends together and we’ve developed strategies for dealing with it, but there’s still a gap, and sometimes it yawns vulnerably.

Sometimes it gets tested too. During the first lockdown in 2020 Lynne couldn’t visit for quite a while. It activated that ‘distance makes the heart grow fonder’ experience you can sometimes get when you’re a human on a planet, locked into time, geography and circumstance. This might happen again too, now. Covid has hit Lynne’s business (she’s mainly an astrologer), she’s been bumping along fending off the wolves from the door, and now her car has suddenly failed its MOT test, needing big repairs or replacement. And Covid has drained her money-pot. Uh-oh, looks like we might miss some weekends!

This is a small, personal part of an incremental, degenerative social and economic hollowing out, as the cascading impacts of Covid work their way through. We look a little too closely at the pandemic to see clearly what’s going on. In the end, the pandemic will be forgotten – it was a catalyst of a bigger process of change – and what the longterm future will reveal is that in 2020 we crossed a tipping point – though really this tilting of history started perhaps in 2008-12. Or around 1989-93. Or perhaps around 1965-70.

It concerns the scaling down of an overinflated economy running on coffee, cocaine, excess and shady dealings, the power of people to have agency and influence in that economy, the hearts and minds of crowds and publics worldwide, the willingness and consent of society to go through changes we know to be urgent and necessary, and the relationship between the world’s ecosystems and human behaviour. Big questions – quite bottomless societal, environmental and psycho-spiritual questions. We’ve gone too far, something fundamental needs to change, and there’s something very factual about that.

This isn’t really a question of politics or ideology any more. The word crisis comes from ancient Greek. It means a situation prompting us to distinguish, choose and decide. We spend a lot of our lives engaging in avoidance strategies, and of course crises are uncomfortable, threatening, often painful and cruelly indiscriminate. They present truth and facts, whether or not we like it – there’s no stopping an earthquake, hurricane or an advancing army. But a crisis is also an opportunity, an integral part of the pattern of change. There can be unpremeditated, instinct-led possibilities available, and sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes you get a tragedy, sometimes a miracle. For better or worse, crises tend to force and resolve multiple issues at the same time. Crunch, bang, that’s it.

I personally am not in an immediate crisis right now – I’m kinda chugging along – though I’m in an ongoing one as a cancer patient. Since I was diagnosed in Nov 2019 I’ve had three crunchy crises and others will follow, and one will cut me down one day. But it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that my own problems are bigger than other people’s, since they involve confronting death and quite high levels of difficulty and pain. Yet, looking at Lynne and the bill-paying concerns and daily-life complications she’s labouring through, I find myself wondering what’s genuinely harder – a long, hard grind like hers or a red-flashing-lights crisis like I sometimes get?

Two thousand years ago in Goldherring they didn’t have money worries – they didn’t have money! They bartered, gifted and negotiated, and a large part of that negotiation was with nature itself. A bad harvest or a cold winter made a big difference. An Atlantic gale could rip the thatch off your roundhut roof, at the wrong season for replacing it. They faced the tough realities of living on Earth, just like we do.

But they didn’t live in our particular kind of civilisation, with its copious discontents and MOT tests. Living in their own culture and just outside the big-booted Roman empire will have had its own issues, but perhaps those issues were a little more real than ours. Not least because, in our day, simulated realities seem to be replacing manifest reality: belief seems to be overriding what’s standing in front of us. This isn’t new in human history, but the scale of it is new. There are more souls alive today than ever before, experiencing that simulation and, unfortunately, believing that it’s reality.

Philosopher Teilhard de Chardin invented the idea of the noosphere (pronounced no-osphere), the constructed world of human belief – what we think is going on. It becomes a self-programming mega-algorithm that then defines our collective reality as we perceive it. Early in prehistory the ecosphere largely conditioned people’s beliefs and behaviours, and human history since then has been one long story of the development of an ascendant cultural consensus, the noosphere. It has replicated to a point where, in our globalised, urban-industrial-digital society, it shouts louder than the ecosphere, especially to city-dwellers, who also tend to make the decisions on everyone’s behalf.

Nowadays, if the ecospheric world impacts on the noospheric world, we dynamite and bulldoze it, setting scientists, doctors, engineers and politicians on it to chase it away. But the noosphere increasingly resembles a house of cards, resting on shaky dependencies and rising so high that its foundations have cracked, and the ecosphere is impinging on us anyway.

The pennyworts were poking up into the sun and a buzzard wheeled overhead as Lynne and I sat there, huddling together in the iron age with our tea and Nairn’s biscuits, reflecting on life. For the plain fact is, while Lynne is scraping along to pay the bills and my pension is modest, as inhabitants of the rich world we are still in the top 25% of wealthy people. For many people worldwide, Covid means not illness but hunger, and many of these people – farmers, favelistas, enterepreneurs, employees – were doing alright enough before Covid came along.

Yet within our own sphere of reality, each of us has our problems. Some are really dire (think of many Syrians or Yemenis, or of people keeling over with Covid in Brazil) while many people are confronting ‘grindstone mentality’, the uncomfortable feeling that we’re not doing enough to solve our problems and we must do more, setting aside our main priorities to do so – yet again. Then we worry about our ‘mental health’ when many of us, and society as a whole, are having a spiritual crisis. WTF are we here for, and is this the world we really want?

I’m psychologically quite self-sufficient but Lynne nevertheless makes a big difference in my life. She’s one of those who is willing to prioritise things that aren’t in her immediate self-interest, doing so with a lot of love and care – not only for me but for lots of people. And for the plants and microbes in her garden.

It rests on this kind of person to save the world: this has been demonstrated during the Covid crisis. It has been a case of ‘amateurs built the Ark and professionals built the Titanic’. Society has leaned heavily on dedicated people who have an altruistic bent and the skills of service. It has leaned especially on non-professionals acting out of goodwill, service and commitment – in the rich world social care and healthcare have been over-professionalised, while family and community support systems have been asphyxiated by ‘progress’ and the busyness of a demanding modern life. Lynne is one of those non-professionals, a quiet supertrooper. Though some professionals have done a heroic job too: I’ve seen this with the doctors and nurses I’ve met, and through the eyes of my son, who’s in the air ambulance business.

It’s also a joy, as a disabled cancer patient, to get up in the morning, light the stove and bring Lynne tea in bed. For in truth there is no such thing as helping: it’s an energy-exchange. Lynne brings so much goodness into my life yet mercifully she seems to feel that it’s reciprocated.

By healing we become healed. By giving what we can, even when we have limited possibilities, we do receive. It is possible for a whole economy to work like this – and I’ve seen such principles at work in Palestine, where officially there is high unemployment and a lot of destitution yet everyone is busy and more or less catered for, even under the duress of living under longterm military occupation. Sometimes, when we need help, the best thing to do is to help someone else. Help the world.

One awkward question we need to face in the coming time concerns social roles and their tendency to get fixed: whether we’re a net helper or a net recipient, male or female, black or white, progressive or resister, we mustn’t get too attached to any positions in the spectrum. Because help and support flow around society in the most miraculous and amazing of ways. If we permit it. For this to work, everyone, no matter how helpless or seemingly useless, has something to give and we need to give it. Withholding our humanity and creativity holds the world back.

Over the last month I’ve been chugging away at completing a five year research project. It’s something I can give to the world, in my reduced capacity. Its value will be appreciated only by a small number of people, but it contributes to society’s cultural capital and it’s a contribution I can make. I’ve just finished it. It’s an online map and database of the thousands of prehistoric sites in Cornwall, providing online resources for use in researching prehistoric sites and their meaning and purpose. It’s here: Map of the Prehistoric Sites of Cornwall.

If you’d like to sample some music I’m enjoying right now, try this – Trance Frendz.

All is as well as can be. Beeee goooood. Lots of love from me. Thanks for reading.

Palden

Freedom Costs

In our rich, safe countries where too much, not too little, is the problem, we live with life’s settings at three or four, but outside it the settings are pretty full-volume and tonally rich. Relationships are deeper, life is more intense, risky, edgy, uncertain and alive.

In this blog I seek to share some of the things that come up for me, as a cancer patient. This one was written while I was on the amphetamine cancer drug Dexamethasone, and perhaps it demonstrates the scatty mindset it generates – though hopefully not as disastrously as what happened with Donald Trump when he was on it. So here we go…

I was thinking back to a time thirtyish years ago when a number of us were cooking up an idea and designs for a complex in an old, deserted industrial estate outside Glastonbury, including a holistic hospital, conference centre and university. I also worked on a campaign to change Glastonbury into a county borough with special planning status – one idea was to initiate a ten-year programme to make Glastonbury into Britain’s first totally traffic-free town.

All this didn’t happen. It couldn’t. It was far too big a stretch for British people to encompass, and it grated with the politics, media-manias and vested interests of the 1990s. But I need that holistic hospital now. It doesn’t exist. I cannot resort to holistic healthcare because there is no all-round system for supporting a cancer patient – not something I can afford, that is within my limited travel range, including availability of an ambulance, paramedic or nurse if I had a need.

The best chance for this was killed off thirtyish years ago when the Bristol Cancer Help Centre was discredited, defunded and closed, for entirely political reasons. There are a few options further away (such as the Care Oncology Clinic), but these are just not doable, for me, in the state I’m in. Besides, these options didn’t appear quickly enough at the moment I needed them, when I had to make urgent life-or-death, next-day choices.

As I wrote this I was sitting once again in the cancer unit at Treliske hospital. The tea lady came round. The guy sitting next to me, with his arm hooked up to a chemo drip, requested strong coffee with three sugars in. It’s amazing that this is permitted in a cancer unit. I was sitting there surrounded by cancer patients getting pumped up with drugs, some at £1,000 per shot, and most were sitting with their mobile phone radiation-generators held just one foot from their prostate, stomach or breast, irradiating themselves.

Somehow, they don’t feel it. Somehow, the medical profession studiously ignores this, even though the figures for epilepsy, headaches, anxiety, depression, alcoholism and domestic violence have risen sharply in the last year, thanks partially to all the wi-fi radiation generated by the video-streaming so many people are doing, for hours on end.

A nurse came round who was there last week. We had had a conversation about humanitarian work – she had a wish to do something like that. Good on her. Many believe they would have to be taken on by a big NGO, and I encouraged her to think and act independently, to go as a freelance volunteer humanitarian to a country she felt drawn to in her heart. I think she was rather stirred by that conversation. As has happened so many times, I found myself appearing in a person’s life to act as a magical prompt, a timely whisper from the soul, giving a jog from The Fates.

I also mentioned to her that you don’t have to completely change your life for this: do three months every year or two and you will serve optimally as a humanitarian. Keep part of your life anchored and normal so that you can handle stirring, chaotic and emotionally challenging stuff more easily, and so that you can bring a certain calm and openness to the people you’re mixing with. Above all, follow your heart: you will fall in love with these people and they with you.

So this week I brought her a copy of Pictures of Palestine – a humanitarian blogging from Bethelehem that I wrote ten years ago. It reads like a travel book, telling of a three-month stay in 2009, talking of ordinary life in Palestine’s West Bank and the daily life of an activist humanitarian. (You can get a free online copy here.).

Such a life is not as excitingly romantic as you might imagine: there’s a lot of waiting, drudge, complexity, chaos, broken plans, roadblocks, funding problems, form-filling and plenty of assholes to deal with. You land up wondering whether you’re actually helping, whether you’re making just minuscule ripples in a vast, turbulent ocean of need, or even whether you’re part of their problem. After all, we Brits have given the world loads of problems: my own maternal grandfather was in General Allenby’s army invading Iraq and Palestine in WW1.

Working in conflict and disaster zones is deeply rewarding: life is lived more fully and intensively. In our rich, safe countries where too much, not too little, is the problem, we live with life’s settings at three or four, but outside it the settings are pretty full-volume and tonally rich. Relationships are deeper, life is more intense, risky, edgy, uncertain and alive. This said, an old friend from Devon, Gillian, was killed not in Bosnia or Palestine but in a taxi-crash in Luton, near London, on the way home from the airport – life takes strange twists.

Here am I, stuck in Britain, homesick for Bethlehem. Missing old friends there, and missing its amplified humanity. In Palestine I would not have access to the cancer medicat‭ion I’m receiving here but I would be under all-embracing human care because Bethlehem has pretty fully-functioning clans, communities and families – a family of forty can take in a cancer patient without great difficulty. The warm, dry climate of the Judaean Desert would be better for the aching arthritis I’ve acquired through my cancer treatment – a side-effect of violent pharmaceuticals I might not have needed if that holistic hospital had come into being in the 1990s.

This is why I like living at the far end of Cornwall: the people here understand the frailness of life – sometimes the storms here can be frightening, and Cornwall has long traditions of marine rescue, mining accidents and self-sufficiency. Living here is more edgy, a bit more alive, and we’re all in it together. Except we live under English colonial governance – Boris and his cronies.

Out here in the ‘Celtic Fringe’, during 2020 we left the UK in our hearts: we have better governance and more social solidarity, and Covid and Brexit have accentuated it. When Covid came along, we looked after each other. My shopping lady, Karen, who has breast cancer and osteoporosis, and who knows nothing about meditation or all the cosmic stuff I’m into, is nevertheless an amazing walking angel: she knows what it’s like being human and she’ll do anything she can to save souls while she’s still alive. She’s a good example. If she went to Palestine she’d quickly be taken in and made an ‘honorary Palestinian’.

The gift of cancer is that you start valuing life in a new way. If you so choose. You have to get straight with people too. It’s amazing how many people think they know what’s right for you. The people who don’t do that become your true friends and helpers. The English do have a habit of marking their own homework, assuming they’re right and telling everyone else what they ought to think – and this is why they are losing the Celtic Fringe.

I have this right now with a dear old English friend and brother who wanted to come and visit for some time and space in Cornwall. But while I’m on chemo, taking immuno-suppressant drugs, I can be seriously affected by the slightest infection of any kind, even a common cold. I’ve had to tell him straight that he has more likelihood of killing me than I have of killing him, and that’s not equal or true friendship, so please modify his behaviour when he comes. He’s welcome though: we’re soul-brothers.

I don’t take the same stand on Covid as many people do. I can relate to anti-maskers and anti-vaxx types. People are free to follow their conscience. But there’s something far greater here than individual freedom: you are not free to impose your values on others. You may not harm others because of your beliefs. Social and transnational solidarity is a key issue for the whole 21st Century: we will not survive the future unless we all work together.

So it is imcumbent on people who are unhappy about masks and vaccinations to take extra measures to protect their fellow humans, to avoid imposing on the vulnerable and to recognise that freedom applies to all of us. This means behavioural change, such as social distancing and emphasised thoughtful behaviour.

Who wants change?” – and everyone shouts Yes! “Who wants to change?” – silence. This attitude undermines humanity.

This pandemic is the beginning of a big, long, total, global process of social change, and every pandemic in history has lasted 30-40 years. There are more crises and crunches coming – Covid has uncorked a formerly stoppered bottle and the genie is now out. We have an intelligent virus in our midst that has come to change us because we’re reluctant to change ourselves. It’s faster than us – nature’s answer to artificial intelligence. And it raises many other questions, such as that of social control – and Covid dissenters are at least partially right on this point.

The 1920s pursuit of individual freedom, understandably born out of a legitimate breakout-reaction to the Spanish flu pandemic and WW1, brought about a political disunity that allowed Nazism to gain power by 1930 in Germany. Take a lesson from this. Today, overblown individualism is helping the rise of a privatised form of totalitarian control called Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon, now becoming embedded in governments too – the Stalinists’ dream come true – and few people really notice.

For the triumph of evil it is necessary only that good people do nothing. That’s a quote from 18th C philosopher Edmund Burke.

As a lifelong dissenter I have exercised my personal freedom, and this has brought blessings and it has also charged a price to me and to others. I had to learn to stop being a male crusader and to wait for people to come, of their own choice, toward my way of seeing things – and only a few actually did. Who wants to learn astrology when there’s a mortgage to pay? That’s a big lesson in itself. Visiting cultures outside the rich world changed me: I saw societies that were economically deprived yet socially richer than in the materially rich world, with communities that work better, in real terms of mutual support.

This was blatantly obvious in Israel and Palestine: Israelis are by nature individualists while, as one Palestinian put it, “We have each other, but they just have themselves“. Though the Palestinians have repeatedly lost the battle, when you cross through the checkpoints from Israel to Palestine you’re entering a society that, despite everything, is strangely happier, more secure and more free. Despite everything. By social consensus.

In Israel, many people would say to me, “Why do you come here to interfere when your own country has plenty of problems?“. In Palestine people would say, “Willcome in Falastin, and why you not bring your children too?“.

Now the Celtic countries are pulling away from England, our former colonial master. We have each other, relatively speaking, while the English have themselves, and many prefer things that way. Seen from here, England seems to care more about money than people, yet in so doing they lose economically in the longterm. Brexit, born of an eruption of English exceptionalism and media-owning offshore tycoons’ profit margins, is now demonstrating the point.

I’m half-English and half-Welsh, but I have become one of the ‘new Cornish’. This isn’t just a matter of moving here and bringing English ways with you: it’s necessary to change, to become Cornish. Besides, the Cornish winter gets rid of people who think it’s a holiday paradise that’s here for their leisure. Celtic nationalism welcomes anyone who is truly here, in body and in heart – your bloodline is secondary. The Cornish are a European minority respected more by Brussels than by London.

So these issues are personal to me, as an English-Welsh new-Cornishman living closer to Dublin than to London. When I visit others’ countries I sit on the floor with them and pray with them in their mosques and temples – when invited. I’m not a big-booted Englishman, and one of my underlying purposes has been to help redeem the shadow of the British Empire.

There’s still an Englishman in me though, and here I wish to honour the human side of the English, that decent, fair-minded, broader-thinking aspect of Englishness that the rest of the world loves and respects. You find a lot of these amongst humanitarians abroad, and the carers, nurses and charitably-driven people here in Britain. The people who, when all is said and done, hold this world up. My partner Lynne is one.

She sobbed deep tears last weekend because of a new wave of realisation that, when I die, she’ll have a yawning gap in her life. She was feeling it in her heart, in advance of the event. This wasn’t self-pity – it was far deeper. After passing away I shall be with her in spirit but that will just not be the same, whatever anyone says. It has something to do with that special quality of love we humans can generate, here in this benighted world, stuck between a rock and a hard place – a kind of love that doesn’t exist up in heaven, where love and soul-melding come more naturally and easily.

We have a tremendous power to love despite everything. Paradoxically, those who have gone through it, feeling the full power of the pain and the joy of earthly life, tackling life’s questions instead of avoiding them, seem to love in a profoundly real way. It’s rather like the wise maturity that some ex-criminals, terrorists, druggies and alcoholics can gain when they pull back from the brink – a benefit gained from having visited hell and returned, much the wiser. Some of these people are the most principled, human, courageous people around. By their actions, not their words and beliefs, you will know them. And there are lots of words and beliefs flying round nowadays, including mine.

Bless you all. Be yourself. Have your beliefs. Be willing to review them and consider everyone else too, for none of us is free until we all are free. From now on, personal freedom has to balance with collective needs, worldwide, and Westerners are not the only people with big ideas on this front. We’re just 15% of the world’s population.

With love from me. Palden.

Eclipse of the Soul

I grew up into a teenager who looked at my dad, who had fought in Egypt for our freedom and lost a leg in the process, telling him we weren’t free. We were living in a totalitarian society where, at least for us but not for the Commies over there or for the starving children in Africa, our chains had been coated with carrots and cream.

Eclipse of the Moon in Bethlehem, Palestine, during the 2011 Arab revolutions of 2011

It’s strange. Everyone is busy angsting about Covid and here am I, as usual focused on something else entirely – in this case, right now, cancer. Or, more precisely, chemotherapy. I feel like I’ve aged ten years in the last week. Dragging myself around, feeling the gravitational weight of living on a dense-gravitational planet, holding up my weak back and gasping at shooting pains in my bones, feeling a deep tiredness with life, a tiredness with its daily routines, with yet another breakfast, yet another day. OMG, not again.

Thoughout life I’ve always sought to light up the lives of others around me, with varying degrees of success, sometimes getting confused with the dark shadows in my heart, always picking myself up for another round, another try, another angle… and sometimes, burned out, drooping and flopping into life’s mudbath, the slough of despond, to go down, down into the murky depths of human struggle, the jihad, the holy war of inner conflict, the war with the axis of evil in the human heart… and for what?

Lying in bed in the semi-delerium of chemotherapeutic drudgery, with the BBC World Service bringing the heroic crowds of Yangon, Minsk, Santiago and all stops to Hong Kong to my bedside, ringing around in my night-bedarkened cranium… lying there hearing the complaints of my fellow countrypeople over the time spent queueing to get inoculated against a virus that is too intelligent, too agile to tamp down so that we can all return to normal, return to a comfortable purgatory, a purgatory that all makes perfect sense, expressed in dollars and cents, pounds, shillings and pence…

The normality of democratic freedom, a freedom to choose our own washing powder to dissolve the persistent criminal stains of omission, commission and perpetration that permit us our apparent freedom. A freedom to supply munitions for the bombing of faraway Yemenis so that we can pump up the employment statistics, share values and the great god GDP, just because those Yemenis are less than us, somehow less deserving of the certified serving of chocolate and tax bills that make up our cherished freedom.

I had an extended moment of revelation. One of those moments when you see something you’ve long been perfectly aware of but didn’t really dare to look at. I saw how lonely I’d been throughout my life. I was born in 1950 in a baby-boom maternity home that was about to close – the last baby to be born there. All the staff was there, watching. I wasn’t too sure I wanted to be born, to start that long trajectory of landing procedures leading into the tangly web of life and its involvements.

Up in heaven I had known I could do it, but now I was not so sure. There were all these people waiting to celebrate my birth, not because it was me but because I was the last, the last before they all got transferred somewhere else or had to find new jobs. It was the back end of a tragic baby boom when our parents tried so hard to replace the devastation of war with new hope and a constant stream of dirty nappies (diapers). Someone probably had some postwar rationing-busting plonk and munchies for that moment and they celebrated the last baby while I lay there wondering what was to happen next.

Yet I grew up into a teenager who looked at my dad, who had fought in Egypt for our freedom and lost a leg in the process, telling him we weren’t free. We were living in a totalitarian society where, at least for us but not for the Commies over there or for the starving children in Africa, our chains had been coated with carrots and cream. My parents thought something was wrong with me – after all, if I listened to that raucous, long-haired noise of 1960s pop music there must be something wrong. No, Commies weren’t like us, and any sympathy felt for them just showed what betrayal and subversion these youngsters were capable of – perhaps they were enemies in our midst, traitors to the cause, undermining freedom when, really, they ought to be grateful and get a proper job.

Like many in my time and like so many right now, I was struggling for truth. Now, half a century later, here am I, churning in bed with a war in my heart, struggling to plumb the depths of truth. Oh why, oh why do we fail to see? We’d prefer to destroy our planetary nest than to do without the security of chocolate, tax-bills and easy answers – it’s safer, it’s normal. If some dictator, some oligarchy, turns down the screws on another few million people, well, that’s life, and it all makes perfect sense, expressed in dollars and cents, pounds, shillings and pence.

Yes, struggling in a war against cancer that is being fought in the muddy battlefield of my being, in midst of that soup of fears, doubts and shadows that make me human. In that moment of seeing it became so clear how I had created this aloneness pattern myself: my pattern, my incrementally-repeated choice. In the pursuit of my percieved calling, my struggle to help humanity and shift society’s tiller in a new direction, I had walked away from so many. I had shrugged shoulders, let go and moved on. They had paid their price and I had paid mine. I’d shared so much redemptive love, care and awakening with so many people yet, in another way, I’d engaged in a life of struggle to reach across the light-years of distance, to try to reach to another human star-soul in the vastness.

Here I was, an ageing man churning in bed, wading through his demons, missing loved ones near and far, blessed with a seeing, a revelation of fact-sodden truth, a statement of futility, an audit of the enormity of the task of generating light in the muddy morass of earthly life. It’s a light that struggles even now to illuminate the stone walls of that prison of the soul that is me.

Before you rush to assure me it’s alright, send me reiki and pray for me to ‘get better’ – whatever that really is – and before you lapse into the belief that I’m indulging in negativity, please stop. Please sit and look at the phantasmagorical disaster-zone of your heart: sit with it. It’s there, it’s uncomfortable, yet here lies a key, a lost chord, a lump of gold sitting between the dragon’s paws. It invites you take a deep breath, let go of fear and pick up your birthright. It’s lonely and dark down there, but here lies the key.

Today I go into Treliske hospital for another round of pumping up with drugs. As a denizen of a rich country I am privileged to receive this, as if it’s a birthright. The Dara is already giving me the shits and the Dex is dragging me into a place where nightmares transmogrify into explosions of light and back again with bewildering rapidity. This treatment feels foreign to me, but these are times where my own vision of reality fails to accord with that which apparently is believed by the majority. What’s important to me in my own manner of perceiving is not what’s important to the medical system I have resorted – it doesn’t understand it. But this is the dilemma of being on Earth – no, of being in this civilisation at this time on Earth. We all share it. Stuck between a rock and a hard place – all of us. Serving our time. Doing what we feel is best yet making a pig’s ear of it, drowning in the disappointing pointlessness of constructed belief.

But this grinding action, this grating and milling, it generates light. Awakening before dawn, before the crows did their morningtime auditory armada of swoopy crawing in the dawny gloaming out over the farm where I live, and my demons were irking me. But now dawn has come and the sun is up, shining through the big windows of my hovelly palace – it’s called The Lookout because that’s what you do here, look out. The demons are scarpering in the dawning light. Vacating space until they can come again on another haunting mission. Perhaps it all was a nightmare. Or perhaps it’s the truth of my being. At this moment I cannot judge.

But when I was sitting there shivering, having just lit the woodstove, listening to a robin on the dog-rose outside, perkily tweeting hello, I realised, well, better to grind this stuff now than to leave it until the moment of my deathly transitioning. Better to grow while I can, to see clearly without the grey-tinted glasses of daily routine – the one that looks at the clock, telling me to get ready to be picked up for the journey to the cancer unit at Treliske. Yes, it’s now time to get normalised, to keep to the timetable no matter what. Get plugged back in to the matrix. Get ready. Take your pills. Do the business. Be responsible.

For those of you who are familiar with that quackish charlatanry called astrology, you’ve just read an unpremeditated description of a transit called Neptune opposition Saturn. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, well, that was your choice, and that’s okay too – we all have to live with the consequences of our choices, with the particular way we arrange the furniture and wall-hangings in the prison-cell of our souls. We all share this dilemma.

Paradoxically, nearly eight billion people are alive today yet we all face an aloneness that has never in human history been achieved before. We all have our demons, believing they’re unique to us without realising that they are but minuscule variants of the demons we all share – demons to which we give power, with which we’re fully capable of polluting and destroying our planetary home. For the demons out there are demons within us and the redemption of both go hand in hand.

It’s okay, really. Everything is okay in the end, and if it’s not okay, it’s not the end. Some people tell me they’re so sorry I have cancer, but I find myself wondering why truly they feel this, or whether I should be sorry for them instead. It doesn’t matter. In the end it’s all an enormous phantasmagorical Youtube video, an epic production of illusions showing in five dimensions on the custom-made cinema-screen of our psyches. Who needs a subsription to Netflix when we have this? It’s free and it’s right here, with no need for shipping in from China.

Ee, there’s now’t so strange as folk. God must be amazed at us, at the imaginings that we in our billions can cook up. It must be distressing for him to see how we blame the Chinese for what they’re doing to the Uighurs when it is we ourselves who are doing it whenever we buy yet another packaged product in our supermarkets. Or perhaps he laughs when he sees us languishing in our beliefs, including those that construct him into a God that, as John Lennon in one of his own moments of despair, identified as a concept by which we measure our pain.

Now it’s time to put the kettle on, shower my creaky body, dress up in my togs and get my ass to Treliske, for another round of the never-ending Youtube movie that is life. Chemotherapy, sometimes a high, sometimes a low, provided for free on ‘our NHS’ so that we can spend a little more time on Earth struggling with that darkness and light. Is this the life we came for?

Don’t fall for the idea that I’m suffering more than you. This is the life. This is the playground in which we are playing it out. Here’s the ketchup to squirt over it. And there’s the kettle, ready to disgorge its contents into my teapot. Here we are. The oldies amongst us will remember this, from the back of the Whole Earth Catalog: we can’t get it together – it is together. Perfectly together. This is where we stand. All will be well. But to reach that point of calm certainty in your heart, it’s necessary to dig down in the deeps, make love with those demons and live to see another day.

Now for the next bit. Peace, sisters and brothers. Palden.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUSaO07ThmY

The picture above is of a lunar eclipse over Bethlehem, Palestine, in 2011 at the time of the Arab revolutions. The Youtube video is a song by Roger Waters called Perfect Sense, from his 1990s album Amused to Death.

Hello, You

This blog ranges around a spectrum of things. At present it is covering something I never thought I would land up writing about: my experiences as a person with cancer. Bone marrow cancer or myeloma.

The account starts in late 2019 here, but most people read backwards in time from this page.

The blog is about my cancer story, and the podcasts announced here are about things that interest me – and perhaps they interest you. The full range of podcasts is here.

Perhaps there’s someone you know who might benefit from finding out from you about this blog.

I’m glad you’re here. Best wishes, Palden.

botreamap4


I live in West Penwith, Cornwall, in southwest Britain. In Cornish ‘Penwith’ means far beyond. It really is. Look for the red marker on the left – that’s where I live, on a hidden-away organic farm.  Far beyond. That’s where these notes are written from.

What’s it all about?

A donkey in Bethlehem, Palestine – Jesustown.

What’s it all about?

2020 has brought us all a lot to think about and, for many, a lot of time to think about it. ‘What am I here for?’ and ‘What’s it all about?’. Some folks have had big reveals and pointers, others have had to dig deeper than ever before, and some have made little or no progress, and some have been run off their feet and burned out by it.

I’ve always been rather purpose-driven. When I was about ten I wanted to be prime minister. By 15 I won a big public speaking competition with a notes-free speech about why Britain should join the European Community – seven years before it happened. Does Brexit, 55 years later, mean I’ve failed? By 18 I realised that politics was too dirty for me. So I followed another path and you got Maggie Thatcher and Tony Blair instead.

It took until I was about 34 to acknowledge that I was at last on track (when I started the Glastonbury Camps). It just had that feeling. Before that I felt like a footloose jack of all trades and master of none. When ‘received my instructions’ I quaked and resisted, but then I realised that, if I didn’t do it, it would not happen. And it needed to happen.

God doesn’t come down and say ‘This is your life-purpose‘. It’s not like that. It’s just that, when you’re more or less on it or you’re heading towards it, you feel it – you’re in the right place at the right time doing the right thing, even if others disapprove, discourage or block you. If you aren’t on it, you feel stuck in a blind alley, getting nowhere, with a meaningless life, as if you’ll stay like that forever. Depression and feeling an unfulfilled calling are closely related.

Purpose is programmed within us. It’s already there. Before getting born, we had a discussion with our angels about the purpose, the motivation, for going to the trouble of birthing ourselves, growing up and living a life on earth. Incarnation is hard work, even for people born in privileged circumstances. Two key things were covered in that discussion: what you were to learn and master, and what you were to contribute. Then you signed a contract in your soul, and it still holds.

Quite often you get clues when you’re about 8-12 years of age – visions of what we want to be when we grow up. Then, during your teenage years, this vision can be clouded and lost (often not helped by parents and careers advisers). These early-life visions can be literal or symbolic. I wanted to be an airline pilot. When I was 15 they ruled that short-sighted ginks like me couldn’t be pilots (that changed back later on, but too late for me). So that door closed. But later in life I realised that I had taken thousands of people on long journeys, up into heaven-worlds and landed them safely at the other end. Mission kinda accomplished.

By 18 I was aiming to become a diplomat, but by 20 I was involved in a life-changing near-revolution at the LSE that ended all that – yet in my adult life I’ve scored some pretty good informal diplomatic hits. So the vision and intention were symbolically correct, but the way things panned out was very different.

As life goes on, our purpose reveals itself through situations that present themselves. We find ourselves doing things we hadn’t foreseen but, when doing it, we feel remarkably fired up, or we make a difference, or we do something really meaningful, sometimes without even realising it. Even washing the dishes or cleaning the toilets can make a big difference in some situations – the chef at a peace conference can save thousands of lives without even knowing it, just by cooking good food for the delegates. So note this and follow it, because there’s your clue – even if it doesn’t make money, look realistic or gain approval, if it fires you up, why aren’t you getting on with it?

We must be willing, if necessary, to tread that path alone. In the Arab revolutions ten years ago, a big issue for people was ‘losing our fear’. Sometimes we must stand up and be counted – and if we hold back we can regret it for the rest of our lives. Like the near-revolution I was a part of fortyish years before, the Arab revolutions failed in the short term yet they started deep changes that will outlast the dictators who tried to stop them.

Here’s an interesting truth: it’s better to fail in something that ultimately will succeed than to succeed in something that ultimately will fail. This concerns posterity and holding out for what is right – and taking a bet that it’ll work, even when you’re not sure, and everyone and everything are against you. Even if you have cerebral palsy. Even if, or perhaps because, you’ve been damaged, disadvantaged and traumatised.

Three things block this coming out process: fear, guilt and shame. Too many people take the safe route in life, to please their family or fit in with the rules, or for fear of loss of security, or fear of being singled out and blamed, or fear of being exposed as unworthy or unable. Human society is riddled with such fears. Our planetary disaster is happening because billions of people are withholding their gifts, setting aside their callings and playing safe. We cook up good reasons to justify this but, in doing so, we are choosing complicity in a collective crime against humanity.

Out of fear, we hold back. This becomes a habit and institution. Then we forget what our instructions were, what the agreement was. Instead, we eat, drink, entertain, worry or work ourselves to death – unless or until a crisis shakes it up, strips our defences, propels us into unknown territory and slams the door shut behind us.

This withholding is dead serious. It means we’re omitting to make our contribution. It’s ours to make, and someone else isn’t going to replace you. Since so many are withholding, there’s a shortage of active server-souls. People have questioned my humanitarian work, believing it is dangerous (yes, occasionally it is) and encouraging me to stop and ‘be responsible’. But then, when I ask them to take my place because the work still needs doing, they wander off.

Charity begins at home‘ – sorry, for me that’s only a half-truth. Charity truly begins where the need is greatest. Need pulls the brilliance out of you.

The world is short of active altruists, and the suffering that arises from that is tremendous. It’s all about that old lady down the road who is alone and unvisited, because everyone was too busy and no one thought, no one imagined what it might be like to be that old lady. The world has a crisis of caring, and it’s all to do with withholding our gifts, callings and missions. Playing safe is a very dangerous planetary neurosis.

This brings us to a key issue. It’s not just our option to pursue our life’s calling: it is our duty. It is an imperative. If we don’t do it now, it won’t go away. This is a choiceless choice. Especially in these parlous times.

This isn’t about great and dramatic things. If you’re gifted at embroidery, do it. If you’re good at ‘just’ raising kids, or ‘only’ growing cabbages, you’re here for that. If you can bring light into the life of a hungry or lonely person, do it. Because, when you’re on your deathbed, these are the things you will remember.

And it changes. Life-purpose presents tasks but it is not a job. You can’t resign. It takes on different shapes, progressing as life goes on. One of my big life-lessons and contributions has been in ‘right leadership’ – something I did better in my fifties than in my twenties. I’ve scored a few goals, brought some benefit and made mistakes too. But I learned. It has gone from home-birth campaigns to organising biggish events to helping burned-out Palestinian social activists.

There are paradoxes. Nelson Mandela once confessed that, in his life, he had faced a deep conflict between serving his family and serving his people. He could only do one of them. After all, if you’re doing things that can endanger your family, should you stop serving your people to protect them? Or will your family also benefit if you can improve things for your people?

One of my gifts has been a capacity to struggle for, uncover and articulate insights that other people don’t quite get. I’ve been a speaker, author, editor, broadcaster and a pretty good contributor to public discourse. It didn’t make me rich or famous but I’m really glad I did it and shall continue till I drop – even possibly afterwards. Since I’ve been about 30 years ahead of the times, my work has not succeeded as much as it otherwise might, but after I’m dead it might lift off – you never know – and I’m leaving an online archive of my work just in case.

But perhaps it doesn’t matter. We can never fully see the results of our work and the part it has played in others’ lives. ‘Non-attachment to the fruits of our labours’, is how Buddhists see it. The aim is not to have an impact – it is simply to do your best. Once, when I was in Palestine I confessed to a friend that I didn’t feel I was making much of a contribution on that trip, and I might go home and come back later. She looked at me straight and said, simply: “Balden, when you are here we feel safe“. That hit me hard: sometimes, you don’t even need to do anything. I learned that what I thought was happening didn’t match what actually was happening.

Here’s another thing. Often we think this is all about giving. No, it’s all about interchange. It’s arguable that the people I’ve helped have given me so much more. If you wish to experience true generosity, go to poor people’s houses and countries.

Life purpose has its ins and outs. I’m good at thinking clearly in wider situations but I’m useless at articulating personal feelings on my own behalf – though I’ve done decades of work on myself to change this, and I’ve only made a little progress. But there are things that each of us must accept too: in my case, it’s Asperger’s Syndrome (high-function autism), and that’s what Aspies are like and what we’re good for. Greta Thunberg is a good example – and society is more open to her directness than was the case for me and my kind fifty years ago.

I’ve been nailed and hammered by so many people to be different from the way I am, yet I’ve found that trying to be what I believe others want me to be does not end up well. This has been painful – to be judged as a bad father, a failure, a fascist dictator, a goodfornothing, a criminal and even traitor. “When are you going to get a proper job?”. Something in me, rightly or wrongly, has soldiered on. I have regrets, but I don’t regret it.

There is no right or wrong: there are simply outcomes. Write that on your toilet wall. We’re called to create the best outcomes we can, and for everyone. Become an expert in making something good out of disasters. Don’t indulge in your failings, inadequacies and wrongs – they go on forever – but throttle up your gifts, assets and contribution. Don’t leave it till later, because later means never.

In my life I’ve been a philanthropist without money. My wealth has been magical, not material. Sometimes I’ve thought of myself as a healer of perceptions. People outside the rich world see me coming and they think, ‘Ah, a European – he can raise funds for us’ (Christians do this more than Muslims). No, this is not what I’m here for, and I’m not good at it. I’m here to help with magic solutions, to raise people up, and it has been a challenge to hold to that because people and projects do indeed need money, often very legitimately so.

The worst bit is that some people get so fixated on the funding bit that they accuse me of being rich, mean and selfish, and they miss what I actually can contribute. It’s better to teach someone to fish than to give them a fish – a common saying in the humanitarian world. (Another is: teach a man and you teach a man, but teach a woman and you teach a generation.) I’ve had to learn to work for a good cause not just because it’s a good cause, but because it is run by people I can work with, and because it fires me up, providing a context in which to serve and contribute best.

So, if you’re struggling with life-purpose matters, here’s a recommendation. Do whatever lifts you up, and avoid whatever weighs you down. This is radical. It’s also far more practical than you might believe. When I was 50 I had a ‘dark night of the soul’ crisis and this truth emerged from it. It doesn’t mean taking the easy option – often you must take the scariest option. A lifelong peace activist, I realised that I had to head for the heart of darkness, so I committed to working in Palestine, sensing that justice for all, not exactly peace, is the main objective there. Justice brings peace, but peace doesn’t necessarily bring justice – so more conflict will follow. If Palestine and Israel can break through, the world’s conflicts will change – and wars and violence block world progress far more than we understand. So what lifted me up was the challenge to follow a difficult path.

Twenty years later, the Palestine problem continues and assholes still prevail, but this work hasn’t been a failure. Deep historic turn-arounds take time, often longer than a lifetime. Brian Eno once said, “I have a feeling I’m part of something that should be much bigger than it is“. Yes indeed – the last fifty years have been a frustrating time for change-agents. But many of the greatest breakthroughs in history were groundlaid by forgotten people you’ve never heard of – the people who prepared the way for those that history recognises. Without these forgotten heroes, you would not have the freedoms and blessings you have today.

Getting cancer and becoming physically disabled wasn’t part of my plan. But it has given me new purpose. I might live one year or ten, and this uncertainty is an awakener: what can I lay to rest and what am I still dissatisfied with? It has reminded me that, no matter how difficult things are, everything in life is a gift. If you choose to see things that way. So even if you feel you have no purpose or you can’t find it, that’s your gift, your resource, your background, and do your best with it. That’s where it starts.

Or perhaps you’re doing it but you downplay it, or you fail to see what’s happening as a result of your being there, or you feel you’re such a rotten, godforsaken shit that you’re a no-hoper.

When I was twenty I read a book by Alan Watts, a psychedelic guru, that deeply stirred me. It was called The Wisdom of Insecurity. Yes, the wisdom of insecurity. Sorry, folks, but in 2020, normality was suspended and this is what we’re being shown. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and pitch in. Make steps. Do it. And if you don’t do it, stop beating yourself up about it. Good luck.