I had rather a debate and struggle about what to blog or podcast about next. So I decided to drop it and go up the hill on our farm to sit on the bronze age barrows up there and have a good think. Or a non-think. Those barrows have energy and I go there for an energy-bath.
On the way up I had an encounter with our big thumping bull. He’s great – he’s not a threat, but he’s definitely worthy of respect.
The whole of his herd of wives and children was spread across the field. Often they’re mainly to one side, so I go up the other side. But today it wasn’t possible, and the bull was right in the middle, staring at me.
We eyeballed each other. I let him hear the sound of my voice. Since we both have low voices we can read each other quite well. He grunted. We both wondered what to do. It took a while but we weren’t in a hurry. This was contemplation of the scene rather than anxious concern, for both of us. I decided to take an initiative, slowly heading uphill toward the left and, fascinatingly, as soon as I started moving he lumbered off to the right. We had both had the same thought.
As soon as he starts moving the whole herd starts moving. Belted Galloways, they’re a real herd, this lot, socially as well as genetically. So they shambled over into the next field. They have a big ranging ground all over Botrea Hill, with organic pasture and wild moor. I staggered uphill on my sticks toward the badger sett – a big, old and mature sett that apparently has been there for centuries.
Further on, up on the barrows, I lay there absorbing the sun, connecting my heart and solar plexus into the earth and letting my psyche float free. Then I turned over and opened up my aura to the heavens, drifting off somewhere. Came to, had a drink, fired up my sound recorder (a Japanese Zoom H4N Pro) and suddenly realised I was going to talk about aloneness and loneliness. Out it came. This is it.
I have a feeling some Far Beyond listeners will relate to this podcast quite personally. Loneliness falls on all of us at times in life, but it falls heavily nowadays on certain people – it’s a hole you can fall into and get stuck in, getting so accustomed to your own company that you start losing interest in normal social interactions. It’s insidious.
That’s weird, considering the world’s population is at its highest ever. That’s about social isolation, even alienation.
But we have a new issue today: you can be physically alone for much of the time but well-connected remotely over internet with loads of people. Online home-workers can get isolated – not just grannies and the disabled. As a book editor, I would take 2-3-4 weeks over each book, with little need to talk to anyone for that time – I specialised in tricky, intricate books that demanded a lot of editorial thought. This online connectivity is both a blessing and a sad symptom of the way we moderns have adopted a surrogate digital life.
I too use this medium as a way of overcoming isolation, and this podcast is an example. Though this highlights one of the points I make in the podcast: it’s possible to turn even loneliness to good use.
It’s amazing what we humans do to justify our existences. This is my fiftieth blog entry, would you believe.
It takes a few hours to do a blog but it takes days beforehand, churning through ideas and possibilities… and then, one day, I wake up, forget all that, and just start writing. That’s what happened here. I was refilling my tea mug, having just got up – vanilla tea with a dash of coconut. It came. I had to get it down before it was lost in the side-alleys of lapsed memory. It’s all to do with opening up a space inside where creativity erupts, as if out of nowhere. Though actually it comes from the compost fermented in the preceding few days.
Sometimes, as a writer, you can plan things out, but sometimes you just have to start – start with anything. Well, something interesting. It’s all about having something to say, and creating it using words that draw in readers regardless of what you’re actually saying, and the combination makes for good writing. Plus a shot of inspiration – something sparky that comes out of nowhere, oozing out between the lines. We humans communicate in far more frequencies than words, and gifted writers can say more than words.
This might surprise you, but in my own life it took a long time to find my words. It came in stages – ages 14-16, 20ish, 30ish and 36 – having written five unpublished manuscripts. Before that, as an Aspie with a rather complex brain, I was in a kind of deep, silent confusion. The world was telling me things that didn’t accord with my experience. It told me things about myself I couldn’t identify with. It made me into a ‘strange boy’ who would sit in the corner, while everyone else did normal things. At school, I just didn’t understand what we were there for. I was an autodidact, just waiting to go home to get on with my studies and projects.
Why should A + B = C? Will someone explain? Why should children suffer to go unto Jesus? If God is Love, why should we fear Him? (And why use capital letters)? Why do cars pump exhaust at you? Why should God specifically save the Queen? With Jupiter in Pisces and Moon in Gemini, these kinds of questions irked the young me.
I was the boy with glasses who got picked on and beaten up. But around age fourteen something clicked. I remember two things (my memory is shot, so this is remarkable in itself). Feeling inadequate and holding back, I was nevertheless pushed into speaking at the school debating society. Some kids were getting ready to laugh at me. I won hands down, completely forgetting my notes and holding forth fluently. I found my voice and, well, from then on I was good on-stage. But I still had a struggly quandary going on in myself, especially with understanding my personal position in life and how to work relationships.
The other thing was cross-country running. In Liverpool, football was everything, and speccy-foureyes was no good at it. But when we started long-distance running, Mars in Scorpio found his power. I delighted in hanging round mid-field for the first half of the run, and then accelerating just as the big football heroes were flagging – and I’d love passing them, heading for the front, hehe. That was great! It taught me that anything is possible if I have the will. This lesson applies just as much now, going through a cancer-induced endurance test. Out of this come a second strength and miracle possibilities.
It was LSD that changed everything. Age 16 (it was legal in 1966), I was given some California acid by a Scouse poet and we tripped out on the dockside in Liverpool. Suddenly I slotted into myself. I had a clue – saw the light, the beginnings of a calling. Uranus and Pluto were conjuncting over the Sun in my astrological chart (historic in itself), and my life changed, on that day. It was a ‘turning in the deepest seat of consciousness’. The strange boy went stranger, and something snapped together. It was okay to be me, as I was. From then on I was on a search for truth.
Well, I found some, only some, though it was worth the journey and it continues today, even in late life. Truth is big and deep and wide. So big that you can’t actually fully get it, and there’s no final answer – though we humans have indeed tried. Anyone claiming The Truth is missing something. When I was involved with the Council of Nine, they’d always refer to ‘What you call God’. Yet it’s here within us, a kind of deep knowing, a feeling of alignment, integration, anchoredness and vastness that reveals itself to each and every one of us at certain moments in life. What we do with that – many people reach for the next can of beer or stand in queues at airports – is entirely up to us, and some of us do say Yes. Hello, you.
But even then, over the decades, for me it has been an ongoing battle between saying Yes and saying No – and also I’ve studiously avoided the question, as we all do. It’s criminal, really – the crime of avoiding doing what we’re really here to do. The crime of retraction. It’s kinda easier to ‘settle down’, get a job and get drunk at Christmas – there’s so much pressure to join the Great Turning-Away. We must conform to some extent, even if you’re a weirdo like me, because we’re all here amongst humanity and, unless you close yourself away somewhere, way away in the Siberian taiga, or even attempt a compromise version like me at the far end of Cornwall, our fellow humans are all around us and we live in the civilisation and time of history that we live in. And we chose to come here.
Aspies call our so-called syndrome ‘Wrong Planet Syndrome’. Problem is, it’s tricky looking at the world from the viewpoint of a stranger. Sometimes you even look at your own mother or your lover and think Who is this?. It’s double-tricky, because most people around you think you have a programming error – a mental health issue – when actually it’s simply that an Aspie is programmed up with a different operating system (like Apple and Android). But Aspies are in a minority, and now we’ve been lumped into an autistic spectrum that some wisecracker with a doctorate thought was a nifty way of reclassifying everyone. And other neurotypical thinkers thought, yay, that’s useful, that explains things… and now we’re stuck in a new, more padded, box. Well, fuckit, I’m not having any of it.
I’ve been a victim many times over, yet something in me deeply believes that victimhood doesn’t really exist. Even if I’m ‘mentally ill’ – and that depends on your viewpoint – it’s still my prerogative to rise up. With some success and quite a lot of failures, I’ve made some progress. It’s about fully occupying one’s space and knowing, deep down, that you’re up to it – you embody it, it’s yours and you can do it. Even when you get beaten down, you can rise up, resist, turn the tables, make things good, move forward. Some of the most exemplary people I’ve known have been through the jaws of total disaster. From this viewpoint, Ukraine is now a crucible of accelerated soul evolution.
Though it can be hard, I prefer being unusual than normal, even when I’m misunderstood today and pay a high price, even charged by close loved ones. For loved ones it’s difficult too, and I really recognise that. I’m a strange mixture of a hermit and a public figure – and it’s the bit in between where I screw up, in personal and closer relationships. I fail to meet up with expectations and behavioural norms, or to deal well with some aspects of human guile and complexity.
Psycho-normals see Aspies as complex beings, but to ourselves we’re simple and straight-up and the rest of the world is complex. It becomes more complicated because most neurotypicals regard themselves as normal when they’re far more way-out and human than they allow themselves to be.
It’s like French and English: both peoples think they stand at the centre of reality in comparison to the others over there – and all sorts of trouble arises as a result, even though we’re related. My reality is better than yours. We’re doing this to Russians and Chinese at present, reducing and dehumanising them in order to justify things we do to them – and they do the same back, and look at the mess we’re in.
Yes, I’m a victim, so that entitles me either to droop in self-pity or to strike back hard, and to feel fully justified in either. That’s a really complex syndrome, and it affects individuals, social groups and nations. I’m one of the downtrodden, so let’s fuck the banksters, the toxic males or the rich whiteys because there’s not a single human amongst them, and they deserve it.
But there’s something very, very real to victimhood too, and you definitely feel it when you’re locked up in jail, refused your fortieth job application or looking down the barrel of a gun. We should indeed support victims, and injustice is a key issue in today’s world. But just because we were victims earlier in life, or even in another life, it doesn’t make us victims now.
Just because I have elements of PTSD from seeing a few too many really bad and wrong things, it doesn’t justify my being hard-hearted toward my friends and loved ones – and I’m so sorry to those who have had this from me. I really mean it. (I’ve been on a Neptune opposition Saturn over the last year, and that’s why this confessional stuff is important just now.)
It’s complex though, and nothing exists in a vacuum. Palestinians often say, ‘Why do Jews give us such a hard time, when it was Europeans who gave them a hard time?’. (Also, a wide-eyed, naive Aspie might ask, why do some Palestinians give Israelis a hard time back?) This is the kind of thing we must resolve, and Ukraine is its current nexus of attention, but there will be more horrors until we stop. Please don’t act shocked and surprised when the next round breaks out. This goes deeper than diplomacy: this concerns mass psycho-spiritual, social and cultural change. We just gotta do it, if we are to survive. As much in our own lives as in war zones.
I have been party to this crap too – I have dirty hands, and I’m not unique. It’s important to feel the responsibility and consequence but not to shut ourselves down with guilt and shame. I did it, yes. It’s time for me to forgive everyone who has done similar to me. The past cannot be undone, and it all hangs around what we learn and what we do from now on. Stepping over the craters to hug our adversaries is a really crucial thing to do. Because we’re all in this mess together.
You might wonder why I’m writing this stuff on a cancer blog. Well, these kinds of thoughts are part of my healing, the resolution of my own story. I’m trying to work on this stuff so that I can be a bit more at peace when I pop my clogs. Hopefully. That’s the idea. Not that this kind of cancer (myeloma) or my disabilities can be undone, but it’s all to do with happiness. Basic happiness is the greatest healer around. If you’re underlyingly happy you can make something good of anything. The happiness of opening up, unburdening, forgiveness, understanding, acceptance. And of having some food in your belly and a roof over your head. And the happiness of togetherness.
Here’s something. I’m cooking up tentative plans – yes, plans, for the first time in nearly three years, since going down with cancer. If I can muster the energy and some people to help set it up, I’m thinking of doing a ‘magic tour’ of a few places in Britain, to create an opportunity to meet up. One might be round Glastonbury. I don’t know if it’ll work yet, but this idea has quickened my heart. I want to bring something to you. It’s early stages, and much hangs around finding a good local organiser in each place. I’m in process of writing a proposal and blurb. So watch this space. One of my podcasts sums it all up: the one called Soul Evolution.
Here in my faraway eyrie, I think of you all – I really do. I’ve been alone, feeling rather desolate, for what feels like a long time, and something has come from it. Since I can welcome guests at my home only in ones or twos, I want to create some temporary magic spaces, perhaps round campfires, for friends and soul-relations elsewhere in larger numbers, for a few hours of time-travel, close encounters and lightbulb moments. Would that interest you? I have a strange gift of frail strength, love and tears to share, and I have a few friends upstairs. But I’ll need a good armchair. And you’ll need to switch off your phones if you want me at my best.
Bless you all, and bless everyone. Bless even the world’s worst assholes. The swallows outside my window have just burst into tuneful twittering, as if to agree. And it’s now lunchtime and I forgot my breakfast and pills, so I’d better stop…
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m on an astrological transit called Neptune opposition Saturn, and one symptom of this is aloneness. This is a life-pattern of mine, both a blessing and a bane. Much of my greatest work, in terms of studies and writing, has emerged during times of isolation and adversity – as if I’ve been given a perverse gift of extended time in which the only thing I can do is the work.
Kinda serving time – but there’s a double-entendre to that term. I’m a saturnine type, and that’s what it’s about – fulfilling the agreement, the covenant, as best I can. And Saturn says to each and every one of us, each in our own way: you can do it now and there will be consequences, or you can do it later with other consequences, but you will do it – and the easier path is to take what appears to be the harder path (though it isn’t harder in the end).
Writing a book, building a website or doing research… most other options become mysteriously unavailable when it’s time to do one of these. But not forever, and the window shuts if I don’t seize the time, even when I just have potatoes to eat.
But then, that’s one of my best contributions and people benefit from it, and if I sat around chatting, socialising or treading the money-mill I wouldn’t be doing it and it wouldn’t happen. Cos it takes hours, days, months and years, and a life’s work takes a life to do (sometimes longer).
So the current fiddly operation I’m on right now is tweaks to the ancient sites maps of Cornwall that I’ve been doing for the last six years. This time I’m looking at ancient site alignments coming from Dartmoor and Exmoor in Devon into Cornwall. Bodmin Moor acts as a kind of hub for incoming alignments, though some pass through it. It’s amazing, the accuracy with which these alignments cross quite long distances of up to 100km, hitting ancient sites within just a few metres.
One remarkable thing is this. I was reluctant to get involved with Devon (too much work), but I chose a few sites, such as Berry Head and Start Point, and found some amazing alignments. More recently I decided (after procrastinating) to add key sites in Dartmoor to the map (takes about 5-10 minutes per site) – and fascinatingly, some of those sites appeared exactly on the alignments I had already found. Amazing. How they did this without satellites, I do not know (though I have a few theories).
It’s in gradual progress – but (if you wish) check out those alignments from Berry Head, Torbay, and Start Point – one goes all the way to Bartinney Castle, just on the other side of the valley and visible when I look up from my desk. As I write in my forthcoming book, if you wanted to land a mothership in West Penwith, that’d be the place.
I have to do the uploads from a non-public ‘sandbox’ map of Cornwall to the public maps late at night, since many people will (hopefully) be in bed, and their visits to the maps won’t get disrupted as the maps blink on and off, one layer at a time as each layer is replaced, tweaked and twooked. Well, that’s how it gets late at night… it takes about three hours.
The latest upload happened last night. I was buzzing on Dexamethasone at the time – a legal and free cancer drug, just like meditation, but fundamentally different and prescribed by different sources). But Dex helps me get a few things done, in the two days I’m taking it.
So you’ll find the current stage of this research here:
There’s one more thing… no one can take away your life’s work from you. If you feel they are doing that, then you have a short-term, not a longterm problem and the value of the experience is to confirm that it’s right to get on with it somehow, and to oblige you to get right behind it.
Whatever is going on in your life, your life’s work goes with you on a somewhat separate track, fed by and feeding through to things that happen to you, or books you read, or people who deliver prompts and clues. Withholding and hanging back on our life’s work is one of the great causes of the global problems we have today. It’s also a cause of future illness.
I’m not a great withholder, but cancer put the cards on the table and told me: there’s more, and it’s time. Part of me doesn’t care so much about how my ideas and initiatives are received any more – though of course I do care a lot, but not for the same reasons as before. So I’m getting down many of the threads I’ve pursued in life, for the record, because I’ve been privileged to live through a pretty exciting and edgy time, and I’ve shared this with so many good people. It’s worth leaving tracks, whether or not future generations know or care whose shoulders they’re standing on. Because human history and the passing of the generations simply eats us for breakfast and dissolves us into nothingness.
Even those of whom history thinks well are often remembered for weird and often incorrect reasons. Once upon a time, on Iona, I had an inner dialogue with the soul of St Columba, a founder of monasteries and evangelist for the faith, looked on as a shining light of former times. Not so – he was a murderer and completely screwed up in Ulster, got out, saw the light, and did all that from guilt and a sense of penance. He disliked the way he is remembered.
Similarly with Salah-ad-Din, regarded as a great and just Kurdish ruler of Syria and Egypt. He had offered a power-sharing arrangement in Palestine that would have changed future history, and the Crusaders (Richard the Lionheart) didn’t take it. (It wasn’t helped by the fact that his son and a rich European lady, who would be required to marry to guarantee the treaty, didn’t want to.) He didn’t like that. He got the Crusaders out of Jerusalem and penned them up in Acre, but then, tired of campaigning against assholes and wanting to complete the job, he made a fatal error, causing many deaths. He died, heartbroken, not long after. What he remembers of that life is not the same as what many remember today.
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.
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.
Throughout life I’ve always sought to light up the lives of others around me, with varying degrees of success, sometimes getting confused with the dark shadows in my heart, always picking myself up for another round, another try, another angle… and sometimes, burned out, drooping and flopping into life’s mudbath, the slough of despond, to go down, down into the murky depths of human struggle, the jihad, the holy war of inner conflict, the war with the axis of evil in the human heart… and for what?
Lying in bed in the semi-delerium of chemotherapeutic drudgery, with the BBC World Service bringing the heroic crowds of Yangon, Minsk, Santiago and all stops to Hong Kong to my bedside, ringing around in my night-bedarkened cranium… lying there hearing the complaints of my fellow countrypeople over the time spent queueing to get inoculated against a virus that is too intelligent, too agile to tamp down so that we can all return to normal, return to a comfortable purgatory, a purgatory that all makes perfect sense, expressed in dollars and cents, pounds, shillings and pence…
The normality of democratic freedom, a freedom to choose our own washing powder to dissolve the persistent criminal stains of omission, commission and perpetration that permit us our apparent freedom. A freedom to supply munitions for the bombing of faraway Yemenis so that we can pump up the employment statistics, share values and the great god GDP, just because those Yemenis are less than us, somehow less deserving of the certified serving of chocolate and tax bills that make up our cherished freedom.
I had an extended moment of revelation. One of those moments when you see something you’ve long been perfectly aware of but didn’t really dare to look at. I saw how lonely I’d been throughout my life. I was born in 1950 in a baby-boom maternity home that was about to close – the last baby to be born there. All the staff was there, watching. I wasn’t too sure I wanted to be born, to start that long trajectory of landing procedures leading into the tangly web of life and its involvements.
Up in heaven I had known I could do it, but now I was not so sure. There were all these people waiting to celebrate my birth, not because it was me but because I was the last, the last before they all got transferred somewhere else or had to find new jobs. It was the back end of a tragic baby boom when our parents tried so hard to replace the devastation of war with new hope and a constant stream of dirty nappies (diapers). Someone probably had some postwar rationing-busting plonk and munchies for that moment and they celebrated the last baby while I lay there wondering what was to happen next.
Yet I grew up into a teenager who looked at my dad, who had fought in Egypt for our freedom and lost a leg in the process, telling him we weren’t free. We were living in a totalitarian society where, at least for us but not for the Commies over there or for the starving children in Africa, our chains had been coated with carrots and cream. My parents thought something was wrong with me – after all, if I listened to that raucous, long-haired noise of 1960s pop music there must be something wrong. No, Commies weren’t like us, and any sympathy felt for them just showed what betrayal and subversion these youngsters were capable of – perhaps they were enemies in our midst, traitors to the cause, undermining freedom when, really, they ought to be grateful and get a proper job.
Like many in my time and like so many right now, I was struggling for truth. Now, half a century later, here am I, churning in bed with a war in my heart, struggling to plumb the depths of truth. Oh why, oh why do we fail to see? We’d prefer to destroy our planetary nest than to do without the security of chocolate, tax-bills and easy answers – it’s safer, it’s normal. If some dictator, some oligarchy, turns down the screws on another few million people, well, that’s life, and it all makes perfect sense, expressed in dollars and cents, pounds, shillings and pence.
Yes, struggling in a war against cancer that is being fought in the muddy battlefield of my being, in midst of that soup of fears, doubts and shadows that make me human. In that moment of seeing it became so clear how I had created this aloneness pattern myself: my pattern, my incrementally-repeated choice. In the pursuit of my percieved calling, my struggle to help humanity and shift society’s tiller in a new direction, I had walked away from so many. I had shrugged shoulders, let go and moved on. They had paid their price and I had paid mine. I’d shared so much redemptive love, care and awakening with so many people yet, in another way, I’d engaged in a life of struggle to reach across the light-years of distance, to try to reach to another human star-soul in the vastness.
Here I was, an ageing man churning in bed, wading through his demons, missing loved ones near and far, blessed with a seeing, a revelation of fact-sodden truth, a statement of futility, an audit of the enormity of the task of generating light in the muddy morass of earthly life. It’s a light that struggles even now to illuminate the stone walls of that prison of the soul that is me.
Before you rush to assure me it’s alright, send me reiki and pray for me to ‘get better’ – whatever that really is – and before you lapse into the belief that I’m indulging in negativity, please stop. Please sit and look at the phantasmagorical disaster-zone of your heart: sit with it. It’s there, it’s uncomfortable, yet here lies a key, a lost chord, a lump of gold sitting between the dragon’s paws. It invites you take a deep breath, let go of fear and pick up your birthright. It’s lonely and dark down there, but here lies the key.
Today I go into Treliske hospital for another round of pumping up with drugs. As a denizen of a rich country I am privileged to receive this, as if it’s a birthright. The Dara is already giving me the shits and the Dex is dragging me into a place where nightmares transmogrify into explosions of light and back again with bewildering rapidity. This treatment feels foreign to me, but these are times where my own vision of reality fails to accord with that which apparently is believed by the majority. What’s important to me in my own manner of perceiving is not what’s important to the medical system I have resorted – it doesn’t understand it. But this is the dilemma of being on Earth – no, of being in this civilisation at this time on Earth. We all share it. Stuck between a rock and a hard place – all of us. Serving our time. Doing what we feel is best yet making a pig’s ear of it, drowning in the disappointing pointlessness of constructed belief.
But this grinding action, this grating and milling, it generates light. Awakening before dawn, before the crows did their morningtime auditory armada of swoopy crawing in the dawny gloaming out over the farm where I live, and my demons were irking me. But now dawn has come and the sun is up, shining through the big windows of my hovelly palace – it’s called The Lookout because that’s what you do here, look out. The demons are scarpering in the dawning light. Vacating space until they can come again on another haunting mission. Perhaps it all was a nightmare. Or perhaps it’s the truth of my being. At this moment I cannot judge.
But when I was sitting there shivering, having just lit the woodstove, listening to a robin on the dog-rose outside, perkily tweeting hello, I realised, well, better to grind this stuff now than to leave it until the moment of my deathly transitioning. Better to grow while I can, to see clearly without the grey-tinted glasses of daily routine – the one that looks at the clock, telling me to get ready to be picked up for the journey to the cancer unit at Treliske. Yes, it’s now time to get normalised, to keep to the timetable no matter what. Get plugged back in to the matrix. Get ready. Take your pills. Do the business. Be responsible.
For those of you who are familiar with that quackish charlatanry called astrology, you’ve just read an unpremeditated description of a transit called Neptune opposition Saturn. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, well, that was your choice, and that’s okay too – we all have to live with the consequences of our choices, with the particular way we arrange the furniture and wall-hangings in the prison-cell of our souls. We all share this dilemma.
Paradoxically, nearly eight billion people are alive today yet we all face an aloneness that has never in human history been achieved before. We all have our demons, believing they’re unique to us without realising that they are but minuscule variants of the demons we all share – demons to which we give power, with which we’re fully capable of polluting and destroying our planetary home. For the demons out there are demons within us and the redemption of both go hand in hand.
It’s okay, really. Everything is okay in the end, and if it’s not okay, it’s not the end. Some people tell me they’re so sorry I have cancer, but I find myself wondering why truly they feel this, or whether I should be sorry for them instead. It doesn’t matter. In the end it’s all an enormous phantasmagorical Youtube video, an epic production of illusions showing in five dimensions on the custom-made cinema-screen of our psyches. Who needs a subsription to Netflix when we have this? It’s free and it’s right here, with no need for shipping in from China.
Ee, there’s now’t so strange as folk. God must be amazed at us, at the imaginings that we in our billions can cook up. It must be distressing for him to see how we blame the Chinese for what they’re doing to the Uighurs when it is we ourselves who are doing it whenever we buy yet another packaged product in our supermarkets. Or perhaps he laughs when he sees us languishing in our beliefs, including those that construct him into a God that, as John Lennon in one of his own moments of despair, identified as a concept by which we measure our pain.
Now it’s time to put the kettle on, shower my creaky body, dress up in my togs and get my ass to Treliske, for another round of the never-ending Youtube movie that is life. Chemotherapy, sometimes a high, sometimes a low, provided for free on ‘our NHS’ so that we can spend a little more time on Earth struggling with that darkness and light. Is this the life we came for?
Don’t fall for the idea that I’m suffering more than you. This is the life. This is the playground in which we are playing it out. Here’s the ketchup to squirt over it. And there’s the kettle, ready to disgorge its contents into my teapot. Here we are. The oldies amongst us will remember this, from the back of the Whole Earth Catalog: we can’t get it together – it is together. Perfectly together. This is where we stand. All will be well. But to reach that point of calm certainty in your heart, it’s necessary to dig down in the deeps, make love with those demons and live to see another day.
Now for the next bit. Peace, sisters and brothers. Palden.
The picture above is of a lunar eclipse over Bethlehem, Palestine, in 2011 at the time of the Arab revolutions. The Youtube video is a song by Roger Waters called Perfect Sense, from his 1990s album Amused to Death.
This is for people who are alone or feel themselves to be alone. This issue is frequently framed in the terms and perspective of the peopled, while many of the alone tend to be outblasted on this subject by the beliefs of the peopled – the idea that aloneness is something to be rescued from.
Here’s the rub: being alone is not a bad thing. Feeling lonely is difficult, though it also has its gifts. Aloneness and loneliness are two different things: one is a fact and one is a feeling.
Part of me has always been a hermit (the other part public), so I’ve been here, in that aloneness place, many times throughout life, sometimes willingly, sometimes not, and loss has been a big life-issue for me. At present I am alone for about two-thirds of the time and I live in an isolated place, remote from the madding crowd, a place of buzzards, jackdaws and gulls.
Loneliness has various components. One is the feeling of lack of company and closeness – missing people. This is exacerbated when it’s unwilling (as with refugees, people separated by fate or by difficult choices, and the bereaved or alienated). But it can be hard even when chosen. When I moved to the far end of Cornwall I knew that old friends were unlikely to visit me and I miss them, but it was my choice – instead I talk to them in my thoughts or online.
The issue is not just to look at the hard side and judge aloneness in terms of what is lost. Everything in life has its compensations. Sometimes it’s difficult figuring out what we’re gaining from adversity, but it’s important to look at it. A lot of the hardship that we feel involves judgements we impose on ourselves and others’ judgements we take on our shoulders. This has been my story and one consequence is that now, in late life, my backbone has literally given way (as a result of bone marrow cancer) yet this experience has really helped me shed a lot of that psychological load.
I’ve long been an author, editor and online content-creator. To do what I feel called to do, I’ve had to put myself under lockdown many times. When I wrote The Only Planet of Choice in 1992 I was out of sight for 20 months – some people thought I’d moved away! Generally, my self-imposed lockdowns have been regarded as anti-social – as if I’m uninterested in and don’t care about people. But no, if I don’t lock down, how can I do what I’m here for, that people like me for and seem to benefit from? The funny thing is that, writing another book in 2020, suddenly I haven’t been anti-social but doing exactly the right thing! My 2020 lockdown started in October 2019, due to cancer, not Covid.
There’s another aspect to aloneness. Lack of stimulus and interaction can lead to a literal slowing of the psyche. This helps if one needs to unwind from a busy life, but after a longer period it leads to a crisis of energy and orientation. This is happening for many aloners, and it affects the old particularly, and those with long-Covid and fatigue – and prisoners too. I’ve noticed it in myself. I’m pretty creative, and I don’t just sit there, yet I’ve been drying up recently. By degrees. Talking to myself too much.
I overcome this in three main ways: inner journeying, pursuing an interest and going out in nature. Recently I’ve been wading through history books about the Ottomans and the conflicts of the Britons with the Saxons 1,500 years ago – that’s how I get through long hours in bed.
I think inner journeying is important for people who are bedridden or fatigued – and we do it anyway, in our woozy inner meanderings. But it can be done more proactively, and there are methods and ways to encourage it. Make it into a project. You have been given a gift of aloneness that gives you space to do this, and for much of your life you have not had such opportunities. Make a project of your inner musings and wanderings – put it to use.
When you’re alone, it’s really good to get on with activity projects too. I usually have some things that demand thought and focus and some things that are easier or more druderous, some that are creative and some that need some discipline. This is something you can do with your life that has little or nothing to do with other people: it’s yours, and no one can change that.
A solitary time can be the birthplace of something new. All of the big projects I’ve set in motion throughout my life have been conceived when I’m alone. The quiet isolation has given me vision time, inspiration space, healing, resolution, exploration and enrichment of the human in me. This is a choice – a personal one. It’s what Buddhists call a turning in the deepest seat of consciousness.
It often involves coming to peace over many issues. We need to stop beating ourselves up, running ourselves down, diverting ourselves with fear, guilt, shame and self-doubt. These blockers cause us to withhold our talents and gifts. Get this: if you care about this planet and about humanity, then activating your talents and gifts is not a choice but a duty. It’s what you’re here for, to rise to the best of your potential and to make a contribution. Forget should. Do what you can, and creatively, and your way. Whatever that is. That can include things that society or the people around you don’t necessarily deem productive or advisable.
Even if accepting aloneness doesn’t lead to dramatic outcomes, or even if we’re slowly dying, there’s something profound here about coming to peace. We all have regrets, painful memories, shadows from the past. I do too. We need to recognise them, even cherish them, and release them. They do little good, except to teach us what not to do again. Sometimes we can act to redeem these issues with the people concerned and sometimes we cannot.
Even if we cannot, releasing them still, in a funny and mysterious way, relieves the situation with people we no longer even have contact with, or we cannot face, or they might even be dead. In all interactions and conflicts it always, always, takes two to tango, and we can do something about our bit – the emotional tangles within ourselves that have complicated the issue for us and for them. Shed that load. Forgive and be forgiven. Move on.
Then there’s the fear of madness, deep in the Western psyche. Fear that you’re losing the plot, disengaging too much from groupthink and from that safe set of deeply embedded, culturally-defined judgements that were hammered into us as we grew up, about what’s right and wrong. Well, here’s a thought: in my life I have led and been part of hundreds of sharing circles, and it has been clear that many of the most insightful contributions in such circles have come from the quiet ones, the ones who struggle to articulate themselves. The ones who anticipated that they’d be misjudged or they’d say it wrong. But they can bring forth gems that they’ve mulled over very carefully, and sometimes quiet people hold the ace cards.
Quietness and disengagement are not madness, and just because society harps on endlessly about ‘mental health’, it doesn’t mean you ‘have a condition’. You see, society is mad, absolutely insane, and everything is seriously upside-down. Madness simply means that you differ from a mad consensus. You might be on your own with that, except for people who understand you, but that’s not the main issue. The main issue is that our world today is steered by people who are so busy and peopled that they don’t know themselves well enough. They don’t have time and space to look at what’s really going on. There’s something in aloneness that allows us to anchor to deeper verities, and the majority or the dominant consensus in society can be based more in hearsay than in reality. This is a global problem. And rural areas (most of the world) are being governed by people in big city buildings.
There’s more to say on all this, but I’ll stop here (my brains are giving out). But here’s a message from old Paldywan Kenobi to friends and strangers out there who are on their own: be alone well. Do your best with it. Exploit its possibilities. This transforms loneliness into an aloneness that is at peace with itself.
Oh, and one more thing. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Lynne, my partner, and I, are together about one-third of the time (she lives two hours’ drive away), and sometimes we miss each other. Yet, sincethis is so, we have an amazing relationship that works really well. For me, aloneness makes those relationships that I do have so much more meaningful. You can be close to people even when you’re far apart, even when you don’t know where they are and what they’re doing.
Sometimes I find myself thinking of a faraway or long-lost friend, having good inner discussions with them, and then, later, I find out they’re already dead! So, with people you love, even if distant or gone, listen, and talk to them inside yourself, because you are together at that time. If anyone accuses you of being mad, just remember, they’re afraid. Afraid of their aloneness, afraid of getting caught out, exiled to the far-off realms of ‘mental illness’.
For the truth is, together or apart, there are light years between all of us. Yet we’re all here together, and this is it. No one is here by accident, and this is what we came for. So if you find yourself alone nowadays, remember, do it well. There are probably a billion souls on Earth who are alone, whether stuffed away in a high-rise or hidden away up a mountain, so you’re in good company.
Okay, I’ll leave you alone now. Time to put the kettle on. Love, Palden.