A podcast about building global consensus for change and survival
Here’s my latest podcast, and it’s about….
About the collective unconscious, beliefs and fundamental questions, and the mechanics of the way that deep change happens in real life.
The ‘official line’ – what we must subscribe to and replicate if we wish to succeed in the existing socio-economic system – is flawed and unsustainable, and the deeper psyche of humanity understands something rather different.
Coming Decades | where we stand and where we’re heading. An astrologer speaks.
Here’s my next podcast from the far beyond. Coming Decades.
This is Paldywan the astrologer-historian placing our current time in a larger context – going back to 1892 – and giving some clues about future issues and developments in coming times – up to the 2060s.
With some interesting news about the late 2020s – only a few years’ time.
Latest podcast: all about level shift and the planetarisation of consciousness
Here’s my latest podcast: Level Shift.
This is a subject close to my heart, about the shift of consciousness in humanity that is necessary if we are to survive and thrive on earth.
It has preoccupied me since I was in the student revolutions of the late 1960s when, as a young man I discovered that political revolution wasn’t going to work: the change needed to be much deeper. It’s no good replacing Tsars with Stalins.
Today we’re in a parlous time and the prospects aren’t good for planet earth. It isn’t too difficult to get depressed about it. Yet we live in times of paradox and the darkest hour is just before dawn. Yes indeed.
So this podcast is a late night rap about the planeratisation of consciousness and the psychosocial mechanisms by which I believe breakthrough will come.
Though of course, we shall see. We’re in an enormous planetary experiment to see whether it’s going to work and whether we humans are really up to it. We came here for this.
Paldywan shares his thoughts about living on an organic farm
Here’s my next podcast from the Far Beyond. This time it’s about farming, happy cattle, feeding the badgers, self-fertilising fields resilience and… well, you know, I usually range around loads of things…
Don’t worry, it takes only 16 minutes. Free, no strings, no ads, no sign-up. Phew.
Here’s my latest podcast, recorded on Botrea Barrows (above), on the hill above our farm here in Cornwall. It’s all about the magic the ancients worked with, and about the G7 summit held a few miles away from me, and about influencing. Not in the internet that sense most people mean, but on the airwaves. It’s 20 mins long, and this time you get some pics and maps to look at too!
A new series of occasional podcasts from down’ere in Cornwall
It has taken a while, but I’ve just completed the first of an occasional series of podcasts, and you’re welcome to use up eighteen minutes lending it your ears!
This blog will remain my cancer-and-life blog, while the podcasts will cover interesting things that come up as the zeitgeist rolls on, my antennae twitch and the right day comes for putting together another podcast.
The first pod is all about an ancient trackway and what it means for the future.
We have to get lost. This means that things aren’t going to happen as we expect, as they should. We’re going to get other stuff instead. We’re going to go out of our depth.
The bigger implications of the Covid outbreak are now beginning to unfold. As I mentioned a few months ago, this isn’t about Covid – it’s a deeper and bigger change. Covid was the catalyst, bringing a cascade of events to force a change in the human psyche, globally. Covid itself will be forgotten, in time – it was just the trigger.
In a sense, this qualifies as a classic case of ‘divine intervention’. Imagine you’re an archangel, trying to help the people of planet Earth with their self-created problem. Previous attempts to trigger fundamental change – say, the fall of the Berlin Wall or the horrors of Syria – have not worked sufficiently. The challenge therefore is to create a trigger situation where it hits home hard enough to upend and shake out the foregoing human mindset that creates the problem, but not so hard that it knocks people back fundamentally, rendering them incapable of change, because they’re suffering, struggling and dying too much.
Et voila. It took the form of Covid 19 – a brilliant creation, sophisticated enough to outfox the brainiest of people and the most controlling of authoritarians and bureaucrats. It creates enough damage to rock things, but not enough (yet) to fundamentally disable us.
There’s something much deeper going on than this – it’s a reality-reconfiguration. It’s so fundamental that even those of us with the loosest, widest, deepest thinking are rather lost. Yes, lost. Thoroughly disoriented.
A sure sign of this is the way that we’re all trying to map a certain vision onto the future, to restore something of the way things were before. For some people it’s all about where and when to go on holiday, and for others it’s all about who controls the world, and why, and what we ought to do about it. But the problem is that reality has shifted more than that. Even the most visionary, progressive ideas use assumptions and concepts from the past. We don’t really know what has shifted, or how exactly it happened. It’s just that we’re waking up in the morning suddenly realising that things already look very different. We’re rather lost, and getting more lost.
I’m one of the more visionary types around here. I’m well-versed in history and geopolitics, I’ve been on this path since the Sixties and have had time to think things through, I’m articulate, brainy and, guess what, to be entirely honest, I don’t have answers. Here’s the rub: anyone who proposes that they do have answers doesn’t really have them – they are projecting onto the future a framework, an understanding, that seeks to restore the past. I’d put myself amongst them: I too am doing this, in my way.
There are a lot of experts and pundits out there, advocating explanations, and recently we’ve entered a new phase in the battle of ideas and viewpoints and it’s very complicated and shifting. No one really knows what to think any more, so some of us suspend judgement or cop out, while others grasp on to sure-fire analyses of what’s happening and what happens next, megaphoning them at everyone else. As if reality is created through majoritarian agreement. No, it isn’t. Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. Especially now.
This gets problematic, because it’s not just a simple question of right and wrong. Take conspiracy theories, a classic example of reality-projection, born out of a need to control the uncontrollable and to see the world as Big Brother’s plaything – a father complex. Well, problem is, much of the analysis that constructs this mindset is ill-interpreted and ill-founded, but there is also a lot of truth in it and some conspiratorialists are pointing at something really important. Unfortunately, their insights are obscured by a lot of loud noise, sensationalism, sales, over-analysis, misjudgement and right-wing politics. So, including in the world of smoke and mirrors, we’re lost.
Guess what, the great manipulators – those much-vaunted Illuminati, Trilaterals, Bilderbergers and Reptilians – are lost too, and we don’t have just one Big Brother – we’re also witnessing a war of the titans at the top of society. Eitherwhichway, this is an example of how it’s working at present – we’re obsessed with grasping at explanations, whether scientific, ethnic, religious or conspiratorial, or anything, as long as it sounds good and makes us feel safe.
Everything, somehow, is partially true, and ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are obsolete concepts. There is no right or wrong: there are simply outcomes. This is one of the operational rules of the 21st Century.
Now this gets interesting. A few years ago I wrote a report about the world in 2050. I sought to map out the issues and the scope of the complete planetary problem. I did quite a good job, as it goes, given the size and scope of the situation. It was reasonably clear what needed to be done – the social, ecological and other mega-issues we all know so well by now. But how to fit them all together and how to get there was the big issue, and today we’re faced with an enormous dysjunction.
Problem is, there’s the goal. That’s one thing. Then there’s where we stand today. That’s another. The two neither match nor connect. Given where we stand today and what we’re doing, we won’t reach the goal. Yes, we’re making big changes, but electric cars are not enough. It’s our inner grasp of things that needs to change. We’re faced with cosmological change. But we’re still in a phase of trying to restore the past. This includes the visionaries, the progressives, the leading-edge people – it doesn’t only concern those un-wokes who are perceived by progressives as needing to get real and catch up.
To get from here to there, which we cannot do with our existing sense of reality, that reality has to get shaken out in such a way that we get totally lost and disoriented. So that our fixities and structures get shaken out, on all levels. This would be a crisis and a catastrophe in one sense – a serious global mental health and organisational challenge – but the idea here is that it’s a way in which we might avoid actual, total catastrophe – such as the still-unresolved possibility of blowing up the world with nukes, or a systems breakdown or climate event so large that the majority of humans suffer and die horribly.
We have to get lost. This means that things aren’t going to happen as we expect, as they should. We’re going to get other stuff instead. We’re going to go out of our depth. It started happening last year, when we suddenly fell over a cliff we didn’t quite know was there, and we still haven’t grasped how high the cliff is. This falling sensation applies to every single one of us.
We’re falling, tipping over an edge, not sure what we’re falling into, but we’ve already lost balance. Arguably, this tipping phase began around 2008-2012, but it cracked and went critical in 2020, and now we’re on a slippery slope.
I don’t know what happens next, but here’s a key clue. We have a vastness of issues to sort out, and it all hangs around society, social choices, social justice, social power and societal healing. If these are not progressed in the next few decades, we will not handle the climatic, ecological, biosecurity, geopolitical and other issues before us. It all hangs around collective willingness, consensus, belief, consent, acceptance and cooperation. Human community. This has been put before us during the Covid crisis and this is what stands before us now.
But it isn’t about persuasion, leadership and followership, and it isn’t about recreating and replicating the past. Then comes the question: well, what should we believe? There’s an answer to this, quite well summed up by a chunk of wisdom from our old friend Jesus: by their works shall you know them.
In other words, look at the people who are doing things. And help them. I keep quoting a Xhosa saying: listen more closely to things than to people. Don’t give so much attention to ideas, beliefs and viewpoints. Try to do today whatever is best in this situation, as it stands, using your instincts, acting creatively and moving things forward from here, in big and little ways. Because this is about spreading our wings and learning to fly. Birds don’t see the air that supports them when they fly – they feel it and sense it. They fly by trusting in the air. That’s the way to go, and there’s much more to go.
But don’t just believe me because (I hope) I sound convincing. People like me, the ones pumping ideas into the collective psyche, are part of the problem. Ideas are a problem. That’s not an anti-intellectual rant: it’s just that, the way our ideas are configured, they’ve become a problem. We do need to use our heads, but differently.
Here’s a tip: get more happy and okay about not knowing what the fuck is going on. You’re unlikely to find out.
So, if you were an archangel, seeking to effect a Great Reset even on those who believe they are doing the resetting and in control of the process, you’d spin everyone round and cause them to get thoroughly lost. So that the cards get reshuffled quicker. So that solutions can come without having to drag through a lengthy processes of change and resistance to change. So that the constraints of the past can be freed, and the assets of the past can more truly be harvested – the brilliant, amazing aspects of human history, genius and hard work that have also characterised our current civilisation. So that we actually survive, without excessive, irreparable damage done.
Here at my place, there has just been a lovely fly-past of five hooting geese. They’re off to spend the day at the pools just by Tregeseal stone circle, two miles away.
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.
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.
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.
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.