Sometimes a comment spontaneously written in an online discussion can say it in ways it’s difficult to think up most of the time, and this morning I had one of those. I was commenting on a FB post by a fellow Myeloma patient who had just had shocking diagnosis news, and she was reeling from it – her fears were overwhelming her. So I wrote this to her, and it sums up a lot for me, as a cancer patient. Might be useful to a few of you….
You will pass away when your heart and soul feel the need to give up, or when your angels decide to take you out, or when it’s time and it is good and okay. You’ll have your own way of seeing and defining this.
But this kind of idea brings more control back to you, and it places an emphasis on keeping your heart and spirits up, as a primary focus. In this sense there is a perverse gift in cancer: it prompts us to monitor, be aware of and look after ourselves like never before, and to look at some of the more fundamental life questions that previously we avoided. It’s even arguable that some of those avoidances can be seen as a psycho-spiritual cause of cancer.
Without cancer we are nevertheless prompted by life to learn and grow, but with it the stakes and the issues are amplified. One of the big lessons that has come to me since diagnosis has been this: if it lifts me up, I need to do it, and if it weighs me down, I need either not to do it or I need to reassess. Psychological de-burdening.
Amongst other things it is an opportunity to redesign our lives to make them work better, for us and those around us, prompted by the tightened parameters, disabilities, fears and challenges myeloma brings.
It’s all about the ins and outs of coming out into the world again.
Mayon Cliff Cairn
I haven’t written a blog recently. Some of you might be wondering what’s happening. Well, it’s classic for a cancer patient, and also it’s happening for some in connection with Covid. It’s all about the ins and outs of coming out into the world again.
I’ve been getting busy. Sometimes a bit too busy, and then I collapse. My brains are less befogged than last year and I’m less fatigued, and also there comes a point where I get fed up with resting and intense self-care. One problem is, people start thinking I’m ‘better’ – no, I’m more good and less bad.
Also I have lifelong hyper-proactive patterns and a dose of Joe Biden Syndrome – the knowledge that this is your last chance and you need to dance your last dance before you go. That’s quite a motivator. I can understand the struggles teenagers and young adults go through when they look at the world and think, OMG, what kind of a mess is this that I’m walking into?. Well, at the other end it goes, What kind of a mess am I leaving behind?
So my book is being edited and produced (hopefully for publication in September), and I’ve started doing podcasts, and I’m doing some online talks on astrology, prehistorics and geopolitics, and I’m getting a few more visitors… and thus far I’m managing to keep it together, but I have to work hard on training people to understand I’m not ‘up to speed’ and cannot match their timetables, lists, agendas, complexities and demands, and helping people solve their problems is not as easy as before. Though sometimes magic happens anyway. My memory is poor, my capacity to multitask is near-zero. After 4pm my energy droops a lot – and that’s when many people come online and want to talk.
On the plus side, the effect of a death sentence, chemo treatment and longterm isolation have given certain advantages. I’m seeing things differently, a level deeper. This can be uncomfortable for some, and I’m getting some crit for it. That’s a bit off-putting but it’s part of the game if you stick your head over the parapet.
It sounds terrible to say this but, in a way, I don’t care any more. This is a part of Joe Biden Syndrome. I don’t care so much about what people think or whether my output earns me brownie-points, fame or money, and this frees up loads of things. Though bizarrely, I’m more sensitive and permeable than ever before, and this part of me really cares.
The ‘council space’ at Bosigran Castle
I really appreciate insightful feedback, though when it is reactive, prejudicial and poorly thought through, it sometimes hurts. Often it’s powered by projected frustration. That’s difficult, because I’ve spent my life working to raise the level of people’s understanding, and this small matter seems to have gone backwards in recent years.
Some people might feel my writings can be harsh or scathing. They might be right. This might perhaps be an issue about understanding Aspies though (Greta Thunberg, Elon Musk and Bill Gates can be seen this way too – kinda suspect). But there’s one thing that’s important to me: I never insist on readers believing me or doing what I say. Or if I do, I don’t mean to. I add things to the pool for your consideration and I might be right or wrong, and seeing this and my own process might perhaps help you in your own process. That’s my approach.
So, in the end, I get over crit and am committed to avoiding the censorship of public judgement. Which might even be a worse censorship than the one people usually moan about.
I did write a blog a week ago about ‘weltschmerz‘ – the pain of the world. I got a bit stuck on it though, precisely over this crit. But I’ve kept it and might work it over again. I’ve moved on for now, giving more attention to the G7 summit that’s happening this weekend a few miles away from me, here in Cornwall.
This represents an interesting twist to the geopolitical consciousness work I’ve been doing over the years (with my friends – see below), usually from quite isolated and insulated places. Well, although distance is no object in the innerworlds, this time they’re coming to me, haha!
Actually, I think the real big guy who’s coming to the G7 is Mutti Merkel. One can disagree with things she’s done, but she has done really well – an examplary politician in a difficult political arena, and a sensible and well-informed hand on the tiller. Now she’s retiring, and that’s right too – times move on, and she knows it. Good luck to her. As Mikhael Gorbachev found, politicians and public figures are dispensible, and history eats them for breakfast.
Carn Euny iron age fogou
I’ve been facing some stuff. I found out that my back problem is likely to become a slow physical degeneration – an increasing incapacity to hold myself up. Myeloma slowly eats away at my bones and they’re already rather thinned out. I click my back into place about once every hour or two, and if a stranger hears it they find it a bit frightening! This degeneration issue has been a big thing to confront and accept. It confronts my get-over-it kind of character.
It’s a test of a key philosophy of mine: to look for the gift in all things. That’s what cancer and similar ailments are: a soul-driven test of our psycho-spiritual resilience and openness, a test of our capacity to actually do it, and not just to believe it, or to hope unproductively.
I’m still on chemo but it’s getting milder. The nurse came yesterday to take my bloods and shoot me up with Velcade and Dara, and I took Dex and two other things too, as pills. It’s weird, and Dex gives me stomach issues and a difficult steroid-driven feeling for two days, but the myeloma itself is in retreat and I’m ‘coming back’. The killer will either be toxicity from the stomach problems or bone degeneration – side-effects of myeloma (they vary for different people).
This brings up a further issue and challenge. I have decided to die by decision and when the time is right – or perhaps when my ‘angels’ choose to take me out. They have helped me so much through the cancer process and, in a way, I’m dependent on them, as well as on doctors and other humans, near and far.
I’ve recently made a re-commitment to a certain kind of work I’ve done in the past. It came to me a few weeks ago and gave a new sense of purpose I didn’t know was there. It’s a renewed contract with those ‘angels’ and I guess that, if I get things right, whatever that means, they’ll keep me going until it’s complete. A contract is a two-way agreement, and each party needs to know they have a reasonable chance of fulfilling it.
Hella Point at Tol Pedn Penwith (Gwennap Head)
This re-commitment feels right, but we’re feeling it out before starting. Besides, I need to get Shining Land published and a few other things done and clarified first. That’s my reality, and they have theirs too.
People sometimes ask me whether I believe in God. I say, “No”. Then I say, “In another way, Yes”. Muslims give Allah 99 names and they leave the last one open – good idea. Belief is simply a guideline, a choice of a way to construct our reality, a direction to head in. It’s more a matter of knowing, not believing in, ‘God’. Or, as my old soul-friend Sig Lonegren might say, gnowing. We’re challenged to really gnow. In order to grow, we need to gnow. This is what brings a turning in the deepest seat of consciousness. Believing takes you only a certain distance. And Goddess bless you Sig, because you’re facing these same end-of-life questions.
So that’s where things stand right now, and the story unfolds. I got up at 6am with a sudden urge to write a blog, and now it’s time for breakfast and to take my second dose of Dex. Was I hearing someone out there, in my circle of soul-relatives, wondering what was happening with old Paldywan? I’m still here. And there you are too. Gratitude for that.
Perhaps I’m spending too much time talking to myself. It’s very quiet around here. People don’t visit because they don’t want to disturb me or kill me with a swarm of life-threatening viruses apparently swirling around them.
I wasn’t aware until a few days ago that Easter was coming. There I was, sailing along through a chemotherapy tunnel, carrying on through thick and thin, and suddenly I was reminded of the relentlessly-rolling machinery of human society out there, happening beyond the bounds of this farm and upcountry from here. Easter was coming – oh yes. Down’ere in furthest Cornwall, all the madness happens in one direction, and we call it ‘upcountry’ or, with a sarky twist of intonation and a subtle roll of the eyes, ‘England’. Which means different things to us than it means to Englanders.
But then, England has just arrived here for its holidays. They’re all down in Tesco, shopping after the frantic journey down the A30, getting ready to stow away in cottages and splatter themselves in plastic tents all over the ancient pastures of West Penwith. Fresh-painted ‘campsite’ signs are sitting at roadside field gates, attempting to capture business, the machinery of the Cornish tourist industry grinds again into action, and the scenic single-track north coast road past Zennor will get suitably blocked up with queues of SUVs and campervans. The Cornish have mixed feelings about all that, and those feelings are growing bigger. Times are changing.
But it’s lovely too, hosting people for a break-out. Yes, there’s that sickening consumption aspect of holidaymaking – the kind that kills lovely places by extending urban tentacles over the land to trash the very landscape people come here to enjoy. But there’s also that aspect where people genuinely seek healing and release, the joy of waking up in a birdsong-soaked field, of paddling in the waves or stretching auras on the high cliffs, with the isles of Scilly shimmering in the distance…
Back in the 1980s when I used to organise holistic camps, I tried hard to get black and Asian people to come and join us, but it just didn’t work. After all, why should these folks, most of whom come from a much better climate than ours, sit outside freezing their asses off in the rain, wind and dew, just because crazy pink-skinned Brits like to do it? But things change. Last year Lynne and I went to Porthcurno beach, crammed with people, and the majority were not ‘typical’ Brits at all – they were the new Brits, the second- and third-generation sprogs born of ‘rivers of blood’ immigrants, and Poles, French, Hong Kongers and Latinos, with no shortage of burkinis and saris, lapping it up and loving it, and I was so happy to be amongst them all. But then, I’ve always felt rather a stranger in my own country.
And this isn’t uniquely about Brits – it’s about humans and the way we create our collective realities, our nations, social tribes, cultures and identity-boundaries. Without sorting this out, we won’t progress with today’s big environmental, economic, political, immunological and military issues. The deeper aspect of international relations has been a core theme throughout my life, and I have a few things to say about this before I go.
When I was diagnosed with cancer and stared at death in late 2019, I became acutely aware of those things in my life that are unfinished but are still doable, in my newly disabled condition. What emerged were issues and possibilities I just hadn’t previously seen to be likely. One of those was to write a book about my understanding of prehistoric civilisation in the isles of Britain. So, when able, and whenever my brains were functioning sufficiently, I set about writing ‘Shining Land – megalithic civilisation and the ancient sites of West Penwith’. It’s now finished and seeking a publisher (no, I can’t self-publish it), but this is tricky because many publishers are cash-strapped and not in a risk-taking mood and, as usual for me, the book doesn’t sit neatly in a convenient marketing niche. Having myself worked two decades as an editor in book-publishing, and having myself rejected quite a number of good books for similar market-based reasons (we couldn’t publish anything and everything), this is rather ironic. What goes around comes around. But the book will come out somehow: it awaits a magic solution.
There’s another book or project starting to ferment, deep down – a re-work of my 2003 book about nations, cultures, beliefs and international relations. ‘Healing the Hurts of Nations – the human side of globalisation’ looked at the psycho-social and geopolitical issues that obstruct concerted planetary action to resolve its biggest global threats and challenges. Twenty years ago this was a little ahead of its time – and my spiritually-rooted approach was too far outside the box for many people, especially professionals and the commentariat. So I’m going to work over this subject again, either as a book or as a serialised online blog. Times come when ideas come into their time.
But first I must complete the prehistoric work – not far to go now. On chemotherapy, my constrained brain capacity cannot manage certain stretches of thinking. So I’ve been getting on with mind-numbing drudge – in this case, completing a detailed map of the ancient sites of Cornwall (there are thousands of them). I started it in 2015 and it’s nearly finished. Aaaah, relief. Then I can put it to bed and have done with it. Here’s the current version – and click on any site on the map to see what happens next.
The psycho-geopolitics project is fermenting underneath in the murky depths, taking shape at its own rate. I’m not really thinking it through, but the thoughts are brewing underneath and I can feel it. It involves an orientation and focusing of my thoughts and attention on the subject, and a ferreting out of pathways by which it best can be explored. These projects, these preoccupations, are like beings with a life of their own, and I sometimes there’s a discomfiting sense that I’m being used. There have even been times when I’ve been too busy with things like this to do things like earning an income! In another time of history I might have earned my income by doing it.
It sounds like I’m ready to return to work and ‘get normal’ again – re-join the humanoid rat-race. I do need somehow to supplement my modestly adequate income, but I’m not ready for that – I’d make a mess of it. I might sound clear and resolute but actually I’m useless at making decisions, figuring things out and sorting through details. It’ll take me a day to get over the effort of writing this blog! But I’m making progress, as long as I can work when my energy and brains are cranked up. That’s difficult to predict, so arrangements and appointments are not doable, and fitting into the coffee-driven swirl of needs, complexities and timetables of the wider world doesn’t work well.
Or perhaps I’m spending too much time talking to myself. It’s very quiet around here. People don’t visit because they don’t want to disturb me or kill me with a swarm of life-threatening viruses apparently swirling around them. But I’m on Dexamethasone and probably better protected from Covid symptoms than most people. So Lynne’s fortnightly visits are so welcome – and I’m sure that if she chronicled the things we jibber about, it would land up quite encyclopaedic. Both of us being astrologers, we have a multidimensional language to yatter with that’s unavailable to most people – it ought to be taught to teenagers at school. It’s the same when Penny comes along on Wednesdays to clean up – she comes with issues and questions and leaves with a stack of lightbulb moments, sufficient to last until next week. But she doesn’t speak astrologese, so we’re limited to English. And Karen, who comes along with my shopping on Thursdays, tells me tales of events down in Penzance or at Treliske hospital (she’s a cancer patient too). That’s my main human contact with the outside world! Otherwise, my main company is the birds – there are a few dunnets that I really like. The swallows haven’t arrived yet though.
Meanwhile, the chemo process is working, and I’ve stabilised after the crisis I had a few weeks ago – was it just a few eeeks ago? My results are good, and I just have to keep on going until I reach a safe level that will last me for another period of time. I’m on a ‘management’ programme of periodic adjustments that keep my levels right and stop my bones from hollowing out – that’s what happens with myeloma if it isn’t managed. The haematologist is suitably surprised at my results, though I told her this would be so – having been a wholefood vegetarian meditator for half a century and subject to slightly different rules. But the medical profession has a strange kind of racial profiling that assumes that, if you’re white and you speak English, then you should be measured against a yardstick of ‘normal’, based on the way the ‘normal’ population operates. But then, a doctor once said that in Britain I’m underweight, while in India I’d be normal. Aged hippies like me should be treated more like an ethnic group because our psyche, metabolism and anatomy have changed quite radically as a result of the life-choices we’ve made, and the passage of time.
But there we go – this is a strange world, and none of us is here by accident. All will come well in the end. Because the sun keeps rising every day, and the Atlantic rollers keep ripping at the rocks and the cliffs, and time wanders unceasingly through the labyrinths of the present moment, and it’s time to put the kettle on.
Stay on the case, and do the best you can with what you have and what you are. I’ll do my best at my end too.
Hours after writing the previous blog I started going downhill, and last week I went through a nightmare. I was really unwell, out of it and going through it.
Hours after writing the previous blog I started going downhill, and between Tuesday and Friday last week I went through a nightmare. I was really unwell, out of it and going through it. I think the chemo has been pitched incorrectly (especially for a meditating vegetarian of fifty years), and I have a physical stomach complication arising from the shortening of my lower spine and squeezing of my stomach, which added to it all. By Friday I felt all beat up and half-dead, and during the weekend I’ve been reconstituting myself and coming back to balance – with a little help from the sunshine.
It makes me wary of the next step – I get another dose of chemo tomorrow. But I’ve had one item of medication removed, and another (Dex) halved, and I shall do my best with that.
All this has rather undermined my confidence, though this has been helped by two nurses and one GP who have been really good – mainly by being human and tuned in. The NHS system badly needs serious review, but it has so many good souls working within it.
So I’m going to take a calculated risk with the next stage and see whether I can tough out the coming week – whether or not this is battlefield bravado, I do want to get this chemo process over with. At best I shall have quite a lot of fatigue, so I’m unlikely to be able to answer messages or even perhaps read them. But, alive or dead (I suspect the former), I’ll be back.
Thanks and blessings to all of you who have sent prayers and healing: please keep it to general support without specific intervention since my inner doctors are best to cover that. They might even be whispering into the heads of the NHS doctors too – you never know.
I get the feeling a much deeper process kicked in last week – it went down, or up, a level – or both. For the astrologers amongst you, Neptune is doing an exact opposition to my Saturn in the coming weeks – it has a kind of ‘this is it’ feeling to it and, despite everything, I’m up for it. ‘Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose‘.
And it’s a tad more engaging than bill-paying, driving along motorways, flattening aircraft seats or going through checkpoints…
The great blessing is that, amidst all this, it is clearer to me now than ever before that we come into this life to hone our souls. That’s the number one takeaway you get from taking on a life on Earth.
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.
I went really deep and I was totally ‘gone’ for perhaps twenty minutes. I was consciously yielding to the drugs and my healing angels, who presumably needed me to hand over control so that they could manage the process. It was one of the deepest inner journeys I’ve had for a few weeks.
I knew everything was going to be okay when I reached reception at the haematology department, gave my details and received a ticket. On it was the number nine. Those of you who know me well will guess what this signals.
Have you ever observed day signs? I’ve been an intel gatherer for yonks and over the years many people have asked me where I get my information. Apart from being a knowledgeable geopolitical and historical big-head with an Aspie’s feel for hidden agendas, one answer is observing day-signs (omens), a magical way of information-gathering. Another is intuition/instinct, another is use of the pendulum and another is horary astrology (doing a chart for the moment when a matter arises or a question is asked). Of course, if I said this to many people I’d lose credibility or get accused of superstition, blasphemy, devil-worship or any other handily available accusation. But attentiveness to day-signs answers otherwise unanswerable questions. I was given a sign and it said ‘Nine’. I knew all would be well.
So there was I, later sitting in the Headland Unit at Treliske hospital. I’d had blood samples taken twice, I’d been ECG’d, weighed, measured, interviewed and briefed, I’d signed the assent form, taken four different pills plus ten of Dex (Dexamethasone), and then I had to wait an hour before they were to shoot me up with Dara (Daratumamab) and Velcade.
Well, at least these drugs are legal – that’s a change. It might sound strange, but I’ve had an issue coming up over this last year and, for me, it’s quite profound. It’s a tiredness with things not changing, even after a long time. One example is the ‘war on drugs’ which, to me as an aged hippy, has meant 55 long years of enforced criminality. Yes, me.
For half a century I’ve been living a very different life to the average Westerner but, despite all the talk nowadays about minority rights, things have not changed fundamentally, after all these years.
When I was 21 I stood on top of a mountain and made a vow to contribute significantly to world change, and while I knew it would take a long time, I so much wanted to see the world tip irreversibly into positive change before I was to die. But it looks like I’ll have to commute that joy and sense of relief to my next life. That’s quite a big let-go, but I made it last year. As I often say, history takes a long time. And we teach best what we ourselves are learning.
Anyway, back to the cancer unit: the journey had begun. It was a bit like the feeling I’d get on one of my humanitarian tours of duty, when the plane would take off from Heathrow on the way to the Middle East – I’d have gone through all the anticipations I could dredge up in the preceding days and weeks, and now it was business and I was dead calm and collected.
Some people think I’m brave, facing cancer treatment in the way I do, but there’s a simple answer to that: I’m not getting bombed or shot at, so cancer treatment is relatively easy when you see things from that viewpoint. Yes, I was getting nuked with EM radiation at Treliske (I’m electrosensitive) and bombarded with pharma-chemicals. And, amazingly, they didn’t even have any gluten-free biscuits or soya milk for my tea in the cancer unit, but this is peanuts.
Get upset with things like that and you’ll be useless getting shot at. This was a real problem in Syria, in the earlier days of the conflict in 2014. You couldn’t tell who was shooting at you or for what reason, because there were then about seven sides to the battle. They could shoot at you from any direction. At least in most wars it’s ‘the other side’ doing it, and you know roughly why and from which direction.
Anyway, that’s not the case here. My life is being saved, and for this I am grateful – without chemo treatment last year I would already be dead. Here I was, installed in an armchair, well out of it on drugs, and it felt okay. The main problem was not the chemo, it was my neurological system and brains squealing with EM radiation. Few people realise how discriminatory, insensitive and oppressive it is when they spray radiation from their mobile phone over an electrosensitive person like me, commonly regarded as an awkward person making an unnecessary fuss over nothing in particular. Yet radiation exposure is a direct cause of the particular cancer I have (myeloma). It’s a bit like being vegan 20-50 years ago – looked on as bloody awkward and deluded, and these people need to get a grip and get a proper job.
The nurses were keeping me in to observe how I reacted to the Dara. Fair enough. But there was just one problem: the doctors and nurses have little experience of people like me and they use ‘normal’ as their standard for judging everything. But I’m not normal. I have the benefit of having had a good diet, a growthful and meaningful life and, as a result, a more robust immune system and attitudes than the majority of people, and I can inwardly supercharge any therapies applied to me with consciousness work. Last year, my chemo treatment was cut from eight to six to five cycles of treatment – I did really well.
Inshallah, perhaps I’ll bring them a few surprises this time round. I had done a lot of inner preparation in the preceding days and, once the Chinese-Filipino male nurse, a nice chap, had shot me up with chemo drugs, I went straight into meditation, cross-legged in my chair, breathing myself down, modulating my energy-field to accommodate to the drugs and calm my heart which, in response to the Dex, an amphetamine, and the radiation, was pumping quite hard.
After doing this I went really deep and I was totally ‘gone’ for perhaps twenty minutes. I was consciously yielding to the drugs and my healing angels, who presumably needed me to hand over control so that they could manage the process. It was one of the deepest inner journeys I’ve had for a few weeks. When eventually I came to, I looked at the other cancer patients sat in their armchairs and hooked up to their drips, and the nurses going around doing their duties… experiencing all this with the perspective of an ET getting a look into this strange world through my eyes.
God bless these cancer patients, busy ingesting chemicals and most of them sitting fiddling with their phones, communicating with anxious daughters and neighbours to fix pickups. They’re all nice people, all facing cancer and reduced life-chances. They must wonder who this old guy dressed in his copper-coloured Arabic jalabiya was – a foreigner or a weirdo? But then, in Cornwall, it’s not like England, and this isn’t so strange, and when they hear I come from West Penwith, stacked full of oddbods and veterans of the revolution, they just nod, aha, okay.
God bless my nurse, who had been so worried about hurting me because I had so little subcutanous fat on my stomach to shove his needles into. No fat – not normal. But then, I’m not getting shot at, only shot up, so it was no worry – he was just being a bit over-conscientious. Later he came by and said, “Have you met the Dalai Lama?”. Yes, I had, though I’d mainly been involved with the Sixteenth Karmapa and his own amazing squad of lamas back in the 1970s. The nurse wanted to talk about the Tibetans, Uighurs, Hong Kong and Taiwan – he’d figured I understood these issues. He was deeply concerned about China – like so many emigrant Chinese, many of whom have lived outside the Middle Kingdom for generations, he still cared deeply about his country and people.
He said that, when I’d gone into meditation I had gone deeply quiet and the whole room had changed. I became aware that, although most of these people will have read and heard about meditation, few will actually have felt the darshan, the vibrational radiation, that can arise. There they were, stuck in their armchairs with nothing to do, while this guy at one side of the room was going somewhere that, on some level deep in their psyches, they knew they needed themselves to visit – faced as they too were the with threat of death.
The nurses were being overcautious with me though. I was supposed to leave by 4pm but someone had come in insisting I be kept there till 6.30, just in case. I told them this would not be necessary. But they could not go against authority. I showed them the places where I had been injected, which weren’t bruised or swelling, and reminded them that I had just hobbled all the way to the surprisingly well-stocked W H Smith’s at the main entrance and back, to get some gluten-free snacks which, astoundingly, they did not have available even in a cancer ward when they dished out refreshments. Eventually they ran out of excuses and I left at 6pm.
When I got to the main corridor, the guard, who had seen me go past on the way to the shop, now decided I couldn’t go that way to the main entrance. “But I’ve just walked 90% of the way there and you allowed me to do that”. “It’s the Covid regs – sorry it’s a pain in the ass”. He was a nice chap. “Well, I understand that, but it’s not a pain in the ass I’ll get but a wet bum, because I’ll need to sit down on the way and, as you can see, it’s raining…”. Nevertheless, old peg-leg had to walk round the hospital to get to the car park to find Lynne, who was going to take me home.
We got home, lit the woodstove, had a cuppa and detoxed from the day’s encounter with modern civilisation and its rules, timetables, regs and electrosmog. I was buzzing on Dex, and Lynne had to tolerate my rattling away for hours with my mind on overdrive until eventually we went to bed. She said she could smell the chemicals in my body. I lay there churning until I drifted off.
But I was alright. I seem to be tolerating the Dara (Daratumamab) well – that’s the new drug I’m on. The Velcade my body recognises, and I had had no problems with it last time. The Dex, meanwhile, though it charges its price in side-effects, does work well, and last winter I could feel that it was one of the most effective drugs I was taking. But it’s a bit like a cross between speed and cocaine in its psychoactive effects, and it heightens my Asperger’s symptoms a lot.
I’m on two other drugs too – an antiviral called Aciclovir and a kidney protector called Allopurinol – but I’m on a lot fewer drugs than last year, and that’s a relief. My body-psyche is more familiar and less shocked by the process than it was last year, and I don’t have the excruciating back pain I had then – so in this second round it is different.
So the anticipations I had had were just that: anticipations. Thus far, it is unfolding well. It’s difficult being on chemo, and writing this blog has been hard work, but it’s not as difficult as I thought it might be, and the Dara is easier on me than the Cyclophosphamide I was taking last year, which felt like being hit by an armoured bulldozer.
For the first time I’ve met my doctor and cancer nurses in person. Last year I had been treated at Torbay hospital in Devon, so the people at Treliske didn’t know me. During Covid lockdown I’ve had only phone and video consultations with one person, Liz, my doctor. So I felt quite on my own through much of 2020, as if held at a rather impersonal arm’s length during the Covid crisis. But now we were up close and personal.
I liked John, a fortysomething CNS (clinical nurse specialist). I think he figured me out quite well and had met people like me before. I get the feeling he’d done his fair share of raves and festivals before he had kids and got a ‘responsible’ job, so I was within his range of experience. This was true also for another nurse who, at a slack moment, came to say she too was a vegetarian – but I could tell she kept it quiet amongst her colleagues, rather like it was the 1980s – and to ask me a few questions about meditation.
And if you’re wondering why the number nine was significant to me as a day-sign, well, The Nine, some high beings for whom I wrote a book in the early 1990s, who jokingly used to call me Paladin Saladin, are at the root of my ‘spiritual genetics’. They’re like meta-grandparents who had placed the order for the weaving and construction of my soul. So, to me, they were signalling that they were with me and it would be alright. And they were, and it was. And so it goes.
Sometimes, early at dawn when it’s too dark to photograph it like the other birds shown here, a little wren flits to my window. It surveys the scene, sees a few crumbs on the breadboard, flutters down, feeds and looks around, then flutters back up and out. What a gift. It doesn’t know that it has become a healer of the highest order – or that news of this would stretch across the world. So wren and I are doing a good business in crumbs – and this morning, guess what, it had crumbs from the last of Lynne’s Christmas Cake! Bonus.
Slightly soppy Jupiter in Pisces that I am, I’ve been leaking tears recently, and it’s fascinating to discover what it’s all about. Several things seem to connect up to get it going – some are very positive, such as the little wren. One is about me, one is about people I know and have a connection with, and one is about the wider world.
I’m starting chemo on Monday 1st February and this will last 5-6 months, probably followed by a few months of fatigue and other side-effects. If I don’t do chemo, then the blood cancer I have will gradually hollow out my bones, I will get more collapses of vertebrae in my back and bones going brittle, I’ll become seriously disabled and eventually I’ll die, quicker than otherwise. I don’t have great expectations, but the chemo might give me a few more years with which to complete things, inshallah.
To holistic crusaders who think there’s a better path to follow: I’m on the same side as you, and if something had come up that was sufficiently convincing, based on real experience with my particular cancer and who and where I am, and if there had been a sufficient support system that I could afford, I would have done it. So thanks, and I know you mean well, and I have chosen this path, and here we go…
But it scares the hell out of me too. Mercifully, I’m not unused to that: before working in conflict zones or entering risky situations I’d grind through my stuff in the days and weeks preceding, though increasingly I found that, on the day, I was fine, balanced and fully present. It worked, mostly, in those things I could affect. In those things I could not affect, which are many in chaotic situations, I just had to take my chances. And here I still am.
So at times I’ve been feeling vulnerable and shaky, digging around in my fears. One big thing to overcome is lingering resentments over the way things have been in my life, that have not changed for the better, despite all that I and so many others have done over the years. This is coming up now with the doctors I’m working with. As a longterm vegetarian, meditator and consciousness-explorer, also very underweight, I believe I should be dosed with medications about 30% below the norm. In the last few days I haven’t taken a single pill or shot of chemo yet, yet my body and psyche are already going there, as if autonomically inducing it. My medical results have been pretty good: last year my chemo treatment, standardly eight cycles, was cut to six, then five. These results the medical profession just calls ‘good luck’. In this they are incorrect. I’m lucky, yes, but these outcomes arise from choices I have made and positive inputs that are way outside their zone.
Back to the fear. It is activating pain from the past, about being, or feeling, misunderstood and treated inappropriately, being judged and penalised for being who I am – and I’ve had a good load of that! But it’s still going on now to some extent, and I’m unhappy about that. On the other side, I do trust my doctors, and while they do want the best for me and to get things right, they can also make my life more difficult than it needs to be. Owing to institutionalised taboos against alternatives in medicine, and because doctors lack experience of holistic solutions and odd people like me, they don’t take seriously those things that are serious for me – particularly concerning pharmacological side-effects.
To be honest, this is also the case with some holistic practitioners too, who might be qualified, and who might think they know, and they mean well, but some of them also try teaching their grandmother to suck eggs, or they err a little too far on ideology, or they lack specific experience, incorrectly applying knowledge about tumorous cancers to my much rarer leukaemia-like blood cancer. With a rare disease and an unusual person, this can be problematic, being misjudged from both directions! Though I don’t want to seem entirely critical either, since doctors and healers are genuinely helping me too. However I am yet to find someone who is competent, experienced and unbiased in complementary and conventional medical fields together – integrated medicine.
One other thing I’ve had anticipation about is the task of training friends and people how to behave with me, as a cancer patient. Most people don’t know how, so they leave me alone, and this isn’t a solution – especially with people I’d like to see. Others get awkward, or try too much to help, or they’re so sorry or anxious for me – and I just need people to slow down, make us both a cup of tea, be a friend and act naturally!
Here’s a tip for dealing with someone with brain-fog: instead of asking me what I want, tell me what you’re proposing and let me say yes or no. Or just do it anyway – keep it simple. This gets around chemo-brain and the frontal-lobe issues it brings – making decisions, finding words, remembering details and following long explanations.
Here’s another one: please don’t ask me ‘How are you?’! I am asked this multiple times per day, and you’re requiring me to do a systems check and report this to you verbally and then to deal with your responses and concerns – and, believe me, it’s tiring and repetitive. I write these blogs to report what’s happening. If we do meet or talk, please just treat me like a ninetysomething, have a good conversation or communion with me and you’ll then find out how I am. My state can change on an hourly basis anyway.
Anyway, I was feeling vulnerable over all sorts of things. It’s good to bring it up, stir it round and get some of it out of the way – because many of the experiences we have in life are there to teach us. If we learn quickly and willingly, on or ahead of time, we unmanifest certain kinds of difficult learning experiences. Or they become testing experiences instead, where the Universe checks whether you really mean it, emotionally and in your cells and bones. Again, progress in tests depends on our capacity and willingness to go make something good out of a bad situation – and working through fear, guilt and shame in advance really helps us deal with such situations when we’re actually in them. And what we fear and what actually happens are two very different things.
So I am working on welcoming and befriending the process I’m about to go through and doing the best I can with it, on all levels of my being. Really, it’s the only option.
I get emotional over other people too. There’s a woman I know in Ghana whose child died on Friday night – Kwame was perhaps three or four years old and he died of pneumonia. I paid for some medicines but it was too little, too late. God bless Kwame, little soul – he had only a short life. His mum doesn’t even have enough money to bury him, so she’s stuck and rather overwrought. This is the case for many people in countries where health and social support systems are weak, or where paying for healthcare makes the difference between life and death. I cried not so much for Kwame, who returns to his Maker, but for his mother Grace, and for people like her (Lynne is one), who are left with a gap and a shadow of loss or regret when such things happen.
Then I get emotional about the overall world situation. Problem is, I’ve been dedicated to world transformation for fifty years and the new age hasn’t started. I could perhaps have done more, though I’ve done my best, but I’m now deeply sad for the world. The price it has paid for not getting the message fifty years ago is enormous – and there’s more to go. If necessary change leading toward ecological rebalancing, social and economic justice, peace and appropriate development had started back then, the situation we face today would be very different.
I’m a philosophical guy with a longterm sense of history, and I deeply believe things will work out better than many people fear – eventually. But I feel such grief over the way things have gone, and the pain and damage involved. Yes, there have been advances, but the fundamentals have not yet been addressed. This grief is what Germans call *weltschmerz* – the pain of the world. In my meditations I work to reduce the heat and increase the light in world situations and I’m very much a believer in the maxim ‘Don’t complain about the darkness – light a candle’.
When I go to my Maker, then to see things from that perspective, I have a feeling this innerwork, of all the things I’ve done, might be what I’m most satisfied with – even though, here on Earth, it is difficult to see what benefit it has brought, and even though, especially in the now-defunct Hundredth Monkey Project and Flying Squad, we did have definite instances where miracles happened.
Sometimes my tears come up from nowhere. I think of someone, or I hear something on the radio and, whatever I’m doing, I start wobbling, so I stop and give space to that precious and revelatory emotion that’s surfacing. Personally, this is important: I learned to cry only when I was about 30 – and it was an enormous loss that did it. Back then, it wasn’t just my own self-pity, but I felt so much regret for the others who also had lost in that situation. It cracked me up and cracked me open, affecting them a lot too. This experience was important for me as an Aspie: it taught me to look people in the eyes. Aspies are often regarded as feelingless and emotionally neutral, but actually we’re flooded with feeling, often confused where to put it and how to deal with it – so we go blank and get short-circuited.
This loss set me on a path of commitment to pursuing my purpose. It’s the case for many altruists and server-souls: intense pain and dilemma can unleash one’s superpowers, if one so chooses. One supporter of Alexei Navalny in Russia recently said, when asked why she was risking so much by demonstrating in the streets, “I could not bear the thought of not being there” – and this is what changes history. There comes a point where you lose your fear – or, at least, a crucial chunk of it.
Fear is natural. In the animal part of ourselves it warns us of danger, alerting us. But the deadening, sleep-inducing, inculcated and inherited fear we all have challenges us to use it to move forward, to do what we fear, to do it anyway. Though intelligently.
So I start on Monday, getting shot up with Dara, Velcade and Dex, and a load of other stuff to compensate. It involves three visits to Treliske hospital and multiple home visits from a nurse. I reduce my holistic treatments during this period, to minimise complication and avoid conflicts between holistics and pharma. Certain things, like CBD, Vit C, colloidal silver, basic nutrients and other things, I continue because they help the process (Lynne’s flapjacks too). There are other helpers, including an eLybra machine (radionics-like) and homoeopathy. There’s a mighty inner influence from Upstairs, from healers, meditators and well-wishers round the world, from Lynne and close-by supporters, from my adopted homeland of West Penwith and the landscape of the farm where I live. And my tears are part of my arsenal as a warrior-soul. And, fuckit, the past is past and this is today, the next stage on the path. All is forgiven that I’ve uncovered so far, and I’ll try to deal with the rest when I get to it.
I hope to report the whole process, as and when I can. If possible to the end. This said, I must be self-focused in the next few months, and I won’t be very interested in or respond to many people’s questions, concerns, worries and neuroses. Or endless Youtube videos. But personal, briefly-put, interesting thoughts are welcome – I’ll probably see it but you might or might not get a reply. My day will gradually go down to about six hours, probably.
I’ve said this before and it’s worth repeating…
Everything is okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.
This is one of those that’s worth writing on your toilet wall for further contemplation.
Now for the next bit.
Love, and thanks for being alive,
The pics are of birds who have visited my home in earlier years – including one wren who seemed to like hanging by a Tibetan thangka on my wall.
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.
Think about it: your partner is on a death sentence and, in anything from six months to ten years, he could be gone. It takes a heroine to stick around for that.
While they’re down here for the G7 conference nearby in St Ives, I was thinking of inviting Mutti Merkel, Justin Trudeau (I once met his dad) and a few of the others for kombucha and Lynne’s gluten-free flapjacks round the campfire – they’ll get an airborne dance by our swallows too. That new chap Joe can come if he wants. My son Tulki will fix a security stake-out with his army friends, and my son-in-law Perra will pick up my guests and drop them in the field in his helicopter. If that Trump guy tries to disrupt things, we’ll stuff him down an iron age fogou with one of the wrathful goddesses – good at emptying testicles in the most agonising of ways – until the summer solstice sun shines in and lets him crawl out through the creep. That’ll keep him quiet for a while. Except there’s a problem.
I’m being kept alive by a group of amazing protector-goddesses. That’s a great asset, and not the problem. Chief goddess Lynne, who minds everything from my soul to my toes, has stretched my understanding of what grace and blessing truly mean. Goddess Panacaea is embodied by Penny, who in another life probably was a first lieutenant of the highest order, and the Great Shopping Goddess is Karen, an angel who genuinely demonstrates the truth that by their works shall you know them. Sheila, Miriam, Jennifer, Faith, two Helens and my three remarkable daughters also play a part – a benign conspiracy if ever there was one.
Then comes Goddess Hygeia, my doctor Liz, whom Lynne and I had a video call with on Monday. She keeps my blood and bones going – key issues in the blood cancer I have. My readings are up: paraproteins were 3 in September, 9 in November and 13 now, and light chains have gone from 368 to 785 to 1,000. So, to intercept the returning Myeloma before it starts eating up my bones again, Liz has decided I should go back on chemo. So I can’t have contact with anyone, even if they’ve had one of the much-vaunted Covid jabs, because any infection could knock me for six. So the G7 will just have to stay in St Ives.
A year ago I decided not to have a stem cell transplant, opting for a maintenance strategy, and chemo was part of the deal. (See here.) Time’s up now, though the timing is right: I’ll go through the worst during the back end of winter and, inshallah, as I start improving, spring and summer will come. It will take five months, plus a few months’ fatigue and brain-fog, so it’s rather a long haul. I’ll tell you what it’s like when we get there. If I don’t answer messages or e-mails, please be patient and don’t take it personally. I’m starting in a few weeks from now.
I’m so fortunate. I live in a lovely place and this feeds my spirits. A saturnine workaholic till I drop, my work keeps me alight too – currently, the two main challenges are getting my book Shining Land published on paper and raising funds for the Tuareg out in the desert in Mali, to pay the three teachers at their village school (both of these tasks not as simple as you’d think). My innerwork gives me a focus too, especially during long hours stuck in bed. And yes, I’ll be hovering around the backrooms of the G7 conference twiddling etheric puppet-strings.
So I have reasons to stick around until incarnate life is no longer the best arena. It’s up to the Management, really, and though Liz (visibly worn out from overwork) is doing her best, there’s a greater medicine than this, the power of spirit and the resilience of my soul, that makes the final decision.
My tutor and companion is Lynne. While no stranger to slicing vegetables and servicing old crocks like me, and one of the most loving, caring women you ever could meet, she’s really interesting too, and she holds hands with my soul. I mean, think about it: your partner is on a death sentence and, in anything from six months to ten years, he could be gone. It takes a heroine to stick around for that. Living with an Aspie also has its challenges – when confronted with personal, emotional situations I look blank and befuddled like Commander Data, and human guile passes me by like water on fish scales. Lynne doesn’t have much of that and seems largely to handle me, but the next bit is even more trying for her…
Many people might have an image of me as a thoughtful, well-behaved, decent kinda guy, but when I’m on the steroid Dexamethasone – part of my chemo treatment – my character changes. I become argumentative, defensive, impersonal and confrontative, and my eyes take on a rather fierce, empty, heartless look. Would you like to see your old man turn on you like that? Last winter, Lynne was shocked to the core by it – and the worst bit was that I wasn’t aware I was doing it. The good bit is that, since I’m not too much of a bitter old man with a chip on his shoulder, I didn’t go as far with this as I might otherwise have done. When the treatment ended, gradually I came back, but if our relationship were less deep-rooted it would have cracked there and then. (You’ve now seen what it did to Donald Trump too – I warned you! (Here.)
There’s another thing. Cancer has prematurely aged me. Falling into the cancer abyss in November 2019, I was zooted forward to the age of 95. Recently I’ve come back to about 83 – my physical age is 70 – but in the next few months I’ll probably go back into my 90s. This is physical, affecting my movement and strength, and mental, affecting my frontal-lobe capacity to make decisions, find words and handle life’s details, and it has enormously changed my perspective. Before cancer I was ten years older than Lynne, but now, behaviourally, I’m 20-30 years older, and that must be weird for her.
Before cancer struck, I was a veteran – I’d been through deep shit and it had honed the content of my character. Well, kind of. In the 1990s and after, many long-haul veterans in the movement for change started thinking about elderhood, and I have sat in a few elders’ circles myself. But I always felt uncomfortable: I was a veteran but not an elder.
The difference clarified for me only after cancer changed everything. An elder is genuinely withdrawn, standing back – not just matured or retired but half-dead and pretty incapable. This loss of energy and engagement has a deep effect, and you start seeing things differently – a bigger agenda and perspective takes over.
Elderhood is not a status issue. One qualifies by dint of the burnishing of one’s soul, and this involves sitting with death, no longer active or competent in a worldly sense – just peeing or getting dressed becomes a big task. Your duty is to sit there, watch and see, occasionally speaking truths that lift people out of the fray, the treadmill and the madness of crowds. You have to step beyond the nowadays rather self-indulgent conservatism of old age. If you’re neither heard nor believed, you must watch quietly as the consequences unfold, in acceptance and without judgement. The only thing you can do is offer an optic to help people see more clearly. You can’t even participate in decisions – others now carry that load.
Lynne is a wise woman before her time, and unassuming with it, but she’s more involved in the fray than me, bravely juggling a lot of balls in the air, as I once did. If I last ten years, she’ll be 70 when I perform my pilgrimage to that enormous refugee camp in the sky. What then, for her? She has no shortage of assets – a brilliant astrologer, awakener and anchor to many, and a natural grandmother – but in her love and commitment to me she faces a yawning gap, and in that emptiness at such an age starting a new life isn’t easy. I’m going to leave her. This is big for her, both difficult and life-enriching.
I’m going to do my best to have a good death, and not just for my sake. No one’s going to inherit any money from me, but in this life this was not my wealth, and it gets boring being rich and powerful anyway, so this time I’m trying to engineer a different bequest. There’s something important we all must get to grips with: when we die, our body stops operating but we don’t. So whenever I pop my clogs, keep your antennae up because I’ll be sending out deviceless messages straight into your psychic inbox, but only if you keep your connection open and whitelist me on your internal spam filters.
In this sense, Lynne won’t lose me – our story doesn’t end there and our saga didn’t start here. Neither will anyone, unless you choose otherwise – we shall meet again. We still have a big task to do. We have a problem on Planet Earth, and this is not just about us and our planet. We’re holding back progress in the universe. This must end. This was fully explained in the book I wrote for the Council of Nine in the early 1990s, called The Only Planet of Choice – essential briefings from deep space.
Earth is a training ground for supertroopers – yes, you – and a hot-housing soul-hybridisation experiment for seeding the universe with possibilities that even its Creator couldn’t think up. We’ve got to get this right. It’s on us: we’re the only ones who know how to work with Planet Earth. The good news is that, if we break through on this mess we’ve created, it will be a breakthrough of cosmological proportions, never done before. If we fuck up, there will be eight billion sad, angry and lost souls for the universe to deal with, and a wasted mega-project, and the problem is that our fuckups, pain and trauma are so great and unique that others don’t really know how to sort us out – it’s beyond their experience.
I’ve worked in refugee camps and disastrous situations, but I cannot fully comprehend what it’s like being the journalist I know of in Rafah, Gaza, who returned home after writing an article to find her compound bombed and all 35 members of her family dead. Moreover, she’s chosen not to hate the Israelis for it. It’s like that. I can empathise and do what I can, but the scale of her loss and her choice is beyond my experience.
So we have to stop this war on Earth: not just the shooting, but the environmental, human and psychospiritual destruction we have built into a seemingly unstoppable institution. That’s why we must meet again, one sunny day.
There are men involved in my life too – Tulki, Anim and the Chief of Tinzibitane – even two souls in India that I’ve never met, Navin and Vishnu, who have greeted me every single day for ages, plus others like the two rather laddish fortysomethings I live next door to – but I’m now very much in womankind’s hands.
In 1968 I went to a talk by Germaine Greer and was shocked to learn of women’s oppression by men and the patriarchy – I’d never even thought of it before – and something in me clicked. It has been tricky spending fifty years as a man on the side of feminism – sometimes seemingly being blamed for all of the sins of my fellow males – but I am so happy to say that, while there’s further to go, they’re on their way, and I honour my bravely desperate sisters for that, surrounded as I am now by brilliant examples of how far things have progressed.
Lynne would not call herself a feminist but in some respects she’s well ahead of the game. She serves her family and fellow humans yet she’s no slave. Her qualifications to teach are in her bones and her smile, not on a sheet of paper. When she lights up people’s lives she’s not just glimmering. When she breaks down she’s no victim, when she’s strong she’s perceptive and empathic, and when she’s troubled she doesn’t throw a fit. She probably feels uncomfortable with my extolling her virtues in public but this isn’t starry-eyed romance – it’s really real – and if she hadn’t walked into my life I don’t think I’d be here now.
So I’ve learned a few big lessons in this last year. Healing is not just about doing medication or therapies – and I have one foot on a pharmaceutical and one on an holistic pathway. It’s about cultivation of spirit. Get real: one third of you, my readers, will get cancer – and yes, I too thought it wouldn’t happen to me. You’ll get it because you’re ready to go through that mangle and because it’s the greatest gift of your life. If you don’t get cancer you’ll have no shortage of other hurdles to jump. So do it well, live as if this day is your last, and die well too.
Apart from making a contribution to the world on the way, you came for this. So make your choice. And if you’ve already made it, what’s the next step? Because even if you’re near the end, there’s more to go. You won’t get this kind of opportunity back home on the Pleiades, or wherever you came from. They don’t have chocolate there either.
The most amazing thing about Lynne is that she knows deeply that healing and loving me doesn’t involve holding onto me: she’s chosen to walk this journey with me, whatever happens and however it needs to be. I’m so grateful for that. This matters so much to someone in the last chapter of their life. She could have taken an easier path.
So I’m in good hands.
Bless you all, and thanks for reading. Palden.
With photos by Lynne, sweater by Sheila and hat by Maya.
2020 has brought us all a lot to think about and, for many, a lot of time to think about it. ‘What am I here for?’ and ‘What’s it all about?’. Some folks have had big reveals and pointers, others have had to dig deeper than ever before, and some have made little or no progress, and some have been run off their feet and burned out by it.
I’ve always been rather purpose-driven. When I was about ten I wanted to be prime minister. By 15 I won a big public speaking competition with a notes-free speech about why Britain should join the European Community – seven years before it happened. Does Brexit, 55 years later, mean I’ve failed? By 18 I realised that politics was too dirty for me. So I followed another path and you got Maggie Thatcher and Tony Blair instead.
It took until I was about 34 to acknowledge that I was at last on track (when I started the Glastonbury Camps). It just had that feeling. Before that I felt like a footloose jack of all trades and master of none. When ‘received my instructions’ I quaked and resisted, but then I realised that, if I didn’t do it, it would not happen. And it needed to happen.
God doesn’t come down and say ‘This is your life-purpose‘. It’s not like that. It’s just that, when you’re more or less on it or you’re heading towards it, you feel it – you’re in the right place at the right time doing the right thing, even if others disapprove, discourage or block you. If you aren’t on it, you feel stuck in a blind alley, getting nowhere, with a meaningless life, as if you’ll stay like that forever. Depression and feeling an unfulfilled calling are closely related.
Purpose is programmed within us. It’s already there. Before getting born, we had a discussion with our angels about the purpose, the motivation, for going to the trouble of birthing ourselves, growing up and living a life on earth. Incarnation is hard work, even for people born in privileged circumstances. Two key things were covered in that discussion: what you were to learn and master, and what you were to contribute. Then you signed a contract in your soul, and it still holds.
Quite often you get clues when you’re about 8-12 years of age – visions of what we want to be when we grow up. Then, during your teenage years, this vision can be clouded and lost (often not helped by parents and careers advisers). These early-life visions can be literal or symbolic. I wanted to be an airline pilot. When I was 15 they ruled that short-sighted ginks like me couldn’t be pilots (that changed back later on, but too late for me). So that door closed. But later in life I realised that I had taken thousands of people on long journeys, up into heaven-worlds and landed them safely at the other end. Mission kinda accomplished.
By 18 I was aiming to become a diplomat, but by 20 I was involved in a life-changing near-revolution at the LSE that ended all that – yet in my adult life I’ve scored some pretty good informal diplomatic hits. So the vision and intention were symbolically correct, but the way things panned out was very different.
As life goes on, our purpose reveals itself through situations that present themselves. We find ourselves doing things we hadn’t foreseen but, when doing it, we feel remarkably fired up, or we make a difference, or we do something really meaningful, sometimes without even realising it. Even washing the dishes or cleaning the toilets can make a big difference in some situations – the chef at a peace conference can save thousands of lives without even knowing it, just by cooking good food for the delegates. So note this and follow it, because there’s your clue – even if it doesn’t make money, look realistic or gain approval, if it fires you up, why aren’t you getting on with it?
We must be willing, if necessary, to tread that path alone. In the Arab revolutions ten years ago, a big issue for people was ‘losing our fear’. Sometimes we must stand up and be counted – and if we hold back we can regret it for the rest of our lives. Like the near-revolution I was a part of fortyish years before, the Arab revolutions failed in the short term yet they started deep changes that will outlast the dictators who tried to stop them.
Here’s an interesting truth: it’s better to fail in something that ultimately will succeed than to succeed in something that ultimately will fail. This concerns posterity and holding out for what is right – and taking a bet that it’ll work, even when you’re not sure, and everyone and everything are against you. Even if you have cerebral palsy. Even if, or perhaps because, you’ve been damaged, disadvantaged and traumatised.
Three things block this coming out process: fear, guilt and shame. Too many people take the safe route in life, to please their family or fit in with the rules, or for fear of loss of security, or fear of being singled out and blamed, or fear of being exposed as unworthy or unable. Human society is riddled with such fears. Our planetary disaster is happening because billions of people are withholding their gifts, setting aside their callings and playing safe. We cook up good reasons to justify this but, in doing so, we are choosing complicity in a collective crime against humanity.
Out of fear, we hold back. This becomes a habit and institution. Then we forget what our instructions were, what the agreement was. Instead, we eat, drink, entertain, worry or work ourselves to death – unless or until a crisis shakes it up, strips our defences, propels us into unknown territory and slams the door shut behind us.
This withholding is dead serious. It means we’re omitting to make our contribution. It’s ours to make, and someone else isn’t going to replace you. Since so many are withholding, there’s a shortage of active server-souls. People have questioned my humanitarian work, believing it is dangerous (yes, occasionally it is) and encouraging me to stop and ‘be responsible’. But then, when I ask them to take my place because the work still needs doing, they wander off.
‘Charity begins at home‘ – sorry, for me that’s only a half-truth. Charity truly begins where the need is greatest. Need pulls the brilliance out of you.
The world is short of active altruists, and the suffering that arises from that is tremendous. It’s all about that old lady down the road who is alone and unvisited, because everyone was too busy and no one thought, no one imagined what it might be like to be that old lady. The world has a crisis of caring, and it’s all to do with withholding our gifts, callings and missions. Playing safe is a very dangerous planetary neurosis.
This brings us to a key issue. It’s not just our option to pursue our life’s calling: it is our duty. It is an imperative. If we don’t do it now, it won’t go away. This is a choiceless choice. Especially in these parlous times.
This isn’t about great and dramatic things. If you’re gifted at embroidery, do it. If you’re good at ‘just’ raising kids, or ‘only’ growing cabbages, you’re here for that. If you can bring light into the life of a hungry or lonely person, do it. Because, when you’re on your deathbed, these are the things you will remember.
And it changes. Life-purpose presents tasks but it is not a job. You can’t resign. It takes on different shapes, progressing as life goes on. One of my big life-lessons and contributions has been in ‘right leadership’ – something I did better in my fifties than in my twenties. I’ve scored a few goals, brought some benefit and made mistakes too. But I learned. It has gone from home-birth campaigns to organising biggish events to helping burned-out Palestinian social activists.
There are paradoxes. Nelson Mandela once confessed that, in his life, he had faced a deep conflict between serving his family and serving his people. He could only do one of them. After all, if you’re doing things that can endanger your family, should you stop serving your people to protect them? Or will your family also benefit if you can improve things for your people?
One of my gifts has been a capacity to struggle for, uncover and articulate insights that other people don’t quite get. I’ve been a speaker, author, editor, broadcaster and a pretty good contributor to public discourse. It didn’t make me rich or famous but I’m really glad I did it and shall continue till I drop – even possibly afterwards. Since I’ve been about 30 years ahead of the times, my work has not succeeded as much as it otherwise might, but after I’m dead it might lift off – you never know – and I’m leaving an online archive of my work just in case.
But perhaps it doesn’t matter. We can never fully see the results of our work and the part it has played in others’ lives. ‘Non-attachment to the fruits of our labours’, is how Buddhists see it. The aim is not to have an impact – it is simply to do your best. Once, when I was in Palestine I confessed to a friend that I didn’t feel I was making much of a contribution on that trip, and I might go home and come back later. She looked at me straight and said, simply: “Balden, when you are here we feel safe“. That hit me hard: sometimes, you don’t even need to do anything. I learned that what I thought was happening didn’t match what actually was happening.
Here’s another thing. Often we think this is all about giving. No, it’s all about interchange. It’s arguable that the people I’ve helped have given me so much more. If you wish to experience true generosity, go to poor people’s houses and countries.
Life purpose has its ins and outs. I’m good at thinking clearly in wider situations but I’m useless at articulating personal feelings on my own behalf – though I’ve done decades of work on myself to change this, and I’ve only made a little progress. But there are things that each of us must accept too: in my case, it’s Asperger’s Syndrome (high-function autism), and that’s what Aspies are like and what we’re good for. Greta Thunberg is a good example – and society is more open to her directness than was the case for me and my kind fifty years ago.
I’ve been nailed and hammered by so many people to be different from the way I am, yet I’ve found that trying to be what I believe others want me to be does not end up well. This has been painful – to be judged as a bad father, a failure, a fascist dictator, a goodfornothing, a criminal and even traitor. “When are you going to get a proper job?”. Something in me, rightly or wrongly, has soldiered on. I have regrets, but I don’t regret it.
There is no right or wrong: there are simply outcomes. Write that on your toilet wall. We’re called to create the best outcomes we can, and for everyone. Become an expert in making something good out of disasters. Don’t indulge in your failings, inadequacies and wrongs – they go on forever – but throttle up your gifts, assets and contribution. Don’t leave it till later, because later means never.
In my life I’ve been a philanthropist without money. My wealth has been magical, not material. Sometimes I’ve thought of myself as a healer of perceptions. People outside the rich world see me coming and they think, ‘Ah, a European – he can raise funds for us’ (Christians do this more than Muslims). No, this is not what I’m here for, and I’m not good at it. I’m here to help with magic solutions, to raise people up, and it has been a challenge to hold to that because people and projects do indeed need money, often very legitimately so.
The worst bit is that some people get so fixated on the funding bit that they accuse me of being rich, mean and selfish, and they miss what I actually can contribute. It’s better to teach someone to fish than to give them a fish – a common saying in the humanitarian world. (Another is: teach a man and you teach a man, but teach a woman and you teach a generation.) I’ve had to learn to work for a good cause not just because it’s a good cause, but because it is run by people I can work with, and because it fires me up, providing a context in which to serve and contribute best.
So, if you’re struggling with life-purpose matters, here’s a recommendation. Do whatever lifts you up, and avoid whatever weighs you down. This is radical. It’s also far more practical than you might believe. When I was 50 I had a ‘dark night of the soul’ crisis and this truth emerged from it. It doesn’t mean taking the easy option – often you must take the scariest option. A lifelong peace activist, I realised that I had to head for the heart of darkness, so I committed to working in Palestine, sensing that justice for all, not exactly peace, is the main objective there. Justice brings peace, but peace doesn’t necessarily bring justice – so more conflict will follow. If Palestine and Israel can break through, the world’s conflicts will change – and wars and violence block world progress far more than we understand. So what lifted me up was the challenge to follow a difficult path.
Twenty years later, the Palestine problem continues and assholes still prevail, but this work hasn’t been a failure. Deep historic turn-arounds take time, often longer than a lifetime. Brian Eno once said, “I have a feeling I’m part of something that should be much bigger than it is“. Yes indeed – the last fifty years have been a frustrating time for change-agents. But many of the greatest breakthroughs in history were groundlaid by forgotten people you’ve never heard of – the people who prepared the way for those that history recognises. Without these forgotten heroes, you would not have the freedoms and blessings you have today.
Getting cancer and becoming physically disabled wasn’t part of my plan. But it has given me new purpose. I might live one year or ten, and this uncertainty is an awakener: what can I lay to rest and what am I still dissatisfied with? It has reminded me that, no matter how difficult things are, everything in life is a gift. If you choose to see things that way. So even if you feel you have no purpose or you can’t find it, that’s your gift, your resource, your background, and do your best with it. That’s where it starts.
Or perhaps you’re doing it but you downplay it, or you fail to see what’s happening as a result of your being there, or you feel you’re such a rotten, godforsaken shit that you’re a no-hoper.
When I was twenty I read a book by Alan Watts, a psychedelic guru, that deeply stirred me. It was called The Wisdom of Insecurity. Yes, the wisdom of insecurity. Sorry, folks, but in 2020, normality was suspended and this is what we’re being shown. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and pitch in. Make steps. Do it. And if you don’t do it, stop beating yourself up about it. Good luck.