There’s one robin that comes from the thicket above my cabin, and another who lives in the brambles down below the barn.
Problem is, being male robins, and with breeding season coming, they’re doing their territoriality trip – much to the consternation of the tits and the blackie, who also want to get to the feeder just outside my door.
When you spend much of your time alone, issues like this do matter! But it’s a welcome diversion too because, as you might imagine, my thumbs haven’t exactly been twiddling very much recently, and I’ll welcome an off-duty break one day.
It hasn’t snowed here in Penwith, though it went sub-zero and icy in the last few nights. Stuck out in the Atlantic and bathed in water that not too long ago passed Miami Beach, we’ve been about 5 degrees warmer than most of Britain. But then, though Brits love to complain, whatever the weather, up where my daughter Maya lives, north of the polar circle in northern Sweden, it was -30C last night – and the sun won’t rise until mid-January. Welcome to Planet Earth, dear friends – this is what you get on this world, and this is what you chose when you decided to come here.
I get cold feet. I’ve got this weird thing called Peripheral Neuropathy – a side-effect of chemo drugs where your nerve-endings die off. So I can feel the inner feelings in my feet but not the outer ones – and I never knew there was a difference until the Good Lord (or whoever) gave me cancer. This also means I don’t feel the cold in my feet very much – which goes to show how, in life, you win some and you lose some, and that’s the deal. I still have warm double socks on though.
One of the narratives of my life has been about dealing with paradox. My mother did love and care for me but she didn’t have the time and presence to mother me in the way I needed – that kind of thing. But that’s alright: it gave me some mother patterns to work with. Or this: my Tibetan name means ‘radiant merit’, my Arabic name ‘servant of the light’ and my Brahmin name is god of the sun, but there’s a shady side to me too, who gets involved in gritty, underworldy, heavy stuff. I’ve been exposing this side of me in the last month, with the strange thriller I’ve found myself in.
It goes to show, I’m not a holyholy meditation teacher at all, but a lawbreaking aged hippy charlatan who does nasty things, corrupts dishy young ladies, leads people astray and ought to be locked up forthwith – a danger to civilised society. Be warned.
I’ve been breaking the law recently, paying bribes. In West Africa, if you don’t pay enablement payments, nothing gets done. However, as my late senior barrister friend Keith used to say, in his endearingly bombastic Leo kind of way, “I, dear boy, am a purveyor of the Law of Man, but you, sir, are a purveyor of the Law of God”. Well, that’s a bit over the top, but there’s truth in it too, and sometimes divine will does need to prevail, whatever anyone thinks. So I’ve paid some bribes because, actually, it’s usually just to pay the guy’s phone bill or taxi fare so that he can do what you’re asking for and perhaps take a few bob home to his missus.
Well, if they want to arrest me for that, I’m over here. It’s a professional expense, and not the least of the sins I’ve committed. I’ve been a traitor, consorted with terrorists, smuggled tofu though Israeli checkpoints (they think it’s Semtex), taken on false guises and a few other things I’d better not mention.
But on the other hand, bad as I am, my life-saving stats measure well against any doctor or paramedic, and I’ve had the pleasure of uplifting thousands of people, and many of the bad things I once did, or decidedly didn’t do, are now, a few decades later, strangely approved of. It took a while. Some people think I’m brave, though my rather naive Aspie response is simply, ‘But why is that unusual?’.
I have another weird Aspie thing too. I have an aversion to Christmas. I don’t do it. I’ve always felt unhappy feeling obligated to be happy and congenial when, at the time, I’m feeling contemplative and quiet. So I have a no-compromise approach that, before Xmas, is frowned on and, after Xmas, is envied.
On Xmas Day, if the weather allows, I’ll be out on the moors or the cliffs with a flask and a pie, attending to the top of my head and a few related matters, and if the weather is bad I’ll be huddled round the woodstove, propped in my chair or inner journeying in bed, busy not drinking sherry. Unless I find another person who would delight in an utter non-Xmas with me, I’ll be on my own, and that’ll be alright. You might wonder why.
Well, it’s a time for wrapping up the past and looking toward the future, and I have rather a lot of both at present. That’s solstice, the turning of a tide.
But it’s also a time when, rarely, the Christian and Westernised elements in the world suddenly get excited about peace and goodwill for a day or two. This is really good. My only reservation is that it suddenly ends around lunchtime on Xmas Day, when everyone starts blotting themselves out with food and booze, only to regret it afterwards.
Nevertheless, as a guerrilla planet-fixer with an esoteric style, I find it’s worth scooping up some of this goodwill for good use. After all, there are at least a billion people on Earth who really need some peace and goodwill to be shoved their way right now. If not, truth be told, the whole eight billion of us.
So I spend my solstice-to-Xmas doing consciousness work. It’s secret – don’t tell anyone. It’s a good time for doing some gentle infiltration of the collective psyche, to strengthen that thought: goodwill. If you’re on your own this Christmas, then, wherever you are, stick up your antennae and see whether you can find me in that ‘reality-field’ and come join me. Try 11am and 2pm GMT, Xmas Day.
I’m always there on Sunday evenings at 7pm GMT too, for half an hour.
Ten years ago I was in Bethlehem at Christmas. The slightly sad thing is that Christian numbers for the Christmas Pilgrimage are much diminished nowadays, so Muslims make up the numbers – Palestinians do appreciate Bethlehem’s global name-recognition in such a forgotten land, and Jesus is also one of the prophets of Islam.
The Catholic Xmas is a bit like ours in NW Europe, with a lot of the jingle-jangle, and big concerts in Manger Square with Christian singers and bands from Germany, Indonesia and Nigeria, and a few Papal delegates thrown in. And why on earth do they import Father Christmas to Bethlehem, already replete with Christ Mass primacy, when most Palestinians have no idea where Estonia is or what slieghbells are?
Then comes the Orthodox Xmas, which is a bit more sedate, very ornate and quite delightful to a jaded old heathen like me. The chanting is done with deep faith and mystique, and the archangels and cherubim really do seem to hover around.
Then in mid-January comes the Armenian Xmas, which actually, if I were Christian, is the kind of Christmas I’d prefer – ruminative and richly calm. Either way, they’re all resplendent with candles, incense, chant and reverence – that’s very different to the mosques, where there’s nearly no ceremony or pizazz, just quiet prayer. They both have their virtues, but give me an ocean clifftop or a desert outcrop anyday, and I’ll be happy.
It looks like I’ll still be on duty over Christmas, monitoring the West Africa situation daily. Here’s the latest news from there.
Phyllis, the child, is happy and in good shape. She underwent an amazing turnaround last week, going from fever and coughing blood to wanting an ice cream in two days flat. I think you lot, with your prayers, played a key part in that. She is now staying with Dr Isaac and his family. Phyllis seems to be a great kid, easy to have around, and everyone loves her. I’m so happy about that. She’s special, that one.
Felicia… well, she’s improving, but we hit a setback two days ago. She has been reviving, and three days ago we moved her out of hospital into accommodation near the doctor and his wife. She was awake and becoming able to function, but she fell over, and it was bad. She needed two blood transfusions, a drip and medication. I’ve managed to finance that. So, it’s tenuous with her at present.
Those of you who have been giving your prayers, healing and positive thoughts to Felicia… may I ask for another round? Please hold her and raise her up. She has brain injuries from the ‘accident’ two weeks ago (they were rammed, actually). We think she’ll be alright, and she’s in good care, though she isn’t out of danger yet.
I want to put in a word for Dr Isaac and his partner Millicent and their children. They have taken in Felicia and Phyllis. They live simply and have their own family concerns, but they care a lot, and they’re definitely not in it for the money.
One of the greatest benefits I’ve had from my humanitarian work has been meeting simple, good-hearted folk like these who are the real saviours of our planet. They just get on with it and hold the world up. They do so much of the mopping up of the world’s mess.
The people I’m involved with in West Africa, and also my handler with the fraud investigation company, are all good and remarkable people. In this business, you develop ways of finding out who you can and cannot trust, and everyone depends on each other, and there’s a certain implicit code of behaviour, and you bond closely with people you encounter when sharing intense situations with them.
In something like this, to use an old sexist term, it sorts out the men from the boys. The people who hang with you through thick and thin are often amazing people. Dr Isaac is like that. He lost his job for us (though I think he’ll get it back). He risked his and his family’s lives. He’s gone several extra miles. He’s a man of faith and a good doctor who deserves more than a one-room home for his family.
I’ve met many remarkable people, and he ranks high, a true server, a doctor of whom Hippocrates would be proud. We’ve known each other for three rather long weeks. God bless you, Isaac. People like you convince me that this world will survive. My daughters, son and grandchildren do that too.
I guess I’m a sucker for crisis situations because it brings out the best in many people, and I like working with them, and it brings out the best in me. I’m not good at normality, you see. I’ve always felt I’m there to help the helpers, the social healers and the frontline people, and it’s an area of deep late-life satisfaction now.
As an independent ‘freelance humanitarian’, for want of a better term, I’ve held to certain principles I feel are important such as: ‘don’t give a person a fish, but teach them how to fish’, and ‘teach a man and you teach a man, but teach a woman and you teach a generation’. There’s even William Blake’s statement: ‘the path of excess leads to the palace of wisdom’ – and war is excess to human need, in my judgement.
I feel also that, as an educated, white, male, privileged Brit whose ancestors built the empire and kept it going, and living through its downfall and seeing its very mixed outcomes, I have a bit of an urge to complete the job. I’m not a great believer in reparations, guilt or sorrow – I just like to get in there and do something to help people have a better life and rise to their full potential. To the extent I can.
People have asked who or what I work with. To my surprise, at present it’s for a big bank – though that’s not my style. One of my PodTalks, The Only Planet of Choosing, gives clues. I’ve worked with all sorts of people, but the bottom line for me is their humanity, and progressing humanity’s evolution. My focus has been community-building, conflicts and crises, and helping social leaders stay on the rails.
You have to have your wits about you. This is strange because, as an Aspie, I can be at times apparently naively open but it’s not exactly that – it’s because I sense people’s hidden motives and agendas, and I often get delayed-action clarity on what’s really happening. So I look blank for a while. Then it all comes. So I’m best working with others, inputting what I’m good at. Such as total attention, hyper-focus. When I’m on form, I’m brilliant, and when I’m not, I’m best back here in Cornwall, out of everyone’s way.
Which is where I am now, on the farm, and it’s a dark and rainy pre-solstice night, and the owls and crows are all tucked under their wings down in the woods and hiding from the feather-ruffly wind. Wherever you are, may all be well with you.
Don’t worry too much about your circumstances, even if they’re tough at present – look at your attitude, and be innovative. Find simple ways to be happy. We all get inner friction and pain, but these are things we can reduce, even if we can’t reduce the adversity. That’s what’ll get us all through.
Well, that’s what I try to learn, anyway.
With love from me, Palden.
PodTalk | The Only Planet of Choosing (1h 13m):
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