Sunday, 27 November 2016

Look Up to the Future

          The time of Advent is with us again. I am finding that it brings with it a sense of relief, an end to what at times has been something of a growing psycho-spiritual slog since that last major event of the Christian year, Pentecost. This current period is, I think a period of renewal, a period of great magic, but one to which one needs to open oneself.
          Although my experience tells me that life experience is cyclic, that I am continually heading into a new beginning which necessarily contains within itself an ending, I often sense this feeling of, "been there; done that!" To submit to that feeling can result in great loss of fresh experience, and it is in that experience that a new truth, or a new way of seeing truth, can emerge. As a young man I was perhaps more prone to see the beginnings of things. As a man well past his prime, I suppose I am more prone to see the endings of things. And perhaps that is all right and proper. But I must never forget that both endings and beginnings are always here, that the one cannot be divorced from the other, that in a future final ending is necessarily a final beginning. What a truly wonderful paradox: two diametrically opposed and coexisting phenomena.
          There are a number of places in the Bible where one is warned to "...stay awake!..." "...the time is at hand!..." It is to be noted that the admonition is not to wake up, but to stay awake, to keep one's lamp fuelled and ready. As a child being raised in a Christian family, none of this caused me any concern. After all, my spiritual future was assured...wasn't it? What did cause me more than a little concern was such messages as,
          "For in those days before the Flood people were eating, drinking, taking wives, taking husbands, right up to the day Noah went into the ark, and they suspected nothing till the Flood came and swept them all away. It will be like this when the Son of Man comes. [And here's the crunch line] Then of two men in the fields one is taken, one left; of two women at the millstone grinding, one is taken, one left."
          Yet as is so often the case when one reads scripture sensibly and non-literally, that is, by refusing to sink into fundamentalism, there is tremendous hope and reassurance in these lines. These lines tell far more about being taken into a place of fresh understanding, of enlightenment if you will, than being removed [literally] from the face of the Earth whilst all those naughty sinners and backsliders get their come-uppance. That in turn leads one to look up to the future, to enjoy fresh beginnings with all the joy one has, and the exercise of the imagination one can muster. For no cycle repeats itself exactly as before, and in that truth there is always hope.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Let Life Shine Through

          There come occasions when I sense a longing, an urge, a need to return to some point of experience in my life. It may mean revisiting a particular location, rereading a book by a particular author, or looking again at a painting by a particular artist. These longings are not so frequent that they are a cause for concern, nor so rare that I can easily ignore them. But they do act as goads, or perhaps prompts, for reasons of which I am not clearly aware. This has happened on a couple of occasions of late. The particular incident that I am writing about here refers to the paintings of a particular watercolourist,  Ray Campbell Smith [RCS].
          This artist, I discovered, died in January of this year, a week before his one hundredth birthday. There appears to be no announcement of his death at the time, although it must be probable that there was a local announcement where he lived in Sevenoaks, Kent, UK. ["A last chance to view the renowned artist’s watercolour paintings for the benefit of Barnardo’s, in accordance with his wishes. The exhibition will take place at St Julians Club, Underriver, Sevenoaks, TN15 0RX from Thursday 13th October to Thursday 24th November 2016. Open daily until late. Telephone 01732 458261 for more information."] This bracketed information was taken from the website of SAA - the Society for All Artists.
          I find RSC's paintings symbolic of a deeply, and healthy, psycho-spiritual nature. But why is this so? I will try to answer my own question in the following way. RSC adhered to certain principles in his work. Firstly, keep to a limited palette. Often he used only three colours; raw sienna, light red and Winsor blue, for example. In English landscapes he rarely if ever used more than five or six colours. Secondly, keep detail to a minimum, and use only such detail as is necessary. For example, a picture of a dock would lose much if it failed to show some presence of human activity. Thirdly, paint with quick, clean washes to avoid muddiness, and to allow the paper to shine through.
          This year has shown me the need to "let go" of a great deal in my life. Some material possessions were lost as a result of the house fire; others were deemed to be no longer of such value that they needed to be retained. It was not difficult to see what had been discarded, or what remained. In the case of inner "letting go", what I have dispensed with has been fairly obvious. What remains is far less so. Yet the inner search and questioning must go on. There are details that seem to be important, but which are not. There are ways of behaving, ways of dealing with situations, that must be corrected or eradicated altogether. The problem with clutter, and much of what is retained in life as important can be regarded as such, is that it tends to define us in a particular and inappropriate way.
          Thus by stripping life of unnecessary detail, and reducing one's activities and interests to those which are genuinely important, and not of a pseudo-reality nature, allows one's inner life to shine through into one's consciousness. For this, RSC's paintings are for me so symbolic of right living.
          I will close this script with a taster of his work. I believe he will long be remembered in the field of watercolour painting, and not a little missed as well.


Ray Campbell Smith  1916 - 2016

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

All Things Come to an End

          The end is in sight. Well actually, a number of ends are in sight. This morning I had my second piece of maintenance laser surgery on my eyes. I am pleased to report that everything said in the comments to my previous post has, in the main, been confirmed. I now await a check-up to confirm that all has gone to the surgeon's plan, a confirmation that should come in six weeks' time or thereabouts. So the end of treatment is in sight, with [one hopes] the loss of a particularly annoying floater in my left eye.
          We now have a beautiful, oak staircase to grace our hall, built as part of the ongoing restoration work on the house, after the fire in June of this year. The electrical work has been completed, well sort of. Some changes have not been carried out, because the artisan ran out of time. But these are minor matters which, strictly speaking, did not need to be part of his current contract. We now await the arrival of the painting and decorating team, with their coterie of carpenters, to replace damaged floors, and to spruce up the decor. Appropriate materials have been chosen. In the meantime I am carrying out what work I can complete in the intervening two weeks before the arrival of the latest batch of artisans. So the end of the restoration is in sight.
          We had hoped to place the house on the market this year with [fingers crossed] the possibility of a quick sale and a move to pastures new, or at least newer. Unfortunately, as a result of the Brexit decision to the EU Referendum campaign, the pound has plummeted, and our much needed reserves for a newer house has similarly fallen. However, I hope that what falls down must also rise up - and in not too distant a future. So, although the forecast is not good at present, I do hope that opening stages of house purchase planning are coming to an end. We must wait and see.
          It has been an eventful year. Not only have we been "enjoying" a peripatetic life style for a few months, and a revamping of my eyesight, but have also been adopted by a truly lovely dog. I refer of course to our much loved "Elfie." We continue to grow ever closer both in feelings and understanding. There is now doubt whatsoever who are her adopted carers. So the end of a very changeful year is coming to an end.
          Of course, one usually waits to the actual end of a year before writing in this fashion. There may yet be more to come! On the other hand, a rest would be most welcome, and a girding-up-of-loins period in preparation for whatever fun lies ahead. So, through a still blurry right eye, and a "floaty" [grrrr] left eye, I wish you all a fond au revoir.  

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Is the Universe Beginning to Split?

          I see a vast flock of birds sweeping and swirling; I see downward flashes of lightning; I see a bedraggled spider floating by me; I see sharply etched spots of black, jagged pressure waves, and I see the universe beginning to split to reveal a vast blackness beyond.
          Now in the world of the spiritual, detachment is good but, by way of a corollary, attachment is not good. Of course detachment does not mean lack of caring and loving. Often it means a non-self-identifying intensification of loving. However, before I get drawn into that subject too far, let me say that there is one case which springs to mind where detachment is not good and attachment is good, even highly desirable. I'm talking here of one's retinas. (Or should that be retinae?)
          Thus it was that when being entertained by the viewings mentioned above, I began to feel a modicum of concern about my eyesight. A quick call to the "polyclinic" and an appointment was made for the same afternoon. I learned from the specialist that I was not about to have retinal detachment (and I assumed that I was not about to fall into the Divine Abyss, which was something of a relief as we are moving back into our home at present!)
          I am developing sacs behind my implanted lenses which are causing (apparently) the strange effects I am observing. So, it's laser surgery next week on one eye, to be followed by similar treatment on the other, a week later. This development is not unusual about eighteen months to two years after cataract surgery. I just hope this kind of maintenance surgery doesn't get to be a habit. I know I can be a driven person on occasion, but if I cannot see properly Lucy gets to be the driving force. As it happens, I am permitted to drive, so long as I take care.
          I think I am beginning to witter on. Must be the relief of moving back into our home, now vacated by the electrical artisan. Yes, he finished with mere hours to spare! And I also must finish.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

All Is Vanity

          In days of yore when computers were computers and not PC's and we wrote our own computer programmes (those were the days!), it sometimes became advisable to write sub-routines to the main programme. These sub-routines were triggered whenever a certain set of mathematical conditions occurred. Unfortunately, it also sometimes happened that as a result of incorrect programming, the sub-routine would go into an endless loop, continuing to repeat itself uselessly until someone noticed the rapidly mounting pile of paper readout on the floor. At that point, drastic measures were call for, and a return to the mathematical drawing board.
          Sub-personalities, those examples of personal behaviour patterns, called into operation when a given set of circumstances emerge, behave in a similar manner to computer sub-routines. When we begin to behave in a certain way, it is often impossible to see anything 'wrong' or dysfunctional in our behaviour until something traumatic occurs. Then a change of behaviour is called for.
          I pointed out in my previous post that our recent house fire has had repercussions on various levels, not only on the material level. I do not know what triggers the switching on of this particular sub-personality that I have, but the trigger results in a focused, almost obsessional, commitment to the project on hand. It may be trying to rescue or make good a dysfunctional relationship, or completing a renovation project, or what-have-you, long after the project should have been halted. I say again, one is unaware that one has become obsessive until that severe event happens that halts one in one's tracks. Thus it is with our recent house fire.
          Interestingly, at least in my experience, enlightenment brings about an immediate and lasting change of attitude and behaviour. That is not to say that something else will not trigger that sub-routine/sub-personality in the future. I just hope I will see it coming, although I have never done so up until now. So why should things change?
          It does seem that the unconscious, psychological event has far more power than the physical/material event. Walking into that unconscious-made-conscious world makes me feel relatively small, powerless and maybe insignificant. On the material level, it is almost possible to shrug off the fire, get stuck in and deal with 'it'. Not so on a deeper level where something else seems to be operating through my life.
          So life will continue on its upward spiral. Patterns will repeat themselves but never in quite the same way again. What may seem to be new may in the end only be a reworking of old patterns. As the preacher said, "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!"

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Mortality Visited, Briefly

          How to begin? Where to begin? May we just chat for awhile? There is much that can be said about these last three months, but I trust I will be let off going into the details of the house fire. There comes a point when enough is enough. Having said that there is a legacy, one which I find very interesting, to be thought about. It would appear, at least from my perspective, that there are many levels which have been influenced by the recent event. Let me begin with the ordinary, material level.
          I don't know whether it is appropriate to think of a dwelling in terms of mortality. If it is, then our house must be considered to be mortal. Even though there is evidence to suggest that some of its roof timbers may date back to the French revolution, our house will probably outlive its current occupants by many a year, even by many a decade. That makes my life something that is passing at a depressingly high rate. Did I mention I am seventy-nine years old today? But what's in a number? It has truly been a lovely day spent in the delightful company of my two greatest loves, Lucy and Elfie.
          Getting back to the house I was very surprised to learn from Lucy, on one of her recent visits to the house, that the staircase had been demolished and was stacked outside in a neat pile of broken timber. Now this has a rather funny side to it. You see, the electrician is supposed to have completed his repairs before the staircase chappie began his work. That was to be followed by more carpenters to repair the floors and then the painters and decorators. It is fast becoming a "Comedy of Interferences." When these two artisans get to meet, we will be many kilometres away receiving lessons on how to behave with a dog. I think that it is supposed to be Elfie receiving the training, but you know how these things turn out.
          We lost a great deal of our possessions in the fire, many of which should probably have been jettisoned long ago. On the other hand, it would have been more pleasurable if all my Indian spices and other commodities had disappeared at a more sedate rate of consumption. Fire is so quick, and the house stank for days of burnt cumin seeds. We did take this opportunity to "downsize" somewhat, a particularly horrible word that. We ditched stuff. That's the long and short of it, and felt lighter and more relieved as a result. It must be said, however, that it wasn't a painfree operation.
          At this stage I think I will leave you to chat amongst yourselves for awhile. Me? I'm having another glass of wine. Please, help yourselves.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Burned Out!

We have had a house fire. For those 'out there' who will be interested, here is an update - posted by Lucy here.