It has to be said that by no stretch of the imagination can I be called a 'people person', depending on how far one is able to stretch one's imagination I suppose. In that particular area I struggle to develop the necessary stretchability to make my opening statement a fiction. It came as a complete surprise, therefore, to undergo my recent experiences in London and the 'enlightenment', if I might call it that, that was the aftermath of those experiences.
Please bear with me if I recall my experiences in a way which pays no heed to the commonly experienced timeline, in which one event necessarily follows another in temporal sequence. The point here is that that is not how I remember my recent trip to the UK. And I must insist on being true to my thoughts and my feelings about that trip.
On the evening prior to my departure from the UK, I spent a few lovely hours with my eldest daughter and her family, with whom I ate and drank very well indeed. I also enjoyed some private, quality time with her which must remain private. But sometimes I do wonder what I have done to deserve this renewed relationship. But enough of that, please.
On my final day, whilst waiting for my flight home to be called, I had lunch at one of those Japanese, self-service establishments in which a loaded and moving conveyor belt displays its wares for the communal delectation. This was new to me so I asked one of the girls employed there to give me a crash course on the form one was required to observe. With a quick giggle, she gave me the necessary information and reminded me to 'hang onto' the colour-coded dishes I had used,
"cos then we can charge you for what you've 'ad."
That seemed to be eminently reasonable. At the end of my lunch, still watching the goodies passing me on their neverending journey - and wishing I had a little more room for further culinary indulgence - I looked around for someone to assess my consumption so that I could pay my bill. An open-faced young lad showed me a short cut to the till where our business was duly transacted.
"That was fun," I said.
"Your first time?" he queried.
Gulping briefly at an unbidden thought about what that question might have meant in a totally different (and more appropriate) context, I said that it was. There was clearly a great deal of pleasure felt that one of his customers had enjoyed the experience of eating at 'his place'. Wishing him well for the rest of the weekend, I went on my way.
It had been two days earlier that, having been let out on my own to make my own travel arrangements and travel to the other end of London, (well people are concerned that one might get lost, or lose my ticket, or succumb to some other unfortunate happenstance, and it was a long time ago that I was born in this city), that finally I met up with Natalie d'Arbeloff, that lovely lady who appears in the blogging world as "Blaugustine". Rarely, for me, has time flown so quickly as we conversed about matters psycho-spiritual. It was such a deep pleasure to converse unselfconsciously and to be received so unjudgementally. As we sat and talked and listened, it came to me that I was experiencing that wonderful sense of listening with my eyes, and seeing with my ears. This is a difficult idea to describe, but is so simple when enjoying the sensation.
Perhaps the real effect of that day's interaction with friend Natalie showed itself on the journey back to where I was staying, by underground and overland trains. As I said above, I am not a people person, but when I observed the people around me, the world seemed to take on a kind of glow. People are what they are, and I was not seeing them through rose-tinted spectacles, yet there was a joy, a sense of one-ness, a disappearing of inappropriate barriers, a coming togetherness that nevertheless precluded unnecessary contact.
That evening, I mulled over the wonders the day had offered, and I considered the possibility that I might not reach the end of my presumed spiritual journey in this life, because I do not know what is the manner of that ending. More and more, I have become aware only of the next step, or few steps, that I am asked to take - in faith - and leave the rest to whatever guides my feet. At its deepest and most aware-ful level, this is a fearful experience, for to live totally in the present in this way, is to cut oneself off from the past and all that experience and support as well as from the hopes and expectations of the future. The Path no longer seems to be straight, but is gently curved as if I am being lovingly nudged away from my own ideas about where I should go, towards the way I was always destined to travel, if I chose to listen and hear. Some words came to me:-
"............Men's curiosity searches past and future
And clings to that dimension. But to apprehend
The point of intersection of the timeless
With time, is an occupation for the saint -
No occupation either, but something given
And taken, in a lifetime's death in love,
Ardour and selflessness and self-surrender.
For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
Whilst the music lasts........"
My posthumous thanks to T.S.Eliot who wrote those words, (from the third of his Four Quartets) and my living thanks to my dearest of all friends, Lucy, for introducing me to T.S.Eliot's writing.