Tuesday, 30 January 2018

The great I Am

We're in time and there's enough space.


A short poem, "The great I Am" on the rhythm of love. The last line is from a song played whilst I was on a meditation retreat last weekend.


The great I Am

Your love is real. Your love is you.

Everything you are is expressed in everything you do.

As we love one another we are alive within each other, members one of another. If I love you then you live in me, part of your life is in me and part of my life is in you.

And as you go and love, your love is in and moving and active in everyone you know and touch.

And we were formed, both genetically and psychologically, from all that came before. Who we are is formed from all those around us who have loved us, and they in turn were formed from those who loved them. As we love, the love we were given is passed on and grows and changes as we and everything else grow and change.

So love lives on.

The stars whisper, you never die.


"I dream of the armies of heaven. I know of no dream more fun."

Friday, 12 January 2018

Marriage

How many different ways can you say I love you? An uncountable infinity.
My wife has many qualities. One of the best is that she is a completely safe person to like. If you really see her, her personality and nature, it's really easy to see that it's completely safe to be friends with Delia and that she'll be a true friend where she can and do you no harm. Over the years and across the world in our adventures together I've met many of her friends that she's collected through the decades. They include some of the most extraordinary and impressive people I know. It seems that for them, at what was often a hard time in their life, they found someone they knew would be a friend. When I've been with them it's clear how much they love Delia and how much she's meant to them. That's such a precious thing, it makes Delia very beautiful. That's a quality of love I value very highly and will try to be true to as much as I'm able.

A big part of Delia's secret, as with many of the most beautiful people I know, is that she lives a life where she genuinely puts other people first. Often to her cost.

I've been thinking a lot about marriage recently. It seems to me that in the modern conception of marriage, or at least in the practise of marriage which is the reality of the conception of marriage, there is an aspect which enslaves women. I also see how that has been a part of my marriage. I'm very sorry Delia for where that's been true. I don't want slavery to be any part of my life or my marriage. Nor part of my friends lives either.

I can quite understand why any woman, or any man for that matter, would decide they didn't want anything to do with marriage. I personally still see great value in it but I don't mind if people don't get married, that's their business.

Slavery is a great evil. It appears that many people, both "conceptually" and in reality of course, live as slaves. How awful.

The good conception of marriage is, in as much as you're able and in as much as you're able is all you have to give, a lifelong commitment to love. This I think is such a good and powerful love, a love that says "I won't give up". It doesn't take a marriage to have that kind of love and you can have that kind of love for loads of people. In fact, I think that's the only real love anyway. Love is committed, love tries to never give up.

That can be really hard to work out sometimes, to work out in practise what it means to be true to love. But it's so beautiful and if you can get in the right groove so fun to work out.


"Ganesh is the archetype of the engineer. The remover of obstacles. You could see this as making the engineer a spiritual caste. The mathematician and the scientist may technically be smarter, but the engineer engineers them too and they are smart for good. Don't be concerned about engineering, it's just how humans work."

Leaving the Jesus Fellowship Church

Gloom. In the half light, where people forget themselves, you get to see who they really are.


I was part of the Jesus Fellowship for more than twenty years. I arrived as a broken man on the tale end of more than a year of homelessness and psychosis. Being at New Creation Farm and part of the Jesus Fellowship saved my life.

Part of the message of the church was love, commitment, the kingdom of heaven and sharing lives and possessions. Those values resonated in me as the things that I valued most in life and how I wanted to be.

Over those twenty years I've been on my own journey, as everyone is. I've arrived in a very different place, with very different beliefs (although many fundamentally the same depending on how you express it) than the beliefs I took on.

I've struggled with my involvement in the church for a long time. In practise a lot of it seemed so unloving and judgemental. The decision was finally made for me a few weeks ago when a preacher at the Jesus Centre on a Sunday morning stood up and preached a message saying that the root of depression was self pity and self pity was from the enemy.

I got up and walked out. Not the strongest of responses I know but I couldn't see to do anything else. Lots of of people saw how awful it was too of course.

An apology was made, about four weeks later by someone else and I wasn't present. The apology was for implying that self pity was the root of depression. The apology didn't match the events of course. That same preacher up until a few months ago would regularly preach hatred for Islam on his Facebook page. A few weeks on and he was preaching again at the Jesus Fellowship.

I just can't have anything to do with that kind of religion any more. It's not the whole story about the Jesus Fellowship. The values I fell in love with are still there and the most beautiful people I know are part of that church, or attend its meetings from time to time. That dead and horrible religion is part of the whole truth about the church though, and I can't be a member of a church where that's even part of its message.

That's why I'm no longer a member of the Jesus Fellowship. Getting to this point though just about broke my heart. I love to be committed and stay true to my word. It's just not always possible if you're really going to be true to love though.

I'm considering other churches in the area where we live. I've lived in and around Bugbrooke for more than twenty years now, coming up for fifteen of those years as a married man. I've made one brief visit to the Vineyard Church in Northampton, who seemed like such lovely people, I'm not entirely sure they'll cope with me, but they really looked like the sort of people who would give it a try. That's as much as can be asked I think, I'll see how it goes.

They're "bible believing" which is worrying, but of itself forgivable. I think I'll give it a go and see what happens. I don't think I'm likely to join another church as it goes, but I'd like to attend and make friends.

They seem like nice people. It's quite easy, and very pleasant, to be friends with nice people if you can be careful about their sensitivities. Particularly when it comes to religion, but generally too, it's not always possible to be careful with peoples' sensitivities. Sometimes people want to hang on to harmful ways of being or thinking and it's very hard for me not to confront that when I see it because I genuinely think people will be happier letting go of the nasty stuff and I really feel like I ought to show that to people. Sometimes that makes people very angry which is very hurtful because I don't mean anything bad by it.

Having lived, by my own measure, quite a difficult life I've learned to really appreciate the value of nice people. I didn't when I was younger, and to that extent (which was a large extent) I wasn't a nice person myself.

I don't consider myself a member of the Jesus Fellowship any more, but I'll still go to some of the worship events. The most beautiful people I know are part of that church or attend from time to time.


"No-one thinks that faith itself is a bad thing, the big question is what do we put our faith in? I'm a big fan of the application of the abstract. How about we have faith in faith?"

Friday, 5 January 2018

Fundamentally Speaking

I don't think you die if your heart breaks, I think you die if you don't let it break.
I've been thinking a bit about fundamentalist Islam, coming from the context of having grown up within a culture part of which identified as fundamentalist Christian. This had both good and bad meanings. Being totally sold out to what you believe in is not itself a problem.

It strikes me that fundamentalist Islam and fundamentalist Christianity, certainly in the bad elements, are basically the same religion just with some of the names and details swapped around a bit. The same conviction that they are right and others are wrong, and that because you're right anything you do in the pursuit  of that right must be right.

These religions, like any belief system, are a world view as well as a set of beliefs. Mostly people think they're good and not evil (except in their darkest imaginings of course, which we all have). So we rationalise our behaviour by forming a worldview in which our actions are good and right. Or, the way we see the world makes it seem like we're making the right choices. These two amount to the same thing anyway, we rationalise ourselves.

The thing is, in Western culture, we've mostly broken the power of the evil version of Christianity. The wildest of its claims have been shown to be so obviously false that more and more people have just seen it. It's harder to be taken in by it.

There is an evil Islam and there is an evil Christianity. I've seen them both. There is a good Christianity, and a good Islam that we can happily live along side of. I've seen them both and they're all just comprised of people. Normal people.

So the way to deal with fundamentalist Islam, like we're dealing with Christianity is to shed some light on it. We have to be standing alongside those in Islamic communities who are doing just this. That means people have to be able to listen to us, able to really see us and not be afraid of us. That can only happen if we're willing  to live alongside the good Islam. If we're not, if we're in a perpetual state of psychological war with Islam because "it's all bad" (actually because we're scared) then that will only happen more gradually.

It's a journey of course, it is actually quite a different culture and way of seeing the world than the one many of us are used to. That means there's stuff we can learn. New ways of seeing the world are useful.

Even if you disagree with me, the only way to win anyone in any meaningful way is to genuinely love them. So first stop caring about how much you disagree with them. That applies to me as much as to anyone else.


"You can be good without being right. You have to choose to let your goodness make you right. And it starts with accepting that you're probably wrong.

I know I am wrong in so many ways, but I'm willing to be right wherever it may take me and whatever it may cost me."

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

My Second Best Story from 2017, and other tales

The shadow self is still just you.

My Second Best Story from 2017

One of the things I learned from my failed experiments in adulting at university was the value of story telling. I don't mean in any mythological sense, nor folklore nor even small tribe oral tradition (those stories your mates tell which you've heard a hundred times but are still worth listening to). All of which I value. I just mean how much fun it is to have an appropriate story for a situation when you're with people. I learned from the best, a good friend who always had a good story to hand. I was inevitably torn between enjoying the story and being jealous of how much more fun it must be to be the one telling the story.

Better even than good story telling is story making. If you want to have good tales to tell you'll have to go out and make some stories. That's my one great consolation when really bad things happen, at least I'll probably get a story out of it. I think my best story of 2017, although there are a bunch to choose from, is my sort-of-gunpoint-encounter with the police in darkest Ohio, deep in Amish country with the hippies. My second favourite, useful for making any social situation awkward, is how my testes are so impervious to modern science that it took two vasectomies to silence them. The normal response to this story is to ask how I found out the first one had failed, was it Benjamin?

First of all he's nearly three, secondly how rude! Benjamin is almost entirely not a mistake thank you very much.

It doesn't work like that. Cutting the cables doesn't empty the tank, so to speak. So after the operation (pretty much entirely painless both times in my case) they check to see if it has worked. Even a year later I was still not firing blanks and the likelihood is spontaneous cable re-joining, which apparently whilst not common is still a thing.

There you go. My second best story of 2017...

Delia and the Mind Reader

Here's one of Delia's stories from the tale end of 2017. At least part of it anyway.

At Decompression, the London Burning Man event we went to, Delia spoke to a mind reader. And this mind reader told Delia her mind. She didn't tell her her fortune, her future or her thoughts but she told Delia who she thought Delia was, her heart and mind, and she was mostly right. The mind reader told Delia some of the secrets of her heart.

Delia asked me how I thought she does it. I think it's the most natural thing in the world, but actually being able to do the most natural thing in the world is so vanishingly rare that it seems like magic!

If you're willing to say what you see when it comes to people, to speak your mind and be an honest and faithful mirror, then as you practise saying what you see - being honest about who you think people are - then you simply get better at being able to see people. The more you trust your own mind and speak it out the better you get at knowing your own mind. You listen to yourself more and your doubts and fears less. The downside is that you have to be willing to be wrong, and you'll be wrong plenty, and speaking your mind in the face of disapproval from others (real or imagined) can require courage.

A big part to being able to really see people, to really see who they are, is giving people space to show and tell you who they are and being willing to believe them. That means dropping judgement, who are we to judge anyway? We don't know how people were shaped, the experiences they've had and the world they see, so we don't know their motives. What we do know is how often we've been wrong. The other part to being able to see people is liking people. There's not much better than good people and in my experience most people I meet are either good or want to be good, which is about the same really. We're all a funny mixture. If you like people they'll be much happier, much more able, to show you who they really are. Another way to put it is that compassion and love work. People are able to be themselves in the presence of love and compassion, and that's so healing because being able to be themself is about all most people need (psychologically speaking). This, incidentally, is the substance of how the truth will set you free. Truth, spoken as love.

When you really see people, when you're willing to tell people what you really see in them, it can seem like magic. It's not, it's completely normal, it's just that not many people do it.

The lovely consequence of this is that you can be understood, and in being understood you can understand. That's communication, true communion of the heart and spirit when we know and understand one another and have grace for each other for we know ourselves too.

If you see someone's heart you can tell them their heart.

Love at First Sight

On the topic of the heart, and in contrast to my beliefs in my younger days, I do now believe in love at first sight. Several times I've had the experience of meeting someone for the first time and thinking I've seen who they really are, and loving them and being loved back, and been right. I've been wrong plenty of times too, and there are many people hard to see at first (my failing and lack not theirs) that I've learned to see and to love over time. Falling in love with people, just about everyone I can, is one of the things I treasure most in life.

One of the greatest lessons of my life is how to love people without letting them hurt me, and how to deal with the pain when they do. Eventually you just go away, but you let it hurt you. If you feel the pain you can still feel your love and the love is worth it. Being able to love is the best thing in the world. If you're not afraid of the pain then it's safe to love.

The Shack

This is about a story from someone else that I enjoyed. Delia and I watched The Shack together last night. A rare evening where the kids were both in bed early enough for us to watch an entire movie. Overall I liked it.

It's fairly ideology heavy, which would normally be enough to make me react a great deal. However the ideology in The Shack isn't doctrine but is on the nature of the relationship between people and God.

I think it suffers from a problem I see generally in the Evangelical understanding of spirituality, in that it externalises God and the work of God too much. This is a misunderstanding that largely comes from not actually seeing a great deal of God. That's even allowing for the limitations of the screenplay format.

But I think that what they depict, and attempt to depict, isn't wholly wrong it's just that it's only part of the story. (The "judgement" scene stepped over the line on ideology and cheesiness I'm afraid, but hey nothing's perfect.) Within that there's beauty in the way they portray God communing with people. There's such a lot of genuine goodness in the movie. The people who made it clearly believe in and long for goodness, and it carries real warmth and compassion for the human condition. For our frailty and pain and our potential for beautiful love. It also seems like the film makers aren't trying to say that they have all the answers, it's an exploration and some ideas, and they'd like us to think. I don't have any argument with that. I liked the film.

Enemies

Be willing to have enemies, be willing to be angry. Life's more fun that way. If you're not willing to have enemies you limit yourself from experiencing the full richness of life.

The truth is that you probably have enemies anyway, people who are against you or speak against you, so you might as well be willing to recognise it and admit it.

Have compassion on your enemies, for then you will see their weakness.

Endless Hills

Everyone has a happy place, right? My happy place, only recently recalled, is from one my favourite to visit from my boyhood. A part of the Goyt Valley in Derbyshire, Buxton side I think.

After clambering down treacherous wooden and over-wooded steps we would reach a wide and bubbling river, bordered on one side by woodland. It was far enough from civilization that no cars could be heard and had stones washed smooth protruding from the river large and flat enough to be picnicked on. A tiny idyll.

Beyond the river were rolling green hills. As I scrambled up these hill, usually alone with myself, the only non-green in sight was an occasional sheep and the line of blue sky as the horizon above me. Because of the way the hills rolled and curved the horizon above was rarely the peak, but just another undulation in the hill. Finally reaching what seemed like the summit would reveal more identical hillside beyond. A never ending cascade of grass, only to be enjoyed never defeated.

I like to visit sometimes in my memory and feel again my happy place, endless hills.


"To all who I once loved, and who once loved me. I still love you. I mourn and I grieve for the ones I have lost."