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.


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."

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