Extracts -1

As I look back on my life I wanted to share with you some of my writings. Here is first extract.

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We have to start with the assumption that you know nothing of the reality of the world around you. You may have a mish mash of fragmentary knowledge mixed up with passing fashionable ideas. You might even have constructed something that looks like a sensible construct but if viewed properly is put together back to front and inside out. There will be words you think you know the meaning of but really harbour  only erroneous shadows of truth.

So in our present society we have to make the assumption that you know absolutely nothing. This in your case may be an error. But since I don’t know you I have to make certain rules to create a starting place for all. If you are further along the journey you will eventually find your appropriate level.

Half a century and more ago we could have started with a certain assurance that there was a common basis, building blocks we could all agree on, sadly for reasons we won’t go into here, the reliable intergenerational passing on of knowledge has collapsed as our society has become self absorbed and blinded by consumerism.

Sometimes finding a beginning is a daunting task. There are in this case multiple starting points. If I knew you I might have a clue as to the starting point. However that’s not possible. It was once before when I was able to start this journey with a pen friend six thousand miles away in the infancy of the internet but you?

Who are you?

And so by an act of serendipity we find the starting point. If you missed it, we will ask again, Who are you? What are you? Perhaps even why are you? Why do you exist, deep inside where the secrets lie, who are you what do you find? How do you define your existence?

Who are you and why are you here?

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Let’s start with a game. A mind game. You need to take this slowly, I think, and give it all some thought. 

However before we start I sincerely hope that in asking the question, Who are You, you haven’t answered and defined yourself by your name or your life experience. You aren’t a musician, a dancer, a dentist or a mother, father or grandparent. They might fulfill a certain use as descriptors but they aren’t true answers to the question Who Are You.

The first mind game.

Imagine yourself standing in front of a mirror. 

You are five years old.  Who are you? Who is looking back at you?

You move on, you are 25 years old. Who are you? Who is looking back at you?

You are 65 years old. Who are you now? Who looks back at you?

You are 90 years old, now who are you? Who looks back at you?

Are you simply looking at a growing and decaying human figure? No you aren’t, because if you look closely you will see a shadow of your true self that doesn’t alter with your decaying body. Something inside you, that is way more than a collection of cells and atoms.

The second is harder, repeat the first exercise but you are blind. Remember blind people don’t see anything at all if they are totally blind, it isn’t the blackness of closed eyelid, it is the absence of sight, no stimuli for your brain to process at all.

So now who are you? Who do you see? You don’t see body at all. You have moved inside, closer in fact to seeing your true self.

Now imagine you are dead. Are you still there? Imagine you are one day old, are you still you?

Who is this you?

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Our next mind experiment requires deep concentration. You are standing in an Art Gallery. Before you is a framed painting. The paper canvas is white. In the very centre is a red dot. That’s all you see. Moving closer you see the dot has an irregular shape and is not a perfect circle.

The painting has no title, so no clue is given to help interpret the painting. What do you see?

Does it symbolise menarche? Do you then see a young girl on the cusp of womanhood?

Is it the first prick of the diabetic, the start of a nosebleed? Is it a hesitant full stop, the ending of life? Is it just a dot on white paper?

Is it a beginning or an ending, a statement or an observation?

The most important point is what do you see when you close your eyes and try to imagine what it might be?

That’s one level of seeing. Look more closely, can you imagine the journey of the ink or the paint to the canvas, can you see the atomic structure, the light absorbing property that allows the eye that isn’t colour blind to perceive a shade of red. If you are colour blind what journey of meaning do you see?

Then there is the paper, the machinery behind its construction, the science of paper making, then back to the tree, its life cycle starting with a seed, the fruitful soil, its first breaking through into light from the darkness of the soil.

At what level do you see all this?

Now go back to mirror and look at yourself with fresh eyes and see beyond what first appears.

Who are you?

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If we continue these thought experiments we will come to realise that our sight is very limited indeed. Having sailed in the Atlantic, it is a strange experience to see all the surface activity and yet be unable to perceive in anyway the life that exists  hundreds of meters below the surface. If we walk in a meadow we cannot see the complex life that lies just below the surface, never mind what is going on beneath our feet many kilometres below. Not only can we not see the large things that lie below our feet we cannot see the microscopic life cycles that exist all around us. We need air to breathe and yet we cannot see it.

So what we see is very limited indeed, as I think we now know. Yes it is true we can take X-rays and Cat scans, use microscopes and electron microscopes to catch glimpses of the world we cannot see with our eyes, but still we cannot see properly.

You cannot see the anger in a heart, the angst, the pain, loneliness, depression, another mind at work and you can’t see a single thought.

Yet there are impulses hidden deep within each person that on the surface we can’t explain anymore that we can explain love. We can experience the different kinds of love but we can’t explain it. Please note sex is not love.

Let me give you a glimpse of that hidden impulse. Once when I was a teenager I saw a statue of Buddha in a shop window, this stirred in me a desire to throw myself onto the ground and to adore. It felt very silly but it was very strong.This is not a series of thoughts about Buddhism.

But what was it that stirred in me that sumner morning? Have you experienced that feeling?

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I wonder, could you take some time and go and find a seed, any seed, sunflower, apple, cosmos or even a mustard seed. If you have a magnifying glass even better. Place it in the palm of your hand and study it, take as long as you need.

Now as we have already established all you can observe is an outer casing, you can’t see inside. Even if it had a transparent casing you still wouldn’t be able to see it fully. If you pull it apart you will still not see the very thing we are looking for, which is the trigger for life.

If you keep it in your pocket or mantelpiece and observe it, the great secret of life contained within it will not be revealed. You can keep it for as long as you like but nothing is going to happen. It needs to be buried in the ground and there hidden from sight the great miracle of life, unseen by us, unobserved, will take place and the seed appears to die and then rises into a complex plant. I regularly marvel at the apple tree I first sowed in a pot last century and is now lovely little tree.

Now the same is true of every human being. We have the gift of life. A seed. We can do one of two things with it,  keep it like the  cosmos seed and do nothing with it, except keep looking in the mirror or we can take that precious gift and bury it in good soil and watch what happens when appearing to die we spring into the life we are meant to live.

In order to live we have to be prepared to die.

So who are you? Are you an apple seed or an apple tree?

How do we die like a seed? What soil do we need?

Defining Moments

What are the defining moments of your life? It really doesn’t matter how old you are you should be able to look back on your life at any stage and see clearly the defining moments.

If you knew me, which of course you don’t, you might think falling in love at 17 and marrying your first love and loving her more now than you did then even though you thought that was impossible at the time.

But that isn’t the major defining moment of my life. Was it my children you ask?Fantastic though they are they still aren’t the defining moments of my life. Nor was the arrival of seven gloriously wonderful grandchildren a defining moment.

It wasn’t academic success, it wasn’t publishing my first book it wasn’t anything at all like that, nor was it chronic illness, disability or a major depressive order. All of these things have pushed me in their own way to the very limits of mental and physical endurance.

No, the major defining moment came in the bath, one evening in the late spring of 1975. I had been ill and off work with an as yet undiagnosed illness. I was waiting for a hospital appointment, the Doctor standing at the foot of my bed had mused out loud about cancer. In those days to me that meant death.

So for several days, possibly weeks I had been preparing myself for terrible news and faced death in every waking thought. I was of course as a young Christian talking to God about it all.

Yes I know it can sound funny but my long long struggle with God had borne fruit after years of thinking and applying some rigorous thought processes I had worked my way through a mish mash of inherited ideas, the cultural mores of time, the arguments against God and finally as was promised if you seek you will find I did find the Creator, The Godhead itself. It blew me away to be honest I had embarked on this because of my girlfriend who went to Church and I wanted to be with her but I wasn’t going to be a hypocrite about it. If I found God then ok if not then no matter what I wasn’t going to be a believer.

What I found in the quietness of my mind and my soul was so intense that I couldn’t possibly do other than believe. I was very much an infant in faith it would be many years of intense struggle and study before I was able to truly articulate and understand, in so much as a limited human mind might, something of the nature and reality of all that is required for real faith.

Anyway back to the bath!

No wait a minute. I want to make clear what was at work in me was prevenient grace. I may have thought I was doing all the work but I wasn’t it my soul responding to the quiet call of God. Not that such a notion or idea was anywhere near my understanding as I slipped into the warm bath that spring evening.

So I lay there tense, anxious and worried. I was just lying there. I began to pray softly, quietly from the heart. Now I don’t try to make deals with God, if I did I would not exactly be talking to the one who loved me in to being, I would be trying to negotiate a deal with a non existent deity. Instead I was suddenly relaxed and at peace and prepared to die. It was not a peace that came from me it was a deep deep life changing peace that fell upon me. Breathing it in I said if I don’t die Lord then you may do with my life whatever you want. I meant it as I have never meant anything in my life.

Life resumed as normal after the bath. I have no recollection what I did nearly fifty years ago before or after that bath. But I remember it still because everything that happened to me after that proved to me that this was the defining moment of my life.

Of what happened next more anon. It is hard to explain the nature of the encounter with God all I can say it was very real, very intense and fifty years on it remains as true as it was then. It was counter cultural fifty years ago to embrace Christianity it is even more so today, it takes real courage to swim against the prevailing tide.

It is in essence a love affair. I love God with all my heart and mind, with every fibre of my being. This is only possible because God loved me first. From that deep deep place came everything I hold dear in life. My family.

I know people have many questions based on misunderstandings about God. I can and will answer anything you ask. My whole life was turned over to God.

Shattered Dreams lead to a better place

My hidden world.

The time of reflection has arrived, at least for me anyway. I am reaching the end and I have an opportunity to look back over the decades and reflect on my life. 

The first thing I am aware of is the fact that absolutely nothing I dreamed of up to the age of 21 has remotely come to pass. At that age I knew with certainty where and what I wanted to do with my life, where I wanted to live and how it was all going to work. It seemed so clear, I had finished University (I thought) knew my career path, knew a job was waiting and I was about to get married (that worked out and still does).

Three years later my world had turned upside down and I was on a  completely different trajectory. For a start I was back at a University. 

The second thing I realise as I look back how many terrible things happened to me and yet out of them came great good. Before I had even finished Primary School I had been propelled into secondary education which was to me the worst thing to happen in my young life and then my parents decided to move and I had to leave behind my home and move to a new build. Oh I cried. I withdrew. It was awful. I never did like where we lived. My world was in utter tatters. It was a nightmare. Three years of hell. However without those two incidents I would never have met my wife. The first time I saw her in the school in the year below me I looked at her and thought I’ll marry her. Not that I was going to do anything about it, ever. But circumstances that came out of those two horrible events finally brought us together.

Out of the bad came the good. How foolish we are to think we have a clue what is happening in our lives. We don’t. We may think we do but we don’t.

The Break

I was in too much pain to continue the above and now I have lost both the flow and the thread. But what I am trying to say to all those younger than me is relax, looking back the biggest disasters brought the greater rewards something not obvious for many years sometimes and until now when I can look back and see the rich tapestry of my life. I should have of course trusted a lot more. I should have trusted rather than worried. This is particularly true of my multiple chronic conditions and disabilities out of that path which seemed like such a disaster has come the greatest good in my life.

Planning Ahead

The plan is to continue this blog until I die or become too incapacitated to continue, so that I can chronicle the end of life, the end of the journey, as I wait to start my real life. That was the plan but since I tap this out with a single digit of my left hand and if I recognise the signs my left arm is suffering the first signs of neuropathy. It is most unpleasant even the gentlest touch on the screen is painful. However I trust and will continue.

I used to Blog daily but when deciding to have another go at I decided weekly. That was wise.

Again I had to stop as it was painful. I am sure I had something else to say. But there you go it has all gone. However I have no idea how I would have coped with all that life has thrown at me without an absolutely unshakeable faith. Not in things unseen but real spiritual experiences of the divine. Ask and you will receive said Jesus. Tried and tested.

Augustine x

A black and white photo outside a caravan in the early 1950s. A man and his son (me)
An old Photo