The physical universe has its own natural dignity in the general order of existence. That dignity deserves its own respect.
Reality is apparent through its magnificent spectrum of wavelengths.
Where reality ends and something else begins, possibly connected with quantum reality, or to do with the threshold of an important and blindingly beautiful stasis, is also a boundary which we humans are privileged to inhabit.
Nothing is black and white. Light, like love, is infinitely graduated.
Everything is just how it is.
I come back again and again to realising that the Way of Being of whatever we attend to is entire and sufficient to itself. It is enough. It is always and perpetually enough.
It is an expression of the way the universe loves its own. This is a love that holds and contains those gigantic energies science has been showing us.
Intense love quenches every last residue of fear. The potent awareness of such love is self sustaining. It feels like perpetual motion, eternally safe !
There is a final resting place for the restless mind.
That place is a place of safety unconstrained by and unconcerned by time. It is a not-there which is available, instantly whenever we as individuals need it.
I’m rereading recollections in the school magazine about compulsory siesta after lunch at Frensham Heights School (FH), Surrey. They trigger memories on conflicting timelines. The odd fact of my first and second years both spent in Group 4, also fudge my memory.
I always believed that on my arrival at school, I came into a dormitory at Bracken Hill. Now I think my career began at the Flottage, at the teaching block near the Main House. I begin to recollect walking back from there idly, or more often ambitiously and skillfully aiming kicks at the larger yellow stones on the rough gravelled drive to the Flottage.
Until the early ’60s, after lunch at Main House, all students would have to observe “Silence” lying down on metal frame, lightly sprung beds with their regulation issue thin woollen scarlet blanket. I once used a sewing needle to assess the thickness of the horsehair mattresses. Both ends of the needle protruded from each side. This traditional digestion time of Silence was a hangover from very early theories of how to nurture children.
I must have been there for some time, because I remember a summer infestation by a fascination of swarming tiny yellowish flies covered some of the east facing upper window panes. Housekeeping staff had to be despatched to get rid of them.
Michael Campbell, talented, charismatic, English and Drama teacher, was Housemaster. I had to be “spoken to”. He informed me that while my button sewing and sock darning skills were commendable, payments of a penny a time contravened School Rules.
My earliest memories of school are somewhat hidden from me by my own efforts to suppress feelings of brokenness and homesickness. Many at FH had arrived, placed in boarding school at a safe distance from parents’ problematic relationships and/or lifestyles. None spoke about their lives outside this school, which was set in large grounds, with phenomenal extensive views of rolling Surrey hills south towards Frensham Ponds, Elstead, Hindhead and beyond.
Some 200 pupils formed a cohesive community. It had and it still boasts various institutions, clubs and associations, social, sporting, and in music and the arts, which contributed to a sense of purpose and belonging. These developed into a springboard later helping some to establish an active professional. Lifelong enduring relationships formed. I recall my time at the school with high esteem and affection, just like many all down the years since the founding in 1925.
The UK system of schooling was never fertile ground for an inclusive, humanist, coeducational and progressive boarding regime. Others might fill me in on why the UK tends to prefer single-sex, disciplinarian and generally prescriptive or repressive styles of education.
It was a complex task to schedule the Rota of classes, both the lessons and the “Optionals”.
It needs to be said that times were made available during the working week for students to choose to write their homework. These class times were known in Frensham Heights as “Optionals”. It was a point of pride for us that we were given the free choice of which set homework we worked on, in which “Optional” study times. Rather like adults at University, we were given freedom and responsibility to calculate best use of free study time in order to accompllsh our tasks.
This was a highly commendable and adult way of learning the skills of self-guided work. Unfortunately, my over-imaginative, free-spirited mind was seriously lacking in self-discipline. I would use these Optionals to daydream, doodle, or later on, to compose love poems.
Inevitably, I would fall behind the deadline for submitting the homework. It would morph into a looming terror, similar to a living nightmare, a sort of real-life Pit And The Pendulum story by Edgar Allan Poe. I learned to use the dead of night to save myself from the dread consequences of shameful failure to submit my homework. This cycle of frozen inaction followed by intense bursts of emergency action was to dog me all my working life.
A quarter of a century before Microsoft Spreadsheets made light work of certain complicated clerical tasks, a hapless member of the teaching staff had to curtail summer holidays and spend three full days before the start of term writing out on a grid by hand the Lessons Rota and allocating the new intake into dormitories.
The Term Lessons Rota was a neat chart displayed under glass in a big hardwood frame for all to refer to (often in a tearing hurry) on a wall near the History room in the Teaching Block.
For some reason, my name had been missed out on the list of beds for my Group 4 in Bracken Hill in September 1959. Maybe that’s why I was placed to begin with in the Flottage.
Perhaps it was in Spring term in 1960, that I found myself transferred to Bracken Hill, temporarily billeted on a bunk bed (same thin matresses and pillarbox red blankets) along with a bunch of Group Sixers.
These boys, four years senior, were bigger than my peers physically, and they would lumber around, in the way adult persons are more inclined to locomote, reserved in thought, rather than to caper, hop skip or jump like lambs.
Above me slept arguably the most eccentric among all the FH eccentrics of that time – Nicky Mason. It was remarkable to me that after lights out, neither words nor movement came from my upper bunk bedfellow.
I joined a few boys in the basement Jazz Club. We’d generously been given the use of the groundman’s former potting shed, under a room opposite the Flottage study block.
My instrument was a makeshift bass. It was an old thin plywood cube – a Tea Chest, all it’s edges reinforced with metal. A length of sisal was inserted in a hole pierced in the centre of one face. The other end was tied to an old broomstick. By tensioning the broomstick perched near the edge, I could pluck at the sisal and the Tea Chest would provide the semblance of a rhythmic bass tone backing.
We each played our chosen instruments. There was a genuine vintage glass Washboard, a guitar, a harmonica and Nick Mason’s clarinet. We sang loudly and played along to Skiffle favourites.
Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley, When The Saints Go Marching In, Sinner Man, The Train I Ride Is Twenty-one Coaches Long. We’d improvise bawdy versions of She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain.
Nick studied music, the violin, under the gentle and formal instruction of Mr Teddy Rice. That amiable and placid white-haired man, was not in favour of Nick accompanying us in the Jazz Club playing his clarinet.
Fifty-four years later, retired in Bournemouth where I now live out my retirement, I developed my own group DrumJam, with Djembé drummers, percussionists and other instrumentalists.
No one there present could have had any prescience of Pink Floyd to come. Nick had interests in musicians like Jelly Roll Morton, who were not simply not mainstream, but utterly unheard of, which further set him apart from the rest of us.
Of course, we knew the words and tunes from the raucous singalongs which broke out spontaneously among us on occasional school coach outings to distant events, sporting or cultural.
I now realise that the majority of Pink Floyd albums were produced during my early twenties, while shuttered off in hospitals or medicated to numbness. I have huge empty spaces in me which so many of my peer group lived through and remember as The Sixties.
Among all the Frenshamians who were naturally “different”, Nick was on another planet. His speaking voice was in the last stages of breaking.
Everything about Nick Mason was above. He was taller than average, and loped his lanky frame along apparently preoccupied with quantities unknowable.
He came to Morning Talk (school assembly) one day in early February 1960, wearing a black armband on his regulation green Harris Tweed jacket with slubs. Group Four onwards could, up to a point, interpret our own self-expression regarding the wearing of uniform. Only Day Pupils had no choice. Nick, a boarder like us, looked uniquely formal in wearing his jacket.
Outside the Mummery, a newly converted teaching classroom, I plucked up courage to stop him and ask who he was wearing the armband for.
Nick looked in a downwards direction towards me. I can hear it even today, he said in a flat tone, “Buddy Holly’s dead”. There was nothing more to be said. I got a sense of how important music was to him.
I learned while writing this, that the tragic air crash incident became known as The Day The Music Died, after Don McLean.
One of the most valuable things about bicycle riding is that it gives masses of personal choice.
The range of choice is vast.
I can decide how carefully I oil, clean and maintain my bike. I can decide what clothing and additional gear to use for the road and weather conditions.
When to begin, where to go, what speed or effort I input, how quick or slow, when to pause, or take a random detour, and where and when to end my ride. It’s all up to me, only me.
What most excites and occupies my attention, and hardly applies at all to everyday routine, is STAYING ALIVE.
When I am downed and I die playing a computer game, I regenerate and continue on carefree for as long as I like.
When out riding, I actively choose to live to ride another day.
Every metre of the way is the object of highly pleasurable, intense, tunnel vision concentration.
What is my wheel doing in relation to my chosen line of travel? What decisions do I need to make in various distance and time frames based on anticipatory riding? What are other highway users doing? More to the point, what are they likely to be doing up to and beyond normal expectations, which might affect what my bike and I are and will be doing?
My version of anticipatory riding imagines the scene of my own violent death every few metres. What I do right now involves my scanning all possible scenarios and strategies, from ordinary to extreme, to avoid getting snared in such a grisly disaster.
I will usually engage in this mental theatre of horrors before I saddle up. This is how I install and set up my personal life assurance policy for the trip ahead. Even if the weather is mild, I will wear something warm to help delay the onset of shock while lying in the road till help arrives.
Oh, and for life savers, I use my referee’s whistle dangling from my crash helmet. It clears traffic and pedestrians out of my path.
I remember to cast my Look Of Life. This vital head-turn reminds the driver behind that a person is in their controlled area.
And as I go, I paint on my face an expression that reads, “Heavily Armoured No Compromise”.
Look out for signs of the return of Springtime in your mind!
I ask myself, “What are my own signs of Spring?”
In my case, on the threshold of seven and seventy, I see a different way to view my crumbling. At this period, when I need to pay more attention to my body signalling it needs my help, and sometimes on a daily basis, I do find my old body is asking for favours and easements. These stop signs show me as always that everything is in a state of change.
These days, I have a clear choice. More choices open up to me, when I am viewing my thoughts the way I see clouds float by in a blue sky. Fewer choices are within reach, when I forget to remember emotional clouds aren’t made of concrete!
Do I fret and become impatient?
Fretting and impatience are markers of futile attention to detail in the past or the future. The time I take out to indulge in anxious thoughts or to stamp my foot in impatience, is time wasted. Not only is time-wasting a serious misuse of what I have, I don’t have nearly as much of it left to fritter away!
Or do I welcome these claims on my time?
Do I treat them as new unlived lessons to learn, and new prompts to teach me and guide me towards taking more interested and compassionate care of myself? At random intervals, my body returns unexpected sensations of pain. It signals that it’s no longer instantly and uncomplainingly able to obey my brain’s motor impulses.
All this newness I can take as a hark back to the earlier, far more surprising, and deeply delicious newness which enveloped me like a shining cloud back in the Year of my Life 2013. That is what I prefer to choose to be reminded of.
How many is one? Or say it like this, what’s the colour of one?
We all are wholly broken entities, we walk from here to there asking to be whole, wanting to construct wellness from our constituent undone parts, disfunctional, darkly dirty and lost like smoke looking for the fire of its origins.
The only reason we know we are entities is because we began as Ones. Our identity became conscious in a blaze of sound, colour, scent and touch at birth.
We were united with the sensory input with which we were saturated in such a way that we were at first unable to make any distinction between us and the world of senses we were sensing.
Later on came intimations of duality. We got the idea, again through first hand experience,
“I am not what that is”.
“I am I and that is not I. It is Other”.
Our oneness is conscious of experience as suffering or joy – hunger or satiety. By such terms, our oneness is all about polarities of intensity.
As adults, we are wracked by our acquired trauma or injury. We are damaged by our inability to make sense of episodes of damage sustained we cannot or wish not to recall.
Our longing for peace, love and happiness relates to our selves as newborn bundles of love. That was when we were blissfully undamaged, unaware of agencies capable of our damage or destruction.
As adults we spend time and devote our energy to achieving that experience of blissful oneness that was ours at the time of our birth.
In truth, we are all still purest innocent oneness. It is that so much has happened in the years since birth, we have stopped reminding ourselves of our innate purity.
Our notions of duality and the way we so readily devote much attention to our ability, albeit limited, to grasp at, acquire or alter our perception of the world of Other, these serve to remove our attention from the intense heat of welcome, magic and mystery to be found in our molten core – our innate oneness.
If we keep hold of the image we still continue as whole and clear, pure and clean as the day we were born, we will have hope and faith, those fabulous flammable fuels which will power us on our common goal, the journey back to wholeness, Oneness.
We can bring back to our heart and mind the Oneness of our origin, our common origin which indivisibly composed us from birth. For some it is easy. For most it is a lifetime’s labour. For an unfortunate few, death will end their search before they even get a tiny glimpse of eternal love.
Part of what has sustained me, repaired me, enlarged and enriched my life has been about acquiring the skills and tools for recognising the value and importance of self-healing. Healing facilitates and increases my ability to recognise and manage my own well-being. These things in general hold a significance in the living of life that is close to sacred. This form of healing compassion has been recognised as sacred throughout human history.
My journey is coming into the realisation that I only will grow and thrive in direct proportion to how much I can help others in their journeys of growth and self-love, even if I can do so only by not standing in their way.
This pretty village of “Old” Alresford is where the opening scenes might plausibly have been set in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, on the infamous occasion of the beaurocratic and heartless Demolition of the Planet to make way for the hyperspace bypass.
Might have, I say, but were not. This was because of the Paraverse Holo in which Alresford and its environs continue to float in Tranquil Stability force-fields, thanks to the zealous efforts of the Sapient Pigeons, whose keen eye for a quick buck is the talk of the Western Spiral Arm virtual business community.
The Goodly Pigeons’ technical grip on the transcendental reality equations prevailing hereabouts preordained that this little local continuum remain untouched.
“For all eternity”, exactly as it says in the brochure.
The curiosity of visitors on foot like myself is sparked by the too, too obvious discontiguity between the near feudal bucolic population remnants in this “Hampshire” village; the curious depth of quiescent somnolescence exhibited by the oh-so-pretty waterfowl; and the incomprehensibly uncontrived, open-ended bonhomie of such folk as the sausage and tomato sauce sandwich dispensing staff at the Caff in West Street.
These last, and all their kith, live in perfect ignorance of, and side by side with the overlord holiday lets of the supermegarich retired Alien Galactic Orchestrators.
The Orchestrators were sold on the charms of this aboriginal “Hampshire” reservation. By and large, most migrated here from Hoag’s Object in Serpens constellation in our C15th and C16th.
Naturally, there has been a great deal of nesting activity with the indigenous populace over a period of time…
There is an indebtedness that arises in me from the recognition of successive blessings entering the arena of my life.
Any responsible and compassionate response to privileged heightened awareness of life in its very glory and in its quirky contrariness ought to be forged into a legacy for sharing.
My repayment of what I owe is on a simple table in the arena. It is covered by a pale cloth. It is set with humility. And the rich rare spices I am invited to choose when cooking the dish of gratitude taste as sharp as the coming in of death at my little life’s end.
This is a bit on the heavy side. Does this mean I do “dare to eat a peach?”. Am I the toad blinking, discovered after a casual kick at some pleasantly rounded stone on the grassy verge?
For years I hear my inner chat tending more and more towards the cynical. Wars, oligarchs, mindless crushers of opposition, economic meltdowns, global warming, these are fortunately not mine to fret over as I start to make plans for a low-key 77th birthday party.
I feel sorry for my children. The course of their lives may well be changed or even diverted by the negative effects of these most modern and also ancient of macro-scale trends.
I often go to browse www.phys.org because it is a reliable, peer-reviewed source of fact and cutting edge news about the highest levels of noble endeavour.
The Princeton University research story about a near future with back to back hurricanes flipped my mind.
Enough is enough. I am not to be counted as another minor decorative sideshow on Social Media. Or if I am, then I want it to be known I have an unfashionable, deeply cynical stance on what the flickering years of my life will hold in store for me and my kind.
My colours are nailed to the mast. Love is all, yes, but I won’t pretend I don’t believe the End is Nigh. The unkempt, often raggedy Nigh Sayers on their soapboxes at Speakers Corner, London, never seemed credible to me, because of their parochial concerns.
My message is all about a radically new world order. My message is full of old man’s ‘I know it all and better than you’. I have at my disposal a heap of handy facts and ready-made actions which already have the stamp of incontrovertible fact, mass approval and therefore of authority.
As before, I plan to man my little EveryNow sideshow, with it’s frilly word banners and scrupulously well-chosen colour schemes. At the same time, I will be bold to go banging on like any old, mad, random merchant of doom.
I will exploit the idea of unexploded doom lying side by side with the rippling sidereal Daoist messages of universal beauty, manifesting as arising from and recycling back again through unbounded power.
I avow that through the adoption and harnessing of this same power Humanity Reunited (no! Not the football team) can realise planetary survival and salvation by mass actions bent to a brand new global common purpose.
A Princeton University study shows that areas along the US East Coast and Gulf Coast will likely suffer more intense damaging storms back to back due to Global Warming.
_ The purpose of politics, industry and the individual today is to reconfigure global humanity, so that all assets and all means of all peoples are diverted to work in unity of purpose to bring Global Warming under control.
_ The time is past due that we can continue to afford the luxury of self-centered pretty squabbles. Petty squabbles to be abandoned include wars, military confrontations, political rivalries with no reference to imminent catastrophic environmental degredation and destruction, giant costly engineering projects, space exploration, traditional competitive industries which squander their time, their material and human resources in the manufacture of goods of duplicate functionality.
_ All generations of humanity are at risk of extinction in a world where we cannot grow food, find drinking water, or live in structures safe from devastation by extremes of weather. We know it will be so, if we continue to ignore the bigger obvious picture of humanity in its entirety dying off on a planet we ourselves will have made uninhabitable, first through our actions, and then, tragically, through our lack of united remedial actions. ___”
Is it not the best of things to be seen fully clothed yet as entirely naked as newborn?
The brightness thereof overtops and shadow-shunts the sallow sight of self every, every time.
One day, it was the first full day of my life. I did not know it was, because I didn’t know my life was mine to know. And I did not know the knower of my life, though I did sense the curious presence of a newness so new, I could not yet know it was so near to me as to be within me.
We live in Southbourne-on-Sea, aka SoBo, mere seconds walk from the clifftop path, looking West, East and South out over the long reaching fin of the north-east Atlantic — call it The Channel, call it La Manche.
The surface is forever changing, surprising, pleasing.
As I stand, look and open up my submariner senses, I notice it is teeming beyond my wildest imaginings with collective sea-lives.
I take my imagining under and deep.
I tense and relax inside of the cubic kilometers of freedom. Freedom as beyond any fixed measure as a sphere.
Freedom beyond imagined desire.
I let me to wander alongside the floating populations, the slow tribes, the single species moving with one accord. With my mouth, with my eyes, I lead. My undulating slow tail follows.
This is a place of communication. The crustaceans, the fish, all go clickety on their busy ways.
Half a lifetime of my puny swimming, and I come into earshot of the fabled Songs of Whales, those companies of poets and musicians. My mammalian relatives have developed their societies, and they live out the proud cycles of their generations on the same scale as this oceanic universe.
I find I too can float, and I let my five-pointed star body hang with the barely visible bodies, the water-clouds of trillions, the fractal delicacy of diatoms.
I strain a little, look below and I see the swaying of the dark slippery forests of kelp.
Against my flanks I sense the varied gradients of pressure, from abyssal deep to top frothing waves.
At depth, my body is belittled by vibrations of very long wavelengths, many orders of magnitude greater than the hugest floorstanding bass speakers. This unaccustomed effect is unnerving and soothing in equal measure.
My sensitive skin is surprised by the variegated temperature shifts in the flows of water bands, above, below, before, behind.
The diversity of temperature and pressure in these limitless, liquid, gravity-bound masses I compare, in my own air-breather way, to the hourly, diurnal and seasonal colour changes in our familiar, domed aethereal world.
All awestruck, I love to visit and revisit again and again this succulent subsurface with my mind’s eye, because it is a massive naked mirror to the elsewhere worlds of air and starry night skies
Samuel Johnson’s dictum occurs to me. ‘When you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life’.
What the Great Fellow glossed over is that he assumed that we all receive life’s enjoyments as gifts from the external world – in his example it was London life.
Nowadays I can’t conceive of any momentary experience not enhanced by some sort of learning curve, all the way through my life to the end.
I ask you this.
What characterises a person who is constantly expecting to learn new things on the road, and is more often than not ambushed by the surprising amount of all the stuff available to learn on the way, provided that all senses are prepped and receptive?
One answer is a person such as this has to be in the condition of a serenely untroubled and always available openness. Also, there must be an absence of externally conditioned, self-obstructing barriers to a cat-like curiosity.
It is a wild open, wide open alertness, a feral immediacy of awareness of sensory input, unfiltered by intellect, which is largely responsible for bringing me, my heart and my sacred spaces into contact with the EveryNow.
By now, after years of redirected attention to the minutiae of detail and to the absence of tme in which details bathe, I have the capacity to hurl my awareness in there pretty much on demand.
I’m on foot, intent on my way to the bus stop, I’m looking intently out of a car window, I’m bicycling and I focus my intention on keeping upright, uninjured, staying alive.
These are some examples of the sweeping nature of the changes that I have been overtaken by these last few years, since 2013, the Year of my Life.
By self-discipline over a period of years, by making self-conscious choices in the words I choose and in what I choose to do, the most precious thing I seem have acquired is a lack!
I lack the overlay or inlay of concept, of internally verbalised labels at the point at which my senses interface with objects in the world. Think “cat”.
I have been regularly making choices – namely choosing in the first instant to tune in to the Thisness of things. The closer to Thisness, the more the love. My motivation to exercise this intensity of unblinkered enquiry has become habitual through a self-reinforcing positive feedback.
And how amazing is this “feedback” !
If I strive to melt Peter the Pilley away in order to let the fly, the flower, the star, the shining soul-light of my friend assume the entire arena of my awareness, what then?
What is happening, with no reasons asked or given, no frown of reasoning, no intervening rationalisation obscuring the way, is that I am infused, like tea in boiling water, with love.
This is love, as axiomatic as the sun’s atomic heat, where the object of love and love itse blends into one and the same. Love and the object of love indistinguishably the same.
The essential truth, the nature, the living-beingness of everything is love. Oh, and peace-in-perpetual-motion as well, but more of that another time.
I had amazing adventures in my first few hours in Mumbai at the turn of the century, where I’d gone to work a trade exhibition for business magazine advertising contracts.
The second leg of my flight was from Dubai. I arrived at 3am. The airport was quiet. I remember low lighting and a hot, humid atmosphere. A guard told me the small amount of blood on the airport concourse was after a stampede among returning Hajj pilgrims had injured some a few hours earlier.
My luggage had not left Dubai. I found a dimly lit corner office and I got a report sent off. What luck! Emirates Airlines generously allowed me to buy all the smart business clothes I needed for the first day of the exhibition. I was recommended to “Paul”, one of the famous mens outfitters in town. The clothes I bought far excelled in quality what I had thought of as good standards in London. I lashed out on leather shoes, trousers, belt, shirt, tie and a lightweight jacket.
I still had my hand luggage, my trusty briefcase, with my hotel name, my commercial contact lists and personal hygiene essentials.
By this time, all the other passengers on my flight had long since claimed their luggage and were on their onward journeys.
It was after 4 o’clock in the morning local time. I was thirsty. A jolly, middle-aged man with two big shiny chrome cylinders strapped on a backpack frame was dispensing hot, strong Chai sweetened with concentrated milk.
There and then and for the duration of my India saga, I switched off all thoughts about hygiene risks. This was a Good Thing, because later in downtown Mumbai, I would walk the crowded, noisy, colourful streets drinking Lassi* and eating Paan** from random street sellers.
Lassi* is a sweet or savoury Indian drink made from a yogurt or buttermilk base with water.
Paan** is a mildly stimulating mix of gulkand, sugar, cardamon, fenel and other ingredients skillfully wrapped in a betel leaf and sold for a few rupees. At nightfall, the street sellers’ welcoming smiles are lit up by a hanging paraffin lantern.
I noticed two categories of taxi at the airport. The air conditioned ones had windows that opened!
A taxi driver shouted me into his taxi. On the way out of the airport complex, he had an altercation with an armed security guard. The driver won. We left the airport behind.
My driver was an earnest, slim, unsmiling youngish man. He spoke no English. I sat in the dark on the back seat behind the driver.
A mile outside the airport, the motor on the taxi slowly faltered and then died
The car silently slowed off the road towards a convenient ditch. The young man got out, crossed over the unlit dual carriageway, and disappeared into the corresponding ditch.
A bit later, he urged me in incomprehensible fluent Hindi to follow with my briefcase. Very alarmed, or at least as alarmed as I could be on little sleep and in a state of confusion, I was sure I was about to be parted first from my briefcase and then from my sweet life. Alas and alackaday!
But no. He’d stepped across the empty dual carriageway to wake his pal, who’d been snoring in his own taxi in his own quiet stretch of ditch, and to call in a favour to lend him his working motor.
He and his shell-shocked fare resumed the journey to the hotel. In London, I had implicitly trusted our company travel agency to book my modest 3-star hotel.
My place of work for the week was in the Trade and Exhibition Complex in the north area of Mumbai. Our travel agent had booked me into the India Gateway area which is at least one hour’s drive to the south.
So I rode the 30 kilometres from the airport on almost deserted urban roads for what seemed like an age, trying not to imagine being dropped off into the arms of some den of thieves and cut-throats. I had not checked before leaving London to see that my hotel was so far from the airport.
It was one hour each way from my hotel to the Exhibition centre. These trips morning and evening resembled epic National Geographic travelogues.
The streets were clogged with traffic, two, three and four wheeled, and with animals, both four-legged (oxen, donkeys, goats too I think) and human traffic, mendicants, the handicapped, the slow frail elderly and also business pedestrian traffic.
The taxis to and from the Exhibition centre never stopped weaving between these soft targets and we and they miraculously never collided.
The unimaginable noisy chaos of big city life in India as a first-time British visitor can never be forgotten. It is diametrically different in comparison to, say, the peaceful high glaciers of the Swiss Alps.
I found myself in the India which had not yet endured the major terrorist incidents which were quite soon to scar the psyche of the citizenry of India and the wider world.
These journeys had to be with all windows wide open, so we breathed a mix of thick and sickly-smelling exhaust fumes and the smoke from improvised small roadside bonfires.
The roadside fires were kept alight in the late afternoons by women cooking meals over smokey piles of yellow burning chunks of road tar. This seemed far and far removed from my limited notions of PC lifestyles.
With peak rush hour finished, motorised traffic, cars, motorbikes, buses, goods vehicles and all, nips across the carriageway divider and uses the relatively deserted oncoming lanes unchallenged. Back home, we could do well to learn this trick of filling up available empty roadspace! What excellent common sense, I thought! Road cops, please look the other way.
The rest of my week in Mumbai was similarly highly eventful, though free from potentially life-threatening dramas. I enjoyed the truly exquisite taste of genuine Indian vegetarian cooking for the first time. It is quite unlike any UK Indian restaurant food.
I clicked my 35mm camera till it became hot, but I kept buying new film, and never ran out. Every day, only warm, open-hearted friendly, smiling people.
It was on my last full day in Mumbai that Lady Luck let me dodge a near-disaster.
My work was done. I had had sales successes. On my last day, I felt elated. I was elevated into a curious state of abandon. Perhaps it was my light fever. I have no idea why, but I went along with the Sunday morning crowds and was drawn to board a smallish pleasure craft at Gateway Of India Mumbai ferry terminal.
I paid a few Rupees and walked up a short gang-plank onto a ferry craft the size of large fishing boat. It was unsurprisingly yet another hot sunny morning. I chatted with a well-to-do Indian couple with two young boys.
As Mumbai grew smaller on the horizon, I decided to lie down on deck to sun myself. After a long while, I started to wonder if this vessel was going to leave Indian territorial waters.
In my oddly detached mood on that last morning, I had not thought to ask where the boat was bound.
It was OK, because we disembarked at the magical Elephanta Island,16 km north east of the ferry terminal. This turned out to be a UNESCO World Heritage site, and an amazing tourist destination, popular with families. Carved into the mountain are seven ancient caves. One has sculptures and carvings dedicated to Lord Shiva, daylight only dimly reaching these and other huge divine figures. There were monkeys roaming free on the island, though they never bothered me.
Years later, I was thrilled to discover photos my Father had taken there in the mid 1950s, about half a hundred years before I stumbled there.
It was on the night after my Elephanta Caves adventure before my flight home that I contracted a frightening, serious and debilitating mystery virus. I had a rapidly intensifying dry high fever. I spoke to hotel reception who sent a young doctor to my room from the bustling hospital on the other side of the street. He was dressed in whites, with stethoscope and a bag containing injection needles and phials of colourless liquid. Clearly, he could not understand why I politely and repeatedly declined an injection.
I cannot imagine today being allowed to undertake intercontinental air travel in my medically challenging state. Home again, a motorcycle rushed a blood sample from my doctor’s surgery for urgent analysis in case I had a Notifiable Disease. They never discovered what the virus was.
Although I kept working at my desk, I was too physically weak for a couple of months to walk more than a few hundred yards without needing to lie down (it was not enough to only sit down!).
Hey ho! We intrepid expeditionary commercial explorer-travellers must march on into the complete unknown again and again!
I picture myself in a place where I can access calm.
The picture is of an outdoor summer gathering. It’s a family festival of music making, circle dance, sacred chant, poetry, natural refreshments, compassion, companionship, and healing therapies for body and mind.
I picture marquees, coloured and plain, set in green parkland. My spirit is all levity, gratitude for ample abundance among friendly people of good intent.
Calm is important to my wellbeing. I believe in the calm induced by this welcome sunshine. I move to enter a wide opening into a dark and spacious marquee.
As I go in, no change happens. I am so calm like this, safe inside the lofty drapery of this tented space. Going out again I am all calmness when the sun shines on me.
My calm is mine to soak into my heart, here inside where I am calm me, and outside, where I am calm me.
The place where I found my will to surrender all of me into calm has lost its relevance. All I know is that my most sacred personal space, once empty, is full, is filled up and brimming with calm.
The charm of this peace with its home in my heart has the satisfaction of sweetness.
I picture where I am. I am inside where calm is and the sun is shaded. I am outside where the calm is and the sun shines. I choose to surrender to myself with sweet abandon in both places.
Calm is independent of location.
Describe to my eyes a smoke-ring.
My eyes see a toroidal shape. A doughnut. It is filled entirely with emptiness. My eyes notice this because it’s transparent. Like a bubble or smoke ring.
It curls around itself as it rises, making and remaking itself. Until, slowly, chaos disintegrates it. As it forgets its identity, I am returned, like a floating feather landing on earth, to my own.
My calm is a toroidal state. Its beauty, its fascination is that it is inside itself in mesmeric motion. Calm does not last. It is birthed in fragility. It withers because it exists unsupported at its centre – my centre.
The fractal nature of the intricate network which composes calm is subject in extremely sensitive ways to entropy.
Calm blesses my most sacred heart of hearts with positive energy from arrival to inevitable departure. Calm exists like a toroid, in light and in dark, in fullness and in emptiness wherever I am at, whatever I am doing, and for no apparent reason. Calm has no use for reason for its justification.
I go into and I go out of light and dark. Light and dark are flowing with the invitation of graceful infinite energy of calm. Just like a pretty ring of smoke, calm is ungraspable.
Welcome Toroidal calm. Toroidal calm is the twin Sister-Brother of peace
What is it that blinds me, eyes open, from seeing? Is it that first impression which wastefully draws my attention away from the place I will find the missing clue? Does my ape-brain delude me when it tugs me towards the big, the immediate, the blindingly obvious?
E=Mc² ! This is a wow-fact. Whose attention has not always been on the atom bomb fireball, the mushroom cloud, or the supernova diorama drama?
How many point nines on top of ninety-nine emphasise the percentage of emptiness over matter in an atom? Who’s not accepted the invitation to float in awe deep among the inner spaces within the confines of an atom’s planetary cloud?
Those tiny unconsidered scraps of matter in the atom are an expression of massive potential energy. Massive to near beyond comprehension.
I have fallen into the trap of seeing the fly on the wall, not the wall itself. These days if my attention is directed to a thing, I immediately search for its context. What is the thing embedded in? On what scale does it relate to all other things akin and not akin to itself?
For are not you and I, and all creation and all that is, made of this stuff that the wall is made of?
Is it time for us to show those unconsidered coalescences of matter a greater legitimacy, respect and attention, than to be noseying around in the spaces between the elementary particles. Do you align with particles? Do you feel more at home with space? What do you say?
Every single day, and specially when the day comes to an end, as it is about to in a few minutes for me, I am given an overwhelming sense of the utter magnificence of the privilege of just being one single alive person.
Millions that come before me are close enough to my head, that my ears hear their murmuration – if I wish.
Their voices are talking in thousands of dialects. The clatter of them creates a tapestry of fractal meanings I comprehend only with a visceral intuition.
What do they speak of? They speak of the billion ways to laugh out fear.
My breathey existence is here now, all but totally undetectable, invisible and inaudible under the skies beneath the arch of the Milky Way. This home galaxy observes in its majestic way. It leans in the opposite direction to me.
This is the silence of a hundred thousand Niagara Falls in my ears that no one can hear, not even me.
And am I one spark a-glow?
Am I deep at rest upon a planet-wide cradle of rock, air, water and magma?
Do I not circle and circle and swirl this my humanity with neither shield, nor sword – only love?
If it were true that we also did not care what the future may bring, we would not take notice of the cyclic nature of our existence, nor would we attribute enough importance to it to wish one another the best outcome that each would attempt to extract from that illusory place of wishfulness called the New Year.
I do care. I do take notice. And I attribute more urgency and importance even than do you yourself to your own successful outcomes in this twelvemonth starting.
We are all one, we share DNA, we survive the centuries and we thrive, not in turning our back on one another’s trials and tribulations, but because we wholeheartedly accept that we utterly depend on the successes of the myriad choices everyone makes that together form the networks of humanity which support me, you, everyone and everything.
The appreciation of the pure and mathematical fundamental principles which underlie the way living beings assume their form and ‘operate’ is one essential bridge towards a deeper understanding of my place in this experience of being alive.
At times I might veer off and begin to wonder, “Is Life math?”
Then I remember that neither one thing nor the other came first.
My consciousness arises from both.
In the moment I exist “EveryNow”, I am both alive and an ineffable part of life. I am both alive and I am being lived by life.
Who cannot be brimming with excitement at the unfolding potential of discovery where no two moments are alike, and the centre-stage constant is newness? This excitement is endless in the way of fractal endlessness.
It is the acknowledgement of, and the gratitude for the enjoyment of this very endlessness which is entirely sufficient and delightfully, finitely my own.
This is what gives rise to the chuckle of the enlightened.
I am as appreciative of this as it is humanly within my power. And I try to act accordingly.