It’s always ourselves we find in the sea

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Last week I went away to the coast for  a couple of nights and returned recharged and refreshed after weeks of lockdown. There were small, simple pleasures, like walking on beaches and seeing seabirds. I wonder, do we appreciate what we already have? Why do we want more when we already have more than enough, if only we take time to enjoy it.

This poem came to mind as I was looking through the photos I took:

 

maggie and milly and molly and may

went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang

so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles, and

milly befriended a stranded star

whose rays five languid fingers were:

and molly was chased by a horrible thing

which raced sideways while blowing bubbles: and

may came home with a smooth round stone

as small as the world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)

it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

e.e.cummings

Masks

Masks have probably always provoked strong reactions because they hide, conceal and mystify. I’m thinking here of masked balls, the elaborate masks worn at the Carnival of Venice, the Guy Fawkes masks worn by protesters, and the masked faces of highwaymen in times gone by.

Dressing up 3 FroebelI created quite a stir many years ago when, at a fancy dress celebratory party at the end of an astrological psychology workshop. I went dressed as my interpretation of the planet Uranus and wore a full face mask. It wasn’t the costume that disturbed and intrigued people, it was the mask. People who knew me well didn’t recognise me and kept asking/guessing who I was. In astrological terms, Uranus is the planetary energy associated with change, upheaval, revolution, “ah-ha” moments, scientific knowledge and advance, and technology. Very relevant for the times we’re living in, and something I wrote about a while back. See here.

Who would have thought, back in March 2020, that masks would have become such a touchy, high profile subject. They’re a political hot potato right now, some people hating them and saying they will not wear them while others just get on with it and put them on, knowing that it’s the very least they can do to help bring this virus under control. I fall into the latter category.

The British government continue with their lack of clear messages to the public and the wearing of masks is a case in point. Announcing that from 24th July everyone is required to wear masks in shops, there still seem to be some cabinet ministers who don’t quite get this. Not especially surprising as a 10 day gap has been allowed between the date of the announcement and 24th July. Wondering why? Me too. Why not just a couple of days to allow people time to get themselves mask-organised? Why the delay?

Way ahead of this many people, myself included, wouldn’t – and still won’t for some time to come – go inside anywhere without a mask since the science says airborne particles of virus in breath droplets stand a far better chance of finding somewhere to adhere to in an enclosed space. It makes sense to wear a mask to protect yourself for this reason as well as to protect others if you are an asymptomatic carrier and don’t know if you’ve had the virus, or if you carry the virus.

It’s all down to being responsible to ourselves and to each other. OK, so people do look a bit strange wearing them, but we’ll get used to it. I’m fascinated by how they remind me of nose bags worn by horses and have a giggle at the thought of what could be munched behind them as people walk along.

As we’re not going to be able to show our facial expressions so well, we might be able to get away with poking out tongues at people we don’t like and getting away with it (no I’m not seriously suggesting that, it’s just a naughty bit of me coming out there). We’ll have to learn how to use our eyes more – smile with them and let the corners crinkle up a bit. We may need plenty of smiles to help us get through this.

Way back in March, when we were still in Houston visiting our family and realised we had to get a flight back home fast as the airlines were closing down, we tried out the masks we had with us ahead of leaving for the airport. If we look a bit terrified in picture 1 it’s because were were and we didn’t know what we were getting in to.

A few months down the line in picture 2 we put them on to go through the visitor centre and into the open air Wetlands Centre at Martin Mere. Not so much fear here about wearing them, just common sense and acceptance of the reality of our lifestyle and how the the world is now, as a vaccine is sought.

This is no time for anyone to drop their guard and relax. So please wear the damn things and do your bit.

Something seems to be missing

many+words

Following my previous post “What would you like see more of in the world?” I’ve been sent a few suggestions from readers of the qualities they would like to see more of:

Compassion….caring….kindness….empathy….tolerance……trust……truth……and of all them, along with the other words I took up with me on to the Fourth Plinth, are transpersonal qualities.

Transpersonal qualities are those which are beyond the personal. They’re timeless, they have a universal application which crosses cultures, and they have a spiritual dimension. We, as human beings understand them. We may find it hard to  define them exactly but we know one when we see it. Try defining “beauty” or “joy” or “trust” in just ne word. It’s not always easy but we know what they mean.

I’m changing tack a bit now to the current shambolic hoo-hah in the UK, created by PM Boris Johnson’s special advisor Dominic Cummings. He broke the all the lockdown rules he himself was involved in creating and justified what he did by breaking the lockdown, and driving 260 miles to his parent’s home when ill with Covid-19, probaby spreading the virus as he went (you can read plenty about the details on line – we have pretty much nothing else in our news right now). Bottom line summary:  “I risked infecting other people when I had Covid – 19, but that’s OK because it’s one rule for me, and the rest of you have to do what I say. Apology….. why should I apologise? I don’t believe I did anything wrong.”

This man’s moral compass is utterly defunct and with no remorse that I could see, he shows a large amount of contempt and disrespect to the British public. And he has a severe lack of humility and empathy for the many people who have adhered to the lockdown rules for 10 weeks now. The danger is that people, seeing he’s flouted the rules and has seemingly got away with it will begin to flout them too. Respect for them has gone right out of the window and the Prime Minister will not (at the time of writing) sack him, and appears weak.

The sad and troubling thing is that most members of the government have also come out in support of him. Yet not one of them sounds convincing or convinced as they shuffle their toes along the government line, hoping their spinelessness doesn’t show too much.

What has this to do with transpersonal qualities? What is missing, apart from humility and empathy? Which quality shines the light on lies and evasion?

Truth.

What’s missing ? Ordinary people who have done as instructed by the government to “Stay at Home” and not spread the virus look in vain to the government for the quality which goes hand in hand with truth.

Trust.

What is needed now from our leadership?

Integrity, Authenticity, Truth, Openness, Consideration………you can probably think of whole lot more.

 

What would you like to see more of in the world?

Compassion

I’ve been inspired or nudged (take your pick!) to share this story by blogger Jane Fritz, who I recently nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award. If you read to the end of the post, you’ll see where and how Jane fits in.

Back in 2009, and thanks to a touch of skulduggery on the part of my daughter, I was entered into the draw to spend an hour on the empty Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, London, as part of the living art project by artist Antony Gormley. To my initial horror, I was awarded a place.

From 6th July to 14th October 2009, 2,400 randomly selected “Plinthers” from across Britain had the opportunity to contribute to this living portrait of the people of the UK. In Gormley’s words “The 6.3 metres on top of the Plinth will be a testing ground for our freedoms and our identities, singular and collective. . . we might learn something about who we are and how we are through the 2,400 person-hours making up this monument in time”.

What on earth was I going to do while I was up there? And did I really want to do this at all? I certainly didn’t want to do it on my own; I was very nervous.

I intuitively felt it important that I should “virtually” take as many other people up on the Plinth with me as I could. I contacted as many of my family and friends as I could and asked them all a simple question:

Please send me one word which expresses the quality you would like to see more of in the world.

I said I would read out each word, together with the name of the person who sent it, and where they came from. But I also said that I would spend the first few minutes of my hour on the Plinth in silent reflection of all the words that people had sent me to read out. I invited everyone who sent me a word to link with me for this period of inner reflection at 3 p.m. on Monday 3rd August and think of their own word. Thanks to all  who sent a word I didn’t feel alone, or even nervous, once I’d got up there as I knew many people were up there with me on the Plinth in thought and spiriLovet.

The words people chose – there were 94 of them in total – were selfless and an expression of transpersonal – i.e.  beyond the “me”/personal – qualities such as love, peace, harmony, compassion, acceptance, empathy, gratitude and understanding.

There were a few amusing exceptions though – a local shopkeeper initially wanted more money in the world to pay his bills, but quickly changed his word to “respect” when he saw the disapproving looks on the faces of his staff! And one lady I asked for a word after the event said she wanted more wine in the world. By that time I could kind of go along with her in that in my post-Plinth more relaxed state of mind! Of the 94 words, I read out all but the last 8, simply because the hour flew by and I ran out of time.

Nothing went wrong. The support I received from the family and friends who came along, from many people in the crowd and from those on the open-top tourist buses passing by was fantastic. I loved it up there and in spite of all my fears and nerves in advance of the event, I enjoyed every minute.

I was already on a high about being up on the Plinth on a sunny afternoon, but when I heard the news via my family on the ground that my first grandchild had just been born – a whole month early –  while I was up there, I was completely over the Moon. I jumped for joy and was able to announce her unexpected arrival to the world in a unique way, making 3rd August 2009 a very special day for me indeed.

Back to the Sunshine Blogger Award. One of the questions I asked Jane and the other bloggers I nominated was the title of this post:

What one thing would you like to see more of in the world?

Jane’s reply? Compassion, compassion, compassion. Where has it gone??? The world needs you back. Yes, individuals and communities show compassion, and leaders in some countries, but other world leaders are bringing the world down with their vitriol and lack of compassion. It’s 75 years since VE Day and it seems all the lessons the world learned have been forgotten.

Compassion, along with Love, Peace, Truth, Inclusiveness plus many other transpersonal qualities, was what a lot of  people responded with. We need all of these qualities right here and now. What would you have asked me read out for you on the Plinth, I wonder, and what quality would you like to see more of in the world?

Cowslips

Cowslips – yes, I remember them. They take me back to the summer of 1966 when I was supposed to be revising for end of year exams at Saffron Walden Teacher Training College. It was sunny and warm, so I went with a group of friends to revise in the sun at the bottom of the sportsfield.

The song around at the time was Lazing on a Sunny Afternoon by The Kinks. That’s what we started singing when we’d had enough of the revision, then some of us got over or through the boundary hedge and made our way along the adjacent disused railway line for a delightful ramble in the countryside.

The railways had undergone severe cuts in the 1960s, thanks to Dr. Beeching, and there had once been a station in Saffron Walden. I don’t recall finding that but do remember the large number of wild flowers growing amongst the disused tracks. One of these was cowslips, and it’s the first time I remember looking at a wild flower that I’d only seen before as a picture in a book and recognising it.

Of course, I picked some – we all did – and we took them back to our rooms in college and put them in water in a glass or coffee mug, feeling slightly guilty because we knew you were not supposed to pick wild flowers.

I also remember the delicious feeling of trespassing on railway property – there were “No Tresspassers” signs up –  but we didn’t care. There was no-one about, it was warm and sunny, we needed that break from revision and we felt we could do pretty much anything!

The name Cowslip may originate from cowsdung, as this flower grows in boggy or wet ground. Cow’s dung and the word “slip” offer quite a graphic descriptive name!