EARTH SPEAKS

‘Earth Speaks’ is the wonderful name of a company that’s run by the hostess of two trips that I have now participated in, whose mission has been to connect people with Mother or Sister Earth ¬– Gaia. I am coming to appreciate that the Earth really does speak when we take time to listen.

On a recent walk up a hill slope, I rested in an attempt to connect with the ground. After a while, I became aware of a single blade of grass, which was gently stroking my face as it waved from side-to-side close to where I was lying.

I noticed that the breeze didn’t drive the movement of the grass alone. The blade appeared to be trying to resist this where other blades in the small clumps that were nearby didn’t.

I had real sense of being caressed and being shown great affection by this most simple but impossibly beautiful expression of Nature’s care.

THE PEOPLE GET WHAT THE PEOPLE WANT

Referendums put decision-making fully into the hands of the majority. Whether this is wise or not is a debate that I don’t feel ready to contribute to right now, but there’s no doubt that many factors are likely to have a critical influence when a narrow majority can command such a dramatic change.

This morning, I’ve been reminded of a story from the canon of the One Thousand and One Arabian Nights. The story concerns the nature of government and the regimes that arise based on what the people deserve – a case of being careful for what you wish for. I’ve included a brief excerpt below.

Excerpt from The pilgrim and the old woman who dwelt in the desert

A man once ventured across the desert–a traveller with a group of fellow pilgrims. He fell into a deep sleep, and when he awoke, found that his caravan had gone. Not knowing which way he should go, he walked for many miles, before coming upon a tent, in which slept an old woman and her dog.

The pilgrim saluted the woman, and having explained his situation, asked whether she might offer him nourishment to satisfy his hunger.

The woman instructed him, “Go to the valley which you see before you, and there you will find many serpents. Catch some of these, that I might broil them for you.”

The man protested that he had never captured serpents before, and that he was afraid to do so. Neither had he eaten them, as they seemed disagreeable to him.

“I shall come with you,” offered the woman, “And I will catch some serpents, and then broil them for you.”

This the woman did. Seeing that there was no alternative but to eat from what she had brought for him, the man ate the serpent meat.
He then enquired where he might obtain water to quench his burning thirst.

“Go to the well and fetch water from there,” replied the woman.

Duly, the man went to the well, but he found the water that he drew from there to be very bitter to his taste. However, with no other means to satisfy his thirst, he drank from it.

The man marvelled at the woman’s ability to live in such conditions. “How hard it must be you to live by this manner,” he remarked to her.

“Then tell me how it is in your country?” the woman enquired.

“In the city where I dwell there are many broad boulevards, which are lined with towering trees. Where the boulevards cross are marble-paved squares, each having a lively fountain at its centre,” the pilgrim explained.

“Rich meats and viands are sold in the marketplace, along with delightful fish from the oceans and luscious fruit. We drink pure water, and dwell in villas that are built of stone.”

“This is what I have heard,” replied the woman. “But is it not also true that you are ruled by a tyrannical sultan? I am told that if you displease him, or act against his command, he will take away your goods and leave you homeless. You pay for your luxury foods and frivolous life with the corrupt poison of tyranny, but here there is safety and freedom–a healthy recipe. I wager that it is better to be free from tyranny, eating and drinking what the desert provides, and living off her generosity. Do you not know that next to having the true faith, safety and health are the greatest of all Allah’s bounties?”

I, who narrate this story, perceive that what the old woman observed is the just rule of the sultan, who is God’s vicar on earth. In previous times, it was not necessary for the sultan to rule so viciously, because the people need only see him to fear him. But this is a wicked and depraved generation, and one for which a sultan must be accorded the utmost respect. Were a weak sultan set over this people, calamity would surely come upon the land.

As the proverb declares, “One hundred years of the sultan’s tyranny, rather than just one year of the tyranny of the people, who fight one over another.” When people turn to fighting among themselves, God appoints a despot to rule over them.

Curtains

Earlier this week I accompanied my mother to buy a new pair of curtains. We ventured to an out-of-town shopping outlet, and made our way to one of the large stores congregated around the endless car park.

I hate missions like this. Noise, bright shop lights and crowds can cause me considerable distress. But we chose to time our visit to coincide with what would be the tail end of most people’s lunch hour–and in the middle of the week too. Sure enough, the shop was much less crowded than I’d feared.

We selected the curtains quickly (a blessing), but not without attracting the attention of several sales staff, who–not being preoccupied with other customers–eagerly pounced on us virtually as soon as we arrived in the shop. Some were very keen to show us just about everything they had in store, extolling the virtues of different patterns and materials, and stressing the various very special offers that we fortunate to be able to choose from.

Next to crowds, noise and flashing lights, humouring over-bearing salespeople is high on my list of pet hates when shopping. But to avoid the crowds is to court attention. It seems that there’s no stress-free time for shopping.

As for the curtains–it turns out that we bought a pair with a longer drop than we need. Another visit to exchange our purchase beckons…

What’s in a name (again)?

Folks sometimes ask me why I chose the French spelling of “labyrinth” (with an ‘e’) for my publishing venture, Labyrinthe Press? Don’t I know how to spell, they might say?

I do know the English spelling, and moreover believe that this particular word shouldn’t really need an ‘e’ to help pronunciation, even in French (not that I’m an expert in linguistics).

The reason for the ‘e’ is simple–all variations of the domain names that I wanted (with the English spelling) were already taken, and since I was living in France at the time, decided that I was justified in doing things the French way. Voila!

Sensitive souls

I’ve taken a little time today to work on a revised edition of my book about fairy tales, taking on board some feedback that I had about the first edition.

One of the stories that I reviewed took inspiration from the tale of “The princess and the pea” – which, as you doubtless know, concerns a young woman who is so sensitive (or, in storytelling parlance, “pure”) that she’s unsettled by a tiny pea that’s placed below a pile of matresses.

The theme of sensitivity came up for me yesterday too, during a meeting with some minister friends in Essex. It struck me that many of us are sensitive souls – sensitive to aggression, to noise, to bad language, or whatever.

Techniques in resilience and (for example) cognitive behavioural therapy can help protect against perceived attacks to some extent, but I’ve never found that these do more than to occasionally slightly soften what’s often felt as a strong attack.

Exposure to the ugliness of the world barely helps strengthen someone who is by nature easily unsettled. Neither does so-called “toughening-up”, having a strong upper lip, or “getting a grip.” If you’re sensitive by nature, your sensitivity isn’t going to go away.

What’s interesting about the “princess and the pea” story is that sensitivity is seen as a virtue – someone who is deeply affected by the emotions of others and who tunes in to something so subtle is deemed a worthy match for a prince.

This is of course contrary to the prevailing view in (at least) most of western society – that to have feelings, to be sensitive, is a weakness. I question whether the dominant view is wise.

Sensitivity doesn’t mean shying away from adversity, or not accepting responsibility, as it might commonly be represented. To be sensitive is to be no less a human being than the toughest tyrant or the thickest skinned politician. Perhaps many of us shouldn’t be so quick to judge those who wear their hearts on their sleeves.

What’s in a name?

I’ve longed believed that names have meaning–that parents can be inspired when choosing a name for their child.

Names often describe something about the character of the person, or the qualities or gifts that they display. “Fair”, “Given by God”, and “Chosen” are examples. So what about my name?

Apparently Clive means “slope” (as in a cliff), or perhaps more probably, “someone who lives near a slope.” No great virtues or attribution of high virtue here!

I’ve never particularly liked my name, but it’s what I was given, and I’m not so opposed to want to change it. But it’s only recently that I’ve contemplated the sense of what it might mean to live near a cliff–either in the shadow of possible falling rocks and under threat of mudslides, or close to the top, living precariously near the edge.

Perhaps those who share my name fear imminent threat, or just like living “near the edge” (I don’t, by the way)? Perhaps we’re constantly aware of our own mortality? Or perhaps we tend to find ourselves on the margin of society, outsiders of sorts, who choose to build our homes and lead our lives away from the madding crowd?

I don’t know which interpretation might apply to me. As for my parents’ choice–I understand that they chose my name as it was at the time unusual (and still isn’t high on the list of favourite names), and because it couldn’t be shortened.

Not able to be reduced–now there’s something I feel quite happy about!

A car with two dents

Two large dents recently appeared in the back of my car while it was parked in a busy street. No message had been left by the perpetrator, and malicious action is a definite possibility, given that no damage was done to the protruding bumper.

I was naturally very angry to find the dents, and have since learnt that the damage will cost around £500 to fix.

Still, there must be a lesson here about continuing to expend energy on a matter that I have no control over – considering how matters could have been worse, knowing that I didn’t have to encounter the individual who inflicted this damage, and counting my blessings. These things happen for a reason…

Social media revisited

For someone whose early career was spent in IT, I’m a late-starter with social media. To be honest, I’ve made several attempts before to engage with Facebook and the like, but I’m not a fan of saying something for the sake of needing to stay visible. But after a long absence from blogging, I’m back – and determined this time to try to engage more enthusiastically with a technology that actually appears to me to be fairly engaging to use, and hopefully is equally pleasing to read.

I aim to chat a little about the joys and challenges of what I read and write, to reach out to others who share similar interests, and to offer other odd reflections that I think might be of interest to others. If my posts don’t appear every day, that’s because I don’t feel that I’ve anything fresh to say. Stick with me, add your comments, and point me to other places on the web that you think might catch my interest. Thank you for getting on line!