I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. Heheh – possibly nothing new.
I read this article by John Michael Greer, basically about life as we know it dying. As always, I watch the criminalization of ordinary people trying to protect by protest the Earth, home of all of us, against the aggressive aggrandizement of big business and the unscrupulous self-interest of what Edward Snowdon calls “the political class”. And I watch the present government in the UK turn its back on people who struggle with poverty and disability, and on the heritage of the English countryside that is essential for wellbeing – the trees that protect against drought, flood and wind; the wilderness that cleans the air.
I have participated in little public protest throughout my life – some against fox-hunting, against animal testing and against the promotion of formula milk in poor parts of the world by Nestlé, but not much. The paths I have chosen have been, in a quiet way, alternative – seeking (on and off) the homegrown, the organic, the vegan, the free and the wild. I raised my children to think where the things they bought and the food they ate came from – who made it, who suffered for it, who benefited from the purchase. I’ve tried to support small family businesses and keep my footprint on Earth small. And in my writing I’ve tried to do the verbal equivalent of serving up good food on the plates of my family: I’ve offered the fare of goodness, the fruit of the Spirit, for the ingestion of my readers imaginations and the nourishment of their souls. But I have to admit, I’ve done little that makes any difference.
Towards the second half of last year, I began to feel a new season in my soul. My inclination for the quiet, the peaceful and the beautiful – the wild, the gentle, the kind, the happy and the left-to-be – developed into a raging hunger. Last year, as in so many years, I took on more work than I felt comfortable with to earn money that went out as fast as it came in, and summer days by the sea, beautiful winter sunsets, came and went unheeded while I sat holed up with a computer.
Desperate for the company of trees and birds and wood smoke and quietness, I made a horrible hole in our finances to instigate Komorebi.
At the same time I began to feel really sick and tired of religion. The company of Jesus is my mainstay, and the Spirit of God is my life and breath – but the rules and exclusions, the dogmas and doctrines, the organisations, institutions, tribalism and antagonism just don’t do it for me anymore. At all.
Then as this year began, came something new. I have a mole on my lower leg which is obviously a melanoma, that I decided I must have removed – I’ve an appointment for this for a few days time. That’s generally straightforward, but as I’ve worked in a hospice and gotten old enough to have a number of acquaintances die by now, I’m well aware that melanoma can be something of a runaway horse. It just depends. And that concentrates the mind. It makes me ask myself, what if this takes off and I end up dead in six months? It makes me ask myself, at fifty-six, with my future (like everyone’s) uncertain – what do I want? Not to get or to have, but what do I want to be and to do?
I realized that straight away I need to sort my health out: stop living in denial with all the destructive self-indulgences that perpetuate my agonizing acid reflux, fibromyalgia, depression, tiredness, stiffness, insomnia and obesity, and will one day end in vascular disease, diabetes and cancer. So I blew the dust off Charlotte Gerson’s book and made a start, and I feel unrecognizably better. I’ve lost more than a stone, I sleep well and all the comprehensive pain has melted away. Next I made that appointment to get this mole sorted out.
Yesterday, sitting in church, listening to the beautiful music, looking up at the incense smoke rising up through the sunbeams against pale stone, what I wanted arose into clarity in the same way as the smoke rising into the light.
For now (and maybe there is only ever now), I want to be happy. I don’t want to run anything, organize anything or argue about anything. I don’t want to be on any committees or administer anything. I just want to be happy. For the rest of my life. I want to take each day quietly and peacefully – loving, helping, chatting, eating, sweeping, walking, washing, cooking, being. There’s nowhere I want to go, nothing I want to accomplish. There’s another book I may write some day, but that will hatch in time.
I have no desire to die and no desire to live either. I would be happy to die in six days or six weeks or six months or six years or thirty years. Whatever. That’s fine and I feel comfortable with any option. What is important to me is to live a beautiful life.
My Badger is a remarkable man. When we came out of church I said to him, is it okay if I just do that? Just pootle along earning what I need to get by, and other than that do, basically nothing; just be, just be happy? And he said yes, that’s entirely fine with him.
So that’s my plan. As of yesterday, I resigned from trying and struggling and took up my new occupation of just living. I think I was always too small and too insignificant to change the world, but I’m hoping that my happiness will add to the sum of its future wellbeing.
Today I read this quote from Roger Ebert:
“Kindness’ covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.”
That sort of thing.