Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Anyway, lest this become a very rambling post, let me get to a point in all this. Note I say “a” point rather than “the” point. I’m trying to keep my musings as objective as I possibly can. I suppose as the year is coming to an end I am beset with many existential concerns, large on a personal level, but miniscule on a universal one. Like most modern 21st century beings who are in their fifth decade of life, I am trying to review the direction my life has taken me in. I’ll be 48th on the 5th of January 2006. Questions that concentrate my mind are the following in no set order of importance: (i) Am I really happy at my job? (ii) Do I need the stimulus of another one? (iii) I need a woman in my life – certainly a confidante to share my concerns with as well as the more creaturely pleasures (iv) where can I get my second book published? I’ve already written one on meditation and it was published in 2002. If you’re interested in reading about this book click here: http://www.veritas.ie/veritas/asp/section.asp?s=49 (v) Should I not take a career break for further study? If so what field would I be really happy in? I have studied in diverse areas from Maths, Irish, English, Philosophy, Theology, Education and History to French and Italian. Of late, I have specialised mostly in Irish and can speak and write in it equally as well as English. As you will see from the introductory words to this site the present blog is a hodge podge of English and Irish entries. It appears to me that this is essentially confusing to any would-be reader. Therefore, should I not set up a separate blog in Irish? Good thinking, but do I really have the time to do that? (vi) Should I apply to TCD and do the teacher fellowship, which I was offered many years ago and didn’t take up? It only lasts for one term anyway, and I can afford to be without salary for four months anyway. Perhaps the Department of Education and Science would allow me to keep my salary and pay a substitute out of it? (vii) Maybe I should consider moving school or even consider changing subject areas? (viii) Should I complete my studies and personal development in the counselling/psychotherapy area? I have decided to attend a counsellor who needs clients to finish her M.Sc. in psychotherapy – I feel I’ll learn more about myself by so doing. (ix) Am I fundamentally fulfilled and happy in myself? I think so, at least for the most part, but I suspect that I’m not completely fulfilled. Is any human being ever? So, the abiding question is (x) where from here? As I say on a universal level these are small questions – small meat indeed. Set beside last year's St Stephen’s Day Tsunami disaster, the earthquake in Pakistan a few months back and the global poisoning of our planet by carbon dioxide emissions, these personal concerns pale into insignificance. Those larger universal questions must remain for another day’s concerns. Suffice it to say, that I’m fleeing away on a holiday. My brother Pat and I are heading down to Sicily on Thursday 29th December and will be returning on Thursday 5th January, my birthday. So, we’ll be spending New Year in Palermo and we’ll toast all beings of good will everywhere from the central Piazza. I feel oh so selfish, but that’s how it is – just one more existential concern to worry about and to add to that interminable list! The picture I have included at the centre top of this post is one I took some months back of a quaint old house behind some trees in Newbridge House, Donabate, County Dublin. Somewhere like this should be a wonderful place to escape to and meditate - perhaps even alleviate those personal existential concerns! But, maybe ther is no escaping? I think probably not!
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Sunday, December 04, 2005
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Meditation is… being aware being awake being mindful being still/tranquil being focused being centred being in tune
going with the flow going slowly and mindfully going peacefully going gracefully going lightly going gently being at one with Self being at one with Others being at one with Mother Earth being at one with the Universe being at one with creation being at one with The Ground of our Being (God) integrating the bad and the good in me. facing up to my shadow (Jung). exploring the Unconscious. bringing aspects of the Unconscious to Consciousness. letting the ego decrease and play a less important role in my life. simplifying things going from many things to one unifying centre “seeing the unity behind the multeity,” (S.T. Coleridge) going on a journey to self-awareness. journeying to self-realisation following where this pathway of deeper self-knowledge may lead
simply sitting sitting in silence sitting with eyes closed sitting with eyes half-closed sitting with eyes focused on an object (a candle perhaps)
Meditation leads to
- compassion for Self
- compassion for others
- compassion for all creatures – “all sentient beings” (Dalai Lama)
- peace of mind.
- compassion for all sentient beings.
- a more reflective approach to life.
- walking lightly on Mother Earth
- acceptance of Self and Others
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Phantoms, monsters, ghosts,
Jesters and clowns –
All of them –
That crowd our dreams,
Bearers of some deep truth
Lurking in unexplored corners.
Here, we dwell in fine appointed
Houses and apartments
With the world at our fingertips,
Yet there are those deep down
Cobweb places of the heart and soul
Where hairy spiders crawl
And bind their prey
Bit by little bit
And suck their blood away.
Layer upon layer of intricate,
Delicate and oh so finely woven webs –
Embroidery that hides
Multitudes of little sobering truths
Waiting to be known,
Pleading for our courage to go where
The bony skeleton rattles chalk-stiff limbs
And drops a loosened tooth to
The dust of long forgotten cares,
Beyond the dung heaps of our burnt-out passions
To a cool still corner of a lonely cave
Where water drips compassionate drop by drop
And carves a crystal sculpture from the soul
Like an ancient stalactite
Reaching from a roof of stone. [I enclose a picture I took in Dunmore Cave in County Kilkenny, Ireland. It's a picture of stalactites - not a brilliant picture as the camera I had at the time was not too good!]
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Memory was a strange thing. There were surprising connections. Most of them seemed random enough, but there were others, which were so different. There was that sense of “dejà vu” or even of having been there before with these more surprising connections. For years he had wondered what on earth made us who we are. He did not want to be predictable in the way he formulated his questions – he felt he had come too far along the road to be enamoured of clichéd enquiries. How the human being remembered was always a source of wonder for him. The very act of remembering and the consequent reflection on its wonder were essentially what made him who he was and what separated man from the animals, what put the “sapiens” in the term “homo sapiens.”
It was always the smallest of things that made him remember – the way the myriads of small shells and shingle crunched under his shoes as he walked along the strand. It was that very sound that brought him back years. Now he was a little boy running on the beach chasing the wind, shouting, “Catch me!” Shortly after that he had visions of himself playing with the neighbour’s dog, which always came into their childhood kitchen excitedly wagging its tail at the end of a long school day. Then again he could vividly see a young boy standing in a shop in a small country town in the early sixties of the twentieth century.
The ridges in the sand left by the outgoing waves wove a wondrously regular pattern in the sand. Those waves had come one after another, each inevitably part of the whole tapestry, meaningless in themselves without the company of the millions of others. It must surely be the same for memories, he thought. Can one exist on its own, without the addition of others to give it shape and meaning?
Walking, camera in hand, he sought out different angles, interesting reflections and wonderful shapes like that of the huge grey cloud like a fur collar draped across the shoulder of the strand. All these myriad angles, reflections and shapes were constantly changing from moment to moment in the waning light of the red winter sunset. Memories, he thought, were as fleeting and as unrelated as these angles, reflections and shapes that intrigued him now. And light what was it? Seven colours of the spectrum which, when spun quickly, formed the colour white or again white light being broken into its seven constituent colours through the wonderful medium of a prism did not really seem to capture the mystery at all. Old Heraclitus’ dictum that all is flux and forever changing seemed to capture the experience of what he was feeling rather than any more precise scientific formulation. Sure science had its place in the scheme of things – in applying logic and observation and hard facts to “reality” and so on and so forth. But the experience of this transient mystery before him was so difficult to express in words.
And then the dark, what was it? Was it enough to say it was the mere absence of the light? Then other memories like waves broke across his consciousness. As he walked, he remembered how he had rested once among the dunes on this very beach in the summer sun, but that was many years ago. He remembered also how he had suddenly become aware of some other strange presence near him. Then his gaze came to focus on a dying herring gull, which was spasmodically moving its neck back and forth. He wished he had the courage or even the know-how to wring its neck. It was obviously in pain. His peace was now disturbed by this white wretched living thing, which was now quite obviously painfully dying. How dare death so rudely poke its reality into his? But that was the way things were, was it not? Then he remembered how his father had often used that phrase with him – “That’s the way it is, son. That’s the way.”
As he walked there were four foreigners, speaking some language from Eastern Europe that he couldn’t identify. They were trying to launch a great kite into the sky – it made a perfect arc of dark blue and white. One side, he noted that there was some sort of buggy that the kite could pull if it could be launched. With the waning light they decided that the effort was not really worth it, so they packed up and went away. There were many languages which he could not understand, but that did not really matter did it? He sensed what they were talking about from their gestures. Communication was always more than words. It was context and situation, gesture and expression that added so much more than the forced exactitude of words.
These days as his mother was entering more and more into the labyrinth of dementia words were beginning to lose their meaning. Every time either he or his two brothers visited her she would begin to talk and talk, making up words as she went along. Words had become so slippery now in this twilight world of dementia. And all those memories were now distorted and contorted and twisted out of shape till they became transformed into something different. What that “something different” was he did not know. This was unexplored territory. What geriatric specialist could describe that world where they themselves had never trod?
And what was the personality if memories themselves were beginning to break down? What was personality anyway? Did they not tell him at college all those years ago that personality was a complex reality made up of traits, behaviours, thoughts and feelings shaped by memory? If memory broke down, then personality would cease to be. Mam was a different person now – her personality was altered, altered utterly. For all intents and purposes she was dead for them and almost dead to them. And yet somehow at some deep unconscious level she recognized them and constantly sought to engage them in conversation.
Looking right around the bay he could see Howth Head in the distance. He remembered having walked it so many times before, that each memory blended itself into the other that he could not properly separate them. Memory was never that precise was it? The imagination always seemed to enhance it, add this or that colour and even subtract more painful elements we simply didn’t want to remember. Christ, it was almost forty years – 38 to be more precise – since his Uncle Jim had taken him and his two brothers tramping over that headland. Jim was a somewhat exotic and colourful character in the dull grey Ireland of the 1960s – he was a worldwide traveller having visited most countries save Soviet Russia and China. Now he remembered how the yellow furze bushes had cut into the skin of his young legs as he ran after his Uncle Jim, the explorer, home on holiday from that land of beauty – New Zealand.
Another time he had walked Howth Head with some school friends and their mathematics teacher from O’Connell School. He remembered Brother Russell saying these precise words: “This is absolutely exhilarating, gentlemen!” Yet another time he had climbed it with Spanish and Italian students whom he was teaching English during his holidays from school. He remembered purposely praising the owner of the school for her agility – deliberately massaging her ego to get a longer period of work from her. That was all long ago now.
All those chemicals, neurotransmitters, or whatever that shoot across those millions of nerve endings – ganglion upon ganglion – to form memory upon memory. The wonder of it all! Was personality reducible to the complex interplay of chemicals? Are we after all just a collocation of atoms and molecules, as Bertrand Russell would have had us be? Since his experience of depression at forty years of age he was not quite sure anymore. Maybe we humans were just a complex pharmacological phenomenon?
Then the waning light reflected in the pools of water on the strand caught his attention. The light from the setting sun was a brilliant red orb dissolving in the sand. The falling night and its beckoning mystery brought back all those memories when as a boy he had hated leaving his friends as his mother would call him in from his play. The half-light was always mysterious, much more so than either pure white daylight or the black dark of night. Now he photographed the reflected sun in the water and the tyre tracks of the cars that had come this way some hours ago.
And life was a play of light – source of all life - in all its various intensities on the fertile blue planet Earth. He was so blessed to be sighted - to enjoy all the various colours and shapes patterned each day on the screen of his mind. He supposed the blind might rely much more on the other senses. They probably remembered by sounds, by touch and by smell. The wonder of it all, he thought as he turned and walked back to his car. It was practically dark and he had to turn on his full headlights. [The picture I have placed at the beginning of this post is one I took of car tracks in the wet sand at Donabate beach. In the piece above I decribe how I took the particular pictures referred to, of which this is one!]
Sunday, November 13, 2005
To walk into the black night was like a descent
Into the stony places of the unconscious,
Into the shadowy corners of the Self,
Into the labyrinthine Hades of his fears.
It was right, he thought, so right
To face all his fears head on,
To walk into those dark places which might frighten
He heard the waters lap over the cold grey rocks,
The lone cry of a careworn curlew,
Felt the caress of the black breeze on his cheek
And the embrace of the intimate magic of the night.
There were no other walkers there in that dark
Where he walked alone but not abandoned.
He felt close to those who had gone before him –
His dead father was walking him by the hand.
In the shadows he thought he saw seals wink
From the lapping waves beyond the rocks
And slip away into the great grey embrace of water -
And like Oisín and Niamh Chinn Óir they did not look back.
Near the rusted railings he stopped and stared
Into the deep dark morass of memory
And let the past play in images in his mind
Till his soul fled away on the wings of a lone heron.
Lights like candles on a giant birthday cake
Welcomed the lone walker back from the pier.
In the black of the night he heard seabirds call
And the voices of other walkers across the harbour.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Between dreams, the early morning mist,
Fitful twists, broken sleep
And the low grey clouds
Over moaning motorways –
Glad the radio’s not working,
Nothing to distract the driver from himself,
From all that’s happening within
And without –
Body calling in the distance
To care for it –
Breathe into the pain
And let all worries go!
Trucks and trailers, cars and u.v’s,
Four-wheel drives, distraught wives,
Frustrated husbands, sore heads –
Too much too soon,
Too little not often enough,
No-breakfast faces, headaches and backaches
And the rush and push and slush of life,
Babies that bawled long into the small hours,
Dogs that howled through his dreams
And then the rush of life –
To get to a destination on time.
Finally there, an hour or more later,
Still restless, not altogether lost
And only half-awake
He fingers the mug of hot coffee,
Lets his brain thaw out
And faces another day.
Sunday, October 16, 2005
Saturday, September 24, 2005
Monday, September 19, 2005
Just mere dots,
Difficult to grasp
These infinite spaces
By beautiful geometry.
Another beautiful mind
Attached to a brittle body.
All these beautiful minds
That reach out to those indifferent
Places and spaces,
That attempt to throw
Equations like threads
To move great boulders.
And the images flow free –
The universe, you see, is
Like a great sponge
With all those interconnecting
And then all that dark matter
Galaxies fly apart,
Yet the centre holds.
All will wind down and out
Into a cold nothingness
When all light goes out
Aeons and aeons and aeons hence.
Just mere dots
On the infinite spacial multidimensional plane,
Insignificant worms maybe –
Yet how wonderful the mystery,
How wonderful the minds that
Play such beautiful games –
That compose such great symphonies
Of symbol upon symbol
Laden with the lightness of great meanings.
Insignificant worms on a soil
So significant, that we grew
To a consciousness of such
Mystery and beauty
That we dance still with enthusiasm
That one day,
We may understand.
Just mere dots,
Thursday, June 23, 2005
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Thursday, June 09, 2005
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
Travel on. It's not the destination that counts - it's the journey. So say all those who follow any spiritual path worth its salt. Where am I now? I'm at home in my study looking at the screen of my computer with both attic windows open allowing in the nice cool summer air here in Dublin, Ireland. Believe it or not the sun is actually shining and I can hear the lovely sounds of children at play, lawnmowers cutting grass etc. Nice to be off school with nothing in particular to do. Just relax, meditate - or as the words of the famous play put it: "Relax, relate, communicate!" I've forgotten the name of the play. Maybe some blogger out there might remind me. "Dr Fell" or something like that I think.
Bad news at school there in early April, one recent past pupil ended his life tragically. I wrote this poem on that day.
For D. M: 1985-2005
The words won’t come,
They trip each other up,
Like an aircraft shot
From out the skies.
Words won’t behave –
They mutiny at this shock,
They slap my face
To bring me to my senses,
Forget your selfish preoccupations,
The deceptions of the ego,
Sit a while and watch and wait
For the tears to track your cheeks.
The words that come must lisp
Against the choking rope,
The way you chose to end it,
There are no answers to such tragedy - just the acknowledgement of our own reactions. We had a lovely memorial service for him at the school. As a senior teacher and part-time counsellor I had the privilege of leading that service. D.M. is still in our hearts.
Yes, life goes on. We must plant seeds of hope and hope that some few of them will grow amidst the rocky soil of modern society. Sorry that this post became so serious so quickly. I have just been meditating for over a half an hour and that combined with the good weather and the beautiful day sent me a little into the deeper reaches of the spirit.
Thanks JMacC for waking me from my slumber and greetings to all fellow bloggers out there, especially to any of you who are kindred spirits and who walk lightly on Mother earth. TQ