I am weary with my empty sorrows.

  • Saturday, November 30, 2019
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Many rivers to cross

But I can't seem to find my way over

Wandering I am lost as I travel along

The white cliffs of Dover
(Jimmy Cliff)

I am wading through the flood planes of my emotional landscape, holding onto people with a singular desperation. When we wander through the maze with our bearings lost and disorientated by the lunatic noises in our souls and bouncing off the endless walls and the corners with their sharp edges we will do anything and grab onto whatever we can to save us. The smallest and most insignificant things become emotional life rafts that we cling to and construct ships of hope in our hearts to sail into safe harbours that are only ever illusions.
While I have been lost in this maze for eternity now, groping around in the gloom for the self destruct button I promised myself that there were places in my soul that I would never go, yet here I am, failed by my chemical band aids and my own inadequacy beginning to arrive at the banks of the Rubicon that I said I would never cross. I am weary with my empty sorrows.
When I woke up this morning my windows were filled by a thick and freezing fog. Visibility was poor and the trees were no more than dark suggestions in a vague future. They were ominous and the loom of their shapes held no promises of hope or redemption. I believe that this is what it is to arrive at the Rubicon, there is the terror of the unknowable dressed in a death shroud and there is a terrible form of excitement too that compels us forward even while our lizard brain is shrieking at us to flee. There is a Zulu word for this - Asijiki meaning no turning back. Once we take that first step into those waters swollen by the pain and emptiness of life we are committed. Our choices narrow down to just two options, swim across and find out what lies beyond the water and the mist or remain forever rooted in this place, the cold mud sucking at our ankles and trapped in prisons that we have made for ourselves often with the help of others. We fool ourselves that we are living but we are not.
Does this make sense?
I have tried Ubuntu, the African concept that states that we are who we are because of who we are together and I have tried to be a builder of humanity believing that the more we love the more we facilitate the reincarnation of creativity which is one of the great foundations of hope in the world. I twist words into circular shapes trying to persuade myself that this is the truth but I find that I have failed on all counts.
So the Rubicon is all that I have left and I am standing trembling upon it's bank peering forward although I know that I am blind. 
Someone give me the light please or at least take my fucking hand. That is all it will take.
I've been thinking about the artist Vincent Van Gogh, that mad passionate genius. I think that he saw the birds held against the sky by a capricious god, their breasts pierced by the cold wind and made small by the woods full of riotous colour like paint slashed onto the canvas with brush strokes like scalpels. He saw the vast skies filled with the false light of dead stars in roiling circles and flowers dying in a vase as a metaphor.
I think it was all to much for him and he tried to communicate his distress and pain through his art. He found that the world was deaf so he sliced off his ear as a final plea toward heaven. Only the abyss answered back and I think the loneliness of that answer provided a perfect spark of clarity that pushed him over the edge.
I no longer have any answers either. I have tried to find them, fuck I've tried. Now I am empty, everything is empty. All I can do is hope that there is truth in the parable of the mustard seed or I find my own spark of clarity.

The kiss upon our lips simple with love, gracious and profound

  • Saturday, November 09, 2019
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I recommend getting your heart trampled on to anyone
I recommend walking around naked in your living room
Swallow it down (what a jagged little pill)
It feels so good (swimming in your stomach)
Wait until the dust settles
You live you learn
You love you learn
You cry you learn
You lose you learn
You bleed you learn
You scream you learn
(From the album Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette)

Another attempt at a reboot of my life...

Sometimes life shifts beneath your feet. Hope dies and death seems like a viable choice. The effect is seismic, stability is lost and the tight swirls of colour that surround our lives giving vibrancy and joy tightens into a sucking black hole where we are blind and lost in a maze of our own making. Only the light can lead us out.
I remember a long run on the North Downs of Kent a few years ago, where the rain was biblical to the point where it was a dull roar and this combined with the howl of an unceasing wind was unnerving and disorientating. The base of the clouds descended to brush the fields and when I reached out to grasp them with pale and skeletal fingers they proved to be cold and void. Visibility was down to a few metres and the sunken trails were like streams. I was so devastated by the sheer and overwhelming sensory overload that I wanted to sit down in the mud and weep. I felt abandoned and alone.
It was a day where I had no clue where I was, where I was going or how I was going to get there.
That in a nutshell is how I feel about life now. I still don't have the answers, that blueprint seems to be lost to me.
A wise man once told me that all we need to lose each other is to diverge a single degree away from each other. After 10 metres we can still see each other, after 200 metres it gets harder and we have to shout. Soon we are lost to each other possibly forever.
Yet there is a glimmer for me, a subliminal flash of light that I need to interpret, the stub of a candle stood in a pool of its own hot wax and flickering a defiance into the dark. It is people who care.
I run, Sometimes to kill the snakes in my head, my skin sour with sweat and failure, my face itchy with a three day stubble and possessed with a dystopian soul. I run between the spaces of the passing hours, hollowed out, my life marked not by the clocks tick but by the sharp crack of the jagged little pills that I swallow daily, my chemical friends bouncing on the kitchen top and rolling beneath the microwave. I run over and over and over this ground, these trails and past the hollow tree because I believe this is all I have. It is the place that I come to play Jesus to the lepers in my head, the place I seek forgiveness and its gift of peace.   
Yesterday I ran with a group of my colleagues, Annie and Kate, Guy and Andy. We were joined by Dan Thompson, CEO of The Gold Challenge. Dan is aiming to run in every country of the world by the 2020 Olympics promoting the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and fund raising for cancer research. He was visiting our school and was up for a run in the woods. It reinforced for me the value of running and human connection which I am still learning the art of. I have never been good at it and don't understood relationships, the complexity required to grow and maintain them overwhelms me. I am useless at nuance and interpretation. 

I am making an effort now because time is short and I must act. Sometimes people come into your life with a brilliant light at an appropriate moment, becoming a radiant Gordian knot to be unraveled and discovered. They bring with them the sharp flare of hope and if they carry an unquenchable and consistent love the effect is mesmerising and powerful. These people are the well diggers, unblocking the wellsprings of your life, patiently wading through the muck with you and guiding you out of the Valley of the Shadow of Death to the fertile uplands. Often you discover that they also walk with a limp and the narcotic kiss of love becomes mutually beneficial.
These two things are my hope, to love and to run, through my archaic woods, mumbling nonsense to the cows, sheep and horses, being startled by squirrels and out staring the fox. I shall dangle my feet over the rivers swirl, meditate at the ponds edge and salute the dead tree hollowed by fire, the slow creep of moss and the soft feet of insects with sharp mandibles cracking against it. I shall pursue love and friendship in the hope that this is the path that will lead me to a place of healing.

I think you will find that I love you the most...

Take my hand and run with me, together we will limp content through the radiant fields, lost in a joyful maze of a thousand blooms whose coloured heads nod for infinity toward the sun
our together blood singing to a million whispering stars,
the kiss upon our lips simple with love, gracious and profound
lighting the spark divine and complete
given with no request or bind
but only a song
Give me hope. Give me friendship, give me love.
(duncan ditto)

Have you come here for forgiveness?
Have you come to raise the dead?
Have you come here to play Jesus?
To the lepers in your head


Johnny Clegg's Stone

  • Friday, August 30, 2019
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And we are the scatterlings of Africa
On a journey to the stars
Far below, we leave forever
Dreams of what we were.

There is a heatwave in my garden. There is no breeze unless you count the great rising thermals of hot air snagging beneath the brim of my torn sombrero and pushing the butterflies upwards in erratic flight. High above a buzzard is circling, a lone sentinel maintaining an aerial reconnaissance of the far below while I sit surrounded by flowers of orange and yellow, bending beneath the weight of the bees, my bare feet pushed into the cool grass and a tall spinach smoothie frosting by my hand.
This is where I start and end my runs.
Most of the summer I’ve run with the words and the tune of John Denver singing sunshine on my shoulders repeating in my heart for the people I love and have loved, most of whom I’ve known and a few I’ve never met, people I take with me in spirit, my only companions in a summer of running solitude.

If I had a day that I could give you
 I’d give to you the day just like today
If I had a song that I could sing for you
I'd sing a song to make you feel this way,

A simple song by an simple man, appreciating the blessings of love and the profundity of a simple life.
Yesterday I ran with the ghost of Johnny Clegg, a complex man and iconoclast who gave us unique music and the humanity and courage to look for holes in the fences that divide people. In one hand he carried a Zulu fighting stick and I could hear him singing with the poetic cadence that only the truly passionate possess and that relegates the rest of us to positions of mere mortals and cultural serfdom,

O Siyeza, o siyeza , sizofika webaba noma
(we are coming, we are coming, we will arrive soon)
O siyeza, o siyeza, siyagudle lomhlaba
(we are coming, we are coming, we are moving across this earth)
Siyawela lapheshaya lulezontaba ezimnyama
(we are crossing over those dark mountains)
Lapha sobheka phansi konke ukhulupheka
(where we will lay down our troubles)

I was carrying a stone of blue and grey which I had inscribed with the lyrics of a song. I stopped at the river flowing clear and bright over the brown pebbles as the evening breeze riffled the surface into Venetian ripples of silver and black. Squatting in the stream I scooped up handfuls of cold pebbles into a small island and placed my stone there because rivers rise, flow and empty to be absorbed into the vastness at their journeys end. It was another fragment of my life gone like the sparks thrown skyward by a bonfire that burn momentarily bright, die and disappear forever, just the memory remains, vivid and bright and imbued with meaning that exceeds our understanding. I stood for a moment absorbed by the tranquility of the shadows flickering like ciphers across my face before scrambling up the bank to continue my run alone, the spaces around me empty of apparitions and the songs silent, all that remained were the other things that sustain and motivate my run, the sound of my feet on the earth, the rasp of the breath in my chest and running hard to keep the smile from sliding off the side of my face.
 Johnny Clegg, June 1953-July 2019
Lyrics from the song, The Crossing

I must harvest the Sun

  • Tuesday, April 30, 2019
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He aint gettin' nowhere and he's losin' his share, He must have gone crazy out there. 
(Michael Burton, Night Riders Lament)

It is Spring in England. This is always a time of significance for me, it is the end of the arduous and hated Winter and the aperitif to Summer. It is the time of year when I have run into the woods to listen for and hear the Woodpeckers and watch for the lengthening of the days. Spring ushers in the months where I must harvest the Sun, storing it in my skin and my bones, allowing me to replenish and renew what was leached away by the long dark. Spring brings the flowers too. The Japanese have an ancient tradition called Hanami which celebrates the blooming of the Cherry Blossoms, they sit under the trees and enjoy the transient beauty of the flowers while they last, acknowledging the idea of mono no aware - nothing is forever. My other Spring rite is running for the Bluebells which like the Cherry Blossom arrive in Spring and quickly bloom, dressing the woods in a garment of brilliant colour and then quickly disappear. Every year at this time I set off on Hanami runs to search out and enjoy these beautiful and intense flowers while I can, it is a habit of joy that binds it's hands with those of the sun to plant the perennial seeds of life in my soul. I absolutely need this.
I have also been reading a book.
It is a standard size paperback by Johann Hari called Lost Connections. The book is about depression, it's possible causes and the antidote to these causes. In the pages Johann muses about medication, the possibility that the effect of anti depressants has been given to much credence and puts forward the view that depression is not caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. Johann argues that it is the lost connections of humanity that have allowed depression to take root in peoples lives. Some examples of these lost connections are things such as the disconnection from community, childhood trauma, lack of meaningful purpose and losing touch with nature.
While I believe that medication can play a role and be beneficial there is a lot in the book that makes sense to me.
Reading it reminded me of a quote by Ivan Illich, the Austrian philosopher priest who said that, "Traditional society was more like a set of concentric circles of meaningful structures, while modern man must learn how to find meaning in many structures to which he is only marginally related. In the village, language and architecture and religion and work and family customs were consistent with one another, mutually explanatory and reinforcing. To grow into one implied a growth into others."
These are wise and prophetic words that seem to confirm Hari's thinking.
The connections Illich refers to have great power and many of them have broken down in contemporary society. I believe that depression and anxiety are rising to epidemic levels especially in young people and the breakdown of traditional connections could be a big part of the cause.
Watching the sunrise in silence, Buzzards stretching their wings above a rising thermal or running amongst the Bluebells tell me that we are connected, threads in the same fabric. The door is open. Somewhere lies healing.
Ah but they've never seen the Northern Lights 
They've never seen a hawk on the wing 
They've never spent spring on the Great Divide 
And they've never heard ole' camp cookie sing