This was written as an exercise for a writing class - we were to sit at our table and just write whatever came into our heads. Its a bit disjointed and no doubt you have read bits of this in letters I have written before, but it might fill in a train ride one day. I like the last paragraph the most.
The hour begins, and without interruption I am to write whatever I feel like writing. There is the likely possibility that I won’t have an uninterrupted hour, because thats how it invariably works out. You can be here for hours and nobody rings or calls and then as soon as you think - “ here is the hour I am going to set aside”, the phone just about rings off the wall. I can not ignore the phone. A few times I have though, “bugger it, I’ll just let it go,” but have relented. Almost without exception on the end of that phone has been either a daughter , sister or friend going through their own personal hell of despair or depression or whatever. I think then, that had I just been lazy and left it so I could read another page of my book;my own greed for the story would have stood in the way of my greater duty to life, which is to be there if I can be for those who call me in need.
The Celts have a word, or sentence for this and it is that “you must do the right thing, because it is the right thing to do” I like that. Not to do it because God will see you and approve, not to make your friends and neighbours nod in approval at what a little goodie you are...and most importantly not so that you can bask in the sunshine of your own smugness...just simply, because it is the right thing to do...the right way to act.
Its like the tree outside this window, it grows the way it does because thats what is programmed into its genetic structure. But on top of that is its position on earth. If it was in the northern hemisphere it would grow in a slow spiral to the left...whereas here it grows in a slow spiral to the right. Also influencing the tree is the wind, and its strength and direction...the rain and its amount, the soil and its richness or poorness, its type and its depth, the insects and their nurturing of the tree, or their sucking it dry. I could write for all of my life on any one aspect of the tree and find areas of science and spirituality so interconnected that the work would never finish. But it would still just be a tree...doing what trees must, obeying laws of the universe I am still unaware of and will never realise in this life...
The nuns used to say to me when I was little, that if there was anything that was too profound to understand as a human being, that it would become clear after death. I still believe that. I believe that if you do live your life, doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do, and not suck up to what others expect you to think and do, then the little clarity that you dimly perceive here on earth will be opened up ...that colours will be infinitely richer, and most importantly that the amount of understanding you will allow yourself after death, will be in direct relationship to the way you lived your life, in whatever circumstances you found yourself.
We are the privileged in life, so more is expected of us. It is not the right thing to do that we sit safe in our own snug homes and never dare to fight injustice, where we can practically. But we can just sit and fill up our days, giving nothing back. No ones stopping us.
I feel that each of us lives the life we are allowed because we allow ourselves that living. There are many prisons around us and none of them are made of iron bars. I heard someone quoting a famous writer and saying that only an intellectual could devise something so stupid as the International Criminal Court. This made me laugh because it is , yes a generalisation but as a generalisation it is mainly true.
The wisest men I even knew for all their faults, were my father and grandfathers. All of them were rural men. All of them were sensitive, well read and more in tune with nature than just about everyone I know. The bulk of us are so removed from the knowledge of these, that we would not survive if thrown onto the land with no mechanical help at all. But they would survive in both worlds. My Mother was the wisest older woman I ever knew because she just was who she was and was not a hypocrite. I do not like hypocrites! Two more of the wisest people that I know are my own daughters. I would not have had them any different than they are now. I am pretty sure that they know how proud I am of them.They behave in the way of that Celtic maxim, even after all the shit they have had to deal with. Therefore life may seem to be harder for them because they are such decent people with such good hearts...but it is the long run of life that is the most telling as Ella Wheeler Wilcox has written. The way that they are living is being noted and any hardship and sorrow they have because they treat people properly, and not lightly as too many do - and hardship is being measured. I like to imagine a massive ancient old book, with a Merlin or a Morgaine inscribing in the pages the values that we all live to.
I think that like the tree, the girls inherently know the way to grow. If they have fair winds, good rich soil, adequate rain, not too many insects of the wrong type...they will grow, to their own internal magnetic pull. I suppose we must be as influenced as growing life as the tree is, by being in the northern hemisphere or the southern one. I also think our characters are influenced by the land we grow up in, where our parents grew in, and the whole baggage of our ancestry. It think it is all in there somewhere.
I think of children that I have known who never had a chance. We sit here in smugness and rattle around with the concept that we can all change and do good, and that once you become an adult you are responsible for your own actions. But it is not as clear cut as that.
What of Cecily’s two little boys? Cecily is dead now, having died in her mid thirties of alcoholism. He eldest boy Petey, had almost the full care and responsibility of his little baby brother who was born with Foetal Alcohol syndrome. Cecily’s mother was the same. Cecily would come out of rehab, down in Newcastle, nursing a “plagon” of wine on her lap on the train ride home. She would weep and wail and beg to have her kids back because she missed them and she was their mother. Over and over DOCS took care of the mother’s maudlin needs ahead of that of the boys. Over and over they would be uprooted and launched back to their mother’s drunken world. A world which saw little Petey being Mother and Father to his brother while the mother hit the night spots, and slept it off with whoever. How they ate and survived is anyone’s business. I have no doubt Petey and his little brother learned to survive in the only way they could, because society washed its hands of them. The social workers at DOCS were told over and over and over ad nauseum...Petey and his little brother are now in and out of jail and most likely will always be. Petey was an amazingly caring and loving brother. he was bright and good looking and happy when I met him. His mother clawed my arm and dragged me into her home to pathetically show me all the bags of peas she had in her cupboard to feed the boys with....
So how do the trees of Petey and his little brother grow, when the only love and nurture they got was not much more than what street kids in Rio would give each other.
When I consider all of this there is a deeper part of me which believes in an accounting. I think it is not so much what and how much we do in this life that counts, its whether our intentions were good, based on the knowledge and nurture and conscience we were able to form out of what ever scabby soil we were given.
My brother in law, aged 54, killed a man in Vietnam. He was running away. It happened. He has been running away ever since. He rang me the other night and he was so drunk I could not understand the words he was saying. He would be one of the gentlest and most sensitive of men. And I wonder. The man he shot has had no life at all. Most likely no children to carry him on...his mother, loving him as much as I love my daughters would still grieve for that son killed all those years ago. And what of Him. What day in his life has not haunted him? Its almost as if there are some of us who are sort of internally murdered by the acts we have done like with Ian. Whereas others murder with little thought of the act and its consequences.
I think that yes there is an accounting and that such as he will have more understanding given to them after death than they expect because their intention was not to injure not to harm, it was an impulse of the moment, an order, the moment. His wife who has stayed with him all the time, because she loves him, has also paid in the scales of heaven.
Ah! It is always so much easier for us to judge in hindsight, especially those of us who were not there. Its so much more comfortable round our coffee tables to be eloquent on the issue of the human rights of others, of other cultures...we have a friend who went over to the Kimberelys to nurse on an aboriginal station. She had a wonderful time and learnt a lot that she didn’t know before, but one of the funniest stories she told us was this...she was sleeping out under the stars one evening with an aboriginal woman, a bit younger than her. They got to talking about the dreamtime, well our friend did, and waxed lyrical about all she had heard about how the Aborigines were able to step out of time...the aboriginal woman just started laughing and said, “Kerry, you talk a lot s shit. Thats the biggest load of shit I heard yet”. This sort of dented Kerry’s idea of the culture and what she had read and thought she had understood, but then she said she laughed and laughed, and after that simple laugh she felt more at ease with her friend than she had ever. It was the simple cross cultural belly laugh that broke down the barriers, and not our fingering our purile way into an ancient culture that is only able to let us see a glimmer. We can never hope to understand the dreaming of the Aboridgine people, nor of the ancient Egyptians, nor of the ancient Celts, Mayans, Incas Aztecs etc. Because we have grown in different soil, swept by different winds, under an older sun, watered by the same waters, many times reused, and scoured clean by the insects of our individual cultural heritage.
I much rather like the idea of imagining all the dreamtimes of earth. I know they are there, I will understand all of this one day, and like Kerry can see just a squidgy glimmer right now at this time.
In our culture which is the culture not of the west any more, but the culture of the 21st century, we are like butterflies, dispensable, hoarding our writings, and photos, assuming that in some way we can leave our mark...meaning “I was here” even just in our small area. But in all of the worlds wonderful and terrible history just a few people relatively have left their name on “their mark” and then we can’t really be sure...
but and here is the truth...each one of us, even a baby which only lived to die after one breath, has left its mark. In a place where no names are needed, all the consciousness of all of us who have reached conception are wrapped around an earth we have never seen...and again I swing to the Celtic way of honouring that each mark is not just part of one nameless whole...like a bees hive or an ant colony...each mark of each human being ever, is a light. Each light is itself. When complete understanding is achieved then the light will shine so beautifully that it can not be ever dimmed. The light of each of us who achieves this understanding, will be their for those of us coming along in the shadow to dimly see and reach out for...Right now thats what I think.