the written word

The key to being ‘modern man’ lies in his civilised pursuits – the arts, writings, all those things that specially mark us as fundamentally different to animals, even the clever ones.  The Egyptians started the ball rolling with their hieroglyphs about 3400 BC, with coherent texts coming in around 2600 years BC.

In the grand scheme of things that doesn’t really seem very long ago does it?

Putting it in to a British context, the neolithic era saw the locals living in small extended family groups who would work the land in a semi settled manner, they would wear basic hide garments, build barrows, causeways and around 2500 BC put together Stonehenge, for reasons we know not what.  But whilst that has to stand as a stunning example of tooless basic engineering and one we Brits should be duly proud, we can’t duck the fact that we didn’t start writing stuff down onto tablet or papery stuff until over 3000 years later with the epic Anglo Saxon hero poem of Beowulf.

Civilisation is generally considered to have begun around 6000 years BC  in Mesopotamia – an area that would set it in modern day Iraq, and it was from this very area that we see the first epic story, written in Sumerian cuneiform, a sort of detailed picture series on stones around 2000 BC – the Epic of Gilgamesh as it’s called is a story of the daring do’s of King Gilgamesh of Uruk

What I find fascinating is the epic story of Gilgamesh recounts, a number of early biblical tales as delivered in Genesis – and as a means of comparison, it is believed that the life of the old Testament Abraham is dated around 1900-1800 BC which puts him in historical touching distance to the author of the story; and furthermore, King Gilgamesh himself was believed to have been a historical figure in Sumeria c.2700 BC which places him as a physical contemporary of the early Genesis characters.

Finding unadulterated manuscripts or stones from antiquity are rarer than hens teeth, but they are the gems we long for – to help us place ancient history in context, to act as corroboration.

And herein lies one problem I have and this doesn’t make me clever or unusual – when one considers ancient religious texts – the danger for corruption, especially where translation has taken place, but also where the same language has morphed, developed and changed over time, means that our reliance on the text as the unadulterated truth is challenged severely.

I cannot believe the Bible is written under divine influence.

I love the idea that the Gilgamesh story lends credence to stories such of the great Flood and even Adam and Eve that gives me a spark of some historical corroboration that is guiltily exciting.

But the Bible, as a reliable document is perhaps a stretch too far – of the 3 Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Islam and Christianity  – it is the Bible which for me presents the greatest challenge to unravel – because in part I feel it has the answer to my soul searching and in part is complete doctored fantasy.

 

 

 

 

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The spark of divinity within

There are common facets to the ‘Near Death Experience’ phenomenon. Even though the near death-ee almost always has a unique story to tell, very many of them have a few basic common threads – an out of body experience, an experience of light and/or warmth and/or feelings of love.

There are some people who experience something altogether more frightening, but on the whole these are common threads irrespective of age, gender, race or creed.

I am always interested to read or listen to these accounts, and I listen carefully for any nuance, the slightest hint that the person is fabricating the story. Very many times, particularly YouTube accounts, I find myself thinking quite cynically – nah, this is made up! But there are some that resonate with reality – and I read or listen with rapt attention. I was shocked to hear from an academic study of NDE’s that those experienced by children have a far more deep reaction within the individual, and as a group, there is an alarmingly high percentage of them that go on to commit suicide and that fact is linked back that NDE experience and the fact they were never able to get over it.

I find the idea that at the end, when we shuffle off the mortal coil, there is light and love and peace awaiting us, to be something very very appealing. I listened recently to a series of conversations with hospice workers, who talk about the knowing when a person’s time is coming to a close – not a set in stone ritual, but a familiar sense of the end nearing due to things the dying do or say as they approach their end time.

Clearly death is highly personal, and the passage to death can’t possibly be predicted or even pleasant for some sadly, but for those of us who tread the well worn path, there appears to be something in it that those who work closely and regularly with the dying, recognise.

‘ And God said, Let there by light.’

And here is something I have been considering a lot of late – considering light, and love and the divine spirit within a person – because I think there is something elemental in this and there is nothing more elemental than our relationship with  our own death. And I want to explore some ideas over the next few posts – these are theoretical and raw because I am a w-i-p over this at the moment.

 

Mrs Waplington killed God…

Like most kids I knew at primary school in 1970, I was shipped off to Sunday school each week, it was held in a classroom at our school and I remember how much I resented being there on a weekend.

I didn’t resent the lessons though once I was there. I was peculiarly receptive to the Bible stories we were told, and I suppose it was a precursor to my enjoyment of History lessons in my later school life, because I understood the historic timeline very clearly – and more importantly, I accepted what I was being told as complete fact. I believed in God, I believed in Jesus and when I recited the Lord’s Prayer,  I did it with real conviction.

My parents sent me to Sunday school as a way of getting the kids out the house for a couple hours – we weren’t a religious family, religion and God played no part in my upbringing, no part in our every day lives – there was no sense of religiosity in my entire family and no one had felt it necessary to go through the effort of getting us baptised. In fact up to my early teens  I had never set foot inside a church. And the only time my parents or grandparents had attended church, was to get married.

So they must have wondered what they had done by sending me off to Sunday School, when after I was too old to attend any more, I took the decision to take myself to church – and to organise my own baptism and confirmation.

I remember the first time I walked in to our local church – it was a gothic masterpiece – high pointed ceilings, ornate pews , beautiful stained glass, the heavy smell of incense, benevolent statues of Mary and graphic pictures of the stations of the cross. You could be forgiven for thinking I was Roman Catholic – but you would be slightly wrong, because although I attended an Anglican church and was baptised a Protestant, our church was high Church and was as Catholic as it was possible to be without having a Pope, And I fell in love with the place.

To this day I can’t resist a beautiful church, incense and a sung Eucharist.

I attended an inner city comprehensive secondary school – it was a tough place and not for the faint hearted. Some may say we didn’t exactly attend school but survived it! If I was being charitable I would say that the school did its best to give us a good basic education and was spectacularly successful at crowd control;teachers tended to be appointed not because they were enthusiastic about their subjects but because they didn’t take any crap and knew how to maintain discipline – these were the days when the sports master walked around with a cane and knew how to use it.

I belonged to a small, and often ostracized group of students – the group who were considered worth attempting to educate to O level rather than being left to grapple for a CSE like everyone else. Heady heights indeed.

Key differences in our school day saw us taught a second language, French in our case and instead of taking one general science course we did the individual science subjects – Biology, Physics and Chemistry all separately.

I wasn’t a scientist particularly and there were moments struggling through yet another boring practical making solenoids that I didn’t wish for a spate of generalised science blurb instead.

And then there was the small matter of Mrs Waplington.

My first Biology lesson and I felt I’d drawn the short straw, because Mrs Waplington was taking our class and we were all frightened shitless of her. Undoubtedly a good Biologist, she had long lost the rosy belief she would mould great minds of the future with her enthusiasm and wit. She was shortish  and frumpy and had clipped disinterested tones that said – don’t piss me off! (actually with the hindsight of an adult, I believe that Mrs Waplington was a good and fair woman – she taught us well and was the only science teacher I ever had who got me to not only pass the bloody exam but actually feel I liked and understood it)

But my over riding memory of Mrs Waplington is it was she who killed God.

My first lesson in Biology and Mrs Waplington clearly wanted her point to be understood and she didn’t want to spend too long explaining it and she didn’t want too much in the way of questioning – so she addressed us with unequivocal directness.

‘Whatever you think you know about life and how it originated – forget it. Any childish notions you have left over from primary school about the origin of man – forget them. Today you begin to study science and you will study scientific method. If you intend to do well on this course then you need to understand that there is a difference between what science can tell us and what we think we know from bible stories – today we are going to begin with Mr Charles Darwin, to look at the evolution of man…….’

Honestly I don’t remember her exact words – but that paragraph, is pretty much it. I remember sitting there and thinking I need to pass this exam. But underneath was a disturbing disquiet.

Because I saw in what I was being taught albeit at low level, the unquestionable logic of science – even though I was largely pretty crap at science I learned that science is king – it explains how the world works, it explains there are no eternal mysteries and that the world as we see it works on understood principles and unbreakable laws.

My bible stories couldn’t compete with that.

Given I could never fathom Adam and Eve and where their sons had found handy wives – it was far far easier to see that Mr Darwin with his finches in the Galapagos was altogether more logical and how over millions of years man had dragged himself from the primordial stew.

I understood at long last that ‘faith’  in God was not the innocent acceptance of the Bible and the Gospel I had learned but was instead an unshakeable belief in the Almighty and his workings despite the contradictory evidence supplied endlessly by the scientific community, and on that basis I realised I didn’t have faith at all.

Without any great in depth knowledge I was lead by Mrs Waplington & Co. into that great  educational sausage machine, and I was ground out believing what I was told – without question or further thought. After that initial disquiet I never questioned anything I was told again – all my questioning was directed to set books and set knowledge.

My science career was mercifully short – but it’s effect lasted half a life time because I lost faith. For me to have said  I had faith would be to invite ridicule. But to say I had faith would also be a lie – because I no longer believed in anything.

My teen years were busily filled with all the flim flam beloved of teenagers everywhere – music, boys, being rebellious and a bit of study tacked on the end.

But once the teens were past – I was left with what exactly? And so began my adult life and a period of spiritual confusion and loss – and so began my soul searching and its been a long and painfully slow journey…….

I have a dream…I just need a £1000000

I genuinely have a philanthropic dream – I’m almost too gobsmacked to say it – usually I’m the least philanthropic person I know! Largely because my last name isn’t Roundtree or Fry – I don’t have a spare quid right now, let alone a million of ’em!!

But if I did have a spare million I do have a little project that I would sink it in to. So if you have a spare mil – and you fancy doing something lovely – then just drop me a line!

Sadly, I am not anticipating much of a flood and it’s rather a lot for crowd funding – so for now it will have to stay my little dream.

There is a 74 acre woodland for sale near to where I live and has been for sale for a long while – slap bang in the middle is a clapped out old house but it has planning permission for a statement piece house to be developed in the middle.

The woodland is completely private, no rights to roam, no footpaths or bridleways – completely private. It went up for sale months ago for almost £1.5millions – but has steadily come down in price to way under the million mark now – it is going to take a special buyer to want to take on an estate that large especially with nothing but a shack in the middle to start off with.

I would buy it. And my reasons are several-fold.

  1. I would love to manage and improve on a natural woodland
  2. I am constantly saddened to see massive chunks of land on the outskirts of village – prime farm land being – being nibbled away at by property developers who throw up mass produced housing, cramming in more houses than can be possibly healthy, in order to maximise profit.
  3. I am curious as to whether it would be possible to create a truly eco village, that doesn’t end up looking like Steptoe had moved in – that is symbiotic with its surroundings, and brings something wonderful to the community that would be able to live there.

My very own hobbit ‘shire’, a community of eco families who could live affordably and sustainably in a little Eden – a model for a future where land is lived on rather than concreted over.

I was genuinely interested in this Scottish ‘hutting’ project <here> – I had never heard of it until recently, nor the history of the Scottish huts which were envisaged as a retreat for the world weary after the war. I don’t imagine huts on my 74 acres exactly – but the principles of people/land/woodland/and eco simple living is exactly the same.

Wouldn’t it be something though? If it could be done?

 

 

 

 

Back on the road – to fitness

Exercise wise, 2017 has been a disaster.

By this time last year I was already in a very healthy groove of checking my eating habits, I was a budding gym bunny and running was becoming something that I was becoming a bit evangelical about. I had 2 running routes and was really enjoying getting outside and embracing the elements.

Since before Christmas, the broken arm put paid to any activity, and then there was the crippling flu and I’ve just retrieved some mobility having  put my back out moving furniture! 3 months of enforced inactivity, crappy eating habits and just wallowing around – has had a not so positive effect on my weight, my mindset and my overall diet – I have had about 3 aborted attempts to get my Adidas supernova’s back on the road, and each time it was completely scuppered.

Today I did 1km – 1 km?????

It is better than my previous big fat zero km but it sucks to feel this out of shape so soon.

We have moved office (hence the putting my back out moving cabinets!!) – but now my back feels happily better, that means finding new running routes – and although today’s effort was a bit pathetic, it was nice to try out a new route and realise that there are a lot more opportunities for mixing it up a bit than where I was based previously – new views, new challenges. So it isn’t all doom and gloom.

I don’t know why, but setting  a new running route always causes me some stress – I get angsty until I am familiar with it – even if its an easy one; I don’t know how to pace myself, where the dips and peaks are and letting my body get used to anticipating each challenge along the way. I don’t like that about me, but there is no ducking it – I do it all the time.

So it is going to be a bit of an uphill struggle for me today even on the flat! Getting back in to my stride and liking where I run – but today was a start – I feel well and strong (ish) eventually and that is worth it’s weight in gold.

The gym membership went by the wayside long ago last year, I found it so boring – but I had promised myself at the new year, with all my new resolutions that this would be the year of yoga. That too, like the running has been on a permanent pit stop – but tomorrow that changes too!

And the eating?

I am not liking the enlarged and squishy middle of me at the minute, I feel inflated and it looks as bad as it feels – I think being good is very much the order of my life for some considerable weeks to come.

But it will be worth it.

Bring on the sunshine – I want to get those shorts out again!

How Wolves Change Rivers – the hand of the Creator

On the back of mentioning in my last post, how I came to realise, almost by accident that there is a name for my spiritual beliefs – I am a Deist.

Deism isn’t a religion, there is no holy book to follow – it is a philosophical stance and with all philosophies, there are no boundaries to how a person may choose to personally interpret that in which they believe.

For me – I believe in a creator. I suppose given I grew up in a loosely Christian society – my creator is inevitably Christian God-like overall.

Many years ago I renounced God when I renounced Jesus. But I remained uncomfortable having done it. But I could no longer carry on my spiritual life believing in the Church and I think that was my first mistake.

I embraced paganism – to find my spiritual centre wrapped in what I could see and experience seemed wholly more natural and the more I read the further from Christianity I strayed.

But I also felt a sense of betrayal – because in revering creation, wasn’t I by virtue acknowledging the hand of a creator?

For me the natural world, left to it’s own devices is in perfect balance – a chaotic but perfectly matched dance that is all too often meddled with by humankind.

The more I watched, the more I saw – really saw. It doesn’t take much effort to see how amazing our world is and for me that could not – I could not believe that it was happenchance that everything fit so perfectly.

I reject pure Darwinism – I admit it (sorry but I do)

and in doing so I reconnected with God.

If you have a spare 5 mins – then please watch this rather lovely video – how wolves change rivers – a little cameo story of how our world works in symbiosis and just marvel and it’s wondrousness.

 

 

Being a Deist

I’ll be 55 this year and have just realised that I am a Deist.

I couldn’t have said exactly what I was, up until recently. I could have told you what I find myself believing these days, and I could tell you the convoluted path I have taken to get here – but to have given it a name? I wasn’t exactly sure there was one.

And then by random chance, I was reading an article on an online newspaper and was scrolling through the comments section – and came across a guy who was talking  a bit at a tangent, but he mentioned being a Deist – and I thought – is there such a thing?

Trusty Google suggested there was – and there it was in black and white and I thought, yes random man and thank you – for I too am a Deist it would appear.

I’m not certain I need do anymore than just acknowledge the name – there isn’t a religious group to join, thankfully – but to know that my thoughts have a basis is quite comforting I think 🙂

And I need look no further than Voltaire to bring my thoughts beautifully to life –

One key difference between Deism and the “revealed” religions is that Deists don’t believe faith is required to believe in God. This quote from Voltaire sums it up, “What is faith? Is it to believe that which is evident? No. It is perfectly evident to my mind that there exists a necessary, eternal, supreme, and intelligent being. This is no matter of faith, but of reason.”