Monday, April 27, 2015

Breathing in bluebells

I wonder if you heard the 'Today' programme on Radio 4 last week when, on the subject of climate change, a scientist made a telling comment?

"It's as though we're on the 'Titanic'", he said, "we're surrounded by broken ice floes, yet we spend our time arguing over the cost of drinks in the bar."

I thought of this remark on Wednesday when Earth Day came, and went . . . largely unnoticed.

True, the planet marked the day in ways we would not have chosen.  On Earth Day itself the World Trade Center in New York was hit by lightning . . . there has since been a massive volcanic eruption in Chile and devastating earthquakes in Nepal.
But if the Earth marked Earth Day in such an unnerving fashion, we did little to acknowledge the wonders of our planet.

Wouldn't you agree that, by and large, we look upon the Earth as little more than our inexhaustible pantry and playground?
We respond to natural disasters with initial shock, sympathy and the sending of aid.  But we soon turn away and go back to arguing over the cost of those drinks.

It's all too easy, it seems, to forget that we're an integral component of the natural world.

In a recent talk, David Abram made the interesting point that man is part of the lungs of the planet.  As we breathe in the oxygen produced by trees and vegetation, so that same vegetation absorbs the carbon-dioxide produced by birds, mammals and us.  We breathe in as the natural world breathes out.  It's a lovely, rhythmic co-ordinating activity.

But what if we ignore the importance of this natural rhythm?  What of we remove the vegetation and chop down the forests . . . where will we find the oxygen that's essential for our existence?

I thought of that image this week when I took Chloe to our local bluebell wood.  There we were, Chloe and I, breathing in bluebells.  And there were the bluebells, getting an extra shot of carbon dioxide all thanks to our visit.

As we sat there on a tree-trunk, I noticed something else.  From under the stems of the bluebells crawled out a bee.  It made its way past my feet then, to my surprise, plunged headfirst into a small hole in the earth.  I sat and waited . . . expecting it to re-emerge.  Despite  waiting for several minutes there was no re-appearance of the bee.  All of which made me wonder.

The bee had entered the earth below my feet for a purpose, down there between the roots there must have been an inter-connecting web of tunnels,  tunnels along which bees and other insects could travel.  The Earth was every bit as alive below our feet as it was at ground level and overhead.

As we stood there in the wood, it seemed that Chloe and I were doing more than keeping our balance on a lump of dead rock careering through space.

We were an integral part of a living organism . . . mixing and mingling in the medley of rhythmic existence which stretched from deep within the soil to the upper limits of the atmosphere.

But I've kept the most compelling argument to the end.
Let me share a moving video.

Click here and breathe in all that Julia Roberts has to tell us about our incredible world.

And what if we don't acknowledge our role and responsibilities in relation to our planet?  What if we go on arguing over the cost of drinks at the bar?

Well, the Earth could all too easily shrug us off  . . . but that's another story.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


The other day I was fortunate to listen to an online discussion in which 
Ervin Laszlo was one of the participants.

I'm sure you're familiar with the amazing life of Ervin Laszlo.   A talented concert-pianist in his youth, he is now renowned as an internationally-acclaimed philosopher and academician, founder of The Club of Budapest and twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

I won't attempt to share the wonders and complexities of the Akashic Field, the main topic of the online discussion.   However, along the way, Ervin Laszlo recounted a story to illustrate his belief in the flexibility of time, and how we can communicate with past lives . . . I know you'll enjoy it as much as I did.

Not long ago, an eminent chess grandmaster, a man who shared Ervin Laszlo's belief, came up with an idea.
He was convinced that he could demonstrate such powers of communication . . . communication with those who, whilst departed in body, were still present in spirit.

To prove his point, he enlisted the co-operation of a renowned medium, someone who knew nothing of the rules and intricacies of chess.  He then invited an impartial, chess-playing observer to witness the experiment.

The medium was asked to make psychic contact with a famous past grandmaster, a player whose name was well known to all those in the world of chess.  She agreed to do her best.

On the day of the experiment, the grandmaster sat at a table along with the medium and the observer.  A chess-board and chess-men were placed on the table in front of them.  When everyone was settled, the grandmaster asked the medium to make contact with the past grandmaster who, through her, would subsequently engage him in a game of chess.

The game was keenly fought.
The past grandmaster using the techniques for which he had been justly famed in his lifetime, the current grandmaster doing his utmost to hold his ground.

Neither of the grandmasters won . . . both thoroughly enjoyed the stimulating game.

And the medium?
She came out of her trance knowing no more about the intricacies of chess than she'd done before the game started!

It's a remarkable story.
It also opens the mind to endless intriguing possibilities.

For instance . . . might Shakespeare be persuaded to come clean?
Did he really write all those plays, or did he just lend his name to a friend . . . ?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Other men's flowers

I wonder, does the title 'Other Men's Flowers' mean anything to you?
It's a remarkable book . . . remarkable as much for its history as its content.
What's more, it's been in print ever since its publication in 1944.

If that date makes you wonder whether it may have something to do with the Second World War, you are only partially correct.
True, it's the work of a Field-Marshall, but it's not a record of his experiences as Commander in the Middle East.

Compiled as an antidote to the stress of war, it consists of the poems that he jotted down from memory on the battlefield . . . an incredible number of poems.  Not only that, they are published exactly as he recalled them . . . complete with the occasional inaccuracy.

One man's remembered anthology . . . a moving record of the power that poetry can hold in the life of a professional soldier, and, to quote his publisher, 'proving beyond doubt that, whatever the fashion of the day, poetry can fulfil its ancient function, finding its way to the hearts of the many, not only to the minds of the few'.

Do you find this true in your own life?
Have certain poems accompanied you along the way?

Each week, when my cat and I visit our local nursing home, we meet a ninety-five-year-old patient, Elizabeth.
In addition to making a fuss of Chloe, Elizabeth always wants to share her favourite poems . . .  the ones long stored in her memory.

Sometimes, when she falters, I delve into her books of poetry and prompt her.  But there's usually little need . . . her memory is prodigious.

Old age, it seems, is another form of battle-field.  A field on which there's no denying the sustenance to be obtained from long-remembered, much-loved verse.

All of which has made me ask myself the question:  just which poems have accompanied and enriched me throughout my life?

So many, well-known and little-known, jostle for priority in my memory.  But the one that I've known the longest is by the American poet, Berton Braley, and stems  from my early childhood.  Perhaps I found it in a cracker.

Over the years the words have become so firmly lodged in my brain that I don't think I could forget them, even if I wished to.
Let me share them with you . . .

"If he earns your praise - bestow it,
If you like him, let him know it,
Let the words of true encouragement be said;
Do not wait 'til life is over
And he's underneath the clover,
For he cannot read his tombstone when he's dead."

Great poetry?  Probably not.
A powerful conduit of a profound truth.  Most definitely!
Not only that, it has the undoubted power to stick in the mind . . .  just see if you remember it next week!

It's true, isn't it.
Criticism is so easy, we all fall into the trap of needing to complain at every justifiable opportunity.

But praise, appreciation and gratitude are equally easy . . and what a difference they can make.

So, let's forget inscriptions on tombstones and concentrate on the here and now.

Thank you . . . thank you for being you . . . thank you for being there . . . and thank you for sharing these thoughts.

And let's not forget to give thanks for the beauty, the eternal, unfading beauty of other men's flowers.

Come on, now, let's admit it . . . we've so much to be grateful for!