Weather

If you’ve been outside recently you’re realise that it’s not as nice as it looks.  Even when the sun shines it’s often deceptively cruel in tempting the dog walker and school child ever further in search of it’s warmth, only to be blasted by the cold air just around the corner. This got me thinking that sometimes life throws a curved ball too.  Life’s realities don’t always live up to their expectations.  Like today when I caught up with my eldest son to chat about his studies and the concerns he had for the future post graduation.  What if that dream-job never materialised or his current girlfriend moved on? Like the shabby-chic cafe we sat in, life is sometimes over-rated in it’s apologetic attempt to entangle us into a sense of under-stated enthusiasm. As though just sitting and sipping a lukewarm latte will somehow transport you to laid-back Lazaretto and all your troubles will simply disappear in the sunshine.  But by vacating the premises and stepping  back to the current climate,   you realise you’ve just been hi-jacked by inflated prices to sit at a wobbly rusty table which should have been skipped.  The only true reality being, of course, the British weather.

Kidnapped 

Someone kidnapped the sun today. The hail came, swept it away.

Wind retorted spectacularly, spreading havoc and disarray.

Clearly the kidnapper had a plan. To steal the sunshine, hold back time.

Spring abated for Winter blues.  No soft skies or Summer hues.

If I but knew the ransom odds I’d start a crowd-fund, raise the costs.

Flaunt my Facebook page about until I’d got the right amount.

‘Dear Doris. Exchange is now complete.  Release the Sun in full.’ I tweet.

Scorching star appears above. Shimmering rays round yellow hub.

Heat and happiness are restored.  No more closing of drafty doors.

Warm exchanges, smiles, ice-cream.  Kidnapping the sun was truly mean!

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Meaningless Love

So what is meaningless love.  I’m not talking about the love between an old married couple who may now wonder why they are still together.  Nor am I anti- gay, although some may consider the love proclaimed between two people of the same sex ‘meaningless’.  But I do wonder if the very casual attitude todays generation has with sex and transgender relationships is completely meaningless, when its compared to the dictionary definition of love. It’s certainly not biblical. In history when a man left his mother and father it was so he could ‘cleave to a woman and become one flesh’. The implication being an on-going relationship, where a new generation is established according to Jewish tradition.

Ironic then that Israel has one of the highest abortion statistics in Europe and Jerusalem is not unknown for it’s pro-gay rallies.  Does this not mean that the alternative outcomes of love are meaningless? Love, love love.  All your need is love.  As a child of the sixties it was The Beatles that gave society permission to talk about love.  Sing about love.  Enjoy love.  experiment and even lament.  To be brave and wear our hearts on our sleeves.  After a long decade of post-war recovery perhaps people had no more excuses but looked after their heart desires.  No longer interested in simply ‘making do’ with whatever was available ‘on the love shelf”. Suddenly it was permissible to look elsewhere and find some other meaning from the traditional love genre dictated down from the previous 50s decade.

Despite opposition from strong society strongholds – governments, churches and educational establishments, the 60s became the most influential sexual revelation to date. Hence the word ‘love’ became not just a term of family or community endearment.  Nor something whispered along the moonlight streets following a date between a hetro-sexual couple.  Who, for the purpose of the media, were probably married or at least engaged thus giving a ‘green’ light to their intended audience that such public behaviour was universally acceptable.  Now love had a post-modern meaning.

No longer a hallowed term, shared in sacrifice and the sacraments  ‘For God so loved the world.  No greater love has this than a man lay down his life for his friend’.  Perhaps Post-war society had had its full of sacrificial love. So the word ‘free love’ was derived to mean; ‘the idea or practice of having sexual relations according to choice, without being restricted by marriage or long-term relationships’ explains goggle dictionary.  But if love no longer included commitment was it any more free?  Interestingly this definition does not include the word ‘love’ but rather sex with reference to the relationship.  A lot has been written and learnt about the impact that such sexual freedom can have on society. But my question is, what did it all mean?

Was love so restricted beforehand that it needed the word ‘free’ added to be fully accessible.  Did this new freedom really include love in it’s genre and practice.  For a lot of folks the answer is ‘no’.  As alongside the freedom to perform sexual activities was also the freedom to walk away from their partner of the day, week or month.  If that person happened to conceive during the ‘relationship’ neither had to commit to either keeping the child or parenting it.  Neither did the state have to recognise the offspring of an unwedded relationship.  Nor the church.  Not that this was anything new, but is did mean that these issues were no longer hidden.

But what has that generation done with the freedom it fought for?  Has any lasting significance or sense of purpose been acknowledge as a result.  Well at least we talk about love more openly and acknowledge the complex diversity of human relationships more honestly.  Both the church and society have, for their part, engaged with the social change that has occurred in the last decade leading up to the millennium and consequently church leadership and government policies have been altered to reflect the changing landscape of non-marritial, same-sex, trans-gender relationships which are as much a part of 21st living as internet access.  Love is all around us.

However, I have come to wonder if somehow the very fragile, honourable, noble idea of love has become over-familiar with its transition into every avenue of life.  We ‘love’ our phones, our hair, the latest blockbuster, the cutest band.  It sometimes feels like we love everything and everyone so much so that it becomes somewhat meaningless love.

Where is the depth of passion, sacrifice of self, longing or waiting for love’s emotion to evolve and grow.  To evaluate it’s impact on the consequence of decision, the commitment of involvement or the hope of improvement.  Nowadays, if we don’t ‘love something’ we simply change it for something we do.  Until that is, we loose interest in that too and search for the next item we can put value on.  Be it object, place or person. Is it any wonder that  conditions associated with depression and anxiety are on the increase or that suicide rates have increased by 60% since the 70s worldwide.

So how can anyone find meaning in anything, including love?  Solomon, the alleged wisest King of the bible had this to say about it.  ‘Meaningless, meaningless.  Everything is meaningless under the sun’.  Written in approx 930 BC it seems he had his finger on the pulse of society even then. After several more thoughts and lamenting, he concludes in the final chapter of Ecclesiastes that, when all is said and done everything is meaningless except to ‘fear God and keep His commandments’. Interesting in the light of the fact that many of todays questions on the meaning of life stem from an overly free society which chooses to ignore the rules and fear nothing.  Not even the consequences.

For myself I have found meaning in submission.  Both to my parents as I grew up, my teachers and educators.  Also my peers and others in authority like policemen, politicians and doctors.  I haven’t always agreed with their practices but I have respected their intentions as I concluded that they wouldn’t be doing their work unless they loved what they were doing.  Really loved.  Willing to giving up their own time, energy or agenda for the hope of a better outcome.  Constantly re-training and evaluating how to make streets safer, policies fairer or patients healthier.  Dedicated but not fearful.

So this is my conclusion. Love can be meaningless.  The very word ‘love’ is so often overused I wish I could find a suitable replacement for it.  I love you.  There.  I’ve written it.  But without the context of knowing about me, it is meaningless, isn’t it?  God is love.  But if you don’t actually belief in him, you can’t know him.  So you can’t know his love or be expected to respect him (another meaning for ‘fear)  yet alone ‘keep his commandments’.   But the truth is that when we respect the rules of love there is new meaning to be had.  Love is patient, love is kind, it doesn’t boast, it believes, hopes and succeeds.

I think that is what King Solomon was getting at and somehow I agree.  To be successful in love we need to find it’s meaning.  Re-write the script.  Choose my words a little more carefully.  After all love is more of a verb than a noun I think and if I believe in love I need to respond to it with action.  To love a little more deeply, speak a little more kindly, wait a little more hopefully that somehow love is understood a little more sincerely.

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Not my Gap Year!

My son is currently on a ‘gap year’ experience.  You may recognise the location from the photo.  It got me thinking.  What exactly does the phrase ‘Gap Year’ mean.  Should it refer to the ‘gap’ between the traffic as you try to keep your motorbike upright.  Or the ‘gap’ between your and the next guest snoring at some truly unknown hour in the over-crammed hostel.  It could be the ‘gap’ between teeth that another insect has decided to take a holiday in.  Or maybe the gap in your rucksack where you thought you’d stored your emergency cash.  Only to discover it’s now just a hole without the wallet.

As a parent, we might initially consider the idea of a ‘gap year’ as the space between your head where the brains used to be post 6th form.  But now replaced with the non-sense of adventure, new faces and places.  Exquisite landscapes and foreign fair.  Except, truth be told via Skype and Whats Up, that such lofty lands of dreams are also full of fear and interpretation, humiliation and inclination. To be home again!IMG_1989IMG_1990

From Vietnam to Borneo, adventurers are no longer satisfied with European history tours or following after the latest rock band. Despite the basic conveniences (including flushing ones!) and comforts the west has in abundance; why are these travellers seeking solace in the extreme.  Perhaps life here is just too easy.  Not that we’d admit this in public for all the tea in China.  (Although we might include a trip there on our ‘bucket list’).  No indeed.  We love our solar-panelled; double-glazed, twin port, docking station, steam-cleaning, on-line shopping existence of, well, isolation.

It’s just a different kind from where my son is now.  After all,  we know our neighbours and weekly work schedule.  We understand what is expected of us, normally.  How to behave, when to get somewhere and even how to get there. (Yes, I use a SatNav on occasion!). Such is the internet age that we needn’t get lost anymore. Nor run out of something or forget to go somewhere.  Because of the constant reminder of how life is. Our phones, social media, TVs, ads, shops, restaurants.   Yet sometimes this predictable life is just plain boring; isn’t it? We know our anxiety levels are governed by the proximity of gadgets when we panic if we can’t locate them after 10 minutes absence.   Yet we’re hardly ever concerned with embracing ourselves and our self-awareness can be disguised within what we have, rather than who we are.

Whereas the gap year explorers are opening their minds to new possibilities.  Expanding their limits, questioning their beliefs in themselves and those around them.  Self-reliant, not mobile-roaming but roaming-freestyle. (Though I admit that keeping in contact is very concussive to good health!)  Hearing unheard sounds.  Viewing the horizon with natural eyes and soaking up everything that goes with it.  The wind, the waves, the light and the height.  Just being there.  Lost in the moment. Maybe that’s the isolation that you and I are secretly looking for too.

Searching for something that they may not find, maybe.  But at least they are looking. Questioning the status quo is hardly dangerous in comparison with travelling around a hippy city. In fact I’ve been doing a lot of questioning myself recently.  You don’t always need a different location to do so.  Rather this ability to reflect and evaluate may simply creep up on you.  Even when you don’t invite it to.  Some folks call it mid-life crisis or otherwise.  But I’ve beginning to enjoy the company of my own thoughts.  Doubtful of the hopes and dreams I didn’t realise but still confident in the ones I did.  Therefore hopeful that new ones may be just around the corner.   It may not be my gap year yet. But perhaps I’ll go on to join the new band of ‘Grown-up Gappers’ and possibly grown up along the way!

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India

Draft

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Sundays

I was only thinking the other day how nice it is to have the time to read again.  I still remember as a small girl in plaits stopping at the library on the way home from town. My sister always seemed to know what book to look for; whereas I liked to explore, searching for new titles or interesting covers.  Even the different type faces intrigued me, straight, italic, bold or curly.  To me, reading wasn’t just about the words.  It was a whole experience; the looking, choosing, thinking and understanding.  Even the ‘quiet’ was a pleasure, like happening upon a ‘secret’ cave where only ‘special people’ were allowed.  Often my choices were based more on what I saw in the books that what I could read.  Ronald Dahl was a particular favourite, alongside C S Lewis and Enid Blyton.

Such was my enthusiasm that I rarely considered how many books I could easily carry in my satchel.  Stacking them high on the librarian’s counter I was only concerned with which one I might begin first; whilst my sister reluctantly made room in her school bag next to her ‘chosen few’ .  Consequently, I always looked forward to Sunday afternoons, when church was ‘done & dusted’ and I could recline on a full stomach of roast beef and read.

As I grew into adulthood, I used to think that  this simple pleasure had been ‘down-graded’  to ‘screen-time’ and pulp fiction.  Although I’m fortunate to have passed on the art of reading to my own sons, one of whom is studying English Literature at Uni.  They too were confined to the local library walls at at early age but soon adapted their time to realising boyhood adventures of pirates and seas.  Overcoming dragons, mystical portals, basic theology and ‘bear hunts’ and things.  An overactive imagination is not something I dreaded as a parent but rather relished.  Even now I recall their expressive faces, full of wonder and intrigue as they sat, book in hand, turning pages in their discovery.  Whilst I contemplated the car ride home, the dog to walk, supper to cook and homework to obtain from an already distracted audience.

But then came along i-books, podcasts, kindle, blogging and other social media discoveries.  Suddenly our world was saturated with so much text that simply eating for pleasure became the novelty of the day!  So this Sunday I choose to ignore the normal routine and take a walk, time to contemplate and finish reading at least one of my many stacks of books.  Being me, I couldn’t help but rhyme a few words together…

Sundays

Sunday Mornings, Fathers snoring, Church bells playing, children straying.

Sun and solitude, dog walking fortitude, jogging women, pink and slimming.

Fallen leaves under frosty trees, Dampened grass laying next to paths.  Wag of tails greeting ‘morning’ too, Though this isn’t the Sunday that I’m used to.

Busy rushing around the block, Dog on lead, watching the clock. Hastily hurry to the church on the hill.  No time to stop, yet alone be still.

Music and movement, singing and praise.  Stop for a while as a speaker cajoles, Praying and swaying, giving and gone.  Back to the quiet, the day nearly gone. 

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Scrubbers

The story of cleansing a nation of it’s culture and religion.  From ‘wash boards’ to bill boards.  Ethnic ‘cleansing/washing’.

Constant light, day & night.  Ebb & flow, twinkle, glow.

Stars that shimmer.  Light and dimmer.  Incandescent, saint & sinner.

Dark & light.  Power & might.  Rotating in turn.  One death.  One born.

A natural inclination.  Turn of a nation.  Shadows or whim.  Sinner or sin.

Devastating incubation.  Killing slow, growing whole.

Condemned, forgiven.  Insnared, misgiven.

Shaft of light, target bright.  Religious rumination.  Target – a nation.

Refusing confirmation of subconscious infestation.  Lies inconsolable. The heart now indefensible.

Eaten by horror, forever the scholar.  Machete masquerading as a gusset on a frame.  Human pride disguised in the rise to fame.

 

SMRandall

 

 

 

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‘Do not dismiss the war within, for it is pointing to the way out.  Telling you what to pay attention to and where to go.  The struggle is not to be avoided.  It is the only path out.  Listen to your heart, listen, listen.’    BB

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