Thursday, 29 March 2007

Sainsbury's Orange Carrier Bags

Perhaps I haven't been into Sainsbury's for a while, but the one thing that struck me today about my visit to the store in Harpenden was their bright orange carrier bags. Where were my large reuseable shopping bags when I needed them? I had to take two and suddenly felt, as I exited the shop, as though I had become a bright flourescent sign shouting to be seen and being an immediate advert for the store. As I walked down the street I became part of a distinctly visible line of people, all carrying bright orange bags, which disappeared into the distance. Walking across Harpenden common, a place of green and nature, the two orange bags seemd to be the most incongruous thing I could ever carry. Their presence seemed unwelcome in the landscape and their very being and requirement seemed to further separate the food within them from the earth.

Must remember to try and find out what I can do with old carrier bags - and to put my normal shopping bags in the car!

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Struggling with Evangelical Christianity

This post continues on from the previous one, Raindrops on Croft Ambrey with some notes I made in July 2005. It expresses much of a personal struggle that I was having with the Christian environment I was in.

this was a time of conscious awareness of the natural world : I was open to its being : this was the ultimate in divine awareness : beyond anything I get at ‘Christian events’ : emotive superficial candy floss : triumphal salvation pains me : it threatens my soul because it cannot relate to it : guilt and hell are imposed or implied : how can this be of God the soul asks? : this is just human egotistical plundering of the Word : domination of the masses : individuality is hidden : individuality becomes the occult : hidden : unseen : the mystery that cannot be explained by conventional thought : how do you reconcile these things? : you are being judged on the way that you perceive the world : how can ‘difference’ be forcefully unified by the cross? : why do people want you to believe and behave in a certain way? : if you break the mould you are fallen and in need of direction back onto the path : The 'MAYBE' is the key to my walk : break from fundamentalism : and embrace the unknown : the Cosmic God : embrace a healing of the world : man is destroying it : if Jesus is the only way to save it then that is a supernatural /cosmic event : if we destroy the planet we are saying we don’t care about it : we don’t respect it : we show no respect for human life : if we show no respect to the earth then that says everything is Godless : defining the earth in terms of a spiritual/Divine being is defining it as a Divine creation : if created by the Divine it has a Divine Spirit : it may not actually be God : if I make a picture, the picture isn’t me : but there must be a way of expressing the divine through it : the gaia theory goes someway to express the way that I believe all is connected : we are in some way part of a big organism : man isn’t separate from it : without the earth he would die : he has to maintain an integral part of it : through food, water, light, air etc : the earth has an in-built ability to support us : it can also kill us : there must be a balance : perhaps not a physical balance : but a balance exists that is favourable to our existence : the continuation of that balance is for us to maintain : there may well need to be catastrophes and diseases that help maintain this balance : they occur simply because the earth is made that way ; the great direction in which we move : is it beneficial to the earth or to man? : what is our motivation? : ego : self-satisfaction : can Christianity really save the human race? : not yet

the Christian problem : redemption of a fallen world : taken for granted : but is it fallen? : how de we define fallen? : the earth was created good and it maintains its goodness : humans have corrupted : they are fallen : salvation may not just be deciding to follow Christ : perhaps the greatest salvation is a personal awakening to the spirit of the earth : an awakening to the nature around us : to the people around us : to our ecology : that to me has been the greatest realisation : it has affected the soul : it has affected who I am

what do you say when you find you can’t relate to the Christian world around you : is it that you have drifted away? : or have you actually seen the light? : perhaps the greatest message of all is dying to self and rebirthing your soul : the main biblical thrust is people orientated : love : personal relationship to God : I would say I have these more strongly than ever before : but it is not through worship of Jesus : he is a gate : arms open wide : like a gate to a field : come and touch nature : or is this all heretical and off the mark? : what was the purpose of those ancient cultures in creating the biblical stories? : the stories are odd in that they are so people centered : what would the cultures gain by having a personal figure like Jesus? : as many people today are skilled in people skills and blind to nature : perhaps these stories are one-sided : perhaps they have a skewed perspective of the earth : to control people you have to have social ideologies : perhaps the stories were built around a society of people people, not nature people :

how do you go forward when you are faced with such a dilema - evangelical mainstream belief and the fear of not wanting to do anything that doesn’t fit the ‘Bible says so’ metality, and a deep soul awakening to the belonging in nature : problem : perhaps you can theorise all day long and never find the answer – only one's personal journey of reality will guide you : do you give up and meekly accept Christ and the Bible : or do you journey and seek challenges and an anticipated more enlightened way of living : making a commitment does not seem enlightening to me : perhaps it once was : now it seems inappropriate : a ‘welcome to your journey’ would be better : I want to learn more about God : I want to see more of God : but I know that my experiences and perceptions are different to those around me : either I am missing out on something obvious or else I too interpret things around me, but in a different way : perhaps my experience of God is stronger than other peoples but I view it differently : now there is a thought : I see people expressing their Christianity in terms of the biblical language before them but are they just drawing on the Bible for their foundation and belief and language :

How would Jesus be any different from popular Charismatic Christians of today? : in what sense should we be like Him? : are we supposed to get so close that we believe we live out our lives as an exact replica of His – according to the exaltations of our leaders? : we are channelled into the Bible as the only revelation of God’s word : the only direct one : so can no-one else have any way of being open to God and expressing their connection to God through their words? : woe betide anyone who falters by the wayside or walks a different path : where is the God of love in that? : perhaps the father concept : as a father disciplines his child : as I discipline Emily : discipline yes, blinker, no :

And dealing with people is my greatest burden : I seek balance : yet it can be hard to find : particularly in my work environment : I feel restricted : no freedom to be who I am : creativity is stifled : I am a slave to the computer and my work : I am in a cage and want to be free : but at the moment the necessities of family and home life mean work is essential : my soul doesn’t have the courage to break free on its own : I must ask for freedom : I must ask for guidance : I must ask for God to hold my hand :

In my struggles I must see the positive : I must see the Divine : I must see the hope : I must see the love : I must see the bigger picture : I must not criticise : I must be open : I must control the ego : I must look beyond the outer and seek the soul : I must be in touch : I must embrace the world

Raindrops on Croft Ambrey

The following was written after a walk on Croft Ambrey (a hill in Herefordshire) around 24 July 2005. The memory of the experience is still strong and this is a place to now publish what I wrote back then.

: rain and mist : an evenings walk, cool : up though the woods : standing beneath the tall Scots Pines on the promontary : mist swirls around their tops and I am at cloud level : beneath me the valley hides and then appears as waves of mist roll : the colour subdued by the clouds : I stand in the lee of the wind against solid wood : age old weathered wood : weathered by the elements on this exposed place : tall and strong : solid and secure : I hold out my arms and embrace the peace : warm : wet : the demands of time can wait : I am alone : I am at home : here I want to be : forever : this is my belonging : no desk : no computer : no demands : no worries : no fear : just peace : embraced : I could fly out : released from a weary body : held up by emptiness : but knowing freedom : the wind swirls the cloud around me : rain drops mingle with the senses : air so fresh : I ask for healing and freedom : I ask for guidance and forgiveness : I ask for being : I ask for belonging : I ask for presence : I ask for peace in my soul :

back : along the path : stop : see the pine needles, long, slender : each holding a few drops of water : diamonds almost ; small sparkles of beauty : reflecting light : formed from the mist : still and graceful : a temporary appearance of beauty : but yet visible : I have seen it : it is seen by me : and yet above and around me are hundreds of trees : this small vision of light and colour and creation is repeated across every pine needle : on every twig : on every branch : on every tree : up and beyond : out of touch : out of sight ; but existing ; unseen : a present beauty that exists repeated across an immeasurable expanse : whether observed or not by me : it is there : such divine beauty : such infinite beauty :

surrounded by the dark forest and mist shrouded trees : rain drops : all around : not just all around but an almost infinite dimensional sound around me that has no direction and no source : but total : the sound of water droplets on wood : on bracken : on bramble on stone : on wood : on leaf : sound so totally surrounding : present throughout the wood : no-one can hear it : a present sound with no observer

a profound meeting with nature : a touching of senses : a union of the mysteries of my existence and the physical natural environment : different concepts of reality : coming together : the trees and me : sharing the rain : spiritual? : it felt a deep experience : was something reaching to my soul? : was my soul creating an emotional tie with something? : a melancholic union of longing and the present : it felt more than just a pleasurable experience : it felt as though I was touching a connectedness of spirit : felt before in life, but now acknowledged : it seemed life changing : memorable : fleeting : imagined yet tangible : has the human soul power to create such an experience and perceptions? : for what purpose? : why have that sense of beauty and connection if we are in dominion? : overwhelming peace and security : this is belonging :

The next post Struggling with Evangelical Christianity continues with this.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

A Place in the Imagination

I welcome this place.

I walk through the dense trees
Ahead of me, light requests my presence
Sunlight streaming through the tall thin pines.
I enter a circle of sunlight
A place of soft grass surrounded by the darkness.
Above, the clear blue sky
Warmth welcomes the scent of pine to the air
And me, as I stand,
Alone but for the company of trees
The circling buzzard, calling
And the slight wave of the breeze
In the tallest branches.
The grass is warm
Soft to the touch of the barefoot.
I am lying, looking up at the sky
Or dancing, free as can be.

In Peace
Beauty all around
Freedom to be
Released from pain
The soul refreshed.

I give thanks for this place.

I open my eyes.

Monday, 26 March 2007

Does Nature mind litter?

I, like many people, probably hate seeing the litter and rubbish that now seems to find its way into many miles of hedgrows and ditches around where I live. In the mornings I often have the pleasure of walking around the industrial estate where I work where there are a surprising number of hedgerows, trees, fields and even a disused railway line. All the vegetation seems to act as a net to catch wind-blown litter and there is always, of course, the rubbish dumped on purpose by those who seem to have little contempt for their environment. I admit to having a vague fascination when walking of looking in hedgerows and ditches to see what people have thrown away. It disturbs me to see such waste. My response is that I wish I could forever have a supply of bin-bags and be able to clear up bit by bit whenever I am out for a walk. Practicalities make this unworkable - sofas and fridges don't really fit into bin-bags!

We want to clear up litter but, looking at the problem from a different perspective, does Nature itself see it as a problem in the same way that we do? Clearly, at an individual, micro-habitat level the effects are immediate. Plants may suffer light and water deprivation, they may get squashed to varying degrees or they may get killed. But plnats are resilient things and to them litter may be only the same effect as a fallen branch or being trampled on by a cow. They will probably adapt to the new situation and grow on as best they can. Insects, animals and other creatures will be inconvenienced to varying degrees. Rubbish may well provide an enhancement to a local ecosystem by creating, changing or enhancing microhabitats to enable more flora and fauna to grow in that location.

To our eyes, litter is an immediate pollutant. Is it any more disagreeable than a weed growing in a vegetable patch? We are probably guilty of picking up more weeds in our gardens than items of litter. To Nature litter, on a biospheric timescale, is likely to be insignificant. Much will decay in the soil within the lifespan of even a single tree. Metals and plastics will take a while longer and obviously more toxic pollutants will have their own effects.

Nature, from its concious viewpoint as a whole being (?) may just see these man-made intusions as just inconvenient - an annoying consequence of having to share the planet with with other (human) beings who are always 'gardening' Nature and the landscape. But does that absolve us of any responsibility to the environment? Can we litter and fly-tip at will? What does it matter? Is it not just a continutaion of the great cycle of creation and decay. After all, trees produce leaf 'litter' each autumn. I believe that resource extraction, consumption and disposal should be a continual process that respects the producer (Earth) at each stage. A tree does not waste energy on producing leaves that are of no intrinsic value or use to its survival - unlike man's creation and production of goods to satisfy 'wants', not needs. Throwing away rubbish disrespectfully means we don't care for the environment in that locality. It is just another way we can show our dominance and superiority over consumable items and Nature. It is about self-satisfaction. The cardboard disposable coffee cup is not now our problem. It is out of our sight, but not out of the sight of others, or for the wild arum or dogs mercury that suddenly has its sunlight blocked out.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Return of Spring

Listening to the music of Nigel Shaw in Hitchin on Saturday was an experience that went far beyond just the music itself. For a musician to make such beautiful and inspiring music from flutes made from wood around Dartmoor I am sure involves a greater sense of connection between the wood and its place in the landscape than just the desire to make music. You would have to 'feel something' for the wood and almost let it speak to you and have its own voice through the music. You become a go-between - a medium through which a tree can communicate.

I have listened to much music in the past and have usually been unable to take any interest in connecting words and music. The music itself has always been the lure - words meant very little. Now I find that in this music, words begin to have significance. I begin to find music that means more - because I understand and identify with those who write it. I was struck by the beauty and love that was showed between the two musicians (Nigel and Carolyn) and how they communicated with each other and the audience. The words and music evoked in me the sense of the loss of communication we often experience in families and communities which was, presumably, stronger in older tribes and cultures.

How can I express the voice within me that speaks from the earth?

Thank you for this day.