Tag Archives: philosophy

Fear

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

(Litany against Fear, from Dune, by Frank Herbert)

I spent most of my childhood afraid. I was terrified of pretty much everything – fire, water, heights, enclosed spaces, strangers, electricity, the dark. More amusingly (looking back now) I was also frightened of mummers, topless men and men with beards! (Well and truly over all of that.) Then there were the existential ones – death, eternity, oblivion, god, infinity and the distance between stars had me panic stricken too. I had a lot of nightmares as a child. Looking back, I’m not sure why I was so frightened, but the world seemed a dangerous, troubling place and I had no sense of how to face any of it.

Growing up, I learned to cope – to swim, to strike matches. I’m still nervous on ladders and claustrophic, but the rest I’m ok with. Especially topless men with beards… well, topless man (but I digress).

 Fear makes people stupid. I know, I’ve lived with it enough. Fear makes it hard to think or act well, it makes us overly cautious, and sucks the joy out of life. Existence is laden with risk, the only certainty is death, but fear, as the litany says, is the mind killer.

How do we release fear and live without its influence? I can share what I’ve been through, it may work for others. The first stage for me was learning (mostly this late spring) how not to imagine the worst. If I spend my time imagining every possible thing that could go wrong, then all I do is watch for the signs of doom, and fret that I’ve missed something to look for. It doesn’t actually help and makes me miserable.

The next stage, for me, has been learning to trust – primarily myself, but also the people around me. I have learned to trust that I am fast on my feet, think well, that I know what I want and can react to setbacks accordingly. Things have not gone my way much this summer, but I roll with the punches as best I can, and then I get up and try the next forward move. Knowing what I need has enabled me to be very calm about everything else. I could lose my home, potentially. I could lose the way of life I have created if I am forced to up sticks. But so long as I have my child, and my bloke, I can work around that. I know I won’t lose my friends. The physical objects that matter to me, I could carry out of here in one go. I know that I can and will do whatever proves necessary, and that helps me not to be afraid of what the future holds.

I have also learned to trust myself in the sense of coming to understand that I am a decent enough person, and that I do my best. I accept that sometimes I will fail or fall short, I’m human, we do that sometimes. Most of the time that will not in fact cause the world to end. I’ve lived a long time being afraid of making mistakes or causing harm through lack of due care and attention. But it’s very hard to learn or strike out in new directions if you don’t have the freedom to make mistakes. Its difficult to live fully and happily if you devote an excess of energy to fretting over every possible slight you might cause. Sometimes, people take offence. I have learned to live with that, and to accept that I cannot please everyone all of the time.

The fear has passed, and only I remain.

Duty

I was going to write about working with owl spirits, but my life is in such turmoil, my heart and mind the same – I don’t know what I can usefully offer. Duty is an issue going round in my head. Let’s work round to that.

So, I’ll start with gratitude for you dear people who have been sharing the journey with me, who have offered words of kindness and support. You keep me going, and you make worlds of difference. Things are hard here. A year ago I’d have believed the things being said of me, and would have sunk under the weight of it. Love and friendship have enabled me to see myself in new ways, as a person who merits care and respect, as all people should, really.

Yesterday I encountered the full force of another person’s hatred, the malice so intense it felt like a physical assault. I still feel sick and bruised from that. I was accused of poisoning my son’s mind. I know enough to be sure I have not. I also resent the implication that he would fall for a load of unsupported lies just because I fed them to him. My son is a thoughtful, empathic sort of person, which is why he’s had enough of current circumstances as well. Now the blame and venom seems to be heading his way too, and that I will not tolerate. I’d put up with a lot for his sake, but I won’t sit by and see him wronged in this way.

I do have a duty of care where my son is concerned. I take that very seriously. Children are not able to make many of the big decisions that shape their lives, and they need to learn. An adult who has brought a new person into the world has a duty of care, and an obligation to put the child’s needs first.

I have duty where I have made promises and commitments – at loveyoudivine, the druid network, my folk club, Bards of the Lost Forest. None of these are necessarily binding for life, so long as I am clear about what is happening, I can step away if I need to. I do as I said I would. Duty born of dedication, loyalty and a bit of enlightened self interest – I give of myself here because I enjoy it.

I have generally felt that where people are acting honourably and doing their best, I have a duty to co-operate with that to the best of my ability. But I think it is also true that I have a duty not to co-operate with abuse, cruelty, dishonour, disloyalty, and other such wrongs. I have a moral obligation not to support folks who are behaving badly. If, through inaction, I gave the impression at all that I accepted such behaviour, that would be a dereliction on my part. While I feel I have a duty to treat all around me with care and respect, this has to be balanced against the duty not to facilitate wrongdoing.

It is so easy to stay silent, to do nothing, to let atrocious behaviour go unremarked, unchallenged. Not good enough. I have to do better on that one. I also have to take into account that I am a person too, and I should not allow anyone to treat me in a way I would find intolerable were it directed elsewhere.

So I learn, and I fine tune my notions of right and wrong, and, having drawn breath, I get back to trying to sort out the turmoil. Thank you, all of you who are travelling with me, all who have offered quiet words and companionship.

No Princess

Most little girls want to be princesses. I didn’t. I can remember being a small girl, and rather horrified by the idea of aspiring to be a spoiled brat who gets married off to some prince where that’s supposed to be your life. I wanted to be Peter Pan, or Maid Marion. I wanted to have adventures, and aside from sitting round waiting to get rescued, princesses were the object of the quest, not the person on it. What troubled me most was the knowledge that princesses have servants to do everything for them. Even as a child, it seemed to me that wasn’t luxury, but a loss of freedom.

The kind of power and influence money brings has an unreality to it. The more we seek to ‘free ourselves from drudgery’ the more removed we become from the simple reality of existing, and there is much to miss out on. Yes, we can own things by buying them, but that is a hollow possession and nothing compared to the kind of ownership that comes from doing. There is a reality to taking care of things, to cleaning, mending, hanging washing on the line. If Harper Collins decide to offer me an obscene advance for my work, I’m still going to be doing my own cleaning and taking care, because it grounds me, and I know it is good for the soul.

If we put work of inherent value first, and work of a monetary value second, everything changes. There are a lot of people whose jobs really don’t add anything to the world, folk who make money by moving it around on paper (costing others a fortune every now and then). There are industries devoted to selling is yet more useless, pointless tat. While money is treated as the most important thing, such jobs seem to have a justification, they give buying power, status and so forth. You too can be a princess and have some other Cinderella to sweep your floors.

When we prize skill, and value the things we can do for ourselves – not for what it costs or saves, but for the independence and ownership it brings – how different the world becomes. Someone decided that the best sort of work doesn’t get your hands dirty and allows you to pay other people to deal with our basic needs. We want to get away from the cleaning of home and clothing, from the preparation of food and the cleaning that generates, from all the things that are ‘dirty’. Who dictated that as being the right way to live, and why do we persist in swallowing it without a second thought?

Dirt is real. Dirt is life. Dirty work is quite often a lot more useful and sustainable than the meaningless jobs we are convinced are worth millions. We should be focused on the work, and innovation that adds beauty, viability, and quality to life.

Taking care of a thing creates relationship. Paying someone else to do it, does not. I know my kitchen floor well, I scrubbed it this morning. It knows me. In that process, I found the material for this blog, and the memory of my childhood self, appalled by princesses. This house fits comfortably around me and feels like a refuge, because I give it my time, energy and love. Money is no substitute for that. The same is true of human relationships – you can buy your way through them and use cash as a substitute for care, plenty of people do. That costs far more than it gives. Sure, you can pay someone else to raise your children, but in what sense will they be your children? Pay someone else to do your garden, your cleaning, and you lose some of your own relationship with the place. Spirit is not much affected by the spending of money. Tangible actions born of love are what count.

I’m not a princess, I’m a peasant. Always was and always will be. I’m proud of that, and I like the life it gives me.

Coughing Up Bones

Owls swallow things whole and later cough up the indigestible bits. There is a lot of owl in my psyche, and I’ve been swallowing things whole for a lot of years. I hadn’t worked out how to cough up the hard, spiky, unusable stuff. Until now. How to hold my sense of self and not continually swallow the expectations, demands and criticism of others. I want to learn from my mistakes, I want to be a better sort of person but that does not mean everyone who criticises me is right and should be heeded. That actually took a lot of figuring out. There are people for whom I will never be enough, do enough, give enough or accept enough crap from them to make them happy. No amount of swallowing the bones can turn those into good relationships. Time to follow the way of the owl, and cough up what I cannot digest.

I don’t know if I would have got here by myself. The support of people who not only love me for who I am, for all of it, but celebrate how I am, relish my nature, my emotions and so forth, changes everything. Seeing myself reflected in the eyes of people who love me, value me, makes me see things anew. Makes me question the need to swallow bones.

I’ve spent a lot of my time seeking affection and approval, willing to jump through any hoop, any kind of conditional requirements because I didn’t think I was worth much. I spent too many years being told that my unhappiness stemmed from my inability to appreciate what I’d got. Asking for more led to recriminations, how could I not see how much I was getting? How could I be so unreasonable as to want more? I should be giving more. I apologised, so many times, for being unhappy, soul hungry for things I did not know how to name. I did a lot of trying to live with less, want less, ask for less. It didn’t help, and I came to feel that any request for care or assistance was too big an ask. I’ve spent the last year learning different ways of being. With love, care and respect in my life, inspiration and kindness, I am not soul hungry any more.

Everybody has faults and failings. Everybody makes mistakes. To love someone is to accept their imperfection and to talk through gently where needs or ideas conflict. I love my child. I am trying to help him grow, and that means that I have to tell him when he isn’t on the right track. I do so as gently as I can, I support him in working out how to do better, and that doesn’t damage his self esteem. Instead, it helps him grow and there is a lot of trust between us. I’ve watched how my beloved Tom has supported me this last year, with patience, listening as I work things through. I needed to grow and change. He has nurtured me and helped me flourish, never clipped my wings or wounded my heart. I am a work in progress. As I learn, I try to find better ways of being and giving.

If you focus on criticism and picking up where a person is wrong, then that can come to define a relationship. The parent who only pays attention to a child to yell at them for mistakes is not helping them develop into a rounded and functional person. The same is true in any relationship. No one is perfect. Everyone needs to be encouraged, to have positive reinforcement for the things they do right. A barrage of criticism pushes people away from each other, and seldom fixes anything. Be kind where you can. Listen. Take an interest. Be as patient as you are able. Everyone has the scope to be learning and growing, we can support each other in that if we choose. If all someone does is pile on blame and criticism, there is no requirement to swallow that whole or to keep it inside and be cut up by the sharpness of it. Coughing up the bones is a liberating process, currently I am learning to see what is not me, and what I do not need to own. There is a new kind of peace in my heart. I accept that I’m not going to please everyone, that in fact I don’t have to please everyone. If who I am is not enough for someone else, I’m not morally obliged to take that personally and strive to be more for them. It is my desire to be an honourable person, to act well and with care and respect. There is only so much you can do when that isn’t reciprocated.

This morning, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the sheer loveliness of my child, and the soul-deep gorgeousness of my lover. Between them, they have changed how I see myself, and how I understand the world as a consequence. They love me as I am. I will strive to be better because I want to, but they love me as I am. Blessed with that, I do not need to swallow any more spiky meals from people who never wanted me as I am. I cough up the bones.