Thursday, 24 January 2013

A Merry Dance

I woke up in the middle of the night  to hear an interview via American Public Radio with Dr Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon and death survivor.

There are a lot more of us around since modern medicine evolved into something that worked...

I  was three when my 'Near Death Experience' (NDE)  happened. Of course I appreciated it with a three year olds consciousness - accepting everything that happens as ' this is how it is' having no concept at all of dying, death or an afterlife. I thought nothing of it, woke up from a coma, regained my sight, learned to walk again, and pretty soon, led my parents a merry dance as I made the most of my newly acquired celebrity status.

'You were dying,' my mother said, 'And God gave you back to us.' Interesting, I thought. It never occurred to me to question who God was, I just  felt something flutter inside, and a need to say, Thank you! ' For hadn't God just given me back to the people I loved most in all the world?

I recall as sensation,  the time I spent elsewhere. Light, love, colour, security, and most overwhelmingly, JOY.

I knew others were there, or rather that I was not alone, but I didn't see anyone, or remember doing anything but chasing bubbles and laughing, laughing, laughing... . Dr Alexander's account in 'Proof Of Heaven' (2012)  is a full account of an NDE, that is more typical than mine, written with the objective edge of a scientist.

However, I didn't embark on this  to attempt to persuade you to believe in the incredible - if it hadn't happened to me, I wouldn't believe it either - but to record what my mother tucked behind the clock on the mantelpiece.

I rapidly graduated from little celebrity to little horror. My long-suffering parents were advised by the hospital not to allow me to get upset, as my repairing brain might rupture a second blood vessel, and I  soon realised that I could do anything and get away with it.

Finally, my desperate mum and dad took me back to the doctor to find a solution to the problem of Mary. I remember it! How old was I? Five or six, I think. Young enough to be gullible.

The doctor listened to the list of my misdemeanours with a solemn expression, then slowly reached for a pad and a pen. Do you know, I have just recalled how fascinated I was watching him scrawl  across the page, the first time I ever saw a left-handed writer. Black ink, real ink, from a gold-rimmed fountain pen.

With a flourish, Dr Morris tore the sheet from the pad.

'This Mrs Cook,' he declared, solemnly, looking straight at me, 'Is a prescription for a cane...'

From that day on, whenever I drove my mum to her tether's end, all she had to do, was point to the clock on the mantelpiece... .

Friday, 18 January 2013

Snow Day

saw all this white space ... And

Being a poet, it seemed proper to
Fill it with words.

Feathery, floating words that rest on the tongue
Like frozen sherbert

And melt away like poetry

When inspiration fades.

I gathered up a thesaurus of winter
Compressed it into a world the size of my hand
And laughed aloud as I

Threw it into the sky.

A frozen firework, , it exploded over my head

And fell to earth as soft, white flakes... .

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Carl Sagan

Dr. Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot
View of Earth from space
"That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you have ever heard of, where every human being who ever was lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there - on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam...

Like it or not, for the moment, the earth is where we make our stand. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to prerserve and cherish the pale blue dot...the only home we've ever known."

Thursday, 10 January 2013


Hubris. I have one friend who will be able to tell me whether I should be using 'Nemesis' instead, (Good Morning, Iris!) but hey! I shall stick with hubris for the moment.

I have been ill. Not seriously, just ill enough to discount all my blessings and do a little wallowing in self-pity, with a side order or regretting past mistakes, and a huge helping of wanting what I can't have.  I am a whisker away from harming others, if tongue-lashing my husband for his shortcomings counts, and he would say that it does. In short, I write breezily about resisting these activities as a waste of life, just days before reaching for all of them as a palliative for a minor stomach upset. Brought on, I confess, by a surfeit of left-over Christmas goodies: Don't feel sorry for me.

I have to laugh. I get to this point, from time to time, when I begin to believe my own publicity. 'Oh look at you,' I tell myself admiringly, 'You have it all together. So erudite, so compassionate, so wise!'


I ought to stop there, but the urge to make something out of my experience for the benefit of  humankind is just too irresistible.

I sat with someone with real problems yesterday. We talked about the Higgs Boson, the ludicrous antics of our government, the state of Israel, the raving lunacy  of fundamentalists ( He a Jew, I a Roman Catholic) and we laughed at it all.

Sitting down with a cup of tea and giving away time didn't cure his depression or my stomach ache, but afterwards, we both felt a little bit lighter.

We salvaged a moment.

Monday, 7 January 2013

If You Know What A Ciborium Is - Read On!

I went on a pilgrimage yesterday. You see, Fr Aidan was taken ill on his way to say Mass in a nearby village, so Sylvana and I, both Ministers of Communion, took Jesus to our sister- congregation.  I drove, Sylvana cradled the ciborium and we enjoyed a time of solemn joy in the presence of God.

These are rare moments - those of allowing the privilege of faith bring me close to 'Other'. They are also indescribable, so I'll not try.  Not today anyway.

Our duty discharged, and with an empty ciborium, Sylvana and I used the journey back to talk.

I have to be careful. Sylvana is a 'cradle Catholic' and would be shocked at some of what I think and say and do. I strive to be authentic, without stirring the pot. Cowardice? Consideration? About 60/40. Maybe 70/30.

Sylvana is a truly good woman, which I most certainly am not,. She is French, born in Marseilles, raised in Egypt, and has a heart that embraces the world. She has a fundamentalist attitude to the scriptures that, if unchallenged by her heart, can be troublesome. I always come away from conversations with Sylvana worrying that I may, in order to keep the peace, have compromised my principles. I do right to worry.

So as an act if penance, I copy below Fr Richard Rohr's meditation for today, which often seems to be saying just what I want to say. So- for the Sylvanas everywhere:

Seven Underlying Themes: Richard Rohr's Teachings

Fundamentalism”Misses the Fundamental

My dear friend, Dr. Gerald May, made a distinction years ago that I have found myself using frequently. He says spirituality is not to encourage willfulness, but in fact willingness. Spirituality creates willing people who let go of their need to be first, to be right, to be saved, to be superior, and to define themselves as better than other people. That game is over and gone; and if you haven’t come to the willing level—“not my will but Thy will be done” as Jesus says (Matthew 26:39)—then I think the Bible will almost always be misused.
I would like to say that the goal in general is to be serious about the Scriptures. We have often substituted being literal with being serious, and they are not the same! (Read that a second time, please). The point I would like to make is that literalism is not to take the text seriously at all! Pure literalism in fact avoids the real impact, the real message.Literalism is the lowest and least level of meaning in a spiritual text. Willful people use Scripture literally when it serves their purposes, and they use it ‘figuratively’ when it gets in the way of their cultural biases; willing people let the Scriptures change them instead of using them to change others.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Living In Sin

I thought, for most of my life, that  the word 'sin' meant, literally, 'wallowing in filth' or, frankly, worse. I was amazed to discover that the meaning is a term borrowed from the butts, and means, 'missing the mark' . Picture with me, an archer aiming for the circle at the centre of the target, and not hitting it.  It's evident that when it's missed, it's missed, whether by a fraction of an inch, or a mile.

I find this comforting. To extend the metaphor, it seems to me, to make amends, all you have to do, is  to sigh deeply, walk  around picking up spent arrows for a bit, charge the quiver, and take aim once more.

There's no wallowing in mud, or drowning in self pity or holding oneself in a perpetual state of unforgiveness, stances I find some of my Faith Full friends in pretty much all the time. Do I not take 'sin' seriously then? I do, I really do. Not because I live my life by 'A Things To Don't List', but because doing harm to myself and others ( a good description of sin if you don't possess a bow and arrow) doesn't make me happy.

Shock. Horror. What an utterly selfish point of view! Yup. I have discovered that if I'm unhappy, I am more likely to head for the Things To Don't List and begin working on a few of the items in earnest. I will spare you the details, I might make you blush.

The Christ knew this.

'Love your neighbour as you love yourself.'

Give yourself a break, throw away the Things To Don't List and start picking up the arrows. Some times you'll hit the mark, sometimes you won't. So what?

I must still be thinking of what Charlie Chaplin didn't say on his seventieth birthday.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013


I am a Type Two on the Enneagram, which means  I drive  others to distraction by my insistence on helping them. I warn my friends to keep their distance or, 'I will help you to death.' But what the heck, it's the day before my New Year's Resolution to be less helpful kicks in, so I'm going to help you all by telling you what you need to do to be happy.

You see I know a lot of people who aren't happy at all, and I think this is rather a shame. Whatever our destination ( or lack of one, depending on your position) after we quit this existence, there will be no more of what we have now, and really, it's all too wonderful to waste. And you do, you know. Waste it.

Every moment that you spend:

Regretting past mistakes
Wanting something you don't need and can't have
Wallowing in self-pity
Handing out pain to others
Worrying about circumstances beyond your control
Doing things that bring you no joy

Is a wasted moment. 

Don't be a villain, or a victim.  I think that's what I 'm getting at. If you can read this, you are certainly in the top ten percent of the world's population with regard to wealth. Yes, really! There are THAT many desperately impoverished people in the world. Am I now going to tell you to give it all away and become virtuously miserable? No. I'm going to tell you to start enjoying what you have. Stop a moment, frequently, and allow yourself the luxury of feeling good about yourself. For yourself. 

Stop beating yourself up about this and that. I'm sure you could be a lot better if you tried, but, believe me if you don't give yourself time to feel the pleasure of living, you aren't going to want to try.  Be glad.

The rest of what I want to say, just to be helpful, you understand, is as well said, with little effort on my behalf, in the text below: Let it help.

Kim & Alison McMillen (2001)

(Sometines, wrongly, attributed to Charlie Chaplin)

As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering
are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth.
Today, I know, this is "AUTHENTICITY".

As I began to love myself I understood how much it can offend somebody
As I try to force my desires on this person,
even though I knew the time was not right and the person was not ready
for it,
and even though this person was me.
Today I call it "RESPECT".

As I began to love myself I stopped craving for a different life,
and I could see that everything that surrounded me was inviting me to
Today I call it "MATURITY".

As I began to love myself I understood that at any circumstance,
I am in the right place at the right time,
and everything happens at the exactly right moment.
So I could be calm.
Today I call it "SELF-CONFIDENCE".

As I began to love myself I quit stealing my own time,
and I stopped designing huge projects for the future.
Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, things I love to do
and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in my own
Today I call it "SIMPLICITY".

As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for
my health -
food, people, things, situations, and everything the drew me down and
away from myself.
At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism.
Today I know it is "LOVE OF ONESELF".

As I began to love myself I quit trying to always be right,
and ever since I was wrong less of the time.
Today I discovered that is "MODESTY".

As I began to love myself I refused to go on living in the past and
worry about the future.
Now, I only live for the moment, where everything is happening.
Today I live each day, day by day, and I call it "FULFILLMENT".

As I began to love myself I recognized that my mind can disturb me
and it can make me sick.
But as I connected it to my heart, my mind became a valuable ally.
Today I call this connection "WISDOM OF THE HEART".

We no longer need to fear arguments, confrontations or any kind of
with ourselves or others.
Even stars collide, and out of their crashing new worlds are born.
Today I know "THAT IS LIFE"!

Source:, acess Dec 16 2009