Saturday, 22 July 2017

The Willful Walks of Russell C.J Duffy - Book 2 - The Whispering of Grass (Chapter 3) - REVISED

*A Fisherman's Tale - St. Peter's Church*  -  *A Long and Winding Road* - *Tao and Zen*

The walk from Canewdon to Paglesham is a short one. It is just over two miles from one village to the other.  As I walk I pass those flat farmlands and fields I spoke of previously so the weather does what Britain, like New Zeland, is famous for - forever changing. When I woke a mist lay over the woodlands near where I live exemplifying John Keats immortal lines about autumn - "Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness" - those mists have gone now burnt away by a warm sun, warmer than it has a right to be for this time of year. I take my jacket off and fold it over my arm. 

The road is peppered here and there with old houses, most of them small holdings or larger farms. Opposite 'The Shepherd and Dog,' as the road forks presenting me with choices, either to keep going straight taking me back home or go left to Paglesham; I take the left going past the farm that elbows its presence onto the road. Just beyond it is what looks like an old Tudor House. I say looks like as I am unsure if it is what it appears or possibly a Victorian replica. Looking at the roof I suspect the latter which upsets me slightly. Why? I guess I had always thought it was genuine, a thing of history, but in truth it's history is shallow and fabricated. Having said that, it is still (if it is indeed Victorian) old, merely not as old as I first thought. Whatever the reality of its past it remains an interesting place.

As I walk so the clouds descend bringing with them a mizzle that soaks my hair. I pull my jacket back on then tug the hood down over my head. As I do so the rains, blessed as they are, begin to fall casting the landscape into a grey pallor. This change simply proves what I said earlier, Britain's weather is the song 'Four Seasons In One Day.' The fields beside me roll on and on. A road in the near distance snakes through this marshy land carrying the occasional vehicle. Traffic is, fortunately, small yet still, when cars approach, due to the lack of pavement, I am forced to bury myself into the hedges to enable them to pass whilst ensuring my own safety. Most drivers are courteous making a wide curve around me. Others drive past at speed caring little for me or anyone out walking.

I walk on down this road so many have travelled along recognising that a road is also journey; a road is a path yet a road is also a symbol for so much more. Another is a stream or river. The allegory is obvious; a road, path, stream, river or journey represents the passage of life. I remember a song from George Harrison that appears on his last album, 'Brainwashed,' the song is entitled 'Pisces Fish' and a line from it echo's in my thoughts.

"I'm a Pisces fish and the river runs through my soul." I don't believe in anything let alone having a soul but nonetheless understand perfectly what the former Beatle was saying. Tao teaches us this...

"Nothing in the world
is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,
nothing can surpass it.

The soft overcomes the hard;
the gentle overcomes the rigid.
Everyone knows this is true,
but few can put it into practice."

Tao Te Ching Verse 78

St. Nicholas Church, Canewdon has it witches and its ghosts. Pagelsham has them too. A retired bus driver who drove the number 10b to Churchend said, "On more than one occasion as I drove down the road after the fork to Paglesham Church End the bus would play up, all the lights would go out and the engine would stall, in front of me I would see a woman crossing the road and disappearing into the hedgerow." Spooky stuff. Such projections fascinate me. How one mechanical failure can lead to something supernatural yet always without sufficient evidence. Ghosts are great in stories but I cannot see how an energy, for that, is all a ghost could be, can appear in the world we live in. 

Another fork in the road greets me like a magician's trick. I again have to make a choice. Go on or go left? Again I go left. I'd be a mug not to as the sign tells me this way leads to Churchend. Tao again...

"All streams flow to the sea
because it is lower than they are.
Humility gives it its power."

Tao Te Ching Verse 66

The sky above me, the road before me, around me the countryside - grass and trees, plants of many kinds. Crows haunt the branches, seagulls hover on high. Heaven and Earth, one continuum but no division and yet it is division that plagues humankind. Class division, race division, gender division, political division, wealth division, religious division. It is division that curses us yet we seem unable to heal that which divides us. 

Religion is the cause of much division, specifically Monotheism.  This puzzles me for surely the three major monotheist faiths all believe in the same God? That being so would the one they worship want this division?  The Abrahamic faiths share so much, especially Judaism and Islam for theirs are faiths that embrace Socialism more than Christianity. Islam owes a great deal to the Qurayshis dislike of the way Mecca, in the seventh century, had grown so capitalist. Muhammad ibn Abdallah, praise his name, wanted to see greater equity among the rich and the poor. Islam was, and still is, a religion of equality. Yet still, these sibling faiths squabble. There have been Crusades and now there is fundamentalism. Both were wrong. Now is the time to heal those weeping wounds, to unite all faiths so they unite, as the Dalai Lama suggests, into a 'kinship of faiths.'

Once we start taking sides we instantly create division and once this wheel is in motion then those on different sides engage in sanguine acts of violence. I reject the concept of class even though I work for my living, therefore, must be a member of the working class. Who isn't these days? An elite few perhaps but even they, by and large, unless born into fantastic wealth, have to work to live? But what is class but a projection of desire aligned to wealth yet not to compassion or love? We are all one and the same.

Thought has created division for by thought alone there are those who suggest their thinking is right, is the only way. This is nonsense. Truth is a pathless land with many roads leading to the same destination. Only a fool would suggest their way was the only way.

When I first started my walks, way back in 2009, I had no idea where my path lay. I had no idea where I was treading. The point of those walks was as much to visit the county of my birth as it was, not that I fully realised it then, to seek some sort of spiritual answer to the life road I was on. George Harrison's song, "Any Road," which I included in the text of those first walks, says all that needs to be said - "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." Now I know my road, my personal path. I know all that I must do to overcome the obstacles I will face. More importantly, I know the one method by which to release the eternal within me. Meditation.

When people speak of meditation they tend to think of reflection, contemplation or deliberation or reverie, it is, of course, all those things. You should do all the above daily if you really want to understand not only yourself but life about you. Others would suggest meditation is the cultivation of the presence of God. That depends on what is meant by God. God the deity? or God the eternal? The unknowable force that exists, as does nature, is nature, isTao, without magic or mysticism? If it is the former then stick to prayer but I for one do not pray. If it is the latter then count me in. 

As I approach St. Peter's a gentleman out walking his dog greets me. It is a stereotypical foreigner's view of what typifies a Brit's favourite topic of conversation - the weather. "Awful day isn't it?" he grumbles. "I keep reminding myself we haven't had enough rain this year just to cheer myself up," I reply. "Too much bloody rain if you ask me!" He responds. He walks away with dog trotting behind. He is the Eeyore to my Tigger. Life is what you make it. It is your life to live. Passing on down the lane he leaves me free to observe the church I have walked to gaze at. Even from outside you can feel its vintage, feel its history. It is a pretty picture, a tired old gent sat down on a leafy lawn.

St. Peter's has undergone a great deal of renovation in recent years. Understandably, a church that was built in the eleventh century, having withstood the ravages of centuries, is bound to need repair. Whoever it was that worked so hard on this fabulous house of worship they should be justifiably proud of their endeavours.

The wall that hugs the land the church stands on is a leaning, a crumbling defiance of natural law. Quite how it remains upright is beyond me. The bricks that make the wall are like a squad of aged soldiers unable now to wage war but stalwart in their duty to protect the graveyard and St.Peter's from those who would do it harm.

Slightly younger than its brother in Ashingdon, St. Peter's was built some nine hundred years ago. It is thought to have been a church site long before medieval times though with another building here before it. It is small yet larger than that of St. Andrews.  I enter it now and instantly feel two things. The first is a sense of being within a place far older than anyone I know living or dead. This strikes me as odd as my paternal Grandfather would have been ten when Jack the Ripper committed his heinous deeds. The other is a deep sense of not being alone. I know this is my mind projecting sensations into it but nonetheless, the longevity of this place creates myths of the many who would have worshipped here before. It is both foreboding and fantastic. The thought of Catholic priests from centuries ago is mind-boggling. We Brit's hold our history in high regard often presenting it as 'on-up-man-ship' to our American cousins but, imagine if you will how an Indian or Chinese must feel when they enter a Hindu or Buddhist temple dating back not one thousand years but two. 

There is a house nearby, wooden slated in the traditional Essex way. The whitewashed walls pale like the face of an elderly woman's powdered face. The roof slopes down bending slightly in the middle.  The tiles resist rain, wind and snow and have done for years beyond recent memory. What must it be like to live in such a place? History drips from the eaves with each rainfall.

The grey day folds in around me as mist meets rain which turns to a fine drizzle. The flat fields shun the daylight preferring a ghost veil that descends silently. Life goes on here as it does everywhere on this planet, our planet, our mother who nurtures us even when we abuse her. The climate is changing of that there can be no doubt yet still there are those who deny and dispute the facts. The Domesday clock is set at two and half minutes to midnight. "Knowledge is a deadly friend when in the hands of fools," more so when nuclear war is again threatening the lives of not only humankind but all creatures sharing this planet of ours. "You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here." A right we time and again abuse as though we were the gods of this new age, as though we, with our weapons of mass destruction, have replaced the old gods, the old faiths with a new, more complacent god, a new self-centered faith, as we worship at the altar of avarice.

I turn away from St.Peter's and retrace my steps. Along the way I pass another house built long ago, its brick crumbling as its foundations defy the ravages of time. Now I am heading toward Stambridge, now I am heading toward St. Mary's and All Saints.
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

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