Forgive these feet their desire to walk; to walk when it rains, to walk when it shines. It isn't the solitude, although I confess to liking my own company, nor is it just the history of my homeland that I learn as I tread these roads but rather the connection to nature as I pass field and tree, stream and boggy path. The wild-wood woes me. I stand transfixed beneath its canopy, aware of the crows as they stare silently at this wandering flaneur. What must they make of me? Like starched priests, they observe me as I stand in a rough-house way leaning against a tree meditating. Such a calm descends that I feel myself merging with nature, with life, with the world at large. It is a wonderful feeling as reality returns.
My walks from one local church to another feed me information, history and an odd sense of calm but they are not the only walks I take. I also take my son's dog, Smudge for walks over the local fields. I say I take him yet, in reality, he takes me. We both know who the real boss is. I recall Thumbscrew's birth and my thinking she was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen and how I doubted I could ever love another child the way I loved her. I have four children and two grandchildren and I love them all the same. Love is large. It is so large it expands to encompass a wide variety of people. We live to love and to be happy and at this moment I am filled with both.
When Cookie died, our black Welsh Border Collie, I thought I could never love another canine the way I did him. I still love him even though he is dead. Death is the physical end yet how when the shell ages then dies, can the life-force that exists in all things simply fade away? Now I love Smudge. Not in place of the deceased Cookie but as well as. Animals are family too.
|Smudge studying a squirrel|
|Cookie looking almost Alsatian|
This walk is unlike the others. There are no churches to visit just a vast cathedral to stand in, a cathedral that is available to all who pass through for it is nature, it is Tao. Yet Tao lies within you as it does without you. I don't need to walk through it to be part of it. I can sit in meditation and let it enter me.
"Without opening your door,
you can open your heart to the world.
Without looking out of your window,
you can see the essence of Tao.
The more you know,
the less you understand.
The Master arrives without leaving,
sees the light without looking,
achieves without doing a thing."
We are the world. We are as much a part of the universe as the trees and the stars, the blade of grass that shivers with the breeze that passes. Listen to your breath. It comes from your lungs as if from the bellows of the galaxy. Listen to your heart for it is the centre of the universe.
This walk begins as it always does with Smudge dragging my sorry arse down what feels like a tunnel. It is in fact, a footpath trod by many feet overshadowed by a wealth of trees that beg you to follow them. All around are sounds; birds singing, a distant train rumbling by, horses whinnying, a walker trudging across another path, a dog barking, the wind ruffling the leaves in the trees. It is the sound of life blessing us as we walk, dog and man, canine and hominid. It is living by being rather than living by trying.
I am not, even though some have suggested I am, Buddhist. Not regular Buddhist nor Zen. I have a lot of time for that philosophy and subscribe to many of their views, primarily meditation, but regular Buddhism has nearly as much ritual as Catholicism and I am don't see the need. Zen has more appeal as it appears to be a merger of Buddhism with Tao. I am not Zen yet admire their minimalist approach. Also, while I see Tao as having great wisdom and as an overall practice worth taking on board, I am not Taoist. I am none of the above yet steal slices of what I feel is right for me to help with my personal philosophy, my own spirituality.
When asked if I am spiritual I always answer by saying 'define spirituality.' If the reply suggests believing in deities, magic or mysticism then I am categorically not spiritual. If, however, spirituality means recognising that I am a part of something far greater than myself and seeking to find my place, with love and compassion for others, in this universe then I am deeply spiritual. I seek to better myself, to work away at all my faults by releasing my positive nature until my negative side becomes a diminishing island in an ocean of calm.
Bollocks? Bullshit? I don't think so. We all are guilty of having done something bad so there is no sense of my attempting redemption, no self-seeking, self-possessed absorption in myself but rather a desire to find happiness. Not short lived pleasure as found with orgasm or eating chocolate or listening to music but a deep satisfaction at being alive.
The job I now do is the worst paid job I have ever undertaken. Paradoxically, it is also the most rewarding job I have ever done. I drive people with Special Needs from their homes to school and back again. Note, I said 'people with Special Needs.' I did not say Special Needs people. No one would say I am a diabetic person. All they would say is this person has diabetes. I think it wrong to categorise people as being 'this or that' person. We are all people and we all have needs. These people I drive are no different even if their needs are greater than mine.
One of the girls I drive to school is brain damaged, blind, partially deaf, unable to talk, unable to walk, unable to go to the lavatory and has to wear a nappie (diaper). She wasn't born like this. She was born perfectly healthy. Her mother shook her so violently that the cause and effect are evident now. Naturally, I feel a deep sadness for this teenage girl who will never run, dance, fool around with boys, go to 'Frankie and Bennys' yet neither will I condemn, as my first instinct was, her birth mother. Who the hell am I to judge without knowing why this woman did what she did? What drove her to such a pitch that she irrevocably damaged her child in such a way?
The pressures of modern day life are horrendous. Bills need paying. Minimum wages are now the norm. The rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer. Pity the pragmatist for their lack of morals for it is morals we need not a practicality that enables the few rather than the many.
All any of us can do is to change ourselves for the better. By doing that society will inevitably change. That is fact. Yet still, we shuffle along accepting second best for ourselves. If we want a better world, a more loving caring world then first we need to make that change.
The sacred and the profane.
The heavenly and the mundane.
All things are one and the same.
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.