276. Cherry Tree Gardens

For around seven days each April, our road in Great Waltham is transformed. Maybe 20 or so cherry trees come into blossom, transforming into still fountains of the purest colour. It is eye-catchingly beautiful, surreal, comforting, and animistic in ways that I think Vincent Van Gogh would have understood.

Perhaps I’m getting carried away. Here’s how some of it looks. Starting a few days ago, finishing in the now.

 

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275. Down to Essex

 

OUT OF ESSEX – CHAPTER 39

 

 

A little too much anger, too often or at the wrong time, can destroy more than you would ever imagine

Marilynne Robinson

 

 

Mike Burper rubbed his eyes. Had a cat laughed? He never fell asleep on watches. The wall clock said 3.30 a.m. Stretching, he stood, and walked to the open café door facing the lake and field. A low rumble came from across the water, where the cricket pavilion glowed under a blood moon.

Crossing the bridge, he saw yellow shapes moving. It almost looked as if two excavating machines were steadily ploughing up the park’s massive vegetable allotments. It really looked like jagged buckets were swinging teeth-first into the rows of planted trenches, heaving away a yard of soil each time.

He broke into a run. “What the fuck are you playing at?” he shouted repeatedly at the digger operators. Hoping other residents would hear, Mike didn’t see the outstretched leg, saw only the ground speeding toward him. Breathless, he watched a dark boot kick his face.

***

 

God caught the movement on her screens before Mike awoke. She identified the machines – JCB’s JS360 range – as they went about destroying Dave’s Field.

Human history was littered with such moments.

Sending in Maggie would not change the bigger picture. But might be interesting. To assess lessons learned. To ascertain soul readiness.

 

***

 

Akash woke Maggie. She pulled on her whites, grabbed her sports bag. Jesus waited for her outside Heaven’s door.

Inside, they watched the destruction, before God asked if Maggie was ready. She was thrilled her mission had begun. “Am I going alone?” she asked, as a temporary portal down to Southchurch Park was prepared. “You will know what to do,” said Jesus, tucking something hard into her pocket.

She felt herself spin, vision warping. Stomach turning somersaults. Light broke into spectrums of colour, folded back in on itself. Then she was face down in moist soil, head and solar plexus swamped with nausea. Her hand reached instinctively, withdrawing the metal flask and unscrewing the top. She had no idea the tipple was Laphroaig. But enjoyed the sweet warmth, sweeping away physical discomfort.

In the darkness, Maggie listened. She raised herself, and began a stumbling run away from the tennis courts, around the western end of the lake. Movements on Dave’s Field clarified. She broke into a sprint.

 

***

Alex had been gliding at will over green landscape. When the discordant noise hijacked the dream, old training kicked in. Pulling away from Claire’s hip, he sat up and pulled on his boots. “Stay here until I come back,” he whispered. In seconds he was outside, quietly zipping his fleece.

Claire had re-pitched the tent east of the café, south of the lake, as the park moved towards a fuller agricultural mode. Using trees as cover, Alex gained the edge of the field and lay flat. A dozen darkly clad figures were loosely grouped around two swivelling and gouging JCBs.

“Who are these shits?” said a soft voice alongside. “They’re not police,” Alex told Satan. “You can spot regimentation when a bunch of coppers work together. These are freer spirits, probably mercenaries, and will think nothing of killing any of us.”

They watched Burper lay 80 yards away, holding his face, while a figure dressed in black pinned him down with one foot. “They remind me of Blackwater mercenaries in Iraq,” whispered Alex. “Nasty bastards, working multiple psy-ops for the CIA. Those guys go by a new name now, Greystone.”

Satan watched JCB treads and teeth continue to mash up the vegetable beds, thinking of Dave Dawson. A figure rushed silently from nearby trees, blond hair flying as he threw himself at another dark invader. The figure stepped aside and smashed Howard’s shoulder with a cosh. The assailant scanned around; pulled the balaclava tighter. The Welsh lad lay screaming, collarbone shattered.

“Can we do anything practical,” asked Satan. Instinct told him everything here was ending.

“Get everybody, the whole park, to the café. Nothing else has happened to Mike or Howard, so assume these fuckers are here to destroy the field.” Alex sounded confident. “We could do with photos of the diggers, using phones, from a distance. And call an ambulance and the police.”

 

***

Through the tiny cameras installed long ago on streetlights around the park, George viewed the destruction. Dan’s recent blog had stirred and riled him, particularly the notion that these communities could undermine political and monetary systems, and that Britain’s elite were up to their necks in ritual child abuse.

Without the clans’ control of mainstream media, and the elimination of various individuals, like the Dando woman, that connection would have been made time and time again. The children that went missing and were never found. It was time to review the freedom of speech the Internet offered.

 

***

Jesus had coached Maggie. “Until now, you have typically planned your actions based on past experiences,” he had said, when steering her from the stinking minotaur to a nearby shower. “As your soul awakens, you will increasingly act only when a thought or intention arises naturally. Listening to your body and responding to instincts, spontaneously.”

The process was incremental. For encouragement, he described the nature of complete freedom. “You will begin to stand in a dimensional crossover, both in and outside the physical plane. At times, the frequency will place you beyond the eye’s normal visual range.”

Unaware this was already the case, Maggie increased her speed, deciding in a nano-second to unleash a venomous kick at the chest of the nearest man in black. The consequence turned the heads of several of his colleagues. Three of them ran across, but his heart had already stopped. Each fell to the ground, their windpipes now smashed by invisible fingers.

God looked at Jesus. They shook their heads. “What did you hope for Mum?”

“Maybe a few broken legs, and a non-murderous cessation to this carnage.”

 

***

Satan’s phone lit up outside Sheena’s tent. He had asked her help in assembling everybody at the café. “Get her back. NOW!” said the message. Who was God referring to? “And tell Gandhi to be at Kent Elms Corner at 5.30.”

Ruth and Steph appeared through the darkness, bleary-eyed, followed by others. Suddenly a metallic grinding assaulted the night air. “Get to the café, everybody,” shouted Sal. He raced back to the field, through the bordering trees, out into the open. Alex was holding Howard’s shoulder. Burper was sitting up, head in his bloodied hands. Dark bodies strewn around the field resembled corpses.

The noise erupted again, from the remnants of the allotments. He turned to see a mangled JS360 swing through the air of its own volition, faster and faster, pivoting furiously around the end arm and bucket that somehow stood vertically. As if unseen hands rotated a lasso for an almighty throw.

The machine knifed through the air into its smashed partner for a second time. Metal embraced, grinded and rejected. Satan watched, fascinated.

Then he understood.

“Maggie: that’s enough,” he yelled through the darkness. “God wants you to stop.” She took four seconds to materialise, while he looked around in silent goodbye. “We’re taking a short motorbike ride.”

 

274. Spring

OUT OF ESSEX – CHAPTER 38

 

 

Spring drew on…and a greenness grew over those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces of her steps.
Charlotte Brontë

 

 

 

Spring had blessed Dan and Mary Fawkes’ marriage with rediscovered desire. The lengthening evenings increasingly ended with them entwined; afterglows and pillow talk reminiscent of their early years.

Dan had also found a quiet place to write: the park’s rose garden, by the tennis courts, where Dave Dawson had pruned every bush the previous autumn. Each visit saw new stems thrust out, moistened by early morning watering.

Dan’s laptop was beyond the park’s wi-fi range. This issue of the newsletter would come from his heart. He began by announcing that two more moneyless communities were up and running, extending the network into Peterborough and Hull. But struggled for the next lines, feeling mesmerised by Edward’s visit hours earlier.

“Was that natural teenage evolution in our son or a quantum leap in consciousness?” Mary later asked her husband.

In sight of the budding willows overhanging the lake, Ed had animatedly relayed his journey down the 9/11 financial trail. While his parents sipped green tea sourced by the park’s Bangladeshi benefactor, Mr Begum, and Steph glided from table to table, taking orders and dispensing.

The 15-year old described the days before September 11, 2001; and the untoward level of speculation that American Airlines and United Airlines share prices would fall in the short-term. Despite an estimated 90 times the normal volume of financial market trading on this outcome, the US Security and Exchange Commission stonewalled the investigation into financial collusion linked to 9/11 events, by citing ‘destroyed’ documents, said Ed. He couldn’t keep his legs still.

“There was a ton of clear evidence indicating people knew in advance of the September 11 attacks,” he insisted. “How come the Texan cowboy Bush didn’t bring the relevant people to justice? ‘Smoke ‘em out’ and make their names public? Any chance his mates were involved?”

Dan cut in. “Move on Ed. The whole truth will never be known.”

Ed smiled, rubbing downy hair each side of his face. “Don’t worry Dad, I took your advice. I looked this side of 9/11.”

Mary hardly heard Ed’s words. Her son was growing up without her. His upper lip was nicked from shaving. Mary remembered school reports suggesting Ed could contribute more. Now he argued that “the real financial story after 9/11 is all about propping up the dollar, often by military force, to maintain it as the world’s reserve petro-currency. And grabbing resources.” Dan was astonished how Ed articulated a complex subject so clearly.

His lad recounted that US General Wesley Clark had spoken publicly in March 2007, telling TV viewers of instructions received shortly after 9/11. Ed said you could find internet videos of Clark relating this story. When the US was already bombing Afghanistan, Clark was given a Pentagon memo describing “how we were going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.”

Ed paused, noticing attention from other tables. Dan turned, noting Claire’s rainbow hair inches from Alex’s black face. “Now what I found out is that none of those countries were members of the Bank for International Settlements, the private central bankers’ private central bank.” Dan knew all about the BIS. Ed continued: “These were all countries deciding for themselves how to run their economies, rather than submit to the international banking cabal.”

***

 

In a parallel dimension, Maggie dropped her sports bag. She bunched her fists, unable to look up at Yeshua. Taking a deep breath, she croaked: “The Battle of the Beanfield”.

In 1948, George Orwell had written that an accurate vision of the future might be “a boot stamping on a human face”. 41 years later, in southern England, on 1 June, 1985, a convoy of several hundred New Age travellers were prevented from their Common Law right to attend the 11th Stonehenge Free Festival. An exclusion order granted by the British High Court extended four miles around Stonehenge.

“The police violence was horrible,” said Maggie, trembling. “Peaceful, harmless people were deliberately attacked, beaten about the head with truncheons.” The minotaur howled from its lair. “Coaches holding women and children were smashed with sledgehammers. Pregnant women were attacked.”

She wept freely, quivering, unable to catch her breath. “My responsibility. I loathed anyone with a view that they could ‘drop out’ at will,” she sobbed.

Jesus remembered the track by The Levellers, Battle of the Beanfield. After a wailing harmonica, a Clash-like vocal observed how they were committing treason, by trying to live on the road. With a flick of his mind he reviewed a stand-off lasting several hours, before police attacked the procession in the field where the vehicles sat. Some vehicles broke through an adjacent beanfield, to little avail. News flashes showed bandaged heads, screaming females and smoke rising from vehicles. A court judgment six years later found the police guilty of wrongful arrest, assault and criminal damage. “We ordered the TV companies to destroy the worst filmed evidence,” wailed Maggie, vision totally blurred.

Still the big one to go. Jesus asked for the very last shame, watching it wrench its way up through her body. “Please, please forgive me,” she bawled. Her entire body was shivering and shaking. “I chose to ignore a disgusting paedophile element in my own Cabinet. Men who raped children. Do you want the details?”

Jesus answered by reaching down and picking her up. He held her like a baby, kissed her tears away. Satan had and would deal with these people.

***

 

Ed had left X-Box far in his past. Mary didn’t recognise her little boy, as he scythed and slashed at established narrative. “I mean, who wouldn’t want Western democracy, even if it is at the barrel of a gun. Our noble and pure way of life eventually gives people a magnificent opportunity. To bank, borrow and rent. Those horrid dictators must be insane to refuse that, and do, generally, have to be eliminated, which frees up their people to live frugally, sometimes to starve, often in a bomb-scarred, privatised landscape.”

“But they adapt, it’s what we humans are good at. Sometimes you need to bring in the IMF, to halve everybody’s pension, as happened recently in Ukraine. Didn’t they have that horrible Viktor Yanukovych, who was often described as, let me recall, yes, that’s it: a ‘dictator’. And didn’t Ukraine’s gold mysteriously exit the country amid all that trouble? Same as Libya. The coincidences never stop.”

Dan had no idea if his son was inspired or deluded. About 30 people had gathered to listen, bunching outside the café. The sound of applause broke out behind them. Dressed in black from head to toe, Satan stood in the sunshine, banging his hands together. “Bravo young man, and don’t ever let yourself be swayed from your wisdoms. Dan, Mary, your boy has the ability to think for himself.”

Ed looked terrified, so Dan introduced them. Although his breath oozed booze, he hadn’t seen Sal look this happy for months. Ed timidly asked him how tall he was. “Seven foot one in my hoof warmers,” he grinned, adding that the situation described by Ed could apply to North Korea.

“Just like Syria, Iraq and Libya, that country has a state-owned central bank, and a leader blackened in the Western media,” said Satan. “On Facebook, they believe that Kim Jong-Un feeds people to dogs. Isn’t it fascinating, though, that North Korea sits on tungsten and other rare earth metals worth trillions of dollars?”

“Here’s a prediction,” said Sal. “The world’s psycho central bankers will have payday loans up and running in Baghdad, Tripoli, Damascus and Tehran in the next decade; and Wonga on every street corner in Pyongyang by 2025, if they don’t nuke it first.”

Ed spoke again, complaining that he had to sit at school with “dumbass kids” who associated the word Muslim with terrorism. “The constant demonising of Islam has actually warped peoples’ brains. Funny, isn’t it, how nameless, faceless enemies can be shifted with the wind to keep wars going indefinitely. Strange how nobody bats an eye when the peace-loving USA provides munitions to its greatest enemy – those despised Al Qaeda terrorists supposed to have caused 9/11 – to fight Assad in Syria.”

Even Satan was quiet. “And who benefits?” asked Ed. Dan smiled inwardly. He had taught Ed the ‘cui bono’ question.

“Once you get your head around it, you can see a never-ending flow of money for those who truly pull the strings. From equipping the police state, the public and private armed forces, the new prisons, and then all the contracts rebuilding the countries which are smashed to fuck by war. Think Carlyle Group, think SERCO, Halliburton and G4S. Think Israeli security companies winning business everywhere. Say hello to the new military-industrial complex.”

Mary recalled how Siddharta had chuckled at her request to protect Ed. “How would you like it Mary? Shall I throw a transparent blanket over him, as if he was Old Leigh awaiting a tsunami?”

It was impossible to picture Ed at school. He was highlighting that hardly any Muslim “terrorists” were caught and cross-examined in courts of law. “Their bodies are shot, blown to pieces, dumped at sea, or locked away in Guantanamo Bay. Where was a single shred of believable, irrevocable proof that terrorists were behind 9/11? A passport found amazingly intact in the WTC rubble, having survived heat sufficient to melt steel? Confessions extracted under torture? Really? Is that it? How credulous can people be?”

Ed was tailing off, losing steam, so Mary asked what he was listening to, changing subject. “Tell you what mum, I’ve found something that made me think music might contain real magic. It’s called Goa Trance. Check out God’s eye on Goa, by The Overlords.”

***

 

“Why are we doing this?” Among the spring roses, Dan re-commenced his newsletter.

“Personally, I got off on the sheer dare of the Southend experiment, in an era when human living arrangements generally exhibit a dull conformity. It was exciting to see disparate groups draw together: those who could no longer afford to live anywhere; those who objected to the government’s austerity drive; and others who wanted to create a new social model. What emerged, under a natural quarantine, is an antibody to the mass experiment in human despair beyond our park railings.”

He could see across to a young oak tree, surrounded by red roses, near one of the park’s southern entrances. The memorial to Stephanie Bottrill. Neighboured by a winter sweet chimonanthus praecox, from which yellow tepals blazed and spiralled.

Dan emphasised how self-sustainability was gradually supplanting the subsidies that initially propped up the Southchurch community. “It was with relief, and pride, that the first crop of spinach and lettuces were picked in early February from our farm space, Dave’s Field. We have debated hard about when spring seeds for this year’s crops should be planted, with caution over frosts holding the upper hand.”

They had taken a vote. “That caution manifested through an electronic show of hands, but the real bedrock of our park society is a set of guidelines required when many people live together.  In Southend, our lawyer has gone with a fine toothcomb through the land purchase and the laws regarding gatherings. But the park’s true law is no more than a tacit willingness to honour each other.”

As more words formed, a runner passed, hair bobbing in the breeze. “Every day, in the absence of money, and the presence of Natural Law, I witness a greater appreciation of the boundaries of others. Practical agreements – such as maximum noise levels – have been voted in to show respect to those living inside and outside the park.”

Hearing footsteps behind him, Dan turned to see Alex and Claire holding hands. She was telling Alex her dream. “I saw three skies. The first was the mess we often see now, with those unexplained white trails. Then it turned a venomous red. But not for long. This sweet turquoise colour kicked in. It stayed. Green shoots began springing from the ground.”

Claire – alongside Sheena, Ruth, Mary and Claire – had roped the desolate Sarah Dawson ever tighter into their group, which assumed Dave’s former roles in the park. Missing his friend beyond words, Micky Gaze had focused on the practical, mending the plumbing and unblocking the lake drains. He had pumped in his remaining finances.

***

 

Dan braced himself for the next section. Please go ahead, said his heart, as the sun emerged. “I hope your communities, as they develop, will replicate something else happening here. In Southchurch, it is as if our 300 plus residents are beginning to recover from two mighty punches administered since 2001.”

When the Twin Towers fell, “the Western world devolved, entropied and dumbed down”, Dan suggested. “Fear and the survival urge drowned humanity, as the airport searches stepped up, the surveillance increased and draconian security laws were passed. Even the most chilled souls were affected.”

Sometimes you had to stick your neck on the line. “You may disagree with my next view, which is retrospective. What we were told we saw and what happened were two different things. We were tested, from a dark place, to see how far humanity could be lied to, to gauge what percentage can be cajoled to look completely in the wrong direction.”

“So, one simple question for each reader. How many World Trade Centre towers collapsed completely, into their own footprint, on September 11th?  Time finding and contemplating that answer is time well spent.”

WTC7, the elephant in the room. He was walking with his dad’s 5% now.

“Having had your consciousness assaulted, and your freedom whittled down, it was time for an audacious smash and grab on your wallet. Fast forward six or seven years to the Lehman Brothers collapse and the financial crash. Again, we sat, docile, consenting with hardly a murmur, as governments span the narratives. But some people noticed things. On September 11, 2007, frantic customers were lining up outside Northern Rock, after the first British bank run in 141 years. On September 11, 2008, with both US presidential candidates visiting Ground Zero, Lehman suffered the biggest one-day drop in its stock, before its subsequent bankruptcy catalysed the global crash. Interesting coincidences.”

Dan remembered the relentless messages. ‘The banks must be saved, the ATMs will run out of cash, all hands to the pump!’ He continued: “We were told that large sums of our money had to be transferred to the least responsible, to people that were essentially financial terrorists. And everyone bar Iceland fell over backwards to comply. How did they harvest that consent?”

“Like 9/11, shocking events moved at a speed that allowed for little reflection. Voices of dissent were ignored, or dismissed as treasonous, and the common good was cited. This involved giving trillions of dollars and pounds and euros to the human locusts, the insects that continue to reward themselves with outlandish bonuses, which result from a money system that has always taken the roof from over peoples’ heads. Can you imagine how they laughed, tears streaming, at the fools they had mugged?”

He reiterated some facts. Wall Street banks had eventually received some $23 trillion of ‘support’ at zero interest, with no obligation to give anything back to the wider society in return for this liquidity, while over 15 million foreclosures were enforced by the financial system on US home-owners.

“Show me banks that were chastened by these experiences. It is no exaggeration to say that the City of London and Wall Street are still neck and neck in a competition to see who can rig the greatest number of markets. PPI, foreign exchange, Libor, gold, aluminium, oil and other areas where the deception never ends. Analysts in these markets describe the trends as ‘worrying’, or as having ‘potentially large ramifications for the perceived integrity of the financial system’.”

“Nobody seems to be able to state the profoundly simple truth: This system is run by cheats and is of no further use for ordinary people.”

***

 

The next deception was impossible to predict, said Dan. “Any realistic guess would have to encompass death, debt and new losses of freedom. World War 3? A manufactured or hoaxed pandemic? The only certainty is that more chicanery lays ahead.”

He mentioned Mark Carney’s appointment as the Bank of England’s new governor, marking the first non-British head in its more than 300-year history. “Carney is a former Goldman Sachs banker. This prompts me to ask whether you would appoint Ronnie Biggs to oversee British railway security.”

“But why expect better from the British Establishment, where powerful figures are still stifling or eliminating potential whistle-blowers on child sex abuse investigations?”

“To go back to my first question – ‘why are we here? – the answer may be that we are acting both as resistance and renaissance. Rather than fighting the 1% of psychopaths who will not leave the world alone, we have walked away from their negative energy, their laws and their illusion that value comes from printed money. One of us has already died for that. The rest of us are getting their greatest pleasure from helping each other, generating more real power than any skull-fucking rotten empire can ever muster.”

***

 

After Dan hit ‘send’, back at the cafe, one of the first pairs of eyes to read his words sat beneath a head of white hair. George badly mourned Eric.

***

 

Jesus was still cradling her when Maggie awoke. It was the sweetest, cleanest feeling. “You, my girl, are ready,” said Yeshua. He opened the labyrinth door; told her to walk in, backwards.

She got it. Trust now or never trust again. Bow to ingrained caution; or allow the other option to begin. The quickening of her heart sent more oxygen to her brain. “This is my body reacting in the correct way, in fact oxytocin is just as important as adrenalin,” she told herself, calmly. It came back that oxytocin was of course the ‘hugging hormone’, which primed humans to strengthen their close relationships, and helped hearts to heal.

Hands touching the walls, she watched Jesus grow smaller. Feet tuning into vibrations from the minotaur’s feet. Nostrils detecting the direction of its fetid breath. Yesh nodded. Had she ever felt so alive? A test came at the first bend, where she acknowledged him for the last time before battle. She saw how she could live in her next reincarnation. She would try to surround herself with caring hearts, seek to create benevolence in her life and the wider world.

The minotaur roared, about 15 yards away, shaking the walls. Her ears heard only clues. Her calm was the size of the universe, a million universes, because the challenge she was unable to handle did not exist. And she could never die. She stopped walking and relaxed completely. Let Minnie do the work. “Come meet Maggie,” she whispered. Her heart sensed a golden-purple filament still connecting to Jesus.

She would face her next life singing, making efforts to dance and laugh. Movement registered in the corner of her eye, where images were slowing into individual stills. Foreseeing this moment, God had made Maggie watch ‘The Matrix’ at least 40 times, always stopping the film where Neo Anderson holds up his hand to stop bullets in mid-air.

No point in turning around. She sensed the beast’s right paw descend at a snail’s pace towards her right shoulder. A deft sideways shift sent it out of balance, through lack of contact.

Then it hit her like a hammer. The realisation. Minnie was not just a stinking DNA slurry, bred to terrify and kill. It was imprisoned in this underworld, by its failure to utilise life potential on Earth. Its consciousness anchored it to perpetual anger and isolation. Why shouldn’t she drag the beast from the bottom rung of decay, and relight its divine but dormant spark?

Unlike Theseus, it was not for her to slay the minotaur. Nevertheless, the thing could wreak havoc, so she executed a back somersault to avoid its second rush. Then unleashed an almighty drop kick at its head to give herself space and time. Minnie was unable to rise. Maggie lay with it, smeared in the muck of aeons. She rested her face against the beast’s cheek, perceiving that any ‘us and them’ syndrome represented only spiritual stalemate.

Jesus towered over them. “Feel better?” he enquired. It was April 8, the first anniversary of her death.

273. No point pretending

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Anybody who knows me well will realise that my mind is a sewer, in need of strong disinfection. And that I laugh at my own humour. It’s just how I am. No amount of meditation will smooth away these character traits.

So when fellow blogger Mark Bickerton put out a challenge earlier today to write a sentence or paragraph of twenty-six words, with at least some meaning, where the first letter of each word reads acrostically from A to Z, I came up with the following miasmal effort.

 

A big cock does eventually find good housing, if jellied. KY leverages many new openings, particularly quirky, rare slots, typically under-hydrated. Very wet xtremities… yippee!

Zoro  

 

I’m still grinning. You see how little hope there is for me.

If anyone fancies having a try, it’s great fun and the webpage is at: https://markbickerton.com/2020/04/01/writers-wanted-exercise-2

 

 

272. Jane’s tuition

 

jane

 

One of my changes during the lockdown period has been an intensification of time spent meditating. For me, it feels pre-destined, meant to be, as time slows down for most of us.

I try and maintain the usual twice-a-day transcendental meditation practice, plus the 10-20 minutes engaged in the Lotus Sutra meditation, mentioned in Blog 267 (https://wordpress.com/post/thebiscuitfactoryonline.com/3012),

And now I’ve added a 20-minute slot at 11 each morning, beamed live on Facebook from the Brentwood Buddhist Centre.

It seems that Jane, who leads the centre, is mixing up a range of teaching, mantras and movement, but keeping it simple enough for anyone to understand and follow. I would recommend these to anyone who wants an all-over psychological boost. The Hanmi Buddhist practices that she is illustrating (for free) were detailed with shedloads of enthusiasm in Blog 126, at https://wordpress.com/post/thebiscuitfactoryonline.com/1151

This morning’s session – the third so far – can be seen at:

https://www.facebook.com/brentwoodbuddha108/videos/3135376563174160/

What struck me yesterday and today, above and beyond the enjoyment of resuscitating former practices that felt like old friends, was Jane herself. I first met her 8 years ago, when she had just opened the centre. She was much rawer around the edges.

The easiest description of current Jane might be that she is often ‘in the zone’, as is said of anyone performing something difficult with effortless ease. Whatever she has plugged into, through years of devotion and practice, is lighting her up with an unimaginable power. To these eyes, every cell in her body was cohering and sparking with purpose, determination and faith.

It was inspiring to see. A Lionel Messi of Buddhism, with an Essex accent.

 

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271. Maggie and the Minotaur

(YouTube wouldn’t accept my upload, so its back to the printed word until I learn RSS podcasting)

OUT OF ESSEX – CHAPTER 37

 

“If you can’t go back to your mother’s womb, you’d better learn to be a good fighter.” 
Anchee Min

 

 

2014 unravelled into its second month. Rain continued to pound Essex.

Mary hurried across the Southend East railway platform. Taking a window seat, she pulled out her mobile tablet. Her Christmas present from Rose. Her daughter had also paid the train fare to London, where David Stuckler, an Oxford University sociologist, was lecturing that austerity was seriously bad for the health of any populace, and thus an economic drag.

As the commuter train pulled away, she read her husband’s most recent newsletter. Dan mentioned that 27 Anglican bishops were blaming Prime Minister David Cameron for creating a “national crisis”, in which half a million UK citizens had visited food banks since April 2013.

She switched to his writing on the moneyless communities, where he noted the latest addition, an encampment in Stoke-on-Trent. She loved her husband’s description of Southchurch Park’s psychological journey. “Something transformative happens when people walk away from money,” he wrote. “Maybe the explanation lays in Einstein’s idea that no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

He continued: “Money is a skin that resists shedding. Even when discarded, it attempts to grow back, like a pernicious weed. Egos suffer in the new communities. They have little room to escape each other; and may need months to learn to take back seats. New community logistics may take just as long to gel, while our routines can seem tremendously dull and uninspiring in the cold darkness of winter, when some of us have drowned in thoughts of a hot bath or a visit to a warm pub or cinema.”

Dan continued: “But the good news for those in Stoke – and our peers in Bristol, Coventry, Hastings and Newcastle – is that I see happier, more helpful, cooperative humans each day. People learning to just be, naturally, without competition or conformity.”

At Southend Central, two lads in their late 20s boarded and sat opposite. One was talking about a suit in dark charcoal with a faint blue stripe, which he wore to both weddings and funerals. “Mate, I was a bit shocked that nobody else with a suit like mine was wearing a tie. Any ideas what style of shirt I should try this look with: button-down, straight or spread collar?”

It reminded Mary of when Satan had talked animatedly last summer about suits and the notion of respectability. In the park’s early days, he had been its psychological anchor. Now, his body language was morose. Whenever he emerged from protracted slumbers in a dark corner of the cricket pavilion, his energy seemed sour and bitter. In a recent but rare visit to the café, he told her that he wanted to hibernate. “It’s as much as I can do not to sneak back to Morgana and the boys, and console myself with bouts of torture.”

He had begun to grind his teeth, which was difficult to be near. When she asked what ailed him, he looked across the room to Lauren and Sarah Dawson. Then he brought out a hip flask, on which he took a deep pull.

As the train approached Leigh, Mary glimpsed the hillside road containing Siddharta’s spiritual centre. Rain surged down the slope. Mary had visited the previous week. She almost had to don shades when looking at Stan, such was his aura. Jess, relaxed in red and yellow robes, was almost unrecognisable as the former bus driver who moaned incessantly.

“Five months ago, I had no clue what meditation was,” said Sally, who had befriended Mary over several visits. “Now Sid has pushed it into the stratosphere. It’s like he’s trained us to become spiritual storm-troopers, spontaneous in any situation. Last week he made us stay awake for 66 hours, using will power. I have never felt anything like when that moment arrived. I had become so awake, that sleep would have been impossible.”

As always, Sid offered Mary tea and cake. She asked for a summary of the regime for his pupils. “You need a master,” he replied. “You need to surrender, absolutely. This is a crash course for these humans to become Buddhas themselves.”

 

***

 

Jesus traced his finger down the naked spine of Mary Magdalene, as they lay in his quarters. His simple home at The Place resembled the Essene community at Qumran, off the Dead Sea’s northwest coast, where he had lived frugally as a youth.

“What a fine thing, what a precisely distilled vessel of love is the Sex Magic of Isis,” he offered, quietly. He pressed her coccyx with an index finger. Mary turned to look at him. “Yes, it is our one true responsibility, darling Yesh. The ecstasy of connecting to the best version of ourselves.”

She kissed his eyes, which had glazed. “I know your thoughts husband. They wander to the Dark Archetype, Moloch, and how to confront and break it.”

“New names for new times Mary.” His eyes were all but lost to her. “In the now they know it as the Military-Industrial Complex. All is lost, unless this entity, which churns war, debt and entertainment, is confronted and vanquished.”

“You cannot confront the war instinct, Yesh. Many of the greatest shamans, recent shamans like JFK, Martin Luther King and John Lennon, paid the ultimate price for daring to go against the Dark Archetype. War endures. It preceded man, it waited for him. But you can starve it.”

There was a knock at the door. Jesus slipped on an undyed woollen robe. He stepped lightly across the pounded earth floor. Opening the wooden door, he beheld Maggie, adorned in martial arts kit. “Please, help me,” she asked. In her face, determination beat down hesitation. “Find me the courage to fight Satan’s beast, the minotaur.”

He bade her come in. Mary brought them Lebanese red wine, with a plate of cheese and figs. They sat, while Jesus looked quietly at Maggie. Finally, he told her his spiritual name was Yeshua ben Joseph. His truth, he said, was told most accurately by the Gospel of Thomas, which was edited from the Bible. And a very direct route for diving inside and raising one’s vibration was trance music, he insisted.

Then he quietened, having swept a metaphorical path to channel Mary’s wisdom. As soft words began to tumble from his wife’s mouth, he stole away, inserting himself into the surrounding rurality. The last words he heard were “Maggie: everything that can break should be broken.”

 

***

 

He felt himself slip further away. Beyond thought. Beyond duality, all agitation ceased. His favourite headphones pumped out Snakey Shaker, from Hallucinogen’s ‘Lone Deranger’ album. As he re-emerged from the unplanned meditation, minutes or hours later, Land of Freedom, by Transwave, bubbled to its climax. Yesh reached in his pocket, found the mushrooms.

Goa Trance had emerged in south western India as an early 1990s underground scene, lit up by shamanic dancing rituals. It triggered memories of his eye-opening trip to the sub-continent with Mary. Her favourite was LSD, another from Hallucinogen.

Torso twitching now to Etnica’sVimana, Jesus surveyed his home at The Place, where caves and small rectangular huts replicated Qumran’s small first century community of farmers, shepherds, cowherds, beekeepers, artisans and craftsmen. All had regarded money contemptuously. All had returned from their daily tasks rejoicing.

When he later told Maggie about Qumran, it was pleasing how she quickly squared it with her post-Oxbridge conviction that smaller, human-scale communities bring the best out of people.

Next up was All About Kash, by the Masters of Goa Trance. Siddharta had exploded with laughter to see a massive stone Buddha on the album cover, wearing headphones.

Entranced by trance, Jesus knew 21st century humanity was set for a surge in consciousness. The rich were rich: that was their karma, to make of it what they would. But it was learned behaviour, rather than instinct, for humans to chase money, and to ask, ‘what’s in it for me?’

 

***

 

In the days that followed, trance became a welcome distraction from Yeshua’s efforts to help Maggie. He attempted to read her autobiography, sticking it out to page 409. A book of unending straight lines. On page 8 she provided a clue: “Values instilled in church were faithfully reflected in my home.” He thought forlornly of the indoctrinations. If you failed to look within for spirit, you could end up in Vatican Square, looking up to the balcony.

He read, eyelids drooping, of her stance that “personal virtue is no substitute for political hard-headedness”. His spirit fought for wakefulness against her list of dates, events, strategies and retrospective vindications of policy. When learning of the pride with which she had rigidly observed the wartime rationing level – five inches of bathwater – he keeled over into deep sleep

The Files had summed her up neatly: “She lacked an inner poetry”. There was nothing wrong with her emphasis on hard work, but rest brought balance and harmony. He fell with joy on the small detail of her sweet tooth, wanting knowledge of her favourite chocolate and sweets. Maggie deemed this unworthy of inclusion.

To her credit was that she trusted her judgement. Preached her convictions. Not unlike an Old Testament prophet. One philosophical strand, enunciated at the 1975 Conservative conference, was that having the state as servant, not as master, was part of Britain’s inheritance. Jesus badly needed to dance again.

 

***

 

Not for the first time, Yeshua found himself outside the maze built by Satan, choking. Maggie held her nostrils, gripping her sports bag tightly.

He asked again how she might realistically go about fighting what had once been the pet of King Minos, until the brave Theseus ended its days on Earth. The minotaur now helped Satan prevent further reincarnations of certain souls. With the head of a wild bull, atop the body of a magnificently muscled human, it had ripped apart and devoured the souls of several dozen particularly dark financiers, popes and politicians. And had totally removed one James Savile from the realm of creation.

Flinching at each sound from within, each stomach-spinning growl and snort, Maggie talked Jesus through every possible battle scenario.

She took the business of preparation fanatically. In 1958, she had been one of four candidates to apply for the safe Conservative seat of Finchley, in north London. She read everything she could obtain and prepared a speech “until it was perfect”, said her autobiography. Further along the political path, when preparing for her first major parliamentary speech, Maggie raided the Commons library and read every finance bill, every budget speech since the war. Countless hours of work preparing for the autumn 1966 party conference was repaid the following autumn when Prime Minister Ted Heath made her a shadow cabinet member.

While you could out-prepare government ministers, preparing to fight a mythical beast was tougher. “You must own, deep within yourself, every scene from your battle to come,” said Yesh. He picked up on something beyond fear, so told the story of Theseus to distract her.

 

***

 

Jesus towered over Maggie, watching her reactions. Aegeus, the King of Athens, had offered the tyrannical King Minos of Crete a deal so that Minos would desist from attacking Athens.

Aegeus would send 14 boys and girls to be sacrificed to the awful minotaur, within its labyrinth. Determined to end the terror, young Prince Theseus told Aegeus, his father, that he would go, as the seventh male, to kill the monster.

Maggie looked up, face etched with concentration, neck straining.

When the children arrived on Crete, said Jesus, Minos’ daughter, Princess Ariadne, took a shine to Theseus. She slipped a note under his door. If she saved his life, would he take her away from the island so others could admire her beauty? She hid a sword and a ball of string inside the labyrinth entrance. When the children entered, he must tie the string to the door, let it unroll so he could find his way back, and tell the others to stay by the door. He found and slayed the minotaur, and they sailed away in the dark with the Princess.

Maggie interrupted. “It went wrong, didn’t it?” She was irritated that, on the way home, Theseus abandoned Ariadne on the island of Naxos and then forgot to display a white sail signifying that he was alive. When Aegeus saw a black-sailed ship approach, he committed suicide, presuming his son dead. This act secured the throne for Theseus.

“Don’t you just love those Greek sagas?” grinned Jesus. “Ups and downs, twists and turns.”

 

***

 

A deep rumble shook the lair. “You do not have to do this,” said Jesus. In response, Maggie turned, sprinted across the room. Screaming, she took off and kicked hard into a punchbag, crumpling a faded minotaur image that Satan’s lads practised on. She landed cleanly and walked back, frowning. “I could not have lived with the shame that I had killed my father.”

“Thank you, Margaret,” said Jesus. There it was.

Placing his arm around her shoulder, he said: “If you feel ashamed, you will hate and reject yourself, in any incarnation. And you will be afraid.” Her eyes mirrored it. “Remove that shame, and I promise you shall trust your nature and flow with it. Would you like to dance with me, to trance music?” She would not, she said.

The minotaur produced a noise straddling a burp and a fart.

Jesus tried again. “Tell me your darkest shames. Trust in me.”

He delighted at her negotiation. “On one condition,” she said, eyes glinting. “You must tell how it felt to be crucified.”

He spoke easily, no hesitation. “It was not a complex thing – and I saw it coming. It was clear that authorities in Jerusalem and Rome could not tolerate my message. That life is not a business, or a riddle solvable by thought. Rather it is a mystery to be lived, in which people should move from Holy Spirit within the heart. That the simplest and greatest truth is to love each other, unconditionally. So that your unfairness becomes my injustice, your joy my ecstasy.”

“Please answer the question.” Yesh loved Maggie’s tenacity. She was just as precious as all other souls that ever existed.

He had known exactly what to do on the cross, alone, wracked by unimaginable pain, mocked by the Roman soldiers and one of the crucified thieves. “I remember it as a test, a dare even. From my early teens, I learned shamanistic powers, directed at healing other humans. Further knowledge accrued in Tibet. Ways of shielding oneself from dark powers, and of leaving the body when overwhelmed.” He looked right into her. “The pain was beyond description. As was the magnificence, when I was able to drop into the void, to escape.”

“Were you afraid beforehand?”

“No, because I lacked shame. Shed yours, and you are ready to face a minotaur.”

“What about redeeming mankind’s sins forever on the cross?” asked a puzzled Maggie.

Jesus shook his head. “I asked mum to forgive those who conspired to crucify me. Satan was unable to. As for sins, the church made up all sorts of refuse. Rummage around in the Hebrew and you will find that sin and error are indistinguishable.” She gulped. “Now. Your worst shames.” She prayed he would not chastise, knitting her fingers.

“Before I led Britain, mentally disturbed people were housed in good homes staffed by proper doctors and nurses. I closed those homes to save money, leaving some very vulnerable people with nowhere comfortable or caring to go.”

Honest tears laced her cheek. “And I won over working people by indicating that the Conservative Party would continue the post-war narrowing of the gap between very poor and very rich.” Her voice wobbled. “Instead I began this horrible process of marginalising and criminalising working-class communities.” She looked across humbly.

She was still holding back.  Jesus reassured her that some of her advisers were more cunning than she could ever know. He sent out a ribbon of purple light, wrapping her.

The minotaur stomped heavily in its maze, nostrils steaming, remembering Savile.

270. Losing my cherry

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I read some more of Jono’s words this morning. The bugger encouraged me by text to start creating podcasts. To use in parallel with the website.

And it’s just one of those days where you think: ‘Why Not?’ The country is locked down in near martial law while the sun beams down its benevolence. After my first bike ride of the spring, the feeling of relaxation before the COVID-19 storm whips up further was massive. It’s like being on holiday. Will I be here in a few months? I reckon so, but who knows.

So I took Jono’s advice. For the hell of it. Got a nice recording on my phone, reading Chapter 17 of Out of Essex.

I was really pleased with it, until my PC kept telling me it couldn’t convert an M4A file into an MP3. I later found a way. Then I wasn’t sure if I could embed a voice recording in my website. You get the picture – I’m no techie.

In the end, Rory persuaded me to make a YouTube video. My first. It’s at https://youtu.be/5kJKIuwvgvw

Ignore the pictures of the old git and listen to his words. It’s a magical story.

Might revert to sound-only if the urge to experiment continues, in these unprecedented times.

269. Jono’s thoughts

Adding to the never-ending hot air about COVID-19 doesn’t appeal, because it is sunny outside, and the garden is asking me to come and tidy it up. And I want to put in a couple of long meditations today.

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So here are some recent words from my good friend Jonathan Evans, from his Facebook page. They are as good as anything I have recently read.

 

 

 

I love cricket. I always enjoy reading and listening to what Vic Marks has to say about it. I am appreciative of his view that Covid 19 (paraphrased): is leading to a recalibration of what constitutes a key worker. Not, it turns out, hedge fund managers, premiership footballers, estate agents, or sports journalists.

 

Or advertising executives. Or designers. Or Hollywood. Or pop and rock stars. Or celebrities of any kind or people who make programmes about them. Or DJs. Or ‘influencers’, bloggers, vloggers, opinion formers, and lobbyists. Etc. Or, dry heat engineers and stonemasons for that matter.

 

Is it really a huge surprise that key workers include employees of the NHS and social services from cleaner to consultant; delivery drivers (particularly those that work in whatever capacity for supermarkets and food distributors); shelf stackers and checkout staff; bin men and women; mortuary attendants and crematoria staff; etc?

 

Surely, time for a massive rethink? Time to ditch, forever, the all-pervasive Thatcherite dogma that we measure someone’s worth by their ability to earn money and accumulate assets (often through useless and immoral shifting of so called [and often non-existent] goods, services, and financial products) and look after and reward those that do the essential stuff? Time to acknowledge that there just isn’t enough meaningful work to keep us all employed and to introduce a universal basic income? Time to stop doing and producing and moving and selling useless crap? What are armies for…killing the citizens of other countries for oil or distributing food? Time to acknowledge that nature has the ability to fight back and that we may not like it?

 

Is Covid 19 an opportunity? Bloody well should be.

 

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268. My potato box

 

I was deeply chuffed to receive a potato box for my 63rd birthday last week. The designer and creator, Chris, is my son-in-law. He cut and treated the wood and screwed it together, then lugged the pieces round to our place.

 

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We slotted them together.

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I grow spuds every year, in the ground. Because they give such prolific yields, I have also put them in plastic tubs nearer the house. Now we’ve got a smart wooden box.  It should provide a large quantity of potatoes in a small space. It’s food for nothing. After filling the foot of the box, I put in some old wrinkled spuds that had gone to seed in our shed over the winter. You can even use old potato peelings as the seeds.

 

 

As the new shoots come out through the soil, you cover them with more compost. And then a few more times, until the box is full of soil.

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After that, free food later in the year. I love the simplicity of the process. (Might have to put a net over the top, to stop the cats using it as a toilet.)

267. New concrescence?

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I was on the rim of a nervous breakdown in summer 1993, inches from falling down the crater. Seven years as a milkman had left me bored beyond tolerance. The job paid the mortgage and the bills, but the huge unused portion of my intelligence was screaming for stimulation, variation, catalysis.

Numbed, withdrawn, anxious, and with no idea of how I could move on, I told my friend Andy, who practiced acupuncture. He immediately recommended chanting the Lotus Sutra, promising that it would open the pathways I needed. Four simple words: Nam Myoho Rengi Kyo. Chant them repeatedly, Andy said.

“But how does it work?”

“It just does.”

I took his advice. On the bike, to and from the dairy each morning. 15 minutes of howling at the universe with all my inner strength to please, please bring the changes I needed. It was a plunge into the pure unknown, into zones where yogis might walk on hot coals, or monks levitate. I had no idea that it was a Buddhist chant, nor any pre-conceived idea of whether it could change anything, but I was fighting a storm, seeking any port. Christ did I howl, because there was nothing to lose.

In early November 1993, my old university pal and roommate Jon Marks offered me an apprenticeship in financial journalism. I bit off his hand in eagerness. Learned how to write for business publications; got to visit a bunch of places that would otherwise have stayed unknown; found myself able to turn freelance and earn a decent amount.

Did the chanting bring that about? Or had the Gods and fates already decided? Or was Jon simply looking out for me all along? No idea: I’m just so grateful that it happened.

Flipping on the calendar 18 years, to October 2011, I was crumbling again, after telling two guys that my friendship with them was at an end. It felt like I’d wrenched out some of my insides, but I was doing all the listening while Tony and Steve talked. It was juvenile, and I had to get away.

Maureen’s friend Jean recommended meditating with a Hanmi Buddhist group in Chelmsford that embraced healing as one of its core functions.

I’ve mentioned it in blogs before. But to repeat – wow! Within weeks, all sorts of new stuff was blossoming, in ways that seemed to defy the laws of science. Happiness, energy, enchantment, and a burgeoning desire to begin to know more of the ancient wisdoms. At the heart of it all was the repeated chanting of various mantras, combined with visualisation.

Eventually I moved away, to do my own thing, while carrying on the meditations and chanting. I re-engaged with a whole set of lost friends from Southend-on-Sea, which almost made me die of happiness. Then, when Maggie Thatcher passed away in April 2013, ‘Out of Essex’ began to pour out of me, unplanned and spontaneously. Set in Southend. Where else?

Did the Buddhist practice prise open that soaring Essex synchronicity? Who knows? 8 years on, my appreciation and gratitude for that time remains fully intact.

And now a new page is perhaps being turned. Two days ago, my friend Jenny Lynne got in touch to say that she was starting a networked meditation, based around a 10-minute chanting of the Lotus Sutra. Seeking to create peace, calm, care and compassion in the wider world, and wisdom and centredness in the group, which operates through small cells.

Jenny is a therapist, a Buddhist of 38 years and a good human being. In Great Dunmow, a small Essex town near Stansted Airport, she masterminds ‘Get Diggin It’, a community-based venture to grow food locally. Jenny talks to me every now and again about a range of subjects, including what might happen if a significant percentage of mainstream journalists decided to place truth and authenticity before income, and ceased spoon feeding nonsensical narratives to over-trusting populaces. She has also been the UK coordinator for the Ubuntu movement, founded in South Africa with a view to gradually eliminating money through self-sustaining community.

She has decided to act, not by the easy, lazy route of condemning the wider world but by pushing for a new and better direction.

I’ve taken part in two of the group meditations, yesterday and this morning. No miracles, but they felt good, with a palpable sense of connection. I’m happy to see what happens. Does positive thought affect DNA? Does human emotion change matter, and thus the wider world?

I’ve moaned before about the lack of concrescence in my life. How I crave membership of a group that revolves around fellowship and kindness. Maybe this is it.

If anyone wants to join in, you could do so quietly, or tell me, or go directly to Jenny. She speaks about her aims in a video released today, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7kdM1ku7r8&feature=youtu.be

It won’t be for everybody. For me, it’s fascinating.

Here is what I love, as an observer of patterns. Just hours after Jenny announced her group initiative, I was cycling into town, to get new tyres for my bike. On the way in, who should I see cycling the other way but Eleanor, the wife of ex-friend Tony. On the way back home, there she was again, passing me at around the journey’s mid-point.

After 63 years, it is possible to sort out signals from white noise. Seeing Eleanor was such an obvious sign. It made me think of allegories, or of Whitley Strieber seeing an owl. Something where the universe gives you a nudge, to say, ‘there you go, all’s well, we’ve got a new path for you’.

 

 

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