My own dark night


I am reading an interesting book, “Dark Nights of the Soul” by Thomas Moore. In it he writes –

“Every human life is made up of the light and the dark, the happy and the sad, the vital and the deadening. How you think about this rhythm of moods makes all the difference. Are you going to hide out in self-delusion and distracting entertainments? Are you going to become cynical or depressed? Or are you going to open your heart to a mystery that is as natural as the sun and the moon, day and night, and summer and winter?”

A dark night can be many things from severe depression to a period in our lives when we doubt ourselves. Moore states that we should embrace these dark nights as an opportunity to learn more about ourselves and that if we do that we will emerge at the end of our own dark nights with an insight and clarity about who we are that we did not have before.

I have often used the analogy in writing about midlife using the river journey and that a midlife episode is when we find ourselves with a need to find a backwater and sort through things before we are ready to get back into the current. There is a problem with that analogy when it is observed by people from the outside. Questions arise about why decisions weren’t made more quickly, why in fact no decisions appear to being made at all. The person in the backwater can be seen as being totally selfish, as keeping other people on hold whilst they sort their own shit out. The observer does not necessarily understand that the process of sorting through the rubbish takes time and whilst it appears that someone is just treading water progress is actually being made.

In this book Moore uses the analogy of Jonah and the Whale. I won’t go into a lot of detail about the actual story here but suffice to say that Jonah ran from his obligation to God and found himself swallowed by a whale. He sat in the whale’s bely for three days and nights and could do nothing other than ponder his fate.

The point of the story in the midlife context for me is this. To an observer simply watching Jonah there appears to be nothing happening. He cannot move around, he cannot escape, he can do nothing but sit there and think. If the observer was able to take a step back then they would see that whilst Jonah appears to be immobile, he is actually moving in a direction that does give him insight into his fate, both through the process of contemplation and prayer, but also physically through the movement of the whale.

My whale was my childhood beliefs. That was the vessel that bound me in indecisiveness and was the reason I appeared to be unmoving to the observers. And it was in unravelling their mystery that I was able to set myself free to move forward once again.

I have also come to understand that the journey cannot be forced that in some ways the memories or chains that do bind us are like combination locks. You cannot move on to the next tumbler until the last one clicks into place. So whilst the time taken in the process does not suit the observers, the person whose journey it is can only move at his own pace.

*********************************************************
This is a song for my Dark Night

The photo is one I took at Ao Nang on the recent trip to Thailand.

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My own dark night


I am reading an interesting book, “Dark Nights of the Soul” by Thomas Moore. In it he writes –

“Every human life is made up of the light and the dark, the happy and the sad, the vital and the deadening. How you think about this rhythm of moods makes all the difference. Are you going to hide out in self-delusion and distracting entertainments? Are you going to become cynical or depressed? Or are you going to open your heart to a mystery that is as natural as the sun and the moon, day and night, and summer and winter?”

A dark night can be many things from severe depression to a period in our lives when we doubt ourselves. Moore states that we should embrace these dark nights as an opportunity to learn more about ourselves and that if we do that we will emerge at the end of our own dark nights with an insight and clarity about who we are that we did not have before.

I have often used the analogy in writing about midlife using the river journey and that a midlife episode is when we find ourselves with a need to find a backwater and sort through things before we are ready to get back into the current. There is a problem with that analogy when it is observed by people from the outside. Questions arise about why decisions weren’t made more quickly, why in fact no decisions appear to being made at all. The person in the backwater can be seen as being totally selfish, as keeping other people on hold whilst they sort their own shit out. The observer does not necessarily understand that the process of sorting through the rubbish takes time and whilst it appears that someone is just treading water progress is actually being made.

In this book Moore uses the analogy of Jonah and the Whale. I won’t go into a lot of detail about the actual story here but suffice to say that Jonah ran from his obligation to God and found himself swallowed by a whale. He sat in the whale’s bely for three days and nights and could do nothing other than ponder his fate.

The point of the story in the midlife context for me is this. To an observer simply watching Jonah there appears to be nothing happening. He cannot move around, he cannot escape, he can do nothing but sit there and think. If the observer was able to take a step back then they would see that whilst Jonah appears to be immobile, he is actually moving in a direction that does give him insight into his fate, both through the process of contemplation and prayer, but also physically through the movement of the whale.

My whale was my childhood beliefs. That was the vessel that bound me in indecisiveness and was the reason I appeared to be unmoving to the observers. And it was in unravelling their mystery that I was able to set myself free to move forward once again.

I have also come to understand that the journey cannot be forced that in some ways the memories or chains that do bind us are like combination locks. You cannot move on to the next tumbler until the last one clicks into place. So whilst the time taken in the process does not suit the observers, the person whose journey it is can only move at his own pace.

*********************************************************
This is a song for my Dark Night

The photo is one I took at Ao Nang on the recent trip to Thailand.

My own dark night


I am reading an interesting book, “Dark Nights of the Soul” by Thomas Moore. In it he writes –

“Every human life is made up of the light and the dark, the happy and the sad, the vital and the deadening. How you think about this rhythm of moods makes all the difference. Are you going to hide out in self-delusion and distracting entertainments? Are you going to become cynical or depressed? Or are you going to open your heart to a mystery that is as natural as the sun and the moon, day and night, and summer and winter?”

A dark night can be many things from severe depression to a period in our lives when we doubt ourselves. Moore states that we should embrace these dark nights as an opportunity to learn more about ourselves and that if we do that we will emerge at the end of our own dark nights with an insight and clarity about who we are that we did not have before.

I have often used the analogy in writing about midlife using the river journey and that a midlife episode is when we find ourselves with a need to find a backwater and sort through things before we are ready to get back into the current. There is a problem with that analogy when it is observed by people from the outside. Questions arise about why decisions weren’t made more quickly, why in fact no decisions appear to being made at all. The person in the backwater can be seen as being totally selfish, as keeping other people on hold whilst they sort their own shit out. The observer does not necessarily understand that the process of sorting through the rubbish takes time and whilst it appears that someone is just treading water progress is actually being made.

In this book Moore uses the analogy of Jonah and the Whale. I won’t go into a lot of detail about the actual story here but suffice to say that Jonah ran from his obligation to God and found himself swallowed by a whale. He sat in the whale’s bely for three days and nights and could do nothing other than ponder his fate.

The point of the story in the midlife context for me is this. To an observer simply watching Jonah there appears to be nothing happening. He cannot move around, he cannot escape, he can do nothing but sit there and think. If the observer was able to take a step back then they would see that whilst Jonah appears to be immobile, he is actually moving in a direction that does give him insight into his fate, both through the process of contemplation and prayer, but also physically through the movement of the whale.

My whale was my childhood beliefs. That was the vessel that bound me in indecisiveness and was the reason I appeared to be unmoving to the observers. And it was in unravelling their mystery that I was able to set myself free to move forward once again.

I have also come to understand that the journey cannot be forced that in some ways the memories or chains that do bind us are like combination locks. You cannot move on to the next tumbler until the last one clicks into place. So whilst the time taken in the process does not suit the observers, the person whose journey it is can only move at his own pace.

*********************************************************
This is a song for my Dark Night

The photo is one I took at Ao Nang on the recent trip to Thailand.

Wisdom


From Journal 1 – 28th February, 1978

Wisdom is not born of age but of experience. Thus a person young in years but old in experience may be considered wise, but an old person with little experience would not be. I would describe wisdom as a series of laws, morals, ethics, guidelines – call it what you will – born of mistakes and learnt by experience.

It annoys me somewhat that age alone, at times, is considered a prerequisite of wisdom. People too often are blind to the wisdom of the young and of those not of their own society. Who is less wise, a tribal shaman telling his people they must take part in fertility rites if their crops are to be successful, or a Christian priest telling parents not to grieve for a dead child? I shall leave it up to you to puzzle it out.

From Journal 1 – 1st March 1978

Stuff it, I will try to explain what I was talking about in the above entry, if only to clear it up in m own head. The answer is both, and neither, since they believe in what they are doing. The shaman believes the fertility rites are necessary because for as long as he can remember, and for generations before that, they have been performed (i.e. the wrath of a God, the sins of the villagers etc. all have ritual associated with them). Thus his wisdom is based on generations of experience. The priests wisdom however, is based on generations of faith. It cannot be said that the shamans or the priests wisdom is borne of individual experience since both are based on social experience. I would say therefore that this is not true wisdom and would qualify my definition above as follows – wisdom is a series of laws, morals, ethics guidelines…born of mistakes and learnt by individual experience.

********************************************************
POSTSCRIPT
I don’t think I was all that wise 30 years ago. There is a certain pomposity and self assurance that seems to have gotten lost somewhere between then and now. I no longer have such absolute beliefs, nor do I think that I am quite as intolerant of some people and some situations that I may have been back then.

I actually think that the mind does become cluttered as you get older, that original thought is far more likely at 20 than at 50 years of age. Perhaps it is because as we get older we have had far more exposure to external influences, maybe the brain just fills up, perhaps the neural pathways are no longer as clear as they once were.

In those days I was particularly intolerant of religion, maybe it was the bad Sunday School experiences, or maybe exposure at University to a more “liberal” environment to that I was brought up in. I was enjoying the exposure to different ways of thinking and organised religion seemed to me to be a straitjacket on an enquiring mind. And in dismissing it I was probably as guilty of blinkered thought as the people I was criticising.

For many years there was little time to even wonder about what it was like to wonder. The child, then the young man, got lost somewhere along the way. In reading these old journals it is clearly evident that the person writing them changed – not really surprising I guess – because the stages of life changed. This was neither good nor bad, just different, the priorities f life changed. When the kids came along I was able to write about them, the things they said and did, the holidays taken, but some years I was able to do more of that than others. In recent years, as the work hours increased, the writing decreased, and there are gaps where I have no doubt I have missed things.

I have written before about some of the music I loved. In 1977 Dan Fogelberg released an album called “Netherlands” on which was a song called “Lessons Learned” and some of the words are appropriate here –

Lessons learned
Are like bridges burned

You only need to cross them but once.

Is the knowledge gained

Worth the price of the pain?

Are the spoils worth the cost of the hunt?

The key is we need to learn from the lessons because it is only then that we can adapt them, mould them, temper them and wield them so that they become knowledge. The fifty year old likes to think that he knows that now, just as I’m sure that the 20 year old was absolutely certain that he was wise beyond his years at the time.

Image by J D Challenger can be viewed here.

Wisdom


From Journal 1 – 28th February, 1978

Wisdom is not born of age but of experience. Thus a person young in years but old in experience may be considered wise, but an old person with little experience would not be. I would describe wisdom as a series of laws, morals, ethics, guidelines – call it what you will – born of mistakes and learnt by experience.

It annoys me somewhat that age alone, at times, is considered a prerequisite of wisdom. People too often are blind to the wisdom of the young and of those not of their own society. Who is less wise, a tribal shaman telling his people they must take part in fertility rites if their crops are to be successful, or a Christian priest telling parents not to grieve for a dead child? I shall leave it up to you to puzzle it out.

From Journal 1 – 1st March 1978

Stuff it, I will try to explain what I was talking about in the above entry, if only to clear it up in m own head. The answer is both, and neither, since they believe in what they are doing. The shaman believes the fertility rites are necessary because for as long as he can remember, and for generations before that, they have been performed (i.e. the wrath of a God, the sins of the villagers etc. all have ritual associated with them). Thus his wisdom is based on generations of experience. The priests wisdom however, is based on generations of faith. It cannot be said that the shamans or the priests wisdom is borne of individual experience since both are based on social experience. I would say therefore that this is not true wisdom and would qualify my definition above as follows – wisdom is a series of laws, morals, ethics guidelines…born of mistakes and learnt by individual experience.

********************************************************
POSTSCRIPT
I don’t think I was all that wise 30 years ago. There is a certain pomposity and self assurance that seems to have gotten lost somewhere between then and now. I no longer have such absolute beliefs, nor do I think that I am quite as intolerant of some people and some situations that I may have been back then.

I actually think that the mind does become cluttered as you get older, that original thought is far more likely at 20 than at 50 years of age. Perhaps it is because as we get older we have had far more exposure to external influences, maybe the brain just fills up, perhaps the neural pathways are no longer as clear as they once were.

In those days I was particularly intolerant of religion, maybe it was the bad Sunday School experiences, or maybe exposure at University to a more “liberal” environment to that I was brought up in. I was enjoying the exposure to different ways of thinking and organised religion seemed to me to be a straitjacket on an enquiring mind. And in dismissing it I was probably as guilty of blinkered thought as the people I was criticising.

For many years there was little time to even wonder about what it was like to wonder. The child, then the young man, got lost somewhere along the way. In reading these old journals it is clearly evident that the person writing them changed – not really surprising I guess – because the stages of life changed. This was neither good nor bad, just different, the priorities f life changed. When the kids came along I was able to write about them, the things they said and did, the holidays taken, but some years I was able to do more of that than others. In recent years, as the work hours increased, the writing decreased, and there are gaps where I have no doubt I have missed things.

I have written before about some of the music I loved. In 1977 Dan Fogelberg released an album called “Netherlands” on which was a song called “Lessons Learned” and some of the words are appropriate here –

Lessons learned
Are like bridges burned

You only need to cross them but once.

Is the knowledge gained

Worth the price of the pain?

Are the spoils worth the cost of the hunt?

The key is we need to learn from the lessons because it is only then that we can adapt them, mould them, temper them and wield them so that they become knowledge. The fifty year old likes to think that he knows that now, just as I’m sure that the 20 year old was absolutely certain that he was wise beyond his years at the time.

Image by J D Challenger can be viewed here.

Wisdom


From Journal 1 – 28th February, 1978

Wisdom is not born of age but of experience. Thus a person young in years but old in experience may be considered wise, but an old person with little experience would not be. I would describe wisdom as a series of laws, morals, ethics, guidelines – call it what you will – born of mistakes and learnt by experience.

It annoys me somewhat that age alone, at times, is considered a prerequisite of wisdom. People too often are blind to the wisdom of the young and of those not of their own society. Who is less wise, a tribal shaman telling his people they must take part in fertility rites if their crops are to be successful, or a Christian priest telling parents not to grieve for a dead child? I shall leave it up to you to puzzle it out.

From Journal 1 – 1st March 1978

Stuff it, I will try to explain what I was talking about in the above entry, if only to clear it up in m own head. The answer is both, and neither, since they believe in what they are doing. The shaman believes the fertility rites are necessary because for as long as he can remember, and for generations before that, they have been performed (i.e. the wrath of a God, the sins of the villagers etc. all have ritual associated with them). Thus his wisdom is based on generations of experience. The priests wisdom however, is based on generations of faith. It cannot be said that the shamans or the priests wisdom is borne of individual experience since both are based on social experience. I would say therefore that this is not true wisdom and would qualify my definition above as follows – wisdom is a series of laws, morals, ethics guidelines…born of mistakes and learnt by individual experience.

********************************************************
POSTSCRIPT
I don’t think I was all that wise 30 years ago. There is a certain pomposity and self assurance that seems to have gotten lost somewhere between then and now. I no longer have such absolute beliefs, nor do I think that I am quite as intolerant of some people and some situations that I may have been back then.

I actually think that the mind does become cluttered as you get older, that original thought is far more likely at 20 than at 50 years of age. Perhaps it is because as we get older we have had far more exposure to external influences, maybe the brain just fills up, perhaps the neural pathways are no longer as clear as they once were.

In those days I was particularly intolerant of religion, maybe it was the bad Sunday School experiences, or maybe exposure at University to a more “liberal” environment to that I was brought up in. I was enjoying the exposure to different ways of thinking and organised religion seemed to me to be a straitjacket on an enquiring mind. And in dismissing it I was probably as guilty of blinkered thought as the people I was criticising.

For many years there was little time to even wonder about what it was like to wonder. The child, then the young man, got lost somewhere along the way. In reading these old journals it is clearly evident that the person writing them changed – not really surprising I guess – because the stages of life changed. This was neither good nor bad, just different, the priorities f life changed. When the kids came along I was able to write about them, the things they said and did, the holidays taken, but some years I was able to do more of that than others. In recent years, as the work hours increased, the writing decreased, and there are gaps where I have no doubt I have missed things.

I have written before about some of the music I loved. In 1977 Dan Fogelberg released an album called “Netherlands” on which was a song called “Lessons Learned” and some of the words are appropriate here –

Lessons learned
Are like bridges burned

You only need to cross them but once.

Is the knowledge gained

Worth the price of the pain?

Are the spoils worth the cost of the hunt?

The key is we need to learn from the lessons because it is only then that we can adapt them, mould them, temper them and wield them so that they become knowledge. The fifty year old likes to think that he knows that now, just as I’m sure that the 20 year old was absolutely certain that he was wise beyond his years at the time.

Image by J D Challenger can be viewed here.

Musical Monday 3 – I hope you dance

For those who are joining me on the journey and for my children.

Musical Monday 3 – I hope you dance

For those who are joining me on the journey and for my children.

Letter to Amanda 1981

As most of you know my niece Amanda had a bit of a crack at me last week. By coincidence I was re-reading some of my old journals last night [I know, I need to get a real life] and I came across this letter I wrote to her on the occasion of her Christening.

From Journal 1 – 21 July 1981

I wrote this on Amanda’s Christening card some time ago –

I suppose on the occasion of a Christening it is pertinent to offer some sort of advice to the Christenee; even if he or she probably won’t be able to understand it for another fifteen to twenty years.

Firstly always listen to the advice of others. This does not imply blind acceptance but rather a careful consideration of all points of view before you make up your own mind.

Secondly, remember that wisdom is measured in experience and not merely in years. I have known children with a clearer view of the world than many adults whose years have clouded their views with bigotry, hatred and bitterness. Remember therefore, that wisdom can be found in places where it is least expected.

Thirdly, believe in wilderness for it is the only sure escape from the regimentation of day to day activity. The knowledge that wilderness exists provides a possible escape from the rule of the clock. Anyone who has seen an ocean sunset or felt the cold sting of a mountain wind on a winter morn will know what I mean.

Finally be not afraid to dream.

Letter to Amanda 1981

As most of you know my niece Amanda had a bit of a crack at me last week. By coincidence I was re-reading some of my old journals last night [I know, I need to get a real life] and I came across this letter I wrote to her on the occasion of her Christening.

From Journal 1 – 21 July 1981

I wrote this on Amanda’s Christening card some time ago –

I suppose on the occasion of a Christening it is pertinent to offer some sort of advice to the Christenee; even if he or she probably won’t be able to understand it for another fifteen to twenty years.

Firstly always listen to the advice of others. This does not imply blind acceptance but rather a careful consideration of all points of view before you make up your own mind.

Secondly, remember that wisdom is measured in experience and not merely in years. I have known children with a clearer view of the world than many adults whose years have clouded their views with bigotry, hatred and bitterness. Remember therefore, that wisdom can be found in places where it is least expected.

Thirdly, believe in wilderness for it is the only sure escape from the regimentation of day to day activity. The knowledge that wilderness exists provides a possible escape from the rule of the clock. Anyone who has seen an ocean sunset or felt the cold sting of a mountain wind on a winter morn will know what I mean.

Finally be not afraid to dream.

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