Midnight Musings

Despite it being the season to be jolly, I’ve been feeling pretty serious of late. As world events continue to astound and upset, I find myself constantly calling into question where we as a species will end up. I fear I already know the answer. It is incredible to think we have so much knowledge and power at our disposal, and yet we are on a crash course to destroy ourselves. We have not learned from past mistakes, and we are rapidly destroying and outgrowing the planet we call home. Even if we do manage to colonise another planet, how will any but the richest survive? And what will we be? Destined to live forever more as the Universe’s parasites? We have evolved so much and yet we cannot free ourselves from corruption and greed. These two things are threatening our existence, yet most of us prefer to stick our heads in the sand rather than acknowledge what’s happening and fight for change.

What is our purpose, here, on this planet? Were we really created by chance? I know the evidence seems stacked against there being a ‘God’, in whatever guise He/She may take, and yet I find myself questioning if it might just be conceivable that we aren’t alone in all of this; that something is watching us, guiding us, pulling our strings. Maybe ‘God’, maybe a superior species. For all we know we could be some alien experiment; a whole world in a snow globe on an alien life form’s office desk. I kind of like that idea.

If there is a God, it’s hard to understand how such terrible things can happen without some sort of intervention. Or maybe it’s not. Maybe it was never God’s role to save us from ourselves. Only we can do that. But will we? As things currently stand I’m just not sure.

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Existential Musings to kick of Mindfulness Month

Last night, before bed, I found myself engaged in a discussion about the nature of the universe, how humans (and the world as we know it) came to be, and what, if anything, happens after we die. This wasn’t light subject matter for a Sunday evening, and I must confess that, as fascinated as I am by the incredible phenomenon of our existence, I am, in equal parts, utterly terrified by it. My partner and I are at opposite ends of the spectrum where explanation of our existence is concerned – he takes an entirely scientific view and has no belief in a greater being or purpose. As far as he is concerned, therefore, when humans die, we cease to exist. There is no Heaven, no Hell, no reincarnation, not even, as Buddhist philosophy posits, a higher, purer form of consciousness that our ego-less selves return to. There is just nothing, until sometime in the far distant future (or perhaps not even future, since quantum physicists believe that time itself is a construct of our tiny minds because they are not capable of perceiving more than three dimensions – I won’t even begin to go there) another Big Bang-type event occurs and gives rise to another civilisation like ours – as has, statistically speaking, most likely happened before, and will continue to happen, ad infinitum. Whilst this argument fascinates me, it also makes me feel so entirely insignificant that it makes me want to cry. In fact, I’m embarrassed to admit that last night whilst having the conversation I actually did cry, quite suddenly and without warning, and purely as a result of the stabbing terror that accompanied the mere suggestion there is nothing more to this life, that we are but a happy (some might not use that word) ‘accident’ of the universe.

I was brought up in a family with religious beliefs, and if pressed I would say that I still sit more on the side of there being ‘something out there’ than not, though that’s not to say I would currently classify myself as a practising Christian – far from it. Whilst I completely appreciate the argument that religion is merely a construct of the narrow human mind in an attempt to comfort itself about the impending nothingness after death and the relative obscurity and pointlessness of its existence, I don’t entirely buy it. Maybe that’s precisely because my own narrow mind is so terrified that it has adopted that default position. But somehow I just feel so deeply and intrinsically certain there is more to this puzzle than we are capable of understanding – more than even science can explain. I don’t believe in the notion of a white-bearded God who sits atop a cloud, nor do I believe in a red horned Devil stoking the fires of Hell. If anything I’m more inclined to align myself with the Buddhist idea of losing our egos and returning to one consciousness – as frightening as it is to think of losing that part of myself that makes me unique, I think I can buy into the concept of enlightenment and acceptance of what is, what has always been and what will always be. I might even be convinced to some extent in reincarnation, and living other lives as a pathway to higher states of enlightenment. I certainly believe in the existence of ghosts – whether they are really the spirits of dead people or rather the imprints of those people due to some kind of space/time lapse or interference I’ve (obviously) no idea. But now I’m really going off piste.

If you’ve read this far the chances are you think I’ve gone quite crazy. And maybe I have. But isn’t it important for us to think about the nature of our own existence? As tempting as it is to put it in a box labelled ‘too scary’, isn’t it a good thing to question why we are here and what happens once we are no longer? It’s certainly a topic that is playing more on my mind with advancing years (as well it might, for obvious reasons).

I said I’d make February a month for mindfulness, and this topic seems a good place to start. This morning I listened to the Inner Fire guided meditation from the Chopra Centre, which focused on accepting change. At the end was a one minute poem, and it was highlighted that one minute is all it takes for the blood in our circulatory system to pump around the entirety of our bodies. Isn’t that amazing? In a single minute we essentially change completely on a cellular level. Last night my boyfriend held my hand up to the light to draw attention to the red hue fingers have in such a situation. He pointed out that redness was the iron in our bodies – iron that was created in the Big Bang, and which was but one of many incredible ingredients that make up what we are. This blew my mind, to some extent, but also fascinated me. We are such complex beings and this universe is huge beyond our comprehension. Isn’t it important, therefore, that no matter what lies ‘beyond’, we make the most of every second that we exist, in this context and in this realm of consciousness?

I will finish this somewhat existential blog post with a fascinating story one of my friends re-posted (somewhat coincidentally) on Facebook today:

In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery?” The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”

“Nonsense” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?”

The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.”

The first replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.”

The second insisted, “Well I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.”

The first replied, “Nonsense. And moreover if there is life, then why has no one has ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.”

“Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.”

The first replied “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists then where is She now?”

The second said, “She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her this world would not and could not exist.”

Said the first: “Well I don’t see Her, so it is only logical that She doesn’t exist.”

To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and you really listen, you can perceive Her presence, and you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.” – Útmutató a Léleknek

Food for thought.

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Hate for hate’s sake

I know I shouldn’t jump on the bandwagon after yesterday’s shocking attack on a soldier near his army barracks in Woolwich, but I’ve been so shocked and appalled by the outpouring of anti-Muslim sentiment on social media in its wake that I feel compelled to write about it.

What happened was both vile and unforgivable. But whilst the true nature and circumstance of the crime has yet to be revealed, let’s get one thing straight. Whether this was truly an ‘act of terrorism’ – as the media so gleefully report – or the act of two delusional individuals with extremist beliefs, it is beyond wrong to lay the blame for this incident at the door of the Muslim community.

For the English Defence League – whose website claims they are “are an inclusive movement dedicated to peacefully protesting against Islamic extremism” – to arm themselves with bottles and attack police and mosques in the wake of the incident is despicable.

Why do some people in this country – and the world at large – have such a strong propensity for hate? They claim to be fighting a cause but in reality it’s simply violence for violence’s sake. An eye for an eye is what they misguidedly believe, but do they even understand what they’re allegedly fighting for?

Yes, times are hard, and many people are looking for someone to blame. But for God’s (and by this I must be clear that I mean any god) sake let’s not lose the one thing that makes our species great: Our humanity. Because without that what are we but animals? And savage ones at that.

Confession

I’ve been a busy bee setting things in motion for my impending part-time freelance career, and already the fear is being outweighed three to one by excitement. Today I had my first freelance proposal accepted – admittedly it’s only for a book review that will earn me the paltry sum of thirteen Great British pounds, but nonetheless it’s a step in the right direction. I’ve also set up a meeting with a PR agency contact on my first ‘official’ day as a freelance in April. So it’s full steam ahead with all writing-related plans and I couldn’t be feeling more positive.

Now, as it’s been a while since I posted any fiction I thought today was the day to redress the balance. This post was inspired by the current situation in Rome…

Confession

It was raining hard when Ellie arrived at the church, yet she was barely aware of being soaked to the skin. She pushed open the ancient metal-studded wooden door and, after a moment’s hesitation, pushed aside the heavy damask drapes and stepped into the darkness within.

Ever since she was a little girl she’d found being inside churches comforting. They had, she thought, a womb-like quality, providing an invisible yet protective barrier between those inside and the real world outside. Whenever she’d had problems in her life she had come here, to this very church; to pray, to repent, to seek forgiveness. Not that she’d ever been given a choice.

Today the church was silent but for the distant flapping of avian wings in the eaves. Motes of dust floated in the musty air. Ellie tread softly across the faded flagstone flooring, worn down from thousands of worshippers’ feet that had trodden this path before her own. She kept her eyes down as she passed row upon row of mahogany pews, each cradling hymn books and orders of service for that evening’s mass.

She approached the altar, too ashamed to look heavenward and meet the non-judgemental eyes of Jesus. Her knees sank into the crocheted cushion, her elbows settled on the hard wood railing. She bowed her head still further, clasped her hands together and closed her eyes, offering her thoughts to a higher being.

No priest was privy to her confession; it was witnessed only by the God she had served for all of her eighteen years. Once finished she allowed herself the briefest of glances towards her Saviour, who was but a silhouette against the wall of multi-coloured light that now streamed through the window behind.

As she rose from her knees she briefly wondered what the Pope would say about her predicament, what advice he would give from his seat in the Vatican. Would he offer her forgiveness? Would anyone?

Feeling suddenly claustrophobic, she turned and walked back down the aisle, her pace quickening with each step. She passed the parapet, pausing for a moment to remember sermons of days and years past. At the font she hesitated again before dipping her finger in the cold water and hurriedly making the sign of the cross. Then, with a final nod to Jesus, she walked to the door, pulled the damask drapes aside and stepped out into the light.

The heavy door shuddered to a close behind her with a bang that made her jump. She turned and traced the warping of the wood lightly with her finger, then laid her palm flat against its surface. A single tear escaped her eye and trailed across her cheek.

Today, she knew, there would be no forgiveness.

This would be her last confession.

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I took this photo on Charles Bridge in snowy Prague a few weeks ago.