Friday, 11 April 2008

Do you need to know 'Why?', or can you accept that 'It is'?

Oh boy. Lordy lordy Miss Maudy. I'm all over the place. Physically, mentally, spiritually, I'm splattered over London and Galway.
My poor old mind hasn't had a chance to take in all that happened on my American adventure, because I've been flying back and forth to my Dad's London hospital room, four days here, four days there, each time unsure whether he'll be there or not.
Lost in exhaustion, disoriented and dizzy, this afternoon my feet naturally gravitated towards the Prom, and took me up to Black Rock, where people of all ages sat on the steps, staring out to sea.
There are often people there, weather permitting, but today I found sudden and substantial pleasure from the sight of them.
My life is at the moment hurtling at high speed, and after being in California and London, where everything from feet to time itself moves so much faster, it was wonderful to be back in the west of Ireland, and see people pondering the ocean; contemplating.
Just, simply, being.
Despite ages ranging from 15 to 80, not one of these step-sitters was playing with a mobile phone. There were neither i-Pods nor Nintendos; neither books nor newspapers.
Just the view, the air, the peace and quiet.
Just being.
Whilst living with Yoda Casanova in the Claddagh many years ago, we sat in the kitchen drinking tens of thousands of cups of tea, smoking fags and snarfing disgusting amounts of chocolate biscuits, talking talking talking through the long wet dark afternoons.
The weighty matters of the universe were all given much respect.
As the months rolled by, I saw a rhythm emerging from our conversations.
Essentially Yoda was constantly asking:
and I was inevitably replying:
"It is."
It made me wonder if we did not represent two specific personality types.
Are you a 'Why?'. Warriors all, the 'Whys?' dedicate their lives to challenging everything.
Or do you, like me, seek to live in the Land of Acceptance, where It is. We too dedicate ourselves to trying to fully understand what is going on, but once we find out, we just want to accept it.
Having just returned from places where people believe they need constant artificial stimuli to get through their days, it was profoundly comforting to see folk happy to sit; gaze at Galway Bay; breathe; just be.
Recently I was at a poker party in a small town in California, enjoying around the table the company of an eclectic, witty and good-humoured assortment of locals and blow-ins.
As is common, the Deal passed from person to person, and Dealer called the game. Having been made most welcome, I relaxed in the company and kindness of relative strangers, and tried to follow the way they played cards.
Each Dealer called impossibly complex variations, and tiredness, beer and my very small brain conspired to combine and confuse me completely.
"Now, have it got it? The first queen to come out is wild, but 4/3/2 is the best hand, and if another queen comes out then she's not wild, and neither is the 3?"
"Yeh, that's it. We love to keep it changing so we don't get bored!"
No chance of that, but sadly, equally no chance of this bear playing for long either.
Never mind trying to work out the probability of getting a good card when cards were becoming wild and unwild at random, I was so tired I could scarcely blink, let alone follow the game.
So cashing in my chips, I then thoroughly enjoyed watching them having a great time.
But made me think.
The poker I love is that of Draw, 5 or 7 card stud.
From within the stark confines of those simple games there dwells a wealth of probability, skill, bluff and luck.
I don't need to change the game all the time.
I just want to understand the game really well.
Those fine and generous people preferred to keep their minds as flowing rivers, constantly changing, meeting new challenges and rhythms.
Mine own bonce is more like a lake, with me on a tiny boat, adrift in the middle of it, staring into its depths, revelling in how incredible it is.
My father is facing a dilemma.
Since his recent bout of illness, he is neither enjoying life nor ready or willing to die.
It has been very difficult watching him living in his shrunken world, but I hope that somehow he finds an answer to his question, a remedy to his fear. I hope he finds some peace, so that we all might share it with him.
The good Galwegians sitting on the steps at Black Rock were happy to be there and enjoy the natural stimuli provided by the Universe.
Once we are able to just be and enjoy that which is around us, we might become less fearful of dying. If we truly accept that we are part of it all, and that all of it just is, then there need be no fear.
Often in this colyoom, I have referred to myself as Jewish, but that's my blood and gene, not my whole.
When you drive through the American wilderness, every single radio station disappears, save for the Christian. It made no difference if the signal was blocked by towering mountains or lost in the vastness of the desert: rock 'n' roll' was a gonner; news and talk radio were nowhere to be heard; but the Christian message, in many of its more extreme forms, came through loud and clear.
I thought maybe 'twas the power of the Lord, until Yoda pointed out how incredibly rich and powerful is the lobby of the Christian Right over there.
Whilst I have the utmost respect for those who find solace and strength within formal religion, I feel utterly and completely spiritually complete within my atheism.
I love the Christian ethics of turning the other cheek, and loving thy neighbour.
As a Jew, I love to toast l'Chaim - to life!
Alongside Islam, I too know that much is beyond my personal control: Insha'Allah - God willing.
But more than all the above, as my anchor in troubled and tempestuous times such as this, as well as the key to my joy in happier days, I choose to believe quite simply and beautifully: It is.

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