Tag Archives: courage

Ocean

When I watch myself reflected in your eyes
Why do I see an ocean, surging deep?

What is it that makes you fear to set sail?
My waters run deep – but they are not cruel.
I caress many shores – yet endlessly return
with the constant loyalty of the tides.

I am no foam-born goddess. Just a woman
who knows her light too well to hide in fear
The wave-glitter is not a stabbing searchlight
Just my mind’s joy calling you to dance with me.

Meantime, my loneliness is oceans-wide
salty with my tears of longing for a man
who can surf the rip-curl of my beating heart
and come safe to the haven of my embrace.

Why do I see you staring like a grown man
clutching waterwings in a clammy hand?

 

The photo is Mermaid in the Ocean, originally uploaded by snuglyteaddybear2007.

Nude

Sometimes life just strips you bare
With cruel words or thoughtless actions
The barren ache of a lover’s “don’t care” 
The flaying words of heightened passions.

Sometimes life just leaves you huddling
Turning your back on life and light
Hugging to yourself the sorely troubling
Anguish of your lonely plight.

Sometimes life sends you nights spent alone
Fighting the nightmares with hands cut raw
Staring into darkness as blank as bone
As your thoughts obsessively worsen the sore.

Sometimes life, like some mystic rite
Demands that you strip yourself totally bare
And face the darkness of your inner night
To discover the limits of what you can bear.

Sometimes life, through suffering, shows you
That nude can be both strong and frail 
As, through exposure, your courage grows, you
Learn naked warriors can still prevail.

 

This was inspired by the monday mural at poefusion – the evocative image above uploaded to photobucket by ncajayon4.

Slow times

Some days walk slowly past.

Limping,
or dawdling,
or just plain tired.

On the flat path,
yesterday’s pebbles become
daunting obstacles
(remember –
it’s much, much easier
to trip over a molehill
than a mountain.)

Nowness is diluted.
Vividness muted.

Nothing is wrong and yet
each moment is heavy
with the absence of 
the active joy 
of everything going just right.

Muscles miss the effort of climbing
as much as the easy swing of descending.

Time dawdles from day to day
wrapped around bright flashes of
things that insist on being noticed.

But these slow times
are just as much a part of life
as the roaring torrent of ecstasy and heartbreak that is love,
or the surge of adrenaline in a body facing times of stress and change.

Patience is as necessary as courage.
And the flat path is also
part of the journey.

So I walk on
through the ambling days. Certain
that interesting times are ahead.

 

I’d forgotten that this week’s Totally Optional Prompt was to write about tempo… but maybe it was working away in the back of my mind, because I wrote this, and only after writing it realised that this was very appropriate to the prompt!

Truth and fear

(A wordle cloud based on the top 100 words in this post)

I realise that I’ve been writing a lot of posts that in some way relate to the truth – to the struggle to see what is true rather than what we wish to be true, and to be honest with ourselves and with others. I thought it might be a good idea to explore what I feel about truth.

I am in the slightly odd position of being deeply committed to an end goal of personal and spiritual growth (tolerance, honesty, compassion, freedom from fear etc) that is similar in some ways to that which is praised by religions. But at the same time I find the supernaturalism of religious and new-age beliefs fundamentally alien, and their approach to key issues like truth and fear unhelpful at best. Which doesn’t leave me much in the way of reliable guidance for the personal growth that I am seeking. Or indeed any help with defining what exactly I aspire to.

But let me try anyway. One of the things I am seeking is a resilience in the face of the problems that life throws at me – not a permanent happiness, but an emotional buoyancy. A state of mind that deals with problems and obstacles with the minimum of pain and misery. (This ideal owes quite a bit to the non-supernatural elements of buddhism)

Part of that process is about overcoming fear, which is often both unnecessary and counterproductive, and replacing it with a confidence and acceptance. And another part of it is about truth – seeing things the way they are. Because I’m curious to know the truth, and because I feel that honesty, integrity and openness are all valuable characteristics of the person I aspire to be. And because if our beliefs lead us to make false predictions about the world, we’re in danger of being unnecessarily prepared for the problems that arise, or of dealing with them inappropriately.

I also value truthfulness as a great tool for identifying and overcoming fear. From my experience, it’s almost always fear that makes me reluctant to see or speak the truth, so working to overcome that reluctance, or at least defy it, can help me to overcome that fear.

For me the work of moving away from fear and towards truth is a vital part of my life at present.

When I feel I am tempted to lie, I try to ask myself, what am I afraid of? When I feel afraid, I ask myself, why am I afraid, and what is the worst that can happen? And I try to decide whether the fear is of something real, or something imaginary. If, as mostly happens, it’s imaginary, I try to do exactly that thing that I’m afraid of. I don’t always manage it – it’s amazing how easily the mind dreams up excuses why it’s not necessary on this occasion! But step by step I am working on my fears.

And similarly I am trying to eradicate the prejudices, biases and fears that are the biggest obstacles to seeing what is real. I keep trying to remember that, although I believe that every one of my beliefs is correct, is is, in practice, certain that I believe something that is not true. Which doesn’t help me to identify which one it is, but it’s a useful principle. (It would be great to be able to swill out my brain with some sort of epistemological plaque detector, which would stain the areas of false belief so that they could be removed with energetic brushing). But it’s a useful way to counter the pride of having to be right about everything all the time.

It’s also helpful to remember all the different ways in which we can be wrong about things, and how difficult it is to really get at the truth. I’ve recently watched several youtube clips of Derren Brown (e.g. this one) which demonstrate very neatly how easy we can be to fool, and how misleading our own experiences can be. (I recently tried dowsing with a pendulum, and it’s quite shocking how strongly it appears that an invisible external force is involved, even when you know intellectually that it’s nothing of the kind!) It seems that humans work in such a way that we arrive at beliefs easily and quickly, and change our minds reluctantly and slowly – I can’t help feeling the reverse would be more useful!

One of the most inspiring websites I know is The World Question Center, which includes a collection of short accounts from 165 people about issues on which they changed their minds. Some of the changes are really significant, others smaller. But what I find inspiring is the courage with which they have been prepared to put their beliefs to the test and say “I was wrong”. And in reading their accounts, I don’t think the less of them for being wrong – I think more of them for admitting it. Which encourages me to try to feel the same about the scary idea of being wrong.

One of the most important ways in which I’ve changed my mind over recent years is this: what people believe really does matter, because it affects their behaviour, and a “live and let live” relativistic attitude to the beliefs of others is dangerous. It also cuts us off from putting our own views to the test – indeed, as I argued in a previous post, I think one of the attractions of relativism is that we don’t have to put our own views on the line and accept that we might be wrong.

For me discussion is a crucial way of putting our beliefs to the test and learning more about ourselves and others. But for a discussion to be real, all parties have to be willing to discover that they’re wrong. And that is a rare attitude for people to have, particularly on issues that matter to them. Pride and fear all come into play and bias our view of the evidence despite our best efforts. Which, yes, brings me back to fear – indeed it seems hard to separate them!

Moving towards truth and away from fear is a daily challenge, and some days I feel I’ve made no progress at all. It’s a hard slog. But it seems to me that it’s a fascinating and important journey.

Though, I could be wrong, I’m afraid….

A wanderer returns (pantoum poem)

I walk the streets alone, in a bubble of no sound
Through the noise and bustle of a foreign place.
Wandering, wondering and staring around.
Rediscovering a once-familiar space.

Distantly remembering once-feared dangers
I walk the streets alone, in a bubble of no sound
For protection against the eyes of the strangers
Wandering, wondering and staring around.

I walk in the strength of newfound pride,
Distantly remembering once feared dangers
Safe and quiet, and no longer driven to hide
For protection against the eyes of the strangers

Through the noise and bustle of a foreign place
I walk in the strength of newfound pride,
Rediscovering a once-familiar space.
Safe and quiet, and no longer driven to hide.

(Glasgow, March 2008)

I wrote this pantoum based on a prompt at readwritepoem.

NB – I realised too late that I’d not read the description of the structure properly and got the lines the wrong way round – it should be lines 2&4 of verse 1 becoming lines 1&3 of verse 2 rather than the opposite which was how I did it!)