Monday, June 25, 2012

Journal of a Soul 8

Badolato Marina Beach, June 2012
The fleeting nature of time has long been a topic in philosophy.  Things are so much in flux that the ancient pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus declared so insightfully that we cannot step into the same river twice.  Our grand-parents, now long since passed away, used to opine, also rather wisely, “that much water has passed under the bridge” since X, Y or Z happened.  They intuitively had grasped exactly what Heraclitus meant.
As a small boy I used hate travelling with my parents to my father’s home town, called Roscrea, in the County of Tipperary in the Southern midlands of Ireland.  He would inevitably end up in this or that erstwhile neighbour’s house or in this or that local hostelry reminiscing on his youth, on how quickly the years had passed, on where A or B had lived, on whether C or D were still in England or America and how sad it was that E and F were now no more. It used to drive us children mad as we just wanted to be outside playing.  We simply did not wish to be sitting indoors while the older people went back in time in their minds.  And yet we were often bemused that my father could remember decades before the then present time.
As I age it has now become quite interesting that I can now appreciate what made my father misty eyed as he reminisced about the so-called “good old days” which were not that good at all at all.  At 54 years of age I can recall clearly when I was three years old playing with a toy lorry in the lane at the back of our house in Roscrea.  Now that’s 51 years ago or just slightly over five decades in the past.  That time has passed so quickly is at once frightening and somewhat consoling too.  If everything were to stay the same there simply would be no being or becoming at all, no ageing and consequently no death.  Indeed, if everything were to remain the same would there even be birth?  Without change there would be no life at all.  Then, paradoxically, one could say that without death there would be no life at all. 
To be is to become; to become is to grow old; to grow old is to die.  St Augustine once defined time as “the measure of change.”  For a fourth century intellectual that was not a bad definition of time at all.  To grow is to change.  To live is to grow and change, and indeed, eventually to die.
Modernity has a lot going for it.  Health of humans and indeed animals has improved remarkably in the last, say, one hundred years.  People are now living longer; women into their late eighties and men into their late seventies and early eighties.  I’m taking these figures from my own experience here in Ireland, and have not checked them out, but they are roughly accurate.  Modernity has brought comfort with it also, with so many pieces of modern technology to help us in our every daily task.  And so living has become less of a struggle.  We are also so much better educated.  Added to that, we can practically travel anywhere we want in the modern world, again with greater ease and with so much less cost than one hundred years ago.  Within reason we have more control over our lives than our forefathers.  And yet, this control over our lives has a downside to it.
Modernity, and indeed post-modernity if that is the way to describe our time in the early 21st century, have hoodwinked us into believing almost the impossible at times.  We, in the Northern hemisphere certainly, believe that we are entitled to all the benefits that a modern state can give; believe almost at times that the world (or State) owes us a living; believe that we can conquer the impossible; live longer and ever longer; look to our selfish rights without adequately considering our due responsibilities.  And this is where we have lost some of the extraordinary advantages of less modern times.
Another view of Badolato Beach
Those advantages were more of a “soul-making nature.”  John Keats, the great poet of the English Romantic period, who lived to be barely 25 years of age used to call this world the “vale of soul-making.”  The poor man died very young from Tuberculosis.  Even travelling to the wonderfully warm climes of Rome failed to stop the inevitable.  In other words, from our sufferings we can learn.  Now, here I am not necessarily talking about suffering and dying per se, or about learning their profound if bitter lessons.  No, I am referring to the fact that we can learn to slow down; learn to take stock of life; learn to prioritize things in our lives; learn to listen to our own Heart or Soul; learn to listen to the Heart or Soul of an Other; learn to be in tune with the rhythms of life; learn really to be at one with the natural sequences of the seasons.
And so to finish this post, I have learned to slow down firstly the hard way by enduring a bad mental breakdown occasioned by too much stress when I was forty.  But I knew that I had to do more.  I then began to do many creative soul-making things like Meditation, taking more time out, learning to say NO, learning to do new things, to holiday more, to write more, to reflect more, to go to more personal development conferences, to get to know positive people and to spend more time with such people, to cultivate friendships because truly relationships are like plants, they will wither and die if not cared for.  Even in the concrete jungles of modern cities each of us can at least cultivate a small garden on our balconies.  I have seen many of them in the biggest and most alienating of cities.  I have also been privileged to have been welcomed into the smallest and most homely and soul-full of homes in the biggest of cities.  In other words, with practice we can learn to grow our own Souls with care.  We can also learn in the most alien of places to put down roots of Self.  By doing so we will become attuned once again, like our forebears to the rhythms and cycles of the seasons where it is just as natural for the ripe fruit to drop from the bough as it is just as natural for the seed to die and give forth the life of a new young shoot.  Being in tune with the rhythms and cycles of the seasons, with the circular nature of time, readies us to face our own necessary part in those same cycles and rhythms, of which our dying and death are just such a little part.


  1. I like your new blog. I suppose I can call myself a pilgrim too and want you to know that I am grateful for all the markers left in the wilderness by wayfarers like you. When I'm ready for a new affirmation that says I'm on the right path I seem to find signs that tell me to keep going, there's more, it's an amazing journey. So, thank you. May you travel long and hale.

  2. Thank you for this authentic comment!