Just when I am not expecting anything, in those moments where distracted by routine into a nothing space in my head, I let go of my thoughts and something happens, something gets in. Normally my thoughts run wildly fast, creating a convenient barrier between me and the world, like an electron in an atom (some travel up to 90% of the speed of light) that in empty space creates rock hard material. My thoughts are like a smoke screen that stops the movement of vision from ‘in’ to ‘out’ and ‘out’ to ‘in’.
In 2014 there was a moment when my brain stopped making thoughts.
They say that when you enter the temple, the divine is present and sometimes it is not. It was not the first time that I cycled down the narrow path between the white washed Greek buildings to my little home. It was not the first time that I flew absentmindedly over the crazy paving cracks painted white, it was not the first time I ever felt lost…it was not the first time I was unconsciously in a zen state…but it was the first time that I felt an atomic bomb of an idea go off: we are killing ourselves from the inside out.
Back then I was in art school and we were reading ‘Odyseus’ by Homer. I read about Telemachus, his son, walking down the beach trying to decide what to do with his life. There was a choice: face the huge leap into the dark void of the unknown, face the start of his own epic hero journey even though his knees wanted to buckle under the weight of the fear of leaving all that is known, loved, comfortable, to enter into almost certain suffering, disorientation, constant unknown challenge (that he may not overcome) or stay home with Mom. In his state he calls out to Athena. Athena is the goddess of War, of Courage, of Wisdom. Bejesus he needed it.
Days later I am walking along a similar beach only thousands of years later, mulling over it. The words ‘God’ or ‘Gods’ these days create so much pre-judgemental tension that they are more like arms of mass destruction – and not without cause. Personally I was brought up in the Catholic system, and though I managed to ‘get out’ by the age of fifteen realising that (for myself) this was not a valid path, this was not an authentic path, and that even the parish priest didn’t seem to be able to bridge any of the dogma with actual life (either outside in the material world or inside in the ‘spiritual’/energetic/psychic world) it took me decades to break through my anger, through the illusion of being deceived, through my hatred. I wasn’t able to walk into a church without feeling alarm bells going off and wanting to graffiti the angst in my heart all over the stain glass windows, let alone begin to believe, or think, of ‘God’. Fuck that.
It took walking the ‘Camino de Santiago’ to get me into a little chapel. They were so numerous, so many little shrines dotted along the path that it was irritating. They were getting in the way of my walk within myself. So after about three weeks of waking up, breakfasting, walking, lunching, walking, dining, sleeping, waking up, walking etc I felt the need to feel the experience of going into a church after more than a two decades of rejection, spite and repulsion. To say the least.
My heart felt like it was going to burst through my chest. My vision went white around the edges. I was immersed in an inner soundtrack of a war film. I left.
Next chapel the same but less.
A couple of days later I tried again.
I mean I could go through all of the chapels but needless to say behavioural-cognitive theory does have its place. After I while I started to break down my automatic response systems.
I stood eventually in a chapel and was able – in relative stillness of mind – to realise that nothing is happening. I am not being forced to do anything. I am not being forced to believe anything. This is just a building, that is, actually, rather pleasant. Good acoustics. I tried out a Beatles song.
But many people have not broken through the word God. Or Gods. I’ve felt that atomic bomb go off in my face too many times.
So much so that when I wrote a book about all this I felt it wise to change the strap line from, ‘On Intimacy: Bringing back the Gods’ to ‘On Intimacy: A Forgotten Art’. I prefer the first, it sums up better for me what I was trying to achieve, but there again I am not still angry at the word God, and most of the people I know are.
I mean we can call it ‘Higher presence’, or ‘Higher self’, or ‘the One’ or ‘Oneness’ or ‘That which is more than us’. Your choice whether to use capitals. But over the years of sitting course after course of Vipassana meditation, of exploring the world through forty-two countries, living in seven, of being a serial consumer of workshop courses, of studying a masters of Jungian Psychology and Psychoanalysis, of having a string of partners all of whom I found to be loving and deep and glad to move away from once we had learnt what we needed from each other, I cannot in my heart of hearts say that there is not something more than ‘I’; I cannot say there isn’t anything more than my own sense of self, of who I am.
Telemachus taught me about the gods. About Greek gods at least. I am mortal, completely mortal, and though I have not died yet and find it hard to even imagine myself not being healthy, I know – though can’t really accept – that I will sooner or later clock it. But there is something in me that is Eternal. I know it. Emotions for one.
Presumably (because I wasn’t there) the Troglodytes felt happiness. Presumably the Chinese people inventing ink felt happiness once it worked. Presumably the Ancient Greeks felt happiness because from my modern perspective I have read about it. Happiness is Eternal. As is Joy, Truth, Peace, Beauty, Desire and all those archetypal states. I mean you only need to go to Wikipedia and scan and scan and scan down to see how many Greek Gods there are, each representing something Eternal. And there is Death and War and Madness too that are eternal. Consciousness holds everything.
In a Jungian analysis there was a patient who had a dream. It went like this. There is a flock of birds. They are all flying in the sky. He sees a bird being birthed in the sky, in the stream of their flow. He sees dead birds drop leaving their collective flight. Then he sees that through the birds there is a continual stream of light. Each bird is like an electron in a stream of light. Each bird is needed to let the light pass through it and onwards. When the bird dies, another one takes its place. Nothing is wasted. We are all needed.
Happiness can flow within any person, between any people. We have all experienced this Eternal feeling. Maybe we all feel it differently. Maybe we distort it in our own individual warped-upness, but happiness is Eternal.
Athena, the goddess of war and courage and wisdom visits Telemachus as he walks along the Greek island beach. He was in fear. He was bewildered. He didn’t know what to do. Then he called on Her, within himself, he called on courage, and opening to her, surrendering to Her, he began to feel it (Her) flow through his veins. He was full of courage. He set off. He went.
So spoke the goddess, flashing-eyed Athena, and departed, flying upward as a bird; and in his heart she put strength and courage.
THE ODYSSEY – BOOK 1.
Eternity is not this great thing. Perhaps a god is simply that which is eternal.
And cycling down that white washed street in an emotional crisis in the middle of an economic crisis it hit me, like Athena hit Telemachus, that we are killing our gods. We are killing what is eternal within us. Killing? Well, no not really: it is impossible to kill the Eternal, but we are disconnecting, not allowing it flow, we are not allowing it pass. Do not pass go, go straight to jail. We are not allowing time to let in the eternal.
I thought of my friends, of the Greeks, of the people working in shops, all with drawn faces. All working through the terror of not being able to survive. People didn’t have enough to eat. There were collections for the most vulnerable kids in the primary school to be able to give them at least one meal a day. People had cars but couldn’t get them out of the garage, petrol was too much of a stretch. People were working double, being paid half. People were feeding on worry.
Terror, is also Eternal. So is Death and War and Madness each with their own Greek God. We do not harness them either as a drive, but let them immobilise us. On that bike home I felt like we are killing all the creativity within us, the courage to live, and letting fear and terror destroy us rather than make us. In this world climate it feels that, if we actually manage to feel authentic emotions, if we manage to allow an e-motion to move us, it is in destruction, in fear, leading us down the garden path to become more haggard, less nourished, to block any ability to thrive. Perhaps it is the age old, eternal battle of the light and the dark. And we are losing.
I think if we knew how to, we would all naturally choose to fight for the Light. Or rather would like to relax into love. I personally would like to shed fear. I would like to connect with others and create something between us that is more than each one of us. I want to believe in creativity rather than buying in to short term solutions.
So over the last two years I wrote and published a book called, ‘On Intimacy: A Forgotten Art’ because maybe, just maybe, if we were to find deeper ways to nourish ourselves rather than trying to buy and sell ourselves, if we were able to find meaningful peace within ourselves and with others, perhaps we will change the world as we bring back the smile of the ‘gods’. Perhaps we will allow more light to stream through ourselves and our societies? Perhaps we will thrive…
And as I wrote the book, the book wrote me. As I delved into the fields of what intimacy may mean, I realised that the adage, ‘The Truth lies in the simple for it is where most overlook’ is absolutely true. It took me 450 pages to realise a very easy thing that changes worlds within; that if we were all to accept this truth – but it’s hard because it’s so simple – we could possibly god-damn-it can change the entire blasted world for the better, for our better, for the better of everyone and everything.
But what is this truth? I hear you ask. It is so simple that is as difficult to accept as the knowledge that one day we will die, and it is this: YOU are good enough as you are.
It’s all we need to know. That’s it.
You are good enough.
And child’s play is so easy. It is just so darned hard to get to. To allow. To enter up into.
I mean you can buy the book, read the journey of philosophy and depth psychology, of polyamory, of dance and it could nudge you in the right direction inside, (three friends have said that they literally couldn’t put it down, it was life changing) but essentially this is what it says: you are good enough.
Because you are.
I don’t know how to write it any simpler, any more accessible-ly.
Though I would love you to, you don’t need to read the book. Deep down you already know.
It’s our responsibility to bring back the Gods. Just remember.
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