Uncommon Sense

May 25, 2008

No winter lasts forever

Filed under: life,value,winter — Derek @ 6:55 am
Tags: , , ,

As I awoke this morning to the stillness of the farm, my family all still soundly asleep, there was a song running in my head that I have not heard in a long long time.

When I was a youngster, I was introduced to the music of John Denver by a friend, and this song was one I particularly enjoyed. It was called “Summer” and it spoke of appreciation for life and being thankful just for being here. Life was so much simpler then, and it was a time of fun and laughter, punctuated with heartbreak that never seemed to hold me back, just brief pauses in the headlong rush that is life at nineteen.

“Do you care what’s happening around you, do your senses know the changes when they come?”

Change has never been a problem for me; I have welcomed it, always ready for a new stimulus, a new challenge. Reinvention could easily be my middle name, having lived and worked in very different worlds, all requiring unique skill sets. Starting with the grease, rubber and exhaust smells of apprenticeship as a mechanic, through the clinical cleanliness of main-frame computers, on into the dramatic and emotional nights as a professional dance instructor, I was constantly assured of something new, each environment offering a fresh perspective on life. I was also willing to start again, and take the risk again, never being interested in security, wanting freedom more than anything else.

By the time I moved into microcomputers and then in the late eighties into management consultancy, the world had already become far more complicated. Of course, it may be that it was me that perceived it to be so, since I had widened my horizons in a manner that I have discovered few people do: I had started reading, not to be entertained or to enhance my own position in the world, but to understand it. The great majority who do read do so for the former reasons, and of course they are in any case in the minority when considered in comparison with the general populace. With every book I read, and with every thought arising from what I had read, I was confronted with a Universe that was so much more complex than I had been led to believe by my teachers, parents and peers.

“Can you see yourself reflected in the seasons, can you understand the need to carry on?”

The world was complicated, not only because my own life had become so, but because it was difficult to see where I fitted into a world that I now saw as an insane, gratuitous attempt by everyone to be right, to justify their existence by proving how necessary they were. Slowly but surely, over a period that I visualised as having started when I began to think for myself but probably stretched from my childhood when I spent most of my time alone, I detached myself from ‘popular’ society. I could no longer see myself reflected there, in the whims and fashions of the social wave. It became evident, however, that I was to be here for the duration, whatever that meant, and so was committed, or cursed, to continue.

Often I have questioned that commitment in the light of the pain and sadness that aches from my screen every day, as I see appeals for help from all corners for creatures that have been hurt or abandoned and I ask why but there is only silence, even my own mind stilled by the sheer scale of the problem. I remind myself that if I give up, it is tantamount to saying that life is not worth defending. And I believe it is; not mine specifically, but life as an event, an experience, a challenge, a mystery, is well worth it, even when there is so much disillusion. I have to believe that existence has a point, that somehow, the senselessness has an order, a reason to remain. Were it not so, since none of the short-term agendas of fame and fortune have any appeal for me, there could be no reason to continue. I do so, not because I know even my own purpose, but because to say that there is none besides the survival imperative is to admit to a tautological nihilism. That is the same as death, and I am alive.

“Rejoicing in the differences, there’s no one just like me”

That I was different did not require any argument. I wondered whether I had become different, or whether I was different to start with. And then I remembered the hours spent alone as a kid, playing games that I had concocted, always games that were miniature representations of real world scenarios, models of reality, so to speak. Alone because, while I did have friends and there were many enjoyable hours spent in their company, I was somehow most content in my room, away from the superficialities of social interaction, populated with busyness, with veneers but no depth. When I withdrew from society later in life, I was to remember those precious days. I was still making models, but now the models were not games, they contained all the seriousness of the nature of the real world, the human condition, the state of the planet, and the plight of the animal kingdom. I became conscious, in my interaction with others, that my world view was unique, being the product of my personal history, which included my experience of life, the books I had read, discussions with others, thoughts stimulated by all of the above.

I resolved that I would never seek for wealth or acclaim, but that I would search for understanding. It is a road that has led down some dark corridors, and many’s the time I feared I would not escape those cobwebbed doorways, where confusion seemed to trap my mind, so many paths…

I have to believe that there is a way through. Yes it’s a predictable metaphor, hopeful in it’s intent, but there always is. And if there isn’t, it makes no sense to complain about it.

“Yet as different as we are, we’re still the same”

We’re really all in the same boat. We’re all ignorant, just the subject differs. We are at the mercy of our ignorance, which includes the illusion of knowledge, the notion we have that the ideas we have subscribed to as true are somehow cast in stone. As much as I believed my reality model to be unique, I recognised elements of it in the thinking of others, and came to understand that everyone’s reality is a product of their personal history, and as such makes the world sensible to them.

So when I watch the religious fundamentalists on their podiums, thumping their sacred texts and textbooks, and telling me that they know the ‘truth’, I see myself and it’s funny in an ironic fashion, and I have to smile but it is not because I am happy.

“Oh, I love the life within me – I feel a part of everything I see”

In the past year I have lost everything but have not lost my mind. It remains intact even when Winter warns with it’s white mornings that soon there will be hardship for all life, whether animal or vegetable. Already the garden shrivels up, contracting, terminating growth plans for the coming freeze; the harvester termites stock up, many birds will soon be on their way. I worry about the strays that have visited the farm in search of food and I hope I can make them comfortable enough with my presence that I can get them to stay, come inside, find a home, and I know that they are only a tiny fragment of the problem and it’s going to get worse and I am but one man with few resources.

It makes me sad that in a world of such astonishing potential that we have such excesses in some places and such extreme deprivation in others. It is too easy to blame individuals for their lot, simplistic to argue that everyone deserves their life. I have been in all their places, having been rich and poor, and I know that neither state is necessarily happy or sad. It is harsh but it is all we have; no matter how difficult we must fight to find a balance. We must remove the separateness.

“And oh, I live the life around me – a part of everything is here in me”

The world is apparently meaningless but perhaps that is how it is meant to be. Perhaps we are supposed to bring the meaning in; it is unnecessary to leave the world in the state that we find it. Somebody has to stop the cycle, and to give in to meaningless acts of deprivation and cruelty is to admit that such is life. I am as responsible as anyone else, even more so if I do not take action ‘against a sea of troubles’.

The world is an astonishingly beautiful place, and I am the luckiest man alive, because I have understood what a gift life is and how fortunate I am. Today I have very little but I am more content than I have ever been, because I now know my place in this world. There is nothing I take for granted; every moment is a masterpiece, and for the first time I know what it is I have to do.

And for the moment, that is more than enough.



  1. Hi Derek,
    Your words touch me deeply, I could have written all of them. I see it the same way. The beauty, the insanity, the love, the pain. And have to say after examining it all “What now?” I can search for all the knowledge and spend my life trying to attain it. Or all the art, or all the….But at some stage we have to look back at Mozart, and Einstein and ask ourselves “ Is that all?”
    But what about ME? What MUST or CAN I do?
    It sounds like you have found THE ANSWER? I need it, tell me what it is?

    Comment by Linda Davis — May 30, 2008 @ 10:03 am

  2. It’s strange, this is the only thing I have ever written, that upon reading it, makes me sad…
    I could write another article.perhaps even a book, on this subject, Linda… Thanks for your kind words, as well as the frustrated ones. Let me see if I can express this in a way that doesn’t sound trite or borrowed from religion or philosophy, although there is no doubt in my mind that inevitably it will be. To think that we can determine our own destinies is, for me, a ludicrous pursuit, and yet I see the greater majority of people committing almost every breathing moment to that end, and we maintain this separation from the world and it’s harshness in many different ways. The focus should not be on the means that we employ, but that the separation seems so necessary, as if there is a constant desire to escape, to be free, but no matter where we turn, we turn to face it, and so we seek another device, another ingenious method, to effect our release. The idea that we can escape is, I have discovered, an illusion. And the notion that it is desirable to escape is the lie of the ages. We must embrace it, because we are as much a part of it as it is a part of us. And in embracing it, we discover that it is not fearful, it is wonderful, for now we live…
    It matters not that we can do little. It matters that we do, because the alternative, as Tony would say, is to give up, and giving up is tantamount to accepting that my life has no validity, that I have no say in the workings of the world. I call it the domino principle. While I am around, I’m going to knock over dominoes, and my last action in my last breath will be knock over another, and the effects will still be felt centuries from now.
    For the longest time, I have specifically NOT wanted to take responsibility for the world, and the pain inside reinforced that desire to abscond from the affairs of the world. But pain is life’s way if telling us something is wrong, and it is where you feel the pain that your responsibility lies.
    The sadness can be enveloping but it tells me I am here, and in each moment (that’s how we get them), I respond, and though I am but a twig in the wind, I must do that which I believe is necessary. I can do nothing else.

    Comment by justd — May 30, 2008 @ 10:44 am

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