Monday, 18 January 2010

Things That Happen (4)


People come into our lives all the time. Even on this earth—the physical people we know—they identify and understand us only when they share part of our journey and travel along the same path. Eventually, we may part company and all explore more distinctive paths, but still find a few souls to accompany us from time to time. But when we part company with someone we have previously shared so much; we still travel parallel to that person for a while, despite never meeting or knowing them ever again. We naturally become oblivious to the emotional existence they experience after parting. We are only left with our thoughts and memories of that part of the road we shared for a while. In many ways, they become our own ghosts. They are the people we knew—still remembered—always living physically on outside of our consciousness, even long after their possible demise. We have a much defined idea of spirits, created out of an historical culture of stories, myths and legends passed on by the human voice through the ages. This has led to a structure of learned beliefs and predeterminations of a part of our existence that we do not know or understand. The reality is we are haunted by spirits living and dead every day of our lives.

I grew up in the 1970’s and 80’s and was open to the same structure of learned beliefs and predeterminations. Despite this conditioning, I was not perturbed by the idea of ghost, ghoul, werewolf or any menoalent force. The only spirit I understood and acknowledged was through the indoctrination of the Catholic Church. I loved Roald Dalh’s Tales of the Unexpected, a season of ITV’s Beasts, or a late BBC Saturday double-bill of horror, be it Peter Cushing, Peter Lorre or Christopher Plummer. I just knew there was something, and I’d experienced it. When I had to go to the toilet at night, I ran upstairs with the lights out! I had a preconception of how you meet a ghost when I was young, and I pursued it, little knowing of the true realities that lay ahead in my life. It just doesn’t work that way.

I think, for the most part, you lose spiritual perspective in your twenties. There is far too great a battle going on in all of us during our teenage years as our true individual character matures, and that is if we even dared to come to terms with the inner self. Right, then, you are alive, independent, and less willing to compromise with anything fundamental, always testing what you have learned and the validity of it. In your twenties, each year brings new experience, good and bad, of the world we are trying to find our place in. We are often furthest away from the true person we will one day become. You don’t know it, and better still, you don’t care. Your ghosts are as close, and yet, as far away as they have ever been to your spirit and soul. Your thirties become the age of reaching out and grasping at something of value, be it material, romantic, moral or spiritual. The thing is, right then, we are least equipped to grasp anything but the falling rubble at our feet. We realise life is actually an angled climb toward something indistinct, but a necessary trek we seem to lumber and stumble through for much of the way. In our thirties, getting back up and onto the saddle is a daily occurrence we perform as if it were automatic, hardly for a moment pausing to dust ourselves off. This is the least time in our lives when we are connected with our body and soul.

After the appearance of the wretched poor girl in my bedroom when I was 19 years of age, I think I wanted to let go of any form of self-examination or questioning of what I had experienced. I believed if I turned the light of human curiosity out and drove forward into my twenties with a less emotional outlook; it would all stop and be forgotten. For a long, long time it was, but I had no idea my cold rationale would lead to the doors of my heart closing firmly and shutting out all that was good around me. I’ll never know the opportunities, wonder and goodness that were lost to me.

In my twenties, and for much of my thirties, I think I thought little of my spirit or soul, and yet, I wrote intently and deliberately many books which dealt with human existence; the strength of the spirit and the search for the soul. They were just not my spirit or soul. Somewhere in the mix of life, functionality took over, and any self-discoveries and moments of revelation were lived through the spectral nameless characters on their journeys through the landscape of my books. I did not have to take the risks they took, make the sacrifices they made or endure their poverty, but in so doing, I also never experienced their wealth and spirit in life itself. In many ways, I became the living dead and I was the sole protagonist in my own story.

I’m not sure when exactly I emerged from my self-imposed emotional stupor. When I found my first real loving relationship, I settled down, married and children arrived. Sometime in my early thirties, I think the long, slow thaw of winter in my life finally gave way to a spring of sorts. The presence of a woman in a man’s life brings great perspective and only then can you see the point you are on your journey. But the journey is only just beginning...

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