This blogpost has been some time in gestation. I’ve been travelling around the north west, and travelling always makes me contemplate life: I’m also currently reading Jostein Gaarder’s novel-come-philosophy book, Sophie’s World, and have just finished Lyn Thurman’s The Inner Goddess Revolution. All heady stuff (I’m going to read about the Crusades next… one middle-eastern originating monotheistic religion fighting another… don’t they think that maybe they worship the same God, who would be disappointed in the squabbles and blood shed over the detail of how to worship him?).
I want to quote from Thurman’s book as it relates in part to world philosophies and religions, and is relevant both to men and to women, as well as echoing many other things I have read over the past year or more.
“The time we have on this planet is precious and so very short. We have to live each day in a sense of awe at the gift we’ve been given, and to treat each day with joy [Me: sometimes more easily said than done…]. Imagine how you would feel if each morning you were on a holiday…
You can do that, you know.
A holiday is a ‘holy day’; a day that’s spiritual and sacred… You’re given a brand new holiday with each sunrise… you can choose your path forward. You can follow your dreams and be outrageously authentic…
You change, the world around you changes, and you become the change. The world needs that.”
What is clear to me from all this reading and thinking is that the majority of mankind has always felt that there is a spiritual side to us human beings; but also a consciousness that we are somehow both small and great at once – part of a larger universe and yet each of us capable of greatness, should we choose and should we follow our ‘true’ path and let ourselves shine. Perhaps for some that’s almost an impossibility: for some day to day survival is the priority, and profound thinking is a luxury. On the other hand thank goodness there are those who do think profoundly, and have done over the centuries, as it seems to me that those who don’t think strategically, altruistically and wisely enough are those who at times have led us into meaningless wars. There was a fascinating programme about the Crusades which I caught on catch-up TV a couple of months ago, which made me consider how blinkered in their thinking the medieval Crusaders were.
The travelling has also made me think about the ‘spirit of place’, however – the Genius Loci as the polytheistic Romans called it. Even nowadays there are some places which draw us more than others: some draw many thousands of people (look at Stonehenge over the ages); some are more personal. I’ve written about my special places in this blog many times, but out in the warm sun – for the first time this year I could just have worn a t-shirt – for a run this morning I thought about it again.
I love living where I do. I love this wild borderland, further north than the north, and its deep sense of history, even if it has been a troubled history of conflict and death. I also loved living in the Pyrenees, for similar reasons: I lived in an area which had swapped backwards and forwards between France and Spain, was a great distance from the capital city (and therefore ‘misunderstood’ if not ignored) and also which has the hills and the sea. And today it made me think about places for contemplation. They seem, for me at least, to be places with a strong sense of the physical as well as being soulfully uplifting.
The other day I was in Southport on business. I’m rather nosey about places anyway – I’m not very good at just going somewhere directly and then turning round and heading home again – I like to explore a bit. There was the long, long pier, just begging me to walk to the end of it, out over the sea. As I walked the wind got stronger until I stood at the end feeling as if any moment I might be lifted up and blown away. The sun was out but over the land to the north rain clouds could be seen: in fact as I travelled home that day there was snow on the top of Shap Fell. From where I was standing I could see North Wales in one direction and Blackpool in the other. The power of the wind was exhilarating.
A few days later I ran up Talkin Fell. Again, the power of the wind was incredible but lifted my spirits. This time I was, of course, high up and the sea was distant – and I stood on the top of the hill and shouted. Despite the force and strength of the wind, I felt strong: rooted to the ground and yet with my head in the clouds (well, almost). It’s an intoxicating feeling and in fact it’s always with some reluctance that I leave the top and start my descent. In Ridge Woods I’m in amongst the trees and it’s they who are rooted to the ground with tops in the sky: funny how strong they seem and yet after a gale or storm there will be those which have fallen.
And then I sing. An act which is physical (you can’t sing properly without some physical effort) and yet which is also effortless… I find my voice soaring high thrilling but I have to be firmly rooted to the ground to let it do so.
Which makes me think that life is all about balance and contradictions – which is just what I’ve been reading about in Sophie’s World.
What or where are your places for contemplation?