Thursday, 30 June 2011

Politics, Treachery and... a Beautiful Rose

Over the past few days, a few threads have come together to combine and pour themselves onto this page. It has demonstrated to me that I don't have complete control over the processes that steer me through life, nobody does, however much they think they do; that even the smallest, most insignificant event can bring such gravitas to one's life, that could not be predicted.

In recent months, whilst I've had more time not only to reflect but also to review, research and interrogate life's processes, I've allowed my mind from time to time to become infected by pessimistic thoughts, which have conspired to worsen my mood, with a concomitant fear for the futures of my children and grandchildren in a world with an increasing population, increasing greed for its limited resources; self-interest, political and corporate corruption and treachery.

Life's rich tapestry. It is just that, a rich tapestry, and all the more interesting for it; so not all is bad, there is hope.

Babbacombe from Oddicombe
It can very reasonably be argued that, fundamentally, we are all self-interested; we are all selfish and greedy from time to time; and, given the opportunity, I dare say there are not a few of us, who would be tempted to take advantage of privilege and power, if we had it in sufficient measure! I hope that I would not be one of these, but how can I say so with certainty? Beyond this, it takes a special - and by special I'm not referring to a particularly desirable human trait - a special kind of personality to be capable of mercilessly ruthless exploitation and treachery - I am reminded of the 'Morlocks' in H G Wells' chilling vision of the world in his "The Time Machine", published late in the 19th Century. There are those who can exploit beyond a simple local selfish motive; even beyond a desire to build and run a large, successful organisation - be it commercial, charitable or social one. But I'm talking here of international, corporate power mongering; a desire to exploit and control whole populations, with the end game being investment solely in the interests of a minority elite. It has happened throughout the history of the human race and it continues today.

In the face of all this, it is sometimes invigorating to know that there are still many very courageous, inspiring as well as philosophically and intellectually ennobled people in the world, people with huge integrity as well as faith, who are capable of giving us great strength as well as hope for the future of humanity. They come in all shapes and sizes and you find them in the most unexpected places, not least amongst some of the free spirits that are to be found here in 'Blogosphere'. They can be anybody, from wealthy philanthropists like the social thinker, John Ruskin, on the one hand, to the totally charitable, nay saintly, who dedicate their lives to the cause of the underprivileged, to help the truly needy of the world, whose selfish human motive seems to have been subordinated and whose spiritual conscience transcends all that is material; here I think of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

At this point, I should insert some more worthy examples; links to individual sources, as one should in any properly supported research. This may not be properly supported and corroborated research, but, quite frankly I don't care, when I know... I feel that what I am saying is just plain common sense; we instinctively know it to be a truth.

The Captain's Table nearby poetic inspiration...
Whilst we each fight our own battles to survive and thrive, to overcome whatever obstacles there may be in our competition for the world's resources, as well as our own sanity, I am constantly reminded that there is also a vast array, a rich vein of powerful and beautiful natural phenomena that have the unquenchable capacity to ennoble our own minds, to elevate our spirits. I am speaking of the natural world; the flora, fauna and insectoids, some of which existed long before homo sapiens marched onto the scene with our unique set of biological characteristics that have enabled us to rule, dominate and change all that we see. But - and I say this with some trepidation, because I know it is controversial in some quarters - we are still animals; animals with an extraordinary ability for creative and innovative endeavour, but animals nonetheless. Look what happens, as we can on our television screens almost every day, when law and order breaks down or when people get hungry or angry, and tell me human beings are only capable of civilised behaviour... the fact that we are, well, hopefully a vast majority of us, capable of civilised behaviour, is a cause for optimism; a cause for us never, and I mean never to give up the fight to maintain democracy and intelligently to vanquish those who represent the worst side of human nature (ibid) and the greatest threat to our freedoms.

Although the natural world cannot help us directly in this quest, it is in this vein that I come to the point of this post; an event that I would not normally have expected, not even given my ability for creative thought.

The Menu
Last week, we took a holiday break in Torquay and, during an absolutely beautiful day, we included a very special Birthday lunch for my wife - gifted and arranged by our daughter and her husband - on the 'Captain's Table at The Cary Arms, ('Inn on The Beach') at Babbacombe in Devon, the simplest, most natural thing happened, which most, including myself, would normally have brushed off, quite literally, and forgotten within seconds. However, on this occasion for some reason, it sewed a seed, which, along with several subsequent prompts, including from other blogs that I read, germinated a series of thoughts that resulted in this blog post and a poem.

View from The Cary Inn, Babbacombe
What happened was that a small petal - a deep vermilion rose petal - blew in on a light breeze and landed on my sleeve. I could have brushed it off without thinking, but, for a moment, I just looked at it, admired it for what it really was and my thoughts focussed, for some reason known only to my right brain, on what had happened in the world during the short life of the rose from which it had come; what war, human misery and treachery had occurred in that short time; but also what good had been done; what valiant efforts to keep the peace in war-torn countries of the world; what individual moments of heroism and courage had been demonstrated by a soldier, activist, newshound or aid worker somewhere out there.

The terraced borders at The Cary Arms are very well tended, including plenty of roses, all of which were in full bloom that day. My thoughts on this event incubated for a short period, after which, early on Saturday morning, they evolved into a poem - a Shakespearean form of sonnet called...

...well what else could I call it, but "Rose Petal"..?
(You can read the poem here)

Sounds a bit sloppy, really, but it is invested with so much that is significant to me; I hope also to you. Please let me know.

P.S. I'm adding a post script because I want to ask that, come the day that I am wearing my wooden overcoat (or perhaps it will be reconstituted, reusable wood chip from renewable forests) ready to set forth, ceremonially speaking, into the fabric of history, please, please do not cut roses or any other flowers for inclusion in the ceremony. I don't wish to have any lives sacrificed in my honour; leave them growing for as long as nature intended them to; plonk them in a pot of healthy compost, if you must, but don't let them die on my behalf, thank you. Just thought you ought to know that this is the result of the very welcome influence my wife has had on me, and a set of values that I have come to embrace.

Monday, 13 June 2011

A Gentle Waltz through the First Sixty Years...

This month we are celebrating the sixtieth year of my extraordinary wife. So I could expect nothing less of myself than that I should write a(nother) poem for her.

I've written a few poems for her but, this time, I thought I'd bitten off more than I could chew! It has sixty stanzas and is, without question, the longest poem I've ever written (even beside this one); and it still doesn't cover half of what I could say about her. It does, however, encapsulate her most important attributes and the signposts to and in her life so far, at least from my significant perspective.

The poem is here, or you can click on the link further down the right hand side of this page under 'My Poetry Library'.

There are a few references in the story, which I don't expect anyone, who doesn't know us, to understand. For example, the main reference to Kings and Queens refers to a short period of time when my father-in-law clearly expressed his disapproval of the marriage. His subtle, but very well written apology came in the form of a fairy story, which we still have to this day and treasure the memory.

The 'Gentle Waltz' refers, rather perversely, to the pattern of the metre in each line, alternating, as they do for the most part, with three and four 'feet'. Hence the 3/4 waltz rhythm... told you it was perverse :-).

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

This Road, this life...

I wrote a poem a couple of years ago that shares its title with a film that was released in the same year that I conceived it (2009). Don't know why I told you that, but it just popped into my head! My poem does not pay homage to the film, which may have some parallels, but it is nonetheless about the road we travel through life, both literally and figuratively, by using the metaphor of the irrational behaviour of some drivers as having the potential for dire consequences, sometimes beyond mere 'road rage'.

Actually, it was originally called "Hog of the Road", because that is where I was most regularly observing the particular kind of human behaviour that I found most got under my skin; and which I know I had, from time to time in my life, exhibited myself!

It is primarily about driving and road hogs (as they used to be called), although it casts shadows over all areas of human life, but the strong analogy is with the effect of headstrong and aggressive people/drivers, who care not for other people/road users, only for their own goals, the rush of adrenalin caused by careless ambition; with the impatience, the arrogance, the selfish greed, the 'me' 'me' 'me'… Only trouble is, that behind the wheel of that lethal weapon, a motor car, this personality type can become an extreme danger to others.

It uses a sort of ‘close up and personal’ perspective to relate what is effectively a monologue, a commentary by an imagined driver, who has been fatally 'influenced' by just such a road hog, who in turn has driven off without noticing, or who has run away in blind ambition or fear, or simply failed to notice the fatal damage they had caused.

There is also an analogy with bullies: those of us, whose emotional baggage leaves us full of anger and resentment, which blinds a decent vision of humanity and the needs and rights of others.

An edgy moral tale, in other words... you can read the poem here.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011