Politics, Treachery and… a Rose – Part 2

If you read part 1, then you will have become aware of certain things: my sometimes rather glum outlook on life and (more particularly) the photographs, which don’t seem to fit the subject. Here is another, hopefully more palatable side of me as well as an explanation of the photographs …

View from The Cary Inn, Babbacombe ... and the Roses
View from The Cary Inn, Babbacombe … and the roses

My wife and I had taken a holiday break in Torquay and, during an overcast, but warm summer’s 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. In a moment, as we sat relaxing digesting our meal, 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 sowed 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.

One of several menus at the Carey Arms ... this the most amusing one!
One of several menus at the Carey Arms … this is the most amusing!

It was a small petal – a deep vermilion rose petal – that arrived from somewhere and landed on the left hand sleeve of my folded arms. For a moment, I just looked at it, admired it for what it really was and allowed my thoughts to focus, for some reason known only to my right brain, on what had happened in the human 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, medic or aid worker somewhere out there in this dangerous world.

The terraced borders at The Cary Arms are very well tended, including plenty of roses, all of which were in full bloom that warm June day. My thoughts on this event incubated for a short period, after which, early one Saturday morning, they evolved into this poem – a Shakespearean sonnet – entitled … well what else could I call it, but “Rose Petal“..?

This poem is invested with so much that is significant to me; I hope also to you.

Rose Petal

You came to me from rose vermilion red;
so rude and flushed with health you seemed to be.
I was surprised when I discerned instead
your disposition was no longer free;
that, whilst you were so moist and soft, I then
with sadness realised your life was spent;
that you had chosen me for your amen
between your zenith and your final rent.

What price for love you had to pay, and stain
upon your beauteous journey through short life,
so full of human tragedy and pain;
so savaged by our ugliness and strife.

And yet, you gift us your perfume unkempt
and beauty, which our hideousness preempts.

(This was one of seven of John’s poems, which were published by Aquillrelle in the anthology “Petrichor Rising” in August 2013)

Essay and poem © 2011 John Anstie

Photographs © 2011 John Anstie

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This post is a part of our participation in 100,000 Poets – and Musicians, Artists and Activists –  for Change. Details HERE. Our theme is Peace and Justice.We invite you to participate in this global event by linking in your work with ours. We’ll be collecting all the links in a commemorative page shortly after we close this project on October 3. You may use Mister Linky below or include your link in the comments section. Thank you! John_in_Pose_Half_Face3

JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British writer and poet, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Singer, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer”. He has participated in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union as well as a being a ‘spoken-voice’ participant in Roger Allen Baut’s excellent ‘Blue Sky Highway‘ radio broadcasts. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. He is also a member of The Poetry Society (UK).

*****

product_thumbnail-3.php

51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_John has also been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Risingin 2013. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

 

Politics, Treachery and… a Rose – Part 1

[Current world events have conspired to remind me recently about a post that I wrote over three years ago. My experience to date, at that time, had demonstrated to me that I don’t have complete control over the processes that steer me through life. Nobody does, however much we would like to think we do. It is also apposite that the worrying and sinister developments in talks between the European Union and the USA about what is called the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) have rather vindicated the concerns that I expressed three years ago. It may also be appropriate to mention that the theme of this essay just happens to align, I think quite well, with Corina’s last piece – “Wilful Ignorance and Some Food for Thought” as well as Jamie’s “Earthlings, Making The Compassionate Connection” ].

Since my retirement, I’ve had more time not only to reflect but also review, research and interrogate life’s processes and relate them to what’s going on ‘out there’. I’ve woken up and opened my eyes. I admit, from time to time, that I’ve allowed my mind 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, treachery and tyranny!

In my less cynical moments, I like to call this ‘life’s rich tapestry’ and all the more interesting for it. So not all is bad; there is still hope.

Babbacombe and the Carey Arms from Oddicombe (© 2011 John Anstie)
Babbacombe and the Carey Arms from Oddicombe (© 2011 John Anstie)

We are all self-interested, to a greater or lesser degree; we are all selfish and greedy from time to time; and, given the opportunity, I dare say there are many 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? It is only the truly arrogant, who are unable to see how fragile and vulnerable we all are! But it takes a certain type of personality to be capable of merciless and ruthless exploitation and treachery; to be bereft of conscience – I am reminded of the ‘Morlocks’ in H G Wells’ chilling vision of the world in “The Time Machine“, published late in the 19th Century.

These personalities display all the characteristics of damaged minds that 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. 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. It continues today, but that doesn’t make it right.

In the face of all this, it is sometimes encouraging to know that there are still some 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 and reformer, 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.

The Captain's Table nearby poetic inspiration...
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 turn on our television screens almost every day, when law and order breaks down or when people get hungry or angry [evidence the London Riots in 2011], 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, listening to your conscience and, above all, giving air to our compassion, 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 crux. Something occurred to me that I would not normally have expected, not even given my ability for creative thought. This … happening … somehow focussed my attention and led me, in that moment, to become intensely mindful.

This experience will be revealed in Part 2:

https://thebezine.com/2014/09/30/politics-treachery-and-a-rose-part-2/.

Essay (© 2014) and photographs (© 2011) John Anstie

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This post is a part of our participation in 100,000 Poets – and Musicians, Artists and Activists –  for Change. Details HERE. Our theme is Peace and Justice.We invite you to participate in this global event by linking in your work with ours. We’ll be collecting all the links in a commemorative page shortly after we close this project on October 3. You may use Mister Linky below or include your link in the comments section. Thank you!

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3

JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British writer and poet, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Singer, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer”. He has participated in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union as well as a being a ‘spoken-voice’ participant in Roger Allen Baut’s excellent ‘Blue Sky Highway‘ radio broadcasts. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. He is also a member of The Poetry Society (UK).

*****

product_thumbnail-3.php

51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_John has also been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

 

… Chalice

Dear Earth, you are a sacred aqueous Isle
in a dark and endless sea of universe.
You may never reveal your strategy.
We may be  bound  by  genetic code
to the presupposing chemical destiny
of one great astrophysical master plan
for all living things. We, who represent
your malaise,  your chronic infestation;
we,  like a fleeting itch in your long life,
will never comprehend it.  But, in truth
you know too well  that  we can never
understand more  than one percent
of all there is to know. You contain
the knowledge that is beyond us.
We are like a rash on your skin.

One day, we know you will
raze all of our delusions,
prepare us for the day
when a blinding light
will  inoculate  you
and inform us  of
a moment when
extant humans
will, at last be
prepared to
distinguish
the  l i e s
f r o m
truth
and

if so
are
w e
m e r e
a t o m i c
p a r t i c l e s
inside a temporal chalice?

© 2014 John Anstie

[ The chalice comes in many iconic forms, none more so than the Holy Chalice, or Holy Grail, said to have been used to dispense its sacred content at the Last Supper. Whether the above title prompts this as your first thought or whether it is the ‘poisoned’ variety, it is for you to decide how you interpret its meaning. You can then preface the title, ‘Chalice’, with the missing word.  It has to be said that the above shape represents a chalice with proportions that are rather slim compared to the traditionally chubby looking vessel, which better defines the name. Perhaps this is a good thing, making it as easier to read, like the narrow columns of a newspaper, perhaps ..? ]

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3

JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British writer and poet, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Singer, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer”. He has participated in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union as well as a being a ‘spoken-voice’ participant in Roger Allen Baut’s excellent ‘Blue Sky Highway‘ radio broadcasts. John has been blogging since the beginning of 2011. He is also a member of The Poetry Society (UK).

*****

product_thumbnail-3.php

51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_John has also been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

Enthusiasm and Optimism vs Entropy … Part 2

As the title of this post suggests, as referred to in Part 1 of this essay, it is not only about entropy and thermodynamics, but is also about enthusiasm for and optimism about life. It is, therefore, about human endeavour, from the smallest and least significant to the most admirable and life changing endeavours ever achieved by the human race. Whatever your accomplishments, however great or small they are, or however great or small a part you play in greater achievements, they still represent progress in both time and towards order and, according to Newton’s second law of physics, this tells us that matter can neither be created nor destroyed; it can only be converted from one form to another. Therefore, each breath we draw, each word we speak, each action we take, is never lost; it remains as a small quantum of energy, an echo of which will exist forever, somewhere in the cosmos.

I just love the mere thought of this concept, let alone that it could actually be true.

The other principle put forth by astrophysicists, which seems to be irrefutable, is that time is irreversible. Professor Cox referred to this as the arrow of time, always pointing and moving in one direction, never going back. He does give lip service to the possibility that this cannot be said to be true with absolute certainty, but that it is extremely unlikely or, in statistical terminology, there is a very low probability that time will reverse. So it must also be with human enterprise, in whatever field of endeavour it may be, there is need for us to accept that we will always move forwards, never backwards; onwards and, preferably, upwards in our understanding of life, our world and the universe. Otherwise, there is a tendency toward disorder, mentally, physically and maybe spiritually too. We can read about the past, we can look at pictures of it and we can learn from it, but we live for the future.

Trying to persuade a teenager to tidy their bedroom is impossible without a carrot; and even then it is still difficult. Maybe they could be persuaded by the thought of ‘black dwarves’ imploding and evaporating into nothingness as a consequence of not keeping their bedrooms in order and halting the ‘tendency toward disorder’. May be, may be not! But our every move, motivation and impulse is driven by the march of time as well as this tendency in our everyday lives – let alone what is happening in the world at large – toward disorder, whether that disorder has natural or man-made causes. But I don’t think we should feel any less relaxed about the march of time than we would otherwise feel. On the contrary, I suggest, as a result of this thesis, this comparison with the enormity of the universe, that, provided we can get our minds round the huge timescales, we should allow its perspective to comfort us: that there is no panic or rush. As much as we can sometimes enjoy the moment, life is really a journey into the future. Technically, we cannot stand still; we have to accept that even standing still and enjoying the moment is, still, moving and progressing into the future. It is deeply ingrained in our being.

So, I suppose it depends on whether we are an optimist or a pessimist, an enthusiast or less eager, as to whether we find it easier or harder to push the outside of the envelope and re-order the disorder in our lives. But push we must. There is an enduring lesson that I take from this particular perspective. When I compare the huge amount of time that will have elapsed between the beginning and ending of the universe to the minuscule timescale of our own existence on Earth, our own small little part of the world, which is an even smaller (by a trillion, trillion, trillion, etc orders of magnitude) than the great big cosmos, then the feeling I am left with is that we have plenty of time. Did you know that, since our forebears first evolved on our earth, in Africa about two and a half million years ago, our own solar system has revolved around the galaxy (the ‘Milky Way’) by only one percent of a complete orbit of the galaxy; and the galaxy itself is only one of billions in the universe. So, hey, if things didn’t quite go to plan today, whatever; “am I bovvered’ as Catherine Tate would say!

I’m not sure to whom the quotation is attributed, but Professor Brian Cox, in the process of concluding the first episode, said that “Life is the means by which the cosmos understands itself.” Obvious on one level, but extraordinarily significant on another. There might be other, similar life in another solar system in our own galaxy or in another galaxy farther away, but we are unlikely to find out if they do exist. We truly cannot know even the probability of the human race co-existing along with another civilisation, somewhere else in the universe, because – as Vlad, The Astrophysicist tells us – the enormous distances and time scale that the universe represents, make this probability extremely low. This being the case – in spite of an imperfect world, which sometimes seems to be broken – perhaps we should stop trying to escape from our Mother Earth, stop trying to dream the impossible (or improbable) dream, and start trying to fix what we have broken; stop breaking what we have left.

Copyright 2012 John Anstie
Supermoon over Torquay [Copyright 2012 John Anstie]

To be the remarkable, intellectual, innovative and industrious animals that we are, where we are right now, is still very special and continues to give me hope that we can reverse the destruction of our very small part of the universe, that is our Mother Earth.  I hope that, in spite of sometimes awesome uncertainty and the depressing way in which some members of the human race behave towards her (not forgetting the entropy, of course), you will agree that we do still have the capability to meet our future together on this planet with optimism and enthusiasm?

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John_in_Pose_Half_Face3

JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British writer and poet, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Singer, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer”. He has participated in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union as well as a being a ‘spoken-voice’ participant in Roger Allen Baut’s excellent ‘Blue Sky Highway‘ radio broadcasts. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. He is also a member of The Poetry Society (UK).

*****

product_thumbnail-3.php

51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_John has also been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

 

Enthusiasm and Optimism vs Entropy … Part 1

In the wee small hours of one morning, three years ago, I had one of those elusive moments of clarity; in fact, one of those moments so aptly described by Kona Macphee on the introduction of her excellent blog site in December 2010. Apart from the lack of sleep, this was a consequence of watching a documentary about the universe – always guaranteed to stir my brain into action – combined with thinking, as I am wont to do with my recently discovered propensity for getting in touch with my literate side, about the human condition, our general outlook on life and how we deal with it; pessimism and a lack of eagerness on the one hand; optimism and enthusiasm on the other. It is a perspective, in other words, but one that fills me, not only with hope, but also with wonder, especially when you view that perspective in the dramatic light of the universe. This essay seems also to tie my thoughts in rather well with those, recently published on Terri Stewart’s excellent and stimulating ‘Begin Again‘ blog, of J R Cowles in his mind-blowing essay on Schroedinger’s Cat.

Copyright 2012 John Anstie
Moon in Blue over Whitwell Moor [Copyright 2012 John Anstie]

I am talking about BBC2 television’s documentary, the ‘Wonders of the Universe’. Episode one was shown in March 2011. It is presented by Professor Brian Cox, who somehow manages to demonstrate, well, at least convince us, that, just as the universe had its beginning – the so-called ‘Big Bang’ – about 13.7 Billion years ago, so it is predicted that it will have an ending, albeit rather a long time hence! He concluded this, the first episode, with an extraordinary perspective on time and of how we can come to terms, not only with how long the universe has existed already (ibid) but also with the mind-boggling amount of time it has left to exist – before all matter contracts into ‘Black Dwarves’, which then dissolve into non-matter; suffice to say there was an awesome count of zero’s on the end of the number he quoted (trillion, trillion, trillion several times, in years!). Then, as if to dash our hopes to fears of the nearness of the end of the world, presenting this documentary, as he does, with an element of drama that would lightly grace the screening of a roller-caster Hollywood thriller at your local cinema, he then explained that life in the universe, that is effectively our life here on earth, was represented by an extremely small fraction (with an awesome number of zero’s on the bottom line this time) of a percent of that total time. But worry not, dear readers, because we still have an estimated one billion (thousand million) years to go before our own sun begins to die, by expanding and enveloping the planets in our solar system!

So, in spite, or rather, because of the awesome scale of all of this, there is a great deal of optimism that should be felt as a result, but not necessarily for the most obvious reasons. I know some people have great difficulty coming to terms with the results of scientific research into the evolution of the cosmos, and some I know actually cannot accept the concepts (I refer you again to Schroedinger’s Cat and the overarching principle that nothing is ever absolutely one hundred percent certain), which relate to its make up and that are propounded by scientists, that seem to deny that the universe, or at least the earth, had a genesis and was therefore created. These alternative views need to be respected; I would go on to propose that the two views are not actually mutually exclusive, but this discussion will have to wait for another time.

Out of the three core subjects, Maths, Physics and Chemistry, I always remember enjoying physics most of all. It was perhaps the more visible nature of most of its disciplines, that appealed; understanding the principles of heat, light, sound, electricity, magnetism, gravity, force, energy and all the experiments that were done to test and prove the theories. During the latter stages of my further scientific and engineering education, I also had to study that branch of physics, which was known as thermodynamics. I found this subject very tedious, but on reflection this was mainly due to the horrible mathematics that were inevitably required to define and measure its principles; and maths wasn’t my favourite discipline! The one principle, or rather variable, which is in fact fundamental to the second law of thermodynamics, which I have always retained in my memory, is ‘entropy’. Ent-what? I hear you ask! Well, the description of entropy I was taught is that it is a measure of the “tendency toward disorder”.

Brian Cox introduced entropy by going to a disused diamond mine in the desert of Southern Namibia, which was abandoned over fifty years ago, the remains of which is a picture of decaying buildings, which are in the process of gradually being taken over by the desert’s sand and dissolving into nature. He illustrated the principle of entropy by comparing a simple pile of sand with a sand castle, which he made in a good old square shaped seaside sand bucket. The former, pile of sand, he described as having “maximum entropy” because there were an almost infinite number of ways it could be re-ordered without significantly changing its shape or structure. In other words, it was very ‘disordered’. The shaped sand castle, on the other hand, with its flat sides and four little corner castellations, had a very defined and specific shape and structure; it was very ‘ordered’. The second law of thermodynamics basically states that the quality of matter deteriorates gradually over time; likewise, usable energy, which is inevitably used for productivity, growth and repair, is converted into unusable energy; hence the tendency toward disorder. So too the sand castle, left to the natural forces of the desert, over (a relatively short) time, it will revert to a pile of sand.

You may well by now be asking what I am getting at! You may be shouting at your screen: “get to the point”! This assumes, of course, that you haven’t already given up on me! Well, there is most certainly a point, which I will tell you in Part 2.

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John_in_Pose_Half_Face3

JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British writer and poet, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Singer, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer”. He has participated in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union as well as a being a ‘spoken-voice’ participant in Roger Allen Baut’s excellent ‘Blue Sky Highway‘ radio broadcasts. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. He is also a member of The Poetry Society (UK).

*****

product_thumbnail-3.php

51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_John has also been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

 

John Stuart Mill – On the freedom of the individual

We are facing more threats to human freedoms than most of us can imagine, in an age of social mobility and easy worldwide communication. These threats come from, on the one hand, extremism, in all its forms, which is mostly visible because of a wide news coverage. On the other hand, a more subtle threat has, for a few decades now, been passing underneath our radar, because it is, more worryingly still, not being given any time by the main stream media – a fact, which I find utterly demoralising and disturbing, when we consider the implications and potential impact of these multinational corporation driven ‘free trade’ agreements, which represent nothing if not a new era of tyranny – corporate tyranny – which, if signed by the European Union, is likely to enable the enhancement of already excessive corporate power, which will not only degrade our hard won democracy, but will also enable large corporations to sue national governments if they pass legislation that adversely affects their commercial interests, at the expence of the taxpayer! (see the 38 Degrees missive and this revealing video).

I would like to take a breather from all of this to give this another perspective and offer you a voice from history, that is John Stuart Mill’s view on the liberty and freedom of the individual.

“The sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right…The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns him, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”

Whilst his nineteenth century language is a little convoluted and archaic, the message is clear enough and sums up the crucial need for our individual freedoms. As ever was the case at any time in history, it is still true today that there are some very clever and powerful people in this world, who are hell bent on control of the most crucial resources on Mother Earth and therefore on a great majority of the world’s population. That we should respond with all the force of the massive voice and resources we currently have at our finger tips in the internet and the world wide web, is without question; that we appear not to be doing so at the moment, is not without question. In fact, it is this apparent lack of awareness, this lack of response from around the world that is the most worrying of all!

Please tell me I’m wrong about this.

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John_in_Pose_Half_Face3

JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British writer and poet, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Singer, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer”. He has participated in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union as well as a being a ‘spoken-voice’ participant in Roger Allen Baut’s excellent ‘Blue Sky Highway‘ radio broadcasts. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. He is also a member of The Poetry Society (UK).

*****

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51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_John has also been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

 

Light Bites, Sound Bites … and Life Things

A special feature post today … Enjoy!

A Light Bite?
It’s not Killarney ~ © Catherine Drea, Foxglove Lane Studio, under CC A-SA License

I recall that when I was a fit, young and vaguely ambitious man – a man always in a hurry – I didn’t have time … nay, I didn’t make time … to open my mind, my eyes and my ears a little more often. I didn’t make time to read more widely, to see things more clearly and to listen more attentively to those, who had something meaningful to say. I guess my thinking was muddled by the testosterone coursing my veins. Whilst I did have a thirst to understand the world, scientifically, and humanity, philosophically, my quests to do so, particularly for the latter, were brief and too often supported by sound bites and misunderstandings, both of which I think are inextricably linked.

The trouble is that life is too full of sound bites – quotations and neat little epithets – and light bites – pictures and particularly imagery – all of which bear influence far more than we consciously give them credit, in those brief moments we spend giving them glancing attention. It is tempting to use these bites to act as the cornerstones of our thinking, easy meat for our cluttered memory banks and agitated minds, which can provide, at a moment’s notice, a convenient prop to any conversation that occasionally transcends our mundane and ordinary existence. But it is likely that they will be cited too often and probably well beyond their use by date! Look no further than our Facebook News Feed, and count the number of quotations to see how popular these bites of information are!

All of this would be well and good, if it weren’t for the fact that life is far more complicated than we’d like it to be. It is for this reason that these bites are so convenient, easy to digest and recall. In my early adult years, I was kept far too busy working to survive and support my family, feed my material ambitions and improve my financial status. This trail I blazed didn’t only inhibit, but also prevented me from spending more time delving deeper into life’s mysteries and, more importantly, examining my own conscience and coming to terms with myself. In a perverse sort of way, it serves the paymasters, marketeers and our representative political leaders well for us not to have time to think and ask questions that really need to be asked, like “does it really have to be this way?”.

Streams of Light
Streams of Light ~ Catherine Drea, Foxglove Lane Studio, under CC A-SA License

That each of us is unique, almost goes without saying. That we are all connected, doesn’t. A problem arises when I realised that each of us has a built-in human instinct, a genetic coding, not just to do our best for the furtherance of our race as a whole, but primarily to ensure our own survival; a built-in selfishness, if you like. How that selfishness is channelled is crucial to what happens next. If we are fortunate enough to have been born with the right genetic coding, into the right environment and economic circumstances, then the temptation to use this to our own personal advantage, for a vast majority of human beings, is almost impossible to resist; we cannot control that urge, because we are never fully in control of our lives. Only a few exceptional human beings ever manage to resist this selfish urge.

These facts may seem to be a deviation from the theme of this essay, but at its core is a truth that each of us is a victim of our circumstances. If those circumstances place us within that ninety-nine percent of the population, who are not independently wealthy enough to determine their own lives and become their own ‘masters’, by virtue of their financial means, then we need to become worker bees. Now there is nothing wrong with this position, nothing at all, in fact there is much to recommend it … unless, and I repeat unless we allow our own conscience to be overruled by someone else’s conscience, so completely imbued with the ‘culture’ that envelopes us in our working, religious or political environment that we permit someone else to dictate the way we think, consciously or unconsciously. This is a perennial conundrum.

I place myself firmly in that section of humanity, commonly referred to as the ninety-nine percent, who are dependent on working for their living or on the performance of others for it – whatever that living may be. We are always in danger of allowing our lives to be controlled by ‘others’, directly, for example by corporate masters, or indirectly, by the advertisers and marketing men, who strive to fill our brains with ‘needs’ we didn’t know we had and anxieties about our status, health, looks and dietary needs …  that we wouldn’t otherwise think we had. This forces some of us, maybe more than a few, who are gullible enough, into spending endless amounts of our hard earned income on products that purport to make us better, richer, more attractive, more talented, more admired people. Primarily, this makes the creators of products ‘for the promised land’ wealthier and even more powerful.

So beware of sound bites (notably from politicians, but increasingly from marketing people) and light bites (dazzlingly attractive imagery, primarily from those corporate marketing men) – or the combination of both – and beware the effect they will have on your mind, your thinking and your conversations with others: you know, those casual conversations, which are based on our original instincts for survival, but which have been perverted by those clever PR people, so that, deep down, they make you feel you have to be the one who has the edge; who has the bigger house in the better area of town, the more upmarket car, the better class of friends and acquaintances, the more exotic holidays. All of this is just what those marketing people – and politicians bent on ensuring economic ‘growth’ – continually like to nurture in our minds. This is a kind of envy and an ‘addiction’, which leads us to keep on buying and upgrading. Political leaderships like to play the same tricks, for their own reasons, plying us with those little bites of information, extolling their virtues and wooing us for our votes.

Image by Randi G Fine (http://randigfine.com/life-meaning-picture-quote-2/)
Image by Randi G Fine

So, I am trying to stand out from the crowd, but not in a show-off kind of way. Rather, I want to be a free thinker. I am trying to achieve a deeper understanding of the human condition and my own conscience; in other words, I am trying to come to terms with myself, discover more about what lies beneath the superficial surface of life, over which it is easier to skate too hastily towards our terminus. I realise that it is a journey that could transport me to places, from which I’ll not wish to turn back and which will bring me previously unimagined joy and fulfilment. I suspect there will be some discomfort on the way, but one thing is for sure. I wish someone had offered me this advice when I was a young man … or perhaps they did and I never listened!

Text: © 2014 John Anstie.

Photo Credits: Main Images ~ © Catherine Drea, Foxglove Lane Studio, under CC A-SA License – Small Image with caption ~ © Randi G Fine (http://randigfine.com/life-meaning-picture-quote-2/)

[This was, in part, inspired by the fact that The Bardo dedicated most of the month of May to International Photography Month. The subject of light (and shade), particularly important in black and white photography, is ever present in our consciousness, but at no other time in history has photography, as well as digital sound, been so important in the world of politics, commerce and art, as it is now. The mood of this essay has turned out slightly darker – or should I say ‘more in the shadows’ – than perhaps it should. I hope that this doesn’t push a potentially younger audience further away from the Bardo, because there is so much here, from my fellow contributors, that is of so much value to all ages. I’d like to make special mention of Catherine Drea, and to thank her for allowing this blogazine to have access to her very special collection of beautiful photographs on Foxglove Lane Studio]

P.S. On the subject of ‘bites’ in a piece that could run parallel to this, extolling the virtues of short poems, I thoroughly recommend reading a post on ‘Poetry and Zen‘ over at Jim Murdoch’s excellent blog, “The Truth About Lies”]

*****

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British writer and poet, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Singer, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer”. He has participated in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union as well as a being a ‘spoken-voice’ participant in Roger Allen Baut’s excellent ‘Blue Sky Highway‘ radio broadcasts. John has been blogging since the beginning of 2011. He is also a member of The Poetry Society (UK).

*****

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51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_John has also been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

All White Then Black

(for the fifty-two who lost their lives on 7th July 2005 and for many more than seven hundred, who live on with their physical and mental scars)

He took a seat and let the blond girl stand,
and thought about his selfishness, but then
he cast aside his worries for a while.
It seems these days that chivalry requires
that men do other things to prove there worth
sitting whilst she stood was no big deal

…until it went all black and white.

Arriving at the platform just in time
she blessed her luck as, late for work, she knew
this was an omen for the day and augured
well. In tune, her vigorous health enhanced
by brand new trainers bought the day before
and which were such good fit and comfortable

…until it went all black and white.

A City Engineer from Derbyshire
who’d built a walk that clung a cliff-side way
was visiting the city on that day;
a day that saw him on a crowded train,
when he would rather stand and walk about
than stare at someone else’s shirt hang out!

…until it went all black and white.

A software engineer, who had a squint,
would be the one without a single thought
against, or for the men who’d wrung the night
from day that left him still and motionless.
He was just numb, devoid of any feeling;
defied the normal human call to blame,

until it went all white, then black…

A blinding flash of incandescent light
so rapidly reduced the day to night
and left them all completely without sight
of anything but stench of soot and blood
no screams, just moaning and a plaintive cry
for help..

please help,

please help,

please help,

please help.

Trembling in the court, his stoney face
belied the trauma and the weight of guilt
that he’d survived and she had not. But then
her brother laid a hand upon his shoulder
“she was full of fun and wanted friends
like you, to carry all her joy through life.”

Vivaciously recounting her experience;
how she was looking up at her new trainer
on the ceiling… that it seemed quite strange
to her, who at the time was lain. Then she,
as they unwrapped her leg from round the handrail,
released a scream that drew her rescuer’s blood.

A fellow passenger closed the lids
of eyes that could no longer see the world,
of which he could not take a further part,
to dignify, in his truncated end.
Alone, that one gesture made a lifetime’s stress
seem like a moment’s insignificance.

The squint came from a shin-splint in his eye,
like shattered lives that shattered bones release
a hell, for which no-one can be prepared.
And where the bomber’s other parts did go,
only forensic analysis will know.
For those who live, the memory lives on.

The painful wait, amid an infinite darkness
Everything was black and white, only
the blood was vivid red. Random limbs
were strewn, and resting on projecting bone
he’d tried to comfort one who needed help.
The girl who sat behind the bomber survived…

…and who wonders with astonishment
at the human body’s resilience
under such extraordinary shock
that blasted minds beyond their comfort zone
and made so many individuals,
in one small shocking instant…

…become just one.

© 2012 John Anstie

First published on 10th July 2012 in ‘My Poetry Library’ and in the anthology, “Petrichor Rising” in July 2013.

For those with a specific interest in poetry, once again, I was drawn to write this poem in Blank Verse, William Shakespeare’s favoured format for speeches. I think it is such a good way to tell a story and I especially dare think, perchance to dream, of any number of great Shakespearean actors reading it… I wish. You can also read the background to this poem at ‘Forty Two‘ ]

*****

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JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British writer and poet, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Singer, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer”. He has participated in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union as well as a being a ‘spoken-voice’ participant in Roger Allen Baut’s excellent ‘Blue Sky Highway‘ radio broadcasts. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. He is also a member of The Poetry Society (UK).

*****

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51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_John has also been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

 

Blind Alley

Copyright 2013 Marsha Berry
Copyright 2013 Marsha Berry

Its weight upon her back constrained her breath
and data from a million miles of type
had taken toll of her own inspiration,
drowned beneath the heft of corporate hype.

The pavement and its passengers, detached.
She felt like ailing bug on dying tree.
This morning, as she trudged this weary path,
those slabs were like lead shoes, deprived of glee.

The wall that once reflected all her joy
had cast, as tall as anyone could say,
its shadow, smothering independent thought.
A blinding light then blew it all away.

[This was another poem prompted by a photograph. Ekphrasis wins the day again! It was Marsha Berry, another member of the GRPG*, who posted this and it was followed by a variety of poetic responses. This was mine and it carries with it that common thread of philosophical thought, which occupies me often. This is that we must work hard to ensure we retain our insight, a closeness to our conscious and our convictions, lest we lose it all in favour of allowing others to implant another form of consciousness in our minds, by however insidious a process, that is either corporate (the companies for whom we work), commercial (the companies from whom we buy things to stock our material lives) or political (the PR that the political establishment puts out to woo us for our votes).  This poem, I think, rather relates to the first of those three. Or, perish the thought, does that rucksack carry something more destructive? Whichever way this poem is interpreted, I hope it causes the reader to stop and think ]

Poem: © 2013 John Anstie.     Image: © 2013 Marsha Berry (the Poet) and Marsha Berry (the academic)

* GRPG – The Grass Roots Poetry Group

 

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British writer and poet, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Singer, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer”. He has participated in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union as well as a being a ‘spoken-voice’ participant in Roger Allen Baut’s excellent ‘Blue Sky Highway‘ radio broadcasts. John has been blogging since the beginning of 2011. He is also a member of The Poetry Society (UK).

*****

product_thumbnail-3.php

51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_John has also been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

Midnigh Morvening

[A flight of fanciful imagination … by the power of a single word]

A couple of years ago, I wrote a very silly poem! It came to me one day as a result of a word that I used whilst having a conversation, as usual, with a close bunch of Twitter friends (or should that be a Twittersation!). The word, “morvening”, came out of my head, and I decided it would enable me to greet Jacquie Dick and Joe Hesch in the morning of New York and Albany at the same time and with the same word as greeting Marsha Berry in Melbourne’s evening, thus paying deference to their geography. Following a tweet from Jacquie with the suggestion that it sounded “sweetly medieval”, my imagination took flight and a poem was born! Thanks to Jacquie and the rest of the GRPG (Grass Roots Poetry Group) for playing along with my eccentricity, as they all did for some time by using the word themselves, as our common daily greeting.

It is always worthwhile taking an opportunity to say thank you to those particular friends, with whom I have been ‘close’ since 2011. I owe a lot to the GRPG, not least because of these sometimes silly, but always funny exchanges we shared initially on Twitter, in less than 140 characters (and later elsewhere), as we headed toward the publication of our anthology*. As diverse a group as you could imagine, I owe them a lot, because I somehow learned much from all of them; in fact I think they all learned from each other, in their own prticular ways. The experience added value to my prosodic life, that’s for sure.

Anyway, here’s my neologistic contribution to the literary world …

The light it was a brightening
on winter’s dawning day
it was the midnigh morvening
that showed us all the way

and how the beasties of the norn
did plague the Gothan bride,
but facing fiery teeth with Day
the Night stood by her side.

He stood e’er long with triptych scroll
and spake out loud and clear
“behold the midnigh morvening
and be ye of good cheer”

For all the trolls and beasts of nigh
will e’er be gone be’soon
the magic of the morvening
‘ll be written in the rune

And so ’twas wrote on old tryptych,
on every sleepless bed,
that on the midnigh morvening
the Night and Day are wed.

© 2012 John Anstie

[Poem first published on 19 February, 2012]

 

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3

JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British writer and poet, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Singer, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer”. He has participated in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union as well as a being a ‘spoken-voice’ participant in Roger Allen Baut’s excellent ‘Blue Sky Highway‘ radio broadcasts. John has been blogging since the beginning of 2011. He is also a member of The Poetry Society (UK).

*****

product_thumbnail-3.php

51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_John has also been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

Are There Any Other Civilisations … Out There?

 

I have held a universal and, it seems probably a pantheistic view of our life on earth for many years now. It is this: that there are probably other intelligent civilisations out there in the cosmos, but, in spite of our continued quest to find some and because of the humungous scale and mind boggling span of time that is represented in the life of the universe, we will never discover one. We may not even exist simultaneously. I would add a small warning to those, who like my mother-in-law, God rest her soul, are mind-bogglephobics, or who simply cannot cope with the scale of it all, that this may be a challenging concept to grasp. Nonetheless, it does require a calculator with a large scale, should you wish to do some proportions!

The following is a track from his album, “Letters from a Flying Machine” by a very fine musician, singer and songwriter from the USA, Peter Mulvey, whom we saw and met on the weekend at the Barnsley Acoustic Roots Festival.  Having listened closely to the words of his songs and one or two of his ‘between song’ talks, I asked him in our brief chat, did he by any chance write poetry? He replied that he didn’t; he preferred to leave that to the poets, but that a few of his friends were poets and that he read a great deal of poetry … to exemplify this, the inside cover of the album we bought from him, “Silver Ladder” reveals a brief quote from the 17th Century poet, Mizuta Masahide: “Barn’s burnt down – now I can see the moon”.

… anyway, back to the theme of this post.

The only thing I can do is ask you to listen to this story that Peter Mulvey tells of a conversation that he had, over some beer, with “Vlad the Astrophysicist“:

Sums it up very neatly for me.

You might also want to listen to some of this fellow’s music; there is poetry in a lot of it.

 © 2014 John Anstie

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3

JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British writer and poet, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Singer, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer”. He has participated in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union as well as a being a ‘spoken-voice’ participant in Roger Allen Baut’s excellent ‘Blue Sky Highway‘ radio broadcasts. John has been blogging since the beginning of 2011. He is also a member of The Poetry Society (UK).

*****

product_thumbnail-3.php

51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_John has also been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

Looking South

(For some, the ultimate journey)

This poem was my response to a challenge; about the triumph of the human spirit over adversity. But most particularly, it is about not bearing life’s burden on your own, but rather learning how to ask for help, how to share concern or worry. For some things in life, you cannot just ‘tough it out’. However strong you think you may be, there are some challenges in life that you cannot, nay should not tackle alone, because everyone has their limits; there is always a barrier, either physical or emotional or both, that will inhibit the progress of any man or woman; will put a stop to their journeys.

Perhaps this is because, once you show your vulnerability, far from becoming prey to vultures and demons, you will also attract the support of true human beings, those who are true team players, those who care. And anybody who endeavours to achieve things that not everyone would attempt, has that spirit. It is often a spirit born of near death experience, but may also be a response to physical and emotional pain.

It is both these things that four men from the British armed forces set out to overcome in a seemingly impossible challenge. These four servicemen, who were all injured in combat in Afghanistan, set out to enter the record books as the first disabled team to walk unassisted to the North Pole. It involved a great deal of preparation and training for all of them.

The men are: Capt Martin Hewitt, 30, whose right arm is paralysed after being shot; Capt Guy Disney, 29, whose right leg was amputated below the knee after he was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG); Sgt Stephen Young, 28, who suffered a broken back in a roadside bombing; Pte Jaco Van Gass, 24, who had his left arm amputated and suffered significant tissue loss to his left leg after being hit by an RPG.

For the first few days of their trek, they were also accompanied by Prince Harry, who supported their campaign both before and after it was completed. The documentary, shown on BBC1 in the summer of 2011, was called “Harry’s Arctic Heroes“.

In this expedition, these four men represented every soldier, airman and sailor who is ever injured in conflicts, but particularly those who lose their faculties in some way, be it the loss of a limb or sight.

The poem also has a ‘dark’ side, as it shakes a metaphor at dealing with our mortality, not least by reference to ‘The Dream of Gerontius’. The journey ‘North’, in this sense, is figurative and is my way of demonstrating that metaphor to the ultimate journey that we and all animals make as an integral part of our lives. “Looking South” represents the looking back on our lives, which in the case of these four injured servicemen, was their life so far. And for a majority of those, who deal with life’s challenges, some significant moments also represent a looking back on our lives… so far.

If you stand in the wind
and allow it to bend you
so you flex and withstand it,
don’t let it uproot you,
then you’ll find it can’t hurt you
in spite of extraordinary pain.

If your instinct for flight
is taken away
your options for fighting
in an instant are gone,
like a parent removing
your permission to play…

…with the most bitter of tears.

If there’s anything surer
than the moment you hear
a deafening sound
of silence and the fear
rushes in like air
to a vacuum.

There’s nothing more certain,
never so clear,
as if a vision of your life
were etched in white light
closing your eyes
and blinding your sight…

…but opening them on the inside.

It seems you were born
for this moment;
that this is your time.
You appear to have arrived
at the moment when pain
can no longer touch you.

That stress and the anguish
of screaming self-doubt
have momentarily left you,
your inside looking out;
outside looking in;
thoughts perfectly scrambled…

…like the dream of Gerontius.

Circumventing your demons,
overcoming your fear
this vision of whiteness
tears at your heart and your soul;
bedazzling lightness
of mind; supernal disclosure;

a revelation that you’ll never
be left on your own.
You will never be able
to embark on this journey
without your assistants;
your brothers in arms…

…but they’re not the Invisible Choir

Your angels are next to you;
there at your shoulder if you look.
Maybe a Prince or a pauper,
but either will brook you;
all you need is to ask;
as long as you let them know.

Then, when you stand there,
sharing legs, shoulders, arms,
looking South when you know
that there’s no further North,
surveying a World,
that will sing your arrival…

…knowing now that you truly have life.

Looking south
can’t say how I feel
Looking south
at the great, white sea
Looking south
just seems so unreal
Looking south
making known that I’m free.
Looking south
a muse at my heels
Looking south
nothing more to flee
Looking south
my brotherhood sealed
Looking south
fearless of what’s to be.
Looking south
my soul is healed
Looking south

© 2011 John Anstie

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3

JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British writer and poet, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Singer, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer”. He has participated in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union as well as a being a ‘spoken-voice’ participant in Roger Allen Baut’s excellent ‘Blue Sky Highway‘ radio broadcasts. John has been blogging since the beginning of 2011. He is also a member of The Poetry Society (UK).

*****

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51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_John has also been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

Quid est veritas? … Veritas vos Liberabit

(What is truth? … The truth shall set you free)

The story of cosmology is the story of our search for the ultimate truth

Produced using Cloudart
Produced using Cloudart

This quote comes from a recent episode of one of my favourite BBC documentary programmes, ‘Horizon’, which was titled ‘What happened before the Big Bang?’. It centred on the thinking, with the aid of mathematics and string theory, of a handful of professorial academics from around the world, who have developed some new theories. One such theory suggests that the expansion of our known universe since the Big Bang, nearly fourteen billion years ago, is only one ‘bounce of a ball’, of a cyclic series of events and that its apparently infinite size is merely a minimal starting point for the next Big Bang. I don’t know about you, but I find this, at the same time, utterly mind boggling and totally fascinating. It also serves to bring into perspective the true meaning of our lives and, in particular, the meaning of truth, which, in consequence, is only a relative term, particularly when it comes to this area of science. There may be a myriad of learned tomes, on the subject of truth, written by countless thinkers and philosophers over the millennia of human existence, but, setting aside the search for the true answers to scientific and mathematical questions about the origins of our universe, it is on the most basic social and spiritual level that I choose to focus.

My first prompt for this piece occurred three years ago, when I observed, amongst other exceptional acts of forgiveness and the search for truth, the effects of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up in post-apartheid South Africa under Nelson Mandela’s leadership. The second prompt is that constant irritation: politicians! To be fair, this affects all those in positions of influence, with vested interest in maintaining status quo or personal wealth, who are so often inclined to be ‘economical with the truth’, if the truth is likely to compromise their position or possessions. This probably includes all of us from time to time. However, if you are in a position of power, when your decisions affect whole populations, then being economical with the truth may be considered, at best, morally wrong, if not downright contemptible! So much depends on the ulterior motive. Difficulty arises when you listen to words spoken by someone, whose allegiances are unknown to you, and therefore leave you with the dilemma of whether or not you believe they are speaking the truth. For me, sometimes, the solution to this is to do your own research; it is your call.

The third prompt is meat to those who, in telling lies, would argue that the truth is relative to its context. As true as that may be, there are some fundamental questions, which it may be helpful to ask. These questions and their answers rely heavily on my own life’s observations and experience. I’ve presented this, for clarity, in the form of a mock interview …

What is the truth?

The truth is without bias, in conformity with fact and reality, and is concerned only with honesty and integrity.

What defines truth?

The truth is not only defined by its context, but also by your ability to address your conscience*, head on, assuming that it has not been corrupted by external bias (i.e. vested interests). Equally important is an ability to face reality, however unpleasant or painful that may be.

How do we justify the limits we place on our honesty about the truth?

We justify limits on our honesty in many ways: by joining a tribe and deferring to its rules; by focussing on our own self-preservation or our vested interests; and by denying voice to our conscience.

How do we know what the truth is and how do we recognise it?

In order to know what the truth is, it is necessary firstly to cast off our natural bias and prejudice; to open our minds; perhaps also to become pantheistic in our outlook.

How much of the truth can we individually consciously face head on?

Knowing your limits is a safe harbour, but may also be a block to discovering the truth. So, it may be necessary to be courageous in the quest.

What strategies can we devise to help us get to the truth?

Somehow we may not only have to overcome personal prejudice and swallow our pride, but also face the facts and stop echoing and repeating popular myths that come from the pens and mouths of those around you.

How much do we have to sacrifice both to seek and to tell the truth?

We have to set aside our need for material things and kick the habit of consumerism. We also need to examine, evaluate and better understand our pride and prejudice (with apologies to Jane Austen).

Who will speak the truth?

Any of us can speak the truth, but, before we do, we will have to develop the inner strength to resist and cast off all those temptations that beset us with envy, greed, carnal hunger and cognitive bias.

I recently attended a concert, in which the headline act were a folk and roots duo, whose talent and performances we have come to enjoy. The unusual and refreshing part of this concert was that the supporting act, who came on to ‘warm’ us up, was a poet, whom I had first met last year through the Sheffield WordLife movement, at the opening of the Sheffield Literature Festival. The poet is Joe Kriss. One of the self penned poems he read, concluded with words to the effect: stop talking, start thinking and listen to what lies between your ears; only then will you know what’s true.

There are many parts of our lives for which exposure of the truth, if shared with the majority and if reconciliation was achieved, would make for a better world. I wonder, however, if finding the truth in every part of our lives would challenge our humanity. If that truth were too unpalatable to face – the prospect of our own imminent failure, the discovery of a skeleton in our own cupboard, life threatening illness and death … would we still want to know the truth?

Perhaps you might let me know if you have found your truth … and whether you feel it set you free? 

_________________________

* The defining of conscience could, no doubt, be the subject of a veritable treatise. For now, suffice to say that conscience is defined as “the complex of ethical and moral principles that controls or inhibits the actions or thoughts of an individual”. Put more simply, it is “the inner sense of what is right or wrong in one’s conduct or motives, impelling one toward right action: to follow the dictates of conscience“.

© 2014 John Anstie

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer. John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. John is also an active member of The Poetry Society (UK).

*****

Petrichor Rising Book Cover.phpd'Verse Anthology Book CoverJohn has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

Good Friday, Good Fortune and Forgiveness

“Never let the sun set on an unforgiving thought” © 2012 John Anstie

It started one Good Friday morning, three years ago, sitting, as we sometimes do on a weekend, in bed, with a cup of tea, reading, reviewing, talking, relaxing.

Because the finances are my responsibility, unusually, I used this moment to run through the ‘state of the nation’. We then fell to looking ahead to our imminent retirement and the likely income from our pensions, such as they would be.

Every time we fell to talking about pensions, I was irresistibly drawn to musing about the first of my four different private pensions, which exist by virtue of changing employers. This pension was with the steel company, for whom I worked for the first eleven years of my career, which was ‘frozen’ upon its merger with another company. The process of reviewing whether to leave my original pension frozen or move it into a private fund was aided by a ‘friend’ who worked with a mutual insurance company at the time. Given that this was in the midst of the Thatcher era and the new market economy, ‘advice’ abounded that pensions should become more portable as the work force became more mobile and everyone was getting on Norman Tebbit‘s proverbial bike!

Long story short, the outcome was that I chose to move it to the private pension recommended by my ‘friend’ and the fund ended up being worth one third of what it would be had I left it where it was. So it was too late to make up the loss.

Whether or not I forgive my ‘friend’ for whatever responsibility he could himself reasonably shoulder for this advice, was rendered irrelevant by my next prompt, which occurred whilst I ate my breakfast and watched the second half of an hour-long documentary on BBC1, “What’s The Point of Forgiveness?”, presented by Historian, Bettany Hughes. It took a look at the history of this virtue, which emanates from the apocryphal words of Jesus, “forgive them, they know not what they do…”. In her thesis Hughes presents the alternative to forgiveness as being the vicious cycle of revenge, which inhibits recovery, engenders pain and does not allow us to move on.

Two significant events that I saw, cited in this programme, were the ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission‘ setup up in South Africa, following the release of Nelson Mandela and his election as president, and an interview with the wife of the co-pilot of Flight Eleven, which was deliberately flown into one of the Twin Towers in New York in 2001, who, in spite of her emotional struggle to come to terms with the loss of her husband and father to her two children, had somehow found it in her to forgive the terrorists. Both these events stand out in a way that gives us hope for humanity and human spirit. Whilst we can all understandably feel vengeful and hateful against those who harm us or our families, our tribes, our communities, it is only by forgiveness and by not antagonising the perpetrators of atrocities against humanity into a vicious cycle of destructive and vengeful argument that they may become capable of contrition and able to feel remorse. People who have achieved genuine forgiveness, like those already mentioned, accordingly become living proof that genuine forgiveness is the only road to reconciliation and peace.

So, how can I complain when I am able, as I did at the time of writing this, to sit in our sun-bathed garden, ringing with bird song, cup of coffee in hand, in good health and with the freedom to write what I want to say on almost any subject in this blog, here, now, any time it pleases me to do so. How can I feel vengeful toward someone about a pension shortfall, when there are people in the world, who can forgive acts of inhumanity that defy belief; that have caused the loss of life, the torture of innocent people, the deprivation of the most basic of human rights affecting whole communities, populations… there is truly no need to answer this question. One question does, however, remain.

That question is simply this: how can I, in spite of all the good fortune I have had in my life, in spite of the fact I am no longer an angry young man – for which there may have been a little justification early in my life – and in spite of the fact that the sun is shining; how can I follow this advice and ensure that, deep down, I can genuinely forgive anyone, who is guilty of anything, whether it be a simple thoughtless slander or the most unspeakable inhumanity. I feel this is the question I should continually ask myself and strive to achieve the only result that common sense points toward with undoubted clarity. It is so obvious to me that to forgive someone is to take the wind out of their angry or irrational sail; make it pointless for them to consider acting in such a way again, rather like a petulant child who, in moments of insecurity, challenges their parents by pushing at the boundaries, trying to get a reaction; when they don’t get it and the parents show forgiving, but calm and disciplined resolve, they gradually adjust their behaviour. It has to be said, nonetheless, that if it were the easy option, we’d all be able to forgive.

It should be easy for me in my relatively privileged social and economic circumstances, but how much more difficult is it for someone who is wired differently from me; who is younger and is just setting out on life’s difficult journey trying to survive; who may even have more justification for their anger or who is simply wired in an ‘angry’ sort of way. I don’t know the answer to this, but, whatever happens, if the message of Easter is to mean anything, whether or not you are, unlike me, an active Christian, then we ought to keep on trying… to be grateful for good fortune, to forgive and move on. What better cause is there to encourage harmony whenever and wherever in the world we can.

[A longer version of this article was first published on John’s prose blog, ‘Forty Two’ in April 2011.]

Photo and Text © 2014 John Anstie

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer. John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. John is also an active member of The Poetry Society (UK).

*****

Petrichor Rising Book Cover.phpd'Verse Anthology Book CoverJohn has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

An Apology from Your Grandfather

(for Nathaniel)

This poem was written last November shortly after the birth of my third grandchild, a second grandson, and the first child of my son and his wife. I put it away for a while to ‘rest’, because I felt it wasn’t quite there; that it still needed something to make it work. Three months later, following several edits and adjustments, whilst it is perhaps less like poetry and more a narrative, (and was it Leonardo da Vinci himself who said that a work of art is never complete, only abandoned?) I have decided that I should let it go. I hope my grandson, when he’s old enough, all my grandchildren and onward generations, may find some use or ornament for it, to give them perspective on their own situations, whatever they may be, and to help guide them in their journeys through life …

The countryside was flush with gold
to celebrate your arrival; the season
was in suspense, as if to make
your first tiny footprint on the earth,
amidst the clamour of a thousand nativities,
as if a gift of God for this, your birth,
a special and harmonious event.

At the cusp, where Autumn meets with Winter,
a splash of golden hair defined you;
the gilding of a perfect crown,
was like the golden fleece,
that vaunted prize of Ancient Greece
in Jason’s time, when boys grew into men
before the age of their true making.

Your first year, centenary of a date
when Europe burned with anticipation
of conflict, a bloody affair, for which
no true atonement was ever offered,
for which we feel a great collective guilt
but which, we hope, will remain
a part of history. Not your future.

Your future shall be focused,
neither on the clock that ticks,
that divides time into segments of life;
that numbs the mind with endless drudge;
that defines your living to the end;
nor shall it confine your path
to the relentless quest for gain.

It is not control that you shall seek,
but access to a pantheistic knowledge,
enabling a different class of power,
the faculty for influence over those,
who misused the privilege they have,
that we, your forebears, allowed them.
For this I repentantly apologise.

If nature no longer holds its strength to live,
to refresh itself, to recover its flush and thrive,
it will be human beings, who prevailed
on its demise, for which there’s no excuse.
Beyond mere human frailty, there seems no will
to cease remorseless greed and just survive.
But the Earth owes us a big fat nothing!

So, if my undoubted compassion
does not have wings; if I do not transform
my rising anger into constructive deeds,
in such a way to help move hearts and minds
in concert, so to invest in change;
if thus, and I’m too frail or weak,
remorse will overcome my heart.

But have I yielded to our defeat?
No. I’ll neither submit to this old foe
nor will my pen cease in my hand,
whilst ever I have breath and mind
to speak out from the crowd.  I find
it sad to say that much is left to do,
which leaves an adverse legacy for you.

What do I expect of you, or you of you?
I know that I can ask, but cannot make;
I know you’re blessed with your own will,
but you will find that one thing will prevail:
the greatest force for life is family;
a force defying selfishness and greed,
which always gives us hope in time of need.

It shall be fuel that fills you, every day,
from your Stabat Mater, your Trojan Father,
whose care and energy will long endure,
imbuing you with superhuman strength,
for which there is no substitute;
that no amount of gold will ever buy.
Integrity and truth is born of this.

There is one thing I know will light your way,
’till time and tides are done and trees are gone.
This energy and fortitude, integrity
and strong desire, will all be borne
to you and, through you, to your children;
and so, through them, ancestral grace
will lead them to conquer the World!

It is the one enduring human quality
that is, more than mere emotion,
the omniscient and greatest power of all;
one word, one gift, which represents
life’s longing for itself, from me to you,
a kind of magic that will heal the World
… with pure, undying, unconditional Love.

© 2013 John Anstie

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3

JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British writer and poet, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer. John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. John is also a member of The Poetry Society (UK).

*****

product_thumbnail-3.php

51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_John has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

Hide and Seek

[This impressive one man a cappella video wall production of Imogen Heap’s composition “Hide and Seek” brings me to another parallel of poetry. I should say that, whilst I much prefer live performance to what seems to be music’s equivalent of Photoshop’s adjustment and stitching process in photography, the main focus of the piece rests on this particular song written by Heap. Heap’s own production of it became a significant international hit when it was chosen to play out the finale of series two of “The O.C.” in 2005. It also featured in the film “The Last Kiss” amongst others a year or two later.

I chose this cover rather than her own production, because, well, because I have my own preference for a polyphonic choral sound. She is one of those impressively industrious creative musicians, who manage to make music and rhythm from an extraordinary array of instruments and production techniques. She is a singer, songwriter and producer with her own record label, which must take a lot of doing – being a creative and managing the show require a whole lot of different skills and aptitudes – hence my admiration for such talent, but, above all this, she wrote lyrics, which come close to poetry in their use of metaphor and their inclination to conjure absorbing imagery that leaves a lot open to interpretation. Great lyrics, nay poetry, is what separates journeyman songwriters from the great ones. I’d like to know what you think. I hope you derive some enjoyment from this piece, either in the performance, or the words, or both. My favourite lines are “Ransom notes keep falling out your mouth. Mid-sweet talk, newspaper word cut-outs.” What do you think?]

“Hide And Seek”

Where are we? What the hell is going on?
The dust has only just begun to fall,
Crop circles in the carpet, sinking, feeling.
Spin me ’round again and rub my eyes.
This can’t be happening.
When busy streets amass with people
Would stop to hold their heads heavy.

Hide and seek.
Trains and sewing machines.
All those years they were here first.

Oily marks appear on walls
Where pleasure moments hung before.
The takeover, the sweeping insensitivity of this still life.

Hide and seek.
Trains and sewing machines. (Oh, you won’t catch me around here)
Blood and tears,
They were here first.

Mmm, what you say?
Mm, that you only meant well? Well, of course you did.
Mmm, what you say?
Mm, that it’s all for the best? Of course it is.
Mmm, what you say?
Mm, that it’s just what we need? And you decided this.
What you say?
Mmm, what did you say?

Ransom notes keep falling out your mouth.
Mid-sweet talk, newspaper word cut-outs.
Speak no feeling, no I don’t believe you.
You don’t care a bit. You don’t care a bit.

(hide and seek)
Ransom notes keep falling out your mouth.
Mid-sweet talk, newspaper word cut-outs.
(hide and seek)
Speak no feeling, no I don’t believe you.
You don’t care a bit. You don’t care a bit.

(hide and seek)
You don’t care a bit.
You don’t care a bit.
You don’t care a bit.
(hide and seek)
You don’t care a bit.
You don’t care a bit.

Lyrics and music © 2005 Imogen Heap and Warner Music Group, all rights reserved

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3

JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer. John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. John is also a member of The Poetry Society (UK).

*****

product_thumbnail-3.php

51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_John has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

These Stones

I recently found inspiration from a story told to me by a local woman, about her father. After his application to join the forces, at the outset of World War Two, was rejected for reasons of invalidity, he and his wife ended up living a life of subsistence on the edge of the moors a short way up the road from here, near a place, which is one of our favourite local walks. She told me that her father had laid claim to an MOD Nissen hut, abandoned after the First World War, which provided a base for them to scratch a living. Some of the stories she told us of her father, revealed an unusual perspective of wartime life. He told her of the need for the long time tenants to vacate the old farm, the ruins of which lie just below the horizon in the photograph, which was then used as target practice for tanks sitting on the reservoir’s damn. This farm is named ‘North America’, seemingly because its last tenants emigrated to North America.

Her father told of watching the surreal images of the glow of fires burning from bombing raids on Sheffield, ten miles to the South West and of the German bombers circling above to take another run at the city, as well as the occasional bomber crashing on the moors. One such crash produced a surprising result, when her father went up onto the moors to investigate, he returned with a German officer, who claimed he never wanted to be a part of the war and pleaded with her parents to allow him to stay and work for them, incognito. They did this for him, until the authorities found out and came to take the reluctant German officer away. The stones that lie amidst the ruins of what was once a healthy moorland farming community, if they could speak to us now, would tell one hell of a tale of human history.

© 2013 John Anstie
© 2013 John Anstie

These Stones

What life there was around these stones when they
relate their story; most of it to tell
of shallow graves that churned to deafen men,
that scoured their souls and took them off to hell.

A far-off high command, then turned to those,
whose livelihood lay barren on the moors,
who toiled their flesh to bone, and on their clothes
the mud that turned to blood beyond these shores.

And if you wake to sounds that beat your drums
with shock and awe, expunging breath like skeet,
recalling tales your father told, the thrums
of flying ordnance, far off orange heat.

That piercing distant flaming glow that looks
so harmless in the stillness of the night;
that gave him time to listen, as he brooks
a merlin’s prey befalling nature’s plight.

His art, tattooed upon his weathered face,
like scars upon the Langsett landscape, where
your story lies beneath; but save this place;
these stones have memories, and tears to spare.

Across the water, calm reflects the shapes
in space that stretches to infinity;
a universe that sees these human apes
pass through in a micro-blink. Sublimity.

Poem and Photo © 2014, John Anstie, All rights reserved

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer. John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. John is also an active member of The Poetry Society (UK).

*****

product_thumbnail-3.php51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_John has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

The Value of Life

Word art image by John Anstie via 'Cloudart'
Word art image by John Anstie via ‘Cloudart’

This year marks the centenary of the beginning of a war that should have ended all wars. My thoughts for this piece were inspired, nay possibly provoked, by commentary from two recent sources.

The first was an item on the BBC’s Newsnight. This was a contention by some commentator that the perspective of the horrors of the Great War had swung “too far to the left”!

The second came from somewhere inside those compartments of my brain that store data from my professional life in commerce and trade. It relates to how successful companies aim to keep the balance sheet healthy (and the shareholders or directors happy).

It doesn’t matter which political regime is in government – left, centre or right – we keep going to war, somewhere in the world, for some reason, the truth of which is often illusory. So, whichever social, political or historic perspective we decide to adopt to absolve ourselves of the guilt, brought on by the inhuman horror of war, it alters neither the fatal results on the lives of so many, nor its lasting and damaging effects on the survivors and future generations.

Any company, developing a new product for market, will want it to succeed in the market. If the product fails to sell in sufficient quantities or survive against the competition, then would they carry on producing it and pushing it into the market, expending their valuable resources on a failing campaign? The answer is a resounding NO! They would either review and redevelop the product, remodel its placement in the market or withdraw it altogether!

An army, like a commercial company, has as its main resource what any organisation should value most, it’s people. Their operations in the field have to be managed in a way that ensures the highest probable success at the lowest possible cost. So the generals (and their political masters), who presided over operations at the front in the First World War, failed! It still hurts now, even after nearly one hundred years, that, by any measure, the obscene loss of young lives in that war was a failure on a catastrophic scale. However great was the threat that existed from Central Europe’s ‘Triple Alliance’ (Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy), they could have managed that threat with far better strategy, better tactics.

Surely few could have foreseen the horrors that would follow but, years later, with countless tomes of historical reportage, documentary … and some of the most poignant poetry ever written … there comes a time for reconciliation; a time for present leaderships to face the truth, admit their predecessors were wrong and apologise to the descendants of all those lost and hurt by such bad management. I think it is important for any civilisation, if it is not to descend into a dark Orwellian future, if it’s peoples are not to be subjugated by fear of war, foreign invasion and death, that its leadership, regardless of political colour, must be able to stand up and face the truth, admit their failures and apologise for taking us to war, any war! We all need to seek truth and reconciliation.

It has been said that we should not ‘celebrate’ but rather ‘commemorate’ the First World War at its anniversary. I disagree. I believe we should celebrate it, which means that, once we acknowledge it was a complete failure because of its decimation of life, it should serve as an unforgettable beacon that we will always celebrate for reminding us of the value of life.

© 2014, John Anstie, All rights reserved

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer. John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. John is also an active member of The Poetry Society (UK).

* * * * *

product_thumbnail-3.php51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_John has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

When I’m Sixty-Four

Will you still need me, will you still feed me …

At the time of writing this, when the Beatles and the Stones were playing out yet another rock and roll battle at the Grammy‘s, I was reminded of this song, which, if not their greatest hit, is one of their most memorable because it passes the ‘Old Grey Whistle Test‘.

In the fifty years since their major ‘battles’ for supremacy in the charts, in which these two famous bands were engaged, our life expectancy has increased by almost ten years*. So, the perspective of a young man in the mid-1960’s of someone in the seventh decade of their life, would have been of an old grouch off the end of the scale of life. At sixty-four, however, I find myself with better prospects of success for carrying out my ambitions in retirement, than I would have had fifty years ago.

Life expectancy, the quantity of life, is, whichever way you look at it, merely a statistic and is of little value on its own; we need quality of life as well. I watch as my 95 year old step-mother soldiers on, despite the continual but manageable ailments, with which she has to cope. Her complaints are nothing if not a physical body that is slowly wearing out, but they remind me that old age is not for the faint-hearted. I am conscious of the aches and pains that I have to deal with already, but, in my more insightful moments, I am constantly grateful that they are occasional or, if regular, not chronic (and by ‘chronic’, I mean permanent, lifelong conditions).

Perhaps the most important point about this is the effect that living with illness or pain, be it arthritis or any one of several age related chronic conditions, can severely reduce the quality of our life. I know that I truly have little to complain about, but I am acutely aware that I still, sometimes, have a grumpy disposition, which leads me to appear rude and dissatisfied, even when I know I am not dissatisfied – setting aside a kind of world-weariness that comes from my daily observations of what the human race is up to – but sometimes I need some help not to allow myself to become a grouch, especially with my wife of nearly forty years, who doesn’t deserve it.

If there were a universal prayer that I’d like to say here, it would be: please grant me a greater equanimity and remind me that I should be grateful for the ability, I know I already have, to see and enjoy the beauty, both visible and invisible, which is in so many parts of our lives. Above all, let me not forget to afford the elderly my understanding for them.

Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I’m sixty-four?”

Source: England and Wales, Total Population, Life Tables

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer. John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. John is also an active member of The Poetry Society (UK).

*****

product_thumbnail-3.php51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_John has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

It is Our Fortune …

Nelson Mandela (1918-1963), Anti-Apartheid Revolutionary, Politician and former President of South Africa (first Black president, and philanthropist
Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), Anti-Apartheid Revolutionary, Politician and former President of South Africa (first Black president, and philanthropist

I was saddened by the news of Nelson Mandela’s passing. Whilst it was not unexpected, his death has set in train much reflective thought, not only about the man he was, but also about his leadership, which was imbued with a kind of power to bring people together that is rarely seen amongst today’s political leaders.

In an essay and a poem, previously published in the summer, here on the Bardo, the word ‘fortune’ featured large in their purpose. The essay, “Fortes Fortuna Adiuvat”, was also recorded in two parts and broadcast on Roger Alan Baut’s rather unique ‘Blue Sky Highway’ Episode 3 (on BlogTalk Radio). I did eventually write an epilogue over on ‘Forty Two‘, in which I told the story of my chance encounter with a devout Christian, who harboured rather bitter feelings toward Islam. Whilst not the subject of this post, it does focus on the fortune I sometimes feel, particularly inspired by great lives, whose vision spans across the whole spectrum of human purpose, beliefs and faiths. Nelson Mandela inspired those feeling in me.

There is a need to ask the question: has this man set the standard for world leadership and will any politician be capable of taking up his mantle; will just one world leader step out of their political comfort zone and turn Mandela’s legacy into a blueprint for a new future order?

Madiba, his tribal name, the man from Qunu, had fortune for sure, in that he was clearly born with the genetic foundation of a strong constitution; he was also, somehow, able to show courage of an exceptional kind, in all sorts of ways.

As an angry young man, he fought against an oppressive regime, who felt that segregation was the only way they could manage to control a population – and preserve the security of their / the nation’s (delete whichever you think is least applicable) interests.  This was Apartheid, the slogan adopted in 1948 by the Afrikaner National Party, which the white regime maintained until February 1991, not long after Mandela’s release.

It took several years of concerted protest and sanctions from the international community eventually to bring about the release of Mandela and his fellow political conspirators. That might have been the end of it, but Mandela somehow mustered the magnanimity and strength to leave his anger and resentment inside the prison cell, which had confined him for twenty seven years. Not only this, but his new regime set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was an extraordinary attempt to bring about reconciliation between the oppressors and the oppressed and to learn how to forgive.

I feel very fortunate to have witnessed the effects of one man, who was supported by many of his own friends and fellow strugglers as well as by the many anti-apartheid movements and protests around the world, and sanctions, which the persistent pressure from those protest movements eventually brought to bear on political establishments.

Each of us is born with a unique footprint, a unique perspective, but each of us can also learn from our environment and from great lives. Nelson Mandela was a great man, a charismatic leader. His fortune was his birthright, his genes, which will have imbued him with some of the characteristics that enabled him to endure the privation of incarceration, absorb and process the positive and healing forces that worked on his mind during that time. The environment that surrounded him will have forged the spirit that underpinned the great leader and human being he came to be.

Human progress toward a better order in the world, toward peace, has as it’s building blocks, the example laid by such great lives.  Mandela’s legacy therefore leaves us with an opportunity.  Future leaders of the world don’t have to be imprisoned, to be freedom fighters or terrorists, to qualify as great leaders, but they, like each new generation, can learn the obvious lessons from the generation before them.  Here’s hoping there will be more Nelson Mandela’s, who have the courage to step out of their comfort zone, to step away from anger and resentment, to show that fortune does favour the bold.

There has been much poetry written about this man; such was his influence and inspiration. I wrote this at the time of his death, amidst the chaos of some severe storms over the UK (hence the opening reference):

Twenty Seven Years

As the West winds blew their fury
the earth let out a cry;
as if to deny the awful truth,
it was more than just a sigh.
As if one life had greater value
than all of this; all of the love
that a world full of great lives
could bear; bear to contemplate
the loss of a legend, but
whose wisdom will be immortal …

How many years in a small, small room
with the same view through the bars.
How many years of breaking stone
that broke his view of the stars.

How many years of prayer and pain,
to grow his wings and fly,
like soaring eagle, dancing crane,
over mountains in the sky.

How many years to find his truth,
and reconciliation
that helped empower his legacy
from the torment of a nation.

How long did it take to forge his spirit,
imbue his captors’ tears
with the power of his forgiveness
after twenty seven years.

– John Anstie

© 2014, John Anstie, All rights reserved
Photograph of Nelson Mandela taken in 1937 and in the United States public domain

John_in_Pose_Half_Face351w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer. John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. John is also an active member of The Poetry Society (UK).

product_thumbnail-3.phpJohn has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

* Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.