As the Free Bird Flies

As the free bird flies

To the sun in the sky,

So my heart longs to be free.

To soar through the clouds,

As the eagle’s cry sounds –

To roam over hill and vale –

To follow no predestined trail.

I’d go through the sea-mist

And survive it, just,

To see myself start over again.

As I’d try and I’d try

To lift myself high,

I’d just be pulled back down,

To nurse my broken crown.

To raise myself up

Above all of this

Is incredibly hard by myself.

So here I must try

To live and to die,

But we’ll all meet again in the end.

Overbearing Sentimentality

I write this with tears still staining my cheeks. I find it best to write with strong emotion coarsing through, as it usually results in a piece which will be finished. Countless drafts of pieces are saved to this blog, unfinished due to some notion that they are not ready.

This piece acts (in some respects) as a review of Shadowlands, Richard Attenborough’s 1993 masterpiece, which follows acclaimed author and Christian apologist CS Lewis (Anthony Hopkins) as he falls in love with an American author named Joy Davidman (Debra Winger).

Anyone who knows this tale knows that it does not, in the strictest sense, end well. Joy develops cancer and dies, leaving Jack – as Lewis was more affectionately known – grappling with his emotions and his faith and spawning one of his greatest works, A Grief Observed.

Here, Lewis speaks from an experience which is missing from his previous work. Here, he realises just how important it is to grieve at the time that it happens.

Of course grief is not something that be controlled in terms of its occurences and reoccurences. Grief comes and hits us when we least expect it, when we least want and, quite frankly, it can be absolutely crippling. Towards the end of the film, as Jack sits at Joy’s bedside for the last time, I found myself confronted by an intense memory of myself from around two and a half years ago.

I was sat around the hospital bed of my grandpa in the middle of the night, quite literally waiting for him to die. And I just cried.

I couldn’t help but to cry.

All of us will, at some point, suffer a devastating loss and all of us will grieve in different ways, going through the stages at different times, for different lengths. And crying will almost undoubtedly be a part of that.

We should not be ashamed of that. In the immediate aftermath of my grandpa’s death I struggled to hold it together when confronted by a fig roll. An inanimate object seemed to be goading me – a ridiculous assertion now, perhaps, but I stand by it.

And no matter how often those like Piers Morgan may tell you otherwise, you should not “man up”. Share your emotion, cry on your own timetable and, most importantly, talk through what you are feeling with those close to you.

Shadowlands is ultimately one of my top 5 films of all time and, despite numerous serious inaccuracies, captures the feeling of CS Lewis’ joy and grief almost perfectly. Hopkins and Winger deserve far more praise than they got for this film and the supporting actors are also wonderfully cast.

I leave you with one final thought:

When confronted with a bereavement, many people run. Some run towards God and others away from Him yet, ultimately, it will not matter. We will all end up confronted by our own, personal mortality and thus by the very question of our existence and God Himself. 

Whatever our beliefs, whatever our personal struggle, we have a decision to make.

I’m still not sure whether I’ve made mine.

Strong and Stable

“Strong and Stable” – that’s what she said.

Strong and stable, a funny way of thinking about it.

I could use some strength and

stability in my

head.

My mind has a ten

dency to wander. I don’t always stay on topic, I get distracted and carry on for far too long without taking

a breath.

My sleeping patterns are just a mess.

It is intriguing to note the similarities between a goldfish and

Boris Johnson, a man who has a delightful tendency to speak utter

Rhubarb, a food I’m not keen on myself. Although it does make wonderful

crumble. Much like our economy would under a leader like Theresa.

You see I have a way of returning to the topic. Unlike some, I may find my way back.

Again,

and again,

and again.

Because this is important. This is when we decide whether to take a stand, or whether to shrug responsibility

like a child caught enabling some degradation of society

by a friend or acquaintance who tells them

not to worry because they’ll take the blame.

Maybe it’s time to

do

something.

Anything.

 

Death to All Flowers

I sit in a trench surrounded by the smells of burning and gas. Around me there are the bodies of so many dead – some I knew, some I didn’t. Some I liked, some I despised.

Some I killed. 

It’s easy to call me a murderer but until you have engaged in battle like this, you can’t understand. I would happily take the punishment for the crimes I have committed. It is, after all, justice. However, it would not change the past. It would not change me, my sense that no one else quite understands the mental torture that I put myself through to get to this state of sheer apathy.

Your sense of horror is the first thing to go. You become desensitized to the pure hell around you. A stench of rotting flesh and the whizzing of artillery prior to impact. The sight of a solitary flower attempting to push through the mire and the misery, only to be trampled by the next assault. The taste of gas that never quite leaves you again.
Eventually you start to take some perverse pleasure in plucking the flower before anything else reaches it and tearing it in to the smallest shreds that you can.

Perhaps it’s a representation of your dignity.

You throw yourself into every attack in the hope that this will be the one that kills you and when, instead, you are the only one to survive intact, you take to killing your injured comrades. Put them out of their misery.

I drag some bodies back in to an abandoned section of trench and sit amongst them. I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry at the absurdity of it all, so instead I sit in silence. Mind-numbing, aching silence.

I wait. And wait. And wait.

And then I realise:

This is not reality, this is not where I am. This is where I was.

And where I always will be, as I continue to live this moment every time I receive even a hint of that gas or those bombs or that rancid flesh.

I can’t even bring myself to grow flowers anymore. I kill them off.

Thoughts on mortality at 2am in the morning, when I really wish I was asleep

Life is not clear. Time will move on. Our minds will be stuck in the past. Sometimes, I long for the days gone by – when life was simple and I had no responsibility to behold. 

No rebellious mind or pain-laden body.

No desire to discover the intricacies of human relationships.

When I could just be in the company of others and enjoy it for what it was. An interaction with someone who cared for me in some way and I did not mind what that way was.

And on other occassions I have a strange desire to tear myself limb from dastardly limb in some vain, forlorn attempt to rebuild myself, to become someone else. And then I see that, in doing so, I could be no better than the parts that I now have.

Senseless though it may be, this is why I look into the mirror and see nothing but a scruffy mess of flesh and hair looking back at me, a look of utter desperation in his eyes as he looks to escape from the ideology of life.

On occassion I am reminded of childhood and at these times I see more clearly than ever that I can never grow up. Grow as old as I might, I seem destined to have the mindset of a child for what may seem to be an eternity.

But no man walks earth for an eternity. Every human being, however great or small their impact, is destined for death. A short run upon the stage of life before the pain ends.

Blissfully.

Peacefully.

And in that time, some may fill their lives so completely that there will suddenly be a great chasm in the souls of others. Some will leave the land of the living with nothing more than a whimper.

Such is death.

Joy and Sadness

When joy and sadness intertwine,

A pain eternal, a love divine.

The memory of those you loved

And the thought of them looking from above.

This disappointment that you feel,

Knowing that you can never reveal

To them, once more, how much they meant,

How strongly on them you often leant.

What you wouldn’t give for one last touch, a hug maybe,

A hand to hold, a smile to see.

Just once more,

And then again,

And again,

Just to try and reverse the pain.

Love Happens

There is an old adage, oft quoted and oft cut short. It begins thusly:

We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone.

Orson Welles, to whom this pearl of wisdom is attributed, went on. He had this to add:

Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.

As sobering as all of this may seem, it raises a point of great importance – most of us are looking for love and sometimes we don’t savour it enough when we have it.

In all frankness, this post comes a couple of days after I was first inspired to write it. Wandering along on my way home from a rehearsal, my mind descended into its usual chaos of thought and suddenly, further down the pathway, I saw two people coming in the opposite direction. 

There is nothing unusual in this, true, but these people were beaming as they raced along towards the crossing. I do not pretend to know who these people were or what relationship they held with each other, but there was a sudden moment of clarity among the ever increasing swirl of worthlessness that had surrounded me.

What I am looking for in life is love, not necessarily any sort of sexual love, just relationships with people and the world around me that show an exchange of love.

I believe this to be case for most people and part of the problem is that there are those who wantonly destroy any love we can have for the world by a destruction of hope.

Hope is an emotion which is perhaps misplaced, but it will never leave as long as there is love to accompany it.

And, of course, it always helps if you state your love in the first place.

C’est si bon

Insulation/Exploration

Yesterday, I went and walked Siân, one of my family dogs, around Sandall Beat Woods with my friend Lewis, who was home from university for Christmas. It was a lovely chance to catch up with someone who I haven’t seen for a good few months and, although Sandall Beat is not the most beautiful place you’ll ever see, it is a reminder that there are always places to go when you feel trapped. 

For some people, myself included, being surrounded by trees is less daunting than being in a room full of people and life without nature would be a hell of a lot bleaker.

Life in the Mist

The mist rolls down from the mountains,
Clouding the eyes of the deer laid around,
Leaving the sky committed to the darkness.
Something lurks here, it waits to be found
By someone who is not you.
Some call it a black dog that preys on your mind.
Whatever you call it, it tries to hide in the cracks, the crevices, the caves
On the mountainside until the mist descends.
And when that time comes
You know.

You know that just getting up feels like climbing a mountain.
Just being awake is enough to make you question why you exist.
You feel that your life has become a fountain of shit
Causing you to gag in the stench of your failings.
You drown in the everyday and revel in the chance to sleep
For just five more minutes.
You’re fat, you’re ugly, you’re lazy, you’re useless.
Everyone hates you.
Everyone is looking at you.

And eventually, that black dog has wrapped itself around your body.
It begins to consume you.
And then,
Then,
Then someone sees your burden, it cannot hide in its cave any longer.
The dog retreats for now, leaving behind marks of tooth and claw;
A constant reminder that you have come through your struggle and survived.
At least for now.

Would you consider this salvation?