Sunday, October 30, 2016

14. What we need is here

It's been a while since you've come to the park alone. Everything rushes in to greet you. The rain trees with their canopy shyness, the drying grass, the tabebuia leaves turning yellow, the scraggly park stray dogs who respond to your smiles, the sweeper ladies who stop to chat. Your cloak of solitude still fits you so well, allowing space for the world to pass in and out. You smile as you walk into a grove resonating with barbet calls, content.

The first tabebuia impetiginosa has bloomed already! You wait for this all year. This brief blossoming that bursts into your life every Oct-Nov. You watch the flowers at your feet, flabbergasted that you are allowed yet another chance to see this miracle. What a privilege. You can never quite get over this.

Every time you are shown something new, in this space you have been visiting for years. Today is the day of the parakeets. All over the park you come across the rose-ringed parakeets. Lying down under the silk cotton tree, you look up and see one sitting on a broken branch, peaceful, watching the world below. As you walk  back, you see crowds of them on trees, sunning themselves, linking tree to tree with their constant flights up and down, their sweet shrill cries cutting through the stillness. A family sees you looking up and stops to stare too, "Hey, parrots!" :) 

And you wonder at how  you have taken these beautiful birds for granted, just because they are so common in this city. There are so many all around your house too, you wake up to their calls every morning. Any way you look at it, they are exotic, stunning. You wonder at how much you take for granted, just because you have it so easily, just because it is part of your every day, just because it has been given without being asked for.

You pray that you will always remember that you are rich beyond imagining....

Twice during your walk, park sweepers stop to chat with you, telling you of their woes, the struggles of their hard lives. You stop and listen to them, give them all very liberal Diwali tips, knowing how little difference you make to their suffering, sadly. You are always singled out for such encounters - in a group, you are always the one beggars will come to expecting kindness. Maybe you have "fool" written all over your face? :)

May you always be just as foolish, just as generous. May you go away empty-handed and happy.  May you never forget the unknown dervish.

The platform under the silk cotton tree is now covered with dry leaves. Soon, the bare branches - and then the blossoming in December. The wheel has turned a full circle. Here we are again, ready for renewal, yet another time.

Of late you have been noticing how everything you have read and experienced all your life is now a part of who you are, how so much has seeped into the very fabric of who you have become. You owe a debt you can never repay, to so many all over the world, alive and dead.

You have lit your candles at so many altars, each time the darkness descended. You have been pulled out of whirlpools by the most random glimpses of beauty, by the most ordinary of mornings, resplendent with squirrels and flowers sellers. 

You have been broken, nay re-arranged, until you have seen.

... And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.

Wendell Berry, 'The Wild Geese'

The full series here:

Parakeet picture from here

Saturday, October 15, 2016

My name is Richard. And I am lonely.

Dancing in Zhongshan Park, Shanghai, Sep 2016

A brilliant documentary on loneliness in the UK, very sensitively made. But it could be anywhere. There are lonely people all around us everywhere, do we notice?

Perhaps the antidote to this is this vibrant community life I see in parks every time I go to China - people of all ages, but especially the old, meeting up in parks in the mornings and evenings everyday and spending time dancing to music, singing together, playing cards, practising Tai Chi and Kung Fu, talking, laughing, interacting with younger people.

Such an amazing way to connect, to not feel lonely! Blows me away every single time. Some of my colleagues' parents do these things, and I believe it helps them keep fit and remain cheerful. Here's an album of my photos, you'll see what I mean.

Don't miss the short videos of the dancing and singing [the videos have a small Play icon at the top right-hand corner]. They let strangers join them too, I've always felt welcomed. :)  Don't miss the lady in blue dancing, so much joy.

Keeping Loneliness Away:

Documentary: Age of Loneliness [59 mins]
John Richards

...My name is Richard. And I am lonely.

...I even talk to the cashier. I won't go to the self-service things...just to get some conversation.

...I've donated my body to medical science.If I am very honest about this - this is quite difficult to say - one of the reasons is because, I don't want to have a funeral, and have nobody turn up. Because I think that would be the loneliest thing.

...As soon as I thought of ending my life, my thoughts calmed down. Completely calmed.

...I want to be able to give. And you can't give unless you got somebody to give to.

...I can't bring myself to believe that this is it. What if it doesn't change? What if this - is - it?

...It can't carry on like this, it can't be like this, all the time. And then you start thinking...maybe it will.

...What's the longest you have been in this room and not seen anyone? Two weeks.

...I think I only need maybe for someone to come and see me. Maybe for a couple of hours. Maybe once or twice a week.

...One of the reasons that I am so pleased to be doing this [interview] is because of the company. It's nice to have people here.

From here: