Twitter is a curious phenomenon. Leaving aside all the trolling and general idiocy that can go on, there is wit, there is expression, there is immediacy and there is social contact. I have become personally engaged with quite a few people whom I have never met.
One such is Lisa Harding. Lisa has various Twitter incarnations, and I have followed her for a good while. She is a decent cove. She was a long term Liberal Democrat (and I think a councilor for a while). She has plenty of views, and perhaps she won’t mind me saying she may be a little eccentric. I regard this as a very positive trait indeed. And then there is the little detail that Lisa has a bipolar condition, which produces, as one might expect, some highs and lows in mood. Pausing there, if anyone has the reaction that bipolar is a bit of a cop out for being emotionally ill disciplined, stop right there. It is a serious condition that demands sensitivity and care. One of my favourite actors, Jeremy Brett, was a sufferer, and it affected his health badly in his later years.
Anyway, Lisa is a good hearted and decent soul. One of her best attributes is the love and care for her animals. There was Mickey, the Jack Russell terrier. Mickey was a Rescue Dog – taken from a bad home. Now, if I knew nothing else about Lisa that would commend her to me. So when Mickey sadly got sick and died, Lisa was understandably quite distraught. So was I. I got the feeling Mickey was a little character and very much at the centre of Lisa’s world.
When Lisa acquired a new dog, another rescued Jack Russell called Lilah; I was delighted for them both. And angry at Lilah’s health problems, caused by ill treatment by her previous owners, surfaced.
Sadly, some time ago Lisa lost the job working for a charity or cause she loved. It was to do with action for the deaf, I believe. Poor Lisa, a single woman living in a rented flat, has been another casualty, I suspect, of the general incompetence and greed that has caused one of the worst recessions in living memory and afflicted the ordinary folk, whilst in the banks’ boardrooms and Whitehall the good times roll on unabated.
I have been following Lisa’s difficult search for a new job with, at times, very deep distress and concern. I know that Lisa has had some detractors on Twitter, perhaps suggesting she is not doing enough to help herself, and so forth. I simply cannot understand that. With more than half a century under my belt now, and a day job which brings into regular contact with sharks, con men, the feckless and the mean, I am simply unable to fathom it. All I can see is a woman doing everything she can to try to get back on her feet and hold a roof over her head, largely alone and sometimes scared to death. In fact I know from other sources, not just from Lisa, how fantastically hard she been trying; of the endless job applications, the knock backs, the phone that does not ring, the interview, the second interviews, and the “nearly but no thanks” letters.
I wonder how many of Lisa’s detractors would cope with getting a job in those circumstances as the chill wind of recession whips across the country? I suggest that they should have a long, hard look at themselves in the mirror. I am pretty sure I would not cope. At times it has been heartbreaking stuff, and it even resulted at some point in fears for her safety. Sometimes she has tweeted: “I want my life back”.
I understand that very well. You see, about 10 years ago I suffered a personal tragedy. What that was is neither here nor there now, but it was in essence a bereavement which left me crushed and utterly bereft. It affected my thinking. That tragedy led directly or indirectly to a relationship and marriage which was wholly financially ruinous.
Thus, in my mid forties from having been an independent, comfortably off chap I found I had sleep walked into a maze of duplicity, deceit and above all – debt. I was nearly bankrupt. I had no income, and I was effectively homeless. I had to depend on relatives for a bed. I retreated a little from the world. I found some therapy in writing and by a series of accidents, Gildas the Monk was born. I think in my despair I may even have tweeted something along the lines of: “I want my life back”.
Ever since then, I have lived in the shadow of that debt, of commitments I was lured or cajoled into, and the fear of homelessness. So I know what it is like to wake up afraid, and go to sleep afraid. I have begun to rebuild my life and my career, step by painful little step. But there are days, even this week, when anxiety settles on me like a thick blanket. It is not depression as such. It is a sickening and wearing presence. I cope. And I am beginning to overcome it.
However I had two advantages Lisa did not have. First, I am highly professionally qualified and can use those qualifications for good money. Secondly, I had some family to stand by me and not see me turned out on the street. Lisa does not appear to me to have had either of those. So her courage has been all the greater than mine.
The Universe is a strange place, and God moves in mysterious ways. The medium of Twitter has brought Lisa some help. A small, almost underground network of supporters has been sending things. Gift vouchers here, a little help with petrol to get to the job interview there. A delivery of food now to make sure that she does not go short and Lisa and Lilah can have a decent meal and a treat now and again there (and yes she was). People have helped keep her car on the road so she can get to interviews. One kind soul bunged her £80 to help upgrade her camera, and a couple of blokes are going to help her sort out her utility bill arrears so she can actually put the heating on. Someone has arranged for some coal. I don’t have much, for the reasons above, but I have done what I can.
Chris, Julie, Carole and the others – well done!
The camera bit, by the way, is very important. Lisa is a very keen and able photographer, and has obtained a voluntary unpaid role taking sports photographs for the local Woking paper and other places. A very good move that, because it is just the sort of thing that can lead to an introduction and paid work. But Lisa was distraught that the quality of camera was not up to scratch for the professional pictures the paper needed. The camera upgrade has brought better pictures, new focus and new hope.
In an ideal world, Lisa would be able to turn her hobby into a successful business. Of course, such is the nature of the crazy economy that she can’t get any funding. But we shall see. You can judge the quality of Lisa’s work for yourself here.
And on a wider front, what spiritual or philosophical lessons can we take from all this, if any at all, other than that life is a bitch at times? Well maybe therein lies the rub.
I was raised a Catholic. When I was a young boy I would be dragged off to a Church of a Sunday. I didn’t like it much. It seemed a gloomy place. More importantly, I could not fathom what discernable use there was in any of this. The message seemed to be: it’s OK to be poor and miserable. In fact it might even be a good thing because you would get more goodies in the hereafter.
Having reflected much over the past years, I think that that this, along with about 99% of what the worlds’ religions formally teach, is utter rubbish. In fact, it is wholly misconceived and dangerous.
There is a substantial work called “A Course in Miracles.” It is a mix of aphorism, stanzas and written in a slightly St James’ Bible style. It is a curious and compelling work.
The miracles it is talking about do not consist of a giant hand coming down from the sky and fixing things. Rather it talks about “God” in complex and subtle psychological terms, and the miracle is a change in perspective and focus on the world, and through that change in perspective, a new paradigm can arise.
That is so important that I am going to ay it again The miracle is a change in perspective and focus on the world, and through that change in perspective, a new paradigm can arise.
In the context of The Course, Heaven and Hell are not something in an afterlife. They are descriptions of our present experiences. A great advocate and exponent of the Course is the writer and speaker Marianne Williams. She sums it up in this way:
“Fear in your mind produces fear in your life. This is the meaning of Hell. Love in your mind produces love in your life. That is the meaning of Heaven”.
That makes a lot more sense that anything I ever heard from the pulpit.
I can say then, that both Lisa and I have been to Hell. And I am sure everyone reading this blog has; addictions, anger, attack, abuse; all are founded in the absence of love. As I am finally beginning understand, what the Course teaches is that the “miracle” is the change in the way you think. On one very simple level it is saying that what you focus on will perpetuate and expand. Therefore, you would be wise to focus on love and what you love, and that will expand in your life as things that cause fear fade away. It is not just that you can look at a glass as half full or half empty, but that if you look on it as half full it will get fuller.
We all suffer our own personal crucifixions. I have alluded to mine, and have set out what might be called Lisa’s crucifixion above. But the lesson of Jesus’ crucifixion is this: there is no storm that does not cease. There is no Hitler who ultimately wins out. Whether we want to overcome our personal crucifixions after three days or thirty years is a matter for us. Because with the change of perception that the Course suggest, there can be extraordinary change from an abundant Universe which will work in harmony with and for you. That is something we have forgotten; it is killed out of us by conditioning. You just have to remember it and change your thinking towards and about the world.
“What is lacking shall become abundant, and what is wounded shall be healed. From “out if the blue” – or miracle mindedness – miracles shall flow forth naturally”
“Miracles are natural. When they do not happen something has gone wrong”
Gildas the Monk