Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar.
ago, I was born into a Postwar Britain of bombsites, rationing and austerity.
Neighbours dropped by to borrow sugar and stayed for a 'cuppa' at the kitchen
table. Toys and furniture were scarce, optimism abundant. My parents wanted a
child who would bring peace to a war-torn world and tell the next Hitler where
to go. Their innocent aspiration invoked a tiny freckle-faced Tara.
intention to benefit all beings,
does not arise in others even for their own sake,
an extraordinary jewel of the mind,
And its birth an unprecedented wonder.
When I was ten,
the Cuban Missile crisis erupted. I didn't expect to see eleven. That October
Sunday, we sat around the television, watching Russian ships approach Cuba,
waiting for JFK to press the button. Mutual Assured Destruction. Slowly, the
ships turned. I saw a world
reborn, a hope renewed.
Morning has broken,
Like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken,
Like the first bird.
I read On the Beach, post Nuclear
Holocaust novel, watched Children of Hiroshima, learnt about ICBMs. It seemed
impossible that I would live to be twenty. I would be turned into a shadow,
only that. Adult insanity ruled.
the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
celebrate sixty years in a world on the brink. Sixty years of adult insanity.
Nuclear weapons, My Lai massacre, Chernobyl, TMI, Fukushima, global warming,
Age of Stupid, species extinctions, African famines, gulf oil spill, Twin Towers,
Afghanistan, Iraq--war and still more war. Sixty years, waiting to be turned
into a shadow. Sixty years, yearning for peace. And still my spirit is strong.
Drinking a cup of green tea
I stop the war.
I have seen that all faith traditions
are true and good and all religions tainted with misogyny and fear of fleshly
lusts. Fear drives adult insanity. Fear turns us into shadows, with or without
a nuclear holocaust. I have seen that life can be rich and full, even on the
brink. I have seen that joy abides in all, beneath the horror, beneath the
pain, beneath the fear, for joy is our true nature.
From joy all beings come
By joy they live
And unto joy they all return.
learnt that simplicity, contentment and humble pleasure are revolutionary acts
capable of transforming the world. And I have seen that Eros, a much-maligned
god, deserves a place of honour in my pantheon. He gives much more than sexual ecstasy. He imbues my life
with all-embracing love and transcendent passion, colouring everyday things
with his radiance. Eros will never allow me to be turned into a shadow.
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
teenager I made friends with Roman pagan poet Horace, translating his poetry
and even visiting his house in the Aniene valley. Horace has walked with me
ever since, tapping me on the shoulder when I sip a glass of water--how good it tastes!--or wander round the
garden--see the flowers, feel the warmth
of the sunlight, smell the fragrance, pluck today!
Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.
Don't trust tomorrow's bough for fruit
Pluck this, here, now!
I have studied Vedanta, Hinnayana, Mahayana, Tantrayana, Kabbalah, Hasidut,
Sufism, Taoism and the Desert fathers. The essential teachings of all mystic
traditions are summed up in a hymn I learnt in St Mary's Infant School.
Little drops of water,
Little grains of sand,
Make the mighty ocean
And the pleasant land.
Little deeds of kindness,
Little words of love,
Make our earth a Heaven,
Like the one above.
years, I have learnt that this world, with its pains, its wars, its
catastrophes, this world on the brink, is the birthplace of compassion, the
ground of tenderness. And I have come to know that the greatest treasure we can
possess is the human heart, in all its love, in all its sorrow, in all its
pathos, for the human heart is where time meets eternity.
The clouds that gather round the setting sun
Do take a sober colouring from an eye
That hath kept watch o'er man's mortality;
Another race hath been, and other palms are won.
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.