Creative Wordshops May 2017 Writing Newsletter

Writing Newsletter

re-story, re-create and re-imagine your life and work

Dear writer, storyteller, reader, traveller, lover of words, images, silences… Understandest thou what thou readest?

Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir, Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine, With a cargo of ivory, And apes and peacocks, Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.(John Masefield)

In Hospice shops or what the Ozzies call op shops (opportunity) I often discover books that set sail from the publishing port some twenty five years ago. Only now do they arrive on my shore coming off the sea, the mare incognotum, with their cargo of words. They sail in on the wind as they inhale and exhale the tide.
With some books I wish I’d stood midlife on the quay and taken in their wisdom then. Responded to their questions and absorbed their scents. Other books, had I met them in my fifties, would have bypassed my then belief, longing and belonging, bound as they were in a more concrete reality. At 53 about to resign from academia, Shakespeare’s ‘insubstantial pageant’ was still an intellectual concept. Then a know-all ego crowed at dawn. I had yet to encounter Rumi’s The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you Don’t go back to sleep. You must ask for what you really want. Don’t go back to sleep. People are going back and forth across the doorsill where the two worlds touch, The door is round and open Don’t go back to sleep.

Now a quarter of a century later, such books ask me ‘who is the who who existed before I thought I knew who I was?’ They ask the riddle koan – ‘show me the face you had before you were born.’

Lars Tornstam, in Gerotranscendence cautions us not to ‘project midlife values, activity patterns and expectations onto old age, and then define these values, patterns and expectations as successful aging. Carl Jung too observed ‘The afternoon of life is just as full of meaning as the morning; only, its meaning and purpose are different.’ Jung honoured the mystical, metaphorical, archetypical and cyclical, as does the Nigerian writer Ben Okri.

While I read his The Famished Road years ago, I only recently encountered Astonishing the Gods (1995). Okri’s creation myth relates the story of the soul’s pilgrimage towards new levels of Self-realisation, the false ego which must be shed on the way so that we escape the prison where ‘You will become the statue of your worst and weakest self.’ Like Dante, guides lead the invisible wanderer through the eternal city – a father, a child and a woman. The journey parallels the Gnostic gospel of Thomas: ‘That which you have will save you if you bring it forth from yourselves. That which you do not have within you will kill you if you do not have it within you’. Here is an extract from this novel:

…the hall was suddenly abolished, its walls rendered invisible, and the new space was radiant with the appearance of a summoned being, the tender presence of the great mother, protectress of the island and its secret ways. The swirling energies of this being were everywhere, making the spaces alive with something akin to the electrification of the spirit, and a mighty collective hum of praise now seemed to have lifted off into the air, and the city seemed in flight. Such a splendid weightlessness pervaded everything, and all those in the great hall seemed to be afloat on a silver cloud, spiralling into the sublimity of the great mother. It wasn’t long before he felt that something about him had changed forever in that celestial mood. In one of his poems Okri writes: Will you be at the harvest, Among the gatherers of new fruits? Then you must begin today to remake Your mental and spiritual world…. You can’t remake the world Without remaking yourself. Each new era begins within. It is an inward event, With unsuspected possibilities…. We could use the new era To clean our eyes…

May 2017 letter