Tag Archives: The Attempt for Life

Where Three Dreams Cross

When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars

This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius
The age of Aquarius

Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind’s true liberation

“The 1967 musical Hair, with its opening song “Aquarius” and the memorable line “This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius” brought the Aquarian Age concept to the attention of audiences worldwide. These lines are considered by many to be merely poetic licence, though some people take them literally. An example is the identification of Valentine’s Day 2009 as the “perfect alignment to support our collective manifestation of love and peace and dawning of the Age of Aquarius”

The musical ‘Hair’ may be considered commercial mush; the ‘Age of Aquarius’ may be considered fantasy tosh; but you can’t get away from what they represent historically and psychologically.

This is that: THERE WAS A LONGING FOR BETTER THINGS when ‘Hair’ was a Broadway smash; and furthermore that: SOME PEOPLE CONTINUE TO LONG SO HARD FOR BETTER THINGS, THAT IMAGINATIONS TAKE THEIR HOPES OVER and so they look for the dawning of a Golden Age of Aquarius in human affairs.

Just like 1967 we have the politically engaged who long for better things; we have still astrology and astrologers; we have communities here and there attempting as hard as they can to live kind, honest lives and with a goodwill towards others. Many people give charitable donations. There are lots of ways of expressing this human need still being used now by people.

The hope has diminished considerably though; the sense of movement and optimism in those heady days; that just around the next bend (in that generation then growing towards leadership in the world) was an earnest with a dedication and a faith and a determination that the Age a-coming was to be BETTER than the one it was to replace.

Bob Dylan sang that:
‘The blind men make the rules
For the wise men, and the fools’

And insisted that this order was coming to an end, and that

‘The times they are a-changing’

They did and they didn’t. The times changed, but not in the way which so many post-war Baby Boomers had hoped for; if you’re considering only what they hoped for before they got in the driving seats themselves.

Rock n Roll liberated us. Affluence pampered us. Harsh and hard times quickly dropped away for many in the West, and we enjoyed it and indulged it, because we had found it all so fun and exciting – inspirational even.

As the meek, we inherited the earth. We spoke of, and many of us believed in, ‘Make Love; Not War’, ‘Tune in, Turn on, Drop Out’ and ‘Wear some Flowers in your Hair’. Many of us had seen enough of war, even though in UK where I was there was no draft and no war we were directly engaged in.

I am old now and can yet remember vividly at home, after work, every evening, sitting down to rest and seeing the gorgeous Technicolor TV of bombing runs and plumes arising from dense jungles; flights of, not angels, but fighter jets, or helicopters, or bombers, almost in formation pulling away from these pyrotechnic feasts and the saturation devastation of a whole rainforest.

We got the casualty numbers too, listed and emphasized each day; not as grim for us as for USA because the guys (and gals) were not British. We got the propaganda, the upbeat cheerleading of the media companies; and like the news from Iraq day after day some 40 years later, the rhetoric did not do justice to the carnage.

So we knew pretty well what war was, what it was about and how it was waged. We in UK, like our compeers in USA, saw it with our own eyes and grieved likewise on our own souls. Those newsreels of flame and vivid colour did much more than they get credit for in rousing the massed UK youth presence over the course of years daily outside the US Embassy in Trafalgar Square London, in vigil and protest and frequently in a disturbance. The newsreels were on our side; they did our work and helped us immensely.

And for those of us who were not there in the Square, or who did not keep vigil religiously there; the newsreels kept awake our sense of outrage and horror and sadness at the events in South East Asia. Oddly enough, these were thought acceptable viewing at early evening broadcasting back then!

No other war before or since has been covered by the same immense an intense detailed recording on public media of so much horror and murder and sheer human madness. The Generals and Governments must have learned from their huge mistake of showing the war as a Soap Opera at peak viewing nightly to the ordinary folk whom they expected to take it all lying down.

Nowadays, and since Vietnam, TV news and coverage of our wars has been in comparison severely muted; there were no embedded reporters then, who nowadays get the access on terms of military censorship.

We were all good. Life was good. Except to enjoy a good life with such hell and conflagration nightly on the box seemed really, and not just synthetically, unacceptable and obscene. That was a general feeling, a prevalent reaction to our newfound liberties and affluence and joie de vivre.

Tell Me Lies About Vietnam

I was run over by the truth one day.
Ever since the accident I’ve walked this way
So stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

Heard the alarm clock screaming with pain,
Couldn’t find myself so I went back to sleep again
So fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

Every time I shut my eyes all I see is flames.
Made a marble phone book and I carved out all the names
So coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

I smell something burning, hope it’s just my brains.
They’re only dropping peppermints and daisy-chains
So stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

Where were you at the time of the crime?
Down by the Cenotaph drinking slime
So chain my tongue with whisky
Stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

You put your bombers in, you put your conscience out,
You take the human being and you twist it all about
So scrub my skin with women
Chain my tongue with whisky
Stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

— Adrian Mitchell

Of course we could not sustain all this. While we were young yes, and unmarried, or single, without children or mortgages; although some of us did. They went to live in Teepees in the hills on the rolling pastures of central Wales and are there to this day living working the land, educating their children, keeping the faith.

But mere mortals like most of us succumbed to what looked like necessity and buckled down to jobs, careers, power, and orthodoxy. Not before we had achieved – or had helped achieve – one of the most stupendous turnarounds in any history anywhere in the world. Sennacherib at the gates of Jerusalem compares.

The war ended – victory was conceded – and as much by homeland distress and pain as by valiance in arms, the Vietnam War just stopped, quite suddenly.

Maybe we had no other cross to bear, of equal magnitude, and so we just drifted away into a nowhere land and made our peace with our angry shamed rulers? Maybe we needed Vietnam like Vietnam needed us? But as the seventies wore on and rock n roll became either pop or marginalized, so too did our Movement. The groups became bands and the decline that began with ‘glam-rock’ set in, and the commercial hands grabbed those now unfocussed ideals and principles and turned them more and more into hard cash.

I knew people who set up their own schools; who tried hard not to depend on MD doctors, and who were committed to bringing up families with a truly alternative outlook and aspiration. The watchword for these was ‘self-sufficiency’ and they eschewed even State handouts to low income families.

If a child was very sick, they were pragmatic enough to bring an MD in, they were human and sensible. They were very largely the spur for the commercial book publishing companies to begin the health and fitness ranges that thrive so well today. Health food shops were almost their sole creation and became an industry. Grow-your-own; candles, incense, learn guitar or harmonica, wholefood cooking; and a host of other ‘lifestyle choices’ of today ,were given their initial thrust into the laps of the wealth generating machinery by these kind of people being determined to hack it out on their own, in their own way, for so long.

As I say, some are still there in Teepees, but in the public consciousness they might be in oblivion these days. We’ve lost that lovin’ feelin.

It’s trite and easy to point out that commercial hands grab and bring in from the cold and the fringes anything seen to be worth half a buck. It’s true though.

But is it just commercialism that has adulterated many of our ideals and principles by its Midas Touch? Or did we sell ourselves when we lost focus and moved mainstream? Or is it that the aftermath of a compassion binge is compassion fatigue? Have the foreign lands we fight on become more remote for many of us? Are we more insular, less cosmopolitan nowadays? Has our acclimatization to undreamed of goods and services in over-liberal quantities; our ring fenced harvest provender we seem still to enjoy even in these days of austerity; all just dulled our senses to the harder edges of basic subsistence living?

Have PCs and the geeky techie stuff hauled us even further from, dislocated and fractured our connections with raw living? People said so about TV, they probably said it about movies and radio when they first came in big time; but our dependence on IT is entire and blind and vital to us these days. If the TV busts we get a baby boom a few months down the line, but if the clouds burst and the acres of banks of servers in California blow, we are back in a state of primal chaos.

But what has happened to us; or am I just getting old? The ambience seems to be that there’s nothing much to believe in these days. Little aspiration because little hope. Little hope because – why? Everything is laid on? We have snailed back into our shells, our shelters, no need for tin hats though, there’s just no place worth going to for water and refreshment of the soul anymore. There’s little recognition of a need to refresh the soul, of a soul itself, for too many of us.

Like the Wandering Jew, or Dr Frankenstein’s monster, we are present on earth but have no home no direction. No Direction Home: Like a Rolling Stone. We are buried by the very solid presence of earth, imbedded in it, because that is all we conceive, all that we accept as real. Without question, without question, we accept the earth. Without question, without question, we do not look for other, different, else.

Defeated by our own successes; quelled by our own achievements; depressed by our own aggregations; limited by our own liberations. There’s always a moment when you sense you have chosen the money before the beauty; the gain before the conscience; the tangible before the feeling; the satisfaction before the true. We all have moments we can recall we did this.

‘Who would have thought the old man had so much blood in him?
All the perfumes of Arabia cannot cleanse this tiny hand.’

Whether we have lied, or injured, or smeared, or tempted others, we all of us know our wrong choices. We all of us know what it is like to have fallen:

‘The expense of spirit in a waste of shame is lust in action’

Each lie, each injury, each smear, each temptation, like each man’s death, diminishes us as perpetrators, takes away from us, crushes us, and we become less alive, less human, less expansive, and more constrained, more bestial, more carnal, more beyond hope and we sense we are further out of reach of a true sense of freedom and liberation.

Missing Dates
by William Empson

Slowly the poison the whole blood stream fills.
It is not the effort nor the failure tires.
The waste remains, the waste remains and kills.

It is not your system or clear sight that mills
Down small to the consequence a life requires;
Slowly the poison the whole blood stream fills.

They bled an old dog dry yet the exchange rills
Of young dog blood gave but a month’s desires.
The waste remains, the waste remains and kills.

It is the Chinese tombs and the slag hills
Usurp the soil, and not the soil retires.
Slowly the poison the whole blood stream fills.

Not to have fire is to be a skin that shrills.
The complete fire is death. From partial fires
The waste remains, the waste remains and kills.

It is the poems you have lost, the ills
From missing dates, at which the heart expires.
Slowly the poison the whole blood stream fills.
The waste remains, the waste remains and kills.

This is our lies and our misdemeanors murdering us. This is life not wreaking a revenge but calling us back, from a great distance calling, over vast journeys and long time, calling us back to that air that was free and electric and charged with meaning, purpose and direction before we died to it.

I remember saying to a doctor I had visited to get some help with depression: I said, I remember: ‘I feel that if my brain, my mind, just had a latch, a hook, a small clip or grip to catch hold on; that somehow, I could feel well again. That a little primer, or a mental leg up, or a kickstart, would be enough to begin my rehabilitation.’ I was looking for a germ, a seed, an idea, a thought, a firm thing I could without fear of collapse and relapse, base my entire recovery on.

‘The card that is so high and wild you’ll never need another’

This card was not to be drawn by me that day, or for many days and years after this conversation. The way up was difficult, slow, and filled with pain and distress, fear and uncertainty, and arduous to the point of misery. I never got that leg-up, that germ seeded; not before I had been tested and sifted and put through the wringer backwards and forwards, and I had remained unsure why I was allowing myself to carry on what seemed pointless and of no avail. I remember reciting:

‘Come what come may
Time and the hour runs through the roughest day’

I was in a small museum for Rural Life in Usk in East Wales one day with my wife and my first child in her belly. The museum was given over to much rusty and ancient farm equipment and strange shapes and implements which farmers today would be bemused and put to it to explain. Rooms of  stuff, along with some more familiar domestic hearth implements and stoves, pots and pans, bellows, a tea service, and a table laid with an antique cloth.

On the wall, almost to be missed among the vast store of memorable junk, was a Victorian Sampler, a woolen picture with a saying embroidered on it:

‘To THY Cross I Cling’

Mine was no Damascene affair, no bolt from the blue, but an awakening from a buried desperation in which hope had been incarcerated. It was slow, uncertain, wavering, fearful, worrying, and almost invisibly drawing me on. The Sampler struck me. It moved me. Almost surprised and unexpected it made me stop and realize I was feeling a response I had never felt for such a message ever before. So I was confused but attracted.

Even though I was very much better in my mind than when years back I’d visited the Doctor, I see looking back there was a very long way ahead for me to come to where I am today:

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep

Here was my germ, my latch, given to me at the time when I didn’t expect anything; a time when I considered I had made the upward journey out of my depression largely on my own by way of my own efforts. I was not prepared. I was not even a novitiate to this business: it was the smallest beginnings of a realization that the pompous pride of life stands (for us all) the single obstacle preventing me or you from becoming real and whole.

It wasn’t Rapunzel letting down her hair; it wasn’t Escape from Alcatraz; it began small for me that this wasn’t a fiction; that it might be worth pursuing (even then I was thinking myself behind the driving wheel) and that almost against my will I was going to pursue it.

John Bunyan’s Pilgrim goes a fair way on his journey and meets a good handful of dreadful creatures and misguided people before his author narrates that his pack on his back drops away and the weight gone from his soul. That Jesus is our Hope, and our Life and our Guide is my confirmed understanding drawn from life. He is the Liberator, the Giver of Abundant Life; the Person behind the door with the light, waiting on us to ask Him in. Do it.

The song of Master Valiant-for-Truth     by John Bunyan (1618-1688)

Who would true valour see,
Let him come hither;
One here will constant be,
Come wind, come weather.
There’s no discouragement
Shall make him once relent
His first avow’d intent
To be a pilgrim.

Whoso beset him round,
With dismal stories,
Do but themselves confound;
His strength the more is.
No lion can him fright,
He’ll with a giant fight,
But he will have a right
To be a pilgrim.

Hobgoblin, nor foul friend,
Can daunt his spirit:
He knows, he at the end
Shall Life inherit.
Then fancies fly away,
He’ll fear not what men say,
He’ll labour night and day
To be a pilgrim.