Not Always Easy

It is Easter Sunday. A significant proportion of the worlds population celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. His crucifixion is seen as the ultimate sacrifice for the benefit of others. A truly selfless act.

Long ago, I realised I did not believe the concept of a god and all that entails. Others can believe in what they want but I choose not to. In my teens I found myself sitting in church one evening listening to a service and realised I didn’t believe that a god could have any monopoly on love, kindness and doing the right thing. I walked away and told my parents that I would no longer be going to church. They were fine with this and never again expected me to believe because someone else told me to. I appreciate there are many of you who find god and establish a relationship with god. I respect your choice but it is not my choice. I am no believer in the agnostic approach. It’s rather like being a Liberal Democrat. Fences can get very painful if you sit on them for long enough.

Selflessness is present in atheists as well as those who follow a religion. Kindness, compassion, love is there in people regardless of their spiritual beliefs. One does not go with the other. Hatred, greed, selfishness are as present in some religions as in some atheists. I admire the concept of selflessness even if I can’t always pretend to be so. I am at times, ¬†selfish, greedy, angry. I am however an easy touch. I say no and capitulate. I hate conflict and the potential for conflict. Arguments eat me up. I will get involved in disagreements and I feel myself shaking with anger and frustration. I would rather anything happen than arguments. The trouble with this is that others sense this in me. They know if i’m pushed far enough, I will back down.

Strength is sometimes associated with fairness but it can also be with bullying. I have allowed myself to be bullied for most of my life. This bullying has never been physical, partly because I’m quite tall and well built. I have only ever had two fights and they were both at school. On both occasions, I won (if winning is an appropriate description). I walked away following the confrontation and felt awful. Awful for being in that situation and awful for not being strong enough to avoid it. Psychological bullying, manipulation are in my mind far more insipid. Many use guilt, play on your emotional discomfort. Some bulldoze you into giving in. My approach is to give in and then allow the unfairness to eat away within. I grumble or just walk away and say nothing. I allow myself to internalise the perceived injustice I am experiencing.

Maybe this is why I have never been a high flying success. I do have abilities but they rarely lead to achievement. Finding the strength that comes from kindness seems an elusive prize. Can you really be driven and at the same time, kind and easy going?

There must surely be victims that suffer in the wake of success. It acts as a balance.

I read a novel by Nick Hornby a few years ago called How To Be Good. It tells the story of a street in north London that opens its doors to the homeless and the disadvantaged. Very soon the social experiment begins to backfire and trouble ensues. Peoples desire for self preservation and a sense of justice brings the experiment crashing down. It was enjoyable and yet difficult reading for me. You knew almost from the beginning that it would not end well. The premise of a community and individuals in it, trying to do the right thing out of kindness was a powerful concept to read.

Maybe the message Jesus offers is that we should try to be good however hard that may be. It dispels the notion of revenge, an eye for an eye. It doesn’t presume for every good act, there must be someone who suffers. We seem to live an increasingly polarised world full of certainties. We can’t all be right and with that others all be wrong. Justice is not the preserve of the wealthy and powerful. Kindness is not owned by the devout.

I must learn to try to be kind and not allow myself to be put upon. We should all learn to be kind to others for no reward. This atheist believes in the power of people and their capacity for goodness. I don’t need a god to tell how to be good but do appreciate some of the principles.

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Stories. 

I read. I read other people’s stories. I often start reading other people’s stories, get drawn into their worlds, their experiences, their love and pain. I feel their pain. I often move onto the next story before the end of their story. 

I write. I write stories, relive my experience through characters. My characters live sometimes fantastical, desperate, lonely lives. I am not lonely. I am a little lost but aren’t we all? I have someone to get lost with. We walk the road, hand in hand, knowing wherever it takes us, we are still holding hands. She holds my hand because she wants to see where the road takes us. None of us know the destination, the goal, the final outcome. That’s why the walk is good. It’s maybe why I don’t run. That and a certainty that I’m not designed for running. My feet hit the ground too heavily. My legs concentrate on moving me around at a speed I can cope with. I’m a quick walker, always have been. An efficient walker. But never a runner. I hated running at school. I loved rugby and cricket but that required balls, of differing shapes and dimensions. I don’t know if I shall ever be a runner. I know I’m too old for cricket and rugby and was never very good at either. But the balls made all the difference. Maybe that is another unfinished story. The road to becoming a runner? 

Our lives often pan out as unfinished stories. There is rarely an ending. When we die the story doesn’t end. We take our loved ones with us to find a new story. My ghosts are always with me. Their force diminishes over the years but stays with me. It makes us what we are. They stopped walking or running but the connection with them keeps on going. The final stage of the grieving process is acceptance. Being able to see the loved one as they were. Not someone to idealise, to venerate, to worship. They had flaws. They would be angry, argumentative, selfish, sad. They loved, smiled, laughed, made you happy. 

The story however doesn’t end. I take their stories with me. You carry other people’s stories with you. You carry their love around with you everyday. We all have enough space to accommodate the stories. 

My last novel was about ghosts. Why should only the lost, the hurt be ghosts? If ghosts exist then every dead person should have a ghost. Every animal should have one. Every organism that has ever existed on earth still exists today. Their atoms have dispersed and exist in another form now. I sit in my room surrounded by the atoms of a million blades of grass, thousands of birds, animals and other plants. Every one of those had stories. The humans may well have read other people’s stories too. May have not always finished them before moving onto the next one. Surely we should learn to appreciate the continuity of the road rather than the destination. ‘Are we there yet?’ isn’t a question that we should really be asking? 

I hope you read my stories. I hope you enjoy them enough to read to the last page but I understand if you don’t. I could never finish Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky because it was so desperate. I’m sure The author has forgiven me. He is probably watching me write. Or at least an atom of him is. 

Worrying Times

Can’t put the news away

Can’t not read the words

Hiding from the TV doesn’t work

When fear is all around

 

Transfixed by hatred, pain, terror

Hoping for glimmers of hope

Mesmerised by mans inhumanity

When fear assumes command

 

Rise up all you good people

Should loud and long and true

Make freedom and love your targets

Now worrying times are here