A Child of the Universe


quotescover-png-67Getting older is a strange sensation. Once you reach a big birthday like sixty you start to re examine yourself and start to silently ask lots of questions. Inside, I’m the same person I always was: The same in fact, that I have been since I was a child, at least to me, at any rate. It’s only the outer layer that has changed. The outer layer has got fatter, heavier, and somewhat grayer. But inside, the essence that is me, the real me, is essentially unchanged. What is my essence though? What am I? How did I come to be, what purpose, if any, have I served?

Those questions are ones which people have been asked over and over for millennia and of course, will continue to be asked over and over again. As for the answers, well that is something different. I could quite easily be an accident of fate, just like the rest of the population, like the insect and animal world, like plant life, like the earth itself. It could be that the Creator of All Things, God, Allah, or whatever you like to call Him created us all, and that every step we take has been pre-ordained in some way. It could be that when we die we vanish, or it could be that our spirits live on, that you and I have lived before and will live again. Who knows?

It’s interesting to think that in some eastern religions, they believe that we are all born with a finite set of breaths. Breath then, in such a religion, is life itself, and when our allotment of breaths has gone, we are no more. Yoga, the understanding and practice of breathing was understandably very important to ancient people, perhaps for that very reason itself, for by controlling breath, one can live longer. It’s an interesting thought.

Another interesting concept is Samsara. In the Buddhist faith there are three primary states, birth, death and rebirth. Samsara is the wheel of life and only those Buddhist scholars who can escape from the cycle of life by meditation are those who achieve enlightenment, which in its highest form is nirvana, freedom from rebirth.

Normally, I think I would have probably taken my new birthday and my age in its stride but the big six zero does have an effect. Recently I have been on the look out for new jobs. Something more challenging, something different to what I do at present. I’ve started looking at roles outside of what I do in my day job, jobs involving social media, blogging and so on. Of course things aren’t like the old days, in the 21st century you cannot get a job without a qualification and the fact that I’ve been writing this blog for two years now, and single-handedly producing the graphics and the videos and promoting it all on Facebook and Twitter doesn’t really mean anything, not to an employer anyway. A degree in social media is what employers want. Anyway, two letters I received lately stopped me in my job hunting tracks. One was from an old employer saying they were ready to pay my pension and how and when did I want it: A lump sum? Monthly payments or a combination? Interesting, I thought. Then I got one from my current employer telling me I could retire if I wanted to or go part-time; semi retired. Well, wasn’t expecting that.

Yes, the thought of working part-time is starting to appeal to me. I’ll have more time to write, to make my videos and to create my graphics. Time to finish that second novel. Perhaps even time to take up a social media course! I’m not sure what to do but, if I continue to think about life, the universe and everything, taking up a philosophy course and really looking into the meaning of life might be an option!

It may be that the only meaning to this life is the one that you yourself give to it. I’ve always taken inspiration from that fine poem the Desiderata that says in part, ‘no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.’

We can only suppose it is.

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Lost Horizon, Samsara, and a Visit to the Doctor

samsaraDon’t you hate it when you wake up with a tune in your head and can’t seem to get a handle on it? No matter what you do the half remembered tune is playing away in the back of your mind and you cannot concentrate on anything else because you desperately need to identify that tune. It happened to me recently and I was stuck with a tune tinkling away in the background of my head, annoying me no end when eventually a line of the lyric came to me and I was able to track the song down using google. It was a song called  ‘The World is a Circle’ and it came from a musical version of Lost Horizon.

 

I must have mentioned Lost Horizon by author James Hilton many times in this blog. It’s one of my favourite books and it was made into a classic movie by Hollywood director Frank Capra which is well worth getting on DVD. Surprisingly, the film was remade in the seventies as a musical. It was, perhaps, one of those movies generated by the huge popularity of the Sound of Music but sadly it wasn’t a success despite some great songs by Burt Bacharach and Hal David and it was they who wrote ‘The World is a Circle.’

Lost Horizon is about a community in the Tibetan highlands hidden in a secret valley known as Shangi-la. There the people led by the High Lama, Father Perrault, decide to make the valley into a place of safekeeping for great art, literature and music, fearing it could all be lost in a catastrophe like a world war. The religion of the valley is a mixture of Christianity and Buddhism and that is where the lyrics of the song come from. Samsara, in the Buddhist way is the cycle of life; birth death and rebirth, represented by the circle. That circular vision of life is not always so easy to explain but it brings to mind a little anecdote that I think is worth sharing . .

A long time ago, years ago in fact I had this really bad pain down my right arm. It didn’t get any better, in fact it got worse and worse so I called in for an appointment at the doctors. I got to see Doctor Kowalski (as usual names have been changed to protect the innocent.) The thing with Doctor Kowalski was that anyone could see him any time because he wasn’t a doctor who was much in demand. Why not you might ask? No one really wanted to see him because all he wanted was to get you into his office and get you out again.
I sat down and the doctor smiled and asked ‘how can I help you?’
‘Well’, I began, ‘It’s this pain down the side of my arm . .’
I stopped because Doctor Kowalski was already writing out a prescription. Already, and this was before he examined me and before I even finished speaking. Moments later I was on my way out of his surgery and the next patient was already on his way in. All I had to show for it was a prescription for pain killers.

Dr Kowalski must have looked good on the surgery stats as it looked like he dealt quickly with a lot of people but as we all know, statistics don’t always tell the full story.
A few days later the pain was as bad as ever so I went back but I asked to see Doctor Edwards. Now Doctor Edwards was one of the most popular doctors in the surgery. Why? Because he actually listened to you! He was fully booked up for a while and it took me a week to get in to see him but when finally I sat down in his office, he listened attentively, asked a few questions, took a look at my arm and then sent me for an X ray. It turned out I had a nerve trapped in my neck which was referring pain to my arm and I needed to see the physiotherapist but the waiting time was about six weeks so I decided to go to a private physio.

The fee was something like £50 an hour and my first session was pretty good. A good check-up and a great shoulder and back massage which did me no end of good. The next week I went back but this time the physio said, think I’ll try you on the ‘machine’. He explained quickly what it was: Something which stimulated the muscles and increased blood flow which apparently was a good thing for my condition.

I lay back on his couch and this machine with lots of suckers was attached to various points on my neck and shoulder and went to work. I was on it for thirty minutes. It did nothing for me but lightened my wallet by £25 and I noticed that in the other room another patent was getting the helpful massage I had been expecting. When it came to booking the next appointment I decided that a free day in my busy schedule wasn’t available.

Anyway, a week or so later I got to see the NHS physio. She was a lady, a little old lady in fact. When I walked in to see her she offered me a seat then shouted at me to ‘sit up straight!’ No wonder I had neck and back issues because my posture was dreadful! She may have been a little old lady but she gave me some stick, not only verbally but she did a lot of work on my neck with her hands and eventually the pain in my arm slipped away and I gradually returned to normal.

At the end of my treatment she told me not to bother going to the doctor again; ‘Come straight to me and I’ll sort you out but for heavens sake, sit up straight. Get your posture right and you’ll be fine!’ ‘OK,’ I said, ‘thanks.’

Some months went by and I began to get the same symptoms again so I went into the doctors surgery and asked to see the physio. The lady on the desk said no, I had to see the doctor first. I told her what the physio had said, go straight to her but the receptionist was adamant- I could only see the physio with a referral from the doctor. As I was dejectedly leaving the surgery I saw the physio and went over and told her what happened. She took me back to the reception, gave the receptionist there some first class stick and booked me in the next week to see her. Happy days!

About six to eight months later I once again began getting the neck and arm problems so I returned to the surgery. The receptionist advised me (with far too much smugness, I thought) that the physio had retired and a new younger model had taken over and this one would not see me without first seeing the doctor.

I made an appointment, went into to see the doctor and found myself with Dr Kowalski, pen in hand, ready to write me out a prescription for painkillers!

See, the world is a circle after all!


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