Friday, 24 January 2014

First Meeting

 Recently I’ve been wandering down old and dusty corridors to the evening, forty-five years ago, when I first spoke to AndrewGlazewski whose book I co-authored.  It had to be during the Lenten retreat at my school, Divine Mercy College on the Thames, just upriver from Henley.

Book available in March from White Crow Books,  at Amazon, Paul Kieniewicz's website. and other online stores. Read sample chapters.

I’d heard his talks a few years earlier, was intrigued but couldn’t catch his drift so I didn't seek him out.  This year I listened more closely, especially to what he had to say about our sub-conscious, the messages we tell ourselves; both positive and negative. Especially psychological blockages that we’ve erected. Before we got around to talking about God we needed to first understand ourselves. Despite what parents and priests told us, getting to know ourselves, how we work, is not some self-centred preoccupation. If you didn’t know your ego, you could not transcend it. You needed to listen, deeply. Not only to what your subconscious and overconscious were telling you, but to all of nature. Its laws. Then and only then you had a chance of forgetting about your ego. Of receiving Divine Grace.

Interesting stuff, but my problem was more mundane: the physics exam that I’d probably failed and the specter of an unsatisfactory grade. I just didn’t get physics: formulae, constants of linear expansion, latent heat. I tended to multiply or divide numbers and hope for the right answer. While Andrew talked about listening, I fidgeted in the hard chair and worried about my parents’ reaction to an unsatisfactory grade.


Andrew (around 1967)

Early evening, before getting ready for bed I walked down to his room and banged on his door. Why did I want to see him? With his mop of white hair and piercing eyes he looked a bit like a magician. I’d seen him charm away headaches and other ailments. Maybe he could work some of his magic on me? I found him standing by a table cluttered with books and stuff. The room smelled of tobacco as he’d been relaxing with his pipe after a day of talks, mass, evening services and kids like me. He asked me to sit down. I immediately felt at ease with him. With little introduction, I told him about physics? What the hell was going on that physics was such an impenetrable wall? After listening to my woes he picked up his pendulum, a wooden bob hung on a piece of catgut, with a metal bolt through the middle. He held out one hand like an antenna to pick up my vibes, and twirled the pendulum with the other.

“You’ve got quite a blockage there,” he said after a pause. The wooden bob began to dance from side to side, his hand tried to control it. “Look at the way it’s jerking my hand,” he added.

Andrew --- pendulum in hand giving a treatment. 

After a few minutes he dropped the pendulum into an ash tray. “It’s going to take some work to clear it up,” he said. “I don’t have the time to do it now.” He glanced at me as if to say that I would have to do the work myself. After all hadn't he  told us all about blockages and how to remove them?

Something happened in that room. After our first meeting there was no more trouble with physics. I developed a determination to conquer it, make it my field. And unexpectedly physics began to make sense. In fact, it became my best subject. Years later I was to major in it at St. Andrews University.  

Was it magic? Though it seemed like a case of instant healing it was not. Without knowing it, Andrew had opened a door, made things possible. I had to do the spadework myself, but it was now possible once the blockage was removed. The healing was no different than many others I’ve seen, whether by Andrew’s Psychophysical Technique or by Therapeutic Touch. The outstretched hand can clear the blockage in the field but that's no more than opening a door. The one to be healed  has to walk through the door and do the hard work.. 

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Rewilding Scotland

Over the New Year we visited the  Highland Wildlife Park near Kingussie. where you can watch wild animals --- through a fence or from the safety of your car. The park is well designed, the animals have spaces to roam, are fascinating to watch, but they're not free.

Polar bear: "This isn't like the ol' land. Where's the ice?"

Here in Scotland I miss wild animals. We’re not talking about deer and pheasants --- known affectionately as “game”, but bears, lynx, boars, wildcats, wolves and eagles.  Back in the US you often catch a glimpse of them. In the UK, they’re not welcome. Not even eagles which are hunted by some gamekeepers as a threat to grouse. Somewhat typical was the draconian response to three wolves escaping from Colchester zoo last November. Rather than try to catch them, the cops shot them dead lest they gobble up someone’s grandmother. Back in Texas, where they shoot first and ask questions later, the cops nevertheless send stray wolves to Jean at the St Francis Sanctuary where they are cared for.

A Tayside beaver

The mere proposal to reintroduce beavers into Scottish rivers sent goosebumps through landowners, who warned of unspecified, disastrous consequences. Nevertheless despite the protests, the beavers are back in Tayside and Argyll, but not as a result of an enlightened decision. They escaped from captivity, and the prospect of recapturing or shooting them became a political hot potato.

Though I’m passionate about wild animals being in the wild, I liked the wildlife park because it allowed me to see animals like the lynx and wildcat that given their skittishness would be really hard to spot in the wild:. Two enormous polar bears wandered around their prison. They looked depressed. And yet, I sense that their presence there has caused many visitors to think about the plight of others in the wild --- endangered by global warming.

I wanted to climb the fence and have a chat with the wolves, one-on-one, but that will have to wait for another day.

The lynx -- extinct since 1500. Their reintroduction poses little threat to livestock, and could control the deer population.

The debate over re-wilding Scotland pits ramblers versus landowners, sheep farmers versus conservationists, pro-Europeans versus Eurosceptics. Old wounds and grievances are re-opened that go back to the Highland Clearances.  Just how complicated it is, became evident when Paul Lister, owner of the Alladale Estate, announced his latest plans to reintroduce bears and wolves onto his land. Because it would involve fencing his property, his proposal immediately drew accusations that he was “creating a kingdom inside Scotland”. Many papers made an issue out his great wealth.  The issue that wolves tend to eat sheep of which there are plenty in Scotland didn't even figure in the debate. The complicating factor is a mistrust of large landowners who own over 80% of private estates, their motives versus the public's right to roam freely.

I admire Lister for sticking to his guns, building his case and trying to talk reason to the diverse groups. Personally, I hope that once he establishes his lynx and wolves, we'll be able to walk in and see them. Why not build some styles over his fence and let intrepid visitors take the risk of being eaten? I want to walk alone through his wood, listen to the wolf calls, even come upon one in the woods, look into its eyes. I could always travel for the experience to Spain where wolf numbers are on the rise, or to the Bialowierzy forest in Poland. But why should I have to travel so far?

 The Scottish hills need to find their own voice, one that we will one day be able to hear.


Saturday, 4 January 2014

Going Cold Turkey on Christmas

And so on December 24th, “Boreas blew a terrific gale” (1)  bent Cottarton’s trees until they were horizontal.  The internet blinked and went out along with the land line. Later we learned that down the road a tree had fallen on the phone line and snapped it. Cottarton was plunged into the Dark Ages.

We are not what you’d call remote. We’re in the country but only a few miles from reasonably sized towns. The land line works well but the internet crawls to where you can barely stream a movie. Mobile phone signal? Well, if you stick the phone to your ear, crawl into a corner of the kitchen, then stand on your head, a couple of bars of signal MAY visit you. And so, doing precisely that, I reported our problem to BT. The operator in Bombay said that the fault would be repaired by January 31. Finally, on  January 2 they came through.

Amber and I often considered offering technology-free retreats, weekend escapes from the burdens of technology: emails, internet, FB, Twitter ---the sense of being connected, which in reality may increase a sense of inner isolation.  After Boreas’s terrific gale had pulled the plug on us, we had a chance to find out what we were missing. I've never thought of us as internet junkies; we're not worried about what people are tweeting or FB'ing about us behind our backs. Nevertheless the lack of connection unnerved us.

Oddly enough, what I missed most of all were weather forecasts. I was nervous living from day to day not knowing if the day would bring a snow storm . I watched clouds gather and disperse without the slightest idea of what they were supposed to be up to. If I wanted to know what weathermen were saying I had to schedule a time to turn on the TV, something I often forgot to do. There was no internet banking! Our overdrawn accounts would have to await the pleasure of BT. No doubt our friends wanted to know if we’d dropped off the Earth; we had no way to tell them that we hadn’t. For recipes we consulted cookbooks, as we used to do twenty years ago. Arguments could no longer be settled by looking something up on the internet. As in the old days, the guy who shouted loudest won the argument. Altogether I realized how often I distract myself by looking up this and that on the internet.

 Distract myself from what? No doubt from silence. Usually that's what we’re trying to escape.

We talked a lot more to each other than we might have otherwise. Laptops and mobile phones  largely disappeared from the living room. Game boards appeared more than in previous years. We did turn on the TV but the dreadful holiday programming didn’t captivate us. News was mostly the body-bag/child abuse variety. The world had to turn without us while we remained ignorant of important developments beyond our borders.

We missed talking to our far-flung friends and family, wondered how they were doing, if everyone was all right. A lack of instant communication breeds crowded thoughts and worries. I had grown up without a phone --- our house didn’t acquire one until long after I left the nest. The postman was our contact with the world, and news didn’t travel fast. If it did --- you really worried. A telegram at your door was something to dread. My parents worried a lot about me while I was in the States, perhaps because we communicated only by occasional letter.

Without our technology, more than anything we feel uncertain. Not knowing. We’ve grown up with the information age, a sense of knowing facts, whether about the weather or about our friends. And we want it all instantly. Not knowing puts us into a space that’s unfamiliar and uncomfortable. We don’t willingly embrace it. At least, until a break in that phone line forces us to.

(1) William McGonnaGall, "The Tay Bridge Disaster" See The Anti-Poet