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The Examined Life

"Know thy Self: the unexamined Life is not worth living:" words attributed to Socrates, and recalled by Plato.

I read those words, haltingly, for the first time, when I was around four years old, having taught myself to read at the precociously early age of three. I’d begin with the labels on jam jars (my first recollection being the address on a jar of marmalade, marketed by the Co-operative Society) “Balloon Street Manchester.”

And then it was  what I’d spotted on a tin of Golden Syrup, along with the illustration: “Out Of The Strong Came Forth Sweetness.”

After that, I’d done quite a lot of muttering, as I digested a plethora of words, and illustrations.I can’t recall where I’d found the words that were to become the personal mantra, for what was to come; but they were my building  blocks. 

For a long time (and still, every so often) I was homesick for a time and a place, where I felt I was ‘known,’ but not in a superior kind of way. It was as though I’d gone wandering off, got lost, and had fallen in with a tribe with very different values from mine own. I guess, now, that this is something all of us have to do; being a necessary part of our understanding on the whys and wherefores  of the Others. And, as they do say “nothing ever happens until it happens to you,” learning how to empathise with ‘differences’ is the way to do it.

If you’ve seen the movie made from Frank L Baum’s profoundly spiritual book: “The Wizard of Oz,” and, perhaps read a significant alternative interpretation, by Caroline Myss in her seminal book, “Sacred Contracts,” you’ll know exactly what I mean. My father took me to see the movie, when I was four years old, just after it was premiered in Britain, and we were in what’s called “A State of War.” Eventually, around 100 million people were to see it (and still counting) in Britain, alone; and one may wonder how many of our so called “enemies” might have watched it. 

My father had been taking me to the cinema, ever since he recognised I was hungry of learning things; and, as he exercised little censorship, I had a rich tapestry to absorb. By this way, in the Newsreels, I observed wave upon wave of refugees; of Adolf Hitler, spitting out his venomous speeches to enthralled audiences (and me , wondering about  the waves of dark energies that he surfed on. At the same time, living in a predominantly rural environment, I studied the many (and various) documentaries that were being made by British Film Units:  recording what was disappearing before our eyes. The incongruous overlay of Hollywood, meant to lift our spirits, seemed banal, by comparison: except for “A Wonderful Life,” of course.

But, it had been while I was absorbed by the magic of “The Wizard of Oz,” that I’d had the second of my Big Thoughts! The upside down images were funnelling down a smoky trajectory, from a small aperture behind us before righting themselves on the cinema screen; and the Voices, seemingly, coming from an ‘Elsewhere when I suddenly thought: “That’s how we do it! That’s how it’s done!We come, with parts to play, and stories to tell; and World is a Big Cinema!”

That first Big Thought had come, as I lay in my pram.observing a spider spinning its web on the nearby hedge. I’d watched it making what I now know is a ‘bridge thread,’and then beginning to spin silvery lengths of thread into a wonderfully intricate design. “That’s how we do it,” I’d thought.”We spin our own lives!”

How could the small child, as I was then, have any inkling of those implacable Three: Clotho (the Spinner), Lacheter (the Allotter) and of Atropos (The Unturbable, and Cutter of the Threads?) unless I’d, already received the kind of education in a very ancient time, when mythological cosmologies held sway?

All of this (s very personal account) is my attempt to interpret of what the most influential philosophers have pursued, without prejudice, to examine why We are here. There was a time, when reincarnation was an integral part of our beliefs but, after a Gathering of religious leaders, and the Emperor Justinian, in AD 553, a long held acceptance of it (and pre-existence)  was both silenced and anathematised. The Question remains: “Who did they think they were, to so manufacture Spirituality into a self-serving System?

In their arrogance, they were to cut a very broad swathe , across the previous centuries, intellectually annihilating some of the ideas of the greatest Thinkers; including Origen, a Greek Theologian, who lived between AD 125-254- a Christian, with an Hellenistic education- who (although he had  both extensively studied and taught Hermeneutics,  Philosophical Theology, Biblical Exegesis, as well as being a Platonist) was never considered for ‘Sainthood!” This may well have been because his understandings had contradicted some of the words ‘attributed’ to the Apostles John and Paul. Which begs the question on just how much  ‘propaganda’ and ‘false news’ has been generated (over time) to prove self-serving agendas?

For Origen, these ecclesiastical disputes created sufficient rumours, enemies and opportunities for the horrific torture, that led to his death.

And, it had been out of this Gathering, that he had been made a Heretic; as well s leading to the partial destruction of  the Gnostic teachings of Cathars and Albigenses. Never mind the influence of the Empress Theodora, who  was party to all of this because (with a past history as a stumbling block) it would prevent her deification as a Goddess. All in All, when Truth took a Hit! Which makes the axiom “Read, Learn and Inwardly Digest” so important, because (as each of us experiences  the Happenings allotted to us, in this incredible learning one, we call The World, we need to keep pace on what level we have struggled to attain: and to keep the Memories of how we did it, alive. Whoever said: “Nothing ever happens, until it happens to you,” was spot on. And that Happening takes you to the crossroads, where Dorothy stood, clicking her ruby red shoes.

I was so fortunate in having Miss Clarke, as my first teacher, for it was she who introduced us to the importance of storytelling; the myths and legends of Ancient Greece; and the importance of keeping my Memories safe, until I’d read, learned and digested enough to validating my own Truth.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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