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I Changed My Name

The old man sat on a low wall at the edge of a pine forest, staring into the trees, apparently searching.

“Don’t worry about me, my young friend. Tell your story, I’m listening.”

The younger man didn’t look so sure. Such was the look of concentration on his old friends’ face. Still, he joined him on the wall and told his story.

“Pre-teens, I thought my childhood was no different to my peers. But it was, and I didn’t realize until my teenage years; why would I? Yes, a few things showed during our childhood but nothing of great note, at least nothing I understood. All that changed as I matured. My parents were not so careful with their words and I saw things myself. It’s a pity that the version of events around me originated on supposition, hearsay and even the church people followed. My inherited world view was not right, and I set about fixing it with limited tools.

My best childhood friend and his siblings lived in the dark, to thrive or not. Mum gave them no attention I ever saw, only orders to leave the house, “go out and play.” Dad was never there, he worked at British Aerospace. a respectable and well-paid place of employment. They split up and mum moved away with the children. My best friend disappeared from my life. It hurt.

I saw him again ten years later. Stood at a bar drinking alone. I didn’t recognize him at first. When I did, he had little to say except, “I’m a bin man, I collect the garbage.” I think that was true in more ways than his employment situation. He had an older sister by exactly one year. They shared the same birthday on the last day of October. Estranged from his younger brother who I remembered as the kid who always yearned for kindness. He put his arm in a wasp nest to get our attention one day. A few years later he took his life.

Where was my friend? He was the one with joy and hope in his heart. Not there at that bar with a beer in his hand. That was somebody else.

A few years earlier and a rare occasion, he invited me to dinner. We had sausages and chips. I think I was seven or eight. That meal was the best, and I was excited to tell my family all about it when I got home. Mum and nana were not impressed. I was a catholic and had eaten meat on a Friday. I sinned and would have to go to confession the next day. I didn’t understand why my friend, a protestant could eat meat and I couldn’t. That’s just the way it was.

Filled with dread at attending confession, and petrified of priests and nuns. They could sentence me to hell if they chose. “Thou shalt not, thou shalt not,” still echoes through my mind when I think about them.

Christmas day was a time of great joy. Home was like a toy store. At least until we turned thirteen when toys became new clothes. The time for play stopped, and the focus turned to the future. “What will you be when you grow up? British Aerospace pays well, and it’s a great place to work. You should aim for that. It won’t be difficult to get a mortgage on the wages they pay.”

I didn’t much like the sound of that, but I did what they said and got the dream job. I didn’t like it and after five years, I quit to go travelling. I planned to leave on the first of September and found myself homeless and living in a spare room at a friend of a friend’s house two months before the planned start of my new life. Nobody at home would speak; they said I had let them down. That was a tough pill to swallow.

A few short years before I bought the plane ticket to my freedom, late in my final year at school, I watched as a man, dead from a heart attack was carried off the train I waited to board. I can’t explain why I experienced such a wonderful explosion of light and joy as I watched. Then there was a switch. Listening to other people gossiping about how sad the situation was, I heard somebody say the mans’ name was Stephen. He was fifty years old and had worked at British Aerospace.

Following that, I insisted people called me Steve and vowed that my fate would not follow Stephen’s. No disrespect intended.

I became a volunteer youth worker. OK, I was only sixteen so, I worked with pre-teens. I loved that work and knew it would play a huge part in my future. Excited about this, I took the idea I should go to college to my parents. To prepare for a university degree. They said, “no.” I had a job at Aerospace and I would take it.

The trade union rescued me a year after I started when I became the youngest ever representative. Responsible for looking after protecting the rights of my colleagues. That didn’t go so well with the management. I was ‘advised’ to quit voluntary youth work and the union if I wanted to realise a bright future with the company.

I left to travel after my twenty-first birthday and couldn’t believe the well wishes, gifts and tears given openly by my colleagues. It still brings a lump to my throat when I think about it. What happened during my travels is another story and you know my friend that I went to university. I became a qualified community and youth worker and the first in my family to get a university degree. Even though it was not supposed to be for the likes of us.”

The old man pulled his attention away from the forest and a beautiful bright smile beamed.

“You challenged many familial models of reality that had passed through the generations and paved the way for others to follow similar paths. Look at you now, you did what people thought impossible. You have grown beyond recognition and all because you had the courage and conviction to follow your heart.

Don’t be complacent though. You never know when one of those outdated models of reality will come back into your life. Be vigilant my young friend and always follow your intuition. It knows where you need to go.

Modern Appliances

“Do you remember that scene in the kitchen at your home when you were seven years old?”

“Funny you should mention that my friend. It came in a dream a few days ago. I had forgotten it until then. Now I remember it as though it were yesterday; fifty years ago yesterday.”

“Don’t keep me waiting my young friend.”

The younger man laughed and looked back into his past to the scene featuring his mother and younger sisters. Just tall enough to lean on the ‘twin-tub’ washing machine. He stared out of the window at the blue sky and sunshine reflecting from the windows of the houses on the new estate. Mother was laying down rules, rules that would become integral to his being.

“I can’t remember those rules, but I know they are in here somewhere.” He tapped his chest. “The problem is, the world has changed and most of those rules have become obsolete. They became so many years ago and I know I deleted a few because doing so brought about conflict and ill-feeling. Mother, I’m afraid, took things personally, she didn’t see the big picture that became my life and the path I had to follow.”

“Such as?”

“Oh, my belief going to confession was an unnecessary ritual. I used to invent sins I’d committed, so I had something to offer the priest. Also, I objected going to High Mass on a Sunday. Delivered in Latin, I didn’t understand a word.”

“So, you didn’t like the church?”

“It wasn’t as simple as that. The priests and nuns frightened me; they wielded terrible power to strike me down to the depths of hell for my blasphemous thoughts. Thoughts that left an indelible stain on my soul.”

“Do you still feel that way?”

The young man laughed again, with much humour.

“No, no, far from it. I see every place of worship as a sanctuary where we can reach out to our higher selves. I know my childhood thoughts have left no permanent marks on my soul. I am as I am.”

“What are these other rules you mentioned?”

“There lies a problem. I remember adult discussions about work that no longer hold true. Debate about how life should run. You know? Get a good education, work for a local employer, get married, have children, work more, retire, die.

People still live this way because they don’t want to question the status quo. It’s not how we’re supposed to live. There is no individual blueprint globally available.”

“That’s a bold statement.”

“Perhaps, but only for those who follow the path of another rather than the path of their soul.”

“Please continue my young friend.”

“Sorry, I’m looking forward to getting back to my work. Later perhaps.

The young man walked through the light, whistling a joyful tune, sending waves of love and gratitude in his wake.

So many questions

Listening to Lyre Le Temps on a loop is a great way to connect. It’s wonderful swing music that at the right volume you can find a partner or a few and dance the night or day away. Reduce the volume just a little, put on a good set of headphones, write and be amazed at how the ideas flow and your fingers dance across the keyboard. You think I’m joking? Try it and find out for yourself.

That said, I’d better give you something that matters otherwise you might think I’m a fraud. Fact is, I’m a lot like you. We are beings of planet earth living in the twenty first century and it’s way past time we stood up and made a difference. You see there are amazing things going on in our world. Sadly though, there’s other stuff we may not approve of. But who are you or I to judge? How much attention are you paying to your own life? Is it right to judge? Are our judgments self-reflections? So many questions.

Well, I have a few too, but you’re not necessarily going to like them. Do you know somebody who judges? Guilty as charged, I’ve caught myself judging him too. My guess is that I have something he wants, and he has a little of something I want. How often do we catch ourselves envying somebody else because they own a flash car while you don’t? More time to party while we must work?

This stuff is rife through our societies and all the way to what we call the top. Presidents threatening leaders of other countries with nuclear weapons. “I’m bigger than you and I could blow you to pieces if I felt like it.” Ouch Mr President, what about the families who would do away with guns and arms in a heart-beat if it were up to them? Would you really obliterate innocent people who have a tough enough time feeding their families, never mind putting up with a regime they might not like?

Playground threats make none of us better than the next kid. We are all learning and growing in our own connected ways. Yes, connected, like it or not. It’s the way of things so there’s no point beating me up about it. Switch off your ego for five minutes, open your heart; you’ll see what I mean. But don’t forget to leave your baggage at the door. It’ll be there when you get back, I promise. You may find a new perspective on how to deal with things though.

No, I’m not talking about Zen meditation or a course that will cost next months food allowance. Ten minutes each day (twenty if you can spare the time from Social Media) spent in a relaxed state of perspective shifting meditation and no fees involved. Come on, give it a go. Somebody might thank you. Your Higher Self would applaud your efforts and celebrate.

There is plenty of meditational material around on The Internet, free guided meditations, instructions, relaxing music to accompany your own meditations. Give it a go; it makes a huge difference. If you can wait a few days until I get the technical elements sorted out, I will share one of my own daily meditations with you.

Send an email to authorstevecostello@gmail.com and I’ll send you the link as soon as it’s ready.

With Love, Peace and Light,

Steve

 

Conundrum

“It’s a strange thing being accused of something I didn’t witness or have any involvement. Stranger still that my accusers absolutely believe I am responsible despite my honest explanation of the little I know.”

The young man looked upset, mystified and unusually withdrawn.

“Have they accused you of taking something valuable my friend?”

Laughter without mirth.

“Three or four small pieces of metal with sharp spikes to deter my daughter’s kittens and our old family cat from walking across his balcony wall.”

“He would harm another living creature?”

“Oh, I doubt he would see it like that, but yes, I believe he would.”

“Did you know these offensive pieces of metal were on that wall?”

“Yes, I did. As did several other people who care for cats.  We live in a small village, news travels.”

“So, tell me my young friend. What part have you played in this incident?”

The young man wandered to the edge of the precipice and looked across mountains and valleys. The silver reflection of a river snaked along the valleys, fading to a thin grey line until the eye could no longer discern river from land. He turned back to face his friend.

“Although I know the truth of what happened to the spikes, I had no involvement. Sharing what I know may have brought wrath upon another and I didn’t wish to handle that. My instinct was to protect.”

This may sound strange, but when the young man looked at the wise old man he always saw a young image. There was no telling how old he was but no matter what, he always seemed young and full of love, life and vitality. Age in our regular, mundane sense, is of no consequence and when he talks; the younger man hears and understands every word. There is never any doubt but sometimes his words bring long periods of thought and reflection.

“You sense something deeper at work?”

The young man laughed, this time with humour.

“For a change I have an instant response. The man with the spikes and his wife have something far deeper going on. Something they have carried for a great length of time which they have tried to bury and ignore. This something isn’t shared, it’s different for each. It’s as though a darkness cloaks their true being but, they are so used to it that the truth is far away like the source of that river. They need to ask for a sword of light to cleanse their pain.”

“How will they do that?”

“I’ve sent compassion, love and light but I don’t think it will be enough. They need a physical helping hand.”

“This may be a great opportunity to make new friends, but I see your problem. You are the bad guy, they believe you took their spikes. To share the truth may harm another. A difficult conundrum.”

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