There are many upsides to living in a small village. There are down sides too in the village in which I live.

On one side there has formed a cabal to block or at least, object to, any progress. And this progress seems directly related to the Bathurst Country Affair. Explain to me how one weekend a year that celebrates Bathurst as a community is an issue. The ethos behind the 3 day event is the promotion of Bathurst as a place to visit.

For the non-business owners who don’t feel money in their pocket, you need to acknowledge the financial boost to Bathurst that does occur due to the BCA.  As Bathurst property owners, it will only make your property more valuable. Business that service you might close. And wouldn’t you support the local businessmen from a sense of loyalty to the community? It makes sense financially, considering the petrol and wear and tear cost on your vehicle in travelling to Port Alfred.

I suppose my question is this;” Why the resistance to change? I don’t see a Mc Donalds or KFC opening in a hurry. Most of the buildings that form the centre of our village are National Monuments and are not subject to change.

So why not schedule a meeting where those hiding behind technology can expose themselves and talk. Or is cowardice at play?

Bathurst can be a destination, in its own right, without resorting to resulting in the thoughtfully expressed in the “Painted Whore”remark. Tell me how did the last BCA ( organised in incredibly difficult conditions) paint this village in any other colours other  complimentary. I would classify myself as a newbie; I have lived here 17 months. But I do have the insight to know how that what the newbies are doing are only to the benefit of Bathurst.

If you refuse to see the big picture, you are a drag on Bathurst and what Bathurst can become

Chris Leach.

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This Isn’t About Forever.

This Isn't About Forever..

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Love and Friendship in Anonymous Rooms.

There are anonymous rooms in cities, towns and villages across the world where people gather in Love and Friendship to edify each other in their honesty. There is no pretence; no posing and we all share both the good times and the not so good. We understand and empathise; we have all visited the same hell.

C.S. Lewis states; “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”

That, I think is the starting point for the substantive friendships that evolve in recovery groups. Suddenly you realise that there are others like you, others that understand and truly empathise with what you are experiencing. The relief and the sense of belonging are both liberating and empowering. I’ve been asked, on occasion, how friendship is possible in anonymity. I would argue that it is the anonymous aspects of these groups that allow us to open up in honesty. The context that we share is free of the associations and assumptions that we might make if the anonymity is missing. And; “No!” it isn’t a mask to hide behind. Shakespeare too has a hoard of pithy comments;

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”
William Shakespeare.

That is why I/we derive so much emotional sustenance from our regular get together. Talk is kind, talk is gentle and talk is not judgemental. We are all at a stage in a spiritual journey (if we work the 12-step program) and that journey is similar for all of us. We understand each other.
We are also all at the end of a telephone call, and if a friend’s sobriety is at risk, I, at least, feel the effects and a phone call from a friend at two am. will be answered. The support group of friends provide a safety net, if you choose to use it.
Although we share a common goal; staying sober or staying clean, the eclectic mix of distinct and different personalities that meet with weekly, add to the experience and if we lose even one of our Friends we are all lessened by the experience. Lewis again:

“… In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets… Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend.” (My italics: qualified= want to get and stay clean and sober!).

In my limited imagination; I imagine God’s infinity as a multi- faceted jewel and each person that I share Friendship and Love with shows me one of those facets; a fresh and deeper understanding of my higher power. God is Love and the Love that I find and give in these meetings edify me and hope that the sharing of my experiences edifies them.

I will sign off with another quote that I hope explain the substantive nature of the Love that we as recovering addicts share:

“Those who cannot conceive Friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros betray the fact that they have never had a Friend. The rest of us know that though we can have erotic love and friendship for the same person yet in some ways nothing is less like a Friendship than a love-affair. Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; Friends hardly ever about their Friendship. Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest. Above all, Eros (while it lasts) is necessarily between two only. But two, far from being the necessary number for Friendship, is not even the best. “
-C.S. Lewis

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Believing Her to be Asleep.

Believing Her to be Asleep..

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Ideas on Eros.

I know that others have different ideas and feelings on what love is, what loves means to them and in having my own opinions I, by no means say that they are wrong; their ideas may be different, but I don’t believe that God (or whatever higher power that you believe in) has created just one road and I try to search for similarities between our understandings, rather than harp on and pick apart differences. In the Middle East I worked for and lived with both Moslem and Jewish families and I come from a Christian background. Lots of time for finding the similarities we share.

As a Christian I believe that God is Love. I also believe that Love is action, fluid and in motion and we as humans are receptacles that can, if we so choose, be part of that flow. Our expressions of Love, our giving Love, allows the Source of Love to replenish us. The more we give the more we get. Love cannot live in a stagnant pool and quickly dries.

I also believe that there are no coincidences. Every person that we meet is for a reason and if we are aware and responsive to what we might learn from them, or be edified by, in the encounter, once again we are expressing Love; caring about what the other has to share. Too often our brains are busy fussing over the mundane details of existence to be awake and aware to the possibilities before us. I wonder how much we miss, how many moments where Love can be shared.

I’m still processing the well of wisdom that C.S. Lewis has, in his role as Christian apologist gifted us as spiritual journeymen/journeywomen. (A previous post mentions that). On a meta-level he talks of four ‘Natural Loves’: Affection, Friendship, Eros (romantic love) and Charity. Yet I have been taking to heart the distinctions that he makes between Need Love, Gift Love, and Appreciative love.
Speaking for myself, the feeling of Love is usually aroused in romantic relationships. It’s a feeling. And feelings are just smoke and mirrors that we as humans indulge. In my experience the birth of Eros can be overwhelming. Gift Love abounds, where you want to give everything of yourself to the person you are in love with. Happy days! But I have found Eros to be fickle, and too often experienced Need Love, where I, the other, or both of us stop giving and start demanding. Eros can make the heart sing or reduce it to sobs.

It is that overwhelming aspect of Eros that I am cautious of. (Maybe it is just the way that I love). Too often I become too focused on the object of my attention and lose my own way. I realise sooner or later that I have lost my direction, allowed myself to lose perspective, forget my own journey. But If I had the wisdom to hold on to faith in the road that I am walking, I would be looking for someone on the same journey. Perhaps not in her footsteps but on a parallel path. I would not be diverted from my goal and I would have met at least a friend. Romantic Love may follow, if destined, and be all the stronger for the foundation of friendship; the commonalities that are shared.
I have thought long and hard about the relationships that I have been blessed with in the past. I have tried to fit them all into the framework of Need Love, Gift Love and Appreciative Love. I have seen where and why these relationships have succeeded or failed and I have realised the part that my behaviour has played in that. The first thing that I feel when a relationship dies is loss. I think that if I acknowledged it as such and realised that a grieving process would be inevitable, it would temper the flood of Need Love that seems to overwhelm me.
It isn’t easy and often grates against my feelings, but if I am able to step back express my gratitude to God for each second that he has granted me with anyone, Need Love shrivels and dies. In its place I find Appreciative Love and that is both truth and beauty. But C.S Lewis speaks a lot more powerfully than I can.

“The event of falling in love is of such a nature that we are right to reject as intolerable the idea that it should be transitory. In one high bound it has overleaped the massive of our selfhood; it has made appetite itself altruistic, tossed personal happiness aside as a triviality and planted the interests of another in the centre of our being. Spontaneously and without effort we have fulfilled the law (towards one person) by loving our neighbour as ourselves. It is an image, a foretaste, of what we must become to all if Love Himself rules in us without a rival. It is even (well used) a preparation for that.”

“Need-love says of a woman “I cannot live without her”; Gift-love longs to give her happiness, comfort, protection – if possible, wealth; Appreciative love gazes and holds its breath and is silent, rejoices that such a wonder should exist even if not for him, will not be wholly dejected by losing her, would rather have it so than never to have seen her at all.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

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“Hon var den vackraste kvinna jag set…”

‘She was the most beautiful woman I’ve seen’ (from the song ‘Florens’; words and music Ulf Lundell.)

I can still look back on a summer in Israel (more than a decade ago) and remember every detail. I was working along with dozens of back-packers from dozens of countries on a charter yacht in Eilat, and to say life was good would be a gross understatement. We weren’t paid much but had a bed to sleep in, three meals a day and the tips that we made kept us in beer and cigarettes. The weather was glorious, burned blue skies and soft warm breezes every day and the camaraderie that developed in that cultural melting pot was special. By day we worked hard; preparing boats and catering to the day trippers who wanted to spend time on that coral-fringed arm of the Red Sea. The work didn’t feel like work. We lived barefoot in shorts and t-shirts, were in the water at every opportunity we had and to a person where bronzed and bleached. By night we socialized together; sharing store bought beer – the clubs and bars were beyond our budgets- our stories, dreams and aspirations. Life was on fast forward and in that hothouse of late teen and twenty-somethings relationships were born, bloomed and blossomed in an instant. Some died just as quickly but others lasted beyond the borders of what felt like paradise and continue today.

The following is a thank you to the Swedish angel who, for a time, shared her life with me.

it has come to mind I never gave you roses. you who held my heart. please close your eyes. your mind rewinds. its nineteen ninety-five. this doesn’t feel as distant as perhaps a decade should. in fact it feels like yesterday each deep distracting detail. the first time that I saw your face (your eyes defy description). the second that i knew you loved me too. its all still here and all stirred up. our fresh ethereal connection has like the evening eilat breeze softly blown an ember back to flame. what i think is still beyond my grasp so i wont fumble feelings fight for phrases (im leaving that for later) but in this moment put right what i can. fill that floral hole. so (while I have you here) i dream of returning. just for an hour. to hold you. to hug you. to give you this flower.

Tack så mycket.

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Route 67.

Route 67: Bathurst – Port Alfred.
I often make the drive from Bathurst along the R67 to Port Alfred and last night with the sun low on the horizon in my rear-view mirror, was gifted a glorious cloud-scape piled over the Indian Ocean. Infinite shades of grey, from dull steel to silvered feathers lay piled and painted before me. Faced with this beauty I could not help but be glad to be alive, grateful to be in that moment.
Yet this morning’s drive on the same stretch of road, I see a different scene. The clouds hang low and oppressive and a thin wind blows seaward. A tributary of humanity meanders down the hill from the ‘township’ to the Kowie River. The employed are obvious. From their determined stride and proudly worn uniforms, I know that they have a destination and the sense of self-worth that comes with purpose.
But in sheer numbers these few are drowned in a flood of desperation, depression and despair. The elderly bent double, overburdened by baggage and life. The stoic chancers, still afloat in the pool of unemployment; “Perhaps today I’ll find some work.” The entrepreneurs, the informal traders that give our streets an African feel, hoping for sales in their crowded ranks. And then there are the beggars, shambling towards, perhaps some Christian charity. Again I am grateful. I have a car, a warm bed and a roof over my head, and I return to three bouncy dogs, happy to see “dad” once again.
But I am only one amongst many.

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