Saying Nothing is an Option

The other night my partner and I went OUT ( I know!) to see the glorious Hannah Gadsby at the Brighton Dome. I am going to attempt to paraphrase something she said,

“There are some people who seem to be under the false impression that saying nothing isn’t an option.”

She was, of course, referring to the plethora of opinions and hot-takes on social media that have recently pivoted from matters Covid, to the current conflict in Ukraine.

Before I go any further, I should point out that, utterly bereft of any qualification to comment on the complex geopolitics of the region, my ‘opinion’ is that war – any war – is an appalling offense to our humanity.

Already the conspiracy theorists who were spouting nonsense about the pandemic have started doing the same outrageous mis/disinformation number on Ukraine.

Plus ça change.

But here’s the thing. And I am talking to myself really. Saying nothing really is an option. I am betraying my own assertion by writing this, of course, but this is more of an observation of the tension that I feel, the pressure of our social media landscape in feeling that I have to visibly, vocally, state a position on everything. As if saying something serves in the place of actually doing something, and assuages the social guilt and pressure of saying/doing/thinking the ‘right’ thing, or taking the ‘right’ side.

My grandfather wrote a poem about Remembrance Day, although the same sentiment can be applied here, he said,

…is not about remembering It is being seen remembering, which is not the same, especially when formality sets in, and ceremony rates the display more important than the remembering.

I am sure grandpa will not be too concerned at my segue from his words to words from the Bible. Atheist as he was, he was deeply spiritual and had several versions (and many other religious and philosophical texts) on his bookshelves. These words speak deeply and viscerally into the heart of what I am making my practice right now.

So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets […] But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Matthew 6: 2-4

That bit about announcing it with trumpets always cracks me up, because they clearly had the same bullshit going on in first-century Palestine.

As I said Plus ça change.

This is not to discount the importance and power of sharing our collective pain. Seeking solace and comfort in community is deeply important, as is offering out those places of refuge and safety for those who are suffering. We each have our own expression of this, our ways of ‘doing something’. The point is, I suppose, that whatever we are doing, and however we are responding, it is not compulsory to tell everyone.

Saying nothing IS an option.

The Day When Things Can Start

I have been resisting… or waiting… the waiting feels like something sacred. Maybe because it is. It is the first of February. In my body’s calendar, this is the date I have been waiting for. It is when things can start. The crows – who caw noisily from the trees behind me – know, too. They are telling each other, and me, and anyone else who will listen – it is time to shift these winter bones.

Other calendars agree with me (and the crows) It is also the Lunar (Chinese, Tibetan, East Asian) New Year. And in the Celtic Calendar – that guides my own heart – the beginning of Imbolc, Saint Brigid’s Day, and the (sort of) end of winter. Tomorrow is the Christian feast of Candlemas: an ending – of the season of Epiphany; and a beginning – of ‘Ordinary’ time (before the Lenten fast makes it special all over again)

If I was a conspiracy theorist (and I am not) I might imagine it to be some sort of test: who can override their internal body clock enough to ‘succeed’ in the system?

Imbolc sends impulses to my dormant winter cells throughout January, simultaneously poking me to wake up…and urging me to wait. My yearly last-minute tax return – filed just in time for the Jan 31st deadline – shouldn’t be a surprise by now. Nor should it be a source of personal beratement. If I was a conspiracy theorist (and I am not) I might imagine it to be some sort of test: who can override their internal body clock enough to ‘succeed’ in the system?

In the deeper sense of the word, it is a ‘conspiracy’, in that it is something that we all tacitly, collectively, culturally, agree to go along with.

Con Spirare: To breathe together; To agree. 

We are compelled to imagine ourselves to be something other than organisms that respond to light and dark and seasonal shifts. Just as do the crows, and the trees that they call from, and the snowdrops just beginning to poke their heads from the soil beneath. When the snowdrops come then we know for sure that Spring is coming too. Sometimes, the snowdrops are ‘early’ and sometimes they are ‘late’. Stately homes and gardens advertise their displays well in advance, knowing that the flowers will surely appear, but not entirely certain that they will do so on the ‘right’ date.

The inner knowledge that there is a time to step back into the world speaks from deep down as ‘not now’.

Waiting is inner, seasonal wisdom. It is sometimes – but not always- calendrical. There is, for the snowdrops, and the crows, a ‘right’ moment. A knowing. For me, waiting – or rather the resistance of it – shows up as procrastination, as exhaustion, as doubt. Sometimes as fear. The inner knowledge that there is a time to step back into the world speaks from deep down as ‘not now’.

These past two winters have allowed me to practice sinking into this ‘not nowness’ rather than struggling to understand, forcing myself to analyse it, or trying to overcome it. What has happened is that the moment of ‘yes, now’ is much more apparent than it ever has been before.

Although you could have been reading this yesterday, or tomorrow. For me, today is when Things Can Start.

With every blessing for Imbolc, for the Lunar New Year, for Saint Brigid’s Day, and (tomorrow) for Candlemas

Jude xxx