Today the British government has announced that by 2020, the UKwill take in up to 3,000 more child refugees. (Although, this announcement also contains the (frustrating) caveat that those who have already reached Europe will be excluded from the new initiative).
My fear is that these children will be so deeply traumatised, so broken by the horrors they have witnessed, that they will carry their wounds in places of quiet agony, affecting their emotional, psychological and in many cases, physical, development.
Not that I don’t welcome these children with a desperate surge of maternal passion that is quite foreign to me. Not that I would want the UK to take any less or to be any less involved. It’s just that I can’t get my head round the atrocities that these children may have witnessed. I can’t conceive of how they will communicate their loss, their grief, their horror and their fear; things that feel impossible to communicate ev
en as an adult, familiar with Western patterns of interaction and with a sound knowledge of the English language.
I want to help. I want to teach, or counsel, or care for or SOMETHING. Just something.
Absolutely NOTHING will pop up in my head when I try to think of an ‘N’ to write a short, imaginative and captivating post about. Why it is that I am so wholly devoid of inspiration I don’t know. It’s possible that a pervasive tiredness bears some responsibility, that and the illness I have tends to hijack the parts of my brain that might be otherwise creatively engaged.
So N is for Nihilism. For the philosophically uninitiated, this is the belief that the world and everything in it, life, values, morals, laws… are meaningless. There is no POINT to anything, nothing has any meaning.
Macbeth sums it up beautifully when he says:
“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more; it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.”
It’s a painful thought; one which challenges the my Christian faith on a daily basis at the moment. It would be so much easier to believe that life really is just a brief candle which is eventually snuffed out to burn no more. Perhaps owing to the extremist tendencies of Anorexia, nihilism stalks me daily, lightly running cold fingers through my hair. Death-coated whispers trickle through the aural canals, trembling tiny bones and dizzying my stance.
Turns out I have something to write about after all.
It’s what I’m good at, and you honestly won’t hear me use that phrase very often.
As the official leader of The Society of Burnt Out Teachers, I nowadays realise that although my passion for teaching English and English Literature will never waver, the transference of my enthusiasm doesn’t have to be within a classroom. No. In some ways, it’s easier to deliver it within a mentoring relationship. Because, as most good teachers will agree, at a certain age, its RELATIONSHIP which is the single most important factor in the delivery of successful teaching.
Mentoring allows a relationship to flourish (hopefully) and then, once established, it’s an open landscape on which, as a trusted mentor, you can help to build whatever scene and whichever structure, will most benefit and satisfy the mentee.
I’ve mentored a lot of your people, before and during my teaching career. Nothing sparks me like being able to nurture an ambition in someone. I love to help breathe hope into other people’s hearts. Nothing gives me a renewed sense of purpose like showing someone else their purpose.
A poet like Dickinson has the enviable ability to load a verse with meaning so deep and so heavy you wonder how such simple words can bear the weight.. Her gatherings of commonplace words so often made to shine by their careful ordering, carry a grief so weighty you wonder the words don’t crumble beneath the despair.
This simple little verse almost sags in the middle with the enormity of her existential reflection!
I wanted to put it out there because I think it’s something that every one of needs to have asked and explored. Not in a naval gazing way, more in a back-of-the-mind type of way.
Because I think it’s sometimes good to widen my frame of reference. To briefly place my life on the time / space continuum. It’s sometimes good to feel humbled by the stars. To put my pain and suffering in the context of world history.
And sometimes, it’s good to rethink the areas of my life I can control; and the areas that I can’t. Personally I find it useful to remember that life is short, and wanting control over something doesn’t grant me the right to it. More than that, I know that there are things WITHIN my power, that I need to take control of, rather than deny or disown.
THAT is the hard thing. That’s where Dickinson’s innocent thought is a smack in the face!
Many of us have a mental stash of words we consider ‘beautiful’; words which may sound melodic as they roll round our mouths, hiss gently through our teeth or huff breathily in a whisper. And although not always the case, it seems only right, in the order of all things literary, that such words carry beauty in their meaning.
Giving examples of this is risky, because one person’s sense of audible beauty is very different to that of another, but I like the word ‘mellifluous’ for its melody, ‘mercurial’ for the way it curls in my mouth, and ‘simplicity’ for its gentleness. I also like the softness of ‘dissonance’, although this sits a little uncomfortably in the ‘lovely word’ camp because the slightly negative meaning isn’t reflected by the sound.
Although you might be forgiven for wondering, I really don’t mean to write An Idiot’s Guide to Phonology. Rather, I wanted to write about the sibilance in the word ‘Transience’, the loveliness of its meaning…
and the the poetic beauty of April and Cherry Blossom
and the way it makes my heart unfold
and rise to meet the brief and fragile blush of Spring’s confetti.
I wanted to write about the awe that cleans the very base of my lungs as I stand
beneath the Cherry trees and breathe air sweetened by the blooms.
The Japanese have had it right for centuries, taking the Cherry blossom, or ‘Sakura’, as a symbol of impermanence. a metaphor for the transience of life.
I wanted to write about how short life really is. How, in the context of millions of years, our lives are so small, so frail, so quick.
And I think it’s good to reflect on this. Not to dwell on it, or make morbidity our mind’s echo; but to stop every now and then and let our awareness rest on the blossom of the Cherry Tree and the beautiful fullness of its brief show.