The day after my last long walk (“Do you see what I see?”), I went for another.
A little over 16 kilometres.

This time, unlike the last, my gaze was not downcast. As with my spirit, my head was up.
And here following are some of the things that drew my eye.

(again, apologies for the old, not-“smart” camera phone image quality).

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It was a warm day, and after about 6 kilometres I paused at a public reserve area to refill my water bottle.
There I spotted a cricket ball nestling down in the grass.

I sat down to rest and stretch for a while. As I enjoyed the feeling of old, roughened leather in my hands,
memories of childhood came flooding back.

Like so many Aussie lads, I was addicted to cricket as a youngster. Fast bowling was my specialty.

As I looked out across the reserve, my mind inadvertently recalled the imagery of long forgotten major triumphs
— and sadnesses — of my sporting youth.

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I remembered how, in Year 6, a new and very sports-oriented school principal was appointed to head my primary school.
He promptly raised the emphasis on organised sports activities, including, for the first time in my experience, inter-school competition.

The particular images I recalled as I gazed out over the reserve, were memories of my own participation in two such inter-school competitions. And in so remembering, I was sharply reminded of the perils, and injustices, arising from the notions of popularity, peer pressure, and celebrity. Yes, even at primary school grade.

I recalled how another young lad, along with myself, spearheaded the school cricket team’s fast bowling attack. The other lad, however, was rather more gifted than I; he could bat as well. Unsurprisingly then, he was anointed team captain.
Being more charismatic to boot, he was the school’s unquestioned Mr Popular.

The memory of our first ever inter-school cricket match came painfully to mind. An “away” match. I was reminded how our team bowled first, and I was “on form”, ripping through the top and middle orders, taking figures of something like 6 for 10. The team captain collected 3 wickets, and chasing a tiny total, we won at a gentle canter.

He was voted man of the match.

Then I remembered our first inter-school soccer match. In a somewhat embarrassing 9-0 overall drubbing, I scored the first 5 goals for our team, demoralising the other. The team captain — yes, the same lad who captained the cricket team — then followed up with the final 4 goals.

Those final 4 goals appeared to be all that anyone remembered when the final whistle blew. Because once again, the team captain was popularly voted man of the match. And this time, being a “home” game, he was mobbed by backslapping teammates and enthusiastic home audience. I wandered from the pitch alone, wondering at the injustice of it all.

Then I was blessed to recall something entirely more pleasant, and really, quite beautiful. Indeed, a little tear came to my eye as I remembered it. Seriously.

After the soccer match, at the end of the school day while waiting for the bus, and yes, feeling a little down, one of the girls in my year came to me with a personal gift. She had made, and colourfully decorated, her own Man of the Match award, fashioned from cardboard. Shyly, she handed it to me, along with the declaration that she thought I should have been named man of the match, before scurrying away.

Such a beautiful memory. What a sweet, kind, lovely heart she possessed.

True it is, that “unless you turn around and become as little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven”.

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As I rolled the cricket ball around in my hands, I experimented with what I could remember of the different grip techniques. And I tried to recall what was the special grip I had always used, and practiced countless times, in trying for
my special “unplayable” delivery.

If you know nothing of cricket, then this will of course mean little to you. Suffice to say, my special delivery was a ball which would — on incredibly rare occasion — swing away from a right-handed batsman, but on striking the pitch would then
seam back in the opposite direction, towards the stumps.

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I remembered fondly a moment of unalloyed sporting triumph, which came on moving to a new school in Year 8. On one of the first occasions of playing sports, two teachers divided the boys into opposing teams, which they would captain for a cricket match.

When the teacher on the opposing team — a very large man — came to the wicket to bat at No. 3, the ball was thrown to me. If I recall correctly, I had perhaps boasted somewhat of being a decent fast bowler. I guess there were those who must have been keen to see what the new boy could do.

Naturally then, when I ran in to bowl to the imposing figure at the other end of the pitch, I was determined to try to get my special “killer” delivery to come off. And remarkably, in that first over, on about the third attempt, it did.

The batsman stepped forward to the pitch of the ball, following the outswing, and played a confident drive to off … only to hear the death rattle of his stumps behind him, as the ball neatly jagged back, through the gap between bat and pad.

Quietly delighted within — not at having dismissed the batsman, but at having actually pulled off that delivery — but not wishing to outwardly display anything but “cool”, I strolled nonchalantly down the wicket, only to rapidly become more than a little startled and bemused as, quite unexpectedly, new school teammates — and even the teacher captaining our side — rushed me with excited vigour and enthusiasm, as though I were some conquering hero.

Perhaps noticing the puzzled expression on my face — like, “What’s the fuss?” — the teacher informed me that the man I had just completely bamboozled was a Grade cricketer, who had never been dismissed in all his years teaching at that school.
I had cleaned him up in my first over.

I never took his wicket again. Ah, bittersweet nostalgia!

Rested and refreshed, I returned to the present as I donned my Frillneck hat and Julbo Sherpa sunnies, before walking on.

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About a kilometre or so further, I came upon some horses grazing in the paddocks adjacent the quiet country road. Noticing me approaching, they came to the fence to greet me, doubtless hoping for a treat. The sight, the smell, the touch of a horse … truly, there is something unquestionable grand, noble, earthy, and magical about it all.

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It was a truly wonderful, glorious day, with hardly a cloud in the sky. A little further along, I snapped these photos with my old phone. Alas, their quality is woefully inadequate to capture the beauty of the vista across the fields and towards the mountains, beneath stunning skies, but perhaps you will gain some small sense of it.

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Barely 500 metres further, however, I was startled to suddenly spot a large red-bellied black snake in the grass no more than 5 metres ahead of me. I moved off the grass verge and onto the road, keeping my distance, and observed it for a short while.

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Sadly, of late I have noticed a number of adult, and baby red-bellies, who have suffered the fate of encountering whizzing motorists; it is springtime here in Australia. Happily, this one decided to abandon any thought of sunning itself on the warming asphalt, and instead slithered off into the surrounding shrubbery.

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Perhaps it was my day to rescue creatures from the perils of careless and inattentive motorists. For no more than 100 metres further along, a long-necked turtle was quietly lumbering up the road, right in the wheel tracks. Indeed, so near was it, that I spotted it while watching the red-bellied black, which prompted my moving on to its rescue, and in so doing, perhaps being the cause of startling the snake into going for cover.

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Naturally, I picked this fellow up and — mindfully holding him at far arms length, to avoid being splashed by the inevitable pungent stream of retaliatory urine — gently placed him well off the road.

It was some kilometres further before anything else caught my eye sufficiently to prompt my pausing to take a photograph. And then, such attractions came rapidly. All within 100 metres, in fact. Perhaps I just suddenly became more acutely observant —

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My final resting place on the day’s journey was the little old local cemetery. I find it is a lovely quiet place to turn in, and take a break from one’s exertions.

I could not help but notice — and ponder — the inscriptions on these two headstones.

Beautiful. Don’t you think?

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Heads up

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Before everything got amplified

This scene from the TV series Elementary moved me. Strongly.

I watched it several days ago. And yet, my thoughts return to it still.

Like “Sherlock”, I have often wondered … well, wished … if I should have been born in another time. All my life, indeed, I have had occasion to entertain this wish. This feeling, of somehow being … out of place. But it is only recently that my reason for doing so has echoed Sherlock’s.

Distraction.

As a child, and an avid reader of books, I oh so easily imagined myself living in the earliest era of aviation. Being one of those “magnificent men in their flying machines”.

In my early teenage years, a friend introduced me to the novels of Wilbur Smith. Need I say more.

The first decade or so of my adulthood, however, brought no pause for such contemplations, as I busied myself with the trappings of the world.

Witnessing the near-death experience of my older brother changed everything. My “conversion”, my “spiritual awakening”, or “rebirthing”, if you will, ushered me into the dawning of profound change, of most all my previous perspectives.

During those energetic years in pursuit of my piece of all the best the world appeared to offer, I found it very easy, natural, to focus intently on the achievement, the attainment, of many and various desired outcomes. From the immediate, to the somewhat more distant of aspirations.

I have always had a great ability to focus. To exist as in a tunnel, striving, seeing only the chosen object. For the time required, all else completely eclipsed, as though it did not exist.

From my days as a child reading “Reach for the Sky” for the umpteenth time, oblivious to calls to the supper table, to my days as a late teen road running in rain, hail, or shine, oblivious to the blared horns and flailed arms of friends passing by seeking to capture my attention, to my days as a young entrepreneur powering through 19 hour days at the office, it seems that I have always had a great natural ability to completely shut out from mind all but that which I wanted to exist there.

Perhaps the most profound change, one experienced immediately on my conversion, my transcendence to the “new life” of the spiritual world, was a tremendous stillness, or silence, of the activities of mind. To describe that bliss, I have not words even remotely adequate to the attempt.

This may strike you as paradoxical; my claim to natural capacity for focus, contrasted with an expression of joy on being relieved of all thoughts.

Not so, for I have always been a “complex person”, given to much thought. It is of importance to note that my ability to shut out unwanted thought has always been predicated on desire … on my first having chosen a particular some thing that I wished to achieve, or attain.

But on my rebirthing, I suddenly awoke from my former life, to find myself quite bereft of predicates.

Strangely, happily, I wanted nothing.

Absolutely. No thing.

I felt complete contentment.

I no longer felt desire for any thing. That is to say, any other thing. Only that which I was experiencing.

I desired no material thing.

And no intellectual thing.

Intellectualism, the power of rational thought, of ideas, it is a subtle master, and one to whom I had been a perpetual slave. Sifting, sorting, analysing, contextualising, prioritising, debating, arguing; these had long been activities, or better I can now say, exertions, of mind in which I had ceaselessly, remorselessly engaged. Nought did I know then, for I could not see, how vain, how unnecessary, how unimportant were all these exertions , in the greater and true scheme of all things.

(For it has now become clear to me, that we employ our intellectual strivings, almost exclusively, in the service of attaining material, and transient things. Goods. Objects. Status. Recognition. A higher total of electronic digits at a bank. Illusions of Safety, Prosperity, and Security.)

And so it was, oh blessed joy, what peace, a great bliss, to suddenly, effortlessly, find myself in a place relieved of these exertions! Shut out, kept far from me, almost as though with a magical, invisible force field.

Immediately, and only the more clearly in time, I saw the truth of our quest for knowledge, and our pride in acquisition, in attainment of “information” and “facts”. Of the great, transcendent value of Knowing, as compared to merely knowing. And so it came to be that not only the name of my first blog, The Blissful Ignoramus, but also the tagline, encapsulated my new perspective.

“I Don’t Know… the truth that sets me free”

Most of the time, on most topics, I don’t know.

Instead, I only “know” what someone else has said.

I don’t know, if they really know. Often they too, only “know” what they’ve heard or read from someone else.

Most of the time, on most topics, we merely parrot what others have said. And imagine, that we really Know.

I have learned, that this a very important thing to Know.

Recognising what I don’t know, makes me feel humble.

Accepting that I don’t know, makes me feel free.

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Observing when others really don’t know either, makes me feel equal… and forewarned.

Intuiting when no one really knows, makes me feel unity, understanding, and empathy.

We’re all in this world of lies, half-truths (now called ‘spin’)… together. And what a sad and sorry flock of unthinking parrots we all are! In truth, none of us really Knows much about anything.

On looking back over the archives of The Blissful Ignoramus, I can see clearly where my spiritual state has gone awry in recent years. At approximately the same time as I began to turn, in mind and heart, back towards certain problems of the world, desiring to, in some way, contribute to redressing them, commensurate with the rate of turning, my “blissful ignorance” began to fade. The clear, effortless, simple insights expressed there in aphoristic form, became the more infrequent.

I have in consequence found myself in a strange and dry place, perhaps somewhat like that expressed by St. Paul. Seemingly caught between two worlds. Unable to “have”, to “fit” into, or even to truly desire, either one. And in this neither world, that invisible force field, the one formerly shutting out the noise, the cacophony, of worldly things and my own thought processes, it too departed from me, along with my state of blissful “ignorance”.

But happily, over the past week, since those events chronicled in These Present Waters, I have again begun to experience, to Know, albeit sporadically, the experience of blissful ignorance. And in so Knowing, I have become profoundly aware once again of the intrusion, the enormous, dark, and snatching power of distraction, arising from all the noise “out there”.

It seems to me that it is only when one has experienced being set free from all the noise that goes on inside one’s own mind — when one has let go of it all, and fallen back into the deep, quiet, silent well of Living Water — that one can truly see how intrusive, how distracting from what is truly important, is all the noise, amplified, coming from “out there”.

Perhaps too, this is why, over the past week, I have most often Known the experience of that “blissful ignorance” — stillness, silence of mind and heart — while having my earplugs in, wind softly rustling, and V-Twin rhythmically pulsing through my body.

It’s the consistency. The constancy. The blessed monotony.

It’s the sound of a “steady state”, you see.

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Afraid of nothing

Why are we so afraid of nothing?

Is it because we conflate the idea of nothing, with death?

Is it because we equate the idea of nothing, with absence of activity — of movement — of life?

Nothing is the most wonderful, inexpressibly wonder full … thing … that I know.

Nothing is silence.

Nothing is stillness.

Nothing is peace.

The nearer to absolute nothing, the nearer to perfect peace.

The more the heart holds on to no-thing, the more the heart is stilled with peace.

 

If they ask you:
What is the sign of the Father in you?
Say to them:
It is movement with rest.

— Jesus of Nazareth, Gospel of Thomas, Logion 50

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