Sadness in the Little Island

In the early part of this week, W and I spent a day wandering around a nature reserve run by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in the county of Sussex in the south of the UK. The weather was hot, averaging around 32C in a completely cloudless sky. There was a wonderful quiet sultriness about everything. Birds stayed hidden most of the time in the trees and shrubs, out of the heat, only the occasional call giving their presence away. The members of a distant herd of highland cattle seemed virtually petrified on their feet. A flock of fifty or so grey lag geese plodded slowly, meticulously through a wetland, foraging in what remained of the mud. Butterflies of all colours flitted and danced through the air. Apart from them, the only other living things not apparently subdued by the heat were the hundreds of dragon flies – some of them huge – and damsel flies hovering and darting about with apparently undiminished energy.

The paths on the reserve twist and wander around over open meadow land and through wooded glades dappled with sunshine. Stopping at one viewpoint – a large wooden platform constructed on the slope of a wooded hill to give a view over miles of countryside – we talked with a man who was a volunteer worker on the reserve. He had worked there many years. He had at his side a gleaming modern scythe he used for cutting down thick grass and vegetation. He spoke with a quiet enthusiasm of turning up there at seven that morning when it was still cool with the mist lying all along the ground at little more than ankle-height; of the silence at that hour, of the low sun and long, slanting shadows; of the different birds he’d seen. The world is so beautiful at that time of the morning in such places. There is great order in it.

Coming back to London however, a city I love and have lived in for many years, a depressing reality is nowadays inescapable. Although London itself – and a number of other large cities, along with Scotland and Northern Ireland – voted overwhelmingly in the recent shambles known as ‘the referendum’ to remain in the EU, Britain today is Brexit Britain. That is – Britain going it alone; isolationist, xenophobic Britain; a Britain which has demonstrated to the world in a few short weeks, that its long-held reputation for decency, probity, racial tolerance and solid good sense was skin-deep.

As an indirect result of that Brexit vote, we now have a new Prime Minister. She has gathered around her, a new Cabinet. And whom do we have among her list of luminaries? Well, our new Foreign Secretary is a man spoken of by other world leaders world as a buffoon and liar; another new government minister is a man whose basic honesty, a few short years ago, was tried in two very important aspects and found severely wanting in both – to the point where he was forced to resign. Neither man would be employed by any reputable employer. To cap it all, our new Prime Minister herself stated unequivocally in parliament the other day, that she would indeed, if called on to do so, press the button to unleash a nuclear missile on another sovereign state, killing a hundred thousand or more people.

Are there others out there who, along with me, think the human race, in its present form, is seriously insane?  Two thousand odd years of Western ‘civilisation’ have taught us almost nothing. We continue to behave in a way that is criminally lacking not only in morality but in the most basic intelligence. Go back to the nature reserve. Watch the birds, the butterflies, the creatures of the field, the woods, the grasses, the clouds in the sky – learn from them. They have a timeless lesson to teach. But it seems we aren’t listening. Maybe we’re just too clever.

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About besonian

Writer, photographer, film director
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2 Responses to Sadness in the Little Island

  1. Peter Boreham says:

    Yes Besonian you have hit the nail right on the head. It is very disappointing that many of the leaps forward that have seemingly been made during the post-War era are now very much under threat. London and Britain’s other great cities have always been well ahead of the provinces and sleepy shires in accepting multiculturalism, changes in population dynamics, immigration,, and developing a more positive view of the benefits of mutual co-operation and harmony on a global scale. History shows that crises often bring out the worst in people as well as the best! Self-serving, nose-in-the trough politicians squeal like pigs when the gravy stops flowing from the gravy train. Back-stabbing becomes endemic. Serving the interests of others unfortunately takes low priority. This all reflects the shallowness of our political culture.An increase in apathy (or disillusionment?) of a significant proportion of the electorate due to the nature of our electoral system has probably also been a contributory factor. We call ourselves a ‘democracy’ but the current electoral system is anything but democratic.

    On a positive note, there are a lot of people ‘out there’ who still have morals, a sense of fair play and decency who need to engage more with what is going on and make their voices heard. Crises do bring out the best in people, so let’s hope that when the traumatic events of recent weeks have shaken down, commonsense, morality and a sense of justice and toleration will prevail. Yes, we have a lot to learn from the natural world that seems to just ‘get on with things’. Unlike animals, us humans do have the intellectual capacity to make choices, but we so often individually and collectively make the wrong ones and mess up!

    • besonian says:

      Hi Peter, thank you for that. Yes, we’re sailing into some pretty rough water. But it’s been coming for many years. I remember thinking way back in the early eighties that a society as out of balance as it was even then would, before very long, simply fall over. It took longer than I expected, but I think that’s what we’re now seeing the start of. But instead of its being an anticipated and managed situation, it’ll be a panic-driven attempt at damage limitation in the hope of inventing a fresh version of the same old same old. But same old same old’s had its time. Something else is vital now. If we don’t have the vision and the perception to bring about that ‘something else’, that ‘something else’ will break its own way in. You can play around with the universe only so long – beyond that it will play around with you. And that’s likely to be painful, because among our present ranks of dreary small-time politicians, yes-men and women, I can see no-one with either wisdom or gravitas, both of which will be necessary to mastermind anything like that when the time comes.

      Anyway, something else. I think I mistakenly gave the impression near the end of that post that I saw us human beings as separate from nature, not part of the natural world. I feel very strongly that we are in fact, and that there is ultimately no division between anything. I go along with the ancient Chinese view of the universe in that it is all a single, indivisible entity developing and growing outwards as one. Hence everything that exists at all levels of consciousness is an essential part of that universe – and is therefore an aspect of the Unnameable, God, That, Spirit whatever one wants to call it. And I hinted at that in my post, ‘One Sunny Afternoon.’ There was no doubt in my mind then that that, for me at least, is the truth of things.

      As for our having an intellect in order to help us make decisions – I think our intellect is often more hindrance than help in that regard. As Alan Watts points out in his book on Zen, the intellect is of limited use in making decisions. The final arbiter, that which leads us to finally make up our mind, is the intuition. The reason being that it is quite impossible for anyone’s intellect to come up with then assess every single one of the possibilities any course of action could conceivably take – they are infinite. And even if you could, you’d take so long doing it, the result would be no use to anyone. What we seem to do is come to a point where our own instinct recognizes that foregoing, and resorts to the intuition. This is most clearly seen when a decision has to be made in a fraction of a second – there is no time for the intellect to lumber into action. But the intuition ‘sees’ the answer – and in my experience, is almost invariably right.

      Anyway, I step down from the platform! Thank you for the opportunity to pontificate!

      Oh, and by the way, don’t know if you’ve heard it, but there’s a wonderful Buddhist saying – ‘Every snowflake falls in its appointed place’. I love that.

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