I would have given you the world

In Catching Infinity, an eternity happened whilst Alice and PW were sitting on a rickety, old punt on the Cherwell and the music of Christ Church Choir reverberated in PW’s mind. It was magic, because the choir was silent that night.

In its prequel, An Evening In Wonderland, it was during the walk from a teashop on The High to Magdalen Deer Meadow, when Alice and PW stopped and saw ethereal orbs of light dancing in front of them like magic. But in reality, those were just the light from passing cars, nothing more.

Magic is to be found in mundane things and ordinary moments.

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Photo: Road to Patong Beach

You fill a whole lifetime
In a single perfect moment
In those heartbeats of yours
So close to mine
I have heard them
The thundering within your ribcage
When I send you to the stars
And the solidarity with mine
When I sleep
In your arms

You are so deeply
Connected to my soul
From the soft dialogue
Between your fingertips and
The skin of my forearm, my face, my lips
You are the air
That I breathe
On which my spirit soars
All it ever takes with you
Is a picnic blanket
And a sunset or two

18th January 2017

There are more stars in the skies than grains of sand in the world. If life is long, all becomes one ❤

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Jellyfish and Winnie The Pooh

The conversation started between my daughter and I about jellyfish, because I wrote a short story about a girl who kept jellyfish in the bath.

“Jellyfish are pointless,” G declared. “They have no brains.”

Brains are overrated, as my partner once told me. Sea squirts are born with brains to allow them to move to where they want to go, and then, upon finding their happy spot, they ate their brains up. Jellyfish don’t even have brains to start off with.

But this conversation reminded me of a book I once read, beautifully written by Benjamin Hoff, with the title The Tao of Pooh. The book opened with Confucius, Buddha and Laotzi (the traditional founder of Taoism) standing over a vat of vinegar. Confucius found the vinegar sour, the Buddha found it bitter whilst Laozi found it satisfying.

The jellyfish, without brain and hence, without direction, is the embodiment of the Tao principle of wei wu wei, the concept of “effortless doing”. They just float freely in the ocean, and if you ever watched a jellyfish swim, you could almost see enjoyment in their brainless beings as it flows up and down with the current stream.

It goes where the ocean takes it, no preference, no complaint, all experiences same-same to the jellyfish. This is the Taoist principle of pu, which is to be open to all that life brings us but be unburdened by it.

“Passiveness!” She retorted spiritedly, with her usual fire.

Indeed it is, but it is because Taoism sees nature/the universe as a self-balancing system that does not require an input of external force.

Like the jellyfish, we can learn so much from life around us and go amazing places, IF we open ourselves to it. So dear daughter, two very beautiful teachings from a humble, brainless living being. Just go with the flow of the ocean of life, reconcile yourself with the natural universe and embrace all experiences without being unnecessarily burdened by these experiences.

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Three philosophers – a follower of Confucius, a Buddhist and a Taoist – fell seriously ill.

The Confucius philosopher: “I will seek out the best doctor and follow the advice and rituals.”

The Buddhist: “Life is about suffering. I will mediate and understand the nature of suffering and hence, gain self-realisation and freedom.”

The Taoist: “I am part of the universe. Thus I will carry on, without fear of death.”

The Wife’s Choice

Our mother’s voice is very often the strongest, and for good or bad, we hear it deeply within us, the loudest voice of all. It took me 48 years to learn that my Ma is not always right, for I was 48 years old before I learned that for life to function beautifully, there has to be balance, equality and a beautiful status quo.

When I was young, my Ma used to tell us that she had enough love for EVERYONE. There was no need to fight for it, there was no need to ‘keep accounts’ and there was no need to feel the lack. She had enough for all.

When I was an angst-ridden teenager, I used to argue with her, ‘You love Daddy more than he loves you” and she would reply peacefully, “I love him enough for two, dear, so it doesn’t matter who loves who more.”

In Catching Infinity, the wife Karin van Achterberg loved her husband PW Vanderleyden ‘enough for two’ too. She loved him deeply, loyally and with great patience: she stayed at home and raised their three sons whilst he played at being the ‘great’ Professor. In truth, he was just a mediocre man who believed too much in his own publicity. But she, The Wife, was always there when he came home, ever ready to listen about his work though it bored her to death. She did not give a damn about Fibonacci numbers or the Grand Universal Theory, but nonetheless she quietly listened to his monologue. He never once asked her about her day because he was so full of his own self-importance. Thus, he never appreciated how she had grown in their 17 years of marriage and after 17 years, he had forgotten too that he had once been passionate about her, that he had involuntarily sank down to his knees at the altar on their wedding day in gratitude to God that this beautiful woman would take a gawky farm boy like him to be her husband.

How many Karin Van Achterbergs are there in the real world?

I intentionally set the story in a homestead deep in the South African veld, in a place where women do not walk out on their marriages. Karin’s husband had hurt her immeasurably, but she took it stoically. Being religious, she saw the suffering as her cross to bear. Love will triumph in the end, she told herself. She believed that, totally.

What made Karin’s story poignant was the fact that she was the only child and she was so loved by her old parents. They treated her like a Princess and taught her only about the good things in life. This wasn’t the suffering they envisaged for their beloved daughter.

When I started writing Catching Infinity, Karin was just a secondary character but as the story developed, I began to feel an affinity for her. She became the women I have known in my life and parts of her became me. I wanted to reach into the story and tell her (oh, so many times), “Karin, leave this man. He is not worth it. You can walk out of an abusive relationship, girl, do it.”

As a devout Catholic, I live my faith through Karin. But as a yogi, I believe in balance, equality and a beautiful status quo as eschewed in a beautiful balancing pose. When all is on balance, you catch fire inside. It is a liberation, a jivamukti. And as a yogi, I celebrate being alive, not being killed by life.  Here’s to putting life into your days, not days into your life.

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