Writing the wrongs

Poetry, writing, and recovery from mental illness

Who will?

If you don’t dare 

to overcome the scare 

and painstakingly pen 

the thousand thoughts 

of a numbing nation, 

a lost generation,

who will? 
If you don’t pay attention

to the wondrous birdsong,

that feast for meditation,

that pays no heed to our 

trials and tribulation

who will?
If you forget your lover’s scent

and spend a lonely life 

with your hollow heart 

let out to rent

and never dream of the great leap

into welcoming terrifying arms

and all rewards that you might reap

who will?
If you never 

share the satisfaction

of the fruit 

of a hard day’s labour,

or the simple beauty 

to be found

in the smile

of your neighbour

who will?
Why ask “who will?” 

when the pen awaits you?

shed a tear

for the words 

you never wrote

the time is right 

to write 

your next masterpiece 

is to be found 

at the bottom 

of a rubbish pile.

I should know:

this broken heart

is on overflow.

Helder Camara 

Give food to the poor?

You’re a saint. Ask why they’re poor?

You’re a communist. 

Eyes wander the earth–
so much goodness gone
and so much remains.


I cannot bend the path ahead
it must be walked by these tired feet
still my loath mind mutters:
“Wouldn’t it be nice to ease this burden?”
But this weight reminds me I’m alive
not one of the numb
who warm pub chairs in the morning.
I care
about what is to come
not long ago I’d have sold my soul
just to feel
this heart beating;
so I’m grateful
I’m not just saying that so it’ll go away:
I don’t wish for a world of black and white
today, I celebrate the rainbow
and this river running through my heart.

Kynance Cove

Winter waves lap
immobile rocks whom
despite outward appearance
of frozen fortitude
will succumb;
not before
impatient eyes
but as sure as
the clock strikes the hour
these children walking
at the water’s edge
will one day return
to this smiling coastline
withered away
by a foamy foe
youth by time.

Beyond “acceptance:” the philosophy of Jiddu Krishnamurti and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Why should I accept sorrow? That is merely another superficial activity of the mind. I don’t want to accept sorrow, or to attenuate it, or to run away from it. I want to understand sorrow.” Jiddu Krishnamurti

According to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), human beings care about certain things more than others (they have “values”), but part of the human condition is that they don’t behave in line with these values. Steven Hayes (ACT’s founder) et al. identify “experiential avoidance” as the biggest obstacle to value-based living: the kicker about values is that where you care, you can hurt, very easily. And according to the mind, analogous to when you have a splinter in your thumb, what’s the best way to stop hurting? Well, just get rid of your pain: stop caring, numb the pain, stop doing things you love if the “good” doesn’t outweigh the “bad.”
ACT gives us a fairly accurate image of the human problem. It also proposes a solution: acceptance of pain, and commitment to values-driven action. The rest (all the strange experiential exercises) is merely there to help you on your journey.

Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986) was an Indian philosopher who proposed a radical way of living to the world. He wanted us to see the danger of division: national, religious, political, economical. He proposed no method (“Don’t ask how,” he once chided one of his listeners), but a radical, choiceness attention in which the clear seeing of mental content (fear, division, possessiveness, etc.) without what he termed “the observer,” a static centre from which we evaluate mental content, that would give rise to “right action.” Man lives in the past (and the projected future), but never now; ideas about God, The Nation, the Me, images of my loved ones, all that is “the old.” The problems of living? All that is new and fresh, and to attempt to deal with the new and fresh (the problems of daily living) in terms of the old (“who I was yesterday,” “God”) gives birth to conflict. Man has lived this way for millennia. Not through books, he says, only through observation and action, might we find a fresh way of living.

Seen through Jiddu’s eyes, to have and to apply an idea about “acceptance” is a mental trick: a game to make the pain go away. ACT is pronounced “act,” “not ay-see-tee.” For ACT is no religious doctrine; it is a pragmatic way of living. Turn it into an “-ism,” a ritual, you’ve missed the point: engaging in bizarre experiential exercises through the lens of the old just brings a new, strange dimension into your suffering. ACT won’t give you an easy answer to ancient questions about the meaning of life. My problems are right there before me, and I have to act, not hide. If you see “ACT,” kill it! Live afresh and without corruption between word and deed: do what needs doing, and only then will you understand sorrow.

open restaurant door–
the smell of mother’s cooking
warms a homeless heart

I look for you in the quiet
before the birdsong

Tree of life

Have you ever
kissed a tree
or even listened
to the wisdom
of its trunk
unmoved by
gossip and glamour
its leaves fighting
for the sun
but the roots know
that deep below
the fields where
the flowers grow
is where the water’s
found and if you
come up close
and really listen
you’ll hear the
sound of the earth’s
beating heart.
The bard of Avon
termed man the
paragon of animals”
but Darwin brought us
to the ground
helped us see
that the difference
between me
and the morning birds
is that their song
is heard;
the voice of love
in all of us
is stifled
by expectation
and exploitation
“what can the world give me?”
“what might I give the world?”
so why not
go back to the roots
and listen to the bark
why not
befriend the tree
in the local park.

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