Competition versus Collaboration: Time to Evolve from the Dog Eat Dog World of Darwinism (Part 1)

“An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle. “

Dr. Francis Crick ~ Nobel prize-winning co-discoverer of the DNA double helix.

Happy New Year! I sincerely hope 2023 will be filled with hope, health, abundance and joy for you.

I haven’t written in almost a year, I spent most of the last twelve months in crisis management mode, one of the toughest of my life in many ways. Thankfully, among the relentless traumatic personal challenges there were a few uplifting moments. I had to dig deep. My energy tanks were laid to waste.

I have a painted wooden plaque on my office wall that reads: Every day may not be good, but there’s good in every day. I find it’s just as relevant for weeks, months and years!

But like negotiating any deep valley that feels interminably arduous; seemingly beyond your physical, emotional and mental capabilities and endurance, if you keep putting one foot in front of the other, keep climbing, no matter how slowly, you will eventually clear the valley and reach a low level peak.

When you reach more and more accessible peaks, they eventually lead to a sky-touching peak. Your personal Everest. It’s what you do when you find yourself in a valley that determines how high the next peaks could be.

I like to think I’m entering what Dr. Benjamin Hardy terms a ‘post-traumatic growth’ state.

I thought I would kick-start my blog this year with a profound subject that has implications for all of us: the origin and meaning of life.

I hear you, am I really going there?!

I suspect ‘evolution’ will prove to be a thorny issue, but that’s no reason to shy away from it. This subject is a multi-disciplinary minefield; encompassing anthropology, archaeology, cosmology, evolutionary biology, philosophy, psychology, theology and quantum mechanics.

I suspect it will engender more questions than it answers, but asking the right questions and opening minds to a bigger discussion is a good starting point.

I never believed the literal story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. To me, its power is allegorical. And it really annoyed me that Eve got the blame for Man’s fall from Grace!

However, Darwin’s theory of evolution never sat right with me either. What did I know, a mere slip of a girl being taught science… I must admit though, many of the boys in our school displayed definite ape-like qualities…

It just seems so random (if you’ll excuse the pun) that human beings and indeed – all of life– is the result of a chance event that happened millennia ago, as conventional science suggests. Dr. Francis Crick surmised that the eloquence of life’s building blocks has to be the result of something more than a lucky quirk of nature.

Not believing in either explanation left a gaping hole in my mind as to the origins of Homo sapiens, aka Anatomical Modern Humans (AMHs). Scientists broadly agree that we originated around 200-300 thousand years ago. Cro-Magnon Man was the previous term. There are no discernible genetic differences between AMH’s and humans alive today.

After reading on the subject I’ve come to a personal subjective conclusion that Creation and Evolution are likely one and the same thing. All of nature, (including us), is unfolding in a myriad of glorious mysterious ways.

Homo sapiens are the only species who can consciously evolve. We can regulate our biology and have awareness (to varying degrees) of our emotional states and intuition. This knowledge alone empowers us to make positive changes and healthy progress in our lives. But, as I can attest, knowing and doing are two different things.

We can choose how to react in a given moment, and have the capacity to access deep states of intuition; something animals do instinctively through external environmental triggers.

We already have some of the answers needed to solve many global issues, but short-term selfish interests and lack of international co-operation have so far impeded the rapid progress needed.

The world is changing faster than we have been culturally conditioned to accept – in just one generation – and the challenges are set to exponentially increase if we don’t get a handle on the damage we are doing to the environment. No one alive has witnessed the cyclic convergence of climate, economy, conflict, geopolitics and health to the extent that we are currently experiencing.  No one can dispute that we are living in a time of extremes.

As Einstein so eruditely pointed out, we cannot solve a problem from the same level of consciousness that created it in the first place. It’s time to ‘upgrade our story’ and therefore our level of consciousness.  

Our fundamental beliefs about who we are, how we got here and how to make the best of our lives underpin our individual and collective behaviour. A re-writing of the human story is long overdue…

Re-examining human origins to better navigate an uncertain future

It will become glaringly obvious that I’m not a fan of scientific materialism or reductionist thinking. I’m more of a Panpsychism kind of girl, erring towards matter from consciousness and the Holographic Universe theory.

I believe that clinging blindly to Darwin’s theory of evolution will not cut the mustard if we are to survive and thrive beyond this precarious, liminal time for our species.  

Darwin is still gospel in mainstream scientific circles, and continues to be taught in school to my children’s generation. How would we view, I wonder, in this day and age, groups of people who still used a horse and cart to get from one place to another instead of using a car, train or bus? It would certainly expose them to derision. Yet this is what we are doing by doggedly clinging to Darwinism.

This series of posts is all about exploring new scientific data and establishing a more nuanced, honest and helpful story of our origins and capabilities that will better serve our collective future.

It’s not about debunking Darwin’s theory as more updating and modifying the knowledge that we have. Darwin did the best he could with the technology and observational skills at his disposal during his era. He was a brilliant man. Darwinian Theory should be regarded as a stepping stone rather than a religious doctrine. After all, Darwin had no knowledge of DNA…

Sacrilege I hear you say!

I didn’t set out to be deliberately iconoclastic, merely to search for the truth. Free-thinking is an underrated skill that is not well represented in the current educational curriculum. We tend to indoctrinate rather than empower creativity and curiosity.

Much of the reading I’ve done around evolution has challenged my own previously indoctrinated world view. But on reflection, what I’ve read makes total sense. I’m open to a new narrative on evolution.

Why shouldn’t we question and explore an unproven theory that has in mainstream quarters been falsely accepted as unequivocal truth?

Darwin himself doubted that his theory might not be enough to explain the complexity of life.

Darwin’s acolytes cherry picked the parts of his theory that they wanted to believe, and speculation was taught as fact. Various institutions and the people that supported them held his work as sacrosanct, and attempted to make Darwin’s work into something he himself never intended it to be. They employed his theory for purposes he never foresaw or intended.

“If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous successive slight modifications” – the hallmark of evolution – “my theory would absolutely break down.”

Charles Darwin ~ Origin of Species 1859

Darwin himself in his twilight years moved away from academic Darwinism. He began to focus instead on the evolution of love, altruism and the genetic roots of human kindness over survival and struggle. He also gave credit to Jean Baptise Lamarck and his concept of the environment as the driving force in evolution.

Alfred Russell Wallace deserves more credit than history bestowed on him – as Darwin became the poster boy for Natural Selection and the theory of evolution. In his book, Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection, published in 1870, Wallace makes the following observation: “Natural Selection would only have endowed savage man with a brain a little superior to that of an ape, whereas he actually possesses one very little inferior to that of the philosopher.”

In other words, our species is over-endowed!

Among Darwin’s detractors it wasn’t just the church who opposed Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, scientists who were Darwin’s peers and in the century and a half preceding have also disagreed with his findings.

Their voices also deserve to be heard:

“Darwin’s theory is not inductive-not based on a series of acknowledged facts pointing to a general conclusion.” ~

Adam Sedgwick (1785 – 1873), Cambridge University – British Geologist and one of the founders of modern geology.

“There are…absolutely no facts either in the records of geology, or in the history of the past, or in the experience of the present, that can be referred to as proving evolution, or the development of one species from another by selection of any kind whatever.”

Louis Agassiz (1807 – 1873) Harvard University – American Geologist

“The theory suffers from grave defects, which are becoming more and more apparent as time advances. It can no longer square with practical scientific knowledge, nor does it suffice for our theoretical grasp of the facts… No one can demonstrate that the limits of a species have ever been passed. These are the rubicons which evolutionists cannot cross… Darwin ransacked other spheres of practical research work for ideas… But his whole resulting scheme remains, to this day, foreign to scientifically established zoology, since actual changes of species by such means are still unknown.”

Albert Fleischmann (1862 – 1942) University of Erlangen – German Zoologist

“Evolution became in a sense a scientific religion; almost all scientists have accepted it and many are prepared to ‘bend’ their observations to fit with it.”

H.S. Lipson (1910 – 1991) University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology – British Phycist

“Evolution is the backbone of biology and biology is thus in the peculiar position of being a science founded on unproven theory. Is it then a science or a faith? Belief in the theory of evolution is thus exactly parallel to belief in special creation. Both are concepts which the believers know to be true, but neither, up to the present, has been capable of proof.” ~

Leonard Harrison Matthews (1901 – 1986) Cambridge University – British Zoologist

“The chance that higher life forms might have emerged in this way is comparable with the chance that a tornado sweeping through a junkyard might assemble a Boeing 747 from materials therein. I am at a loss to understand biologists’ widespread compulsion to deny what seems to me to be obvious.”

Sir Fred Hoyle (1915 – 2001) Cambridge University – British Astronomer, formed the theory of Stellar Nucleosynthesis

“Ultimately the Darwinian theory of evolution is no more or less than the great cosmogenic myth of the twentieth century. The truth is that despite the prestige of evolutionary theory and the tremendous intellectual effort towards reducing living systems to the confines of Darwinian thought, nature refuses to be imprisoned. In the final analysis we still know very little about how new forms of life arise. The ‘mystery of mysteries’ – the origin of new beings on earth – is still largely as enigmatic as when Darwin set sail on the Beagle.”

Michael Denton (1943-) British Biochemist, Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture

“But how do you get from nothing to such an elaborate something if evolution must proceed through a long sequence of intermediate stages, each favoured by natural selection? You can’t fly with two percent of a wing or gain much protection from an iota’s similarity with a potentially concealing piece of vegetation. How, in other words, can natural selection explain the incipient stages of structures that can only be used (as we now observe them) in much more elaborated form?”

Stephen Jay Gould (1941 – 2002) Harvard University – American Paleontologist and Evolutionary Biologist

“The point, however, is that the doctrine of evolution has swept the world, not on the strength of its scientific merits, but precisely in its capacity as a Gnostic myth. It affirms, in effect, that living beings create themselves, which is, in essence, a metaphysical claim… Thus, in the final analysis, evolutionism is in truth a metaphysical doctrine decked out in scientific garb.”

Wolfgang Smith (1930-) American Mathematician and Physicist

“The statistical probability that organic structures and the most precisely harmonised reactions that typify living organisms would be generated by accident is zero.”

Ilya Prigogne (1917 – 2003) Belgian Physical Chemist and Nobel prize winner

“All of us who study the origin of life find that the more we look into it, the more we feel that it is too complex to have evolved anywhere.”

Harold Urey (1831 – 1981) Nobel Prize-winning Chemist

Mathematicians have calculated that the probability for the existence of a common DNA molecule is one in a centillion, (or 1 with 600 zeros after it).

Mathematical challenges to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution from the Hoover Institute:

Dissent from Darwin is an online declaration signed by 1,371 esteemed scientists from around the world (as of July 2015), in essence saying that as far as they are concerned the mystery of our origins is not yet solved.

Maybe the reason debates and discussion around evolutionary theory can be highly contentious and controversial is because the theory has deep moral, social, and religious implications, as well as being presented as scientific fact even though conflicting issues have yet to be resolved.

Darwin’s theory of evolution appeared to fit what he saw happening for one life form in one specific part of the world (the finches of the Galapagos Islands), he tried to generalise the theory to apply to all life everywhere, including humankind.

While the connections between ancient primates and modern humans on the evolutionary family tree are thought to exist, they have never been proven as fact – they are inferred and speculative connections up to this point in time.

No fossils that reflect an unbroken evolutionary journey from primates to more human-like beings have been discovered!

“Within the period of human history we do not know of a single instance of the transformation of one species into another.” ~ .

Thomas Morgan (winner of 1933 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine & author of Evolution and Adaptation)

Morgan’s findings should serve as a warning of wholeheartedly embracing the theory of human evolution.

New scientific evidence is suggesting that certain physical features – including our eyes, our advanced nervous systems, and our brains – were already functional when anatomical modern humans (AMHs) arose around two hundred thousand years ago casts doubt on Darwin’s theory as it pertains to humankind.

The strange thing is that Darwin himself acknowledged the irony in the lack of physical evidence to support his theory. This could be explained in one of two ways: Either the geologists were interpreting the history of the earth incorrectly, or he himself had made an error in his interpreted observations that became the foundation of his theory.

Again, in Darwin’s own words from Origin of Species:

“Why does not every collection of fossil remains afford plain evidence of the gradation and mutation of the forms of life? We meet with no such evidence, and this is the most obvious and forcible of the many objections which may be urged against my theory.”

Charles Darwin

Mutation of the FOXP2 gene

Saturday, February 28th 1953 was an important day for modern science. James Watson and Francis Crick announced to their colleagues over lunch in a Cambridge pub, “We have discovered the secret of life.” They had just discovered the double helix pattern of the DNA molecule – nature’s code for life.

Our DNA exists in every cell of our body, in structures that are called chromosomes. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes in our cells. Each chromosome is made of smaller, precise physical markers called genes. These are our physical blueprints.

The Human Genome Project revealed that we have around 23,000 genes, roughly the same number as a worm and a fruit fly. This finding floored scientists, who expected the number to be more like 100,000. Since then genetic mapping has revealed that we share 98 percent of our DNA with chimpanzees, 50 percent with a fruit fly, 80 percent with a cow, and 90 percent with a common house cat. It begged the question, if we have so much in common genetically with other creatures, then why are we so different from them?

The answer being that a single gene can be activated in different ways, and to different degrees, to do different things. In other words, it’s how our genes are activated, or expressed.

In 2009 a study was published in the journal Nature regarding the mutation of the FOXP2 gene, which is linked to our ability to form complex speech and language.  The FOXP2 gene is found in both humans and chimpanzees, yet there is something in the way the FOXP2 gene expresses in humans that enables us to communicate in sophisticated forms of language.

According to Wolfgang Enard of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology the mutation of this gene “happened in the same time frame when modern humans evolved.”

The speed and precision of the mutations in FOXP2, occurring in just the right two places in the DNA code is an example of the kind of change that does not lend itself to the theory of evolution as we currently understand it. Science cannot tell us what caused the change.

How do we account for what appears to be more of a spontaneous evolution?

The mystery of Human Chromosome 2 (HC2)

When scientists compared our chromosomes to our nearest primate relatives they discovered that chimpanzees have 48 chromosomes, compared with the 46 found in humans, which seemed to suggest humans were missing two chromosomes.

Advanced DNA sequencing technology has highlighted what wasn’t obvious before: that our missing DNA isn’t missing at all. The ‘missing’ DNA has always been present, however it has been modified and arranged to show that the second largest chromosome in the human body (HC2), actually contains smaller ‘missing’ chromosomes found in the chimp genome.

At some point in the past, for reasons that remain unknown and controversial, two separate chimp chromosomes got combined into a single larger chromosome that is our human chromosome 2.

This discovery revealed a deeper mystery. According to this scientific article the fusion did not occur! This would suggest some form of intentionality in our evolution.

To me a directed mutation makes the most sense, which acknowledges that some force or intelligence contributed towards the precision, timing and refining of the mutations that make us who we are. It opens what scientists have dubbed a ‘Pandora’s Box of possibilities’. The box has been opened by science, and the contents cannot be stuffed back in…

The Directed Mutation idea takes us into the realm of fields and unseen forces and an unseen intelligence that scientific materialism has been unwilling to consider. This premise can be explored in the mysterious realm of Quantum Mechanics. I’ll be exploring that further in the next post. Another theory being considered is the Stoned Ape Hypothesis.

Irreducible complexity

The profound depth and complexity of life would not have been something that Darwin, Lamarck, or British naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace would have had had the ability to know, no scientist in the late 1800s nor early 1900s could have.

Irreducible complexity means that if any portion of a system stops working, the entire system fails. Could the human cell be the single most complex piece of machinery ever to exist?

There are a myriad of processes that are happening at any given moment in a cell, and when you consider the human body contains around 50 trillion cells, and this cellular structure works in harmony to enable us to go about our lives, it is all the more remarkable. The DNA of life is based upon order and structure and the sharing of information that tell our cells what to do and when to do it. In Nature this kind of order is viewed as a sign of intelligence.

A more in-depth article on irreducible complexity.

Darwinism has inculcated the ‘survival of the fittest’ attitude into society, which explains why it is currently so toxic. Our social, cultural and economic systems have been built on unhealthy and shaky foundations over the last 150 years. It has lead to scientific materialism, the belief that we are just machines, as are animals, and the world is a non-living entity, entirely at our disposal. It is devoid of a reverence for life.

The Darwinian story of our origins speaks to our lower selves: we are random accidents and have no purpose or meaning other than a biological collection of matter that can only survive if we dominate others. This is the message being taught to impressionable children, when their foundational beliefs are being formed.

We see this principle at work in politics, economics and conflict in individuals and groups determined to reach power and hold onto it at all costs. Power over others and for its own sake and to cause suffering. These destructive human traits are given credence by Darwinism and Neo-Darwinism.

Talk about expressing our ‘selfish genes’! We live in the dysfunctional paradigm of scientific materialism.

The philosopher Herbert Spenser developed social Darwinism, and is also credited with the term survival of the fittest. The tragic implications of his theory enabled the Holocaust – the improving of humanity, the purifying of the race by winnowing out perceived genetic weakness and inferiors. Taken to its fullest application Darwinian theory underpinned the state sanctioned science and violence of Nazi Germany.

Moving from scientific materialism and the age of self-indulgence to a more harmonious way of being can help us usher in the age of self-responsibility. British scientist Timothy Lenton has described how, despite the sun warming by 25 percent since life on earth began around 3.8 billion years ago, our planet has somehow managed to regulate its climate and buffer that huge disparity. Lenton further suggested that evolutionary traits that benefit the system as a whole tend to be reinforced, while those that harm or destabilise the environment in an unfavourable way are restrained.

It is thought that the population of Earth will peak at around 10.4 billion people in the 2080s (along with the resulting needs for land, water, food and resources), and will thereafter decline. What is not commonly known perhaps, is that birth rates and fertility have been falling steadily since 1962 as measured by the UN. The rate of decline is much more steep currently.

World Bank statistics show that global fertility rates have dropped 57% since 1960 to below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman to sustain the population. Twenty seven countries now have fewer people than they did in 2010. Fifty nations are expecting declines to continue through 2050. The main concern on the fertility front is related to sperm concentrations, which have dropped from an average of 99 million/ml in 1970 to 47 million/ml in 2011 and are now around 40 million/ml, where conception is considered a rare occurrence.

This is not surprising considering the levels of stress, sedentary lifestyles, toxins in foods and environmental pollutants (such as forever chemicals PFAS) that we are exposed to. These toxins accumulate in our organs. Classed as anti-androgens, they can lower testosterone and the quality of sperm and eggs.

If scientific materialism’s days aren’t numbered then ours certainly are. A path towards Holism and more holistic lifestyles would benefit society immeasurably. And it all starts with our basal paradigm, the story of who we are.

Until next time!

“If an organism acquires a mutation that causes it to behave in an anti-Gaian’ manner, its spread will be restricted in that it will be at an evolutionary disadvantage.”

Timothy Lenton

My Anonymous Postman Reveals Adventures I Never Would Have Imagined…

“If we don’t end war, war will end us.”

H. G. Wells

My regular postman has always been friendly. He’s cheerful and affable, even when he is being buffeted or soaked by inclement British weather. He must have a mountain of mail and parcels to deliver, but he never seems hurried and is usually chatty.

In a world where we may see certain people on a daily basis and yet know little about them, we grow a certain familiarity, albeit a superficial one; so it’s refreshing when a deeper connection takes place.

Talking isn’t a big part of the job, especially as Royal Mail are (not surprisingly), more concerned with productivity than my ‘friendly neighbourhood postman’.

120 Year old post box. Image by Grooveland on Unsplash

I don’t know my postman’s real name – and he prefers to keep it that way after divulging some very personal information about himself the other day. He seemed to want to talk more than usual; we were having a conversation about a trip he had taken to Argentina to see his girlfriend at the time.

Before I continue, it’s only fair to warn you that this post contains some harrowing stories, read on at your own discretion.

He explained that he had gone out for a run and had accidentally crossed onto the rural land of a neighbour. He knew he was in trouble when armed guards apprehended him and hauled him up in front of the owner. Humble and apologetic, he explained that he was staying next door as a guest of his neighbour, and did not intend to trespass. The tension gradually eased and all was eventually forgiven as the suspicion evaporated.

He was still conscious that men were brandishing AK47s and joked to me that he wondered if he would have to suddenly revive ‘special skills’ that he hadn’t needed to use in a long while. However, the property owner offered him a job as a body guard, which he turned down.

By this point I had a strong inkling that my postman wasn’t your average guy…

He then slipped in that he wasn’t popular in Argentina. I frowned; this seemed an odd and decidedly provocative thing to say. When I queried why this might be so, he hesitated for a split second, and coolly informed me that he had previously been on a clandestine mission there, as part of a military team sent to apprehend a child sex trafficker.

My jaw must have dropped.

Maybe he trusted me, (I like to think I am a good listener), and he went on to reveal things I never would have guessed about him.

One thing I had always been curious about (but was too polite to ask), was why he was missing his top two middle teeth. He is quite muscular, although not overly tall, and in otherwise apparent good health. It is an unusual thing to see in a fit man, especially as the rest of his teeth seemed fine.

Well, now I know why.

Without asking him he told me that during his time in the army he was deployed to Iraq after the initial invasion, and spent time in enemy territory. He was captured and subsequently tortured. Although recruits are given resistance to interrogation training he admitted it wasn’t sufficient to prepare him for the real thing.

As he relayed the inevitable torture that followed, it seemed somewhat surreal. His teeth were forcibly removed.

His nails were pulled out and other excruciating things done to him which I didn’t dare ask about. He was rescued, he thinks, by Special Forces. It sounds like he is lucky to be alive. Some of his friends and colleagues weren’t so fortunate.

A conversation with a friend back at base shortly after being rescued resulted in his nickname that he adopted as his military handle: Jericho.

His speciality in the British army was as a sharpshooter. He said it required nerves of steel and an alert state over long periods of time. Sometimes they were given drugs to help them stay awake during critical missions.

Note to self: must remain on good terms with my postman!

“No soldier ever really survives a war.”

Audie Murphy

He told of another day when his convoy was hit by IEDs. Some vehicles were on fire, and he had to drag one of his friends, burning and screaming from a badly damaged vehicle, sadly unable to save his life.

What must that kind of horror do to a person?

In short, it causes trauma. Survivors guilt. These life and death situations are extreme experiences, and the army needs to do more to help soldiers adjust to civilian life.

I was appalled by what he was telling me, but he seemed to have reached a level of detachment about it. He admitted that he had suffered with PTSD after being discharged from the army.

Another difficult thing for him to deal with was the fact that the Iraqi army would shoot civilians that spoke to them or demonstrated any kind of co-operation. They would be lined up and executed in cold blood. His unit were told not to interfere, something a normal person would naturally find abhorrent and shocking. He hinted that he felt torn following orders at certain times, especially when he considered them to be wrong. I got the distinct impression that his conscience was the cause of insubordination at times.

Actively letting atrocities happen is surely as morally reprehensible as participating in them. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

“There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”

Howard Zinn

He must have seen and done things no person could ever forget, let alone attempt to process in order to lead a normal life.

He told me that working on a farm after he was discharged helped him to adjust to civilian life. He regularly woke up screaming. He would feel angry, on edge and ready for combat at the drop of a hat. He found that meditation helped him to feel calmer and recover mentally.

Ernest Hemingway became a literary icon through the creative expression of his wartime experiences. Writing can enable healing and catharsis.

Jericho (as I refer to him now), also got involved in boxing for a while, but gave it up to protect his wrists and hands so he could continue to play the guitar injury free. He likes to do open-mic sessions and also writes songs.

Before too long he was back in the mission saddle (aka conflict hotspot), this time working for various PMCs (private military contractors).

He would tell me about parachuting into a scenario in the dead of night, which funnily enough he said didn’t scare him as much as climbing up a ladder!

Over a number of years he was deployed on missions in 78 countries, including the Middle East, Russia, various African nations, South America and so forth.

Some of the smaller, less established PMCs had questionable clients, and he told of being on jobs where he would come up against other mercenaries in the role of body guards that he knew from his time at another PMC. He also worked for an international contractor where different nationalities worked together. He has some American friends.

I felt honoured that he was telling me such personal things about his life – but, if I’m honest – also a little disturbed.

He also spoke of a helicopter landing in the park near his house one night as an old employer had sent men to ask him about breaking into a certain facility he had experience of. It seemed a tad creepy. I asked how he could remember such detail, but he insisted he could recall the mission and was able to help them.

There are clearly major drawbacks to his previous line of work, but I asked if being in the military had helped him to develop self-discipline, and he agreed it most definitely had. He would rise at 5 am to work-out before the day started, and felt himself to be a highly independent and resilient person.

Image by Sana Ullah on Unsplash

Jericho’s was the sort of background that is often used in action movies, although it did not sound glamorous, as such activities can sometimes be portrayed on screen. But still, it is far removed from the mundane act of delivering mail!

Being a postman is a million miles away from the adrenaline fuelled excitement and danger of his former career, and I think that’s just how he likes it at this stage of his life. He also talked about his family and other everyday minutiae.

I liked him anyway, before I knew more about him, but I have a new found respect for Jericho. He has had to adjust through the kind of intense lifestyle and experiences that most of us could not comprehend. It may have been his choice to go down that path, but none of us ever really know where a path we choose to walk will ultimately lead. He is an interesting person, and gave me permission to write about him without using his real name, thus ensuring anonymity.

I’m thinking of loosely basing a character on him!

It reminded me that everyone has a story in them, that appearances and career choices are not accurate barometers of someone’s character or past. You never know what someone has been through, or about their early upbringing.

It was a lesson that compassion and kindness is a balm to ease suffering and make someone’s day a bit brighter.

Listening to Jericho elicited thoughts about my paternal grandfather, Jonathan Patrick Haley, who everyone called Jack. I vaguely remember as a child the rare occasions when my grandfather would talk about his time in the RAAF, (Royal Australian Airforce) flying spitfires in Burma during World War Two.

My grandad is sitting on top of the fuselage, second from right. Tall, skinny, handsome with dark hair! Sadly many of the men pictured did not return home. It’s good to see my grandad in his prime, even if it is from an old, grainy black and white photo. I only remember him with a bald patch and white receding hair.

There was only so much he would share about his time as a reconnaissance pilot. My grandmother told me that his doctor thought he was too weak and malnourished to make it beyond six months after he returned home to life in Australia, but thankfully she nursed him back to health.

When my dad was young the Haley family emigrated to the UK. He was a tall, active, no-nonsense man, with a soft spot for his grandchildren. I was very close to him in my early childhood when we lived near them. My dad has his medals, including a Burma Star.

I looked up to my grandfather; he was a source of inspiration, confidence and comfort to me in my early childhood.

Jericho’s personal history is invisible beneath his red polo shirt uniform; only a cheerful, gappy smile hints at his previous life. People have hidden depths, and it can be revelatory exploring them, not least to gain a greater understanding of others and ourselves.

It’s amazing what you can learn when you take the time to get to know someone. Active listening is compassion in action. Heaven knows the world needs as much compassion as it can get right now.

“Circumstances don’t make the man, they only reveal him to himself.”


A Pragmatic and Powerful Parable to Guide Your Life…

“These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them.” ~ Rumi

I had several subjects lined up for this blog post, but changed my mind at the last minute. I had an accident on Friday and have badly injured my tailbone. Ouch!

Having given birth to four children, I can honestly say the pain of that fall came close! I can’t sit for long periods of time at the moment and have spent the last few days mostly lying on my side feeling sorry for myself, interspersed with copious icing sessions with frozen peas and popping pain killers.

I spent most of April recovering from Covid-19, and the next two months dealing with an inner ear infection and vertigo. It certainly gives you some strange and disconcerting sensations. Various renovations to the house and garden are ongoing, and before I knew it I was pushing myself to the limit again. I should have listened to my body…

There’s nothing like physical pain to facilitate the transition from a human doing to a human being. 

The really intense pain is less pervasive now, but I will be on a go slow for weeks. I can only write for short bursts using a special cushion to help alleviate the coccydynia.  When we don’t heed messages from the universe they become more and more obvious until they can no longer be ignored! Now I have been forced to scale back and rest more.

The kids were moping as it looks like a four hour drive to Cornwall for our holiday might not be the best idea next weekend. I may have to grin and bear it, as it will be my last family holiday with my younger son for a while; he is planning to live and work in Berlin for a year, commencing mid August. In fact, I think he timed his departure with A-Level results day!

I was at a low ebb when I read this Persian parable. With many ongoing challenges in 2020, on a personal level as well as nationally and globally, it feels like a timely message to share.

The Persian Parable

Once upon a time there was a king who told the wise men of the court: “I’m making a beautiful ring. I have acquired one of the best possible diamonds. I want to keep hidden inside the ring some message that can help me in moments of total despair, and help my heirs, and the heirs of my heirs, forever. It has to be a small message, so that it can fit under the diamond on the ring.”

All who listened were wise, great scholars; they could have written great treaties, but providing the king with a message of no more than two or three words that could help him in moments of total despair…

They thought, searched through their books, but couldn’t find anything.

The king had an elderly servant who had also been a servant of his father. The king’s mother died young and this servant took care of him, so he treated him as if he belonged to the family.

Learned Advice by Ludwig Deutsch

The king felt an immense respect for the old man, so he also consulted him. And the servant said: “I am not a wise man, nor a scholar, nor an academic, but I know the message. During my long life in the palace, I met all kinds of people, and once I met a mystic. He was your father’s guest and I was at his service.

“When he left, as a gesture of gratitude, he gave me this message.” The old man wrote it on a tiny piece of paper, folded it and gave it to the king. “But do not read it,” he said. “Keep it hidden in the ring. Open it only when everything else has failed, when you can’t find a way out of a situation.”

That moment didn’t take long to arrive. The country was invaded and the king lost the kingdom. He was fleeing on his horse to save his life and his enemies were chasing him. He was alone and his pursuers were numerous. He arrived at a place where the road ended where there was no exit: in front there was a precipice and a deep valley; to fall would be the end for him. And he couldn’t go back because the enemy was blocking his way. He could hear the horses approaching. He couldn’t move forwards and there was no other way out…

Suddenly, he remembered the ring. He opened it, took out the paper and there he found a tremendously valuable little message. It simply said: “This too shall pass”.

As he read “This too shall pass”, he felt a great silence descend. The enemies that were pursuing him must have got lost in the forest, or they must have gone the wrong way. All the king knew was that little by little he stopped hearing the sound of the horses’ hooves.

The king felt profoundly grateful to the servant and the unknown mystic. Those words had proved miraculous. He folded the paper, put it back in the ring, gathered his armies and reconquered the kingdom.

And the day he entered the capital again, in victory, there was a great celebration with music and dancing… and he was very proud of himself.

A Procession by Ludwig Deutsch

The old man was by his side in the coach, and he said: “This moment is also appropriate: look at the message again.”

“What do you mean?” the king asked. “Now I’m victorious, the people celebrate my return. I’m not desperate, I’m not in a no-way-out situation.”

“Listen,” said the old man, “this message isn’t only for desperate situations; it’s also for pleasant situations. It’s not only for when you are defeated; it’s also for when you feel victorious. It’s not only for when you are the last; it’s also for when you are the first.”

The king opened the ring and read the message: “This too shall pass”.

And again, he felt the same peace, the same silence, in the midst of the crowd that celebrated and danced. However, the pride, the ego, had disappeared. The king could finally understand the full meaning of the message. He had become enlightened.

Then the old man said to him: “Remember that everything passes. No thing or emotion is permanent. Like day and night, there are moments of joy and moments of sadness. Accept them as part of the duality of nature, because they are the very nature of things.”

This ancient parable, thought to originate with the Sufi poets, is probably the most important fable one could ever read and employ in life. Somehow it helps to dissolve worries and woes, and keeps you grounded; offering the succour of equanimity and acceptance in all situations.

When I look back on my life so far, and how awful some segments of it were, I remember feeling that those tough periods would never end when I was in them, but now, with hindsight I realise I grew stronger as a result of the struggle and pain, and they didn’t last forever.

This too shall pass reminds us of the ephemeral quality of emotions and the human condition, the transient nature of life.

The parable brought to mind the vibrant and totally captivating paintings of the Orientalist artists for me.

The Najd Collection would have been a wonderful exhibition to see:

I can’t help thinking there is so much in the world that needs to pass already, but events unfold at their own pace and this erudite parable confers wisdom and peace for all who are in the thick of it.

If we can make the most of each moment, whatever that brings, we may find we can take stock one day and fully appreciate a life well lived, shaped by profound experiences.

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” ~ Rumi

The Significance and Value of Stories to Human Survival

“Every man’s life is a fairy tale written by God’s fingers.” ~ Hans Christian Andersen

Calliope bestowed me with a mother lode on Sunday morning. My circuits were almost on overload; frantically trying to record the flood of questions and stream of consciousness that I could not have stemmed even if I wanted to. A rare occurrence!

My hand scribbled as if on auto-pilot, struggling to keep up with the incoming thoughts, jumbled as they were, one leading to another in a febrile firing of unstoppable synapses.

Maybe it was the artistry of the prose of the book I was reading, or the fact that both my daughters were away at the time, and the ensuing solitude and relief from the tumult of the last few weeks that allowed my muse to be heard. Maybe it was a combination of all of it. I’m not complaining!

Now comes the hard part, placing them into a cohesive structure that makes sense, but also captivates, much like a story…

My muse wanted to talk about stories. I know I have shared posts on this subject before, but if you’ll indulge me I’ll try and come at it from a fresh angle, so that any repetition can be forgiven.

A Reading from Homer by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

It’s such a profound subject I don’t think I could ever tire of it, but you my dear reader are entitled to feel differently!

What is a story?

There are many definitions for a collection of words that we deem to be a story. A body of words, strung together with a certain arrangement and architecture, style and voice; sometimes poetical in nature, perhaps enchanting, beguiling, suspenseful, mysterious, erotic, brutal or shocking. We are held rapt under their spell, either in awe or disgust, joy or sorrow, and every emotion in between – a voluntary prisoner to their unfolding.

These ordered black marks on the page evoke pictures in our minds, each word itself perhaps unremarkable, yet together, they are a collection of something magical: a work of art. Stories are the rich imaginal tapestry upon which consciousness records itself.

Why do stories matter?

Stories are greater than the sum of their literary parts – for their effect is transformational. The transformation can be emotional, mental, physical and even spiritual.

I dream of writing a book that will suck someone in and spit them out at the end forever altered. That, for me, is a worthwhile endeavour and contribution.

Stories are nebulous in nature because they come from nothing but an electrical spark. That spark, which is a memory or a thought, enables further sparks, which in combination coalesce into a form of expression through the lens and hand of a creator – a human being.

The Novel Reader by Vincent van Gogh c. 1888

The same could be said of music and art, of all creative, artistic endeavour.

Maybe stories and art hold such fascination and appeal because as human beings we are bound by flesh and blood, contained by our physical borders, but our imagination knows no such limits. There are no frontiers closed off to our imagination.  Einstein grasped this concept when he asserted that imagination is more important than intelligence. Travel in the imagination is instantaneous and immersive.

Once notated onto paper or screen, outside the cranial cavity of the author, stories and characters can take on a life of their own.

The likes of Sir Lancelot, Guinevere, King Arthur, Merlin, Hamlet, Robin Hood, Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit, Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy, Ebenezer Scrooge, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, Sherlock Holmes, Scarlett O’Hara, Alice in Wonderland, The Great Gatsby, James Bond and Harry Potter to name just a few, have become stalwarts of our culture.

Strand magazine Vol iv.1892. Page page 646. illustration The Adventure of the Silver Blaze by Sidney Paget.

A story is an escape rooted in reality that can come into existence and stay with us (in one form or another), through millennia and centuries. Stories, both real (historical) and fictional can leave an enduring legacy.

Stories beget and shape whole religions and belief systems, (Adam and Eve squarely put the blame for everything on women), with numerous epic tales that have been told over the ages; stories which are so deeply rooted and embedded in our collective unconscious that their effects will always be felt on some level.

“Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people. But stories can also repair that broken dignity.” ~ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Tales and poems told by bards, philosophers, sages, scribes, scholars and age-old greats like Hesiod, Homer, Ovid and Herodotus.

The ancient Greeks left their mark on western culture with their vivid descriptions of how the world was created, of Titans and mythological gods and goddesses, usually behaving badly and abusing their power in the course of their wondrous deeds. Despite their very great strength and ability their flaws and foibles are all too human…

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus by Pieter Bruegel:

If anything the stakes are higher now that humans possess nuclear warheads, biological weapons and the means to destroy entire ecosystems (and potentially all life on earth including our own), as a result of our aggregated economic activities, buying habits and behaviour.

Whether great tomes or tales of brevity, such immortal stories act as bridges to other worlds; ones that we usually cross willingly, if sometimes with a tinge of trepidation, nonetheless determined to reach the other shore.

The Bookworm by Carl Spitzweg

Stories capture our yearning for adventure, our quest for discovery, and our innate curiosity. But most of all they fulfil perhaps the greatest of human needs: love and connection. That sense of connection gives meaning to our own experiences.

As the Oxford University professor, Jack (aka renowned author, C.S. Lewis) in Richard Attenborough’s moving film Shadowlands, when asking his writing students, “Why do we read?” is given his favourite eloquent answer: “so that we know we are not alone.”

This clip comes at the end of the film. I can feel myself welling up just from these brief minutes.

Stories are to humans as life is to death: there cannot be one without the other. When we read, (either fact or fiction) we deliberately enter a temporary hallucination, a vacuum in space and time where we can live vicariously through the reveries of the writer.

A story, then, could be classified as a chimera of the soul; a fundamental system on which to create an experiential palette, an understanding of life. Stories are the nearest thing we have to a map of the soul’s journey.

Maybe that is the purpose of a soul incarnated into physical form – to make it all up as it goes along. Charting a physical path to know itself as a divine being, free to make choices and live by the consequences of those choices. Free to create varying experiences and help other souls do the same.  As such, we all participate to a lesser or larger degree in each other’s stories.

A skilfully crafted story can reawaken dormant ideas, hopes, dreams, and memories,  show us what is possible no matter how absurd or fantastical it may seem.

The wisdom of the Native American culture is perfectly illustrated in this timeless folktale.

A Cherokee elder is sitting around a bonfire with his grandchild, teaching him the lessons of life:

“There is a battle going on inside me,” he says to the child. “It is a constant fight, and it is between two wolves. One wolf is filled with anger, envy, jealousy, fear, regret, shame, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, false pride, superiority, and ego.

“The other wolf is filled with humility, gratitude, acceptance, patience, joy, peace, love, hope, kindness, empathy, generosity, truth, and compassion.”

He leans in close to his grandchild and whispers: “The same fight is going on inside you, my sweet boy – and inside every other person too.”

The child grows silent, thinking about the profound nature of this lesson, and then asks, “So Grandfather…which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee smiles a knowing look and replies, “The one you feed.”

A story can open up new perspectives, capture a mood, a zeitgeist, or an intimate interaction, exposing a kernel of truth and transforming it into something truly iconic; something that inhabits the consciousness of generations that follow and lasts long after the author has passed.

Since time immemorial humans have been telling tales. They have evolved with us, from the simple to the complex, cautionary and heroic, enabling shared values and co-operation between peoples on a massive scale.

No matter the content, a really good story will challenge and change the reader in some way. That transition can be subtle or life-changing, and can even help shape opinion, as did Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Alice Walker’s The Color Purple and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.


There’s a reason we tell fairy tales to children – it’s a simple and effective way of getting to grips with our species’ archetypal energies. Kids can learn lessons by way of other people’s wisdom. The Grimm brothers certainly didn’t sugar coat their stories.

Girl reading a book by James Charles

But these archetypes don’t just live in fairy tales and folklore, they are more nuanced in adult fiction, but we can still recognise them:

  • The Fool/Jester – Henry VIII’s court jester was the only person that could say anything to the monarch without having his head decapitated. Jack and the Beanstalk is a tale about an honest fool overcoming the odds. In fiction there are some great examples in Shakespeare and their modern equivalents.

    Norse trickster god Loki, from an 18th century Icelandic manuscript.

  • The Fairy – These magical creatures take many forms. Peter Pan’s Tinkerbell is an enduring favourite, but not all fairies are well intentioned and some are downright meddlesome. There have been times in my life when I wanted so badly to have a benevolent fairy godmother!

    Dancing Fairies from Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens by Sir Arthur Rackham

  • The Witch/Crone/Wicked Stepmother – These characters can be beautiful on the surface, but ugly on the inside, being capricious and cruel in the extreme. Snow White’s evil mother gets her punishment, as they usually eventually do.
  • Prince Charming – usually involved in some type of daring rescue, he can kiss life back into heroines, but now and then his looks are more chiselled than his courage.
  • The King – The egotistical King Lear and rapacious King Midas with his golden touch are perhaps the most tragic of monarchs.

    The Judement of Midas by Abraham Janssens

  • Princess/Damsel in Distress – We’ve all felt the intense pangs of love that beset Romeo and Juliet, or the feeling of being trapped, just like Rapunzel.
  • Pauper/Peasant – Mark Twain’s wonderful historical novel, The Prince and the Pauper explores the theme of mercy, clearly inspired by one of Shakespeare’s finest speeches: the quality of mercy is not strained.
  • Orphan – Oliver Twist and Jane Eyre are characters who wear their troubles on their sleeves. Their emotional wounds and difficult lives make them relatable. They show us that a bad start in life doesn’t have to seal a person’s fate, but can provide the crucible for positive change.
  • Greek Mythology – This subject alone is forming the basis of a new talk I will be giving to The Women’s Institute. I found Stephen Fry’s book, Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold absolutely entrancing.

    Aphrodite’s rock/birthplace in Paphos, Cyprus

Archetypes rather than stereotypes allow us to put flesh on memorable character’s bones. Characters are therefore the same but different, as their attributes cling to a central support – the archetype.

A fascinating introduction to Jungian Archetypes:

The same goes for the structure of the story – how the plot unfolds. Films and novels tend to use the three act structure, but whichever format or formula a writer uses, the best ones allow for freedom of creative flow and don’t stifle the story.

Just as humans all have a skeleton that consists of the same bones in the same order, on the exterior we all look and sound different, and behave according to our own values, beliefs and experiences. This is also the case with a story, as the author layers its unique ‘features’ on top.

The elements of a story – the characters, the plot, the landscape/setting and era are woven together in a way that speaks to us collectively and as individuals. They bring the unconscious into consciousness – buried pain, lost loves, past trauma, moral dilemmas and personal victories shift into the here and now, to be indirectly relived and integrated.

The hero’s journey is the protagonist’s journey as experienced by a reader. The soul has to be breached to be opened, and wounds do the breaching. The deeper the wound the richer the story will be, and the greater the journey and more satisfying the transformation.

“You’re never going to kill storytelling, because it’s built in the human plan. We come with it.” ~ Margaret Atwood

There are many theories about what makes a good story – being a highly subjective art form.

First edition of Peter Rabbit from 1902

The antithesis of a good story is boredom and ambivalence. Connection to characters and emotion balanced with action is surely its beating heart. It’s a tough task to both surprise a reader and give them what they want at the same time!

Human neurobiology has evolved around the eternal clock face of time with stories, but it is the soul that craves them.

Some acrostic thoughts on the properties of stories:

Seductive sparks firing,

Tales of inner journeys and outer travels

Of other

Realms and realities,

Illusory, ingrained, immortal

Essence and expression of human condition

Sharing seminal ideas

We can each feel something similar or different about a story according to our own subjective perceptions, background and imagination. Some stories devour me and become part of my DNA.

It is perhaps the greatest of compliments to be called a storyteller, a teller of tales, a spinner of yarns. Sharing one’s sparks is a challenging and courageous undertaking. I’m grateful for all the writers (in the present and past), who have changed my life.

Fiction writers don’t know what will happen in their own lives, but on paper at least, they can be masters of other people’s fates!

I am looking forward to hearing my first published novel, The Virtuoso being narrated for audio book format early next year.

I have just finished reading a biography that has gripped me from the start, a story of life and death that is so compelling I can’t stop thinking about it. Placing myself in that person’s shoes has filled me with awe and inspiration. Needless to say I will be sharing a post on it in the near future.

The stories we tell ourselves and others have the power to shape our destiny on a personal level and also as a species. The world needs storytellers (of all genres) who can contribute to humanity’s conscious evolution now more than ever…

I feel I should end this post with a beginning – and what a beginning it is. Probably the best (and longest) opening line in fiction that was ever written, and for me embodies more than just the title of the book it starts. To me it conveys the wisdom, folly and contradictions of human nature – it is nothing less than visionary!

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
~ Charles Dickens (A Tale of Two Cities)