To the Universal Sound and Silence

 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is timimage.jpg

Foreword

I can only write for the future
The present is lost to me for I have lost the art of living in the moment.
I am bypassed. But as I watch the busy traffic pass I hold the slightest of smiles upon my lips
The future I can never know and yet I seem to understand this unknowable better than the present – better than reality
Dogs and Days are as Madmen under a strong sun
I will walk by the river stopping whenever possible to quench my thirst
I will never see the river’s end but carefully and with much concentration I shall fold a boat from strong paper and launch it into the river’s current
I am an optimist

New Beginnings
There is a rhythm in life. There is a natural rhythm – a vast collection of breaths; sea rising; sun pulsing; leaves dying – and there is the rhythm of Humankind
As we flow through time – squeezed by earthy banks into a fast coursing current or gently running over pebbles in a wide, white foamed stream – our rhythm will respond. Like a baby breathing in time with its mother – gently rising and falling on her soft flesh then, all being well, we will also breathe in harmony

Sometimes we push against the flow
Sometimes we find ourselves in a backwater
Sometimes we are drawn to an eddy – sucked in and down
Sometimes we are washed onto the crumbling earth of the river’s bank
Sometimes we sail proudly
Sometimes we swim through muddy water

Sometimes the river is dammed
Sometimes the river is polluted
Sometimes the river’s course is altered
Sometimes the river flows through banks of concrete
Sometimes the river cascades – water falling
Sometimes the river flows easily to the sea

What are we – but droplets in this current?

Part 1

For the Silent Place

There came a time when the world filled with people. And the people drove animals to extinction or into zoos or onto reserves. Only the rat flourished. And the insects. Industrious creatures both
The world teemed with people & rats & insects
The seas slowly died
Where then could I find silence?
Where then could I find peace?
Where then could I find my sound and silence within harmony?

As I took my foot from its boot it slipped snugly into your shoe
Where my breath ended – so yours began
We stood together in the wretched filth of our bodies
And the foul water of our flesh fed the drying seas
And still the world was filled
Movement ceased and noise gathered
This was the world I was born into, the world you created. Dropped into the gutter – many bodies falling like fleshy rain
Thanking our God for the rain falling from above – we turned our faces to His heaven and stuck out our tongues
O how the rain tastes even after falling from pregnant-dark clouds. Pitter-patter we squeal and squelch into the sewer. A sewer of beady eyed insects and nibbling rats
Where is the Silent Place?

Did you create this place?

Some of us hold hands and wipe each other’s brow
Some bite chunks of flesh and stamp out stomping ground
Some weep
Some cry out and up in vain

Rats and insects become food and currency for us teeming people. And we thought this so for all people. But there were some who could soar with the eagles or would range like the tigers of old.
Some who lived in houses ringed with barbs – not in flimsy huts or propped up by others or squatting down dreaming of fires and their distant warmth.

Brothers and Sisters – I am leaving your side and all our friends and enemies and I am going in search of silence and beauty.
Who will come with me? Who will come to find harmony and their place in the Universal Sound?

Those who wept as their bodies crushed together smiled suddenly and said to me, ‘Take us not with you Brother; we are needed here for the salt of our tears…for the salt of all our tears.’
To them I replied, ‘I will not force you to accompany me. How can beauty and peace and harmony be found through force? If you blow forcefully into a flute there is no beauty in its note. I offer you my company – for you to walk beside me. As notes gather in a chord.’
At this they backed off and closed in amongst themselves – squeezing the air from around their bodies so that not a hair separated them. Sound was sucked from their flesh.
‘Our labours keep the fires burning; the rats skinned and cooked. Who else would or could do this?’

Those who cried at the sulphurous sky, longing for rain to fall whispered to me: ‘Do not take us Brother for we too are needed here. We keep our ways and our people safe. Who else can pass swift messages or catch rain in their hair?’
I replied: ‘I will not turn your faces from the heavens but only guide you towards a simpler more silent place where the only noise is sweet music and where you neither need to cry your laments nor shout in desperation to Heaven.’
At this they turned from me and held their heads aloft – joining one and another with their thin fingers.

And then a voice from this multitude said: ‘I have stood so close to people for so long, these my Brothers and Sisters, I do not know if I can walk independently O Brother – and if I can walk – then how far.’
To this I replied: ‘You are both part of and separate from your Brothers and Sisters. Let your eyes seek the distant horizon – go on tip-toe – even though the throng is close you will see beyond. Where your eyes perceive the distance there your legs can carry you for first you must know where you are heading if not your destination. And if you say – “but my legs are weak, Brother” or “I have no legs to bear me Brother” then will not others without your desire or courage carry you? They will exalt your cause even if they have not the bravery to follow it. These Brothers and Sisters are heroic in their own way.’
And he replied, ‘I will look past and beyond you Brother and shall walk by your side.’

And then a Sister from the multitude said: ‘If we leave and follow you who will there be left to bear children? Who will nurture the young growing between the forests of limbs, in the wet at our feet?’
‘Not all will follow,’ I replied. ‘When we reach the quiet place then you can give birth in beautiful silence and peace.’
‘You spoke of beautiful music, Brother…’
‘The sound of a breeze through reeds and the gentle pulse of a drum. The soft tinkling of the stars.’
The Sister, bright-eyed, spoke again: ‘I must wait with my friends and loved ones for the world to change. For soon it will change. All will be well and we shall dance in ecstasy.’
I said, ‘Sister, I shall think of you when we arrive and keep a fire burning for you and your loved ones.’

A tall Brother – a head and shoulders above the multitude with eyes a piercing blue – was casting his gaze down upon his fellow folk.
I called to him to follow but he said: ‘I have all the peace and quiet I need. Around and below me I see trees swaying in the wind and the grass bending like a wave with the gentle breeze. The fragrances of flowers enrapture me.’
‘Look at me Brother,’ I said.
He, with his head bowed smiled slightly: ‘I both see you and feel you with me.’ He then raised his head and took a deep breath of air. ‘I can see to the farthest horizons of this world,’ he said.
To this I replied, ‘And can you see our destination, Brother?’
But he shook his head and a tear fell from an eye.

When the time came we departed from the great city of flesh – though our departure seemed never-ending. We appeared to travel constantly through the present, never leaving that – our – world at all. Some of the Brothers and Sisters melted once again into the hot flesh of their family and folk. But those who walked with me carried on resolutely.
My gaze was to the farthest point where the heavens made a fleck of blue sky – a celestial wink in the dark firmament. For I saw beyond my lofty brother who had learnt to grow so tall and who had great and beautiful inner visions.
For two days we travelled so.
On the third day something surprising happened.

As we walked through the great multitude we began to notice that the land under our feet was dry and firm and that every so often a Brother or Sister would be sitting down amongst the throng on a (well-crafted) chair in front of a table. We noticed that on these tables were sturdy piles of parchment (as old as our oldest memories) and by them quills held in slender vases with nearby wells of ink.
Had we forgotten that we teeming people were the heirs of language and literature?
In front of a Brother seated at a table I asked:
‘What is it Brother that you write so diligently sat amongst your Brothers and Sisters who standing together wait for the rain and also wait for the sun?’
This man seated replied:
‘You are at liberty to read what I have written Brother.’
But when I looked there was only a picture – a quite primitive sketch made by the quill and ink.
The Brother smiled at me. ‘We are givers of laws,’ he said. ‘We are at the forefront of this endless world. Can’t you see?’
As I stood by this Brother a Sister handed him food and drink. In her eyes she marvelled at the parchment and was filled with love for the Brother.

Gradually we saw more and more such Brothers and Sisters seated behind their tables.
After one day of walking and sleeping and eating the meat of rats and the crusts of insects (as we could find or were given) we were then startled by an even greater change.
There came a time when as we walked Brother behind Sister and Sister behind Brother all the folk of that unrolling land were seated. So that we passed a place where it was more unusual to see a folk standing than it had previously been to see a folk sitting.
On the desks of these Brothers and Sisters were placed boxes and on the front of these boxes were flickering lights. From behind these boxes serpents slithered and wound over the dusty earth. Lines like creepers from the days of forest and jungle shone and sparkled in the air. This was a curious place for us.
Before the flashing lights the Brothers and Sisters were held as if in a spell. Their countenance was of a kind of spell-bound trance but their fingers moved nervously.

‘O how long before we reach the place of quiet and peace?’ I was asked. But I hushed the questioner and went quietly up to a Sister sat motionless before a box. Turning back to the questioner I whispered, ‘What do you hear?’ For it was true that the sound of the multitude had receded into the background – like a swarm of distant insects. Nevertheless almost drowning my whisper was a great hum as if thousands upon thousands of crickets (that sometimes descended upon us) were swarming above.
The questioner smiled. As well he might.
‘But it is not quiet,’ I said, ‘and there is no peace – and there is no space for us here to sing and dance.’
‘Sing?’ said a Sister dancing.
‘Dance?’ sang a Brother.

Bending down to the Sister in front of the box I could see upon it writing and pictures. It was as if a brain had been opened and its mind spilt onto the surface of this box.
It was true.
We had heard of these things from long ago. All of us.
How curious that they should exist – or even be allowed to exist.
How curious that this device existed when our Brothers and Sisters scrambled for rat meat and insect crusts.
We had heard of these machines from long ago (so we thought) and of their flashing lights but we did not expect such orderly writing and images – both unreal and alien. My eyes tightened in concentration.
‘It is a spring from the godhead,’ she said. ‘All life can be viewed here.’
Our group of travellers gathered round. The machine hummed as if in prayer and we sprang back in reaction when words came from it. I looked around and heard all the boxes chattering as if a flock of gulls had descended to roost.
‘Can wisdom be found in its spirit?’ I asked.
‘All can be found,’ said the Sister.
I asked, ‘Then,’ thinking carefully and mindfully, ‘can it tell us what love is?’
‘It can show you love,’ said the Sister.
‘Then it cannot be wise as you say,’ I replied, ‘and cannot therefore spring from God.’
‘Are not all things and all knowledge sprung from God?’ asked the Sister
‘Only the hidden things,’ I replied, ‘as God is hidden and mysterious.’
‘God is no longer a mystery,’ she smiled.
‘Then God is no longer God,’ I said.
‘God cannot be “no longer”,’ she said.
‘Then God is certainly elsewhere,’ I replied.
The Sister hunched before the box. All the Sisters and Brothers sat so. Were they at prayer?
Then they all sang:
We are happy
We are wiser
We are growing one and all
We are unity
We are family
We are children from before the fall

‘Will any of you leave your machines and join us?’ I asked smiling.
But none came.

As we left the children of this multi-God a Brother asked me:
‘Will you explain wisdom to us Brother?’
I replied:
‘Wisdom is to know The Uncertainties of the Soul; to know that some and not all can and will be revealed. Journey is mystery.’
And I reflected upon the place and people we had left. ‘We each sit and watch the world through a window. And we know that we cannot see more but also that there are as many windows as grains of sand. These melt to create the clear glass of God. As God sees All, so we see our own grain. But even with a billion grains of sand we cannot see God’s form. A wise man understands his limitations.’

Another Brother wished to question me of the nature of God and Heaven – even though I had no knowledge of these things – for I knew my limitations. But as he asked so I allowed myself to meditate and was drawn to give him the answers I did.
‘My wife is dead Brother, many years gone; will we know each other when we meet in Heaven?’
I replied: ‘Heaven is without time – there is no movement in Heaven but for the Spirit and the Spirit we all share has no substance – none that can be found on earth except for that spark we each carry. The spark of spirit that is our soul has no earthly substance yet it can be carried within our earthly body. It is this spark, this point of light, this ocean drop that will soar to Heaven. You will join with your wife in Heaven and know her through this joining but you will also know all other sparks, other points of light and other drops in the Great Ocean..’
‘Forgive me Brother,’ he said, ‘but what is it that I will know of my wife – will I be able to kiss her tenderly after all these long years apart – will those who have lost children be able to hug them again and enfold them in a protective embrace?’
I replied: ‘These things will not be so Brother. There will be no need. In joining your wife or in apparent rejoining their son or daughter all will be healed and perfect – as God is perfect. There will be no division. There cannot be a kiss Brother for nothing of the flesh shall survive…’
He answered quickly: ‘But we show our love through our bodies…’
I replied equally as quickly: ‘Our love Brother, but not the love to be found in Heaven. If there is a kiss there is a hurt and if there is food to be enjoyed then there is waste to be defecated and if there is earthly love and the bonding of a man and woman then there is no children and only the withering of that flesh. Flesh is of this world as is the flesh of rat; in Heaven a kiss or the taste of fruit – yes Brother, a taste we all long to experience in this barren world – or that self-less love for a child – none of this will be found in Heaven. Heaven will be beyond our pitiful love, beyond the pleasure of our pitiful senses and even greater than the self-less love and sacrifice for a parent to their child. Your wife is beyond you as you – when you die – will be beyond your family and friends. And this will cause you no grieving but only joy in joining with the other sparks of light into the Great Illumination and other points of light into the Great Illumination and other drops of the ocean into the Great Ocean that reflects and is part of the Great Illumination. Light, Fire and Air exist within this Great Illumination as we transcend from our earthly state.’
He asked, ‘But will we know ourselves Brother? Will we know ourselves if we have no body? No desires? No feeling?’
I replied: ‘You will both know your spark, your point, your drop of ocean and you will not know the cares and experience of the world. Your earthly life will fade almost in an instant because you will wish it so. You will know the destiny of all souls even those who will live the cruellest of lives upon this teeming world. When you are joined in this timeless state you will barely understand what it is to feel desires – you will not understand a finite life in a cumbersome body as you did not understand timelessness when you dwelt on earth.’
He asked with great passion, ‘Then why I am I on this earth with its teeming people, with a short unhappy lifespan if all our destiny is to be joined as one?’
‘It is to show you that God exists. Once in Heaven you will know everything and need to know nothing. You will become part of God and therefore not know that you were separated. This is a trace of our soul that is never extinguished from our earthly time. Even the child that dies in the womb knows it is separated from God. Then it can return.’
He said plaintively, ‘But why? Why give us this pain when we could have existed for all time in timelessness?’
I replied: ‘Listen to your words Brother, how can you, live for all time in timelessness? We have to be born into time to know the horror of its finiteness – and the restriction of the flesh.’
He said boldly: ‘Why? Why not be and remain in timelessness?’
I replied, ‘Because we are all both unique and a part of the great whole – we are the spark in the fire, the point of light in the ray of sunshine and the droplet in the ocean – we have had to be born into flesh and time to know that we are a part of but not exterminated by the Great Illumination.’
The Brother walked away and back towards the teeming life from where we had travelled. I was sad that my words had not comforted him.
I thought.

A Sister called after us:
‘You search for peace and quiet?’ Her tone was rushed and pleading.
I said, ‘Yes Sister.’
She said, ‘What you are searching for is God’s presence.’
I said, ‘God?’ in a surprised tone.
She said, ‘’God is peace and stillness.’
I said, ‘Then I shall find Him.’
She said, ‘He is here, Brother.’
I said, ‘Here?’
She said, ‘Indeed Brother we find God in peace and stillness.’
I said, ‘There is neither peace nor stillness here.’
She said, ‘You must find these things within yourself.’
I said, ‘You are a noble being Sister but God cannot be found here. God has deserted this place if He were ever here.’
She laughed and I laughed.
She said, ‘Has God deserted us too?’
I said, ‘God has to be found. Living the life you lead in a place that is Godless – it will be difficult for Him to be found.’
‘But not impossible.’
I smiled. Was I in search of God or place where we could renew the Garden. In the seeds that we planted in our new land – would there also be the seed of the Fall? Would Brother turn against Brother and would Brother take a Sister to refill emptiness in God’s image?
‘Will you come with us Sister?’ I asked.
She replied, ‘I have no need,’ and returned in and amongst the cooling heat of humanity.

I considered. If we are to find the world that fits well with us – is it for ever over a distant horizon or in the planet dwelling skies? Must we confront difference and surmount conflict or take our difference and integrity to an isolated place? Doubt fell upon me as I cast my eyes upon the band of Brothers and Sisters who followed.

Farther on some Brothers and Sisters were gathered round a man stood proudly on a large rock. We heard cries lifting from the crowd. I walked towards them and as I did I had to step carefully over bodies lying in oozing mud. As I reached the crowd I heard:
‘We hate this man. We hate this man.’ They cried bitterly and as one. Some swore at him and some spat. His crime must have been heinous.
The man, standing above them on the large rock, said:
‘We must learn to live with one another in harmony.’
They cried, ‘We are not a Mass, a Flock to be driven or a Herd to be corralled.’ Then with much love and passion they spoke unanimously, ‘We hate you and we hate all you say.’
The man said, ‘I love this land, this stone that I stand upon.’
They cried, ‘We shall urinate at your feet until your land is despoiled.’
The man said, ‘And I love the land you stand upon.’
They cried and they howled and fouled the land at their feet.
I was surprised by the passion of their venom. Both shocked by and curious about them. Gently I turned the attention of a Sister to me. Without shame she had squatted down close to where I stood. Anger burnt powerfully and brightly in her eyes.
‘What is this man to you?’ I began, ‘that you revile him so?’
She said, ‘He is a hater of others.’
I said, ‘A hater?’
She said, ‘Listen to him speak.’
I said, ‘But he speaks of harmony.’
She laughed. ‘Are you to be hated too Brother?’
‘What does it take for me to be hated?’ I asked.
She eyed me suspiciously. ‘What do you speak of?’ she asked.
‘I speak of what I find within me,’ I said. ‘But I am not here to speak but rather to show.’
‘Do you challenge us Brother?’
‘What should I challenge? I speak my mind when it is wise to do so.’
This Sister turned to some of her folk close by.
‘Why are you so filled with hate?’ I asked.
‘Hate?’ she laughed, ‘why we are filled with Love Brother.’
The Brothers and Sisters gathered round the rock had fallen silent. I called up to the man who stood so resolutely. ‘Will you join us Brother? We are travelling to a place of peace, quiet and beauty.’
‘I cannot,’ this man replied.
‘Why?’
‘Because I am needed,’ he said.
‘You are unjustly hated,’ I said.
‘And that is my need,’ he said. ‘You speak of justice Brother but I serve justice here upon this rock.’
‘And how do you serve?’ I asked.
‘I am a siphon for their anger. I am a siphon for the injustices they face every day of their lives. And every day they scorn my words and they hear them too. And one day they will live in peace, quiet and beauty right here. For all their hatred will have been dissipated.’
‘Who gave you authority to be such a siphon?’ I asked.
‘I did,’ said the man.
‘And who feeds you and quenches your thirst?’ I said.
‘They do,’ said the man.
I looked at the Brothers and Sisters gathered round the rock with the man standing there so. Suddenly the quiet that had descended lifted and was filled with spits and sneers and shouts and foul language. Their attention was turned from me. I lifted my eyes once more to the man on the rock. He looked down at me and smiled.

We came to a place by the sea where people ate fruit. They ate meat from rats and crumbs from insects and they ate the soft flesh of fruit – though I could not see a tree. I sat with my back to a great grey rock both jagged and smooth. Easily I found a comfortable position and both watched and listened to the sea. Some Brothers and Sisters scavenged along the sea’s side – their movements furtive and apprehensive.

Before long my outward eyes closed and the eternal rhythmic sound of the sea lulled me into a day dream. And I saw in this dream:
A town from our memories. A town with golden cupolas and searching spires. A young girl was skipping down a pavement bordering a large cobbled square. In the middle of this square a fountain sprinkled water and around this laid out in a circle were beds of multi-coloured flowers.
The girl was alone and excited – she received disinterested smiles from passing strangers. Arcades flanked the square on all its sides and were decorated with a profusion of hanging baskets.
Into my dream came a dark voice. Not altogether an unpleasant voice but deep and resonant – with something of an inquiring manner; too confidential perhaps; smooth on first hearing but with a bitter aftertaste.
The voice said:
What is it that makes these people, these strangers smile?
Is it fear?
Poison can be carried in the most beautiful of packages – striking colours and shapes; if it wishes so.
I am observing your dream with interest but I am suspicious that this vision is built on the hard rock of Oppression.

I did not answer the dark voice but rather let the un-(sub)conscious day dream unveil itself with the honesty and integrity of a young bride. I felt no conscious interplay with my dream – simply I was the onlooker, or –in-looker.
A boy ran across the cobbles of the Great Square and its smooth stone pathways. Cheekily and yet gingerly he stepped through the circular flowerbed and into the pool where water from the fountain gently wetted his skin and clothes.
(All through this dream my sub-conscious mind must have been in awe at the images it created. For I dreamt of both the past and the future of what was and what might be and what might have been. Traces of the past still existed in our world and there were those who seeded our minds with forbidden treasures. In our world I hungered after more than rat meat and was more industrious then the creeping beetles when it came to grubbing out footnotes from the past. And yet also there were in my mind visions that could not have root anywhere or from anytime – unless that place be a parallel place and the time be from the future. But I had to be careful at all times. I was in some way no different from my fellow Brothers and Sisters and yet in other ways I dwelt in the land of chimera and spirit.)
Nimbly the boy climbed the statue from where the water spouted. The statue was that of a man with a wide smile and laughing eyes. The people of the town had built this statue of him in honour of his unflinching and determined struggle to bring democracy to them.
The dark voice spoke from its dark interior:
The boy insults the spirit of the statue. You see, the young have no care for their ancestors or for the world they have inherited.

The boy climbed to the statue’s bare head. He flung his arms around the head as he would his beloved grandfather. Then, balancing himself he cast his eyes beyond the town’s squares and the surrounding houses. Around the town, hills undulated peacefully – lush green with pockets of deciduous trees. Animals grazed and crops grew. The boy’s eyes traced a buzzard’s movement across the sky and in the distance a majestic gigantic aircraft sailed noiselessly.
The voice coughed in a smirk, sharpening its edges:

A sweet voice called to me. Turning in its direction I saw a child – a girl – with a heart-shaped face and with wild blonde licks of hair framing it. The child said: ‘I have many questions to ask you sir.’ I said: ‘Then ask me your questions child and I shall listen and answer as honestly as I can.’
But before she could answer a butterfly caught her attention and laughing gleefully she chased it, uttering cries of pleasure and excitement. Eventually the butterfly rose into the air and escaped her grasping hands.

By Tim Bragg
Tim Bragg is the author (amongst many books) of ‘Lyrics to Live By – Keys to Self-Help; Notes for a Better Life’ available from Amazon

Picture courtesy of Elaine Bampton

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: