Monday, March 3, 2008


It's wise to be sceptical about the thoughts, images, memories and ideas served up by the mind, but also to be respectful of intuitions, neither grasping at them nor thrusting them away.

It's in this spirit that I offer this reflection, which may or not 'mean' anything, but I feel I want to share/record.

Last night or rather this morning I woke from an odd dream. Many of my dreams (or those I recall on waking) have something derived my my nursing and teaching roles, and this dream - although the detail eludes me - had me in some sort of teaching role with a young person, a woman I think. She was resisting my lesson, not mockingly but almost so, and I was aware in the dream of my whole 'lesson-plan' sliding away in the face of her complete scepticism of my message. I can't remember what I was trying to put across, only that she insisted that "It isn't like that at all! Every atom of you has been used before, over and over and over again". I woke with this idea, or more an awareness, that my substantiality, my integrity, my solid sense of who I am was just an idea, a sort of mental crystallisation of a swirling process of change. This quite intense feeling was very short-lived, although something of it persisted all day, and it became translated into a kind of abstract toying with the idea of "old atoms" being recycled in my body, of nothing being new or permanent, of 'karma' and so on.

There was a very strong sense that this dream, and the ideas it gave rise to, were somehow the result of my time with Waveney Miller. All last evening and as I prepared for bed, my mind was drawn back to images of her, a felt sense of her presence.

Waveney and I often listened to Ray Wills talking in the basement room at Friends' House, St Martin's Lane. Ray was a great one for recycling stories from his childhood, and one of his favourites (and mine) was the story of how his father bought him a set (I think 15 volumes) of 'The Great Childrens' Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Knowledge' on the "never-never" from a travelling salesman who called at the front door. My own parents did the same for me, although I was probably too small to read them in 1939 when they were published. Many years after my own father died I was preparing for a part-time degree and those Encyclopaedias, and my fathers bestowal of them on me as a little boy, came to mind; I was overcome with grief and gratitude and sat weeping at my desk, to the consternation and wonder of my family who came to watch!

Ray told of his exceeding wonder at the pictures of a spiral galaxy in the Encyclopaedia, and an account of how stars were formed at the moment the universe emerged. Even as a child (perhaps the "even" is superfluous and misleading) he knew, he said, that he was himself "Star- Stuff", formed of the same material as the galaxies, part of the same celestial song. I remember the awe in his voice as he repeated the words, "Star-Stuff!" then a man in his seventies, but transported back to that moment of childish wonder and of realisation: "Star-Stuff!", and so we are.

The image of a spiral galaxy (M100) was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1994. The spiral galaxy is an estimated distance of several tens of millions of lights years distance from Earth.

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