Nine Years of Love

Nine of HeartsNine years ago today, our son was born. Three days later, he died in my arms.

Reflecting on my life as it is now, it is hard to imagine being the father of a nine-year-old boy. Yet it is equally hard to imagine my life without this experience of both loving and letting him go.

Two important men in my life passed away recently. My maternal grandfather showed his love for his family by working hard to lift us up from his agrarian pioneer roots in New Mexico to establish a more prosperous and secure lifestyle for his descendants. My dear spiritual teacher John-Roger dedicated his life to loving and uplifting others, and attracted a like-minded community of people dedicated to using everything in their life to learn and grow.

As much as my own parents gave to me from the depths of their hearts, it is also this greater “village” that helped to raise me into who I am. The hallmarks of this form of parenting were unconditional love and selfless service.

Nine years on, it is not so much the grief at letting go of the opportunity to parent my own son, as it is this great impulse of love, and a desire to pass forward all I have been given in my own life, that remains strong with me. I look to that greater “village” for examples of how to love and serve within this lineage.
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Demonstrating Faith in Humanity

What a day it has been. I woke up to the news that my beloved spiritual teacher and friend since childhood, John-Roger, passed away in the early hours at the age of eighty. If there is one thing he taught me, it is to keep doing good, no matter what.

Tonight my sister-in-law and our much-loved little nephew are boarding a plane back to Australia. For whatever I may have been able to impart to him in our two weeks together, he has certainly taught me much more.

In a short while, I will be carrying on with some of the good work I have found to do in the circumstances of my current life, by helping to produce a free, live online poetry broadcast. The show, after all, must go on. It is my way of reaffirming that the world is a small place, and that you and I are not so different after all.

I submitted the following article to Huffington Post Books yesterday, and it has come back to me today with all of these new resonances.

How Bedtime Stories Restored My Faith in Humanity

I never thought a slim paperback of children’s poems, packed with silly illustrations, sing-song rhymes, and bottom humour would restore my faith that printed books will endure. I had rather hoped for the seminal work of some brilliant, tortured Nobel laureate. But those precious few evening moments, while my nephew squirmed beside me in his bed, protesting against obvious sleepiness, confirmed that ours was a shared experience no touch-screen device would soon encroach upon.

Don’t get me wrong  —  he loves phones and pods and pads of every sort and, like me as a boy, becomes easily engrossed in the challenge of video games. The sense of individual progress, developing skill, and the spectacular multimedia rewards at the end of each level of “accomplishment” are tough for paper and ink to compete with by day. Yet when it comes time to switch gears from wakefulness to dreaming, the last thing he needs or even wants is a glowing glass slate crackling with sensory input.

Instead, we share stories and rhymes about creatures who slither and fart. We laugh. He points at the illustrations. As soon the poem chimes to an end, he asks for another. I begin to read more slowly.

We inhabit the sound of my voice together, a conduit between or two private experiences of the tale being told. As we draw further into ourselves, and into the music of language, we draw closer together. His breathing slows as he slips away fully into his own world, and I creep away, book in hand.

It could only really happen with a book  —  that portable, flimsy, shock-proof, battery-less, recyclable, spill-resistant, organic launch pad into ourselves. In fact, the more his generation inhabits the realm of flickering data on glowing blue screens, the more necessary the interior experience of a good book may become. Studies have shown that such screens promote a kind of restless insomnia, and even passively-lit pads like the Kindle still click my brain into the skim-and-scan gear I whizz through online. So, when it is time to stop surfing for sensory input, and reconnect with myself, I want paper and ink.

Books bring us back to our own imagination (after all, how many times has the movie of your favourite book disappointed you?), to the innermost experience of a tale being told, and to the music of the spoken word. The love of a good book is conveyed first and foremost as an act of love. And really, who doesn’t still love to be read to, at any age?

Traditions endure and outlast technological “disruption” when they tap into what makes us essentially human. There is nothing quite like reading a bedtime story from a printed book. For this reason alone, I have hope that the next generation, for all the amazing discoveries they will make though high technology, will still share some of their most intimate moments, and profound personal revelations, curled up with an old-fashioned book.

Thoughts? Remarks? Visit the article on Huffington Post.