Shining light into dark places

I’m often asked why I write about the darker side of life and why I don’t like happy endings. I haven’t really got an answer to that except I write about what I know.

I’ve tried the NLP route of positive thought, of changing neural responses to negative memories and thoughts, but it doesn’t work for me. I cannot go through this life denying to myself and others that all is right with me or this world. Poverty, corruption, abuse, torture, self-desrtuction and lots more happen and if I want to be fully awake and aware in this lifetime, to make informed decisions, to help others, then I need to embrace the darkness, listen to news reports and get involved.

There is a prose poem by Oriah Mountain Dreamer called The Invitation, which was written in response to some conversations around a dinner table. One of the stanzas reads:

I want to know if you can see beauty, even if it’s not pretty,

every day, and if you can source your own life from its presence.”

This, to me, is what positive thought is about; it’s about embracing what is, the bad and the good, and using it to source and enrich your life. It’s not just about eliminating negative people and thoughts from your life, although that, too, has its place.

Of course there’s a lot more to NLP than my version above, but it is used by some people in a very resticted way where they refuse to watch the news, read papers, books or poetry unless they contain heart-warming/uplifting messages. But where is the meat of life in that? Where is the rolling up of sleeves and getting dirty, growing your own vegetables and harvesting them covered in soil with deformities, slugs and other beasties attached? Does everything today have to be perfectly symmetrical, carefully sanitized and wrapped in polythene packaging to keep from offending our sensitivities? What a shallow lot we are.

In comparison with all the ages gone before we have never been so well off. Yes, we’re living in a recession and yes, there is real poverty in Britain with rising prices and cuts in benefits. However, we’re still faring a lot better than in some other countries that don’t even have benefits, an NHS, pensions, clean running water, free education or free school meals.

While I was in LA waiting for a bus a band of three cleaners who swept the streets approached the bus stop. One was an old woman who flicked a bit with her brush and left a lot of rubbish behind. Another was a younger woman who worked further along doing the same. The third member of this group was a young lad, probably still only in his mid-teens, who meticulously cleaned up all the cigarette ends and rubbish the other two left behind. His attitude seemed to be that you can take pride in anything you do and do a good job, so I thanked him for the work he was doing and said I hoped that his employers realized what a good employee they had. His little face beamed and if I had a few grand spare I’d have paid for him to go to college. He may have literally been in the gutter but his attitude was inspiring.

There is beauty and honesty and goodness everywhere in the world but unless we can engage with it at every level then a lot will go unnoticed and we as individuals and as a society will be diminished.

However, to end on a positive note I leave you with the following poem. I wrote it for a literary festival earlier in the year in Gatehouse of Fleet where I was one of several ‘poetry guerillas’ who accosted unsuspecting members of the public and read poems to them.


The pooling of the moon wanes

and long-heaving arc of night disappears.

Light rides the back of curling winds,

burden of tomorrow coiled tight in the air.


Fingers of dawn reach out to me,

pluck loose the hairpins of sleep,

stroking my face with the promise of day,

the chill kiss of morning on my cheek.

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