The Stranger Within

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Steps in the rocks leading to mountain top


February 2023

Written for The Alpine Fellowship Writing Prize

At this time in our world there is a sense of imbalance, of lost riches far from anything material that should be a part of our world and our lives. The wall of noise, the urge for speed, the aggression of the self, and fear that can repress the heart and mind from a young age are not helpful bedfellows for how we might want to be and what we might want to achieve in life.

Is it any wonder then that to flourish in today's world is very likely to be difficult and challenging, so finding an inner strength to meet those challenges would then seem not only necessary in order to survive today, but rewarding and worthwhile because of the opportunity to learn. To arrive at a point in life where we flourish is surely the end result of a certain endeavour and experience leading to a refinement in our thinking and our behaviour; but I would question the likelihood that all might flourish even if there was more balance because is that achievable in all cases and is it really important in the grand scheme of things? If we endeavour and learn but perhaps do not reach a place where we flourish is there not still some worth in this exercise? Any experience in life will no doubt include times of what we might call suffering but I believe there is a balance where joy and achievement can be a part of any life; all of this a rich source of nourishment for the soul that might give us a better understanding and acceptance of our structure and purpose.

We should all feel valued and understand we have a value, otherwise why are we here? Of course, not everyone is valued at this time, and is this a worthy aim for us all to change our thinking in order to bring back some sanity to humanity and enable all people at least the chance to flourish? I think it is, but this is unlikely to happen, I believe, unless we first get to know ourselves and value ourselves truthfully. It is very evident, however, that one aspect of our current world is that truth does not appear to be valued. Is this at the heart of the imbalance and the suffering? If truth were valued the world would surely be a healthier place? With truth there would be trust, and with trust the world could have a better chance of moving forward in a positive way; if we were being true to ourselves then this frees us up, surely, to look at and think about the bigger picture. For example, looking at nature in a more generous way and understanding the suffering that it faces in such a deep and profound way largely, I would suggest, because of people's greed. Our animals, too, should be better appreciated and respected: why are they here? Do they have things to teach us?

Truth, I would suggest, is light as a feather because with truth we can release a burden from our shoulders, we can free ourself from guilt, regret and negative thinking, we can ease any anxiety and stress, because if truth is acknowledged and understanding realised from this focus, we might feel a certain inner strength and acceptance, as well as some peace from within us. And is this perhaps what we are all searching for deep down?

If we looked upon all of life in a healthier way, because we are perhaps starting to feel healthier through the truth and understanding we have uncovered in ourselves, then our actions and behaviour would surely be healthier and help to bring back some balance to our lives and to our world. Perhaps, in doing this, we would be more sensitive and generous towards other people and have more acceptance that they, too, have their work cut out and their purpose to fulfil; perhaps we would be more sensitive to what nature can give us – not in a way of taking without giving something back, but in how we can use the natural energies that I believe are all around us for the benefit of all people: in the sea and inland water, in the ground, in stone and in trees, amongst other things. So, perhaps if we want to live in a healthier world, we not only have to look to ourselves first and foremost, but from this we can look at others and our natural world with fresh eyes and see their suffering more clearly. We see how we can all benefit if we work together for richer purpose. In other words, without greed, without cruelty, without falsehood, without jealousy, amongst other flaws we may have and which in looking at ourselves in truth we can diminish their impact and round off any sharp corners we find.

Nature is such a good teacher and I would suggest that nature needs to be more a part of a child's early education. If children were allowed the time and space to explore the world around them, to get to know themselves slowly through interaction with nature and animals, their friends and family, then would we not have better adjusted children with the confidence to know something about themselves and ready to stand up for themselves with strength? This would cut out many of the current problems early in their lives such as bullying and pressure to be something they are not, or to do something they would rather not do; and in later life, if a solid foundation is established, surely this truth can only feed the knowledge of who they are, what they are interested in, and what they would like to do with their lives, whether this is academic study or following some other interest and route to fulfil this desire. Because everyone, I believe, has a purpose and if this solid foundation and belief were understood by all children and young adults then would we not have a world that flourishes with individuals who have the chance to do likewise? After all, we never stop learning in life do we? So, why the hurry to impose our current priorities on such young minds because if we let them take their time, allow them to choose would not this be a healthier place to be?

But we have to ask the question: to get to this world that flourishes and allows everyone the opportunity to perhaps flourish, how much change to our priorities and thinking is required, and do we have it within us all to make such changes? With truth, I believe, yes. But to get to that truth do we have to suffer first? Yes, I think so. Because as we may all have experienced at some point, it is often the mistakes we make in life that give us the deeper and more profound lessons and brings some refinement – providing we are being truthful with ourselves. We are not here, I believe, to get everything right because what would be the point of that, but making mistakes, going down a path that may turn out disastrous, can only enrich the understanding of ourselves and enable much to be learnt if we have the strength to accept what we have experienced or gone through. And perhaps we are being shown the 'error of our ways' collectively right now when we see the devastation of environments through the pollution and poisoning of our air, water, earth, animals and wildlife and, most important of all, our thinking and behaviour which I would say is at the root of this imbalance and chaos. This is no way to flourish. Have we reached a point when more of us would acknowledge that something is very wrong, that our world is sick and so are we in more ways than one?

If it is true that our thinking and our behaviour have caused the right conditions for this imbalance then if we carry on like this will our world survive? There is, I believe, reason and purpose in all things; and learning is a noble outcome. At this time, we can see many thinking people trying to raise their concerns in many areas of life. Our news headlines make grim reading. We can feel for these people trying to raise awareness and maybe we are doing our bit too in whatever way we can because teaching by example is a powerful method. But are we now seeing, more and more, our natural world fight back because of the conditions we have laid out for it? The continuous news coverage of climate high temperature and the resultant wildfires, earthquakes, flooding, storms of every kind, and disease within our soil, water, air, animals and wildlife, and within our own minds and bodies, are telling us a story that is hard to watch and listen to. And then we have to look at people's behaviour which often illustrates an imbalance and instability with resultant, horrifying consequences. Is this the big picture which is demonstrating the root cause of our own actions over time? There is little long term good effect if we simply tackle the symptoms of a problem. So, again, if we were stronger within ourselves, we would surely have the tools to change behaviour and thus the conditions around us; but do we have it within us all, or the majority, to make the changes that are necessary or will we be forced to change and adapt because of the natural world's response? Have we become so 'puffed up' to think that we are in charge and can control our future with minimal impact on our current way of living? Nature is perhaps saying otherwise. It is the law of balance that I believe needs to be in place, the Natural Law, and nature is responding in the way we are seeing on almost a daily basis. So, if we want to survive as a human race do we have to change?

Change is constant and happens to all of us every day, so I believe it is within our abilities to change, but having the inner strength that comes from truth and other endeavours must surely help us to be positive and resilient, qualities I would suggest are important at such a time. Without these we may allow fear to take hold and restrict our thinking and actions. Why are we fearful? Is it a lack of acceptance of ourselves and the reality of the vision around us? Do we hope that others will sort things out? But are we not all responsible to some extent? If we allow fear to take hold when thinking about changes to our lives will this not repress positive thought and action?

I think this is where community plays an important role, because whether this is within a family, family and friends, or within a larger community, coming together to share concerns and to make changes helps us go forward in a positive way. 'No man is an island' is certainly a truism I believe, and there is nothing weak or irresponsible in asking for help, in sharing concerns, in thinking and talking about solutions so that as a group there is a healthier environment, outlook and purpose and as an individual we can still retain some responsibility and purpose. And if we have looked at ourselves, got to know ourselves well in truth, then we will understand that other people will have their own strengths and weaknesses, and that coming together people can pool their inner resources and skills to make a flourishing whole.

These times are difficult to live in and we have made life complicated with burdens of many kinds. But if we find the strength and courage to address the facts within us and around us in truth, learn from this and adapt and make changes as necessary, then this is the best example and the best help we can be. This is a gift we can all give to one another so that not only will we have the chance to flourish ourselves but we may help others we touch to also have this chance. We will still have tests and challenges, joys and achievements, but in a more balanced environment that is healthy, more peaceful and ultimately deeply enriching.