Introducing…

wood-nature-sunny-forestMy dad is a cool guy. He ‘retired’ super young so that he could follow his passion of writing. He’s since written a whole heap of books that have been for him, not for his audience. He’s not famous, he’s not rich (in money), and he’s not aspiring to be something other than exactly who he is. His one goal in life is to plant a wood. That’s pretty cool, don’t you think?

And why am I telling you about my pa? Well, he writes articles for the (not so popular) magazine called Down Your Way – a Yorkshire read, normally full of boring tat. And his latest article is awesome. You can’t read it if you don’t happen upon the mag, and he doesn’t have a blog (yet), so I thought I’d share my pop’s words with you guys. He’s probably my biggest inspiration in life, and I hope you, too, manage to get some inspo from his words. Take it away dad!

DOWN YOUR WAY – NOVEMBER 2016

MARKHAM’S MILESTONES

THE KING IS IN THE ALTOGETHER

I’ve just celebrated my 70th birthday, knowing, with absolute certainty, that I’m one of the most fortunate human beings ever to have lived. I gaze back along the timeless corridor to infinity, realising that the vast majority of my fellow men never got to blow out forest-fires of candles, having perished prematurely as a consequence of overwork, disease, accidents natural disasters and the scourge of conflict and war. It’s sobering to reflect on the statistics. The inhabitants of Bronze and Iron Age Europe had a life expectancy of just 26 years. By the late Medieval Period that number had risen to 30 but even in 1900 the average world mortality figure was only 31. Extra years, of course, are nothing without quality. And what quality!

Today, we live like kings in centrally heated homes with inside toilets, feather beds and every conceivable device invented for our convenience and pleasure. Just walk down the aisles of any supermarket and you may buy products that were once the preserve of the privileged few. A century ago, teams of gardeners on the big estates would spend months raising hothouse pineapples as centrepieces for the Christmas tables in Castle Howard and Harewood House. Today, you can purchase such fresh fruit for less than the price of a newspaper. I’m told that the first time my older sister saw a banana during the war she tossed it onto the fire thinking it was a piece of wood. What would she now make of figs, kumquats, papaya, lychees and passion fruit? We live in a world dominated by the sensual but we are increasingly senseless, over-indulging on food and mass media stimulation, forsaking natural exercise and contemplating the human navel with all it inventions and absurdities as though we were the only entities in the universe. When the sun goes down … look up!

When you get to my age, you hope to be able to pass on some life skill insights to family and friends … so here goes. For most of my life I’ve been shy and reticent but as a newly graduated septuagenarian I now throw off the shackles of inhibition to extol some personal heartfelt truths unconcerned at the risks of sounding a trifle unconventional or cuckoo. Cuckoo! Cuckoo!

The king is in the all-together. Most everything we believe about this world including our own identities is a daydream. We are not our names, our qualifications or our achievements. The rose exists without nomenclature or classification, the universal intelligence that gives it shape, colour and perfume being the same motive force that gives us breath. We try feebly to identify component parts whether it be in the atomic nucleus or in the galaxies beyond, little realising that everything is connected to everything else, each component of this matrix striving to perfection in the intricate shape of a leaf or in the earthly orbit round the sun. We should, I believe, live our lives in this knowledge, striving to ensure that all our achievements enrich the source and echo in eternity.

Modernity is dominated by the cult of self and yet, no matter how hard our youngsters try to compete, to accomplish and emulate, there exists a spiritual void, the demise of conventional religion exposing the yearning to find deeper truths and meaning. Such treasures lie not in wearing the latest fashions or having more internet friends than anyone else but in the realisation that the ego needs to be shed substituting the courtiers description, ‘isn’t it grand, isn’t it fine, look at the cut, the style, the line’ for the little peasant boy’s admission ‘he’s all together as the naked as the day he was born.’ You’ll find such anonymity and freedom by shaking off the shackles of personality. Try suspending thoughts and opening every pore to possibilities. Concentrate on nothing and see everything. Relish and savour each moment, recognise beauty and harmonise and synchronise with all creation seeing the intricacies of the universe in a grain of sand.

When the grass grows, I’m reminded of the fragility of human life, one of my weekly volunteer tasks being to mow between the tombstones in the local churchyard. If I cut diligently for the next decade I’ve been promised a free plot! That aside, the desire for remembrance is there for all to see. Humans need milestones to mark their passing but even the toughest most weather resilient stones crack and crumble, the faded carved epitaphs of kings or prime ministers dissolving in the rain. Ultimately, the church itself, the very village and the whole of Yorkshire and the entire planet will vanish to be pulverised and reconstituted in the cosmic crucible in a timeless cycle of which we are all apart. So, when you go (but not yet … not yet!) leave something more important than even the grandest mausoleum, topping-up the rocket fuel that fires the entire universe. Leave only love.

Len Markham

I hope you have an awesome dad like mine. Over and out for now.

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