Stumble Upon Magic

10458336_10202568724120980_6163361980077670887_n

We all have a place where we find magic. It might not always be in a place that makes sense, it may creep up on you, it may only reveal itself to you in its absence – but we’ve all found it.

I’ve found magic on my travels this summer. In the people I have fallen in love with, the places I have discovered, and the challenges I have overcome, something everlasting and pure and fizzy has bubbled under the surface of the everyday. I felt it in the air last night: in the brightness of fairy lights as they hung from trees, and in the furry skins of stuffed toy animals. I piled my bags into the taxi on my way to finding home, and I met a man who held a very different kind of magic.

The driver had a thick tongue that caught on the roof of his mouth as he spoke, and a lawn of midnight black hair wrapped around his lower skull. He gripped the steering wheel with an attentive hold, and would anxiously glance back to make sure I was comfortable, pointing out bottles of water and offering me gum.

Soon he began telling me stories about his past as a musician, his qualifications from Trinity College in England, his passion for the drums.

‘But I don’t play for the world anymore. I play for Jesus. I play for him.’

I am not a religious person. I don’t know if my faith would have a label, but if it did, it wouldn’t be Christian. I wouldn’t name a being called Jesus. I wouldn’t clasp my hands over rosary beads and mutter to the heavens.

But I am in awe of the faith that resides in those that do all of those things.

I asked this man why he stopped playing for the world, asked him why the world doesn’t deserve his music any more.

‘Ten years ago, my life did a 180. I was a bad man, doing bad things. I drank too much alcohol, and I smoked – oh I smoked 80 cigarettes a day. Soon, everyone hated me. My wife, my children… they only stayed because I had money.

Then one day, during a rehearsal, I fell down with a heart-attack. For two days I lay in a coma, and while I was unconscious I had a vision. It was Jesus. He came to me and said ‘I want you. Come to me.’ When I woke up, I told my doctors and my family. My wife was always religious and she cried on my face. They ran tests and found no nicotine in my blood, no alcohol. I don’t care what scientists call it, I call that a miracle. Jesus brought me back and gave me new blood.

‘Every day since, I play in the Church. I serve. I don’t play for the world any more, but I do serve it. I make sure people like you get home safe at night, and I play them my music, and I tell them about God.’

So it was at midnight last night that I found a new blossom of magic on the freeway to home. I saw this man and I felt that buzzing feeling when he spoke. Something extraordinary was thrumming behind his words; that something that I had felt earlier in the lights hanging in the air. Like me, that man knew magic existed.

And like me, he was going to hang on to it as hard as he could. 

10340067_10202568729561116_1147815151227454311_n

 

Inkmen

When nib kissed paper, electricity fizzed outwards in a spider web of sparks and you were born.

You shocked me at first. You were thinner than I had planned, with a smudge of a moustache on your upper lip. A rumpled suit hung off your body; a pair of spades for hands poked out from the sleeves as if curious to see the world. When you walked, your chest curved inwards on itself, shy, despite the confident stride of your loafer clad feet.

Not a word was spoken until sunset. You sat in the margin and hugged your knees while I sat on my giant’s throne and squinted down at you. Mine. My tiny creation, perched on the edge. When you looked at me, I gasped: I had forgotten to give you an eye colour. Two dark coals were buried in your sockets, burning with a flameless heat. Who am I? you asked.

I haven’t decided yet. I think your name might be Jonah.

You rolled the name around in your mouth like an oversized marble, raising one eyebrow. Every move you made was beautiful to me. I picked up my pen again, eager to fill you out, but you stood up, shaking your head in fear. You hurled your thin body at me and tried to batter down the walls between us. Vaguely frightened, I looked on in wonder. The screams coming from your mouth were strangled, muted. There is no escape for you here, I tell you. This is the world I built for you.

I don’t like it. This is not what I wanted. Oil tears fall thickly down your face and silhouette hands press into your eye sockets. Your shoulders shake.

It is not what I wanted either. Heart pounding, I throw my pen to one side, slam the pages of the notebook shut and stuff it hurriedly onto a crammed shelf. Not only yours, but many muffled sounds issue from the long row of identical jotters: snippets of song, laughter, the miniscule taps of feet pacing. If I close my eyes, I can almost see every birth, every creation.

And I wonder if it was good.

‘The Trip of a Lifetime’ – Echoes of the Past (Part 3)

If you close your eyes and listen – I mean REALLY listen – you can hear the throbbing heartbeat of life, pounding out the rhythm upon which we all dance.

You can hear it in the whisper of a breeze, in the captivity of the stars, in the dust at our feet and in the mighty shadow of a cliff face. All around us is life, built upon the echo of what came before and the promise of what lies ahead.

* * *

When travelling, I believe it can be tantamount to a sin to not go out of your comfort zone and explore. How can you turn your back on undiscovered land and walk away, claiming to know a place better than when you arrived? So in the middle of the holiday, we journeyed up to the capital of the island.

In the Old City of Rhodes, people live wrapped in the blanket of history; they tiptoe around it and bow to the majesty of their past – and it is beautiful.

Surrounded by walls 40feet thick, it is like a hidden gem encrusted in rock. Though giant cannonballs litter the ground outside, they are merely marked failures of invasion: proud proof of the strength of the city within.

And what a city!

Every street you walk upon is built directly above the original walkways of the past. Each house is connected to the next, the only prevention from caving in fine archways spanning overhead. Cats lounge on doorsteps and grapes hug ancient trees. The market trickles through the alleyways and spills out to the harbour where boats bob in contented surety that their travels are not done. It transports you to a different time; one where community is the root of all life and children’s laughter is piercing and true.

The history is what gives this place such intense character. For years, it was guarded by Christian Knights of all ethnicities until it crumbled under invasions from the Turks. Intricate churches were transformed into sturdy mosques; palaces were turned into prisons; and a severe physical divide was driven through the city by the constructing of a fearsome wall.

However, I am not here to give you a history lesson (although I can recommend an excellent guide who can oblige). The city bears its scars with dignity: in the face of all this turmoil, it has emerged years later with its original Christian beliefs intact and its destroyed streets built anew.

This, to me, seems to be the very point of life itself. This city is a living breathing reminder of who we are and who we have been. It has come face to face with utter devastation and lived on as a cultural jewel. It thrums fiercely with spirit and rejoices in that which it holds dear.

* * *

Some people go away to another country and come back knowing a hotel complex like the back of their hand. By experiencing the heat and the pool, they think they have experienced the country.

Other people create their own adventures whilst away and start to listen to the earth around them.

The history within the Old City seemed to be saying that whatever is thrown at you, whoever pulls down the walls you have put up around yourself and challenges you with malice…

Stand tall.

Display your beauty.

Buoy yourself up on the heartbeat of life.

Where is your God?

In modern society, faith is questioned by everyone, be they scientists, priests, businessmen, adventurers or even young children. It is no longer accepted that there is a God watching over us, protecting and guiding us through everyday life. There are no longer intricate depictions of Satan smiting us for our sins or of Angel Gabriel singing ‘Hallelujah!’ on the walls of our schools. Instead we are turning to experiments, DNA, evolution, rockets sent out into space and the Big Bang for our answers.

Fact is becoming the new God.

I have been raised by parents who follow a religion and who made it a part of who I am today. I am proud of my faith. As I have grown I have strayed from the path of absolute doctrine and find my own answers to spiritual questions. If challenged, I will defend what I believe in-in spite of the ridicule or surprise I’m faced with.

But, as with anything in this life, there are times when even I wobble in my determined belief.

So what do we do when something happens to us that makes us question the very fundamentals of what we believe in?

With all the beauty that life presents to us, we are shocked when ugliness invades. It filters through our routines, worms into our thoughts and takes hold, spreading like black ink in a glass of water. We are left with something impure, polluted and shocking. And how can we be expected to stand steadfast in the face of evil and thank a God for our suffering?

Today is a day I can’t stand firm. Today is a day I can’t take comfort in a belief. Today is a day I will not be thankful.

Today is one of those days when it feels as though we are just tiny inconsequential beings with no real influence on the universe; we have no control over love, life or death. It seems impossible to believe in something with so much power and so much love having so little regard for existence here on Earth.

It’s hard to find the part of myself that looks within for answers and finds comfort from something bigger than myself. I know deep down that Fact could never be my God; I know that there are questions that could never be answered by science; I know that I have a purpose and that I occasionally lose sight of it.

Although I know all of this…

Today is a day I can’t stand firm.

But tomorrow is a day I could try.

Heaven or Hell?

Life is a fragile thing, a tentative web made of heartbeat, breath, thought. We can be exalting in the majesty of it one moment only to be brought crashing down in a wave of destruction the next.

A car crash.

A heart attack.

A fall.

One wrong footing, one bad decision, one day too long and the flame of life is snuffed out by an unseen hand.

This year has brought me face to face with mortality, a terrifying void to be confronted and one that sends even the bravest of us fleeing for safety and warmth in our mother’s arms. Life is not infinite-at least not on this earth-but scripture, myth, legends and tales of old whisper promises of an afterlife to come, an afterlife of our choice:

HEAVEN OR HELL?

My beliefs do not lead me to the conclusion that these are physical realms, but that they are indefinable and unite all souls in one way or another when our time comes.

Heaven is different to all of us. To those that believe, it is ‘the abode of God, the angels, and the spirits of the righteous after death; the place or state of existence of the blessed after the mortal life.’ But to others, it is merely ‘a place of great happiness, delight or pleasure.’  Hell on the other hand, leaves us with no doubts as to what is to come: torment and misery. The only question we are faced with is whether this state of being exists in the afterlife or if it is present in all of us now.

There is no right or wrong here; there is no definitive place on a map to which we can point the existence of a Heaven or a Hell; there is no universal answer to the question of what awaits us on the other side.

And this terrifies us.

When death knocks at our door, we become selfish beings. We hold on to our loved ones desperately, forcing them to cling to what life they have left, no matter what pain they are in. This is something we cannot be judged for.

Whether they be a friend, a lover, a family member, or a mere acquaintance, death initiates the passing on to another place. We know not if this will be a Paradise, or a Hell. We are left to hope for them to be at peace.

We are left to pray for their souls, to remember the happiness they brought us, to be tormented by their memory, for as long as we live here on this Earth.

Their Heaven becomes our Hell.