Apologies in advance, I don’t usually spruik my own books but now is the time for READING. If the paperbacks are too expensive the Kindle versions are either free when Amazon run specials or reasonably priced.
The story of a musical genius who is offered a Faustian deal by a desperate fallen angel.
Middle top row of Peter Donnelly’s 2019 Favourites Peter Donnelly – The Reading Desk @TBRreviews Twitter
Bittersweet romance set in 30s London’s glittering theatreland against a backdrop of war.
When I wrote my review for Jason Hickel’s superb book, The Divide, I added my own thoughts at the end. I had no idea when I wrote those suggestions for a new way of being that the opportunity to implement them would come to pass so quickly. They are not new ideas, by the way, just commonsense jigglings of ancient survival.
The Coronavirus has forced us all to slow down, abandon lifestyles dependent on distraction and pace, and find inner resources to cope with a home-bound life. The noise of the world has settled to a calming hum, an ancient heartbeat that pulses a steady trajectory around our parent sun. LIFE previously measured in breathless movement is now encapsulated in a single moment of silence and focus. For some the silence is deafening. For others, a return to a state of being longed for since birth.
I recently joined Instagram at the suggestion of a close friend who felt it would raise awareness about my books, Catch the Moon, Mary and Fields of Grace. He was right. I have joined this frantically focused community just as they are forced to use the service for communication and harvesting occupational therapy like READING! Many people don’t know what to do without their daily dose of mindless distraction. How to calm our noisy selves and enter the frightening vacuum of our inner selves, those strangers whom most of us have never met. I see and hear celebrities going slightly nuts for lack of attention and crowds. They are left alone to discover themselves and what a hidden gift.
For those of us well-acquainted with creativity these are the best of times and the worst of times. The opportunities in this breakdown are huge. The potential for destruction equally huge IF we miss the moment.
Let those whose voices have been loudest over the past three decades now listen to those of us whose quiet persistent whispering in the background has been urging a shift of focus, suggesting a re-evaluation of currency, prompting a deeper experience of life than the transitory exchanges that pass for conversation.
Find value in the moment – a concept rich with hidden gifts.
You cannot go to the office and mouse-wheel your days in routines set in metered time. You cannot skim along on a diet of mindless distraction. You cannot walk deaf, dumb and blind through your days, waiting for manufactured excitement to prick the sloth-like hide of your soul. Now you must find everything you need within. You must occupy yourself.
I see on Instagram a lot of celebrities making silly jokes and singing ditties and sitting around waiting. They are like people marooned on a desert island sending out the occasional flare. They think they can wait this out. They can’t because I believe this is nature’s call to arms. She has waited for humanity to wake up and live in harmony with her for eons but wars continue, abuse of her habitat continues, over-production of goods with built-in obsolescence continues, the rich continue to hoard believing their piles of gold will save them and finance continues to dominate our thinking and our aspiration. To quote Henry David Thoreau; “Most people lead lives of quiet desperation” funneled into a single unimaginative rut of repetition and routine and clockwork expectations enumerated by age and dates. He completed that sentence with, “and go to their graves with their song unsung.”
Now is the perfect time to discover your song.
Now is the perfect time to reconnect with Nature, the harbinger of your lyrical soul.
When do we stop and smell the roses? When do we marvel at their perfection? When do we look up and wonder about the stars? When do we consider the miracle of life in an ant, a flower, a butterfly? When do we find reverence for LIFE? When do we silence our own protestations of grandeur long enough to extrapolate the genius of GROWTH?
Those who think outside the square have been shunned but now we must lead the way back into the infinite MOMENT.
Here and now is where EVERYTHING exists. Held within the permanent NOW are all possibilities. Tuning into the moment is how we get through this.
Finding the hidden gift in self-isolation is how we survive and thrive.
Now is not the time to recycle old thoughts, old expectations, old jokes and old distractions. Now is the time to explore new ideas and new past-times and latent talents. Rather than phoning everyone you know and wasting time in mindless chatter as I hear some celebrities on Instagram doing, sit with the silence and listen.
I wrote some lyrics for a character in The Last Tale (musical with composer Shanon D. Whitelock) who has been forced to live as a pariah for seven years. His plight echoes the agony and misdirection many people are now facing. Here is an excerpt to illustrate the hopelessness of refusing to explore the inner terrain but manifestly clinging to the delusion that LIFE comes from the OUTSIDE rather than the INSIDE.
Light a fire as the first stars appear
Catching moonbeams torching the night
Sleep brings the lovely ghosts
That dance around the edge of dreams
Listening out for the small sounds of life
Conversations that blow on the wind
Catch the joy, the laughter shared, the stories old and new
Hidden shadows imagining
There is someone who cares about me
Like a wolf I prowl and circle her
Invade her dreams of wasted love
I have fed on crumbs of life and starved
I’m craving hope but hatred-fed, withered, dead
I’ve taken root here on this ledge, the edge of life and death.
That character sits in a space of quiet loathing planning revenge for seven years until a freak summons from the King of Baghdad hurtles him back into life BUT true to his nature he super-imposes expectations upon the brilliant Scheherazade who has used her inner world to create 1001 stories to titillate a vicious and jaded King. I love exposing the psychological patina of despots for the shabby amour it really is. I did it in my musical, Alexander (songs found on https://wendywaters.net/) and of course in the bullying angel in my debut novel, Catch the Moon, Mary.
Bullies and despots are quickly revealed as the hollow vessels they really are when my pen is aimed and inking J’Accuse!
The Last Tale musical by Wendy Waters and Shanon D. Whitelock
But back to the times we find ourselves in. IF, rather than going down those tired old routes of distraction, whilst in isolation, you explore latent talents and pursue excellence or simply activity, I promise you a re-connection with your soul. You will find out who you are and God-willing when it is safe to go back into the water you will never view it the same way again.
I will now paste in the second part of my review of Jason Hickel’s book The Divide.
My own thoughts.
Imagination is a powerful ameliorative force. Let us imagine a way of life more sympathetic to the environment and healthier spiritually. The first step I believe is to SLOW DOWN. Learn to delay gratification. This means resist sating the hungers a fast-track life imposes – stop impulse buying, stop hoarding, gorging and looking for constant exogenous stimulation to allay boredom. Start finding pleasure in delayed gratification. Do things like: plant a garden, DIY renovate your home, grow your own vegetables, read a book, walk, swim, learn something new, have a real-time conversation, refuse fashion fads by developing your own style and making your own clothes or swapping clothes with friends and above all else, challenge yourself to pursue excellence. You’ll be amazed at how good achieving excellence makes you feel. It takes time to become highly proficient and its pursuit will cure you of boredom and the need for constant distraction.
Make your life meaningful. Make a difference to people. Help where you can. Get to know your neighbours and find out what they need. Challenge your mind and your spirit with meaningful relationships – with others, with yourself, with your work and with the planet.
And support the Arts.
The Arts are the soul and lifeblood of a nation, a community and a family. Artists are always in pursuit of excellence if they are true artists. If you want to understand discipline watch a dancer training, a singer doing her scales, an artist painting his canvas, a writer reworking her novel. It’s a rare artist who doesn’t care about his/her art. In fact, I wouldn’t call such a person an artist. I would call them a hack. True artists exemplify the blueprint for a new world – a world tuned to aspiration rather than gratification. A world in which excellence is the highest pursuit and I can assure you that mass production is anathema to excellence. Encourage and support producers of quality goods in your own community and eschew the cynical corporations that mass produce cookie-cutter products with built-in obsolescence.
Much of the economic dictatorship crippling the world today can be dis-empowered if people support each other in community solidarity. In times of strife and disasters this happens but we need to make this the norm rather than the exception. We have been taught to compete with each other and serve gluttonous corporations that operate on a principle of serfdom. If we pull together we will not be so dependent on faceless oligarchs.
To find solutions it’s imperative to think outside the square because nothing within the current paradigm is offering a solution. If we continue on this current trajectory of ever-increasing GDP and rampant consumerism we will destroy our planet and ourselves. We have been taught to value the wrong things and as Hickel points out so brilliantly much of this brainwashing is due to ADVERTISING. And I would add, celebrity-worship. Magazines feature the rich and famous and incidentally beautiful are, as Alain de Botton says, bannering the WRONG ROLE MODELS.
These people are for the most part achieving little and earning too much and failing to show the average person what spiritual resolve and meaningful work looks like. There are people in this world whose jobs reward them with self-worth and exponential positive influence. Sir David Attenborough is one. Jason Hickel is another.
I will leave you with a final thought and I am aware that it may seem too simplistic but please consider it: If you strive to make a positive difference, all these problems – climate change, galloping consumerism, global indifference and the seemingly insuperable divisions between rich and poor – will be solved.
The New World starts with you.
Let’s explore the Universe within.
I have just read Alain de Botton’s wonderful book, How Proust can change your Life and in it is a fabulous quote from Proust, which I’ll precis here, “Books are not the final destination but the spiritual portals through which the reader passes into a world of his own imagination. When the last page is closed the reader begins her own journey.”
Happy Reading and may stories lead you back to yourself.
Cover image by Des Cannon @animafotografie on Instagram
Cover art by Dean Michael Rochford @digiluxEU on Instagram