This day only is ours,
we are dead to yesterday,
and we are not yet born to the morrow.
But, if we look abroad and bring into one day’s
thoughts the evil of many, certain and uncertain,
what will be and what will never be, our load will be
as intolerable as it is unreasonable.
theologian, 1613 -1667
two nations divided by a common language
A couple of days ago in travel broadens the mind I listed some strange things about the average American’s of idea leaving America and visiting England. Mostly it doesn’t happen, most Americans never leave the Americas, mostly American’s think Mexico is ‘foreign’ enough. Just to be fair, here are some complementary and contradictory facts about the unbalanced social interactions between the uneducated American and the ignorant Englishman.
For a start there are some things that Americans just do not understand about the English;
- Apologising needlessly. The English will say ‘sorry’ even if they’re not in the wrong and it’s an American who’s trodden on their foot. This is confusing to Americans, but don’t worry it just means that Englishmen can be unbearably polite. Nobody is going to sue anyone. In contrast, underneath their superficial politeness most Americans would just as soon shoot you.
- English Accents. When I was a kid I could tell to within a few miles where someone came from by the way they spoke. Even towns as close together as Sunderland and Newcastle upon Tyne, (10 miles), still have totally different accents. Honestly, to English ears there are only three American accents, so don’t expect an Englishman to know you’re from Nebraska, or Canada. Anyhow, most Americans think the language is called ‘American’.
- Strange and strong-tasting ‘Foods’ are to be found in England, and not eaten elsewhere. I cite Marmite, Brown Sauce, and Bovril. On the other hand, in the USA I’ve eaten stuff that would make a goat sick; I cite grits, and American bacon which you have to grill until it snaps to make it edible. English people do not willingly eat real Mexican / Latin American food, which looks like dog puke. Most English people think most American food is only fit for the trash. An Englishman shouldn’t try to explain black pudding to an American.
- Pubs. The traditional English pub is nothing like an American Bar. A real English pub is more like the landlord’s front room, and some things are just not allowed ~ for example sitting at the bar, talking to people you don’t know, and running a tab. Not a chance. Some acceptable behaviour in American Bars would have you thrown out of an English pub ~ and maybe arrested for sexual harassment.
- English Reserve. The English will not strike up a conversation, or even speak with, someone they haven’t been introduced to. The English will not speak to people they don’t know in lifts, (elevators), on public transport, in the street, in bars and restaurants, or during any other chance encounter. In fact the English do not speak at all in elevators and on public transport at all. The English never, ever hug, and a handshake is to be used only sparingly and with care. Americans don’t seem to care who they talk to.
- English Understatement. The English are in no way effusive. The way the average American ‘goes overboard‘ all the time is childishly offensive to the average Englishman. In contrast, if an Englishman says ‘nice’ that’s high praise indeed. English people will poke fun at themselves, Americans don’t.
- Sports. By and large the English do not play, and have no interest whatsoever in; baseball, basketball, ice hockey, and what the Americans call football. The English play cricket, football, (soccer), and Rugby. In England your social class can be determined by which sport you like; only chavs like soccer. Wearing your team colours is beneath contempt among polite Englishmen.
- Religion. Unlike in the United States of America, there is an official state religion in England ~ The Church of England. English people do not go to church, and never, ever talk about religion.
- The Royal Family. An Englishman will be contemptuous of and roundly criticise every member of the Royal Family, with the exception of the Queen. Normally a well-mannered Englishman will discuss the Monarch only with the utmost loyalty and courtesy.
If you are American want to impress an Englishman, then just don’t be overtly American, unless you are actually in America. For an Englishman, the one and only impressive thing about America is that it’s big.
On the other hand, if you are a real Englishman you will not want or need to try to impress anyone.
Most American women are cute, smart, well-groomed, intelligent, and well-educated. Until they get into a bar, when they sometimes transform into loud skanks who like karaoke. Most American men are jerks. Most English women try too hard, and a real English Gentleman doesn’t feel he needs to try at all.
Despite the fact that the English and Americans almost share a common language and a common culture, we are as different as chalk and cheese. If you are in an across the pond relationship, then expect constant misunderstandings, friction, and disagreement. For example, it will surprise most English people that Americans actually care about politics. In contrast most English people don’t give a damn about Trump, Clinton, global warming, pipelines, transgender identities…
Personally, I’d have to say that nothing has really changed since 1776.
My people used to call it being fey, which is a word with many meanings. Here, in the North, it’s knowing something before it happens, or knowing about something without being told, or knowing something based on no evidence whatsoever. Sailors and people close to the sea seem to have a lot of this. Perhaps it’s a survival thing. Knowing that the weather is about to turn very bad very soon can certainly save your life if you put to sea in small boats.
Some would say that clairvoyance is merely having insight based on a deep understanding of the world and the people in it. Some would say that having second sight is just another branch of quantum physics. Some would aver than mind reading is little more than practical psychology.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
All I know is that I suffer from some of this other-worldly stuff. I have a friend who lives thousands of miles away, in another time zone, and she can wake me from a deep sleep merely by thinking of me. Back in the day, when my livelihood depended upon it, I could read people like the proverbial open book. I could know the innermost secrets of anyone, should I choose to turn my mind that way. Even today I know instinctively, without error, if someone is lying to me.
I have no idea how or why any of these things are possible. I will never know how or why there is a paranormal universe outside of our day-to-day existence. I am not worrying about it.
I feel that to believe in any form of religion or spirituality is to also believe in the paranormal. But, not everyone who goes to church is fey.
These abilities I share can make for an uncomfortable life. I’m a man, and I know and understand the feelings of others, including women.
Some would call that sorcery.
All I know is that it’s better not to dabble in magic.
SPIRITUALITY IS NOT THE SAME AS RELIGION
Life is difficult and shit happens.
Religion ~ the belief in and worship of a God.
The world’s great religions ~ Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Judaism have several things in common. The belief in a single divine being, a rigid set of rules based on ancient texts, (the Bible, the Koran), a hierarchical structure of priests ‘teaching’ the laity. Mostly, organised religion is based on money and fear. Of all the great religions Buddhism comes closest to spirituality.
The Bible shows the way to go to heaven, not the way the heavens go. ~ Galileo Galilei
Galileo was investigated by the Roman Inquisition in 1615 for saying that the Earth went around the Sun, which was contrary to scripture and church teaching. He was tried by the Holy Office, found guilty of heresy and spent the rest of his life under house arrest. He died in 1642. He was lucky not to be tortured and then burned at the stake.
Spirituality ~ a process of personal transformation, separate from organised religion, an inner path centered on the deepest values and meanings by which one lives.
For me, spirituality encompasses; love, happiness, compassion, tolerance, responsibility, harmony, serenity, courage, wisdom, humility, honesty, beauty, and respect and concern for others. For me, spirituality means looking deep inside of my soul and trusting that all the good, bad, indifferent, and truly evil parts will come together in balance.
You don’t need a conventional god to develop spirituality, but it helps to believe that there is a ‘power greater than yourself,’ to avoid the trap of believing that the world revolves around you. You will eventually find your own personal ‘higher power,’ be it; the sea, mother earth, the sun, goddesses Lilith, Isis, and or Aphrodite, Toci, Ninmah, Gaia, Mari, the Cosmos…
Personal well-being, both physical and psychological is a vital aspect of spirituality as it is understood by many self-help movements. Exercise, a good diet, plenty of sleep, and an avoidance of excess is a good place to start.
Religion is for people who are scared to go to Hell. Spirituality is for people who have already been there. ~ Bonnie Raitt
Winner of 10 Grammy Awards, blues singer-songwriter and slide guitar player Bonnie Lyn Raitt said that her 10th try was ‘my first sober album.’
For me, the search for spirituality is a solitary task done quietly and without self aggrandisment. Perhaps the help of a mentor may be sought. In Alcoholics Anonymous, which these days is a spiritual rather than a religious programme, this mentor is known as a sponsor.
The two keystones of any search for spirituality always turn out to be;
- Recognition and acceptance that I am not the centre of the Universe. My needs and wants are not the most important things on Earth.
- Delayed gratification. A recognition and acceptance that my wants and needs do not have to be met in full this very instant.
Any thought will tell you that those two characteristics are the way an infant lives the first few months of its life. An infant knows it is the centre of the Universe and that its needs should be met right now. Some people never learn how to grow up ~ these include; addicts, the mentally ill, sociopaths, and psychopaths.
Delaying gratification is a process of scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with. It is the only decent way to live. ~ M. Scott Peck.
It is possible to take many things from religion to begin to learn the self-discipline needed for developing our own spirituality ~ it is worth studying the Four Noble Truths.
- Life is difficult and shit happens.
- Craving for immediate pleasure makes more shit happen.
- Learn some self-control and life becomes less difficult as you won’t drop yourself into the shit so often.
- Learn the true meaning of right and wrong, and learn how to always strive to do the right thing.
Understanding spirituality teaches you a better way to live. For some, such as addicts and chronic alcoholics, it is literally a matter of life and death. Your own personal search for spirituality will be a major part of your life, each and every day. There is a brutal rule ~ if you are not improving, then very quickly you will get much, much worse.
For those of us who have seen Hell ~ it isn’t that if you cease believing in spirituality you will go back to just about where you were when you began trusting that you could become a better person. You will instantly sink to how bad it would have been if you had done nothing good at all. It can all get very bad very quickly.
Some of the ways in which you may develop your own form of Spirituality will appear in the following posts.