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The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Tag

When You Say Nothing At All

The Victorians had a language of flowers to express what they felt. Before them, Shakespeare’s Ophelia exclaimed, “Look at my flowers. There’s rosemary, that’s for remembering. Please remember, love. And there are pansies, they’re for thoughts.” Hallmark says it sometimes, in flowery cliché. But when words fail us, it is in the space in-between where deep levels of intense experience emerge from the silence. Viennese philosopher Martin Buber spoke of a sacred space between “I” and “thou”. A place where there is a dissolution of boundaries, where we meet as separate entities and merge to transcend the dense physicality of our bodies, bridge the fear that divides, sink softly into blissful connection. Throughout the ages, songs, poetry, literature, and now cinema, echo this plaintive yearning. In the movie, Notting Hill, Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) speaks for us all in that terrifying moment when we open our hearts, reveal our longing, and pray we will be loved in return. She stands before Will Thacker, (Hugh Grant playing his quintessential self) in a pair of flip flops and says with sweet simplicity “remember I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy asking him to love her”.

In the silence of disconnection lies a loneliness that devours the human heart. We staunch the flow of our scarlet life blood with sterile tourniquets: undemanding friendships in controllable portions – teaspoon by convenient teaspoon. Phantom friendships and shadowy lovers stay beyond our castle walls safely in the distance of social networking sites. We seek out only those friends or consult “experts” who soothe our anxious minds with palliative agreements, coddle our egos with judgements that suit our world-view, rock us back to sleep, draw the curtains so we cannot see the cycles of the moon, or hear the song of our soul calling us to grow.

“Boundaries”.  A high currency word, much favoured by psychotherapists and life coaches, bandied about by readers of self-help books. Often these “boundaries” are the walls we erect with bricks and mortar from our egos. Walls that separate us from Life, from Love. Like gnarled bonsai in decorative planters, we live our safely contained, carefully clipped, little lives behind literal or figurative walls that block out the light of the sun and obscure the shimmering stars.

When we distance, judge, presume, and imagine that someone thinks or feels a certain way, in fact we have no inkling what they think or feel at all. Our stories about others say everything about us. It is only in our bravest moments of soul nakedness that we dare admit the truth. We’re hungry to be loved, to be special, and to be needed.  “Can we start over?”  Norman asks in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: “I’m not charming and I’m not good at repartee.  My name is Norman and I’m lonely.”

It is in our moment of heroic glory that we detonate the boundary wall of lies; dismantle the gaudy facade of our charming, independent, important, busy, care-free lives.  In the differences that we think separate us is our completion. In the ebb and flow of our relationships, the starfish of new growth.  In our relationships we discover the sweetness of dying, as we release ancient fear, cross the threshold of solitude, meet each other on the bridge that arcs over the river of Life.

Alvy Singer says to Annie Hall as they end their relationship, “A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And what we’ve got on our hands is a dead shark.”  Relationships, like sharks, need momentum, or they suffocate beneath the weight of mutual wounding, become hooked in nets, speared with words which say, “I don’t mind being on my own. I need to take care of myself, because no one else will.”

Words erect boundaries, and there are times when we must say nothing at all. It is in the silent spaces we discover the convoluted excuses we use we keep people at bay, afraid to say what we feel, terrified to ask for what we need. Perhaps, when we say nothing at all, we might dare take off the clothing of our self-depreciating beliefs. And stand naked as we reveal our longing for one another in the quantum field of Love.


Alison Krauss soars …







Old Ideas

There’s a fresh wind shaking the branches of the old oak trees of humanity. A whole generation of baby boomers at the golden zenith of their potential are growing new careers, committing to new relationships, scattering their creative offerings across a world on the brink of great social and cultural change. “Retirement” has become an anachronism in a new zeitgeist that sets fire to the taboo on old age and death. “Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again,” said C.S. Lewis. In our communities, our families, our friendship circles, there are remarkable men and women who defy the stereotypes, say a quiet “yes” to the soft flutter in their belly to embrace all the possibilities that allow them to start reading fairy tales once more.

Leonard Cohen, at 77, has just released his latest album, “Old Ideas”, Engelbert Humperdinck at 75, has been nominated to represent the UK at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. The British film industry, mirroring the collective lake of consciousness, has released two films dealing with ageing from very different perspectives; The Iron Lady”  and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”.  Meryl Streep, Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, Clint Eastwood, Dustin Hoffman, Barbarba Streisland, Louise Hay, Dame “Judi” Dench, Oprah Winfrey… teachers, entrepreneurs, celebrities, and ordinary men and women living extra-ordinary lives – powerfully, positively, productively. As Pluto, god of the Underworld moves silently through the sign of Capricorn, the archetypes of the senex, and the crone are being embodied in these feisty elders, suggesting a gradual rebalancing of our collective cult of youth worship. Jane Fonda, now in her 70s is tackling Act III of her life with the same trailblazing revolutionary spirit that she brought to political causes, and the go for the burn”  fitness videos that plugged aerobics into the living rooms of millions of women. In her book, Prime Time” , she cites studies that show that on average, (in the well-fed, medicated, war-free West, I assume) an average of 34 years have been added to human life expectancy. She describes how at 46, she began to envision the old woman she wanted to be, and quotes gerontologists who believe that threshold events like widowhood, loss of work, moving home, even a terminal illness, are not experienced as traumas “if they were anticipated and, in effect, rehearsed as part of the life cycle.” Although much of her book has a disease model approach to sexuality and health, it is a starting point for a more soulful approach to living a richly meaningful life. The longevity revolution will require a compass and a new course.

By the year 2020, eighty million Americans will be above the age of sixty. Senior citizens will outnumber young people under the age of 18. In America the Wise” , Theodore Roszak writes of the implications of “the longevity revolution” on culture and social values. Roszak feels that we are demographically illiterate”  as a society and have not yet begun to grasp the implications of mass longevity. Never before have elders possessed the social weight to make their values count in matters of policy and the distribution of wealth… The growing numbers of old people in America could bring about an unprecedented cultural shift toward a more nurturant caregiving ethos, an appreciation for social interdependence and cultivated leisure, a transcendence of competitive striving and status anxiety, and a greater appreciation of the wisdom that comes with age.” There are, of course, millions of older men and woman who feel alienated, invisible, and impotent. Millions who suffer physical and mental degeneration that shrinks their lives and darkens their purpose and meaning. “Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for,” said Viktor Frankl. When roles of Parent, Partner, Executive, Homemaker, or Club affiliate are shed, shadowy stretches of depleted time merge soundlessly into months, years that slide into a dark pit of despondency and negativity. The weather becomes either too hot or too cold. A  powerless refrain of lack of money, work, love, health, or support … buries us in the rubble of our concrete thoughts. Albert Camus said darkly, “alas, after a certain age, every man is responsible for his face,” and the truth of that stark statement is revealed in the mirror each morning.

So I guess it falls upon each one of us, no matter what the circumstances of our lives, to cultivate genuine gratitude for the little things: Waking each morning with the ability to get ourselves out of bed. The miracle of seeing the glistening dew on the grass, a coral sunrise, spring flowers. The enchanted chorus of birdsong. The stillness of our kitchen. A cup of hot tea. Our lungs that draw in lifegiving air, our brave hearts that faithfully beat, despite the heartache and disappointments we have endured. Only we can take the blindfold off our eyes. Only we can feel our hearts blossom open petal by fragrant petal. Only we can wear the crown of age, and embody wisdom and our authentic selves. Albert Camus says “In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” Only we can stand tall in the  zenith of our lives, and delight in the reading of fairy tales.

Going Home – Leonard Cohen