There is this fabulous quote by Fred Nietzche which goes like this: I cannot believe in a God who wants to be praised all the time.
Yes indeed, I can appreciate this… it’s a man-made God that needs thanking all the time. Religion is man-made; spiritual awareness is cosmic. The forces of the cosmos, the Divine, the Source, God or whatever you want to call it, probably doesn’t give a hoot if somebody says “Thank you” or not. We know this because lovely things happen anyway, whether it’s a great day by the seaside or an exquisite song from an unexpected blackbird. We don’t have to thank anyone for making it happen; it happens anyway.
When we are born, our mothers – most mothers – do everything for us without any thanks, and that may be the moment when people are at their most special and sacrosanct – doing stuff without any expectation of thanks, and on the same basis I wouldn’t expect any great cosmic omnipotence to want thanks. A mother’s love for a child represents unconditional love. When people nurse friends, parents or children with severe problems or disabilities there are no thanks involved: similarly those serving people or animals or the planet do so because they wish to. Unwittingly they also ‘do’ unconditional love, and ‘are’ gracious. Making somebody or something better for nurturing is a reward in itself.
So stuff thanks… or should we? The fact is… there is something very powerful about saying thanks, very powerful indeed. It’s like perception. Quantum physics reckons that the moment one perceives something it’s changed, whether that thing is a star a zillion miles away, or an eyelash. Saying “Thank you” seems to be a bit like this. The moment one says “Thank you” to somebody or something they seem to change, so long as the ‘thanks’ are authentic. Being thanked is nice, it makes the recipient feel good, at the conscious and sub-conscious level. I believe this because of a powerful hypnotic practice whereby the hypnotist just says “that’s right” to the subject all the time. If one is being hypnotised by this process it’s truly lovely…”That’s right.” We so need to hear words of loving approval, which makes one feel better and better… “That’s right. That’s right. That’s right.”
But then there is something even weirder about gratitude. It doesn’t just make the recipient feel good. It makes the person that does the thanking feel good too. There is something inexplicably pleasant about saying “Thank you.” Not only this, the more one celebrates life by thanking whatever it is out there, the better things seem to get. I have moments of saying “Thank you” constantly. About six months ago I had a mad fortnight or so when I felt the need to thank everything that moved, hiccoughed, did nothing, smiled, sat, snoozed in a flowerpot or sang a song. Everything nice seemed to be happening, and I wanted to say “Thanks”. It was as if time itself was irrelevant. The gratefulness was making flowers grow, unexpectedly lovely things arrive, the bank made an error in my favour and even the sun shone. Before I even bothered to say “Thank you,” stuff was anticipating my mood.
It is no coincidence that when one learns to be a Reiki Practitioner, one of the key daily principles is to be grateful. Being gracious is inspirational and can, and indeed does work miracles.
Every day I turn on my computer, and venture into Outlook Express to see who is saying what to whom. Most messages are all about triviality in all its teeny-weenyness and the most disquieting stuff comes from the ‘Members Discuss’ email list of the Green Party, where I reluctantly identify all those who have too much time on their hands, spend too much time in front of the computer, are in are in love with their own voices, or are just tedious. Question: How can I identify these people if I choose not to read 85 per cent of the stuff on this fraught email forum? Answer: By seeing the same names returning again and again and again. The folks who sit in front of their computers and just barf it out onto the screen and keyboard, like something out of Fritz the Cat. I love them. I imagine them sitting in darkened rooms, with a stuffed eagle on their head and an eccentric landlady feeding them cold baked beans and chickpea sandwiches, the fumes of cabbage wafting around them as they tap away, by night and by day.
Testosterone plays a big part in this business of writing endless emails to such a ‘discussion’ list. Sometimes the women get fed up with the nastiness, and squeak for peace, calm, or politeness. That’s a waste of time. A message invariably returns from some person along the lines ‘if you can’t stand the heat get out of the furnace’ or ‘if you don’t like what I say, I’ll make sure you get the full treatment in my famous bog’ – that was an interesting parapraxis, I meant blog… thank you subconscious… I prefer bog in this case.
There is a small-mindedness about this forum that makes me sad, and hate myself if I write something and post it; thankfully nobody takes much notice of what I say, apart from one very short email that triggered a load of poisonous invective, which was fun, rather like throwing a pebble in the water and watching the gunge rise to the surface. Occasionally the information is useful, but for some this communication forum has been cruel and sometimes damaging. Even more sadly, I see the women consistently coming off worst. It’s a small page in history that will, thankfully, disappear when something better comes along. The ideals of the Green Party are massive, inspired and cosmic, and much of the stuff on this membership forum is just the twittering of birds in the trees.
Out here in my street something very similar is going on. The parking arrangements are being re-organised. People who like to live a life on automatic, i.e. go to work, come home, pat 1.5 children on the head, have supper, drink a beer, watch the box and go to bed. They feel comfortable knowing that their car is parked right to left, facing North in the direction of work, in front of the house for a quick departure after breakfast. But all hell has been let loose. The re-organisation of the parking means that life on automatic has been cruelly interrupted. One can no longer fall mindlessly out of the front door into the car in the morning. Some have to walk… at worse to a street or two away. This has caused terrible distress. Windows are full of posters proclaiming “Fair Parking for Fiveways!”
Hallo! Hallo! Do you not realise that there are too many cars out there? Do you realise that councils across the country have to reorganise things to grab a couple of quid that have been snatched away by HM Government, a Government that wants to crush local councils until they fade away. Have a look at the bigger picture, please!
And what is the bigger picture? It’s explained by Anita Moorjani in her book Dying to be Me (and also on YouTube) in which she graphically describes how she had lymphoma and while dying, in a deep coma, bereft of her five senses, came to understand the bigger picture very clearly, in its totality. Describing our world, as we see it, she says:
Imagine… a huge dark warehouse. You live there with only one flashlight to see by. Everything you know about …is what you’ve seen by the beam of one small flashlight. Whenever you want to look for something, you may or may not find it, but that doesn’t mean the thing doesn’t exist. It’s there but you just haven’t shone your light on it. And even when you do, the object you see may be difficult to make out…you can only see what your light is focused on, and only identify that which you already know… That is what physical life is like. We’re only aware of what we focus our senses on at any given time, and we can only understand what is already familiar.
Anita lived to recover completely from both cancer and near death, and has given us an intriguing picture of our lives, in our imagined world, massively limited by our fives senses and intelligence. In reality I have always wondered if this was the case; as a spider in the garden has a very different perception of the world to my own, so it seems only natural that we too are as limited in our worldview as a spider in the garden. The bigger picture is a great deal bigger than we can imagine.
There is something very beautiful, and reassuring about going into a restaurant that one knows, to share food and talk with friends, in ones home City. There is something great about knowing that the food is prepared with love, the space is nurtured by people who have a sense of belonging, and visited by those that either know it, or are drawn to it because of its authenticity and excellence – it’s about love. Eating in a local restaurant like Estia or Terre a Terre or The Gingerman are experiences of intimacy and fun that are a privilege to be able to enjoy, and to know the talents and enthusiasms of the people who run them and work in them.
As a society we eat out a lot now, but a lot of the eating is done in places where we seem to have lost contact – lost contact with the provenance of the food, lost contact with the people who work there, lost contact with the aims of running a restaurant or café, lost contact with everything to do with people, and place, and maybe in some cases… even human values. For this reason when I list eating places that have lost contact, yet still serve food, I am obliged to give you names that stretch from McDonald’s, Burger King, Wagamama and KFC, to the eating places created by celebrity chefs, who know so much about greed — Jamie Oliver and his holy stuffing gazebos, Gordon Ramsey’s unholy stuffing places, Marco Pierre White’s fluffy football clubbo, Oliver Peyton’s teahouse and pot noodle. For me there is not a lot of difference between one kind of eating empire and another, once the money is out there, the golden carrot is tied to a stick, the visitors follow, and bingo, they’ve hit the mazuma button!
I wish I wasn’t quite so intolerant… It’s just that good people visit our wonderful City because of its difference, not because it looks like the shopping mall in Milton Keynes or Basingstoke. Brighton has signed petitions and fought against chain stores, and continues to do so. Brighton and Hove is the home of Infinity Foods, which despite its massive success resists selling to supermarkets, it’s also the home to the UK’s only Green MP, and for the moment a Green Council, and, deary me, we have just lost the coveted title of vegan capital of the empire, oooh er. Brighton is different, its shops and restaurants are still run by independent traders, battling against chains and internet cut price trading, and it’s the difference that makes people come here, and we thank them. But we are also victim of our own success, and the chain stores, the chain restaurants and the corporates want a share of our unique style.
Were it not for the super-tourists, and their fear of venturing into the unknown, Starbucks would not be able to trade, because it’s mostly the local population that supports the indigenous outlets. It’s local places, like the fabulous Jane Bom-Bane’s that make us special. Who on earth would go into Starbucks when one can have an eating or drinking experience in Bom-Bane’s? So long as corporate clout prevails, I do wonder for how long our local businesses will continue to shine, our beautiful eating places survive, and yet when the good locals go, sucked dry by the corporate leeches, the leeches will surely
move on, searching for another host to bleed dry, for that is their way.