general madness · Stories

Singing My Soul Back Home

I’m an odd little man. Fact. And that means being way too passionate about some things (affectionately referred to as ‘Geeking Out’), social awkwardness, and something a little more unique – I sing. People who know me have heard me sing to myself, sing walking down the street, while working, while cooking, while happy, while sad, even when I really shouldn’t sing. It whelms up from inside me and is out before I consciously catch it. There is a song that unites them and it is the song of my soul. I get that people don’t sing as comprehensively as I do – it is strange, but it is also fundamentally me. In essence I like who I am, how I am and how I live in the world.

I’ve had a tough year, and my song got less, and less and less until it disappeared on me. I also agreed to take magic pills to help heal my soul (ie happy pills) but they make me dull, without diamonds and sparkle and definitely without song. I hit the point where I lost my song for a really long time, easily 6 months, six months of living vulnerably, and apologetically (sorry I am as I am), and disconnected, and that was beginning to become my reality.

But then something extraordinary happened.

I went to see a family I know and stayed for a few days. They have a son who is constitutionally very like me – strange and aspie-esque and wonderful exactly as he is. He is a perfect mirror to the bits of me that got lost and despondent. He has somehow become very attached to me (even though I think I am not very personable, particularly when it comes to children and young people) and would have these wonderful conversations with me, taught me to play chess (I don’t know how I went so long without learning before now), and through how he relates to the world, sang a ‘song’ that I recognised. In his search for words, and facts, and the enjoyment of the search for and acquisition of knowledge I met myself, and as days past I became ever more myself.

After a few days I was more me again, and a strange thing happened, as it always used to – I began to sing. It wasn’t something that came consciously, but it welled up from deep inside of me and came out. What most surprised me was the song that my soul sang. It was an old, but strangely apt Spiritual:

This little light of mine
I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine
I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine
I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Over this time I also had thoughts and conversations about who this young man was constitutionally, and what challenges would meet him. Reflecting, I realised there was all that potential for otherness, exclusion, bullying and people trying to push down those bits that sparkle and shine and are enthused. It happens to all of us, but especially for those of us who sparkle a different colour. Having been reminded of my souls song, and having had my soul sung back home (though there is still much to do) I hope that if he, or others who like me drum to a different beat, lose their song, that I can some day sing that song for someone else.

Though too young to explain quite what that has meant to me, and not wanting to hang a label on how we are, what I could tell him was this: “I appreciate our friendship and I like you EXACTLY as you are”. The song of the soul is the love song the soul sings to itself, it says yes, and that song also sings between people as beautiful harmonies and resonant notes. Viva la musica!


The Story of Place

I have found something which is new to me, a storyteller and mythologist named Dr. Martin Shaw. He tells stories but also deals in big and ethereal ideas. One of the big ideas which has really resonated with me is the idea that we have a sense of place. In the West we have conquered places, bought and sold places, possessed places. Instead of claiming the land we are left to ask, what claims us? Does the land have a story it is asking to tell us, and can new stories arise by being and listening to the land?

Shaw has written a book on this very theme, the place and its personage called “Scatterlings”. Still musing over it, but he has a kind of trailer for the book with many of these ideas spelled out in a much more eloquent and visceral manner than I currently find words for. Wrestling with some of these ideas in terms of the song of my soul and my sense of place here in Ireland and how that translates into the perception of the land personified as Herself, the being of the land: Eiriu.


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general madness · Stories

Telling Stories (oral storytelling)

At a recent social gathering I found myself offering a few poems and a story in the course of the evenings entertainment. When I tell a story it proceeds from a love of it, and it comes out, each time a little different, but each time equally true. I often tell stories in the Irish mythological tradition, and they are back and forths with the audience including questions, magic words and songs so that we cocreate a story. Each time is a little different in the detail depending on the audience, myself, and how that story resonates with me. That which is factual is dry, but that which is true, touched by the inspiration of universal truth, lives among us.

 On the point of oral story telling I wanted to share the following documentary on the subject which really gives a sense of the wonder and beauty of telling stories. There are also a few familiar faces in here.

Watch. Enjoy. Share (I didn’t have anything to do with it, I just think it’s really REALLY good!) and if you want more things like this be sure to FOLLOW this site.

general madness · Stories

The Old Man with the Medals (musing)

Today I was in town and passing through the shopping centre I passed by an old man with a chest full of medals. He was in a mobility vehicle, and across his left breast there was a solid plate of medals covering a huge area. They looked clean but not quite dazzling as if they would benefit from a good shine. This man was speaking to a security guard and was being well listened to. It was clear they were talking about his breastplate of honourifics as this elderly man puffed out his chest. It wasn’t a memorial day or any day of special significance, and I began to wonder why he was wearing these medals? They were most likely significators of his sense of life’s worth and work, though this only partially answered my question.

Then it dawned on me – perhaps these medals made him visible again. We live in a culture where we do not adequately honour the elderly, we do not seek their advice, or listen to their stories. This is a cultural phenomena of the post modern West. This was someone who probably felt invisible, who needed people to talk to, who was seeking a way to convey the fact that he mattered, that he had value, that he made a contribution and that not so subtle conveyance spoke volumes, firstly about him, but in the thoughts that lingered also about ourselves, myself, about society. From the initial surprise I am left with the question, had he not worn these medals would this man have stayed in my memory, or would I have walked by, unimpressed by his medals, unremembering, undervaluing another old man? I would hope not, but somehow I know that is the reality of it.