Warrior No More

Neuroscience continues to affirm Buddhist teaching, that our imagined ‘self’ is nothing fixed, but a dynamic state of adaptation; so that in one lifetime we become many different people, (some we’d rather forget). Thankfully, our later years bring relative calm, but I was never going to settle for what was considered ‘normal’; for reasons we don’t understand, some of us are programmed to disrupt.

            I worked most of my life in the voluntary sector, and was astonished last week, when the reshuffle of Scottish Govt priorities failed to even mention our existence. Such affront would once have been an immediate ‘call to arms’ for me – but I feel relief that response is now for others – that I am a warrior no more.

            In six different troughs and pots, I’m trying to grow sweet peas from a variety of seedlings; the weather’s not helping, but every day I monitor their progress, pretend to help. Old age has shifted focus from the ‘impact’ to the ‘texture’ of my life; I cultivate slowness, patience, the quality of my consciousness at this moment.

            No-one can reach the age of 80, without knowing sorrow, without knowing how desolate life’s landscape can sometimes be. “Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing…then, it is only kindness that makes sense anymore, only kindness that raises its head from the crowd of the world, to say ‘it is I you have been looking for’, and then goes everywhere with you, like a shadow or a friend”.

Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye (1980).


My grandfather was drowned, along with circa 450 other Italian Scots, when the Arandora Star was torpedoed in July 1940. For Scotland’s nascent Italian community, this was a major tragedy and Bella Caledonia carries a story about it this week; it’s by Iain McPhail (grandmother Lamarra) who creatively links his piece to Eduardo Paolozzi’s sculptures at the top of Edinburgh’s Leith Walk – and to the neighbourly support of ‘hounded’ migrants at Glasgow’s Kenmure Street. I’m the grandson of economic migrants welcomed to Scotland a hundred years ago. Our community was made entirely welcome and fully integrated. I am a proud Scot. Nothing separates us so decisively from England as hostility to ‘foreigners’.


Michael Palin is 78 – watching his TV travels, I rarely disagree with him; same goes for this guest column he did for the ‘i’ on Saturday. His theme is ‘Nothing happens till somebody sells something’ as the all-consuming message that drives our market economies, and algorithms increasingly manipulate consumer choice. Is our anger an age thing?


Like an island, surrounded by the Brazil of right-wing President, Bolsonaro, the city of Marica (pop. 160,000) has implemented several progressive socialist policies – including a form of Basic Income. Social scientists and politicians from around the world, thinking of the post-Covid era, are paying close attention. Interesting story from Der Spiegel.


I’m a fan of the ‘public health’ approach to criminal justice as propagated by Karyn McCluskey, CEO of Community Justice Scotland. This article from Monday’s Scotsman, discussing Covid prevention, is a quick refresher on the thinking behind Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit. McCluskey first gave me the insight: ‘Hurt people hurt people’.


More than most of those I talk with, I’m convinced that our lives are influenced by mental processes outside our conscious awareness; that each of us hosts a parliament of unconscious voices. This Conversation article looks at some of the psychological science – research insights that could help us all make better decisions.


This is from the epilogue of Richard Holloway’s memoir, Leaving Alexandria.

“… And I, a doubting priest, blessed and committed him to the care of the God I don’t believe in. I did it believing and not believing in what I was saying, but doing it for his sake, who also believed and did not believe. It is the pain of our humanity to know that we are nothing that lasts, like the haar that blows along the street; yet to feel the pity of that because of the dreams we have dreamed, dreams that sometimes seem to be higher and better than the universe that so indifferently spawns them. That is the conundrum of our humanity, the place of living and losing we occupy.”

That’s all for this week.