Hearing is more important at this time than seeing.
Yet, sight has primacy in the market place of life. The scenes from parliament, ice bergs melting, children telling politicians that we have let the planet down.
When I hear, I detect what is being disclosed specifically to me at this moment of shudderation and loss. We remember that the greatest seers, the great storytellers, the greatest visionaries are so often blind. Listening is the thing.
In ancient Greece, if you needed wisdom greater than human you went to the market square of Pharae in Achaea and created a libation for Hermes, god of communication, messages, storytelling. There stood a statue of the bearded god. After burning incense, lighting the oil lamp, and leaving a coin on the right of the deity, you whispered your question in its ear. Once complete, you swiftly turned and left the sacred area with your hands over your ears. Once out, you removed your hands, and the very first words you heard were Hermes speaking back to you. You curated these insights into your heart, pondered and then acted on them.
You didn’t see Hermes, you heard Hermes. You listened.
It’s said that in ancient Greece the deaf were shunned through their supposed lack of capacity to hear the gods. That was considered dangerous. Isn’t it interesting that the enquirer to Hermes kept their ears blocked till they were out of the market square, so as not to be assailed by idle, worldly chatter and think it divine? I wonder if we may be asking our questions to Hermes but removing our hands too early.
Sometimes, watching the news or reading the newspaper I feel we are in the underworld, like that picture near my office: knife crime, drugs, Donald Trump and the destruction of nature.
This world can be heavenly or hellish and all points in between. It can still be Arcadia, Camelot, Eden almost. That’s why it’s confusing. We still get to go on holiday, drink wine, watch beautiful sunsets. We still pay insurance and our children go to a university. But there seems to be something happening. An unravelling. A collapsing, both tacit and immense in scale. Perhaps this is a good thing - I have learnt not to judge.
And there’s just more of the Underworld about. It has tactile, tangible attributes. We have Penthos (Grief), Curae (Anxiety) and Phobus (Fear), those gatekeepers of the place roving ever more readily amongst us. Either chronic or acute, acknowledged or not, they are present at our table. So what happens when the underneath, the chthonic, the shadowed material starts to become more and more visible?
Then we must remember that at a deeper level we come from a place of bliss and light. As the poet Kathleen Raine said to me years ago, ‘David, it is up to you whether you live in the Golden Age or the Age of Iron.’ So I chose the Good, The True and the Beautiful and I would defend them to my dying breath - they are what the world needs.
How I saw these heavenly qualities in your sons on Open Day as they showed prospective parents around our wonderful school, their integrity sparking for them. That most amazing Irish poets WB Yeats wrote that, ‘Heaven or Hell were not, until man made up the whole, lock, stock and barrel out of his bitter soul.’
These seem to be bitter days, but by choosing heaven we may still save the day!