The Worm-Word and I : TWO

(Above: the deep word ‘ONE’, to which we now add…)

In part one, we looked at a simple but effective technique to remove us from the ‘head chatter’ of the flow of verbalised thoughts in our mind. Use of the deep word ‘ONE’, although another word, itself, can act like a ‘bullet’ to stop the stream of often unconscious words that cloud our attention, affect our emotions and drain our energy.

If you’re tried this over the past week, you’ll know it not only works, but starts to reconnect us with peaceful and purposeful level of ‘belonging’ – a place and state with which we have a deep sense of identity. In other words, it feel like home.

It’s worth spending some time noting the qualities of this inner state: Alive, fresh, resilient and happy… and often described as ‘sweet’, in a literal sense.

A friend said of his experience: “It feels like the me I’ve always wanted to be”.

Do any of these things have ‘value’ in the normal, egoic-self world? They can’t be counted or have any other value placed on them; only an approximate description of how they are. But how things are can never be truly described. It exits only in your consciousness. To be more accurate, since consciousness is a much-abused term – how things are can only be the subject of your ‘awareness’. When we use this, we are doing so in a quite different way from it’s common usage. More will be said about this next week.

Mystical writers don’t mean to complicate things; they usually seek to be accurate, but in my experience, when dealing with things of the soul, we need to be direct… almost to shock…

Let’s greet it for what it is. This is the YOU. Its vibrant, sweet and resistance-less nature accompanied you to birth as an infant. It has always been you. If this is you, then what is the other, external you – the personality?

The personality is a machine of protective responses, a shell, an electronic suit of armour that you have grown around every aspect of your sense of self to protect its own preeminence from the attacks of the world.

But the real YOU is this new, inner being that has always been there. It’s not fragile. It’s just covered up and largely ignored because of the sophistication of your ‘day-self in the world’. It busies itself keeping you alive and healthy – when we let it, and waits for the time when you’ll want to meet.

To help us move further into awareness. Let’s add another Deep Word: TWO.

We can go into our ONE state in any set of conditions of the outer life. It doesn’t matter if we’re active or passive. Sitting in our favourite chair or driving the car through the horrible morning traffic, sitting on the bus or the Tube… Or meditating. let the ONE Word seize and silence the chattering Worm-Words, and, as soon as you feel that sense of sweet connection, say (mentally or physically) the word TWO.

As you do so, see the golden circle of calmed awareness created by the ONE word and visualise that it is just in front of you. Mentally reach out your hands and clasp the left and right sides; at the same time rotating this linked ‘you and it’ as though you are being spun around.

You are now on the inside… Looking out – not through the eyes of the personality – but through the eyes of this Inner YOU that contains everything you could need or want.

If thoughts persist in describing this as it’s happening, shoot them down with the ONE world spoken by the TWO consciousness.

The TWO place came before the personality – the ‘daytime you’. That is why the personality is wary of it. The personality – the egoic self – has no powers to affect it; only cloud it over with habitual patterns of what’s important.

The TWO self lives in the world of Being; a place whose nature and laws are different to the outer, material realm.

Nothing is more important than this TWO state, and the more we surrender to its loving embrace, the more we will see the outer ‘world’ in its true, non-reactive presence… and all its glorious beauty.

In the final post in this series, next Thursday, we’ll add another number to complete the series of ‘inner moves’, and come to better understand the nature of Being…

Other parts in this series:

Part One,

——————

©Stephen Tanham 2022

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.

http://www.thesilenteye.co.uk and http://www.suningemini.blog

A Hebridean Diary (1) Impressions of Lewis

(Above: the many lochs of Lewis have their own distinct character)

Although it was a continuation of the same trip, it would be misleading to continue with the ‘Poolewe Diaries’ as a title. The sailing from Ullapool to the Hebridean main island of Lewis marked the second week of our Scottish adventure, so a change of title is appropriate…

Arriving on the island of Lewis, you get a strong sense of the remoteness of the place. Our departure port of Ullapool was remote enough, but then adding a three-hour ferry crossing just emphasised how separated this community is from the main population areas of Scotland.

(Top left: the main Hebridean island of Lewis

Image from Apple Maps, post processed by the author)

The largest town on Lewis is the port of Stornoway, famous for its appearance as the second item in the BBC’s maritime ‘shipping forecast’. The Shipping Forecast is a BBC Radio broadcast of weather reports and forecasts for the seas around the far coasts of the British Isles. It is produced by the Met Office and broadcast by BBC Radio 4 on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

(Above: the main port of Stornoway – Wikipedia)

Stornoway is the main town of the Western Islands (the local name for the Outer Hebrides). It was founded by Vikings in the early 9th century, with the old Norse name Stjórnavágr. The settlement grew up around a sheltered natural harbour and became a trading hub for people from all over the island. Local travel to Stornoway was either by family boat, or (more slowly), by horse-drawn coach. The town of Stjórnavágr was the main base for trade with the rest of Scotland and further afield. 

In the 15th century the local castle, the ancestral base of the MacLeod clan, was breached by the cannons of the Duke of Argyle, and local taxes were imposed on trade. This was hated by the islanders, who rebelled against such shipping rights being imposed. Continued resistance succeeded against King James VI, who, in 1598, tried to establish his own trading company on Lewis: the ‘Fife Adventurers’.

(Above: There are many bridges on Lewis. This one crosses the Atlantic Ocean!)

It failed. Declaring it ‘ungovernable’, James transferred Lewis to the MacKenzies of Seaforth in 1610. Stornoway Castle was later demolished to expand the harbour. A few remnants of the old stonework are to be found beneath the sea, alongside the pier foundations.

I have a personal connection with the island of Lewis – one that’s cultural rather than genetic…

(Above: Rivington Pike, Lancashire – an English Civil War ‘beacon hill’ – sits directly above William Hesketh Lever’s former estate)

I was born in Bolton, Lancashire. As a boy I used to walk the moors above the town of Horwich, marvelling at the ‘lost city’ nature of the ruins of the old ornamental gardens – long abandoned after the house that used to be there was burned down by the Suffragettes.

(Above: the tower where Lady Lever did her embroidery, looking out over her beloved moors)

Later, I found out the mysterious gardens were the creation of William Hesketh Lever and built as a summer retreat on the site of where he and his wife did their courting. For many years, I looked into his life and built up a collection of facts and images. In a sense, his personal industry and success inspired me.

(Above: We were entering a very different world)

William Hesketh Lever, a man born to a working-class family in the centre of Bolton, built up a local soap business and became increasingly successful and prosperous, eventually creating Port Sunlight on the Wirral Peninsula, an entire ‘model town’ where the workers in his vast factories were guaranteed quality homes in the pleasant village. Until this trip, I had not realised that there was a link between William Lever and the island of Lewis.

In 1918, Matheson sold the island of Lewis to the soap millionaire – who had now become William Lever, 1st Viscount Leverhulme. Lord Leverhulme owned the island for only a short time. His economic plans for the Lewis (together with various business setbacks) overstretched his finances.

Faced with failure in Lewis, and unlike his predecessors, he gave Stornoway parish to the people of the town. The Stornoway Trust was formed and continues to administer the town for the people.

(Above: Approaching Lewis… Was that sunshine on the horizon?)

The Lever Brothers soap empire eventually became part of Unilever, the modern multi-national corporation whose cleaning products grace most supermarkets.

If was the Friday afternoon. We needed to stock up on essential supplies from a local supermarket, as Stornoway had the only sizable shops and we were staying many miles away. The following day was Saturday, which would allow us to get our bearings in the Uist Region of the island – before the almost total closure that is Sunday on Lewis.

(Above: the beaches on the mainland had been wonderful, but we were assured that those of Lewis were beyond compare…)

We had been warned that there was a strong and specific religious presence on Harris; one that pervades many aspects of life on the island. In Lewis’ case, it was the ‘Wee-Frees’. The entry in Wikipedia refers:

The Wee Free in modern usage is used, usually in a pejorative way, of any small group who because of their, arguably obscure, religious principles choose to remain outside or separate from a larger body. A Wee Free attitude might show as a preference for being part of a smaller but ideologically sound group rather than a larger compromised one.[

The term ‘Wee Free’ was an epithet commonly used to distinguish between two Scottish Presbyterian Churches after the union of 1900: The Free Kirk and The United Free Kirk – the latter being some 25 times larger in its congregation. The rhyming Scottish diminutive became the adopted familiar name of the smaller entity.

(Above: other passengers looked remarkably like our own Collie!)

The Island of Lewis is dominated by the Wee Free Presbyterian Church. It has its presence in every aspect of the island’s life. The church is energetically anti-Catholic and regards the Pope as having been artificially ‘inserted’ by dogma between mankind and God. One of the tenets of the Wee Free community is that you protect the Sabbath.

Holidaymakers are welcome to attend the churches or simply enjoy their time on the island. But nothing is open on Sundays… well, almost nothing, as we were to discover…

Part One: http://suningemini.blog/2022/05/24/a-poolewe-diary-1/

Part Two, http://suningemini.blog/2022/05/31/a-poolewe-diary-2/

Part Three, http://suningemini.blog/2022/06/06/a-poolewe-diary-3-the-loch-on-the-back-of-the-oats-box/

Part Four, http://suningemini.blog/2022/06/14/a-poolewe-diary-4-once-upon-a-time-in-the-far-north-west/

Part Five: http://suningemini.blog/2022/06/21/a-poolewe-diary-5-over-the-minch-to-lewis/

This is the continuation of our adventure, now on the Hebridean Island of Lewis, and is Part One of ‘A Hebridean Diary’.


©Stephen Tanham 2022

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.

http://www.thesilenteye.co.uk and http://www.suningemini.blog

Foregone Conclusion…

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*

There are approximately one hundred billion stars in our galaxy.

There are approximately one hundred billion galaxies in our universe.

How many stars?

Too many to count…

Yet every one of the approximately eight billion people

on one of the planets circling one of those stars… counts.

And they say life on earth is an accident.

*

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The Ejector-Seat of Self

Do we really understand mindfulness? It’s become one of those ‘must do more of that’ sentiments, as though we could press a button on the side of the head.

Perhaps the reason for our chagrin is not that we lack diligence, but that we think it’s a chore… Possibly that we don’t feel pulled or compelled from within to practice it? After all, we don’t need telling to breathe. It just happens because we need it.

Could we build an internal process that mirrors that life-affirming need for air? Could every thought be automatically checked for its origin and purpose, so that our real existence wasn’t diluted in an exhausting maze of events?

The world practice is key. Like (say) piano practice, we know we need self-discipline to reach the results we want – in the piano’s case the ability to make beautiful music. This generally gets agreement, but the word ‘reach’ is telling. Reach suggests that this mindfulness is not a native state to us; is not part of our intrinsic self… It has to be added with effort.

This expectation of effort may be entirely incorrect, and may provide the key to a more intelligent attention beyond ‘duty or practice’.

We don’t need a formal method to investigate mindfulness. We simply need to let our ‘self’ be the teacher. We are learning about that self every time we turn out attention inwards to watch how we work, how we think, why we wander in our thoughts and end up being frustrated and annoyed.

We could wipe clean our mental idea of the mind and investigate it – right now, reading this! The dialogue you are having, reading these lines on a screen, is the mind. It’s not the act of perception – that operates at a lower, unconscious level. It’s the act of interpretation that is the first part of how the mind (me) reacts to the continuous stream of events.

We can listen to this process of registration by seeing how we turn practically everything we experience into language. Reading this – if you are engaged with it – you will be forming the letters into words spoken by your own voice. Did you hear it, then? It’s quiet, but it’s definitely you.

One interesting technique to make this startlingly conscious is to change that voice – literally change it to another person: say, your wife, or your sister, brother, boss, or even your mother… as though they were reading you a story. It’s not difficult but can be shocking when it reveals how adept this language-based part of the mind is at narrating our everyday experience.

Try changing between two or three voices as though you are all taking turns to read aloud…

Now lets make it different. Drive your car, or take a short walk. Note how the inner narrative is created in language as the external events arrive. We may think that there’s just ‘silent me’ in here, but that’s not the case. The ‘me’ is anything but silent and constantly verbalises your experience, based upon the information of the senses and the automation of the pleasure-pain complexes of the past.

Walk this verbalisation carefully and you will notice that it is all based on what’s happening to you. You may think of others, as in a driver saying, “That young fool is driving like an idiot!”. But the observation is based upon a relationship of ‘I’ and ‘he-she’it’, and neither can exist without the other. To have an external ‘it’ we have to have an ‘I’ to which the ‘it’ is external. In a very short time, this gives vast power to the sense of ‘I’ within. Yet, in reality, it may not be there at all… just a very clever nexus of thoughts.

In other words, our mind – our consciousness of our experience – is based upon a subject-object relationship that divides our entire existence into the ‘me’ at the centre of things and the encircling world experienced as flavours of ‘it’.

From this, we can work backwards… and this is where it gets really interesting.

The Hindu philosopher and teacher Sr Ramana Mahararj made this the nucleus of a lifetime’s teachings.

He taught that the beginning of our physical, brain-led lives was the establishment of an ‘I-thought’. As infants, we move from a state of pure consciousness which has no sense of ‘I and it’, to an awareness of and apparent duality of ‘me and that’. This duality gradually separates us, in large part due to our subject-object language, from the vivid purity of our experience, Gradually, but necessarily, we get pushed away from ‘home’ in order that we survive and mature in the world.

In the next part of the story, we will examine how we can build a new state of consciousness simply by asking two questions of the world as its events flows ‘at us’.

©Stephen Tanham 2022

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.

http://www.thesilenteye.co.uk and http://www.suningemini.blog

Dictators’ Way

Devoid of real feeling, the Dictator treads a lonely way along his chosen, barren path. 

All around him is life – in its shared love and simplicity, but he stays true to the vastness of his egoic channel, long baked by hate into clay-like fixed responses that will not sustain growing things. 

Behind him, the memory of the mountains of ambition keep him focussed on the goal, which he thinks is glory. But really, the Spring meltwaters will wash him into the ocean, where the parts of his body will be rolled, crushed and broken, before Nature recycles him into dusty history to which we may point, but from which few learn… and even fewer remember.

Dictators are everywhere. They are part of the human condition. Our task is to face them with collective courage, cry, “Enough!” And watch their petty coin turn to reveal the inner coward. It does not begin with someone else… It begins here. Here and now are two pristine states we all share, and they are connected to everything and everywhere else.

©Stephen Tanham 2022

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.

http://www.thesilenteye.co.uk and http://www.suningemini.blog

SEE: January Zoom Cyber Room…

No photo description available.
***
Having considered the physical, psychological and spiritual structures of the human being,
we now examine how these interact with our ability to ACT…
Not something that should be taken for granted!
***
The teaching:
Open up…
Get out of the way…
Follow the magic…
***
The meeting was divided into two parts:
Part 1: Action of the level of the Personality
Part 2: Action at the level of Self
Steve began by introducing Part 1 and comparing the life of a tree with that of a human. We discussed the lifecycle of a tree from seed to full-grown, mature tree, reflecting the cycle of life for all beings on Earth, touching on the idea of the necessity for immense quantities of seeds to overcome the degree of chance that affects a tree’s ability to mature. Elements that affect this growth include environment and individual differences. All trees need light, soil, and water and their growth is in two directions – roots into the ground and trunk/canopy into the sky towards the Sun. Once the ‘baby stage’ has passed, saplings need to be flexible and adaptable to the environment and other trees in order to survive. The collective consciousness of trees uses environmental factors to ‘travel’ farther afield. Once matured, the ‘adult’ tree is still connected to the ground and its origins which began in the seed. These are natural laws that flow through the beingness of the tree – does this include consciousness of any kind?
Trees have a different timetable than humans – they are pre-programmed into action but do not seem to have free will or self-awareness, but appear more reactive than proactive. Is this true? In comparison, humans can conceived of a higher awareness and sense of self.
Stuart continued with Part 2 asking what we can do with the Self. He suggested that the process included ‘opening up and then getting out of the way’ which dissolves the ego to the Higher and creates a channel for energies to express themselves through the individual. When we respond in kind to the ‘magic presented, we are acting from the Higher Will of the Planetary Being; High Magic, therefore, is the Will of the Planetary Being or Magician.
This evolved into a discussion about Magic as a conscious transformation of Will, an inner oblation to connect with the Divine, and a ‘connection’ with something ‘else’. Each of these involve a change in consciousness and/or a change in reality – are these the same?
From here, ensued a discussion of Higher states, how to reach them and how to describe, including being fully immersed in the moment of Now and remaining, at the same time, 100% oneself.
Describing this state can be challenging and demands that all the senses being tuned in, adapting itself well to be described through poetry and, perhaps, song. This is the state from which we would like to act.
Robert’s words closed the meeting: ‘The Divine is just waiting for us to open and then the Divine acts through us. It starts small and grows with experience. This shift begins with opening up’.
Recorder, Caroline Ormerod
***

see what you’re seeing!

It sounds odd, doesn’t it? See what you’re seeing…

But we don’t. We do see, but we don’t see what we’re seeing.

I’d better explain my terms, here, before it becomes an exercise in Zen paradox – which I want to avoid. There are not only two, but three phases in our act of seeing. The first is the actual biological receiving of the light waves/particles by our eye’s receptors. The second is the rapid conversion into ‘object of interest’ by our brains – based entirely on what we have seen before.

The third is the intervention of our own consciousness to examine what we are looking at; and it’s that last one that make the difference when we are trying live more ‘mindful’ lives.

Habit makes us see superficially. The brain is programmed to cut down the volume, so, essentially, we see what we’ve always seen, and in particular what we saw the last time we were in ‘this situation’. This situation may be an event, such as a confrontation or it may simply be a something seen along a footpath or road,

Nothing illustrates this better than the process of writing a blog post. You start with an idea, then maybe create an outline of what you want to say – particularly how you want to end. You then have to shift mindset from that high-level exercise to one of beginning the detail, usually with a line that will generate enough interest to carry the reader through the post. The length of the blog is critical; people lead busy lives and you can help those who support you by being succinct.

You use this stage to flesh out the post, ensuring that you include all the notes you made before beginning to write the draft.

Then a different phase begins: you begin to turn the piece into a ‘whole’ by reading it back as a single entity, noticing that the flow between certain paragraphs feels good or not so good – usually because the latter feels ‘forced’. You may be able to modify this, or may have to delete the whole paragraph… sometimes because you’ve spotted that a neighbouring one can be expanded in an economic way to include that key idea.

And so on… Until you reach the finished post and can press ‘Schedule’.

But many wise bloggers have noticed that another review, some time later – or possibly the following morning, just before publication time – can throw up a whole field of errors you must have read twenty or more times… but not seen.

That last act of checking with a different head on removes us from the initial process of ‘constructing and seeing’ together. It forces us to focus on an entirely different aspect of our written piece: its structure rather than its content…or, to use a metaphysical concept, its form rather than its force.

If you have a trade or hobby in which ‘critical seeing’ is essential, then you are likely to have developed the skill of deconstructing the image of what’s in front of you. Photographers have to do this all the time. To use our terms above, their minds have been trained, usually over many years, to see good force; knowing that it will take accumulated skill to employ the techniques of composition and image finishing to deliver that forceful form to the viewer of the image. The force gives it life; the form lets it endure.

Our minds work in similar ways, and vision is the dominant component of the input to consciousness. We can approach the mindful – the spiritual – by a simple act of deconstructing the act of seeing.

When we encounter a natural scene that affects us, emotionally, we should stop the normal process of intellectual perception by refusing to let the mind think. Thinking contains all the value judgements: the likes and dislikes that distort what we see and shroud it (an appropriate word!) in our history. We don’t want the accumulated history of seeing similar objects, we want to see the now, expressed in the beauty of nature.

Having stopped the constant voice of habitual thought )and this is not trivial, but the struggle, itself, is so instructive) we then sense a different kind of seeing, one that usually contains a degree of calm emotion. If the emotion begins to contain value judgements, such as like or dislike, then we should gently nudge it back to simply seeing and not reacting. We are aiming to get a sense of presence, with a calm and sweet quality to it. You will know it when it happens… and never want to lose it, again.

©Stephen Tanham 2021

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.

http://www.thesilenteye.co.uk and http://www.suningemini.blog

the size of life

What size is our life?

It’s an odd question, but the kind of challenge that gets us thinking… Does our life have a ‘size’? We can measure it in years elapsed, of course, and that may have a lot to do with how we think we got ‘here’. But that continuity is entirely in our head, and, has little to do with the real world of now, out there. It’s curious that we allocate more reality to the solid stuff beyond our eyes than we do to the supposed ‘supercomputer’ that is busy assembling all this into reality.

Eyes, it is always said, are the ‘gateway to the soul’. But they are also the gateway to what we are taught is the world. The eyes detect a vast part of what we assemble into that world – which exists only in the mind. And yet, when we look out with those eyes, we see a world with which we are totally involved, with no sense of distance or division, and no real distinction between the in-here and the out-there – that is only added when someone invites us to consider that there may be a duality at work. Even then, the duality may be false.

There are eyes, and then there is seeing. How big is our seeing? There’s another odd question. I know that science says that what sees is in my head, but how much of my head does it take up? Is it, symbolically, like a vast cinema screen that I watch all the time, except when I’m sleeping, and maybe even then – in the form of dreams; which may explain why they make so little sense. Perhaps the part of the supercomputer that makes things make sense sleeps, leaving the connected feed to the outside world intact… But that seems not to be the case. The senses shut down the second we fall asleep, which is why we drop that teacup onto the carpet when we fall asleep in our armchair. The dream, then, seems to deal only with what we already have inside us.

The ‘me’ seems to return with wakefulness, which shows how interlinked with ‘the world’ it is. It makes us wonder what the other, dreaming self, really is? Perhaps that dream awareness is more machine-like than we think? Or maybe it’s just connected to the universe in a different way…

Back to size. In my waking ‘self’, I don’t feel any size at all. I have been taught by the world that I’m a certain size, so I behave according to that and perhaps look to bolster my medium height with other strategies that make me important, which makes my-self feel good.

But really the ‘point’ of me has no size at all. It’s simply the act of watching. When my mind is not watching the world, it is usually in that dream state, because the constant change of sensual stimuli is not present. If there are changing things out-there, my mind is busy watching and interpreting them. There is even a kind of voice that narrates the watching, giving each thing its name, like in the Bible book of Genesis. We are not only close-coupled with the world, we are also habituated to narrating its stream of existence.

Why is our existence so complicated? Mystically speaking we have two answers: It may not really be so complicated at all; and, secondly, finding the answer is what makes the whole journey so worthwhile.

In order to get out of our habitual way of being locked into the world and give our deeper ‘self’ its rightful place, we need techniques that ‘shake’ the questionable foundations of our perception. One of these, handed down from the spiritual wisdom of old, is related our opening focus on size.

Place a candle in front of you. Lean forward to light it. Be conscious of the distance. Sit back in your chair and focus only on the very centre of the flame. Notice its twin nature, with intense brightness forming a ring around a sometimes black centre where the flame begins.

Now imagine that your world is the bright ring. See its constantly changing nature and watch how it commands your attention. Then gaze into the middle – the point of origination of the flame – and let your whole attention be drawn into the central dark area within the light. Feel the unity of both aspects of the flame but know that your own ‘point’ of true self is at the centre, and that the rest is a process of reflection. Imagine you are nothing (no-thing) in that central point, yet completely present to everything.

©Stephen Tanham 2021

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.

http://www.thesilenteye.co.uk and http://www.suningemini.blog

Curried garlic

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I recoiled as I opened the door. There had, quite apparently, been garlic the night before. Lots of garlic. Evidently in curry. And there can be few things worse than second-hand garlic, except, perhaps, walking, all unsuspecting, into a small, hermetically sealed room where the stuff has been exuded from every pore overnight. My tormentor laughed at the groans that escaped me, in spite of my attempts to hold my breath, as I beat a hasty retreat after diving for the window and throwing it wide open. I wasn’t going back till the miasma had cleared.

Those who say that garlic is good for you have evidently never encountered the phenomenon of the exudation of the stuff overnight. It may indeed have many health benefits, including as an antibacterial. Certainly nothing, even as virulent as a virus, could have survived in that room.

He, of course, had enjoyed the meal and was so habituated to the gradual garlic infestation of his environs that he was unaware of it. I had detected vague precursors to the pollution of his airspace as soon as I had opened the front door to let myself in, of course; but the sheer scale and venomous stench of the stuff was overpowering. Especially so early in the morning. Though I was fairly glad I’d only gulped down a coffee before the taxi arrived to take me to his home. Breakfast and I would otherwise have undoubtedly parted company.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like garlic. Properly used as a condiment it is rather like salt…barely noticeable; enhancing, rather than adding, flavour in a dish. As an ingredient, it adds a wonderful freshness and distinctive character. As a curried-morning-after-the-night-before, it is, however, vile.

The stench, for I cannot call it by a lesser name, holds memories for me. Vague wafts of the Parisian Metro at rush hour, coupled with its own distinctive smell of sulphur, as if the underground train runs through the bowels of Hell instead of beneath the steps of heaven. The doctor whose face was, for hours, inches from mine as he stitched it back together again. The desperation of mint and fresh parsley when a first date came immediately after a garlic and green bean salad… I have memories of garlic. And those that sprang to mind, elicited from the depths, were, it has to be said, none of them good.

My tormentor, however, having thoroughly enjoyed the meal the night before, was blithely unconscious of the effects of his allium indulgence. Until those effects were made abundantly apparent by my reactions to the olfactory assault. His hilarity was not, however, consummate with own state of mind and body by this point, as said body went into flight mode and headed for the open door…

A little garlic, I can cope with. It is easy to simply ignore and you become so accustomed to it, in small quantities, that you soon barely notice its presence. It becomes part of the atmosphere. It is easy too, to fail to notice another person’s memorial garlic, when you have shared the platter with them, or eaten a similar one of your own creation. One’s own level of exudation, however, remains often undetected.

I could, however, see an analogy in that as I breathed the fresh, clean air on his doorstep; wondering how often we can all create situations whose chain-reactions ripple through the lives of those around us, while we ourselves remain unconscious, like the toxic exhalation of curried garlic previously enjoyed… until something snaps, bends or breaks… and metaphorical fresh air is not always so easy to find. We do what we do, without malice, without any intention of causing potential harm or indeed discomfort to others, yet we cannot always foresee the effects of our behaviour until it becomes a cause of regret.

Rather like eating too much curried garlic.