Category Archives: History

Anything related to history.

Through strife good outcomes emerge

 When life is easy, beware.

Only through the strife of sun and rain storm did this beautiful Summer Solstice rainbow emerge.

Only through the strife of sun and rain storm did this beautiful Summer Solstice rainbow emerge in Colchester.

The philosopher Heraclitus has restored my hope in humanity, though the path to that hope will be through extreme suffering.  Heraclitus said through conflict/struggle all things become:

26. It should be understood that war is the common condition, that strife is justice, and that all things come to pass through the compulsion of strife. Heraclitus.

If conflict/struggle did not exist, all things would cease to exist.  There would be no rainbows for instance if there was no opposition of rain storm and sun.

27. Homer was wrong in saying, “Would that strife might perish from amongst gods and men” . For if that were to occur, then all things would cease to exist. Heraclitus.

When there is no strife, things fall apart. When you stop using your brain and muscles it is inevitable that they will begin to weaken and atrophy, whilst if subjected to the pain of exercise, the brain and muscles become strong and efficient.

50. Even the sacred barley drink separates when it is not stirred. Heraclitus

When life is easy, when there is no struggle, the worst of human nature comes forth, followed by tragedy and ruin. Think of the spoilt child who gets everything they demand from their parents, I know of no case study that a spoilt child turned into a wise, caring and humble adult.

96. May you have plenty of wealth, you men of Ephesus, in order that you may be punished for your evil ways. Heraclitus.

I made a study of the newest generation of teenagers in the UK to get a rough idea of how the future might unfold under their rule.  Experts call the new generation, Generation Citizen (Generation C) a caring-sharing generation, interested in their communities and social issues.  Gen C are conservative, non-rebellious, and the most ambitious generation in a hundred years.  Compared to other generations the UK Gen C score low on crime, drug abuse, drinking alcohol and smoking.

The teenagers of the 1960′s and 1970′s are the exact reverse of Gen C, who have been the decision-makers who ruled this world for the last 25-years, under whose stewardship greed, control and stupidity has brought the planet close to ruin.  This is not to say that other generations contributed, but it is the stewards who must take responsibility, they had power to do something about it, and failed.

The difference between the outlooks of the teens of the 1960′s and 1970′s against the teens of Gen C is economic conditions.  The 1960′s was the start of economic boom in the UK: plentiful jobs, where you could lose your job on a friday and walk into one on a monday; easy access to credit such as hire purchase; inflation was only emerging; cost-of-living was low; welfare was easy; the government paid the education fees of students in higher education.  The teenage rebellion, culture and movements of the 1960′s and 1970′s was due to the easy availability of money, but it created stewards who failed to care for their planet.

Gen C in the UK are unable to access credit; jobs are rare or non-existent; welfare benefits are constantly cut and eliminated for the young; higher education courses paid for by student loans that fail to cover living expenses, the young start life in extreme debt; cost-of-living is high, the young struggling to pay their food and rent.  Despite all this hardship, an amazing generation has emerged.

I now realise that good things happen through strife such as wisdom, liberty, sustainability and creativity, and when times are good, it a time of unseen dangers such as hubris, selfishness and greed.  In times of great hardship such as in prisoner-of-war-camps and earthquakes human innovation and empathy emerge in abundance.  As Heraclitus says: “strife is justice.”

Graves in a wood

Nothing lasts but a legacy useful to the living.

Forgotten graves in a wood, the church is long gone.

Forgotten graves in a wood, the church is long gone.

I cycled out to the villages outside of Colchester, coming upon a strange situation by the side of the road.  A wood with graves, and no church.  I entered the wood and saw the many grave markers, many hidden in the undergrowth and woodland, forgotten and unloved.  From a creative point of view I enjoyed an opportunity to take metaphorical photographs on the subject of death and life, the supremacy of nature over humanity and on the subject of mortality.

The most recent of the graves dated 1904.  The church had suffered fire and demolition perhaps a century before, the graveyard abandoned to nature.  Sadly for all those buried in the graveyard there was nobody left in the locality that remembered or cared enough to tend their graves, the deceased abandoned and forgotten.

Death scares most people.  Most people fear being alone or forgotten.  Too many people live their lives out as a narcissistic Facebook profile.  Many people need fame, to live forever, to never be forgotten.  Most people, like those people in the graveyard, will when they die will vanish into obscurity, nobody will care, and no memory beyond some indifferent historical record will mark their passing.

I blinked, then time ate multiple years of my life.  I know when I blink again, I will probably be remembering this blog post thirty years from now as I attend someone’s funeral, reflecting on my mortality.  When I blink again, I will be dead, decomposing in some grave.

Sitting in my garden are ten acorn saplings in pots, my vision is that when I die a couple of great oak trees will live on to mark my anonymous legacy.  It is the harsh reality we all shall die, and most of us will be forgotten a few decades after we die.  The living rarely have time to remember or care about the deceased, since life demands their attention.  The legacy that each of us can leave that will get us remembered is something useful to the living like planted oak trees, because nobody cares about Facebook profiles and grave markers hidden in forgotten graveyards.

The importance of symbolism

Symbolism helps you remember important information.

I look for a story or symbol in many of my photographs.  This is the Mercury statue on the Colchester Mercury Theatre reaching up to the sun.

I look for a story or symbol in many of my photographs. This is the Mercury statue on the Colchester Mercury Theatre reaching up to the sun.

Each day I sadly pass sections of Roman wall in Colchester that are missing, part of a quarter of the two thousand-year old wall lost to history, demolished in the English civil war between King and Parliament.  The siege of Colchester, which supported the King, ended in defeat for the royalists, their leaders executed by firing squad behind Colchester Castle. Parliament later executed by beheading the English King Charles I.

Through symbolism the modern English Parliament reminds the present Queen who is in charge.  Today was the re-opening of Parliament for the final year before national elections.  The Queen’s representative the Black Rod visited Parliament today, then had the door slammed in his face.  The Queen has to attend Parliament today to read a speech prepared for her by Parliament to inform the nation what they plan to do over the next year.

As a sign of good faith the Queen is given a hostage of a Member of Parliament who she imprisons at her palace in case anyone chooses to harm her whilst she visits Parliament.  Soldiers search the cellars under Parliament in case anyone has stored gunpowder to blow up the British Government with the Queen, as Guy Fawkes attempted to do in 1605.

As a reminder to the Queen of who is in charge, she puts on her robes in a room with a large portrait of her beheaded ancestor Charles I looking down upon her.  After the Queen delivers her speech, the Members of Parliament initially ignore what she said and debate on the subject of outlaws instead.

The event today was not without its own unpredictable symbolism when there was heard a loud thud when the Queen was announcing UK plans on Iran, when a page-boy fainted.

The death of John Harding

I mark the death of a child over a hundred years ago.

The memory of John Harding most recently featured in a play called Depot at the Colchester Mercury Theatre, resulting in addressing an injustice over a hundred years later

The memory of John Harding remembered recently in a play called Depot at the Colchester Mercury Theatre, resulting in me addressing an injustice over a hundred years later.

Around the date 22nd April 1870 a 14-year-old called John Harding ran away from home in my town of Colchester fearing a beating for losing a brush.   Being a good runner John evaded capture by his parents for several days, hungry, cold and with no safe home.  Today marks the anniversary of the death of John Harding by murder on 26th April 1870.

John remains part of the folklore of Colchester remembered in books and stage plays.  A few years ago I paid for a marker for John’s grave, whilst over a hundred years later in the same newspaper that recorded in detail the inquest into his murder, I marked justice by placing on record that his parents murdered him.

The story is here.

A robin and King Arthur

Prosperity is due to giving people liberty, opportunity and stability.

Given liberty, opportunity and stability this robin in my garden enjoys health, happiness and abundance.

Given liberty, opportunity and stability this robin in my garden enjoys health, happiness and abundance.

I am researching King Arthur at the moment. Arthur has many names including the name Cerdic to the Saxons, but what amazed me was how he managed to rule people of many races, language and religion in a manner that drew positive opinion by all those parties long after his death. Arthur was one of the last Roman generals of the old order who followed the ideal of allowing people live their lives in freedom as longs as they did not threaten his rule and paid their taxes.

Arthur was pragmatic, allowing people for instance to live the religion they desired, which meant there was no reason for them to rebel, allowing him to concentrate his attention on expanding his empire rather than fight constant rebellions in his own dominions. Arthur only fell when his family collapsed into civil war evidently due to conflict between two sisters (Triad 53: one of the “Three Harmful Blows of the Island of Britain.

From Arthur I learnt that regardless of type of ruler, people will never rebel, but support the ruler if the ruler gives them three things: liberty, opportunity and stability.  In the time of Arthur Britain was in chaos as petty warlords fought for supremacy, Arthur gave the people stability.  Arthur also allowed people liberty to practice their own culture, religion and language in peace.  Arthur gave people opportunity by allowing them the ability to trade, grow crops and build their homes using the free resources the land provided.

I can apply liberty, opportunity, and stability to the local robin in my garden.  The robin has stability to raise young because the garden is quiet and secure.  The robin has liberty in that nobody imposes limitations on its ability to express its innate nature as a robin.  The robin has opportunity because the garden has nesting sites, food, water and nest-building materials.  Liberty, opportunity and stability has a positive outcome of a happy, healthy and abundant robin.

Into the darkness

Impermanence, death, winter and nature.

"What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly" Photo dedicated in memory of NIKOtheOrb, RIP.

“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.”
Photo dedicated in memory of NIKOtheOrb, RIP.

The first day of November heralded for the Celts the start of the new year, for my ancient ancestors considered that the world began from the darkness.  This is now the twelfth day of winter, everything is dark and cold, the land of Britain is falling asleep.  The trees cast off their leaves, the hedgehog that visited my garden has vanished into hibernation.

I am reminded at this time of the tale of Lludd and Llevelys, a Celtic story of a king that I argue was ruler of Colchester because he was brother to Cassivellaunus who was said to have historically seized Colchester prompting Julius Caesar to invade Britain, and in legend to have seized the throne of Britain from his brother.  In this story at the start of winter an invisible thief charms everyone to sleep then steals the food and drink of the people, prompting Lludd to call in help from his wise brother Llevelys.  The story highlights the Celtic worldview that death and winter is merely a transformation, nothing dies, everything becomes invisible and asleep, before re-emerging awake and visible.  The invisible thief is that aspect of nature that is death and winter, the land is now asleep, and the abundant food I used to forage until a few weeks ago has vanished.  

This invisible thief has hurt me in recent weeks by making invisible… stealing… those things and people I cared about.  I was devastated when the “Castle Tree” was wiped out by storm St Jude on 28th October.  Now I learn that a blogger, a kindred spirit called Nikotheorb died on 21st October, the day they made three blog posts, and who I last exchanged comments with on 16th October on Liberated Way.  Niko’s blog posts and their comments on my blog was a source of influence and encouragement to my blogging.  I do not know how Niko died, but I grieve at this news, like parts of me are vanishing into nothingness.

Objectively I recognise in nature there is impermanence, everything is change and transformation.  Things and people appear and go out of existence every moment in nature.  I write this, Helix the cat has jumped upon the table to investigate an interesting smell, unusual for this cat… everything in motion… the cat is cleaning itself and now settling down to sleep on its interesting new “blanket”… I remember Helix as a little kitten… in years to come it will grow old and pass on…

Like my ancestors I recognise that death is not an ending, but a transformation from one state to another.  What is invisible and asleep will emerge again into visibility and wakefulness.  The warm days will return, the darkness and cold will flee, the land will awaken into abundant visibility at some point.  For everything and everyone death is a change in state, visible to invisible to visible again.

The last post of Niko was about her delight of a thunderstorm. My post on 22nd October after Niko’s passing is my own joy of nature. The cat Helix watches me as I post these last words, a reminder of the moment, to enjoy life whilst we can, each beautiful moment.  Helix goes to sleep.   The final post by Niko was a quote by Einstein:

“Out of clutter, find simplicity.  From discord, find harmony.  In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

Tears as I finish… a little cat sleeps next to my laptop in innocent bliss.

Nature of death

Death is a part of nature.

Death is an aspect of nature.

Death is an aspect of nature.

Hordes of the undead and devilish swamped the streets of Colchester last night, watched over by parents and a highly visible police presence to prevent some of the excesses of Halloween trick or treating.  For Britain Halloween remains the domain of children, dressing up, partying and visiting the appropriately decorated houses for candy and cake.

Halloween marked the start of winter, as I write this blog on the 1st November, it is the first day of winter in the UK.  The Celts called Halloween by the name of Samhain, which was their new year, a time to rest after the harvest, and to remember deceased ancestors.  It was Christianity which largely painted the false idea Halloween was devil worship.

As the children had their fun, dressing up and obtaining candy I considered how different their outlook is to the children of their Colchester Celtic ancestors.  Imagine a gathering of the modern family, a seat is left empty for grandma, the mother places grandmas skull at the empty seat and food and drink for her, then everyone eats and drinks to celebrate their new year… would a modern child be terrified of such a scene, of facing a reminder of death? A Celtic ancestor child would not.

In Colchester Celtic communities were animistic, living a worldview where past, present and future were continuous; the ancestors were a part of the community, and children continued the same traditions and beliefs as the ancestors.  Central to any community a Celtic shrine, where the bones of important ancestors were kept.

There were places in Colchester a deceased person would be exposed to the elements, away from the community, consumed by crows, to rot.  After a period of time, parts of the body would be recovered such as skull, and distributed amongst family and friends, often transferred to the family or community shrine.  The community cremated the rest of the body, and a feast held in its honour.

Death is a part of nature, and it is interesting to reflect on this aspect of nature on occasion as Halloween often does for me.

New beginnings

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly.

My fallen comrade, a tree, which dominated a field boundary.

My fallen comrade, a tree, which dominated a field boundary.

The eve of the Celtic new year, marked by what feels a new cycle in my life.  The eve of the first day of winter, the land marked by the passing of Storm St Jude.  The last 24 hours is like a rollercoaster of creative connections, like pieces of a jigsaw, connections fall into place, revealing the picture of solutions to long-standing challenges such as business branding and the direction in my life.

Escape from death

I returned to my camp site in the wood, the nighttime temperatures fell to a new low of 5 Celsius, I am testing my limits in nature, I passed the night challenge comfortably.  I had enclosed the camp on all sides with a boundary of branches, cut in half by the fallen tree, a victim of St Jude.  I previously considered locating my tent under the tree, had I done so, potential death.  Had I been standing under the tree at the wrong moment, for I had stood under it as St Jude smashed into the wood, I would be dead.  I am thankful for good fortune of life, the fallen tree and my escape from death teaches me about the impermanence of life, that life is a risk.

Spirit of Place

I believe all places have a spirit, essence, or life.  When I camp I ask the spirit of place to protect me and my belongings when I am there, for life is partly random chaos, thus there is a risk of harm from random events.  I would like to think the spirit of place watched out for me, I suffered no harm from the fallen tree.  From challenge, a hidden blessing, the fallen tree offers satisfaction of needs for a seat, protection from the wind and a place to hang clothes. This morning I made a dedication to the spirit of place in the Roman fashion:

“To the Spirit of this Place, Alexander faithfully fulfills his vow.”

A gift from ancestors

This morning, I cut through Cymbeline Meadows, in a field I find a tool from my ancestors, at least 3000-years-old.  The stone tool shaped like part of a pickaxe, the sort one might use to carve out a hole in the ground to plant crops by hand.  I shall visit the archaeologists to get their view on this tool.  The find is ironic, for today I was planting acorns.

Visit to a fallen friend

I pass where the oak tree I named “Castle Tree” fell, a tree whose death I grieve. There are thirteen cows in this field where the tree fell of mixed variety, some with horns, that like to shelter near the fallen tree from the weather in what is a field exposed to the elements.  I practice mindfulness and respect for the cows, who are at the other end of the field, mindful to what the cows do, and respect for their unpredictable nature.

Cow guardians

A pheasant flies away at my approach to my fallen friend, another unknown creature is moving amongst the fallen branches.  It is a sad scene of destruction.  The tree stump stands tall at the field boundary, a monument to my friend.  I look for acorns on the ground, there are none.  My mindful attention notes the cows galloping towards me, forcing me to run to a gate in an adjacent field.  The cows gather like watchful guardians on the other side of the gate, wary of me, sniffing at me as I talk to them, rejecting my offered grass.

Gathering of acorns

On the other side of the gate I find acorns that I was seeking from my fallen comrade.  I collect fourteen acorns, all brown and cracked, some with little roots seeking life-giving anchor into the earth.  Like a loving parent I place the acorns into my breast pocket.  I climb over several gates to avoid the watchful cows, I make my way to civilisation.

Challenges and Blessings

In civilisation I find pots and compost, I plant and water fourteen acorns, placing them at a location I thought was safe.

I visit a retail store in Colchester, purchasing two items for £2.00.  I tender £10.00, I leave the shop discovering I have been given £13.00 as change.  I look at the strange blessing in my hand, which should have been £8.00 rather than £13.00.

I return to my home in civilisation.  A challenge, as my landlord has been gardening and has disposed of some of the planted acorns.  I am upset, I keep my composure, there are no arguments.  I recover acorns, but one acorn is lost, I am now down to thirteen acorns.  The landlord offers additional pots and compost – a hidden blessing.

Thirteen appears a significant number today: thirteen cows; thirteen pounds(£); thirteen acorns.

The challenge over the acorns reveals another hidden blessing, the delay means I am available when a business customer turns up with little warning at the door with the final items that completes a jigsaw of a major business project.

Our connection to land

The idea of Ubuntu extends to I am my land, my community, my ancestors, my descendents, and the plants, animals and geography of my land.

The idea of Ubuntu can extend to “I am my land, my community, my ancestors, my descendents, and the plants, animals and geography of my land.”

Ubuntu is my connection to my community, I am because we are, but also to the land in which my community lives, to my ancestors in that community, to my descendents in my community, every plant, tree and rock in my community.  I am like a tree anchored in my community, my roots buried deep into the ground, hungry for the life-giving food and water of my community.  Deposit me in Detroit in USA, or Hull in the North of England it is like ripping a tree out of the ground and dumping it in the sea, I am unrooted, I die.

After Chernobyl the authorities evicted tens of thousands of people and deposited them into distant cities, a people ripped away from their native land, suffering extreme social and psychological problems that some preferred to risk the dangers of radiation by returning illegally to their former homes.

The UK-based Guardian newspaper today reports on the animist Guarani-Kaiowá indigenous tribe in Brazil, 34 times more likely to kill themselves compared to other Brazilians.  Ranchers and biofuel farmers deprive the Guarani-Kaiowá of their native lands, to quote:

“The Guarani people think their relationship with the universe is broken when they are separated from their land. They feel they are a broken people.” Many in the community cosmologically interpret their situation as a symptom of the destruction of the world.

I follow the stories of many animistic hunter gatherer people, the story is tragically universal and repeated across the world:

“Many other indigenous communities in the world, including the Tiwi Islanders in Australia, Khanty herders in Siberia and Inuits in Greenland, have unusually high suicide rates. Anthropologists say this is closely linked to the loss of land, which is often followed by social disintegration and economic dependence on charity and state handouts. The result is often alcoholism inside the community and racism outside, which leaves the young – in one man’s words – “stuck somewhere between a past they don’t understand and a future that won’t accept them”.”

In Europe two indigenous people still survive, the enigmatic Basque people, who passionately and sometimes violently defend their culture, and the Sami in the extreme north of Europe.  Both cultures, in my small way, I will support.

The lonely rebel

The rebel who save the world.

One lonely rebel against conformity saved the world.

One lonely rebel against conformity saved the world. (Photo from 2008 Olympics, Beijing, China)

It is often the lonely rebel who chooses individuality against conformity who later is the hero.  How human society loves conformity, preferring every participant to follow the system, and how dare the individual diverge from the mechanical path!

The world can thank a rebel for saving it in the last years of the Cold War between Communist East and the “free” world of the West.  No superman, just a civilian nobody who expressed the choice of individuality rather than follow the system his employers demanded of him.

1983 was a crisis year, Russia was paranoid about a preëmptive nuclear strike by the West, afraid in the face of claims of a new Western defensive shield called “Star Wars” claimed could knock out any missile launched against the West.

Stanislav Petrov was a civilian officer recruited at an early warning base in Russia, his duty was to watch for any attempt to launch missiles against the Russia by the West.  26 September 1983 the alarms went off, computers indicated multiple missile launches against Russia.

Petrov intuitively felt something was wrong with the computers, a computer malfunction perhaps, he went against his orders and did not report the “launch”. Petrov waited until the first missiles “landed” without incident until he reported what happened.

Had Petrov reported the missile launch Russia would have likely launched its own missiles, followed by the West launching theirs, starting World War 3.

His Russian superiors punished Petrov for his insubordination, only when Communism collapsed was Petrov recognised for potentially saving the world for his daring individuality.