Existence is Coexistence

Born during the Second World War, on the edge of London’s East End, too young to be evacuated to the countryside, I have remarkably early memories back into my first year, including my cot, being given snow off my pram coverlet, barrage balloons, the bomb shelter, a doodlebug and a window blown in by blast. My father, unfit for service from a heart condition, joined the ARP in which he volunteered to enter a bombed building at night to comfort a woman trapped in rubble. He was refused permission at first but, having been given no more than two years to live anyway, he went in. Sadly his heart did not stand the strain and he died shortly after.

Those days and my mother’s compassionate attitude, to the Germans and the Allies, probably contributed much to my interest in how we relate to one another, the way the world works and the nature of existence. It set the seed of seeing all existence as co-existence. At school my main interests were in the arts, but my chosen occupation was science based. Nevertheless a foot in each camp gives better balance.

The war ended when I was three years old. With other boys I collected small beads of shrapnel with magnets from roadsides and gardens. I had a number of inspirational teachers in my early years, but there was another component. My first senior school gave boys the morning off if we went to church on the morning of Ascension Day. This made me very religious! I went to St. Mary the Virgin, Ilford, where the vicar, Fr. Alexander Colvin, learning I had not been christened in the turmoil of wartime East End, gave me baptismal classes in the Resurrection Chapel below the Pieta of Mary grieving over Jesus’s body. That image has stayed with me all my life. In spite of, or because of, St. Mary’s High Church position, Father Colvin made a special effort to state the one-ness of the Christian community, describing how the different traditions recognised baptism and Mass but that there was only one Church. Again, though in other words, was the sense that existence was co-existence.

I have a mongrel faith. St Mary’s was High Anglican; I was briefly a Boys’ Brigader in a Baptist Church, then a boy scout in a Methodist church. Since then, mainly for geographical reasons, I have attended Anglican, Congregational, Methodist, Baptist, Catholic, and Presbyterian churches in ‘traditional’ and ‘evangelical’ forms. I was a Baptist church deacon, and Sunday School teacher for many years.

In my early twenties I edited a Presbyterian Fellowship of Youth magazine, and later a Baptist Church Magazine, Outlook, for which I enjoyed writing a monthly Schultz-style strip cartoon. Later I have written articles for other church publications. I think of myself as an essayist, dipping my pen in a subject to let it flow where it will, contributing off-the-wall articles to church magazines. Increasingly I am drawn to a mixture of poetry and prose and have written plays, articles and short stories.

My thriller, Namestone, builds on the theme of co-existence. Two men, a 15th century monk and a 21st century scientist, are brought together by a series of horrific events which stretch loyalty, trust and friendship to their limits. They become bound up with the enigmatic Hérault – a man with exceptional fighting skills and even more deadly persuasive powers, who seeks power beyond anything else, using evil as a practical tool. Power for him means total freedom, depending on no-one, neither in this world nor any other. There is interplay between age-old faith and a scientific undercurrent. We depend not only on each other, in whom we find the image of God, but on the universe, spacetime, in which we find ourselves.

It is not a simple ‘baddies get their come-uppance’ story. Hérault, makes no excuses or pretence of goodness or of being misunderstood, instead he makes as strong an argument for being evil as possible. I wanted to present challenges we all face one way or another, through the lens of an adventure story of ordinary people under extra-ordinary stresses.

I have always been fascinated by the impact of Quantum Physics on our everyday attitude to life and faith; that the harmonic trinity of energy, matter and observation mirrors that of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Ultimately philosophies that try hardest to understand the way the world is must resemble each other and each contain fundamental truths. The cosmos is a harmony of matter and energy; it has been suggested that matter as we see it does not exist, that it is ultimately the interaction of energy fields; that we are each a harmonic in a greater symphony. Existence is Co-existence: we cannot and should not separate the how from the why.

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