Visiting Mike in jail last weekend was... great. It was so good to see him. He was pale and he's lost weight but he's okay. There's a light in his eyes, like he's seeing much more than I can. In some ways, it was like he was at peace. The worst is over. The court martial. The threats in the street. The pressure of never knowing what was going to happen next.
It made me want to explore the whole issue of following your instinct. I don't mean the kind of instinct that drove Machiavelli. Not the urge to power, the urge to dominate, to hurt, to take by force, to control others... No. I mean the other instinct - the compassion principle - the one Freud left out when he looked into the human psyche and saw nothing but sex and death. He forgot about love.
Oh, and with that I'd put compassion for the self in there too. But not self-aggrandisment. You know the sort of thing. It sounds vague and woowoo but it's the root of all good. Self-nurturing - leading to the capacity to nurture others. Self-worth - leading to recognising the worth of others - no matter how remote they are. The thing is - Mike really cares about the child in his mother's arms injured in a rocket attack. He's not bothered about the politics, not in a radical, crazy way. He's in touch with something more balanced than that. The instinct of altruism - we're all born with it - most of us anyway. How do we lose it? Carelessness?
The most important question is this: How do we find it? Awareness. I know that sounds vague too, but it's true. Being aware that suffering is a shared experience. Not a remote viewing situation.
So, when I talked to Mike - it didn't really matter what we talked about. I told him about my wild dancing the night before. He talked about his shoe-cleaning duties. Ben Griffin was there - a man with a big story in his eyes. And two others, good men, great men, men who feel things, true things and have done something about it. Outside, other like them. A poet. A guy with dreads and the biggest heart. An older man who cared enough to rage against rape as a weapon of war.
Compassion junkies. Peace heroes. Give them a medal and parade them through the streets. It won't happen but in a parallel universe...
Instinct - the compassion instinct - you don't have to be perfect to be in touch with it. You don't have to live a certain life or crawl on your knees to a sacred mountain. You just have to listen. I think it sounds like the tide turning on a calm, sunny day.
I'll try and link a short video of the vigil outside Colchester prison that day. And thank you to all those who were there. And to everyone who has written to Mike and supported him on facebook. The tide turns like a whisper. But it makes sand out of mountains. We think we'll always have war, domestic violence, cruelty and torture. Maybe that's just another mountain sinking into the sea. Who knows?