Whilst writing this essay looking out over the sea at Cap d’Ail in southern France, I am reminded of an extraordinary experience in my youth, which took place in a forest near my home in Scotland – It was this incident that inspired me to express my feelings in one of my first poems ‘We are Lost.’ I remember vividly what happened…
 
As a boy, I would often sit alone for hours in the countryside, watching blackbirds fly, observing sheaves of grain sway to the rhythmic whisper of winds flowing through wheat fields. I revered stillness and sensed a strong connection with nature. I also loved to explore wildlife and the mysteries of the forest, where I would drift into a heightened state of consciousness… Powerful electrical impulses, seemed to flow within me. My body temperature cooled and my whole being would start to shiver – This was the ‘in-between’ world…
 
 
New York Feb 2017 Varie 39inv
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
On one of these treks, I found myself once more drawn into a surreal space where time froze, nature fell silent, and suddenly in front of me stood a wanderer, who lived in the forest. Despite his powerful appearance, I felt at ease in his presence, imagining him as an ancient warrior, a guardian of the light, someone from another world…
 
 
dominic 01 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This was not the first time that something like this had happened to me. The wanderer spoke of a time in the near future when smouldering forces once thought dormant, would be re-kindled, and once again expose the civilized world to mortal danger…
 
What was discussed on that autumn morning, seems uncannily relevant to the times we are living in today – Dark forces gather, civilization is under serious threat and those individuals, who are awakened and aware, have to prepare themselves for battles that lie ahead.
 
My thoughts wander to images of WW1 trenches and the needless slaughter of human beings, in the prime of life, their potential unfulfilled. I am filled with a sense of the precariousness of life on planet earth, an inkling of something gone deeply wrong…
 
Far away on yonder’s horizon, I hear the echo of a distant voice calling from a bygone age…
 
“I think we are in rats’ alley
Where the dead men lost their bones.”
T.S. Elliot, The Waste Land, 1922

 

© 2017 Bréon Rydell

 

THE POEM

 
‘We Are Lost’ is written in an allegorical style. It brings together reality with the world of dreams
 

A FOG OF DENIAL

 
The key messages of the poem are that we are being ruthlessly manipulated by puppet masters, who remain invisible… we have lost our way and that we have reached a point where we are ‘out of sync’ not only with ourselves, but our political systems are out of sync with us, and have been like this for a very long time. Many of our present leaders not only fail to grasp the complexity of the problems we face, but they often don’t appreciate, or care about the long term consequences of their actions, which all too often, merely represent a succession of ‘short-term’ inadequate fixes. What are sorely needed are inspiring leaders with long term vision.

We are being bombarded with information that is censored by corporate powers that control the media. We are being de-sensitised to the suffering and violence that surrounds us, whilst at the same time, there is a creeping tendency towards curbing critical thinking in all its forms.

The scale of the assault on our minds is enormous – we have never faced a global threat of this magnitude before.

Many individuals have a sense of unease about the future – at the same time nature is under threat, and modern society survives in a virtual stupor in what can best be described as a parallel universe. We need to focus on defending our freedom of thought, strengthening our bonds with nature and safeguarding our precious heritage for future generations.
 
 

BOWMONT FOREST, SCOTLAND – WORDS OF WISDOM FROM THE GUARDIAN OF THE LIGHT

 
“What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.” Henry David Thoreau.” (1817-1862)
 
v ferret prima neve 04The wanderer suggested that many of the things we observe, that we think are real, are, in effect, illusions… He spoke of his love of nature and of the gift of life, of the importance of not blindly following the crowd, of not rushing to judgement, be discerning, and to have the courage to be true to yourself and to know what truly lives within us…

This brief and mysterious meeting, had captured my imagination. After he disappeared, I remained transfixed for a while, thinking about what had been said to me. Who was this person? Was he real? Someone from another dimension? Or was he a figment of my imagination? On returning home, I told no one of the encounter. This was to be my secret. However, deep within my consciousness, a spark ignited and the seeds of this experience, would ultimately surface to form the basis of a poem that I composed some years later, entitled ‘We are Lost.’


 

‘WE ARE LOST

 
I used to think of other lands, escape reality in dreams
From drifting snow to shaping sands, a melody within a stream
And then I met a ragged man, who stopped and asked me for the time
And since that day my life has changed, my childish thoughts put to one side

We are lost from the first breath we gasp, ruled by the games of an uneven mass
We are lost in a great human chain, scared by our failures and trapped by our shame

I see you judge me by my clothes and that you put me through your trial
I’m everything you’ll never know, I’ve everything that I desire
And as I watched him walk away along the twisting turning road
There were no words for me to say, there was no place for me to go

I feel so helpless, so confused, that we can laugh at times abuse
The different colours, changing styles, the indoctrination of a child
To tell the truth I feel afraid, it was so easy in the crowd
And when my friends find I have changed, I’ll wait for them to put me down

We are lost from the first breath we gasp, ruled by hypocrisy devious hands
We are lost in a great human chain, where selfish behavior ignorance apathy reigns…
 

ROOTS THAT GO DEEPER

 
The wanderer represents an archetypal figure, commonly found in world literature. The brief conversation I had with the beautiful man in the forest, was an epiphany of sorts, which stimulated a series of thought – provoking ideas that are expressed in the following stanzas:
 

STANZA 1

‘All the kings horses and all the kings men…
 

A FRAGMENTED SOCIETY CANNOT EASILY BE RECONSTITUTED

 
Fondazione Prada Milano• Childhood dreams, the changing seasons and listening to the music of nature. • The integration of fragmented parts of the psyche. • Leaving the infantile stage of life and accepting adult responsibilities. • Rights of passage. • Realising one’s authentic self. • Entering another world – altered states of consciousness

• “Our lives are mere flashes of light in an infinitely empty universe. In 12 years of education the most important lesson I have learned is that what we see as “normal” living is truly a travesty of our potential. In a society so governed by superficiality, appearances, and petty economics, dreams are more real than anything in the “real world”. Dominic Mallory (1984-2008) Singer, lyricist.

 
 
 
 
 

REFRAIN

 

THE POWER OF HIDDEN PATTERNS – We are born into power systems that are by nature tribal – they are systems based on power, control and domination
 
In the midst of an astonishing pace of advancing technology, ordinary citizens are often no longer free-thinking and independent individuals. They are subject to manipulation by unseen forces that constitute an ‘invisible government,’ which is the true ruling power. How have those ‘devious hands’ arisen? The answer lies in sociological trends that arose early in the twentieth century, notably championed in the United States by Edward Bernays (1891-1995).
 
Palazzo Altemps“We are governed, our minds are moulded, tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society.” (Bernays, E., Propaganda, 1925).
 
The refrain expresses the potential helplessness of the citizen who is struggling to maintain individuality in an environment in which global market forces not only reign supreme, but are often no longer responsive to the basic needs of the population.
 
‘Although we feel we are free, in reality we – like the politicians – have become slaves of our own desires.’
(Adam Curtis, in BBC Documentary,’Century of the Self,’ 2002).
 
 
 

STANZA 3

“Do not judge me by my appearance.” Superficial appearances can readily mislead and be misinterpreted.

An awakening of sexuality and consciousness – innocence, vulnerability and nakedness exposed.

“He is richest who is content with the least; for contentment is the wealth of nature.” (Socrates, 469-399 BCE).
 

STANZA 4

 
The references to ‘the different colours, changing styles and the indoctrination of a child’ allude to religious ideology embedding hatred into young impressionable minds with the end result of crimes against humanity and violence within inter-societal systems.

How we ridicule the outsider, and others who don’t fit the norm.

Tolerance, mutual respect, love and understanding are keys to a more harmonious future.
 

THE WAY AHEAD – FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT

 
al di la del buio croppedI am only too aware that by challenging the status quo, the way ahead is not going to be easy. In particular, the egocentric behavior exhibited by large sections of the population, poses a serious existential threat to the planet and all who inhabit it. Yet, a sense of denial prevails in so many quarters. There is also bound to be resentment of criticism and stubborn refusal to change, especially where vested interests are threatened… In order to build a successful platform for a healthier scenario ahead, its foundation needs to be grounded upon a full understanding of previous human experiences.

A major cultural/paradigm shift is needed to meet the challenges that we face.
 
In many quarters of the globe, there is an increased awareness of the need for us to accept greater responsibility for protecting the environment and the planet’s habitat. Arising from this, are remarkable examples of philanthropic activism directed towards conservation of the planet.


 

Centrale Montemartini 27

“Despite all that is positive about human civilisation and technological advancement, our withdrawal from nature is proving to be our undoing. It manifests in accelerating rates of extinction, habitat loss, and destruction, conflict, food and water insecurity, extreme poverty, anxiety – the list goes on. There is only one solution – Biophilia – literally…’LOVE OF LIFE ‘ … a call to treasure nature because of its intrinsic beauty and because it is part of us, and us of it.”

(Jessica Sweidan, 2014, Biophilia, The Way of Life, Synchronicity Earth).
synchronicityearth.org
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

ADVOCACY FOR ANIMALS

 
“Each year 60 billion land animals, and 1,000 billion marine animals are killed for our consumption. A massacre unparalleled in the history of humanity, it poses a major ethical challenge to our society: the consumption aggravates hunger in the world, causing ecological imbalances.

Not happy to use animals for food, we also use them for mercenary reasons: wildlife traffic, scientific research, or simple entertainment…

Has the time not come to consider them not as inferior animals but as our “fellow citizens” in this land? We live in an interdependent world where the fate of every being, whatever it is, is intimately linked to that of each other.

There is no moral justification for imposing unnecessary suffering or death to anyone.”

Matthieu Ricard (1946-) French writer, geneticist, humanitarian.
 

THINK EAT SAVE – FOOD WASTE FACTS

 
WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY 5 JUNE

Acquario genova 2012 16The impact of food waste is not just financial. Environmentally, food waste leads to wasteful use of chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides; more fuel used for transportation; and more rotting food, creating more methane.

Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted.

Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).

The amount of food lost or wasted every year is equivalent to more than half of the world’s annual cereals crop (2.3 billion tonnes in 2009/2010).

Food loss and waste also amount to a major squandering of resources, including water, land, energy, and labour.

 
In developing countries food waste and losses occur mainly at early stages of the food value chain and can be traced back to financial, managerial and technical constraints in harvesting techniques as well as storage –and cooling facilities. Thus, a strengthening of the supply chain through the support farmers and investments in infrastructure, transportation, as well as in an expansion of the food –and packaging industry could help to reduce the amount of food loss and waste.

In medium- and high-income countries food is wasted and lost mainly at later stages in the supply chain. Differing from the situation in developing countries, the behavior of consumers plays a huge part in industrialized countries. Moreover, the study identified a lacking coordination between actors in the supply chain as a contributing factor. Farmer-buyer agreements can be helpful to increase the level of coordination. Additionally, raising awareness among industries, retailers and consumers as well as finding beneficial use for save food that is presently thrown away are useful measures to decrease the amount of losses and waste.

In the United States 30% of all food, worth US$48.3 billion (€32.5 billion), is thrown away each year. It is estimated that about half of the water used to produce this food also goes to waste, since agriculture is the largest human use of water. (Jones, 2004 cited in Lundqvist et al., 2008).

United Kingdom households waste an estimated 6.7 million tonnes of food every year, around one third of the 21.7 million tonnes purchased. This means that approximately 32% of all food purchased per year is not eaten. Most of this (5.9 million tonnes or 88%) is currently collected by local authorities. Most of the food waste (4.1 million tonnes or 61%) is avoidable and could have been eaten had it been better managed (WRAP, 2008; Knight and Davis, 2007).

In the USA, organic waste is the second highest component of landfills, which are the largest source of methane emissions.

Sources:
Global Food Losses and Food Waste – FAO, 2011
The environmental crisis: The environment’s role in averting future food crisis – UNEP, 2009
 

SPARKS THAT KINDLE FIRES

 
“ Such stuff as dreams are made on.” ― William Shakespeare, The Tempest.

It is my earnest belief that the positive altruistic trends, given time, can both inspire and help rekindle the spiritual transformation that is needed to both unite us and help us win the battle against the deeply embedded destructive forces that have led to the disintegration of so many facets of present-day society.

In much of the developed world, the moral teachings handed down to us through the cultural traditions of previous generations, have been seriously weakened by the imposition of state-controlled bureaucratic systems, which have been set up to dominate all aspects of life. This holds true both for societies managed by totalitarian- as well as by capitalist-based governments, since, in their present forms, each represents a hierarchical system that ultimately exercises its power by controlling the individual.

In this dystopian setting, the limitless quest to satisfy personal desires, has become a virtual addictive pastime in countless peoples’ lives. It has replaced the need to consider any obligation or duty toward fellow beings or society.
 

A VISION OF AN ALTERNATIVE FUTURE

 
“… from one drop of water merged another, then another, riverbanks broke, tides turned, whilst great ships sailed in unison to save planet earth.”

 
NYC 2012
 
New maps are being drawn which offer the potential to explore the deeper undercurrents of our being, and to help identify the hidden patterns and dynamic forces that control and influence human behaviour. By understanding these, it may be possible to identify alternative models for a new way of living in which humans can exist in harmony with the natural world. We need to crystallise a vision of this alternative future – A vision that is greater than the sum of all of its parts. To achieve this, would require a re-awakening of the human spirit that will unite and battle the forces of destruction that have gathered and threaten the survival of the planet and our place in it…
 
© 2017 Bréon Rydell
 
With special thanks to Luca Artioli, for allowing me to share his artwork, and extraordinary vision.
 
www.lucaartioli.com
 
 
Bréon Rydell
Musée Océanographique de Monaco
January 16th 2016

Dedicated to the memory of three great creative artists who influenced my life…

 

Sir Eduardo Paolozzi CBE RA Scottish Sculptor and Artist  (7 March 1924 – 22 April 2005)
Bille Brown AM, Australian Actor ((11th January 1953 – 13th January 2013)
David Bowie, Singer, Songwriter (8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016)

“When you see millions of the mouthless dead
Across your dreams in pale battalions go…”

 
Charles Hamilton Sorley (1895-1915) – Scottish poet, World War I.
 

 For Remembrance: soldier poets who have fallen in the war, a book published in the UK, USA and Canada in 1918.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
In early 2016, I completed writing an original poem entitled ‘Endeavour – a Call to Action,’ which I had set to the music of two of Elgar’s Enigma Variations. I wrote this poem to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of the Somme – the largest and most ferocious battle on the Western Front, lasting from 1 July to 18 November 1916, which resulted in over one million men being killed or wounded.

My poem opened with the words:
 
‘Do not the fallen deserve something better
than to watch the earth scorched once more by sinister hands.’

 
With these thoughts, I was reflecting upon the tragic consequence in terms of loss of life, loss of talent and unfulfilled potential that resulted from WW1, where an estimated 8-10 million allied military personnel were killed. I posed the question as we move forward in the 21st Century: Do we give sufficient recognition to those who sacrificed their lives during the course of the last century in the fight for freedom? How do we ensure that we sustain and value the legacy of those talented war poets as we honour the centenary of the Battle of the Somme in November 2016?

Then in Spring 2016, my good friend and playright, Neil McPherson, Artistic Director of the Finborough Theatre, London, sent me the text of a new play he had written, entitled: ‘It is Easy to be Dead,’ based on the poetry, letters and life of Charles Hamilton Sorley, one of the forgotten WWI poets, who was killed, aged 20y, in October 1915, at the Battle of Loos, Northern France. I recalled having read that this battle, nicknamed ‘The Great Push,’ which began in late September 1915 and finished at the end of the following month, had resulted in over 60,000 casualties from British and Commonwealth forces, including 20,000 personnel who fell in battle and have no known grave.

Neil asked if I would be interested to produce his play, and on reading the script, I soon found myself immersed in a 1916 edition of poems and prose by Sorley, named ‘Marlborough,’ the English public school that he had attended. I then located a separate volume which was published in 1919 by his parents, also after his death, which contained a collection of Sorley’s letters covering a four-year period, both prior to the onset of WW1, and including the time when he was engaged in the throes of trench warfare in France, up to the time of his death in October 1915.

I found Neil McPherson’s play very moving and instinctively felt there could be no better way of bringing Charles Sorley’s short life to the attention of a modern day audience than to do so through this new theatrical work, ‘It is Easy to be Dead.’

Neil and I met to discuss the play and the result – ‘It is Easy to be Dead’ premiered at the Finborough Theatre on 15 June 2016.

The critics were uniformly positive about the production. The Guardian, in its award of 5 stars, stated: ‘Neil McPherson has taken this somewhat forgotten figure, and drawing on his life, letters and poetry, created a magnificent tribute to a fiery spirit, extinguished in battle at the age of 20.’

The title of the play is taken from Sorley’s last poem, written shortly before his death, and found in his military kit. In this poem, he expresses his feelings about the stark and uncompromising reality of death, and the futility of weeping for the fallen soldiers. For these ghosts are but shadows of the men they once were; our tears and words mean nothing to them.

 
The Suffolk Regiment - WW1

‘Give them not praise. For deaf, how should they know.
Is it not curses heaped on each gashed head?
Nor tears. Their blind eyes see not your tears flow.
Nor honour. It is easy to be dead.
Say only this, ‘They are dead,’
Then add thereto,
‘Yet many a better one has died before.’
 

Altogether, six Sorley poems have been incorporated into the play.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sorley’s love of Germany and its culture.

An earlier poem, entitled ‘To Germany,’ was written as a result of Sorley having spent the first half of 1914 initially staying at the home of a lawyer and his wife, in Mecklenberg, northern Germany, and subsequently undertaking studies at the University of Jena, in central Germany. In this poem, written on the eve of the outbreak of war, Sorley still conceived the possibility of peace being achieved. With remarkable maturity, he addresses the youth of Germany, saying: ‘You are blind like us, and then goes on to observe that both sides seem to be groping ‘through fields of thought confined. We stumble, and we do not understand.’
 
At the conclusion of the poem, however, he concedes that there will be more bloodshed as he refers to first, WHEN it is peace, and then immediately, qualifies this with the words, but ‘UNTIL PEACE,’ concluding with the combination of threatening elemental forces – each of which can be construed as a symbol of war – the darkness (the trenches), the thunder ( the cannons) and the rain (the showers of bullets).

"Battlefield Poppy." © Giles Revell

On 11 November 1985, Charles Sorley’s name was fifteenth in an alphabetical list of sixteen WW1 poets inscribed on a special commemorative memorial stone unveiled by the then Poet Laureate, Ted Hughes, at Poets Corner, in Westminster Abbey.The inscription on the stone reads:
 
‘My Subject is War, and the Pity of War. The Poetry is in the Pity’ – words taken from the Preface to a Collection of Poems, by another WW1 poet, Wilfred Owen (1893-1918). At the Memorial Service that accompanied the unveiling of the Memorial Stone, Sorley’s poem, ‘ All the Hills and Vales Along’ was recited. This poem is also included in The play, ‘It is Easy to be Dead.’ In it, Sorley expresses his clear view on death – unlike either sleep or a reunion with nature, it is a heartless and horrific consequence of war.
 
 
‘When the bullet reaches you
Wherefore, men marching,
On the road to death, Sing!
Pour your gladness on earth’s head
So be merry, so be dead.’

 
British Infantry advancing at Loos 25 September 1915In an essay entitled ‘Poems from the Front,’ published in IWM ‘Despatches’ Magazine, summer 2014 issue, Professor Paul O’Prey, Vice-Chancellor of Roehampton University, points out that Shakespeare and Byron had to wait for more than a hundred years before they were honoured by a memorial stone in Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey. The fact that the memorial stone laid in honour of sixteen WW1 poets was installed whilst the last of these poets, Robert Graves, was still alive, is an indication in Prof. O’Prey’s view, of how ‘the poetry of WW1 has established a unique hold on our collective imagination.’

As we now commemorate the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, transfer of the play ‘It is Easy to be Dead’ to ATG Trafalgar Studios 2 in Whitehall, from 9 November to 3 December, gives us an opportunity to appreciate the prophetic words of Scottish poet Charles Sorley when he painted the clear picture of the devastation of human life that war would cause, and that others would only discover after it was all over.
 
His prescient message is as relevant today as it was then.
 
Reproduced from an article written by Bréon Rydell for the Imperial War Museum, London, Nov 4th 2016
 

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…”
John Muir (born Dunbar, Scotland, April 21, 1838 – December 24, 1914)
 
 
John Muir was a Scottish-American naturalist, author, and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States. His letters, essays, and books telling of his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, have been read by millions. His activism helped to preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and other wilderness areas. The Sierra Club, which he founded, is now one of the most important conservation organizations in the United States. One of the best-known hiking trails in the U.S., the 211-mile (340 km) John Muir Trail, was named in his honor. Other such places include Muir Woods National Monument, Muir Beach, John Muir College, Mount Muir, Camp Muir and Muir Glacier.
 
 
John Muir, full-length portrait, facing right, seated on rock with lake and trees in background
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
From the Highlands to the Lowlands
The streets of Sauchiehall, the island of Manhattan
Her buildings proud and tall
Laments of former glory, a piper’s haunting tune
The noise of traffic weaving under perfect harvest moon

A Scotsman in America, a daughter and a friend
The Northern lights have scattered, but their brightness never ends
A Scotsman in America , a country young and fine
Let’s drink that cup o’ kindness for Auld lang syne

I watch the eagle soaring as he flies across the glen
To the loch, the tree, the island, the Borderland of friend
I watch his brother hover over California sky
The spring now turns to summer and the ground begins to dry
 
The Southern States and Texas, the Mid-West country towns
Their names go back to Flodden Field, the blood of Bannockburn
I see a hope beyond my dreams where men don’t have to be
From Scotland to America, two eagles now fly free…
 

(‘A Scotsman In America,’ an early poem by Bréon Rydell)
 
Edinburgh, Scotland.
 
 
MET NYC & Central Park 61

The Club at the Ivy, London. January 25th, 2017
 
“When I started to write this piece, I was reminded of Burns’ contemporary in Vienna, Mozart.

Amadeus lies on his death bed, he is 35 years old. The grim-reaper comes knocking on his door, Salieri, sits there salivating – a wolf in sheep’s clothing, jealously waiting for the last few bars of Mozart’s stunning Requiem. I ask myself a question – How come that the final resting place of Mozart, one of the world’s greatest composers, was an unmarked grave, with only a handful of mourners attending his funeral?
 
Contrast that with Rabbie Burns – Every Hogmanay his words and music, burst to a symphony of fireworks, like a comet racing over the night sky – From Sydney Bridge, to Beijing, to the Castle at Edinburgh and beyond – all over the world as the bells toll, the countdown begins, and one of the most popular songs in the English language, explodes to a choir of millions of voices all singing a universal song of friendship, of love that gives us hope, acknowledging the brotherhood of man, we all join hands together, for Auld Lang Syne.
 
Tam-O'shanter theatreWhere does all this music and lyrical magic come from? It flows from the pen, the well-spring, the mind, of a young poet educated by his father on a farm in Ayrshire, in 18th Century Scotland. Just think about that – by any stretch of the imagination it is an astonishing achievement.

For many of us born in Scotland, Robert Burns is with us from cradle to grave. His New Year Anthem penetrates our childhood consciousness, along with nursery rhymes, hymns and ancient folk ballads. Every New Year is a renewal of our connection, our kinship to him, our country, to our common humanity.

How did Robert Burns enter into the very fabric of our cultural identity, our collective being? To understand that, we have to go back to his early life, and the background and the environment he was exposed to.
 
 

POVERTY

 
Burn's darker colourRobert Burns was born in 1759 in Alloway, Ayrshire. He was the eldest of seven children. His father William Burnes, was a self-educated tenant farmer. His parents attached great importance to their children’s education. His mother could read the Bible, but could not write. His father, struggled to make a living on a farm with poor soil, and unfortunately, he died young. The winters were especially challenging, with severe frosts and drifting snow. ‘The winds and driving rain fell upon the laddies’ head, shivering in fields of thick muck and mire – the bairn collapsed exhausted, from the hardness of sheer manual labour – and the harshness of poverty.
 
To relieve himself from boredom and drudgery, the young poet escaped into another world. Burns, was cultivating his literary and musical talent. The land may have been of poor quality, but the young poet’s intellect certainly was not. Soon, fragments of verse and melodies emerged, and at 15 years old, he made his first attempt at songwriting, ‘O, Once I Lov’d A Bonnie Lass.’
 
Burns’ mother Agnes, possessed a fine musical ear, and sang well. She is widely known to have entertained her young ‘Rabbie’ with legends from local spoken traditions, and folk songs. She is credited with having a significant influence on his love for song. In his lifetime, he wrote or revised, close on three hundred and fifty songs. Most of these songs were published, without fee, in the ‘Scots Musical Museum.’
 

THE KILMARNOCK EDITION

 
In 1786, John Wilson published the volume of works by Robert Burns, Known as the Kilmarnock Edition, it contained much of his best writing. It was a runaway success…
 
Tam o'Shanter by Alexander Goudie

.
Robert Burns loved being ‘wi the lassies.’ and as he writes in one of his choruses: ‘The sweetest hours that ere I spent were spent amongst the lassies-o.’ Not surprisingly, he enchanted many…

In his love poetry, Burns uses words of the utmost simplicity and beauty, which capture the heart with remarkable tenderness, immediacy and sincerity.
 
LOVE POEM

O my Love’s like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June:
O my Love’s like a melody
That’s sweetly played in tune

As fair art thou, my Bonnie lass.
So deep in love am I;
And I will love thee still, my dear
Till a’ the seas gang dry

Till a’ the seas gang dry my dear
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun
I will love thee still, my Dear,
While the sands o’life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only love
And fare thee weel, a while!
And I will come again, my love
Tho it were – ten thousand mile!
 

ODE to a LOUSE

This was written after watching the tiniest of creatures burrowing its way within the hair of an attractive woman who happened to be sitting in front of Rabbie in Church. He tells the louse off for being so cheeky. Burns is making the point that the tiny little creature is not at all bothered by how great the host is – everybody’s scalp is the same – status is immaterial and does not matter.

Ha! Whare ye gaun, ye crow lin ferlie?
Your impudence protects you sairly
I canna say but ye strut rarely
Owre gauze and lace
Tho’ faith! I fear ye dine but sparely
On sic a place.
 
TO A MOUSE

Burns recognises the plight of a mouse whose nest got overturned when he was ploughing a field. He sees a parallel between his own existence as an impoverished tenant farmer and the fate of the mouse. Rabbie addresses the tiny mouse, appealing it not to be afraid, as both he and the mouse are beings with so much in common, and have no reason to fear each other.

Wee sleekit, cowering, tim’rous beastie,
O’ what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee
Wi murd’ring prattle
 

INTERNATIONAL

 
Internationally, Burns’ fame grew.
 

T_0164

In America, Abraham Lincoln was a great admirer of Burns’ writings.

The American poet John Whittier (1807-1892), was a strong advocate of the abolition of slavery, and a member of the ‘Fireside’ group of poets His antislavery writings were influenced by Burns, and Whittier especially appreciated the combination of MUSIC and POETRY that characterised so much of Burns’ work.

In his famous novel ‘Of Mice and Men,’ John Steinbeck took the title from the words of the Burns’ poem: The best laid schemes ‘o’mice an’ men Gang aft agley’. Steinbeck based the book on his own experiences as a farmhand in California at the time of the Great Depression moving from place to place in search of work
 
 
 
When asked for the source of his greatest creative inspiration, singer songwriter Bob Dylan selected Burns’ song “A Red, Red Rose” as the lyric that had the biggest effect on his life.

I, too, was inspired by the Bard and on my first visit to Central Park, in New York. I saw Burns’ statue at the entrance… It reminded me of home.

Here is a fragment of a poem that I wrote in tribute to Burns and fellow Scot John Muir, when I was a boy:
 

From the Highlands to the Lowlands
The streets of Sauchiehall, the island of Manhattan
Her buildings proud and tall
Laments of former glory, a poets’ haunting tune
The noise of traffic weaving under perfect harvest moon

A Scotsman in America, a daughter and a friend
The Northern lights have scattered, but their brightness never ends
A Scotsman in America , a country young and fine
Let’s drink that cup o’ kindness for Auld lang syne
 
(from ‘A Scotsman In America,’ an early poem by Bréon Rydell)
 
 

BURNS’ FAME IN RUSSIA

 
Burns was a universally loved figure not only in the West, but also in Russia.
 
“Two years ago tonight, my partner Garry and I were in Moscow. We had been invited to attend a screening of a short film, Free To Cry, based on a poem I had written in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.”
 
 
T_0265We were invited to supper in an Artist’s studio located directly across from the Kremlin, and of course it being Burns’ night, I secured a fine bottle of malt as a gift for our hosts They knew all about our Rabbie, who had had been dubbed, the People’s Poet of Russia – they even issued a Burn’s commemorative stamp, to mark the 160th Anniversary of the Bard’s death. The bottle of malt was placed on the mantlepiece for all to see. Our gracious hosts masterly kept us topped up with vodka shots the whole night – well Putin had reduced the price of the people’s vodka! As we left in the wee small hours, we realised that no a dram had touched oor lips – Luckily, as a good Scot, I did have a little sharpener in my hip flask – so all was not lost!”


 
 
 
 

STRUGGLE AGAINST OPPRESSION

Burns sympathised with people who rose up against oppression – he supported the American War of Independence and also the French Revolution. He was criticised for supporting the persecution of the French aristocracy.
 

EQUALITY of MANKIND

 

A MAN’S A MAN FOR A’ THAT

In this poem, Burns makes the point that ALL MEN are BORN EQUAL – a person’s WORTH does not depend on his wealth, his worldly possessions or the acreage of his estate. Burns did not distinguish creed, colour or religion – a powerful message especially in modern times, where the destructive forces of violence and intolerance dominate in so many parts of the world.

A Man’s a Man for a’ that
Is there for honest poverty
That hints his head, and a’ that
The coward slave, we pass him by
We dare be poor for a’that
For a’that an a’that,
Our tails obscure, an a’that
The rank is but the guinea’s stamp’
The man’s the how’d for a’that

Concluding:

For a’ that, an a’that
It’s comin’ yet for a’that
That man to man, the world o’er
Shall brothers be for a’that.
 

BROTHER POETS

Burns’ supported his fellow writers and poets, and helped further their work whenever he could.

His influence trickled down the ages. Just recently, one of his fellow Scots, who he inspired, has been re-discovered. The largely unknown, Charles Hamilton Sorley, who was slain tragically in WWI at the age of 20. Sorley, like Burns, supported national struggles in the name of freedom. In his poem ‘To Germany,’ Sorley addressed the youth on both sides.

‘You are blind like us, Your hurt no man designed
And no man claimed the conquest of your land
But gropers both through fields of thought confused
We stumble, and we do not understand.
 

DUALITY

Without doubt, Burns was a man of many contradictions –

A Romatic and also a realist,
A Nationalist but an Internationalist,
A Radical and at other times, a Reactionary.
 

IMMORTAL MEMORY

 
So what makes Robert Burns immortal? A poet, songwriter, who’s short life, transcended death. He was no stranger to poverty and without doubt this had to have a huge impact on his life. What makes him immortal is his work. He was blessed with a dual ability of being able to write words and compose music. He was in effect both LOCK and KEY. Like many genius artists, he inhabited the ‘in between’ world. The space between chaos and order. Burns’ enters into this stream of consciousness, connecting us to traditional music and ancient folklore. The music composer understands this space, building layer upon layer, taking music up the scale into the realm of rapture.

Burns understood this. He was in many ways a SEER, who described the daily life of ordinary folk, the nature of the environment around him, and turned these incidents into simple image, poetic forms relative to a much bigger canvass. Within all his work we see strong character driven, visual story telling. Burns intuitively understands that deep within our being, we have embedded in our DNA, a BLUEPRINT, that informs us of who we are, and what is UNIVERSAL TRUTH.

That is why Burns’ poems are as relevant today as ever. He understood the duality of our human nature Good and Evil, the power of myth and plain speaking. He understood the selfish and malicious and asks us to take the higher ground of kindness, beauty, and empathy. He is able to tune into our frequency, and us into his…

In today’s Politically Correct, material world, Burns’ acute perception, cuts right through it, to shine a light on who we really are, and how far we have strayed from what is important, and who is important. For Burns, every time it is the Common Man, it is Humanity, Irony, Wit and Free Speech – The ability to not take ourselves too seriously, and to be able to laugh at ourselves. Burns understands that there is malevolence and suffering in the world and he want us to make it better… He also wants us to live our life to the full and make the most of it.

Robert Burns died prematurely, aged just 37 years. On his deathbed he told his close friend James McClure:

Be a good man; be virtuous, be religious. Nothing else will give you comfort when you come to be here.”

Over 10,000 people attended his funeral. He was buried with full military honours.

“With all that we’ve heard tonight, and what’s still to come, I’m sure we’ll see a wee bit of ourselves in Rabbie, and him in us, which was all he really wanted.”

For a’ that, an a’that
It’s comin’ yet for a’that
That man to man, the world o’er
Shall brothers be for a’that.”
 
 

PLEASE RAISE YOUR GLASSES AND DRINK A TOAST TO ROBERT BURNS

 

TO HIS IMMORTAL MEMORY!

 

A speech given in honour of Scotland’s National Poet, Robert Burns by Bréon Rydell
 
 
© 2017 Bréon Rydell

‘La France repondra a la haine par la fraternite, a la terreur par le droit, au fanatisme par l’esperance. En etavit tous simplement la France.’

‘France will respond to hate with fraternity, to terror with law, to fanaticism with hope. In being simply France.’

President Francois Hollande, PARIS, 19 Nov. 2015.
 
 

ARTISTS ON THE FRONT LINE

 
rififi 1955‘Over the centuries, artists have, via the various media through which their creativity has been expressed, (as, for example in the visual arts, music or literature), harnessed their powerful intuitive talents, to illuminate objectively various social, political and humanitarian issues that have challenged society. Artists have done so in ways that have been free from the restraining influences of religion and politics. Notably, they have been able to shine a light on a society which all too often appears to be ‘sleepwalking’ or opting to take ‘the line of least resistance’ in either remaining unaware of, or choosing to ignore, dangers that threaten not only individual freedom but the future of the entire human community. Sometimes, the message has been direct, whilst at other times, it has been symbolic, as we have seen in Shostakovich’s 7th Symphony, where totalitarian control was so powerful that it was impossible for the voice of the artist to be expressed openly.’
 
 

‘WE SHALL WEATHER THIS STORM TOGETHER’

 
 
 

 

‘BE NOT AFRAID’

 

 
 

Bréon Rydell
Dean Street Town House
London
November 27th 2015

 
Parigi 2015 In November 2015, a group of Salafist jihadists once again brought terror to the ‘City of Light,’ leaving 130 dead, 368 people injured, 100 seriously.
 
Paris – that spawned remarkable creative innovators of the Enlightenment, who found the city a source of inspiration – Victor Hugo 1802-1885), who wrote literary masterpieces, Rene Descartes (1596-1650), who advanced knowledge in philosophy and mathematics, Voltaire (1694-1778), who promoted new ideas in political philosophy.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

DARKNESS FALLS

 
The ‘Charlie Hebdo’ Massacre in Paris was the subject of my essay ‘Live for Humanity,’ that was published earlier this year, in which I gave a personal eye-witness account of the events on that fateful day in January 2015, when innocent citizens of Paris were murdered. On the evening of 13th November 2015, a series of coordinated attacks took place in Paris, which involved, once more, the murder of innocent Parisians, at the hands of a group of Salafist suicide bombers. This time, the attack was on a much larger scale in multiple locations – involving people enjoying an evening out in various popular bars and restaurants, spectators at a friendly football match between France and Germany at the Stade de France stadium, which was being televised, and finally, the most deadly of the attacks of the night took place at a concert venue in the eleventh arrondissement, where a Californian rock group, ‘The Eagles of Death Metal’ were performing. Ironically, the 1500-seat Bataclan Hall, where the concert took place, is situated on the Boulevard Voltaire, a location that commemorates the great figure of the European Enlightenment. The Hall was sold out for the event; 89 people died as the attackers aimed their Kalashnikov-type rifles at random into the audience, and a further hundred were critically wounded.

There are a number of major differences between the January and November Paris massacres. First, the perpetrators of the massacre of 7th January 2015, had identified two specific targets in advance: a publishing company whose journalists had printed, what their attackers viewed as blasphemous images, and as such, deserved to be killed. Second, citizens at a Jewish supermarket were targeted on religious grounds. Second, the religious undertones, though less obvious in the randomness of the killing spree that characterized the November massacre, are still evident. The choice of the Batlacan Hall as the location where the largest number of individuals were murdered, is likely to reflect the view that an event such as a rock concert is an abomination according to the Salafist ideology, and hence those enjoying such pleasures associated with a decadent ‘free’ society, must be eliminated.

‘On the other hand, it could be also be argued that the terrorists selected the locations of their attacks simply on the grounds that the chosen venues would be specially crowded on a Friday night, thus ensuring that the number of casualties would be maximised, especially in the setting of a televised global spectacle.’
 

FACING UP TO UNWELCOME REALITIES

 
The term ‘resistance ‘ as I am using it in this essay, is the process whereby the will of an oppressor is thwarted by the person resisting, who succeeds in surviving, despite the oppressor’s determined efforts aimed at destroying the opponent.

There is a huge contrast between the scale and circumstances of the disaster that struck the city of Leningrad in 1941 and the Paris massacres of 2015. Leningrad was besieged and its citizens starved to death as part of a carefully planned attack by the Third Reich on Russia in the context of war declared between Germany and the Soviet Union. The pre-meditated murder of innocent Parisians has taken place in a time of peace and is directly fueled by hardcore Salafists that seek to impose their oppressive views by whatever means necessary, on how society and the world should be ruled.
 
“There is too much at stake – before us lies a diffuse opponent of the most grievous kind, which if left to fester, will slay the very heart of democracy and endanger all of our tomorrows” – Bréon Rydell.

 

 

SOLIDARITY – A Mass For Peace:’THE ARMED MAN’ BY KARL JENKINS

“In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” George Orwell 1984.

 

freedom-of-speechgeorge-orwell

 

“The problem is power. The course of action is to foster freedom. Power kills, and absolute power kills absolutely. And the solution? Democracy.” R J Rummel (1977).
 

ST. PETERSBURG

Background

St. Petersburg, capital of the Russian Empire for over two hundred years, lost its capital status in 1918, following the Russian Revolution of a year earlier. During WW1, it was known as Petrograd for a short time, but then in 1924, the name was changed to Leningrad. During WW2, a secret Third Reich decree stated: ‘The Fuhrer is determined to eliminate the city of St. Petersburg from the face of the earth. There is no reason whatsoever for the subsequent existence of this large-scale city after the neutralization of Soviet Russia.’ In June 1991,on the 50th anniversary of the commencement of the Nazi siege of the city, following a referendum, 54% of voters chose to restore the original name: St. Petersburg. However in recognition of the remarkable survival of the city through a 900-day siege imposed by the brutal assault of Hitler’s army in 1941, it is often still referred to as Hero City Leningrad. Close on a million of the city’s inhabitants, starved to death during the siege.
 

ARTISTS ON THE FRONTLINE

 
In January 2015, I was invited to participate in a commemorative ceremony at the Museum of Tolerance in Moscow, to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz. At this event, I gave a live presentation of our short film, ‘Free to Cry, and a few days later, also attended a special screening of the film at the St. Petersburg Arts Club. ‘Free to Cry’ was filmed originally at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin; it is set to the accompanying music of Symphony No.3 (The Symphony of Sorrowful Songs) by the Polish composer, Henryk Gorecki.
 

Shostakovich, and his Symphony No.7. in C major (Leningrad)
 

Dmitri Shostakovich [1906-1975] composed his seventh symphony in St. Petersburg (Leningrad), his native city, during the siege by the German armies, that ultimately cost the lives of about one third of the population of the city. It was not long before it became known that the greatest living composer of the twentieth century, who was trapped in the besieged city, was writing a symphony in support of his fellow citizens’ heroic resistance against the barbarism of the German invader. It took six months to complete the work, and after the score had been secretly smuggled out of Russia, it ultimately reached the United States via Tehran. It received its first live performance under the baton of Toscanini in July 1942, a performance that was relayed to a radio audience of over 20 million people. In his dedication of the symphony, Shostakovich wrote: I dedicate my seventh symphony to our fight against fascism, to our coming victory over the enemy, and to my native City of Leningrad.’

In the symphony, Shostakovich was able to express in music his deep anguish about what was happening to his birthplace, and incorporate the tragic consequences not only of Hitler’s bestiality, but also that of Joseph Stalin, under whose tyrannical rule, an estimated 7.9 million Soviet people had been murdered over the years between 1928 and 1941. The music expresses deep feelings of passion and anger, and throughout, emphasises the strength of the Russian people in their fight for freedom. The brutality of the enemies is depicted by harsh machine-like rhythms pronounced repeatedly by the brass instruments of the orchestra overlying ominous and repetitive beating of the timpani.

The painful depiction in sound of the suffering imposed by tyranny contrasts with the triumphant music of the third movement of the symphony, which symbolizes the bravery of Leningrad’s citizens who, through their spirit of determination and resistance, succeeded in keeping their city alive, albeit in ruins.
 
Mark Wigglesworth, the recently appointed (September 2015) Music Director of English National Opera (ENO), wrote in 1996: ‘Music’s innate ability to be ambiguous is one of its greatest strengths, and for Shostakovich, it saved his life. He could express beliefs that one day Stalin would be overthrown and humanity would defeat tyranny, and he could survive in doing so……. This piece is not about Hitler. It’s not about Stalin. Its timelessness and its greatness is in its constant relevance. The tragedy of this piece is that there will always be tyrants, and there will always be suffering. What the piece offers is the hope that despite that, the human spirit will never be broken. Evil will always be present, but so will humanity’s ability to be able to resist it.’
 
A Soviet soldier buys a ticket for the performance of the Seventh Symphony in Leningrad in August 1942

January 06 2015

London

I awoke in my London hotel with a distinct sense of unease about the forthcoming trip to Paris. Ever since I can remember, I have had what can best be described as premonitory experiences or feelings. I make a mental note to myself that it is time to explore in more detail some of these happenings that have been with me for as long as I can remember. I cannot really explain them fully, but there is no doubt in my mind of their existence and of their impact. I put these thoughts behind me and prepare myself for the trip that Garry and I are about to make to Paris via Eurostar – our favourite mode of transport to the City of Light. We were joining two of our close friends Cathy and Elizabeth, and were looking forward to spending time with them.
 

The Next Day

 
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Whilst travelling to the bookshop, a swarm of police outriders sped towards us, with their lights flashing. We arrive at Shakespeare’s, where Cathy introduces us to the owner, Sylvia, with whom we connect immediately. She is a stylish, elegant young woman, who takes us on a private tour of this famous Paris literary utopia, that was established by her late father, George Whitman. Upstairs, Elizabeth, draws me to one side, showing me a text she has just received from a diplomat friend of hers based in London, who has enquired about our location as evidently, unbeknown to us, there are two gunmen on the loose in Paris. We absorb the information we have been told, remain calm, and finish our literary tour. Before leaving, I notice on the steps going up to the top floor, the following inscription: ‘LIVE FOR HUMANITY.’
 
 
BGE WEBSITE PARIS

 
 

THE CHARLIE HEBDO MASSACRE

 
After lunch, we made our way back to the hotel. Not surprisingly, the atmosphere around us was tense, and as we approached Place des Vosges, I looked down an adjacent street and saw that there were many police cars and emergency services assembled at the far end – one block away. This was the scene of the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

Back in our room, the true impact of what was happening around us hit home. The pre-meditated murder of innocent people, by Salafist extremists, clearly represented a brazen assault on our freedom of expression. The tragedy had particular personal relevance, as I am a creative artist who happens to be gay. This makes me a double target for the enemies of free speech and human rights, who wish to kill all those whom they accuse of blasphemy.

On the news, we learn of a separate attack on a kosher supermarket where four Jewish people were gunned down, and of the bravery of one Muslim hero, who saved other hostages from certain death. Solitary acts of courage like these, remind us of the positive power of the individual.

Without doubt, there is an urgent need to protect our cultural heritage and democratic values. We require more commitment from citizens of diverse backgrounds, who understand the seriousness of the threat, whilst recognising the limitations of government, whose behaviour is all too often duplicitous, and whose effectiveness is hampered by short-term policies built on vested interests under the control of corporate might. What we face ahead, is a long struggle. What has been unleashed in Paris today, is yet another wake-up call to remind us of what is at stake.

Society must never forget that it was only 80 plus years ago that an unknown fringe politician was making his murderous plans explicitly clear. Yet, the world was oblivious to the maelstrom that was coming.
 

A WORLD ON THE BRINK OF MADNESS

 
Today, we face not only Jihadist threats externally, but also home grown Jihadists, who proclaim their supremist agenda and their clear intention to proceed with their plans aimed at slaughtering those who oppose them.

Also, there is a build-up of religious extremism in certain spheres of modern-day Christianity, which is proving divisive and fueling further intolerance.

Another serious danger facing the Western world, has been the infiltration of universities – the core of our educational system, by radical hate groups, who seek to censor free thinking and free speech.
 

LIBERTY UNDER THREAT

 
The drumbeats emanating from these ideological groups, grow louder by the day, with their followers marching blindly toward some mythical utopian age. Meanwhile the truth-tellers are being herded into the public arena, awaiting their fate, certain that they will be targeted by shrapnel menacingly emanating from a well of primal violence and deep-seated historical grievance.

Whilst the leaves of democracy wither on the vine, poisoned by the hand of a vicious cabal, whose members are unwilling or unable to free themselves from their insatiable addiction to power, the earth burns and the surveillance state rules. Great swathes of society lie in a state of passive slumber, hypnotised, confused, easy prey for the scavengers who feed on the entrails of the just and the fallen…
 

‘THE EVIL THAT MEN DO LIVES AFTER THEM’

 
The peacemakers of 1919 who cobbled together the territories of the Middle East have long gone…. the guns of Normandy have fallen silent, yet the flames above the oilfields of Arabia still cast their long shadow… and we in the world continue to be ruthlessly manipulated by puppet masters, who remain invisible…

As night falls to darkness, in my dreams I recall the visit to Shakespeare’s bookstore and the epigram by Whitman:
 
“Live for humanity and be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be Angels in disguise.”
 

 

Bréon Rydell
Le Pavillon de la Reine,
28, Place des Vosges,
75003 Paris
January 8th 2015

Notes from my journal – personal experiences.

Dec 31st 2014 – Garry and I celebrated New Year at a masked ball in Soho House, Berlin. It was the end of an eventful year which began with the launch of our short film ‘Free to Cry’ on 27th Jan 2014. We made the film in Berlin, and on New Year’s morning 2015, with our friend Eric, who had flown in from California to join us, we revisited the locations where we filmed. As we walked through Bebelplatz, thoughts of Kristallnacht were awakened.

Somewhere in the mist of my thoughts, I remind myself about the true heroes at The Munich Post and how they fought valiantly to oppose the ideology of the National Socialist Party. I rediscover the bravery of Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jesuit Priest, Alfred Delp, the Kreisau Circle, all part of a resistance movement, who paid the ultimate price in their struggle against Fascist tyranny. The ideology of the Nazis in simplistic terms was: ‘If you don’t believe in what I believe in – I will silence or kill you. Sounds familiar? Over the centuries there have been numerous apocalyptic cults right up to the present day all with similar supremacy scripts, but with different actors displaying different levels of sociopathy – all of them violent and destructive.

My mind starts probing for answers to difficult questions…What was going on in the 1930’s, and what can we learn from those events? Outside Museum Island, I was reminded of a series of black and white photos. On the surface, I see elegant fun-loving people without a care in the world – yet it begs the question: How did this highly sophisticated society degenerate into an abyss saturated with pure hatred. How come whole sections of institutionalised organisations, elites, military, including the Church hierarchy, collude, conspire in a grandiose, mass delusion, projected upon them by a disturbed prophet of doom? What was the mentality and the political culture? Where was moral consciousness?

Knowing that today we face a global scenario which bears similar hallmarks … I make a mental note to pursue this line of thought further.

I am reminded of a line from a script I wrote some years ago “Beware the force of opposite, for the force of opposite is aware of you.” What I was alluding to by this statement is that there are clockwise progressive dynamics that are constantly being challenged by counter-clockwise regressive forces, resisting change. This battle has been repeating itself throughout history. The forces of opposite continue to be active in the modern era – working within and without – visible and invisible systems are in a constant state of collision.

The great Swiss polymath Paracelsus, whose insight revolutionised medical thinking in the fifteenth century, was opposed by the powerful counter clockwise forces of dogma, that were controlling society at that time. Paracelsus opened a path where reason and goodwill would encourage progressive thought. Probing and questioning would lead the way to rational answers. Although some of Paracelsus’s ideas were later challenged, this merely shows that science is eminently capable of applying skepticism when testing the validity of its hypotheses.

Whilst walking by the side of a tree lined canal, my train of thought is suddenly interrupted by the sound of children singing… The innocence and spontaneity of their voices is a stark reminder of what is at stake, and what we must strive to protect.

In the world at large, interactive digital screens transmit 24 hour news cycles of public executions, murder of homosexuals, stoning of women, being enacted and displayed in a slick, sick, media blitz…

Along with widespread poverty, ecological destruction, and fomenting inter-societal hatred, our species is being confronted by serious challenges of enormous scale, yet whilst the vast majority of human beings struggle to survive on a daily basis, many in the developed world continue to slumber, oblivious to the dangers facing mankind.

Add to the mix, the advancement of science and technology with its evolutionary history of billions of years, accelerating at an unbelievable pace, stands in stark contrast with bronze age religious beliefs that have become fossilised within the space of a few thousand years. Yet these beliefs control the lives and fate of large segments of the global population.

All over the world, there are powerful regimes that maintain their pernicious agendas to control humanity, with an impact that permeates our everyday lives. It is clear we are in danger of being overwhelmed. These controlling forces cannot be dealt with in isolation. They are interconnected and exert their own momentum within a complex network whose constituent parts must be identified and decoded. Thus we need to develop a new formula for governance, in which the stakeholders have an increasing role in the decision-making process. Also, skilled systems analysts are needed to structure a new dynamic matrix suitable for the stewardship of planet earth in the digital age.

There is an urgent requirement to develop new cognitive strategies, because the thinking that got us into this mess is not the thinking that will lead to a solution. Science and technology offer us sophisticated tools that have the capacity to bring about a massive transformative shift in our perception. We need to harness the forces of collective cooperation and ensure that our freedom of expression is never compromised.

Without doubt, our world is facing formidable counter clockwise dynamics that are bringing great turbulence to this century. It is time for kindred minds to unite, and challenge the status quo. For us to sit back and do nothing, is simply not an option. We must free ourselves from the slavery imposed by rigid dogma. We must waken from our slumber, learn from the mistakes from the past, and protect the intelligence and creativity of the children of today, to enable them to pass on their vision to the children of tomorrow.

 
 
Bréon Rydell
Soho House,
Berlin, 2nd Jan 2015

I remember wakening in the early hours of the morning and hearing in my head, the opening melody and lyrics to a new song with the title ‘I Gave You Everything.’ It was clear that this song was coming from a deep well within me, bringing memories to the surface, of traumatic events that I had experienced first hand as a young boy.

The theme of the song is about a woman trapped in a desperate and violent relationship, stoically struggling to keep everything together.  In the first line, she asks  herself, whether she is a good person. I am only too aware that the heroine of the song is also the victim, yet she has been made to feel that she is the guilty party, responsible in some bizarre way for the violence that encompasses every aspect of her life.

The sense of outrage at the injustice that this presented, is as real to me today, as it was when I experienced this situation in my childhood.

To find the right vocalist was no easy task. At the first rehearsal with Tamsin Carroll, the creative team and I were in no doubt that we had found an Artist, who was able to express poignantly the emotional feelings that were contained within the song. However, after a short discussion with Tamsin, I felt at this stage that there needed to be a greater sense of hope, to the piece, and so I set about working further on the lyrics. The original lyrics were despatched to a good friend in Australia, the Theatre Director Neil Armfield, who agreed that there was need to take the message of the song in a more positive direction. I followed this up with a revised version a day later. This second draft won his approval.

The passion, dignity and serenity that Tamsin’s performance brought to the song, was complemented by Alex Baranowski’s haunting orchestral arrangement. We came together to record the song at Air Studios, London, with the string section of the London Metropolitan Orchestra, conducted by Alex, and with Magnus Gilljam as accompanying pianist. Bringing ‘I Gave You Everything’ to life in this way, made the session a very special and moving event.

For now, the song sits within the framework of a new musical I am working on, entitled ‘Butterfly Jaws.’ It is A Dark Fairy Tale, which tells the story of an outsider, a young girl called Morwenna, who is ostracised by society and is confronted by violence and hatred directed against her.

It is my belief that music and storytelling can not only inspire people all over the world, by giving strength and hope to those held captive in cruel relationships, but also encourage the victims to break free.

On November 25th – White Ribbon Day, we decided to release this track in order to raise awareness of an organisation called ‘Stop Violence Against Women,’ and to support this important cause.
 
 
Bréon Rydell
Zurich, Switzerland,  29th Nov 2014
 

Must we allow the dark forces to gain the upper hand, gather more and more strength before the alarm is heard. For the wolf is not at the door, he is actually over the threshold.

Who would have have believed that in this 21st century, where modern science has made enormous strides in human progress aimed at combating poverty and disease, vulnerable children – young minds – would be exposed to sinister influences, instilling within them medieval hatred, inflicting torture upon them in the name of primitive and pervasive ideologies.

Why don’t we pause for a moment – take a look out there in the wilderness and see the darkness falling… At the same time cast your eyes upon the beauty of the cosmos and infinite space… Take a deep breath, focus inwards and consider that hidden within the core of our personalities, there lies a flawed thinking process, which, by fuelling self-destructive impulses, has the potential to trigger a global crisis of unimaginable proportions.

As we look around the world, follow the trails of the murderous, infantile, rage of fanatics blinded by ignorance, and observe the mindless destruction of earth, with its precious resources. Take note of a mankind that selfishly goes on killing at will other living species and destroys their habitat, with total disregard for the consequences.

And as we hit the wall and surrender to thoughtless inertia, others continue to scheme and draw their battle-lines, often out-manoeuvering a developed world, that has become complacent, and addicted to trivia. The stakes could not be higher. Some of the greatest achievements of our global enlightenment are being threatened, dismantled piece by piece, by authoritarian power structures, who continue to rule by intimidation, and brute force, obsessed by territorial aspirations and the need to control us with the most advanced technological surveillance systems ever known.

We must remain alert to, and not frightened by, the dangers posed by these factions, who are threatening our existence as a free society. If we remain united in our resolve to protect the principles that we hold dear, we will not fail those great and wise minds who illuminated previous centuries with their creative genius, and who fought valiantly to gain the sovereign rights that so many today take for granted.

We need to rally kindred spirits, who wish to foster a more open minded and awakened society, and at the same time, protect our beautiful planet for generations to come. Only by concerted effort, free from the shackles of cultural and geographic differences, can we succeed in pushing back the forces of ignorance and hatred. In this way, we can aim together to build a future, which values and respects the qualities of love and compassion, and that incorporates a more humane and holistic way of living for all those who dwell on earth.

It is essential that we guard the threshold and the school. We must prepare for what will come – it will be a long struggle, it will be hard – but in the final analysis, there is no other way.

 

Bréon Rydell
Saint. Rémy de Provence, France, 7th May 2014

Over the last few decades, we have been witnessing a steady rise of various regressive forces within civilized society. In the past, the influence of such forces could be successfully challenged and even nullified by influential voices, often mavericks – drawn from the arts, sciences, and humanities – who were prepared to make their views known, however unpopular they might be.

In this 21st century of a dumbed down, fractured society, we find ourselves in an increasingly Orwellian world. Because of the spread and influence of political correctness, any expression of dissent is only too easily silenced.

Quite simply, we are in danger of being out-manouvered, by those who supposedly purport to have good intentions, but actually display a stunning naivety.

Unless we wake up and face this reality, we will be abandoning the achievements of previous generations, who fought against the suppression of new ways of thinking, and who defeated tyranny in order to give us our individual and political freedoms.

If we believe that free thinking, freedom of speech and artistic expression are keystones of our civilised society, we need to make sure that our voices are heard. This is essential if we are to prevent words of reason and common sense from being lost in a fog of denial.

We need to galvanise our position, identify our strengths, and challenge the status quo. Anything less, would be a shameful betrayal of our heritage.

Bréon Rydell
New York, 1st November 2013

Over the last few months I have been setting some of my early poems to music – poems whose themes focus on issues such as prejudice, totalitarianism, inequality and discrimination within society. These projects constitute the building blocks for a new work, a Modern Opera, which I am calling ’K315.’ The content of the Opera covers the achievements of some of the truth seekers, outstanding, brilliant lights, that have shone through the centuries, and the evolution of humanity from its early beginnings in Africa the cradle of civilization, through to the modern era. The work aims to incorporate the successes, hopes, as well as the failures and tragic events that characterized these centuries.

One of these poems, written in my youth, is entitled: ‘Free to Cry,’ and is an expression of my feelings on the Holocaust, and all incidences of genocide. My concept has been to set this piece to music and record its recitation in a setting that would sharpen the awareness of modern day youth to the realities of the Shoah – at a time, when we are moving beyond the horizon of living memory of one of the darkest periods of European history. I traveled specially to Berlin a few weeks ago to make a video recording of ‘Free to Cry,’ against the backcloth settings of the Peter Eisenman Memorial to The Murdered Jews of Europe and the Micha Ullman Library Monument. We are aiming to release this video early next year.

In an open letter posted in August 2013, Stephen Fry drew attention to a series of recent anti-gay laws enacted by the Russian Government. Stephen did so, because of a personal involvement in this type of discrimination, as he is both gay and Jewish. He highlights the inter-relationship between anti-semitism, and hatred of other minorities, which was embedded within the idealogical pathology of the Third Reich.

Stephen’s roots emanate from the cultured European Jewish tradition – a surviving remnant of what was once a thriving community destroyed by the bestial behaviour of Nazi thuggery, whilst the world looked on in silence, choosing to say nothing. My roots are quite different, having been brought up, steeped in the folklore of the Scottish Borders, home of Sir Walter Scott. Yet, despite our different backgrounds, he and I clearly share a common orientation and an empathy towards greater tolerance in society. Deep in my being there has always been a yearning for social justice, which has found expression in so much of my music and words.

I admire Stephen and respect his rallying call for like-minded folk to stand up against tyranny and injustice.

Harvey Fierstein in his recent article published in The New York Times, has also warned about the dangers of the Russian Government’s attempt to demonise minority groups, whether Jews or gays – a campaign whose origin lies in the edicts of the Nationalist Social Party that characterised the nineteen thirties in Germany.

“Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people”
 
As is so clearly displayed on the commemorative plaque at the Bebelplatz in Berlin, Heinrich Heine already in 1820, in his play ‘Almansor,’ foretold the horrors of Nazism when he wrote: ‘Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people.’ In the aftermath of the Holocaust, we can no longer afford to ignore the re-kindling of anti-Semitism, which, for a time, appeared to recede into the background, as the memories of Kristallnacht and the death camps of Treblinka and Auschwitz have faded into a history that no longer features in the conscious awareness of today’s younger generation.

So it is especially important that we do not remain, either blind or lend deaf ears, to hate filled agendas, wherever they unfold. To some, these may appear to be relatively trivial issues, but as history has sadly taught us, they can easily escalate to more serious events. In February 2014, Russia is scheduled to host the Winter Olympic Games, and as the international sporting community prepares for this major event, maybe we should remind ourselves of past history where groups of individuals were singled out and targeted as inferior beings.

In a Leading Article in the journal ‘Standpoint,’ last autumn, Daniel Johnson, in discussing the widespread re-emergence of anti-Jewish prejudice, cautions: ‘If we are to prevent the descent of Europe into the abyss of anti-Semitism… the time to speak out is now.’

Bréon Rydell
Rome, Italy, 13th August 2013

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