In all our sanctuaries we sit at risk

Where to Look for Answers ?


Post Brexit, despair floods in, layer by layer ; the lamentable result itself, how it was arrived at, and the background from which the mayhem welled up, now cascading all over us. Any space anywhere for hope ?

In search of hope, where might we expect to look ? To the steppe from whence the barbarian horse are advancing greedily towards us ? To some simplified rural community, eschewing technology, materialism, globalisation – all that greed and anarchic aggression ? To a “Back to Basics” sentimentality, surrounded by gargoyles ?

Years ago, I wrote a set of essays. which I called Fables and Reflections. They provided a way of collating whatever I had learned up to that point in my life ; and of probing into the fog ahead, for any way through. They can be found transcribed as separate posts earlier in this blog. The distinguished writer Iain McGilchrist has read them and said this of them : “I find it deeply touching to be asked by Rogan Wolf to write a brief forward for these clever and  insightful  prose- poems – for that is what they are. He feels my book [The Master and his Emissary] provides a fitting context for them. But their beauty and the imagination that created them are all his. They are full of wisdom that we need very badly to hear. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do..”

As Theresa May, the new Tory saviour, steps into the arena, and Labour continues fighting for its soul, as well as for its belief, and its believers, the Fable below seems quite relevant :


Fable Twelve

  “The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.” WB Yeats
“Humankind cannot bear very much reality” TS Eliot


Jason unnamed, Jason dis-mantled, lost in his time, having no place, the faded gold on the horns of his goat skin his only reminder of a human’s touch, got up on his rock and spoke to an Agora long deserted. Only green lizards and goldfinches heard him.

He said this:

Let us imagine Place A. Place A is made of delusion. Consequently it is strongly built. The walls are thick and tall. The roads are straight and tidy. The position is high up at the top of an isolated hill and consequently easily defended with its powerful weapons of delusion. The inhabitants of Place A feel at ease. It is well governed (tidy streets) and it is safe (thick walls etc.). There are no taxes to pay. There are large luxurious shops where the fancy can be fed and tickled all day long. It is a good and comfortable place to live, a firm base, a safe harbour. Its only drawback is its untruth.

Let us imagine Place B. Place B is made of fact and reality. Consequently its position is disastrously exposed to attack from all directions at all times and its inhabitants are constantly rushing to defend the walls. The walls are badly built due to weak management and constant conflict. The weapons at the people’s disposal are thin reeds and badly written tracts printed on recycled paper. Place B is appallingly led, with dispute, cowardice, and hesitation the predominant features of its government. Morale in Place B is so low that the hospital doctors report spiralling increases in illness both physical and mental; the police report spiralling increases in crime levels. There is a constant dribble of deserters to Place A.

To live in Place B is like living on a raft in heavy seas.

Now let us imagine a great crisis threatens the planet upon which both places are situated – Planet AZ. Huge fissures have begun opening up all over the surface. It transpires that the mining required to build the walls of Place A have done real and irreparable damage to the planet’s inner structures. Furthermore, a plague of insects has been reported streaming towards the two cities and it has been established that the insects are a new race that has bred and multiplied on the artificial fertilisers used to feed Place A’s population and the insect horde has now exhausted its local food supplies.

Furthermore war has broken out both on the planet and in outer space and the war has been caused by the extremes of poverty experienced by peoples far away who have been grossly exploited to keep the inhabitants of Place A in the manner to which they are accustomed. Various peoples are involved, the carnage is appalling and the weapons being used (sold to them by Place A) threaten the whole planet.

Clearly, solutions have to be found in this emergency. New answers are needed. Old patterns have to be changed. A leadership must operate which inspires the noblest possible response from the inhabitants of the two cities and is able to focus and contain that response to the maximum possible effect.

The best human skills have to be applied, new and unprecedented levels of co-operation, the wisest possible application of knowledge, understanding, strength and organisation.

From which city would we expect that leadership, that level of response, chiefly to come ? The firm but illusory base of Place A ? Or the insecure but truth-facing raft of Place B ?

My answer has always been that the solutions needed must inevitably come from the exposed position of fact and reality. Despite the chaos there, Place B contains people whom experience has trained to live skillfully with truth and insecurity without deserting to Place A. There is nowhere to build except upon fact and there are no builders you can trust except those skilled and practiced in handling and addressing fact with familiar affection and without anxiety. Therefore, the skills and experience upon which the planet’s future depends must reside in Place B.


But nowadays, I am in doubt of my initial conclusion. For is not the exposure to reality experienced by the people of Place B so debilitating that just existing there saps all available energy ? Perhaps just keeping your balance on the raft takes up all available hope and skill.

For instance, it seems that the word “intuition,” which for me describes an experience of fact, is used quite easily nowadays in the world of science, which I fear I still tend to associate with Place A. On the other hand, that word can no longer be used at all in the world of social work and social care, which I still – despite everything – associate with Place B. The reason that “intuition” has become taboo in social work and similar activities is that it does not seem “scientific” enough and cannot be measured “scientifically”.

Perhaps, after all, it is people used to the comfort, security and illusory self-belief of Place A who will come up with the answers. It will be answers already known in Place B, but not propounded or practiced effectively there, due to the habitual confusion, timidity and exhaustion that runs through the place like the very cement with which it was built.

Small children range far from a secure home, precisely because of its security. The more secure the base, so the more adventurous you feel you can be, and the further out you feel you can go, and the more solid and settled in yourself you feel. Remember to whom Shakespeare handed the crown of the future, after the death of old Lear : not to a prince from the facile new world, the new mentalities of the Renaissance, but to Edgar, a prince from Lear’s old tired and corrupt mediaeval world, a prince now purged and scoured by Lear’s own experience of purgatory on the heath, a man still based in the old solidities but made whole from them and renewed out of them.

Perhaps, after all, the teachers, the leaders, the discoveries, the changes, the solutions, will come from the false but strong and firmly established position of Place A. Initially adventurous due to its security, initially strong due to its strength, they will survive and be made whole by the scouring, the mortification, the transformation that is now required of them in order to emerge in the doorway and lead us clear.

Rogan Wolf Spring 1994