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The Soul Famine

Louise Brookes

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I've spent a lot of my life surviving, which can be a very selfish activity; but ever since I was five years old watching the Biafra famine in the early eighties and wanting to share what I had - ever since then I wanted to help and I wanted to help in the right way. I thought maybe I could be an Aid Worker - they deserve so much respect and support, but before I could do anything like it my own survival took precedence. So I spent a lot of my time instead learning. I learnt about the connections between things, between people. About how our lives work and don't work. I thought if I could learn the survival techniques of people who live close to the earth like hunter gatherers, that this would give me an insight into knowing what our real needs are, and even some freedom, it would also provide the opportunity for me to not be so reliant on draining the earths resources rather than living in a sustainable and life enriching manner.

Over the years I've learnt about growing food in an efficient and sustainable manner through permaculture design and through Community Shared Agriculture. I've learnt about the sense of living locally, resourcing your needs from your immediate area. I've also learnt about Co-operatives and Social Networks that build community and offer healthy financial solutions that recycle money within a community rather than endlessly draining it's funds outwardly. Lots of things, lots of buzz words, ideas, idealism and realism; lots of vision and projects and graft.

Now I've reached a point in my life where my own survival is no longer an issue, I seem to be hanging together just fine, eyes, arms n legs, everything functioning pretty good. I've reached this point where I can look back at all I've come through, all I've learned with some passivity, a neutral perspective far removed from the emotional mission I was on in my late teens and early twenties. I've discovered that there's a kind of priority list, some things are definitely more important than others. Some issues take precedence over others.

I've learned that I'm the biggest obstacle to positivity, once I address my thoughts and am responsible for them than I've control of the leg behind the boot and can direct the kick. This is one of the most important things I've learned and it's taken a while. See once your in charge then the rest is easy. You are the only person you have to convince. If you can bring love to yourself it follows you can bring it to others, but you have to fill that void by yourself. No one else can do it for you even if they want to.

The reason I'm writing this is because all my life I've so much wanted to help, to stop the pain and poverty wherever I saw it, whether it was poverty of resources, or poverty of spirit. At first I only noticed the famines and the wars, the homelessness and the social disintegration - only the physical famine. But now I see that in this world there are two famines going on simultaneously one is the famine of the body, the stricken emaciated men, women and children we see heartrendingly, so often in the news, and whom all of us want to help. I think as a human being it's impossible not to want to do something to help, it's a natural reaction. The other famine that's happening right now, is the famine of the spirit, it is the starvation of a soul, of souls. People are hungry everywhere except it's for different things. Now, you would say the most important issue is to address the hunger, the drought, the war, that's decimating life in so many different countries, and I would agree this is the most important issue. Except for one thing; before people can help other people their hearts have to be open, their hearts have to be full, their souls have to be fed.

My soul was hungry for so long; I was lonely, I was self hating, I was full of darkness and confusion that made me dishonest to both myself and others. How could I explain to others about myself, when I didn't even know. I had to learn how to look after myself; simple things - giving myself a break, giving other people a break, eating right, this sort of thing.

Now, here I am at this juncture, pretty full, I mean my souls O. K it's not holey anymore, it's not leaking. And all those problems like Biafra, they're still happening, still waiting. I haven't done nearly enough to make a difference and the weirdest thing is, that I've learnt that to really get better, to solve one famine, you just have to address the other one. When we see the results of our kindness and our ability to help people who are without their basic needs to survive and thrive; our loneliness and self destruction will be history. It's like if you're a parent, you don't have time to think about yourself or your own needs, at least not very often. Parents gain a kind of grace because of children, there's an opportunity to become selfless, you have to put aside your own desires and this is the very description of a spiritual path. Of course not all parents take the opportunity, nevertheless, it is there.

Every one of us can be parents, and I don't only mean in the literal sense. If you're in anyway unhappy or unfulfilled, there is a chance for you to nourish your soul, to feed your spirit and open your heart. Choose your children; they are all there waiting, millions of them, some of them are already grown up, but they're still your children. Some of them might not speak your language, they might not know your culture or religious persuasion. It doesn't matter. This is what I mean by a list of priorities. See people spend a lot of time discussing people's persuasions, too much sometimes.

I think it's important to be able to be honest about who you are without being unfairly judged for it, whether you're a particular religion, race, whether your gay or straight, whether you have access to freedom and rights to vote - these things are important freedoms to have won and to maintain. But I'm quite bored really, maybe it's my generation. I'm accepting of pretty much everything that doesn't harm anything else. I don't care if you're white, coloured, whether you worship God or Madonna, that's your choice. But in my mind there's this startlingly obvious issue staring everyone in the face, which is the suffering of fellow human beings; that this should be attended to doesn't require any sort of discussion. That people will choose to discuss things that are so pointless and superficial - does require some discussion, if only to point it out; to show how superficial it is. I have put up with superficial stuff since I was a kid, I've lived with it, I've shut my mouth, I've tried to be ‘normal’ and finally, I've realised I really don't want to be normal. If endlessly talking about celebrities lifestyles is what you want to spend your time doing, fine go ahead, but don't mind me if I choose to completely ignore you. There are more important matters than scrutinising the inane details of someone else's life or what mansion someone's moved into, or the latest fad on TV or in the newspapers.

I'm get bored of attending to things that are ‘normal’ when there are people who I could help, just with a little bit of my income on a regular basis, or by writing this. Like women who are getting stoned to death because they want to convert their religion or kids who are being trafficked, or people being blown up, or having their villages burned for what reason? There is no reason, there's no acceptable reason. People's hearts must be so poor, their souls so starving that they don't have anything to reason with except violence and aggression and it's just pure sad.

I'm supposed to create this me-concentric lifestyle, that my society is built around me making money for me, to put a roof over my head, to bring me everything I desire. It's like I'm ignorantly destined to be unhappy that way, all of us believing in this idea that my money = my happiness. It is such a lonely and isolating way to live.

It's taken me exactly this amount of time to consider another way, to choose ‘not normal’ and to be happy with this. I haven't got it all figured out yet. But I think I might finally have my priorities right; right in my eyes at least. Those beings suffering terribly over there, on the other side of that screen, on the other side of that ocean; those brothers and sisters, they're more important than whether or not I have a new sports car, or a higher salary, or a million dollar home. Know why? Because that cars going to do nothing for my soul or my joy, not until I see the news one day and nobody has been murdered. That's going to be a special day that is, the day I turn on the TV and there's been no fighting in the world, no famine has killed anyone, no violence has threatened anybody's peace, no human rights have been abused, no animal cruelty has taken place. That's going to be the day we really get to hear the birds sing, that's my priority, then I'll be able to enjoy the car, and the mansion and the rest.

I've been an adventure sports instructor; teaching rock climbing, surfing, kayaking and abseiling. I've worked for some years as an apprentice of Tibetan Medicine at the Eden Medical Centre in London, learning and practising Herbal Medicine, Massage and Acupressure. I lived on a glacier in Iceland for several weeks when I was 16yrs old, with the British Schools Exploration Society and since then have gravitated towards Alpine Climbing - completing the Alpine Apprenticeship in Switzerland in ‘02 with the renowned Plas Y Brenin Mountain Outdoor Centre. I have a background in Ecological Living helping to set up a housing co-op and living in various fields (literally)implementing renewable energy, permaculture and living machines and planting a lot of trees.

When I was nine years old I had to attend a special school ‘Pilgrims’ because of crippling eczema and asthma, which I have overcome. I have also overcome M. E or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome which I contracted age eighteen after a bout of glandular fever. Presently I'm setting up a Homestudy Bushcraft course and writing a book.


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