mountain-landscape 27 Apr 2018


To an ant a molehill may be large, but common (ant!) sense will tell it that, for an ant, nothing need be too tall and it will soldier on regardless.

Common sense for us human beings derives from the collective, so-called folk wisdom of our forebears, integrated within our everyday experience. So, from what kind of clothes to wear in winter (warm!) to useful aphorisms worth considering in certain common situations, like ‘A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’, or again, ‘Pride comes before a fall’, there are hundreds of examples. And actually, of course, although it is a living, changing thing, our language itself has been bequeathed to us by the dead.

I am not talking as if I were some fervent, sub-Conan Doyle-type spiritualist about our actually dead loved ones and relatives speaking with and to us. Or am I?  Who knows?  Some people claim to see, hear and feel the dead both in their waking lives and in their dreams. Some of these get admitted onto acute psychiatric wards against their will under a section of the mental health act. But who is to say with any certainty that at least some of them do not have conversations with people now gone?

Collectively speaking, i.e., for most of us, death is a like vast mountain rock face up which we cannot climb and over which we cannot see. If, that is, we are facing forwards into the future. But churches, mosques, temples and shrines all attest to the wisdom of trying to mine at least some of what was learned in the past, even though between ourselves and our dead loved ones is another vast mountain of absolute silence over and beyond which only memory and imagination can try to reach.

For the dead and the not-yet born those mountains do not exist. They are not even mole hills.

But in this ever-changing, present world ‘valley’ of blood and bones and breath between the twin insurmountable cliffs of our, as yet, unconceived descendants and our already long dead ancestors (and theirs and theirs and so on), we experience the ever-changing light of the present. Within its beams we can make mole hills. We can make mountains. We can make prairies, savannahs, and deserts. We can make ice caps melt and whole cities disappear in explosions. We can do almost anything. And we do.

So, in the present of our own lives it can help to remember when we are frightened of our own feelings, for example, that we may be catastrophising. Or when we are feeling on top of the world, that pride comes before a fall. Or when we are putting off something we need to do, that a stitch in time saves nine. Or when we are depressed and it feels like a mountain, that we need comfort. Or when we are not sure about something that we need to confer with someone else in our ‘world of other people’ to ascertain whether it’s a mountain or a molehill.

It’s common sense really, a gift from the dead.

Blog written by Caroline Cairns Clery, Family Psychotherapist at The Surrey Centre


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