Tuesday 14 May 2019

Beltane Burial by Joan Angus

We follow him in his coffin,
covered in a blanket of lilac,
pulled on a cart down the steep hill
to his place of burial in the shimmering woodland.

We gather round the grave.
He is lowered gently into his resting place
‘Earth to earth…dust to dust…’
Pipe music plays a lullaby.

Raindrops fall through the canopy of young green leaves
‘Earth my body, Water my blood,
Air my breath and Fire my spirit’
We throw handfuls of soil in farewell
and leave to the beat of a drum.

What will your spirit do, dear Friend, when we have left?
Will you dance with other spirits
in the woodland
for ever?

Saturday 4 May 2019

Dunstan Clarke tribute to Chris

I’d like to start with a quote form Zora Neale Hurston; love is like the sea – it takes its shape from the shores it meets. As every person is different so every relationship is different. 
I’d like to say a few things about dad and how his uniqueness shaped our relationships with him
I spent some time thinking about which memories of dad I should share with you all here, and there are many happy ones, so it was no easy task. I finally hit on a time the family were up Twyford down at a big protest against the road being built there. In a rare occurrence dad ran into someone he knew who was clearly from a very different walk of life than dad’s. He was a bearded hippy type about ten or twenty years younger and quite a bit more ‘salt of the earth’ than dad was. I’m not sure how they knew each other but I think it was form some kind of Green Spirit type group. Dad once told me that he didn’t know how to make small talk but on that occasion he did and it was very sweet to watch, the man asked him what he was up to and dad replied that he was going to Argentina for a conference on gravity, the man replied that that was brilliant and was he going to talk about the gravitational influence of stars on our lives. What I like about the encounter is that I saw the rather lovely way dad handled a conversation with someone quite difference from him, but also the fact that, although dad was extremely friendly and personable he didn’t take any nonsense. He told the man that it really wasn’t helpful to mix up the paradigms behind astrology with those behind physics which I think was not at all what he’d expected to hear and I guess it kind of encapsulates dad’s wisdom and love of life but also his unshakable commitment to doing and thinking what was right, that he had a very clear, Occam’s razor viewpoint on the way the world was and the way it should be and at every turn he did what he thought was best to bring this about and that really is a unique quality in a human being.
It’s not going to come as a surprise to all you who knew him that dad taught me an awful lot of things. One of them came from what he wrote about time in his book ‘Living in Connection’. He addressed the themes of chronological and Kairological time and discussed the idea that time is not linear and, like love, it is a boundless sea which our own perception reside in. I’d come across this idea before but I’d never really understood it until I got it from dad and I think it’s important to mention today because its shaped my outlook on life and I think it shaped dad’s. He wrote about wisdom in some of his blog entries in recent years and I remember him writing that he had been intelligent but he had never been wise. This is of course typical of the wonderful self-effacing modesty. I think dad was very wise and I think a little bit of this wisdom will help us to remember him the way he might have wanted us to today – if time and love are infinite seas then maybe death, like life is a part of that sea and maybe he would want us to celebrate his life with the wisdom that comes from that understanding, that he carried with him, that has influenced my life  and that I will try to pass down to Alex and Millie my children  - that there is something cyclical about the universe, about our existences and that is something we should celebrate not something we should mourn.

Leon Clarke tribute to Chris

It’s hard to know where to start in summing up who my dad was for me.
Partly because we never really grow out of thinking
our parents do things the completely ordinary way.

In’t it completely normal to have a dad who’s a theoretical physicist,
and also deeply interested in mystical religion?

One trait which I aspire to, which I probably got from Chris is this;
whatever he got involved in, he tried to understand at a serious level,
be it religion, be it dancing, be it playing music, be it baking bread, anything.
At one point when I was growing up, I wanted a chemistry set.
So he took a look at what was available, decided they weren’t good enough
and so found a lab supplies company
who could provide all the bits he considered necessary.
What was necessary?
I think enough stuff to really let me understand what was going on,
and not just look at a few pretty effects.

And the goal seemed to be to provide opportunities to explore things, not to teach.
He let me muck around with a very early microcomputer at the university,
and when I was obviously fascinated, he eventually got one at home,
which I was obsessed with. I guess that obsession continues.

But he probably influenced me just as much or more
by growing up in a family where so many things were going on,
although I’ll never be sure how much was my dad and how much was my mum.
But this was a house where of course everyone played unusual musical instruments,
of course everyone went camping and mountain climbing,
of course everyone went to listen to almost any style of music.
Of course everyone went to religious retreats filled with silence and ancient music.
And of course all these things somehow fit together

I’m very grateful that I happened to be in Southampton on dad’s last day in the house. He was finding things difficult, and increasingly difficult throughout the day,
but apart from when in pain, he had an incredibly gracious air to him.
I’m far from sure I understand all the things he wrote in his books,
but if they lead to the peace I saw in him that day, I’ll keep trying to understand them,

Isabel Clarke Tribute to Chris

 Tribute to Chris, given at his funeral in St. Michael's Church, Southampton City Centre, 03.05.2019.

Chris was universally loved: he was kind, friendly and unassuming, combined with a formidable intellect, and a ready sense of humour, rooted in a deep appreciation of the absurdity of human life.  Behind that gentle and unobtrusive demeanour lay passionate commitment and steely determination to further the values and principles at the heart of his being: the pursuit of knowledge, wisdom and justice – and good food. 

When I first met him, we were both barely 20, he was a 3rd year undergraduate, and was already writing a paper on Time! – (not part of his degree course – the work for which he dashed off in a couple of hours before the supervision – in marked contrast to my slogging away all week at my history essays). On graduating, his focus was to explore, through the medium of mathematics, the furthest and deepest secrets of the cosmos – the pursuit of the singularity; that moment (or can you call it a moment?) when time, space and matter started; black holes – all that.  He made significant and recognized contribution to that field. 

But he hated the elitism of Cambridge and its colleges. He said of Cambridge colleges that they were medieval institutions that had, with considerable effort, dragged themselves into the 18th Century. He therefore rejected pleas to stay with that group. Instead, he took a job as a lecturer at York university, where he developed his potential as teacher and communicator, and then, becoming a professor in Southampton before the age 40, he consolidated the international recognition of his work and became leader of a still flourishing research group.

But still, his principles and values drove him on.  Ever since a dramatic conversion before we met at university, faith had been central for Chris. By now this had matured into spiritual connection and compassion for the whole of the cosmos. Already in the 1980s he saw the need to take responsibility for the fragility of the earth and what human beings were doing to it. He became disillusioned with his role as a professor; disillusioned with what could be achieved by mathematics; disillusioned with a university system that was being forced to switch from pursuit of knowledge to pursuit of profit. 

He walked away from all that in 1999, to pursue what he believed to be truly important; the relationship between people, between people and planet - plants, non-human creatures – and trees; the fundamental spiritual connectedness of all and the responsibility that entails.  He brought his scientific brilliance to bear on these issues that are even now being recognized with greater urgency. He chaired organizations – The Scientific and Medical Network, Greenspirit.  He wrote books for the general reader, gave talks and workshops.

Then, in 2012, our luck, which had been pretty phenomenal up until then, ran out. Aggressive cancer, Alzheimer’s. Scylla and Charibdys I called them – if one doesn’t get you the other one will. However, this ushered in another important phase of Chris’s life. Alzheimer’s gradually stripped away the intellectual versatility, leaving the contemplative and devotional core of his being, where he felt most at home among the trees of Southampton Common. Recognizing he could not write the intended book on Wisdom (his last book, Knowing, Doing and Being was published in 2013) - he communicated this phase through a blog, followed and valued by many. In this way, he moved towards his death in clear sight, aware that his body as well as his mind was giving up, and conscious of the need to make the most of life in the present.

Too soon, in the fullness of all the aspects of a richly lived life, Chris has become our ancestor, leaving me torn apart.  It remains to me to thank God for the extraordinary, immeasurable gift of our love, given to us in early youth (ours was an arranged marriage, but arranged by no human agency). This love does not die, because it is not our love, but a part of, a way into, that all-encompassing love that is.

I will now hand over to Leon and Dunstan who will hopefully fill in the part I left out – about Chris, the family man.

Monday 22 April 2019

Those following Chris's blog will have noticed the slowdown and halt of the posts. Chris made no secret of the advance of his Alzheimer's and the effect it was having on all his abilities, including the ability to write.
Many of you will already know the sad news of Chris's death last Tuesday. I (Isabel) am pasting ino this blog the general notice we sent round to ensure that everyone who cared about Chris, and all he stood for as expressed in his blog, is informed. We (son Leon and I) will be opening a webpage and extension of the blog for memories and comments - so do feel free to react to this post.
With love to all who cared for Chris and valued his thoughts,

Chris Clarke. 22.02.1946 - 16.04.2019

To let you know that, following his diagnosis of cancer in 2012, and transfer to the Palliative Care  Team in January 2019, Chris died,  7.15 a.m. on 16th April.   He had been active and independent until mid March when things started to go down.  He then deteriorated rapidly 12th/13th April, and went into hospital on the evening of 13th.. I said goodbye to him that evening, in a very good last conversation, where we recalled the family, and, aware he was moving towards death, he laughed, and said how ‘bizarre’ it felt.
Leon and Dunstan arrived on 14th, and we stayed with him in turns, but he did not regain consciousness.
The Funeral will be on Friday 3rd May at St. Michael’s Church, Southampton Centre, at about 13.30 – details tbc. This will be followed by the ecological burial he wished for, in the beautiful woodland site of the Sustainability Centre, East Meon; then gathering at 6 Blenheim Avenue. (No flowers other than spare able from the garden or legal from the countryside. A short list of relevant causes to choose from will be included in the full details.)
We planned a celebration of Chris’s life and creativity, a tea party event, on 19th May, with the idea that Chris would be with us, though approaching the end. This will of course go ahead.
Please email me at isabel@scispirit.com if you would like the full details of the events outlined here – all are most welcome.
Please pass this information on to anyone who knew Chris and would be interested, and apologies if you have duplicated or overlapping emails.