By Paul Wood
I am new to blogging, and a space on the ‘Perspectives’ site that Martin hosts is both a privilege and a welcome new challenge. Before I begin I thought something of an introduction would be in order, so here goes:
Name: Paul Stephen Wood
Family: Married to Angela for 29 years. Father of Justine, 22 and Alex, 19
Interests: Exploring, Photography, Fishing
Career Path: Accountant – Missionary – Self-employed Painter & Decorator – ?
Enneagram Type: 6 (with 7 wing)
I hope that will do for starters. I tried writing a short life history, but when you’ve lived for fifty years it isn’t that short any more, and it was starting to get boring. So I will just have to throw things in as and when they are relevant.
The religion bit is strange I know, but I put it in because it reminded me of when I lived in Egypt. There, it was at least as important as your gender and had to be stated on any identification. Boundary lines were hard and impermeable. It affected everything. I have lived and travelled in quite a few ‘Muslim’ lands, and grown to be reasonably comfortable in them. On the way I’ve thought and prayed quite a lot about Islam, so that may well come into some of my blogs.
This year I turned fifty. Interestingly, this year I also wandered in and out of my fiftieth country (whatever a country is…I mean, the idea that the Vatican and India each count as one is frankly ridiculous). Being a wanderer gives no more weight to ones opinions than being rooted, but the number seemed interesting and I suppose it indicates that travelling is in my blood and my perspectives have been shaped by that.
Africa was my first love. When I was nine my Father’s job took him to South Africa, so we all lived in Durban for a year. Apartheid was in full force then, I remember all the ‘Whites Only’ signs on everything. Nelson Mandela was in prison but not many people had heard of him. My Dad bought an old Ford Cortina estate and in the holidays we drove all over the place in it; Cape Town, Zimbabwe (It was Rhodesia then), Zambia, Victoria Falls and the Kalahari Desert. Once I met a Zulu warrior in full regalia in the park outside our flat – he shook his spear and shield and grinned, fierce but friendly. My Mother clutched my hand tightly and I was impressed. I would have liked to have met a Bushman but never did. Africa must have got into my blood. Seven years in Egypt and I’ve done the same to my own children and now they are searching for their own new lands.
Turning fifty was a big marker in life for me; the end of many things that are not yet being replaced, and there are frighteningly scant signs of what the future may hold. Some of the countries I have visited seemed wild and unknowable from the outside – but in retrospect none so wild and unknowable as the future, that unavoidable land we all stand on the threshold of and that at times so forcefully invades our imaginations.
I’ve always been fascinated by the interplay of our geographical journeys and our ‘inner’ or ‘soul’ journeys. Last September I went to Iran and it seemed to coincide with being ‘overtaken’ by some kind of inner crisis. My life’s path dipped underground and the ‘inner’ journey got a whole lot harder than any physical one. That’s where the Enneagram comes in. It’s been around for a long time but I discovered it this year – or rather it found me. It may even have saved my sanity. I’ll write a bit about that too.
So there’s the beginning, and a few threads to follow in the days to come…