Spring and Autumn is the sequel to The Sophia Dialogues in a setting some ten years later when grand-daughter, Sophia, and grand-father, papa Bob, meet again. Their first dialogues had led papa Bob to discover that his grand-daughter possessed a simple but mature wisdom to seek out the truth in all things, and, a burgeoning inclination towards spirituality. She was 11 years old at that time, 21 now, and he was looking forward to seeing how she had developed.
Papa Bob wondered if she had been assailed by teenagerism – consumed with self-importance, noise, materialism and her own appearance. He hoped not, and… he sensed not. This time, she was coming for something important. It must have been important because she was in her final year at university with the final exams looming ahead. She had more questions to ask, questions that should tax all of us.
Some ten years had passed since I had last seen Sophia. She had been eleven then, gifted with that wonderful, wide-eyed curiosity and urgency that truly characterize the genuine young-at-heart; those who seem destined to be truth-seekers. Ten years wasn’t quite accurate. She had turned up to visit with her parents - my son and daughter-in-law - but those times had been… how do I say… strained? No, not strained, but somehow restricted without being uncomfortable, with relationship conventions and roles firmly in place.
In that last summer ten years ago, (The Sophia Dialogues, 2016) we - Sophia and I - had conversed with a vitality that drew both of us along the path of delightful discovery of her awakening spirituality. Let’s not be confused here – spirituality is not religion. Religion is essentially about dogma with its twists, turns, impositions and controls by the few over the many. Spirituality is an awakening to the full glory of being alive and the understanding and inner knowing that life is much, much more than what our five senses perceive. It is the opening to the wonder that we already hold within us all the answers that religion claims for itself… But I digress…
Sophia became caught up in her teenage years. I presumed that she was ‘busy’. Her parents had kept in touch and had visited periodically sometimes with and sometimes without her, particularly after she had left for university. I think they came to see what it was that I was up to. As ever, I was inventive enough to demonstrate to them that I was fine and needed no help. Those years ago, Sophia had been sharp as a needle and curious as a cat, but with a great deal more sophistication than a cat. I remember her asking what happens when we die, and I had had to think hard to answer what was a genuine, heartfelt question. Already her thirst for knowledge was way beyond her years. Now she was twenty and in her final undergraduate studies in Manchester. She was studying Metaphysical Science or was it Scientific Metaphysics? – perhaps they are the same… a question of focus. Remembering vividly our conversations – dialogues she had called them – of ten years ago and before, I began to wonder if I had helped or hindered in her evolution.
And now she was coming to visit me, and I wondered, not for the first time, what path her development had followed. Was it focused on her inner being or on her outer surroundings? Had she become self-obsessed, a teenage affliction I’d hoped she would by-pass? I had often thought back to our previous discussions, which she had typed up and sent me a copy after her departure. She had titled our last conversation Changing The World and I wondered if she still wanted to do just that.
I had been her mentor then, a guide that her parents could not be. I was one step removed as her grandfather and this gave me license and space to be someone in whom she could confide, knowing – from unspoken trust - that I would share nothing of her thoughts with anyone. Last week she had telephoned to ask if she could come and visit. I was delighted and told her that her old room was just as it was and would be ready for her. Then the inner voice started to ask all those questions: what was she like now? Would we still have anything in common? What did she eat? What didn’t she eat? Would her studies have distanced us from each other? Could we still be friends? Would she still have that special trust in me? Amid all these random musings, I pulled up something I had taught myself years ago - I am not the thought - I let thoughts flow freely through me. Then I laughed and dismissed them as I always did as mental, inconsequential ramblings to observe and then let go. I felt sure that Sophia and I would enjoy what would come to pass, unencumbered by fear and falsehood.
Nonetheless I allowed myself to ponder her reason for coming and wondered if she had grown to be vulnerable, aggressive or defensive, thoughtful or fearful. A few minutes after her phone-call I knew the answers and looked forward to her arrival with anticipation. She had questions to address, and she had something of an agenda to follow. And I sensed that she would want to pick up where we had left off 10 years ago.