As the author of over sixty books (half of them children’s books), one of my popular earlier books called ‘Action Annie’ was designed to highlight that girls were every bit as boisterous, outgoing, and as competent as boys. My heroine ‘Annie’ portrayed in the book had a defiant, confident, and adventurous side to her which made her the equal to any boy, and was based upon the perceived characteristics of my daughter Rebecca’s best friend, Amy Fleming. In fact, the late Dame Catherine Cookson and her husband, Tom (who were good friends of mine for a decade before their deaths), liked the character of ‘Annie’ so much that the present they gave each other on one of their wedding anniversaries was to cover the publication cost of the first limited edition of ‘Action Annie Omnibus’ books, with all sales profit going to a children’s charity. So, Amy, enjoy your special day, and that is a story to tell your children when they grow up, although I know that you have given you and Mark’s daughter, Mabel, the middle name of ‘Annie’. Love Bill xxx.
My song today is ‘Long as I Can See the Light’. This a song by American rock band ‘Creedence Clearwater Revival’ from the album ‘Cosmo’s Factory’. It was released in 1970 and reached Number 57 on the ‘Cash Box Singles Chart’ in the US, Number 20 in the UK, and Number 1 in Norway. In the UK, ‘Long as I Can See the Light’ was placed on the A-side of the single, with "Lookin' Out My Back Door" on the flipside. The two songs were also released as a double-sided single and peaked at Number 2 in the US. While never played live by CCR, the song became a concert staple for John Fogerty as a solo artist.
John Fogerty biographer Thomas M. Kitts describes the song as depicting a ‘world-weary figure,’ perhaps Jeremiah, who ‘undertakes an uncertain journey’. The singer is confident as long as he ‘can see the light.’ Kitts points out that the word light has two meanings in the song, a spiritual meaning, such as in "The Lord is my light" from Psalm 27, and "the secular light of love." Kitts describes the music as having a "hymnal, church-like feel." John Fogerty stated that the song is "about the loner in me. Wanting to feel understood, needing those at home to shine a light so that I can make my way back.”
‘Saul of Tarsus’, who was later known as St. Paul was one of the leaders of the first generation of Christians. He lived between 37 AD and 62 CE and is often considered to have been the most important person after Jesus in the history of Christianity. In his own day, although he was a major figure within a very small Christian movement, he had many enemies and detractors, and his contemporaries probably did not accord him as much respect as they gave to the apostles, Peter and James. Paul’s earlier life as Pharisee (a group of Jewish people who administered the law), admitted to having participated ‘beyond measure’ in the persecution of Christians. This included taking part in the stoning of Stephen, a Christian. Paul’s murky past, despite his conversion to the Christian way of life, made his life thereafter a continuous struggle to establish his own worth and authority. His surviving ‘Letters’, however, have had an enormous influence on subsequent Christianity, and secure his place as one of the greatest religious leaders of all time.
Just as Paul was said to have experienced his conversation from tax collector to Christianity, while I had been baptised a Christian shortly after my birth, I would be approaching my thirties before I eventually ‘saw the light’; having converted from lawbreaker to law maker, from poacher to game keeper when I became a Probation Officer in 1971.
I am currently reading a book entitled, ‘Blue Heaven’ that was written by the late Rabbi Lionel Blue, O.B.E., the British Reform Rabbi, journalist, and broadcaster. Rabbi Blue, who sadly died on December 19th, 2016 was described by ‘The Guardian’ as being “one of the most respected religious figures in the UK". He was best known for his longstanding work with the media, most notably his wry and gentle sense of humour on ‘Thought for the Day’ on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ Programme. He was the first British rabbi to publicly to declare his homosexuality. In his book, Rabbi Blue has this beautiful way of describing the human failings and frailty of mankind, as we travel and stumble through our lives. He reminds us that some unattractive traits developed in one’s childhood can often take a lifetime to convert to more acceptable behaviour.
My own childhood mirrors this unlearned side of a good person that Rabbi Blue addressed. There was a ‘niceness’ and a ‘peacefulness’, and a ‘conversion-waiting-in-the-wings’ about me as a child that I did not allow to grow out of me until my later years. My earlier life had been filled with too much anger after I had lost the use of my legs to walk for three years after incurring a bad traffic accident at the age of 11 years that almost killed me. Fortunately, in my future life, I was able to learn from my past mistakes; I was able to learn fortitude and forbearance from my frailties and gather strength from my vulnerabilities. Until my thirtieth year of life, I harboured a level of deep-seated anger inside me, which was sometimes helpful but was more often hurtful, as it was largely out of control and was prone to erupt involuntarily without warning, and thereby create negative consequences for me and others.
When I was thirty-two years old, by taking the things I had learned from my past, I was able to apply them to my future working methods, and the future learning of countless others. In short, my own work and research in the field of ‘Behaviour Modification’ led to my finding a method and process of work that would become known worldwide as ‘Anger Management’, and which would mushroom across the English speaking world within the short space of a few years. From examining my own earlier experience and expression of uncontrollable anger, I became better able to teach countless other angry people how to better manage theirs.
What twenty-five years in my vocational life as a Probation Officer in West Yorkshire helped me to do was to show other people how to find the ‘niceness’ and ‘goodness’ in themselves which they had never allowed to grow. I would always nourish and encourage such ‘niceness’ and ‘goodness’ to be expressed, knowing that once such became a natural character trait, positive changes in their previous unhappy lifestyle and inappropriate behaviour pattern would also take place.
It is helpful to bear in mind that it is not merely any particular belief we can change, but all beliefs! Harmful and unhealthy irrational beliefs can be changed once we are able to convince ourselves that such conversion is possible, but such successful conversion can only come about when what is in one’s mind, feelings and actions are one and the same! When that day arrives, we can all ‘see the light’.
Love and peace Bill xxx