So I decided to come back to work, not in the typical sense but in perhaps the only that matters: the work of philosophy on here. I’d taken a bit of a break, the summer and trips keeping me away from the internet or away from tangible insight.
I took myself to Leeds on a city break and indulged at two fantastic restaurants, Livin’ Italy and Little Tokyo (the address of both found in the postscript). The atmosphere of both places was fantastic, both rustic and true to their cultures and entirely authentic in cuisine. Yet it was not the lobster at Livin’ Italy that I will remember forever, nor the yaki udon of Little Tokyo but instead the words of a man on a street.
His name was Oliver and he stopped me to talk to me about Jesus. He spoke to me about first of all himself and how that he came to the very real realization that material things mean nothing in the end as we are all born the same way and die the same. He spoke about giving it all up to follow his heart and follow the fire of life, a fire you could clearly see in his eyes and cheeks. I was glued to the spot as he spoke, something telling me that I should listen.
“Have faith, be a believer but don’t be religious.”
It reminded me of the words of the Tao Te Ching and the scripture that says that the sage is both of the world and not. He invited me to his church, to experience what he called an “alive” experience as opposed to a “dead” one of human rites and traditions with no real meaning past the impressions of time and culture.
“We are all running in circles. We smoke, we drink, we go on to the next sexual partner after another to fill a void within ourselves. But we are all looking for the same thing,” he says, as he points to the grey sky of the early evening.
While the perspective was entirely Abrahamic, it seemed to light a fire in this man and seemed to leave a lasting impression on me and the wisdom of his words ring true in the most fundamental way. My own words were less convincing to a friend on the interconnectedness of the universe and that we are all expressions of the same life. Yet Oliver, with his hours in the main high street of Leeds sharing his fire and light with those who spoke to him in a world of sceptics, was something entirely inspiring to me. His words were not of hate or damnation or hellfire but instead of peace and harmony and finding serenity. The cynic inside me asks whether or not that was the next topic of conversation as he did allude to dark forces – a topic for another day – yet in that moment, it seemed like where we stood in the bustling city that there was a unique peace.
He gave me his phone number, perhaps he gave it to many people, but suggested that if I ever feel the need to talk for advice on finding my connection to the divine and my own spirit, to call him. One day I might but the most likely thing is that I won’t. Yet those 11 digits on the back of a flyer is are on the shelf next to Epictetus, Aurelius and Seneca just in case.
As promised, my recommendations of places to eat in Leeds
As someone with allergies, both places were extremely accommodating as a bonus.