Peter Volkofsky | Author & Life Coach

Peter Volkofsky is an author, spoken word poet and life coach. In 2017, Peter published his thriller Mia's Magic Wand. In 2015 he published Beautiful Quest as an Ark House imprint. Peter has been married to his wife Penelope for thirty-three years and together they have reared seven children.

Catalytic (cat•a•lyt•ic)

(adj.) a process that precipitates an event

The Vision

Individuals and teams reaching their goals.

PETE'S BLOG

6 Comments3 Minutes

A Quiet Train

Strange things happen on quiet nights and this is what happened to me one quiet night.

I'm in the city of Sydney on my own, hoping for a nice easy train ride and a sleep. There doesn't seem to be anyone on the carriage. Perfect! But as I'm sitting down, it's like Uh Oh, there's a young bloke in the seat right across the aisle: earthy-looking and friendly enough. Yes, but I'm not in the mood for chit chat—   Is that so? The question seems to come from my inner contrarian. O...kay. Better do the right thing, say something and fall asleep quickly.

'G'day mate,' I say.

'What you been up to?' he says.

'Not much. Just talking to a bunch of young people.'

'What about?'

'Um... spiritual stuff, faith and all that.'

'Christians?'

'Uh huh.'

'Listen buddy,' he says. 'I had some Christians tell me that all the good things I ever did are just shit to God.'

'Well they're wrong!' I say. 'God loves even the tiniest bit of good we do.'

'What if you're not a churchie; don't do the Jesus stuff—get sent to hell ay?'

'Oh, don't know what to say to that mate—' I pause for a moment, praying, and inwardly groaning at how important hell has become for so many people. 'It's like this mate,' I say to him. 'What you need to watch out for is when you see the face of Jesus and you turn your back on it.'

There we go. He's staring at me, saying nothing. Earthy bloke is not gonna want to talk to me now and I get to go to sleep. Wait on; it's like he's formulating a question, like he's puzzled.

'So,' he says. 'What do you mean by that?'

'Um, think of it this way... Imagine there's some bloke who does lots of good stuff. Loves his wife and kids and works hard. Then one day he has a quarrel with his misses and thinks, I ought to put it right with her. But he gets in a mood and says to himself, "Nuh. I'm done! I'm outta here." And he just leaves her, abandons the whole home and family. Right there and then, he's seen the face of Jesus and turned his back on it.'

Wooah! The man's face has gone pale, like I've never seen before. I think he's even trembling.

'I can't believe you just said that,' he says, staring at me. 'Cause that's what I'm doing right now.'

Something beyond this world caught the two of us in its forever-and-ever arms that night.

0 Comments5 Minutes

The Romance of Loneliness

Listening to Melanie Safka is an old habit. She's performing Brand New Key1 on our lounge room playlist right now: 'I rode my bicycle past your window last night,' she says and adds, 'I roller-skated to your door at daylight... I asked your mother if you were at home. She said yes, but you weren't alone...' Great song writing; but—all you artists with that chip of ice in the heart—we're not just talking songs here. This is a brutal, crushing moment and there goes that crestfallen girl, without another word, cruising away from some boy's front door.

Bruce Springsteen2 follows the thread further: 'Had enough of heartbreak and pain. I had a little sweet spot for the rain. For the rain and skies of grey...' Now we're walking in the rain, alongside a man and a mistress we might call 'loneliness.' Wow! What about a dog, late at night and perhaps a gun somewhere? Loneliness is starting to look good, even sweet: cool.

The dictionary tells us that romance is a 'feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love'. So, there it is, it's possible to have a romance with loneliness. But maybe it's not the loneliness we are in love with, maybe it's nothing more than being infatuated with lost love? Springsteen's lyric warns us, 'You fall in love with lonely, you end up that way...'

Before we wind up this digressive blog, we might stop by Charles Williams and see what he has to say about it...

Drawing on the poetry of Dante3, Williams suggests that these glimpses of ecstatic joy, which send us into a stupor—whether it be another human being, a mountain or a river—are tastes of Almighty God: a God so desirable that we lose control of ourselves and fall victim to unrestrained appetite. Hence the need for God to be veiled in order for us to come close without making total fools of ourselves, and in the process, extorting and bullying the person, devouring the mountain or draining the river: oblivious of the embarrassing fact that what we are really trying to extort or devour is Almighty God.

Not surprisingly, if this is to go well, there must be numerous surrenders along the way: pride, self-will [not free-will by the way] and greed to name a few. And appropriately, we are both terrified and mesmerised by the prospect of what feels like a slow romancing of our souls by this great Spirit of Joy. For this is a Being who wants to know us in the deepest sense of the word: a betrothal you could say, a blurring of the I and the we. ‘Love you? I am you!' A lover might say to their beloved, God might say to God: and we might say to God, whilst laughing at the wonderful absurdity of it.

Williams explains that the holy eucharist is a great picture of this event, of this in-Godding. And we long for the eucharist because it resembles that other great sacrament—the most intimate of human affections. St. Augustine puts it this way, ‘Our souls were made for You and are restless until they find their rest in You.’

1 Songwriters: Melanie Safka

Brand New Key lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

2 Songwriters: Bruce Springsteen

Hello Sunshine lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

3 Charles Williams, The Figure of Beatrice (The Apocryphyle Press, Berkeley, CA 2005, [Faber & Faber 1943]), p. 7—8

0 Comments2 Minutes

Risk Being Laughed At

Last week, in a room full of high schoolers, I watched a boy have a go at something the others had refused. He almost got it right; but not quite. Some scoffed and others watched silently. Crestfallen, the boy walked back to his seat. I blurted out an old proverb: 'The boy who will never risk being laughed at will never be a man!' Someone asked me to repeat the proverb, which I did, and without any further comment we all moved on to the next thing.

A few days later, one of those boy-to-man moments happened in another town and another classroom. I said the same proverb; and once again someone asked me to repeat it: not the same person by the way 😏Such proverbs go back a long way. Another like it, from Eleanor Roosevelt, says, 'Whatever you're afraid to do, do it!' Not to mention the well-known, 'Fortune favours the bold'.

Such proverbs invite us to walk towards our fears, to respond rather than react. It's as if what's being argued about here is life itself; the suggestion being that life is not what happens to you but your response to what happens to you. In the movie Strictly Ballroom, someone says, 'A life lived in fear is a life half-lived.' As much as we responsible adults talk of security, good health and survival, it would appear that the blood of the gods courses in our veins. Something deep inside us calls 'survival' out for the cheat that it is and demands that we face our fears and expect to find great joy through great trouble.

0 Comments4 Minutes

Another Stream of Life

Just now in our living room, there was a bump! and my wife cried out in pain. It was only a soft cry, but it cut so deep. I bolted into the kitchen expecting the worst, only to find her with a wry smile on her face, holding a finger she’d jammed in a door: downplaying the whole thing. I felt a little silly.

As I sat back down on the lounge, tears welled up inside, the grief so strong I could barely speak. Another stream of life had been triggered by that soft cry, taking me all the way back to a sound my mother would make when she was calling for help.

She had Motor Neurone disease and was confined to a wheelchair for many years. As her body wasted away, she was often needing us young boys to help her move, eat and sit more comfortably; and there were times when we were far too slow to respond, even pretending we couldn’t hear her.

Before her voice fell silent altogether, there was another sound that would stop me in my tracks. It came at unexpected moments. We would be about to leave the house to go do some work for dad or play in the dam. As we were about to leave, we would see her pushing herself up on her elbows—in her wheelchair—and taking long slow breaths. This was the cue for us to stop and wait for her to speak: most likely a one sentence speech to us about God's love, about this other stream of life that (for me) carried the music of a beautiful and dangerous mystery: the secret of her power to defy despair—not with grim determination—but with the sweet grace of Jesus, who had clearly made her heart his home.

One particular moment I remember was when the three of us were lined up in front of her with our hats and water bottles, ready to cut some Bathurst Burr. Once she had got enough air into her lungs, she said to us, ‘Remember this, boys: Jesus said, “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I am there with you.”’

As the growing-up child of a great love warrior, I came to despise the heroes of the art world who romanticised despair and claimed that my mum and dad had made a naive mistake. Instead, I treasured her talk (and her paradoxical embodiment) of a mysterious and beautiful being whose spirit longs to live in us like a fountain of hope and joy; and I was delighted whenever I felt it in others. George MacDonald is one of those and puts the music out there in the following words...

“I am always hearing. . . the sound of a far-off song. I do not exactly know where it is, or what it means; and I don’t hear much of it...what I do hear, is quite enough to make me able to bear the cry from the drowning ship... Somehow, I can't say how, it tells me that all is right; that it is coming to swallow up all the cries. . . . It wouldn't be the song it seems if it did not swallow up all their fear and pain too, and set them singing it themselves with all the rest.” (George MacDonald, At The Back Of The North Wind)

 

3 Comments2 Minutes

Voices In The Night

It’s late, late in winter and late in life for the two of us: this lovely wife and me. Our tribe of kids have all made their way out into what we call the world, which I prefer to think of as the ‘cosmos’: an old Greek word that means ‘ornament.’

And here I am, hands in hot water, washing dishes in a suburban part of town, dreaming backwards like an old man does; back and back into another world: my boyhood. I’m washing dishes there, too, next to a campfire. And there’s dust, motorbikes, cattle and time—lots of time—and a crackling fire where dad stokes the flames. One of my brothers, the sleepy one, is already out to it, like a log.

And up there, overhead, the great black sky, dripping with stars. And yeah, there has to be at least one inconsolable cow looking for her calf, a screaming fox checking us out from a safe distance and an old man goanna up on a gum branch: watching and waiting for his turn to check the traps for some munchies—his fingerprints in the dust all over our campsite.

The shearer’s cot my brother sleeps on, creaks. He rolls over and asks if that billy of tea is still hot. I nudge it onto coals and get some mugs out. While I’m arranging drinks, Dad tells a bushman’s joke about a dog and a horseman—I can’t remember the joke but I’ll never forget the way his tired voice made me feel. God, if only I could be back there for a just a few moments.