… making peace with my soul’s code …

Rivers of thought swirl by and through me, day and night, changing hourly with impressions, mood, weather, star constellation. The thoughts I attract bring along eddies of fleeting association, a fraction of which create new connections, some bringing solutions and insights worth following. Having learned patience, I let most thoughts flow on and fade, to maybe return.
An overly ordered mind would go mad trying to make sense of every thought, like a simulated AI would short circuit with floods of impressions it cannot contextualize.

What enables most humans to deal with ever turbulent feelings and thought processes; how does one edit out what is irrelevant?

I always liked to assume there is a core vibration each of us brings along, a theme around which passions assemble, and necessities, priorities, things that need doing to stay coherent and in rapport with our environment, family, friends, jobs, projects, and not least manage tasks that serve our survival in this ever more complex world.

Our culture rewards strongly defined social roles, though the drawback can be fossilized minds, made rigid, opinionated, avoiding doubt, and unable to imagine other points of views with a generous attitude. A strong definition of one’s place and function in the world could be likened to an instantly recognizable genre, with a predictable protagonist.

By comparison, be it a simplification, philosophers, artists and poets, dreamers, well, creative people with expansive interests, are a slippery lot. They don’t often fit a clear-cut social role, but tend to hang around in fringe positions, distanced from the gyre, observing and evaluating the system, the market place, and the wheels of politics with a wary eye.

From the fringe it is possible to gain a symbolic understanding of people and events, which can stimulate innovation and even visions that reveal deeper layers of the psyche.

These days people say, ‘I want a simple life,’ an option that is rapidly vanishing. More of us are pushed to the fringe, challenged to embrace the complexities of modern/digital life, having to struggle with doubt and inner conflict. This phenomenon may explain the desperate search for advice. Social platforms are brimming with quotes and aphorisms, which, unfortunately, only spark in a heart that is open at a personally timely moment. Otherwise these wisdom’s just float by like irritating advertising banners.

While pondering such thoughts recently, I was reminded of a book that came out in 1997, ‘The Soul’s Code,’ by James Hillman. He explores the guiding force in a person’s life, in various traditions called daimon, genius or guardian angel. He uses the term ‘acorn theory,’ based on the idea of an initial strong image we bring along that calls our destiny towards us. The book struck a deep chord at the time. I’ll read it again, to soothe my outrage with the world.

Hillman dared us to believe that we are each meant to be here; that we are needed by the world around us.
An interesting mind, as you’ll find in this longish interview. https://scott.london/interviews/hillman.html

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… a tad overwhelmed …

Blinded by too much going on in the world, and then this …

 

The sun in my eyes

I barely dodged a speeder

In my local town

Saving lives like a martyr

I scraped a parked car

But the knock broke my steering

My dear car is a write off

And I am grounded

 

I mourn my loyal car, and now need to find another beloved old car for local driving.

Any support in kind thoughts, or via Patreon, is hugely appreciated.

 

xxx

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… shades of paranoia …

‘You hit me back first.

My predictions always come true.

Don’t dare to invalidate my reality.’

Nuances of paranoia affect all of us.

We may be well-balanced and trusting

folks, but out bodies still hold the

fears and traumas our parents experienced,

and the generations before them.

When safety fears are triggered, we tend

to slide from anxiety to paranoia.

In today’s culture this has become a normal

disposition, a challenge to be alert and patient

with the love and hate conflicts inside us.

Yet when fear splits the heart from the head

our bodies go numb to feelings, and empathy.

the spiritual potential of our being is arrested, and

one’s world turns into a hostile and lonely place to be.

Collective paranoia spreads like a virus,

flowing into already anxious minds,

feeding on irrational fears of danger

and the need to blame somebody.

When public figures act out their paranoia,

they become super-spreaders of fear.

Does this virus have a remedy? Depth Analysis?     

Listening to Bach? Wilderness retreats?

The occasional pinch of hemp oil, known

to free blocked wires in the brain that

channel superior cosmic insights?

Sadly, when magnified fear has eroded trust

in fellow humans and silenced the whispers

of affection from our hearts, truth is walled in,

and seeds of hope fall on barren ground.

While paranoia can carry a kernel of truth,

suspicious hunches are easily twisted and

inflated to surreal proportion. I grade my own

paranoia from anxious overload – to irrelevant –

to useful. The latter protects me from harm.

There is a Sufi saying …

Trust in God but tie your camel at night.

Night also holds the hidden content of our neglected

unconscious, where fears and desires entwine

as archetypal forces that can take us over when

entitlement and apathy have made us careless.

Clearly, our inner narrative needs witnessing with

constant re-adjustment, so we  remain grounded and

balanced in human values – among them – integrity,

humility, friendship, humour, and reverence for life.

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… how past and future flipped their meaning …

Painting by Theodor Severin Kittelsen

I noticed that since the lockdown of active living was brought in to control the spread of the Corona virus … the isolation from social engagement has affected children and the elderly in different ways.

The middle group, people who kept our social systems functioning, deserve deep gratitude. The work pressure surely involved intense stress and risk-taking.

As for children and young people, bursting with energy and hungry for experiences, I felt for them, being trapped in often cramped homes, while having their future projects halted. No rite of passage events, no opportunity to find their tribe, dreams lost in a distant mist, a mirage on the horizon, where sky and land meet. Recalling my own childhood and youth, I find it hard to imagine the sense of futility and sheer frustration. Some kids will have coped better with this situation than others, not least because there is now the internet, zoom, and generally the disembodied metaverse to engage with, but to what end, when bodies become redundant?

The elderly, to which I belong, for whom work and social engagement may have slowed, and then jolted to a standstill during the past few years, have at least the advantage of a rich and often meaningful past. At best, they can make use of an enforced solitude to regain contact with the unconscious, travel inwards, and use the overview from a distance to lift and re-weave the threats of their lived experience.

From where I observed the young and old sections of society, it seems that past and future flipped their meaning in relation to the expansion of consciousness, and, dare I say it, soul-making, which requires the organic experience. Compared to a bland future, the past holds abundant treasures for the imagination, and an almost luminous creativity. 

As long as I remember I felt a desire to deepen my understanding of time and space, nature, human behaviour, the sciences, people’s perception and differences, the collective psyche … to which end I travelled to seek adventures, read countless books and studied many subjects, some of them formally, like philosophy, spiritual traditions, psychology, mythology, art, photography, film and video, each time meeting interesting and inspiring groups and ideas. I was too involved with people to value the poems and stories I wrote, until my introspection flowed into a novel, ‘Course of Mirrors,’ and a soon-to-be sequel, ‘Shapers.’.  

I’m presently reading Italo Calvino’s ‘Invisible Cities,’ a dreamlike dialogue between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo about imagined or memorised cities. A sentence I came upon yesterday sparked this post …

“You reach a moment in life when, among the people you have known, the dead outnumber the living … “

This does not yet apply, but I get it. During the last three decades I lost over 20 dear friends, including my parents, not taking into account writers and public figures I admired. Grief meanders freely in my mind, is palpable, and unavoidable. Yet, due to their influence, all significant people that died during these last three decades live on in my psyche.

While my physical engagement with people has slowed these last years, time itself has dizzyingly sped ahead, which, for me, is enough reason to resurrect the embodied insights of past decades, if only to defy a sensational but boringly flat metaverse. Young people might of course have a totally different view.

Several themes were on my mind to write about here this month, until this curious thought of a reverse past/future junction came up last night. So I wonder if my reflections resonate with some of my readers, especially those of you in the second half of their lives.

My week living in a cave on the island of Elba

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… boy …

Relating to my last post, ‘girl.’.

The birth of our son was like a fairy tale. My husband and I had arrived in Somerset UK from Amsterdam two months before my delivery was due. This happened because my Dutch parent’s in law had bought a cottage for their retirement, allowing us to initially live for low rent in exchange for me taking care of a well-stocked acre of garden. We had many friends in England, so we welcomed the prospect.

I went to the local GP expressing my wish to have a home-birth. ‘We don’t do these anymore,’ he said. I scored a point by pointing out that home-births were very normal in Holland. To discourage me further the GP said, ‘Our midwife retires soon, and I’m not sure if we’ll have a new one in time.’ My husband stood behind me like a sentinel, giving me confidence.  ‘Well, you better make sure then,’ I replied.

‘And, of course, with you living in the hills, we can’t forecast the weather conditions,’ the GP continued, in case of an emergency …’ I cut him short. ‘There’s a level area in our garden where a helicopter could land, oh, and our farming neighbours have a tractor.’ This point scoring went on for a while. Eventually, the GP said, ‘Well, let’s see how it goes,’ ending the discussion.

On our way out of his office a door opened in the hall. A motherly woman emerged. ‘I overheard you want a home-birth,’ she said. ‘Don’t worry; I’ll still be around in January. I’ll be there for you.’ Wow!

As it happened, on Epiphany day the hills and streets surrounding our Somerset hamlet were magically blanketed in ice and snow. Still, the midwife duly arrived with the help of a police Landover. She entertained me with humorous stories and made me take a warm bath. Her last delivery before her retirement went well. She called my little one her ‘Snow Baby,’ and sent him annual birthday cards until she died a few years ago. Bless her. Maybe because I trusted my child’s spirit, he turned out to love life.

Relating to my last post, called ‘girl,’ this post came about, not just because it’s my son’s birthday tomorrow, but because I recalled my father’s jubilant shout through the telephone my husband made after our son’s birth, ‘Ein Junge!’ (A boy.)

The tradition to value boys over girls goes deep, so deep that it only now comes to a head with the climate crisis inching upon us, a crisis due to centuries of patriarchal male attitudes towards the feminine, which, basically, the ever life-and-death-giving earth stands for. At the same time there has been a momentous increase in the questioning of gender roles, in a psychological sense. There’s definitely a connection. The relationship between the sexes not only produces more life, one is also given the opportunity to acquire the psychological qualities of the other. This psychological exchange happens equally between same-sex partners, in that it is the feminine and the masculine principles that seek union between culturally polarized receptive and active energies.

Hurts to our feelings, hurts that trample on our inner psychological truths can be traumatic, but also very subtle, generating unique life choices that deal with put-downs obliquely yet often, thankfully, creatively. Forgiveness is a slow process, if it happens at all during a lifetime. Yet it is one of the marvels of the psyche that consciousness expands through the projection of our unconscious biases and complexes, which we only slowly become aware of.

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girl

GIRL

down generations

she  crosses bridges and streams

her body is smart

though prying mind-trolls

punish her rebel with glee

not the ordered son

yet loved by the mother bee

her spirit endures

This ceramic bee shone from a box of knickknacks among items my dad left.

. I liked the ornament as a child and can still see the bright wings mirrored in the surface of a lacquered sideboard. The bee was my mother’s and sums her up, always on the move, hardworking, generous and caring, though struggling with the emotional complexity of my father. His mother warned her … he’s a closed cupboard, meaning he didn’t trust people with his inner life. I had intuitive access to this cupboard, as daughters do, but the content was so fiercely protected, even my most gentle enquiries were repelled to the day my dad died, last spring.

Then again, had he not hidden his hoard of secrets, his girl may not have sneaked through the doors of the imagination, become a seeker, an explorer, a poet, a storyteller, a writer in search of words for what intuition reveals. Where invisibles exist they act like the fungi that entangles and interconnects what is unseen, unless brought to light. I write for a small audience – lovers of the imagination, lovers of myth, and lovers of poetry – you will appreciate my book, Course of Mirrors, and its sequel to come, which turns into SF.

In last month’s post, complementing an image found on twitter, of a screaming new-born, is an image of my mother holding me close as an infant. She died 35 years ago around this time, but still visits and protects me during nights; such is the vivacious spirit of the mother bee. Apart from my parents, I’ve lost many dear ones these last decades. While every loss refills the loss jar to its brim, a crescent (presence) still abides.

Each that we lose takes part of us;
A crescent still abides,
Which like the moon, some turbid night,
Is summoned by the tides. – Emily Dickinson

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… this image of a newborn is a poem …

The instinctual reaction of the new born after being separated from the dark, warm womb is to find a position in this vast, bright space. When boundaries dissolve we are challenged to a total reorientation, and something or someone to welcome, hold and protect us. Here the infant thrust into the light grasps the nearest thing, the doctor’s face-mask.

What impresses me is the sheer life force in that tiny fist.

My welcome happened, though delayed; since fate had it that the midwife decided to let me cry for many hours, determining my mother should rest after a long delivery. The midwife convinced my mother that it would be good for my voice. Once I was taken to the breast I drunk myself stupid. This early condensed experience triggered shifting periods of failures and triumphs, insufficiency and sufficiency as a pattern in my life. The birth process is given scarce attention, though Stanislaw Grof has given us plenty to think about… https://courseofmirrors.com/2015/05/22/a-cartography-of-the-psyche/

The image of the newborn that I consider a poem was posted by an Italian Twitter friend. We don’t know the photographer who caught this poignant moment, though I’d like to give credit if she/he is found or comes forward.

And I’m curious to know what the image/poem of the newborn invokes in you, my readers …

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My promised essay ‘The Body Electric’

Tomila, Museo del Oro, Santafe de Bogota

I wrote the above essay in 1997, inspired by my readings during a vocational film degree, which helped me to catch up on cultural history. The file was idling away in a Clarisworks format on an old floppy disk. A friend (thank you Ian) managed to transfer the text into a Word document. Cleaning the formatting distortions suffered in the process took a while, but was worth the effort, since I wanted to share this theme of exploring Human Identity in the Digital Age with my readers in a PDF file.  A short overview of this essay can be found in my archived posts, listed under January 2018. But here is the full work, including its bibliography. The chapters are headed: Vanishing Time, Vanishing Space, Vanishing Body, Eyes that would Fix and Control us as Objects, Seeing through the Simulacra, and, A Palace of Mirrors. Throughout, I evoke scenes from the SF film Bladerunner.

I’m interested to know your thoughts on the yet unfolding theme of identity in our age.

The title of the essay was inspired by a wonderful Walt Whitman poem called ‘Sing the Body Electric.’ 

A poem by a former Sufi teacher and friend, Fazal Inayat-Khan, conveys a similar vibrant spirit:

A QALANDAR … a human being in the making …

Adam/man, Minerva/woman – a human being in the making – functioning in the world on the stage of life – playing the script of destiny with the delight of indifference and the carelessness of full satisfaction. A being knowing all there is to be known by it, yet ever learning; ready to feel all there is to be sensed by it, yet ever discovering new depth of emotions; capable of expressing its deepest and truest inspirations, yet ever expanding its consciousness; sensitive enough to give and receive love in all its forms and levels of becoming.

The full poem is printed in ‘Heart of a Sufi,’ a book I co-edited with two friends (see my book page.)

Here the last paragraph of QALANDAR …

A Qalandar is simple as a child, wise as an old woman, unfathomable as an old man. He belongs to the moment, she responds to every need. He speaks all languages; she performs all roles. They are one …

                                                                              Fazal Inayat-Khan, 18th of June 1972

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… my spot in the sun, maybe a last hot day this year …

Reading Elif Shafak’s ‘The Islands of Missing Trees,’ sent by a friend.

It’s an apple, not a fig tree, but the voice Elif gives to the fig tree in her story would be true for my apple tree, which now rains fruit. The way she puts it …

… to sit under its branches is like a place that makes one forget, even if for just a few hours, the world outside and its immoderate sorrows …

I know, not many of us have a spot to sit alone or with friends to enjoy peace and forget about the troubles in the world for a while. But I thought I share my blessings. And yet …

‘We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.’ – William James

Right now thunder growls nearby and a few raindrops drum on the skylight.

Sorry for the duplicated tags. Can’t delete them, and finally, after an hour, I lost patience.

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… ‘Spanish Dancer,’ by the Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke. My English translation …

Last month I shared my translation of one of R M Rilke’s Sonnets. Following on, I dug up the poem ‘Spanish Dancer,’ by Rilke, thinking that after our dark moon phase, we could do well with connecting to the Carmen spirit so powerfully expressed in the flamenco dance. When translating poems from German I mainly disregard form & rhyme, instead I try and lift the feeling and essence I experience while reading.

The wonderful image is from a 2014 photo exhibition I saw in Amsterdam. So sorry, I don’t have the photographer’s name.

SPANISH DANCER

As a match, struck by the hand, white,

before turning to flame, breaks out

into flickering tongues, so within

the circle of close onlookers begins,

quickening, bright and hot, her spiral

dance to flicker and catch.

And suddenly it is flame, fully flame.

With one glance she ignites her hair

and in an instant swirls with daring skill

her entire dress into this ardent blaze

from which, like startled serpents, her

naked arms dart alive, rattling.

And then: as if the fire might relent, 

she gathers it all in and casts it off,

imperious, with a gesture of contempt,

and sees: there, raging on the ground

it lies flaring on and will not submit.

But victorious, assured, with a sweet,

hailing smile she raises her face

and stamps the blaze, with small, firm feet.

Spanische Tanzerin, Rainer Maria Rilke, Neue Gedichte, 1907

Translation: Ashen Venema

Spanische Tänzerin

Wie in der Hand ein Schwefelzündholz, weiß,
eh es zur Flamme kommt, nach allen Seiten
zuckende Zungen streckt -: beginnt im Kreis
naher Beschauer hastig, hell und heiß
ihr runder Tanz sich zuckend auszubreiten.

Und plötzlich ist er Flamme, ganz und gar.

Mit einem: Blick entzündet sie ihr Haar
und dreht auf einmal mit gewagter Kunst
ihr ganzes Kleid in diese Feuersbrunst,
aus welcher sich, wie Schlangen die erschrecken,
die nackten Arme wach und klappernd strecken.

Und dann: als würde ihr das Feuer knapp,
nimmt sie es ganz zusamm und wirft es ab
sehr herrisch, mit hochmütiger Gebärde
und schaut: da liegt es rasend auf der Erde
und flammt noch immer und ergiebt sich nicht -.
Doch sieghaft, sicher und mit einem süßen
grüßenden Lächeln hebt sie ihr Gesicht
Und stampft es aus mit kleinen festen Füßen.

Aus: Neue Gedichte (1907)

Also, seven years ago I shared here my English translation of Goethe’s Zauberlehring, an ever relevant theme, now more so than ever. https://courseofmirrors.com/2014/10/09/the-sorcerers-apprentice/

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