Monthly Archives: October 2011

… odd little shops …

Stepping into a charity shop I struggle at first to break through the smell-barrier, made up of molecules that cling to things kept long in musty cupboards or plastic-sacks before being exposed to light once more and put on show for good causes. If the smell is tolerable I open to the time warped sphere of free-wheeling fantasies, pockets of memories, rejects from house-clearances, objects fallen victim to a de-cluttering frenzy. What brings me here is the hunter’s joy of finding random treasures among bric-a-brac. And there are the old ladies with their delight in a bargain.

I browse the bookshelf of a charity shop in my town, pleased with myself, having found two good-as-new classics I had once lent to friends and never got back. Standing in line to pay my £ 4 less a few pennies, I overhear the repeated phrase, ‘I have a great-grandson called Leo.’ After the fourth refrain, I look.

The old lady is happily immersed in her monologue while those around her are lost in their own internal worlds. She clutches a stuffed lion, the prettified type, not even Disney quality, and small enough to put into a coat-pocket. ‘I have a great-grand-son called Leo.’ Nobody takes notice. So what? I think. I haven’t got a grandchild yet, though if I had, I admit to myself, that child would occupy a special space in my heart. But an ugly stuffed lion, I catch myself thinking, what a crappy present, just because her great-grandchild’s name is Leo.

Finally the cashier wraps up the scrap of a lion and gives the woman a smile. The old lady beams, ‘I have a great-grandson called Leo.’ It’s all she wants – a smile in recognition of the pleasure she derives form this, for her, astounding synchronicity.

Irrespective of the touching fact that she rescued an obviously well-loved toy, my morbid imagination goes into overdrive, and I envisage the wizened great grandma faced with a real lion in its natural habitat, weighing ten times her weight and looking down on her . . .









Overjoyed, she says: ‘My great-grandson is called Leo.’


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… dream of a floating web-page …

a burst of love – peals of laughter –

drum-sound rolling on a bass-note –

shape-racing – emerging – whirling –

converging – diverging ripples …

swift and bright a screen appears

huh – seriously weird – I half wake

to a google-page floating in mid-air

with a line in my mother-tongue:

… ich weiss dass ich nicht weiss

just what I need – a teasing code …

I might click the suspended screen

and glide into the net – follow threads

in the ever-maze where ghost-hands

seduce into tunnel-dreams while bits

from undone chains clutter and disperse

like pearls in a dark-sealed void …

the sense of an unfettered mind remains

holding a virtual message in place

as my own – intending to ponder its words

of Socratic wisdom in bright daylight –

homing the unknown …

Ashen 25th Oct 2011

Using this ancient PC brain. My new laptop is in repair.


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… sculpture park …

Dreams in stone, fairy horses, quills that use earth as ink, see-through elephants, surprises in the ponds, ghosts, flowing stone, water magic and mysterious circles …

Inspirational hours with my son and his partner at the ‘Sculpture Park’ in Surrey, near Churt.  So  close – and yet I had never visited the place. Like the man behind the bar in the pub opposite, who worked there for many years and not once stepped through the gate across the road. Makes me think of worlds we miss by the blink of an eye.

Here are some images of the place …

magic circles to other worlds …  

If you’re in the area, don’t miss it:


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… dreams – desires – ideals …

Childhood dreams …  a china doll with real, black hair, a piano, a horse … desires unfulfilled … replaced by a rag doll that ended up in the lake and a harmonium I hated.  Making myself indispensable at a local stable, I gained free riding time, though I never owned a horse, which made it difficult to enter the horse world.

Children’s desires are powerful motivators, though often frustrated, and sometimes for good reasons diverted towards other means of achieving the underlying need. We can’t remain in the toddler stage, and yet … something will be lost in the process.

Psychology has clever distinctions between wants and needs, which goes something like this:

Q … if you had that piano, what would it do for you?

A … I could play all the music in my head

Q … what would that do for you?

A … it would give me pleasure?

Q … what would pleasure do for you?

A … fuck off …

Sorry, my personal immature sentiment. This kind of re-framing sets out to prove that a WANT serves a deeper NEED that can be fulfilled through other means. Of course it can, and if one road is blocked the diversion and roundabouts may serve a genuine need we can’t even fathom.

Still, there is nothing more powerful than a strong desire, an object in life. It makes life worth living. An ideal is a means … thank heavens ideals change … 

I always wanted to live in a house of my own design. I even saw it in a dream, made of wood and glass, in a sheltered place overlooking the ocean – a metaphor.

Designing one’s own house (or identity) often looks more like this process …  a means spiced with surreal aspects of life, a tragic comedy maybe, yet also a journey where one meets friends and fun. I used this image before to illustrate a point.



I hope you bear with my quirky posts.

BTW, the wonderful Cartoon de Salvo theatre band (above) is worth looking out for.


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… sensibilities … difference … becoming human

Have you ever gone to your fridge in the middle of the night, opened it, and seen nothing to entice your taste buds? That piece of leftover cake – no, cheese – no, mustard – near, but no. So you search shelves and cupboards and find chocolate, crisps, mints, even healthy nuts and dried apricots – not really. Your taste buds are frustrated, bored to distraction, until you spot a slim tin – anchovies – yes –  and a dance breaks out on your tongue. Taste buds have their intrinsic purpose, which requires the freedom of tasting.

It goes to show that senses are in need of stimulation, frustration and elation to achieve their latent capacities. Smell, taste, touch, sound and sight make up our unique worlds – re-evoke places where stimulation or its lack happened before, places where we felt free to play or places where we experienced limitation and longing. Joy and suffering happens through the senses.

Indulged too much, they bring us harm, shut down, they also bring us harm.

Environments push extremes. The sensual overstimulation in democratic cultures results in distortions through opportunism and excess, whereas sensual pleasure in autocratic cultures is often deliberately suppressed, and cruel distortions happen through the abuse of power. ~ Many people dream of ideal systems, even of egoless societies. This is not likely to happen collectively. Such perfect environment would lack the dynamic challenge individuals need to negotiate a functioning balance within, to become human, and with it develop the tolerance that embraces humour and celebrates difference – a tolerance that allows the stimulation-hungry as well as purists to walk their path provided they don’t harm others, a tolerance that does not perpetuate tiresome twists of self-righteous opinions.

Opinions are the bitter children of morality, blind to insight.

Differences express themselves not only at levels of class, religion and tradition, but through our varied sensibilities. An academic may breathe for his research and let his garden go to weed, while his neighbour despairs of thistle fluff spoiling his immaculately kept grass. In turn, the academic may be sound-sensitive and is driven to distraction by a fridge vibrating through the party wall. A tactile person may go nuts over crumbs on the bed sheet. Or, if aesthetics guide your mood, mindless behaviour may fit your kind of hell.

Artists tend to refine their sensibilities towards the irrational golden means of relationships within and without, processes of becoming in their dynamic balance. You find among artists the most tolerant people. If so, they allowed their imagination free rein and creatively employed one or more senses to a degree that gives joy or shocks. It takes a strong and flexible ego to practice as an artist, and it takes an open mind to appreciate the inventive and experiential art that makes us human.

*   *   *   *

Here the excerpt from a life-embracing poem written by Fazal Inayat-Khan, Qalandar, which appears in a book I co-edited, The Heart of a Sufi

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, but 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  …  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 …



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… the psychic satnav …

Lives are speeding up. Add the ecstasy of virtual communication – and ponder – what happens to the quiet zone?

… technology … instead of liberating us from myth, confronts as a force of a second nature just as overwhelming as the forces of a more elementary nature in archaic times … Walter Benjamin

People tend to feel most alive when there is something to do. Ask what happens when you sit down without stimulation, your mind goes blank. And after a little thought you might say … it’s uncomfortable, I get jittery, I feel useless … Or, when you dig a little deeper … I’d feel guilty doing nothing … I’d feel lost … get depressed … I’d pick up the phone, switch on the screen … anything to engage with something other … You get the drift.

Doing and engaging makes us feel we belong, in the sense that we get carried along by the river, be it in the slow majestic flow, in the play of crosscurrents, or down the falls, but always in concord with something around us.

Until we get stuck in an oxbow, or soak up worries and sink to the bottom. What then?

Pressure mounts … to make decisions, finish things, start the next project, write the next blog … anything to be acknowledged … to feel alive and worthwhile.

So what is so threatening about the quiet zone? Well it’s not quiet, is it? Our body/mind is wound up by habit like a dynamo, try slowing down and … thoughts come, feelings come. Deeper layers of the psyche rise into awareness. And if we block or fight their content we end up confused, tired, drained, inadequate, out of touch with who we think we are, or how others know us.

The best-used concept regarding the deeper layers of the psyche is the unconscious. Freud saw the personal unconscious extending into the dark sea of the collective like a huge iceberg, well over ninety % under the surface of our day-to-day awareness. This complex and ever changing grid compels our lives. Jung added the idea of the higher unconscious, but added:

…  Filling the conscious mind with ideal conceptions is a characteristic of Western theosophy, but not the confrontation with the Shadow and the world of darkness. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular.    Collected Works 13: Alchemical Studies, p 265

The person who never felt inclined to dwell in the dark, or fears it, not having had guidance in navigating the dynamics of their unconscious, could make a start by studying maps of the psyche. They do exist. And while maps are not the territory, they help with orientation.

The satnav for the psyche has not yet been invented. But it could be understood as an analogy for the eye in the dark, the satellite floating in space from where to delineate the unknown landscape. With practice, we can develop our own satnav – a quiet zone – from where to witness the jungle and listen to the noise without panicking or rushing down the next track. It is possible to observe without reacting, and reflect on our attitudes and actions.

Greater awareness of our personal foibles and dysfunctions, and the collective ignorance around us is not only easier to tolerate when viewed from the quiet zone, it affects our perceptions, our tolerance, and with it our reality. Which is why we must take heart – every individual can contribute to the expansion of our collective consciousness by getting to know themselves better through befriending their personal unconscious. For this to work we need practice in creating a quiet zone, a satellite, a personal satnav from where to witness our inner landscape and find a meaningful geography to take position in.

I am waiting for the day when psychic maps and the practice of creating a personal satnav become part of every school curriculum.



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