Category Archives: Blog
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.
‘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.
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.
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
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 …
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
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.
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.
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
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)