Tag Archives: Carl Sagan

… our ideas of home …

Cartoon de Salvo

Stay home – the resounding advice to stem a globally spreading virus, made me think of what home actually means, to me, to you, to us. Is it a sheltering porch or a railway bridge providing the roof under which one can curl up and sleep? Is it a room, a flat, a house, a village, a town, a metropolis, a country, a nation? The present urgent injunction to stay home obviously refers to a space surrounded by walls.

Is home an extension of us? Is it a place to get away from habits and rituals, or a place to return to and feel safe? Is it a place that keeps others out, or a place that invites others in? Does home offer solitude? Is it place where we are cared for and care for others, or a place where we feel controlled, as in a prison, an inhibiting place, a crowded place, a dark place, a place of chaos, where we find rejection instead of intimacy? Is it an imagined place in the sky, where wisps of cloud move this way and that way, carried by the flow of air?

We shape places, ideal places, inside or outside, through the imagination.

me aged five or six

Each place I lived in I made into a temporary home, a bit of colour here and there, a few cherished objects. I have no trouble to sensually recall their ambiance … Four homes within the village I grew up in. A tiny student accommodation in Munich, followed by varies flats, rural communities, and a VW van in which I travelled through Europe. Two places in Amsterdam I remember, one horrid and surreal, the other blissful, where my son was conceived. Then a cottage in Somerset, various flats near London, a spiritual home in Surrey, and a small semi I acquired. Memories were anchored in each place.

From stories shared in my therapy practice over the years, I understand impression of our very first home wield a repetitive power throughout our life that’s difficult to shake off. Yet the experiences we share have no walls, instead, imagination has a powerful role in our ideal vision of ‘home,’ even if rarely achieved. Personal and collective memories lend us the styles, the architecture and environment we envision, we sense we had once, or will have again. Many of us are alienated from such ideal, just like the Ugly Duckling, where inner and outer worlds don’t chime. But the call is there. And the call creates a most poignant contradiction, a creative tension resulting in great works of art that link and weave vastly different scales (physically and spiritually) together and inspire new dimension of experience in all of us.

And yet we witness the heartbreak of people uprooted from lands that provided their basic needs, compelled into the unknown by famine or war. Displaced people must persevere as best they can. They carry their only remaining home with them – their body.

The body we inhabit is indeed the only physical home we absolutely own, for better or worse, which only death can take. But how many are at odds with their own bodies. And how many are at odds with nature, and the very planet we live on

Angel of the North – image by Sylvia Selzer

 

And here I’d first like to share the deeply fascinating process of an artist, Antony Gromley.

Don’t miss this documentary by the amazing Alan Yentob, click on the link  and a new page will open:   Antony Gromley – Imagine

He shares his childhood experience, and how he started out by making casts of his own body, to explore what it means to inhabit a body, a human life.

 

 

 

 

 

And then consider Carl Sagan’s tender reflections on the pale blue dot, the Mote of Dust, as in a sunbeam, the home we all have in common, a selfie, seen from afar. “Where everyone’s love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.”

 

“That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.”

 

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… have you ever cursed a door frame? …

… for hitting its edge with your toe or elbow? Are dense objects sensitive to our emanations, be they kind or malicious? Call me quaint, but when I collide with a door frame I apologise, press the sore spot to the point of impact and send the pain back, assuming the wood tolerates it better than my soft tissue. It’s a long-honoured small-scale experiment with disentangling subtle vibrations. It works for me – pain and swelling ease miraculously. Try it, for fun.

We accept that people, animals and plants retain the pulse of our attitude to various degrees, from shock to nonchalance, yet how about the rest of nature, down to solid rocks and stones? I assume my relationship with what I see, touch or think about is reciprocal, for better or worse.

As in receiving and sending waves, I converse with my body, with trees, shrubs, flowers and creatures. I caution spiders not to come near my sleeping space. I have heart-to-heart chats with my house, laptop, car, and all manner of things. I say thank you to what I value and depend upon and even use little mantras conveying something like – all is well – I hear you gasp. I do this to disrupt mindless automatic response patterns. With people, I admit, it’s way more complicated.

I reckon all known and unknown life is moved by a force we poorly understand. Call it by any name, god, spirit, psychic energy, the ghost in the machine, it is a power that works throughout the cosmos, including the things we create, like tools, art, furniture, buildings, machines, weapons, ships, cars, trains, planes, phones, computers. As we project our pleasure or frustration into gadgets and the autonomous functions programmed into them, nature’s energy currents flow and oscillate through all, the whole universe.

I conclude that nothing is dead, lifeless, artificial and of no consequence.

Thomas Vaughan puts it poetically: ‘The real world is invisible. Thus in the physical or spiritual or light world – all forms or beings – stones, trees, stars, streams, men, flames and turds are really facts of invisible presences. Mineral, wood, fire, water, flesh are terms of dense soul-full sense.’

During recent centuries, western cultures developed multiple viewpoints. But what is happening to this wonderful diversity, given the hyper connectivity of the internet, where the masses turn for guidance, where people empowered by visibility offer opinions that swing back & forth in dramatic ways? Is this the dawn of a new tribalism that blanks out the unique contexts and realities of individual minds? One has to have one’s wits about these days.

In his time, Walter Benjamin wrote: ‘Technology, instead of liberating us from myth, confronts us with a force of a second nature just as overwhelming as the forces of an elementary nature in archaic times; our need for a practical philosophy of self-knowledge has never been greater.’

You see where this is going … autonomous technological devices will be no less interdependent than us, relying on social cohesion, the spin of politics, networks that harvest electricity –like, a solar flare could halt all digital utilities on this planet. So I wonder about it all, given there’s much we don’t understand about the forces that govern nature, and the input human consciousness has towards its geometry.

My Sufi friend, Fazal Inayat-Khan, said once in a lecture: , ‘Let us look at reality as a sort of operating faith, a sort of subjective, self-created assignment of realness … It is radiant intelligence which creates reality.’

Or, in another lecture: ‘The experience you have within yourself of your separate identity, to allow right and wrong to be re-defined by your singular contribution, is where evolution really happens. You, by becoming yourself, can open a new wavelength.’

C.G. Jung spent his life mapping the deeper structures of human experience, the collective unconscious, archetypes, and the shadow. Now that a collective mind is mirrored back to us, magnified on screens via the internet, it present an ideal opportunity to explore what is emerging for the collective psyche in the gap between recurring states of balance.

The flashing mirrors of the media blind me at times. Wary of the hive, I also like to belong. When fed up, in need of digestion, I retreat to a cave in my mind (once real) where I attend to what bubbles up from the unconscious in that zone between dreaming and waking, until I emerge from my cave into the light of a new reality, new beauty, new meaning and new questions.

This post is not about social, political or spiritual affiliations, but shares an attitude that aims at openness towards the unknown.

And I wonder what my readers think about conversing with dense objects 🙂

“If we ever reach the point where we think we thoroughly understand who we are and where we came from, we will have failed.”  Carl Sagan

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