Tag Archives: creativity

… using – or being used by algorithms …

The morose question of whether to be or not to be has moved on to whether to appear or not to appear. Appearances can deceive according to context. Or as my spiritual friend, Fazal Inayat Khan used to say, ‘Form is a relic of eternal potential.’ Things that have lost their former function have joined the archive of icons, metaphors.

Could the function of our individuality become no more than a statistical entity during our lifetime?

Today’s institutions and corporations share knowledge, advice, wisdom, stipulate laws, or instill fear via alerts. Ultimately, they accumulate information but are not necessarily held accountable for how this information is used. Priests used to claim this power in the name of God, as well as sorcerers and witches, who made it their business to converse with spirits. Many people project power onto an all-knowing agency, though today’s most consequential agency has moved on into the next clan of power holders – those who collect and control data … our data, our location, movements, activities, political leaning, looks, habits, likes and dislikes.

Our existence is being whittled down into digits that tumble about in a sea of algorithms, and wherever they perk up in statistics they could fix our fate, since temporal data can be adjusted to any setting a bureaucracy chooses as being predictive. This, mainly unchecked, development is running into problems, with the recent U.K exam result fiasco only being the latest example. Bless our young people for revolting.

Power of information equals control, for your own good, maybe, depending, of course, on who is in charge. Distorting and withholding knowledge, be it intentionally, through ignorance or through expediency, endangers democracy when used unchallenged as manipulation tools by governments. At worst, it enables profit seekers to accelerate the exploitation of earth’s resources, maintaining poverty around the globe.

Those involved in research, students, scientist, and writes, know the challenges of filing and stacking information. My own filing mirrors the ad hoc workings of my brain. To find stuff again is a matter of focus, luck and intuition. While occasionally frustrating, I trust my larger self and the collective unconscious. It is my oracular method, circumventing any too strict measurements promoted as our new saviour, algorithms. I value rationality, just not when it discounts spontaneous human creativity, heart felt compassion, and the inspiring moods of nature.

Belonging has never been easier – not belonging has never been more difficult. How does one evade the pressure of countless unfair impositions our systems prescribe via algorithms? In Walt Whitman style one could say … every ‘digit’ belonging to me as good belongs to you …  But wait, there is vast space in the One, space between atoms, between digits, between the many of us, where one can belong and be eccentric and separate at the same time.

Where do algorithms lead? How do they influence our values? Yuval Noah Harari in his book Homo Deus, describes ‘dataism’ as a new religion, a potential digital dictatorship that could shape our reality. Who would aspire to such a stagnant future?

I was fascinated and encouraged by a recent discussion between Yuval Noah Harari and Taiwan’s digital minister, Audrey Tang. (click here for the YouTube video coming up on a separate page)

They discuss code, including, at the start, the issue of non-polarized gender, going on to the negatives and positives of human hacking and the democratic fairness that can potentially happen when transparent data sharing and plural viewpoints are allowed.

Audrey Tang says,

‘Technology should be utilised to promote freedom, democracy & human rights.’

In Taiwan, this hugely influential young trans woman is making this happen.

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… 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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… book pages let loose …

A few days ago, waking at dawn, I had retained a dream vision:

I saw the entire content of my novel, Course of Mirrors, 400 pages in all, displayed on one huge panel.  Astonished, I pondered how this expansion graphically showed that writing a novel involves massive work, time, and fierce motivation.

To put this into context, I must add I lacked motivation and confidence for some time now, having to deal with existential problems.

The 21.5 cm height and a 13.5 cm width of each page poured out onto a single panel would create a near 100 meter high and 52 meter wide installation.

Even if the panel size were halved by using front and back, it’s still a crazy idea – right?

Maybe the dimension of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall could suffice, but only a Turner price gets you there. In case you don’t know, the Turbine Hall is the place that allowed visitors to touch the sun, like my son did during an Olafur Eliasson’s weather project exhibition a few years ago.

As regards my high-rise panel of book pages, any visitors keen to engage in reading could only do so at average eye levels, unless they had means to levitate. Now that would be another idea.

Well, imagination being such fun, I played on.

Much smaller double-sided panels could each display the pages of one of the 29 chapters, broken up into moments, occasionally interspersed with slivers of mirrors, where the body of a reader flits by, or maybe images that enhance or contradict the mood of a scene. You enter the story by stepping into a cave-like enclosure. The text on panels is lit from within, not spreading much light, to achieve a twilight experience, which was done in caves long, long, long ago, with the imprints of hands.

This cave could be entered from four sides. One may choose to start at the end and read the story backwards, or wander through and pick chapters randomly, more in the way one reads poetry. In any case, the title image at each entry/exit gate would evoke an enchanting journey at the edge of consciousness, between rational and the mystical states.

Normally, a writer’s work is condensed and hidden between the neat covers of a book, or captured on e-book screens, one click by one click. The concept of spreading the pages out in real space fascinates me, and ideas keep tumbling in. Like making the text respond to the concentration of the reader, or the lack, in which case sentences would ripple, as if floating on water.

Intrigued by this vision of visitors wandering through the chapters of my novel, I thought of the remarkable characters, all archetypal part-mirrors of me, of you, of anyone really.

How if readers could scan a paragraph about one character, place it on an empty panel and temporarily type a scene of their own imagination about that character?

If you feel the fun and have any additional ideas, please share them here.

What I like about the interactive setup, is the random strolling. Just while writing this post I opened my novel at an arbitrary page and hit on a romantic instant after Ana met her first love. He gives her a heart-shaped ruby as a promise – half a page at the end of chapter six. Here the excerpt …

Luke dropped the jewel back into my palm and pressed my hands close. “You’re the true heart for me. We’ll meet again. We’ll journey together.”  He glanced at the travel-ready troupe, waiting for him. “I won’t fasten the chain round your neck, though I’d love to.” His face was close enough for me to catch the scent of his hair, the pond, grass, wood smoke and musk. I longed to touch his lips, steal and take along his smile.

“How can I contact you?”

“Find a messenger to deliver a note to Tatum and his Magic Theatre. His troupe is getting known along the river.”

I felt drawn into the loop of his mysterious fate. I wanted to be held, forget myself in his arms. Instead, I stared at my feet, pondering this indelible moment of intimacy and suddenly dreaded the journey ahead – without him.

Last week Course of Mirrors had a lovely review by Cath Humphris, which I’m pleased to share:

https://cathum.wordpress.com/2020/01/13/course-of-mirrors-an-odyssey-by-ashen-venema/

A magical tale, in which a young woman embarks on a hazardous search for The Real.

Since I have presently no way of realising my crazy interactive vision, you can only enter the world of my novel condensed in its covers, here: Courseofmirrors  This Troubador page connects to other platforms, too. Then again, any bookshop can order the novel.

The image on the left was an early cover idea from authonomy days, not used in the end.

For the time being I’m having a hard time surviving, which hinders my deepening edit for the sequel to Course of Mirrors … Shapers … from which I share some chapters on my Patreon page. If it is within your means, and you can tolerate or even like struggling fools, please support my creative spirit on Patreon. Here the link.

https://www.patreon.com/user?u=10520241

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… snow baby visits Kakadu National Park …

The midwife rushed after us, having overheard we wanted a home birth, but were told she had retired and the new midwife would not arrive in time. ‘Not true,’ she said, which settled it. In my wisdom I had brought my husband along. Sister Heney was delighted to attend a rare home birth for her last delivery. All went well. My epiphany snow baby, she later said. It didn’t take a helicopter landing on the opposite field to transport us to a hospital, only a police land rover to bring this dear midwife up through ice-covered lanes and snowfall to the cottage in the Quantock Hills where snow baby was duly born.  We lived in this Somerset hamlet for five blissful years, with the kindest neighbours one could wish for.

That’s me being nostalgic.

My son recently had another birthday. He allowed me to share a blog-post. In it he relates his holiday in Darwin, Australia, where his wife’s family lives.

The post contains thoughts and links regarding the fires in the south of Australia, and also a range of beautiful photographs, some of Tasha painting, and some from a birthday visit to Kakadu National Park, including the art works of the Jawoyn people. A click on the link will bring you to a new page:

Down Under for the Holidays …

Enjoy

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… old thinking, new thinking …

We mostly think through conventional forms and givens, for practical reasons, while another way of thinking embraces invisible and unknown dynamics via intuition – like the seeming particle/wave paradox in quantum mechanics, where a local particle also exists as a non-local wave. The two perceptions can potentially mingle creatively, but, notably in times of social uncertainty, they clash, and fewer people maintain the ability to tolerate negative capability.

The way autocratic opinions over divisive issues are sensationalised by some tabloids, sends my thoughts flitting through the mutable and nuanced zones of shadow lands. I write the glut of absurdities off my chest, only to delete the drafts, not having the talent or guts for the iconoclastic fun Marina Hyde pours into her articles for the Guardian.

The tit for tat race of opposing interest groups that blame, attack and counter attack each other eludes any balanced comprehension of events. Opportunists, generously funded, like to whip up the chaos for their own benefit. Fertile ground for tyrants. This will go on until the churning oceans calm and offer deeper reflections.

My early education was unremarkable, but I fondly recall a few teachers who made space for ambivalence, encouraging us to question everything and value respectful, if inconclusive, debates. Glib opinions and self-righteousness were mocked and laughed at.

In the early seventies, doing a short apprenticeship with a small Dutch advertising firm in London, we had weekly meetings, where ideas, no matter how crazy, were explored. Every person working in the building was asked to the table, including caterers and cleaners. This inspirational seedbed sparked successful projects and maintained a motivated team.

Decades later, during a part time stretch at Social Services, policy makers introduced a new computer programme for tick-box client assessments, a software developed without involving the people who were meant to use it – us. Sparing you the specifics of this nonsensical scheme, the nightmare in its wake resulted in multiple nervous breakdowns by employees. Since I had a private psychotherapy practice I escaped the hell and resigned.

A relentless trend towards greater efficiency continued despite loud social backlash. Over and over I listened to the stories of my stressed clients suffering from the overbearing changes in public institutions and private companies. The forced procedures insulted the intelligence of workers, who felt the stupidity and pain of it all in their guts, as did I. The harmful effect on mental health, family life, education, small traders and community venues … is ongoing.

Recently I re-read a 1970s lecture by my Sufi teacher, Fazal Inayat Khan – Old Thinking, New Thinking – also used as title of a small collection of his controversial talks, published in 1979 by Harper & Row. Some of Fazal’s students insisted on this publication. He reluctantly agreed. I’ll share here a few notions that struck me form the lecture, Old Thinking, New Thinking:

The end of real is false, while the greatest false is real.

The real is about form, the false (non-evidenced) is about essence. Fazal addressed two qualitative different ways of thinking, both beneficial if used in the right time and context. Those supporting form and tradition set out to protect stability, whereas those who seek essence knock over the stable towards the freedom of the unknown. Imaginative people, including scientists and artists, tend to overshoot crumbling realities.

The sad logic of power driven politicians is to manipulate social anxieties by promising simple fixes to allay feelings of uncertainty. In such times people tends to grope towards old thinking, to what can be predicted and depended upon, thus moving away from the immeasurable independence of anything beyond facts.

Old thinking relies on valid knowledge; however, to apply this knowledge intelligently requires new thinking, so essence can find expression once more.

Old thinking will bring achievement, notwithstanding that without new thinking it will have achieved nothing. Traditions wedded to established forms exemplify old thinking. Yet for a tradition to remain sincere and dynamic new thinking is required.

In other words, only what changes stays functional. Much as we dislike it, life could not continue if it were not for the transient growth and death phases of nature. The same applies to cycles that call for the expansion of consciousness.

How is one to value both form and essence in complex times and stay sane? No way around it, we must suffer the anguish of holding the tension between static knowledge and intuition in our hearts. Not easy. Perhaps because I experienced the 1960s new thinking surge, any leaps of goodwill from young people still brings tears to my eyes. I’m interested in everything. I’m interested in bridging divides. I even occasionally delight being in the spirit zone, with the effortless flow of things. (A Zen concept)

Deep, maybe very deep down, every one of us knows the bliss of being in the zone.

Old thinking is a sorting process – new thinking is a melting process

Old thinking is a claim – new thinking is an aim …               Fazal Inayat Khan

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… souls roam and arrange impressions …

let sleep do its work

so the spirit will guide you

and leave helpful dreams

in that rich abode

of our collective being

– the only being –

 

awake souls roam and arrange

streams of impressions

rebel angels see

the judge slaves under man’s law

… while nature rules all …

in this earthly home

we catch our face in mirrors

that slowly unveil

through rhythms of remembrance

the source of freedom

 

heeding the heart’s pulse

your hand cascades poetry

and transmits secrets

I really must start to sort my poems …

The left sketch is a possible cover for my first poetry chapbook …

I was recently encouraged when two of my poems were published with Queen Mob’s Teahouse:

https://queenmobs.com/2019/05/poems-photographs-ashen-venema/

And then mentioned once more in a Berfrois magazine article by Joe Linker. Thank you Joe.

Paintings and Poems: City on a Hill

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… hope – the oracular mystery …

August Rodin – Le Secret

These tumultuous times it takes a leap of imagination and ingenuity to trust in hope, which has frequently been my resort during past difficulties. Hope is assumed to have remained in the jar after Pandora released its darkness. The conflicting interpretations of hope around this myth are fascinating. Try relating darkness and hope to the psycho-dynamic phenomenon of projection. In what we call life, both darkness and hope circle around nothingness. We suffer the periods of dense darkness in hope of the ever-recurring creative  energy of spring – the spirit I dance to in my lucid dreaming.

While natural, our expectations are necessarily blind and hampered by frustrating circumstances. In the wake of two stressful years, the hope that my nearly 100 year old dad would leave me the small fund he legally owed me was buried with him. Still, my yearning for a little more creative freedom is well alive.

There was a comical element to these last summer/autumn months, when I was challenged by one thing after another that needed repairing around my home. I tend to be inventive at fixing things myself, but this time I had to rely on experts. Thankfully I found competent, honest and warmhearted people and the problems were solved at reasonable costs. In fact, every problem solved … cementing dangerous steps, replacing old iron guttering, massive clearing of garden overgrowth, sorting a blocked man-hole … felt like a heroic victory. You should have seen me stirring the shit in the manhole with a long iron rod. I kept on for hours since it has worked once before, many years ago. I spare you the hilarious details. In the end I called in the experts. Craftspeople who know their job have my admiration. Societies couldn’t function without them.

To me, obstructions have a symbolic significance in relation to my physical and psychic state, that is when I look at the environment I depend on as extension of my body/mind.

And, of course, the presently depressing and equally hilarious world of politics that leaves many of us speechless seep seamlessly into personal anxieties. At one point, I spontaneously popped into a surgery (unfrequented for decades) to have a heart and blood test, and I even got myself a blood pressure gadget. All is well, a relief, despite my stubborn habits of smoking roll-ups and enjoying red wine (in moderation, to keep me grounded.)

The Seed – Silvia Pastore

Hope is my coin once more.  Course of Mirrors, I’ve been told, would make a great film or TV series. Useful contacts to this effect are welcome. A few more reviews, posted where the book is listed on Amazon, Troubadour, Goodreads or Waterstones could spark sales and bring funds for marketing. Since I’m totally incapable of selling my lace, I appreciate any encouragement and support.

The soul guides that dream my myth were given full reign in my first novel – #courseofmirrors  https://twitter.com/mushkilgusha

My desire to publish the sequel, ‘Shapers,’ next year, made me explore financial support through: https://www.patreon.com/user?u=10520241 I’m thrilled to have attracted a few Patrons. What consoles are flashes of beauty that stimulate the writing of Haiku, like this week …

can it be a cheat

to gift a street musician

a red autumn leaf ?

While parking in town, a beautiful plane leaf dropped on my car roof, in rhyme with the voice of the regular street musician. The leaf ended in his guitar case. I received a huge smile.

HOPE …  by Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.         

Further: – Exploring once more the myth of Pandora, I found a chiming C G Jung reference here – one third down the page of: https://symbolreader.net/2015/01/11/the-guilt-of-prometheus-and-pandoras-gifts/  Wonderful site, worth exploring.

Re: The paintings of Silvia Pastore – I love them. Some years ago purchased usage of ‘The Magician’ (left) as cover for Course of Mirrors.

When my then publisher didn’t share my choice, I dropped the idea and ended up using one of my photographs, taken at the Atlantic in Morocco . I may however use The Magician for a future poetry collection.

 

 

 

 

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… the film Albatross – elegy to beauty & grief for love lost …

Truly witnessing the tragedies on our planet is not the same as passive looking,  witnessing expands and transforms consciousness. As an individual I feel helpless, unable to solve the overwhelming problems, but by witnessing and accepting the sad truth of what is happening, and by grieving the losses, I, each of us, in a small way, can contribute towards a necessary and crucial paradigm shift.

Chris Jordan’s film about the Albatross, a labour of love that took eight years of intense collaborations – is a gift to the world, free to watch or download.

When you find a quiet hour, click here to watch the film.

The unusual documentary reveals stunningly beautiful, poignant and intimate openings into the life of these ancient bird families. The spellbinding scenes, shot on the lone Pacific island of Midway halfway between America and Asia, touches way, way deeper into our psyche than any factual or statistical report about the insanity of our throwaway cultures could ever do.

It is a meditation on love. And the soundtrack is an art in itself.

The birds mate for life (up to 60 years) and their mating dance, filmed in slow motion that reaches into the reality of their time, shows a mirroring ritual of sheer poetry, of a grace that sweetly chimes in our deepest cellular being. Once the egg arrives, the parents take turns to keep it warm and, with endless patience, guard the chick’s struggle as it squeezes itself out from the hard shell. It’s a tough and drawn-out entry, but help would not be helpful, since the little one’s birth-struggle develops the resilience needed for survival.

What made the stunning images possible is that these majestic animals have not learned to fear humans, whose latest habits hasten their demise. Without natural enemies, they trust life, and the ocean, which offered them food for millennia, even though it now includes plastic tidbits that spell their demise.

 

Some scenes near the end of the film bring home powerful metaphors – like what it takes to fly. Fledglings, to lighten their weight, must empty their stomachs of everything fed to them by their parents (in this instant plastic.) Mothers, forgive yourselves. We can hardly avoid dumping stuff on your offspring, be it psychic or material. Many fledglings don’t manage, but if lucky, and if the right wind comes along, their wings will carry them across the sea towards their adult adventure.

Click here to find out about the story behind the film.

And check out Chris Jordan’s other projects, or follow him on twitter @cj_artist

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… re-framing the seven deadly sins …

                 Pogo. Walt Kelly 1971

The timeless insight of mystics was frequently censured by prevailing orthodoxies and only available to a few scholars. But even though mystical writings have been made available over the last two centuries, readers form a minority. Meister Eckhart’s quote – “The Eye with which I see God is the same Eye with which God sees me,” – implies that we envision inherent archetypal ideals to then realise and embody them within.

In the projected mirror we may see love, kindness, compassion and forgiveness reflected, or, depending on our state of mind, or, we may equally see indifference, rejection and severe judgement. What if our goodness is not rewarded? What if love betrays and we turn anger inwards? What if we battle with resentment, find fault with everything and despise sanctimonious people? The same process applies; we absorb what is mirrored via our inherent imaginative power.

To direct the moral education of citizen, spiritual offences were formulated in Greek monastic circles and coined as The Seven Deadly Sins: gluttony, lust, avarice, sadness, anger, acedia (not to care), vainglory, and pride. Over time theologians made various changes – the sin of sadness became sloth, and then Pope Gregory reduced the list in descending order to: pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth. To counteract sins, virtues were advised as humility, kindness, abstinence, chastity, patience, liberality and diligence, qualities not easy to live up to from day to day, while The deadly sins instilled fear and guilt … and left deep cultural marks, self-blame being the most destructive.

Self-blame makes for turbulent minds. Only scapegoats will ease the burden. Among all regulars a perfect scapegoat served Christianity well – Eve. The collective psyche contains not only unknown riches, but also stuff we disregard (much like the plastic that accumulates in oceans,) thoughts and deeds behind our facades we won’t acknowledge or take responsibility for, and instead conveniently place on the shoulders of suitable others.

 “Projections change the world into the replica of one’s own unknown face.”  Carl Jung

Balancing Freud’s focus on pathology, Abraham Maslow studied self-actualising people and outlined a hierarchy of basic human needs. His map suggests when an early need is not adequately fulfilled; narcissistic or psychosomatic symptoms may result, blocking growth. Little is up to us. Families rarely support this process, as they can be burdened by complexes and dysfunctional behaviour patterns from one generation to the next.

‘The proper time to influence the character of a child is about a hundred years before he’s born.’  – William. R. Inge

No wonder many of us resort to blaming circumstances, parents, state, strangers, or appease all by adopting self-blame. Then again, some people rise from grim circumstances and become inspiring people. What’s their secret? It’s my guess that a strong desire for gratification, bestowed by a no personal archetypal calling, can empower us to transcend seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

The idea of deadly sins put the fear of hell in people. Sinner you were not deemed worthy to enter paradise. But if we consider that human behaviours communicates intrinsic needs that seek fulfillment in the expanding spiral of evolution towards wholeness, the very idea of using sin as a threat is naïve, and more, counterproductive. Here a short look at the deadly sins …

PRIDE – an excessive belief in one’s abilities and ignorance of the grace of God. 

This relates to an evolutionary trend of our time, individuation – becoming who we can be – best attempted with the mediation of a healthy ego. This process happens mainly in the West and is frowned upon by fundamentalists whose ideals are fixed on heaven. Where tradition equates with identity, displeasing the expectations of family and state carries a risk of alienation. The challenge of freeing oneself emotionally, intellectually and spiritually then becomes heroic. It means sticking to one’s inner truth against all objections and raised eyebrows. It means regard for the potential that is emerging in oneself and others. I grok these words by my Sufi friend, from a lecture during the 1980’s …

‘The experience you have within yourself of your own separate identity, to allow right and wrong to be re-defined by you, your singular contribution, is where evolution really happens. You, by becoming yourself, can open a new wavelength. What you reflect immediately influences your environment, people close and far away.’ (Fazal I. Khan)

Those who break free from parental commands when their inner truth is compromised do not seek union in the womb, but aim to experience conscious union through embodying their ideals. Life brings along companions who recognise the authenticity and backbone it takes to walk this path, even if it seems foolish and brings no answers. Yes, pride may sneak in, but equally gratitude, humility, and acknowledgement of the interdependence of all life.

ENVY – desire for the status and abilities we see in others and want for ourselves. The need is to emulate, to find aspirations that resonate within. From early on we are looking for role models to reflect our potential. If such recognition is withheld or distorted, the need can take possession of us, with all the consequences of being rejected, belittled, abused, and feeling ill done by, until we realise our own resources. Ralph Waldo Emerson evokes in his essay on self-reliance a more helpful notion of envy:

There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better or worse as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is, which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

GLUTTONY – a craving to consume more than is required. In simple terms it is a hunger that knows not what is seeks. And yes, it is bound to become an indulgence – a chasing after stimulation, information, speculation. Until the hunger knows what it seeks it will not be satisfied. The search is intense. In spiritual terms this hunger can develop into devotion.

LUST – a craving for touch, warmth, pleasure of the body and sex. The need underlying lust is a longing for intimacy and ecstasy. It often fails to satisfy, but behind the shadow of excess is the ideal, to be consumed, like the moth by the flame.

ANGER – results from frustration and is all too human. Sadly, when our existence is denied, or we experience and witness injustice, yet lack opportunities to express anger creatively, this powerful energy will make us ill or explode in rage. That said, even conscious resistance is a creative act. We are endowed with natural aggression to even make it here. Each one of us results from the fastest sperm, the one that made it. Oppression and cold rationality feed anger. If repressed, anger takes us over.

GREED is also based on the desire for recognition. If the experience of being seen, heard and appreciated is missing, we must find opportunities to succeed in something.

SLOTH used to be called sadness – brought on by a sense of meaninglessness. Change wants to happen but one is helpless to act. These days depression is a collective phenomenon. On a personal level not acting could be seen as fear of failure, though often it is the necessary dark phase for a kind of alchemy in the psyche that leads to new wings.

What if we have satisfied our basic needs? The horizon is never reached. Beyond every horizon is another. This includes the horizons of our mind, beyond which we hope to find purpose. We go on journeys, outer, inner, to find out why we are here. But the search never ends. We take drugs to kill this yearning, this question of ‘why’, because we can’t face that maybe the only purpose is the search.

‘The ideal is the means; its breaking is the goal.’ Hazrat Inayat Khan

And yet, the search liberates. The attachments we have to right and wrong, to good and evil, to our own importance, blocks our search for new meaning, prevents us from living with intensity. Our most precious and vital scripture is nature, life itself.

These thoughts were drafted eleven years ago. I would have liked to come up with a fuller gestalt to make my point, but presently I enjoy a holiday in psychic wilderness.

And today’s Haiku …

Devils besiege us

As do angelic spirits

Both hold their best truth

While we are mediators

In the psychic wilderness

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… my love for England – and my brexasperation …

The Alps of Bavaria stand in bright glory or shrouded in mist, depending on the mood of the weather. Their snow-covered peaks were the dramatic panorama of my childhood, and called me beyond horizons, first east, then west.

Already as young woman, drawn by friends and circumstances I’ve lived and studied in England for stretches of time, until in 1979 I settled for marriage and motherhood in the hills of Somerset.

my mother

A special five year period of my life ensued, a calming respite after intense professional years, thrilling adventures and travels. The laid back ambiance of the English countryside offered precious time with my son, opportunity to grow my own food, bake my own bread and strike up tender friendships with neighbours. Our parents visited us from Holland and Germany to welcome their grandson. 

 

 

My dad, who normally travelled south, couldn’t withhold his poor impressions of England at the time, gathered, it must be added, along motorways. His comments: … brown water for coffee, fatty food, filthy toilets, shoddy service, and so on … seemed to underline his disapproval of my life-choices. I told him culture thrives in cities, like London. Rural life moves in slow motion here. The home birth of our son brought the first child into this Hamlet for decades. We were novelty.

However, every small region has its old guarders kicking in when a non-local challenges the status quo. My attempt to save a small oak forest from clear felling met with some success and equal scorn. A tit-for-tat exchange of articles in the local paper was educational – if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen – was the response to my well researched ‘save the oak wood’ warrior call. I countered – why not open a window. The Woodland Trust got involved, a spread in the Sunday Times followed. Politics were never my calling, but I became an activist over trees and was invited to join the local parish, all educational. A day before the clear-felling licence expired, the chainsaw echoed among the green chasms of surrounding hills.

It made my blood boil. The communities I had mobilised were only a little short of the sum arranged for a purchase of the oak wood from the greedy owner. Outsiders (migrants) tend to have a naive understanding of local power structures, but hey, they can have the guts to ask poignant questions.

The 1980’s were marked by rapid technological changes. We moved closer to London. The world was webbing up. In rural England, within a few decades, fruit meant more than apples, more than two kinds of potatoes were on offer, bread surpassed Home Pride’s white sponge, spices arrived, salads, mushrooms, avocados, berries, olive oil, proper coffee, pasta, ice cream, good wine. Books from around the world arrived, translated. Research from beyond the island enriched sciences, organisations, education, services, construction … an invasion of culture, colour, knowledge and other traditions, other, other, other … progress gripped the world … good, good, good … but, but, but – technology also steamrolled traditional jobs, pride in hard work was fading, rents and house prices soared, entrepreneurs and those already rich prospered and the rest had a hard time, some never catching up. This was – and is – not just an English trend. When change is inevitable, creative adjustments are needed.

But let’s find a scapegoat, eh?

The simple blame game is destructive for any country these days. Europe needs ingenuity. Its territory has cultural learning stored in deep roots, like the giant oak trees worth fighting for. British humour and diplomacy have much to contribute to a sustainable Europe that, nobody is arguing, must adjust.

This is my view.

Wake up Britain, and imaginatively address the global phenomenon, or, I fear, you’ll be nibbled apart by giants across the ponds.

Click here for a few practical issues re: Brexit, by Ian Dunt.

And here my post from 2016 that relates.

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