Tag Archives: insight

… dazzling journalism through this dark moon phase …

Angelus Novus, Klee

We’ve been living through metaphorical dark moon years, with debris stirred up from deep, and yet, when brave souls explore the confusion in such times, sharp beams break through cracks in the mud.

Wars fought over territories and resources have become wars over ideologies and identity. The internet intensifies clashing ideas, and where free speech is allowed, arguments find air. Whose side to take, where to place oneself –  left, right, center, past, present, future? Peace- loving citizens are challenged. Does one go numb, angry, self-righteous, or suffer confusion? Are they defensive reactions to the cacophony of voices struggling for attention? Some shout, some play clever games, some share information, true or false, and others offer sharp insights, be it through anguish, sincerity, passion or irony.

Marina Hyde from the Guardian does the latter, with anguish, sincerity, passion and, most of all, irony. Conflict inspires the search for her truth. Like a martial artist, she uses words that dance without hesitation, in swift, spirited and glittering moves. The new moon a few days ago brought a dazzling peace of her journalism, a laser glance at recent politics. Marina’s dark irony brightened my confused and deflated mood – because she speaks to the truth.

Marina Hyde – her bit on Dominic Cummings

… using words my mother would never have …

cathartic therapy, Sufi style

It’s of course useless, and mostly counterproductive, to blame or dispense anger about ideologies on particular people or nations.

Far better to release the rage by smashing up old cars, as my former Sufi teacher, Fazal Inayat-Khan, encouraged us to do. But who has such novel opportunity? For now, we’re in this storm blowing from paradise together.

Nationalism is the pathology of modern developmental history as inevitable as neurosis in the individual.   – Tom Nairn, The Break-Up of Britain

Relevant, my post on nationalism from April 2012 … here is everywhere

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… moans from an unruly writer …

Installation by Frederick Franck

Installation by Frederick Franck

While I write, wrestle with style, query words battling for attention and set out sequences to string ideas together, anyone watching me might assume I’m a nervous wreck. My body, perfectly able to string an arrow to a bow and hit a target, has a wild notion of focus when it comes to writing. It shifts and wriggles, gets up pretending I need a coffee, ends up cleaning the sink, checks the porch for post and so on, all the while allowing my word sculpting to continue until, bingo …. I rely on intuition, which slips into little silences, opens a crack in the surface of things and reveals a hidden layer, and, occasionally offers a glimpse into the infinity of now. A tiny glimpse is all it takes to relax, sharpen senses and spark a creative dialogue between my inner voices that often quarrel and fool around like the average family.

I respect moderate conflict, it stirs up mud but clears the air, and even when the inner crowd gets fed-up with listening – grace, solitude, or a good night’s sleep bring additional insights, bridge divides and re-establish a tolerable rhythm of chaos and peace.

Am I fooling myself? Is my knack for intuition just guesswork. Is it inborn? Does it evolve with experience, as a kind of deeper listening skill humanity moves towards? Can it be learned? Is it worth defending? Or is it the relic of a go-with-the-flow philosophy that avoids closer analysis of my thought processes and behaviour? I seem to struggle with two kinds of temperaments, one looking for the particle and the other for the wave, stretched between rational and irrational numbers. The two temperaments compete but need each other.

Pilgrim Fool by Celcil Collins

Pilgrim Fool by Celcil Collins

Scientists and statisticians tend to approach the unknown rationally, and seem set to eradicate human incompetence and messiness. Some frenzied rational prophets go as far as knocking anything that can’t be quantified and evidenced. I value logic, what annoys me is the attitude that scoffs at people who hold hands with the fool.

There are more reliable methods than the vagaries of intuition, shown in a New York Times piece by Gary Wolf ‘The Data Driven Life’ from April 2010,  a long but brilliant article that received many pages of diverse comments. Not everyone is keen on the Quantified Self.

I resist being monitored and quantified by data, fixed as particle, ticked off for my risk-taking folly, my random cross-referencing. The geeks and outliers the article describes have fun recording their every move. And I grant that someone suffering from high blood pressure or apnoea benefits from being nudged by a gadget to take a deep breath. I remember being excited and applauding the first biofeedback devices that affirmed how thoughts affect our physiology and vice versa. When it comes to data dependency, I have a hunch it will starve emotional intelligence, which I strongly believe develops through mastery of language.

Working a few years for Social Services, we used to write narrative assessments until a computer programme with tick boxes was introduced. We hated it. Conveying observations in writing was shoved aside as time-consuming, subjective and vague, while quantitative recording was hailed as reliable, though its data hinges no less on interpretation and application.

Recently I skimmed an article suggesting future novels will be written by computers. My cynic leapt from its slumber and argued that a machine hasn’t got 100 Billion neurons and can’t be intimate with nature, is immune to changing metabolisms and moods – hour by hour, night and day. Immune to what comes on the breath, with wind, dust, rain and radio waves that travel through the cosmos, nor is a machine influenced by dreams, synchronicities, diets, layers of revolving memories, kind gestures, general anxieties, rejection, loss of control, loss of a loved one, global news … the unpredictable influx of thoughts and emotions that our mind continuously sifts, evaluates and re-interprets.

Irrational humans can’t be quantified and controlled, which may be why since ancient times there has been an ambition to create artificial beings.  Here a bit of fun from Turing and his colleague Strachey – a reasoned-out love letter, achieved through programming a 1951 computer to make sentences via algorithms, having been fed on love synonyms from a Thesaurus:

Honey Dear – My sympathetic affection beautifully attracts your affectionate enthusiasm. You are my loving adoration: my breathless adoration. My fellow feeling breathlessly hopes for your dear eagerness. My lovesick adoration cherishes your avid ardour.

Yours wistfully, M.U.C. (Manchester University Computer)

…. M. U. C. is eager, if a little verbose and breathless 🙂

Since then, artificial intelligence is even more breathless with numbers, but operates highly sophisticated technology that improved the quality of our lives. I admit I’m fascinated by the concept of cyborgs, but don’t want to get plucked into the human network protocol .

Our privacy is at stake. And our relationship with nature? … its record of life and the human experience, the treasure house of the collective unconscious, translated and re-membered through DNA, invisible spheres and the very light we breathe. Anything alive changes from moment to moment. And our experiences, insights and expectations have a vital part in the changing.

Nature is the book I grew up with, it taught me stuff:                                                                                                       About growing … put a seed into earth, tend to its needs and its story flowers.                                                        About resilience … a seedling lost in a dark corner will grow towards any spot of light, no matter how it must bend and curl its stalk around obstacles.                                                                                                                                       About connections … the dynamic geometry of the tiniest plants and vast galaxies are reflected in each other.

Enough samples to show the obvious – nature teaches through metaphors. My theme is resilience. I take risks and accept that struggling makes me inventive, expands my consciousness, polishes my heart and challenges me to think for myself.

My moan extends to the growing practice of enticing people to emulate machines in service of progress and economic efficiency, in jobs that dull the senses and dull the mind.

Meanwhile I cheer the unruly folk, including fools, dreamers, innovators, artists, poets and writers with an ear towards the hidden – who translate past and future newly into the present – the open-minded, who can tolerate conflict, value intuitive signals that chime in the heart, and who can occasionally endure being suspended like a leaf on a gossamer thread.

What do you, my reader, think?

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one raindrop – ten raindrops – what’s the difference?

Before I went to bed last night I asked for a dream, as I do when I want guidance from my unconscious. After all, the greater part of our psyche is out of sight, submerged, with only the top in view, which is why Freud used the image of an iceberg to depict the psyche, the submerged part having deeper connections with the sea of the collective unconscious in which we all swim.

Iceberg - Ri han - Shutterstock

Iceberg – Ri han – Shutterstock

My question was related to the global web, and what’s rising to the surface like long drowned skeletons bobbing along the electric rapids of information, memories re-shuffled, all with a kind of speed only fearless surfers can negotiate. And how every link you and I click is traced, analysed and fed back to the media, politicians, businesses, twitter-birds, face bookers, bloggers and so on. At times it seems like a kind of vivisection in a shiny mirror looking back at us, surreal.

I’m seasoned. There was no TV in my early childhood, it astounds me what I’ve adapted to over the years, but the present tech-apps-avant-garde makes me feel like I’m missing a boat, along with, let’s take a breath, at least sixty-one-percent of the world population (that’s the kind of people with no internet at all.) And because I tend to reflect on cultural trends, searching for wider purpose, meaning and metaphors, I put this to my unconscious: please give me some insight.

On waking, the first thing I gazed at was the raindrops netting my skylight. A phrase came:

                 … one raindrop – ten raindrops – what’s the difference? …

It stuck. I stopped myself diving into associations, about raindrops, the number one, about the history of zero – as symbol for something that doesn’t exist but has become a place-holder. I stopped myself from quoting Rumi, too.

The phrase I received is enigmatic and feels creative. Does it come down to postulation, the everything-and-nothing-matters kind of power we have to envision and re-assemble stories, the delicious freedom to speculate without limits …?

Maybe purpose and meaning are becoming old hats and I’m missing the point entirely. What do you make of the phrase … either with your knowledge of maths and physics, or with your imagination? Even with the phrase or image of a dream ☼

 

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… layers of perception …

Lately, fully into the process of writing again – the sequel to my first novel – I sometimes wake up with phrases. Yesterday it was: Outsight is the dream, insight is reality. Aha, not just a nice wordplay, I thought, but a fitting indication for what happens in the creative, intuitive process. Insight is new comprehension, often through a shift of focus revealing deeper layers, new connections in the matrix that awaken and surprise, fresh meaning, and adjust the outsight, the old noise caught in a time warp. It’s like having new sight through what the Celts called Thin Places, actual or virtual, where our senses are transcended and spheres intermingle.

If you are a creative person, you may listen to the system talking to itself, as it does day and night, even during dreams. Some of us like to branch into the unknown for dimensions beneath surface impressions, probe into the vast reservoir of the personal and collective psyche,  normally filtered out from our conscious awareness when we must attend to the practical matters of daily living.

Often a creative process is sparked by sensing in-betweens. This applies to all arts, including writing. Different layers of experience and association diverge and merge anew when we de-focus. In a visual sense, for example, try looking at a tree in twilight, squeeze your eyes and concentrate on the in-between spaces. There is a moment when the shapes reverse and the background becomes the foreground. And who hasn’t looked at clouds or landscapes in a particular light and seen magical beings?

In this optical illusion you only need to tilt your head. 

And there is the meandering mind, receptive to intuition. Like yesterday I popped to the corner shop to get a paper. An unintended detour got me talking to Annie, who does house clearances. Amongst her cornucopia of stuff a spot of bright magenta caught my eye. I instantly thought of my friend, Rahima, presently in hospital. She is a painter. She loves colours. The vibrant patch of silk, I thought, will make her smile. 

Artists tend to tune out of fashion, out of mass projections, to let the muse take them along random paths into deeper strata of perception and cognition – of shapes, colours, sounds and movements – to re-arrange personal experience, bringing them into a new, universal context.

A good example of this process is shown in a documentary of the painter Howard Hodgkin by Alan Yentob, from the IMAGINE series.

Howard Hodgkin has a current exhibition at the Alan Christea Gallery, London.  http://www.alancristea.com/  in celebration of his 80th birthday,

A Robert Frost poem – Acquainted with the night – was chosen as the title for the exhibition.

De-focussing is magical – it brings new layers of perception …

Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.’ – Howard Thurman

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