Tag Archives: metaphors

… turning a stone – compelled to look deeper …

The year before the millennium, a then dear old friend of mine, Sitara Brutnell (I wrote about her in another post) found a stone on West Wittering beach during one of the little outings we did together. We both loved stones. I sometimes invest my finds with magic power. Those who have read my novel, ‘Course of Mirrors,’ will know a black shiny stone becomes a vital talisman to my protagonist.

As we wandered close to the purling waves brought in by the tide, mesmerised by the sound of pebbles tumbling over each other, we were open for treasures to signal us. I had already discovered a few smooth stones, white, marbled, pink and black, for my collection.

selfie that day, with Nikon suspended exposure

The one stone Sitara picked was uneven, jagged, with the odd spot of glassy flint shining through. Folding her palm around the slimmer end, it could have served as a tool to spark a flame with. She stood a long while contemplating the contours and varied colourings of the stone, turning it over and over.

I became intrigued with Sitara’s jagged stone, which seemed to me a metaphor of her concern for others, their troubles, their sharp edges. An exceptional friend in my life, her special grace was the capacity to forgive, always seeing a person’s character from many sides. The urge for genuine forgiveness shaped her personality, was her path.

Feeling prompted to explore her stone; I was given it on loan, to attempt a few drawings. The recent comment by a Swiss friend, regarding stones, made me dig up my sketches of Sitara’s stone, which explored its charming irregularities.

An ancient story came to mind, probably of Asian origin:

The two Pots

A water bearer in China had two large pots on the ends of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other pot was perfect and always delivered the full portion of water.

At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. This went on daily, with the bearer only bringing home one-and-a-half pots of water.

The perfect pot was proud of his accomplishment. But the cracked pot was ashamed of its imperfection, and miserable about accomplishing only half of what it had been made for.

Two years it endured its bitter failure, until one day it spoke to the water bearer by the stream. ‘I’m ashamed of myself, because the crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.

The bearer said to the pot, ‘Did you notice that flowers grow only on your side of the path? That’s because I’ve always known your flaw and I planted seeds there, and every day while we walked back you watered them. So I’ve been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.

So, all dear crackpots, myself included, we have functions we know nothing about.

Enjoy the full moon. And if your sky is clouded, enjoy at least the special energy.

8 Comments

Filed under Blog

… 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.

14 Comments

Filed under Blog

When the Waters Were Changed

Once upon a time Khidr, the Teacher of Moses, called upon mankind with a warning. At a certain date, he said, all the water in the world which had not been specially hoarded would disappear. It would then be renewed, with different water, which would drive men mad.

Only one man listened to the meaning of this advice. He collected water and went to a secure place where he stored it, and waited for the water to change its character

On the appointed date the streams stopped running, the wells went dry and the man who had listened, seeing this happening, went to his retreat and drank his preserved water.

When he saw, from his security, the waterfalls again beginning to flow, this man descended among the other sons of men. He found that they were thinking and talking in an entirely different way from before; yet they had no memory of what had happened, nor of having been warned. When he tried to talk to them, he realized that they thought that he was mad, and they showed hostility or compassion, not understanding.

At first he drank none of the new water, but went back to his concealment, to draw on his supplies, every day. Finally, however, he took the decision to drink the new water because he could not bear the loneliness of living, behaving and thinking in a different way from everyone else. He drank the new water, and his fellows began to look upon him as a madman who had miraculously been restored to sanity.

From ‘Tales of the Dervishes’ by Idris Shah

(This version of the story is attributed to Sayed Sabir Ali-Shah, a saint of the Chisti Order, who died in 1818)

7 Comments

Filed under Blog

… 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

4 Comments

Filed under Blog

… story – art – quest for the cypher – symbol …

As painters or sculptors do, I frequently step back from my writing projects, searching for the core, a half imagined essence to shine through and re-animate the creative flow. Skills alone don’t do it, techniques alone don’t do it, nor style. As long as the essence of what I try to express floats in the unconscious, my efforts will baffle and tease me.

Having listened to thousand and one stories during my 30 years of working as a transpersonal psychotherapist, I conclude that when we tell our story to ourselves, or others who watch and listen, we trace a rhythm, a sound, the distant bubbling of a spring – a theme. While sourcing and shaping words we ideally become aware of how we translate experiences, string up memories and weave a pattern that gives meaning, purpose and direction to our story. We may re-weave the past and change how we perceive life. Even a single image, too evanescent to fit ordinary reality, can assume significance. An ideal may sharpen – and with it a vision of what not yet exists, revealed by the imagination.

Sensual impression, dreams, primary images and the love/hate of relationships, present a puzzle we try to arrange in some kind of order, waiting for a theme to become intelligible, and therefore transmittable. Finding a structure to express our experiences through words, images, movements, sounds, music, or numbers is insufficient. We must play with the fragments – take out bits, or add bits, until a satisfying narrative suggests itself.

World objects from my sand tray

Fairy tales, heroes and villains of myth, historical figures, cartoon characters or pop stars may do the magic by evoking a psychic resonance and providing a metaphor, or a precious symbol to ease the pressure of the archetypal demand lurking in the unconscious.

Not only those we call artists, but all creative people respond to what holds sensual and cognitive fascination for them. I include trades, crafts, makers, men and women with affinities to certain elements, who explore the quality and beauty of materials, like weavers, potters, wood workers, printers, plumbers, electricians … I include technicians, engineers, inventors, scientists and mystics. Curiosity and passion for a subject deepen knowledge and intuition as to how things connect outside, and, vitally, how they connect inside us.

Ashen – directing a film in the woods.

My fascination with creating stories was revived while doing a film degree (as career brake) during the late 1990s. I’m curious about consciousness, relative perception of time, and the interplay of characters for which I invent pasts and futures, where ideals are the means to a goal, while as soon as the goal is reached, a new ideal looms over the horizon. If this were not so, evolution, our whole story would stop. Ursula Le Guin once wrote –

‘In eternity there is nothing novel, and there are no novels.’

My ongoing writing project, a trilogy of stories, involves three soul sisters, Ana, Cara and Mesa. The first (already published) book of the trilogy, ‘Course of Mirrors,’ (see book page) narrates the quest of Ana, which is really the myth of the story teller, Cara, whose theme is seeking a balance for the enigma of clashing feminine and masculine principles. The sequel, ‘Shapers,’ (not yet published) introduces Cara in the twentieth century as she follows the characters of Ana’s myth into a far future society where emotional expressions are outlawed until the experiment breaks down under its duplicity.

In a third book, ‘Mesa,’ a work in progress, same characters move to a realm where time has slowed down to such extend that ‘novelty’ has to be rescued for life to continue. This story calls for a deep dive into the heart of my imagination.

I’m once more held in the cocoon stage. Given the ideological power games around the globe, I feel foolish about these musings, since I’ve been sharing the ups and downs of my quest here for the last seven years.

Do you, my reader, recognise the pressure to bring something into existence? How do you search for the cypher (the wild uniqueness in the soul) that informs your creative process?

*    *    *

A definition of Symbol … from ‘The Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn ‘Arabi’ by Henry Corbin, transl. by Ralph Manheim, Bollingen Series XCI, Princeton University

The symbol announces a plane of consciousness distinct from that of rational evidence; it is a ‘cipher’ of a mystery, the only means of expressing something that cannot be apprehended in any other way; a symbol is never ‘explained’ once and for all, but must be deciphered over and over again, just as a musical score is never deciphered once and for all, but calls for ever new execution.

12 Comments

Filed under Blog

… 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

15 Comments

Filed under Blog

… an early phenomenon of recycling …

Marie was one-of-a-kind, a unicum, einzigartig. Considered a fool, she was waddling through the streets of my childhood village in search of rejected items.

Based on a few photos my dad took during the nineteen-fifties, I put a challenge to my Patrons  inviting a short story (250 to 500 words) to include in a post here. I’m starting with my version, in the form of a monologue.

Sweet are the uses of adversity
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.  (As You Like It)

Marie found good – even in the flawed. She says:

… I have you know, my great, great, great grandmother, add one, was a noblewoman in Russia with more material means than King Ludwig of Bavaria, and an equal flamboyant imagination. Like the Fairy King’s life, hers was cut short through envy.

My life, too, is in service to art of some kind, though nobody envies me.

At least that’s what I thought for a while … some do envy me – the treacherous bunch in this village, the ones chased by hungry spirits hovering over their houses. They resent and envy my freedom. I scare them, because I remind them of the ravages of time. I’m beholden to no one, which is why they spread lies about me. I’ve sharp ears.

You know who, down the road, claims I’ve put a spell on his family, so his wife will only bear girls. The bully doesn’t know his blessing. A son would topple him. And his trickster of a neighbour, you know who, blames me for his impotency. He doesn’t know his blessing either. The mishaps some people complain about may actually save them from much, much worse. Just saying.

And so from hour to hour we ripe and ripe,
And then from hour to hour we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs a tale.’ (As You Like It)

There you have it. Ask me anything and you get truth, since I’ve got nothing to lose. The absurdity of human behaviour makes rejection bearable. I learned to live with it. Consequently, my brain cells can’t help being impressed by discarded objects. It’s compulsive. When you get there one day, remember me, the woman in the street, shouting, ‘We ripe, we rot, it’s all the same. Do as you like.’

Nothing goes to waste with me. My backyard is the showroom of my art, for all to see. I give every item the freedom to be and decay, ache over its beauty, and let it speak for itself.

That rusty teapot hanging from the tree over there has outlived its owner. If you gave the pot a voice it would tell you how it was used to kill a burglar, a scoundrel, bringing misery to his family. Blood still crusts its metal edge. There’s justice for you.

That scruffy carpet leaning against the fence, which had three generations walk, dance, fight, puke and sleep on it, holds a rich legacy of tales. The well-used tools in that box among the dandelions could still fix and dismantle implements. And the mangled doll on top was once loved to bits. With your mind at rest you can hear kids scream and battle over its possession.

Each thing stacked up here has a Sermon to tell.

And now you want to see what’s in my shack? You’re a nosy one, aren’t you? I tell you a secret. It’s hellishly empty.

A link to the Shakespeare quotes.

15 Comments

Filed under Blog

… when the waters were changed …

Water

Once upon a time Khidr, the Teacher of Moses, called upon mankind with a warning. At a certain date, he said, all water in the world which had not been specially horded, would disappear. It would then be renewed, with different water, which would drive men mad.

Only one man listened to the meaning of this advice. He collected water and went to a secure place where he stored it, and waited for the water to change its character.

On the appointed date the streams stopped running, the wells went dry, and the man who had listened, seeing this happening, went to his retreat and drank his preserved water.

When he saw, from his security, the waterfalls again beginning to flow, this man descended among the other sons of men. He found that they were thinking and talking in a different way from before; yet they had no memory of what had happened, nor of having been warned. When he tried to talk to them, he realised that they thought that he was mad, and they showed hostility or compassion, not understanding.

At first he drank none of the new water, but went back to his concealment, to draw on his supplies, every day. Finally, however, he took the decision to drink the new water because he could not bear the loneliness of living, behaving and thinking in a different way from everyone else. He drank the new water, and became like the rest. Then he forgot all about his own store of special water, and his fellows began to look upon him as a madman who had miraculously been restored to sanity.

*    *    *

A Sufi story is from ‘Tales of Dervishes’ by Idries Shah. First published in 1967 by Jonathan Cape Ltd.

The above version is from a 1973 edition published by Panther Books Ltd and is attributed to Sayed Sabir Ali-Shah, a saint of the Chisti Order, who died in 1818 …  though like most Sufi stories, it is much older.

6 Comments

Filed under Blog

… so we stumble along …

Drawing by Claire Finaz

Siva and Shakti, the Divine Couple in Hinduism, are in their heavenly abode watching over the earth. They are touched by the challenges of human life, the complexity of human reactions, and the ever-present place of suffering in the human experience. As they watch, Shakti spies a miserable poor old man walking down the road. His clothes are shabby and his sandals are tied together with rope. Her heart is wrung with compassion, touched by his goodness and his struggle. Shakti turns to her divine husband and begs him to give this man some gold. Siva looks at the man for long moment. ‘My dearest Wife,’ ‘I cannot do that.’

Shakti is astounded. ‘Why, what do you mean, Husband?’ You are Lord of the Universe. Why can’t you do this simple thing?

‘I cannot give this to him because he is not yet ready to receive it,’ Siva replies.

Shakti becomes angry. ‘Do you mean to say you cannot drop a bag of gold in his path?’

‘Surely I can,’ Siva replies, ‘but that is quite another thing.’

‘Please, Husband,’ says Shakti.

And so Siva drops a bag of gold in the man’s path.

The man meanwhile walks along talking to himself, ‘I wonder if I will find dinner tonight – or shall I go hungry again?’ Turning a bend in the road, he sees something on the path in his way. ‘Aha,’ he says. ‘Look there, a large rock. How fortunate that I have seen it. I might have torn these poor sandals of mine further.’ And carefully stepping over the bag of gold, he goes his way.

*    *    *

‘The Bag of Gold,’ like many wisdom tales, has layers of meanings, one being: within each stumbling block is also a treasure. Gold, of old, is associated with the inner sun.

The above version of the story is shared by Elisa Pearmain in ‘Doorways to the Soul.’ See the link in my blogroll at the right. One page on her site features publications. 

To the above story she adds: … Before going to sleep each night, think about all the gold encountered during the day. You may feel quite rich …

The longing remains, expressed in this song by Neil Young:    … I want to live, I want to give. I’ve been a miner for a heart of gold …

One of my New Year resolutions is to practice tunes on my G Blues Harp – a magical instrument that fits into my pocket –  however bad things get, a little breath and a harmonica can cheer people.

The drawing is by a friend – Claire Finaz – on a Christmas Card many years back. It depicts the inner sun very well.

19 Comments

Filed under Blog

… a writer must selfie herself …

 

August 2016

August 2016

This  selfie of mine was taken last summer. As you can see, I’m an introvert.

If you’re in for a funny video on selfies, here is one I found on the Urban Dictionary website. Its definitions help to lift despair.

I was initially delighted when in spring 2013 my first novel was picked up by a small publisher. Course of Mirrors was in good shape, thanks to my dear beta reader friend and editor, Evlynn Sharp. Our selfie from 2014 shows below.

April 2014

When over time my publisher was prevented from preparing my novel for its launch, for various reasons beyond her control, I shelved my frustration, finished a sequel, and even started a third book – still, gradually my confidence suffered. Then again, if the promise for my first novel had not been there, I might not have continued writing, so whatever my misgivings, thank you Emma for loving my story.

Back in control, I decided to self-publish. And now I’m challenged, like many lovely writer friends whose fate I follow online, to set up a stage for ‘Course of Mirrors,’ squeezing myself into an overcrowded publishing scene.

I have lived and worked in England since 1978. When time allowed, I contributed poems and articles to specialist magazines and anthologies, but only started writing novels later in life. Writing was a vocation, not a career. An early humiliating experience at school, made me return to writing only through photography, film, and the freedom of another language. Though financially risky, I took time out, and writing became immersive.

Finding words to condense my myth into imagined worlds is totally satisfying, sans financial rewards. But then, forgive the sigh that escapes so many of us in the same situation, writing is a full time devotional activity, and I spent now many years writing and editing into midnight hours, a little financial reward would at least compensate for reduced income and allow me the occasional holiday.

I observe that marketing and advice professionals possibly outnumber writers. However brilliant these experts may be at their job, I can’t afford their services. Now even simple questions I hoped my publisher would support me with shout for answers: What’s your genre? What readership do you hope to address? How will you capture the tone of the novel in a title image? Should the cover express the concept, or a scene from the novel? What’s the unique angle of your story? How does your story differ from others in your genre?

In a public sphere over-saturated with information, how does one engage a reader’s attention without having to boast? I feel like having to provide an answer at gunpoint to one question only – Who are you?

Frankly, I have no idea. Maybe I’ll find out. As I said, I’m an introvert. Like my protagonist, I’m a suspended character. The whole circus is a gamble. I can only hope that you, the readers of my blog, will stay with me through this labyrinth of my author-creation.

While I struggle with particulars, and hopefully amuse you with updates, I’m planning to launch ‘Course of Mirrors’ through Matador/Troubador in spring 2017.

Here, to deliciously confuse you, is a river of keywords relating to Course of Mirrors:

Course of Mirrors combines literary genres to thread in elements of: fantasy; mystery; thriller; adventure; friendship; romance; humour; suspense; magic realism and tragedy. It is adult and young adult fiction, and it includes allusive cultural references spanning: imaginal odyssey; coming of age; quest; road trip; identity; the single child; cinematic style of chapters; psychology; intrigue; loss; murder; betrayal; speculation; metaphysics; insight; poetics; irony; future; despair; passion; triple soul; compelling characters… and in the sequel – Shapers – shape-shifting and time travel across decades.

25 Comments

Filed under Blog