Breathing Fire, Missing Scale

I’ve never watched an entire episode of Dragons’ Den. To me, when I eventually saw some footage, it smacked of the new, voyeuristic TV programmes like Big Brother, The Weakest Link or Britain’s Got Talent, that used the excuse of aspiration (a combination of Machiavellian strategy, a lust for fame, and greed) to showcase the grief and pain of failure. I found it cruel and the presenters callous, the suffering they caused the majority of the participants not incidental but rather the dirty little secret of these shows: Schadenfreude, as our Germanic cousins call it. Pleasure in the suffering of others.

The names of the presenters meant nothing to me until one of them started making waves in my small, close-knit, and (until then) generally friendly political party. I looked up this person and, coming from a long line of nurses, I immediately identified what my elderly Mum calls “a typical thyroid case”: nervous excitability; forceful, non-stop talking; mood swings; bulging eyes. It can especially hit menopausal women badly but a younger friend had it, was diagnosed with cancer—and the regime of drugs and surgery altered her body chemistry and she lost a baby. “No-one ever mentioned thyroid imbalance” her husband said to me, afterwards. I felt so guilty for not speaking up. My embarrassment about being accused of ‘mansplaining’ a female condition wasn’t an excuse. Especially when I was simply sharing the observations of wise women and my advice was no more controversial than: “maybe you should get this checked out”.

So I did, and was smacked down by the dragon lady for my trouble. My conscience is clear. I tried. I’m not a medical doctor and I don’t have proof that her psychological inability to listen to opposing points of view is at root physiological. Maybe it’s not. Perhaps she’s simply the type of rich middle aged woman from the English ‘Home Counties’ that can’t abide contrary opinions. A sort of Audrey fforbes-Hamilton, without the humour.

From the body to the body politic: my party will survive. She’s calling us all shills for throwing her out when we’d all had enough of her abusive publicity. What concerns me more, having informed myself now, is what she may do next. I’m a keen conservationist and, unfortunately, her sights are set on ‘developing’ one of the most beautiful areas of woodland and meadow in England.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for grow-your-own and organic vegetables. I don’t mind meditation, chanting doesn’t bother me at all and I can even put up with a certain amount of circle dancing. I’m not keen on drugs, I must say, and my objections to aged hippies congregating on unspoiled land in order to consume quantities of magic mushrooms is not only medical (just because I’m unqualified doesn’t mean I don’t care, and they can cause severe heart palpitations, apparently) but also because such gatherings are often marked by ecological irresponsibility. Take Glastonbury, post-festival, as an example.

A member of my party told me that, when this fire-breathing businesswomen (whose own company went into arbitration, it seems) stood for us last year, concerned villagers made the trip from the Peak District to warn us to have nothing to do with her, as they feared the destruction she was planning to wreak on their beloved acres of Merrie England. He confessed that he’d declined their invitation to visit their beautiful village, set in Cressbrook Dale, out of loyalty to our candidate. Surely, he may have considered, these people were exaggerating.

Unfortunately, it appears that they’re not. Human waste, stone chips strewn in a forest glade by people clearly more accustomed to facilitating access to a suburban double garage than contemplating and reverencing the intricacies of ecological networks (and only taking action in order to better support them), plastic tents pitched and looking abandoned over winter, publicised plans to uproot the highest category of protected land in a national park…in order to grow massive amounts of vegetables. While everyone’s on drugs? And their (non-hierarchical) muse is off round the country, or perhaps the planet, leading, somehow by the aid of a perfectly flat structure, the movement against…well, anything that stands in her way really. The wheel must be broken, and all that sort of thing.

The New Age often attracts the precise middle of the English class system. The “chattering classes”. Middle managers, chartered accountants, those who’ve clawed their way up HR, board members of quangos. Places like Findhorn are full of them. The superwomen of the 90s are among them. You can have it all, they were told. To give them their due, they really tried to. The yuppie revolution. Thatcher’s children. Keeping the faith in monetarism—until the emptiness set in. They may have tried creative writing, or pottery. Some women, desperate, even went to the extreme of bringing up their own kids. At least when they were back from boarding school.

Tragically, I think that’s why these people can’t listen. They share that characteristic with the Woke. To admit doubt is to allow the possibility of meaninglessness. To look in the mirror and see youthful charm (if ever possessed) fade. New seekers age. “Dreams have lost their grandeur, coming true.” That’s if there were any, in the first place. Very few people, JK Rowling perhaps an exception, can find magic in suburbia.

So I can’t blame these bland people for wanting more. England is famous, worldwide, for having lost its culture. Abstract the Celtic Twilight, cut off the Moorish dancing learned from the Crusades, omit everything that actually belongs to someone else and what’s left? Only one element remains, the liminal location of Shakespearean dreamland: the Greenwood.

This is why nothing else will do for the breaker of chains and her merry band. If they were truly ecological, they’d buy up brownfield sites and reclaim them. Now that would be magical. Instead, cut off from rural wisdom for generations, these self-indulgent townies, unable to limit the gratification of their desires, must have this virgin soil in order to despoil it in search of their souls.

The capacity of self-reflection of such people may be so limited that, once they’ve made a Glastonbury out of the Greenwood, with only themselves to blame, their final act—before being thrown off the ravaged land by court order—is likely to be an internal witch-hunt to identify the source of the karmic forces acting against them.

In the hell of their own creation, a hall of mirrors where fame reflects ever more monstrously the distorted features of their inability to contemplate the impact of their unchecked desires, they may forget the basic tenant of even the watered-down version of Buddhism which they claim to practice: responsibility.

Colourful Carnival Dragon Head

Thanks to Linnaea Mallette for releasing her image Dragon Carnival Head into the Public Domain.

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What’s Wrong with the Resistance?

I’ve just left a chat group on Telegram because I couldn’t stand it any longer. Like many, I don’t have much free time — and an unrelenting flood of repetitious, unevidenced, incoherent and hysterical posts about “the Cabal” does nothing to inform and persuade people to resist the developing technocracy and everything to reassure them that its resisters are all crazy.

Left-leaning friends (current and former) may be relieved to hear this. Typically unable to distinguish between pointing out the historical roots of Big Pharma in poison gas manufacturers, such as I.G. Farben, and denial of the Shoah, they’re unable to reason clearly because they confuse categories.

For example: if I say it’s a Tuesday and the calendar says it’s a Tuesday and Adolf Hilter says it’s Dienstag, does that make me (or the calendar) a Nazi?

A real example: Alison McDowell, excellent on the links and repercussions of the 4th Industrial Revolution, blocked me on Twitter when I pointed out her (obvious) ignorance of the Catholic Church. Among other instances was her oohing and ahhhing over a post about “Masonic crosses” which even the original poster eventually conceded were simply a variety of crosses illustrated in a Masonic book. (Still not got it? The category “Masonic” applied to the book, it could not be assumed to apply to every illustration of traditional Christianity referenced in those pages. Especially as Masonry isn’t Christian.)

In fairness, Alison is quite candid about the fact that she couldn’t tell a Maltese Cross from The Maltese Falcon. She just didn’t like me pointing it out. I point things out. It’s why I lose friends. And save lives. Also, her Da Vinci Code style amateur exploits in the wonderland of Roman Catholicism (as I say, she’s amazing on Geo-Political Economics) are small potatoes compared to the Frito-Lay-factory-short-of-a-fish-supper crazy going on online right now about “the Cabal”.

Let me try to summarise (no, I haven’t read it up in depth and I don’t intend to):

The Cabal is a sinister leftist right wing communist elitist Black Jewish Catholic Alien reptilian, em, cabal, of gay trans paedophile vampire vegans funded, em, by themselves, who came from Outer Space to this Flat Earth and tried to convince us it was spherical by founding The Catholic Church and Black Judaism to really worship Satan, who is, em, them, by means of The Pyramids, The Eiffel Tower and Big Ben. Oh, and, y’know, religion, Netflix, NASA, and stuff. Antarctica is a Circular Ice Wall beyond which (it is known because no-one can get there) there is All Sorts of Alien Tech. Like they can blow this shit right up! They govern us by means of Mind Control and drink kids’ blood. The Moon Landings were faked cos there’s no Outer Space. We’re not gonna believe what those Aliens say!

Source? All over the Internet. Apparent source? Every Tom, Dick and Harriet with a 2-dimensional account with 15 identical followers that opened sometime in 2020/21. And all those influenced by them, including some vulnerable people with shaky mental health.

There are also celebrity influencers and though David Icke of course springs to mind, he appears to be speaking (of the struggle between the limbic and mammalian brains and the frontal cortex) metaphorically and may be simply a rather dramatic New Ager who believes in Universal Consciousness and Higher Things. He also, very clearly and very sanely, preaches specific resistance to the ongoing violations of human rights and civil liberties.

My concern is both with the ones who don’t (such as trust-the-plan Simon Parkes) and the ones who urge people to take part in illegal actions that are as unlikely to succeed as they are likely to alienate the general public.

Because it is no secret (they state it openly) that intelligence services are targeting resistance groups in person and online. What better way to derail the train bound for freedom than to send its drivers conflicting signals, place as many obstacles on the track as possible and, easiest of all, convince the passengers not to get onboard but to stay, patiently, listening for further announcements in the waiting room…in the deferential and ever-deferred hope of a celebrity saviour.

If religious education were actually taught in schools and church history in universities (based on historical fact rather than endless emoting and opining over present-day imaginary identities) then more people might know that the blood-drinking hypothesis was a 1st C. Roman imperial slur against the newly-formed Christian community and one that was diverted from their spiritual descendants to be used against Jews in most centuries since, including this one.

I do not deny the depravity of some human beings but the lesson of the Holocaust is not that Germans are especially sadistic but that good people can be gradually coerced into evil fairly easily, until it becomes banal.

That’s what we need to resist. Anti-Semitism, recklessness, agents provocateurs, clashes of celebrity egos, ignorance and stupidity will only get in the way of the diffusion of sane, sympathetic, balanced and well-researched investigations such as that of Cory Morningstar on The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg. (Cory doesn’t deny the ecological problems of the planet but simply shows how big businesses is exploiting them, and young activists, in order to open new markets.) Or basically anything written by the amazing, and always responsible independent journalist Whitney Webb. (Whitney is always careful to state exactly what she can evidence and her analysis of political blackmail and international information technology is based on painstaking research.)

For resistance to be effective, the messages broadcast need to be sane, focussed and supportive of human rights and civil liberties. That means the administrator “owners” of groups and channels need to reduce repetition, weed out the crazies and ban prejudice. Otherwise all they will do is encourage either inaction or unsympathetic and possibly life-threatening confrontation with the authorities and the general public. What we need to be doing is appealing to hearts and minds. Warmly and wisely.

Thanks to Circe Denyer for releasing her image Halloween Whispering Clowns into the Public Domain.

Meditation is Medication – how to keep sane shut-in

If, because of this global madness, you spend weeks (or months) shut up indoors just worrying, winging and binging – on drink, drugs, porn or TV/online drama – you’re likely to emerge dazed into daylight a lot less healthy, mentally and physically, than you are now. Addiction to work online, though lucrative, may give you eyestrain and RSI; addiction to either exercise or sex, gruelling or gratifying, may leave you (and your partner) rather worn out.

There’s more to life than all that, and whereas religious nuts may be prophesying The End of Days (just as the Earth is recovering and small island nations like lovely Barbados may, after all, have a chance to remain above sea-level) not all who are interested in the spiritual side of life are that nutty. Some are even quite fruity. But that’s another discussion.

Anyone who’s spent any time in solitude knows that the primary experience, when you get away from it all, is being alone with yourself. Those who rely on the applause of others to stoke their egos may find that hard, as will those whose one purpose in life is to emote as much as possible and let everyone know every detail of their lives.

Because not a lot happens when you’re shut in. At least, apparently not.

The spiritual dimension is not just some sacred space that you enter, as if you were checking in on TripAdvisor. It’s a perspective on life that is always possible. You just may not have looked that way yet.

Just look. Just be aware.

How? What do I do when I want to get spiritual?

I’d suggest that more is less and that the first thing to do is limit your input.

Switch off the TV, the radio, silence your phone (don’t take your landline off the ringer ‘cos folk will literally call the police if you do). Ask your ever-talking housemate to SHUT UP. Calm the dogs. Get the kids involved in something quiet (good luck!). Close your laptop and your tablet. Fill the kettle with just enough water for one cup (they can get their own later! honestly!) and just listen.

Focus – A watched kettle never boils, they say, impatiently. But attend. Wait. Do nothing more than listen. Hear the beginning of the sound the water makes as it heats up. Listen to the phase changes. After the bubbling, as you pour (yes it can be coffee if you can’t stand chamomile) listen to the encounter of liquid and powder and solid. Alchemy.

Reflect – Let your mind rest on things that change. All things change. Some just do it more slowly.

Breathe – You can become conscious of your breathing if you want (some find that annoying) or watch things move in the wind.

Look – What’s moving? Trees outside. Scarves on the washingline. What’s still?

Feel – Peeling off the layers of the onion: partner, family, kids, parents, social media friends and enemies, colleagues, officialdom, all those groups you’re in…how are you? Who are you?

Let go – Observe how the world keeps turning. You’re not at the centre. It’s not all about you.

Be grateful – don’t count your blessings, just remember them. There are so many!

Hope – Actively, turn your attention to all you know that’s good about humanity. Affirm this. Affirm it in you.

Reach out – Pray if that’s what you do, or just visualise all the little lights of hope in your household, next door, along your street, your neighbourhood, town, city, country, all over the globe. Light. Healing. Be part of it.

Commit – You are a drop in the ocean/ the ocean is made up of drops.

…to justice

…to peace

…to love

Amen/ so be it/ let it be

(Feeling better? Okay, now you can go and sort out whatever utter mayhem the kids have been up to.)

Scarves blowing in the wind

Photo “Scarves Blowing in the Wind” (C) Alan McManus

          

 

Afternoon of Life

For my birthday, a good friend gifted me a link to a New Age film which is part of the inspiration and industry related to a certain famous channeled body of writing. The body in question is a lively organism of many members and this film is only one of the many related works. The title doesn’t matter as, in the whole film I found nothing original. The book, ditto. I didn’t put the word ‘channeled’ in scare quotes as I have no problem with archetypal writing, or the kind of book that Robert M. Pirsig (who doesn’t use that word) calls by the Swedish word kulturbärer (culture-barer). I do, however, have a lot of problems with the culture embodied in this film.

To be fair, there is much that is good about the film. Many creative works begin by choosing a different path in midlife and, if Dante’s Divine Comedy was a momento mori (remembrance of death) than this film is definitely a reminder to live life, and to live it to the full. All well and good, and in the afternoon of life we may do well to remember that life is for living.

I can put up with the New Age smugness, the smile and the not-really-listening-to-the-question-because-you-already-know-the-answer; these are symptoms of an attitude common to all ideologies. The studied childlike anti-intellectualism, which precludes an ideology becoming a critical philosophy, the vagueness and conflation of concepts of self and universe and nature and the divine, which preclude fragmentary teachings becoming a religion (or even a full spirituality); these are annoying but not toxic elements utilised by this industry. More irritating is the gender binary, seemingly stuck in melodramas of 50’s suburban Americana awaiting the liberation of Second Wave feminism. So we hear that pre and post the ‘quantum moment’ (a peak experience that [unlike peak experiences] is enduring and simultaneously a paradigm shift, always for the better) men and women want different things. None of them surprising (for those who know the genre). But the male teacher conveniently forgets, in his universal call to service, that while human beings find our purpose in serving, women, apparently (they’ve done studies), need to do their own thing.

So I wonder, as usual with the abundance/ awareness version of the New Age, whether ‘human being’ really translates as ‘independently wealthy White US male’. Just don’t ask by what means he or his family got the money. And please don’t stop supporting this multi-million dollar industry, that prides itself on not being materialistic.

I’m being unkind and unfair, I know. Just about everything I’ve said could, with a couple of tweaks, be equally applied to scientific socialism, Roman Catholicism, or the touchy-feely micromanaged milieu of call centres. I’m not being partisan, I often take pot shots at my coreligionists, when I find them lacking in collective compassion – and don’t get me started on call centres!  But the film bothers me because it’s almost right.

Its naiveté is breathtaking. We’re told that, as we lacked nothing in the womb, as all was provided perfectly, so, with non-interference and good will, all will be well in life after birth. Without going into reproductive ethics, from the perspective of life in a woman’s womb, there are so many things that can and do go wrong – abortion, miscarriage and non-fatal damage being three. It’s also beyond me how, looking around the seas and shores of Europe at the moment, everything can be said to be working out perfectly. This is the Humpty-Dumptyism of language. If that’s what ‘perfect’ now means, we need another word to describe what it used to mean. One that doesn’t include calamity.

So the film is plain wrong about the politics of privilege, this whole industry masks its present day material relations and considers anti-capitalist protest a form of mental illness. The much-vaunted ‘purpose’ we are all encouraged to find seems to be to support the industry, while appearing not to.

So what’s good about it? This film is a reminder to live life, and to live it to the full. And yes there is much insight into creativity and wonder and play as essential elements of a life well lived. These are elements that I bring out when referencing the New Age in my novels. What is missing from the film, with all its blather about awareness, is:

  • we must live more simply, in order for others to simply live
  • we must live more justly, in order for others to just live

…and in order to do both these things, we must become aware (as native peoples, deep ecologists, feminists, anarchists and liberation theologians tell us) of all our relations, just and unjust, simple and complex. If we don’t do this hard task of honesty, ‘spirituality’ becomes a bland soporific, a boob tube of pleasant transmissions, a sleep of the critical faculties.

The wise Buddhist, Taoist and Sufi traditions from which this mental mish-mash is extracted and commodified do not conceive of enlightenment as peaceful slumber.

Wake up!   tree-13441096826dr

Thanks to George Hodan who has released this photo:

“Tree” into the Public Domain

Time and Change

Panta rhei, Heraclitus (may have) said: all things change. Literally it means ‘all flows’ and this is one of our most common images of time, a river. We also think of time as the passing of grains of sand in an hourglass, the progress along a timeline, the ticking of a clock. It is self-evident that Heraclitus is right, all things do flow, some – like mountains – more slowly in comparison to others – such as seas – yet all things flow.

All except for time. The concept of time, this construction, convention and convenience, is so ingrained in our brains that we risk the accusation of insanity if we stop and think about it. Time does not flow because it does not exist.

Water, and all the other constituents of rivers, grains of sand, sand dunes, deserts, objects moving along a line, eyes moving along sightlines, lines of perspective, the cogs and gears and hands of a clock, like all things, change. Not time.

Things change in relation to other things. While I am asleep, at night, while the terrestrial hemisphere of shade that borders the hemisphere of light passes over the surface of the Earth, the hands on my little alarm clock go round, my dog’s chest rises and falls in the rhythm of his breath, the cells in the sprawling green plant atop my wardrobe elongate and divide, the fridge hums on, voices on the street come and go, my dreams confabulate and confuse my memories, processes of change, renewal and decay, go on in my sleeping body. All things, including the blood in my body, flow. Time does not.

As a metaphysician this interests me. As a life coach it informs my practice radically. Closely allied to this treasured concept of time being some kind of entity, rather than a complex cultural metaphor of comparison, is our concept of treasured tales. Here I am not concerned with the great meta-narratives of science and religion, there are so many variations of both that in valuing a particular one it should be quite obvious that we are doing just that. No, as a life coach I am more concerned with our life stories. The stories we tell ourselves, and others, about our lives. The ones that start as ‘the way I tell it’ and end up as ‘the way it was’.

Some months ago (it’s impossible even to form a sentence without using this cultural construct) a friend spoke to me about her suspicion of stories. It wasn’t till this weekend, with family and Ben the dog on lovely Lindisfarne, that I began to understand her disquiet. When another friend lent me Byron Katie’s book Loving What Is, I felt in her fourfold interrogation of the truth of stories a confirmation of this understanding.

The Persian Sufi poet, Rumi, gave us the inspired maxim “fihi ma fihi”: it is what it is. It struck me this weekend that on islands there is less danger of ignoring limitation. In cities everything, including relationships, can feel provisional. In my work with people and in my own life, my temptation is to reject the reality of what is in order to replace it with what I consider to be a more lovely or harmonious version. Most people call this lying. Other people call it advertising. Some even call it therapy. It’s dangerous.

I don’t believe in time. I do believe in change. In order for change to happen there must be a resignation to reality. This is why I believe nurses would make great politicians, they know that more important than the history is the presenting condition and that patients often are extremely creative when it comes to their biological autobiography. The friend that lent me Katie’s book spoke of this resignation to reality as ‘surrender’. I like that. A laying down of arms. It takes so much effort to keep up pretences about our physical surroundings, about our bodies in general and our health in particular, about our social relationships, about our heartfelt emotions, about mindfulness and soulforce.

One exercise I recommend is to take a story that has an emotive and gumption-destroying conclusion such as, “look at the mess you got me into!” and tell it differently. Maybe from another person’s point of view. Consciously move the position of the camera, the box inside our head that records the action and the dialogue. It can be written or acted out. Stories, I now realise, have as much power to trap as they do to uplift. When we realise that our treasured tales from our autobiography ain’t necessarily so, this can give us the freedom to accept present circumstances by allowing them to simply be what they are. That acceptance may already cause a shift.

We can’t go back in time because there is nothing to go back into. Changes happens, as Dr Robert M. Pirisg states in Lila (Ch.8, under Causation), because certain processes are valued. Instead of ignoring our present circumstances, wishing them away, blaming them on others or on a fictitious past time, we can value them. Choosing not blame but responsibility (the ability to respond) we release others and release the past and accept the gift of this present configuration of people and things, however difficult. Only here, only now is there potential to change. Value reality. Watch it change. All things do. Panta rhei.

colonial-sundial

Colonial Sundial photo by Ken Kistler on Public Domain