Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Emperors new clothes.

The only value that Christmas has for me is as a time for contemplation. Apart from the oppressive sense of being surrounded by an entirely unexamined relentless tide sweeping towards this unwelcome annual intrusion I give Christmas as little regard as possible. Christmas eve found me this year grappling with a thought that was hovering somewhere on the outer reaches of my consciousness trying to get my attention. I've learnt not to rush these things and it was enough that it registered its presence, all I had to do then was wait. Over the past couple of days I've felt I've been doing something wrong and knew this was just the advanced message from the incoming thought. I am an active Facebook user and found I had little say over Christmas and all my usual comments and critiques of goings on in the world fell silent.

I read a Guardian article about the Boxing day sales and was struck by the picture heading the article of faces filled with happiness and, indeed, delight and was forcefully struck that these people had chosen to be exactly where they were, in the middle of sale madness. I tried to think of something pithy to say about this, but found myself oddly silent in the cloud of awareness that anything I did say would be an exercise in futility and vanity.

I posted the following on Facebook:

"It's strange how well these two stories fit together. I don't understand the mindset behind either and I don't really want to. What they represent for me is the bizarre disconnect in which the world is enveloped. The American Indian comes to mind because they saw this disconnect in the false words of the white man and the genocide that followed the European invasion of America. It was only a new world in the mind of the European, in fact it was an old world, a world that was profoundly connected in a people who didn't just understand their connection to the land, in some intellectual way, but whose entire being was filled with that connectedness. It wasn't just a way of living, it was their entire being. I am not sure if the western mind has ever had this, but I am very sure we need it."

There is very little point me banging on at others about the disconnect in the vainglorious hope of persuading them to my point of view, as an educator I know this is not how learning works. This is what schools do and the world is littered with learning phobic people, such is the result of an imposed curriculum. Far from feeding the innate desire to learn with which every child is imbued, an imposed curriculum shuts people down. The problem, then, belongs to no one but me: educator, educate thyself.

So, here is my problem. The socio political, religious, corporate system that is destroying the world and economies the world over is beyond my grasp and the reach of my personal intervention. I can tell the Emperor he's got no clothes on to my hearts content, or to my frustrations vent, but if the Emperor is convinced of his finery there is bugger all I can do about it and it ceases to be my business. My business is with me and how I choose to live my life and where my focus needs to be. That is a problem more than big enough for me and for which I have few answers. I have been raised and educated with the disconnect and it has taken me most of my life to even begin to connect. Questioning why the Emperor has no clothes on is a futile attempt to understand madness, doing so is simply going in the wrong direction. So I find myself afraid, afraid that I do not know the way out of what appears to be a closed system, a system that encompasses all I know, in which I am a minnow deciding that it's time to be out of the stream. As an educator I know that all I need to do is stay with the problem, keep working the problem, the answers, if there are any, will come in their own time as my work matures enough to enable them to appear, and I am ready for them. Learning is about expanding consciousness and awareness, what it is not is a series of bottled answers that merely require rote learning. In order for change to occur I must change and facilitating that change is about facing in the right direction and exploring unfamiliar and unknown territory.

I know how hard this is and how easily I will lose focus and fall back into old ways. I also know that there's no point beating myself over the head when I discover I've lost focus. Old ways and old patterns are the bedrock of the past, not so easily left behind, so I need to be gentle with myself remembering the lessons of the past and that you can't beat knowledge into anyone, least of all myself.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Just a thought

Do not think for one moment that carbon emissions, wars or anything else we've created are destroying the world. The threat that exists in the world today has not changed one iota from the dawn of humanity. It is our thoughts, which become words and actions that are the real and only threat. If we sort our thoughts out, all else follows.

Saturday, September 06, 2008


Someone recently posed the following - 'Time to show what you believe in, this is my faith. trust, hope, loyalty, love, what is yours?' My response was kept short for reasons that do not matter here, and was this - 'My faith is in the mystery of life, so much effort has been put into explaining life, yet I have never found that helpful, but enjoying the mystery keeps me open and awake to life itself.'

I don't have faith in love, because there is no requirement of faith to be loving, it's something you get on and do, or not. Trust and loyalty the same, these are existential issues that have nothing to do with faith. Hope? I am not sure that has anything to do with faith either, it's a kind of wishful thinking, much as nostalgia is a kind of wistful thinking.

In responding by saying my faith is in the mystery of life, I think I allowed myself to be drawn into something I would have been wiser to stay away from, because my answer strikes me as bullshit. I am surrounded by the mystery of life, I don't have faith in it, it is so palpably real I have trouble keeping it within bounds that I can deal with.

In truth I have no idea what faith means, so to answer that I have faith in the mystery of life was a lie. I can't have faith in something if I don't know what faith is. Ask me what holds the sky up.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


To be human is to live with paradox. We each contain all that is required to be despots or saints, we have inside us all the virtues and all the deadly sins, they are common to all people, everywhere. I have both the ability to be selfless and selfish and must employ both if I am to be a well rounded human being. If I have no regard for myself and my personal needs, if I never consider, 'What about me', I am a damaged creature at best and will never function well. Yet I am frequently considering others and doing selfless acts, thinking selfless thoughts, that are of no direct benefit to me and, indeed, are sometimes costly to me. Such acts are for the benefit of others, near and dear ones or even perfect strangers.

If I ran on instinct alone, some kind of primal survival mechanism, I do not doubt that I would at some point probably kill in order to promote or maintain my own survival, that I do not is a mark of my humanity. I am much more than an instinctive creature and I manage the vast panoply of paradox that is life through my reason, intellect, compassion, intuition, sensitivity, care, consideration and so on.

I balance, 'What about me', and consideration for the needs of others. How well I do that is down to being self aware and through having developed the habit of self honesty. The greater my self awareness, the greater my ability to handle paradox and the conflict that can and does arise from time to time.

I am an angry man and have lived a difficult and pain filled life. Although much of my inner distress is the direct result of the actions of others in my life, if I choose the path of blame and accusation, I resolve nothing, I just become angrier and eventually bitter. It avails me nothing to hold the cause of my distress responsible for dealing with it. It has become and is my distress and is something I must manage. Whatever cards life has given me, is the deck I must deal from. Anything else is just fanciful maundering. I cannot indulge in 'what if?'. No child asks to be sexually abused, I know I did not, yet the paradox is that whilst I did not ask for it, I must deal with it, I must own all that it has caused inside me. Where once I had no choice, now I have choice, and it is in exercising choice that freedom exists, if it exists at all.

If I am to be free, I must acknowledge that I am not free, in so many ways. Freedom is not a once found always available issue, it is an ongoing process, a daily reality of the tension of being both free and un-free. In acknowledging I am in bondage to some feeling, memory or situation that has pressed all my buttons and on which I have locked like a guided missile, I must either remain the prisoner of each of those thoughts, feelings or situations, or engage with the process of releasing myself in some way. Some situations require action on my part, perhaps just a refusal to allow the situation to continue, others require acceptance and an acknowledgment that I can do nothing and therefore must let it be and accept it for what it is, like it or not. Such tension is normal, that's life, how well we each deal with paradox and the sometimes overwhelming tensions that arise in life, decides how well we are able to enjoy life and live it to the full.

In embracing paradox there is liberty, but it is hard won, just as accepting that life is hard makes it remarkably easier to deal with. That's reality.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Comic picture art.

I am once again exploring comic picture art, this time with a technique I have developed since my earlier guddling below. I'm much more happy with this style and am daring to think in terms of a story board and a serious attempt at some comic action.

The imposition of science and reason.

I took a picture of the above little creature yesterday in my garden and posted it on a photographic forum with the title, 'Little furry friend'. A member asked, 'any idea what kind it is?' to which I replied, 'Someone suggested today it might be a Red Admiral, but I am as ignorant as the day is long about such things, only a recent country boy. I'm still in the generic stage, trees, plants, flowers, grass, a low tech yokel.' Another member responded with, ' I think what you might have here is actually a moth - Rusty Tussock Moth or Vapourer Orgyia antiqua.'

As I read these responses I discovered something about myself. I am entirely incurious about what kind of caterpillar/moth/butterfly it might be and will almost certainly not retain the information that it is a Rusty Tussock Moth and definitely not the
'Vapourer Orgyia antiqua' bit. It is not yet, as pictured, a moth of any description.

It may matter to some people, gardeners, perhaps, and scientists, to know what kind of creature this is, but that isn't why I took the picture and it isn't how I function as a person. In naming this creature and supplying other information that I have not bothered to include here, this person has distracted and, I feel, detracted, from the story the picture is telling. I took the picture because I appreciated this little creature, it's colour, the light and, indeed, the vibrant life going on in and around it and me.

I do appreciate that people have gone to a great deal of trouble to name this creature and all (as many as they have 'discovered') the creatures that fill our world, but I have to wonder what real relevance that had in this case and in this situation? Does it matter in the least to know that in this picture is a Rusty Tussock Moth, or, if it is relevant, is it not equally relevant to ask what leaf it is on? Why be curious about the moth and not the leaf? If I knew what leaf it's on I might assume that if I could spot the plant again I might find another such creature on it. But again, I have no real interest in taking another shot of such a creature, my only interest was in this one, in that moment and in the very particular situation I was in.

I feel oddly let down in all this, as if science and reason have somehow intruded once again where they should not have done without my permission and without thought or consideration. I am, in fact, offended. This is my picture and the imposition of science and reason was entirely unnecessary and unasked for.

The picture requires no more information than it contains to be the very picture it is. If the viewer is curious about what kind of creature it is or what leaf it is on, then that is entirely their business and none of mine. And there's an end to it.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Returning to intuition.

We do not start life as reasoning creatures, we begin our process of learning intuitively, absorbing, osmosing, observing, feeling, doing, being. We do not begin with a language or any explanations of the world we have entered, and reason has no place in us until we learn to reason some way down the road. It is perhaps the very fact that we do not have reason available to us that we learn so much in such a short time. Within two years we have not only mastered an incredible array of motor skills, including, amazingly, walking, but have learnt a language from scratch, having nothing on which to build as we do later in learning a foreign language. I am not sure, were reason available to us at that age, that such an incredible feat of learning would be possible. It is only once we have learnt to reason that we can decide something is difficult, or perhaps too difficult. Young children clearly get frustrated some times, but a well nurtured child will persist, day by day, for a child is naturally an intuitive learning being.

Sadly, the vast majority of us are taught to put aside that intuitive ability. As we grow older and begin to be 'educated', we are taught through a process of reason to use and rely on our intellect. It is a sad failing of schooling that intuitive learning has little or no place in education.

Intuition is still with us, though, we are still impacted intuitively by the world around us. We do not use reason or intellect when we see an awesome sunset or experience the majesty of a storm, it is our being that responds to beauty, we absorb it pre-reason, pre-intellect, in an intuitive, free way. At any point on our journey we can go back to intuitive learning and re-develop it. There are many ways to engage with the world intuitively, through meditation, art, music, creative writing and we can re-learn to be in the world in an intuitive way, to shut down our inner noise and absorb the world around us, to be in it and a part of it, rather than a mere observer.

Just taking off our shoes and walking on grass engages us intuitively, in a tactile experience that requires no inner processing, or a crawl on hands and knees, climbing a mountain, canoeing a river, swimming. The world awaits us, each leaf, each blade of grass, each breath of wind, each moment is ours.

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Friday, June 06, 2008

Here's a thought.

Study any tree or leaf and consider, would you ever call a tree or leaf a bad tree or leaf no matter what time and weather had done to it? Nature's odd because whilst the effects of nature can sometimes be disastrous, I'd look pretty silly if I said that nature was bad. There is really nothing bad in nature, it does what it does and everything has its place, even if I don't understand what that is. Nature is perfect all the time, doing what nature does, no matter the consequences of the sometimes cataclysmic upheavals that take place in nature from time to time.

The complications start with us humans, it is we who define things as good or bad, and some things certainly are good or bad and we must stand up for those things or we become lacklustre, lifeless beings lacking any real substance. But it seems to me we take it too far. When it comes to thoughts and feelings we seem to apply our good and bad criteria and come up with some pretty wrong headed conclusions. You may disagree with me and everything I stand for, but that does not make me wrong or you right. We are all a work in progress on a vast journey of discovery.

My thoughts are not static, I have changed dramatically over time and am certainly not the same person I was at 16 or even 50, my being has changed and it has changed despite my frequent resistance to that change. And here's a thing, I have never once thought my way through a process of change, even though I may have been frantically thinking all the time. Every moment of change that has occurred in my life has come about through a eureka moment, when all the thoughts, ideas and events of my life have precipitated a moment or a process of enlightenment, of breakthrough. They have a unique savour, a real 'wow' feeling and they have taught me to be less frenetic in my thinking because they come despite me. it's almost as if I get in the way too much of the time. I have learnt to trust growth as an intuitive process rather than a rational process.

This is all part of the new paradigm. We have come through an age when science and reason were supreme, and it is only relatively recently that science has come to realise that there is no such thing as dispassionate observation. Quantum physics has taught us that the observer is part of the life of the observed and cannot be separated from it. There are limits to intellect and reason, they are incapable of addressing all reality, just as one cannot reason ones way through grief, for example, one must go through the process, or shut it out and down. Reason and intellect cannot help us become intuitive beings, or to experience the world in an intuitive way. Reason and intellect are descriptive, intuition is something else, holistic, a way of being. It is broader and deeper than our faculties of reason can deal with.

Zen and other paths of enlightenment have long known this. Zen in particular is all about the 'Ah, ah' moment, the moment when you 'get it'. I feel we have been the prisoners of science, religion and reason for so long, it's hard to break out, but the process of breaking out is what is happening, and I am grateful to live in such times and in this place to be a part of, and engaged with, that process.

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Out with the old.

I find myself in the position of considering another way forward. I have been protesting against the old way for so many years it is second nature to me, corrupt politics, corrupt corporations, corrupt wars and of course it is right to protest and I shall continue to do so by whatever direct means are available to me. However, all that is not good enough, it fails to address that there is a new paradigm, one that I have been embracing for years yet have never found the internal space to explore or develop, caught up, as I have been, in censuring the old paradigm.

The new paradigm is that of a person centred, positive, moral and ethical way of being, one in which I embrace and accept the responsibility for my thoughts and actions and being on what is a jewel of a world over which those who are so very power hungry have not yet gained complete mastery and never will. I do not want to spend as much time in protest, so much as I desire to grow and to learn and to increase my own personal sense of worth and value as a human being.

We are all quite simply wonderful creatures and it is time, I feel, that I spent more time exploring my wonder than I have spent in protest against those who seek to denigrate our life and worth.

I have spent so many years feeling lost and confused and I have been slow to realise that protest can never establish who I am, it falls to me to 'be' who I am and to learn to be comfortable in my own skin no matter what anyone else does or thinks.

Protest is reactive and I now feel that a more proactive way of being is the only way forward. It is not going to be easy, old habits and all that, but it is time and timely to change.