Friday, 25 December 2009

Christmas Blessing

Night parts her cloak 
And out of darkness
He is reborn,

A divine breath
And Earth reaches up
To feel His presence.

Circle of Light,
The new Son is risen
And soon all is Light.

Dressed in crimson,
May encircling angels dance
Always by your side

As you merge with Him
Within the flowing fountain
Of eternity.

Take this sapphire bowl.
In its waters you hold the sky
And your reflection.

Lips upon its rim,
You are now and ever new again.
Drink deep and be blessed!


Monday, 21 December 2009

Christmas No. 1 (Rage against the Machine)

A song against authority, against brutality, and against the banality that corporations feed the public with... has beaten off the drivel from X factor and made it to number one on the Christmas charts in the UK! I think that's encouraging. :^) To be honest, it's not the kind of song I would put on my CD player, but it's the statement that matters.

They use force to make you do what the deciders have decided you must do.
Killing in the name of!
Some of those that were forces are the same that burn crosses.
And now you do what they told ya.
Those who died are justified, for wearing the badge, they're the chosen whites.
And now you do what they told ya, now you're under control.
F*** you, I won't do what you tell me.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Robert Nighthawk

Born 100 years ago today, November 30th 1909... Robert Nighthawk (born Robert Lee McCullom) was a rambling man famed for pioneering the slide on the electric guitar. Though his heart belonged in the Mississippi Delta, the place which continuously called him home, he often traveled to Chicago, playing on Sunday afternoons at the famed open-air market along Maxwell Street. The haunting tone enamored a trio of players who took the electric slide to new heights and whose own fame surpassed that of Robert's. That trio was Earl Hooker, Elmore James and Muddy Waters. He died in Helena, Arkansas, the town where he was born, in 1967.

Here are two videos, the first "My Sweet Lovin' Woman" for the photos, the second "Sweet Black Angel" for the music, both recorded in 1948. (Edit: video replaced by a different live recording)

The Mystic's Dream (Loreena McKennitt) ♥♫

A clouded dream on an earthly night
Hangs upon the crescent moon
A voiceless song in an ageless light
Sings at the coming dawn
Birds in flight are calling there
Where the heart moves the stones
It's there that my heart is longing for
All for, for the love of you

A painting hangs on an ivy wall
Nestled in the emerald moss
The eyes declare a truce of trust
Then it draws me far away
Where deep in the desert twilight
Sand melts in pools of the sky
When darkness lays her crimson cloak
Your lamps will call, call me home

And so it's there my homage's due
Clutched by the still of the night
And now I feel, feel you move
And every breath, breath is full
So it's there my homage's due
Clutched by the still of the night
Even the distance feels so near
All for, for the love of you.

Loch Lomond (John Mcdermott)

By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes,
Where the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond
Where me and my true love were ever wont to gae,
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond.

O ye’ll tak’ the high road and I’ll tak’ the low road,
And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye.
But me and my true love will never meet again,
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond.

‘Twas there that we parted in yon shady glen,
On the steep, steep side o’ Ben Lomond.
Where in deep purple hue, the hieland hills we view,
And the moon comin’ out in the gloamin’.

The wee birdies sing and the wild flowers spring,
And in sunshine the waters are sleeping:
But the broken heart, it kens nae second spring again,
Tho’ the waefu’ may cease from their greeting.

Underwater Love (Smoke City)

This must be underwater love
The way I feel it slipping all over me
This must be underwater love
The way I feel it

O que que é esse amor, d'água (What's this water love)
Deve sentir muito parecido a esse amor (It must feel a lot like this love)

This is it
Underwater love
It is so deep
So beautifully liquid

Esse amor com paixão, ai (This passionate love, ah)
Esse amor com paixão, ai que coisa (This passionate love, ah what a thing)

After the rain comes sun
After the sun comes rain again
After the rain comes sun
After the sun comes rain again

This must be underwater love
The way I feel it slipping all over me
This must be underwater love
The way I feel it

O que que é esse amor, d'água (What's this water love)
Eu sei que eu não quero mais nada (All I know's that I don't want anything else)

Follow me now
To a place you only dream of
Before I came along

When I first saw you
I was deep in clear blue water
The sun was shining
Calling me to come and see you
I touched your soft skin
And you jumped in with your eyes closed
And a smile upon your face

Você vem, você vai (you come, you go)
Você vem e cai (you come and you fall)
E vem aqui pra cá (and come right here)
Porque eu quero te beijar na sua boca (because I want to kiss you on your mouth)
Que coisa louca (what a crazy thing)
Vem aqui pra cá (come right here)
Porque eu quero te beijar na sua boca (because I want to kiss you on your mouth)
Ai que boca gostosa (ah, what a delicious mouth)

After the rain comes sun
After the sun comes rain again
After the rain comes sun
After the sun comes rain again

Cai cai e tudo tudo cai (Fall, fall and everything falls)
Tudo cai pra lá e pra cá (everything falls over there and over here)
Pra lá e pra cá (over there and over here)
E vamos nadar (and we will swim)
Y vamos nadar e tudo tudo dá (let us swim and everything is possible)

This must be underwater love
The way I feel it slipping all over me
This must be underwater love
The way I feel it

Oh oh
Oh underwater love
This underwater love
This underwater love.

(Video by Hilde Susan.)

Saturday, 28 November 2009

A Deeper Calling

Black is the night of the soul 
That knows not its path of redemption.
Blacker still the day untold 
That's lost in dark reflection.
Cast off these robes that clothe in doubt, 
On wings unseen, spread forth and fly. 
Cast off the brilliance of the light 
And vanish into orange sky. 
Joy invisible imparts
Its tremulous grace upon the world,
Joyous in its own perception, 
The image of the mind unfurled. 
I am as felt in silent prayer, 
The resilient one in stillness found. 
I am the air on which you walk, 
An echo shining on the ground. 

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Homecoming Haikus

Venus reclining;
One leg outstretched she beckons me
And I take her side.
Somersaulting blind,
I radiate force from within,
And life brings me home.
Face down free falling,
The parachute carries me safe,
Clear of the watch-tower.
The secret is Love,
Unconditional, everlasting,
One world evermore.


Caravanserai (Loreena McKennitt)

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Hammer To Fall (Queen - Live Aid 1985)

Here we stand or here we fall
History won't care at all
Make the bed light the light
Lady Mercy won't be home tonight yeah

You don't waste no time at all
Don't hear the bell but you answer the call
It comes to you as to us all
We're just waiting
For the hammer to fall

Oh ev'ry night and every day
A little piece of you is falling away
But lift your face the Western Way
Build your muscles as your body decays yeah

Toe your line and play their game yeah
Let the anaesthetic cover it all
Till one day they call your name
You know it's time for the hammer to fall

Rich or poor or famous
For your truth it's all the same (oh no oh no)
Lock your door the rain is pouring
Through your window pane (oh no)
Baby now your struggle's all in vain

For we who grew up tall and proud
In the shadow of the mushroom cloud
Convinced our voices can't be heard
We just wanna scream it louder and louder louder

What the hell we fighting for?
Just surrender and it won't hurt at all
You just got time to say your prayers
While your waiting for the hammer to hammer to fall

It's gonna fall know..hammer to fall
While you're waiting for the hammer to fall

Give it to me one more time

Above The Clouds (Cyndi Lauper)

There's a place where the sun breaks through
And the wind bites cold and hard
Stings my ears and
Tears my eyes
When the day starts to shout out loud

Stand tall
And glide
When you're all alone in the crowd
Don't fall
Don't hide
When you walk above the clouds
When you walk above the clouds

When the light is against your face
And your smile is soft and sound
That's when you tell me all your fears
and all your dreams
So proud

I try and tell you
to keep your head upright
Don't swing your sword and shield against the night
Don't block your blessings, boy
You don't have to fight
You don't have to fight

Saturday, 21 November 2009

The Individual & The Universal

This is an off-shoot from Safeguarding the Individual . The following extracts were too long for the comments thread when imported over to Blogger, so they deserve a separate blog.

Erich Fromm on his Credo, from "Beyond Chains of Illusion".

"I believe that there are two ways of arriving at the choice of the good. The first is that of duty and obedience to moral commands... The other way is to develop a taste for and a sense of well-being in doing what is good or right. By taste for well-being, I do not mean pleasure in the Benthamian or Freudian sense. I refer to the sense of heightened aliveness in which I confirm my powers and my identity.

I believe that education means to acquaint the young with the best heritage of the human race. But while much of this heritage is expressed in words, it is effective only if these words become reality in the person of the teacher and in the practice and structure of society. Only the idea which has materialized in the flesh can influence man; the idea which remains a word only changes words...

I believe that society has both a furthering and an inhibiting function. Only in co-operation with others and in the process of work, does man develop his powers, only in the historical process does he create himself. But at the same time, most societies until now have served the aims of the few who wanted to use the many... Only when society's aim will have become identical with the aims of humanity, will society cease to cripple man and to further evil...

I believe that every man represents humanity. We are different as to intelligence, health, talents. Yet we are all one...

I believe that man can visualize the experience of the whole universal man only by realizing his individuality and not by trying to reduce himself to an abstract, common denominator.
Man's task in life is precisely the paradoxical-one of realizing his individuality and at the same time transcending it and arriving at the experience of universality. Only the fully developed individual self can drop the ego.

I believe that the One World which is emerging can come into existence only if a New Man comes into being - a man who has emerged froth the archaic ties of blood and soil, and who feels himself to be the son of man, a citizen of the world whose loyalty is to the human race and to life, rather than to any exclusive part of it; a man who loves his country because he loves mankind, and whose judgement is not warped by tribal loyalties.

I believe that man's growth is a process of continuous birth, of continuous awakening... The great leaders of the human race are those who have awakened man from his half-slumber. The great enemies of humanity are those who put it to sleep, and it does not matter whether their sleeping potion is the worship of God or that of the Golden Calf.

I believe that the development of man in the last four thousand years of history is truly awe inspiring. He has developed his reason to a point where he is solving the riddles of nature, and has emancipated himself from the blind power of the natural forces. But at the very moment of his greatest triumph, when he is at the threshold of a new world, he has succumbed to the power of the very things and organizations he has created. He has invented a new method of producing, and has made production and distribution his new idol. He worships the work of his hands and has reduced himself to being the servant of things. He uses the name of God, of freedom, of humanity, of socialism, in vain; he prides himself on his powers - the bombs and the machines - to cover up his human bankruptcy; he boasts of his power to destroy in order to hide his human impotence.

I believe that the only force that can save us from self destruction is reason; ...

I believe that reason cannot be effective unless man has hope and belief.
Goethe was right when he said that the deepest distinction between various historical periods is that between belief and disbelief; and when he added that all epochs in which belief dominates are brilliant, uplifting, and fruitful, while those in which disbelief dominates vanish because nobody cares to devote himself to the unfruitful.

No doubt the thirteenth century, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, were ages of belief and hope. I am afraid that the Western World in the twentieth century deceives itself about the fact that it has lost hope and belief.
Truly, where there is no belief in man, the belief in machines will not save us from vanishing; on the contrary, this 'belief' will only accelerate the end. Either the Western World will be capable of creating a renaissance of humanism in which the fullest developments of man's humanity, and not production and work, are the central issues -- or the West will perish as many other great civilizations have.

I believe that to recognise the truth is not primarily a matter of intelligence but a matter of character. The most important element is the courage to say no, to disobey the commands of power and of public opinion; to erase being asleep and to become human; to wake up and lose the sense of helplessness and futility. Eve and Prometheus are the two great rebels whose very 'crimes' liberated mankind. But the capacity to say "no' meaningfully, implies the capacity to say 'yes' meaningfully. The `yes' to God is the "no" to Caesar; the 'yes' to man is the `no' to all those who want to enslave, exploit, and stultify him.

I believe in freedom, in man's right to be himself, to assert himself and to fight all those who try to prevent him from being himself. But freedom is more than the absence of violent oppression. It is more than 'freedom from.' It is 'freedom to' – the freedom to become independent; the freedom to be much, rather than to have much, or to use things and people.

I believe that neither Western capitalism nor Soviet or Chinese communism can solve the problem of the future. They both create bureaucracies which transform man into a thing. Man must bring the forces of nature and of society under his conscious and rational control; but not under the control of a bureaucracy which administers things and man, but under the control of the free and associated producers who administer things and subordinate them to man, who is the measure of all things. ...

I believe that one of the most disastrous mistakes in individual and social life consists in being caught in stereotyped alternatives...

I believe that man must get rid of illusions that enslave and paralyse him; that he must become aware of the reality inside and, outside of him in order to create a world which needs no illusions. Freedom and independence can be achieved only when the chains of illusion are broken."

I could not have said it better!!! :^) And he sees no contradiction in the seeming paradox between individuality and oneness, which is reassuring. So how I'm wondering now do we turn words into practice... the eternal problem. An idea that comes to me is to put value on human freedom. But like he said in the first paragraph, it either requires something to be imposed from above or what he sees as the only real way which can genuinely succeed, namely the collective awakening of humanity itself. I'm not so confident about the latter - firstly, because it only takes a handful of troublemakers to cause fear, anger and collective falling asleep again, and secondly because of our belief in machines and systems being too great and outweighing our belief in humanity.

Reading this three years later in 2012, I feel... 
let us be more optimistic!

Photo courtesy of Hille: from Japan, 'Entering A New Dimension'

(Eckhart Tolle)
Those unable to look beyond form become even more deeply entrenched in their beliefs, that is to say, in their mind. We are witnessing not only an unprecedented influx of consciousness at this time but also an entrenchment and intensification of the ego. Some religious institutions will be open to the new consciousness; others will harden their doctrinal positions and become part of all those other man-made structures through which the collective ego will defend itself and "fight back." ... But the ego is destined to dissolve, and all its ossified structures, whether they be religious or other institutions, corporations or governments, will disintegrate from within, not matter how deeply entrenched they appear to be. The most rigid structures, the most impervious to change, will collapse first. This has already happened in the case of Soviet Communism.

(Buddhist thought)
To bring Peace to All, one must first discipline and control one's own mind.

(Jacob Burkhardt)
"The essence of tyranny is the denial of complexity".

Excerpts from John Ringland on the Collective Ego
...important lessons that can be learnt from spirituality, especially meditation in all its many forms, which are a subtle and much misunderstood science of the ego and the path from egoic crisis to balance, harmony and liberation. It is normally applied to the context of individual humans, which are civilisations of cells governed by an egoic power structure operating within the mind, but its lessons can be usefully adapted to civilisations of humans governed by an egoic power structure operating within the culture. ... Overcoming of the tyranny of the ego, liberation of the organism and alignment with the holistic reality is the true purpose of all spirituality. Hence, whether made explicit or not, overcoming naïve realism lies at the heart of all mystic traditions, all spiritual paradigms and at the core of all genuine religions.

Cooperative Ego
The most common method for overcoming commonsense realism is to practice the process of letting the impressions arise whilst not believing in their separate objective reality, this is meditation, which is simple and sure to succeed in the long term. The collective parallel of this would be for governments and organisations to practice monitoring situations without instantly assuming that, for instance, when they see a threatening nation that it is obviously exactly and only that; but instead to also look into the deeper human side and all the other possible sides. Don't just immediately categorise things based on pre-existing prejudices and then believe in those judgements from then on. They might not be an aggressive enemy but just people who desperately need help or perhaps its blowback from people who are outraged by previous atrocities that the regime denies, even to itself or perhaps its a delusional collective ego and a little diplomatic psychotherapy may be all that it needs. Harassing them will only lead to further blowback and turn them into embittered enemies whereas helping them or facing up to their grievances might turn them into future allies. Willing cooperation is always superior to coerced submission.

Another general approach toward overcoming commonsense realism is jnana yoga (yoga of supreme knowledge) where, with one's whole awareness, not just the intellect, one subtly enquires into the mind, the self and the process of commonsense realism until one 'sees' through it; this can lead to rapid liberation for those who are so inclined to it. A collective parallel would be for a regime to "turn inward" and invest great effort into understanding itself, the society, the culture and the psychology of holistic awareness and to cease investing effort into deceiving itself, dominating the society and culture and developing the psychology of manipulation. This could result in rapid flourishing for a civilisation as it gained true self-awareness and holistic self-command through informed cooperation rather than deceptive manipulation.

Pathological Ego
The methods just mentioned require the cooperation of the ego or regime so they cannot be used to resist and diminish pathological fascism that is already full blown and seeking only to secure its dominance. Other more subversive methods are required to set up a parallel personality that is gradually energised until its voice of reason begins to overcome the psycho-babble of the collective ego. Its spread will initially be slow because the collective trance will be strong but as it spreads and as the psychotic nature of the regime becomes undeniable it will spread all the more easily, eventually building up into an avalanche of reason and sanity that will sweep the delusional discourse aside. But exactly what tactics are required?

If the regime uses information warfare and psychological warfare to generate a delusional discourse the dissidents must use guerrilla versions of these. Whilst the regime has far greater numbers and a far louder voice it relies solely on delusion, denial and fear whereas the guerrillas can use truth, reality and people's innate instinct for reason, justice and survival. In the short term fear is a powerful weapon but in the longer term the guerrilla's weapons are far superior and effective even though their numbers are far fewer and their voice far weaker. What they have to share is something that people want and once they have it they want to share it whereas the regime must deceive people and force things upon them. The regime may have the media and a head start but the guerrilla message will spread of its own accord. ... The groups should share information but not know too much about each other, other than what is required to conduct, develop and spread the discourse. It's not about the participant's egos, it doesn't matter who you are it's about what understanding you can share with others and receive from others.

Image of Transformation
An "image of transformation" is essentially a simple and compelling idea that is easily conveyed, easily understood and that makes sense of the whole situation. The collection of hard evidence and the development of rational arguments is an important parallel activity and will become more important as the operation progresses but whilst ever the delusional discourse is dominant these are essentially powerless to influence the delusional discourse which is already inoculated against rational argument. The image of transformation implicit in this analysis could be stated as: "All complex systems form egos much like your own ego which is just a centralised power structure within your body/mind, and our human power structures are the ego of the planetary system (Gaia). This ego has become unbalanced and thus Gaia is headed for a nervous breakdown unless we bring some sanity into the situation. Imagine what it is like to be a regime using a nation as its body and what it is like to be a cell within your own body where your ego is the regime using the body to pursue it agendas. Then look upon the events in the world and see them from a fresh perspective thereby gaining a deeper understanding of global events. I urge you to hold this idea in your mind and look through it at the world, it will help you make sense of many things."

Given this simple image and a little imaginative observation many of the events of the world and their wider systemic pattern become understandable. Even without conscious effort to look through it, if the person doesn't immediately reject it or forget it, it will sit in the back of their mind and subtly inform their subconscious as it interprets and constructs the cognitive impression that they assume to be the world, thus their world will subtly change. Certain connections between things will become clearer and certain lies will wield less influence on them and gradually they will come to understand what is happening around them. This subconscious understanding makes the image compelling and likely to spread, leading to deeper understanding as more people input their personal perspectives and experiences into the growing discourse.

Different images of transformation can be used in different contexts to convey the basic understanding at a level that their audience is able to absorb. As this "sinks in" people will gradually become more able to approach the rational arguments and evidence. Before long the situation will become obvious and undeniable to all but the most heavily conditioned minds. This marks a "tipping point" or shift in the mood or conscience of the whole society and the regime will begin to face increasing resistance and non-compliance throughout all levels of society and the delusions and other mechanisms that the regime relies on will simply not work anymore. When the people no longer mindlessly obey and the agents of oppression no longer mindlessly enforce the will of the regime, the revolution has been all but won and the regime finds itself robbed of its power base without the need for violent conflict.

Collective Meditation
The ultimate goal of meditation is to overcome "commonsense realism" or our deepest habit of confusing the subjective objects of sense perception with objective external objects. Upon rational enquiry the assumption is easily seen to be just an assumption. The collective parallel would be to stop taking collective opinions as obvious truths and start challenging them. For example, just because some person or group is labelled by the media/government as a 'terrorist' doesn't mean they actually are and just because the government is portrayed to most as their protector doesn't mean it actually is. When this attitude spreads and become entrenched the regime cannot wield its manipulative lies anymore because people will have enquired their way through them and the lies will only become further proof of the regimes bankruptcy and will give insight into its psyche and strategy. It will become an "emperor with no clothes".

The essence of meditation is to turn the mind on itself with sincere and open awareness and the collective parallel with this would be to turn the culture on itself and to begin a process of sincere and open discourse on the true nature of the culture. True self awareness relies on true skepticism, which is open minded enquiry taking nothing as obvious fact until clear and compelling understanding arises of its own accord. Many people confuse skepticism with cynicism but they are complete opposites, this is an example of an important distinction that has become blurred thereby corrupting the public discourse; it is a major aspect of the web of deceit.

In meditation one should avoid all identification with habitual thoughts, desires and aversions and the collective parallel would be to avoid traditional discourses, propaganda, catch-phrases, cynical denial tactics and all manner of conditioned stimuli that condition our thought processes. One should return to basics and expressing things directly rather than through catch-phrases and propagandist euphemisms. In places such as India, mystic, spiritual and religious analogies are the most effective ones but in the West and any Christian, Muslim or Jewish societies that are estranged from their mystic core and caught up in politicised dogmatic religion it is best to be careful with this approach.

Undertaking these simple 'spiritual' practices will help unravel the entrenched systemic confusion and allow a coherent discourse to arise, thereby allowing wisdom to flow through the culture rather than self-deceptive propaganda. These 'meditative' practices are simple but they are powerful; they can result in a state described as 'stillness', which is simply an absence of agitated fear mongering, manic distraction seeking and manipulative advertising. This creates a space free of conditioning in which creative genius can arise and inspiration can flow, thereby channelling our hidden potential into the world. When this stillness spreads the culture is thereby returned to the people and wisdom spreads leading to deepening awareness, resulting in true understanding and harmony, which is called 'enlightenment'. When the groups and eventually the entire society is not driven by delusion people may engage coherently with reality and cooperate in very intricately creative and organic ways giving rise to a creative flourishing in which things undreamt of by confused fascist regimes can happen. These are what mystics call ‘miracles’; they are not 'supernatural', they are in fact the natural flowering of a healthy living being such as a person or a society. They only seem 'supernatural' and 'unreal' because our understanding of nature and reality is so limited.

As a form of resistance these practices of awakening cannot be enforced in a fascist mechanistic way; that would be like trying to force oneself and others to meditate, which only leads to resistance and failure. The way is to quietly spread the understanding amongst those that are open and able to understand. Don't get caught up in only fighting the insanity, that is merely acting out a role within the insane drama, and don't get caught up in believing it either (beware it is contagious), but instead work in 'parallel' gradually spreading awareness. If one pushes the message too hard and carelessly it can create strong defensive responses from people who are too conditioned to be open to it, which can result in hostility and a spreading discourse of inoculation against the growing ideas so be careful how you communicate things. Don't come across as pushy or condescending, be humble, helpful and inviting when speaking to a broad audience. As this discourse of holistic reason and awareness spreads it becomes easier to spread. This forms a parallel personality within the society; nurturing the Higher Self of the system rather than the ego of the system.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Silas Marner - George Eliot

Genre:Literature & Fiction
Tagline:A Tale Woven with Lessons in Faith, Love & Community

This is a beautiful moral tale. I think George Eliot must be one of my favourite authors from what I've read of her, and this book was apparently her own favourite among her works. It's certainly the shortest and so has often been assigned for children to study, though parts of it might not be appreciated by children, especially the sections of adult conversation which though they set the scene are thoroughly boring even for an adult. Their purpose is atmospheric, to give a feel for village life, a canvas for the beautiful and simple plot as well as acting as a pause to hold the reader wrapped in suspense. As well as canvas and painting, there are also beautiful moments when the author steps back to look at what she has drawn and surveys the deeper themes, helping the reader empathize with the state of mind of her characters and it is these philosophical sections which I loved most about her work. 

The book is set in the village of Raveloe in pre-industrial Britain and centres around the short-sighted solitary weaver Silas Marner who goes about his daily work with methodical efficiency earning plenty of gold for his labour, but living a frugal life as an outsider in his community and figure of suspicion. We learn immediately that he had chosen to leave the town where he grew up having been accused wrongly of a crime he did not commit, abandoned by his betrothed and lost his faith. The chasm of emptiness within is filled with the accumulation of gold which he earns. Repetition breeds a want and want becomes a habit. "The same sort of process," the author muses, "has perhaps been undergone by wiser men when they have been cut off from faith and love - only instead of a loom and a heap of guineas, they have had some erudite research, some ingenious project, or some well-knit theory."

It is a clinging life. The gold serves no purpose beyond it except as the object of his clinging. What if the gold were suddenly taken away? The emptiness this time would be replaced by grief and the love of money irretrievably broken, but it would also create a receptive state. Could anything replace the loss? "We see no white-winged angels now. But yet men are led away from threatening destruction: a hand is put into theirs which leads them forth gently towards a calm and bright land, so that they look no more backwards; and the hand may be a little child's." Or as the frontispiece reads, quoting lines of Wordsworth, 

"...a child more than all other gifts 
That earth can offer to declining man, 
Brings hope with it and forward-looking thoughts".

The other main character of the book is the indecisive eldest son Godfrey of the wealthy Squire Cass. He is desperately in love with the beautiful Nancy Lammeter, but some terrible mistake in his past, a Damocles sword that hangs over his head, prevents him from pursuing his affection. He stands at the crossroads between good and evil, and having been tempted by the latter, tries to tread water, delaying the inevitable revelation of his secret, hoping with all his heart for some miracle of Chance that can save him so that Nancy's smiling love may draw him safe to the green banks of paradise. In the meantime though, he is in an unreceptive state and terribly unhappy. But blessed Chance can bear fruit in a way quite contrary to the karmic principle of an "orderly sequence by which the seed brings forth a crop after its kind". 

Despite the hand of fate working in mysterious ways, Eliot's story is very karmic. As well as Silas Marner's miserliness and Godfrey's indecisiveness, Nancy too, though an epitome of goodness, has what Eliot no doubt perceived as a terrible flaw, namely a conformity to principles of what is "right" and a religious fatalism that for example three days of rain preventing her purpose would act for her as a sign of God's will against it, but this was a flaw more generally of her times. As the good but uneducated Dolly says with soothing gravity in reassuring Silas Marner, "it's like the night and the morning, and the sleeping and the waking, and the rain and the harvest - one goes and the other comes and we know nothing how nor where. We may strive and scrat and fend, but it's little we can do arter all - the big things come and go wi' no striving o' our 'n - they do, that they do". 

Eliot was a humanist, believing in faith and love, without believing in God. Godfrey is literally free of God, and Silas Marner too, which leads both men astray, but through the power of love they are redeemed.

Safeguarding the Individual

There are many who use the phrase “We are all One”. They mean to promote our sense of community and to emphasize our inter-connectedness on this planet we share, to encourage us to look after each other and the world we live in and not pursure purely selfish motives. But in a greater sense they also mean to say that we are literally One, the idea being to transcend the ego and realize the true Self of which we are but a part. We are but a part of a whole which has been fractured and divided, separated from our original nature, and the spiritual path is one of returning again to what we always were and in realizing that our separation from it and from each other are merely an illusion. The analogy of the dreaming vase, told by rumijoy on Multiply captures this idea beautifully.

However, I believe this notion of Oneness is in danger of being misunderstood and misapplied to promote homogoneity and loss of the individual which is quite contrary to any mystical union.

On a grander scale, globalization and the international flow of money has seen an erosion of culture and identity, not because of the accompanying diversity and multi-culturalism, but because of the subsequent swallowing up of one culture by another in a monocultural Oneness, the triumph of that which is cost-efficient over that which is poor and unproductive without much regard to the longer-term happiness of society. It’s ironic that Europe in particular should be guilty of this kind of homogenization as entailed by European Union directives, when the French are known to pronounce “
Vive la différence!”. It can almost be seen as a response to the fear of being swamped by something else, America, so we can see this as an example of fear undermining the fabric of true diversity and driving people and nations to conform.

There are no doubt advantages to conformity. The loss of the nation’s sense of self also means a decline in patriotism, in the egotism of its leaders and thus in the likelihood of war between nations. However, as the turn of the 21st century has shown, it only takes a handful of people to commit dreadful atrocities, so as long as there are people on this planet there will still be war. Unless of course, as humans we could evolve into a state of harmonious Oneness. How appealing this sounds! But if that meant a loss of the individual, would that not be the most dreadful price to pay?

If we have seen a decline in the nation’s sense of self through globalization, the growth of new technology in the coming years will pose an extraordinary threat to the individual’s sense of self as the advancing fields of nano-, bio- and info-technology develop into cognitive areas where they may interact directly with the human brain. Previous enhancements of the human condition have never posed a threat to our sense of self. We’ve had spectacles for the short-sighted, drugs for the ill, and computers for storage, calculation and communication, but the self is the subject of these devices. Once we enter the realm where technology may pass beneath the veil of consciousness, we will become the object of manipulation. The loss of sense of self, or the boundary between self and other, and the consequent loss of responsibility to a computer chip with all its devastating implications makes the stomach churn.

It’s not going to happen, you swear. But let us imagine for a moment such a world where “We are all One” takes on a literal meaning. The parallels between such manipulation and mystical realization are striking. Manipulation entails a loss of individuality and the notion of a connected world-brain, while mystical union entails a loss of the ego and a realization of super-consciousness, a one-ness with God where we become a subject of a higher will: “thy kingdom come, thy will be done”. Manipulation turns the self into an object of the manipulation, mystical realization into an object of mindfulness, where we are creators of our own reality. Manipulation promises a cure for death, perhaps even a digitization of the self, mysticism talks of a state of dying before death and being re-born. Yet would the mystic not shudder at such comparisons? For turning ourselves into humanoid robots would constitute a loss of consciousness, not a raising of awareness to a higher consciousness.

How should the distinction be clarified? It seems that while the mystic might aspire to give up the ego, we must treasure our diversity within the whole, fearless in our individuality and stay clear of such meaningless phrases as “We are all One”. Rather, we are all unique shadows of the One, the life force that runs within us all, and “Vive la diff


Sunday, 8 November 2009

No Man's Land (Holly Kirby)

A great song about the waste of life in war.

(Eric Bogle)

Well how do you do, young Willie McBride?
Do you mind if I sit here down by your graveside,
A rest for a while in the warm summer sun?
I've been walking all day and I'm nearly done.
I see by your gravestone that you were only 19
When you joined the great call up in 1916.
Well, I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean.
Or, Willie McBride, was it slow and obscene?

Did they beat the drum slowly?
Did they play the pipes lowly?
Did they play the death march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play 'The Last Post' in chorus?
Did the pipes play 'The Flowers of the Forest'?

Did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind?
In some faithful heart is your memory enshrined.
And although you died back in 1916,
In that faithful heart are you forever 19.

Or are you just a stranger without a name
Enclosed behind some glass-pane
In an old photograph, battered and stained
And fading to yellow in a brown leather frame?

The sun, oh it shines on the green fields of France,
The warm summer breeze makes the red poppies dance.
And look how the sun shines from under the clouds.
No gas, no barbed wire, no guns firing now.
But here in this graveyard, it's still No Man's Land
And the countless white crosses in mute witness stand.
To man's blind indifference to his fellow man
To the whole generation that was butchered and downed.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Success and Happiness


Idea 1: Happiness precedes success not the other way round.
Idea 2: Letting go releases tremendous freshness and clarity.
Idea 3: Accepting & giving praise creates a cycle of positive reinforcement.
Idea 4: Learning from mistakes without guilt is part of loving and trusting your self.
Idea 5: The will is a dynamo that must be directed wisely.
Idea 6: Connecting with people is easier if the mind is still.
Idea 7: Efficiency comes from a calm mind, self-knowledge and self-control.


Idea 1: Happiness precedes success not the other way round.

(Chicken Farmers) Teaching in metaphor, the ideas stick in the mind. So it is easier to learn concepts from moral tales. Once upon a time there were two farmers who both owned many chickens. One of them woke up in the morning, collected all the chicken droppings in his basket and brought them home. The other woke up and collected the eggs in his basket. Guess which one was successful? The first stunk up his home with the droppings. The second made some lovely omelette and made his family very happy.

Moral: This is a metaphor for what we bring from the past into our present. Which are you? Do you bring eggs into your present or shit? We learn much much more from past successes than from failure. This is the fundamental lesson: positive attitude.

Idea 2: Letting go releases tremendous freshness and clarity.

(Calculator) Every moment, clearing like a calculator and starting new with empty mind. This is important for teachers to not hold on to opinions of their pupils, so they are aware quickly of the efforts and improvements they make, and the pupils can tell that it does not go unnoticed.
(Prisoners) For those who work with prisoners, they must learn to treat them not as murderers and rapists, but as people who have murdered and raped. Prisoners unable to discard the label from around their neck will more likely re-offend when released.
(The New Buddhist) Someone had just converted to Buddhism and was visiting a friend. He refused a drink saying now he couldn’t drink. “But you’re Buddhist,” said the friend. “That means you can let go!” “Ah, but it’s a different kind of letting go.”

Moral: Success is easy. It just requires a change in perspective. Not “letting go” meaning doing as you please, but letting go of negative emotions and labels, and striving for compassion and goodness.

Idea 3: Accepting & giving praise creates a cycle of positive reinforcement.

(Award) When receiving an award, the humble winner said, “It’s what I do. I don’t deserve it.” The following year, he turned up to the ceremony and the winner used exactly the same words in his speech. But objectively, he could see that the person did deserve it. Why is it so hard to receive praise, while it is so easy to accept criticism?
(Schizophrenic patients) Remarkable success has been had by putting energy and effort into the times when schizophrenic patients are well instead of focusing on the “problem”.
(Dog training) When the dog does the right thing, the trainer jumps up and down in ecstasy and rewards it. The dog can’t help but notice.

Moral: Try the reverse: receive praise with an attitude that you do deserve it and let criticism go. This isn’t being big-headed, it’s being big-hearted. It’s saying that those who chose you were not wrong-headed to do so, and moreover receiving awards is good because it acts as motivation to work hard and do it again. Equally, learn to praise to reinforce desirable behaviour. Make criticism constructive and in a form that is easily digestible.

Idea 4: Learning from mistakes without guilt is part of loving and trusting your self.

(Fertilizer) A man stepped on dog poo. He went home and scraped it off under his apple tree. When he ate the apples the following spring, they were juicier than ever.
(100 strokes of the cat) Punishment for Buddhist monks in Australia.

Moral: The season of failure is the best time for sowing the seeds of success. Turn your mistakes into fertilizer for your apple tree and remember when you succeed that it was a direct result of all the things you went through. Fall forwards not backwards. Replace bad habits and thoughts by good habits and thoughts. This is not to say you don’t regret, or feel remorse, but you feel it once, and straightaway you develop strategies to ensure it doesn’t happen again. The regret is not something continuous and wasteful of all the positive energy that could have come from it. Efforts after failure bring true growth. Stimulate all the successful thoughts of the past until they are revitalized. Don’t let others take away your happiness. Laugh at yourself. Sometimes people feel unable to forgive themselves. Confessing and not doing it again are not enough. For them, they must learn compassion, to allow themselves to be happy. This is especially important in relationships, to love and trust and feel worthy and deserving of happiness, and so create a cycle of positive reinforcement, not negative.

Idea 5: The will is a dynamo that must be directed wisely.

(Powerful Image) A wish is a desire without energy. An intention is a wish with a plan, but will is action with intent until the wish is accomplished. Intent is like a powerful image broadcast from within, and one cannot help but notice its presence.
(Sailing) "'I don't care where we go,' I said, to my own surprise." (Erskine Childers, Riddle of the Sands) It is said that a good day's sailing needs no destination.

Moral: Everything we do comes from the will. Mechanical will is unthinking. Conscious will is a vital force that involves determination and effort, so should be directed wisely. As well as being constructive and feasible, always be sure in your heart that it is right for you or aligned with divine will. Then concentrate on it with courage and faith. The creative power of imagination gives initiative to set out on your path and open your eyes to the possibilities and do things that none have done before. Once you have chosen what to do, concentrate on how you do it and enjoy the experience and the opportunities it offers. Reward the process, not the endpoint. Success for a doctor is not in curing patients. It is in caring for them, and in caring for them they hopefully will be cured.

Idea 6: Connecting with people is easier if the mind is still.

(Stillness in Pauses) Suppose I were to speak this to you and in doing so pause unexpectedly, and … ask you to … observe……… your mind in…… the pauses between words. You ….. experience…… empty “waiting in the moment” mind, because you do not….. know when I …… will speak next…. you are in stillness.
(Australian counselor) An American lady had seen every counselor in Los Angeles without success. She went all the way to Australia to see a psychotherapist there, who knowing that everything else had been tried, figured she would need something unconventional. She stilled her mind and as the lady walked into the room, she said to her without knowing why, “I think you should take up playing violin.” The lady had wanted to play the violin as a little girl, but she was not allowed to. There’s a lesson in this: do what you want to do, not what is expected of you. She suggested other things too, and the lady went home and started work on some fantastic projects to help people.
(The Sponge) A dry sponge absorbs. A wet sponge can absorb nothing.

Moral: Be sensitive and mindful to those around you. Learn to be quiet. The mind like a dry sponge to pick up information around you, to take opportunities, widen horizons and connect with people and develop relationships.

Idea 7: Efficiency comes from a calm mind, self-knowledge and self-control.

(Staying in the Present) First we obsess over the past. This cannot be changed, so not worth worrying about. Then we worry about the future. The future is made in the present. Once we stop worrying about past and future, we might feel nerves or stress in the present. But this is a waste of energy and how sickness happens, though we often don’t notice it because we are so caught up in past and future. So, we let go of that too. And relax into inner tranquillity.
(The Glass) A glass of water is not very heavy, but the stress comes in holding it for a length of time. The solution is simple: put it down.
(The Menu) A man goes to an expensive restaurant and is presented with a beautiful menu with wonderful golden lettering. He eats the menu and walks out.

Moral: We often work long hours with little result to show for it. This is an inefficient use of the power of mind. Taking breaks makes us much more productive. Putting a problem down, you let the problem rest but you do not rest. You go deep within to realign with your higher Self and return to face the problem before your discrimination is lost. Recognize what works best for you. This is skilful action. Know your priorities. Success is in the doing. Living right is in the practice, not in books or academic theory of philosophy or religion. So now I’m saying all this was a waste of time, right? No, that was a negative thought, of doubt. So let’s put what we’ve learnt to good use immediately and replace doubt with trust. I trust that my writing up this little blog on success will turn out to be of enormous value to me, and even more so to you!

Source: This is adapted from a dhamma talk by Ajahn Brahm.

On a related note, I also posted a blog called "On Doing Better" from a Buddhist perspective based on another talk I went to.

Friday, 23 October 2009

On Doing Better (BT)

Source: This is based on a talk by ... . See Disclaimer Below.

Over the summer, the Chinese government held a 4-day conference in China inviting Buddhist leaders from all over the world, everyone apart from, of course, the Dalai Lama. It was a huge event, and in typical Chinese style very well organized, but also very strictly regulated. Each speaker was invited to address the audience for 6 minutes only, and then bells would ring and signs would go up telling them that their time was up!

For the Buddhist leaders invited, you can imagine the dilemma they faced in whether going to such an event was a betrayal of their values, or whether one should have faith and trust even where there had been a history of animosity. Why would the Chinese government organize such an event? Is it the hand of friendship and with the good intention of bringing Buddhist communities together and engendering harmony and unity, or might there be a hidden agenda, and if so, what?

As with all dilemmas, part of the problem is in not knowing all that we would like to know. So, how does one come to a decision? What is our guiding principle? How can one tell right action from wrong? I’d be interested to know what you think on these questions.

But the Buddhist philosophy seems to be one of forgiveness and trust and of trying to overlook the incongruity of one’s former enemy extending a welcoming hand. So many from around the world attended, and it was a very successful conference. It was followed by a 3-day meeting in Taiwan where the atmosphere was much lighter and more friendly, the stiffness of China replaced by great enthusiasm and chanting.

But whatever action we take, whether it turns out right or wrong, should we concern ourselves with that? It is after all the past. Perhaps we should. Or perhaps we can go beyond the duality of right and wrong? But either way, we should not be guilty about our mistakes. We should learn from them. Nobody is perfect. We can each do more. With strength and diligence, we can make an effort to be a good human being. Mindfulness is not just in meditation, nor for attaining a miracle one day of enlightenment. It is a continuous state of being in our effort to be a good human being. From birth, we should engage in this effort until death. Nobody is perfect, but with mindfulness we can all do better.

Along with devotion or concentration, and compassion or loving kindness, it is these three things we should pay attention to. Devotion, Mindfulness and Compassion. In so doing, we are always learning. Even if we should die tomorrow, we should still try to learn something today.

Disclaimer: This is merely written up by me, and any errors are mine. The purpose is spiritual & philosophical. I'd appreciate your comments on the ideas and questions raised and your own understanding.

Carrie said: Hi Okei, You have raised some interesting questions in your blog...
okei said: Thanks Carrie! I think there are two main questions... how does one make decisions?, and can we go beyond right and wrong? And perhaps the answer is within the blog, namely within ourselves, in mindfulness... okei :^)
Erica said: This is as tricky one, isn't it? I'm always of the mind that we and others can always do better. I am always giving people, second, thirth, fourth....chances. Devotion, Mindfulness and Compassion - yea those are the things - yet they are not always returned in kind. And how we handle those situations I think helps define who we are. And I think 'especially' because we could die tomorrow - it a good reason to learn something today! hmmmmm - I think the only way we can make decisions is my following our hearts and our instincts. Can we go beyond right and wrong? Yea - I think so - I tend to see things in shades of gray.
okei said: Erica, thanks for the change of perspective! Of whether we trust that the other will do better and "let go" of past opinions of them. To be guided by bitterness and resentment is no good, nor by perfect innocence or history will repeat itself. It's a difficult balance of magical trust without innocence.
And that's a beautiful attitude you have to learning! :^)
Can we go beyond gray even... no judgement, just in the now?
I think this reminds me of the question of whether "intent is all that matters" versus "the ends justify the means".
Erica said: A difficult balance indeed! I am actually striving for a sort of innocence - innocence is freedom - when we are not jaded by fear or preconceived notions. Yet I don't want to be naive either LOL How's that for a paradox?
okei said: Yes! I think it's worth striving for!!! :^)
Erica said: Can we go past gray? Hmmmm - I think some can - but it would be dishonest for me to say that I can. I always try to suspend judgement - yet I cannot completely do it.
Intent matters - intentions do not, IMO. There is a very subtle yet distinct difference.... And yes (geez - you're making my head spin lol) - sometimes the ends do justify the means....
okei said: "A goal without a plan is a wish" Antoine De Saint-Exupery
Erica said: Yes - in a sense - intent is the wish - intention is the specific plan of action to bring about the wish. Hence the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
True intent is the desire from within to manifest a certain change or event. To me this is pure - from the heart - power. When we focus our intent or something - it will manifest - our thoughts do shape our reality. That is the way of magic. It's when we try to intervene and force something to come about - our egos tend to mess it up. This isn't to say we just sit about and wish without any action though - but the action needs only be a level of awareness and openness for the possibilities when they present themselves - and the ability to seize those opportunities - without fear. Because (I use the word magic) will invariably give us what we need - although it may not always be what we think we want or present itself in the way we might imagine if we were to set out with an goal/intention. I find it best to focus my intent to the direction I want to go and allow the magic to handle the details.
okei said:
I haven't read this link yet, but the worry that comes to me is that we cannot know the ends. When making a decision, we don't know how things will turn out. Imagining some positive outcome and doing what we can to get there is to ignore all the other outcomes which could also manifest. I love positive but it seems in danger of being "too positive" in its approach.
Checking out the alternatives, there seems to be deontology which bases morality on the acts themselves which seems all wrong, and virtue ethics on the intentions which appeals most to me because it is the most "in the now" and you are "in control". Does there have to be a contradiction between intentions and intents... ? Not if "virtuous activity ultimately produces the best consequences", but then that would be the definition of virtuous in my opinion, so we're in a bit of a circle.
To use the example of mind... do we have the intent of pure mind, or should we have the intention of purifying the mind? Or both are equally good moral objectives and there is no difference, or the fourth option which appeals most to me this minute, .... both!
Erica said: Intentions are of the mind - our logic saying this is the best way to get from point A to point B. Intent comes from our hearts, our spirit, our essence. No there doesn't have to be a contradiction between intent and intentions - but it is awfully rare that there isn't. And I am not 100% certain that the virtuous activity always produces the best consequences - but I will concede that is the case most of the time.

That being said - purifying the mind is indeed a good objective - that is honing and taming the ego. We can never completely let go of the ego - we need it to stay sane and be able to function in this place we collectively call reality. But a well trained ego is not to be confused with an intent that comes from within - from the heart - from the spirit - beyond the mind all together.
okei said: I have a vague intention of learning Chinese one day. It is pure "air" and nothing driving it, no passion or plan. So to use this as an example... If I really decide that I want to learn Chinese, I need to take that intention and hold in my mind and make it an intent, light a "fire" of desire to actually do it. Then maybe, the direction set by the intent, some plan will materialize.
So what I've described is a kind of cycling between intention and intent.
Erica said: Wanting to learn Chinese is indeed an example of an intention. But in my opinion there is no way to turn that into intent. Learning something specific like a new language - is strictly 'of the mind' - it's a 'want' and not a 'need' - and intent comes from the heart - it fulfills need and not desire. Lighting a fire of desire to actually do it doesn't turn it into intent - it just simply gives you the motivating incentive to take the action to get it done. Now I know what's coming next - and that is - "give me an example of intent" :-)
Many years ago I had this gut feeling that 'something' was missing. I was spiritually suppressed and there was this deep longing in my soul to connect with something even though at that time I had no notion as to what that something was. I began my questing for knowledge - and at this point it was strictly an intellectual endeavor. But as I found myself focusing on that quest - all kinds of strange occurrences began happening. It would take me a really long time to describe all the details - but the gist of it is - I put my intent 'out there' that I was in need of spiritual guidance. And I received it - in all sorts or strange and magical ways. There was no specific intention to follow a specific path or learn or do a specific thing. And the path I ended up on was way different than the one I would have imagined for myself. But I followed the signs and things manifested the way they needed to -albeit a far cry from what I expected.
My level of understanding is far from perfect and I still lapse into my old ways from time to time. In fact I was 'dead' for a few years - up until about 5 months ago actually. I made a conscious effort to open myself back up again - which in turn lead to a whole string of strange occurrences that lead me back onto my path where I left off. Again what ended up happening is far different then what I thought would happen. That is the power of intent - a longing of our inner selves that projects our need and magic/the universe/whatever you want to call it responds and shows us the way - if we only have the eyes to see it - and keep our own selves out of the way to allow it to manifest.
There - how was that for talking in circles? :-)
okei said: No, you described it brilliantly. It's interesting you're using the term "power" to describe this intent because power which I equate with passion is something which has been on my mind the past couple of weeks as what allows us to raise above ourselves in some way, and I've been struggling without success so far to find what the Buddhists have to say about it. I'll just leave a link to my post about it on BT in case anyone is interested.
Roddy said: Discover True Self. The purification of the mind will happen naturally when this is the intent. 
okei said: I had a dream immediately after this conversation, of which I can remember nothing apart from some vague idea of intent being a "broadcast from within" that one cannot help but notice its presence... like Harry Potter, that when he is among a group of people, anyone might sense his presence among that group so the group can never hope to go incognito. [actually this isn't true in Harry Potter, it's true though for the dementors or Lord Voldemort that wherever they go they have a chill around them that can be sensed, whereas Harry Potter can and often does go around incognito, under his invisibility cloak, but who said dreams were logical? But I think the idea stands, in summary that intent is a broadcast and lends a "presence".]

I said in the above blog of the three things that mattered: devotion/concentration, mindfulness and loving kindness, but I had the idea that although these three are separate things, they should be seen as one. The mindfulness is compassionate, it does not frown at undesirable thoughts, feelings, sensations disturbing the peace, but as in meditation, it smiles its awareness. So it is compassionate mindfulness, and this mindfulness, lest it drift into boredom or daydreaming or doubt is concentrated... in every moment concentrated so there is no room for doubt and sharp like the edge of a blade so there is no room either for boredom or daydreaming. So all three in one and we have concentrated compassionate mindfulness, and that is the desired state in every moment. :^)
Roddy said: Yes.. it is not easy to always be mindful. It takes being in the immediate present, without fear of what the next moment, or the next day, may bring.