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Archive for November, 2013

dovedale

Black crags crackling,

Heads blurred in mellow mistiness

Above the stillness

Of a silver threaded vale.

Mirror tarn, splashed

Russet and green,

Somnambulantly lapping

On shingle shores.

Old barn,

Stone laid over stone,

Today as yesterday.

Mossy and slick-glistening

After soft rains fall.

And me.

My eye records,

Commits to memory,

What the heart imbues,

With lovers’ meaning;

Inspiration like rooks, black flapping

Through the atom spaces,

Snatched tail feathers,

Hard won glimmerings of things unseen;

A fey spirit moving,

Migrating once more

To the summer places.

____

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marshsideFriday 22nd November 2013

Cool this morning, about 2 degrees, light frost. Dropped T off at the bus stop for college, then drove to the Marshside nature reserve and walked out along the old dumper truck trail to the estuary – at least as far as the mud would allow. The skies were a little hazy first thing, streaked with brown and blue grey, but clearing now to a deep blue, a low sun rising behind me and casting long shadows as I look out over the route I’ve just walked. There are a few other cars about, mostly people taking their dogs for a dump, one bearded twitcher standing alone in the reeds, heron-like, with an impressive telescope on a tripod. Across the estuary Blackpool is crystal clear, also Black Coombe, and I can just make out the Lakes beyond, through binoculars, the fells having a light dusting of snow this morning.

I’m probably going to sit here until about 10:00, then go in search of coffee and a new jumper – I noticed yesterday my old lambswool is coming in holes, a bit like me.  I also seem to be scratching about for socks and underpants – so may restock at Matalan.

I’m also trying to think.

I did eventually download that book “Brain Wars” by Beauregard. Hate the title though. Consumed it on my Kindle in one long sitting yesterday. There was nothing new in it for me – a repeat of studies I’m familiar with from other sources – not that this detracts from the importance of the work. Worth the read, but I think I preferred his “Spiritual Brain”. That the mind is separate from the brain seems now all but proven, at least to my satisfaction – only die-hard materialists continuing to deny the evidence that’s been mounting since Myers and the founding of the SPR in 1882. The argument that the mind is reduced by the brain for the purpose of enabling a physical existence in form is also convincing, and further arguments that the mind is freed upon death, back into a greater, non-physical awareness are also compellingly well supported now by an accumulation of evidence from veridical NDE’s. As Jung said, back in ’61, we have to reckon with the possibility,…

Where this leads us I don’t know, what the purpose of the greater mind’s hamstrung foray into physical form might be, again, I don’t know and am probably incapable of imagining. I did get it once, I think, grasped it intuitively, wordlessly, but that was on the other side of an ME, a long time ago. And I’ve slept a lot since then.

The windscreen is misting now, and I’m beginning to wonder what I’m doing here. It’s like this muddy trail in front of me, heading out to the sea. I’ve been passing it for years, decades even, seeing people wandering down it and wondering to myself what was so special at the end of it that might draw them on. Well, I’ve been down it now and it’s just a twenty minute tramp to a muddy foreshore, a couple of stumps and a seemingly infinite plane of yet more mud beyond – nothing that seems very special, in other words,  and always another frontier stretching before you.

The skies are alive with birds this morning, all manner of waders and the plaintive call of curlews and oyster catchers. Great squadrons of geese are moving up the estuary.

Nature is so wonderfully diverse and complex; we look at it and wonder at the purpose of it. But it has no purpose, no meaning, other than what we grant it. The meaning is perhaps what we aspire to, or something we grant it without even knowing we’re doing it. It’s an idea dimly grasped through the fog of an inadequate intellect, and perhaps the full awareness of that purpose will dawn only when there’s been a global shift in consciousness, maybe centuries from now, something that restores us to the perspective of our  immortal selves, temporarily camped out and shivering down here in the mud.

And then what?

But having advanced so far along the trail, I find myself withdrawing from such thoughts now, withdrawing from the mysterious frontier. Life is where it’s at, down here in the mud. Life is where it’s happening, it’s where consciousness lights up if only briefly in form, so with my life more than half over should I not be waking up to the fact of it by now and living it a little more? Should I not be more focussed on simply being instead of sitting here at 9:00 am on a Friday morning with my head up my own ass, ruminating on matters that greater minds than mine have foundered upon?

Okay, time to move on. I need coffee, and underpants and socks.

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shadow games2Life is in part a struggle for identity; we try to define who and what think we are; we carve for ourselves a slice of something recognisable, and we say: “I am this”. We draw a line around the shape of it, and we present it to the world as our identity, our mask. But in deciding what we think we are, we also reject what we think we’re not. We reject that we might possess certain innate tendencies that seem unpleasant, embarrassing, or reprehensible. We reject that we can think certain thoughts which might be deemed “deviant” or “dark” or “pathological”. What we reject then becomes, in psychological terms, our shadow, and the more vehemently we reject our shadow natures, the more troublesome and the more powerful our shadow becomes.

The shadow is our worst, indeed our only enemy, for it is through him we project all our quarrels into the world, through him we awaken our worst insecurities, through him our deepest neuroses are born. Befriending one’s shadow is therefore the first step along the path for the spiritual hitch-hiker in search of that door to the contemplation of deeper layers of the psyche. It is the first hurdle, if you like, of a descent into the depths of our selves, on our journey to meet the soul.

These were my first lessons, and conversations with my shadow over the years have opened the door on glimpses of a rich inner world, as well as dissolving much of the angst I felt as a younger man, but it’s also become clear that my shadow is a thing I’ll always be learning from, that no matter how far I think I’ve travelled I’ll never be done with him. My shadow is my greatest enemy, but also, potentially, my greatest guru.

When we talk of rejecting certain aspects of character, it’s easy to recognise the things that can land us in jail. We say: no, I’d never do that – never kill, maim, defraud, rape, abduct, insult or lie. We experience a visceral reaction to newspaper headlines that talk of such things, because the news media are great manipulators of the shadow archetype; they raise our shadow up in the guise of some dumb schmuck in handcuffs and they call him names: killer, con-man, abuser, slacker, benefit cheat! While it’s important to know wrong from right, emotional reactions to shadow archetypes are at best unhelpful, and sometimes dangerous, often leading to the wrong man getting lynched. Fear of the stranger is another shadow-based insecurity: the foreigner, the black man, the man who is not like me. And then there’s sex in which the shadow manifests itself in the vilification of homosexuals or transsexuals or anyone who doesn’t “do sex” in what might be perceived to be the “normal” way. It’s hard to accept, but these shadow insecurities are a rejection of the fact that we might harbour, or even secretly cherish the possibility of those same tendencies in ourselves.

We all believe ourselves to be good people – and by far the majority of us are – but the worst thing we can do is become so sanctimonious we reject the possibility we can ever be bad or wrong or just plain different, or that we can think things that others might find shocking. This is the most valuable insight in a century of psychoanalysis.

These are the stronger shadows that we cast, and are fairly easy to spot, fairly easy to dissolve, and to own back. Yes, I tell myself, I would like to think I could never hurt another human being, but if I’m honest, I have thought about hurting others, and I accept therefore that the worst of humanity dwells also in me, as at least a potential for harm – that, there but for the grace of God, go I. Herein too lie the roots of compassion. We need not love the transgressors, paraded for us by the news media in all their shame-faced glory, but to hate them is also to hate ourselves.

I’ve been working on my personal shadow for twenty years, but he’s still there, still following me around, though he’s grown more subtle and elusive. I recognise him in authority figures now, and my irrational mistrust of them – managers, officials – anyone who dictates to me what I can and cannot do. The problem here is not actually a lack of trust in authority, but more that a part of me would like to have authority over others. Indeed a part of me wants to be a manager, a controller, a ruler, and wield power. It’s just that I don’t think I’d be any good at it; I imagine I’m not thick skinned or assertive enough, so I have always avoided promotion to such roles. The result is that my relationship with “authority” is never a good one.

There are a myriad other subtle issues, always illuminated by an adverse reaction to another human being, a strong negative arousal, because something I imagine they possess or represent is something I have yet to own up to as at least a potential in myself. The road is long, and there are many a twist and turn along the way, but we can rest assured we shall always have our shadow for company, and that our progress shall always be a measure of how well we’ve grasped the games our shadow plays.

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News from the Philippines is dire. The typhoon that struck over the weekend is estimated to have killed around 2500 people, with some 11 million directly affected and 673,000 displaced. Details are still sketchy, with infrastructure literally blown away and I’m sure the full scale of the disaster will only become known as the coming days and weeks unfold. It’s looking like the worst typhoon on record. I know we always say that in the aftermath of an extreme weather event, but by any measure the scale of this one is staggering.

At such times, one feels desperate to help, yet also paralysed by a sense of one’s helplessness, so far away from those who are in desperate need. But there is something practical we can all do. Send money to the aid agencies. They’re on the ground now, trying to get things moving, but they need our support.

Please click on the link below and donate what you can.

Disaster’s Emergency Committee

 

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barnacleThanks as always to those of you who read my blog and my stories. I do value your company. The fact of your presence has helped enormously in keeping me going over the years, but I do accept that, for the most part, writing has to be a lonely business, a thing conducted for its own sake, whether there be an audience or not. It is a conversation between a man and something “other”, something imaginary. Indeed it might be said that it is through the faculty of one’s imagination the universe rises above its material form. Through the imagination it becomes something more remarkable than it already is; it becomes aware of itself, through us. Writers channel this emergence, they map it, they present it, give voice to it.

But for all of these high ideals, my own attitude towards writing veers with a kind of drunken harmonic motion from regarding it as a case study in futility to its polar opposite: a sense, at times, of the personally numinous. It depends on my spirits, whether they be buoyant or leaden; there is a cycle, a season to it, and the only certainty is that the work goes on.

At the moment things are sinking with the going of the light, and I’m feeling the weight of the material world crushing the last dram of equanimity from me. The devil of cynical riposte comes calling; I despise him for the cheerless wit he is and try to avoid his company, while eyeing the impenetrable, glassy sheen of the material world with diminishing magnanimity. Yet it is from even these unpromising materials the words must be distilled, from this ambivalent foundation the work is to be raised to fresh heights, stone upon stone.

Sometimes the work floats effortlessly, while at others it is weighted down by the multitudinous insults that all writers encounter from time to time. There have always been insults to the writing – discouragements to its finer meaning and to one’s sense of purpose. Once upon a time the insults were the indifferent responses of publishers and agents – strange chimera; half human, half droid-slaves to the free-market, concerned with money-matters and commercial viability, a world I was conditioned, by rejection, into believing I did not belong. I speak therefore from outside of its borders, now, but still am not immune to that sense of insult to the craft.

Nowadays, the insults are delivered by the limpet hangers-on who attach themselves to WordPress blogs like this one. They “like” and they “follow”, in the hope our curiosity will have us wanting to know more about their self-proclaimed successful and sexy lifestyles, about how they “make money” blogging. These limpet forms, these barnacles of blogging, are yet more droid-slaves to the precious bane, indifferent to our words and the worlds we create, other than as vehicles for parasitic attachment.

At times of high spirit these barnacles appear comical or sometimes even a little sad, but when I’m low, they remind me of the gulf between what exists now and that higher ideal of aspiring to honour, while bearing nothing but the nature of our true selves in a world where value is no longer measured in material terms. I look about me and the cause seems lost, but while there are still words to be said, words that might yet excite a more subtle vibration in the hearts of sensitive readers, we writers must write on.

I remind myself the work of a writer is not a destination, not a single revelation, but more of a direction, and a soundtrack to living. For the writer the work is the journey. It is a song, and the end of the song is silence, so the writer sings for as long as he is able. Like the skylark ascending, he fills the air with a lyrical refrain, until his heart fails and his insignificant form is reclaimed back into the bleak waste of moor, into the unfeeling materials from which he was born and above which his song once briefly raised him.

It matters nothing that we have no great power or influence in the world, nothing that we have no sponsors nor champions to repeat our words admiringly, nothing that we have no name, no foothold in the glittering world of form. It matters only that we sing. We have no choice in this, for the song is the universe itself becoming more than its materials, rising above them, through us. And I can think of no more important a work than that even if we pass our lives in complete obscurity.

I would sooner be the singer of songs, singing them alone, even into the teeth of a howling gale at bleak midwinter, than a barnacle clamped down among the slime, holding out for the myth of infinite riches. Beware, dear barnacle, lest like Midas, you be one day granted them.

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watchI could tell I’d arrived early at the office this morning by the fact that there were very few cars on the carpark. Normally I arrive much later and struggle to find a space. I couldn’t remember why I’d decided to get in so early, but it’s as well I did because I discovered they’d been moving the desks around over the weekend, and it was going to take me a while to get settled in again. The desks were new – a lot smaller than we were used to – a bit like those old school desks. I presumed it was so they could fit more desks into the limited space. But the reorganisation had gone much further, eliminating such a thing as personal desks altogether and had embraced instead a full blown policy of hot-desking.

Everything’s on the machine these days anyway – no bits of paper to speak of, and anything that’s left lying around on desks is mostly junk and can be binned. It was a bit odd at first, settling down on a particular desk, doing a little work, then nipping to the gents and coming back to find someone else sitting there. People didn’t like it and there was a lot of grumbling. It was unsettling for sure; a queer, impersonal way of working to never be permitted your own sense of familiar personal space, but I decided I could weather it for the few years remaining to my retirement.

I remember it was about mid morning and I was chatting to a colleague about the shake-up, when I glanced at my watch and felt a moment of serious disorientation. I didn’t recognise the watch at all. Sure, I’d been looking at a watch like that one on Amazon the night before, but I’d not bought it yet. Had I?

No! It was not my watch.

It was a classic trigger, a jolt of inconsistency that made me realise the whole day, so far, had been a dream.

Dreams, it seems, are convincing liars.

On the upside, this was one of those rare occasions when I found myself becoming conscious that I was dreaming – entering the so called lucid dream state. On the downside, I was disappointed in myself because I realised I’d been taken in by distinctly third rate scenery and a very poor plot-line; this was not my office at all, nor were these my colleagues, and only in my dreams am I anywhere near retirement.

I’ve made a study of  the lucid dream-state, am fascinated by it, and use it more often than I should as a plot device, but here I was experiencing a rare awakening inside one of my own dreams, and feeling distinctly underwhelmed by it.

After the initial realisation, I fancied the dream was fading, so I focused on my hands, and on that unfamiliar wristwatch. The observation served to steady things and I was able to hang on for a while longer. Then I did what I said I’d never do if I found myself inside a waking dream: I imagined myself becoming lighter than air, and floating upwards. Sure enough, up I went. Then the dream popped, and I was wide awake at 5:00 am, thinking to myself: now that was interesting!

I drove to work (again) feeling rather groggy this time. The carpark was reassuringly full and my desk was in its familiar place. I was just settling in with coffee when a colleague came up to me and said he’d been thinking of buying a new watch from Amazon and someone had told him I’d bought a nice little automatic from there recently. He wondered if he could take a look at it. I looked down at my wrist,…

And hesitated.

Now that was even more interesting!

Sweet dreams

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