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Archive for the ‘existential’ Category

Sunset pier #1, by Deep A.I.

One of the interesting things to pop up online recently has been the subject of art generated by so-called artificial intelligence (AI). It’s a subject for contentious debate: can something really be considered a piece of art if it has been “created” by a computer program, rather than a human being?

My interest was piqued by Lee McAuley of the Cuckoo Club Archives, who mentioned it in a recent piece, and to whom I give all credit for spotting it – I’d no idea it was so advanced. In order to explore the question, is it art? I’ve been playing around with a version called Deep AI – available to try here, and I fed it the following text:

An old pier running out to sea, sun setting, people walking towards the sunset, blue skies and tobacco coloured clouds, light rays, romantic, impressionistic style.

The result was the header picture. Then again, same input:

Sunset pier #2, by Deep A.I.

And again:

Sunset pier #3, by Deep A.I.

So, each image is unique: same words, different output. There’s also a remarkable alignment with the textual prompt, whilst maintaining the look of something definitely painterly, rather than a pastiche of images brutally cut and pasted from around the Internet. There’s something interesting here and, though there’s a temptation – as a human being who likes to think of himself as “creative” – to be dismissive of it, I don’t think we should be too hasty.

The freebie images are a modest 1024×512 pixels, but useable, say for blog illustration, or, with a bit of Photoshop enhancement, as e-book covers, or simply for pondering. I find them quite haunting and, in spite of their unique nature, strangely familiar in that they combine elements I feel I have seen before, but which are just out of reach of memory.

There are other online generators, free to try, but they all have some kind of limiter, or a token system, to prevent over-use of the servers. I also like Nightcafe Studio, which I fed the following prompt:

A young woman wearing a long, red dress. She is reclining on a chaise lounge. Victorian and romantic in style.

To which it responded:

Young woman in a red dress – by Nightcafe Studio A.I.

The result is somewhat lush and stylised, though not unpleasing, and nicely lit. She has an oddly shaped thigh, strange hands and what appears to be the stump of a third arm, but for all of that it would not look out of place on a gallery wall, given a suitably pretentious blurb. It’s also unique – sort of. No image will ever come out quite like this again. However, once you’ve got the image, you can copy and paste it as many times as you like, of course, which, like all digital art, renders it nothing more than a worthless and disposable curiosity, right?

Well, that brings us to non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which I looked at last year. NFTs and digital art go hand in hand. Digital art, whether it be by human or AI, is – by our normal calculations, based on supply and demand – of no value at all, because we can copy and paste it as many times as we like, and the result will be indistinguishable from the original. However, AI generated art can come with a unique digital token, which proclaims you as the owner of the original file, which is something that, in our topsy-turvy world, can then be traded. And, though it might sound unlikely, it being essentially the value of nothing, some tokens are trading for millions of dollars – or at least those that receive the most hype.

Here’s another one. Input: Man writing at a desk, background of bookcases. Lamplight. Studious, romantic atmosphere. Impressionistic.

The result:

Man writing – by A.I.

The debate over AI generated art also throws up the old chestnut about the nature of human consciousness, and the belief among the so-called “hard AI” scientists, that it’s just a question of time, and a critical mass of artificial neural complexity, before we create a sentient computer. But this kind of thinking is bourne out of a strictly materialist paradigm, and goes too far for me. Our machines are breathtakingly intelligent, but that’s not the same thing as saying they might ever become sentient. Like a chess playing computer, it does not arrive at its moves by thinking about them like a human player, but its moves are always good ones. It does the same job, but better. Like an electric saw, it’s better than a handsaw in certain applications, but only because we have made it so. And even then, we wouldn’t use it everywhere.

AI sentience also rather presupposes the brain is what generates consciousness, and I do not subscribe to that view either. I’m deeply impressed by A.I. generated artwork, but feel there’s a danger here of setting off down the wrong path in our appreciation of what it means and that, like all A.I., we should not be tempted to make the retrograde leap from master to servant. A.I. serves a purpose. It can protect, it can run complex services on our behalf better than we can ourselves, and it can entertain, but it cannot be allowed to control and delimit, either our actions as free beings, nor supplant our imaginations.

Another one: Input: A young woman in a long red dress, fantasy forest setting, backlit, lush greenery, light rays. Output:

Woman in a red dress, in the forest – by A.I.

A human artist invests time learning how to paint. Then, having mastered the art, a large painting might take months, or even years of the artist’s time to complete, and the end result is always going to be fragile. It’s likely then, a very old painting by a recognisably competent artist will have survived any number of potential calamities, and is worth all the more for its rarity, and the simple fact of its survival. By comparison, a computer generated artwork takes seconds to make, and the result can be backed up digitally so many times as to be virtually immortal. NFTs not withstanding, I know which artwork possesses the greater intangible value, the greater allure, to my own taste and I would care nothing for who owned the digital title to an AI generated artwork. All of which is to say, while AI can produce some stunningly beautiful and provocative images, let’s not lose our heads over what it means.

Is it truly art? Well, yes, I think it is, but certainly not like anything we have known before.

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Spies are interested in secrets, and will go to extraordinary lengths to obtain them. But for all their efforts, do spies keep us safe? They protect the interests of their home countries, or at least a certain demographic within them, but, taken worldwide, is the number of innocents lost to violence, any less than if the spies, as a profession, had not bothered to glean their secrets, or is it perhaps even the worse for it?

It’s a question suggested by a line from a le Carré spy novel, and it got me thinking. Around the same time, a beech tree came down in winter storms. I’d known it since childhood and thought it would stand forever. Its loss was a shock, and seemed an ill omen, considering all that was going on in the world, and in particular my own country – politically, socially, economically. And then there’s the old Zen thing – which isn’t actually a Zen thing – about how the tree that falls alone makes no sound.

Corruption in high places, staggering levels of inequality, unaffordable rents and energy, children eating erasers at school to stave off hunger pains. Britain, in 2022. Is that enough of a dystopia, or shall we project it forward a little? 2025, say? Or 2030? It should be easy enough to plot where we’ll be, given current trends, but do we really want to go there?

This is the background music as I sit down to write, in early 2022, and what takes shape over the course of the year is a story called A Lone Tree Falls. It proposes the quest for a secret, and the searcher is a former spy turned mystic. But this is no ordinary secret. This is the Secret above all secrets.

The Secret above all secrets tells us the world isn’t what we think it is, that our obsession with the materiality of it is a misunderstanding of the way things are. It is an illusion, and all we do by our obsession with it is perpetuate it. This is not to say we have any choice. It is our fate that our mortal lives at least are spent abiding in this state, but we do have a choice in how we react to it. We can either persist in ignorance of the deeper picture, in which case we gain nothing, and we finish our lives pretty much where we started. Or we can wake up.

Waking up begins with the lone tree that falls, and the realisation it made no sound, and it goes on to the conclusion that there is no difference between you and whatever you are looking at, that all there is to anything is mental phenomena, though the strict rules, spun out of an evolving Universe, leave us no option but to deal with the world as it appears – as solidly real and (mostly) impermeable to the will. But if that revelation is not to implode into the absurdity of philosophical solipsism, one must also wake up to the notion that the essence of one’s self, like everything else, is dreamed into being by the Universe, and not the other way round.

This is the mystical path. It’s a well trodden one, but what’s the point of it? My guess – since I’m only writing about it, rather than making a career of it – is, once you arrive at that destination, it affects your dealings with other people, who, like you, are dreamed into being. So, we are all the same in this respect, both the dreamers and the dreamed. The feeling you have of your own awareness of self, is the same as everyone else’s. All that’s different is our back-story. The other man’s pain, whether you like that guy or not, is your own pain. Hurt him, and you hurt yourself.

But it’s one thing to be told a secret, quite another to believe it. But such is the quest of our protagonist, this former spy of sorts who is also mostly the Fool from the Tarot, or sometimes the Magician, when he needs to be.

I didn’t want to write this story. I wanted to write a simple boy meets girl romance, but the story had other ideas and wanted out. We’re pretty much there with it now, and I’ll have it up on Smashwords in the coming weeks. As for the conclusion, does my protagonist believe in the Secret? Do I? Can we even get there by a pathway of words and thoughts? Or is that just part of illusion as well? I don’t know. We’ll see.

Next time though, next time, it will be a simple boy meets girl romance.

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I was drawn to this book on the strength of Anthony Doerr’s previous work, the Pulitzer prize winning “All the Light We Cannot See“, which I enjoyed very much. Cloud Cuckoo Land is another complex labyrinth of a novel. It is intricate, puzzling, occasionally infuriating, but also compulsive and deeply rewarding.

It jumps back and forth between the siege of Constantinople in the fifteenth century, the Korean War in the 1950s, the USA in the 40s and the present day, then also to a near future onboard a spaceship, the Argos, containing a volunteer crew from a climate ravaged earth. The crew are travelling to an exo-planet that may support human life, a journey that will take almost six hundred years, and of course which none alive at the time will ever see.

What links each of these threads is another story, the titular Cloud Cuckoo Land, an imagined “lost” text by the ancient Greek philosopher, Diogenes. The story tells of a humble shepherd who is tired of his lot but has heard of a utopian land in the sky, built by the birds. Since only a bird can get there, he visits a witch who promises to turn him into a bird, but things go wrong, and he ends up as a donkey, then a fish. He suffers every hardship imaginable, but refuses to give up on his desire to reach Cloud Cuckoo Land. Finally, he becomes a bird, but must face one last test before being admitted,…

Diogenes’ fictional book is first rediscovered in a fragile state by one of our earliest protagonists Anna, in Constantinople, who escapes the siege, and smuggles the book out with her. Eventually, her husband, a humble ox-herder takes the book to Italy, so it might be preserved, but it’s essentially lost again in the archives, only to be rediscovered by researchers in contemporary times. But by now it’s in such poor condition it takes modern technology to reconstruct its pages, though sadly with many words missing, and the pages jumbled up. Posted online as an international treasure of public interest, its cause is taken up by the humble octogenarian, Zeno Ninis, who attempts a translation and a reconstruction of the plot. To this end he enlists the help of a group of schoolchildren who work the story into a play. But on the night of its performance, they are disturbed by the young, autistic Seymour, who is intent on making an explosive statement regarding our mistreatment of nature. Although the main story jumps about in time, the ancient text is revealed in linear fashion as it passes through the hands of the various protagnists, so acting as a kind of temporal compass, preventing us from getting lost.

It’s onboard the Argos, through the eyes of a young girl, Konstance, we learn of the global catastrophe she and her fellows are escaping. The Argos is controlled by an A.I. called Sybil, whose memory contains a record of everything ever written, and which is accessible through a virtual reality experience akin to entering the ultimate library. There’s also a kind of 3D Google Earth one can visit to see what life was like back home, just prior to the calamity. Konstance is aware of the story of Diogenes’ Cloud Cuckoo Land through her father, who has been telling it to her, but she can find no copy of it in Sybil’s memory. As she searches for it, she pieces together the mystery of the translation by Zeno Ninis, and closes in on a final startling revelation regarding the voyage of the Argos itself.

For all the complexity of its structure, I found the story accessible. As with his previous novel, I found the prose beautiful, while maintaining a page turning urgency. There’s a clear warning about the climate emergency here, about the vacuity of the materialism that’s driving us to ruin, about our almost wilful blindness to everything we are risking by our inaction, but there’s also a dig at the techno-utopians who see a solution for us in the stars, instead of trying to solve the problems of a dying earth by righting our own wrongs here and now.

The story of the shepherd ends with him dissatisfied, even amid the luxurious perfection of Cloud Cuckoo Land. He discovers at last that what he wants more than anything is to return to the life he had as a humble shepherd, with all its vexations and imperfections. The moral of that one is that what we already have is always so much better than what we are forever, and so desperately, seeking elsewhere.

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This one’s not about cars. It’s more about bending life into art. Allow me to illustrate:

Soon, yes, and for a time, I am no longer thinking of Grace, but of Maggs. Again. I am sinking into Mavis, tapping with futile distraction at the ABS light, which is taken metaphorically now as a sign always of trouble ahead. And I note, these days, the light is on more often than it is not.

What is Mavis trying to tell me, then? What else could ABS stand for, other than Anti-lock Braking System? Abandon Bull Shit? Yes, that’s promising. Nothing worse than bullshit, is there? All Begins Somewhere? Hmm,… obviously true, but a little too philosophical for me, right now. So, how about: Avoid Bad Sex? The chance would be a fine thing, but actually best avoided completely – the bad, the good, and the mediocre.

From my story: Saving Grace.

Sometimes life imitates art, sometimes life becomes art, or it can be twisted into art. I drive an old car, my protagonist drives the same one and calls it Mavis. This is Mike Garrat, who volunteers at a charity bookshop run by his muse, Margaret (Maggs) Cooper. Throughout the writing of this story, I recall my car was driving me nuts, the ABS warning light coming on then going off again. It’s a common fault on my model of car, once they’re of an age, and is usually the sign of a failing sensor.

ABS means anti-lock braking system, an innovation that prevents the wheels from locking, and therefore skidding, when you hit the brakes hard, so shortening the stopping distance. When the light is on, the brakes still work, but the ABS doesn’t, so you risk coming a cropper in the wet if you slam on at high speed. It’s an MOT failure. So I’d think about taking it to the garage, but then the light would go out, and the car would be fine for weeks, and I’d forget about it, and then it would come on again. I did eventually have it repaired, and it was expensive. I wrote it into the story as a device through which Mavis would caution Mike over the things he was thinking or planning.

I’ve had a good run with mine, but the ABS light came on again this morning so, if I was Mike Garrat – which, fortunately, I am not – I’d be watching my step. Unlike last time, it’s a fairly unambiguous fault, the light staying on all the time. There are four sensors to go at, one for each wheel, but by scanning the engine control unit, you can find out which one’s on the blink. We’re booked in for a repair, and I’m hoping it’s not as expensive as last time. But whatever the cost it’s a lot cheaper than a new car, plus of course mine, ancient as it is, is irreplaceable. And then the longer she’s around, the more she justifies the carbon footprint of her manufacture.

She will eventually bite the dust, of course, and that’ll be a sad day, time to put my open-top roadster days behind me and get a grown up car again. But, like my protagonist, I seem to have conflated the notion of my own mortality with the reliability or otherwise of my car. It’s not a sensible thing to do, and certainly not rational. But threading a willing little roadster over the moors, or the high roads of the Lakes and the Dales on a fine summer’s day is worth all the frustration of ongoing maintenance, and is a dream worth preserving.

Life isn’t art, of course. It’s not an episode from a romantic story, or a movie with a soundtrack. Cars do not talk to people. Neither do the gods talk to people through their cars’ warning lights, any more than they do through other portents, or oracles, unless we choose to let them. So let’s explore the metaphor: Brakes. The brakes won’t work as well as they should. Go easy, then Mike. Not too fast. Don’t push your luck. I was planning a major expense in another area. The car is telling me not to rush into it. Warning duly noted. We’ll park that one for a bit, give it some further thought. I’ve a feeling we were going to do that anyway, but this confirms it. And we’ll also park the car, in the clutter of the garage, while she waits her turn in the workshop.

And since I’m feeling playful, I’m going to spoil Mike Garrat’s story by telling you the ending:

She’s looking a little anxious now, a little unsure of herself, as if her nerve is failing. She’s not ordered anything from the counter. Perhaps it’s just a passing visit, then. Perhaps I should ask her if she’d like something, so I might at least have the pleasure of her company over soup.

Don’t disappear, Maggs. Don’t leave it hanging like this. Let’s work something out.

“Listen,” she says, “I’ve taken that cabin in the Dales for a bit.”

“Cabin?”

You know, Mike. ‘The’ Cabin?

She clarifies: “Our Cabin.”

“Really?” Did she just say ‘our’ cabin?

“I’m going to take some time out, relax, catch up on my reading, you know?”

“Always a good idea to catch up on one’s reading, Maggs. Em,… so,… what exactly are you reading these days? Not another of those dreadful spank busters, I hope?”

She laughs, blushes.”No. Right now I’m reading the Joy of sex.”

“Really?”

“You were right, it’s rather good.”

“Précis it for me. One sentence.”

“Oh,… let me see. Taken in the right spirit, sex can be really good fun.”

“Ha! Nice one.”

“So, speaking of fun,… I thought it might be – well – fun, you know, if you joined me at the cabin, for a bit. Could you,… manage that, do you think?”

“I’m sure I can manage that, yes. “

She sighs, but only I think to cover the tremor in her voice, to steady it. “Lovely.” And then: “I,… I heard you’d built your house at last?”

“Yes. Would you like to see it?”

She nods, dives in, steals my bread roll and takes a bite of it. “Sorry. Starving. I’d like that very much, Mike.”

So, there we are,… a better place to leave it. I’ll be asking her to move in I suppose, eventually, but since we’re still pretending we’re not even in love, that might be a while off. There’s no rush, though, is there? Long game, and all that. But for now,… Cabin, Maggs, Joy of Sex,…

What more could a man ask?

Thanks for listening.

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If you spilled your entire mug of morning coffee all over the bed, if your boiler broke down, if you’d forgotten to put the bins out, and then a gazillion-to-one meteorite wrote off your car, all in the same day, you could justifiably claim to be having a bad one. The rest of the time, it’s more often a question of attitude, in which case a moment’s mindful awareness can draw the sun from behind what only seems to be the gloomiest of clouds.

Take this afternoon, for example. It had such a pleasant vibe to it, whilst being nothing out of the ordinary, so I presume it was more a matter of catching myself in a positive frame of mind, and seeing the treasure in the pleasure of small, familiar things. I drove out to Southport, to the Eco-centre Park and Ride, then took the bus to Lord Street. Times are hard, the bus was empty, and we could dwell at length on that, but not today.

I treated myself to coffee and cake at Cranberries in the Cambridge Arcade. Then I took a leisurely browse in Broadhursts bookshop. There, I picked up used copies of Naoimi Clien’s “Shock Therapy”, and J. D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye”. I should have read the latter when I was a teenager, I suppose, but better late than never. The former is a nightmare vision of the world, one I’m not sure I’m ready to admit into conscious awareness, even now. It’s an important book, but we’ll set that to one side for a rainy day. Then an impromptu rummage in a charity shop turns up Somerset Maugham’s “Razor’s Edge”. I don’t know Maugham at all, but his opening paragraph grabs me, and he moves himself to the top of my reading pile, no doubt much to the chagrin of others who have been waiting patiently for ages. Sorry ladies and gentlemen.

Of the rest of the old town, only Boots and M+S, are hanging on gracefully. Of the new emporia, there is a sense of cheapness and impermanence about them. I have always enjoyed a walk through Boots, just for that divine fragrance – and especially in recent years after a return from the grey decades of anosmia. I’m also under instruction from my good lady to look out for Cerruti 1881 aftershave, but I don’t see it. I’ll have to order it online, and therein lies the tale of every town’s decline, and our complicity, even as we lament it. But what else can one do? We could dwell at length on all of that, but not today.

And then I recall one could usually always rely upon Boots for the presence of beautiful, well-dressed young women in heels and makeup, and it seems one still can. It’s old-fashioned of me, I know, and perhaps even daring these days to say so but, as with the beauty of a sunset, and an autumn woodland, I’m glad of it for the way it delights the senses. The rest of the town looks tired, so we catch the bus back to the Eco-Centre, and the car park.

There’s a Mk 3 Capri, from 1985, parked next to us, and it moves away with that deliciously distinctive V6 purr. We always had an eye for a Capri, but never owned one. In its day, of course, it was the most stolen car in the UK. There’s an old Roller, too, a mid-70’s Silver Shadow. There’s something still nostalgically classy about an old Roller – a weddings and funerals thing, I suppose. I find the new ones are aggressively vulgar. Again, we could dwell at length on that, but not today. Instead, let’s wind back to coffee.

Coming up on two years of retirement now, and as I settle over coffee, in the Cambridge Arcade, I am thinking about what, if anything, I miss about the working life, and I have to say not much. When others ask about this, I usually tell them I miss “the people”, which, I imagine, is the correct, indeed the psychologically mature, thing to say. But speaking as an introvert, it’s never strictly true, since the forced company of others, whilst I admit is probably good for us, tends also to be mentally draining. We need to recharge by spending periods alone. My dreams are still peopled by former colleagues, whose names I find, on waking, I no longer remember. Familiar faces, but without names? I don’t know what the dreams mean by that, but they raise no particular emotional tone in me, other than perhaps vague worries about creeping senility, so I don’t give them much thought.

The only thing I really miss, is that Friday feeling, this being, as I recall, an almost child like excited anticipation of the weekend, and of all the joys you were going to cram into it before that flat tire of a Sunday night. It’s just in the way of things, we don’t fully appreciate our freedoms without the limitation imposed on us by the structure and the rhythm of a working week. In retirement then, it’s important to observe one’s mood, correct the temptations of negativity, and, since not every day can be made a white-knuckle ride of screaming pleasure, we look more closely for the pleasures hiding in the small things, which are everywhere and every day to be had. Otherwise, I suspect our contentment, and the value of our retirement risks dissipating, as the days take on a galloping similitude.

Of the small things this afternoon, we count the smile of the waitress who brings our coffee, we count the scent of a second hand bookshop, we count the beautiful women amid the exotic scent of the Boots fragrance department, and we count that gorgeous gurgling sound of an old V6. Then the sacrifice of the Friday feeling is a small price to pay and, which, in retirement, with a certain subtle vigilance, can be enjoyed any day of the week.

Header photo – Sunset, the pier at Southport, by me.

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The abbot gathered the order in the meditation hall, brothers Angus and Benjamin among them, and bade them sit. Then he spoke of hard times ahead. This was nothing new, thought Angus. There had been nothing but hard times for decades, that indeed the hard times were the main reason he had turned to the monastery, for peace of mind, in the first place. But even now, after many years, he was finding peace of mind still hard to come by.

Then the abbot spoke of the recently deposed king. He reminded the monks of how the king’s misconduct, over many years, had been the cause of his eventual removal by exasperated ministers, and how the king, following his disgrace, had been cast into exile. In his place, there had been appointed a princess, a choice many had thought ill-advised, on account of her having kept company with forces believed to be allied with the barons.

Now, the barons had long ago accomplished the impoverishment and defenestration of the serfs, Angus among them, and had begun to turn their attention towards the merchants. But the barons had acted in ignorance of the full power of the merchants, who had caused a revolt, which had threatened to bankrupt the entire kingdom. In renewed desperation, and with great effort, the ministers had persuaded the princess to surrender the crown, so the merchants might be placated.

Although cloistered, Angus was only too well aware of the turbulence beyond the monastery walls. Indeed, he was ever hungry for rumours, which he picked up from the lay-brothers, who had greater contact with the outside world. What puzzled Angus now, though, was what any of this had to do with them, since the monasteries had no power, and no influence over events.

The abbot went on: so great had the chaos been in the halls of the palace, the ministers had looked about in vain for someone else among the royal line who might now take up the crown. But then some ministers had begun to look back fondly upon the days of misrule by the king, for even though his behaviour had been disgraceful, and dragged the name of the kingdom into disrepute, reducing it even to a laughing-stock among its neighbours, he had been careful never to upset the merchants. And sensing now the ambivalence of the ministers, the king, had begun petitioning for the restoration of his crown, which he saw as his by right.

Thus, the kingdom was suddenly agog with rumour that the old rogue might actually return. Now, this was news to Angus, and he sat forward, listening ever more intently. Could it be true? What would the abbot have to say about it? Opinion in the land was polarised between those aghast, and those who were delighted, for it was said the king possessed a powerful charm, gifted to him by the Goddess of Misrule, and to which only the most settled, and clear of mind were immune.

Of course, some ministers looked less forgivingly upon those days of misrule, and were inclined to dismiss the king’s ambitions as beyond the pale. But already the criers, and jesters, who had themselves called for the removal of the king only months before, and had sung in praise of the princess’s accession, were even now preparing the way for the king’s return with sweet songs, sung in the town squares, throughout the kingdom. And even among the defenestrated serfs, there were murmurs of assent.

Being themselves of the most settled and clear of mind, the monks listened to all of this news, impassively, for theirs was not the world of the town squares, or the serfs, or the merchants, or the barons, or the ministers. As for the criers, and the jesters, their duplicitous songs were transparent to anyone who was not tone-deaf. As for what the monks’ response should be to all of this, the abbot smiled mysteriously, and suggested they would do well to meditate upon it.

But this failed to quell the anxiety in Angus’ breast, and he turned briefly to Benjamin, a more experienced monk, for reassurance, only to see him tip back his head and let out a silent laugh, before nodding in approval at the abbot’s wisdom. With that, the monks were dismissed, and it was later, in the courtyard, Benjamin said to Angus: “Well, brother, you’ve got to hand it to the Abbot. He’s one crafty old devil, and a genius of a teacher.”

“But I didn’t get it,” said Angus. “What would the abbot have us do about the return of the king? Take to Twitter, or something?”

Benjamin shook his head, picked up a stone, and handed it to Angus, then instructed him to go down to the pond by the farm, at sunset, to toss the stone into the water, that by doing so he would have his answer.

So Angus did as Benjamin suggested. He went down to the pond at sunset. It was a beautiful evening, the pond was a perfect mirror for the sky, and a balm for the soul. Angus tossed the stone in and watched as the ripples broke the surface. Then the ripples were reflected, intersecting each other, until the entire pond was made up of separate shards of light all pointing in different directions, and the clarity of the reflection of the sky was lost.

He slept better that night than he had for a long time, and promised himself in future he would distance himself from the lay-bothers, whose endless gossiping kept him awake at night, wrestling with matters he had no power to influence, yet which prevented him from attaining the clarity of his own mind, and thereby the authentic nature of his being.

(Photo by Sanjay Indiresh on Pexels.com)

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Ogden Clough, Pendle

The lady on the car park at Downham is anxious she can find nowhere to pay. I reassure her it’s free, no honesty box or anything. She’s not sure if she can believe me, searches high and low again. I’ve stopped here only briefly to wipe the wax spots off the windscreen, before heading up over the moor to Barley. I washed the car last night, but didn’t make a proper job of it, and we’ll have the sun in our eyes, scattering over the glass, hence the quick pit-stop to restore clarity. Downham begs us to stay, and it’s tempting, but we walked from here last time, so today it’s Barley’s turn. We set off into the sun, leaving the lady still looking for somewhere to pay.

I suppose it’s a sign of the times, that we don’t expect anything to be free, especially not somewhere so beautiful as the village of Downham. Indeed, we expect prices to be soaring ahead of our ability, or perhaps our willingness, to keep up with them. Unlike at Downham, you must pay on the car park at Barley. This used to be an honesty box, but we arrive to find a new fangled machine has already read our number plate, and we must pay on exit. Still, £3:00 all day is not unreasonable. I wonder how long this machine will last before it breaks down, and what does one do then? As if anticipating the question, a notice tells us we must, in that eventuality, pay online. But the world is leaving behind those who are not web-savvy, I counter. The machine, being a machine, has no answer to that.

It’s a beautiful day in early autumn, and there is a rich light lending deep contrasts to the old stone of the village houses. Above the chimney pots, rises the great whale-back of Pendle Hill, aglow in morning sunshine. Of the various ways to Pendle’s summit, the direct route up the Big End, from Barley, is the quickest, but also, I find, the most brutal, and the least interesting. I prefer the approach via the reservoirs, then into the Ogden valley, and Boar Clough, which is the plan for today.

Repurposed Waterworks Buildings

First we pass the old Nelson waterworks, re-purposed as apartments. As we go we fiddle with the camera, and ponder once again this morning’s Wordle, which has me stumped: it’s the usual five-letter word, last three letters I.S.T. first letter E. But the venerable New York Times must have made a mistake, for such a word simply does not EXIST, right?

The reservoirs are low, but as we enter the clough head, we find the moor and the brooks are running healthily after recent rains. There is something awesomely bleak about the Ogden Clough as it cuts its way deep into Pendle’s flank. There is a route that follows its length, curving round eventually to meet the summit, but we shall save that one for another time. Today, our route climbs out of the valley, up Boar Clough, and across Barley Moor.

Clough Head from Boar Clough

It strikes me I have been wandering various Lancashire moors since August, and have either blinked and missed the season entirely, or the heather has not bloomed this year. Drought, heat, … changes in land management? I don’t know. I had thought Barley moor, would be a blazing sea of purple today, but it’s just your usual shades of straw and khaki, and brown. The flower heads are pale and dry, looking like last year’s blooms, and the ferny tips are blackening.

Trig Point, Pendle Hill

Is this another sign of the times, perhaps? Speaking of which, I read a couple of youngsters, protesting climate change, have thrown a tin of soup over Van Gough’s “Sunflowers”, at the National Gallery. Their argument runs: what good is art if the planet dies, and us with it? So, wake up! There is, I admit, a brutal logic to this. Which is finer: a moorland ablaze with heather, or a Van Gough? But I find I am nervous at the thought of sharing a world – should we be able to save it – with angry people who would sacrifice beloved works of art.

View from Pendle Hill, towards Barley

The view from Pendle is dramatic. The land falls away sharply, runs off in all directions, and lends a tremendous airy feeling, above a patchwork of green. Bowland, Yorkshire, East Lancashire,… and in the valleys nestle the old industrial towns, Burnley, Nelson, Colne, faded to the edge of perception by a faint Autumn haze. As we sit, a Kestrel entertains, but refuses a photograph. Such a beautiful day, I’m reluctant to come down, but down we must come, and via the knee-breaking direct route, up which pilgrims are now plodding the other way, and looking the worst for it.

“Are we nearly there,” they ask?

How does one define “nearly” Five minutes? Ten Minutes?

“Yes, nearly there, and well worth it.” We try to sound encouraging. Many who would not think to climb another hill will have a go at Pendle, and for many, Pendle was their first taste of the hills and a lifetime of enjoyment.

The downhill is as challenging as the up on this route, such a long, steep, descent it has the calves all a-tremble, long before we reach the bottom. Paragliders soar on the thermals. I do hope the Van Gough is all right. They say it was covered with glass. I wonder if the soup throwers knew that, and had it not been, would they have done it anyway?

We know we are nearing civilisation when we are once more assailed by notices claiming “private land” and “beware of the dog” and “no footpath”. Fortunately, the tide of adventure up Pendle is not deterred by such land lubberly sourness.

Autumn on Pendle Hill

Down on the car park, there is a queue of elderly ladies at the ticket machine, working out how to pay. This is not encouraging. When it’d my turn, though, it is relatively straightforward. I press on my registration number, which the machine has captured, and I pay the £3.00 gladly for a day well spent. And off we would go, but there is now an almighty and seemingly intractable snarl-up in the narrow streets of Barley, designed for horse and cart, and is caused by overlarge, luxury SUV’s, which, it is a well known fact, are not equipped with a reverse gear.

So, we settle to wait, and while we wait,.. a five-letter word, beginning with E, ending with I.S.T. No, I’m sorry, such a word simply does not EXIST.

Oh,.. Wait a sec. Got it, now. Very funny.

Thanks for listening

Graeme out.

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In Roddlesworth Woods

It’s not the first time I’ve arrived at the start of a walk to find I’ve left my boots behind. But it’s okay, we’re not climbing mountains. It’ll just be some soft, dew-damp meadows, and gravel tracks, so the cheap hiking-trainers we’re wearing will probably be okay.

We’re at Ryal Fold again, in the Western Pennines, and the plan is to explore some paths we’ve not walked before, so we can add them to that mental map of permitted ways. We’ll be wandering through extensive woodland, towards Abbey Village, returning along the reservoirs and Rocky Brook, and maybe to finish we’ll come back over the moor by Lyons Den, to check on the heather.

We’re looking for signs of autumn’s advance, now, looking to enjoy some woodland photography, but as ever, it’s about enjoying the outdoors. The scent of an autumn woodland, all mushroomy and damp, early leaves composting where they lie, all of that is a delight to be savoured. The walkers’ café at Ryal Fold is busy, lots of people sitting out with coffee, enjoying these intermittent days of warm sun, and there’s a party of ramblers setting out for Darwen Tower, all noisy with well-met chatter.

Of current affairs, our new Chancellor has gone and there are rumours the PM is to be ousted too, in the coming weeks, only having been in the job five minutes. Much of the mortal thrust of last week’s “fiscal-event” is to be reversed, but the crash it precipitated is still reverberating. Retirement nest eggs are now ten percent down, and pensions are once again under a cloud as the Bank of England winds in its support of the long term bond market. And no, I don’t understand any of this either. I would subscribe to the Macbethian world view of current events, that it is “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing“, but that requires a philosophical leap when life-savings are going down the plug hole, and they’re putting security tags on tubs of butter.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death.

I don’t know Shakespeare at all, other than the fact we can always find bits of him to suit whatever the occasion:

Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more.

The man definitely had a way with words. So anyway,… before we’re “heard no more”, off we go, and plunge into the woodland. It’s still mostly green, just a thin carpeting of gold from the first fall of leaves. There’s sunlight pooling in the clearings, illuminating the canopy, spilling along the still lush sprays of beech, to be caught at last in outstretched fingers of ferny fronds, now sinking into a softening earth. There is Birdsong, but otherwise an absolute stillness, shoes and trouser cuffs already wet from their licking, as we crossed the meadows. There’s a plane of water glittering, glimpsed now and then through dense woodland as we walk. And, yes, that autumn scent.

In Roddlesworth Woods

“Have you taken any nice photos?”

It’s a large man, well padded in fleece and parka, his beanie set at a jaunty angle. He has a muddy little dog with him that looks to be having fun. I judge both to be friendly. Cameras were once a more common accompaniment. Mine now marks me as a die-hard geek. Most people are happy to make do with their phones.

“Not yet,” I tell him. “I’ll probably get some as I go up by Rocky Brook.”

“Oh aye.”

He doesn’t know Rocky Brook. I can see it in his eyes. His accent is local, but he wasn’t brought up around here. The familiar names of places no longer stick as they once did.

And no, so far I’ve been making all the same mistakes, so there are no “good” pictures in the can. I have a slow lens in a shady woodland, which means shutter speeds are dropping to 1/8th of a second, which even image stabilisation struggles with. So, it’s all motion blur, poor focus, and the usual mystery of how the eye filters out the messy confusion of a scene, which the camera subsequently reveals.

The Roddlesworth reservoirs are pretty much full, these being the first in the long chain of water-gathering that forms a semicircle around the Western Pennines. On the highest, there are rowing boats at rest, these being for use by the Horwich angling club, but which today form convenient perches for cormorants who are also fishing, and not known for returning their catch.

Fishing cormorant

And speaking of tales told by an idiot, I’m beginning to suspect the current fiction-in-progress is moribund, and I am in danger of losing touch with it. There are two types of writer. One roughs out a structure of the entire storyline, knows where he’s going before he starts, then sticks to that plan and writes to suit it. The other type, like me, doesn’t. We open with a scene, a feeling, and a handful of characters, then see how it goes. Sometimes it goes well. But sometimes you hit a hundred thousand words and things dry up, and you’ve no idea what you’re trying to say any more. Your characters get distracted by current events, so your story starts weaving about and losing momentum.

My story started off in a quiet woodland like this, with the discovery of a fallen beech tree and the age-old philosophical question: if a tree falls alone in the forest, does it make a sound? The way you answer that question puts you into one of two camps. Most people will answer yes, of course it makes a sound. How can it not? But if you think about it more deeply, you realise it doesn’t, and that’s a rabbit hole from which there is no escape.

There are several trees here in Roddlesworth that look to have come down in last winter’s storms, perhaps over-night, or otherwise, when no one was around to see them fall. And there are older trees that fell long ago, now with mushrooms growing out of them. None made a sound as they fell, which is to say we create the world of experience entirely through the senses, but that’s not how the world is in itself. How it is in itself, we don’t know. This is not woolly minded new-age thinking. You simply meditate upon the tree that falls alone, and you follow the question to wherever it leads.

My fictional protagonist is exploring the meaning of such a world-view, while trying to ignore the sound and fury of the world, and he’s trying to work out where true significance in life lies. But I think it’s led me on a bit too far, and it’s opened another door, one that requires a new story, and cannot merely be tacked on to the old. And I’m not sure I can be bothered finishing the old one, either, since it seems to have served its purpose. Or worse, I’m tempted to close it in a hurry, like: they all woke up, and it had been a dream, sort of thing. Best to let it settle, let the characters decide if they’re done or not. But it’s been all summer, and it looks like they are indeed done. I don’t know, if you write, is it best just to let a project go when it no longer resonates, even when you’re within a shout of the dénouement?

Anyway, it turns out cheap walking-trainers aren’t the best of things for walking in. After a couple of miles, you start to feel every pebble. Stand on a coin, and you can tell if it’s heads or tails. We slow the pace and linger for some shots by Rocky Brook, but here the dynamic range is more than we can capture, even bracketing the exposures. There’s a bright sparkle of sun from the little falls, and then deep shadow. The Nikon I’m using will bracket three shots automatically, but I need more, and for that I’d need to fiddle about with a tripod, and I can never be bothered carrying one. Higher up the brook we find a more shady dell and another little fall, one that that’s rarely visited, yet it’s one of the most attractive. Here the dynamic range is more within our means.

By Rocky Brook, Roddlesworth

We settle into the dell for soup. The falls too make no sound, when there is no one around to listen. Imagine that! All the beauty in the world, the sound, the scent, the vision, we do not experience it without the mind first creating it.

We pop out onto the road by the Slipper Lowe car-park. The car-park is empty, closed off, now. From here the moor rises, bright in the sun, pale as straw. We’re perhaps too early for the heather, but I had thought we’d be seeing some by now. We make a start on the climb, but the feet are burning through these thin soles, so we cut it short, contour round on another unfamiliar but beautiful path, towards New Barn, then back to the car at Ryal Fold. A splendid day, early autumn, five and a half miles round. Note to self: next time, don’t forget your boots!

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Bolton Town Hall

It was going up for nine on a bitter winter’s night, with snow on the car-park and a frost already settling. I’d been in college since eight thirty that morning, the last lecture commencing around seven, by which time not a lot was going in. You just had to keep up with your notes, and hope it made sense when you read them back in the week.

When I got to the car, the door was ajar. I wondered if I’d not shut it properly, a careless thing to have done, this being Bolton, rumoured by then to be the car crime capital of the UK. I couldn’t get the key in the ignition because there was already a bit of a key in there. Someone had broken in and tried to take the car – Ford Cortinas were notoriously easy – but the good luck fairy had seen to it the key had snapped. The thief made do with a pair of cheap driving gloves from the dash, then legged it. I was also lucky in having a toolbox – lucky again that wasn’t nicked as well – but anyway I had a pair of snout-nosed pliers in there and managed to winkle the key out. Then I drove home along snowy roads. Had my car been nicked, that would really have spoiled my day.

It sums up my acquaintanceship with Bolton. It was a place of hard work, and not always worth it, though the place also possessed a rough protective charm, one that allowed me to pass unscathed through the worst it had to offer. So, in spite of its occasionally firm hand, I still have an affection for the place.

I did two years as a day release student at the Institute of Technology. The company was paying, so it made sense to see if I could hack it. The course had a low pass rate, even among star students, and anyone with any sense did a degree instead. But degrees were full time, and you had to catch that boat earlier on in life, via the sixth forms, not as a guy already working, post apprenticeship. Your course in life was set by then, and you were lucky if you had an employer who’d let you out for study a day a week. Nowadays, there’s no chance. They want blood from the get-go.

Those were the Thatcher years, too, of course, and the slow death of the social contract. But the svengalis had sweetened it all with a veneer of easy credit that had everyone thinking they were rich, when they weren’t. Also, unknown to me as I studied to be a what I suppose you’d call an industrialist, the tide had turned, and the UK had begun shedding its industries. My timing, as always, was a bit off.

So the big manufactories were calling in the likes of Price Watermouse, who had these flip charts that showed us how you got higher returns investing your money in the City than you did from investing in manufactories, so the manufactories dwindled to piles of old brick, while the money went south to the Citadel. There, it got invested in things with no shape to them, things you couldn’t hold, or wear or eat, and which appeared only as a jiggly line on a computer graph.

If you never left London, you might be forgiven for thinking everything was fine, because the shine didn’t come off that place until it was revealed how much of its wealth had come not just from our defunct industries, but those of the recently plundered Soviet Union as well. But we didn’t know about any of that. The north just felt hollow from the early nineties onwards, and it grew increasingly obvious nothing great would ever come out of our industries again. Anything that did would be bought up by foreign money and shipped out. For those of us still working, much of the work was about managing decline amid dwindling budgets.

Anyway, driving through Bolton this morning, I have the sense of entering a parallel universe. I used to know the town well, but as I drive past the college, I don’t recognise anything. The car park where I nearly lost my car that night looks like it’s home to a huge modern building, part of the smart, new University campus, and there are students everywhere. Meanwhile, the rest of town looks like every other in the north: wrecked, and no reason for people to go there any more. The Civic buildings look as grand as ever, but radiating out from them is an earthquake of ruin, as far as the eye can see. And the impressively ingenious security for getting into the Octagon carpark, also suggests there’s still a problem with car-thievery.

I’m here for a wedding, and pleasant though that is in these unremittingly downbeat times, I cannot help but wonder at the direction of travel since I last walked these streets. In 1985, if you had an engineering degree, you were a rare individual, and respected for it. You rose with some justification above the rest, and got yourself fast tracked into the officer class, but there was still plenty of work, and good work, if you’d not got a degree in you, indeed even if you’d little in you by way of IQ at all. All you needed was confidence and drive. God knows what you’re supposed to do now.

The credit boom ignited by Thatcher and Reagan crashed to earth in 2008, and no one saw it coming. We’ve been limping along ever since, the industrial towns sinking into the crazed tarmac and buckled pavements, at an ever faster rate, while paradoxically, a new form of debt raises these glossy degree factories from the old polytechnics. This is an astonishing funding wheeze our kids will be paying off for the rest of their lives. So now the vast student populations flood these new university towns where the spivs snap up all the cheaper housing stock for rent, thus squeezing out the ordinary people, so the primary schools dwindle for want of children and the soul of the town dies.

There’s a new documentary by Adam Curtis – seemingly the last of the renegade BBC voices – that seems curiously prescient. It takes us not to Bolton, but to Moscow. The wealth of Russia was stolen from under Yeltzin’s nose by a form of hyper-capitalism, one that went off like a vacuum bomb, leaving the ordinary citizen with nothing. It meant a small number of rich people could hold preposterously luxurious parties, leaving the rest to scramble around for the basics. The extent of the crisis is neatly summed up in one memorable line in which bewildered shoppers were told: there are no potatoes in Moscow.

When I look at the shock tactics of our own governing class in recent weeks, I refuse to believe it is the result of a crass incompetence. Indeed, I feel a similar devil is at work, and sense one day soon the possibility we will go to Tesco’s to find they have no potatoes either. And, as inevitable as all that will have seemed – at least in retrospect – no one will have seen it coming.

But in a parallel world, my car did indeed get nicked that night. I remember I was a heartbeat from quitting the job anyway, because I’d a hankering after being a writer, and poet instead, and I was having a hard time suppressing that side of me for fear of a lonely life and starving to death. But I also had a novel doing the rounds of the London publishers, and I’d nearly enough money saved to buy a house outright, up in the West of Scotland, where they were dirt cheap, at least back then, before anyone had thought of Air B+B. I was thinking about taking a chance the book would come good, that I’d somehow scrape by on luck, even though I’d heard nothing from the publishers in six months. Then a Bolton car thief kicked me in the nuts, and made up my mind for me, set me on the train for Glasgow and the Fort.

I most likely starved to death some time in the later nineties, living out in the wilds of Ardnamurchan. By then, I had a reputation for being a recluse, and just one more eccentric Sassenach who’d found himself unsuited to the rat race. I never married, never had kids, and my life’s worth amounted to a pile of poems that never sold, and a collection of grainy black and white photographs of lonely loch and mountain. There would still come a time when there were no potatoes in Tescos, but that wasn’t something I’d live to see and be writing poems about.

Or maybe it wasn’t like that at all. Maybe the miners gave the cops a bloody nose at Orgreave that day in ’84, and Maggie called the army in, so then we all had to pick our sides instead of just watching it on the telly. And the poets, and the Romantics of the soft left won over hearts and minds to the social contract, which was patched up and made fit for the twenty-first century. Now no one’s scared to switch on the lights, and there are always plenty of potatoes. It’s something to ponder anyway.

Thanks for listening.

Header photo adapted from an image by Stephen McKay, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9044236

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A wet week looks like having us confined mostly to barracks. Since the youngest flew the nest, last year, I have acquired a study. It has a view of the garden, and beyond, to a once grand ash tree, now beginning to die back. We resist the obvious metaphor, focus instead on the stripes of the lawn, and the remaining splashes of colour among the heleniums.

I’m thinking about something that happened a long time ago. It was a moment of transcendence, I think, one in which there was no difference between who I was, and what I was looking at. That I happened to be looking at Scope End, a shapely cone of a mountain in the Newlands Valley, made this a very grand experience indeed. And whether it was a genuine taste of oneness, as the Buddhists would have it, or just a bit of a funny do, is largely irrelevant at this stage. I’m inclined towards the former, since it has remained fresh in memory all these years, and has driven a lot of creative efforts in mystical directions, though I readily accept the possibility of the latter.

It’s hard to imagine everything we see as being made of atoms: the lawn, the heleniums, and the old ash tree. We know it to be so, thanks to the elementary science we learned at school, but we still tend not to think of things that way. To do so would lend the world a layer of complication we can manage perfectly well without, day to day. Atoms are mostly space, yet the world looks solid. Go down another level, and atoms are made of smaller particles. Then again, these smaller particles are made from even smaller particles, none of which are actually particles, but more like twists of energy, vibrating in what is called the Unified Field. The field is a thing beyond which there is nothing, because it is nothing, yet it gives rise to the world, to the universe of appearances.

It’s also here, while conducting science at this subatomic level, the consciousness of the observer has an effect on what manifests, on that which is observed, which leads to speculation that the unified field – if not in itself actually aware – is the ground from which even consciousness arises. All of this is simply to say that when I am looking at the ash tree, my relationship to it is more complicated than surface appearances, and certainly more complicated than I am ordinarily aware.

All of this, the last hundred years or so of scientific thinking finds itself converging on the Vedic tradition, which speaks also of a fundamental ground of being, an emptiness, a nothingness, a formlessness, timeless and infinite, from which all things arise. And the tradition holds that this state can be experienced directly, either by diligence in the practice of meditation, or you can even sometimes fall into it by accident.

In my case, the accident occurred at the tail end of a long and very beautiful walk in the mountains, some time around the millennium. It probably lasted only the length of time it takes for the raising of a foot, as I walked, and the placing of it down again, but, internally, the experience was much more expansive, and timeless. It posed many questions, of course, and the subsequent search for answers became a considerable part of my leisure time thinking, thereafter, a search for which one feels poorly equipped, bound as one is by the nine to five-ness of ordinary, suburban circumstances.

Scope End, June 2005

Although I have speculated on it before, a firmer link between Vedic – also to some degree Buddhist – philosophy and the Unified Field of contemporary physics came to me only recently while revisiting some old notes on Transcendentalism – Transcendent meaning a direct experience of the ground of being, or the divine, or however you want to put it. I first heard the term, long ago, when a work’s doctor was interviewing me, after I’d fainted. I was a manufacturing apprentice, and my mate had injured his finger on a machine. He swore, and I fainted. I came round in a sweat, the doc pronounced me fit, told me to get back out on the shop and then, as if he had peered into my soul, added that I’d probably benefit from some form of Transcendental Meditation. It was perhaps the single most sage piece of advice I was ever given, but I ignored it.

And just as well I did, because the “official” Transcendental Meditation (TM) would have been beyond my means. Even if I’d found a teacher, TM costs you serious money, and I’d a long way to go before I was ready, or desperate enough to take any form of meditation seriously, but especially one where they asked you for money. Now, I’ve no reason to doubt TM is as effective as they say it is – even though most of those saying it are celebrities who can well afford it – but there are plenty of other forms you can learn from books, or from inexpensive church hall classes, if you want to give it a go.

As for TM in particular, it’s a technique defined by the use of a mantra, a meaningless word that has a certain resonance in the mind as it is silently repeated. In the official TM that mantra is a secret – specific to you – given to you by your teacher and never to be shared. Naturally, this raises some sceptical eyebrows. Personally, I think you could find your own mantra, and that will do just as well.

I’ve used meditation – though not TM – as a means of controlling stress and anxiety, mostly work related, and found it effective, but it never took me back to that moment in the mountains. Then again, I don’t meditate very often these days, and I’m not sure I want, or need, to go back to that moment anyway, because it raised more questions than I can ever answer, at least in this lifetime. But I’m grateful for the glimpse behind the curtain, so to speak, if indeed that’s what it was. It’s certainly gifted me plenty of speculative avenues to explore over the years, and the mind has enjoyed toying with them in my various fictional writings.

It’s deeply strange to look at a mountain and have one’s consciousness expand until one is both oneself, and the mountain. That’s too clumsy a way of putting it. Perhaps a better way is to say the unified field contains both the manifestation of the mountain, and one’s own consciousness, and that, for a moment, one attains a glimpse of both, from some higher perspective.

Of course the ego resists even this one small concession, that while it might be possible this is the way it really is, Ego denies any certainty of belief, that beyond granting the world is indeed a beautiful place, and at times hauntingly so, it would sooner take anchor in a materiality we know full well to be a serious simplification of the way things truly are.

And now, after all of that, the sun is shining, so we’ll slip out for a walk, while the going is good, and I’ll leave you in the company of David Lynch (Lost Highway, Twin Peaks, Mulholland Drive) who I think explains it very well.

Thanks for listening

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