Thursday, 30 November 2017

Who are you going to blame for cancer?




Human life hasn't had an easy time getting here and it faces no easy status keeping safe.

It's biggest enemy is itself. Ecology, the balance of everything that sustains our living planet, is not any servant of human agency. Economy, a man-made balance of artificial wealth, has seduced our sensitivities away from ecological reality. We are killing our planet because of greed, as any informed person knows. Greed begets greed, and the way of big business is to interrupt, disrupt and get bigger.

Not logical, as far as earth logic goes.

Ecological intelligence makes for a good partner with emotional intelligence, and the rub is that all living items feel emotion. Maybe even the minerals.

I was prompted to write these thoughts because of a thoughtless post made by some-one in respect of faith healers and hospitals.

Who do you turn to when cancer is diagnosed? What do you feel and think when mortality gets you into a staring competition? What can medicine do? Why do three more years matter?

The fact is that human bodies are delicately poised items of ecology. They are built to survive, make no mistake. This struck me forcibly when my son was born prematurely, weighing 850 grams, his head smaller than my palm, and his feet way below my elbow. But he was fine. Delicate as that situation was, that body was made to live. All bodies are. Yet, nothing is promised, and really, anything can go wrong at any moment because of something that slides off a fly's wing, or a microbe that craps under your toenail, or a worm in your gut that decides otherwise. The universe as well as planet Earth is not a well-oiled machine, and living tissue is prone to failure under circumstances beyond our control.

A delicately poised ecology requires recognition, respect and co-operation. While it's better to climb a tree than to be polite to a lion that's chasing you, there are things that take less urgency. Like watering your garden, if you have one. Like noticing and feeding the birds. Odd relationships have been formed that way. Like learning to notice and love the ground on which we walk. Tracking: not checking on our trucks kind, but observing who has come and crossed our path, and where the small grains of sand are earlier or later than the bigger grains: this matters, if you want to read the patterns of living earth.

Communicating with our own species: we're actually almost one hundred percent useless at this. While neurons are designed to communicate at all levels, quasi-levels and para-levels, our failure to say, mean and communicate has been thwarted by bad ideas that confuse and constipate that so-called mind.

If we were to think less and respond more truthfully and clearly, and never mind the social embarrassment, the delicately poised ecology might start noticing us for what we are, and not what what we would prefer to be.

I am not for not thinking, but for better thinking, which means that what we say should be more in line with emotional authenticity and less in co-operation with everyday chatter and impressionability.

I am for assisting with the healing of the people, and the world, and against the rubbish of destructive behaviour and attitudes, no matter their origin or agency.

We have always lived in a delicately poised ecology, and no enterprise on earth can change that, or diminish our responsibility. There's nothing wrong with crocodiles, though they eat us from time to time. At least we know what they are.

Is there something wrong with cells that grow without obedience to DNA? That's more difficult.

What can we do about it?

I have the sense that it's not about dread disease. If your lifestyle is wrong, let's get educated. If you're struck down by a rare disease, share your story. The doctors and professors do try, for sure, but they are not the PR for humans. They simply try their best.

The rest of humanity needs to do that, too. Industrialists, bankers, brokers, business of all kinds. If you're in it for the greed, or self-comfort, at least admit it, if only to yourself. Your body's immune system is organic, not economic.

I'm not picking only on cancer, that's just a headline. We do not live in a sick world, we live as part of a sick species.

So never blame God while we can change what we are able to change. Bear that delicate balance of ecology in mind with every real dawn, drawn breath and recognition that you affirm.





Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Hard science, soft science and story.




There are many approaches to understanding anything, and for my own convenience, I separate them into hard science, soft science and story.

Hard science, in my view, would depend on closed systems of language known as jargon, and maths and statistics. As a field of study becomes more and more narrow and tested for validity, its language becomes more and more obscure to the layman. Physiological jargon, which comprises many other kinds of jargon, including chemistry, physics, anatomy and links to pharmaceutical jargon as well as statistical values is such an example.
The study of electricity can be complicated when you get down to the level of electromagnetic movement. My physics teacher at school taught me that electricity was measured going one way, but that it actually went the other way. Most of the time is doesn't matter. If you move the switch, the light comes on. But if you want to understand it properly, you need to learn the jargon and be able to speak it someone else who knows it.

Soft science is more interdisciplinary. It allows jargons to make friends. Take NLP, neuro-linguistic programming, for instance. This blends psychology, psychotherapy, neurology, linguistics and sometimes hypnosis, but they prefer not to talk about that, usually. Musicology links vibrational resonance with performance with theory of all kinds, including anthropological differences of taste, meaning and movement.

Story is what the neural system does in order to produce subjective stability, purpose and change.

Ever noticed how archeology finds a tooth, a bone and a fossilised dropping, and comes up with a story and a picture of a new cryptosaurus? I'm not poking fun: this is the best way to go to establish anything at all. Advocates have to test each others' stories in court, and the judge and jury decide who to go with.

So, to simplify, hard science locks you into jargon, soft science allows stories to mingle and story is what it is. Or, more significantly, what you declare that story to be. Neural activity is said to connect the dots, but the story I perceive is that it actually creates the dots and then connects them. Your subjective role is crucial. "Thoughts become things. Choose the good ones". Thanks, Mike Dooley. Choose your dots, because if you don't they will arise more likely to be your enemies than your friends.

There are obvious dots, such as finance, legal systems and contracts, but they are all man-made and mean nothing in the longest run. How to live, how to love and how to say goodbye are ways of creating the dots we choose to connect. There are even more dramatic dots such as earthquakes, floods, plagues and droughts. These are not man-made, and require a different kind of reading and connecting.

The head doesn't think, it merely houses the brain. To separate the brain from the neural network is to declare the lines and stations more important than the trains and passengers. What you feel is important to you, and so you will figure it out, like how to avoid the next earthquake. This is useful, like anaesthetics.

The point is not to judge or evaluate hard science, soft science and story. Each of these has a real role to play, and all knowing is incomplete until every story is known which is poor expression and incomprehensible language.

But one story to cover everything in this universe? Never.

Studying fingerprints, unique as each one is, is interesting, touching and being touched is exciting, negatively or positively. Each time you point a finger and create a dot, something becomes possible. The story is the next step.


Tuesday, 21 November 2017

The story of death, and what it doesn't mean.



I was about five or six years old when I became aware of inconsolable grief. I became aware that when things went badly wrong, or someone died, people were strongly affected in ways that seemed irreversibly sad and desperate. What made this insight strange to me, was that they said comforting things to each other, which my ears and mind heard, and my guts knew to be false. The words were like leaves blown by the hard wind of loss: they were merely evidence of the strength of those gusts of desperation that no-one really knew what to do with.

Quite something for a six year old to perceive. Today I would say that the story of death is less mystifying than it has ever been before. Even though the human mind hasn't even begun to learn what it can, it's turned many corners since people were publicly executed, burned at the stake, drowned at the drowning-pole, hanged, drawn and quartered, and all the other horrible experiences devised by the contemplators of cruelty.

The pain in death is an ogre, and medical science has done what it can to alleviate that pain. But the pain of death is something else, and if one steps beyond the human sphere for a short moment, one can see our planet and the universe don't share the pain of death.

While life is there, strong organic systems and instincts help to sustain and preserve life. Yet organic life is a delicately poised ecological balance of give and take, host and parasite, cycles and seasons, aeons and nano-seconds, in which everything happens, all comes and goes, and movement and stillness mark significance that has little to do with the superficial wash of words.

Every living thing protests death, even shrimps and plants. (Read about Backster's experiments, I think that's the correct spelling). That's natural, and deliberate killing is generally inhumane.

Yet death is entirely unavoidable, and this must be the hinge on which the story turns. I think we should be taught of the wisdom of seasons, and the necessity of cycles and the fluidity of emotions from five or six years old. The sense of our stories should not be about the fear and horror of being snuffed out, utterly meaninglessly, but of participation in something so awe-filled that words fail, not because of fear, but because of grand generosity. That's the hallmark of being a human mind: to be able to recognize not only the generosity of what we assume to be our immediate universe, but to grasp that that's only the vaguest beginning of the multiverse.

We ought to feel that being alive is vastly important because it hold hands with so much more. What that "more" is, is no easy meta-story. Wording and storying that one is a matter of participation, and my sense of that activity is that it pans out into a mix of fierce joy and powerful peace. Like music.







Tuesday, 7 November 2017

The end of the world and the left-over story





It's a strange story to tell, but yes, the world will eventually come to an end, and all the political madness and economic eccentricities will have no meaning at all.

I have a strange theory that the world comes to an end each time some-one dies. We have not even begun to realize how living reflects heaven. The Western world believes in nothing, or heaven. The Eastern world......I don't know, I would need to experience more, but I sense there's more respect in those parts.

The brain creates stories, or at least, the sense of story, as it tries to make meaning of the body's experience. The body's experience is all one has to go by, but it goes all the way, if you have the guts.
The brain knows the guts well, but there's that little voice of the self that insists on getting up and declaring something, to try and make itself real.

The sense of what's real is something of a luxury if you're trapped. Trapped is trapped, and that's where most of us are. In emotions, lack of money, need for love, loss of loved ones, powerlessness, illness, pain of all kinds, purposelessness.

How does it end?

Is it a good story or is the end heroic bravado in the face of fruitlessness and failure?

I once asked a world-famous physicist if there are parallel universes, since this was in fashion. His answer still resounds within: "No-one can tell you". It seemed to me that his thinking allowed for much, but in the end it's up to you. I had a similar experience when I was studying religion, and my tutor was an important rabbi I never met, but he read my essay, and his remark was that everyone has to work this out for themselves, and you've done that, so well done.

You come to your limits, you don't know more, and your bank of feeling is full to overflowing. What do you do?

You choose. There's always something more to the story, or the sense of it, and don't you declare closure when you don't know the ending.

That's the point. You don't know the ending, and anyone who claims to, is over-enthusiastic.

You're allowed to choose the ending, and that's complex, because endings and beginnings are all mixed up. Ask the table of elements. I have a sense of these, because that's who I am.

The universe is made of fire, and I'm part of that whether I like it or not. The earth is a cooling bit of it, and somehow I got mixed up in that. When I know more, I'll tell you. For the time being, your sense of story is the most helpful path to follow. You're important, you're not important, you certainly have much to contribute. Your life counts, your love matters. Your words do not make you, but they steer your choices. Your decisions are important, but it's not you making the decisions.

Language is the hallmark of humankind, and it's a red herring, most of the time. The scalpel of truth knows the difference between what you say and what you mean.

Yes, the world will end, and you and I will be forgotten, as we know forgetting to be, now, but the table of elements is wiser than the awareness which we assume.

The left-over story is the really interesting one, and we'll be telling it because we can't get out of it. I think we're telling it already, however well or badly, all depending on how well we know and trust our body.



Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Subtle sensitivities, stories, and the sense of reality.

Paying attention is the shaping of attention. It's like driving a car. You learn, do the test, get the license, and then obey the rules of the road. Driving the mind, the body, emotions is not dissimilar. Only problem is that formal stuff drives out the sense of reality, and replaces it with artificial urgency.

Formal education, formal religion, formal economy, formal language in particular, all have a way of impressing a sense of reality on a mind that's easily led by felt importance. I have always been utterly annoyed when someone expects me to stand still and listen. Perhaps I was born a rebel, perhaps with special sensitivities. And I have also always been polite: I have stood still and listened, even when I knew the fruitlessness of it. I prefer a conversation, a reasonable one, with urgencies that are reckoned with, not imposed.

My own body has its imperatives, which are mostly under self-control. I would prefer to be wild, and throw off these stupid constraints, but then, I would be imprisoned, punished and lose what I have.

So having given up on wildness and reasonability, I turn to sensitive subtleties.

I think these are what give us a sense of truth which then blows up like a balloon, and we refuse to pop it, at any cost.

Let me suggest a few examples:

the first time you ate a meal that impressed you
the first action you took that meant freedom
the last thing you have done to give you pleasure
the last thing you've done for which you would ask forgiveness
the next thing you would do, no matter the cost
the next person you would want to hug
the next person you would hug
the people that come to mind that you miss
the last time you were still, and noticed nature
music that you wish to hear, now



There are infinitely more. Intensities of subtleties of which you are hardly aware, but they make your living story what it is.



Think of what occupies the minds of political leaders, and how far these thoughts are from realizing their own subtle sensitivities. Like bullets and bandits, they simply smash a way into general experience, without respect, without recognition.

Whose story is the important one, why, how, and how is it to be told, and who will listen?

I think these answers are the stuff of heaven.

They really aren't difficult answers, but their utterances seem to be a long time coming.

When I chat with the next person who's there, in front of me, I experience a new reality, and I am glad of it. That sense of reality is a good one. There are many examples of the opposite. Human cruelty is its own devil. Human love is more normal than one would think. It takes little more than a touch.


Monday, 30 October 2017

South Africa in search of its story.



Which initiates which, the narrator or the narrative? Is one ever anything but a response to a huge array of triggers? The chaos of communication that South Africa has become warrants both deep listening and decisive action. Here are some ways of clarifying the way to re-creating the story of South Africa:

Communicate rather than enact anger

When mass emotion surges, beware politicians, preachers and any other slogan-bearing entities

Action as well as communicate compassion

Formal language games seldom produce anything fruitful

Social media has little to do with actual experience

Attention is easily duped by almost anything

Fruitless discussion achieves nothing

Side-taking results in divisiveness

The road to a new story for South Africa is blocked by two obstacles: a manipulation of cash and a crisis in meaning. The first means that we can't seem to stop them from thieving and the second means that we don't seem to have any way of getting at them.

But I think there's more to be said. When the taxi is on fire, you smash the windows and get out. When there's no more water, the intense search and struggle starts. And when enough of you are outraged, something tips. And when everyone, yes everyone is angry enough to act, there will definitely be real results.

I'm for watching Zuma run as fast as he can to get away from us, with a look of utter dread on his ugly face, because we're all going for him, intent on teaching him how bad he is, since he's unwilling to admit to it. We will all be embarrassed in the history books because of what we didn't do. And of course, it's not only him, but he certainly is the hinge on the swinging door of corruption.

But we shouldn't be intent on killing Zuma and his cash-workers: our intention, if we are to work out a new story should be creative, communicative, careful and compassionate. And not goody two-shoes. Compassion includes dispassionate excision of what can't be remedied and will only destroy. The politicians are running out of water and wisdom. They are not creative people. Those who buy into divisive talk about decolonization need to work out the difference between rhetoric and real stories.

So where are those with the words that could point us in a fruitful and sustainable direction? I think they're all about, but they need to be encouraged to turn down the volume, reduce the rage to reason, and tell the stories of what makes them the South Africans we want to be.

I hear Kieno Kammies talk to quite a few in the morning. He's got the right idea: a bit of a rant against Jacob, and then some attention to the nation-builders.

The better stories are everywhere. National and narrative glue.


Sunday, 15 October 2017

Not a leader, not a follower: the new category: Communicator



The leader is beholden to lead. You're either at the top of the stairway, or going down. But the world as we know it as at the end of meaningful leadership. They no longer impress. Political leaders are as ordinary as thugs. Business leaders are stress managers rather than economic shapers. Religious leaders are, at best, persuaders, at worst, liars. Military leaders are authorized bandits, educational leaders process managers. The new official lieutenant to the leader is the executive coach, and this shaman is an expensive one because if the so-called leader buys into this, the money and the energy blend into a fascinating prostothetic. We believe each other, because we paid for the feeling. The coach paid a lot, the executive paid a lot, therefore it's valuable.

The staircase is a strange place: it offers perspective. When you are up you are up, and when you are down you are down, and when you're only half-way up, you're neither up nor down.

There's an even better one:
"As I was going up the stair,
I met a man who wan't there.
He wasn't there again today,
oh, how I wish he'd go away".

The language of leadership assumes the position. Increasingly, the language fails. The money is still there, but the communication isn't.

I suggest a new category: not the leader, not the follower but the communicator. Not the executive, not the worker: the communicator.

Each step. Not the top, not the bottom, but the connection, the synapse, the transmitter, the avenue of accelerated efficacy of purpose related to the business at hand. The team, the whole, the movement, the meaning, and each part thereof.

The body itself is such an example. It all works, but often the leader is absent by default. The body cannot lead itself for itself: it is part of an ecology. We're going downstairs to open the door, maybe we're going upstairs to the toilet. But we, the decision itself, are going. We're communicating the purpose as one, nothing left out.

The new paradigm bypasses the union's legalism, the leader's proficiency. The communicator has arrived, but has no awareness, because the play of the communicator's language is yet emerging. The leader is authoritative, the follower deferential. The communicator knows the silliness of this differential, but as yet lacks the platform to have an authority of language because the platform is one of play, not of establishment. The leader-provocateur or the follower-provocateur is the closest shadow  of the proper communicator.

Few leaders dare to play, when there's much at stake. But living itself, is a stance, a stare, an attitude, a gamble, a game, a one-life stand.

There's much to be communicated, and few who know how. The Story Clinic is one avenue. Not one story exists until it's enacted by communicators.




Tuesday, 10 October 2017

The Story Clinic and Cansa Support

On 27th September 2017 The Story Clinic attended a CANSA support group at Sederkem Clinic, Clanwilliam. The person who kindly arranged this was Susanna Mezza, of Sederkem.

The purpose was to offer emotional support to cancer survivors and carers. The medical world is often better at clinical work than compassion, and CANSA assists with both in many ways. The Story Clinic is grateful for this opportunity to be involved with a really worthwhile organization. The theme was "Six ways to support feelings attached to cancer". In the end we found that it wasn't about counting the ways, but realizing them through experience.
















When one is diagnosed with anything serious, the emotional consequences are difficult. One helpful approach is to write headings for the chapters of one's life, and then to review how adaptation to a new "normal" has taken place. The respondents is this event taught me a lot: how they understood their own emotions, how they valued those close to them more than their own lives, how they took on new and deeper experiences.

Thanks to all for this enriching experience, and especially to Johan Vermeulen, owner of Sederkem for his unwavering support of natural means to health. 

The Story Clinic at Kalk Bay Books





Kalk Bay Books kindly included The Story Clinic in their evening events. We intended to have an interactive experience with story therapy and poetry therapy, but didn't have time to move beyond story therapy. Story therapy is about viewing one's life as unfolding story, using typical aspects of story such as chapters, voice, authorship and description of detail to surprise oneself out of a constricting life plot.





We went through a few exercises and the general experience was fruitful in terms of realization and discussion.
What a marvelous venue Kalk Bay Books is! The atmosphere is palpable. Thanks to Audrey, of Kalk Bay Books, and Mary-Ann, the events co-ordinator. Thanks to Michael Salzwedel for his journalism, and to Prof Paul Potter for his support. And to Leopards Leap for the sponsored wine to Kalk Bay Books. And to those who brought memories of old friendships with them. I was reminded of so very much.....perhaps this is how the glue of story works. 

Event: The Story Clinic at Clanwilliam Kunshuis

On Wednesday 2nd August 2017, The Story Clinic held an interactive event at the Clanwilliam Kunshuis, on invitation by the owner, Stephanie Stone. Stephanie has a huge amount of art available, and the gallery is certainly worth a visit.

The topic was "Art and neurotransmission: how far does feeling go?"

















We started off with a brief explanation of how neurotransmission works, and then applied it to the visceral experience of art, how we feel when we encounter images, and how those feelings come to mean something to us, individually and collectively. We got the group to make a big circle, and showed them how to behave like neurotransmitters. Did everyone enjoy that? Some weren't so sure, but at least it was fun. 

The main theme was that communication is central to the creation of meaning, and that art is not merely something outside of us, but a huge aspect of what is within us, and that we find and experience it by paying attention.

Many thanks to Stephanie Stone, and to all who participated. 





Thursday, 8 June 2017

The body is a story






Think about where the body begins, and you'll meet a library of stories. Biology, genetics, family trees, family histories, historical eras, geographic locations, political backdrops, economic contexts and more: the moods, moments and meanings are prolific and penetrable, and could take a long, long time to tell.

And if you think your body's story is autobiographical, think again. Your voice itself has many selves and many stories. I recently read "Full Voice" by Barbara McAfee, which not only reminded me of all the possible voices of the body, but put me back in touch with voices from the long-gone past which I had forgotten about, and was so surprised to rediscover.

I owe much to my Irish friend who looked at me so many times and said the same thing: "Shit!".
I never knew what to expect after that, because he used to be a priest, and was able to choose words ultra-carefully. But what I'm thinking of was the time he responded to our conversation by giving me a different look and saying, "Shit! You're in touch with all your selves".

The older I get the more I realize that I have loved many without realizing it. Sometimes you miss what the sense of connection is telling you. I wonder how many have looked at me in ways that connected us, and I missed it.

The body itself is one big connected item, made of literally millions of sub-systems, and that magical nexus, the voice-box knows them all. Sorry for that almost superfluous label of awareness called the ego that knows almost nothing.

The body is a story, and the way to hear it is to pay attention. Special attention grows the mind, which clothes the body with consciousness. Animals and children love it, and adults try to gain it with tricks of attraction.

When we do not pay attention to what the body is expressing, the consequences are real. Sometimes we die before we should, often we don't learn what is so blatantly obvious, that we have to regroup and try again.

The sense of story and the activity of realization are closely linked. And if you fervently believe something that isn't so, then fervency is all that you'll get in the end. Big energy going nowhere.

And the converse is also true: no fire in the belly, no spark in the eye. A lukewarm life.

Each body is a cosmic drama, and our lives tend to show it. Each body is God's art, not man's science, and our souls reflect that beauty and desire. Each body is an epic poem that promises something never heard before, so it would be good to allow that voice to feel, fully, its expression in action.

The body is a story, not merely a death in waiting. And it's not one story told by a lonely passenger in an almost empty bus. It's more like a chorus chanting in counter-point, using language like a lasso to hold an impossible ideal stable in a sea of suggestion.

The more I listen, the more I hear it.



Saturday, 8 April 2017

Focusing on the sense of story



Story precedes langauge. It's a provocative statement. But I think it works. And by the way, I don't think much of the word "truth" anymore. I've experienced far too much of what other humans use as truth, and hardly any of it sits well with me. If you appeal to the authority of truth I'm not listening. Sure, there's a sense of truth, but it's more gut-like than cerebral, and that's what it is. Of the gut. Not of a special concept like a formal god you can't escape. I'm less interested in what's true and more interested in what works. Thanks, Dewey.

There are so many exciting ways of introducing the sense of story. Character, context, crisis. Relationship, romance. Juxtaposition, jokers.

Let me explain why the sense of story means as much and maybe more than the sense of love to me. My upbringing was about Bible stories. Every Biblical book, character, theme, purpose and plan was put to me as I began to know language, and I was made to listen. So I listened. My guts boiled, and head was confused. This was demanding stuff! I was required to take a stand for the entire universe. God lived or died in the name of Christ, depending whether or not I accepted something I couldn't work out. And if I failed to work it out, I couldn't do it, and if I didn't do it, to eternal punishment with ghouls, goblins, ghosts and the devil himself I would go.

Believe it or not, my neurons are still nervous, even though I have worked hard to organize a very rational mind. What you experience when you're young really is important, and the early relationships are critical.

My parents did not love me. I'll take a moment to explain this because anyone who knew my parents would be horrified to read this. They were unquestionably honourable and honest people, they did their best for family, friends, church, community. Probably not country. They prayed but my father refused to vote because voting was a worldly system. Love is realized and created emotionally. The intention thereof arises from awareness and action. But what was their emotional reality? With hindsight I realize that my father was terrified of God, because of his father, whose story I won't go into  (he seems to have been a mad missionary), and my mother was utterly homesick for the country and community she had left to commit to this lot. That;s what I grew up with. It's not so bad. Far worse has happened to very many more.

Historical context is a good place to locate the sense of story. Never mind the psychology. Do a Frank McCourt. 'Tis. Do a Robert Ruark: Uhuru. Do a William Styron: Sophie's Choice. He wasn't there physcially, but spiritually he was. He suffered depression. Not surprising.

Love is a word, and the reality behind it, with it, because of it, is many more words that lead towards awareness of unpredictable emotional metastatis. The opposite of cancer, love is about controlled growth, economic (imporant for South Africa now), social, spiritual and personal. Yet "growth" is also a word: what does it mean?

A story grows. Do we co-operate with it, or does it co-incide with our livingness? I have noticed that how you word your important stories resonates with the unexpected, if you're being honest, spontaneous and real about what you say.

The sense of story isn't merely about being caught up in a book, movie or drama. It's about the shape of your heart. Thank you, Sting...

We all sit at the gate of our story. When we die, what happens between our atoms doesn't. There's a huge story there that no one has yet told, although Bruce Lipton has got as far as the  cell membrane, and the messages that are so astute, there.

Who tells the story you hear, want to hear, need to hear or even avoid?

To answer that you need to deal with Presence. Amy Cuddy is good for that. So is the Old Testament. Try the New Testament too, but take care, it's been hacked many times. Rainer Maria Rilke is good too. There are many, many others.

The sense of story precedes language. It's the place where language and intuition want to meet, and can't quite, sometimes can, and also instinctively know when to avoid each other.








Monday, 13 March 2017

That life and death are not opposites.


I wish that they hadn't taught me that life and death are opposites. I learnt about opposites early on in school. Antonyms, they said, and they worked in pairs, one word meaning the opposite of the other, like hot and cold, wet and dry, up and down, and even boy and girl. It was a rule, even a law, that things worked in opposites. Later on I learnt that this is not dissimilar to Kantian logic, where a thing can be only what it is, not something else. Logical positivism.

I learnt about death before I went to school. I was taken to many funerals because my parents were very supportive of bereaved people. The coffin lid was frequently left open, and once my mother was really cross with me because, as she said, "Why do you want to put your nose in there?" The truth was that I was supremely curious, and not scared of finding out.

But what they taught me at church was a big problem: I soon grasped that although they pretended to know what happened when you die, they didn't. They were heart-broken, no matter how much they believed in Jesus. And the more I asked, the more unsatisfactory were the answers.

Now that I'm over sixty years old, and have kept on asking, all the time, I have to say that life and death are not opposites. Crucifixion and resurrection work together, every autumn covers our garden with leaves and beauty, each spring returns flowers and grace.

The awkward truth about dying is that you know, even if you believe in reincarnation, that you, yourself won't come back. It's a real ending. I have thought about this sad feeling a lot, and the following answer has come to mind: I have ten unique finger-prints on the ends of my fingers, and I feel nothing special about them. Not even one of them. The knowable cosmos is filled with infinite uniquenesses, from snowflakes to stars.

When it comes to people, the same is true.


The feeling of being alive isn't any one particular feeling. It's a magnificent range, the pattern of which is unique to any individual. I have found  that few people go the whole length to the available depths. When they get put out there, they quickly want to move back to a safe place.

There is no safety in music. If you listen carefully you will hear the stuff of cosmos, the knowing of heaven. Strange that it's beautiful and heart-rending at the same time, comforting and turbulent, knowing yet stretching to what seems unattainable.

The story of being alive is just that, glimpses into the greater narrative that we don't control, individually or collectively.

I was brought up as a Christian, and I don't think that that collective has got too much right. The rogue priests who speak truth to pope and arch, the protests, the faithful and fervent, the silent kindness of the ordinary people and the earnest intellects of those who attempt to overcome pomp: these impress and inspire me. And those who show that God and art are in relationship. And those who reject dogma for freedom, fearlessly.

Two things tell me that life and death are not opposites: music and the table of elements. Both are absolutely neat, predictable, explosive, creative. One creates awareness, the other makes creation aware.

In that creative activity, each unique human is caught up in a web of counter-point: feelings that pour through us, from us, to us.

Our individual uniqeness is one thing, the wording and experience of living another. It's a pity that we have kept language and living apart. The formal world is responsible for that. At bottom, humans are intelligent animals and creative spirits, not formal units for political and economic purposes.

The sense of aliveness is most keenly experienced when we embrace the depths we fear. That means when we cease to fear, and to wonder more, and accept more. Just as we do from the moment we're born, until we're forced to accept opposites.

That's why I say life and death are not opposites. I am not a lone story that stops. I can't tell where the next wave will take me, but I can sense the planet's water move through each cell that makes me who I am.






Thursday, 26 January 2017

Focusing on truth






It's difficult to be truthful.

There are a few reasons for this: mankind is technologically advanced but not spiritually enlightened, also not philosophically clever, morally evil, verbally stuffed, to put it politely.

We speak and do not know of what we speak.

I have learned a little about respect, which means that you recognize and act appropriately to what's in front of you.

Reality is the stuff you don't argue about. I had the opportunity to learn about medical hypnoanalysis, and the one thing that has stuck is the injunction "Physiology, physiology, physiology". Thank you, Jeffery Rink, for this.

Physiology is truth. It's worth pondering, because everything boils down to experience, at least on this planet, and concepts are concepts, and birth is birth and death is death. Woody Allen said that there are three real things, birth, sex and death. My brain registered that, too.

The  Buddhist system of belief is based on the respect of truth. Taoism is based on thre balance of truth. The Christian approach is to recognize the personification of truth. There are many approaches to truth.

This is why I don't like truth. In the end it boils down to a sense and formalization of truth.

It's not a helpful word.

But it means something really big and unavoidable.

Like birth.

Like death.

Sex is important but not as important.

If you talk to me about truth, be prepared to walk across a few boundaries of soul, and to declare. One of the fun things I've learnt about truth is that as well as being for real, it's also about joy.

As a child, I enjoyed going into the docks ts Cape Town harbour. The customs officials required us to stop, be looked at, and then waved on. Sometimes we had to open the boot, just for fun. We always had nothing to declare, we were just going for a joy-ride.

But then another way of attention crept in: truth was a total commitment, a no-return ticket, an eternal embrace from which there is no return. A very religious way of defining the ocean of emotion. I had to buy in, there was no other way.

If you focus on the sense of truth, you will soon discover your limits, learning and heart-language. Your heart-language is what you say before you say it. Your heart is God's, naturally, unless you deliberately choose otherwise, which is a little bit stupid.

So what does your heart say? What is it's truth? When my music teacher died, I thought I'd try to be psychic. So I practised a bit and then asked him what was going on. He said it was beauiful where he was, that he'd died of heart medication, and then, the important bit, that heaven necessarily involves spontanaeity.

Truthfulness, when it comes to words, as any child can tell you, is spontaneous. Reflection comes after, purpose follows, action results, maturity is learnt, wisdom is born. Maybe without words.

I have huge respect for educationists who know what they're doing - thank you John Gilmour, Graham Nolan, David Knowles - and for medical practitioners - there are many - and for a few priests. Some of them are not formal, and don't know they are priests. Julius Smeets was a friend, a formal priest.

Back to truth. What a word, and I wonder about the story behind it. Of it.

I think that if you want to experience truth, tell your story to someone who knows how to listen. Or even to someone who doesn't. In the heart, there's something really fierce. And clever. And intelligent. We're not taught about this in schools or universities.

I am not a woman, and I don't know about giving birth. But I will tell you about the fierce things in my heart, and about arriving on this planet, and about re-cycling, which is green and good. Although the humans can be so evil, there is a cosmic capacity for redemption. Shoreshank is good for that, so are many other stories, and that fierce and lonely thing in your heart which wants and avoids words is also good for that.

The ultimate story is not about repeating but by creating daily, even minute by minute. And really, it doesn't have to be as solemn as some would have it. Thank you Anthony, for making that clear.....(he's a priest).

For truth, go to heart.

For heart, go with truth.

In between, there's language and story. Good luck! Better, good birth.....bodies are born,
mind arrives, meaning is made.