… my hexed home & a short scene from Course of Mirrors …

My home was hexed lately, so it feels peaceful to light a first advent candle. I’m still exhausted after spending weeks without heating, editing while wrapped up in several layers of outlandish costumes and with revolving hot water bottles on my lap. Blissfully warm again, a relentlessly dripping kitchen tap drove me nuts. Unable to focus on editing, I diverted myself with sorting client notes for confidential shredding. Tap fixed, my printer stopped working, just when I intended to make my batch of Christmas cards. It’s become a time-consuming job to get things mended. Chuck it, is the general advice.

I feel a little like Ana in the scene below, who discards stuff in preparation for her amazing quest.

I’ll occasionally share short excerpts from my first novel here.

a short scene from chapter two

Nothing stirred the air, not a single bird sailed along the cliffs, as if nature held its breath. I had emptied the three chests in my tree house, hauled their contents down the ladder, sack by heavy sack. Once my heartbeat calmed, only the distant drone of cascading water broke the quiet, and the lone yelp of a dog from my father’s court further down the mountain. I glanced at the treasures scattered near a designated area of flat rocks and felt my fingers itch to reach out and sift the objects that held so many fond memories.

Instead, I laid strips of cord and cloth soaked in hemp oil into a star formation, building a grid of tinder and dry branches on top. On this base I arranged layer upon layer of books and stacked them like bricks to form a conical heap that grew shoulder-high. I had brought a box of candle-ends and a flask of strong spirit in case extra fuel was needed.

Next were my drawings of plants – patterned shades in rock and bark, sketches of fossils, crystals, flowers on frosted glass and cloud-shapes. Captured moments of happy absorption, bound to mould away if left. Whoever thought to search here for secrets of mine would be disappointed. One by one I folded the drawings into flute-like shapes and tucked them between book spines until the formation resembled a giant hedgehog.

Last my arabesques. I longed to unroll each linen sheet, wander barefoot into its maze and merge with the patterns turning under me like fluid gossamer. Contemplating one sheet, my first, I kicked off my sandals and followed the meandering lines of the labyrinth to its centre. I closed my eyes hoping to connect with Cara, seeking her assurance even though I knew she applauded my decision. I drifted into reverie, and shook myself out of it. Not today. The trance would not serve my purpose. Gathering the sheets into ripples like waves, I set them round the cone as if decorating a festive cake then stepped back.

All was ready, poised at the brink of destruction. Unbidden, the image of my father intruded, the familiar frown, questioning my sanity. The moment passed and was countered by a gentle – ‘you areremember’ – the voice of the luminous being that had risen from waters under the bridge to show me another world. I felt cleansed. My mind was clear.

Resolute, and chuckling to myself, I struck the back of my knife against a sharp edge of flint until the dry lichen and rabbit droppings in my tinderbox began to smoulder. A candle-end set to the trembling flame caught, and with it I ignited the exposed hemp cords around the pyre.

Wisps of smoke curled from the periphery of the mound. Tiny flames leapt from gap to dark gap between books. I expected a sudden flare but was pleased when the flickers settled into a slow burning. Simmering heat encircled the drawings and crinkled their edges. My arabesque sheets trapped the smoke, clinging and undulating, feathering up and down the pyre like wings.

My memory held a different blaze, not of pyres burning waste in the servants’ yards, but of those built by soldiers to dispose of plague-victims outside the walls of Father’s court – fires that hissed and roared skywards, grasping for more. This mound burned idly, radiating gentle heat, consuming itself. Drawings dropped like wilted leaves. The linen sheets dissolved while their ink-patterns endured like floating geometry. From its cradle of heat the tower burned from within while book spines and covers held their shape like ghostly shells. Lettering turned negative with titles visible: Humming Spheres, Lies of Time, Benedictions and Perils of Faith.

As the sun dropped below the western skyline, the chorus from within the pyre became a cabal of whispers. Each book was plump with air in its hollow, each single page defined in silvery grey. What sweet mystery held these forms in place? Was it my hesitation? I gently blew at a single spine. The whole skeletal mound collapsed to dust under my breath. A flurry of embers – and nothing left to gaze at but ash.

Stars emerged. I lay on my back and thought of Baba. The precious books, read over and over, had been her gifts to me. Deep down I knew she would forgive my reckless ritual of separation from a home that suffocated me and was based on a lie I could not fathom. I was hungry for truth and excitement as to what lay ahead. Secretly, before sunrise, I would descend the mountain from my mother’s mansion into Nimrich and follow the river, west. Tonight would be my last visit to Baba. We might never meet again.

 

Check out the novel here a truly immersive Christmas read.

Course of Mirrors, a multi-faceted, inspiring, magical, gripping, page-turning story with vivid characters. Great fun, with breath-taking scenery …

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… sometimes I feel …

… like a motherless child … This famous Spiritual is known the world over, maybe because it touches the orphan child in us. The lament of being a long, long way from home speaks of the universal desire  to feel safe, to be accepted, have one’s talent nurtured and simply be held. Listen to this deep-felt ache in Odessa’s voice from a late recording on You Tube.

In most cases we leave the nest in order to become our own person, but winning the obstacle race of growing into an adult and finding self-worth is a remarkable achievement, made easier when a child is welcomed and loved by a parent, a mentor or a community.

The latter presents a grim challenge for people who are forced to leave their homes, for whatever reasons. Affluent societies are now faced with a surge of refugees. There is much goodwill, but equally resentment, often based on ignorance. Public debates seem to miss the acknowledgement of how the wealth that brought about commerce and stability in the west was and is part-indebted to slavery and the exploitation of defenseless countries. The lesson for humility and tolerance is implicit – and ongoing.

Before I get carried away, this post is in memory of my mother, who died three decades ago to this day.

I miss her, and yet …

Sometimes I feel like my mother is near                                                                                                                                    At home, right here in my heart

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… a haunting dream pops up again …

The scene takes place on a sunlit peninsula, set in a glittering sea. I play with white cubes, each feather light. The childlike part of me experiments with the beauty of forms and the building of imaginative structures that mirror colours of  the sky and surrounding landscapes. Others join in, and not just friends, strangers too. We have fun, laugh and toss cubes to each other. We are building a temple to celebrate play.

A crowd approaches. Stable minded, committed to rational thinking and adverse to risk-taking, they object to our frivolity. Some serious looking folk move in with knives at their belts. Our vision of lightness offends. We demonstrate how temples can rise and fall in the blink of an eye. ‘You put a lie to order,’ they say, ‘you ridicule our values.’ They fear us, having invested in solid structures, walls, to house the light of their gods.

With no gods to protect, we thought we could do with movable walls. After all, there are walls and walls.

—————

As a child I wondered if I’d dropped onto the wrong planet, but was later heartened by brilliant minds with deep insights and generous perspectives on consciousness, including C G Jung.

I found a sense of safety in knowing that I can hoist the sails of my boat, catch a spirit wind and sail on a light-wave towards higher dimensions.

That said I’m a bullshit detector in the post-new-age spiritual market, where I could’ve done well with a how-to-keep-sane book.

When the above dream first arrived, many years ago, I thought, heck, I live in this space/time to engage with and challenge limitations in myself and others. I felt suspended between the virtues of Plato’s top-down and Aristotle’s bottom-up metaphysical arguments. I explored question such as – do the aggressors in my dream represent the judgmental part of me that inhibits the creative impulse of the child that shrinks when it feel unwelcome? … Yes.

Acquiring skills to facilitate creative workshops and dream seminars, brought me over two decades of confidence and joy. I discovered my intuitive connection to a higher intelligence, and I learned to trust in group processes. Former participants fondly remember these times. We had a safe space to play in.

The dream returned to show up once more my fear of rejection. This time I’m alone, the fear applies to my writing. Rejection has become the rule in this over harvested and exploited field. And as much as the explosion of writing contributes to a massive leap in the expansion of consciousness, I must admit, having spent years writing and polishing my first opus, I’ve become a judging discriminator myself. The persistence of writers is admirable, though I gasp when I hear that some writers query hundreds of agents or publishers – really?

I sent out one query only (I hear you gasp) to a niche publisher, who, in response to a poet friend’s recommendation, read my novel, loved it and wanted to launch it, but then, sadly, three years on, had to fold her publishing venture. Further delays were unthinkable, so I published, at the risk of losing the roof over my head.

Readers have personal tastes. When a book is not branded and displayed in literary markets, finding tasters will not happen overnight. I’ll keep an open mind. Appreciating and understanding my ghost of rejection is the real issue for me, especially in a time when fear assumes bestselling qualities and depression spreads like a virus.

I’m editing the sequel to Course of Mirrors and will continue writing. If procrastination was an academic accomplishment I’d have earned a PhD during these last few months.

Not to be too hard on myself, I endured five weeks without heating or hot water, editing wrapped up in multiple layers of clothing, winter boots, hot water bottles and gloves, until, finally, a government grant towards a new boiler was approved. Bliss … my brain cells are warming up again.

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… to ‘grok’ transmissions …

With the vast volume of creative expressions by innovators, scientists, thinkers, writers and artists of any kind in our climate of over-saturated productions – some unique works will flicker shortly and then sink to seeming oblivion, temporarily invisible on the crossroads. Does it matter?

My Sufi friend, Fazal Inayat-Khan, once said, ‘If Einstein had never published his theories, his ideas would still have irrevocably changed the world of science.’

What makes products succeed in the public domain? Is it genius, fame, skill, merit, sponsorship, contacts, money, timing, luck, or the phenomenon of strong desire and expectation? Over years of psychotherapy practice I’ve met people, who, let’s say, were the apple of the eye of a parent, a friend, a teacher, a mentor, or maybe an angel of synchronicity that inspired confidence towards success. While some people may be born with faith in their desire, others, whose confidence was knocked, need a nudge. Expectation feeds success. Expectation is uncanny; it’s like carrying a magnet.

Still, even meteoric success can be short lived. Weighed down with superlative praise, a work can sizzle out and draw ridicule. When a lauded product doesn’t impress me, I ask myself – is this because of my acquired taste, my hugging of precious time, my complex mind, my standards, my arrogance, or my jealousy? A half-truth sneaks through all these questions, embarrassing. Shouldn’t creative people support each other?

Yes and no. Triggers that stimulate us vary. I must catch the tune of an authentic wave that keeps me in the zone. My interest wakes when an unnameable quality shines through a work of art. I call it an internalised idea transformed in the heart. This kind of deep assimilation is often transmitted by poets, like Rilke, Rumi, Neruda, Warsan Shire, to randomly pick only a few artists who reveal multiple layers of meaning.

Equally, the simple words of some prayers and mantras transmit the power of their initially intended blessing. Then again, if a quality is not already dormant in me, I may sense the love tincture, but the symbolic aspect drowns in crackling noises when I can’t fine-tune the relevant radio wave. This is why, when we return at different times during our lives to creative works that intrigued us, we may find the essence of a message and grok how it relates to us with sudden intuitive comprehension.

‘Grok’ is a word coined by Robert A Heinlein in his 1961 novel ‘Stranger in a Strange Land.’ A Martian term for intuitive understanding, though it means much more. The Wikipedia entry for Grog is totally  worth reading.

just a stone

Cloned, copied and reassembled work, in short, quirky experimental materials, often has deeply assimilated qualities, if one can detect the code. In today’s flood-lit cyberspace there is stuff that blinks and chimes, stuff that rings pretentious, and stuff the heart can’t decode, yet.

As for writers who tilled a patch of their inner territory and planted seeds that thrive, it can be a lone satisfaction when no promoter propels readers to seek out the garden so lovely and inspiring to spend time in.

When a few connoisseurs find and grok the hidden place, the pleasure is shared. And that’s not even addressing the mysterious process of any creative work, the reward of which lives on in other time-zones.

To bring back the question – does it matter if creative works don’t appear in the light, are invisible on the public crossroads? The publishing world, for example, geared to profit, accumulates mountains of slush piles, like compost heaps. When you think of it – all manifestations are constantly recycled, small bits, big bits. And yet, I sincerely believe that anything processed and transmitted through the heart’s intelligence leaves a coherent mark and demands eternal resurrection. In other words, the essence of these works will shine on.

This post may be a tad confusing, not telling you anything you don’t already know. But having been immersed in editing ‘Shapers’ and composing a short story for a local competition, and, sigh, fretting over practical issues, like a defunct heating system I have nil resources to fix, nor the nerve to tap into the bureaucratic nightmare of government grants, I wanted to pause and say hello to all creative warriors out there.

In this warm and wet autumn

fresh grass grows, as soft as silk …

 

Talking of growth and beautiful spaces, visit this plot of a friend with a brilliant mind, who inspires by planting riches in a real earth plot in the middle of a roundabout. 

 

 

 

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… a ginger cat dreams of company in breath …

The woman used to sit in the deckchair with her sleek black friend on her lap, eyes closed, breathing in unison. She calls it meditation. I was jealous, what else.

I’m old and grumpy, a familiar sight. Small chance she wonders where I hang out when not visiting. Today she spotted me – a fluffy ginger ball dozing on a brick wall sheltered by ivy – not my regular spot. I prefer having my daily nap on a bench at the top. From that royal view downhill I keep half an eye on creature traffic, neighbour cats that shamelessly kill fledglings or lame birds, the stray dog or sly fox that slips through the hedge, reckless rodents … but it’s been drizzling all night and my favourite bench is soaking wet this morning.

I get no food here. However, she daily cleans and refills the ceramic bowl near the house with fresh water, just for me to slurp. In such moments we exchange glances, and she nods. What she doesn’t like is when I get too close to her little stone Buddha. Then she shakes her head or steps from the backdoor to clap her hands. I’ve seen her turn the water hose on cats with bad manners. She should know better, I’m not one of them, I have principles.

I bet she misses her companion, glossy and black as a moonless sky. She was gentle and tolerant of me, which is why I used to protect her from a nasty tom. Some years ago the woman dug a deep hole for her friend, near the compost heap. Not the most romantic spot to have one’s bones rest, but due ceremony was observed, which must count for love.

I wouldn’t impose myself. I wonder what attracts me to this human and her world. I’d love being invited in her house, as companion. Nowadays she often sits near the window, staring at some rectangular device like it’s the most fascinating sight in the world, the opening to a mystery, like a warren.

She keeps her distance, wary of attachments. I get it, of course; she doesn’t want her freedom restricted by caring for another cat. Her neighbours used to look after her pet during her absences. Now their health is fragile and can’t be relied upon. She objects to Kennels, rightly. I was put in one, long ago, confined in a cage, horrible.

I doubt she cares where I camp at night. Doesn’t know I endure the stoned torpor of Mr X, lost in a dark place. It’s not a home, the vibes upset me. But each morning I vocally rouse X from his hangovers to alert him to my dry meal. This must be my purpose – my insistence on my existence is how he tracks time, like noticing a new day. Alas, the filthy water bowl is only rarely topped, which is why I’m thankful that the woman got the message …  I’m always thirsty.

The image keeps returning, of her sitting in the garden with her black friend on her lap, eyes closed, breathing in unison. My thirst lives on. It may be complex and beyond measure, or awesomely simple, I don’t know, but company in breath seems the one simple thing of beauty most worth dreaming of.

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… rose is a rose is a rose …

 

The rose-phrase is the enduring refrain of Gertrude Stein. In her surreal 1939 children book, ‘The World is Round,’ for example, rows of three words appear throughout. A girl called Rose carves her name round a tree in an endless loop to affirm her existence .

Rose is a rose is a rose – rolls from the tongue much like the prayer beads of a rosary roll through nimble fingers.

You want to stay with the rose, let it take root in your psyche, and from there let roses after roses grow.

By comparison – BrexitisBrexitisBrexit – sounds like the rusty hinges of a rotten door, or the croaking of a parrot with a sore throat. I try to resist the word’s grating in my skull, but it’s difficult to avoid its ugly edges from day to day, in bizarre discord with the rousing refrain of Britannia rules the waves.

There’s repetition and repetition. Applied with intention in literature, music, dance and the visual arts, repetition can strip the familiar to its essence. The arts, at best, alert us to nature’s spellbinding repetitive rhythms. Shield your ears and hear the blood-river rushing through your veins – touch your wrist and sense your heart pump the river round and round. Spirit is seduced into this trance-dance, or it would never get trapped in forms. Repetitive behaviour settles us into mollifying routines and gives us a sense of stability, as well as addictive habits. Beneficial as they can be, customary routines also have a tendency to dumb us down.

In this time of rapid changes, words and images topple over each other’s associations. Type ‘apple’ into a search engine and up pop pages listing Apple Inc., the multinational technology company that has seized the apple, bitten off a chunk of knowledge, like Eve, and deployed it as a metaphor for its corporation – brilliant, and disconcerting. It had trouble finding a title for my novel, where ‘mirror’ was not already owned as a label by tabloids or rock bands.

Most young folk today move along the electric cultural highway in fast gear. Facebook’s Zuckerberg famously said ‘Move fast and break things.’ Maybe he’s a speed-hatched modern-day mystic. I’m reminded of Hazrat Inayat Khan’s profound quote regarding the journey of life – ‘The ideal the means, its breaking is the goal.’

I suffer a long view. My first experience of TV was Queen Elisabeth’s coronation. What unnerves me is the speed of spear-heading elites, leaving ordinary people no breath to digest events, especially as history and the arts are being replaced by computer science in education. With automation the rage, the journey happens in a blur, as do thinking processes. Keywords have become mechanical codes, and shareholders bow to the omnipotent algorithms’ patterns of, let’s say, how existential fears relate to consumer behaviour. We hardly notice our choices being manipulated. How to catch snap assumptions that keep consciousness caged, or one’s imagination buried under debris of glib answers? With traditions and ideologies on trial, how to develop a filter of authenticity to stem the flood of information? Reflective minds are turning cynical. I have that tendency.  Doubt is the new lodestar.

Like never before, we perceive phenomena through multiple eyes, tap into the states of other beings – their joy, their ignorance and excess, their poverty, suffering and distress. We may blank out what upsets, but can’t escape the increasing experience of contradiction, the very function of reality. Greater awareness deeply conflicts us, as much as it inspires creativity. There’s hope. Seeing does not require physical eyes. Collective consciousness will expand, be it through chaos. The least we can do is to still our own mind, which is why I return to the rose.

The genus Rosa, according to fossil evidence, is 35 million years old and begun to be cultivated circa 5000 years ago. Due to its tessellated structure, dome-like shape and its delightful perfume, the rose has become a symbol of the heart, of wholeness, love, beauty and perfection the world over, frequently with mystical connotation, and often highly stylised, as in Islamic art.

When held, thought or spoken of, the rose lingers on and generates a mood. It may appear in different stages of opening or beautiful decay, in a particular colour, light. The name alone conjures up memories of scents, places, relationships, delight or melancholy. What ‘rose’ evokes derives from a time-wrought cypher that evokes all roses that were, are and will be.  Rose is a rose is a rose – depicts a rose, no more, and yet, it kindles all the experiences and ideas humans formed around roses.

While fear of loss and abandonment engenders life, it also draws us towards the mystery of infinite consciousness, the one being with countless names. Various practices, derived from spiritual traditions, can calm a turbulent mind enough for a glimpse of harmony beyond divisions. For a while, at least, we sense the larger presence, the effortless zone, the flow – and given patience, come to realise that consciousness is what we are.

I invite you again to This guided rose journey I shared here three years ago, requires only your imagination.

It is a short imagery, easy to memorise. Enter with eyes closed, and it may work for you as a bridge to the recurring presence of rose – a reminder of continuous becoming and expanding consciousness.

 

 

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… I don’t know …

in truth I am two

one inside and one outside

a mirror between

 

of late – I don’t know –

has become my daily chant

a mantra – almost

 

does our ONE earth too

have a crack down the middle?

what’s it like this place?

shared with an alien

no story will be alike

which does not surprise

we are all aliens

to ourselves and the other

a diversity

which can’t be controlled

by factions who invest in

power as they might

the ideal of ONE

is an enigma veiled by

a mysterious station

beyond birth and death

or where time shortly pauses

between each new breath

love that inspires

the yearning for one being

weaves through the unseen

yes, my chant is sad

but wings forever unfold

hello horizon …

Winding the clock back to before events were recorded in writing and ordered along linear timelines, folks across the globe unified their beliefs through countless symbolic creation myths, none the same, and much more fun than any Big Bang theory, which, in any case, must surely relate to only one among many big & small bangs. Since record-taking, everything supposed to have happened has been arranged around a spine and neatly ordered, chaos tamed into a clearly delineated map of history. It is a beautiful logical structure, mirroring the cosmos, nature, plants, the human body, the brain.

The concept that all is one in eternity and everything in the universe connects to everything else is ancient, if difficult to uphold in daily life. And here comes our century with its digital multi-perspectives. Bones are loosened from the spine and make a mess of our time map. The neat rules of cause and effect science has used to build reliable calculations are re-shuffled into surreal dreamlike possibilities, while we cling uneasily to our everyday three dimensions.

Information is spinning so fast that old beliefs drop into vast seas of information (energy,) so turbulent; we must decide where to place ourselves and chart new destinations. Think uncertainty principle – position of particle – momentum of wave. Solutions waver. What does humanity want? What is its purpose, its vision?

The deep sea of information, like the unconscious psyche, is tossing unpalatable errors of judgement into the light, dark stuff, requesting acknowledgement and inclusion, personally and collectively.  My – I don’t know – mantra resist all stale answers and advice, other than inklings from the spirit of inner guidance.

Within the ONE innumerable realities exist together … heartlands of strangeness seeking ever new formations. It intrigues and troubles me that the escalating complexities of life might result in social decisions being assigned to data crunching artificial intelligence devices. Our roots might shrivel. Where would we be without the stories drawn up from the inner worlds of the imagination. I wrote about it here:

P L Travers says … nothing is truly known until it is known organically … this chimes for me. There’s even a hint as to the why of human existence.

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… in gratitude to unnamed authors & soul companions …

Plenty of subjects nudged me towards a blog post during these last weeks. No gust struck a chime – the sure sign I was avoiding something. I stepped back – into gardening, watching birds, boring paperwork, reading, and posting two reviews of thought-provoking novels on Goodreads: ‘Immortality’ by Milan Kundera and ‘The Passion According to G. H.’ by Clarice Lispector 

Otherwise I managed bits of networking and endured the tragic/comic soap operas of global politics, until, finally, the avoided task fell into place – the next editing round for Shapers, sequel to Course of Mirrors, which can now be found on Troubador  or Amazon  and other outlets.

For good reasons, not least to push my first novel into the light, the sequel was neglected for many months. Returning to the characters of CoM in a far future time was such bliss that I almost forgot about you, my readers here.

Yesterday I met with friends I had not seen for a while. We shared stories upon stories. With each of us being the lonely manifested part of our soul crowd, we fine-tuned into the universal themes of combined interests. It’s tricky to express what happens when we allow our associated crowds to wake and remind us of their presences within us. I tried to enlarge on the theme of soul families in a recent post – here.

The gathering of friends reminded me how my novels are based on dialogues with inner companions, opening into a symbolic journey with extended soul families. To acknowledge that our experiences are guided by presences from past and future worlds, gives credence to how we are bound to unnamed companions speaking and acting through us.

*     *    *

‘A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labours of others, living and dead, and that I must exert myself to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.’ – Albert Einstein

‘A day, whether six or seven years ago or whether six thousand years ago, is just as near to the present as yesterday. Why?  Because all time is contained in now.’  – Meister Eckhart

 ‘Long live the dead because we live in them.’ ― Clarice Lispector – A Breath of Life.

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… resurrected treasures – fables …

Kalila and Dimna – Selected Fables of Bidpai – Tales of Friendship and Betrayal – by Ramsay Wood.

Fables can shock and surprise us, irrespective of their antiquity. Various collections, like Aesop’s, derived from versions of beast fables originating from the oral traditions of cultures that existed thousands of years ago. It must be the profound exposition of human nature revealed in this deep sea of tales that made them show up in all corners of the earth. The punchiness of these tales remains relevant to this day, in that their wisdom cuts through our neurotic habit of jumping to conclusions.

Ramsay Wood’s passion and labours of love has given us the humorous and delightful retellings of Kalila and Dimna – Selected Fables of Bidpai, with vibrant attention to detail. His research includes the famous Panchatantra, and a Persian version of the same, translated into Arabic.

In the first volume it says upfront: This book is dedicated to the many midwives of the book, including al-Kashifi, who in the preface to his fifteenth-century Persian version of this story described himself as ‘this contemptible atom of but small intellectual store.’

My 1982 Granada edition is among a bunch of books I’ve loved to bits – with pages falling apart. One of its tales within tales, ‘The Cormorant and the Star,’ depicts how appearances deceive, as all surfaces do. A line from Socrates appears in the margin, ‘Living starts when you start doubting everything that comes before you.’ Given the mirage of opinions floating across our electric screens, if this sensible advice were to catch on, the creativity released would be phenomenal.

Ramsay Wood kindly allowed me to use the little tale of  The Cormorant and the Star in my novel, Course of Mirrors.

Volume 1 of Kalila and Dimna has an introduction by Doris Lessing. She writes: ‘The claim has been made for this book that it has travelled more widely than the Bible, for it has been translated through the centuries everywhere from Ethiopia to China… It is hard to say where the beginning was… One progenitor was the Buddhist cycle of Birth Tales (or Jātaka Stories) where Buddha appears as a monkey, dear, lion, and so on… Sir Richard Burton, who like all the other orientalists of the nineteenth century was involved with Bidpai, suggested that man’s use of beast-fables commemorates our instinctive knowledge of how we emerged from the animal kingdom, on two legs but still with claws and fangs.’

Our inherited animal traits go a long way to explain the variations of our conflicting human dispositions and idiosyncrasies. I wrote a post last year about the perception of difference.

Ramsay Wood presents us with Dr. Bidpai, an incorruptible Indian sage living under the reign of King Dabschelim. The king is a stargazer, blissfully blind to the sufferings of his subjects. In desperation, Bidpai resolves to offer him his wisdom. The reader gets to know the good man through his own voice, sharing how his nervous and skittish wife fusses over his robe before the royal appointment, expressing her apprehension. Bidpai, though terrified of confronting the king, feigns complete confidence. His wife’s instincts were entirely correct, but he knew that his male arrogance would give her the blind strength of anger and that, at least, was better than the helplessness of fear. In truth, jails were full of men and women who had merely irritated The King.

Alas, no matter how delicately and tactfully Bidpai expresses his concerns to King Dabschelim, employing his words as both narcotic and as a scalpel; his audacity lands him in the dungeon. That is, until the king witnesses a shooting star, followed by a prophetic dream, leading him to a buried treasure. When he finds the treasure, it comes with a letter of admonitions from the long dead King Houschenk, addressed to the future King Dabschelim in person. The letter mentions Bidpai as a storehouse of fables that will illustrate the cautions.  Suddenly the sage’s counsel is most urgently required. From there on Bidpai’s wisdom unfolds in the form of stories within stories (think of 1001 Nights,) one tale branching to another, like the roots of a tree that also mirror the branches and tendrils reaching for the sky. The same method of telling can sometimes be found in the visual arts of painting, photography, collage, installations – images within images that convey truths in a dreamlike and surreal fashion. Artists note – fables provide endless inspirations and connections.

Here some links to click on, which will lead to Ramsay Wood’s books of fables:

Kalaila and Dimna Vol 1– introduced by Doris Lessing, illustrated by Margaret Kilrenny.   See also a present Giveaway on Goodreads.  

Kalila and Dimna Vol 2 – introduced by Michael Wood, illustrated by G M Whitworth

In a review for the second volume, Aubrey Davies, another wonderful story teller, writes: Wood concludes the book with two masterful essays. The first outlines the history of the tale and how this treasure trove of sophisticated teaching-stories posing as humble fables has so easily slipped over borders and been embraced by so many cultures.
The final essay was prompted by a challenge from a NASA Director to prove that story is a more effective medium for science outreach than technical writing. It details our limited conceptions of story together with an extended concept of its nature and value.

Highly recommended.

Clicking on any links in this text will open a separate page without losing this post.

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