Tag Archives: community

… my love for England – and my brexasperation …

The Alps of Bavaria stand in bright glory or shrouded in mist, depending on the mood of the weather. Their snow-covered peaks were the dramatic panorama of my childhood, and called me beyond horizons, first east, then west.

Already as young woman, drawn by friends and circumstances I’ve lived and studied in England for stretches of time, until in 1979 I settled for marriage and motherhood in the hills of Somerset.

my mother

A special five year period of my life ensued, a calming respite after intense professional years, thrilling adventures and travels. The laid back ambiance of the English countryside offered precious time with my son, opportunity to grow my own food, bake my own bread and strike up tender friendships with neighbours. Our parents visited us from Holland and Germany to welcome their grandson. 

 

 

My dad, who normally travelled south, couldn’t withhold his poor impressions of England at the time, gathered, it must be added, along motorways. His comments: … brown water for coffee, fatty food, filthy toilets, shoddy service, and so on … seemed to underline his disapproval of my life-choices. I told him culture thrives in cities, like London. Rural life moves in slow motion here. The home birth of our son brought the first child into this Hamlet for decades. We were novelty.

However, every small region has its old guarders kicking in when a non-local challenges the status quo. My attempt to save a small oak forest from clear felling met with some success and equal scorn. A tit-for-tat exchange of articles in the local paper was educational – if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen – was the response to my well researched ‘save the oak wood’ warrior call. I countered – why not open a window. The Woodland Trust got involved, a spread in the Sunday Times followed. Politics were never my calling, but I became an activist over trees and was invited to join the local parish, all educational. A day before the clear-felling licence expired, the chainsaw echoed among the green chasms of surrounding hills.

It made my blood boil. The communities I had mobilised were only a little short of the sum arranged for a purchase of the oak wood from the greedy owner. Outsiders (migrants) tend to have a naive understanding of local power structures, but hey, they can have the guts to ask poignant questions.

The 1980’s were marked by rapid technological changes. We moved closer to London. The world was webbing up. In rural England, within a few decades, fruit meant more than apples, more than two kinds of potatoes were on offer, bread surpassed Home Pride’s white sponge, spices arrived, salads, mushrooms, avocados, berries, olive oil, proper coffee, pasta, ice cream, good wine. Books from around the world arrived, translated. Research from beyond the island enriched sciences, organisations, education, services, construction … an invasion of culture, colour, knowledge and other traditions, other, other, other … progress gripped the world … good, good, good … but, but, but – technology also steamrolled traditional jobs, pride in hard work was fading, rents and house prices soared, entrepreneurs and those already rich prospered and the rest had a hard time, some never catching up. This was – and is – not just an English trend. When change is inevitable, creative adjustments are needed.

But let’s find a scapegoat, eh?

The simple blame game is destructive for any country these days. Europe needs ingenuity. Its territory has cultural learning stored in deep roots, like the giant oak trees worth fighting for. British humour and diplomacy have much to contribute to a sustainable Europe that, nobody is arguing, must adjust.

This is my view.

Wake up Britain, and imaginatively address the global phenomenon, or, I fear, you’ll be nibbled apart by giants across the ponds.

Click here for a few practical issues re: Brexit, by Ian Dunt.

And here my post from 2016 that relates.

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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 Odetta’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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… perception & difference …

Try and shut your eyes to slits and blink through autumn branches against the light. With patience, a young-woman-old-hagmoment arrives when black and white spaces inverse and clusters of stars shine from another dimension. The background has moved to the foreground. A tiny shift in our outlook can result in a new interpretation of what we see, like in the gestalt drawing  on the right, which changes the age of the person if you let your eyes wander up and down the image. Visual tricks that open a sudden gap in our seeing reveal how we jump to superficial referencing. Making snap assessments is convenient, safes time, energy, and sometimes lives, but can also trap us in a kind of flatland of rigid divisions.

What do we mean when we say he or she is different – do they look different, act different, think different, or have customs that seem strange to us? Typical brackets are class, gender, cultural background, colour, language, age, ability … and migrants. Defining people by categories clicks in as a default opinion when real or imagined threats require scapegoats. Or resources are scare and solidarity is politically expedient.  Suddenly the need to belong and historical prejudices reasserts themselves.

Beneath all habitual categories prowls what is frequently forgotten … the inherent natural tendency of each individual. Consider relatives, neighbours, familiars, friends and foes. The differences that delight orfoetus-2 irritate us lie foremost in a person’s unique temperament and inherent tendencies. Background does not explain the mystery of characteristics we are born with, the random mix of evolutionary records in our bodies, a wisdom our minds expand upon through resonance with the collective psyche – a shared matrix of past experience and future potential from which we, ideally, emerge as a self-reflective persona. (The theory of a collective unconscious and similar non-evidenced theories relate to my experience.)

Environmental factors can distort the unfolding of latent knowledge in every living organism. Education has a detrimental effect on children when their intuition is belittled and their minds are flattened with facts before they developed the confidence to question these facts.

P1090890 - Copy (2)How come I’m invigorated by rushing waters, calmed by a smooth stone, a golden sunset? How do I sense the pulse in a tree, or what life is like for a boar, rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog –  unless all nature’s qualities also reside in me?

For example, anyone who sits in a public place and watches people stroll by will notice traces of animal features; can spot a temperament in gestures and movements, observe someone dragging their body behind their head, or push their belly out like a shield. Some people dance along with a fluid gait, while others tiptoe and glance nervously about them.

mercats-copy-smallerAt social gatherings we may come upon clusters of meerkats grooming each other, turtles plodding through the crowd looking for a mate or a fresh salad leaf, peacocks, obsessed with their splendour, blustery cockerels, loving old dogs, sharp-eyed falcons, enchanting robins, and so on. …

birds-and-cake

Birds are keen on cake but wary of cats, whereas lions can afford to be relaxed.  How amazing then to observe vastly different temperaments complementing each other – like a person falcon-smaller-stillwith a butterfly nature tying up with a partner who occasionally roars. Given the rich lore of sensibilities mixing and battling in the human psyche, strangers should be less strange than we make them out to be.

Initial likes and dislikes, even among kin, have nothing to do with background, morals or ethics. Wariness goes along with fascination when it comes to difference. We may not be keen to share a nest, but sharing a street is fun. Nature is a mirror that teaches us how to become human. And animals deserve our special appreciation for reminding us of the innumerable diverse idiosyncrasies in ourselves.

Animals have appeared in wonderful stories around the world, like the Aesop’s Fables   or the much older Indian Panchatantra Collection – the chief source of the world’s fable literature.

img131-smallerThe Persian translation became the Fables of Bidpai. Lovely collections of Kalila and Dimna were published by Ramsey Wood,  one with an introduction from Doris Lessing. I got permission from Ramsay Wood to use a short tale from his collection in my novel ‘Course of Mirrors.’

Programmes on ‘Respecting Difference’ have made it into schools and institutions. But can respect be taught in a few hours? More effective are courses that help people to find self-respect through exploring the diverse feelings and judging voices within themselves, the inner conflicts that manifest for us outside.

Acknowledgement, at least, tolerance and patience with our inner crowd eases snap projections and allows us to rediscover ourselves in the eyes and minds of others day by day. The internet expands this mirroring into timeless realms,  from where echoes of our own dissonance or resonance return.

In the analogue world people are on the move across the planet – for various reasons – war – drought – famine – persecution – fresh meaning – it is happening, and it will continue. The most productive response to this phenomenon is to embrace its creative potential.

The other day woke up with this thought: Migrants, indeed all citizens sans resources but able and willing to work, could be given the spaces to create new towns, be empowered to build their own houses and develop their own businesses, and conducts, as a way towards gaining self-respect, and in addition contribute to the well being of a community. Maybe this is a naive pipe dream, but worth contemplating nevertheless, since creative opportunities nurture self-respect and move us beyond self-concern.

‘The whole is other than the sum of the parts … it has an independent existence.’  –  Kurt Koffka

Related links

More contagious than micro-organisms are fear and hopelessness.

Have you ever gone to your fridge in the middle of the night …

Pattern which connects – Gregory Bateson

Regarding the discovery of what we know, see the visionary work, Involution,  by Philippa Rees, a remarkable poetic adventure, with brilliantly researched additional historic commentaries.  A book to take on a Desert Island.

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… Is a parent ever unemployed ? …

Something new – AVAAZ encourages individual campaigns now . I started one. Click the link and read the proposal, and if you like the idea vote for it.

http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Put_parents_on_the_payroll/?fHNQuab&pv=0

Yes, it makes sense – put parents on the payroll – tied to the attendance of courses.  Here some more thoughts as to why …

Family structures are changing for a variety of reasons. No use blaming parents and home-makers that are unable to cope. No good romanticising the past. Parents and carers need  support in this time of flux.  New structures are emerging, single parents or carers, for example, seek families of heart and mind. Our policy-makers don’t seem to take note of this phenomenon. Think of independent units around a communal space that would allow socialising and the sharing of skills.

And why not use the psychological knowledge that has been available for decades? Why is this knowledge not disseminated to parents? Corporations require further training from their employees, offer courses that teach people skills, because they realise these skills improve business.

Parenting is important business, without question the most important one.  Years ago, when I was involved with Parent-Link, sharing skills, I had an idea how to create more opportunities for parents and raise their status. You can read about it by clicking on the AVAAZ link above.  And please vote, or come up with your own ideas.

Present social policies often force a mother or father to beg alms from the state, become unemployed. Is a parent ever unemployed?  Children are the future and must concern us all. I meet many parents, who, even with heightened awareness, tenacity, creativity and sacrifice, struggle to stay sane.

Thanks

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