Tag Archives: difference

… 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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one raindrop – ten raindrops – what’s the difference?

Before I went to bed last night I asked for a dream, as I do when I want guidance from my unconscious. After all, the greater part of our psyche is out of sight, submerged, with only the top in view, which is why Freud used the image of an iceberg to depict the psyche, the submerged part having deeper connections with the sea of the collective unconscious in which we all swim.

Iceberg - Ri han - Shutterstock

Iceberg – Ri han – Shutterstock

My question was related to the global web, and what’s rising to the surface like long drowned skeletons bobbing along the electric rapids of information, memories re-shuffled, all with a kind of speed only fearless surfers can negotiate. And how every link you and I click is traced, analysed and fed back to the media, politicians, businesses, twitter-birds, face bookers, bloggers and so on. At times it seems like a kind of vivisection in a shiny mirror looking back at us, surreal.

I’m seasoned. There was no TV in my early childhood, it astounds me what I’ve adapted to over the years, but the present tech-apps-avant-garde makes me feel like I’m missing a boat, along with, let’s take a breath, at least sixty-one-percent of the world population (that’s the kind of people with no internet at all.) And because I tend to reflect on cultural trends, searching for wider purpose, meaning and metaphors, I put this to my unconscious: please give me some insight.

On waking, the first thing I gazed at was the raindrops netting my skylight. A phrase came:

                 … one raindrop – ten raindrops – what’s the difference? …

It stuck. I stopped myself diving into associations, about raindrops, the number one, about the history of zero – as symbol for something that doesn’t exist but has become a place-holder. I stopped myself from quoting Rumi, too.

The phrase I received is enigmatic and feels creative. Does it come down to postulation, the everything-and-nothing-matters kind of power we have to envision and re-assemble stories, the delicious freedom to speculate without limits …?

Maybe purpose and meaning are becoming old hats and I’m missing the point entirely. What do you make of the phrase … either with your knowledge of maths and physics, or with your imagination? Even with the phrase or image of a dream ☼

 

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… sensibilities … difference … becoming human

Have you ever gone to your fridge in the middle of the night, opened it, and seen nothing to entice your taste buds? That piece of leftover cake – no, cheese – no, mustard – near, but no. So you search shelves and cupboards and find chocolate, crisps, mints, even healthy nuts and dried apricots – not really. Your taste buds are frustrated, bored to distraction, until you spot a slim tin – anchovies – yes –  and a dance breaks out on your tongue. Taste buds have their intrinsic purpose, which requires the freedom of tasting.

It goes to show that senses are in need of stimulation, frustration and elation to achieve their latent capacities. Smell, taste, touch, sound and sight make up our unique worlds – re-evoke places where stimulation or its lack happened before, places where we felt free to play or places where we experienced limitation and longing. Joy and suffering happens through the senses.

Indulged too much, they bring us harm, shut down, they also bring us harm.

Environments push extremes. The sensual overstimulation in democratic cultures results in distortions through opportunism and excess, whereas sensual pleasure in autocratic cultures is often deliberately suppressed, and cruel distortions happen through the abuse of power. ~ Many people dream of ideal systems, even of egoless societies. This is not likely to happen collectively. Such perfect environment would lack the dynamic challenge individuals need to negotiate a functioning balance within, to become human, and with it develop the tolerance that embraces humour and celebrates difference – a tolerance that allows the stimulation-hungry as well as purists to walk their path provided they don’t harm others, a tolerance that does not perpetuate tiresome twists of self-righteous opinions.

Opinions are the bitter children of morality, blind to insight.

Differences express themselves not only at levels of class, religion and tradition, but through our varied sensibilities. An academic may breathe for his research and let his garden go to weed, while his neighbour despairs of thistle fluff spoiling his immaculately kept grass. In turn, the academic may be sound-sensitive and is driven to distraction by a fridge vibrating through the party wall. A tactile person may go nuts over crumbs on the bed sheet. Or, if aesthetics guide your mood, mindless behaviour may fit your kind of hell.

Artists tend to refine their sensibilities towards the irrational golden means of relationships within and without, processes of becoming in their dynamic balance. You find among artists the most tolerant people. If so, they allowed their imagination free rein and creatively employed one or more senses to a degree that gives joy or shocks. It takes a strong and flexible ego to practice as an artist, and it takes an open mind to appreciate the inventive and experiential art that makes us human.

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Here the excerpt from a life-embracing poem written by Fazal Inayat-Khan, Qalandar, which appears in a book I co-edited, The Heart of a Sufi www.heartofasufi.org.uk

Adam/man, Minerva/woman – a human being in the making – functioning in the world on the stage of life – playing the script of destiny with the delight of indifference and the carelessness of full satisfaction. A being knowing all there is to be known by it, but ever learning; ready to feel all there is to be sensed by it, yet ever discovering new depth of emotions; capable of expressing its deepest and truest inspirations, yet ever expanding its consciousness; sensitive enough to give and receive love in all its forms and levels of becoming  …  A Qalandar is simple as a child, wise as an old woman, unfathomable as an old man. He belongs to the moment, she responds to every need. He speaks all languages, she performs all roles. They are one …

 

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