Tag Archives: dreams

… loss and restoration …

This time of year I like reading in the garden. Last week I forgot to take a book inside – ‘The Hand of Poetry,’ collected poems from Sanai, Attar, Rumi, Saadi and Hafiz, translated by Coleman/Barks, with introductions taken from talks by Inayat Khan. During a short but heavy shower that night, the book greedily feasted on rain. I found it blown up, like a balloon, to double its size.

Restoration would atone for my failing. Gently lifting page after page, I placed toilet paper between each, twice and three times over. On the third day I hung the book by its spine on the washing line. Once dry, I managed to press the volume with a heavy vintage iron into reasonable shape again. The ordeal required my undivided attention. The re-read pages during those hours lodged themselves with refreshed presence in my heart.

I recalled a scene from ‘Shapers’ –  the not yet published sequel to ‘Course of Mirrors.’ The story starts with a shipwreck.  Surviving this tragedy, my protagonist finds her diary drenched to pulp. The irreplaceable loss gained her unexpected access to internalised memories, and the ability to exchange virtual letters with her soulmate of the future, scripts made visible in the thin air before her.

This phenomenon happens to me frequently these days. Just before sleep, or waking, I see screens with writing, sometimes even Twitter pages, which later turn out real. Beats me – explanations are welcome.

Memory is fluid. The child in us not only imagines the future, but also re-imagines the past. While I was lifting apart the soaked poetry pages during my restoration, it struck me they resembled crumpled and discoloured reminiscences of my father a trailing grief about our dissonance brought to light in dreams, with messages to abandon this nonsense. Can you miss a surreal projection? Yes you can – releasing a feeling of rejection that ruled years of your life takes getting used to. Had I not taken my dad’s anger with the world, and me,  so personal, I might have implored deeper into his heart pain, and mine, since, after all, deep down, our sensitivity for beauty and nature, even our humour, were much alike.

I had resisted my father’s expectations and boldly followed my heart, which, while gratifying, brought its shadow of existential anxieties. My rare brave attempts to cross the dividing bridge were met with contempt for my quixotic worldview. Bridges then became imaginary sanctuaries between varied realities, a neutral zone for my rebel to gather strength for the next quest ahead. Bridges became a major theme in my novel ‘Course of Mirrors’ – see book page on this site, or my twitter page @mushkilgusha

Rejection can add fuel to a journey. But what if a regular fuel runs out? Consider the weird silence when a monotonous background noise stops … suddenly. I identified my inner background noise as the subtle lament of blame that long ago slyly settled in my unconscious. Blaming something or someone can achieve an emotional distance, displace resentfulness, a hurt,  – but now – this peculiar silence …

The symbolic intelligence of psyche’s inner dimension communicates not only through dreams, but also through our surroundings: world events, people, objects, images. My restoration of ‘The Hand of Poetry’ resonated. Compulsive energies shift when time slows,. Familiar scripts may assume fresh meaning, and re-write themselves with different rhythms and new pauses for the spirit of surprise to enter.

Meanwhile I enjoy some treasures close by …

 

 

 

 

 

And I’d like to share a Hafiz poem from the restored collection. Hazrat Inayat Khan says of him:

The mission of Hafiz was to express, to the fanatically inclined religious world, the presence of God, which is not to be found only in heaven, but to be found here on earth.’

THE BANQUET

A gathering of good friends

talking quietly outdoors,

the banquet being served, a dry Rosé

with a bite of Kebab afterwards,

a wink form the one who pours,

Hafiz telling some story,

Hajji Qavam with his long laugh,

a full moon overhead,

the infinite mystery

of all this love.

If someone doesn’t want the pleasure

of such an openhearted garden,

companionship, no, life itself,

must be against his rules.

Hafiz

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… souls roam and arrange impressions …

let sleep do its work

so the spirit will guide you

and leave helpful dreams

in that rich abode

of our collective being

– the only being –

 

awake souls roam and arrange

streams of impressions

rebel angels see

the judge slaves under man’s law

… while nature rules all …

in this earthly home

we catch our face in mirrors

that slowly unveil

through rhythms of remembrance

the source of freedom

 

heeding the heart’s pulse

your hand cascades poetry

and transmits secrets

I really must start to sort my poems …

The left sketch is a possible cover for my first poetry chapbook …

I was recently encouraged when two of my poems were published with Queen Mob’s Teahouse:

https://queenmobs.com/2019/05/poems-photographs-ashen-venema/

And then mentioned once more in a Berfrois magazine article by Joe Linker. Thank you Joe.

Paintings and Poems: City on a Hill

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… taming …

Everything alive is curious, humans excel in this trait. When meeting up with something we haven’t come across we ask … is it worth knowing: is it important, useful, is it friend or foe? Getting to know something is a kind of taming. We energise what we tame, and attempt to exert control over it, be it elements, animals, people, or ideas. Then again, when for innumerable reasons, which include changing priorities or attitudes, interest fades; we withdraw our energy from what we tamed.

Take this vat. Not having held water for some time – its wood shriveled.

a dried-up vessel

lacking its soulful function

becomes an icon

an exquisite memory

or inspiration

where in beauty of decay

new dreams incubate

as nature’s purpose rotates

 

Getting older sparks such contemplation, and the reassurance that a formidable self-regulating force is in charge of life – nature and its cycles of birth, death and rebirth.

Despite every greedy effort to control nature, there is ample proof it will only work for life if we honour the spirit behind the delicate interdependencies of its cyclic system, which in its wisdom continuously expands the consciousness of the one and only being.

‘Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.’ Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī

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… as writer or reader I drift and dream …

Writers and readers have their unique (often indirect) discernment of text and image; a fluid perception spots moods in the sky, or envisages what’might be happening behind doors.

We look towards individuals to interpret our humanity, or the lack of it. But given the electric maze of mirrors that has come to represent our interlinked minds, what attracts us, what makes sense?

Global media outlets thrive on sensational reports of events, and equally sensational opinions. What merges to cohere and assumes meaning in our inner world swings day in day out  from the shocked, incredulous to the sarcastic, while many of us yearn for resonance with something deeply felt, be it a past, present or future versions of reality. We hope for a truth just around a corner, or a poetic hint towards the hidden place of our own chest of treasures. Food for thought comes through the stories that spring from our collective psyche, asserting we’re not alone, but part of the bliss, and part of the pain of existence.

As a writer, I struggle to express what is not obvious or visible – an insular task, with pitfalls and doubts. Readers who respond with sensibility to imagination that springs from dark and private places of solitude are rare. What wings into the air from solitude, poems among them, fleeting and shy like butterflies, can at times trigger unexpected flashes of light and shift our thinking and feeling.

Imagination is the cornerstone of my novel, ‘Course of Mirrors.’ Combining fragments of my life into a fabric of mythic realities – probabilities wedged between rational deduction and magical alternatives, the story is however psychologically embedded in universal experiences, the ambivalent realities familiar to any reader.

Feedback to my writing sustains me, especially now, once more, the feedback to the ‘Shapers’ manuscript from beta readers/editors during the process of polishing. For such gifts, I give deep and heartfelt thanks to my angels, Zohra, and Susanne.

This question has been put to novelists: … When you write, what readers do you have in mind?

I pass … I’m the only reader I know.

What I write flows from my perception. Words I put into the mouths of characters are based on how I imagine myself into their skin and psychological existence. I follow their trials, immersed in the narrative, just like readers will be immersed in the movie they make in their minds while reading, along with the sensations evoked.

As a dreamer, my writing is playful, personal, fed by unconscious processes, like sharing a dream with a friend in a walled garden, not going on stage to entertain the whole town. In other words, the shape of my novels evolves with no thought of addressing a broad generic group of readers.

Pre-plotted novels can be page-turners and offer welcome entertainment, but they tend to preclude my emotional involvement, which is not to say that I don’t admire the art of wordsmiths wherever I find them.

Intuitively drafted novels, with or without plot, have a different feel for me, with elements of surprise. Intuition applies to my life in general. Writing is an inner demand. I’m most alive when I drift and dream.

Can you, writers and readers out there, add to these reflections?

My post from five years ago relates … better than the present one 🙂 I may need a holiday. https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/2014/09/30/moans-from-an-unruly-writers/

I cheer the unruly folk, including fools, dreamers, innovators, artists, poets and writers with an ear towards the hidden …

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Mystical experiences & J. B Priestley’s Dream

Numerous children, if not all, bring along an openness that allows them a peek through the chinks in the veils that cover ordinary reality. Sudden insights, call them special, spiritual, paranormal, transpersonal, mystical, timeless, ecstasy of oneness … dreams … experiences that make no sense to a rational adult and may evoke fear of the unconscious. Sooner or later children may learn that a vivid imagination, as it is often called, brings no rewards and is of no solid use in a world geared to material respectability and control.

To have one’s experience belittled is humiliating. A child may react with rebellion, remain silent, or learn to deal with contradiction. At worst, the door will be shut against random revelations and curiosity about anything unfamiliar. This is a great pity, since a whole range of dimensions remain untranslated. Fortunately there are those who refuse to have their imagination squashed, who find a medium to hold and share encounters that do not fit prevailing assumptions, concepts of reality or theories of time.

They are truth-seekers – artists, writers, musicians, painters, dancers, physicists, biologists, astronomers, mathematicians, inventors, mystics … people with a passion to re-discover realities beyond appearances from multiple perspectives, including deeply personal ones. In short, anyone adventurous enough to explore the jungle of diverse interests, the way inner and outer truths mysteriously mirror each other and spark mystical consciousness. But since the boundaries between light and darkness are porous, one is always well advised to hold one’s balance, like a skilled martial art practitioner.

Having listened over decades to thousands of client stories, I haven’t yet met anyone who hasn’t shared (often for the first time) a near-forgotten mystical experience. Such experiences are the best kept secret nobody dares to talk about. For fear of ridicule, we let the poets speak for us.

‘To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour.– William Blake

Take heart, it is possible to find words, like J B Priestley, to convey the indescribable …

Drawing by Douglas Fenton

I dreamt I was standing at the top of a very high tower, alone, looking down upon the myriads of birds flying in one direction; every kind of bird was there, all the birds in the world. It was a noble sight, this vast aerial river of birds.

But now, in some mysterious fashion the gear was changed, and the time speeded up, so that I saw generations of birds, watched them break their shells, flutter into life, mate, weaken, falter and die. Wings grew only to crumble; bodies were sleek and then, in a flash, bled and shrivelled; and death struck everywhere at every second. What was the use of all this blind struggle towards life, this eager trying of wings, this hurried mating, this flight and surge, all this gigantic meaningless biological effort?

As I stared down, seeming to see every creature’s ignoble little history almost at a glance, I felt sick at heart. It would be better if not one of them, if not one of us at all, had been born, if the struggle ceased forever. I stood on my tower, still alone, desperately unhappy.

But now the gear was changed again, and time went faster still, and it was rushing by at such a rate, that the birds could not show any movement, but were like an enormous plain sown with feathers. But, along this plain, flickering through the bodies themselves, there now passed a sort of white flame, trembling, dancing, then hurrying on; as soon as I saw it I knew that this white flame was life itself, the very quintessence of being; and then it came to me, in a rocket-burst of ecstasy, that nothing mattered, nothing could ever matter, because nothing else was real but this quivering and hurrying lambency of beings.

Birds, people or creatures not yet shaped and coloured, all were of no account except so as this flame of life travelled through them. It left nothing to mourn over behind it; what I had thought of as tragedy was mere emptiness or a shadow show; for now all real feeling was caught and purified and danced on ecstatically with the white flame of life. I had never felt before such happiness as I knew at the end of my dream of the tower and the birds, and I have not kept that happiness with me, as an inner atmosphere and a sanctuary for the heart, that is because I am a weak and foolish man who allows this mad world to come in destroying every green shoot of wisdom. Nevertheless, I have not been quite the same man since. A dream had come through a multitude of business. –  J.B. Priestley (Sept 1895 – Aug 1984)

In case you’ve not come across William James, read his ‘The Varieties of Religious Experience.’

And look up a recent sweeping epic that breaks all the rules by Philippa Rees, ‘Involution.’

And, of course, my novel 🙂

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… sunny places …

light and shadow make

daily joys – like twin beings

they sculpt soul dwellings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I enjoyed a week-long break, based in Gualchos, uphill from Castell de Ferro, Costa Tropical, visiting a friend I had not seen for some time. My son accompanied me, a rare treat, since his time is generally tightly booked with work.

The mountain villages in this part of Spain have a simple charm that appeals to me.  They attract strays, artists & creative souls, as well as gentle dogs & cats. During the summer months, swarms of starlings arrive, seeking trees and church towers. Their acrobatics are inspirational.

We swam & travelled through Alpujarra hills  to Lecrin, Lanjeron & Orgiva, and along the way visited a friend, whose life as a horsewoman and a jewelry-maker is an inspiration. I hope she’ll publish her amazing story one day. The place Rachel created is a paradise for all creatures – see the dog’s stylish abode below …

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then, of course, Granada … my second visit to the amazing Alhambra Palace and its beautiful gardens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The night of Saturday 23th of June, as is tradition in Spain, fires are lit all along the beaches in celebration of Saint John the Babtist. We enjoyed them at Castell de Ferro’s beach, crowned by a waxing moon. One of my obsession is finding small washed up stones of all colours and shapes, including heart shapes.

 

We even watched last Monday’s 2:2 Spain against Morocco’s world cup football game on a TV screen in the local Plaza of Gualchos, where villagers gathered for drinks and cheers.

There were additional friends I would’ve loved to visit … thank you ‘Albi’ in Baza, thank you ‘Malcolm’ in Nerja. I plan to make space to meet you next time. A big Celtic Hug to Binah for accommodating us in her lovely home.

I sooo needed this holiday. For now I’ll let the rich patchwork of impressions settle. Flying is always a pleasure for me, being enamoured with clouds. But how land and sea are re-framed from the sky adds a surreal perspective on life. Now I must make good on a long-held  promise – properly learn Spanish.                                  

Oh, and in case you missed it – I started a Patreon site.

Click on the link to check it out. I might post a photo there later today – of me in the sun 🙂

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… have you ever cursed a door frame? …

… for hitting its edge with your toe or elbow? Are dense objects sensitive to our emanations, be they kind or malicious? Call me quaint, but when I collide with a door frame I apologise, press the sore spot to the point of impact and send the pain back, assuming the wood tolerates it better than my soft tissue. It’s a long-honoured small-scale experiment with disentangling subtle vibrations. It works for me – pain and swelling ease miraculously. Try it, for fun.

We accept that people, animals and plants retain the pulse of our attitude to various degrees, from shock to nonchalance, yet how about the rest of nature, down to solid rocks and stones? I assume my relationship with what I see, touch or think about is reciprocal, for better or worse.

As in receiving and sending waves, I converse with my body, with trees, shrubs, flowers and creatures. I caution spiders not to come near my sleeping space. I have heart-to-heart chats with my house, laptop, car, and all manner of things. I say thank you to what I value and depend upon and even use little mantras conveying something like – all is well – I hear you gasp. I do this to disrupt mindless automatic response patterns. With people, I admit, it’s way more complicated.

I reckon all known and unknown life is moved by a force we poorly understand. Call it by any name, god, spirit, psychic energy, the ghost in the machine, it is a power that works throughout the cosmos, including the things we create, like tools, art, furniture, buildings, machines, weapons, ships, cars, trains, planes, phones, computers. As we project our pleasure or frustration into gadgets and the autonomous functions programmed into them, nature’s energy currents flow and oscillate through all, the whole universe.

I conclude that nothing is dead, lifeless, artificial and of no consequence.

Thomas Vaughan puts it poetically: ‘The real world is invisible. Thus in the physical or spiritual or light world – all forms or beings – stones, trees, stars, streams, men, flames and turds are really facts of invisible presences. Mineral, wood, fire, water, flesh are terms of dense soul-full sense.’

During recent centuries, western cultures developed multiple viewpoints. But what is happening to this wonderful diversity, given the hyper connectivity of the internet, where the masses turn for guidance, where people empowered by visibility offer opinions that swing back & forth in dramatic ways? Is this the dawn of a new tribalism that blanks out the unique contexts and realities of individual minds? One has to have one’s wits about these days.

In his time, Walter Benjamin wrote: ‘Technology, instead of liberating us from myth, confronts us with a force of a second nature just as overwhelming as the forces of an elementary nature in archaic times; our need for a practical philosophy of self-knowledge has never been greater.’

You see where this is going … autonomous technological devices will be no less interdependent than us, relying on social cohesion, the spin of politics, networks that harvest electricity –like, a solar flare could halt all digital utilities on this planet. So I wonder about it all, given there’s much we don’t understand about the forces that govern nature, and the input human consciousness has towards its geometry.

My Sufi friend, Fazal Inayat-Khan, said once in a lecture: , ‘Let us look at reality as a sort of operating faith, a sort of subjective, self-created assignment of realness … It is radiant intelligence which creates reality.’

Or, in another lecture: ‘The experience you have within yourself of your separate identity, to allow right and wrong to be re-defined by your singular contribution, is where evolution really happens. You, by becoming yourself, can open a new wavelength.’

C.G. Jung spent his life mapping the deeper structures of human experience, the collective unconscious, archetypes, and the shadow. Now that a collective mind is mirrored back to us, magnified on screens via the internet, it present an ideal opportunity to explore what is emerging for the collective psyche in the gap between recurring states of balance.

The flashing mirrors of the media blind me at times. Wary of the hive, I also like to belong. When fed up, in need of digestion, I retreat to a cave in my mind (once real) where I attend to what bubbles up from the unconscious in that zone between dreaming and waking, until I emerge from my cave into the light of a new reality, new beauty, new meaning and new questions.

This post is not about social, political or spiritual affiliations, but shares an attitude that aims at openness towards the unknown.

And I wonder what my readers think about conversing with dense objects 🙂

“If we ever reach the point where we think we thoroughly understand who we are and where we came from, we will have failed.”  Carl Sagan

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… the afterglow of relationships …

My dream vanished. It’s going to be one of those weird days, I reckon, soon confirmed by a fleeting glance while passing a mirror. My morning ritual includes stretching muscles while coffee filters into the cup. I breakfast before the screen, skim through emails and various online papers, shake head at captions ranging from atrocious, futile to hilarious, the latter due to brexasparation. The scene beyond the window calms – wispy clouds, birds flitting from hedge to tree to hedge, familiar cats slouching across frosted grass, the ginger, the black & white bushy monster, the nimble black tom with white paws and white-tipped tail, much like an exclamation mark.

With no commitments today, I embark on my weekly shopping trip to town. Small wonder I can’t get warm, the steep drop in temperature is topped by a bitter wind. Minding the weirdness of my day, I’m super careful on the road and pay for two hours parking, anticipating a disorganised shopping round. Sure enough, I miss items on my scrawled list and retrace my steps time and time again through a lattice of chilled shelves. I tell the woman at the checkout, ‘I can’t get warm today,’ a detail of hardly any interest to her or anyone, including me.

‘It will get colder,’ she nods, shrewdly.

At home, I store away stuff and screen up again. Beast from the East weather forecast, blog posts, articles. Weirdness continues. I cancel plans for more editing on my second novel, Shapers, and grab the vacuum cleaner instead, as if it could suck the dust from my mind. The effort earns me another coffee. Then a thought tumbles in from nowhere …

Often people are worth more dead than alive – where the heck did that come from?

My vanished dream lights up. Faces re-emerge, of friends who passed on during the last two decades, some through death, others through metaphorical deaths, that is, circumstantial rifts and distancing. The dream brought a vivid afterglow of relationships, insights of unconditional love, as well as shadow aspects – what I judged and misread in the behaviour of others, what others judged and misread in my behaviour. The dynamics of projections are illuminated by a revision of experiences through layers of time, and through the imagined intuitive eyes of others. Broken threads reweave into fresh patterns, consciousness expands.

I deeply appreciate the dreams that provide an afterglow to the relationships in my life, be it the ones marked by kindness and love or the ones distorted by projections and a narrow reading of intentions. The insights that dreams bring help me to renew my sense self, no matter how delusional, it’s what I need to function in this world.

We can always benefit and also contribute towards collective harmony with a widening of perspectives through other eyes, including the eyes of strangers.

I’m reminded of one of my first posts, about the shadow

Click on the above link and you’re there.

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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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… 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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