Tag Archives: fear

… The banality of good – a review of ‘Alone in Berlin’ …

 

For me, Edward Munch’s painting  –  – The Scream —  sums up the fear of the unknown, and by implication, the fear of the feminine principle – a fear that spurns men towards controlling nature.

Hans Fallada’s novel, Jeder stirbt für sich allein’ (Everyone dies alone,) first came to my attention through its publication in English, ‘Alone in Berlin,’ a translation that was delayed by 60 years. The book has been sitting on my shelf as a ‘must read’ for a long while. Burdened by regressive small-mindedness and divisions around the world, I finally tackled ‘Alone in Berlin,’ aware that it would be a grim read, having been described as a testament to the darkest years of the 20th century from the point of view and experience of ordinary people.

Resistance to the Nazi regime by individuals had no news value after the war. Yet such stories provide the most poignant insights into what it is like to oppose a state under a dictatorship. As such, this book, written raw and in haste eighteen month after the defeat of Nazism, offers a high alert to simple solutions for social problems. The author, Hans Fallada, aka Rudolf Ditzen, died before this last of his works was published in 1947.

The urgency behind the writing is palpable. The players, sketched with harsh strokes, embody the full range of human nature – the capacity for compassion, kindness, complacency, stupidity, meanness, stubbornness, false pride, envy, hate, and resentment, fear, fanaticism and vengeance tipping into the most depraved cruelty.

Very quickly the dread of being caught in the nightmarish system of a totalitarian state jumps at the reader. While the ghostly despot drifts in the background, his control is shown through the dynamic interactions of ordinary citizens – be they power-hungry officers, opportunists, cunning manipulators, cowards, reticent objectors or unsung heroes. Resistance carried the threat of death and seemed futile.

The anguish conveyed is chilling, intensified by the archetypal hue clinging to the tragic comic characters, at times suggesting caricatures. The sheer absurdness of the stupidities and sadistic cruelties depicted may dilute the shock, but it makes the scenes all the more heart-breaking.

The classic method of totalitarianism is to instil fear and divide factions of society against each other, so people spy on each other and nobody can be trusted anymore. In this chapter of history fear served as the leverage for forcing the banal idea of a perfect state that can be safeguarded through clockwork control.

Fallada’s main protagonists, Otto and Anna Quangel, were based on the records of two insignificant objectors to the regime, Otto and Elise Hampel. The elderly couple started spreading anti-Nazi missives written on postcards in buildings around Berlin. For their sadly ineffective attempts of rebellion, the Hampel’s were arrested in 1942, tried in 1943 and executed shortly after. The same fate befell their friends and relatives.

Can a few virtuous individuals, each driven by personal idiosyncrasies, redeem the moral integrity of a nation? It is up to the reader to decide whether the many deaths a totalitarian regime inflicts on soon forgotten brave people are in vain.

The book brought alive the pressure my grandparents must have lived under, as well as the uncanny anxious atmosphere that spoiled my parents’ teen years, and, the wariness I personally and many of the post-war generation developed towards overbearing authority.

Presented in the context of ordinary individual lives, the story reads like a tragic comedy that screams – let us never forget that freedom lies in people being allowed to be different, not chained to a hell of obedience and conformity.

Primo Levi’s declared ‘Alone in Berlin’ as the greatest book ever written about German resistance to the Nazis. English readers have had to wait 60 years to read the novel.

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… political poker games …

reflections-moving-copy

Ideas spook the night

Hardly the will of people

Who were told lies & fed

Bizarre facts or fake events

By those who contrived

This fear that rocks the cradle

And will have it swing

In brittle boughs of nothing

Rock-a-by baby

They sing while fanning the wind

Of your discontent

 

I’m flabbergasted by the sheer absurdity of the present political poker games. No use imagining I’m a stranger that landed on this planet by mistake. I’m here – feeling overwhelmed when watching clips that show the hardship refugees endure with slim hopes for building a life, and the helpless helpers who offer support without solutions in sight?

I dream of patches of land or purpose-build islands/ships, where migrants are allowed to build fresh communities and gain self-respect. Where are the pragmatic deals to alleviate this suffering, and the help for countries unable to cope with the influx of people?

Commentaries on events in the wake of the Brexit referendum vote leave me distraught, angry, compassionate, ironic and detached, all at the same time. How to evade the bug of collective despair?  Not good, not good at all. I want to shout from the rooftops: read the history of excessive nationalism. Do not – I implore – succumb to fear-mongering.

Today I played my small reed-harmonium in a meditative way, following one note to the next, and the next, forming melancholic rhymes, prolonging and softening notes, the charm a reed-harmonium offers. From a strong upward scale a melody formed. My heart calmed and my mind cleared enough to allow these words to tumble onto the screen.

If I were in full time employment, I’d skim through news, ridicule stuff with colleagues and do what the job at hand required. But since I work from home, in charge of my days, I make space to write – and think – though it goes nowhere, this thinking, other than to ponder the theme of  globalisation –  a phenomenon long before the term was coined. If time allows click the link to this worthwhile long read.

Insights could be applied to address the hyper race of progress that rewards only short term goals. The main cause for all this mess, in my view. Do away with all benefits and provide everyone with basic income, so people can relax, start innovative & creative community projects, or study, or build a career, whatever. Why not work for the common interests of our shared humanity and celebrate this gift of life? I’m dreaming, I know.

The robins in my garden have more sense. Animals, guests from a wholesome planet.

Other relevant posts:

Here is everywhere …

Brexasperation …

Perception of difference …

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… Punch is behaving disgracefully again …

Punch and JudyLong-festering issues are popping up in ugly shapes on our flat screens. Punch behaving disgracefully again. Policy makers had it coming. Ah, the ever irritating foibles of citizens, where resentment trumps over reason on issues which, after being hushed for stretches of time, repeatedly break into the light of reality and need to be engaged with. There is no magic knife to cut out the nasty parts, like the cancer of xenophobia, which is basically an overreaction to the fear of disorder and the slipping away of control over familiar attachments, the world over.

Science is at war with the random failures of our immune system, a war that may in future extend toward the gene-editing of troublesome feelings, equaling an attempt to not bother with the psychology of the unconscious. Please imagine what would happen, desirable as it might sound, if humans were made immune to anger and insulated from memory (a theme in the sequel to my novel ‘Course of Mirrors’) the danger being: if we close the door to one threat, we open the door to another. Medicine calls it ‘side-effects.’

What happens with social policies is no different. The debates before and after the Bretix referendum (how did such an ugly word become a brand?) leave essentials unaddressed in both camps. I have an image of a confused fleet of rudderless boats in the middle of the Channel, where the sound of – Brrrr – exxxx – ittt – is carried on the wind and presses on eardrums. The wind is useless without a rudder. Given the prevailing eccentric climate there is no knowing where the boats will end up.

I’m in such a boat, even though I have a home, a safe little shelter to feel smug in. Presently this comfort makes me feel very uncomfortable. The issues raised in the Brexit campaign are valid. They could be listened to and reasoned through towards a compromise, for the time being, since it is surreal to take the bundle of problems about broken communities, lack of housing, jobs and poor efforts of integration and blame it on people conveniently label as ‘others.’ The influx of migrants merely highlights an ever growing imbalance between have and have-nots. The world is changing faster than one generation can comprehend, despite, and also because of technological advances and instant information.

The exodus happening around the world is a global phenomenon.

RuinPeople fleeing from war-zones, natural disasters and nil prospects, attracted to the seemingly coherent structures of democracies, want to re-build their existence, are mostly educated, keen to work, and are longing to regain their self-esteem. Why not focus on the opportunities in this situation? Ask how the migration phenomenon can benefit societies? And how Britain can creatively support Europe in a process that simply cannot be stopped?

Actions based on fear and denial create more fear, and will hardly generate listening, humility, or reflection – like how the meddling in the Middle East caused more harm than good, and how the experiment of democracy is just that, an experiment.

And, to my mind, the biggest question of all is: how will the overly privileged individuals and corporations of this world respond to the ever widening imbalance of riches? This can not be left to politicians, whose promises are tied to only a few years in office. Imagination and forward looking reforms are needed.

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… memory – fear – global imagination …

Mirrored clouds, without birds, smallerMemories are like images that flow reflected on the surface of water, at times fast, skipping, turning in on themselves among curling eddies, at times distracted by currents, breaking up into choppy waves … or coming together as facets meeting in quiet waters, as in a calm heart, where past, present and future images arise clearly.

Then again, if waters were always still, never flowing, the reflections in our heart would remain static and never change.

But how to stay aware of images that bring up irrational fears from the deep waters of our collective mind?  Imprinted in dust, earth, mud, rock, sand, water and blood, such fears, be it for survival or identity, based on traumatic histories, rob us of our capacity for rational thought. How do we stay aware of the phonmenon that fear begets fear?

P1090890 - Copy (2)We live in a time when listening, by those who have the capacity for it, seems of crucial importance. A time when individuals must make an effort to understand diverse traditions and opinions, a time to aim for compromises, a time to utilise all the knowledge and wisdom aquired by the eduated, and those with wise hearts, a time that requires us to act in unison towards the maintenance of our beautiful planet and all its inhabitans. It’s a time for politicians to look ahead, beyond the span of their appointment. It’s time to wake up – to see the amazing potential of people migrating across the globe, whatever the causes, it’s happening, a time when sharing each other’s traditions and talents can be enriching to everyone.

Our imagination is our hell and our paradise.

Imagination is all: the creator, the maintainer and the destroyer of life, replicating the natural seasons of our earth.

The same capacity for imagination that makes us ill can also heal us.

Humans have a choice.

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… dream – a storyteller teasing my dad …

I love this image, but can't find its source,, apologies to the photographer.

I love this image, but can’t find its source,, apologies to the photographer.

Two nights ago, an enchanting storyteller appeared in my dream. She glowed from within, embodying her yarn with captivating gestures, her eyes saying – you’re loveable. Her whole being was a joyous dance. She flicked her fingers before my father’s face, touching his chin – making him laugh – his freed anima, maybe?

Ah, dreams are wonderful, unpredictable like liquid mercury, living silver flowing into shapes.

It was heart-warming to see my father laugh and absorb the affection, the irreverence, the humour. He did not retreat into silence before the piercing wit of the storyteller. The probe was softened through caring eyes … a miracle.

Alone, I could not have invoked such light-hearted banter with a father, who pulled the drawbridge to his heart ever since I dared to think independently. The dream vision lifted the cloud of my helpless woe.

After the dream, I recalled part of a poem I wrote long ago. Daughters may recognise the patriarchal fault in the lines of this poem, the discrepant realities that want bridging. It’s the same old story that could teach us, in the words of my late teacher, Fazal Inayat-Khan:

‘We are not here to agree with each other, but to create beauty.’

Truth worth seeking springs from the middle of each moment. Evolved individuals don’t see a women as inferior to men. The concept has harmed, and still harms, the psychological growth of both men and woman. Yet the deeply-etched hierarchical system keeps working its mean distortions across the globe.

He rests in stasis – cast in stone,

placed high in a niche

of this grand cathedral.

Sculpture Park, Churt, Surrey, UK

Sculpture Park, Churt, Surrey, UK

His daughters wake

and dare looking up.

What are they meant to do

with this apostolic vision

in their genes?

Someone tell them now,

tell them how the vacant room

was always theirs to own.

Here – sun streams through

rounded glass – crimson,

amber, cobalt, gold and green

play across crisp white walls.

Here – colours soften light,

a child can breathe deeply,

is free to release stale sorrows

and style fresh dreams.

Dad, we kick your ghost

out of here … no more

bargains with your fear.

What’s the cause of this stasis, so feared – like dying life, or living death? I think it’s war, each new war piled on top of other wars, and the unbearable injustices my father, many fathers, and mothers, were, and still are, subjected to. I shake my head, I nod my head, and somewhere between all contradictions I must accept the inherited traumas of humanity and seek life and joy with each new day.

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… unseen stuff – micro-organisms …

More contagious than micro-organisms are fear and hopelessness.

Long before our time, the existence of micro-organisms was presupposed, notably in Jainism, whose followers vow non-violence in thought and practice (Ahimsa) towards all living beings. The tradition is said to be older than Buddhism.  In the teachings of Mahavira (599 – 527 BEC),  micro-organisms are described as unseen creatures living in earth, water, air and fire, and existing as clusters pervading every plant and tissue, not just on earth but throughout the whole universe. Jain libraries are the oldest in India.

While home-bound with a young child in rural Somerset, I did an OU course on world religions, wanting to learn about the formative ideas underlying our variety of cultures. Reading on Jainism, I was struck by its beautiful philosophy, genuine tolerance of other faiths, and the surprisingly modern belief – that the universe is self-regulated by the laws of nature. Worth exploring: see wiki-link below.

With a different mind-set, the idea of unseen creatures informed a nasty biological war fare during the Middle Ages, when diseased corpses were catapulted into enemy strongholds.

Along came artificial eyes, the telescope and the microscope, evidencing these unseen worlds. The Jesuit priest, Athanasius Kircher, and Anton van Leeuwenhoek, were among the first to spot micro-organisms through lenses in the 17th century.  The journey took off, until Ferdinand Cohn founded the discipline of bacteriology in the 19th century, and Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch developed the study of microbiology, focussing on food preservation and vaccines. The gained knowledge helped to protect us from organisms known to spread disease, and improved the hygiene of our environment. During the late 19th century the study was expanded through the work of Martinus  Beijerinck and Sergei Winogradsky into the field of general microbiology.

Today the study of micro-organisms has developed to such extend that  hundreds of specialised branches of study exist serving a huge variety of applications. I’m fascinated by biology, and I greatly respect scientists who devote their days and nights to deepen our understanding of life.

What I question, as do many of my friends, which include scientists, is the unrestricted power of multinational companies. It is totally unethical that multinationals can push decisions as to how scientific evidence is used. To start with, they must be made accountable for damages caused, and next, it should be obligatory, like a tax, that a fraction of the profits these companies reap be used for interdisciplinary research, so that  evidence can be established for the many undeniably wholesome methods of balancing and strengthening self-organising systems.

The over-reliance on suppressive drugs (and in the case of agriculture pesticides) in the fight against every imbalance has devastating side effects. Apart from training super-bugs,  the relentless war undermines the ecosystem of our planet, and our birth right, the ingenious self-regulatory system that acquires immunity through exposure. Nature has taught us everything, nature is not the enemy. Excess use of medication could even undo the good work of vaccines, meant to help us acquire immunities. A weakened immune system may eventually fail to deal with any kind of exposure. So why do we sanction this paranoid warfare ?

What is known about micro-organisms includes the process of endosymbiosis – where symbiosis occurs between different organisms that benefit from living together. Lynn Margulis opposed the neo-Darwinian concept of competition, and proposed that evolution thrived through cooperation: ‘Symbiogenesis recognizes that every visible life-form is a combination or community of bacteria.’  (See link below) In other words, the fittest is what adapts and harmonises.

There is always more than one way to look at something. When it comes to the prevention of dis-ease, and the healing of body and mind, the soothing of stress, we have enough knowledge and wisdom to appreciate the effectiveness of: relaxation, telling one’s story and being listened to, a clear positive intention, the benefits of meditation, a calm mind, the balancing of subtle energies, the vibrations of harmonious sound, architecture, colours, symbolic  understanding, the use of active creative imagination, a gentle touch, a heartfelt smile, for example.

The authenticity of a friend, a doctor, a healer or therapist, can inspire a troubled person who is seeking support to take self-responsibility. Trust, or faith in one’s healing, is a phenomenon that also throws light on the powerful physiological effects of the placebo, which is a proposed ritual that promises nothing, but puts the patient in charge. Wow!

From another tradition that respects all faiths, here is a perspective on microbes expressed by Sufi Hazrat Inayat Khan, who brought his wisdom to the west in the early 20th century:

Every day a new invention brings a new microbe. And if a new microbe is discovered every day till the end of the world there will be numberless diseases; in the end it will be difficult to find one man healthy, for there must always be some microbe; if it is not of an old disease, then of a newly discovered one …  

The people of old thought that microbes were spirits, living beings, in the absence of science which today distinguishes these spirits in the form of microbes; and yet it seems that the ancient healers had a greater grip upon the illness, for the reason that they considered the microbe in its spirit. In destroying the microbe they did not only destroy the outer microbe, but the inner microbe in the form of the spirit, of the germ; and the most interesting thing is that in order to drive away that spirit which they thought had possessed the patient, they burned or they placed before him certain chemicals which are used even now, having been proved to be destructive to the germs of diseases.

With every measure that physicians may take to prevent the germs of diseases from coming, in spite of all the success that they will have there will be a greater failure; for even if the actual germ is destroyed, it exists, its family exists, somewhere. Besides, the body which has once become the abode of that particular germ has become a receptacle of the same germ. If the physician destroys the germ of disease from the body of an individual that does not mean that he destroys it from the universe. This problem, therefore, must be looked at from another point of view: that everything that exists in the objective world has its living and more important part existing in the subjective world; and that part which is in the subjective is held by the belief of the patient. As long as the patient believes that he is ill he is giving sustenance to that part of the disease which is in the subjective world. Even if the germs of the disease were destroyed, not once but a thousand times in his body, they would be created there again; because the source from which the germs spring is in his belief, not in his body, as the source of the whole creation is within, not without. 

Hazrat Inayat Khan

The outer treatment of many such diseases is just like cutting the plant from its stem while the root remains in the ground. Since the root of the illness is in the subjective part of one’s being, in order to drive away that illness one must dig out the root by taking away the belief of illness even before the outer germ is destroyed. The germ of illness cannot exist without the force, the breath, which it receives from the subjective part of one’s being; and if the source of its sustenance is once destroyed, then the cure is certain.

Very few people can hold a thought, but many are held by a thought. If such a simple thing as holding a thought were mastered, the whole life would be mastered. When once a person gets into his head, ‘I am ill’, and when this is confirmed by a physician, then his belief becomes watered like a plant, then his continual reflection of it, falling upon his illness like the sun, makes the plant of illness grow; and therefore it would not be an exaggeration to say that, consciously or unconsciously, the patient is the gardener of his own illness … The root of illness is in the mind, and if that root is continuously watered by thought and feeling, illness is realized in the end.

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More contagious than micro-organisms are fear and hopelessness.  (my conclusion)

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We are the mirror and the face in it.

We are tasting the taste this minute

of eternity. We are pain

and what cures pain. We are

the sweet, cold water and the jar that pours.

Rumi – transl. by John Moyne and Coleman Barks

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Jainism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jainism

Lynn Margulis

http://discovermagazine.com/2011/apr/16-interview-lynn-margulis-not-controversial-right

Hazrat Inayat Khan – Volume 4 – Healing and the Mind World.

http://www.sufimessage.com/healing/index.html

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