Tag Archives: humour

… bewildered hearts …

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We may reach out in vain towards heavy hearts shrouding broken ideals or stagnant truths that are dark-sealed against any doubt.

We may reach out in vain towards wounded hearts that shirk beauty, scorn at tender gestures, treat humour like treason and plot revenge.

 

Yet in the death rasp of each bewildered heart we may catch the echo of our sigh – the time-sculpted murmur of our own pain.                                                                                                                                                                                                                   P1060110 inverse lowres                                           

 

‘The ideal is the means; its breaking is the goal.’    Hazrat Inayat Khan

 

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… Wilhelm Busch – carefully studied apprehension …

After my last post  I was reminded of another beetle from the scarab family – Maikäfer – in German. In my village we had a beech alley towering above a grove with a stream at the bottom, where Maikäfer swarmed in May. As kids we collected these hard-shelled creatures in match boxers and engaged them in races by fencing flat parallel rows with stones or twigs. That many beetles did not obey the boundary rules and had to be disqualified was a huge frustration.

img123A further memory popped up – a prank featured in Wilhelm Busch’s Max and Moritz– click on the link and check out the fifth trick (prank) with the poetry shown in German and English. img124 smaller

Heinrich Christian Wilhelm Busch (15 April 1832 – 9 January 1908) was a German humourist, poet, illustrator and painter. Some of his illustrated cautionary tales were banned by authorities. The seven pranks of Max und Moritz were called a frivolous and undesirable influence on the moral development of young people,

Busch described himself in autobiographical sketches and letters as sensitive and timid, as someone who “carefully studied apprehension” and who reacted with fascination, compassion and distress when animals were killed.

img127 - smallerI have a 1923 booklet of the Max and Moritz pranks. They may have put me on the path of my own ‘carefully studied apprehension.’

Later I was gifted ‘Das Grosse Wilhelm Busch Hausbuch’ by Ulla, a German friend, a huge book with over six hundred pages of wonderful illustrations of unforgettable characters and comic poetry by the master.

Busch drew on contemproray parochichal and and city life, satirizing Catholicism, Philistinism, strict religious morality and bigotry. His comic texts were colourful and entertaining, using onomatopoeia, neaogolism and other figures of speech, check out his life.  See  here   

His quote,’ Kein Ding sieht so aus wie es ist.’– roughly – nothing is as it seems … rings ever true.

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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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… delights of peek-a-boo …

In ways we project ourselves into our surroundings, as children we delight in the appearance, vanishing and re-appearance of a loved object or person.

Georgios Jakobides - 1895

Georgios Jakobides – 1895

To observe something reappear is as thrilling as green shoots returning in spring, as inexplicable as birth itself. Hide and seek or peek-a-boo are games said to adjust toddlers to ‘object permanence,’ an illusion we embrace, yet these games are also the prelude to a lifelong quest for the mystery of existence. Children, unless talked down to and belittled, ask deep questions – where do I come from, where did the candle-flame go, where has grandpa gone, how long is time, how come I see things with my eyes closed?  The same questions spurn lifelong passion in scientists.

Growing social, we slip into collective rituals of seeing, feeling, thinking and doing. We obey, ignore or defy rules meant to serve cultural cohesion, rules promising acceptance and success in life. We respond or react according to circumstance and temperament. Some of us have a need to belong, feel safe, protected, others may venture into the unknown, become spiritual warriors on a warpath with obstacles, often rituals, blocking individual potential.

I’m a warrior learning from obstacles, one of which I like to share.

You may recall commands, often subtle and inferred, by early significant persons, communicated via responses, to you, to life, based on generational ideals. These commands worm themselves into the psyche and settle around an inner critic. While well-meaning in aiding conscience and integrity, this critic can also become strident and counter-productive.

In my case – the critic periodically berates me for not keeping my own promises … stay on top of things, complete tasks,  respond to request without delay, call on friends, de-clutter, prepare accounts, fix the warped front-door, only so many roll-ups a day, only two glasses of wine … the tick-off list is … ah well … endless …

Good objectives aside – the more the opinionated critic berates my shortcomings, the more I need to release the tension by transgressing self-imposed rules – otherwise the noise of my inner battle drives away the bird of intuition, the unexpected and the wonder of each day.

I listen, but won’t bow to the critic, obey in fear and cage the bird. In my book, this sums up the making of tyrants.

More and more often I remember to soften the demands. Instead of berating I praise myself for small promises kept, for what has gone well, small steps in overcoming this stealthy ritual that does not benefit my aims. It’s my idiosyncratic strategy: no fighting, no surrendering. Try it – humour the critic into humanness and adjust your rules of engagement with the elegant phenomenon of now.

P1050813 - lowres You may ask – how does my strategy relate to hide and seek and peek-a-poo?

It’s the play with reality by the child in us – the delight in re-discovering being.

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This little bird cheered me, it arrived flattened in a Christmas card. Instructions read: Stand me up on my feet.

Blessings to my friends for 2014 – may the bird of intuition frequently visit you.

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… when did you last smile? …

When did you last smile? The question started us going. I belong to a bunch of friends, 10 to 20, who meet monthly. We rotate the facilitation of sessions. People propose themes worthy of engagement. Our April session had the theme of Positive Psychology. The term, coined by Martin Seligman, has been called unoriginal and evokes ongoing controversies, not least because basic theories promoting well-being have been around for a long time, for centuries. Overall, the disputes are creative.

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The off-the-track cottage and studio we hire for our monthly meetings has a delightful atmosphere. We love it, though its structure is gradually falling apart. The custodians of the property have more pressing concerns, and so have we. After a unique international creative centre was lost to us eight years ago, this liminal space offered itself. Here we challenge and cherish each other, explore ideas and welcome guests.

As to the initial question of the day – when did you last smile? – Of late, I frequently smile at my quirky thoughts. That day however, I recalled waking early and passing a vase brimming with pale double daffodils, splayed open to full perfection in the morning sun. No matter how fleeting an instant of wholeness, it tends to ravish me into my veiled wholeness. The exquisite flowers invigorated every cell in my body and set the tone for my day. It was a moment of transcendence, of grace.

We explored scientific findings as to what goes on in different parts of our brain when we experience emotions. There is evidence, for example, that prolonged stress weakens the immune system. Stress may be real or imagined. It can be maintained by resentment, anxiety, learned helplessness and the anticipation of negative outcomes, often based on scary experiences (even in the womb) that informed expectations, like the world is unsafe and we have no control over events. Neurobiology is fascinating, though I wonder if it can ever explain existential questions about phenomenology. Some of us bring along a lucky or unlucky disposition, but a great deal of what we become seems to depend on the interpretation and meaning we give to what is happening to us.

Bang head here

Which begs the question, can optimism be learned through challenging negative self-talk, the kind that rubs it in, like – here we go again, I should’ve know, stupid me, no matter what I do –  and so on. For some people prolonged attention to self-talk works. Many brilliant techniques have been developed to overlay fixed habits. Extensive research has gone into the mastery of happiness, especially in the US. This said – Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology, acknowledges that negativity is part of the human condition. As such, I see negativity having a compelling function in social systems that first make us ill and then sell us pills, a larger story…

I tend to huff when a generic psychological approach is wrapped up as a brand and turned into an industry, and Positive Psychology has become a successful industry during the last decade. Then again, there were a great many innovators since Abraham Maslow, who, inspired by ancient wisdom traditions was the first to challenge Psychology’s focus on pathology at the time, by researching what motivates people up the hierarchy of needs, and by defining the qualities of achievers. The work of Seligman and his colleagues seeks to encourage functionality, resilience and well-being. It provides further valuable applications and insights regarding human potential that are worth studying.

I personally lean towards the subtle wisdom regained during my training with Psychosynthesis in the 1980s. We may reach peak states of awareness as our consciousness expands, bliss even, yet each higher view calls for a journey down, into denser spheres. C G Jung put it well … As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being.’

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Our group is an irreverent lot. We had fun, warm and lively discussions, and we engaged with personal questions. From a set of 24 cards we chose our 5 dominant signature strengths. Humour trumped several times, followed by creativity, perseverance, appreciation, fairness and perspective. Oddly, there was one card I ignored but which jumped to the top when I did a test on-line – Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence. I later figured out why I had held back from picking up the card. This appreciation, which I have to a high degree, is also the source of lingering sadness, because Beauty and Excellence touch me deeply, are glimpsed rarely, and are hard to live up to and shine with. Then again, moments of grace, a sudden seeing that stops time, like the daffodils of that morning, carry me through periods of melancholy and questioning. The theme of the day stayed with me, and after some reflection I came to this conclusion:

I would not be happy being happy all the time. For better or worse I walk the tightrope of contradiction.

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The cards we used are available at:  http://mindspring.uk.com/shop/strength-cards/

Here is a site with a questionnaire that measures your character strengths http://www.viacharacter.org/www/ It’s free, unless you want a longer report.

The photo of the Stress Reduction Kit poster is by Programwitch, found on Flickr.

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