Tag Archives: images

… my memory of the moon landing …

News reminds me that today is the fifties anniversary of America’s moon landing.

I was in Prague. My then companion, for his birthday celebration, had organised a small group of friends to spend a weekend in this beautiful city, coinciding with the moon landing. We could afford a 5 star hotel, due to a bargain currency exchange rate in the wake of the short-lived Prague Spring … the invasion of Czechoslovakia by members of the Warsaw Pact, and then the country’s occupation. We found an eerie hush hush atmosphere, but once rapport was created, people were keen to treat us cash-spending visitors like royalty. Hotel staff attended to our every need, insisting on polishing our shoes overnight. Restaurants, beyond serving exquisite goulash, entertained us with stories and life music. Our luxury was tinged with sadness. These people had had a rough time. It would take many more years before the collapse of Communism.

Buzz Aldrin walks on the surface of the moon. Photograph: NASA

We watched the moon landing on a black & white TV in the lobby of our hotel, outnumbered by American tourists. The atmosphere was electric. All our eyes were glued to the small screen, witnessing the eagle’s landing, feet stepping down the ladder into the moon dust. And them Armstrong documenting Buzz Aldrin imprinting the dust with his heavy shoes. Given the lack of air-movement on the moon, these imprints may still be there, unless the later take-off erased them.

We took in the iconic exclamations … one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind…

Americans around us burst into high decibels and fell into each other’s arms for joy. So yes, it was a memorable moment, and, without doubt, a magnificent achievement for the visionaries, like J.F. Kennedy, who sadly missed the event, and the many thousands of technicians and supporting staff involved in the project.

Earthrise, Dec 1968

However, for me it amplified a more significant image from the year before, a photograph called ‘earthrise.’   I sincerely hoped that beholding the wonder of this beautiful planet floating in dark space would widen political perspectives and bring people’s consciousness around the world to the realisation that we are in this adventure of life together.

That weekend in Prague, I visited the old Jewish cemetery. Stirred by a brilliant slanting light, I took a series of b&w photos, only to destroy them later, incl. negatives. (The scene became incorporated in my novel ‘Course of Mirrors.’) I regret the loss.  The photos were stunning.

Wars, atrocities and poverty continued, nothing changed. Technological progress only worsened injustices. Protesters during the moon landing proclaimed “Billions for spacePennies for the hungry.”

I came to the conclusion that the exploration of deep space requires the balance of another exploration … a deep exploration of the human mind. A befriending of the unconscious, the objective psyche, which we can’t control.  The latter study inspired my subsequent vocation.

I grew up with this lullaby, my favourite …

Der Mond ist aufgegangen
Die goldnen Sternlein prangen
Am Himmel hell und klar:
Der Wald steht schwarz und schweiget,
Und aus den Wiesen steiget
Der weiße Nebel wunderbar.

Click here for the whole text with notation, and translation …

What do you do there, moon, in the sky? Tell me what you do, silent moon … Giacomo Leopardi

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… the film Albatross – elegy to beauty & grief for love lost …

Truly witnessing the tragedies on our planet is not the same as passive looking,  witnessing expands and transforms consciousness. As an individual I feel helpless, unable to solve the overwhelming problems, but by witnessing and accepting the sad truth of what is happening, and by grieving the losses, I, each of us, in a small way, can contribute towards a necessary and crucial paradigm shift.

Chris Jordan’s film about the Albatross, a labour of love that took eight years of intense collaborations – is a gift to the world, free to watch or download.

When you find a quiet hour, click here to watch the film.

The unusual documentary reveals stunningly beautiful, poignant and intimate openings into the life of these ancient bird families. The spellbinding scenes, shot on the lone Pacific island of Midway halfway between America and Asia, touches way, way deeper into our psyche than any factual or statistical report about the insanity of our throwaway cultures could ever do.

It is a meditation on love. And the soundtrack is an art in itself.

The birds mate for life (up to 60 years) and their mating dance, filmed in slow motion that reaches into the reality of their time, shows a mirroring ritual of sheer poetry, of a grace that sweetly chimes in our deepest cellular being. Once the egg arrives, the parents take turns to keep it warm and, with endless patience, guard the chick’s struggle as it squeezes itself out from the hard shell. It’s a tough and drawn-out entry, but help would not be helpful, since the little one’s birth-struggle develops the resilience needed for survival.

What made the stunning images possible is that these majestic animals have not learned to fear humans, whose latest habits hasten their demise. Without natural enemies, they trust life, and the ocean, which offered them food for millennia, even though it now includes plastic tidbits that spell their demise.

 

Some scenes near the end of the film bring home powerful metaphors – like what it takes to fly. Fledglings, to lighten their weight, must empty their stomachs of everything fed to them by their parents (in this instant plastic.) Mothers, forgive yourselves. We can hardly avoid dumping stuff on your offspring, be it psychic or material. Many fledglings don’t manage, but if lucky, and if the right wind comes along, their wings will carry them across the sea towards their adult adventure.

Click here to find out about the story behind the film.

And check out Chris Jordan’s other projects, or follow him on twitter @cj_artist

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… rose is a rose is a rose …

 

The rose-phrase is the enduring refrain of Gertrude Stein. In her surreal 1939 children book, ‘The World is Round,’ for example, rows of three words appear throughout. A girl called Rose carves her name round a tree in an endless loop to affirm her existence .

Rose is a rose is a rose – rolls from the tongue much like the prayer beads of a rosary roll through nimble fingers.

You want to stay with the rose, let it take root in your psyche, and from there let roses after roses grow.

By comparison – BrexitisBrexitisBrexit – sounds like the rusty hinges of a rotten door, or the croaking of a parrot with a sore throat. I try to resist the word’s grating in my skull, but it’s difficult to avoid its ugly edges from day to day, in bizarre discord with the rousing refrain of Britannia rules the waves.

There’s repetition and repetition. Applied with intention in literature, music, dance and the visual arts, repetition can strip the familiar to its essence. The arts, at best, alert us to nature’s spellbinding repetitive rhythms. Shield your ears and hear the blood-river rushing through your veins – touch your wrist and sense your heart pump the river round and round. Spirit is seduced into this trance-dance, or it would never get trapped in forms. Repetitive behaviour settles us into mollifying routines and gives us a sense of stability, as well as addictive habits. Beneficial as they can be, customary routines also have a tendency to dumb us down.

In this time of rapid changes, words and images topple over each other’s associations. Type ‘apple’ into a search engine and up pop pages listing Apple Inc., the multinational technology company that has seized the apple, bitten off a chunk of knowledge, like Eve, and deployed it as a metaphor for its corporation – brilliant, and disconcerting. It had trouble finding a title for my novel, where ‘mirror’ was not already owned as a label by tabloids or rock bands.

Most young folk today move along the electric cultural highway in fast gear. Facebook’s Zuckerberg famously said ‘Move fast and break things.’ Maybe he’s a speed-hatched modern-day mystic. I’m reminded of Hazrat Inayat Khan’s profound quote regarding the journey of life – ‘The ideal the means, its breaking is the goal.’

I suffer a long view. My first experience of TV was Queen Elisabeth’s coronation. What unnerves me is the speed of spear-heading elites, leaving ordinary people no breath to digest events, especially as history and the arts are being replaced by computer science in education. With automation the rage, the journey happens in a blur, as do thinking processes. Keywords have become mechanical codes, and shareholders bow to the omnipotent algorithms’ patterns of, let’s say, how existential fears relate to consumer behaviour. We hardly notice our choices being manipulated. How to catch snap assumptions that keep consciousness caged, or one’s imagination buried under debris of glib answers? With traditions and ideologies on trial, how to develop a filter of authenticity to stem the flood of information? Reflective minds are turning cynical. I have that tendency.  Doubt is the new lodestar.

Like never before, we perceive phenomena through multiple eyes, tap into the states of other beings – their joy, their ignorance and excess, their poverty, suffering and distress. We may blank out what upsets, but can’t escape the increasing experience of contradiction, the very function of reality. Greater awareness deeply conflicts us, as much as it inspires creativity. There’s hope. Seeing does not require physical eyes. Collective consciousness will expand, be it through chaos. The least we can do is to still our own mind, which is why I return to the rose.

The genus Rosa, according to fossil evidence, is 35 million years old and begun to be cultivated circa 5000 years ago. Due to its tessellated structure, dome-like shape and its delightful perfume, the rose has become a symbol of the heart, of wholeness, love, beauty and perfection the world over, frequently with mystical connotation, and often highly stylised, as in Islamic art.

When held, thought or spoken of, the rose lingers on and generates a mood. It may appear in different stages of opening or beautiful decay, in a particular colour, light. The name alone conjures up memories of scents, places, relationships, delight or melancholy. What ‘rose’ evokes derives from a time-wrought cypher that evokes all roses that were, are and will be.  Rose is a rose is a rose – depicts a rose, no more, and yet, it kindles all the experiences and ideas humans formed around roses.

While fear of loss and abandonment engenders life, it also draws us towards the mystery of infinite consciousness, the one being with countless names. Various practices, derived from spiritual traditions, can calm a turbulent mind enough for a glimpse of harmony beyond divisions. For a while, at least, we sense the larger presence, the effortless zone, the flow – and given patience, come to realise that consciousness is what we are.

I invite you again to This guided rose journey I shared here three years ago, requires only your imagination.

It is a short imagery, easy to memorise. Enter with eyes closed, and it may work for you as a bridge to the recurring presence of rose – a reminder of continuous becoming and expanding consciousness.

 

 

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… To Witness Daisies and Earth Rise …  

1968 Earth Rise, Apollo Mission 8

1968 Earth Rise, Apollo Mission 8

A change in collective attitudes often takes momentous events. While the moon-landing of 1969  was mildly underwhelming, the image captured in preparation for the American eagle’s landing, a year earlier, was immensely moving – revealing a vastly expanded mirror to our home that spoke then, and speaks now, directly to our physical and spiritual senses. Guiseppi Ungaretti had fitting words …

‘What are you doing earth in heaven? Tell me what are you doing silent earth?’

With hindsight we can see how major historic events are being incubated years in advance to their happenings. Artists have a knack for shocking us before a message becomes endorsed, which is why I connect the film  ‘To Witness Daisies’ (1966)   with the earth-rising image, both testing limited perceptions.  A click on the title should bring up the movie on your tube.

Věra Chytilová

Věra Chytilová

Not unlike the awesome view from outer space,  Věra Chytilová presented an equally powerful pointer to our poor stewardship of earth. Initially forbidden in the former Czechoslovakia, her tragic comedy was released two years before the Prague Spring, and two years before the earth-rise image promised a new respect for nature. I hoped for a greater understanding of cosmic interconnectedness, and an assessment of the fear-based need to subdue and control the wild, the primitive, the imagination, soul … all the ignorant projections on the feminine principle, which, I think, are responsible for spoiling our planet and wounding the psyche of men and women.  Film critics felt uncomfortable with Věra Chytilová’s controversial, iconoclastic statement on the demeaning role assigned to women in our cultures. Niels Bohr expressed, ‘As long as an atom is not seen it does not exist, it is a ghost.’ To me, this implies that seeing, individually and collectively, is an active process, influencing the reality of our existence.

The Daisies

The Daisies

Watching ‘To Witness Daisies’ for the first time in 1994, I was struck by its theme of psychic starvation – sharply relevant today – and the insanity of societies where women are kept in an infantile state so as not to threaten male supremacy. The symbolic power of the film’s images, with their rhythmic and gradually peaking orchestration, creates a timeless sphere of magical reality, where meaning is expanded and revealed. The opening sequence of the film gives the context. A mechanical wheel turns relentlessly to the sound of regular drumming. The scene is interspaced with silent images of war, bombs exploding, mainly into the sea, symbolically representing the mother of all life on earth. Next, the frame shows a sun-deck by a pool. Filmed in black and white, the deck re-appears as a transitional stage. and one could add, a place at the edge of the personal unconscious. Here a question is voiced, ‘What next?’ The two teenage girls wear bikinis and their movements are mechanical, like the wheel. The sound indicates a lack of oil in the system, and the funfair trumpet played by one of the girls suggests a flat and mocking victory.

Posing for the Collector

Posing for the Collector

The outlook is set. ‘I’m a doll, everything is been spoiled in this world.’ And, as a way out of boredom, ‘If everything is being spoiled, we will be spoiled too.’ The decision to mirror a spoiled world is made, a death wish gains momentum. Daisy Blond wears a daisy chain and uses it at intervals as divination device. When the chain is thrown out of the frame, it lands on water and signals the next mise-en-scène, like a Garden of Eden where the girls dance, and where Daisy Blond picks the legendary fruit, affirming ‘their kind’ are products of a biblical myth with politically useful interpretation that prevail.

The end-feast

The end-feast

Film critics felt uncomfortable with Věra Chytilová’s controversial, iconoclastic statement about the role assigned to women in our cultures. Acted by Jitka Cerhová and Ivana Karbanová, the Daisies have various names throughout the film. I call them Daisy Black and Daisy Blond, though they are one and the same, since their communication resembles an internal dialogue trying to deal unsuccessfully with a moral conflict that offers no bridge between good and bad. To Daisy Black nothing matters, she has a timeless distance to things, everything is a game. For Daisy Blond, the extrovert, hunger makes food a central theme of the film – hunger in the sense of wanting to fill her sense of emptiness with substance. I won’t venture into psychology, but it’s easy to draw a connections to the Anorexic symptoms many young women suffer from.

During a film degree course in 1994, I wrote a long essay on ‘To Witness Daisies.’ Unable to transfer the old Mac files when switching to a PC with internet connection, many essays need re-typing, which I hope to achieve once other projects are out of the way. For now, I thought I inspire you to watch the film – and maybe share your thoughts about it.

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How do I read?

one of my notebooks

one of my notebooks

I jotted this question in my notebook a while ago. How do I read, in the widest sense? There is plenty of observation and advice on the art of writing, composing music, painting, photography, film. Less is said about on the art of reading, perceiving, interpreting, or how we reject or embrace what is expressed by others, and ourselves, even how we read our dreams.

I conclude there’s no difference between, let’s say writing, and reading, other than visibility, since any creative composition derives from an inner process of reading, the picking and shuffling of impressions into our frame of reference in relation to the larger myth of reality.

One could say the secret of being read lies in one’s talent and ability to read one’s inner psychic world, even when filtered through one’s most personal and eccentric imagination.

Long before communication was easily reproducible and reached greater audiences, people were reading the world, though only a tiny fraction of inspirations and inventions was circulated. Today’s media channels swamp us with communications. It’s confusing. We must choose.

In reading novels, I follow my intuition. The gimmick of an instant attention grabbing action scene puts me off. A proposal may be impossibly fantastic, but if I detect an authentic voice, rhythm and movement, I travel along. Invited into a mind, an atmosphere, a time, a place, I want to be absorbed in this other world and experience myself anew in a conflict between light and shadow from within the heart of another consciousness.

Whether meaning is intended or not, I read my own meaning into what has been imagined by another mind. An insight, a memory may surprise. Some books I treasure for one or two illuminating sentences, so I guess reading for me is a bit of a treasure hunt, which begs a question. What am I hunting for?

world objects for sandtray work

world objects for sandtray work

My interest is fleeting when events are contrived, plucked from the air. Characters convince me when they are embodied and grow around obstacles, reaching towards the light, while spreading roots and producing seeds (new thoughts,) even when they come from mythical creatures, kings and slaves of the past, or explorers of distant futures. As long as events happen in a believable psychological setting, I engage.

Then again, I’ve been convinced by writing that made no sense at all, until, with a little patience, I discovered a new comprehension shining through an abstract form. It’s a wonderful feeling, and important feedback for writers, who may be surprised by what is evoked in readers. Once I finished my present project, I intent to spend more time on reviewing – a most giving art of reading.

Stories for stories sake can be dull, while stories in which nothing much happens outwardly can be riveting when they resonate with the human condition, where, quite often, what seems true becomes false, and what seems false becomes true.

It is said we write the books we want to read. When writing, I search to combine words that convince intellectually and emotionally, until something true is mirrored back. Maybe what I’m hunting for in my reading and writing are fitting metaphors for the miracle of existence.

I always delight in discovering neglected writers, like Marlene Haushofer,  or the poet W S Graham, whom I wrote about here as part of a post in Sept 2013.  And beyond new works, there are innumerable old favourites, including H G Wells. The link connects to a post I did about one of his lesser known stories.

Thinking about photography, my other passionate reading, I was inspired by Henri Cartier Bresson – the link leads to my post about him.  And here the archive of the street photography of Andre Kertesz – enjoy.  I’ll leave film alone, that’s a whole other story.

What are your reflections on reading?

 

Some related blogposts:

Storytelling and the primary world.

Mother-tongue and other tongue.

Memory and Place.

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… pattern which connects …

For a recent book-sharing with a group of irreverent friends (archventures), I had the wish to share so many books that I instinctively reached more or less blindly into one of my shelves. Books in my home, I must add, are in a muddle. The only order to speak of is their relationship to each other through time. I picked Alice in Wonderland and Mind and Nature. During our afternoon of reading there was not enough time to do honour to the latter, Gregory Bateson’s work. So I said I’d write up something. Oh dear. After pages and pages, I finally recalled this was supposed to be a blog-post, not a novel .

I first came upon Gregory Bateson books, ‘Steps to an Ecology of Mind’ and ‘Mind and Nature,’ during the early 1980’s, after his death. The clarity of his notion that biological forms arrange themselves through relationships struck a deep chord. What totally resonated with me was his thought that the structure of nature and the structure of mind are reflections of each other.  He had a broad perspective for a Biologist, and wanted to build a bridge between the facts of life and behaviour, and what we know of the nature of pattern and order. He was active in, and connected up many different fields of study – anthropology, psychiatry, biological evolution and genetics and the new epistemology which comes out of system-theory and ecology. He challenged basic assumptions and methods of scientific investigations, pointing to the processes beneath structures. He quoted Goethe …

A stem is what bears leaves

A leaf is that which has a bud in its angle

A stem is what was once a bud in that position …

And he provoked new thinking: ‘What pattern connects the crab to the lobster and the orchid to the primrose and all four of them to me. And me to you?’ 

His interest in morphology, the study of structure and form of organisms, involved context, meaning and communication. He distrusted reductive models of cause and effect, the scientific approach that lines up parts and classifies them, focussing on quantity.

Comparing systems, one to another, he perceived the mind as an ecological system. And he used the analogy that ideas, like seeds, can only take root and flourish according to the nature of the system receiving them. This thought alone deserves deep contemplation.

He had a way with stories … ‘There was a man who had a powerful computer, and he wanted to know whether computers could ever think. So he asked it – Will you ever be able to think like a human being? – The computer clicked and rattled and blinked, and finally it printed out its answer on a piece of paper, as these machines do. The man ran to pick up the printout, and there, neatly typed, read the following words: ‘That reminds me of a story.’ 

Concerned about the decimation of aboriginal populations (he did field-work with Margaret Mead), the degradation of ecological systems, economic oppression, and senseless wars and arms races, he took these ominous signs of contemporary life to be manifestations of deeper disorders, which he defined in terms of cybernetic systems of communication and meaning that comprise life, mind, and society. In his view, consciousness dominated by purposeful thought has a linear structure that establishes goals and ways for attaining them without being necessarily sensitive to the circular network of cause and effect that orders the systems.

Looking at human consciousness as an adaptive system, he thought the cure for its inadequacies, evidenced by the negative side-effects of purposive rationality, was not to reject it in favour of a passionate non- rationality, as in the extreme romantic position, but to augment and complete it by engaging with non-discursive, pattern-comprehending and emotional processes. He advocated the befriending of the unconscious aspects of the mind through utilising images and metaphors.

In a civilization which separates mind from body, mythologies about the survival of a transcendent mind are often meant to soften the idea of death, or even deny death as part of life. For Bateson, who saw the mind as being immanent not only in pathways of information which are located inside the body but also in external pathways, death took on a different aspect. ‘The individual nexus of pathways which I call ‘me’ is no longer so precious because that nexus is only part of a larger mind. The ideas which seemed to be me can also become immanent in you. May they survive, if true.’  (Afterword to a collection of celebratory essays, 1972)

Yet there are scientists that can no more perceive the language of nature, and politicians who feel beleaguered by sections of society that seek balance and a fresh context towards ‘an ecology of mind.’  The extreme factions of believers, for what else are they, should look again at the bridge  Bateson prepared.

 

This lovely video gives a taste of what it is all about :

Update … I discovered recently, in 2019, that some the links in this post don’t seem to work anymore. Here , however, is his daughter’s great documentary on Vimeo, unfortunately not free, apart from the trailer.  https://vimeo.com/ondemand/bateson

Looking at the structure of nature and the structure of mind being reflections of each other, it becomes obvious that not only does nature mirror our habit of thinking, but our thinking also mirrors the state of nature. Ecology and psychology must therefore both engage in listening, and seeing, and working ceaselessly towards the integration of knowledge and the re-adjustment of a dynamic balance.

I could go on, but want to bring in a famous painting of Icarus by Brueghel.                                                             Anthony Stevens, a brilliant expositor of Jung’s thought, used the painting as cover for the first hard-cover edition (1995) of his book Private Myths.

http://www.anthonystevens.co.uk/index.html

 

 

 

 

 

Stevens quotes from a poem by Wystan Auden:

In Brueghel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away

Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may

Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,

But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone

As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green

Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen

Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,

Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

What goes up must come down. Who knows how many Big Bangs there were before the one we so ardently explore? There is an organising intelligence behind life’s cycles, while consciousness forever expands. Thinking in metaphors we can perceive similar patterns, forms in nature and mind, cosmos and psyche, mirroring each other across scale and time. In other words, life teems with realities we can tune into, as long as we assign context and meaning.

Check out Gregory Bateson’s books ‘Steps to an Ecology of Mind’ and ‘Mind and Nature.

His family continue his work: His daughter Nora and his wife – Mary Catherine Bateson:   http://www.interculturalstudies.org/main.html

Peripheral Vision

 http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0060926309/mead2001centenni

Free chapters of Angels Fear:  http://www.oikos.org/angelsfear.htm

Nora Bateson, recently created a film:

http://www.anecologyofmind.com/

Last not least, the themes:  pattern which connects, mirroring and bridging, are subjects of my novels.

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