Broke and happy … please help the story to spiral out to readers … available worldwide.
Broke and happy … please help the story to spiral out to readers … available worldwide.
An apple doesn’t drop by itself before it’s ripe. And unless fate delivers us a hard blow natural ripeness applies equally to experience. Experts are quick to tell us, or we tell ourselves, to let go of whatever – an attachment, a fear, a grievance, an addiction, a desire, melancholy, sadness, the ego, and so on, while we are enmeshed with our life and its phenomena. The best chance of ripening towards a possible potential lies in keeping one’s balance on the tightrope of contradictions, that is, the fine line between the particle state and the wave state – as in Blake’s ‘Kiss the joy while flies.’
Natural letting go happens every second. We breathe, well, we are breathed, though we mainly notice when the rhythm of our breath is disrupted – through pain, exhaustion, anger, anxiety, anger or sheer exasperation, when anyone uttering, ‘Calm down,’ deserves a punch.
(Thanks Joe Linker for the great doodle)
Emotional balance wavers from day to day, but when self-blame knots up our muscles it makes sense to focus on the body. There are plenty of ways to relax: exercise, sex, music, singing, mantras, doodling, magnesium, weed, pills, wine … or to imagine brilliant light circling through the breath, like the basic drone of a reed harmonium or a tanpura holding up multiple sounds. Everything in nature has an essential frequency, which tends to flush out what obstructs its flow, even if it takes earthquakes, storms and floods. To right imbalances of the planet is beyond individuals, we can however bring a clear intention towards balancing our body’s frequency. Try this:
Inhale through your nose – draw brilliant light from head the chest – counting to 7
Exhale through your mouth – let the light flow to your feet and out – counting to 11
Imagine the out breath taking along the tensions held in your muscles. A few rounds of this ritual should calm the heartbeat for a while. Being in resonance with your body draws the shy soul closer, bringing a sense of oneness – satiating our thirst for belonging. And it makes us aware that beauty is not in things, but in the soul of things, even the tiniest thing has soul.
However, a constant sense of oneness is not what evolution is about. In a time and space structured cosmos we cannot cage harmony. Reality is the result of contradiction.
Our struggle for balance can be intense. But each of us has the chance to live with zest, inspired by the earth spirit and its dark power for spontaneous creation born of sadness and pain. Garcia Frederico-Lorca talked about art being inspired in three ways: by muses of the past, angelic visons of the future, and by duende – inspiration of the present. Duende springs from the core of one’s being in direct confrontation with death. You can read Lorca’s remarkable speech here: ‘Theory and Play of the Duende.’
… You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves … from – Mary Oliver, ‘Wild Geese’
At times, our inner landscapes allow for communing with nature’s elements. Ana has this knack in Course of Mirrors. As long as she remembers to calm her heart, she senses invisible presences, the timeless spirit within things – telling her that nothing dies, only reforms. She also picks up thoughts forms from uncluttered minds, and some animals talk to her.
Aspects of my protagonist’s receptive traits are based on my own experiences, expressed in a poem I composed during the 1970s. The poem, as such, does not feature in the novel but I like to share it here, with minor tweaks insisted upon by my inner editor.
you swallow my hand
giving way with fluid grace
to this dream of flesh and bone
yet as I recall the form
you allow me to retrieve it
circling round and round
spun by the mesh of time
I see your whirling
and sense my turning too
in its mystic trance
you slither in the spine of waves
and lay a track of fate in sands
entranced I follow
to your cave and become
this rushing in the dark
your rising pitch one vow
winging yonder blue
towards the break of dawn
above the silver winding stream
your passing leaves no mark
by the blink of eye you sink
to my core as glowing cipher
allowing for your lush
and fragrant state
to unfurl from the heart
your white breath burns clean
dark corners in my mind
without a moment’s pause
you blow apart
all apparitions of my art
Update: My first novel can be found on Troubador, on international Amazon sites and Waterstones via searching for the title, Course of Mirrors, or my name, Ashen Venema. The e-book is now available. The paperback will be released on 28th of April and can be pre-ordered.
Paperbacks ordered within the UK will come from a stock of copies held by Troubador who distribute via Orca Book Services. Orders from abroad will be print-on-demand- copies, saving expensive postage.
If you enjoy writing reviews, they are easy to post on Troubador. On Amazon sites one has to log in as a customer, and a review entry only appears on the site of the country where it is entered, be it uk, de, fr, com … and so on. With a little effort reviews can be pasted into more than one Amazon site.
Contemplating buzzwords relating to my soon to be published novel, Course of Mirrors, I thought I make a start with guiding spirits, or angels.
We each have one, so ancient, such intimate presence, so discreet and soft spoken, we fail to notice. My protagonist forgets hers, despite obtaining an object of remembrance she takes on her journey as talisman – a shiny black stone, polished by the elements, holding aeons of memory and embodying her first encounter with spirit in matter, the invisible in the visible:
“I was bridge, river, riverbed and water falling from the cliff, the aria of water. I was air, breeze and water dust rising. I was mirror to mirrors yet looked from beyond mirrors. Behind my eyes a truth flashed.”
When, seemingly by chance, she does remember her treasure, a timeless power is released, the miraculous happens, aligned with nature’s power to transform.
‘All time is contained in now.’ – Meister Eckhart
‘Time is eternity living dangerously.’ – John O’ Donohue
These related posts open new pages, so you don’t lose this one:
When I enter the room Dot is absorbed in reading from a folder among stacks of papers stored in drawers under a bed. ‘Hey,’ she looks up, ‘this is fascinating. It’s got your name on it.’
We were clearing the main house of a workshop venue near London, a magical place I had been associated with for 30 years and which I facilitated during the winding down period of its operation, dealing with the grief of an international community, as well as managing group bookings for the remaining few months, before the estate was sold.
The folder Dot had discovered contained the beginning of a story I had drafted … and then lost. For two action-filled decades my protagonist had lingered patiently in a corner of my mind. On that momentous spring day of clearing Ana emerged from her hibernation.
Resembling the experience of my own myth, Ana is called to her adventure by a kind of celestial twin, an agent between past and future, between dense and subtle realms.
The novel was completed five years on, much encouraged by E. Zohra Sharp, who offered her generous editing support. I also shared some chapters on the then still existing Harper Collins Authonomy site, where writers could give and receive feedback for work in progress, and have great fun with trolls.
In 2011 another project took priority for a few months, Heart of a Sufi, which involved organising, arranging and co-editing reminiscences about a remarkable teacher who had died in 1990, much too young. He was Fazal Inayat-Khan, aka Frank Kevlin, the grandson of Hazrat Inayat Khan – more here.
The same year, not wanting to become a writing recluse, I started this blog. Through a poet I met online, Course of Mirrors found a small publisher who loved the story, which perked my confidence. Three years passed without action – a long time when you are not getting any younger. During the long wait, I did however write a time-travelling sequel and started a third book. Not keen to endure more agonising delays, I decided to self-publish.
In charge of the process, I had to make decision after decision, aided by a competent team at Troubador and my proof readers, Zohra and Susanne. There will be an initial print run, enabling bookshops to stock copies. The publishing date for Course of Mirrors is April 28th, but the book information is up and orders can be taken in advance, as paperback, and soon also as e-book.
Through Troubador, where I get the best royalties
Today the dynamics of spring enchanted. I glimpsed a yellow butterfly. Sunlight, dappled by branches into a gently moving lattice, was playing on a carpet of fresh cut grass, where Robins feasted on worms. The laurel hedge glistened. A few tulips made a pink and white appearance, their leaves folded as if in prayer.
Nationalism is the pathology of modern developmental history as inevitable as neurosis in the individual. – Tom Nairn – ‘The Break-Up of Britain.’
Brexit and Trump have not suddenly happened.
My generation has been outpaced by the frenzied speed of technological advances for some decades now. Large sections of society lack meaningful vocations and work, small shops and community centers are disappearing, since such places are no longer considered financially viable. Public services in Britain have been sold out. Liberal arts and crafts are reduced to soft and unprofitable educational choices. People have become exploitable commodities and are being gradually deprived of culture. I am reminded of Cecil Collin (1908-1989) and his ‘Vision of the Fool.’ For him, Saints, artists and poets are one with the joy and sorrow of the Fool, in whom the poetic imagination of life lives and coordinates heart-intelligence in human society. A cosmic folly that is present in the person of us, which cannot be exploited because it is above state, class or politics. It’s what I sense in many people I meet, a longing for what has been demeaned as useless – the poetic imagination of the innocent fool.
Western citizens should of course be grateful. We have progress, gadgets, toys – life has never been better. Yet the cornucopia of consumer choices does not replace human relationships, community facilities, lack of housing, lost jobs, lost pensions, does not prevent the gnawing disillusionment that is spreading like a virus, while beneath the impotent silence fester anger and self-destructiveness. When starved of meaning, what tends to make people feel alive, short of war, is upturning the apple cart and watching the unfolding drama.
Britain’s populist Brexit vote was valuable fuel for Donald Trump. He even called himself Mr Brexit – down with cosmopolitanism and multiculturalism – up with nationalism and walls to keep out the alien hordes. Brushing over complex issues with simpleminded slogans resulted in over 50 million Americans to vote on promises to make America great again by a man whose opportunist character will be severely tested by reality. Hopefully the task will mellow his character, and not result in toxic consequences for years to come.
For Britain, and other EU countries, there is yet an opportunity to re-evaluate the cards that have emerged on the public table. The Brexit referendum event gave food for thought, enough to serve the intelligent questioning of what truly lies at the heart of the growing disagreements and dissatisfaction among so-called affluent societies.
I guess I’m not the only one to suffer from Br -exasperation.
Not scapegoating, but a careful analysis is called for – and a constructive participation, with Europe, towards addressing the challenges of our time is what I wish for. The biases in the trail of globalism must be acknowledged and engaged with. The EU, despite massive failings, still offers the bests chance for stability. Turning the clock back is futile. In my view, to support and effectively influence the EU project is the intelligent way forward for Britain.
But is seems the British Parliament hasn’t got the guts to open the real discussion that was never held, and hasn’t got the guts to acknowledge how its senseless policies have allowed injustices and inequalities to heap up. It is utterly hypocritical to blame the results of bad politics on migrants.
Stakes are high. Sanctioning the pathology of nationalistic frenzy could destroy what has been achieved. See the history of Human Rights.
Well, that’s my small voice in the internet wilderness. A post I wrote in 2012 may be relevant:
Try and shut your eyes to slits and blink through autumn branches against the light. With patience, a moment arrives when black and white spaces inverse and clusters of stars shine from another dimension. The background has moved to the foreground. A tiny shift in our outlook can result in a new interpretation of what we see, like in the gestalt drawing on the right, which changes the age of the person if you let your eyes wander up and down the image. Visual tricks that open a sudden gap in our seeing reveal how we jump to superficial referencing. Making snap assessments is convenient, safes time, energy, and sometimes lives, but can also trap us in a kind of flatland of rigid divisions.
What do we mean when we say he or she is different – do they look different, act different, think different, or have customs that seem strange to us? Typical brackets are class, gender, cultural background, colour, language, age, ability … and migrants. Defining people by categories clicks in as a default opinion when real or imagined threats require scapegoats. Or resources are scare and solidarity is politically expedient. Suddenly the need to belong and historical prejudices reasserts themselves.
Beneath all habitual categories prowls what is frequently forgotten … the inherent natural tendency of each individual. Consider relatives, neighbours, familiars, friends and foes. The differences that delight or irritate us lie foremost in a person’s unique temperament and inherent tendencies. Background does not explain the mystery of characteristics we are born with, the random mix of evolutionary records in our bodies, a wisdom our minds expand upon through resonance with the collective psyche – a shared matrix of past experience and future potential from which we, ideally, emerge as a self-reflective persona. (The theory of a collective unconscious and similar non-evidenced theories relate to my experience.)
Environmental factors can distort the unfolding of latent knowledge in every living organism. Education has a detrimental effect on children when their intuition is belittled and their minds are flattened with facts before they developed the confidence to question these facts.
How come I’m invigorated by rushing waters, calmed by a smooth stone, a golden sunset? How do I sense the pulse in a tree, or what life is like for a boar, rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog – unless all nature’s qualities also reside in me?
For example, anyone who sits in a public place and watches people stroll by will notice traces of animal features; can spot a temperament in gestures and movements, observe someone dragging their body behind their head, or push their belly out like a shield. Some people dance along with a fluid gait, while others tiptoe and glance nervously about them.
At social gatherings we may come upon clusters of meerkats grooming each other, turtles plodding through the crowd looking for a mate or a fresh salad leaf, peacocks, obsessed with their splendour, blustery cockerels, loving old dogs, sharp-eyed falcons, enchanting robins, and so on. …
Birds are keen on cake but wary of cats, whereas lions can afford to be relaxed. How amazing then to observe vastly different temperaments complementing each other – like a person with a butterfly nature tying up with a partner who occasionally roars. Given the rich lore of sensibilities mixing and battling in the human psyche, strangers should be less strange than we make them out to be.
Initial likes and dislikes, even among kin, have nothing to do with background, morals or ethics. Wariness goes along with fascination when it comes to difference. We may not be keen to share a nest, but sharing a street is fun. Nature is a mirror that teaches us how to become human. And animals deserve our special appreciation for reminding us of the innumerable diverse idiosyncrasies in ourselves.
The Persian translation became the Fables of Bidpai. Lovely collections of Kalila and Dimna were published by Ramsey Wood, one with an introduction from Doris Lessing. I got permission from Ramsay Wood to use a short tale from his collection in my novel ‘Course of Mirrors.’
Programmes on ‘Respecting Difference’ have made it into schools and institutions. But can respect be taught in a few hours? More effective are courses that help people to find self-respect through exploring the diverse feelings and judging voices within themselves, the inner conflicts that manifest for us outside.
Acknowledgement, at least, tolerance and patience with our inner crowd eases snap projections and allows us to rediscover ourselves in the eyes and minds of others day by day. The internet expands this mirroring into timeless realms, from where echoes of our own dissonance or resonance return.
In the analogue world people are on the move across the planet – for various reasons – war – drought – famine – persecution – fresh meaning – it is happening, and it will continue. The most productive response to this phenomenon is to embrace its creative potential.
The other day woke up with this thought: Migrants, indeed all citizens sans resources but able and willing to work, could be given the spaces to create new towns, be empowered to build their own houses and develop their own businesses, and conducts, as a way towards gaining self-respect, and in addition contribute to the well being of a community. Maybe this is a naive pipe dream, but worth contemplating nevertheless, since creative opportunities nurture self-respect and move us beyond self-concern.
‘The whole is other than the sum of the parts … it has an independent existence.’ – Kurt Koffka
Regarding the discovery of what we know, see the visionary work, Involution, by Philippa Rees, a remarkable poetic adventure, with brilliantly researched additional historic commentaries. A book to take on a Desert Island.
my birthday month tends to be a time of remembrance and gratefulness for the friends in my life, close, far, cherished or neglected, people that taught me to be a friend to myself, people I bonded with through heart-sparks that left indelible marks. My friends are soul companions that became part of my journey, they form a flowing web of connections I’m held in.
So far it’s been a social month. Having reconnected with two primary school friends from Germany a few years ago during a reunion, they sprang a surprise visit (their first to England.) We had a lovely meal in an excellent pub, with my son joining us. I toured the girls through the woods of a nearby sculpture park, through my town, and, of course, through London. We started with a riverboat journey (my first) under London’s time-honoured bridges, got lost in Covent Garden, which eventuated finding a café that served Black Forrest cake, which delighted Lieselotte, and surfaced at Trafalgar Square.
From there we wove our way through St James Park and ended up at Buckingham Palace.
The girls had a great time, and good laughs, especially when, embarrassingly, I fell into talking German with Londoners, attracting the occasional blank stare of incomprehension.
What struck me was how ‘in essence’ we had not changed since we were children. Intrinsic qualities stay with us throughout life, shine through our energy field, temperament, movement, voice, characteristics and life-interest. The qualities my friends nourished in me as a child, I still value today, the unconditional kind heart of Gaby, and Lieselotte’s ability to assess situations quickly and get things done. I saw that they also nourish these qualities in each other. Sadly they had to return home and miss my party last weekend.
The Party… lovely sunshine, guest coming and going. An unknown sponsor even ordered a birthday balloon to sail above my garden 🙂 My good-weather-wish came true. Some of us kept a circle outside until midnight among sparkling lights. The occasional apple dropped.
My favourite deckchair folded under more weight than my own. Glasses clinked. There was silliness, acknowledgements, revelations.
Seen through the eyes of our friends’ imagination, do the lissome fleeting shadows flitting through our personal frames influence us, each other? I wonder, but guess they do.
As the years crawl along, heart-spark moments never dwindle. Stories are transformed and woven into a new context. Life stations glide by and return as in a spiralling carrousel.
Even friends not present were with us in spirit, remembered, since, like Kahlil Gibran put it … for that which you love most in (a friend) may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.
From The Prophet …
And the youth said, Speak to us of Friendship, and he answered, saying:
Your friend is your need answered. He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving. And he is your board and fireside. You come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.
When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the ‘nay’ in your own mind, nor do you withhold the ‘aye.’ And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart; for without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unacclaimed.
When you part from your friend, you grieve not; for that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.
And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit. For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.
And let your best be for your friend. If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also. For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill? Seek him always with hours to live. For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness.
In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.