Tag Archives: influence

… grandparents …

I must have been 4 or 5 years old when my mother took me to Berlin to see my maternal grandmother for the first, and, as it turned out, the last time. Due to the Soviet Berlin blockade after the war, the severe lack of resources, and the disrupted transport system, many families were kept apart for years.

We stared up a bleak wall, until Hildegard appeared. She flung her arms towards us, wanting wings, leaning precariously from the window of the hospital ward where she was kept isolated with TB.

Or so we Berlin 1955sthought. A nurse confided her doubt to my mother, and how she had urged for a second opinion, a hint my grandfather ignored. My mother insisted on a fresh blood test, but was ridiculed by the doctor in charge.

To console me, a kind neighbour rescued an old bicycle and taught me how to ride it among the rubble of ruins in the streets. He also allowed me to watch him construct a ship with sails inside a bottle, which made me think of gran being confined, not sailing anywhere. The atmosphere between my mother and her father grew tense. She insisted he should query the doctor’s diagnosis.

The crescendo happened in the kitchen, when she lifted a tray of 2 dozen eggs from the top of the fridge. He said, ‘You won’t.’ She said, ‘I will.’ He demanded, ‘You will not.’ She shouted, ‘I will.’ He shouted, ‘What can a nurse know?’

That’s what did it. Two dozen yellows and whites marbled the red-tiled floor and my mother walked out. I was thrilled. The drama mobilised my grandfather to challenge the hospital.

Sadly, my gran died within days, much too young, and not of TB. The blood test had been mixed up. What killed her were toxic medications based on a wrong diagnosis.

The message went deep. I was going to be a warrior. I learned to appreciate my intuitions and developed a useful allergy against intimidating authority.

Memories of my paternal grandparents are more serene. Oma and Opa, Erlangen145 Oma was a tall, striking woman. Despite having lived through two tragic wars she kept her back straight and held her head high into old age. When she caught me sitting crouched, she would gently push her fist into my back – ‘Free that, spine girl.’ At other times, she advised me to pull superfluous thoughts from my nose. The tricks work to this day … sometimes.

My parents had moved south towards the Alps after my birth, but we regularly visited my grandparent’s home in Erlangen. With fine weather, we would walk across the River Schwabach into the wooded hills to have a picnic. Oma would place several handkerchiefs on the moss under fir trees for us to sit on. Once we were settled, she spread out the much anticipated picnic treats from her basket, with plates, cutlery, napkins and all. My favourite treat was Gugelhupf  Marble Cake. Increasingly, my imagination was plagued by the secrets of her handbag. During one of our picnics I dared to ask why her bag was so bulky. Forthcoming, Oma explained how during the war, before I came along, when sirens frequently announced bombing alerts, they needed to drop everything and rush to the underground shelters.

text, German cookbook‘I developed a habit of having our survival gear ready at short notice,’ she said. To my delight, she displayed her survival gear on the forest floor:

Identity papers, notebook, pens, her favourite recipes, dried fruit, a pocketknife, matches, candles, string, clothes pegs, a scissor, plaster, ointment, cotton strips, tin opener, mirror, needles and yarn, buttons, a slim book of Rilke poems, a small bottle of Brandy … and spare knickers.

To this day I never leave the house without identity papers, notebook, pen, and a slim book of poetry. Skipping knickers 🙂 I carry a shrill-sounding whistle, visa cards, a pay-as-you-go mobile, a Barret in case it rains, and a small makeup bag. Times changed, or have they?

Opa, a dreamer like me, enticed me to create imaginary scenarios in the soft, black forest soil. We sculpted landscapes, with villages, a pond made of gran’s round mirror, churches, roads, rivers, bridges and hills, using pinecones, sticks and stones, and tiny people made of leftover food and chocolate wrappers.

I came to value the creative power of sculpting when it comes to out warding inner worlds. I encourage my therapy clients to shape sand in a tray and and to populate the landscape with world objects.

The recent post of an online friend, Katia, reminded me of my paternal grandmother, and the incident with the handbag I had in mind to share. Memory swerved and expanded. It occurred to me that whether we are grandparents, aunties, uncles or family friends with the benefit of a certain age, our influence on young ones has a timeless quality. Children may crown us with a halo of mystery. Given this kind of power, even small incidents, benevolent or troubling, can leave deep impressions and impact lives, nursing stories that travel onwards through generations.

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… marginalia of bodies …

moon's swing door

moon’s swing door

the white rock sails adored –

silent swing door to sanctuaries

imagined beyond where

each being claims its mystery

un-evidenced

 

 

winged by unknown purpose

spirit seeks shelter

tumbling through cells

to the orb of a home –

embodied in you and me spirit mimics

nature’s mirrors moments after now

though once inner vision unfolds

our dreams are branded …

framed by the one eye

supreme to all eyes …

sun’s furnace illuming draperies

history sanctioned

seemingly evidenced

but for the singular breath

of insight needling between

obvious fabrics to thread

intense tales of beauty …

sample of my occasional art, 1998

sample of my occasional art, 1998

 

The poem was inspired by June’s full moon.

Places accumulate impressions, snippets of reality that draw us forever into experiences from different directions and points in time. The one place we carry with us – OUR BODY – remembers what reason does not. While the intellect sorts memories into virtual boxes and slaps on the tag ‘facts,’ the body, animated by each breath, deeply informs our singular perception, helps us to adjust the past, refine the relationship with ourselves and others in the present, and opens a new wavelength and vision towards the future.

 

The experience you have within yourself of your separate identity, to allow right and wrong to be re-defined by you, your singular contribution, is where evolution really happens. You, by becoming yourself, can open a new wavelength. What you reflect immediately influences your environment, people close and far away.’

Fazal Inayat-Khan, notes from an attended lecture, 1989

‘Spirit without soul has no vessel – soul without spirit has no direction.’ Roberto Assagioli

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… musings re: photography, art, secret hoards …

When I take a photograph I stop time, from where I stand, from where I walk, from where I look. The image becomes inner, a pregnant, eternal moment. Artists who engage with the intimate reality mirrored in their surroundings might admit, or not, the erotic dynamics at play in this search for a glimpse of the beloved, an essence shining through the cracks from beneath fleeting surfaces. It’s not only artists who frame flashes of significance, everyone selects, does the stop-motion of perceiving, it’s how stories are made.

A self-portrait of Vivian Maier

A self-portrait of Vivian Maier

In 2007 a photographic archive was auctioned off to recover debts for storage rent. Most of her life Vivian Maier (1926 – 2009) worked as a nanny. In her free time she recorded what caught her eye, predominantly in the streets of New York and Chicago. She captured poignant moments, like soul mirrors, in brief encounters. Read the tale of how her archive was discovered and the puzzle of her life was assembled HERE

During my stay in Amsterdam I visited a retrospective of her work from 1950s to 1980s at Foam Gallery

It is my guess that, while she was without means to have innumerable film rolls printed, Vivian Maier distinctly memorised each unpredictable encounter she captured. What makes me think so?

Photo by Vivian Maier

Photo by Vivian Maier

The memory of defining and framing something on the move is powerful, with or without camera, though a creative record helps structuring and symbolising our perceptions. During the 70s, when I worked as photo-journalist, using analogue cameras, a Rolleiflex, like Vivian, but also Nikons, and a Hasselblad, I never wasted film. Each image was taken by choice.

Certain frames live on in my memory as iconic elements, and I recall the exact instant when I pressed the shutter, encapsulating something of essence.

A number of years ago I lost three 35 mm film-rolls on a plane from Berlin to London. I thought they were secure in my make-up bag, but the bag slipped unnoticed down the seat and I never recovered it. I mourned. It was the first time I re-visited Berlin, my mother’s city, since I was 7 years old.  Yet the images I took in Berlin and of the friends I travelled with are still crystal clear in my mind.

I recall the massive amount of negatives and prints I burned at an earlier point in my life, not to be burdened with storage, not to sit on my laurels, and for other reasons – profound stupitity, I know,  a self-destructive streak haunted me at the time. The vanished portfolio is now a secret hoard lingering in my memory. It is also a scene in my mythic poetic novel, still awaiting publication.

The story of the discovery of Vivian Maier’s secret archive grips the imagination. Why? Maybe because we all yearn to evidence our existence. Even if only one person holds up a mirror of approval, can GROG us, we are affirmed.

With the cornucopia of individual creativity unleashed through the new technologies of recent decades, the chance of public recognition is fickle, sponsors look for novelty, notoriety, eccentricity, looks, hard elbows …  A good deal depends on timing, and luck.

Yet no individual perspective is alike. The passions we pursue in communion with what we encounter inside, outside, our search, our uniqueness, is forever in need of expression. We want to be witnessed for the coherence and ingenuity of our individual world, our deeply felt values, skills and insights. And yet – I heard it said – if Einstein’s equation of relativity had never been published, it would still have influenced and shifted the collective consciousness.

I deduct that since we all benefit from the inspirations and inventions of individuals who may never have received credit for their genius, their life’s work, and since nothing is ever truly lost (I believe,) there can be solace in our giving, be it acknowledged or not, while we keep on the lookout and ready ourselve for a glimpse of the beloved’s curl.

And of course, nothing prevents me, or you, from expecting miracles 🙂

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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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