Tag Archives: language

… friends …

P1080320 - croppedAugust –

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 aDSC_0472 from Lieselotte 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.

P1080394 - smallerFrom 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 P1080361 - smallerlife, 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.

P1080425 - smallerThe 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 weightP1080413 - smaller 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.

P1080431 - smallerFrom 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.

Kahlil Gibran

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… leaving – returning …

the father tree

the father tree

to reshuffle thoughts

a short journey is enough

leaving – returning …

legends undulate

in glowing brittle wood – sighs

from swaying branches –

 

 

Jasmin blessings

Jasmin blessings

 

Jasmin on the breeze

laments of grief in the rain –

ancestors speak

first sounds glide on ice

circling the affirmative

leisurely routine

 

my beloved Alps

my beloved Alps

 

between dusk and dawn

all words sink to un-squared time

rounding in fish eyes

as poems probing

the deep meshes of oceans

for heart connections …

 

‘What else, when chaos draws all forces inward to shape a single leaf …’  C. Aiken

Visiting my early landscapes, friends in Munich, my father of 97, with my son, whose work in London means I rarely see him,  was a rich experience. I had to capture the essence in a poem, which started out in German:

In der Dämmerung glänzt Gold aus der Wurtzel

Gedanken gleiten auf Eis in Kreisen herum

doch manche sinken in die Tiefe um

im Wassergewebe nach Erinnerungen

zu fischen … Gesichter ziehen vorbei 

in sanften kalten und warmen Wogen …

I’ll work on this, inspired by a writer Herta Müller – (English translation on screen) introduced to me by friends whose guest I was in Munich. Anyone fascinated by language will be moved. Also this article in The Paris Review   I am presently reading ‘Mein Vaterland war ein Apfelkern,’ a remarkable dialogue.

Louise Bourgeois at 'Hause der Kunst.'

Louise Bourgeois at ‘Hause der Kunst.’

 

In Munich’s ‘Haus der Kunst’ I visited a wonderful exhibition of Louise Bourgeois (1911 – 2010) an artist I much admire, whose installations about the Cells of Structures of Existence are deeply impressive.

Londoners my have seen her huge spider on display in the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern. I wish I had cheated and made photos of her beautifully arranged installations in the generous spaces in Haus Der Kunst.

 

bar at 'House der Kunst.'

bar at ‘House der Kunst.’

To compensate, here is the wonderful golden bar at the ‘House der Kunst.’ And returning home – a blue invasion.

a blue invasion

a blue invasion

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… moans from an unruly writer …

Installation by Frederick Franck

Installation by Frederick Franck

While I write, wrestle with style, query words battling for attention and set out sequences to string ideas together, anyone watching me might assume I’m a nervous wreck. My body, perfectly able to string an arrow to a bow and hit a target, has a wild notion of focus when it comes to writing. It shifts and wriggles, gets up pretending I need a coffee, ends up cleaning the sink, checks the porch for post and so on, all the while allowing my word sculpting to continue until, bingo …. I rely on intuition, which slips into little silences, opens a crack in the surface of things and reveals a hidden layer, and, occasionally offers a glimpse into the infinity of now. A tiny glimpse is all it takes to relax, sharpen senses and spark a creative dialogue between my inner voices that often quarrel and fool around like the average family.

I respect moderate conflict, it stirs up mud but clears the air, and even when the inner crowd gets fed-up with listening – grace, solitude, or a good night’s sleep bring additional insights, bridge divides and re-establish a tolerable rhythm of chaos and peace.

Am I fooling myself? Is my knack for intuition just guesswork. Is it inborn? Does it evolve with experience, as a kind of deeper listening skill humanity moves towards? Can it be learned? Is it worth defending? Or is it the relic of a go-with-the-flow philosophy that avoids closer analysis of my thought processes and behaviour? I seem to struggle with two kinds of temperaments, one looking for the particle and the other for the wave, stretched between rational and irrational numbers. The two temperaments compete but need each other.

Pilgrim Fool by Celcil Collins

Pilgrim Fool by Celcil Collins

Scientists and statisticians tend to approach the unknown rationally, and seem set to eradicate human incompetence and messiness. Some frenzied rational prophets go as far as knocking anything that can’t be quantified and evidenced. I value logic, what annoys me is the attitude that scoffs at people who hold hands with the fool.

There are more reliable methods than the vagaries of intuition, shown in a New York Times piece by Gary Wolf ‘The Data Driven Life’ from April 2010,  a long but brilliant article that received many pages of diverse comments. Not everyone is keen on the Quantified Self.

I resist being monitored and quantified by data, fixed as particle, ticked off for my risk-taking folly, my random cross-referencing. The geeks and outliers the article describes have fun recording their every move. And I grant that someone suffering from high blood pressure or apnoea benefits from being nudged by a gadget to take a deep breath. I remember being excited and applauding the first biofeedback devices that affirmed how thoughts affect our physiology and vice versa. When it comes to data dependency, I have a hunch it will starve emotional intelligence, which I strongly believe develops through mastery of language.

Working a few years for Social Services, we used to write narrative assessments until a computer programme with tick boxes was introduced. We hated it. Conveying observations in writing was shoved aside as time-consuming, subjective and vague, while quantitative recording was hailed as reliable, though its data hinges no less on interpretation and application.

Recently I skimmed an article suggesting future novels will be written by computers. My cynic leapt from its slumber and argued that a machine hasn’t got 100 Billion neurons and can’t be intimate with nature, is immune to changing metabolisms and moods – hour by hour, night and day. Immune to what comes on the breath, with wind, dust, rain and radio waves that travel through the cosmos, nor is a machine influenced by dreams, synchronicities, diets, layers of revolving memories, kind gestures, general anxieties, rejection, loss of control, loss of a loved one, global news … the unpredictable influx of thoughts and emotions that our mind continuously sifts, evaluates and re-interprets.

Irrational humans can’t be quantified and controlled, which may be why since ancient times there has been an ambition to create artificial beings.  Here a bit of fun from Turing and his colleague Strachey – a reasoned-out love letter, achieved through programming a 1951 computer to make sentences via algorithms, having been fed on love synonyms from a Thesaurus:

Honey Dear – My sympathetic affection beautifully attracts your affectionate enthusiasm. You are my loving adoration: my breathless adoration. My fellow feeling breathlessly hopes for your dear eagerness. My lovesick adoration cherishes your avid ardour.

Yours wistfully, M.U.C. (Manchester University Computer)

…. M. U. C. is eager, if a little verbose and breathless 🙂

Since then, artificial intelligence is even more breathless with numbers, but operates highly sophisticated technology that improved the quality of our lives. I admit I’m fascinated by the concept of cyborgs, but don’t want to get plucked into the human network protocol .

Our privacy is at stake. And our relationship with nature? … its record of life and the human experience, the treasure house of the collective unconscious, translated and re-membered through DNA, invisible spheres and the very light we breathe. Anything alive changes from moment to moment. And our experiences, insights and expectations have a vital part in the changing.

Nature is the book I grew up with, it taught me stuff:                                                                                                       About growing … put a seed into earth, tend to its needs and its story flowers.                                                        About resilience … a seedling lost in a dark corner will grow towards any spot of light, no matter how it must bend and curl its stalk around obstacles.                                                                                                                                       About connections … the dynamic geometry of the tiniest plants and vast galaxies are reflected in each other.

Enough samples to show the obvious – nature teaches through metaphors. My theme is resilience. I take risks and accept that struggling makes me inventive, expands my consciousness, polishes my heart and challenges me to think for myself.

My moan extends to the growing practice of enticing people to emulate machines in service of progress and economic efficiency, in jobs that dull the senses and dull the mind.

Meanwhile I cheer the unruly folk, including fools, dreamers, innovators, artists, poets and writers with an ear towards the hidden – who translate past and future newly into the present – the open-minded, who can tolerate conflict, value intuitive signals that chime in the heart, and who can occasionally endure being suspended like a leaf on a gossamer thread.

What do you, my reader, think?

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… she discovered her language …

Expelled from the womb as a bundle of around 100 trillion cells, our tiny body brings along a generous genetic tome of ingredients for traits that dance together in a myriad of potential formations – depending on chance and circumstance. The process of sequencing and mapping the tome of an organism is immeasurably more complex and unpredictable than sensational media articles tend to suggest. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_misunderstandings_of_genetics

Add inherited family models and cultural traditions – blessings and curses – this bundle of potential is compelled to fit into a given coat that eventually becomes too tight, or the colour is off, the material too heavy, and most likely the design clashes with our sensibilities. In short, the coat can conceal our potential and our essence, even to us.

The Wounded Angel - Hugo Simberg

The Wounded Angel – Hugo Simberg

The challenge lies between two extremes: to squeeze into the coat or to alter it – and therein lies beauty – the full scale of our different stories unfolding.  We want to engage with the world, find a medium that communicates our unique myth – through being, play, work, service, music, dance, images, words, creating or dismantling ideas and objects. We crave for the ‘aha,’ the recognition, for symbolic understanding, and purpose.

The worst trials often sculpt the deepest processes. We deprive ourselves when judging those who don’t fit the norm, as demonstrated in this video about the Outsider artist, Judith Scott. Her works are exhibited in The Museum of Everything. When late in life she was welcomed in a creative space, Judith discovered a language for her inner history, her myth, and prayer. She devoted herself to wrapping up things, protecting things, keeping them safe and secure. Like many artists through whose very personal process shines the universal, she made psychological and spiritual sense of her genome.

<p>Video from <a href=”http://www.karmatube.org”>KarmaTube</a></p&gt;

In case the embedded video won’t show – it’s a great site:   http://www.karmatube.org/videos.php?id=3563&utm_content=buffer59550&utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Buffer

We’re all artists. Becoming a unique human being is a phenomenal creative achievement. In a culture that measures people against a uniform blueprint of perfection we easily lose sight of the unique perfections arising from within individuals, from within us.

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The story of Judith Scott reminded me of a few lines from a Sufi prayer by Hazrat Inayat Khan

… Oh thou – life eternal –

we seek thy loving enfoldment …

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… interludes – and poetry by W S Graham …

I’ve neglected you, my reader friends, immersed in writing the sequel to ‘Course of Mirrors’ and a few interludes. Like, my writing fixation was pleasantly disrupted last week through meeting my son at Covent Garden, and later attending the launch of ‘The Inflatable Buddha’ by András Kepes at the Hungarian Cultural Centre in London.

Armadillo Central launches 'The Inflatable Buddha.'

Armadillo Central launches ‘The Inflatable Buddha.’

 

It is the newest project of my to-be publisher http://www.armadillocentral.com/  András’s novel offers a more subtle perspective than officially recorded history, showing the fictional lives and wits of three ordinary, idiosyncratic Hungarians during the twentieth century. The sample readings enticed me, and I’m now looking  forward to reading the book. The well-attended, grand launch event also gave me a taste of what is to come – being exposed to questions about my own epic .

 

Then came a traumatic interlude to my writing …

I mourn the shimmer and music of its leaves.

I mourn the shimmer and music of its leaves.

During the last two days, to the grinding noise of chainsaws and a shredder, I mourned the loss of a beautiful poplar/aspen tree in my neighbourhood, which has grown too high for its owner. The now mutilated tree (the image shows a third of its size) will be gone completely next week. I’ll miss the shimmer and the watery music of its leaves, produced by the slightest breeze, and the golden hearts trailing into my garden come autumn. I picked a few early leaves to treasure, pressed to dry in my dictionary.

Today a most pleasant surprise … a poetry book arrived unexpectedly in the post, sent by a Scottish friend/poet, who is at this moment working with a visual artist on a project about Tin-mining in St Ives. Due to blank spots in my education I rely on stumbling upon poets less publicised, and was delighted to receive this gift of an expertly edited ‘New Collected Poems’ by W S Graham. So I thought I’ll share excerpts from his poems – on themes that will chime with fellow writers .

W. S. Graham (1918-1986) grew up in Clydeside, Scotland, and initially followed the footsteps of his father, who was a structural engineer in the ship-building trade. However, a year studying philosophy and literature at an adult education centre outside Edinburgh set him on the path of writing poetry for the rest of his life, irrespective of meagre financial rewards. He travelled to London and New York City, but later lived with his wife in Cornwall.

W S Graham, image by Sally Fear

W S Graham, image by Sally Fear

I was delving into the book this morning. Here some facets, unconnected lines, the first from THE NIGHTFISHING    (1955) – a melodic composition, speaking to the seen and unseen,  from a night in a herring boat out on the North Sea.

… Gently the quay bell

Strikes the held air …

Strikes the held air like

Opening a door

So that all the dead

Brought to harmony

Speak out on silence …

I am befriended by

This sea which utters me …

… Far out calls

The continual sea.

Now within the dead

Of night and the dead

Of all my life I go.

I’m one ahead of them

Turned in below

I’m borne in their eyes

Through the staring world.

The present opens its arms …

… Each word is but a longing

Set out to break from a difficult home. Yet in

It’s meaning I am …

… The bow wakes hardly a spark at the black hull.

The night and day both change their flesh about

In merging levels …

The iron sea engraved to our faintest breath

The spray fretted and fixed at a high temper,

A script of light …

… The streaming morning in its tensile light

Leans to us and looks over on the sea.

It’s time to haul. The air stirs its faint pressures

A slat of wind …

… The white net flashing under the watched water,

The near net dragging back with the full belly

Of a good take certain …

 

Some of the last lines of – THE NIGHT CITY – a turning point … I found Eliot and he said yes … T S Eliot was then with Faber and Faber. He became Graham’s publisher.

… Midnight. I hear the moon

Light chiming on St Paul’s

The City is empty. Night

Watchmen are drinking their tea …

Between the big buildings

I sat like a flea crouched

In the stopped works of a watch.

 

From IMPLEMENTS IN THEIR PLACES (1977) I picked a refrain from WHAT IS LANGUAGE USING US FOR ?

… What is the language using us for?

It uses us all and in its dark

Of dark actions selections differ …

 

And last – AIMED AT NOBODY – Poems from Notebooks (1993)

PROEM

It does not matter who you are,

It does not matter who I am.

This book has not been purposely

made for any reason.

It has made itself by circumstances

It is aimed at nobody at all.

It is now left just as an object by me

to be encountered by somebody else.

 

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This may well be how it feels for most writers who simply can’t help sculpting experiences into words. What do you think?

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… the mystery of thoughts …

Every child is truly switched on to the imagination. But frequently the environment belittles the imagination, and the gift can end up suppressed under the blanket of rationality. People with a strong creative drive may settle down to live in a straitjacket, and then find themselves overwhelmed by images, thoughts and associations, especially around full moon.

As a child I was intensely curious about the spaces between things, and about light. Had I not locked horns with an opinionated physics teacher I might have taken up the challenge to study sciences. Another fascination of mine was pattern repetition – how the veins in a leaf resemble the shape of a tree. And scale – how tiny bodies, big bodies, our planet, galaxies, the universe, are all reflected in each other.

 Hindukailash, image from wikipedia.

Hindukailash, image from wikipedia.

Like Indra’s net of pearls in Vedic mythology, where the surface of each pearl mirrors all other pearls, a metaphor for the interconnected networks of mutual relationships between parts and systems. Mount Kailash is depicted here as the timeless and motionless centre of this net, housing Shiva’s family.

Not only visible structures are held together by interactive nets, our social systems, political systems, spiritual systems and the internet operate within a network. We can observe that the invisible psyche (mind) functions not only through logic, but also through aesthetics, independent of space/time, and is held by another kind of coherence – a net of meaning. And what is generated from this net of meaning is a finer kind of energy, not evidenced by present scientific methods – namely intelligence.

We knew it all along – research established that our emotional experiences leave an imprint in the cells of our body, that the brain is more than the squishy mass under our skull but a medium spread throughout the body via a network of neurotransmitters. There have been hair-splitting arguments for and against the idea that the recipient of an organ can experience personality traits of the donor, based on the speculation that each cell carries a hologram of the whole body and its memory.

Feelings and thoughts arising in my consciousness are filtered through my body’s memory. They also depend on my state of anxiety or calm, my interest, attitude and other variables, such as the weather, my relationship with the elements, with people, the collective mood, solar flares, or the constellation of planets. On some days, maybe after a meaningful dream, or a spell of mantras, thoughts are forming clearly on the breath, like reflections in a still pond, on other days, thoughts rush in on water rapids threatening to drown me, or they plod in like turtles, slow and guarded.

Objective reality is not the only game there is – what in the universe has not interacted at some point in time, irrespective of distance? Everything is linked up. Einstein called it the ‘spooky action.’

The motherboard for this wonderful instrument we call the brain, which comprises our whole body, is formed in the womb. I believe the intelligence involved in creating any specific body must lay in more than known DNA codes, must include the indeterminable non-local DNA of a spirit world. Our body foremost operates like a receiver and transmitter for as many wavelengths our radio station in time attracts or is able to tune into.

From this station, stabilized by repetition, I sort clusters of sensations and feelings, and process thoughts and ideas attracted to me from the collective psyche, a vast sea, which the individual mind must learn to navigate. Images and signifiers are coloured by whatever I consciously or unconsciously mirror and relate to.

No matter how much information we absorb, through our senses, through language and concepts, through comparing patterns, reasoning and calculation, everything, comprehended or not, will be filtered through the body’s motherboard that keeps adjusting to experiences and expanding fields of perception, fields that extend way beyond personal memory. All this information is continuously re-shuffled, as is the meaning we assign to it.

Our body is a motherboard – planet earth is a motherboard – the whole cosmos is a motherboard for a spirit we cannot comprehend, an invisible hand that touches us like a breeze, made visible through what it animates.

All we know is that images, thoughts and ideas are reflected in us. They travel via synapses in the neurons of our body, they travel on the air between minds, they travel among stars, they echo from under the sea, waving to us as plankton, they speak to us from every creature, from every blade of grass, from every stone, and they beep from within our bodies through tweaks of pleasure or pain. All matter, all people and objects we interact with store the memory of that interaction, including interactions with things we hate or nurture, and with places we live in.

We don’t invent anything, we re-discover, re-connect and re-create from the vast storehouse of knowledge and information provided to us by nature, and by the spirit between matter that makes up the cosmos, an embodied being that is becoming conscious of itself.

We are on the air, sent, programmed, radioed and broadcast, identified with all manner of things, ideas and beliefs. Yet if we look deep inside our emptiness, we know, the non-material aspects of us can potentially detach and be free, maybe enjoy tea with Shiva’s family and witness the world turn on its axis – a state some people experience spontaneously or through meditation. A state of pure consciousness not identified with this or that. In the meantime, we could at least be kind to ourselves …

‘Thoughts are beings that generate … One thought of kindness gathers a thousand beings of love and kindness around one.’            Hazrat Inayat Khan

I don’t know if a singular mind/psyche, the incredible art of a lifetime, survives the physical death of the body. Maybe a coherent individuated mind leaves a dent, an influence within the collective psyche. Like the organ of the heart, over time, achieved its definite function. But does it matter? Nothing is lost. All information is continuously re-shuffled into new forms and constellations.

Digital storage provides a metaphor – information exists and roams freely in the wind of the collective psyche (unconscious) until it is embodied and gathered towards a purpose. Every event has a consequence. Nature is exacting, but also generous, what has been repressed in the flow of evolution will always return in one form or another.

Everything alive speaks to us, and all such relationships are processed in the stories we share, stories being containers of the richest kind of information. 

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You can source other posts on the theme of reflection in the tag cloud on the right of this page. Like this sequenc of posts: https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/tag/hazrat-inayat-khan/

And you might want to check out posts under the tag ‘psychology,’ especially the one on ‘awareness,’ where I share R. Assagioli’s 10 psychological laws – how the body affects the mind and the mind affects the body. https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/tag/psychology/

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This post also appeared at  Third Sunday Blog Carnival: September 2013 | Third Sunday Blog Carnival

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… storytelling and the primary world …

Knowledge is not the rare gem it used to be. Then again, without recording, analysing, sorting, summarising, calculating and disseminating mega quantities of data we’d have none of our ingenious toys to play with. Without statistics our systems would grind to a halt, and, yes, it’s annoying that almost daily yet another quantitative study announces what’s good, or detrimental, for our well-being. Thankfully, none of the churned out evidenced facts can make a claim on meaning. Humans remain idiosyncratic. We apply messy values to our life-choices, and we frequently ignore the logical road signs of scientific landscapes, or blank out the hassle of linear time.

Wind

 

Instead, we are tossed along by emotional encounters, the unexpected, are awestruck after a quantum leap of intuition, and are generally guided by what appeals to a body/mind that likes the stimulation of nature, her moods, seasons, the phases of day and night suggesting action or repose, like the in-and-out-breath, between which we may catch a glimpse of a dream, a relevant truth, an eternity even. Hardly anyone I know is without this conflict: liking order and control, as well as yearning for rapport with the dance and rhythm of nature.

Over 300 years ago G W von Leibnitz, who could’ve been a poet, was gripped by an emerging idea, to collate all human knowledge and to systematize it via a common language. Computers would have been his bliss. He loved to correspond with most scholars in Europe during this baroque era. And he might have gone some way to explain the whole universe in the hope to solve every conceivable problem. Paradoxically, he also stated … the universe had to be imperfect otherwise it would not be distinct from God. Near the end of his life, Leibniz wrote in a letter that combining metaphysics with mathematics and science through universal characters would require creating what he called:

a kind of general algebra in which all truths of reason would be reduced to a kind of calculus. At the same time, this would be a kind of universal language or writing, though infinitely different from all such languages which have thus far been proposed; for the characters and the words themselves would direct the mind, and the errors — excepting those of fact — would only be calculation mistakes. It would be very difficult to form or invent this language or characteristic, but very easy to learn it without any dictionaries …

Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Characteristica_universalis

I’m not doing honour to this remarkable man, so here is a sketch of a biography … http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Leibniz.html … should you have the patience to read this, note the time it took for letters between Leibniz and Newton to be delivered, which makes me admire the tenacity of these scientists.

The notion of a calculus for a universal language intrigues and troubles me. Nature speaks a language everyone understands. Key-terms of my mother tongue (see my last blog post) easily bring back the plot of land my toddler feet bounced across. The stories I most enjoy writing grow organically, with tendrils of their roots nourished by the alpine woods and hills of my childhood.

But things change. Data collation is now available to authors, promising control, over marketing, though formulas and blueprints are now offered for the creative process, like how to write a novel in four week. Imagination serves many masters and is not easily controlled – its life-sap flows through all forms. Totempole 4

We can only explore everything known continuously in fresh situations and move on, in the way that children and creative people place a familiar object into a new context. The play of imagination destroys and creates, and has the power to shift the meaning of our past, present and future.

‘There is the truth of truth as well as the truth of fact.’                   D.H. Lawrence

Being part of the dynamic process of evolution (which Philippa Rees ingeniously terms ‘Involution’ in her book of that title) we are walked by the tightrope of ecstasy and pain, of dependencies on environments and people, for better or worse, dependencies on beliefs too, mostly not by choice, but driven by binding needs.

Couple shadow series, 3a small

We face exploitation, conflict, sudden change, harmony alternating with phases of chaos – the story of life, a record marked in DNA and every tree trunk. Instigating control, or preaching harmony while shading off the dark, the chaos, the collective psyche of humanity, will only repeat the distortions of otherwise genuine messages from enlightened thinkers, sages and prophets.

It would serve us as well to teach our children how to accept the dark and how to deal with conflict. Reading the collected folk tales of the Grimm Brothers to children would be a start.

Dore - public-domain-image

Dore – public-domain-image

The inspired P L Travers, author of Mary Poppins, had a talent for highlighting the vital function of myth, symbol and story. She shared her reflections in a collection of essays that appeared in Parabola Magazine. The essays were later published in a book, titled: ‘What the Bee Knows.’

She wrote … The Primary World, in order to go on living, needs the things man cannot create – the earth with all its composted dead, the rain that raineth every day, the seasons, nightfall, silence – and the ear free of all pulsation but that of its own blood.

… The Primary World is that which has never been invented but came into being, along with the blood stream, as a legacy from the Authors who, according to Blake, are in Eternity. All the rest is manmade, or as Tolkien has it – sub-created.

As a writer I sub-create and grow stories from within, using images and words that resonate with personal experiences, myths and visions that provide an ever-changing way of relating to myself, to others and the worlds we share. So when Travers says … nothing is truly known until it is known organically … this chimes for me.

We forget – a happy fault – imagine there was no pause between one dream and another, no night. We forget so we can re-member creatively, which takes practice. We walk on star dust and ancestral bones that inform our bloodstream, as much as the stories of this world nourish our imagination, continuously re-shuffling our psyche, which explains our function as being the bridge between matter and spirit. Every bee knows this.

Image by Yeshen Venema

Image by Yeshen Venema

What the Bee Knows, by P L Travers http://www.amazon.co.uk/What-Bee-Knows-Arkana-Travers/dp/0140194665/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1376737128&sr=1-3&keywords=what+the+bee+knows   Wow, no reviews

Parabola Magazine: http://www.parabola.org/

‘Involution’ by Philippa Rees: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/30171.Philippa_Rees

 

Images are mine unless the captures say otherwise.

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… the inner silence of Henri Cartier-Bresson …

The Mind’s Eye – writings on Photography and Photographers, by Henri Cartier-Bresson, is a lovely book I received for Christmas from a dear friend. I was reminded how H C B inspired my photographic work with its poetry and Golden Mean, and still inspires other creative areas, including my writing.

Henri Cartier-Bresson - 1972 photo of a Georgian familyFor H C B photography led on to include painting & drawing. For me photography led on to include writing, in the way H C B said: ‘The writer has time to reflect. He can accept and reject, accept again; and before committing his thoughts to paper he is able to tie the several relevant elements together. There is also a period when his brain ‘forgets,’ and his subconscious works on classifying his thoughts. But for the photographer, what has gone is gone forever.’

The impact of H C B’s images is hard to define. They exemplify what many photographers aspire to but can’t name. Not only do most of his shots surprise by capturing the essence of a fugitive moment, a magical decisive one, they are framed in a way that touches all the elements of motion in a dynamic balance.

H C B - rest‘My passion has never been for photography ‘in itself,’ but for the possibility – through forgetting yourself – of recording in a fraction of a second the emotion of the subject, and the beauty of the form; that is, a geometry awakened by what’s offered.’

‘I hope I’ll never see the day when photo shops sell little schema grills to clamp onto our viewfinder; the Golden Rule will never be found etched on our ground glass.’

Henri Cartier-Bresson, girl running

 

 

 

 

 

 

I let Henry Cartier-Bresson talk for himself:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MW7I3GBdsBw

Henri Cartier-Bresson, the wallInner Silence

H C B speaks in relation to portrait-photography of looking for the silence in the person. I guess he was looking for the silence behind everything. This silence was most likely what he was attentive to. I conjure that this silence lies between each breath, from which all phenomena emerge from second to second – from that timeless soul-garden within us – which we can tune into.

henri-cartier-bresson-liverpool-1963-c2a9-henri-cartier-bresson-magnum2

What I am saying is – H C B could not have captured these decisive moments without having experienced the silence within him. From this timeless state we glimpse the joie de vivre with its awesome sense of wonder generated and re-generated from eternity that makes life worthwhile and meaningful. It’s probably this glimpse, the ethic of this silent sphere that drives all anarchist artists.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Sur les bords de la Marne 1938Why Black and White and not Colour?

In 1952 colour film emulsion was not well developed. H C B said then: ‘I am half afraid that this complex new element may tend to prejudice the achievement of the life and movement which is often caught by black and white.’

He was concerned that  composition would suffer and be overpowered by colour. I remember when colour TV was first introduced, I intensely disliked the busy business cramped into a small frame. Colour can however be used as a language, and I am certain H C B would have cottoned on to this had he lived on.

Here a sample of my own to illustrate colour’s use.  http://500px.com/photo/6913693?from=set/266780

In 1974, together with other freelance photographers, Henri Cartier-Bresson founded Magnum Photos. See also: http://www.henricartierbresson.org/pres/home_en.htm

H C B’s second wife, the Belgian-born Martine Franck, was an inspired photographer in her own right: http://www.theworld.org/2012/08/remembering-celebrated-photographer-martine-franck/

I am wishing all my readers and visitors a wonderful creative New Year …. 

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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 :

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7420104147325742770&hl=en

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.

Two of Gregory Bateson’s children continue his approach:

His daughter with Margaret Mead – Mary Catherine Bateson:

http://www.interculturalstudies.org/main.html

And some of her books, Peripheral Vision

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

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

Bateson’s daughter with Lois Cammack – 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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