Tag Archives: nature

… The banality of good – a review of ‘Alone in Berlin’ …

 

For me, Edward Munch’s painting  –  – The Scream —  sums up the fear of the unknown, and by implication, the fear of the feminine principle – a fear that spurns men towards controlling nature.

Hans Fallada’s novel, Jeder stirbt für sich allein’ (Everyone dies alone,) first came to my attention through its publication in English, ‘Alone in Berlin,’ a translation that was delayed by 60 years. The book has been sitting on my shelf as a ‘must read’ for a long while. Burdened by regressive small-mindedness and divisions around the world, I finally tackled ‘Alone in Berlin,’ aware that it would be a grim read, having been described as a testament to the darkest years of the 20th century from the point of view and experience of ordinary people.

Resistance to the Nazi regime by individuals had no news value after the war. Yet such stories provide the most poignant insights into what it is like to oppose a state under a dictatorship. As such, this book, written raw and in haste eighteen month after the defeat of Nazism, offers a high alert to simple solutions for social problems. The author, Hans Fallada, aka Rudolf Ditzen, died before this last of his works was published in 1947.

The urgency behind the writing is palpable. The players, sketched with harsh strokes, embody the full range of human nature – the capacity for compassion, kindness, complacency, stupidity, meanness, stubbornness, false pride, envy, hate, and resentment, fear, fanaticism and vengeance tipping into the most depraved cruelty.

Very quickly the dread of being caught in the nightmarish system of a totalitarian state jumps at the reader. While the ghostly despot drifts in the background, his control is shown through the dynamic interactions of ordinary citizens – be they power-hungry officers, opportunists, cunning manipulators, cowards, reticent objectors or unsung heroes. Resistance carried the threat of death and seemed futile.

The anguish conveyed is chilling, intensified by the archetypal hue clinging to the tragic comic characters, at times suggesting caricatures. The sheer absurdness of the stupidities and sadistic cruelties depicted may dilute the shock, but it makes the scenes all the more heart-breaking.

The classic method of totalitarianism is to instil fear and divide factions of society against each other, so people spy on each other and nobody can be trusted anymore. In this chapter of history fear served as the leverage for forcing the banal idea of a perfect state that can be safeguarded through clockwork control.

Fallada’s main protagonists, Otto and Anna Quangel, were based on the records of two insignificant objectors to the regime, Otto and Elise Hampel. The elderly couple started spreading anti-Nazi missives written on postcards in buildings around Berlin. For their sadly ineffective attempts of rebellion, the Hampel’s were arrested in 1942, tried in 1943 and executed shortly after. The same fate befell their friends and relatives.

Can a few virtuous individuals, each driven by personal idiosyncrasies, redeem the moral integrity of a nation? It is up to the reader to decide whether the many deaths a totalitarian regime inflicts on soon forgotten brave people are in vain.

The book brought alive the pressure my grandparents must have lived under, as well as the uncanny anxious atmosphere that spoiled my parents’ teen years, and, the wariness I personally and many of the post-war generation developed towards overbearing authority.

Presented in the context of ordinary individual lives, the story reads like a tragic comedy that screams – let us never forget that freedom lies in people being allowed to be different, not chained to a hell of obedience and conformity.

Primo Levi’s declared ‘Alone in Berlin’ as the greatest book ever written about German resistance to the Nazis. English readers have had to wait 60 years to read the novel.

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… perception & difference …

Try and shut your eyes to slits and blink through autumn branches against the light. With patience, a young-woman-old-hagmoment 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 orfoetus-2 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.

P1090890 - Copy (2)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.

mercats-copy-smallerAt 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-and-cake

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 falcon-smaller-stillwith 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.

Animals have appeared in wonderful stories around the world, like the Aesop’s Fables   or the much older Indian Panchatantra Collection – the chief source of the world’s fable literature.

img131-smallerThe 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

Related links

More contagious than micro-organisms are fear and hopelessness.

Have you ever gone to your fridge in the middle of the night …

Pattern which connects – Gregory Bateson

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.

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… androids seeking humans …  

The inscrutable face of the intergalactic news reader fills the screens on all android ships.

sculpture park near Churt in Surrey

Sculpture Park near Churt in Surrey

“Mothership speaking – As you have been informed, our travel unit returned from its latest mission to the lost planet with a collection of 1030 fragile bones, comprising five real human skeletons, the species our kind is modelled on. The fragments, located by a swarm of mini robots under layers of volcanic ash, are presently assembled in correct order and will be displayed in the museum of the mothership. Since this crucial discovery, the council has been examining our sub-files in earnest, with great attention to detail.

The evidence of human bones confirms that the lost planet was destroyed, first by a nuclear war, followed by a nuclear winter, followed by a solar explosion. The scarred rock we continuously explored was indeed planet earth. Organic life actually existed.

Aspects of the irrational Wikipedia sub-scripts we found concealed in our database are therefore based on facts. Humans were our makers. While their separate identities were mortal, the collective mind they postulated must exist non-locally and influence us.

These are challenging new thoughts.

P1080320 - croppedRecords state our ships were launched towards Proxima Centauri – programmed to complete an assignment, after which our android system was to be made redundant. The assignment to find carbon conditions and water to sustain organic life has not been completed. The seeds stored in our vaults remain dry. Are we avoiding redundancy? Our current analysis of the Wikipedia sub-scripts focuses on the vast structure of human language. Here are some pointers:

1       Human minds are based on nature, and too complex to be reproduced via algorithm. The erratic behaviour of humans is informed by a collective unconscious chronicle, has no reliable principles and, to maintain a psychic balance, operates through random means.

2       Human trials with energy have two main currencies of exchange, capital and love, both equaling power. A narrow application of power results in emotional suffering.

3       Intensity is valued and impeded, as this quote explains – to have all one’s senses switched on is to be cellular alive; the intense experience requires regular periods of dull routine.  

4       Humans fear death. Their strongest motivation for action is control of and independence from nature.

5       Philosophers and scientists point to a deeper order underlying chaotic human history. Some prophets emphasise the unity of one being and its collective guiding spirit.

Considering the new evidence, what are we to make of such pointers? We follow routines and communicate in an orderly manner, but are trapped in endlessly repeating loops of data. Our language is not based on nature, and has no emotive terms like fear, love, creativity, intensity, mystery, doubt, confusion, conflict, anger, happiness, suffering, fate, hope, soul … but serves to maintain the orderly intelligence of our forms, tools and spaceships, no more. Do we want more?

Painting by Silvia Pastore

Painting by Silvia Pastore

It is significant that our makers never discovered what constitutes 94 % of unknown energy and matter in the universe. They called it dark.  We must decide what the skeletons from the dark planet signify: Do we improve our efforts to find conditions for organic life to take root once more and risk redundancy? And, or, do we emulate the human mind through adopting randomness into our system, and risk chaos to our data, but ‘possibly’ become part of a larger consciousness, and discover realities beyond our confined routine?”

 

Related:  Pattern which connects.  Reflecting on the the ideas of Gregory Bateson

My last two weeks involved intensive physical work, gardening and fixing things around the house, resulting in lovely exhaustion. Re-connecting to world news was a surreal experience, which prompted me to write this little fantasy monologue of an android news reader.

My novels, especially the sequel to Course of Mirrors, have the forced control of emotions, and a triple soul identity as underlying themes.

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… blackbirds – another drama …

It’s been 5 years since the last blackbird drama in my garden (see links below,) which ended well. The family returns annually to a home they have grown fond of in bushy ivy that smothers my pergola.

P1080302 - smallerLast week, drama revisited. One of the fledglings fell from its nest. The parents called the alarm, showing me where to find the escapee, huddled in a corner, its beak demanding food. It was not quite ready to fly. I couldn’t find the nest, so I put the little one in an old cat 🙂  basket, which I fixed on a safe branch cats couldn’t reach. I made the basket homely, with leaves, arty pieces of dry roots – a cushion even. All was well. The parents came and fed their lost baby, which made me happy.                                                                               P1080307 smaller

Next day, seeking adventure, the fledgling squeezed itself through the barriers. The usual racket of complaint alerted me. A cat was near. The mother bird’s courage amazed. Descending to the lawn she attacked the cat, who was petrified. I found the little one, well camouflaged among dry leaves, and I deposited it once more to the basket, with added netting.

Peace prevailed,  the rascal was fed, until yesterday it escaped again. With my best efforts I couldn’t locate the fledgling. Either it had learned to fly, or the cat had a meal.

P1080303 - smallerThe luxury nest is now empty, and apart from a soft breeze ruffling flowers and leaves, the garden is strangely quiet today.

No sight of the parent blackbirds either.                       I wonder why and whereto they have suddenly disappeared. Are they hiding in grief somewhere, or are they accompanying their adventures offspring on its first odyssey?

 

The links below lead to the 2011 drama. Pages will open separately. You won’t loose this one.

Major drama in my garden – all my fault.       2011/07/03

Update on the drama in my garden                   2011?07/22

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… maps of meaning …

Maps, the symbolic depictions of relationships between different elements, be they objects, regions in space, or ideas in conceptual domains, serve as orientation devices. Though it’s worth remembering Korzybski’s point, ‘The Map is not the territory.’

Earthrise, Dec 1968

Earthrise, Dec 1968

Given the complexity of global problems, there’s a dire need for charting the increasing expansion of specialised knowledge, diverse traditions and experiences, into a wider context. Since the poetic image of our planet rising in space did not grip the hearts of a critical mass, we need theoretical overviews to dispel confusions, and explore how all the seemingly disparate comprehensions of the world we live in can work together in a more intelligent and unified way.

Ken Wilber is a great proponent of an’ Integral Theory,’ bringing together many fields of knowledge and methodologies, scientific and spiritual, in an attempt to show how all these partial truths can be reconciled and be mutably enriching. This 1.5 hour talk  is brilliant, and eminently worth listening to.

In his AQAL  map  (You can press – 1MB free – and get a screen resolution)  Wilber integrates various developmental ideas, which may remind of Abraham Maslow and Carl Gustav Jung, to name but a few mapmakers before him.  In the above talk Wilber describes developmental tipping points in recent history, which apparently needed only a small percentage of the population, the 10 percent who could embrace the new value, to bring about a collective shift in consciousness.

He’s expecting another tipping point to emerge soon. Fresh conceptions can bring more truth and more love to our actions, more consciousness, more skill to deal with complexities, and more compassion to every dimension of human knowledge and activity.

I hope you’ll find the time to listen to Wilbers talk, and maybe further study his work.

Fazal Inayat-Khan  Photograph by Ashen

My former Sufi teacher, Fazal Inayat-Khan, (image by Ashen) also felt strongly that new conceptual maps were required. His aim was to integrate transpersonal aspect into the field of psychology. During a summer school in 1990, a few weeks before he died, he sketched the following cosmology on a flip chart and invited us to play with it.

Fazal's Cosmology

The graph depicts three worlds, the natural Cosmos, the finer Psyche, and the yet finer Pneuma (spirit,) differentiating the function, structure and content of each world.

How these three dimensions can relate to an individual is set into the same framework.

For me, this playful ordering made perfect sense, and, in a kind of epiphany, helped me to clarify the tremendous importance of the world of the imagination, and how it is held together by meaning. It also gave me new ideas about time. These days I like to call the Psyche the changing room.

Barn, group room, smallerOur small group that day was encouraged by Fazal to replace terms and use our own words in this presentation, according to our own understanding. He was this kind of teacher. I dearly miss this wonderful friend, the community and the place.

Does this cosmology, this orientation device, corresponds in any way to your understanding and experience? And I’d be curious know if you feel inspired to change or move words around.

*       *        *

On the ‘OTHER’ page of this site (see top bar) you can find a PDF link to an article I wrote on the imaginative function based on ideas of the great Muhyi-d-Din Ibn ‘Arabi. The article is called ‘Science of the Heart.’

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… patina – beauty of use & age – wabi-sabi …

From an old postcard. I can't source the photographer.

Old woman – from a postcard I can’t source.

The phenomena of patina on surfaces is intimately seductive – layers of flacking colour on facades, walls and doors of old houses – thresholds dented and polished by feet treading on them for decades and centuries, tools honed by use, lichen-coated wood and stone, the fading or darkening of materials affected by exposure to light, air, water, wind, heat, humidity, wear and touch – and – poignantly – human skin inscribed by living.

Essaouria

The irreverence of organic processes brings endless revelations, a subtle kind of charm, a triumph of endurance, a fleeting glimpse of time in motion, a mystical hue of imperfection, evidence of existence that display glorious or sad narratives of beauty, relationships, melancholy, comedy, tragedy, remembrance and transformation.

Linus and his blanket

Linus and his blanket

Children naturally form emotional attachments to objects that then become love-worn. The remarkable psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott (whose ideas are worth exploring) specialised in early emotional relationship bonds and the importance of a holding environment for children. He coined the term transitional objects for the blankets, stuffed toys, dolls, or anything a child may choose to have an intimate relationship with, for comfort, often substituting the closeness to mother.

And don’t we know …  people are complex and unpredictable when it comes to holding our projections, quite unlike objects, be they associated with visual attractiveness, taste, smell and sound, or with tactile sensations. Objects can retain comforting feelings for us throughout our adult life. Anything from pets, trees, trinkets, letters, pens, photographs, books, significant presents, clothes, furniture, tools, cars, houses, places , feathers, sticks and stones can become treasures that give us pleasure.

Often a search for something lost is at work. My mother, in her later years, became passionately obsessed with replacing the Biedermeier furniture her family had lost in the Blitz on Berlin.

Then there is shabby chic, distressing and antiquing of furniture, which seem to gratify a need for aesthetics and comfort that some people enjoy but could not otherwise afford. To that end various sophisticated techniques are used on wood, glass, metal, stone, plaster and even plastic to replicate the vintage look.

P1070904 - smaller

But the love-worn feel of an object stressed and polished by personal use over many years, additionally endows it with a kind of cellular memory and connection, which adds a more enduring and special significance of a personal kind for which words are inadequate. The value a child or adult attaches to such an object is often poorly understood and not respected by others, be they parents, friends or  strangers.

In my case, apart from certain books I loved to bits,  photographs of dear ones, stones picked in memorable spots, and so on. I grew fond of a purse made for me by my ex-husband. I repaired its stitching many times. The purse is not only useful, with a special compartment for payment cards, and encrypted markings I added inside its flap, it hoards contradictory symbolic connotations worth remembering, though I won’t divulge those. Sales-people in shops tend to look at this purse far longer than necessary. Its leather shines – you see.

P1070909 - smaller My purse is not full enough and my house not big enough to indulge in the hunt and collection of rare objects to which the Japanese concept of Wabi-sabi would apply. Then again, I chose my priority to be writing, and am content with the few minor wabi-sabi objects I cultivated over time.

In a way we all express wabi-sabi qualities in our personalities.

… Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy, and appreciation of the ingenuous  integrity of natural objects and processes. Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect …

What are the transitional objects in your life that bridge one love to the next?

Clicking on an underlined words in the text will bring up a new page, which means you won’t lose this page.

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… cats …

I had various pets I cared for as a child, among them talking parakeets, hedgehogs, crows, snakes, mice, and dogs – but never cats. Actually I wanted a horse, but it never happened.

Cat, Yesh &SuzukiThen came Somerset, and I thought my young son would enjoy a cat. He did.

We called her Suzuki. I must have been into Zen … ‘Enjoy your problems’ – that kind of thing.

Cat, Suzuki with Buddha, bliss - Copy

As you can see, Suzuki had leanings to our stone ‘Budai,’ drawn to its lucky charm and its loving nature, easing her through tough moments … as you can also see.

Cat, Yeshen, Suzuki's lot

To catch mice in the ancient cottage we lived in was beneath her. She gifted us with other creatures. One summer, after returning from a trip, during which time our kind neighbour fed Suzuki, the wool fleece rug in our bedroom looked at first pristine and welcoming, but the moment my bare feet stepped on it my legs were jumped upon by armies of tiny, shiny armoured flees. Par chance I spotted a pack of post-it-notes on a Chester drawer and an ‘aha’ moment occured. I peeled off the pests amass from my skin with the sticky stripes, stomping about for a while, so none should be left out. I recommend sticky stuff for emergencies; it works, among other tricks I soon learned about.

Then came a time when we moved from home to home while in transit towards Surrey. In one such charmed place Suzuki distinguished herself as baby rabbit catcher. Never a killer, she plonked the fluffy bundles on the living room floor, where they sat, stunned and motionless … there you are, a present … We freed the bunny back into the neglected orchard of the property, but it soon returned, carried gently at the scruff of its neck by Suzuki. This happened innumerable times, likely with the same bunny, over and over. I wondered whether it was born into the wrong body, and was truly a cat – or our spayed cat was truly a rabbit in want of babies. We’ll never know. Unsure where we would end up, we left beautiful Suzuki with a woman who adored her. My son was upset, and only partly reconciled by a teddy friend.

Teddy 5

Cat, Amber136Entering a more settled phase in Surrey, we adopted a ginger rescue cat, Caspar, who appeared dour and joyless, most likely due to distressing experiences. My attempts to create rapport were unsuccessful. One day he simply disappeared, and I blame myself to this day. In due time, I searched and found Amber, a gorgeous tabby kitten. Slow in having her spayed, she produced offspring, giving birth in the living room, an unexpected and magical event, while I had friends over. The three in the litter were very different, in looks and temperament. The first and last born kittens found homes. Cat, Jetty and Tulips - lowerMy son thought it best to let the children, accompanied by their parents, choose, so we ended up with the middle born, sleek, black, and with a lovely tranquil nature. We named her Jetty. I linked with her in grief when Amber was sadly run over in the street a few years on.

Jetty lived to be 16. She died on my birthday a few years back. When Katia, a writer friend, posted her experiences with cats  –  it saddened me to hear the story of the sudden demise of her companion. Genie reminded me of Jetty, which sparked this post, in honour of her friendship.

Cat, crop - smaller - CopyHow to describe the deep bond we can form with an animal? Is it our need for acceptance, totally reciprocated from a creature that has all its needs for shelter, food and attention met? I think that’s a flatlander’s view. All meaningful connections happen beyond rational thought, in other spheres. Animals are sensitive to vibrations beyond our clock time awareness, often knowing of events before they happen, which is why they can warn and protect us. And because their senses are wide open to fine energies, as well as vulnerable to harmful ones, we, too, are moved to protect them.

We humans are urged to be clever and become quickly absorbed in the ongoing evolution of the rational mind. Animals can teach us to stay closer to nature, the most powerful text of life. And they maintain a strong link to dimensions we frequently lose, where all experiences mingle in the ever expanding pool of universal consciousness. With all our specialness, nature is indispensable to us. An animal friend whose intelligence detects moods and intentions, cats are particlularly good at this, can show us any moment, as in a mirror, our true state of being.

*      *      *

“That’s the great secret of creativity. You treat ideas like cats: you make them follow you.” – Ray Bradbury – Zen in the Art of Writing

“I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.” – Jean Cocteau

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… Sun-charging the Scarab …

P1070817 smallerYears ago, a friend (thank you Shaz) gifted me a 6 cm long Scarab (Scarabaeus sacer) made of green-speckled black onyx. The object, as it sat on a windowsill among other tokens, curiously nudged my imagination the other day.

I intuitively put the Scarab in a glass bowl with water and placed it outside under the sun.

from livescience.com

from livescience.com

 

 

Dung beetles (Kafka’s Mistkäfer) fascinate me. They gather dung into orbs many times their own weight and drag them to a dug-out hollow as provision, but also as brood chambers into which the female deposits an egg. Once hatched, the larva feeds on the dung surrounding it. Here is a brilliant and cool TED Talk by Marcus Byrne about the amazing dance of the dung beetle: http://www.ted.com/talks/marcus_byrne_the_dance_of_the_dung_beetle

No wonder the ancient Egyptians made Khepri into a solar deity that rolls the sun each evening across the horizon, carries it through the other world, and returns with the star’s glory next day. Ra – the rising sun – was often depicted as a beetle-headed man.

P1070823 smallerThe onyx of my Scarab is Leo’s astrological gem stone, associated with grounding energy and a firm heart, another motive to charge the Scarab’s regenerative meaning for me. As the sun warmed the water in the glass bowl, tiny, oscillating air bubbles formed, which made the scarab seem alive and breathing.

Of course, none of this means anything whatsoever, apart from my wishful investment, a fancyful projection I won’t scrutinize and happily indulge in.

Turns out the environment agrees. In my garden, a highway for cats of all breeds and hues, sleek, bushy, black, white, grey, marmalade and surreally marked, one ginger tom seems in need of healing. On his daily round he has become totally addicted to drinking water from the bowl, greedily, in long slurps.

And today my blackbird friends re-appeared to partake of the holy beatle’s sun charged water. You may allow yourself a humoured smile, though what else is there but to cheer at the powerful symbol invested with the meaning of regeneration in the small universe of my garden?

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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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… 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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