Tag Archives: negative capability

… old thinking, new thinking …

We mostly think through conventional forms and givens, for practical reasons, while another way of thinking embraces invisible and unknown dynamics via intuition – like the seeming particle/wave paradox in quantum mechanics, where a local particle also exists as a non-local wave. The two perceptions can potentially mingle creatively, but, notably in times of social uncertainty, they clash, and fewer people maintain the ability to tolerate negative capability.

The way autocratic opinions over divisive issues are sensationalised by some tabloids, sends my thoughts flitting through the mutable and nuanced zones of shadow lands. I write the glut of absurdities off my chest, only to delete the drafts, not having the talent or guts for the iconoclastic fun Marina Hyde pours into her articles for the Guardian.

The tit for tat race of opposing interest groups that blame, attack and counter attack each other eludes any balanced comprehension of events. Opportunists, generously funded, like to whip up the chaos for their own benefit. Fertile ground for tyrants. This will go on until the churning oceans calm and offer deeper reflections.

My early education was unremarkable, but I fondly recall a few teachers who made space for ambivalence, encouraging us to question everything and value respectful, if inconclusive, debates. Glib opinions and self-righteousness were mocked and laughed at.

In the early seventies, doing a short apprenticeship with a small Dutch advertising firm in London, we had weekly meetings, where ideas, no matter how crazy, were explored. Every person working in the building was asked to the table, including caterers and cleaners. This inspirational seedbed sparked successful projects and maintained a motivated team.

Decades later, during a part time stretch at Social Services, policy makers introduced a new computer programme for tick-box client assessments, a software developed without involving the people who were meant to use it – us. Sparing you the specifics of this nonsensical scheme, the nightmare in its wake resulted in multiple nervous breakdowns by employees. Since I had a private psychotherapy practice I escaped the hell and resigned.

A relentless trend towards greater efficiency continued despite loud social backlash. Over and over I listened to the stories of my stressed clients suffering from the overbearing changes in public institutions and private companies. The forced procedures insulted the intelligence of workers, who felt the stupidity and pain of it all in their guts, as did I. The harmful effect on mental health, family life, education, small traders and community venues … is ongoing.

Recently I re-read a 1970s lecture by my Sufi teacher, Fazal Inayat Khan – Old Thinking, New Thinking – also used as title of a small collection of his controversial talks, published in 1979 by Harper & Row. Some of Fazal’s students insisted on this publication. He reluctantly agreed. I’ll share here a few notions that struck me form the lecture, Old Thinking, New Thinking:

The end of real is false, while the greatest false is real.

The real is about form, the false (non-evidenced) is about essence. Fazal addressed two qualitative different ways of thinking, both beneficial if used in the right time and context. Those supporting form and tradition set out to protect stability, whereas those who seek essence knock over the stable towards the freedom of the unknown. Imaginative people, including scientists and artists, tend to overshoot crumbling realities.

The sad logic of power driven politicians is to manipulate social anxieties by promising simple fixes to allay feelings of uncertainty. In such times people tends to grope towards old thinking, to what can be predicted and depended upon, thus moving away from the immeasurable independence of anything beyond facts.

Old thinking relies on valid knowledge; however, to apply this knowledge intelligently requires new thinking, so essence can find expression once more.

Old thinking will bring achievement, notwithstanding that without new thinking it will have achieved nothing. Traditions wedded to established forms exemplify old thinking. Yet for a tradition to remain sincere and dynamic new thinking is required.

In other words, only what changes stays functional. Much as we dislike it, life could not continue if it were not for the transient growth and death phases of nature. The same applies to cycles that call for the expansion of consciousness.

How is one to value both form and essence in complex times and stay sane? No way around it, we must suffer the anguish of holding the tension between static knowledge and intuition in our hearts. Not easy. Perhaps because I experienced the 1960s new thinking surge, any leaps of goodwill from young people still brings tears to my eyes. I’m interested in everything. I’m interested in bridging divides. I even occasionally delight being in the spirit zone, with the effortless flow of things. (A Zen concept)

Deep, maybe very deep down, every one of us knows the bliss of being in the zone.

Old thinking is a sorting process – new thinking is a melting process

Old thinking is a claim – new thinking is an aim …               Fazal Inayat Khan

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… a tribute to snags …

I’d make a lousy fundamentalist of any kind, and was probably born with negative capability http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_capability and a tendency to daydream and contemplate life, skirting extremes, which makes my voice almost inaudible in a culture where sensation trumps. It also means I procrastinate on tasks that need doing, until a snag propels me to act.

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One morning last week, easing myself into the day, the shirt I dusted in the cool morning air was trapped when I shut the back-door; next the sleeve of my pyjamas got caught while I closed the lid of my coffee tin. SNAGS – their repetition blinked a green light for associations and made me think of dreams, how they sneak into the daylight via signals. With only a vague memory of my dream, I followed an impulse to catch up on practical tasks round the house.

A shelf in my shed needed fixing. It had crashed, bringing down an array of cans, sprays and sealants. In the way one thing leads to another, I sorted and dumped stuff, and dumped some more – making space. Seized by the flow of action, I de-frosted the freezer, thinned the ivy round the shed, cleaned windows, filled a sack with confidential papers for shredding, loaded the washing machine and made some overdue phone calls … all amounting to what I call a BLITZ day.

Knocks from the dark, SNAGS, help me overcome procrastinations. BLITZ is how I operate to gain periods of laziness. I’ve learned to humour my inner driver (superego) and made peace with Lazy.

Dark of beginnings

Flees the meddler

The shrill demand

The noisy footfall

The sharp beams of

Imposing eyes

Dark folds its mantel

Round the dreamer

The shy nomad

The vague image

The tendrils of

A budding poem

Approach it softly

Like a lover

It may surprise

Or yield nothing …

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After my Blitz day, a book came to mind, ‘Worlds in Collision’ (1950) by Immanuel Velikovsky. His research resulted in controversial astronomical theories about catastrophic events planet earth experienced over time, and how the human race was affected. Here a link to a 1972 Horizon documentary:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U18gMJXNyX8

He concluded that as a victim of amnesia, collective humanity is compelled to repeat and re-experiencing traumatic events, to aid, in a psycho dynamic sense, recovery through triggering repressed feelings, wake up, and learn to control the experiences. It’s a wider, thought provoking context for the contemplation of our human lot, which I leave to you, my readers, to explore.

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On a smaller scale, we may have memories of being held in the womb and in the arms of our mother – or not. In either case, there are giants to overcome, grown-ups. One of the saddest things grown-ups do is deflating a child’s dreams and desires, talking down: Wait till you grow up. Life is tough etc. etc. It’s like telling a seed, ‘Don’t bother; you’re doomed from the start.’

collage2, familyThe desire to be  held equates home. The longing for a permanent home seems to motivate our actions in relation to food, shelter, competition, acquisition, power, money, knowledge or love, as well as being the impetus underlying the craving for prophets who promise salvation.

Fear of not being held, of having no claim on a place where it’s safe to rest when life gets tough, has made us inventive. We wall our interests, invest in insurances, wage war to protect what we identify with , or claim ownership of ideas, philosophies and creeds. Maintaining behaviours that keep familiar systems in place, we find it difficult to accept with sobriety that we are all in the same boat, that our ideas and identities are fleeting chimeras.

Imagine … wouldn’t it be wonderful to seek nothing and simply enjoy the miracle of living, and be like this child overcome by the mystery of rain?  http://vimeo.com/84802749

There is an experience of home that tends to go unrecognised, hiding, as it does, between each breath, in dimensions beyond time. Such glimpses come and go, leaving a sense of union and connectedness while we’re tossed along the rapids of progress, inevitably bumping into obstacles – the snags of life signalling messages from the unseen.

The psyche is a bridge between inner and outer dimensions (the theme of my novels,) similar to the corpus callosum connecting our two brain halves. On good days I sense that in addition to existing in time, a part of me also resides in another frequency dimension, as a light-body, or soul, resonating in my body while I occupy it.

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A day, whether six or seven years ago or whether six thousand years ago, is just as near to the present as yesterday. Why?  Because all time is contained in now. Meister Eckhart

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