Tag Archives: old age

Autsch

Autsch

Finding this photo reminded me of how I kept bloodying my knees on the sharp stones of circumstances, and still do. My hope for a warmer communication with my father was dashed. He revived, and with it a fierce need for control. Lines by Dylan Thomas come to mind:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light …

Humans are mortal, but maybe humanity as a whole is immortal, and particularly its desire to find a meaningful answer to the circus of life.

‘Mein Freund, die Zeiten der Vergangenheit // Sind nur ein Buch mit sieben Siegeln. // Was ihr den Geist der Zeiten heißt, // Das ist im Grund der Herren eigner Geist, // In dem die Zeiten sich bespiegeln.’  –                                                                 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust (I)

Just like the human brain receives and conducts thoughts and ideas (like a radio,) so genes may receive and conduct what a psychic seedpod brings along at conception, that is – familiar patterns drawn to new constellations as through a mathematical time-grid (astrology may not be far off) – so that our realities are really mirrored from other spheres.

Via this psychic seedpod our story seem to arrive with template personality types, whose potentials and constraints determine our genes, not the other way around, at least not until the body’s biochemical traffic assumes a habitual force. With the psychic seedpod comes a pack of shadows – talents, passions, traumas, hurts or humiliation engendered by generations before us. With this pack also come tasks: to tie up loose ends, and to redeem faults not of our making.

From the start out endowment attracts projections, like a magnet, coercing us to oblige the projectors. Forget about being right, about justice. The secret of transforming energy and doing better than those before us lies in responding to situations, even when our habituated cell-traffic unconsciously demands a knee-jerk reaction. Awareness slips easily. Faith by itself does not help the evolution of human qualities. Insight, humility and patience are also needed, but often lost when buried emotions pop up.

My father’s constitutional short fuse with the world at large had over time found creative outlets, but his recent outburst hooked me into early experiences of feeling manipulated and made small by anger that belonged elsewhere. I became his nearest Blitzableiter (lightning conductor.) A personal scar opened. Autsch.

Recovering in Munich last week, the fragment of a poem prodded to be recalled. Back home, I reached for my Richard Wilhelm edition of the I Ging – Das Buch der Wandlungen. Opening a page at random, the fragment I was trying to recall showed up as a footnote. Romantic poets may have lacked irony, but they often touched on a pulse of wisdom … these lines from the last stanza of ‘Die Ideale’ by Friedrich Schiller:

… Beschäftigung, die nie ermattet,
Die langsam schafft, doch nie zerstört,
Die zu dem Bau der Ewigkeiten
Zwar Sandkorn nur für Sandkorn reicht,
Doch von der großen Schuld der Zeiten
Minuten, Tage, Jahre streicht.

The quirky translation is mine …

… Activity that never tires                                                                                                                                       Slowly creates but never wrecks                                                                                                                                      That to the houses of eternity                                                                                                                                  Only sand grain by sand grain gives                                                                                                                             Yet wipes from the great guilt of times                                                                                                                   Minutes, days, years –

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I wish I had the patience and good humour of my little Garden Buddha …

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Even ‘Brexit’ and the realisation that the good old UK is really a Divided Kingdom leaves my Buddha smiling.

The deeper problem – a runaway capitalism all over the world, makes people angry. The solution is pretty clear to me – give every citizen a basic wage, so they won’t have to go begging from the state every time they experience hardship or are out of a job.

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… no fitting words …

I’ve no fitting words, as yet, for my turbulent psychological process with my father.

Presently I’m thankful for being welcomed to an empty house in Munich.

P1080155 - smallerHere I find peace and time to crawl once more out of a family pattern, the kind of constellation one is born into, gets sucked into, and tries one’s best to loosen in order to gain more freedom and clarity.

No more than the complex story of each separate life, at times heart-breaking, but also, from a wider perspective, enormously rich and rewarding.

An entry in a Buddhist diary for the day …

An der Stelle, wo es bebrochen ist, kann unser Herz stark werden.  Jack Kornfield

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… the opportune elevator pitch …

Image by Carol & Mike Werner

Image by Carol & Mike Werner

Once a hotel, now a home for senior citizens, to live independently or, when needed, access a care unit, is the place my father chose as exit platform. The building has Escher-like features. Doors along every corridor look alike. The only way to determine floor levels are the artworks of residents gracing the walls. At one end of the building is a sluggish and brainless elevator. Hardly bigger than a telephone cell, it is airtight and eerily silent. Once inside, the occupant is suspended in time, with no sense of movement, up or down.

‘Can we squeeze in?’ I ask, pushing my dad’s wheelchair into the tiny cubicle. The man is baffled. Landing at ground level was not his intention. He is the reticent carer in training that worries dad, who detects a touch of paranoia, a sentiment he himself is familiar with, plagued at times by imagined dubious intentions of people. I’m a lost case to paranoia, but I allow for paranoid people’s intelligence. They value truth.

Occasional bouts of confusion haven’t impaired my dad’s wit. He suggested we should discover what interests the uncommunicative carer  so we can butter him up. I tried, going about it the wrong way. ‘Do you like alcohol?’ I enquired, thinking of a choice bottle from my dad’s apartment, the home I must soon dissolve.

‘I’m no alcoholic,’ was the curt reply. Newcomers from Eastern Europe tend to have admirable principles.

With the three of us trapped, sans sound, at snail-pace, embarrassment has no distraction other than a mirror covering one wall.  ‘Ah Herr W, how are we today?’

‘So, so,’ my dad says, with a melancholic pout.

The mournful air compels the carer’s curiosity. ‘What things interest you?’

‘Everything,’ my dad says, ‘the whole world. ‘And he cunningly adds, ‘what interests you?’

‘Everything,’ says the carer, ‘countries, people, science, religion …’ The elevator door opens to the care unit … ‘most of all religion.’

Pa at St Michael 1967

Dad at St Michael 1967

My dad shoots me a wicked smile. His library, I discovered, apart from books on art and travel, had accumulated works on ideological themes he used to rubbish with a vengeance. As a young mother in rural Somerset, insular for a while, I did an OU course on Comparative Religion, wanting to explore the key influences prophets and their early followers had on cultures throughout history. My dad’s comment at the time was, ‘Next you’ll send Jehovah preachers to my door.’ Attempts to bridge our bizarre dissonances had only ever elicited angry reactions, which I chose not to energise, enduring the grief. My dad’s cranky nature shielded a fine intellect, fed by reading and extensive travelling. His disapproval of me, I sensed, held a childlike envy of my bohemian autonomy, freedoms not available after the war. We battled with our shadows in isolation, me remaining the wayward daughter that lived abroad.

During my most recent visit, I arranged for some of my dad’s paintings, photographs, books and creative tools to be around him in his care abode. They’ll provide openings for conversation with those who now look after his daily needs.

Our war is over. It is heartening to observe how my dad’s reclusive attitude softens and, like blossoms falling this spring, gives way to new fruit.

Out Beyond Ideas

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.  I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense

Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

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… answers to questions we dare not ask …

Could it be that we frequently get answers to questions we dare not ask, allowing us to ignore certain messages? When do we challenge an issue and when do we keep silent and move on? Maybe I’m naive, but given my peculiar tolerance for uncertainty, I tend to trust in the random timing of guardian angels.

In der Eng 1954Last night, in a dream, I jumped from the ground onto a flat roof by sheer determination. Then someone asked me to repeat the feat, in the manner of a scientific trial. A ridiculous request – nothing is ever repeated under the same circumstances, try as you might. It’s as far as I got with this dream. I’ve no idea what the flat roof represents, apart from maybe having my first novel aired, which has been waiting to be launched with my small publisher since 2013.

Yes, I’m frustrated, and tempted to self-publish, instead, it looks as if I need to secure money for my father’s care and funeral. He decided not to die and plans to reach a hundred. While he requires support with basic daily tasks, he is comfortably secure in the care department of the place where he had rented a flat, which I must dissolve within the next few weeks. I arranged for him to keep items he holds important, his paintings, books, art materials, easel … in his present care-abode.

The process of letting go of things and projections was distressing but worthwhile on both sides. After endless paperwork, bureaucratic complexities, sorting stuff, and living with ancient dust and revelations, I felt totally exhausted, and decided to recover for a few days with friends, and then take a break, once more, back in the UK, choosing a 12 hour train journey because of possible strike actions at Munich airport.

I was not cheered by a financial cover-up that, in retrospect, may (or not) have saved my marriage at a time when I felt trapped with my creative longing sans resources, all based on sad misapprehensions my father had of me over time, including blaming me for my mother’s early death. Nor was I cheered sorting through over 30 photo albums covering 16 years of Luxury Ocean cruises my father undertook with his second partner, touristy snapshots that did no credit to his past photographic excellence, earlier works of which I’ll post more in time, and which, I hope, my son will archive.

In der Eng 1953 - crossing the stream - smallerIn der Eng 1954 - crossing the stream - smallerStill, there were tender moments and highlights during this recent testing odyssey … my dad’s new appreciation of my existence, which warms the heart, and the finding of precious images from my childhood, like where I brave icy mountain streams, or cross them with my mother – memories of intensely happy times that restored my spirit.

 

 

 

Worth reflecting on, BBC4 broadcasted a prospect of old age that seems kind of scary in its social implications …

Should we retire the concept of aging?

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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.

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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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… what’s your age again? …

Copy Chair in Spider Hut 2 smallerThe question grates, especially when a round number announces yet another decade looming ahead. While the 40s suggests respectable maturity, the 50s have an aura of old gold best valued by insurance and investment companies. Once you enter the 60s, no matter how rich, poor, active, passive or just blissfully sober, public consensus puts you in line for the moot title ‘retired.’

Once you get over this pesky label, there’s a perk – time slows.

Perceiving life in slow motion has been called wisdom ever since people recognised that slow time reveals hidden dimensions, realities other than those experienced in the speed-lane. Within the present digital pulse of life, days, seasons and years skip ahead at a dizzying velocity. The phenomenon has shortened the shelf life of people, ideas, and objects. A few years ago the motherboard of my laptop crashed. The young man at the IT shop looked amazed. ‘They shouldn’t last that long.’ My laptop was 5 years old. I guess it’s supernatural that my 25 year old Bosch washing machine still works perfectly.

When young, I lifted off, ascended, sped across horizons, acted out and engaged intensely with life. Youth in itself brings of course no guarantee of ascending. Age holds similar uncertainties. Ideally, it allows one to slow down, descent inward, assimilate and integrate experiences, develop patience and insight, re-connect, and grasp the myth of one’s life, and the myth of one’s century.

My point is – descent has a vital function in society. If we can manage to work part-time, or independently during the second half of our lifespan, weRa hand, edit 2 may gain the freedom to reflect, attend to the body’s intelligence, and find our inner rhythm. A thought sculpture may develop, a mood may linger. Communicating may happen along deeper wavelengths. The experience and perception of slow time has a calming influence on the collective psyche, like the prayers and contemplations observed by nuns and monks in monasteries are said to keep the world in balance. I truly believe this.

For those who practice a vocation they love, or develop a passion that keeps them curious and focussed, aging is a side-issue. New technical procedures may not be instantly absorbed, but they provide food for thought. The movie occasionally rolls on silently. Memos reappear, which the younger self, swept along by the speed of progress, may have overlooked, but which in a wider context assume new significance.

The manner that informed wisdom in past cultures and classic times may have remained the same, but elders today have a more complex task in finding apt metaphors for what’s been happening during our single lifetime, poignant lessons that could guide us onwards. When young, our mind feels eternal, we make thing happen, are in sync with the pace of progress and create the future. But what if wisdoms assimilated during inner journeys and the deeper comprehension of present lifetimes are not sufficiently communicated?

The next round of ascent may be hampered by ladders with broken steps, leaving us stuck with unsurmountable problems and senseless social systems. All is not well. The ascending and descending energies working through our present decades are askew. Unless elders have acquired eminence, their voices, their stories, the harvest of their unique experiences, are easily considered useless. Wisdom is not equivalent to the IQ flatland that education systems bank on. Wisdom is more about questions than answers, more like a dance, a tracing of patterns and parallels. Wisdom employs the imagination, re-shuffles knowledge, re-interprets and re-connects ideas to create new meaning.

Image by Yeshen Venema

Image by Yeshen Venema

There’ll always be young ones born old and wise, and old ones who turn young and adventurous. Intangible experiences and the insights of all age groups seek expression and must be circulation, because we are animated by forces not accessible to us. Fate cannot be controlled, but nudges us from the dark. It’s therefor essential to bring our light not only to matter, but to the totality of the psyche, including the unconscious layers of our past and our future, our unknown human potential. We need spaces to make visible what inspires individuals. In this the arts must serve.

The arts need public support in providing free spaces, and funding for everyone, young and old, to engage with and share their imagination in any form that moves their heart. In a culture that prizes speed above all else, the inner journey, the long view, listening, trusting, gratitude, the appreciation of difference, small things, and the cultivation of inner silence from which conflict resolution, intuition and creativity can spring, has never been more important.

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Re: Elders … there is a group brought together by Nelson Mandela in 2007 http://www.theelders.org/ Add your support to the eighty thousand follower on twitter –  @TheElders   – This is their mission:

Our vision is of a world where people live in peace, conscious of their common humanity and their shared responsibilities for each other, for the planet and for future generations. We see a world in which there is universal respect for human rights; in which poverty has been eliminated; in which people are free from fear and oppression and are able to fulfil their true potential.

Initially the concept emerged from a conversation between Richard Branson and Peter Gabriel. Together, they took their idea of a group of global elders to Nelson Mandela who agreed to support it.                                                     http://www.virgin.com/unite/leadership-and-advocacy/richard-branson-birth-elders

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