Tag Archives: parents

… 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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… erotic charge of flawed characters …

Literature thrives on flawed characters. With the sinister Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, for example, Emily Bronte tapped into the shadowy aspect of masculinity.

C G Jung calls the latent masculine within women the Animus. Both in its light and dark aspects, this archetypal blueprint can put women under a spell.

I can see Jonny play the disparate twins in my novels :)

I can see Jonny play the disparate twins in my novels 🙂

Equally, the latent feminine potential within men, the Anima, can evoke both, the guiding wisdom of Sophia or the dark erotic charge of Medusa, causing tremendous fear of nature and its awesome power.

Rather than using the image of a femme fatal, I choose to show what  fear of the feminine inspires in some cultures.

Rather than using the image of a femme fatal, I choose to show what fear of the feminine inspires in some cultures.

Our irrational attractions can be sparked and coloured by the parent of the opposite sex. Like a woman with a brooding and unapproachable father may have to kiss many frogs before she discovers the prince inside, while an idealising father can trap his girl in vacuous fantasies. And the boy of a manipulative mother may develop resentment or idealisation for women, or both in a toxic mix. What we tend to project onto the opposite sex is however deeply sculpted by a collective archetypal storehouse of experiences with dual aspects. Paradoxically, this storehouse is also the source of our most powerful experiences and innovations. Whether in a life-giving shape or a dark and petrifying shape, either way, the Animus and Anima hold a numinous fascination until their autonomous grip on us emerges into awareness, becomes conscious, is redeemed, turns creative and makes us truly human.

In my first novel, Course of Mirrors, my protagonist, Ananda, is torn between two disparate men, twins. The theme continues into the sequel – Shapers – with higher stakes in another time zone. In the excerpt below, Gart is rescued from a dangerous impasse by a trickster and transported into the twentieth century, where he meets the story teller and myth-maker, Cara.

*     *     *

Short excerpt from chapter 12, Shapers

Back in Derrynane

Five hundred years back, at the Kerry peninsula, Gart pondered how he came to sit at this familiar coast, under a dull sky that matched his mood, the sea before him rolling and spitting at his soiled boots. It was the trickster’s doing, of course. He did not thank Zap for transporting him back here, where an old crone had hexed him and a group of weird artisans had made him look like a fool. Yet it was here that he first met Mesa, who he now pined for in his bones. He must get back to Rhonda and outdo Crim. And Leo must be terminated, since he had obviously gone mad, and courted disaster if he planned to control Rhonda’s army. The Governor of Guardians, ha, they despised the fat man. It was him, Gart they followed.

‘I messed up,’ Zap acknowledged, stretching on the wet sand nearby and cracking his joints. ‘Forgot, I can’t activate coordinates for the hub, and this happens to be the only other place we’ve been in together before. I had little choice. ’

‘You’re not so bright after all, are you?’ Gart grunted.

‘At least we’re not consumed by noxious fumes of our own making. Best not dwell on the past.’

‘We are in the past, eejit.’

‘Local slang, eh? You’re a fast learner. You score a point. Zap jumped up and ran a circle of cartwheels. ’Let’s go up to the estate, see who’s there.’

Derrynane estate looked deserted. ‘Nippy air on the plateau,’ Zap said, ‘you would’ve thought they’d light a fire, but not a whisk of smoke from the chimneys.’ The men slipped through the narrow gap between green-smothered walls, the two dragons, Zap recalled, though now their shape was lost under rampant ivy. The yard, empty of dogs, cats, geese or horses, had a silver car parked near the main entrance. Zap whistled, ‘Flashy design, time’s moved on since we’ve been here last.’

Gart’s heart lurched at the sight of the woman appearing in the porch.

‘Hi,’ she said, ‘do I know you? You’ve been here before, haven’t you?’

Zap, in Shaper style, put a hand to his heart. He too recognised her, though she had turned into a mature woman. ‘You’re Cara, I remember. Where’s everybody?  Saki, Anke, Mushki …’

‘Oh the troupe, goodness, that was years ago. When Gutch and Craig joined them they hit the road together. I think they operate from a place at the English coast.’

‘And that witch?’ Gart wanted to know.

Cara gave him a piercing look. ‘You mean the oracle of my mentor, Tilly. She has sent me here, for a retreat. I only just arrived. I plan to spend some time writing on my story of Mesa.’

‘I hope the story includes us,’ Zap said, we’re friends of Mesa.’ He shot a glance at Gart, whose mouth opened and shut in confusion.

‘You better come in.’ Cara’s scalp tingled. This must have been what Tilly had had in mind, to process the strange occurrences from so many years ago. ‘Zap and Gart, is it?’ Like Tilly, they hadn’t aged at all, while she herself had gained ten years. To mask her excitement she whizzed around the kitchen. She stacked kindling in the cooker, emptied her shopping into the fridge, plonked bread and cheese on the table, put a kettle on, fetched plates and cups and cutlery, all the while feeling Gart’s eyes on her. She told her guest about her life, her journeys, and studies. Zap helped with arranging the table and kept nodding, eager to hear all she had to say. Cara only tried to gain time to collect herself before she was ready to ask the questions pressing on her mind, about Sax, about Rhonda, about Mesa.

‘Shall I get logs?’ Zap asked sweetly.

‘Oh yes, please. I was planning to camp in the cottage, but we might as well get rid of the chill in the big house. The cooker is attached to a central heating.’ She watched Zap walking out with a basket, charmed by the ease of his manner.  Gart made way for Zap but did not offer any help. Rooted to one place since entering the kitchen, he resumed his position, leaning casually against the door frame  Now they were alone Cara couldn’t avoid him. Their eyes met. She blushed. He had followed her every movement with an air of aloofness. A hint of curiosity sneaked into his eyes.

‘I look like her. Is that it?’ Cara said.

‘In a way.’ Gart moved towards the table and pulled out a chair to sit on. ‘What happened to your lover, Dillon?’

‘We split, went our different ways. He had his quest.’

‘What quest?’ Gart asked. The term perked his interest since Oruba had called his underground journey a quest.

‘Not my tale to tell. He may have found whatever he was looking for.’

Zap returned, groaning under the heavy basket of wood on his shoulders. He piled logs over kindling in the cooker and neatly stacked the rest against the wall before he went to get another load. Cara lit the fire. Gart, intrigued about her remark regarding Dillon’s quest, struggled to grasp what precisely intrigued him. He scratched his ear, as if hoping for a message. He resented how confusion undermined his confidence. The kettle whistled. To snap out of his dazed state, Gart got up to pour the boiling water over the coffee in the percolator Cara had prepared. ‘Thank you,’ she said, surprised. When Zap returned they settled to a meal. It was Cara’s turn to ask questions. Intermittently Zap fed the fire and they moved from coffee to drinking wine. The story Cara was so eager to hear unfolding was punctured by heated disagreements between Zap and Gart.

‘Some names have changed, but I recognise the characters.’ Cara said, jotting down notes, pen hot in her hand. ‘I thought they’d outlawed weapons in Rhonda. Where did the laser guns come from?’

Gart said. ‘Leo must have raided the Archives. Everything from ancient pasts is stored in the pyramids surrounding the archives – and there maybe catacombs under them. I know this because Leo let it slip once. ‘The man’s a danger to Rhonda. I’ll put an end to him.’

Zap shook his head. ‘Killing Leo, and start a war! Use your imagination. He turned to Cara. ‘If you’ve a say in this story, keep this man away from Mesa. He’s murdered in the past, he can do it again. Mesa deserves better.’

Gart pushed back his chair and sent it cluttering to the tiled floor. He stormed from the kitchen. Cara felt the hurt pride under Gart’s rage. Zap crunched his fist and stared into space. Fiercely protective of Mesa, he had clean anger under his pain. ‘Please keep the fire going, Zap, there may be frost tonight. I’ll talk to Gart,’ Cara said. And she knew where to find him.

The sky had cleared towards the horizon. Beyond the yard, the autumn breeze picked up, biting through Cara’s light coat. She saw him standing at the cliff, looking towards the faint silver band that now divided sea and sky. A diaphanous layer of cloud screened the late sun, against which Gart’s lean body looked delicate, like a feather drawing. Why had she invested her story with two lovers, men who did not see eye to eye, men as different as Assisi and Caligula?  He did not turn to look at her as she stepped close to him. He did not move at all, his mind had wandered off through time’s veil, searching for Mesa, no doubt. ‘You see,’ Cara said, ‘once we have given life to something we can’t control it, we can only try to influence an outcome with truth, which is not always in tune with our wants.’

‘I don’t understand.’ Gart finally met her eyes. ‘You created this damn story. Whose side are you on?’

‘Truth is hard to discern, its meaning is held in another reality, where on-going myths are spun. You became part of my story because you walked into it, in a most brutal and controlling manner, though it wasn’t entirely your fault. Does the name Batin mean anything to you?’

Gart felt a stab of fear, but quickly shrugged it off. ‘I think I met a ghost of that name.’

‘How your path unfolds depends on your engagement with what you attract. It’s the same for me, but in addition I’m recording fates, yours, Leo’s, Zap’s, Mirre’s, Oruba’s, Mesa’s, Crim’s… ‘

He cut in. ‘Crim’s one too many.’

Cara sighed. ‘I care for all of your fates, they affect me deeply.  My feelings swing about, gyrate like a weathervane does when it storms, which should kind of answer your question. Right now, as I stand here next to you, sensing the pain you can’t quite admit, I’m on your side, but my alliance can change, from moment to moment, from day to day, from chapter to chapter, since like you, I’m compelled by this quest for truth.’

‘Truth again …’ Gart’s lips curled and broke into a devastating smile. ‘Tell me this then – why does Mesa look like you?’

Cara swallowed her shock. He had touched on her core identification, revealing her disparate affections, the turmoil she experienced between the two types of men she was enmeshed with across time, of whom one now exploited her vulnerability, took complete possession of her with his eyes. And faithful to his nature, he relished in the conquest. Cara’s heart quickened. From deep inside her body she felt his pull, as if by a rope. His seductive power made her tremble. Yet she knew he cared only about himself. And coerced by her divided nature, her concern instantly switched to Crim.

*    *    *

If you’re not familiar with the concepts of the Shadow, Animus or Anima, the Wikipedia pages can serve as introduction.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow_(psychology)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anima_and_animus

And anyone who has never heard of Joseph Campbell – this book is a must for writers.

http://www.amazon.com/Thousand-Faces-Collected-Joseph-Campbell/dp/1577315936

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… village poem …

 My father’s recent move away from the village I grew up in meant another goodbye, though my impressions of the place live on in me, and my writing. I like to share an old, bitter-sweet lyrical poem, which recalls an aspect of my experience growing up in a village. It leaves out the lake,  the mountains, and the church-bells – their marking of time could make an epic- their melodic ring still sounds once every quarter of the hour, and every hour in full from morning to midnight, so that people should not lose themselves in relative time.

 

 

The Village Poem

Through the veil of time I drop to the heart of my village,

child again, inhaling dust and summer-heat.

Drawn to the bright blue tiles in the dairy, I suck cool air,

watch the jet of buttermilk spool from pump to cup like silk.

 

The milkmaid frowns at the antics of our pianist, whose mass

of silver hair trails dangerously close to a display of camembert,

while her left hand swings a crystal pendulum, her daily rite

in search of resonance. I hold an image of her fine hands

striking keys on a white grand, giving air to Bach and Brahms

below the star-lit night, painted on her study’s cupola.

 

She is my link to otherness, the unseen in me, the odd child,

who rejects the cream for the undercurrent of her dream.

 

Crisp greens at the grocer, white roots, red fruit and purple aubergines.

The woman flicks brown paper to a cone, scoops pickled kraut:

‘Take it, to nibble on your way.’ Warm wafts of steam rise up

from the cellar of the bakery, a scent of cinnamon lingers in the street.

Taming and bonding takes place; it’s easy to love and be loved

when food is bait and the tongue’s code for paradise is taste.

 

In shops, daily gossip thrives, turning the fate of familiar faces.

Sweet tongues do sour talk – the time it takes to pay – a hero is made

or falls from grace. Spells are cast: ‘No good will come of it,’

and refrained, ‘Just as I said, I knew it form the start.’

Confused, I veil my face and seek the last shop in the street.

Here my village becomes the village and its many tales can be read.

 

I inhale the vast promise of virgin books

and a smell of print more exciting than bread.

*     *     *    Ashen

An areal photo of my village, taken by my father.

Then there is me with my mum at the lake …

 

 

 

 

And a class picture, taken around that time, from primary school. You can click on the images here to enlarge them.

 

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… the recycling of unease …

Merciless downpours – I occasionally dash between strings of rain to trim the green jungle in my garden and pick a handful of wild strawberries. Tonight, looking east, the sky is grey. And not a leaf stirs, due to the full moon. In the next room a brilliant sunset reflects in a glass-framed painting. And as I look east again, a high cloud is blushed in rose-colour. More rain announced. It is the wettest summer in my many lifetimes, of late a tumultuous time. I was indirectly affected by a trauma, not mine, not my story to tell, though I’m proud of two dear young people who dealt admirably with the fallout of having their flat in London broken in. Several flats in the same block were crashed into with crowbars within the span of two hours and in bright daylight. Picture the scenario: you leave your home for a short while and return to find your front door broken and all means of communication, including the creative tools needed for your livelihood – gone. The logistics of solving the problem are, to put it mildly, overwhelming.

I bemoan the motherly welfare state and the infantile moral consciousness it feeds. I observe signs in my relatively crime-free little town. As an illustration, the other day in a car park I observed a woman tossing an empty plastic bottle from her car- window before she drove off. Her children in the backseat looked on. What motivates careless behaviour? What jumped to my mind – probably a negative mother (state) dependency, a resentment of mother’s permissiveness, having being patronised and cheated out of meaningful relationships and been entranced by the material world.

Next day I visited a car boot sale in search of world-objects for my sand tray therapy work. A young girl spilled coins from her purse over the stall while paying for a trinket. A few coins fell to the grass. A boy behind her casually covered one of the coins with his foot. He didn’t even smile at his clever trick. His face was blank. This chilled me. Without parents to model self-respect, how will children become psychologically independent individuals?

We all experience the acceleration of change. The changes in my lifetime eroded structures of meaning that carried values I held dear. Change is however the only constant. Navigating change without straining our nervous system and by implication the nervous system of our planet is a challenge that requires an attitude of self-respect and tolerance: the ability to bear contradiction and confusion.

While collisions of mythologies storm all around us, we have the elation about the Higgs particle, indicator of a Higgs field. The single-minded work of a scientific community including 20 member states is remarkable, I’d be proud to be part of it. But wait, many more billions will now be spent on search for super symmetry (SUSY).  Imagine what could be achieved if even a tiny portion of this budget would go towards exploring the autonomous postulates spouting from our collective unconscious, in other words, exploring the underlying structure of the human psyche, of which the visible particles populate our dysfunctional societies.

Light is both particle and wave, and though we can only observe one at a time it is one light.

*      *      *

What In The World IS A Higgs Boson?

http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/04/what-in-the-world-is-a-higgs-boson/?src=un&feedurl=http%3A%2F%2Fjson8.nytimes.com%2Fpages%2Fscience%2Findex.jsonp

An interview with Dr Lisa Randall, from last year but more informative

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/12/science/physicists-anxiously-await-news-of-the-god-particle.html

Sandplay therapy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GD6PPwUlgGM&feature=related    Not me

http://sandplayvideos.com/sandplay-therapy-training

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… Is a parent ever unemployed ? …

Something new – AVAAZ encourages individual campaigns now . I started one. Click the link and read the proposal, and if you like the idea vote for it.

http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Put_parents_on_the_payroll/?fHNQuab&pv=0

Yes, it makes sense – put parents on the payroll – tied to the attendance of courses.  Here some more thoughts as to why …

Family structures are changing for a variety of reasons. No use blaming parents and home-makers that are unable to cope. No good romanticising the past. Parents and carers need  support in this time of flux.  New structures are emerging, single parents or carers, for example, seek families of heart and mind. Our policy-makers don’t seem to take note of this phenomenon. Think of independent units around a communal space that would allow socialising and the sharing of skills.

And why not use the psychological knowledge that has been available for decades? Why is this knowledge not disseminated to parents? Corporations require further training from their employees, offer courses that teach people skills, because they realise these skills improve business.

Parenting is important business, without question the most important one.  Years ago, when I was involved with Parent-Link, sharing skills, I had an idea how to create more opportunities for parents and raise their status. You can read about it by clicking on the AVAAZ link above.  And please vote, or come up with your own ideas.

Present social policies often force a mother or father to beg alms from the state, become unemployed. Is a parent ever unemployed?  Children are the future and must concern us all. I meet many parents, who, even with heightened awareness, tenacity, creativity and sacrifice, struggle to stay sane.

Thanks

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… the wild horse of the mind …

I thought I open the window a bit to what I’m immersed in, drafting the sequel to Course of Mirrors, called Shapers. Another mythic adventure, and more. The short piece below is not representative of the tense action this story has plenty of, but depicts a pivotal moment. The scenery is  Eire, where time-zones overlap. In 2550 AD the island is called Sax, where Rhonda, the super-controlling power, cast their misfits.  In the excerpt below, Tilly (Cassia in Ana’s story) has arranged for Cara and Mesa to meet in Kerry during the 1970s.

The theme touches on the creative process. Something for my writer friends. I welcome any feedback to the draft.

*    *    *

Tilly’s ruined estate on the Kerry peninsula was one among many places around the world where past and future began to cross or run parallel during the 1970s. Not all drop-outs travelling through Derrynane were aware of the phenomenon. Those open to the new wavelengths either tuned in, or received no more than garbled white noise. The going slogan was – love, don’t think – though it should have been – love and think – and stay grounded. These were turbulent times. Traditionalists abhorred the breaking free of conditioning. Leaps into the unknown frightened them.

This is Cara’s time, and these are her thoughts: Personal myth is a complex self-creation, mainly unconscious, but less so once we replace the postulates we inherited with our own, and are drawn to our psychic kin. Every night when the body rests we visit beings in other spheres. We may discount these sojourns as dreams unrelated to our daily existence. Yet bridging occurs when we value inner dynamics and re-story the associative symbols of images. Resonance momentarily fills the void between the known and the unknown, and meaning is assigned to events. Some good people trust in God, but then abnegate their creativity. Are we not the desire of a divine will? Are we not the ears, eyes, nose, hands and feet of a universal intelligence, of which we are the deed? Does not our speech derive from one sound? And is love not the creed that breathes all things and directs the movement of all spheres? I don’t understand the need to prove or disprove a universal intelligence that is within and all around us. The world I create is imperfect and suffers from on-going flux. But I can bring my small flame to its shadows.

Now that Cara’s myth caught up with her, and she was confronted with the net of postulates she had cast into the future. She found herself challenged to engage with what she animated, because she was animated by it.

Gutch spotted Tilly talking to Cara and Mesa in the hall. He was bursting with pleasure. ‘I found my clan,’ he said. ‘This place is teeming with talented actors. We’re going to do some magic theatre. Are you joining us?’

‘I need to take care of something,’ Tilly said. Can you keep an eye on Gart?’

‘That devil had some weird conversion trip and is sound asleep under the table.’

‘Excellent. Let him sleep.’

When Cara and Mesa arrived at the cottage across the atrium, Tilly had lit a fire in the hearth. A nest of chairs invited them, and the smell of fresh coffee. ‘Have some,’ she said, ‘pointing to a steaming pot, ‘and there’s chocolate cake, too.’ Mesa soaked up the atmosphere, transported to Ana’s world, reminded of Cassia’s kitchen. Tilly placed a small leather pouch in Cara’s lap. ‘Here, forged by fire, polished by the sea, a gift of remembrance.’

Cara opened and turned the pouch. A black stone fell into her hand – smooth as marble, yet radiating warmth and shining in the glow of the fire. ‘Ana’s talisman!’

‘Yes, and you might as well own it.’ Tilly paused, gazing into the flames. ‘I have a favour to ask from you, for Mesa’s benefit.’

‘What favour?’ Cara poured cups of coffee for everyone, dished out giant slices of chocolate cake and added a dollop of whipped cream to each.

‘Your future, Cara, has come to visit you. Mesa returned to assimilate what was lost to her. With Ana’s story you re-animated her soul. Certain events in history require beings to return, to right things or bring a message.  Mesa will take on her role in the odyssey of the Ypocs. And she’s going to be the narrator of your story, Cara.’

‘Huh, this takes a leap of the imagination. I haven’t even smoked the weed.’

Tilly smiled. ‘You know what it takes. Uncovering a personal myth is different from writing a Hollywood script. To help Mesa to re-connect with random creative processes, I want you to explain to her in as much detail as possible how your mind works.’

Cara heaved a breath. ‘The idea sucks every thought from my head.’

‘That’s a good start.’

‘All right, here goes a slice of random micro processing … Momentarily stuck with a paragraph, I remember to stretch my legs. In the kitchen I snatch a yogurt from the fridge. I notice a sticky shelf – mental note – clean it soon. Dark clouds gather outside, looks like rain. I run up to the bathroom and close the window. On the way down, I see dust-clouds on the stairs – mental note. Heading for the desk I stop by the fridge again because I’m now really hungry. I prepare a sandwich – mental note – put butter on shopping list. I use the loo – mental note – toilet paper is running out. Telephone rings. The answer machine kicks in. Just as well, I’ll return the call later – mental note. A letter that needs sending sits next to the phone, I put a stamp on it – mental note – post it. A fly is trapped in the window. I release the fly and study a tree out front that leans over and needs pruning. I quickly assess which branch to cut – mental note. Off to my desk. Passing a shelf I spot the book I couldn’t find earlier. What a relief! I plonk it on my research file and am reminded of an article I need to chase – mental note. The sun shines again. I open the backdoor and listen to the birds. Grass needs cutting – mental note. Finally back with my paragraph the writing flows, sheer bliss. At a natural break in the narrative I decide to go shopping. In the car I have an epiphany relating to a character in my story, to do with birds – mental note. The walker I pass reminds me to visit a certain person – mental note. I recall this person collects small antique tins. I could find him a present – mental note. I think of metaphors, how obsessions, like collecting tins, are really personalised teachings – mental note.’

Mesa had listened with rapt attention. ‘What happens to all the mental notes?’

‘Ha, ha … they’re promises. They’re torture. They heap up. They demand execution. My way to deal with accumulative pressures and gain time to focus on my writing is through procrastination. I’ve become patient with nagging voices. They’re not jailors. They’re easily humoured until the time is right for a blitz. Then I act fast and achieve a great deal in a short time, happy to have cleared the space.

‘But why give these mental notes the power of demands over you? Mesa asked.

Cara glanced at Tilly, who had taken up knitting, as if the dialogue bored her.  What was her agenda? Was this really for Mesa’s benefit? Tilly smiled and said, ‘Go on.’

‘It started out as compulsive pattern. I was conditioned to respond to the needs of my environment, and to maintain order. There are exceptions. Some days, it could be the weather, a dream, the stars … from the moment I open my eyes everything flows effortlessly. My brain is relaxed and I attract harmonious thoughts, like I’m fine-tuned to a subtler station, beyond the busy bandwidth of neurotic naggers. The tuning can be learned. It’s like taming a wild horse. I can actually do it, when necessary. But I like letting the horse run wild. I find wild things that way.’

‘We have different conditioning,’ Mesa said. ‘From early on I was trained to tame my mind, to let it rest like a still pond, or focus thoughts like laser beams. Then free play was introduced, disrupting Rhonda’s order, and all went wrong for the Ypoc.’

‘Aha! I bet you didn’t have to juggle a deep conflict, and oppose a controlling father.’

Tilly dropped her knitting. ‘This gets interesting. It’s what Mesa came back for.’

* * *

Apologies: The origin of the image of the horse is unknown to me.  Many thanks to the photographer.

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… beyond nature & nurture – the epigenome …

There are days when I can’t decide whose eyes to look through. You might ask, ‘has she got multiple personalities? Yes, in a way, I have a crowd inside. Haven’t you? My philosopher has been plaguing me all month, parenting on her mind, so I’ll let her mull over the stuff she tries to make sense of in the hope that peace returns and my poet can smile again.

Yew at Waverley Abbey

Yew at Waverley Abbey

Research in the field of epigenetics validates that experience is trans-generational.  In other words, the trauma and bliss of parents, grandparents … is marked in ways that switch gene-activity on and off, and can, given the right triggers, reactivate dispositions in future generations.  The genetic motherboard, as it were, is continuously over-written by what happens to us in our lifetime, and, based on my understanding, by how we process, interpret and assign meaning to events.

Re: the epigenome, and the power of environment over gene expression– quoted from an article by John Cloud in Times Magazine, Jan 2010

At its most basic, epigenetics is the study of changes in gene activity that do not involve alterations to the genetic code but still get passed down to at least one successive generation. These patterns of gene expression are governed by the cellular material — the epigenome — that sits on top of the genome, just outside it (hence the prefix epi-, which means above). It is these epigenetic “marks” that tell your genes to switch on or off, to speak loudly or whisper. It is through epigenetic marks that environmental factors like diet, stress and prenatal nutrition can make an imprint on genes that is passed from one generation to the next.
Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1952313,00.html#ixzz1VeKwJ9M0

Research focusses on medical benefits, but it would take a blinkered mind not look at the psychological and social factors this research also highlights, a correlation demanding a closer look at initial imprints –the environment in the womb – at birth – and in the early home, including the emotional state of mothers. Improving initial environments for the new-born would reconcile reason with intuition and gradually repair dysfunctions, though healing of any kind and at every stage in life needs re-framing – the healing attitude, glance, voice, and the aesthetics of our surroundings.

The opportunity to tell one’s story can highlight patterns in one’s family. A story lives by its interpretation, which brings its own counsel. And there are creative methods that uncover dynamics based on fears, some stemming from pre-verbal experiences. Each time a person becomes emotionally and cognitively aware of a habitual relationship pattern, a kind of ‘aha’ moment happens that shifts perception, and with it behaviour, which in turn changes future experiences. Better still, if one person in a family (or group) becomes aware of a previously unconscious habit and behaves differently, subtle changes take place that lighten the structure of the whole group. Spooky, you might think. Not so. Meaning changes, a node dissolves, a pattern is released.

Within nature’s unconscious force everything is symbiotically connected to everything else, and it leaves a record of imprints, as in layers of rock, as in the slice of a tree trunk whose rings reveal the weather of many seasons, as in our body tissue. Many people are hesitant to admit their intuitive knowing of another record, one that mirrors the physical – a psychic record – structured outside space and time, and held by meaning.

Not even quantum mechanics has changed our culture’s material attitude. It seems only direct experience will convince the rational mind that we are psychological beings who will continue to energise what has meaning for us. Stories, dreams and myths inform every human ideal, until it requires adjustment, at which point tradition is often fiercely defended.  Science, too, needs to adjust its ideal, and stop functioning as a defence against the collective shadow. We must uphold our relationship with nature and individually face its dark side, listen to how it speaks of the fear we suppress, which usually finds a violent outlet.

As children and teens we are defined by others, first parents, then groups we belong to. Many people are content to belong and thrive. But many more are on the move and live several lives in one lifetime. We grow psychologically faster than our parents. Those who develop the ego-strength to define themselves individually and commit to a purpose are challenged towards self-knowledge, which calls for differentiation, focus, self-analysis, tolerating inner conflict, empathy, humility, discipline … and lots of humour …   It is a process towards psychological integration, and, amidst all the chaos of transition today, a way towards the realization that we and the universe are one, not only one body, but one unified consciousness.

These are my ramblings, inspired by resonating minds. Maybe the funders of molecular biology will widen their perspective and read our genome in a more dynamic way.  As ever, nature is the book, though much depends on the interpretations of its text. I suspect the larger part of any living system needs to be unconscious in order to self-organise … for all of humanity to become conscious would require a collective self that was capable of standing outside of itself, integrated enough to overcome its hubris.

And it does not make one dot of difference if we believe consciousness to be a by-product of the brain, or the brain to be a by-product of consciousness, what matters is that they function together.

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If you’re interested in the scientific theories that go beyond the selfish gene you might want to explore epigenetics. Here are a few links:

Evolution in Four Dimensions by Eva Jablonka and Marion Lamb is a lucid book that restores subtlety to evolutionary theory, says Steven Rose

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2005/jul/23/featuresreviews.guardianreview8

Evolutionary theories are changing …

http://videolectures.net/bzid08_jablonka_onrvo/

And the article from which I quoted …

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1952313,00.html

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… put parents on the payroll …

Traditional family structures are falling apart for a variety of reasons. No use blaming parents for their inability to cope, or romanticising the past. When we look at the whole picture, we must also acknowledge that the sacred family unit was often a torture chamber of abuse. Affected individuals (predominantly women and children) suffered in silence. The shocking narratives that keep emerging from across all sections of society show ignorance perpetuated over generations about what a child needs to thrive.

On the positive side, there are new forms of families emerging, families of heart and mind. Housing policies seem blind to this new phenomenon. The trend is still to build little boxes rather than independent units around a communal space that would allow socialising and sharing.

On the negative side, why is the psychological knowledge that has been available for decades not disseminated to parents? Corporations offer courses on motivation and people skills to their employees, because they realise these skills improve business.

There were attempts. During the 80’s and 90s, I was involved with Parent Link, a non-profit scheme that offered a playful and empowering set of twelve experiential sessions transmitting people skills. The resulting emotional self-awareness reduced stress and frequently turned lives around. The charity, set up by I. Sokolov and J. Pearson, offered subsidised training to parents who had benefitted from what they learned, and unlearned. Consequently hundreds of parents went on to facilitate more courses, drawing in more parents. Teachers were keen to bring the programme into schools. Sadly, without government support, the brilliant scheme did not survive its popular success.

Since stay-home parents pay no tax, they are considered a drain on government resources, unless they get a job and perk up the employment statistics. The status of parents has been gradually eroded, and, to top it, they are blamed for the ills of society.

Ten years ago I hatched the following idea and was laughed at:

Offer an appropriate part-time wage (taxed) to those who choose to be vocational parents or carers and are willing to learn, since the wage would be tied to basic obligations, like involvement in the community and the attendance of courses to develop relevant skills and knowledge. A reward for the most vital of all contributions to society would shift the status of a parent or carer – lessen social segregation – defuse the destructive acrimonious fights over property and maintenance where relationships break up –  raise self-esteem and build a stronger community spirit through networking and sharing of responsibilities, while still allowing part time work outside the home.

A parent or carer who has financial security will not be perceived as a burden to the state. No more would he/she be diminished by cliché projections and judgements.

It makes also financial sense – some benefits could be scrapped and the funds re-applied to wages, skills training and creative community projects.

And here is why any idea that proposes a shift in the social structure will be regarded as naïve, and not convince politicians:

Our social system thrives on unsustainability. Problems have become a growth industry. In the social sphere it is poverty, unemployment, sickness and criminality that have turned into the most profitable enterprises.

Present social policies are irresponsible, like building a high-rise in an earthquake zone disregarding safety regulations. They are based on blame, the lowest of all public denominators. They are an insult to the intelligence of ordinary people, who, with heightened awareness, tenacity, creativity and sacrifice, struggle to stay sane.

Ashen Venema

The above illustration is by Daphne Jo Grant, and was  kindly provided for my 1993 poetry collection ‘Gapsy Truth.’

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