Tag Archives: religion

… 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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… why spin tales? …

Die Nachtigall-02 Why spin tales, why listen to them, enact them on stage, dance them, ritualise them, read them, write them, re-write them?    We tell stories to ourselves and each other, to entertain, inspire, amplify events, or in search for meaning.

When it comes to stories, fact-finders tend to miss the point. Too many sequential facts can befuddle a truth that lingers in the higher or deeper layers of consciousness, from where vital symbolic insights shine through a narrative.

We owe much to Joseph Campbell, who with life-long passion explored the origins of myths and their functions throughout human history: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Campbell

And check out these fantastic documentaries: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Power_of_Myth

A myth is a public dream – a dream is a private myth. – Joseph Campbell

 

In my psychotherapy practice, clients present their story in unique ways that occasionally include lucid dreams of past lives. I deeply respect the power of the imagination. In neutral mode, I listen. So it happens that a trauma set in thirteenth century Languedoc, when Cathars were branded as heretics and massacred by the Catholic Church, can deeply trouble a person’s psyche with visceral images. I travel along, and as the story is released, I may bridge the emotional resonance of a pattern to the present life of a client. In this process profound cognitions can soften a psychological complex.

Lasting examples of deeper truths are mirrored in Fairy-tales and myths, where basic patterns of our collective unconscious psyche are brought into relief. That is, if we can grasp the metaphors under the primary meaning of words. Fictional settings for heroic or anti-heroic characters are particularly suited to convey powerful emotional themes infused with archetypal elements.

… the spirit of an age is more essentially mirrored in its fairy-tales than in the most painstaking chronicle of a contemporary diarist … Raymond Chandler – Realism and Fairy-land

Some religions persist in the literal truths of their sacred texts. Scientists, too, get stuck in dogma, but I emphasize more with the frustration of the latter, since, with the courage of doubt, scientists have pushed the horizon of knowledge outwards by painstakingly reading the book of nature through the language of data, evidencing processes poets and mystics before them intuited, but physical eyes cannot perceive – like radiations other than light. I’m trying to overcome the conflict of the scientist and poet in me. They interpret the world in different but equally significant ways. There is a need to read nature in both languages, so greater understanding and tolerance can develop.

‘With faith one attains and realises peace and harmony. With doubt one destroys and gains freedom to move ontowards.’    – Fazal Inayat-Khan

Memory, objectively true, or false, affects our lives every day. Stories lodged in the heart endure in a timeless dimension of the imagination. We can however alter their interpretation by exploring our perspective, be it from a pit of fatalism, a sense of insecurity, a belief in magic, faith in divine guidance, or the certitude of natural laws. Even the simple acceptance of life’s continuous dynamic change can shift the meaning of our stories, and, of course, it helps to overcome literal mindedness and make an effort to decipher the metaphors.

‘The mystical warrior is trying to reduce the obstruction in the doorway, and the worshipper is attempting to reach the construction behind the doorway, almost out of sight. There is a gap between the two … the vague band between the known and the unknown. In that band rapture is possible.’   – Fazal Inayat-Khan

Stories are the sap of life nourishing the roots and branches of humanity. We spin stories because during the birth of this universe the symmetry between matter and antimatter was broken, kicked out of balance, which resulted in a slight predominance of matter, the stuff we bump into. It’s a poignant thought that this little quirk caused the dynamic asymmetry that evolved into the universe we live in. Without this asymmetry between matter and antimatter our world would be empty, there would be light only – sans elements, sans plants, sans animals, sans night, sans saints, fools, villains – sans consciousness – no story.

*     *     *

For those interested in nuclear physics:

http://www.slac.stanford.edu/pubs/beamline/26/1/26-1-sather.pdf

 

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… the wonderful visit …

I loathe most talk of angels since they became best-selling brands, but the synchronicity of Annie Lennox wearing wings and singing to an angel at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and the discovery of a rare book among my shelves, brought angels up close.

H G Wells (1866-1946) has been referred to as the Father of Science Fiction. A neglected story, The Wonderful Visit, published shortly after The Time Machine, was regarded as a mocking reflection on attitudes, beliefs and the social structure of a typical English village in Victorian times. I read the social commentary as ornamentation, the comical human attempt to stay the same, round a more essential theme, the conflict that can accompany awakening.

The edition below is from 1922 and has an illustration by Conrad Heighton Leigh. The line under it is from chapter 5 – ‘He fired out of pure surprise and habit.’

A strange bird was sighted.

Ornithology being a passion of the Vicar of Siddermorton, Rev. K. Hilyer, he was going to outdo his rivals and hunt the strange bird. So it came to be that on the 4th of August 1895 he shot down an angel.

… He saw what it was, his heart was in his mouth, and he fired out of pure surprise and habit. There was a scream of superhuman agony, the wings beat the air twice, and the victim came slanting swiftly downward and struck the ground – a struggling heap of writhing body, broken wing and flying blood-stained plumes … the Vicar stood aghast, with his smoking gun in his hand. It was no bird at all, but a youth with an extremely beautiful face, clad in a robe of saffron and with iridescent wings … never had the Vicar seen such gorgeous floods of colour …

‘A man,’ said the Angel, clasping his forehead … ‘then I was not deceived, I am indeed in the Land of Dreams.’ The vicar tells him that men are real and angels are myth … ‘It almost makes one think that in some odd way there must be two worlds as it were …’

‘At least two,’ said the Vicar, and goes on ponderinghe loved geometrical speculations, ‘there may be any number of three dimensional universes packed side by side, and all dimly aware of each other.’

They met half way, where reality is loosely defined, and truth has no hold. And they shared the nature of their worlds. Eat, pain, and die were among the new terms the strange visitor had to come to grips with.

‘Pain is the warp and the waft of this life,’ said the Vicar. Riddled with remorse over having maimed the Angel’s wing he decides to looks after him. But to adjust to the Vicar’s world, the Angel must eat and accept pain, and learn all manner of things very fast indeed … Starting to read, during a phase of now legendary sunshine, I settled in my garden with a glass of red, and consequently spilled the wine on my wild strawberry blossoms due to sudden bursts of laughter.

‘What a strange life!’ said the Angel.

‘Yes,’ said the Vicar. ‘What a strange life! But the thing that makes it strange to me is new. I had taken it as a matter of course until you came into my life.’

Mr Angel is nothing like the pure and white angel of popular belief, more like the angel of Italian art, polychromatic, a musical genius with the violin. Listening … the Vicar lost all sense of duration, all sense of necessity … The reactions of the villagers oscillate across a hair-thin-divide between comedy and tragedy, while the bone of the story is psychological, and spiritual. Indirectly, the Vicar encounters his anima (his inner female) through the Angel’s love for Delia, the maid servant of the house. There is no escape. Things get intense. The Angel, over the span of a short week, is tainted by the wickedness of the world, and it crushes him. And the Vicar’s awakening from his narrow prison brings him into tragic conflict with his community.

*    *    *

Not much has changed. The world is crowded with wounded angels seeking compassion, and since our daily vocabulary offers little more than clichés for other realities, awakening rarely convinces, unless it is embodied and conveyed through atmosphere. Look out for the artist… the musician, painter, writer, animator, filmmaker … and the children.

‘If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.’
― William BlakeThe Marriage of Heaven and Hell

The painting heading this post is by the Finnish symbolist painter Hugo Simberg.

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