Tag Archives: the unconscious

… story – art – quest for the cypher – symbol …

As painters or sculptors do, I frequently step back from my writing projects, searching for the core, a half imagined essence to shine through and re-animate the creative flow. Skills alone don’t do it, techniques alone don’t do it, nor style. As long as the essence of what I try to express floats in the unconscious, my efforts will baffle and tease me.

Having listened to thousand and one stories during my 30 years of working as a transpersonal psychotherapist, I conclude that when we tell our story to ourselves, or others who watch and listen, we trace a rhythm, a sound, the distant bubbling of a spring – a theme. While sourcing and shaping words we ideally become aware of how we translate experiences, string up memories and weave a pattern that gives meaning, purpose and direction to our story. We may re-weave the past and change how we perceive life. Even a single image, too evanescent to fit ordinary reality, can assume significance. An ideal may sharpen – and with it a vision of what not yet exists, revealed by the imagination.

Sensual impression, dreams, primary images and the love/hate of relationships, present a puzzle we try to arrange in some kind of order, waiting for a theme to become intelligible, and therefore transmittable. Finding a structure to express our experiences through words, images, movements, sounds, music, or numbers is insufficient. We must play with the fragments – take out bits, or add bits, until a satisfying narrative suggests itself.

World objects from my sand tray

Fairy tales, heroes and villains of myth, historical figures, cartoon characters or pop stars may do the magic by evoking a psychic resonance and providing a metaphor, or a precious symbol to ease the pressure of the archetypal demand lurking in the unconscious.

Not only those we call artists, but all creative people respond to what holds sensual and cognitive fascination for them. I include trades, crafts, makers, men and women with affinities to certain elements, who explore the quality and beauty of materials, like weavers, potters, wood workers, printers, plumbers, electricians … I include technicians, engineers, inventors, scientists and mystics. Curiosity and passion for a subject deepen knowledge and intuition as to how things connect outside, and, vitally, how they connect inside us.

Ashen – directing a film in the woods.

My fascination with creating stories was revived while doing a film degree (as career brake) during the late 1990s. I’m curious about consciousness, relative perception of time, and the interplay of characters for which I invent pasts and futures, where ideals are the means to a goal, while as soon as the goal is reached, a new ideal looms over the horizon. If this were not so, evolution, our whole story would stop. Ursula Le Guin once wrote –

‘In eternity there is nothing novel, and there are no novels.’

My ongoing writing project, a trilogy of stories, involves three soul sisters, Ana, Cara and Mesa. The first (already published) book of the trilogy, ‘Course of Mirrors,’ (see book page) narrates the quest of Ana, which is really the myth of the story teller, Cara, whose theme is seeking a balance for the enigma of clashing feminine and masculine principles. The sequel, ‘Shapers,’ (not yet published) introduces Cara in the twentieth century as she follows the characters of Ana’s myth into a far future society where emotional expressions are outlawed until the experiment breaks down under its duplicity.

In a third book, ‘Mesa,’ a work in progress, same characters move to a realm where time has slowed down to such extend that ‘novelty’ has to be rescued for life to continue. This story calls for a deep dive into the heart of my imagination.

I’m once more held in the cocoon stage. Given the ideological power games around the globe, I feel foolish about these musings, since I’ve been sharing the ups and downs of my quest here for the last seven years.

Do you, my reader, recognise the pressure to bring something into existence? How do you search for the cypher (the wild uniqueness in the soul) that informs your creative process?

*    *    *

A definition of Symbol … from ‘The Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn ‘Arabi’ by Henry Corbin, transl. by Ralph Manheim, Bollingen Series XCI, Princeton University

The symbol announces a plane of consciousness distinct from that of rational evidence; it is a ‘cipher’ of a mystery, the only means of expressing something that cannot be apprehended in any other way; a symbol is never ‘explained’ once and for all, but must be deciphered over and over again, just as a musical score is never deciphered once and for all, but calls for ever new execution.

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… the mysterious object – a fable …

Once upon a time, not far from now, a small planet was veiled in semi-darkness. Humans of a kind lived under a vast cupola strewn with tiny sparkling lights. Space had no dimension, and time was measured by sleep and dream-cycles. The stature of a man, woman or child was crouched and bent, like the shrubs covering the land. Diets were meagre, consisting of crushed insects, seedlings and roots. And for warmth everyone huddled close together in caves.

Great pleasure was derived from ironwood, the rarest of plants, with leaves that warmed the body when chewed. Those gifted in finding the plant called themselves light-seekers, for reasons shortly explained.

One such seeker, a young woman called Lila, was a renowned ironwood huntress. She would disappear from her settlement for many sleep-cycles, driven by the promise of yet another encounter with the red glow of the plant, her reward alone, since the glow vanished once the leaves were reaped. Attempts to dig up this rare plant with its root and cultivate crops near settlements had been in vain. Ironwood did not settle anywhere but wandered unpredictably from place to place.

Great honour was attached to bringing home a harvest of leaves. They were consumed in the ‘great chewing,’ which animated the hearts of participants, and made them burst into song and dance.

Our story begins when Lila had been hunting for three sleep-cycles, without success. Despondent over her bad luck, she was overcome with awe at the sudden appearance of brilliantly glowing object, no bigger than the head of a new-born. As if teasing her, the object drifted almost within her reach. The glow of ironwood paled in comparison to this astounding light. Colours sprang up all-round. Insects were drawn to its radiance, their tiny bodies shimmering. Lila gazed at her hands being doused in gold. Yearning to touch the mystery, she crouched cautiously forward, but the light escaped, and each time Lila advanced, it receded a little more. Often times Lila lurched forward – only to clutch air. She spent her entire strength chasing the small orb which promised an expanded world. Stumbling on, she was oblivious to all but the brightness ahead. Whichever way she turned, the glow was before her, just out of reach.

When Lila was discovered by the people of her settlement her condition aroused much interest. She was speaking in delirium about what she had witnessed. Words so spoken were believed to come from divinities, embodied by water, plants and insects, powerful spirits known to visit people in their dreams. So it happened that the light-seeker’s revelation spread instantly throughout the tribes, and great portent of meaning was attached to the glowing object. Everyone was convinced it really existed. And sure enough, soon people begun to see the orb bouncing above shrubs, and in turn felt compelled to touch it. They fared no better than Lila, yet their desire remained, undiminished.

Clever minds devised coordinated methods. People teamed up. One reached out towards the light while another stood opposite, ready for the catch. The trick failed, of course, since the light simply passed out of reach sideways. The next idea was to create circles at a respectful distance and cautiously close in on the trophy. These events were set up with great attention to detail. Specialists offered refinements to the ritual. However, as you might guess, the instant all hands reached out, the orb floated lazily upwards, a small span beyond the longest arm. Societies developed strict rules of engagement and complex theories about the orb. To differentiate their activities from the commonplace light-seeker, they called themselves truth-seekers.

Drifting ever higher, the mysterious object grew in size, and the desire of truth-seekers to touch its light intensified, and with it the limbs of these small peoples stretched, their spines straightened, and their imagination took flight. Plants, too, reached upwards. Shrubs became trees and the fearless among the community climbed the trees as soon as the glowing object popped over the horizon, because by then, the cycle of its appearance could be counted upon.

sample of my occasional art, 1998

Once the orb passed higher than the highest tree, the innovators among the communities promised future rewards to lesser endowed folk and employed them to cut down the trees and build tower-like wooden structures.

Before the approximate time of the light’s arrival, the owners climbed the towers to await their chance. But no matter how daringly the height of towers progressed, the wonderful orb of light slipped out of reach. Higher and higher it moved, growing in size, and, increasingly, warming the planet. New animal species appeared, and new plants, some of which were farmed. The towers found more mundane uses. Other curiosities were invented, all with the aim to get closer to the mystery. The glowing object became the guiding principle of every enterprise on the small planet, and was invested with divine power, replacing all previous divinities.

While the now blinding light was adored and venerated, darkness was shunned. Days brought riches, nights reminded people of their dim past and aroused fear. Whatever could not be distinguished in clear light became suspect. All respectable activities were focused on understanding the light and finding ways to somehow partake of its power. So it was that people who still ventured into darkness were mistrusted.

One such night, had you been there, you would have been startled by cries of joy resounding from a hill. Wanderers beheld a pale shimmering globe. Memories were stirred, of a time when it was still possible to gaze into the heart of the beloved light without being blinded. Gripped by profound longing, a growing band of old seekers regularly ventured into the darkness. They puzzled over why the twin globe changed shape and periodically disappeared, only to re-emerge, waxing from a curved shard to full roundness.

Before long, they venerated the glowing disc as the divine mother of the unknown, whose coming and going altered the rhythm to time. The new divinity was angrily decried as sacrilege by those who saw it as a betrayal of the bright and bountiful deity of day.

The two kinds of believers did not see eye to eye. Secretive clans claimed having been touched by the pale mystery, though were unable to elaborate on what possible benefit the gentle light might hold. Incredulous stories spread, laughed at by the now established beneficiaries of ingenuity and industry. Seekers of the night who sincerely tried to share their experiences were ostracised.

Let us relate an incident, told by a witness. One clear night, so it goes, a group of seekers arrived on a level rock above a deep pool of water to watch the round ghostly orb fill the night sky. To their surprise its perfect replica appeared in the still water of the rock pool, beautiful, beyond words. Those present gasped. One young woman, who resembled her ancestor Lila, the legendary ironwood huntress, exclaimed, ecstatic, ‘This is it!” and dived headlong from the rock’s ledge into the heart of the glowing reflection. The orb scattered into a mesh of glittering stars, forming circles upon circles across the pool. Friends stared open-mouthed as the silvery light slowly retracted to gather itself back into round brilliance. Night’s divinity had re-assembled and rested quivering on the water’s surface. There was no sign of the young woman.

To break the unbearable tension, all assembled started talking, expressing what they thought they had witnessed, not hearing the soft footfalls.  Quietly, from surrounding shadows, the young woman stepped into their circle. Her skin gleamed, illumined, as if she had absorbed the mysterious light. Questions drowned her, everyone was eager to know her secret, but she had lost her voice. Instead, a silent gesture planted itself into the memory of each man, woman and child standing there on the rock. The seeker pressed her right hand to her heart.

She had many silent followers, as had many like her from there-on after.

~ end ~

My conscious mind is unconsciously magical, while my unconscious mind is irrationally pragmatic. – Ashen

I’m curious as to what my  readers make of this fable, which I wrote over three decades ago. In the wake of a few some strenuous years, I’m beginning to unearth the treasures sitting in my files. Bear with me.

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… visability – Italo Calvino – imagination – writing …

A tile made for me by E. Cordier for photos in his studio.

In a previous post I mentioned my erratic filing, which, when working on a writing project, results in phases of strolling through my inner jungle in search of a spot marked for attention, often years back, or wandering through a library in a kind of trance, ignoring categories, with only a vague sense of purpose. On route, I explore seemingly unrelated and often incongruous themes, before a match creates coherence in a new context.

While searching for an invisible gestalt, I tend to reread authors that inspired me. Last week it was Six Memos for the next Millennium, by Italo Calvino (translated by Patrick Creagh.) Like him, I’m all for the shared magical. His Memos are lectures he prepared during 1984 for presentation at Harvard University. It was the year when computers moved into our lives. Maybe he was concerned about Orwell’s dystopian Newspeak being just around the corner. In any case, it made Calvino reflect on a set of literary values. His sudden death meant he never presented these lectures, and only five Memos made it later into print:  Lightness – Quickness – Exactitude – Visibility and Multiplicity … keywords, expanding on ways we perceive.

Though it’s a small volume, the material is too rich and diverse for my humble post. Still, I want to share a few quotes and reflections from re-reading the chapter on visibility. Calvino wrote …

… For successful imagery, writers must do two things: convert the visuals of the mind into words, and at the same time make sure that the words are so well-crafted that when read, the reader can instantly visualise every setting, every character, every chosen detail as if they were looking at it directly, and not at a page. It’s a deliberate process, this transmogrifying from image to text and back to image ….

He describes the progression … something that is painstaking but not necessarily painful, from the moment you grasp the significance of a single image and then associate it with other images, forming a field of analogies, symmetries and confrontations, and then organising this material, which is no longer purely visual but also conceptual, to try and give order and sense to the development of a story. Here the writing, the textual product, becomes increasingly important. From the moment you start putting black onto white what really matters is the written word, first as a search for an equivalent of the visual image, then as a coherent expansion of the initial stylistic direction, so that eventually it is the image that is being pulled along by the text, and not the other way around …

My poems, and certainly my first novel, started with a spark, a solitary image, like a cypher compelling me to uncover its meaning. An unfolding message can be drowned or crowned. Writing (like any creation energised by passion and craft) occasionally achieves such a finely tuned nuance that an invisible quality resonates deeply through the visible.

During my recent reading of Calvino’s chapter on visibility I recalled my entry into black and white photographic processing, which, before digital technology, happened in the darkroom  … to start with, in complete darkness, with the celluloid film being developed in a chemical bath, regularly shaken, like the preparation of a homeopathic tincture, then rinsed and fixed in another bath, rinsed again and dried. Creating prints is the next stage, for which red light is allowed. The negative is placed into the enlarger, from where it is projected through a lens with a sharp beam of measured light onto a light-sensitised sheet beneath. Correct duration of the beam results in a positive print that, at best, develops very slowly in a tray of chemical developer.

Watching the print of a well exposed negative emerge under the red light has always given me enormous pleasure. Like a dream emerging from the unconscious and becoming visible.

The image first appears as a sketch, until grey and dark tones assume saturation, ideally without losing highlights. Once perfection is achieved, the print is shortly rinsed and transported into the fixation bath for a while. Only then is it safe to introduce daylight, for further rinsing and drying of the print on a hot press.

No doubt the experience of a slowly developing image in the darkroom influenced my writing. A sketch to start with, suggesting a mood, a lightness of touch, and, with some stroke of luck, an emerging symbolic element, which black & white photography is particularly well suited for. In short, a feast for the imagination, inviting associations for … poems, stories, and even cosmologies.

Are you a visual writer – in Calvino’s sense? Do you bring vision into focus with your eyes shut? Do you use images to think, and words to imagine what never existed?

Back in 2012 I posted a very short review of Italo Calvino’s Six Memos on Goodreads

related post – imagination …

 

 

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… the afterglow of relationships …

My dream vanished. It’s going to be one of those weird days, I reckon, soon confirmed by a fleeting glance while passing a mirror. My morning ritual includes stretching muscles while coffee filters into the cup. I breakfast before the screen, skim through emails and various online papers, shake head at captions ranging from atrocious, futile to hilarious, the latter due to brexasparation. The scene beyond the window calms – wispy clouds, birds flitting from hedge to tree to hedge, familiar cats slouching across frosted grass, the ginger, the black & white bushy monster, the nimble black tom with white paws and white-tipped tail, much like an exclamation mark.

With no commitments today, I embark on my weekly shopping trip to town. Small wonder I can’t get warm, the steep drop in temperature is topped by a bitter wind. Minding the weirdness of my day, I’m super careful on the road and pay for two hours parking, anticipating a disorganised shopping round. Sure enough, I miss items on my scrawled list and retrace my steps time and time again through a lattice of chilled shelves. I tell the woman at the checkout, ‘I can’t get warm today,’ a detail of hardly any interest to her or anyone, including me.

‘It will get colder,’ she nods, shrewdly.

At home, I store away stuff and screen up again. Beast from the East weather forecast, blog posts, articles. Weirdness continues. I cancel plans for more editing on my second novel, Shapers, and grab the vacuum cleaner instead, as if it could suck the dust from my mind. The effort earns me another coffee. Then a thought tumbles in from nowhere …

Often people are worth more dead than alive – where the heck did that come from?

My vanished dream lights up. Faces re-emerge, of friends who passed on during the last two decades, some through death, others through metaphorical deaths, that is, circumstantial rifts and distancing. The dream brought a vivid afterglow of relationships, insights of unconditional love, as well as shadow aspects – what I judged and misread in the behaviour of others, what others judged and misread in my behaviour. The dynamics of projections are illuminated by a revision of experiences through layers of time, and through the imagined intuitive eyes of others. Broken threads reweave into fresh patterns, consciousness expands.

I deeply appreciate the dreams that provide an afterglow to the relationships in my life, be it the ones marked by kindness and love or the ones distorted by projections and a narrow reading of intentions. The insights that dreams bring help me to renew my sense self, no matter how delusional, it’s what I need to function in this world.

We can always benefit and also contribute towards collective harmony with a widening of perspectives through other eyes, including the eyes of strangers.

I’m reminded of one of my first posts, about the shadow

Click on the above link and you’re there.

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… a haunting dream pops up again …

The scene takes place on a sunlit peninsula, set in a glittering sea. I play with white cubes, each feather light. The childlike part of me experiments with the beauty of forms and the building of imaginative structures that mirror colours of  the sky and surrounding landscapes. Others join in, and not just friends, strangers too. We have fun, laugh and toss cubes to each other. We are building a temple to celebrate play.

A crowd approaches. Stable minded, committed to rational thinking and adverse to risk-taking, they object to our frivolity. Some serious looking folk move in with knives at their belts. Our vision of lightness offends. We demonstrate how temples can rise and fall in the blink of an eye. ‘You put a lie to order,’ they say, ‘you ridicule our values.’ They fear us, having invested in solid structures, walls, to house the light of their gods.

With no gods to protect, we thought we could do with movable walls. After all, there are walls and walls.

—————

As a child I wondered if I’d dropped onto the wrong planet, but was later heartened by brilliant minds with deep insights and generous perspectives on consciousness, including C G Jung.

I found a sense of safety in knowing that I can hoist the sails of my boat, catch a spirit wind and sail on a light-wave towards higher dimensions.

That said I’m a bullshit detector in the post-new-age spiritual market, where I could’ve done well with a how-to-keep-sane book.

When the above dream first arrived, many years ago, I thought, heck, I live in this space/time to engage with and challenge limitations in myself and others. I felt suspended between the virtues of Plato’s top-down and Aristotle’s bottom-up metaphysical arguments. I explored question such as – do the aggressors in my dream represent the judgmental part of me that inhibits the creative impulse of the child that shrinks when it feel unwelcome? … Yes.

Acquiring skills to facilitate creative workshops and dream seminars, brought me over two decades of confidence and joy. I discovered my intuitive connection to a higher intelligence, and I learned to trust in group processes. Former participants fondly remember these times. We had a safe space to play in.

The dream returned to show up once more my fear of rejection. This time I’m alone, the fear applies to my writing. Rejection has become the rule in this over harvested and exploited field. And as much as the explosion of writing contributes to a massive leap in the expansion of consciousness, I must admit, having spent years writing and polishing my first opus, I’ve become a judging discriminator myself. The persistence of writers is admirable, though I gasp when I hear that some writers query hundreds of agents or publishers – really?

I sent out one query only (I hear you gasp) to a niche publisher, who, in response to a poet friend’s recommendation, read my novel, loved it and wanted to launch it, but then, sadly, three years on, had to fold her publishing venture. Further delays were unthinkable, so I published, at the risk of losing the roof over my head.

Readers have personal tastes. When a book is not branded and displayed in literary markets, finding tasters will not happen overnight. I’ll keep an open mind. Appreciating and understanding my ghost of rejection is the real issue for me, especially in a time when fear assumes bestselling qualities and depression spreads like a virus.

I’m editing the sequel to Course of Mirrors and will continue writing. If procrastination was an academic accomplishment I’d have earned a PhD during these last few months.

Not to be too hard on myself, I endured five weeks without heating or hot water, editing wrapped up in multiple layers of clothing, winter boots, hot water bottles and gloves, until, finally, a government grant towards a new boiler was approved. Bliss … my brain cells are warming up again.

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… I don’t know …

in truth I am two

one inside and one outside

a mirror between

 

of late – I don’t know –

has become my daily chant

a mantra – almost

 

does our ONE earth too

have a crack down the middle?

what’s it like this place?

shared with an alien

no story will be alike

which does not surprise

we are all aliens

to ourselves and the other

a diversity

which can’t be controlled

by factions who invest in

power as they might

the ideal of ONE

is an enigma veiled by

a mysterious station

beyond birth and death

or where time shortly pauses

between each new breath

love that inspires

the yearning for one being

weaves through the unseen

yes, my chant is sad

but wings forever unfold

hello horizon …

Winding the clock back to before events were recorded in writing and ordered along linear timelines, folks across the globe unified their beliefs through countless symbolic creation myths, none the same, and much more fun than any Big Bang theory, which, in any case, must surely relate to only one among many big & small bangs. Since record-taking, everything supposed to have happened has been arranged around a spine and neatly ordered, chaos tamed into a clearly delineated map of history. It is a beautiful logical structure, mirroring the cosmos, nature, plants, the human body, the brain.

The concept that all is one in eternity and everything in the universe connects to everything else is ancient, if difficult to uphold in daily life. And here comes our century with its digital multi-perspectives. Bones are loosened from the spine and make a mess of our time map. The neat rules of cause and effect science has used to build reliable calculations are re-shuffled into surreal dreamlike possibilities, while we cling uneasily to our everyday three dimensions.

Information is spinning so fast that old beliefs drop into vast seas of information (energy,) so turbulent; we must decide where to place ourselves and chart new destinations. Think uncertainty principle – position of particle – momentum of wave. Solutions waver. What does humanity want? What is its purpose, its vision?

The deep sea of information, like the unconscious psyche, is tossing unpalatable errors of judgement into the light, dark stuff, requesting acknowledgement and inclusion, personally and collectively.  My – I don’t know – mantra resist all stale answers and advice, other than inklings from the spirit of inner guidance.

Within the ONE innumerable realities exist together … heartlands of strangeness seeking ever new formations. It intrigues and troubles me that the escalating complexities of life might result in social decisions being assigned to data crunching artificial intelligence devices. Our roots might shrivel. Where would we be without the stories drawn up from the inner worlds of the imagination. I wrote about it here:

P L Travers says … nothing is truly known until it is known organically … this chimes for me. There’s even a hint as to the why of human existence.

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… resurrected treasures – fables …

Kalila and Dimna – Selected Fables of Bidpai – Tales of Friendship and Betrayal – by Ramsay Wood.

Fables can shock and surprise us, irrespective of their antiquity. Various collections, like Aesop’s, derived from versions of beast fables originating from the oral traditions of cultures that existed thousands of years ago. It must be the profound exposition of human nature revealed in this deep sea of tales that made them show up in all corners of the earth. The punchiness of these tales remains relevant to this day, in that their wisdom cuts through our neurotic habit of jumping to conclusions.

Ramsay Wood’s passion and labours of love has given us the humorous and delightful retellings of Kalila and Dimna – Selected Fables of Bidpai, with vibrant attention to detail. His research includes the famous Panchatantra, and a Persian version of the same, translated into Arabic.

In the first volume it says upfront: This book is dedicated to the many midwives of the book, including al-Kashifi, who in the preface to his fifteenth-century Persian version of this story described himself as ‘this contemptible atom of but small intellectual store.’

My 1982 Granada edition is among a bunch of books I’ve loved to bits – with pages falling apart. One of its tales within tales, ‘The Cormorant and the Star,’ depicts how appearances deceive, as all surfaces do. A line from Socrates appears in the margin, ‘Living starts when you start doubting everything that comes before you.’ Given the mirage of opinions floating across our electric screens, if this sensible advice were to catch on, the creativity released would be phenomenal.

Ramsay Wood kindly allowed me to use the little tale of  The Cormorant and the Star in my novel, Course of Mirrors.

Volume 1 of Kalila and Dimna has an introduction by Doris Lessing. She writes: ‘The claim has been made for this book that it has travelled more widely than the Bible, for it has been translated through the centuries everywhere from Ethiopia to China… It is hard to say where the beginning was… One progenitor was the Buddhist cycle of Birth Tales (or Jātaka Stories) where Buddha appears as a monkey, dear, lion, and so on… Sir Richard Burton, who like all the other orientalists of the nineteenth century was involved with Bidpai, suggested that man’s use of beast-fables commemorates our instinctive knowledge of how we emerged from the animal kingdom, on two legs but still with claws and fangs.’

Our inherited animal traits go a long way to explain the variations of our conflicting human dispositions and idiosyncrasies. I wrote a post last year about the perception of difference.

Ramsay Wood presents us with Dr. Bidpai, an incorruptible Indian sage living under the reign of King Dabschelim. The king is a stargazer, blissfully blind to the sufferings of his subjects. In desperation, Bidpai resolves to offer him his wisdom. The reader gets to know the good man through his own voice, sharing how his nervous and skittish wife fusses over his robe before the royal appointment, expressing her apprehension. Bidpai, though terrified of confronting the king, feigns complete confidence. His wife’s instincts were entirely correct, but he knew that his male arrogance would give her the blind strength of anger and that, at least, was better than the helplessness of fear. In truth, jails were full of men and women who had merely irritated The King.

Alas, no matter how delicately and tactfully Bidpai expresses his concerns to King Dabschelim, employing his words as both narcotic and as a scalpel; his audacity lands him in the dungeon. That is, until the king witnesses a shooting star, followed by a prophetic dream, leading him to a buried treasure. When he finds the treasure, it comes with a letter of admonitions from the long dead King Houschenk, addressed to the future King Dabschelim in person. The letter mentions Bidpai as a storehouse of fables that will illustrate the cautions.  Suddenly the sage’s counsel is most urgently required. From there on Bidpai’s wisdom unfolds in the form of stories within stories (think of 1001 Nights,) one tale branching to another, like the roots of a tree that also mirror the branches and tendrils reaching for the sky. The same method of telling can sometimes be found in the visual arts of painting, photography, collage, installations – images within images that convey truths in a dreamlike and surreal fashion. Artists note – fables provide endless inspirations and connections.

Here some links to click on, which will lead to Ramsay Wood’s books of fables:

Kalaila and Dimna Vol 1– introduced by Doris Lessing, illustrated by Margaret Kilrenny.   See also a present Giveaway on Goodreads.  

Kalila and Dimna Vol 2 – introduced by Michael Wood, illustrated by G M Whitworth

In a review for the second volume, Aubrey Davies, another wonderful story teller, writes: Wood concludes the book with two masterful essays. The first outlines the history of the tale and how this treasure trove of sophisticated teaching-stories posing as humble fables has so easily slipped over borders and been embraced by so many cultures.
The final essay was prompted by a challenge from a NASA Director to prove that story is a more effective medium for science outreach than technical writing. It details our limited conceptions of story together with an extended concept of its nature and value.

Highly recommended.

Clicking on any links in this text will open a separate page without losing this post.

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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. …

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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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 … harvest moon dreaming …

p108047616/17th September 2016 was a strange night of wild dreams – one of a big old mansion of which I occupy a part (I actually live in a semi,) while the other part is lived in by an aging famous actor, Jeremy Irons. In the dream he collects antique furniture, art objects and frames. Some large pieces, including a massive empty frame, he fixes onto a wall in the courtyard. We mainly meet in the wide inner hall of the mansion. He seems a little absentminded but quite amicable and kind. He likes that I talk to him.

I don’t generally dream of actors, and I’m not the fan-kind, but I looked up a recent Guardian article on J. I. and found he used to trade in antiques. He also believes inanimate objects have spirit, saying, ‘… energy never dies, just travels, so the older an object is, the more it has absorbed. A quote in the article chimes with his persona in my dream: “I think all of society should be a thinktank where you throw ideas about. I had hoped the internet would help. Actually, what it has done is make everybody go schtum. They’re attacked for saying anything. So they say nothing.”

This reminded of a quote I used once in a dissertation, regarding the forced silence of the masses: … refusal of meaning and refusal of speech; or of the hyperconformist simulation of the very mechanism of the system, which is another form of refusal by overacceptance. It is the actual strategy of the masses … it is the winning one today … most adapted to the present phase of the system.’   – Jean Baudrillard, Selected Writings, 1992

I seem to have a lot in common with the J. I. He even smokes roll-ups 🙂

Back to my dream: … Gradually all the rooms in the house get crowded with people who bring books and antiques, and potter around. I ask one woman if it’s her house.  She doesn’t answer, busying herself with re-organising books. I hand her two yellowed pamphlets. She thanks me and adds them to a shelf. After a while I think maybe I asked the wrong question and say, ‘Did you grow up in this house?’

‘Yes, that’s right,’ she says. ‘I grew up here,’ as if she just remembered. More people arrive, moving furniture around, finding seats, making themselves comfortable, chatting. And yet more visitors come through the open gate into the courtyard, like they’re relatives.

Feeling crowded in, I say, ‘I want you all out of here. Now!’

*     *     *

The feeling on waking was one of confusion and a need for clarity and direction. Presently I endure a transitional phase, and am almost immobilised as to how best to frame my first novel (including a sequel and a third book in planning,) Every time I nudged my small publisher during the last months  (well, actually three years) I got another excuse, usually re: family matters. I’ve lost faith. The contract expired. With plans to submit Course of Mirrors to a big publisher, I’m attempting to whittle down a 4500 word synopsis to 3000 words, finding it impossible.

And I ponder – to express our core wavelength through a public medium requires good timing.

I tend to assume that every element in a dream expresses an aspect of my self – the inner crowd. So I’ll be giving voices to the mansion, the books, the furniture, the empty frames, the generous courtyard with its wide open gate, the characters …

I thought about the paradoxes I guess many of my readers here are familiar with: The accumulation of things is a burden to me, but I like the comfort of stability and the stories objects hold. I need my own space to absorb and reflect on experiences, but also like the stimulating gift of company. I’m drawn to slightly eccentric people, and may appear as such to others, but I also value people with clear intentions who get things done.

Everything seems upside down and inside out … My conscious mind is unconsciously magical, while my unconscious mind is irrationally pragmatic.

Another thought occurred:  Only inches away from each other we live in vastly different worlds that require constant translation to convey meaning and navigate relationships. The expressed or unexpressed thoughts and feelings moving through us occasionally chime with people in our vicinity, yet what most significantly affirms our core wavelength are the non-local resonances with souls across distances of space, and time.

I’m a little wary of advice, but am in need of it at the moment, so please share your thoughts on my dream and my general predicament.

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… bewildered hearts …

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We may reach out in vain towards heavy hearts shrouding broken ideals or stagnant truths that are dark-sealed against any doubt.

We may reach out in vain towards wounded hearts that shirk beauty, scorn at tender gestures, treat humour like treason and plot revenge.

 

Yet in the death rasp of each bewildered heart we may catch the echo of our sigh – the time-sculpted murmur of our own pain.                                                                                                                                                                                                                   P1060110 inverse lowres                                           

 

‘The ideal is the means; its breaking is the goal.’    Hazrat Inayat Khan

 

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