Tag Archives: trust

… The banality of good – a review of ‘Alone in Berlin’ …

 

For me, Edward Munch’s painting  –  – The Scream —  sums up the fear of the unknown, and by implication, the fear of the feminine principle – a fear that spurns men towards controlling nature.

Hans Fallada’s novel, Jeder stirbt für sich allein’ (Everyone dies alone,) first came to my attention through its publication in English, ‘Alone in Berlin,’ a translation that was delayed by 60 years. The book has been sitting on my shelf as a ‘must read’ for a long while. Burdened by regressive small-mindedness and divisions around the world, I finally tackled ‘Alone in Berlin,’ aware that it would be a grim read, having been described as a testament to the darkest years of the 20th century from the point of view and experience of ordinary people.

Resistance to the Nazi regime by individuals had no news value after the war. Yet such stories provide the most poignant insights into what it is like to oppose a state under a dictatorship. As such, this book, written raw and in haste eighteen month after the defeat of Nazism, offers a high alert to simple solutions for social problems. The author, Hans Fallada, aka Rudolf Ditzen, died before this last of his works was published in 1947.

The urgency behind the writing is palpable. The players, sketched with harsh strokes, embody the full range of human nature – the capacity for compassion, kindness, complacency, stupidity, meanness, stubbornness, false pride, envy, hate, and resentment, fear, fanaticism and vengeance tipping into the most depraved cruelty.

Very quickly the dread of being caught in the nightmarish system of a totalitarian state jumps at the reader. While the ghostly despot drifts in the background, his control is shown through the dynamic interactions of ordinary citizens – be they power-hungry officers, opportunists, cunning manipulators, cowards, reticent objectors or unsung heroes. Resistance carried the threat of death and seemed futile.

The anguish conveyed is chilling, intensified by the archetypal hue clinging to the tragic comic characters, at times suggesting caricatures. The sheer absurdness of the stupidities and sadistic cruelties depicted may dilute the shock, but it makes the scenes all the more heart-breaking.

The classic method of totalitarianism is to instil fear and divide factions of society against each other, so people spy on each other and nobody can be trusted anymore. In this chapter of history fear served as the leverage for forcing the banal idea of a perfect state that can be safeguarded through clockwork control.

Fallada’s main protagonists, Otto and Anna Quangel, were based on the records of two insignificant objectors to the regime, Otto and Elise Hampel. The elderly couple started spreading anti-Nazi missives written on postcards in buildings around Berlin. For their sadly ineffective attempts of rebellion, the Hampel’s were arrested in 1942, tried in 1943 and executed shortly after. The same fate befell their friends and relatives.

Can a few virtuous individuals, each driven by personal idiosyncrasies, redeem the moral integrity of a nation? It is up to the reader to decide whether the many deaths a totalitarian regime inflicts on soon forgotten brave people are in vain.

The book brought alive the pressure my grandparents must have lived under, as well as the uncanny anxious atmosphere that spoiled my parents’ teen years, and, the wariness I personally and many of the post-war generation developed towards overbearing authority.

Presented in the context of ordinary individual lives, the story reads like a tragic comedy that screams – let us never forget that freedom lies in people being allowed to be different, not chained to a hell of obedience and conformity.

Primo Levi’s declared ‘Alone in Berlin’ as the greatest book ever written about German resistance to the Nazis. English readers have had to wait 60 years to read the novel.

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… no fitting words …

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

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

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

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

An entry in a Buddhist diary for the day …

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

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… what’s your age again? …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image by Yeshen Venema

Image by Yeshen Venema

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

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

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

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

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

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… unseen stuff – micro-organisms …

More contagious than micro-organisms are fear and hopelessness.

Long before our time, the existence of micro-organisms was presupposed, notably in Jainism, whose followers vow non-violence in thought and practice (Ahimsa) towards all living beings. The tradition is said to be older than Buddhism.  In the teachings of Mahavira (599 – 527 BEC),  micro-organisms are described as unseen creatures living in earth, water, air and fire, and existing as clusters pervading every plant and tissue, not just on earth but throughout the whole universe. Jain libraries are the oldest in India.

While home-bound with a young child in rural Somerset, I did an OU course on world religions, wanting to learn about the formative ideas underlying our variety of cultures. Reading on Jainism, I was struck by its beautiful philosophy, genuine tolerance of other faiths, and the surprisingly modern belief – that the universe is self-regulated by the laws of nature. Worth exploring: see wiki-link below.

With a different mind-set, the idea of unseen creatures informed a nasty biological war fare during the Middle Ages, when diseased corpses were catapulted into enemy strongholds.

Along came artificial eyes, the telescope and the microscope, evidencing these unseen worlds. The Jesuit priest, Athanasius Kircher, and Anton van Leeuwenhoek, were among the first to spot micro-organisms through lenses in the 17th century.  The journey took off, until Ferdinand Cohn founded the discipline of bacteriology in the 19th century, and Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch developed the study of microbiology, focussing on food preservation and vaccines. The gained knowledge helped to protect us from organisms known to spread disease, and improved the hygiene of our environment. During the late 19th century the study was expanded through the work of Martinus  Beijerinck and Sergei Winogradsky into the field of general microbiology.

Today the study of micro-organisms has developed to such extend that  hundreds of specialised branches of study exist serving a huge variety of applications. I’m fascinated by biology, and I greatly respect scientists who devote their days and nights to deepen our understanding of life.

What I question, as do many of my friends, which include scientists, is the unrestricted power of multinational companies. It is totally unethical that multinationals can push decisions as to how scientific evidence is used. To start with, they must be made accountable for damages caused, and next, it should be obligatory, like a tax, that a fraction of the profits these companies reap be used for interdisciplinary research, so that  evidence can be established for the many undeniably wholesome methods of balancing and strengthening self-organising systems.

The over-reliance on suppressive drugs (and in the case of agriculture pesticides) in the fight against every imbalance has devastating side effects. Apart from training super-bugs,  the relentless war undermines the ecosystem of our planet, and our birth right, the ingenious self-regulatory system that acquires immunity through exposure. Nature has taught us everything, nature is not the enemy. Excess use of medication could even undo the good work of vaccines, meant to help us acquire immunities. A weakened immune system may eventually fail to deal with any kind of exposure. So why do we sanction this paranoid warfare ?

What is known about micro-organisms includes the process of endosymbiosis – where symbiosis occurs between different organisms that benefit from living together. Lynn Margulis opposed the neo-Darwinian concept of competition, and proposed that evolution thrived through cooperation: ‘Symbiogenesis recognizes that every visible life-form is a combination or community of bacteria.’  (See link below) In other words, the fittest is what adapts and harmonises.

There is always more than one way to look at something. When it comes to the prevention of dis-ease, and the healing of body and mind, the soothing of stress, we have enough knowledge and wisdom to appreciate the effectiveness of: relaxation, telling one’s story and being listened to, a clear positive intention, the benefits of meditation, a calm mind, the balancing of subtle energies, the vibrations of harmonious sound, architecture, colours, symbolic  understanding, the use of active creative imagination, a gentle touch, a heartfelt smile, for example.

The authenticity of a friend, a doctor, a healer or therapist, can inspire a troubled person who is seeking support to take self-responsibility. Trust, or faith in one’s healing, is a phenomenon that also throws light on the powerful physiological effects of the placebo, which is a proposed ritual that promises nothing, but puts the patient in charge. Wow!

From another tradition that respects all faiths, here is a perspective on microbes expressed by Sufi Hazrat Inayat Khan, who brought his wisdom to the west in the early 20th century:

Every day a new invention brings a new microbe. And if a new microbe is discovered every day till the end of the world there will be numberless diseases; in the end it will be difficult to find one man healthy, for there must always be some microbe; if it is not of an old disease, then of a newly discovered one …  

The people of old thought that microbes were spirits, living beings, in the absence of science which today distinguishes these spirits in the form of microbes; and yet it seems that the ancient healers had a greater grip upon the illness, for the reason that they considered the microbe in its spirit. In destroying the microbe they did not only destroy the outer microbe, but the inner microbe in the form of the spirit, of the germ; and the most interesting thing is that in order to drive away that spirit which they thought had possessed the patient, they burned or they placed before him certain chemicals which are used even now, having been proved to be destructive to the germs of diseases.

With every measure that physicians may take to prevent the germs of diseases from coming, in spite of all the success that they will have there will be a greater failure; for even if the actual germ is destroyed, it exists, its family exists, somewhere. Besides, the body which has once become the abode of that particular germ has become a receptacle of the same germ. If the physician destroys the germ of disease from the body of an individual that does not mean that he destroys it from the universe. This problem, therefore, must be looked at from another point of view: that everything that exists in the objective world has its living and more important part existing in the subjective world; and that part which is in the subjective is held by the belief of the patient. As long as the patient believes that he is ill he is giving sustenance to that part of the disease which is in the subjective world. Even if the germs of the disease were destroyed, not once but a thousand times in his body, they would be created there again; because the source from which the germs spring is in his belief, not in his body, as the source of the whole creation is within, not without. 

Hazrat Inayat Khan

The outer treatment of many such diseases is just like cutting the plant from its stem while the root remains in the ground. Since the root of the illness is in the subjective part of one’s being, in order to drive away that illness one must dig out the root by taking away the belief of illness even before the outer germ is destroyed. The germ of illness cannot exist without the force, the breath, which it receives from the subjective part of one’s being; and if the source of its sustenance is once destroyed, then the cure is certain.

Very few people can hold a thought, but many are held by a thought. If such a simple thing as holding a thought were mastered, the whole life would be mastered. When once a person gets into his head, ‘I am ill’, and when this is confirmed by a physician, then his belief becomes watered like a plant, then his continual reflection of it, falling upon his illness like the sun, makes the plant of illness grow; and therefore it would not be an exaggeration to say that, consciously or unconsciously, the patient is the gardener of his own illness … The root of illness is in the mind, and if that root is continuously watered by thought and feeling, illness is realized in the end.

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More contagious than micro-organisms are fear and hopelessness.  (my conclusion)

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We are the mirror and the face in it.

We are tasting the taste this minute

of eternity. We are pain

and what cures pain. We are

the sweet, cold water and the jar that pours.

Rumi – transl. by John Moyne and Coleman Barks

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

Lynn Margulis

http://discovermagazine.com/2011/apr/16-interview-lynn-margulis-not-controversial-right

Hazrat Inayat Khan – Volume 4 – Healing and the Mind World.

http://www.sufimessage.com/healing/index.html

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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.

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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.’

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

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