Tag Archives: unconscious

… 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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… the ones who walk away …

Ursula Le Guin’s short metafiction, ‘The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas,’ first published in 1973, had its 40th anniversary last year. My first reading, when Google and book review sites were non-existent, left a deep impression. This week’s re-reading, once, twice, three times – the story deserves it – made me curious as to what other readers might have made of it. Obsessing in a web-crawl I came upon predominantly moral interpretations, which I distinctly remember resisting, though these associations are understandable. The way our systems deal with the unadjusted tends to appease the troubled conscience for the rest of us normal citizens.

For me, there were deeper complexities in this brilliant piece of writing. I decided to share my thoughts and tempt those of you who don’t know the story to read it and derive their own insights. I’ll use spoilers, so if you want to read the story first, here is a link: http://genius.com/Ursula-k-le-guin-the-ones-who-walk-away-from-omelas-annotated

… With a clamor of bells that set the swallows soaring, the Festival of Summer came to the city of Omelas, bright-towered by the sea …  

Childhood, Thomas Cole, 1842

Childhood, Thomas Cole, 1842

We are shown a charming city where order and harmony reign, a city well-protected in a bay, resembling a womb. Reality is suspended. There’s a sense of timelessness. It is a civilised place, decorous, joyful, without hierarchy. No king, no swords, no slaves … no power games. Utopia comes to mind, the idea of eternal life – the eternal innocent child.

No science has yet dispelled the vision of a haven without strive, where everyone is happy. In the wake of traumatising wars and unspeakable atrocities, there are always attempt to re-create places like Omelas, attempts to soften the reality of birth and death, the extremes of joy and pain, nature, the cosmos our life depends on and which we try to fathom. But since our spiritual lore cautions that life is an illusion – an ornament that covers ultimate truth we can’t perceive with our senses, we get anxious when life becomes too comfortable.

The narrating voice, anticipating our scepticism, invites us to fill in the sketches of this perfect democracy. We are told, ‘They were not simple folks, you see, though they were happy.’ After all, Omelas may strike some as goody-goody. Smiles, bells, parades, horses, bleh. ‘If so please add an orgy.’ More delightful pleasures are suggested – celebrating life, with one significant addition, ‘One thing I know there is none of in Omelas is guilt.’

In contrast, the voice notes the bad habit of a different place, where pedants and sophisticates consider happiness as something rather stupid. ‘Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting … the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain.’ The voice insists that the citizens of Omelas were mature, intelligent, passionate people whose lives were not wretched.

The Festival of Summer has begun. ‘Do you believe?’ the narrator asks. ‘Do you accept the festival, the city, the joy? NO? Then let me describe one more thing.’

And there it is, the secret lurking out of sight, a child, kept in the darkness of a tiny cellar room, with only a faint ray of hope based on a dull memory. The child is not driven out of the city, like the traditional scapegoat, but contained below ground; there to absorb everyone’s fear of reality and its cruel justice, embodying, maybe, submerged histories, rather like the depths of the iceberg below water keeps its peak afloat in the light.

… They all know it is there, all the people of Omelas. Some of them have come to see it; others are content merely to know it is there. They all know that it has to be there. Some of them understand why, and some do not, but they all understand that their happiness, the beauty of their city, the tenderness of their friendships, the health of their children, the wisdom of their scholars, the skill of their makers, even the abundance of their harvest and the kindly weathers of their skies, depend wholly on the child’s abominable misery …

Terms are clear, should this child be freed, the beauty would wither and be destroyed. The pragmatic solution seems such: One punished and suffering child is meant to redeem the rest from coming to terms with their inherited sins and traumas.

To leave this comfortable enclave of Omelas means leaving security and loved ones behind. It requires crossing mountains, stepping into the unknown, with no charm against collective guilt.

Omelas’ citizens are free to look at the unacceptable child. While reactions, those of young ones mainly, vary from disgust to outrage, most accept the necessity of this child’s sacrifice, though some fall quiet and leave Omelas in the middle of night, alone.

For me the child is there to serve cohesion, symbolizing a lid on the unconscious, primitive, wild aspects of the psyche. Isn’t dis-ease a loss of order and rhythm? If you judge this pragmatism harshly, consider the purpose of trip-switches in an electricity-wired house. Or, consider how people under social or dictatorial pressure may choose to safeguard the lives of their loved ones at the cost of betraying their knowing heart.

Le Guin does not condone staying or leaving Omelas, she provides no answers. I am one of those who walked away, many times, always at a cost, because I preferred guilt to shame. C G Jung developed the concept of individuation, hoping for it to expand collective consciousness from the inside out, through the individual, sometimes involving a precarious personal journey, going through a process of separating psychologically from parents, state, authority, to become whole. Like in the Zen story where the seeker eventually returns, better able to serve the community. While a single brain does not survive its limited life-span, the collective memory of matter, and each human experience lives on and is transmitted to every new-born life.

Each one of us carries the traumas of our histories, though not everyone has the opportunity to redeem such wounds, contribute new ideas, or explore different states of being. What drives one to walk away from the familiar – is it inner conflict, allegiance to one’s heart, fear to upset the order, the need for a wider perspective, or simply a calling? We bond to the systems we grow up in, in cases we adjust our behaviour in order to emotionally survive, along with the implicit bargain to keep quiet about the shit, our shit, others’ shit, and how we deal with all the shit.

There are those who leave a comfortable place and those who stay. Maybe a balance between conservative forces that protect structures and revolutionary forces that seek change is necessary. Not everyone, for example, can face existential pain and futility without succumbing to psychosis. There is a case for Festivals of Summer, sport, drugs, ecstasy, trance …

Was the power of the imagination born from fear of mortality? Is this why we envisage dystopias or utopias, and, ultimately, scenarios that make us feel in control of our destiny?

What we hide from ourselves and from each other often relates to our most prominent outcast, the neglected inner child, so embarrassing to the adult world. This child in Omelas seems to embody the ongoing ritual of shame for walking from Eden into the dawn of creation, a reality burdened with consciousness, and free will that frequently misses the mark, but, heck, is the very process of becoming human.

My naïve hope is that we can learn to embrace our all too human failures, show patience with our children, stop seeking blame and end scapegoating, yet also acknowledge our individual and collective need for comfortable realities … protecting us … from what?

Here a quote from a former friend and teacher, Fazal Inayat-Khan … taken from a lecture on Reality:

‘For the whole collective of the human mind – outside that self-created reality there is a storm. That storm – that wind – that pressure – that influence and space is for our existence and permanency completely annihilating and destructive … our assignment outward is because of a deep decay … Reality is a veil that is spun with the finest and thinnest and strongest silk. It weighs nothing – it covers a little darker area behind – and yet the moment when you reach out with your hand to draw the veil away it will skin your hand till blood is drawn.’ 

To fill this emptiness we assign our meaning outward. Call it the human project. Sorry to trouble you, my friends, but the function of reality is worth contemplating, and, in my view, Ursula Le Guin’s story does just that.

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… the frottage of life …

Aged 14, my confidence and love for writing was shattered by a teacher. She praised a brilliant essay – mine – based on a painting of our choice. The romantic image of a Carl Spitzweg painting I picked had freed my imagination. After reading my essay out in front of the class, the teacher stated it was unlikely the pupil had written this herself and she therefore had to disqualify the work. I was pushed off a flying carpet, too speechless and humiliated to protest. My creative writing went underground. I wrote poetry, in secret.

Water

Water

Images inspire me, they tell stories. Photography came to my rescue, not so much in the sense of recording concrete reality, but more in the sense of sub-creating it. Light attracted as liquid poetry that fell through shadows and sculpted fleeting life. I discovered my knack for framing the essence of a story.  And in the spaces between things I looked for something transient emanating from other spheres. There were moments in my life when finding words for these other dimensions became imperative, like, for example, when working as still photographer on a film-set at the shore of the Red Sea. In poems like ‘Riverhead’ and ‘Sleepless Sun’ I tried to encapsulate such instances: https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/poems/

Photography started out with a process of reversal – getting the positive print from a negative film – which is being superseded by digital bit-structured data, leading us into new metaphors for time and space. The tiny window of the laptop I’m writing this text on has become my interior sanctuary. The window of its screen frames worlds well beyond my garden – microcosms and macrocosms. My grandparents would have called this feat magic, which it is, of course. Computers have become our second brains, compilers and recorders of our imagination, easy to share.

The habit of leaves, Max Ernst.

The habit of leaves, Max Ernst.

In search for the invisible hand that animates the unseen, I remember coming upon the technique of frottage by Max Ernst. He was intrigued by the reversal of textures achieved when rubbing surfaces with a soft pencil – be it weathered wooden planks, bark, textiles, netting … For Ernst the results evoked superimposed images and visionary associations.

Whirling Hosta

Whirling Hosta

Not only artists find surprises in the textures of surfaces. Who does not occasionally pause before a weathered wall, lichen-covered gravestone, the grain in a wooden plank, a windswept cloud, a reflection in glass or water, or detect resemblances and fresh arrangements in the shape of cliffs or in the veins of plants? Unexpected patterns call for unfurling, inspire a collage, a scientific idea, a poem, a story,  or painting.

Grain

Grain

We rub off impressions from the ambience around us, especially first impressions – scents and sounds, tactile sensations, patterns of light and shadow, textures, colours and shapes, anything that attracts or repels us.

In a psychological sense, we rub off qualities we find in each other – in parents, siblings, friends, strangers and public figures we admire or despise. From what impresses us we extrapolate and find recurring resemblances. As our imagination sparks random associations involving all of our senses, a theme becomes reflected in our heart, as in a mirror, and informs our personal myth.

It’s what my novels are about, which, I hope, will also have a universal appeal.

Among related posts:

https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/pattern-which-connects/

https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/patterns-of-eternity-humbly-opens-your-mind/

Most of the photos on this site are mine. A selection can be found here: http://500px.com/ashen

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