February 26, 2010
Philippe Claudel dedicated his creepy but ultimately life-affirming novel Brodeck's Report to 'all those who think they are nothing'. Quotation from V.Hugo (The Rhine) starts off the book: "I am nothing, I know it, but my nothing comprises a little bit of everything."
As a number Seven of the Enneagram I'm quite fond of a little bit of everything in my nothing. But a more serious question is this:
How is it that there is a world of difference between the feeling of being nothing (the despair of someone feeling so totally worthless that in some cases only taking one's own life offers solution),
and the 'nothing' as a spiritual aspiration of those 'on the path' to 'enlightenment'?
How come the apparent lack of ego in the first group leads to extremes of suffering, but the so called spiritual person who strives to shed their ego is so often driven by the very beast?. My nothing is better than yours, you can imagine them thinking .. My nothing comprises of a little bit more of everything than your nothing.. My nothing is quite something, while yours is not really up to scratch, it.. it lacks something.
The grave of the great Japanese film director Yasujiro Ozu (of the Tokyo Story) bears no name, only the Japanese character Mu - literally "nothingness". Mu is a central theme in Japanese worldview. It doesn't refer to a state of nonbeing, but rather it transcends all ideas of existence and nonexistence, thing and nothing, yes and no, leading to.., you got it - enlightenment.
This concept is too much for my vagrant mind and my brain is starting to hurt as I think and write this.
But I guess this is rather like being asked: " Have you stopped beating your wife?", if you either have no wife, or never beat your wife in the first place. Both straight yes and no as an answer would give the wrong idea and would -one way or another - be self-incriminating.
The right and only answer would be one of the following: 'pass', 'your question has no answer as it starts with wrong assumptions', 'unask your question', finally- ' whatever'.
Or you could simply say: Mu. That would be quite something, or maybe even quite nothing..
February 23, 2010
I need your help here
I wrote a book a while back, and now it's sold out in hardback, there's a paperback Second Coming planned, when the publishing skies shall truly be rent asunder.
BUT, first things first: they want to change the name.
It used to be called 'THE BEAUTIFUL LIFE - Ten new commandments because life could be better.' But that idea is now wrapping fish and chips, yesterday's news and reassuringly impermanent.
So what now? Well, marketing are no doubt giving it their full and undivided attention. But so am I, at least for the last half hour, and here are some of my ideas... and please, don't expect too much. I'm quite short.
1) ESCAPING THE NONSENSE FOREST - Map provided.
2)BECOMING PRESENT - Plus nine other really good ideas.
3) F**CKED PSYCHE, HEALED - ten transformations on the journey home.
4) A PERSON OF SUBSTANCE - The book of your success story
5) ESSENCE - Isn't it time you came home?
6) TRUTH, PSYCHOLOGICAL, FOR SALE - Buy now to avoid disappointment
7) COMING HOME - Ten free tickets for the journey
I'm very sad we can no longer have the comments facility on this blog. But if you had a preference from the above, or a better idea, do let me know via the 'contact' facility on this site - whether you've read the book or not, I'm not proud.
So come on, which one of those titles reaches out to you?
Your country needs you.
Today yet again, the dark shadows have appeared
And are looming over her, backing her into a corner,
She can feel herself disappearing
Going, going, gone,
She is losing touch with reality,
Paranoia has come knocking
And is twisting truth into something unrecognizable.
Huge anger is rising
And is pouring out of the creature which has appeared in her place,
Lighting bolts of undiluted rage let lose at any opportunity,
Washing up left in the bowl, the cat waiting to be fed,
In fact at any fucking thing!
She's lost, she wants to be lost, she needs to be lost,
The alternitive is to accept some ownership of this hateful creature,
To look into this dark mirror takes courage,
which she can not find.
This creature scares her, she can feel her stomach churning, her heart beating so hard as if it is making its own dash for safety,
She is frozen in time, too aware of its power,
It's destructive negative energy
Always looking for a target,
When did the victim become the attacker?
Help me, help me, she calls
Please, please rescue me, she pleads
All in vain, nobody comes
Nobody ever came.
The case is shut - stamped 'Unsolved'
The killing took place too long ago.
But she's there, still waiting for justice,
Still waiting for the resurrection.
All she can do is weep
And wonder how many tears do the dead have to cry?
February 21, 2010
My Patio insight
Yesterday, to celebrate the fact of reaching yet another birthday (two weeks after the actual date), I went with some friends for dinner at the Patio, a Polish restaurant in Shepherds Bush. It's one of West London's best kept secrets, as they say, and lovely time we had of it.
That life is evanescent and fleeting is not much of a discovery. The march towards the inevitable nothingness is relentless and speeds up as we grow older. But to use that knowledge to enhance our enjoyment of life rather than put a damper on it, is a hard skill to learn.
Yesterday, surrounded by the banter of friends, food of my childhood, and delicious wine ( not to mention shots of vodka served on the house!), life was sweet and my heart filled with warmth and gratitude. Today, that memory is already tinged with a hint of melancholy..
Everything changes and maybe one cannot step into the same river twice, but nothing is going to erase or change the fact that once (even if never again) I felt as I did.
February 18, 2010
Scrubbing up nicely
I hate to gate-crash on the beauty and fragile strength of wabi-sabi, but I'm still recovering from Valentine's Day massacre of the innocents.
I have no doubt Gordon Brown was dragged kicking and screaming into the Piers Morgan interview, but the ultimatum was clear: 'Get this, Gordon - either you go and talk about how you felt as your daughter Jennifer died in your arms, or you won't be Prime Minister in a few months. So will you do it?'
Labour knew they were lagging behind in the 'Misery' stakes, after David Cameron's son Ivan, who died of cerebral palsy, had appeared in so many interviews a few months back.
Valentine's Day was the day of the broadcast, but wait a minute! Here's David Cameron being interviewed in Scotland on the same day, and surprise, surprise, he's 'struggling for words' - Tony Blair could do 'struggling for words' very well; are their 'strugggling for words' coaches? - as he talked about, wait for it,Ivan again! Saying he 'wished he'd taken more time off to grieve'.
Two dead children in one day! It would be funny, if it wasn't so tragic on so many levels. As the election approaches, the cold bodies of Jennifer and Ivan are scrubbing up nicely. And I'm 'struggling for words' as I write this and am 'close to breaking down'.
Please like this blog entry; please like me. My childhood was worse than yours, and if I start crying, believe me, I will flood the world...
Can I be in charge now?
A shared moment.
A few days ago I was walking along Holloway road, dodging others either shopping or like myself hurrying home from work, when I noticed a small boy, My guess about 3 years old, reaching out to touch people as they walked past him, his Mum was oblivious as she held his hand, her mind probably on what she needed when she reached the front of the fruit stall queue.
As I watched he reached out and tapped anybody who came close enough, and nobody noticed, until a young boy a few years older than himself turned round and gave him a scowl, however he wasn't put off and carried on with his game.
When I reached him, I held out my hand and was rewarded with a high five and a beaming smile,which made my heart sing.
I may never see him again,but we shared a moment and to me it was gift all the way.
February 17, 2010
Elegance of the hedgehog
All things Japanese have been growing on me slowly but inexorably.
I used to think the culture too alien, the language too foreign, the people so formal and impenetrable, that it was a waste of time to even try and and comprehend it all. Given choice, Japan was the last place on earth I would ever want to visit. Not so any more.
Curiously, if you open yourself up to the possibility of accessing something, this 'something' it will come and find you, as long as you stay open. Or so I hope.
I have recently read a truly heartwarming novel called 'The elegance of the hedgehog' by the French author Muriel Barbery. It sold millions worldwide (if you're like me and the word bestseller acts as a repellent, stay cool). Apparently, doctors and psychotherapists in France prescribe it to their patients on the grounds that it can do you a lot of good.
Of this I'm sure, as the book is full of wonders.
But, to me, quite an additional wonder is its Japanese character Mr Ozu, through whose eyes we can see some aspects of our Western culture as if for the first time. Take for example interior decoration, and the fact that quite commonly we tend to have two of the same things in our homes: two identical lamps, two vases or candlesticks on the mantlepiece, two ornaments symetrically placed, etc. Of course this is part of our Greek cultural heritage where values such as perfection, shine, solidity and symmetry are as predominant as opposite values of imperfect and understated beauty, fluidity, texture and asymmetry dominate the Wabi-Sabi esthetics of Japanese way.
But it makes one wonder if perhaps we want two of everything not because of our Hellenistic conditioning but because one of anything is never enough; we're simply fearfull and greedy. And our homes are full of superfluous things.
"Have our civilization become so destitute that we can only live in our fear of want? Can we only enjoy our possesions or our senses when we are certain that we shall always be able to enjoy them? Perhaps the Japanese have learned that you can only savour pleasure when you know it is ephemeral and unique; armed with this knowledge, they are yet able to weave their lives."
This I cannot know, for I'm a novice to things Japanese, but I shall hand-sell 'The Elegance of the hedgehog' like there is no tomorrow...
February 15, 2010
I really enjoyed Marzena's wabi-sabi blog and was interested to find out some more, during my search of the many sites (I'm like a child, still fascinated with the internet, it seems like magic to me, that one moment you've never heard of a word and then all this information is there waiting for you) anyway, I came across these words
"Each today, well-lived, makes yesterday a dream of happiness and each tomorrow a visit of hope. Look, therefore, to this one day, for it and it alone is life,"
Thankyou Internet, thankyou Marzena, & thankyou Marzena's customer.
February 14, 2010
When a customer at the bookshop the other day enquired whether we had anything on Wabi-Sabi, my brain hurriedly scanned for every similar-sounding word it knew. Wasabi (Japanese horseradish to go with your sushi) and Wahhabi (Islamic fundamentalist sect) was all it came up with. I tried both on the customer and failed both times.
I love learning new words, but that day I learned a whole new concept.
Wabi-Sabi is the quintessential Japanese (I was close there!) worldview based on the idea of transience. The key words are impermanence, imperfection, incompletness, i.e. nothing lasts, nothing is perfect, nothing is finished. So you better grow up and accept it. As such it is a close relative of Zen.
As well as the beauty of simplicity, authenticity, imperfection (Wabi), it also implies things touched by the patina of time, things that aged beautifully (Sabi).
Equipped with this new knowledge I was delighted to discover that some of the things I owned and loved - The Chinese medicine cabinet from Portobello (all aged wood and not a single nail), the old sepia-toned photographs on my walls, the worn and faded Persian rug - could all be described as Wabi-Sabi.
To be a Wabi person means to be simple, unmaterialistic, graceful, dignified, humble by choice and in tune with nature. A sixteen-century master said that Wabi person is someone who is not dissatisfied even though he hasn't the right utensils to conduct the tea ceremony.
Phew! Wabi-Sabi might be just another label, but as labels go, it's not a bad one to aspire to..
February 10, 2010
"Be thou herald of these wonders! [...] Truly being here is glorious."
My thoughts precisely, about the blog..
New role in life
Given the wonder of the last three blogs, I am clearly not worthy to be here in any other capacity than as an admirer.
It is enough.
Give, receive, give, receive, give.....
Give, receive, give, receive, give.....
I imagine myself being part of a circle,
Where gifts are being pasted from one to another,
When it is my turn to hold each gift,
I feel my body being open to receive,
And then as I pass it on, I do so with a smile,
My body is glowing with warmth,
And I know that to be ready to receive again,
My hands must be empty.
This circle is open to all,
Who are willing to be part of something bigger,
The rules are not complicated,
Give, receive, give, receive, give.....
I have been thinking a lot about flowing recently (to do with the freedom I spoke of in my last post). This is partly to do with learning to express my spirit through my body. I long for a rhythm of life that is steady that allows for me to flow so the poem that flowed into my inbox today was perfect – and I share it here.
I Believe in All - Rainer Maria Rilke
I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for
may for once spring clear
without my contriving.
If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.
Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing to you as no one ever has,
streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.
February 09, 2010
Like a whale..
We are going from strength to strength, Michel de Montaigne and I.
It has been only two weeks since I met him (blog 31 Jan), but something tells me that we might be 'lifers'.
I don't know if sharing an Enneagram number with your loved one is a good thing or not, but as fate would have it, we are both number Seven.
Below is rather long extract from Sarah Bakewell's wonderful biography of Montaigne "How to live".
I hope the author won't object to being quoted here without permission. I also hope that if the following isn't a brilliant description of a typical Seven's behaviours and attitudes, S.P. will correct me pronto.
" What he loved above all about his travels was the feeling of going with the flow. He avoided all fixed plans [..] He travelled as he read and wrote: by following the promptings of pleasure. Leonard Woolf, roaming Europe with his wife over three centures later, would describe how she too cruised along like a whale sieving the ocean for plankton, cultivating a 'passive alertness' which brought her a strange mingling of 'exhilaration and relaxation'. Montaigne was the same. It was an extention of his everyday pleasure in letting himself 'roll relaxedly with the rolling of the heavens', as he luxuriously put it, but with the added delight that came from seeing everything afresh and with full attention, like a child.
He didn't like to plan, but he did not like to miss things either. His secretary, [...] , remarked that people in the party complained about Montaigne's habit of straying from the path whenever he heard of extra things he wanted to see. But Montaigne would say it was impossible to stray from the path: there was no path. The only plan he had ever commited himself to was that of travelling in unknown places. So long as he did not repeat the route, he was following this plan to the letter."
All that sounds rather attractive to me, but clearly underneath all that 'going with the flow' was an uncontrollable compulsion.
I remarked, by a way of small talk, to a colleague at work today that all my so called failures in life stem from lack of focus. "That's rather ironic", the wit responded... "In a photographer!".
And it is both ironic and wasteful. And yet, to paraphrase St Augustine (quite a habit of mine lately), I pray:
Lord give me focus, but not yet..
February 08, 2010
New schedules on ITV
By way of nothing at all - so nothing new there then - I liked a letter in a paper last week.
It followed the appointment of the ubiquitous Adam Crozier to the boss-ship of ITV.
He was formerly in charge of Royal Mail, of course, prompting one correspondent to ask if we could now expect the breakfast programme to be shown at 3.00pm, with no programmes at all on Sundays.
February 06, 2010
Older, but none the wiser
The first chapter of Nabokov's inspired memoir 'Speak, Memory' opens with:
"The CRADLE ROCKS above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness. Although the two are identical twins, man, as a rule, views the prenatal abyss with more calm than the one he is heading for (at some forty-five hundred heart-beats an hour).
Tomorrow is my birthday.
A simple arithmetical calculation tells me that I shall be about 40 million heartbeats older than a year ago; and a rather unthinkable ( and certainly unspeakable!) number of heartbeats away from that miraculous, yet so commonplace, event - a birth. By the way, no, I didn't actually work out that astronomical figure... What's in it for me?
As for that great unknowable day of eventual return to darkness, to paraphrase St Augustine:
God, teach me to contemplate it, but not yet..
I might be older but, sadly, none the wiser.
Let there be something of the unborn in me today; I need to recover this sense.
Trapped in the multiplicity of time, I have become a child of multiplicity - obsessing over scraps of knowledge; worshipping broken images of truth.
Unborn, I am not so distracted; but simple and unboundaried.
So today, I take into my born life, something of the unborn;
I take into my multiplcity, simplicity;
and in the world of competitive knowing, I cling to a poverty of knowing.
The deep and clueless knowing of the unborn.
February 03, 2010
Emptying my bag, but holding onto treasures
If you are like me, once in a while you empty your bag of the usuall flotsam and jetsam of the vast mess that is your life and discard the contents into the dustbin of your personal history. Out go old bills, receipts, shopping lists, notes to yourself, letters from others, old cinema tickets, miscellaneous and no longer relevant bits of paper..
If, on the other hand, you're not like me, you file everything neatly, and so you should!
I often find old newspaper cuttings holding something I judged at the time worth holding on to.. Until the time of letting go..
Below is one such treasure; if you don't like it , I have others.
"Art is a way of making reality more present. We have been taught to oppose reality with the imaginary. But the act of making coherent sense of the world is already an imaginative construction. We are constantly distanced from reality. It lies beyond our world. Art brings that reality closer. Without it we are literally lost, homeless.. " (Simon McBurney, Theatre Director, The Independent 19 November 2009)
I like that very much - Art as homesickness; a yearning to come home, or rather to feel at home wherever we are.
Making my mark
I am happy to be the intrepid blogger to break into February as it is my birthday month and so has always been much beloved by me when all around find it gloomy. In my pile of magazines by the loo this morning, a journalist asked the actress Tilda Swinton, “How come you are so free?”. If you know the fabulously outrageous Tilda Swinton even a little, it is the perfect question to ask her. She sensibly avoided the question by answering “By missing a large part of my brain” – although as a 6 on the Enneagram who can go round and round in circles in my brain and delay becoming free, maybe it’s not such a bad answer.
Though I had never quite thought of it in those terms, I probably ask myself whether I have managed to become freer over the past year when it is my birthday. The answer is normally the same. Some mini bridges burnt: no more need to tramp over the land of the past in order to move forward but mostly I’m still a work in progress in the familiar territory of the spiral of my ways: same place but a year deeper on. This year I have tried to tackle my so called art teachers from school who never taught me so much as a single thing except to say how useless I was and always mark me bottom of the class. My games teachers did too but I have no feelings about this and completely agree with their assessment of my talents. The art is different and I have carried the scar for over 30 years. I am a creative person but do not have natural talent with drawing so I am not sure where the desire to paint comes from but at Christmas I decided if I only had 5 years left it would be a real sadness to me that I had never tried so I found a life drawing class in the next street to me!
And OMG did I meet the art teachers! They disabled my every mark on the page until by the end of the 2 hours I was ragged from the fight. I decided that the very lovely life drawing teacher who taught me more in the first hour than in 4 years of secondary school better not have the disappointment of teaching me and that I would always be the problem pupil so I better not go back. Fortunately, over the next few days, I saw the light and realized that if I was him and he clearly enjoyed teaching, it would actually be dull if everyone could draw and watching me progress as a result of his teaching would be much more satisfying. But then, the art teachers got the better of me and said that that was only OK if I actually did progress which is hard for someone who is genetically and terminally bad at something. I needed Tilda's brave and brainless state.
Well I’d love to end this story by saying that dear reader, I was that crap artist and that was a year ago and now I’m so good that I’ve started a little cottage industry on the kitchen table and can’t keep up with the demand, but no, I am only 5 weeks in. The teacher seems keen to help me with my terror of putting the mark on the page whilst the bright young things around me rock up for the first time and put something on their paper that vaguely corresponds to what we’re all looking at. I am, a beginner and I am learning to trust that I can move forward very very slowly with a lot of help and a lot of patience. The art teachers are nearly slain and I can see that one day I’ll walk over their bodies but even before that, I am learning to be free, free to be a beginner and free to fail.