Saturday, December 27, 2014

2014.12.27 — On Death, Gods, Monsters, Mothers and Alice Miller's Parental Fushigis*

The other night I chatted on-line with a friend I used to chat with all the time, but haven’t been lately for various reasons. It was nice. No! It was better than nice. We have always felt quite free to talk about anything and everything, although God and The Bible can be contentious. Sometimes, like last night, I like to tease her gently about God’s gender, for which I was once again told to ‘stop being stupid.’

Note that I had a cold — my first in about four years — but my friend didn’t know that at the time. Anyway, here is a synopsis of the conversation:

I commented that with her help I had come to feel joy in life for the first time, and that if I were to die tonight that would be okay because of what her friendship has brought me. She demanded that I tell her if I die. And that made me realize that because our friendship is on-line, if I were to die no one in my off-line life would know to tell her that. What a strange thought! So I joked about my not being able to tell her of my death because she doesn’t believe in ghosts. (And I added that I will arrange for friends to let her know of my death.)

As we chatted, she commented on how her stubbornness is hindering her efforts at ‘working on herself.’ I once again brought up Alice Miller’s book, The Body Never Lies: The Lingering Effects of Hurtful Parenting. (I think it would help her. Anyway…)

A short time later, she asked me to not die tonight. I assured her that I had no plans to, but that that was in God’s hands and that She is an extreme practical joker. We both smiled with the familiarity of re-experiencing that old banter as she chastised me for my failure to respect properly God’s gender. I argued that God has been female or neutral in bibles older than the Christian testaments.

Just before it was time to stop chatting I commented about death being a part of life, and not being something to fear. She said that she isn’t afraid of death, that it is like falling asleep. ‘Not if you get hit by I bus, or fall from a high-rise,’ I countered. To which she riposted ‘Have you ever fallen asleep with a migraine?’ And with a smile, we signed off for the night.

Then I went off to do minor household chores before going to bed for a short sleep. With the cold, which was a bad one, my body ached, my skin was hypersensitive and chest felt tight. When I woke around midnight the cold was still heavy in me, but I needed a break from bed and so came up to my library to listen to music and read e.mails. My copy of The Upanishads, which is sitting on the desk beside me, began calling me to open it. And so I did, and my randomly opened page brought a smile to my face, because this is what I read:
1. Then Sukesan Bharadvaja asked him, 'Blessed one, Hiranyanabha, a king's son of Kosala, came to me and asked this question: "Bharadvaja, do you know the person with sixteen parts?"

'I told the prince, "I do not know him. If I had known him, how could I not have told you? The one who speaks falsehood withers up, root and all, so I may not speak falsehood." He fell silent, mounted his chariot and went away. So I ask you the same: where is this person?'

2. He told him, 'Good man, the person in whom the sixteen parts arise is here, inside this body.

3. 'He thought, "What needs to have departed for me to have departed? What needs to have stayed for me to stay?"

4. 'He created breath: from breath, faith, space, air, light, water, earth and the senses, mind, and food: from food came strength, heat (tapas), the mantras, work, the worlds, and in the worlds, name.
5. 'Just as the flowing rivers, heading towards the ocean, once they have reached the ocean disappear— their name and form are broken up, and it is just called "ocean"—the sixteen parts of the seer, heading towards the person, disappear—their name and form are broken up, and it is just called "person". This is without parts, immortal. There is a verse about it:

6.     'Know the person who is to be known —
          In whom the parts are fixed
     Like spokes in a chariot's wheel-hub —
          That death may not trouble you.'

7. Pippalada said to them, 'This is as much as I know of the supreme brahman. There is nothing higher than this.'

8. Praising him, they said: 'You are our father, who bring us across to the far side of ignorance.' Praise to the supreme Rsis! Praise to the supreme Rsis!

Note: ‘… the sixteen parts are said to comprise the subtle body, or linga sarira, with some modifications. From Indian Philosophy: An Introduction by M. Ram Murty.
See Wiki Subtle Body.

The Upanishads. Toronto: Penguin Books, 2003. Translated by Valerie J. Roebuck. Ch. ‘Question 6’, p343. [Text can be found on line here.]
And, even more amusing, was that as I was writing that the song Little Talks by Of Monsters and Men came into my ears on random Youtube. Interesting — no amazing — lyrics, about burying truth. What first caught my ear, because of my conversation, was the lyric ‘all that’s left is the ghost of you’ which tied what I said to The Upanishad’s reference to the subtle body and how the gender of god is male and without gender.

But when I really listened to the lyric, which I did repeatedly after the first listen, I was stunned to see it describe with perfect metaphor Alice Miller’s arguments about surviving childhood brutality in The Body Never Lies: The Lingering Effects of Hurtful Parenting! And, of course, what extends the fushigi is that before coming upstairs to write this I was reading chapter 9’ The Carousel of Feeling’ from that book. I have plastered it with sticky notes, including another fushigi, because Miller is describing my life. Specifically last night I was reading her description of how hard telling the truth about our feelings for our parents to our parents is, and how we bury that truth at the expense of our body’s health and emotional and psychological ability to be authentic.

And, even more amazing is that the lyrics ‘all that’s left is the ghost of you’ from ‘Little Talks’ ties my conversation to Alice Miller’s book and the subtle body of Indian philosophy and my comment about the gender of God. Too amazing.

Here are the lyrics to ‘Little Talks’:

Hey! Hey! Hey!

I don't like walking around this old and empty house.
So hold my hand, I'll walk with you my dear

The stairs creak as I sleep,
it's keeping me awake
It's the house telling you to close your eyes

Some days I can't even dress myself.
It's killing me to see you this way.

'Cause though the truth may vary
this ship will carry our bodies safe to shore.

Hey! Hey! Hey!

There's an old voice in my head
that's holding me back
Well tell her that I miss our little talks.

Soon it will all be over, buried with our past
We used to play outside when we were young
and full of life and full of love.

Some days I don't know if I am wrong or right
Your mind is playing tricks on you my dear.

'Cause though the truth may vary
This ship will carry our bodies safe to shore

Don't listen to a word I say
The screams all sound the same.

Though the truth may vary
this ship will carry our bodies safe to shore

You're gone, gone, gone away,
I watched you disappear.
All that's left is a ghost of you.
Now we're torn, torn, torn apart,
there's nothing we can do,
Just let me go, we'll meet again soon.

Now wait, wait, wait for me, please hang around
I'll see you when I fall asleep.
Don't listen to a word I say
The screams all sound the same.

Though the truth may vary
this ship will carry our bodies safe to shore

Don't listen to a word I say
The screams all sound the same.

Though the truth may vary
this ship will carry our bodies safe to shore
Though the truth may vary
this ship will carry our bodies safe to shore
Though the truth may vary
this ship will carry our bodies safe to shore

Penultimately, I want to include a quotation or two from Alice Miller. But to make the depth of the fushigis visible would require me to cite pretty much the whole chapter, if not the entire book. So… A quick summary and then a couple of short(ish) quotations. Miller’s argument is that children of parents who hurt them very badly because of a lack of genuine love for their children, whether with physical brutality sexual or otherwise, or emotional battery whether from hysteria or coldness, will almost always become physically ill as adults and die prematurely if they do not stop unconsciously seeking from their parents the genuine love and acceptance and honour their true inner child still craves. If, in other words, they do not accept fully without any self delusion or denial the truth of their parents as having been hurtful people, their bodies will tell them they are not seeing the truth by becoming physically sick. Her argument resonates with the truth because of my own life story, which I won’t elaborate here.

I had originally restrained myself to just the one quotation, but as I was writing this two more needed to be included because of the quality of the fushigis associated with them.

From Chapter 9 ‘The Carousel of Feelings':
I once initiated a discussion on the Fourth Commandment by asking what the love of ones parents consisted of exactly, even if they were cruel to us in our childhood. The answers came quickly, with little time for reflection. Various feelings were named: compassion for the old people, who were frequently also ill or frail; gratitude for the gift of life and the good days when one was not beaten; fear of being an evil person; the conviction that we must forgive our parents' deeds because otherwise we will never be truly adult. This triggered a heated discussion, in which these views were challenged. One participant, Ruth, said with unexpected vehemence:

My life is proof positive that the Fourth Commandment is wrong. Once I freed myself from the claims made on me by my parents and stopped living up to their expectations, overt or covert, I started feeling healthier than I had ever felt before. I lost all my symptoms, I stopped being irritable with my children, and I now believe that all those things had happened because I was trying to comply with a commandment that did not do my body any good.

Ruth thought this commandment had such power over us because it supports the anxiety and the feelings of guilt our parents have inculcated into us at a very early age. She herself had been a prey to enormous anxiety shortly before she realized that she did not love her parents. She had only wanted to love them and accordingly pretended both to herself and them that she actually did. Once she became aware of this, the anxiety disappeared.

I think many people might feel the same way if they had someone say to them, "You don't need to love and honor your parents. They did you harm. You don't need to force yourself to feel things you don't really feel. Constraint and enforcement have never produced anything good. In your case they can be destructive; your body will pay the price."

This discussion confirmed my impression that we sometimes spend all our lives obeying a phantom that goes by the name of upbringing, morality, or religion. It forces us to ignore, repress, or fight against our natural, biological needs, and finally we pay for this with illnesses that we neither understand nor want to understand and that we try to overcome with medication. When patients undergoing therapy actually manage to achieve access to their true selves through the awakening of their repressed emotions, some therapists, inspired no doubt by Alcoholics Anonymous, attribute this to the agency of a "higher power." By doing so, they undermine the trust we all have in ourselves from the outset: the trust in our ability to sense what will do us good and what will not.

In my case, my father and mother systematically drove this trust out of me from birth. I had to learn to see and judge everything I felt through my mothers eyes and to systematically kill off my real feelings and needs. Accordingly, in the course of time I was seriously handicapped in my ability to feel my own needs and to go in search of their gratification. For example, it took me forty-eight years to discover the need to paint and to allow myself to gratify that need. Finally, that need asserted itself. It took me even longer to concede myself the right not to love my parents (p111-2).
Finally, two fushigis from Miller.

#1: 2014.12.03: “The ability of the body [to heal] is a never ending source of wonder to me” (p117). I read that two days after visiting my new dentist on the 2014.12.01. She and I both agreed that my distressed molar needed to go and so she pulled it. She had a student with her and so was articulating with near awe and total respect how my body had responded to the long term infection that had been extant in the roots of that tooth. “The body is very smart. It knows what it is doing. Amazing.”

And now here is the fushigi quotation from Miller:
A person once said, “It’s true. Why do I think it would kill my parents if I told them what I really felt for them? I have the right to feel what I feel. It’s not a question of retaliation, but of honesty. Why is honesty upheld as an abstract concept in religious instruction at school but prohibited in the relationship with our parents?”

Indeed, how wonderful it would be if we could talk honestly to our parents. What they ultimately make of the things we say to them is something we have no influence on. But it would be an opportunity for us, for our children, and not least for our body, which has after all shown us the way to the truth.

This ability of the body is a source of never-ending wonder to me. It fights against lies with a tenacity and a shrewdness that are properly astounding. Moral and religious claims cannot deceive or confuse it. A little child is force-fed morality. He accepts this nourishment willingly because he loves his parents, and suffers countless illnesses in his school years. As an adult he makes use of his superb intellect to fight against conventional morality, possibly becoming a philosopher or a writer in the process. But his true feelings about his family, which were masked by illness during his school days, have a stunting effect on him, as was the case with Nietzsche and Schiller. Finally, he becomes a victim of his parents, sacrificing himself to their ideas of morality and religion, even though as an adult he saw so clearly through the lies of “society.” Seeing through his own self-deception, realizing that he had let himself be made the sacrifice of morality, was more difficult for him than penning philosophical tracts or writing courageous dramas. But it is only the internal processes taking place in the individual, not the thoughts divorced from our bodies, that can bring about a productive change in our mentality (p116-7 my emphasis).

#2: A letter from someone taking the risk of becoming alive.
I read this the day after learning that my mother was nearing death. I haven’t spoken to her since 1979, and I will not go to either her death bed or her funeral. My sister replied to my having declined the opportunity to see her one last time before her death, ‘Yes. No boo-hoo from me too.’ She then related to me that she had been under strict orders from our mother and younger sister to not to tell me or our oldest sister that mother was near death because mother ‘would not stand for the hypocrisy of you and [my other sister] racing to her bedside with your belated concern and grief for her passing.’ Yes, that sister has been estranged from ‘mother’ for almost thirty years.

As I was preparing this, Neil Diamond’s song ‘I’ve Been this Way Before’ came into my ears from my iTunes playlist. Odd, in the light of what is happening now in my life, how this was an absolute childhood favourite song.
I've seen the light
And I've seen the flame

And I've been this way before
And I'm sure to be this way again;

For I've been refused
And I've been regained
And I’ve seen your eyes before
And I’m sure to see your eyes again
Once again.

For I've been released
And I've been regained
And I've sung my song before
And I'm sure to sing my song again
Once again.

Some people got to laugh
Some people got to cry
Some people got to make it through
By never won'dring why.
Some people got to sing
Some people got to sigh
Some people never see the light
Until the day they die;
But I've been released
And I've been regained
And I've been this way before
And I'm sure to be this way again

Once again.
One more time again
Just one more time.
What made this song a part of the fushigis is that part of the discussion with my sister has been about how my mother refuses to see the light of her actions. And that is in accord with Miller who writes that, in her experience, it is very rare for parents who were abusive to their children to see the light of their behaviour and choose to heal it. Instead, if the child begins to take control of their own life and stop hoping for a love that will never come, the overwhelming behaviour from the parents is resentment and the perception that the honesty is simply their children being ungrateful malcontents.

Anyway, now for the final Miller fushigi quotation. As I was learning about my mother’s immanent death, about which I felt, and continue to feel, complete indifference and no desire to attempt any final deathbed reconciliation, I read the following letter that Miller cited:
The whole process [of standing up to my parents with full honesty], however, was anything but painless. I had to look the truth in the eye/and the truth hurt. I felt the suffering of the little child I once was, a child who was never loved, never listened to, never taken any notice of, a child who let himself be exploited, hoping that someday things might be different. The miracle was that the more I felt, the more weight I lost*. I didn't need strong drink to numb my feelings, I started seeing things straight again, and if I had an occasional fit of rage I knew who the real targets were: not my children, not my wife, but my mother and father, from whom I could now withdraw my love. I realized that this love was only the desire to be loved, a desire that was never fulfilled. I had to get rid of that desire. Suddenly I didn't need to eat as much as I used to, I was less tired, 1 had all my energy at my command, which had a bearing on my work as well.

In time, my anger at my parents also cooled off, because now if I need something I do it myself, instead of waiting for them to do it. I no longer force myself to love them (why should I?), and I no longer fear that I will feel guilty when they are dead, as my sister has prophesied. I think that their death will be a relief, because then the constraint to be insincere and hypocritical will disappear. But I am already trying to free myself of that constraint. My parents asked my sister to tell me that my letters had become very down-to-earth and factual. They found this hurtful because they felt I was not so affection as I used to be. They wanted me back the way I was. I can’t do it, and I don't want to do it either. I no longer intend to play the role they have allotted to me In their little drama. After a long search, I found a therapist who made a good impression on me, someone I can talk to the way I used to talk to you, frankly, without sparing my parents, without covering up the truth, my own truth. And above, all, I'm glad I was able to make the decision to leave the house that bound me for so long to hopes that could never be fulfilled (p109-111 my emphasis).

*I have, likewise lost weight since seeing this truth. About eighty pounds, I estimate, since 2012.
Wow. That was a lot of words and took a long time to get posted. If you have read to here, thank you.

2015.01.13 Fushigi addendum: I got an e.mail from my sister today saying that she read my blog. That was nice of her, thank you! But what is a remarkable fushigi is that she told me that shortly before leaving to attend our mother’s last days, in December, that she also purchased a copy of The Body Never Lies from her used bookstore! What she doesn’t know is that I found my copy in my local used bookstore. And that, a few months later, when I wanted to send a copy of it to my friend, I found another copy of it in my local used bookstore. Too, too funny!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

2014.11.14 — Dropped Staples, Casey Kasem Decays and Trivial Fushigis*

To write this or not, that is the question. At what point does the nature of a fushigi degenerate into the silliest of silly things? I don’t know. I have come to the realization that capital ‘L’ Life has a wicked and very funny sense of humour. And yes, capital ‘L’ life has a personality. Not a definable one, perhaps, but humour cannot exist without some kind of personhood. Or can it?… I digress.

Where was I? Right. So, does that mean that silly fushigis are the ones closest to the heart of life? I mean capital ‘L’ Life? Are play and imagination the true measures of the magical nature of being alive? Who knows. Who knows?! I wonder who ‘Who’ is and if s/he gives a whoot? (LOL! Sorry. Silly joke.)

But I had a very funny thing happen in the office Thursday. It began with the trite if not innocuous act of removing staples from a file folder that had five of them holding two pieces of paper to it. I was purging old work to make room for current. Anyway, I dropped the first staple onto the carpeted floor, which surprised me as I am very careful to not drop staples.
And oddly enough this was a continuation of a dropsy pattern that had began earlier in the morning with me having dropped my car keys, and before that, my breakfast utensils and the lid of a vitamin supplement jar. All mildly annoying, but dropping staples I find egregious because I take my shoes off in the office and because removing staples from the carpet is often an arduous task for the cleaning people. For these reasons I don’t remember the last time I have done that and so this dropped staple brought from me a mild oath. Then I got down on my knees to find the staple by feel because the carpet has a pattern that makes it almost impossible to see the staple.

It took a surprisingly long time to find it, but found it I did just before giving up. I put it into the trash, and then proceeded to drop the next staple onto the floor! After I found that one, I managed to miss the garbage and then had to re-find it! I began thinking to myself, ‘WTF is going on!?’ So I very carefully took out the last staple and it made it to the floor as well.

Before the demands of work began to fill my time, I mentally scratched my head and laughed at myself and at life. And I wondered what was going on within my Self that i was so distracted that I’d drop not just one but three staples. And I confess to being a little frustrated that my daily yoga practice seemed to not be helping me be centred and grounded enough to keep me from dropping staples, keys, lids, utensils.

All this was quickly forgotten for about an hour until I turned my chair in an unusual way and from the corner of my eye spotted a small piece of crumpled blue sticky note paper on the floor against my filing cabinet / table. Not that I am an overly anal neat freak, but maybe my earlier floor forays had conditioned me to bend over to pick it up and trash it. I was stunned to see that it was resting on top of a staple. I blinked my eyes, before smiling at this. And then I wondered how it was that that piece of paper got there, because it wasn’t mine: it was blue and my current and recent sticky’s are yellow. And so I uncrumpled it, to find that it was most certainly not mine and that it was just a torn corner of someone else’s note.

And tonight, as I was getting ready to write this fushig blog, I could hear through my head phones, without actively attending it, a story my wife was listening to on the TV show TMZ about how the body of the DJ Casey Kasem’s was being allowed to decay in Norway by his wife so as to keep from being discovered whether or not he had suffered abuse at her hands before he died. (See Casey Kasem Rotting In Norway.)

I was started to hear from my head phones a song with the lyrics

”I’ll be asleep and I’ll drown my body will never be found…”
The song was playing on CBC-R2’s The Signal and from the play list I found it to be ‘The State of the Union Address’ by The Olympic Symphonium.

And the last small fushigi for the night. I received a Goodreads email from a new GR friend. He had replied to my having greeted him upon his friend request. In my greeting I had commented about ideas because of his name,
and he replied in kind. And with his reply another small fushigi created itself.

Here is the correspondence, including my comment in my reply about the fushigi:
Guy: Hello 1000ideas. Nice to meet you. I remember when I thought I had a thousand ideas too. Or, I think I used to think that I did. Now I'm not so sure. ;-)

1000ideas: Hello Guy… I’m sure you still do have a thousand ideas either big or small, yet we as humans forget things we don't need. Yet thanks to the power of writing we can remember all the thoughts we had.

Guy: Hello 1000ideas. Your comment about the power of writing being able to provide remembrance brought out from my mind a couple of cautionary tales about this so-called word power. Of course they are written down, and so are inherently ironical, which makes me smile. Anyway, here are some words to ponder:
In Plato's Phaedrus Socrates reports a conversation between The Egyptian god Thoth, the inventor of letters, and the god Amon.

Amon says:
This discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth but only the semblance of truth; they will be bearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.

Socrates continues:
I cannot help feeling, Phaedrus, that writing is unfortunately like painting; for the creations of the painter have the attitude of life, and yet if you ask them a question, they preserve a solemn silence, and the same may be said of speeches. You would imagine that they had intelligence, but if you want to know anything and put a question to one of them, the speaker always gives one unvarying answer.

Plato. Phaedrus. Toronto: Penguin, 1973,p. 84. Cited in Mass Communication in Canada, 3rd Ed. by Lorimer and McNulty, Don Mills: Oxford University Press, 1996, p. 20.

B) [Written] Language as a Prison

The Philippines did have a written language before the Spanish colonists arrived, contrary to what many of those colonists subsequently claimed. However, it was a language that some theorists believe was mainly used as a mnemonic device for epic poems. There was simply no need for a European-style written language in a decentralized land of small seaside fishing villages that were largely self-sufficient.

One theory regarding language is that it is primarily a useful tool born out of a need for control. In this theory written language was needed once top-down administration of small towns and villages came into being. Once there were bosses there arose a need for written language. The rise of the great metropolises of Ur and Babylon made a common written language an absolute necessity — but it was only a tool for the administrators. Administrators and rulers needed to keep records and know names — who had rented which plot of land, how many crops did they sell, how many fish did they catch, how many children do they have, how many water buffalo? More important, how much do they owe me? In this account of the rise of written language, naming and accounting seem to be language's primary "civilizing" function. Language and number are also handy for keeping track of the movement of heavenly bodies, crop yields, and flood cycles. Naturally, a version of local oral languages was eventually translated into symbols as well, and non-administrative words, the words of epic oral poets, sort of went along for the ride, according to this version.

What's amazing to me is that if we accept this idea, then what may have begun as an instrument of social and economic control has now been internalized by us as a mark of being civilized. As if being controlled were, by inference, seen as a good thing, and to proudly wear the badge of this agent of control — to be able to read and write — makes us better, superior, more advanced. We have turned an object of our own oppression into something we now think of as virtuous. Perfect! We accept written language as something so essential to how we live and get along in the world that we feel and recognize its presence as an exclusively positive thing, a sign of enlightenment. We've come to love the chains that bind us, that control us, for we believe that they are us (161-2).
David Byrne from his excellent book Bicycle Diaries.

And now for an odd fushigi of the day. Fushigi is my adopted word for small odd synchronicity.

Earlier tonight, but after I'd read your reply, I stumbled into an old pdf book on my computer while looking for a video I'd transferred from tape into digital format. It seems to have gone missing since upgrading my OS. Anyway, instead of finding the video with the title 'Wisdom of the Dream' I found Who Knows?: A Study of Religious Consciousness by Raymond M. Smullyan. And I began to read it, and just after the introduction I read:
Martin Gardner has left us a host of thought-provoking thoughts on religion (as well as other topics) in his book The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener, and I would like to share some of my own thoughts that his have provoked.
Sorry about the verbosity. I don't know why your short comment would prompt me to respond in this way except maybe to provide you with a few more ideas to think about.

Be well,...

And so I had an interestingly trivial and trivially interesting fushigi day. What of that? Who knows?! LOL!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

2014.10.26 — Upanishads, Making God Small and The Beauty of Beauty Fushigis*

Out of the blue, The Upanishads have jumped into my life with a quick pair of peculiar and, perhaps, blog-worthy fushigi. (And provide me with an opportunity to blog one of my stories! Oh frabjous day, callooh callay!)

The 1st Upanishads fushigi was set up with a small fushigi that began 2014.10.14 with my resuming to read Your God is Too Small by JB Philips in the morning before work. I sticky-noted what I'd read then because I felt I would refer to his argument when I wrote my review of the book. On the sticky I had written “The physical [is seen by Philips as] less beautiful [than the metaphysical that exists in our hearts and imaginations].” I read in Philips’ argument that he considers the existence of physical beauty as a pale simulacrum of a meta-beauty that is to be found where God resides. (This follows the Greek idea of an image of life that is outside life and which fallible life aspires to grow towards.)

Philips makes the argument that the existence of beauty is a suggestion supporting the existence of something beyond the limits of somatic reality, a hint of ‘God,’ so to speak.
Is it possible that beauty is a hint of the real and true and permanent…? No one, of course, can say. But the appeal of beauty which is universal, however distorted or debased it may have become, cannot be lightly dismissed. It is a pointer to something, and it certainly points to something beyond the present limitations of time and space. We can at any rate say that beauty arouses a hunger and a longing which is never satisfied (and some would say never can be satisfied) in this world (p68).
When I got to work, my intuition directed me to do something I haven’t done in perhaps a year, which was to read a particular post in a poetry group that I belong to on Goodreads, called The Boathouse. At one time I was very active in that group but, like my blogging, I have not been active of late because of a general time of busy-ness in life. I have no idea why I visited that particular post with the (to me obscure and completely unknown) title Dana Giola by Ruth. She had been to see the poet (I didn’t know that until I Wikied him) give a talk. From it she related the following observation:
Right on point was his topic, "Beauty." He defined it not as something pretty, but as something exactly right, a beautiful sunset, or a cruel hawk sweeping down on his prey.

He thinks there is not enough beauty in the contemporary US. He particularly cited the buildings. I have an idea that I might consider beautiful some buildings he would hate. But I have to agree with him about schools and public buildings which are utilitarian, but have no grace.
This lead to a typical discussion from several members of the group over the course of a week on the immemorial problem that one man’s beauty is another person’s ugly. I have no idea what drew me to join the discussion, but I did, and posted a comment only because of the fushigi of having read beauty defined an hour to two earlier.

On the morning of the twentieth I read RTO’s comments, and while driving in to work … well. Here is what I posted in that thread:
While driving into work this morning I was thinking about RTO's conflation of mind brain and ego. And I was thinking that with the body we easily distinguish between the function of a toe and an elbow, even though they are coterminous with 'body.' It would seem, logically, for things to be coterminous does not preclude distinction of function and perception of that function.

And I was also thinking, as to the specific notion of 'spirituality,' that one of the severe problems of existence is its existence. If nothing existed before something did, how did something arise from nothing? Old question of course, but given the way matter is being found nebulous and untouchable with modern physical examination, it is not facile to ascribe matter as a spiritual expression: in that it is because it is and predates logic and mind and the ability to be explained except vaguely and inconsistently. And if matter is, then the limitation of spiritual expression to 'just' a mind/body function is problematic: where does spirit in matter end and the 'fact' of the matter begin? And we enter the tail chasing dog arguments again, which makes me smile.

Anyway, I wasn't going to post these meaningless mindless (mindful?) meanders except that as I was pondering them, in a kind of fushigi, my intuitive function asked me to open a copy of The Upanishads I have at my desk. (I haven't actually read it, but keep threatening to.) But this morning I flipped it open, randomly, to Ch.10.2 of Chandpogya VI.II.
...good lad, all creatures, once they have come forth from being, do not know that they have come forth from being. Whatever they are here — a tiger, a lion, a wolf, a boar, a worm, a flying thing, a gnat, a mosquito — they become that.

This subtle part is what all this has as self. It is truth: it is the self. You are that...
Well, I found this funny. Well, the whole enchilada, which in all likelyhood doesn't really exist except as that which creates gas! LOL! Have a good day. My work function calls.
The 2nd Upanishads fushigi began 2014.10.26 in the morning with my getting notice that one of my short stories on the UK reading/writing site ReadWave, “The Unwritten Room,” has officially become popular in the USA with it having reached the milestone of 50 US reads.

When I finished my busy Sunday, I came upstairs a bit tired, and thinking I’d like to blog my Upanishads’ fushigi, and so picked up the book. But I wondered if I might something else amusing and perhaps enlightening in it. And so I flipped it open and stopped on Book III. I was surprised and delighted to see that not only did what I flip to correspond to the beauty discussion, but it connected it to ‘The Unwritten Room’ and to JB Bishop too! Here is the opening to my story:
My Janelle. To think
I once dipped strands of her hair
in India ink!

It, the BIG it, has been called by physicists string theory. I have frequently wondered at that. Why not call it strand theory?
This is what I read in The Upanishads:
… the five subtle elements are called by the name ‘element’, and the five gross elements are called by the name ‘element’. ‘Their coming together is called ‘the body’. So the one who is said to be ‘the self in the body’ is said to be ‘the elemental self’. This self is to that one as a drop of water to the blue lotus on which it rests. The elemental self is overcome by the strands of nature. Because it is overcome, it falls into utter delusion. Because of this utter delusion, it has not seen him resting in the self — the lord, the blessed one, the causer of action. Delighting in the mass of strands and grown dirty, unsteadiest, fickle, utterly bewildered, full of yearning, distracted, it falls into conceitedness. ‘I am this: this is mine”: thinking like this, it binds itself with itself like a bird with a net. Overcome by the fruits that follow on from action, he wanders around (356, my emphasis).
To repeat myself: I find these funny. And, in their own way, very beautiful.

2014.10.28 Fushigi Addendum

The fushigi extended itself the day after I blogged this when I went into The WSS / Weekly Short Stories Contest and Company to see about entering this week’s Poetry Stuffage contest, the theme of which turned out to be 'A Winding Road'. And I was delighted and surprised to see this little fushigi continue with the title of M’s entry of the week: Unwritten Things. (It is a beautifully written villanelle!)

And so it seems to go, the winding road of fushigi appears to be an endless one.

P.S.: I did write a poem, too. Here it is:
The Road Not There

The rock, that rock looked familiar to me.
Had I seen it before, really? When? When!?
I stopped walking,
affirming with words directed to it in waves of air,
‘I do not know you you are a stranger to me!”
I looked at it and felt a tickle of dread, fear,
burble up up from a depth of darkness I didn’t want to know I knew.
I had seen it before, of that I am sure.
This winding road to nowhere is not endless.

My thoughts begin to tumble with the unstoppable possibility
that I had been on this road before and before that too.
I notice this rock’s familiarity. Noticed it today.
And that makes today special in some unperceivable way
because all the other days I’ve passed this way before have been forgotten
even as this winding road has been whiling me down its easy slope and pretty views.

The certainty of truth I had has become sand.
The feeling of earth’s rock hard knock hard lessons are fled.
When the spinning in my head stopped
And the clock spring on my watch stopped winding itself down
I turned and saw that the road I was on wasn’t there anymore.
The nowhere I was at awed me
Because there was nowhere left for me to go.

Friday, October 3, 2014

2014.10.03 — Happy Yoga Hippy and a Word Fushigi*

I was asked to write something for my yoga instructor's newsletter. This is what I wrote for the Nataraja Wellness Centre.

“I’ve lost it!” I told Steve. It was Monday morning, first day back to work after a weekend gone too quickly. “It would seem I have gone totally hippy!” And I started laughing with him.
“How so?”
“I have discovered the joy of yoga in a park, with the sun shining down onto us through tall trees, with grass beneath our mats, and the sound of birds chirping and flitting in the leaves. It was so much better than I thought it could be.” I shook my head. “Yup, I’ve gone totally hippy.”

Yes. A few weeks ago the gift of hippy-hood was given to me as another lesson in life from life. Or, to be more accurate, a reaffirmation of the old lesson that out of all things, even the so-called ‘bad’ things, opportunity and discovery and joy can arise and be embraced. The bad thing was the closing of Babeeta’s Wellness centre on 6th Street at the beginning of September. In response to that ostensibly distressing event a few of us took advantage of the closing of our cherished yoga centre and the nice weather to brave the outdoors. Pure heaven! It was far FAR more delightful and invigorating than I had thought possible. And so, out of the blue I enjoyed yoga under the blue. And outdoor yoga has become, after the fact, a bucket list item I have managed to complete. Thank you.

And I can’t stop smiling, even as I write this. Yup. Maybe the hippies weren’t all dippy after the all, for it would seem I have become one, as I lay on my mat with my friends and fellow yogis, with the sound of birds all around us, under the sun tickling our faces and warming our bodies. Ahhhhhh. And to close the event before we dispersed into our days, hot tea, fresh fruit and bread, and conversation.

I am reminded of a poem. A favourite of mine that has remained a favourite for more than 20 years. Oddly enough, it is set in winter! But here it is:

Four Tao philosophers as cedar waxwings
chat on a February berry bush
in sun, and I am one.

Such merriment and such sobriety —
the small wild fruit on the tall stalk —
was this not always my true style?

Above an elegance of snow, beneath
a silk-blue sky a brotherhood of four
birds. Can you mistake us?

To sun, to feast, and to converse
and all together — for this I have abandoned
all my other lives.
Francis, Robert. "Waxwings", cited in News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousness, ed by Robert Bly. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1980, p. 139.

Word fushigi:
As I was beginning to prepare this blog, I interrupted myself to send to a new friend the list of e.mail closing quotations I’ve collected over the years. My sending them came about after I related to her how a director of mine asked me to stop using them. Given that I had been attaching them to my work e.mails in a random manner, which was indeed unprofessional, I understood his request. However, he added that he thought that they were fine, except that most everyone wouldn’t understand them, and that if I wanted, I could send them to him instead because he would appreciate them.

Anyway, I felt I wanted to clean up the formatting of them. And I was enjoying reading some of them again. As I was doing that, Laurie Brown of CBCR2’s ‘The Signal’ once again added a fushigi: “The problem with words,” she said, “is that they try to explain away the mystery [of life.]” She then elaborated that music did the opposite. She then played Cosmogony by Bjork.

The fushigi was that, just before Laurie began speaking about the problem with words, I had just finished reading the following quotation:
Men know how to read printed books; they do not know how to read the unprinted ones. They can play on a stringed harp, but not on a stringless one. Applying themselves to the superficial instead of the profound, how should they understand music or poetry?
From the Saikontan, by Kojisei (circa 1600) cited in Haiku by Robert Blyth, circa 1947 Tokyo, p. 73.
So I looked for my other ‘word’ quotations:
If words were satisfactory, we could speak the whole day and it would all be about the Way; but if words are unsatisfactory, we can speak the whole day and it will all be about things. The Way is the delimitation of things. Neither words nor silence are satisfactory for conveying it. Without words and without silence, our deliberations reach their utmost limits.
Chuang-Tse. Wandering on the Way: Early Taoist Tales and Parables of Chuang Tzu. Toronto: Bantam Books, 1994. Tr. by Victor Mair, p. 266.

And, the finally noteworthy word on the word/music fushigi is a quotation I’d forgotten: developing the language, enriching the meanings of words, ... [the poet] is making possible a much wider range of emotion and perception for other men, because he gives them the speech in which more can be expressed.
T.S. Eliot.

2014.10.04 Word fushigi Addendum
This morning, when I checked my e.mail, I saw that I’d received notice that a dormant thread in Goodreads had come alive again over night. when is poetry not poetry is the thread’s title. I’d first commented in it July 08, 2014 and, up to yesterday, the last comment was September 13th. This adds to the fushigi because one of the issues the thread is philosophically bantering about is the gap in creativity between reason, words, and that which exists before/outside of them. Yesterday’s comment, from Greg, is a simple one: “God has no reason to exist.” This makes me laugh. And of course, post a comment.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

2014.10.02 — A Milestone, Secrets Like Gravity, and a Nice Little Fushigi*

Where to begin? At the beginning of course! But what if the beginning is outside the proper sequence of time? Hmmmm. So I will begin with the poem I wrote while I had a friend in mind. I submitted that poem to Amy King’s October Poetry Contest in Goodreads. It managed to receive an honourable mention.

Secrets Like Gravity

We carried secrets
That like stars their gravity
Have moved and bound us.

Their weight guides our paths
With such soft unseen fingers
That we are like breath.

The breath that finds skin
And caresses it even
As the stars watch us.

SMALL MILESTONE in a minor key in this Song of Life

My pair of blogs passed 60,000 page views today! :-) LOL! Sometimes it is the small things that bring to our faces a smile. And as a friend likes celebrate these things, Snoopy Dance!

Nice fushigi.
At the end of August my yoga instructor closed her studio. And, on my last day there, she calmly extended to me two yoga mats. “Give these to M.” And I took them, her statement seemed to not allow me to refuse even though I didn’t know M’s address, phone number or last name. I stuffed them in my car, and waited, confident that I would see her.

Friday last I went to see my chiropractor. He is in the process of correcting my posture and ease some discomfort in my neck. He was preparing for a day long seminar the following day, and after he gently helped me, said ‘Wait up. I’ll come with you. I need to get a cable for my projector for tomorrow.” He was going to the store downstairs, and so I waited for him.

In the lobby of the small mall, I grabbed my smart phone to call my wife before braving the pissing rain. As I’m talking I see M, who is carrying three boxes and some bags. It was obvious M was getting ready to walk home, so when I waived M to stop. And thus I came to relay to her her mats, and have the pleasure of driving her to her house instead of getting drenched. Such a small event, but oh so delightful.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

2014.09.24 — 5-7-5 Birds, Water, and Cigarettes: Bizarre Haiku-Like Thing Fushigi*

The world is filled with magic. But often it is lost to the roar of life’s busy-ness. And sometimes, perhaps often, the smallest of magical moments are tips of much more, the more that is too big for us to see behind the buzz of our tea-pot tempests.

There was a delightful magic in my life tonight, an odd fushigi in the guise of poem-like things in the form of 5-7-5 syllables. Not proper Haiku, but an oftentimes delightful perversion of the form that can be found in the creative WSS / Weekly Short Stories Contest and Company Haiku-Game thread.

I was FB-talking with Al. She was sharing her poems with me, when I got the urge to continue the Haiku game thread from #7823.

To continue the game I followed with imagery from the previous 5-7-5. I wrote:
In water she floats
With a humming bird's grace
And wet cigarettes.
“May I see what you wrote?” she asked when I came back to our conversation. Her reaction to my words was a single one: “Weird.”

Al disappeared for a moment, and returned with something she had written earlier today, on paper in her journal. As she describes it in her blog, Pens and Erasers, she didn’t like what she had written and crossed it out. However, after reading what I wrote she transcribed it. Here’s what Al had written:
A cigarette floats
In rivers of tears and
She flies away
So. Fushigi or not? Very very odd, at the very least. So much so she decided to blog it, and asked for my short description or definition of a fushigi. Here is what I wrote:
I call such connections fushigis. In and of themselves they may mean nothing to everyone in the world, but they mean something to the person experiencing them. They are unique meaningful acausal connections.

Singly they can be dismissed as chance by the pedantic. But when collected, their meaningfulness becomes astounding.
C.G Jung called such things ‘synchronicities’. Not too many years ago I was burdened in my thoughts that Jung referred to ‘important’ issues when he applied that word. Which is why I adopted the word fushigi. But I have read more of his words since then, and now I think he would see this little haiku-like life-experience as a synchronicity.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

2014.08.16 — Yogathon Vancouver 2014 and Blather

There are changes in my life. And so I find myself struggling between writing a blog about my having completed 108 rounds of yoga’s Surya Namaskar. And here is a good visual introduction:

Four months ago that would have been impossible for me to do. Such is how quickly the mind and body can change when mind and body and intention are working together. For her immeasurable help in making manifest such a change, I extend my heartfelt thank you to Babeeta Chabbra and her practice of Ravi Shankar’s Sri Sri Yoga.

(Although I confess to beginning to feel a bit of stiffness in my arms and shoulders as I write this.) The yogathoner beside me extended final relaxation:

Another accomplishment, of sorts, was reached this week while I wasn’t looking. My stories and poems published in the European reader/writer web page, Readwave, have been read 5000 times. A few weeks before that I learned that one of my stories, ‘Whose Déjà Vu,’ has been read by over 1000 readers!

And I have chosen to take a leave of absence from Facebook. Does that count as an accomplishment or as foolishness? I did get praise from one of my FB friends for this bold step. On FB. One of the side benefits of de-FBing my Self is finding more time to blog.

I am not sure it is entirely warranted, as better would have been to unfriend my few friends and delete my account. But since I expect to be back on, I have held off extirpating my Self from it. We’ll see.

Tonight I am torn between writing this blog and writing a real pen-to-paper letter to a friend. I love writing both. And I am missing my friend, as I have so much to share, and my BFF has become for a time out of touch.

Would food blogging be worthwhile? I have, in the last year, become the family cook. This has included my watching cooking shows on TV — haven't gone to YouTube yet, though! And it seems that food blogging is popular. (What was that movie with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams about Julia Child? Julia and Me, I think. Nope: Julie and Julia.) I have been taking some pictures, which I have occasionally posted on FB. But I don’t like the natural lighting in my kitchen, and haven’t set it up with the required lighting to compensate. We’ll see. I might, but I'm not enough of a foodie yet. [Odd fushigi — As I’m writing this Laurie Brown on CBC R2’s the Signal said ‘Let’s talk about food.’ And proceeded to talk about the history of jello. It goes back to the 1600s.] A friend has been encouraging me to write a cook book, the thought of which I find premature. Or it would be a very short one. But I have begun keeping track, with pen and paper, of my variations on recipes. We’ll see. Yes, we’ll see an example of my having taken a picture of the tarragon I crushed to prepare it for becoming vinegar.

This effort, tonight, seems to be less a blog than a blot in the blogosphere. A disjointed mess. Perhaps that is in part because I got about four hours sleep last night before an early alarm clock woke me to a day filled with yoga and people and busy-ness.

And with that I will finish. My eyes are starting to not see straight. And I do want to put pen to paper before I crash for the night.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

2014.07.24: Yoga and Me: The Acceptance of Nothing

Hello. I feel I need to apologize to my blog and muses for my long absence. I have missed you friends, but seem to keep allowing my busy-ness to keep me from wordiness. But I have made time to post a few empty words on the experience I have of the nothing of yoga. And so, I have let my fingers go.

When the teacher is ready the student appears cannot be less true than the frequently cited opposite. And so I, a student of the most elementary beginnings of yoga, have come to find in yoga a teacher. And I hope that the teacher has likewise found a student.

And as it happened yoga found me. Found me in the guise of Babeeta in the Nataraja Wellness Centre she happened to open on the half of a city block that I walk every Saturday morning. Odd because if the Nataraja Wellness Centre had opened up anywhere else the odds of us finding each other would have been negligible.

I have wanted to sign up for a proper yoga class for thirty plus years. And always other priorities superseded that want. On hindsight I recognize that at that time I did not value my Self enough to honour it with anything so selfish as attending to the needs of my well being. But something has changed inside me. And so when I heard with great clarity the modestly appointed Nataraja Wellness Centre calling me each and every Saturday, my struggle to ignore the call became increasingly difficult. I ignored its call for many weeks — I am nothing if I am not slow to respond to opportunity. Eventually I walked in to talk, to feel out this place that had been pulling on me so powerfully. The short conversation with Babeeta felt good and the price was right. The past fear I would have had for making such a bold and ostensibly selfish act no longer existed and this time I honoured my Self enough not to be dissuaded from taking the class. My budget would be adjusted to make room for yoga.

“Smile gently and feel joy.” OMG! In my first class ever of yoga I was being directed to smile gently and feel joy! And the student teacher relationship was for me sealed because the change in me that had brought me into this class was that of moving from anger and fear into peace and joy. In fact it was only in the week before this class that I first articulated that what I had begun to feel was joy. I had told Mark that until a few months ago I had never experienced genuine joy, and that it had taken me a while to become consciously aware that that is what I was feeling. And for my yoga instructor to articulate my experience of joy so soon after I had first expressed it was nothing short of miraculous.

You are not aware of the physical changes I have been undergoing in the last two years, of course. I’ve had more than one person ask me, with hesitancy, whether or not I am sick. I have smiled, and said ‘No, I am more alive now than I ever have been and will die, as I was born to do, when I do.’ Others have simply commented on how good and healthy I look. And I have been forced to buy three changes of clothes as my excess weight fell away without effort. Yet these changes are no more than a tiny reflection of what has been changing inside of me.

And that has lead me to an odd question. Who comes first: the student or the teacher? And then I chuckle about the age old chicken or egg question. I laugh because I have been a both a teacher and a chicken all my life, and what it was that egged me out of that and into being a student of yoga was a letting go of fear.

Without that shift inside — be it a shift in attitude or, perhaps, towards a ‘deep’ understanding of Life’s transience — all change will be superficial and transient. I’ll see if what I am experiencing will be lasting or not. I find myself laughing at my own pompous arrogance. 'Deep understanding'? Pshaw! Bullshit! I am aware that self-delusion is very hard to see, and that my perception of any truth is at best tentative. And that is especially the case as it applies to truths of one’s self. So for now I will continue to do yoga with Babeeta and accept it as a path to my awareness of nothingness.

I perceive that something has changed inside of me and I have been wrestling with how to verbalize it. When people have asked me about what they no longer see in me, I have answered ‘A small change of attitude, a small change in diet, and a small change in exercise.’ To others I have appended that with ‘But the change in attitude was the most important thing, and while it may have been small it was very big.’

But what has been the attitudinal change? That I’ve wrestled with too. And the closest word that I can find to describe it is acceptance. The acceptance of what? That my life is both completely insignificant and totally meaningful at the same time.

‘I am nothing, I want nothing, I do nothing.’ I laughed when Babeeta cited these words of her Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. So true. And yet, I am enough to be aware that I am nothing! And that is not nothing. And so I have become intimately aware of Lao-Tzu’s observation that the Tao that can be named is not the true Tao. ‘The nothing that I am that can be named is not the true nothing.’

‘What is yoga to you?’ And each of us in her class provided a different answer. Exercise, to increase flexibility, get in shape, heal old injuries, etc. The answer that came to my mind instantly was that yoga is to integrate the spiritual in the physical. And this class represents that path with me. Babeeta’s Nataraja teaching of Sri Sri Yoga is the way I am incorporating more fully — i.e. deeply into my physical being — the shift in me from a fear-based life to one of openness and joy. There are people around me who have helped immeasurably in different ways. But in the end the change was mine to make. And took more than thirty years of effort to see without seeing it a small shift in attitude.

Very quickly in Babeeta’s class my body increased its flexibility far more than thirty years of self taught yoga had been able to do. And I know in my being, without a rational explanation, that where my body is stiff is where I’ve stored fear. As I find the inflexible and sore bits in my muscles, I feel the fear they have embodied, accept them and then release the fear. It is remarkable, inexplicable. And it is wonderful.

And while relaxing stiff muscles by letting go of fear may be an epitome of the immeasurable, there are measurable changes in my well being since beginning Sri Sri Yoga too. The most remarkable measurable change has been the reduction in the severity of my deviated septum. Since beginning yoga a few months ago, the obstruction in my right nasal passage is tangibly reduced. What surgery had made worse, yoga as spiritual embodiment has improved almost instantly.

The other remarkable measure of physical change has been my ability to sit in the half lotus position for extended periods. After years of self effort the best I was able to do was maybe ten minutes. Now I can sit for four times that. And there are other changes too numerous and too subtle to list.

I reread this and confess to wondering what it is I have written. It began with the request from Babeeta for me to verbalize some of the changes I was experiencing. And through that to bring energy to her centre and to promote an upcoming charitable yogathon for 'Care for Children'. If you are at a turning point, and a small voice is calling out from inside you to begin a transformation physical spiritual and social, please join Babeeta at The Nataraja Wellness Centre. If you want to have a great time testing your physical stamina while helping others on this planet, join us at the Rise for A Cause Yogathon Aug 16 at the Jack Poole Plaza.

Care For Children

Nataraja Wellness Centre

Vancouver Yogathon

And for awe and inspiration: