Category Archives: culture

Kopong

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This seems particularly pertinent and moving at a time when the world is watching the displacement of people from all over the globe.  Perhaps we need to ritualise a little more, eat together, work beside one another to feel we are all living the same history.

Among the Ku Waru people of New Guinea, for example, children become kin through an essential substance called kopong (grease) which originates in the soil. The Ku Waru call both father’s sperm and mother’s milk kopong, and it is through these two sources that conception of a child is said to occur. However, sweet potatoes and pork also contain kopong, and when people share these foods, the same fundamental connection emerges between them as does between parent and child: they become kin. The offspring of two Ku Waru brothers, Sahlins says, are ‘as much related because they were sustained by the same soil as because their fathers were born of the same parents’. The children of immigrants to the community become full kin with those who share no genes with them by carrying out socially inscribed practices around kopong.

Barbara J King is professor of anthropology at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia

Equanimity

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                   Equanimity  is a perfect, unshakable balance of mind, rooted in insight.

Says the Master:

For one who clings, motion exists; but for one who clings not, there is no motion. Where no motion is, there is stillness. Where stillness is, there is no craving. Where no craving is, there is neither coming nor going. Where no coming nor going is, there is neither arising nor passing away. Where neither arising nor passing away is, there is neither this world nor a world beyond, nor a state between. This, verily, is the end of suffering.

— Udana 8:3

From  “The Four Sublime States: Contemplations on Love, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy and Equanimity”, by Nyanaponika Thera. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November

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RSA Animates with Manuel Lima

RSA Animates with Manuel Lima

This wonderfully drawn slide from one of the splendid animations by RSA  Animates demonstrates how wonderfully similar the patterns of very different life mechanisms can be – it reminded me how powerfully I felt the implications of that similarity when I compared the visuals from different ends of the telescope in the ‘Powers of Ten ‘video, which is well worth visiting here:  http://www.eamesoffice.com/education/powers-of-ten-2/

What I viewed as I turned the pages of the vintage book was the astonishing similarity between the patterns from the telescope when it was viewing the universe at the scale of 10  to the power of 10 positive, compared with the patterns of the view when under the microscope the make up of the atoms viewed at the scale of 10 the to power of 10 negative. Totally bizarre.

It seems implausible that the patterns from such vastly different scales of what we experience as life can almost replicate each other – there is poetry in it , a mystery of import which mankind has not yet fathomed. It excites me to find that sort of synchronicity which perplexes and offers the possibility of discovering more exciting knowledge, more depth of human understanding exists beyond current comprehension.  It suggests that the route of interconnectedness may be the one to follow, and even more so today after reading about the ‘wood wide web’. (many biologists have started using the term “wood wide web” to describe the communications services that fungi provide to plants and other organisms.)

Eastern philosophy, poets and Science seem to be united in their preoccupation with the interconnectedness of life’s machinery, and as D.H .Lawrence wrote

     ‘I am part of the sun as my eye is part of me.  That I am part of the earth my feet know perfectly, and my blood is part of the sea.’

Show me more examples of pattern synchronicity – those occurrences that make you shudder with possible delight and expectation. I am deeply interested in knowing more.!

The RSA animates video I referred to in the top image can be found here rsa animates and in this particular one Manuel Lima discusses the power on networks in a complex world.

We are the music while the music lasts with Alan Watts

Don’t forget to dance.

‘To understand music, you must listen to it. But so long as you are thinking, “I am listening to this music,” you are not listening.’

I was walking alongside the overgrown paddock this morning, which has developed into a sea of buttercups, grasses and purple clover.  It is a thing of beauty. Each buttercup is a miracle in itself – a dizzyingly shiny yellow miracle, and yet , when it is no longer shining brightly alone, but hid amongst a host of fellow buttercups, it still retains its wonder.  And when my eye wanders along that wave of brilliant primary and is distracted by the long grasses swaying sensuously in the wind, the host of buttercups is not diminished in its loveliness. It’s loveliness is enhanced with the collision from the purple of the clover, augmented by the movement of the grasses within. The whole is wholly  magnificent in its diversity and in the spectacle of the collusion from its individual parts.

Lucky us, to be here.

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What the Dickens, with Yuval Noah Harari.

tale of two cities

Just finished reading a best selling history book, ‘Sapiens’, which you can read about here ,h tp://www.randomhouse.co.uk/editions/sapiens-a-brief-history-of-humankind/9781846558238″

“The best thing about it was that it actually made me think.” – The only review you really need comes from a reader on Goodreads.

You don’t have to have enjoyed history in the past to find this a satisfying, entertaining method of whiling away a few of your hours on this earth.  You may be surprised, you may even be shocked by some of the perspectives the author brings to what you thought you knew.  It may even provoke you to change your mind about important issues.  So yes I can claim with some minor authority, ‘This book may just change your life.’

Like Dickens, this is an author who wants the reader to engage thoroughly in his description of what it means to be human, he wants us to consider the experience.

So in an attempt to encourage you to pick this volume up, I am thoroughly advising to do so.  Buy it for your sons and daughters, your nieces and nephews, and any reader you would spend the price of a hardcover on.

Additionally, there is an amazing resource available which is free!!! You can join an online course here  https://www.coursera.org/course/humankind?utm_source=blog or read about the course http://blog.coursera.org/page/2

‘What a piece of work is man’

wit Shakespeare

I can’t help it, but after trawling through piles of material on Shakespeare I am now feeling very melancholy; that isn’t a stretch for me as my natural inclination is one of profound disturbance around the meaning of being human.  Anyway, in learning more about the man, and I think I have despite all his attempts to evade any sort of factual capture ( he managed to live in London for seven years without signing on the dotted line, it was a legal requirement to observe Sunday service and sign a name against an address, but he didn’t).

The number of tributes to the man was enormous, and so effusive in the language – before we had Oscar speeches and BAFTA awards.  I am talking serious praise from serious people.

‘The morning star,the guide and the pioneer of true philosophy’      Coleridge

‘He is really, really the genius; he has gone to the bottom of everything, divined everything, said everything. He is always true to nature.’        Alexander Dumas

‘Shakespeare is a great psychologist and we learn from him the lessons of Nature’.    Goethe

‘The great master who knew everything.’   – Charles Dickens

So after reading a number of  poems penned by previous poets praising the Bard for his authorship, I came across this one from Matthew Arnold which touched me.  That’s what poets are meant to do – and it is what Shakespeare unfailingly achieved time after time, showing us the joys and tribulations of what it means to live life on earth.  The magic is in the alchemy of turning words into arrows of emotion, mixed with the unprecedented (at that time) unravelling of the human pysche in drama;  he wrote the truth . He wrote it well.

matthew Arnold

references;  worldly wisdom;  http://hdl.handle.net/2027/loc.ark:/13960/t5db8q05g?urlappend=%3Bseq=77

Tributes To Shakespeare;  http://hdl.handle.net/2027/uc2.ark:/13960/t3319w18c

Although reading the tributes has brought out some sadness in me, my greater emotion is one of wonder and awe that ever one human managed to walk the streets of London and know so much about human nature, then be able to communicate it by not one medium, but two. Writing plays is not the same as writing poetry, and I get the feeling Shakespeare had quite a lot of lightness of heart when he left for London to become part of the dramatic ensemble, so when the theatres got shut down for some time because of plague, he turned his attention to poetry and stormed it.

‘He peered thro’ nature with a prophet’s ken,
He pierced her secrets with a poet’s eye,-
With passion, power and high philosophy,
He set the spirit’s inner-gates apart;
He stripped the shackles from the souls of men,
And sacked the fortress of the human heart.

James Newton Matthers 1884

Last word has to got W.H .Auden simply because through all the research I am ploughing through I keep coming back to the idea that there is no actual mystery, the truth of the man is told in the things he wrote, and he wrote for a living. His own life he played close to  his chest, and why shouldn’t he? In a world that was on its head, civil liberties at peril after the horrendous turbulent times at the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign, spies everywhere, belonging to a family of the persecuted minority ( the Catholics), and new knowledge being disseminated changing the world view. Galileo was born in the same year as Shakespeare, he stood at the beginning of modern astronomy contemporary with Bruno, Tycho Brahe, Galileo, and Kepler.  How would a young man deal with such interesting times, one with a quick intelligence and ambition?

‘To be able to devote one’s life to art without forgetting that art is frivolous is a tremendous achievement of personal character. Shakespeare never takes himself too seriously. ‘

Lectures on Shakespeare – W.H. Auden

 

Reflections on a rolling stone with Dylan, Elvis and T.S Eliot

 

 

Stones Anne CorrI don’t often talk about music, it just is a part of my life I kind of take for granted.  Which isn’t to say I don’t appreciate it because I do, I know how much less rich life would be for my without it.  How at certain times in my life it has created pockets of succour that I view as life saving.  There are times too painful to feel your own pain, when music is able to express for you that which you can’t – likewise with joy.  But like family, it exists, it just is.

Robert Plant writes about his icon Elvis Presley so personally that he showed me both Elvis’s and his own humanity.

There is a difference between people who sing and those who take that voice to another, otherworldly place, who create a euphoria within themselves. It’s transfiguration. I know about that. And having met Elvis, I know he was a transformer.

Musicians on musicians – fascinating and wonderful.  http://www.rollingstone.com/

But what I really want to share with you today is something Bob Dylan produced last year, and I have only just discovered courtesy of  http://jjennajane.com/

This is one of his most iconic songs, one that moved a generation, how great an influence on thinking Dylan has had is unquantifiable.  One man. One young man. One creative dare-devil. Twenty-four years of age when he wrote it, it took a while to get the video right, but he did get it right. It is a brilliant commentary on the constantly blinking perspectives of the world now, seen via multi channels across the globe. Interactive, you can adjust what you see via the up/down keys on your keyboard. You won’t see what I see, but the flavour will stay the same.  You may have to put the link in your browser because I don’ think I can embed video. I swear you won’t be disappointed.

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/bob-dylan-goes-interactive-in-like-a-rolling-stone-clip-20131119#disqus_thread

Robert Plant again on Elvis:

“When he died, he was 42. I’m 18 years older than that now. But he didn’t have many fresh liaisons to draw on — his old pals weren’t going to bring him the new gospel. I know he wanted to express more. But what he did was he made it possible for me, as a singer, to become otherworldly.”

Bob Dylan on Bob Dylan;

‘My songs are personal music; they’re not communal. I wouldn’t want people singing along with me. It would sound funny. I’m not playing campfire meetings. I don’t remember anyone singing along with Elvis, or Carl Perkins, or Little Richard. The thing you have to do is make people feel their own emotions. A performer, if he’s doing what he’s supposed to do, doesn’t feel any emotion at all. It’s a certain kind of alchemy that a performer has.’

That last quote reminds me of something T.S Eliot spoke of, the surrender of the ego I suppose,

‘What happens is a continual surrender of himself as he is at the moment to something which is more valuable. The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality….

…Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.’

(excerpt from T.S. Eliot (1888–1965).  The Sacred Wood.  1921.)