Blissland

lifemeaning, meditation, uk

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“Knee-deep in the cosmic overwhelm, I’m stricken by the ricochet wonder of it all: the plain everythingness of everything, in cahoots with the everythingness of everything else.”

from ‘Diffraction’ by Carl Sagan

 

 

Picture is mine taken on a walk at Kinlochleven , Scotland last week.  I am going to be seeing more of this view!

 

 

The stuff of Life

blogging, books, daily living, literature, reading, United Kingdom, writers

word

‘ It was about being true to the very stuff of life, it was about trying to capture, though you never could, the very feel of being alive. It was about finding a language. And it was about being true to the one fact, the one thing only followed from the other, that many things in life – oh so many more than we think – can never be explained at all. ‘ Graham Swift ‘ Mothering Sunday’

This , then , is what I have to bring today. The closing sentences of the book I have just laid down. It did not disappoint. Within its narrative Graham Swift refers to one of my storytelling heroes – Joseph Conrad – who himself has an interesting comment on storytelling, whose quest was ‘ by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel — it is, before all, to make you see. That — and no more, and it is everything. If I succeed, you shall find there according to your deserts: encouragement, consolation, fear, charm — all you demand — and, perhaps, also that glimpse of truth for which you have forgotten to ask.’

And the overriding sense I am left with is how fiction gives us permission to be most fully ourselves. I cannot imagine being the me I am without having encountered the characters and the writers I have met throughout my days. Science is mastering many of the facts , we are illuminating the darkness, but only dimly. Science is the first to corroborate how much is still unknown. A particle acts differently dependant upon it being observed – does this strike you as prescient on the human condition? We are and simultaneously are not the person we imagine ourselves to be. The codes we observe do not rely merely on the context of our time and culture, but also on our perception of them and of the fluctuating circumstances. That is confusing, much easier to narrate to you a true account of behaviour which shows how I hold personal codes of truth and loyalty , of fidelity and duty to be central to the person I am and yet act in complete opposition to them, choosing to end one marriage to a wonderful man , and father of my two sons because I had walked blindly into a new relationship where I felt at home. Not even a choice. And reader – I married him.

I haven’t learnt enough just from the handful of people who are present in my life, or who have been there in the past – they are priceless, but they do not bring me the breadth and depth of experience which helps me to understand I can forgive myself for frailty, for impatience, for laziness, for ineptitude. Because I am not alone. Because growing up is not just trying to imitate some version of being human handed down by parents et al, it is about encountering the various selves you inhabit, and allowing yourself not to be intimidated or frightened by them. Listening to voices from elsewhere can somehow bring you closer to knowing how to be your own.

In ‘Mothering Sunday’ Graham Swift practices his alchemy – his narrative is from a woman and it has one of the most authorative voice of being woman I have encountered. He is masterly in how deftly he practices this – the small sentences slipped in that are the ‘tell’ of what it feels like to be 22, free, single, and enjoyably bruised by sexual encounter ( not in a violent, abusive way). On removing from the scene, she mounts her bicycle ‘ slightly sore where she met the saddle’ .

I imagine the novelist’s challenge to himself – inhabiting not only the woman’s pysche at 22, but also later on – in her nineties and remembering. I imagine him imagining the reader – me – enjoying his playfulness, his zest for finding the right word, the correct tone, the piercing stab of the dramatic.

The point I am making, albeit clumsily is this – we need stories to remind us not how to live, but that life is mystery. Inexplicable paradox is what exists around us and about us, and the navigation around this mortal coil is facilitated by the storytellers, the magicians, the soothsayers, the lyric writers, the graffiti artists, the dramatists, the teachers.

There is now such a thing as a bibliotherapy – the art of listening to someone’s personal dilemnas and furnishing them with appropriate bookwear. (bookware?) . Such a stance should please me, but I am contrary enough to find something unsettling in it. Something proscribed – but then why not – we go to doctors, why not book doctors? I have a healthy disposition to challenge anything that is ‘good for me’ , and have only just discovered the heady delight of sucking up oranges. Now I evangelise about oranges. And for me they are the only fruit. I still have a long way to go.

I leave the last words to a woman author of impeccable skills, Marilynne Robinson, author of ‘Housekeeping’, ‘Gilead’ and others you may want to discover.

“While you read this, I am imperishable, somehow more alive than I have ever been.”

Notes to Self

blogging, Life, literature, philosophy, Thoughts, zen

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The guy who wrote the original did so in Greek, but was actually an intellectual Roman who was to govern Rome after succeeding the Emperor Antoninus Pius, spending a couple of decades trying to placate the Senate and put down minor rebellions. It was some time ago.

Marcus Aurelius lives long in the mind – this is a book that belongs in the bookshelves of the great and the good throughout history – it has shaped the thinking of men. And yet it was not written for publication – it was written as an ongoing discourse with himself as to how to live a life, how to wrestle with the challenges that being human brings , a ‘design for living’. He is setting  out his set of rules, quite unaware that it would become a key text in later attempting to understand the Roman Stoic philosophy.

 

I am fascinated how threads of understanding weave themselves through history – occurring separately to thinkers from disparate cultures and times – and how those threads resonate generations later, making a fascinating complexity of human thought spinning itself through time and place.

I am reminded of these words,

Knee-deep in the cosmic overwhelm, I’m stricken

by the ricochet wonder of it all: the plain

everythingness of everything, in cahoots

with the everythingness of everything else.       Carl Sagan  ‘Diffraction’

and from Edgar Allen Poe

 “that space and duration are one”

In my beginning is my end

Art, blogging, daily living, Life, poetry, zen

floralring

‘Dawn points, and another day
Prepares for heat and silence. Out at sea the dawn wind
Wrinkles and slides. I am here
Or there, or elsewhere. In my beginning.’

From T.S Eliot’s ‘East Coker’

 

History repeats its lessons

blogging, daily living, photography, United Kingdom

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Text written by 8th-century Chinese poet Du Fu, commenting on the political turbulence in his own experience.

Simplify your life and return to nature when you can – that is my ambition for the next part of our lives together – Scotland calls! The bigger picture is feeling increasingly absurd and we both feel most alive when in the midst of nature. I know we are not alone in this, and we are fortunate that we can reasonably easily frequent one of the most beautiful places I have experienced.

If you tap into my virtual reality you will see the influence that Scotland has on the work I continue to enjoy making. I don’t know, but I feel that can only continue.

If you want further inspiration to reconnect with the solace that nature can bring, why not visit ‘Walden’ by Thoreau – it is a read that stands the test of time.

 

Who dreams in Latin?

blogging, daily living, Life, lifemeaning, philosophy, wellbeing

know thyself

Me apparently.  Now I understand there is going to be a minority of educated peeps who regularly visit their night time muse and discourse via that ancient language.  Because they can.  I am not of them.  I detested taking Latin in school and confounded attempts to make me regular or irregular with verbage, refused to consort with Hannibal and Hasdrubal despite the allure of elephants, and exited the class only with the ability to ‘tu, te, tui, tibi, te’ to  rhythm courtesy of my doctors eccentric wife who brought a whole new dimension of dance into the conjugation theme. Saying that I do know that ‘Julia puella parva est’ tells me what anyone with eyes could determine – Julia is a small girl. Latin as a discipline was forced onto my curriculum by my mother, who had been denied the opportunity and believed it to be necessary in any right thinking girls armoury, which may have been the case in Montaigne’s time, whose father denied his son the use of any other language as he grew up. But times change. Move on – the thrust of my enquiry is why would I be dreaming Latin phrases?  I awoke recently with the clear message of ‘Nosce te ipsum’ plastered all over my consciousness in the style of a Banksy’s graffiti.  I knew I knew what it meant, but couldn’t recall – I had to resort to the husband, who resorted to the Google machine.  Of course – Nosce te ipsum is ‘Know Thyself’  – now the nub of the real enquiry is why is my subconscious sending me this command?  Is it thrust at me dagger like, suggesting I lack self awareness and something very dark and looming is about to reveal itself in my personality?  Or is it somewhat self congratulatory , extolling the virtues of introspection and reflection which anyone who knows me will confirm I expound.  I like neither scenario – self congratulation is about as welcome as self flagellation in my eyes, with less soreness. And I have lived a whole life like Henny Penny who clucked around her friends asking whether the sky was falling .

Despite the anxiety around whether my subconscious is alerting me to something I ought to know, I welcome this intrusion .  ‘Know thyself’ seems a good mantra to me.  Look at your virtues and examine your faults – try every moment you can to be the best version of yourself – this is what I take from the message.  I fail, I pick myself up and I fail again, but in the attempt to understand my errors, my poor decisions, I end up making better ones. Everyone’s a winner. I have never regretted saying sorry. Sometimes I have not said it, or not soon enough and I have regretted that. I suppose saying sorry makes you vulnerable, shows a side that is less than perfect.  I like that. I like that when I create something and something goes wrong, I always end up with creating something better in it’s stead. Always.  And when someone says sorry to me, I tend to cut them some slack. That’s the way it works.

Nosce te ipsum.

St Augustine quotation Anne Corr

That freedom

blogging, daily living, Life, lifemeaning, photogaphy, poetry

gull

 

With That Moon Language

 

Admit something: Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me.”

Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise someone would call the cops.

Still though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect. Why not become the one who lives with a full moon in each eye that is always saying, with that sweet moon language, What every other eye in this world is dying to hear?

 

 

-Hafiz

The Nonsensical Rhyme of no Reason

Art, blogging, Life, Thoughts, United Kingdom

 

life

These are disordered and disorderly thoughts that are pressing themselves to share with you, and have been doing so for some time. I have been distracted – illness, family , restlessness – the ordinary consequences of being human.  Half a century has passed since I landed here – and strangely I feel as new and strange and unfamiliar as that birth must have seemed to a tiny creature unused to light and air .  For some odd reason I laboured under the delusion that some sort of sense would ultimately dawn upon my consciousness, there would unroll some measure of meaning amongst the maelstrom of existence. I don’t think I am going to discern it if there is. So I continue to hop through the pattern of my days, bringing to them any sense of fulfilment and pleasure and meaning I can.  Probably as you do too. Anyways, I present these in no particular order, and offer them with no promise of enlightenment. I just like them, and thought you might too.

 

Live your ecstasy amongst the dog eared maps of desire,

Search for the glimpse of truth for which you have forgotten to ask

Amongst the extraordinary in plain sight.

 Existence is eternal but life has end.

 

The Ways We Touch

Have compassion for everyone you meet,
even if they don’t want it.
What appears bad manners, an ill temper or cynicism
is always a sign of things no ears have heard,
no eyes have seen.
You do not know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets
the bone.

Miller Williams

 As here, so is everywhere.

Be safe, be kind.

Advice from an old hand, father to son.

blogging, books, history, Life, Parenting, United Kingdom

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Here’s a thing, I have stumbled across some paternal advice from the chief minister to Elizabeth 1 to his eldest son, which rings its good sense across five centuries right into my own life, since my sons are of that ‘coming-of-age’ time in their lives, and my three stepsons. Five boys between 18 and 23 between us, and I can say without turning a hair that I couldn’t be more proud of them.  Nevertheless, some of these lessons ring true, and how do you start those difficult conversations?  The answer is clear – let Lord Burleigh do the hard work, he’s wise and pithy and says most of the things I want to say.  Besides, this is what Queen Elizabeth said about the man

“This judgment I have of you, that you will not be corrupted with any manner of gifts, and that you will be faithful to the state.”

This is my modern day version of his sagely advice – I am producing one of my handcrafted books with both the original versions and the transcription, but you can read them here!!! Pass it on!

Choose your wife carefully , because your future depends on it and it is an occasion in your life, as in the strategies of war, that you cannot make any mistake. If you come from a decent background then choose from near home and take your time. If you come from a dodgy background go further away to choose and do it quickly. Ask around about her character and what her parents were like when they were younger. Don’t choose a poor wife no matter how sweet, because a man needs money to live, but don’t choose a vulgar or ugly woman just for money, as no one will respect you and you won’t respect her. Don’t choose a dwarf of a fool, because you will raise pygmies with one and a fool will disgrace you; you won’t tolerate her prattling and you will find nothing more irritating than a foolish woman.

About your household, be moderate entertaining, be generous rather than mean but don’t get carried away beyond the means of the estate. I don’t know anyone who grew poor by being careful, but some people have bad habits. Banish swinish drunkards, I have never heard anyone praise a drunk except for holding his drink, which is not a recommendation for a gentleman. Don’t spend all your income – save between a quarter or a third. Only spend a third of your expenditure on the house as the other two thirds will be easily spent on other living costs. If you fail to do this you will be continually in debt, dreading every disaster which threatens to bankrupt.

2. Educate your children and maintain a discipline but without being authortarian. Praise them openly and reprehend them privately. Spend on them what you can, because if you leave all your wealth till they inherit , they will be grateful to your death, and not to you. I am convinced that many parents make poor decisions because of either being too proud, or too stern, rather than being vicious. Arrange your daughters partners before they make their own choice. And don’t let your sons go off gallivanting in foreign lands, because they won’t learn anything valuable. And don’t send them into the army because I don’t think war is a good trade for a gentleman, and anyway we are going to have a time of peace so they won’t be needed.

3 .Don’t live in the country without keeping your own crops and animals. It’s expensive to buy in , and its better to understand how to live on what is in season. Don’t employ relatives or friends as they want a lot for not doing much. Avoid those who are in love because they don’t think straight, and employ too few rather than too many. Give them good terms and conditions and you can expect their service.

4. Welcome you relatives and friends to your home. Be generous and kind with them, they will repay your kindness with loyalty and defend you; but get rid of insincere acquaintances who will stab you in the back if times are hard.

5 .Be careful who you help out financially. It can lead to your own demise. Don’t borrow from friends or neighbours, only from strangers, and be careful to keep our promises of repayment.

6 . Don’t take a poor man to court – it’s not worth the trouble. Don’t get involved in any law suit unless you are confident you are in the right, and then be sure to get the best advice. Win a couple and less suits will follow.

7. Make sure you make a friend of someone of importance, but don’t worry him about petty things. Keep him close by complimenting him with small gifts, and if you can bestow a decent present, give something they will see every day. These are ambitious times and you don’t want to live in obscurity.

8.  Be humble with your superiors and generous, and remain respectful and familiar with your equals. Be compassionate with those who are not in as fortunate a position as yourself. The first prepares you for advancement, the second shows you to be well bred, and the third gains respect. Don’t be scornful of popularity nor affected by celebrity.

9. Don’ t trust anyone with your life, your house or your money.

10 Don’t bad mouth and don’t be too satirical. One will make you unpopular and the other will provoke quarrels and bitterness amongst your friends. I have seen many keen to make a joke, and lose a friend rather than the jest.

Anecdotes of distinguished persons, chiefly of the present and tAnecdotes of distinguished persons, chiefly of the present and tAnecdotes of distinguished persons, chiefly of the present and t

Excerpts from  ‘Anecdotes of distinguished persons, chiefly of … v.1. Seward, William, 1747-1799.’

http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc2.ark:/13960/t82j6cp3c;view=2up;seq=367