Thursday, 15 March 2018

Thou Art That*

Subjects shouldn't be separated. Though it was not my intention to talk of a people, those that make up a nation, yet separation by class, race, faith and culture came to mind at the same time as this thought about curriculum in schools; as did its opposite of integration. Of course, if I had wished to speak in that context (since I now appear to be going against my original plan) that first sentence would stand and ring truer still. Because we are – by country, by clashes of religion and culture, by systems – and we do naturally, like a river that branches off into a stream. We band together through intolerance and fear, as well as in the need for sameness, to at times feed back into the river of humanity.
We all turn to the source we came from or to one we experienced and grew to love, where we feel most at home and which may not be the one we were born or brought up in, for reassurance, for comfort, to belong. It could be a land, a particular setting, to peoples that are similar to or as different to our own as they can possibly be in terms of outlook and culture. Because all that separates us really is perspective, but then wouldn't it be dull if we all thought the same? And isn't it a shame that we still don't respect one another's differing views, feeling and giving into the urge to criticise or undermine, rather than simply listen.
Dialogue is important, yet language is not a barrier quite as much as we like to think or claim. Sure, it can be a difficulty, but you can get by if the willingness is there to observe and bridge gaps. A lot can be conveyed and gathered without discourse, so language shouldn't wholly separate us or necessarily be seen as a all-uniting factor. Too frequently it's used as a weapon when essentially it's just a tool of communication which imparts information but relies on the power we give it. Words, how they are expressed and interpreted, depends on the individual, as does the reaction to them. Nothing said should be divided from what is in front of us: what you can also hear and/or see, for together it forms a clearer (and bigger) picture, which if you choose to be inattentive to only remains fuzzy.  
That comprehension is marginally less important in the written word, because for that you need careful deduction rather than senses. An intellectual reasoning because you cannot observe the orators. True, more words can and may be used to deliver the unspoken sentiment since print allows them to be expanded upon, but there has to a certain style to foster engagement as otherwise the meaning (or goal) gets lost. Which I suspect I'm doing here.
Does there have to be a goal? That surely is another topic entirely. One I'll resist the temptation to divert to, though it would be interesting to ponder...
Language, as in spoken instead of written, only has such an outline when it's a public address, whereas the everyday is mostly driven by impulse and abetted by the body. Neither, however, are without their dilemmas, and so whilst they do and can divide they cannot be divided. There is no permanent, definitive split because they always meet. Although right now (probably like you!) I'm feeling kind of lost, though I know what I've put down is a truism which hasn't revealed itself fully yet, and may not before this talk is over.
Streams and rivers, and eventually oceans, that's what it returns (and leads) to. And why do we use interchangeable words for bodies of water?
My initial design had been to discuss about how I wish in my time school subjects had been combined (Q. are they now?) to provide greater comprehension of the world i.e. places and peoples. For example, geography was segregated from history and was dry and unhelpful, and largely geology-based, which could have been covered as a specialism if I pursued the subject further. I would have benefited more if it had instead widened my world view and teamed up with the history syllabus. As it was I dropped geography to study sociology as soon as I had the option.
Systems and instruction create division where rationally they shouldn't be any.

*in Sanskritic language Tat tvam asi, a doctrine that asserts everything you think you are and everything you think you perceive are undivided. To realize fully this lack of division is to become enlightened.
(Source: Chapter 12, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig).

Picture credit: Church of the Minorities II, Lyonel Feininger

Thursday, 8 March 2018

The Word

Telling yourself 'All is calm, all is clear' helps soothe a troubled soul. I should know for I've done it many times, intoned it like a Buddhist or offered it up silently as a prayer. And although it doesn't provide answers it allows one to trust in something larger, in something I can't quite comprehend or see. Either an answer will come or it won't and I'll just have to take it on faith that I'm where I'm meant to be or that 'X' wasn't meant to happen at all or just not yet.
I'm okay. I will be okay. This will pass. Naturally like a wave that forms and re-forms and washes in and out. This is just a moment in the vastness that is life.
The pain has dulled from the time before. Time has taken away the sharp point of that particular sword, so that a new instance feels just as keen and brings old pain with it, which, despite the distractions (and the vices) the world offers, has to be experienced. If not innermost, it will return...and return. If only very shallowly, roots will grow and bind themselves around and to your organs; some perhaps will even flower and fool you into believing they are beautiful when they are poisonous to you, their host. And poison, if it's drip-fed, kills slowly, as well as allows other hurts to seep through with it.
Choosing to confront some, if not the whole, fresh trouble is better than banishing it or hardening your heart altogether, at least in private, because a public suit of armour may be for the best. Indeed, it may be the only way.
But then some people might say of me I'm only happy when I'm miserable. When sorrows feel heavy upon me, and not just my own. Being a Wednesday's child what do you expect? Perhaps this is my Truth, but it doesn't have to be yours.
These words are put together at a certain place in time. Fastened to one another on a different day, I dare-say their meaning would subtly change, or perhaps I would join them to other words from the English language to construct passages, which at present are not thought of.
I'm a philosopher. An abstainer – from alcohol, meat, fish and orthodox religion. My conventions are my own, for me to follow and not for others to be indoctrinated into. I have no persuasions that I would force unto others. Each has to come and make their own life choices. It is not for me to find offence or question anyone, not even if it's communicated as a means of persecution rather than simply curiosity.
However, this wonder, that governs me as I imagine it does some others, gets wrongly challenged. And misinterpreted. In some cases. Rouses suspicion, and kindles flames that weren't ever there because the thirst was for knowledge and not for devilry.
I should have been a researcher because I like knowing though I may not have set out to know these 'falling facts': the information that drops in your lap seemingly out of nowhere, which you didn't know you sought but something did, and so these pieces, with impeccable timing, located you. But it's okay to be unknowing too, because some things are not meant to be known – by you or anyone – or even once known to be retained.
It's the wonder before the knowing or unknowing that often spells trouble, where interest intrudes on the personal when actually what you want is the bigger picture: the glimpses of life that make up the back stories and alongside the different chapters we each go through. From the stages of life to the opinions that form and swirl around us and either set and become solid, or stay fluid and liable to change.
It's not strictly clinical, it's not as cut-and-dry. It's an interest, a wanting to know a person's experiences and responses, and possibly just through learning of them to make sense of my own. Or to question my own reactions further. Because just when I think I've exhausted an area something new is revealed: a sudden breakthrough in my understanding or a re-discovery. It could even be as simple as the Word, to use a Penelope Fitzgerald term, which alludes to that trick of asking a question and opening a book to a random page where the sentence your eyes land upon is your answer. Or as with me, hearing someone quote Shakespeare, which to paraphrase was: Give sorrow words.

Picture credit: Looking Back, Paula Rego

Thursday, 1 March 2018


When the belly is full I can't write. All my thinking energy is directed to there: that slight bulge that disfigures my usual flat shape and gurgles noisily as it tries to digest more than it's used to. An extra two slices of bread at lunch is the cause of today's distension, and all because the bread I removed from the freezer, in readiness, fell apart. The detached upper crusts became sides; a preamble to the sandwich which couldn't possibly be assembled from two disintegrating half slices and so two more, also with snapped off crusts, were defrosted, which once thawed were there to immediately eat and not save for later.
My belly is now paying the price for this illogical and irresistible impulse. And so is my head for I cannot work. My mind has apparently sunk to my stomach where it rests, fat on fuel in a state of uncomfortable doze. Too full, too full, it groans as the belly burbles and undulates. And was that cup of tea absolutely necessary?
Too late! If you didn't know it then, you sure know it now. Groan, can't move, can't think. My belly now resembles a little pot which had it been dinner time would have been quite happy simmering away. It's the hour of the day that's the issue and not so much the food mindfully ate, coupled with the fact my belly refuses to naturally stretch being so used to suppression.
It doesn't feel hunger in-between meals and so waits for (and looks forward to) reward at an appointed time. Snacks, if they are any, are forced. Although if a meal's late or missed, then grouchiness sets in which means when a window opens restraint is abandoned, but then, of course, the after-affect is as above.
Lunch has always been a bit of a problem. Because there's a wanting to, a need to eat, but I prefer breakfast and dinner. Lunch, if not a grabbed affair, is an excuse to sit, chew and idly read. A break to revive, to enliven me for what needs to be tackled after which is why if a unexpected heaviness settles I'm done for!
It takes very little to tip that balance, as you may have noted, and even questioned. I should eat more because what I eat doesn't pack a calorific punch, yet leaves no room for grazing. I'm regularly stunned by what others can put away, at a cracking pace too, whereas my stomach heaves at the thought of three courses in the space of an hour or two or an all-you-can-eat buffet. My standardised portions, though not American sized, are bigger than some restaurants who want you to also order starters and sides with your main, which I don't, but whilst mine look more than substantial their nutrient density makes them low in fat and energy, which is ironic because everyone always comments on what I'm able to put away.
With slow digestibility too. A boon for those wanting to slim but not if you wish for the opposite.
A few extra pounds would be welcome, but done healthily and not through the consumption of junk. We all, however, in my opinion, have screwed-up relations with food, though this, of course, is helped by external factors. The food industry being a whopper as they've neglected the visual aspect with regards to size. And yes, I'm talking ready-meals and fast food, because visually a single portion has the appearance of a snack except it has a truck-load of calories. But that was the old days when it was novel and when nutritional information either didn't need to be supplied or wasn't as scrutinised as it is now...or is it?
In these latter years, we seem to be veering to the other extreme: virtually advocating taking on board no calories at all. Vegetable rice or spaghetti, I ask you! Great with pulses, potatoes, pasta or grains, but not instead of! How the hell do you survive? Unless you're secretly pigging out in a cupboard or making midnight runs. I don't want to knock it being a veggie, but I couldn't live without some form of carbs. Proper carbs. 
I'm a die-hard throwback to times when work was hard and food was scarce, as in short in supply and variety, and eaten for substance alone. And like people then, I occasionally fall into that trap where potatoes and bread fill my belly, possibly to the detriment of other nutrition, including that of writing.

Picture credit: The Potato Eaters, Vincent van Gogh