Thursday, January 30, 2014

Mindful Meanderings?

This inspiring image thanks to a post mentioning Fibonacci by Eric Bossick.

Unlike the exponential evolution in a Fibonacci sequence, words between us die. Fibonacci had it that 1+1=2; 2+1=3; that 3+2=5; that 5+3=8; that 8+5=13; that 13+8=21; that 21+13=34; that 34+21=55; that 55+??=?? Fun? And so on ad infinitum. So if we keep going, the exponential factor quickly becomes rather huge. But not our words. The words betwixt some of us shrivel, and decease. We do not add one idea to another to become two, to grow into five, eight, thirteen; we break off. It takes too much energy. It swallows up too much time? And unlike the fractals of chaos theory, in which evolution creates in spirals and proportions as elegant as the Golden Mean, or Divine Proportion (as divined by Fibonacci sequences,) we devolve into that which enervates rather than invigorates. And since verbs may grow confusions, we shut down.


The daily-ness of our lives has other dictates. Few of us are so pasteurized as to afford long hours of uninterrupted contemplation, let alone a discourse that wafts on ethereal breath. Our breathing is done to sustain us (albeit predominantly unconsciously.) Our meaning-making is contained by our familial. We use time to further our own interests. We confine our energies to the larger group. We have 'worldly' ambitions. We need to be fair to all the demands of life. We are uncertain as to the validity of our preferences. We can't be bothered with that which we cannot directly affect. Or we simply allow all to be. Such is the spiral of our dynamics, innately.

Bees and ants have much to teach us. Birds are more obvious. It is the esoteric and the subliminal and the abstract that challenges. One needs time, interest, energy, and that greatest demonstrator of intelligence at work, flexibility. Knowledge helps, but what use has a parrot for a key unless it can figure out how to insert, and turn? We use knowledge as handed down. It is our examination of it, and our adding to it that not only gives us better tools, but advances our adaptability, should we have the energy. Problem is, limitations of resources seriously affects inclination. (Much easier to Google Fibonacci than to catch the bus and go to the library.) Much easier to read all this, give a toss of the mental petard, and get on with tending to that daily task of living, let alone (by comment) to disclose uncertain, tentative, or avowed realms of thinking.

Einstein is purported to have declared, "I only want to know God's thoughts, the rest are details." Nice. "The Devil is in the details," someone else coined the phrase. Fibonacci, a medieval scholar, may well have been bedevilled by his own contentions. Mathematical certainties have inspired Euclid, Pythagoras, and confounded me. That 'Time' is relative is a notion my brain easily accepts; the precise proof thereof becomes too confabulating a matter for me. Faith is like that. Which part of Everything is not? (And if 'God' is everything?) End of my need for particulars. As such, Schrodinger's cat, as a theory, is fascinating. No need for this boy to recreate the experiment (to the relief of many a cat!) But is knowledge of Schrodinger's in-or-out-of-the-box theory necessary? Can we just accept that everything IS? And that we, being homo-sapiens-sapiens (when we are exercising our consciousness) 'need' not empirical proof?

"Feeling is all," declared e.e. cummings. Faith is like that. We remain hopeful that our feelings are commensurate, despite our lack of contact, our lack of words, our lack of shared ideas, our lack of ongoing knowledge of each other, our evident lack of connection. We easily 'care'. Yet can such 'feeling' still be intimate? In evolving do we integrate individual explorations? After all, which part of Everything is not? Aberrations? (In Fibonacci's exponentialism there are actually no missing numbers.) Still, we but meander from road to road in the forks of time, mayhap going gold with age. And while common sense has it that we each want only the best for each other, reality proves divisions. And therein may lie our minds' meanderings; or is it our hearts' accord? 
This golden photo thanks to Quintin Ehman

Monday, January 27, 2014

Contextual Connections

Who is the other, after so much time? We receive words of enquiry from across oceans, from across decades, across years, or even beyond remembrance. Some old contacts may ask some or all of those 5 x W's: How are you? What do you do? Who are you seeing? Where do you live? When can I see you again? If you're like me, the initial instinct is to be concise. I'm fine. I teach. I'm married. I live in a paradise of my own making. We may see each other again; when in town meet me at my local. In the meantime, tell me about you. (Shall we share Webs?)

End of transcription? Yet some persons write back great expositions: "I'm now a graduate of Local High, did some European traveling with friends, went to Provincial University, got my Vocation Degree, added (or am doing) My Masters, My PhD, and work now at Satisfactions Occupation, and am currently in Parentis Practice too. We (or I) live in Faraway City. And I (or we) often think of you. So, how are you?.... And just how much 'should' I in turn reveal? We speak predominantly about things, people, or ideas. The focus? 

No matter how full the other's life, my first reaction is to hesitate before divulging. It seems the past is the past. Does it matter that I went to Wonderland, unless they've been too? Does it matter that I met this or that person, unless they know them? Does it signify that I've attained this or that credential, unless they can relate to my semantics and are commensurate with my interests? After all, there is a great deal of head scratching to be wrought twixt epistemology and homeostasis. Should either of us not be on the same page we may devolve tangentially into circumlocution of the essence of who we really are, a symbiosis of all that was and is. Twixt religion and spirituality is a vast argument. Whos read, So long, and thank you for all the fish!"?

Thing is, how does one revive a realistic emotion for a long-forgotten cousin? How does one really relate to a past-person who indeed appreciates, indeed has made of their lives a paragon of praiseworthiness, yet who may essentially be at a different space of taste in life? "You like Bob Dylan? Really? I prefer Bizet," the other may say. And soon thereafter, one hears no more. Things have been had. People are past. And ideas?

I recall being so very judgemental when I was younger. I was affected by cleanliness, by dress, by hairstyles, by vocations, by music choices, by the sense of another's friends and their family, by vehicle choices, by whether or not one smoked. And through it all I was looking for (albeit subconsciously) the one thing I myself did not readily feel, unconditional acceptance. Thing is, when younger I did not know my boundaries; I feared being breached. When younger, I feared birds of a different feather. When younger, I felt instinctually non-commensurate with some of 'the others' essentially because I was looking for something I felt they could not give me, an interest in ME. My interest in 'them' was curtailed to my sense of their intensity of reciprocity. It took energy to love, let alone to like the other when there was no concise sense of camaraderie, little by way of companionship, or hint of collusion. To like another just as they are, exactly as you find them, takes some doing. It takes an integration of all that was and is, and perhaps even more scary, it takes integrating 'the perhaps' of what is yet to be. Corinthians 13 is indeed most challenging.

Boundaries are significant in relationships. They are the differentiators. To have sufficient sense of the self not to be threatened by the other, "whether one is a bird or a fish" (in Fiddler on The Roof terminology) is to be self-actualized not only in a way that allows for care, consideration, and compassion; but also provides for exercising circumspection. It allows for one to evaluate the time and the effort and the energy and the flow of a moment, and when the other knocks too often at one's door for their sustenance that better might be got without dependency, or intrudes too often on time that needs focus on larger issues than that poor soul's churning repetition of childhood insufficiencies, it's time to curtail the correspondence. Or do we drop all barricades?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Rejection's Reciprocity

Almost 30 years later the treasure resurfaces. What else is there in the world that has been made and lost? Our products can be painstakingly wrought, like working all summer in a garden, and then, in a single dismissive frost, it seemingly comes to nought. Best to enjoy and appreciate each moment, for like the caring selection and precise placement of each pebble in a great sand picture, our works are so easily wiped from public recognition once done. Such was certainly the effect of holding the three original rejection letters from Australian publishers as far back as the 80's. That, along with having a treasured original of Nick Sinclair's 'Captain Balboa.'

We make things out of nothing. Such is imagination. We create giant statues that eventually crumble. We invent things that might make it to the museum, or they too eventually are discarded, turned to rust, and are pulverized by the process of time. Dust to dust. Yet some things make it beyond our reach. Some things gets duplicated, published, replicated, and evolve way past our own lifetimes. But as for the real Captain Balboa?

Nick Sinclair's protagonist is nothing like the original man. Guts, glory, and gore attend Vasco Nunez de Balboa's life (1475-1519). An explorer, governor, and conquistador, he met a horrid end with the axman, declaring his innocence to the end. Yet what he perpetrated on those with whom he clashed en route to his grandiosity is now so easily forgotten; the dramatic statues of him in Madrid and elsewhere conceal his arrogant egotism and religious self righteousness. But Nick Sinclair's Balboa is nothing like that. In Nick's realization, Balboa is compassionate, visits Africa, speaks with and rescues drought-stricken animals, and is considerate in the extreme.

"Imagination is more important than knowledge," Einstein is purported to have said. Yet imagination can also extrapolate, prevaricate, befuddle, and confuse. Many a history has been glossed over, recreated, and intentionally restructured to suit its proponents. Yet Nick Sinclair in no way has taken anything other than the name of Balboa 'in vain'. He has given Balboa a benign and grandfatherly persona. He has anthropomorphized the creatures Balboa meets, and with caring words as well as his own magnificent illustrations, has created a world of magic for his children, Barnaby and Anna, and indeed, as intended for all of us too.

Those who have the commercial power to promulgate our productivity, the book makers, the ones commissioning statues, the art buyers, the recording-label contractors, the manufacturers of patterns and material and foodstuffs and motorcars and aeroplanes and furniture, these are those that can provide longevity, that can ensure a commercial success. The publisher's rejections are succinct. "...against the competing merits of other submissions"; "...we must be extremely subjective"; "the setting is too European." Indeed. We all have reasons for dismissing whatever comes across our way. Not everyone gets to have an award in a fanciful parade.

Just how many art works, manuscripts, recipes, ideas, articles, letters, essays, never get past the small circle of the immediate? Just how many artists, singers, musicians, actors, and inventors never 'make it'? We can but enjoy the process, or we may be dissuaded from the creative essence of our productivity. We may start to commercialize, to make things just to sell, to be known, to become famous, or to want that most elusive goal of all, to become really rich!

Nick died in 1985. His life was its own jewel. But a pebble in the vast panoply of mankind, Nick's life glistens and shines for those who knew and loved him. As does his work. The rest is not easily up to you or me, but to those with the power to publish, promulgate, promote, and perpetuate that which has been the product of one's making. Enjoyment of the process, in the meantime, is all. Nick’s Balboa sails on and on in the mindscapes of other adventurers, always.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Her, and Healings

"I want to know what you're thinking. Tell me everything," Samantha's character implored from the movie screen. And sitting there in the dark with just the rectangular light from HER, as if shone upon by a Golden Mean, I thought, "No way." And then wondered why I would withhold from anyone asking me such a thing. It dawned. It is that I cannot trust their unconditional positive acceptance. The listener would be shocked, horrified, dismayed, disappointed, or even disgusted that I was thinking this or that, perhaps, particularly if I were to haul up things from my rites of passage toward this, my seventh decade of life. We have our secrets. We have our private thoughts. We have our working things out that others do not have the privilege of knowing. "See, Icarus," they would say, as we fell from aspiring toward stardom on our wings with their bindings of wax, "I told you you were up to no good." But they do not see or are not necessarily there when one day we pilot the Concorde. "That Peter, always playing at planes; what a waste of time," someone unthinkingly may level at him, and then go away. And when Peter finally is airborne, he has just himself to congratulate. His naysayers are not there. His parents are no longer. His family is disassociated. His achievements are forgot.... "Tell me, what are you thinking?" How does one relate one's every abstraction, those ingredients headed in the present from the past toward some eventual product? Not all things are consciously managed. (And yes, my father did want to be a pilot.)

When the two women met there was much they could not, did not reveal. For 44 years of the younger one's life her very existence had been kept a secret. The older, the second wife of the younger one's father, had never been told. The father had been abandoned, some seven or eight months after the girl's birth from his in-between marriages. He was not permitted to see or contact the child by her mother, and by virtue or dint of circumstance and time and geography, the little girl grew up thinking her daddy dead. The father, having lost all contact, never revealed his paternity. He already had had three sons, and then later had a fourth, but not once did any of these boys know they had a sister. Not until she was 44. Not until her mother died. Not until she was told afterwards by her aunt that her father was still alive, and that she had some brothers. And only when an announcement came over Springbok Radio that she was looking for them did all get revealed. Well, not all. The older woman in the picture, above, the second wife of the father, was not told it was her husband's daughter; she was informed that the younger woman was a cousin, or some such thing. Her feelings were to be spared. People have instincts, have reasons. But it was not until the father's death, eighteen months after he and his daughter had been reunited, and even then perhaps a year later, that the older woman and her husband's daughter were able to sit together in the truth of their circumstances. And now, years later, as irony would have it, that daughter is part of the older woman's chief support systems. They were robbed of 40 odd years of knowing each other. Could they have handled the interim? Could the sons have handled the knowledge of their sister? Tell me. Would the truth have spoiled things?

"Tell me what you're thinking. I want to know everything."

Why do we demur? One person holds so very much power when they do not accept, integrate, allow for, have compassion, have patience with or tolerate another. It is necessary that there be a stickler in a twelve person jury. It is necessary that there be discourse over disagreement. It is necessary that there be truth when lies harm. We do not want Idi Amin to commit genocide without our knowledge. We do not want... We do not want people to know all about ourselves. We have privacy. We have secrets. We have closets. We have a past. We live in a state of great vulnerability; persons may forever hold us accountable for the record of that which we did when we were 12, or was it 17, or... "Tell me what you're thinking. I want to know everything."

"No way!" I think. Now tell me, will you hold that much against me too? Surely, acceptance is all.

Her (2013)
A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that's designed to meet his every need.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Compassionate Comparisons?

To be at peace with the self is very difficult. There are constant comparisons. As a boy I felt diminished by persons such as Robert Redford, Roger Moore, and Rock Hudson. And then there was Rembrandt and Ver Meer. And what of Clapton and Manitas de Plata? Then too there was Pavarotti and Domingo. Or how about Einstein or Sagan? And what of de Mille or...? The point is that any sort of comparison easily puts one at a disadvantage, or even worse, might have one feeling superior. Hierarchies of attainment, talent, beauty, skill, achievements, and circumstances are apparent, everywhere! To be at peace with the self, just as one is, warts and all, in the woundedness of one's evolution within the adjustments toward more and more enlightenment is most difficult indeed. All around oneself is comparison. And quite evidently, very few of us could possibly be in league with "bestest of the best." Yet, what a relief! Whew!

Comparisons have their advantage. We pay for things, whichever choice we make, so it can be worthwhile to go price-shopping. Sitting on a rounded rock is better than a sharp. Having a thing not break when needed is better. Hearing a clean CD over a scratched one is clear. Eating a good meal as opposed to... Etc. We all know comparisons. But to be alright with the self when juxtaposed to others is the issue. On almost every level of the human condition we are able to make the comparisons, and to suffer from a sense of lack, or shame, or inadequacy, or poverty, or insecurity, or ill-fatedness is all rather sad. To be the ant or the wounded rabbit or the bird or the fish or even the rhinoceros is simply a matter of the genetic endowment of our soul, and then to be or to have a biggest, better, best of any of the multiple things with which we may compare is to be on a trajectory of comparisons that are hardly ending. It is not too long before the longest rhino horn is a liability. "It's lonely at the top." The price one pays for certain things costs more than money. The upkeep on appearances, the need to be at least as well as the Jones's, and the instincts to put others down all weigh on the conscience, or not. Paradoxically, a comparative analysis will concur, or not. The painting above is clearly better (in terms of applied skill levels) than mine, below.

So very many products and so much of potential is never brought out of obscurity simply due to circumstance. What might the young women and men of history not have produced had they not been killed "before their time"? So very many products are not celebrated thanks to the prizes given to others deemed to be 'first'. Art exhibitions, American Idol, talent exhibitions, dance competitions, bake-offs, car races, even the Olympics leave a litany of also-rans. At which point does it suffice not to have won? Japan in the second world war apparently surrendered willingly only because they did not 'lose face' given that they could say they had been beaten by a clearly superior force. To give up to an equal force would be unthinkable! One can save face when the other is so significantly better that it does not shame you. Like those girls ignoring me, looking at Robert Redford. Like being compared to Hieronymus Bosch, or Dali. Like stacking up my 12 year old vehicle against the neighbour's brand new BMW. Like, well, you get the picture.

The thing is, we each are better off to keep conscious of our uniqueness in this universe of ours, and to contribute toward it from the platform of time and circumstance and chance and opportunity as best as it affords us. No use the Volkswagen wishing to be a Rolls Royce. No use me wishing to be Robert. Best just to be as good as one can be. To want to improve, to be better, to know more, learn more, go further, and have better is really quite natural; at issue is that all these aspirations are better directed at oneself than against or by comparison to another. As desiderata would have it, "for always there will be greater and lesser persons than the self". As long as that 'greater and lesser' is meant in terms of compassion for all, I can handle that. I am really best off knowing what I know, being who I am, compared to what I know of me. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Beauty's Bounty?

Can there be but one beauty for all? We drive different cars, and when having the same, choose different colours. Not every husband looks like Rock Hudson. Not every girl looks like Raquel Welch. I like Goldie Hawn. A friend finds "little about her" attractive. He prefers Angela Lansbury. And should you not know the difference between a Karmann Ghia or a Goggemobile you too may not know what it is that drives another's choice. There are paintings of three stripes that have fetched millions. There are masterworks that get no offers. And many a beauty, male or female, serves us somewhere and is never given opportunity to be splurged upon the silver screen. It is the old adage, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder." It can arrest the individual. Yet many a rose is passed by.

We easily judge. Something in us, as Randy Newman satirizes, "hates" another. Some of us like pigs; others just eat them. Some of us like horses. (From what I see in movies, most cowboys just ride them.) We take a stand; we adopt a stance; we make a decision never to support this or that political party; never to be swayed by that or this contention. We are raised to suspect "fence sitters". We are raised to make a choice. We are given to understand that preference becomes want which in turn becomes need. And we are embarrassed to be seen wearing certain clothes, driving in certain vehicles, being with certain others. We define ourselves according to the likes and dislikes inherent to us. And we circumscribe our lives by the proclivities of our practice. Our circumspection may grow by dint of influence, intentional or not. Yet we readily can cauterize the potential of acquiring new tastes. We baulk at the threat of being overwhelmed. Not all of us like simplicity. Many of us do not like complication. Beauty is given terms, Rococo, Dada-esque, or Abstraction. Instinctively, we like, love, find it appealing, or are turned off.

Point is that tastes change. Point is that the beauty is ephemeral. Point is that Sophia Loren may stay incredible, but she (and her physique) will be described in that ubiquitous phrase "for her age." And the point is that we look for beauty according to what we each have been accustomed to find beautiful. A Zulu beauty is quite different from Twiggy. A Ruben's beauty is quite different from today's. And we ourselves are quite different as we age from the younger persons we once looked like, year by year.

For me beauty exists in the gleam of accord in another's eye. That person can be of any size or shape, wear whatever, have a hairstyle of whatever, be driving whatever, be doing whatever, but when I see the interested interaction of care, appreciation, concentration or reciprocation with any given other, be it a sunset, a flower, a gift, or in converse with another, there's something in me that is invigorated by the beauty of that person's very being, seen in the energy in their eyes, in that moment. (And given that all around oneself there is a constancy of beauty, from the lift of a gull's wing to the shape of a grass blade, there is much of beauty by which readily to be invigorated.) When another person looks, and feels an accord with something, I see in them what for me is beauty, utterly.

Beauty is the link that binds us. The paradox is, it divides us too. Dylan and Domingo in the same CD collection is one thing, but Koos Kombuis and Chris Chameleon? Which part of Everything is not? The esoteric remains for the initiated; unless we identify we do not relate. (And to stretch ourselves to find out something takes often too much effort.) Just how to see ugly as beautiful too? Why is it then that some people can paint or photograph a junk yard?

Beauty, for me, indeed remains in the eye of the beholder. For you?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Untidy Underpinnings?

We fool ourselves rather easily. What I see in my life is the romance of living beside the sea, and with it, the quaintness of this old seaside city. The untidy and the cluttered become part of its charm. A friend, Brian Crovet, paints the dilapidated cars and trucks, turns them into art pieces. We take visitors from Australia to show them with pride our pebble and rock-strewn stretch of Willow Beach, all of about a half-mile long crescent. And then one sees an Australian beach, beaches, with their miles and miles of gold. Ha! Need one feel less-than?

Between what should or could be, and what is, lies the consistency of cleaning up our messes; lies reality. In our minds we look better than we do (or worse, we look worse.) In our hearts we love more than we show. We mean more than we say. We intend more than we do. We go into a state of acceptance about the unpainted and the cracked and even the broken, and we allow lazy habits of thinking, of speech, of communicating, of living mostly for ourselves to suffice. Keeping one's room, one's house, one's city, province, country, world and universe orderly takes a consistency of effort that generally is not practiced; that is the reality. (I speak for me, not thee.) Perfectionism is not necessarily its own reward. We seldom do things just for ourselves.

Families live under the disguise of accord. The house is tidied, for guests. Bathrooms are cleaned, for guests. Flowers are arranged, for guests. The car is cleaned, the papers are put away, the shelves are sorted; the closed door conceals the shame. Children grow up learning that we do not speak 'that way' in company. Parents put on tones of respect for each other, for their children. Dad is warned not to drink too much. Mother makes 'a special dish'. Grace may even be said (though we don't usually.) And depending on the season, even the lawn has to be mowed. What we do to have others think a certain way of us gets ingrained early. We learn to dress and act and comport and pretend and be nice, especially while Auntie So and So is here!

Friendships start that way too. Initially there is no swearing, no racist jokes, no evident overindulging or taking for granted. Voice-tones and interest and care and even compassion appears commensurate with the moments, and we like the other. And then, over time, the muddy boots are brought in over one's floor, the language disintegrates into vulgarities, the arguments arise, the selfishness asserts. Yet for some reason we stay friends. Women allow husbands to get away with the hit and the hurt. Men allow wives to niggle, nit-pick, natter. The friend becomes an irritant, a knock, knock, knocking at the senses over the frequency of phone calls, or the demands for attention. We become more natural, more real, more just ourselves.

Our bedrooms are the one cave in which we should (that word!) feel entirely comfortable. They are where we sleep, safe. Where we dream, secure. Where we wake, invigorated. They house our clothes, the book we're reading, the sheets we wrap ourselves in. They are the place where, while the world turns without our consciousness, we are undisturbed. No wonder sharing one's bedroom is a big deal. Let alone sharing one house. And some of us "never" need make a bed.

Tidying up the exigencies of life is an ongoing process. Like laundry, the dishes, cleaning the bathtub, or taking out the garbage, it is never-ending. Trimming the excess, dusting the knick-knacks, organizing the bills and the birthdays and the social engagements and getting the kids to practices and events and ensuring homework is done and having a balanced meal on the table is all part of the advent of living with reality. We can make our homes nice, our yards nice, live in beautiful cities, drive shiny cars, or have to exist on the streets in makeshift shelters. It is not the outward tidiness that necessarily makes us better people, it is the consistency of wanting to be in a caring accord with all that is, and accepting of all for what it is, as we are; tidy, or not.