Age

They tell me the World of life, starting with the Achaean Period, is about four and half million years old.

When I studied Ancient History which had the traditional syllabus of Greek history broadly across the fifth century BCE (496 – 404)  and the Roman Period of 122 BCE to 14AD there were some thinkers, and soldiers, whose minds and ethics one read about and thought, ‘I could sit down with these individuals and talk to them right now.’ Like Artists and thinkers who have lived over the last 1000 years of human history from any country any culture, there is a sense that some of them are above their age, open to new ideas and the wonders of thought.

This is why I never think very much of the passing of years and the marking of birthdays even though my friends do mine this weekend. Fifty is nothing. It is not even a nano-second of time.The whole of one human life  does not even register. It can never be the length of time that is important but the content of the mind. Because ideas live forever.

And because everyone who has ever lived has been a Modern.

Music

Listening to Albinoni ,The Complete Concertos from a Phillips release in 1997. Having spent way too long listening to Simon Rattle’s Beethoven Symphonies.

It is strange but my work is not as good as it otherwise is if I write when music is playing.  I tend to get up and start conducting and get carried away with the phrases I know.  My work is done to the silence of the room and the heady music in my head. The images and words flow when music is playing but it is not the same. The rhythms in the sentences try to mirror the music.

I know a lot of people work to music because it helps excite the natural drugs released by the glands to the brain and even increases adrenalin but I find the creation of the storyline does the same thing for me.  I love music but it is something that takes all my listening ability. It is a time not to write on the computer or paper but to drift in the mind. It is a marriage of time and ideas.

Fresh Air

After days of trying to get the images into pdf to read at 300dpi, as they were scanned, and not as 150dpi as they arrive in America, I thought the morning walk would clear my head a bit.

It was very windy this morning, the ground was wet from overnight rain, the fields sinking in mud where the cattle walk or climb from field to field through narrowing gates or crumbling walls. The dogs love it and don’t mind mud or water though my terrier is a little averse to getting too wet.

And the wind blew through my hat and wool jumper. It was strong today. But welcoming for all that as the cold of the past weeks has lessened. And now I am back trying to fight pdfs an thankful that there is still enough of nature left to enrich me,  and still a few generous farmers who allow me to walk their fields,

Friends

There is something in the voice. The link with memory and shared experience. The moments of laughter, sadness, the inbuilt strength of knowing how someone else thinks, how they act, recognizing their walk from the far end of the street. In the mass of strangers all of whom are friends to someone, this person is known to you. You speak a similar language. You care about what happens to them, you pass comment on their relationships, you send them news that will help them and just news for the sake of it. You learn their fears and foibles. These are the people you hold close to your life.

But once you were strangers. Once you didn’t know their name. Didn’t know their family. Didn’t know what they do for a living. Once they were just part of the crowd and you could have told them from anyone else. Anyone you meet might become a  friend.

Friends are a journey.

China

I see that China is considering a new law to be discussed this April to outlaw the killing and eating of cats and dogs.

“We are proposing that all dog and cat eating should be banned because it is causing many social problems,” said Chang Jiwen, a law professor at the Chinese Academy.

I have always had a desire to visit the far East and China because some of their philosophy is fascinating but I have never gone because of their intense abuse of animals. It isn’t a judgmental thing; Europe intensely abuses animals and those it doesn’t abuse it has already wiped out. It was just because I could not bear to see the animals in the markets or pass the restaurants advertising them to eat.

If this does become law because the middle classes are becoming owners of dogs and can see all that people lose by slaughtering mindlessly, if will be a remarkable turn-around. Now all we have to wait for, is people not killing animals because the animals are precious in and of themselves and not just because they are of use to people.

Trees

How well I remember as a child climbing trees. Always scared the higher I climbed but always looking at the next large bough and wondering what it would feel like to sit on it and how far I would be able to see. Then gripping it tightly as if my life depended upon it when a breeze hit and the tree swayed and looking down thinking the ground was far too far away.

It would not have meant much to me that they were Quercus, Fagus  or Fraxinus, I knew the leaves, I responded to something embracing in the forms. I was to write a series of poems about trees when I grew older ( http://ruralists.com/features/beechtree/index.html) but as a child I always looked for the trees when  we moved. Somehow they made me feel nothing much had changed. People’s faces, streets, names but not the trees.

I am fifty next week and I intend to do what I have continued to do all my life, climb a tree. Look at the view. Worry my dogs who will sit by the trunk looking up wondering how they can join me.  And I will be standing amidst 150 years, wrapped up in the bare boughs of an oak, beech or ash. And I will be celebrating.

Horace Walpole

I am not usually given to quotes and quoting. I very rarely read biographies though some notable human beings are worth knowing about and many who are not well known should come more to our attention.

Horace probably isn’t a man I would have known well. He loved things Gothic and whilst his father was a famed British politician, Horace didn’t go looking for causes, they rather found him. And he was a member of the British aristocracy which means he was probably highly educated and not much else.

But when I first read this quote, it struck a chord with me and I have never forgotten it. It comes from a book of quotations we have here printed in the 1900’s, filled with thousands of people’s ideas none of which I ever recall, save this by Horace Walpole, son of Sir Robert Walpole and 4th Earl of Orford from a letter to Anne, Countess of Ossory, on 16 August 1776:

“I have often said, and oftener think, that this world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel – a solution of why Democritus laughed and Heraclitus wept.”

The Adventure of Self Publishing

I think twenty eight years, two agents and several ideas taken with no thank yous, give me the right to feel that self publishing through the publish on demand model, is the way for me to go. And having uploaded the files ready for CreateSpace to review and send proofs, I though I would reflect on the immense amount of creative work even a simple book takes.

Not only do you have to write it, you have to find a decent editor to make sure it all flows; you have to design the cover taking into account all the marketing skills that catch the eye but remain true to the book; you have to design a press release; a complete web page; create a web presence for yourself so people can find you if they go looking; integrate your web presence so everything points to your web page which points to Amazon. And make sure it is all of sufficient standard to impress a professional artist to create the artwork.

And all the while you have to maintain a regard to the possibility you may actually do well and so keep focused. I am a writer, designer, typographer, salesperson and net-worker.

No wonder publishers have about fifteen people and several departments to do all this stuff.

Dogs

respond to love. My mother has often asked what do we do with our dogs, they come to us as puppies or rescued adult dogs all quiet and well trained and after a while we have a bunch of characters walking around with us. And they are all different. Our terrier who was abandoned on the hill, guards the house with great gusto and loves being wrapped up and warm. Our collie knows everyone who walks their dogs in the village and greets them all summer, and even visits their houses.

She doesn’t I am glad to say, steal socks as one other neighbour’s dog has done.

The fact is given space and respect dogs learn how to communicate with us. From asking to go out, to telling us someone is around.  And there are few animals in this world that would not do the same.

The whole of Nature communicates with us but just as with animal, you have to be open to hearing them and give them space to be with you, so with Nature you have to do the same. you have to learn it is communication and not just interference in your way of doing things.

Patronage

What can art give the rich? Actually nothing more than it gives us all.

Some people becoming wealthy turn to patronage of the arts because they have the money to pay for the art works and places to exhibit them. But the energy of the creative force in the artist, the place where men get closest to what it means to be a woman and a human-being touches the ‘mind of nature’, this exists for everyone.

Historically the places where that energy is greatest, the flowering in city states in ancient Greece – political systems which were broadly the base for the city states of Renaissance Italy, the palaces of Rajahs, are places of money but the monied like Pericles or the Medici do not have to buy art, they are driven to it. Because the acts of creation resonate within them, speak in a language they cannot fully translate but nonetheless recognise, and reverberate with the populace.

And of course the art works usually outlive the rich. A gift to the Ages and a remembrance of wealthy names which the artist also understands and uses. In the digital eons ahead artworks will vanish, eroded by time, and their images will be left in 3D for everyone to enjoy. Even to be shared by other intelligences across the cosmos. Intelligences we hope, who will laugh at our pretensions but enjoy our creativity.

Sun Worshippers

I have to admit that apart from the debacle of human sacrifice, those scientifically challenged people’s actually did manage to highlight the fount of all life on Earth. That it isn’t sentient hardly seems to matter, and that there are millions of suns in the Universe doesn’t really matter either. Without it we have no life.

And I wonder at our relationship to warmth and cold. How we describe closeness and passion as warmth and distance as coldness. How we hunger for warmth and can be emotionally dysfunctional if we do not receive good parenting, and how dangerous people with inner coldness are to others. Not that too much passion isn’t capable of harm.

Many times we can see in our language and assumptions as to meaning, our natures, our innate characteristics, bubbling up to the fore. Showing us a map of who we actually are and where our thoughts actually come from. Some days the distant past, the hot, dusty and cold cheerless distant past in Africa, is right at my front door, tucked into my pockets as I walk out into the fields with my dogs and quietly worship a million unknowns.

Electric Cigarettes

They do exist. As my friend tells me there is a whole ritual around cigarette smoking that includes alleviating one’s stress and goes through the feel of the packet, the buying and lighting up, the inhaling and even the satisfaction of seeing the thing burning away. Electric cigarettes are there to help you and very useful if the drugs and patches make you feel unwell.

I am guessing for all of us there are rituals about everything we do.  How we go to work, how to rest at night, how we prepare to make love; and I am wondering how much of these rituals  are just the habits we employ to stop ourselves thinking too deeply.

We are after all animals that can think but sometimes it is plainly easier and simpler to be an animal that thinks less.  Yet is being so we must be missing clues as to who we really are and what we are actually doing. The ‘whys’ of life are difficult questions and have no set answers but that very chaos, that very uncertainty, is an immense intellectual strength if you can learn to live with it.

If

If everyone in the world vanished in an instant and you were the only person left, how much of civilisation would be safe in your hands?

I asked myself this question after reading Immanual Kant and the idea that ethical behaviour may be described as those actions anyone would do in the same situation. To know what those actions are you have to ask the question, “What would others do?” This inner questioning, this study in ones own actions fascinates me. It seems to me that if we do not carry our ethics within us without reference to what others do (only educated by it), we are highly unlikely to be truly ethical.

In A Shropshire Lad, Houseman points out in the poem which starts Good People Do You Love Your Lives, that each and everyone of us is an entire universe. When we die it is the end of everything for us. This is not the same as being alone. We are not alone. But we are all separated by inner circumspection from everyone else.

And I hope when you answer you can say, “As much as strength and time would allow me to make safe.” Because that answer is the mark of the depths of your humanity.

Music

There were three occasions when I was a teenager when for no reason I could imagine, I heard pieces of music that triggered something in my brain and I could no longer feel my body at all for a few seconds. They all occurred when I was sixteen to seventeen and I have ascribed them to hormonal changes ever since.

The first time I was listening to Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto and a particular solo violin phrase in the first movement. The second was the opening phrase of Mozart’s Jupiter Concerto and the third was the introduction mix to Solitary Man on the release of Neil Diamond’s Hot August Night.

The sense these short pieces of music gave me has been described by others as being ‘transported’. All I can say is that it was at once both an unexpected and delicious feeling that has remained in my memory though never recaptured by remembrance.
Nor is it something one looks for.

The Creativity of the Subconscious

Deer caught in a storm. Olympic runners wreathed in smiles. Sea captains smelling of salt. Fish floundering. Songs. The sun in the eyes on a day when no sunshine was forecast. Patience. Leg warmers made of synthetic wools. Pink biros no one uses. The demi-john filled with old plastic bits-and-pieces and used as a door-stop. Ardent love making.

A quiet bird. The dead, bright eyes of a thrush. Leaves falling in a breeze and swirling around catching one is a fairy-storm. Journalists who die to bring us the truth. “And simple truth miscalled simplicity.” The writers who thought as I do and those who did not. Warnings of times gone. Too many ice creams. Too few friends. A cluttered desk of wood.

Make a poem of chaos. Make chaos something understandable. Discernible. Beautiful. Memorable. Then have a hot cup of weak tea and watch the clouds spell out their favourite names. Clouds know, they have been watching for centuries.

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