The Left And Right Hand

America, I am told, is in the middle of her census. It is the business of government to know what its citizens need, their demographic, so it can apportion funding to all the myriad things society needs funded. The information, though, can be used to check up on citizens, uncover frauds, discover frauds and generally be a benchmark for whom to watch.

There is a wonderful way in which doctors have discovered they can help depression. They have found the regions in the brain that control mood and they insert electronic stimuli. In tests it takes a while to get just the right electronic flow and during the tests moods swing, but eventually they can help even the worst cases. When I watched this on utube my first thought was ‘they are going to use that for torture techniques in the future.’

With many others I applaud the fact women and men who find it difficult to have children have been helped by IVF and other techniques. But the very process of understanding the womb, taken with the great advances in DNA research means we can now grow a child outside the womb. And they will. And they will not be for childless couples.

It seems a strange but fordrawn conclusion that no matter what we do in this world, no matter how beneficial it seems, it has its down side. The imagination of human beings is always drawn to the bestial.

Distance

It is a funny thing about distance. Sometimes we feel that those we love or know are far away because they are in the next town, or the big city or another country. In older days when horses were the only form of speedy travel to be in another county was days away. Now to be on the other side of the world is a day away by plane. Of course it may be a year or more away in terms of saving up the money to pay for travelling.

And yet a Hindu can sit and contemplate and talk about travelling across the stars without observable moving so much as an inch. Travelling is not only relative in time and space, it is also relative in the mind. Sometimes people closest to us, in the same house, can appear distant. Almost unknown. And sometimes we can even become strangely unknown to ourselves.

The human being  enjoys travelling, enjoys seeking out  the unknown and we are now on the thresholds of one of the greatest journeys human beings will ever take; into the brain. Which is not only the beginning of all travelling, but for us the beginning of everything.

Why we are what we are. I hope you are packed and ready to go.

Train Journeys

The first I recall I was 9 on my way home from school in my uniform in those old six seater carriages with white doilies on the head rests. I wanted a cup of tea and when the steward opened the door and announced refreshments were now available this little 9 year old piped up, “Ah that is what I was waiting for.” Took me years to understand why everyone laughed and one kind person bought my tea for me.

I used to do the coastal train ride across Devon to and from London in the days when the ticket man or woman wouldn’t check the tickets before reaching the Tamar Bridge so I would sneak into first class and sleep. Except of course when Totnes and Teignmouth came along and the bay opened up to the sea and the red cliff faces through which the train passed in a series of tunnels and on windy days the sea spray hit the windows.

And the journey I took to University the first time sitting opposite a real live female student and realising I was going to study more than books. And the small train, heavily crowded that left Reading and rattled a lot. And that amazing journey from Mumbai to Poona and seeing stewards running up and down the carriage to serve the passengers.

In other days I would be recalling chariot rides, or donkey rides of horse rides. But I look forward to many more train rides.

Moving With The Seasons

Birds migrate for warmth and breeding. Vast herds cross snow, ice and rivers across whole continents in time with seasons. Human beings have inhabited the whole Earth but we are not naturally a migratory species. We can make almost any place an all-year-round home. Yet in the past there have been huge tribal migrations as geneticists have begun to see, though the reasons are unclear. Probably the same causes as those we do know about in recent history such as invasion and loss of habitat.

We do love to move. We love to travel. Though many human beings are stay-at-home, not-too-bothered about seeing the world types. They have hit their comfort zone. And I don’t suppose they even migrate the way other people do in the modern world – in their minds.

All my friends and I myself am an exemplar of this, spend a good deal of fantasy time somewhere else. Our minds wandering from the hum-drum of the everyday, or looking to the next peak in our every climbing idea of where our life should ‘go’. We are never still. Our imaginations cross other worlds. We carry with us all manner of things, all manner of people, but most of all these dreams, these targets, carry with them our idea of ourself.

We don’t wait for the seasons to migrate, we don’t even need to be awake.

Will It Save The World If I Sneeze?

Of course the world needs saving. It has needed saving since forever. Long before whalers would slaughter gentle animals like the giant turtle and sea lion without cease. Before Cicero was appalled at the slaughter of fifty elephants in one games in the Roman Arena, or Seneca had to pretend not to prefer being a vegetarian in front of the Emperor. Long before people ignorantly planted themselves on different areas of land and then put up walls and called everyone else ‘stranger’.

It is just, what does the world need saving from? Nature is cruel because she is pretty callous but then no one thinks nature has a brain. No one thinks nature sits back and designs the sudden jump a dung beetle makes from being a dung/plant based feeder to becoming predatory. Genetics has produced rationality but it doesn’t possess rationality in and of itself.

And we are wholly nature trying to save ourselves from her grasp and soften her corners. Trying to make our world safer for us whilst doing her cruel work with a vigour even nature doesn’t match. The species that survive human kind are truly spectacular survivors. Because that is what they will be, either by luck in living in places humans don’t want to live, or adapting to be  a nuisance we cannot eradicate,  or by being food we farm.

We have nature’s cruelty in us, we are her greatest weapon against life.

Light And God

My physics friend at University (don’t laugh we all had one) told me in his text books they a quote ‘And god said…” followed by the four equations Maxwell wrote on the nature of light. It made me think about the relationship between god and science in our minds.

Of course if science is correct then god is a scientist. However if science is correct than all we have said about god in  religions is incorrect. Well no, not all. I was struck a while ago hearing a religious man ask someone what they thought about god and reprimanding them when they started to quote religions saying that was only what men and women thought about god. For years I have studied Metaphysics and to see god in the place s/he ought to be, as purely speculative with no observable existence outside of personal belief, was refreshing. God actually never said anything but in saying nothing, everything has been revealed.

But though monotheism may be having its day in the light of science polytheism is making a comeback. We don’t call them the usual names but we worship at the feet of many gods; free-sex, money, nationalism you name them, we worship them. Because to worship something all you need do is to give your life to it.

It never was about what god is or is not, it was all about who human beings are . . . or are not.

Enid Blyton

I used to love to read Blyton books and vividly remember being bought 3 all at once and feeling myself very rich. Most of the time I had to trawl through the second hand shops (one I remember as the bus ride never stopped there, you had to cross  a subway and walk down a street that was that little bit ‘seedy’). I still have many of them, mostly paperbacks. And of course when I started to write my first ‘book’ when I was eleven, still tucked away in my mother’s work, it was my Enid Blyton pastiche. Replete with my own parrot.

I tried reading one when I was 19 and I couldn’t get through a paragraph. It seemed banal, ludicrous, silly. And in all the hype about J K Rowling I eventually went to the library and picked up the first Harry Potter and read the first paragraph. Enid Blyton revisited. I hastily put it back on the shelf for the minds who adore those kinds of things, the little minds still seeking adventures in places I no longer look for them, real life.

There are adventures of course, and magical people and moments you will never forget and feelings that will make you feel more alive than you have before,  but the mind has changed. You haven’t lost anything if you cannot read these books because they have become too simple, you have simply gained your own imagination.

Use it.

I Have Been Asked

to do a podcast. The time will be 9.30 am EST Thursday 25th March 2010, about 2.30pm here in the UK (how civilised my first intervene and I will be awake after lunch!) The link is: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/internetbusinesspeoplecafe

He is a nice man who even suggested he would interview off air and record it and play back when I wanted. That’s what I like about the modern way of doing things, people treat people as individuals and you mess it up together! Last time I did an interview it was for local radio in 1990. My hat era. I won’t be wearing a hat this time. This is a business podcast channel and that worries me a little as I was not very upbeat about business in the book, likening it to war without the bloodshed and by many tokens considering it a very backward way of using people for a monetary system I don’t actually believe to be very good (ethically or otherwise).

Still it is only a fifteen minute discussion, I can’t change the world yet.

By the same token Gil Bruvel has opened up discussions with me about using one of his pictures as a cover for one of my books. I have no problem with a royalty per book for artists, it is what I consider the fairest way to do things, but I am going to struggle to find the initial fee. Still no rush:) The picture I would like to use is The Gardener if you want to Google it.

Mobile History

Human beings love to communicate. It will be one of the great discoveries to find out which came first the voice or the brain.
Through stele, scrolls and printing presses to the internet, telephone and radio phone we will develop our ability to communicate easily with each other anywhere in the world and one day through the Solar System. We will chatter and gossip, gab and talk, discuss and lecture to our hearts’ contents. We are after all social animals if not always sociable animals and communicating is part of how we get along, how we manage to survive, how we live.
But it is surprising that we don’t think other animals do the same to any degree. We seem to think that because we can communicate so widely and because elephants don’t have cell phones somehow they don’t talk to each other, they don’t express themselves to each other, they don’t gossip.
And the reason we believe this is because we don’t actually understand them. All our communication depends upon understanding each other, translating to each other whatever we want to say into languages we can converse in. How bizarre that we don’t credit other species with the ability to communicate. We don’t think they have a grammar. We don’t think they have linguistic structure at all.
Yet we are all linked and nature makes us endeavour in similar ways to each other. To strive using similar biologies.
I would be very surprised if animals do not actually talk to each other in ways we could not even guess at.

Bone Flutes

There were, anthropologists tell us, small flutes made of the bones of animals which our distant ancestors used. Along with some kind of drum which seems to be a universal early instrument. But it was a long road from those to Haydn.

Like all roads, to Science, to Art, to Society itself, human endeavours are built up in increments.  There are may reasons why this is so but in the main it is because we are taught ways of thinking as children – either by the accidents of childhood or by the design of schooling – and those ways of thinking become our second nature. So much so that ‘new’ ways of thinking sound discords in our brains and we feel disconnected with younger thinkers – also known as a generation gap. But except for the devastations of wars and disease and natural disasters, human society has progressed and it progressed in leaps and bounds when there were sufficient numbers in the world to leave some unaffected by any set-back – there are no more Atlantis incidents. The whole of Europe could disappear and human society would march on.

Of course we argue a great deal over the marching. We still play bone flutes after all, despite now having Haydn.

The Dragon – A Fairystory

Twilight.

Trees cover the mountainside. Their bark blistered; their branches bare; their trunks broken. Rocks are cracked, deep cuts score the ground, dried up ravines are etched into the mountain side. Pathways meander to the top which are used by the huge beast which lives in the vast caves beneath.

The dying dragon pulls her body out of the darkness of her lair, and with her fading efforts to remain alive starts to climb with a slow, painful lumbering crawl, the mountain which she was used to running up. She knows her death approaches and she wants to lie on top of the mountain, away from her large cave, and take one more look at the world. One more look at the air in which she was used to flying thousands of miles in a single day. One more look slow look with dimming eyes.

Once more to feel the touch of a breeze on her face and smell the smells of the world. The rich smells of living.

Her head droops with her struggle to even walk. It sways in time to her tortuous, small steps. Her breath, fireless, is harsh and heavy. Her scales hang loosely from the folds of her aged skin. Gone are those underlying muscles that rounded her body and made the scales into armour. The tail, which had flattened trees and shaken mountains in her anger, meekly follows where her feet lead. Like the withered stalk of an unwatered flower, it has no life of its own. It leaves a deep trail as she wends her way up onto the last few metres of her walk. To stand and see. To lie and see. To look across the land. For her eyes to go where she no longer could. She collapses on her vantage point her eyes struggling to open. Shaking with the effort.

Dark clouds move with the rising storm.. Like distant visitors fleeing the sky before it crashes upon the earth. The dragon gasps. A mournful cough that groans from the pit of the stomach in an effort to make music. To speak. To maintain the body for one final effort. The sound is awful. A wail. A dragon’s rattle. A ghastly reproach for the end of things. A warning to the storm.

A lightning flash, as silent as the grave, lights up her decrepit aged-grey body and once livid red eyes now pale and bleary. She shuts her tired lids, sighs, and rolls over onto her side on the edge of the plateau. She made it. She will never move from this spot. She opens her eyes one last time and sees the world. Feels the darkness, caresses the light, greets the storm. It is fitting there should be a storm at this time. Today of all days. She closes her eyes for the last time, moaning the song of her people which she has known since she was a young dragon learning the things she had to know to live through the centuries of her life.

How people will hunt her

How men will fear her

How fire will be her friend

How riddles will keep her mind active

How gold glitters but is dangerous.

How to find a good cave

How to protect her friends and vanquish her enemies.

How to love and be loved

How to be brave

How to be shy

She had done all these things.

Her thoughts are not of death. Not of treasures or wars. Not of enemies or intrigues. If thoughts had life then she would be seventeen again. The age at which a dragon first tries her adult wings, new formed. Still damp from growing and the shedding of her baby wings. How she tumbles with the joy of freedom they give her, over and over with her friends. Thundering with energy, with hope, with love. Dragon laughter like a river ripples down the mountain side and joins all the sounds of life. Friends playing the game of youth. A dragon’s youth. And high above the land, they dip and dive, blow flames and play ‘catch-as-catch-can’.

But thoughts have no life outside the head in which they are formed. And no more had she a moment left.

Twilight is a good time to die.

She dies. The once immense body of the most feared animal that has ever existed, moves no more. The loud voice is quiet. The body greets the storm, but the mind goes elsewhere.

As always with the death of the mighty, no one mourns. It is a lonely passing from greatness back into the earth from which all things come. The trees stand silent. The cave stands empty. The gold inside glitters here and there as starlight and lightning catch it. A mouse scampers and scurries along.

The storm breaks. Throughout the wilderness of that raging night the water pours out of the clouds, gurgling into the parched mouth of the thirsty soil. Teeming down the mountains in that lonely land, and washing everything clean.

Even the dragon is washed by the rain of the heavens. The grey vanishes. She glitters in the moonlight which follows the tempest. Her weight takes her gently into the newly softened earth. Her eyes fastened upon the last thing she ever saw, the distance. Her mouth is partially open but unusually dampened. Her fire no longer strikes fear into anyone’s heart. The stars cover the sky in their many thousands and they look down upon her.

And she is beautiful in her dress of purple and gold.

If I Could Write . . .

I would of course be brilliant. I would be Zola reborn, I would be deep yet brief like Chekhov, I would be passionate and sparse like Steinbeck, I would be wide-ranging and evocative like Fast. There would be a hint of Byron in my irony and humour, the politics of Mary Ann Evans in my choice of subjects. I would not have the unbelievable circumstance of Hardy but choose rather the unremitting brutality of Hugo. I would want to capture the human condition as Thackery and Balzac, but leave readers with the delicate wisdom of Emily Dickenson.

At times the passion of Emily Bronte, at times the fluidity of Durrell. I would capture the instincts in a awkward moment like Singer and the beating heart of actions like Dostoyevsky. And after the pain I would soothe like Li Po, expound like Gandhi, entertain like Dickens and end with sending ripples of laughter and nods of agreement through my readers like MacNeice.

I would conjure like Cervantes and Lorca, touch depression like Solzenitskin  and lift the spirits like Moliere. If I could write I would have a touch of Shakespeare and a pinch of Jermiah and I would prophecy the human race into Shelley.

But I am me.

To Folly We Drink

It is strange to me to think that in a world where everything including the planet was given as a free gift with nothing more than the transference of energy needed to accomplish anything in a human life, that we created money. That we divided the planet up into sections we can buy and sell to each other and that we locked ourselves into this system over 10,000 years and now consider it to be the basis of our way of thinking.

No pursuit however intelligent is free of the constraints of money. With an endless number of planets to investigate and knowledge beyond our present understanding to understand, scientists have to ask for funding for projects and experiments to uncover them. And all those that are uncovered are covertly done so for the wealth they will generate amongst us.

And since this is a system the rich and poor are incontrovertibly connected – note how wealthy countries say the poor ones need to trade their way out of poverty to know this – and so we find that our decisions impact upon other people we don’t even know. And yet there are those who say they lock into the system and it works for them so it should work for everyone. It doesn’t And they are the reason it doesn’t. All enclosed systems lose power and it is a necessary concomitant of this system that the earth itself is losing the ability to sustain it.

Life and money are opposing forces.

Rivers Come And Go

There is great beauty around a tidal river. I grew up with one and getting to know the hours of its high and low tides gives one a knowledge of the phases of the moon. Gives one an appreciation of how boats rise and fall and tip gently when they hit the bottom of the muddy river bed. Of the thinking behind the endless tyres along the man made sides to the river and how buoys work. And the architecture of bridges below the water line which is so often hidden.

The practicalities of river life. How to clean a boat, what clothes to wear, the different kinds of boats from rowing boats to fishing vessels and the different kinds of sailors. The smell, the dirtiness, the wistfulness of the sea as she stretches a finger along an inlet, bathes rocks in passing and circles reed beds inland.

The ducks and swans that glide along with the people. The dampness that pervades all the buildings close to the riverside. The stories of sailors and buildings, held in the collective memory. And of course the drinking. The river has her own traditions and the people who ebb and flow along with her are a particular kind of people. Imbued with the moon. With a roughness and a strength and a predictability which mirrors their life-blood.

Not a bad place to grow up.

History Is Long, Memory Is Short

If a generation is 25 years there have been 80 generations since Jesus lived and 104 since the Buddha. I am sure someone could work out the days and I am certain some church somewhere has a sign ‘XXXX Days since Calvary How Many More To Go?’

These are not huge numbers. They are not even very big numbers. As I walk the fields the thoughts that this is March 2010 and it will not come again, is a latent thought put into me by tradition and conditioning. We mark so much by day and month. We seem incapable of just allowing ‘there is time’, and the reason is our logical way of doing things. We set ourselves a system to work within so everyone can work within the same system and meetings can be arranged.

Gone are the days when Native Americans in films (did they ever actually say this) said they would meet up in two moons. Accuracy, you see, to the nth part of a second is everything. It comes as a culture shock to know therefore, that for scientists a second is a huge amount of time. An amount of time during which all kinds of things have happened in their billions and they need to be able to refine it and mark ever shorter time spans.

For all our logic the billions of things that happen during our lifetimes are not in the months or the days. Those are wallpaper.

The things are happening in our life itself in their own time-spans. Enjoy them.

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