Paradise Restrained

I remember reading Moore’s Utopia many years ago about how to reach some kind of equilibrium in our political, social and ethical lives. And we all know the stories of the ‘perfect place’ that litter our cultures from Shangri-La to the Garden Of Eden. There is a definite belief amongst people that what we have is wrong in some way, that what we experience is misguided to some degree.

But also in these stories and ideas is the belief that there may be somewhere that is better except it is hidden or we have lost it, or that somehow there was a golden age way-back-when which we need to regain.

It isn’t hard to see why such stories have such a hold on us: we find life difficult, emotionally tragic and we all die. None of these things endear us to the social or political systems we live within because those systems have no answer for them. And religions give a hope of an answer and make a virtue of the pain as some kind of cathartic ticket to meet with god.

Atomic theory tells us that the atoms in us rarely get broken up, and the particles in our bodies have been here forever-and-a-day. And if you look outside the sunshine and fertile Earth is still there, she just has this ridiculous wallpaper of economics plastered all over her.

It is city life that makes utopia so important. Here in the countryside every breath taken is rewarding.

To Be Desireless

The Buddha of course, taught people to desire less and to attain a kind of happiness by not engaging in the endless round of human ‘wants’, which are usually based on what others have, what others want to sell you and what others think you need. But he did go further in that he saw many of the natural desires of humans, to raise families for instance, were also chains. And yes they are but I wonder if he knew how some people take these chains on knowingly?

Hinduism also practices the denial of self  as a way to attain a form of enlightenment about one’s true place in the Universe.  I am not sure I go along with the whole eating one’s own defecation thing, but I understand the discipline involved in trying to lead a life of pure mind when that mind is trapped within a body. It is, after all, the generally accepted idea of spirituality that it is more noetic than corporeal.

Living a life of the imagination I do have a sense of what it means not to be the me everyone else sees and interacts with, but I think we all do that. Because all of us wear the persona we only take off for those we are most intimate with, and sometimes not even for them. But in a way that also reflects the Universe for that too has a persona.

It is not all trees and butterflies, but physics and chemistry.  And so are we.

Mysteries Are Happiness

We have a burning need to know, which has produced in large measure our minds – given the interplay between our ability to make connections in our brains and the number of connections that have to be made in order to understand even basic things like how to walk properly in a dense crowd of people.

And of course we have developed that most significant and brilliant of tools for understanding, namely mathematics.

However there are some places the understanding will come against that even to science are mysteries. That even when we know how a flower grows, how colour and photosynthesis work, how to graft one tree onto another, how to cross-pollinate, how to cure diseases and how the botany all connects, we still have no description of the beauty of the flower.

Aesthetics we are told, has something to do with pattern making and something to do with balance, and something to do with natural empathies in the way the light shines and our eyes work, but we do not know. And we do not know for a very good reason.

Most knowledge we garner from the Universe and Earth is based on finding concepts that work in such a way everyone can understand them. That 2+2 equals 4 is the same for everyone. But beauty is not the same for everyone. Individuality makes the mystery and everyone one has their own explanation.

Billions of explanations for the same thing. Isn’t that fun?

Good Morning Mr.Fox

Getting up early these days to take the dogs for a walk – I say dogs but my terrier has decided this is just too early and wraps up on the chair and refuses to move – I have started to see foxes. Or maybe just the one fox, in and around the fields.

A few days ago it was one with a crow in its mouth running by the field and climbing up into a hedge to eat its prey behind the dividing wire. I managed to get thirty metres away, up behind a tree without it seeing me, though when it did it ran away and left the prey behind.

Today I was throwing a  stick high in the air and a fox was running towards us in the middle of the field, saw the stick, my collie or me or all three and realised it was running towards us so changed course.  My collie is into running after rabbits – a half-hearted attempt because she wouldn’t know what to do with one if she outran it – and not into running after foxes.

However the loveliest was catching a fox unaware as we came round the corner and she barked, ran a few steps and bared again and to my right a few feet away a baby fox scampered up the hedge across the top and into the adjoining field.

Now if I could just stop them running away . . .

Children Of The Sea

I love sea horses. I am sure it is because of their heads because I even loved them after I saw all the different kinds of sea horse there are even to those that look like bits of floating seaweed. And I was very interested when learning about their habits that the male and female fertilise eggs and then the male takes them into a pouch and brings them to birth. I know a few women who would think that a good idea. At first marine biologists thought the male might be giving birth until they studied it more closely – which probably meant cutting one to bits. For some reason we still view dissection as study.

I am interested in the dynamics of society and in how human beings choose to live with each other, and part of the psychology of the give-and-take of human life is revealed in language. The modern man, (everyone who has ever lived has been a modern so I guess this is a shorthand for something people think is new) takes a share in rearing children. The ‘division of labour’ – a phrase itself which shows how we think of parenting.

However we do concentrate on the ‘physical’, the woman gives birth, the male should be there to help out, the tax issue, the childcare issue. We don’t give as much importance to the emotional and psychological. We are changed when we become parents. Tragically sometimes those changes do not happen.

If we could dissect our thoughts as readily as we dissent nature, society would be the stronger for it.

When Do We Become Who We Are?

I was always amazed at my mother’s ability to sum people up when I was young. Not the least when she met my friends and would tell me how they were likely to react in certain situations. And I recall how many people see ‘character traits’ in toddlers and how people say of adults ‘oh they have always been like that.’

It seems in a world of chaos and chance human beings have some rigidity in their thinking and presence. A rigidity that we need to survive in a world where survival is necessary; but is it necessary anymore? How far do our nature’s now compromise our imaginations, which is the pathway to knowledge?

What we know, we find we only believe. How we think the world works, we discover is only one philosophy of life. A millennium of certainty can we wiped out in landslide. An ageless tradition can be shown to be deeply ignorant in one scientific experiment. An attitude and accepted habit can be unpicked in a ‘life-changing’ experience.

Yet we cling to the belief that our cultures are as fruitful and necessary as the sun rising. We reject a hundred ideas so that one can be our leading light. We are endlessly looking for principles of unity which constantly tear us as societies apart.

We even think society a good thing in and of itself. But how helpful to mother nature are they? And without mother nature all our certainties are written in water. And the character of mother nature is eternal mutation and change.

Coping With Success

You have seen the headlines. So many celebrities die young or fall from fame and end up penniless and you read their stories to find out if it was a character fault, corrupt agents, disinterested promoters or bad luck. Success and fame, and success without fame, brings with it challenges just like any other path in life and you look at those who manage to stay successful and you see they have all given up something; if not many things.

From partial marriages, broken relationships with children, dysfunctional lifestyles,  every successful person compromises on some parts of their lives to remain successful – to keep that business going, to keep that name in lights because all success comes at a price.

We are the most successful animal the planet has seen. As successful as the dinosaurs in the extent to which we rule the Earth and more successful than any others at understanding the universe and changing our environments to suit our needs. Yet we do not believe our success means we lose anything, but we do. We lose the right not to care, we lose the right to be indifferent, we lose the right to turn away from the insalubrious results of our success.

If we continue to be so successful without addressing the imbalance we represent to nature, we will be as dysfunctional as any celebrity and we will suffer in like degree. Even to losing all that we have.

Communicating With The Impossible

I am always told not to think of animals in anthropological terms, as if to imbibe them with some facets of human character were absurd, degrading or misleading to the animal and myself. Like the journalist who said on the radio his aunt would hear her budgie tweet and say ‘ Listen! every word clear as a bell!’ to loud laughter.

When you cannot talk to another person you look for expression and gesture and try to find common themes (obviously food) with which to build some form of communication. David Attenborough’s famous encounter with Amazonian people showed how a smile and hand gestures were almost universal.

It seems to me you can always go too far, but if you are dealing with nature and you know she doesn’t speak your language, communication relies upon your emotions.  Percy Bysshe Shelley wanting to be the west wind, men learning  to feel what is in the mind of a hunting wolf so they can breed sheepdogs and the ancient longing to feel what it is like to be a bird.

Emotion and imagination are how we communicate with a tree, with the sea, with the earth itself and as time goes on their sensitivity is being intensified by science. Because most times, the need to understand is even greater with those parts of nature to which we cannot directly communicate.

Green Vote

I have to pass comment on the United Kingdom General Election if only in memory of the many thousands of people who have died over the years to make elections possible.

The leader of the UK Green Party has won a seat in Brighton. I remember many years ago canvassing in south east Cornwall for the ‘ecology party’ but rather lost interest in them when they went in for attunement (some form of pre-conference meditation). I thought their change to the name Green, to come into line with the hugely effective German Green Party, was a ‘dumbing-down’ and for many years I have watched them and listened to them on radio as they changed from a pressure group to potentially partners in a Parliament.

Of course this break-through has come when crisis is so close with the natural environment one seat looks utterly pitiful and likely to change nothing. In a very real sense unless every politician is environmentally aware we are on a hiding to nothing because so far in our society money overrules every other consideration.

That money is not natural but a system we invented which does not fit in with the natural environment at all but is parasitical upon it, is an argument still to be had. And the fact we have yet to have it shows how corrupted we have become by the system we created.

I wish her well, she will need a great deal of strength and wisdom in the years ahead and I hope she makes a difference in time.

Enjoyment

I have heard people say ‘x takes enjoyment from the little things’ and I have begun to wonder if ‘things’ give joy, are there any that are little?

We are very wrapped up in what we as humans consider to be minor and major elements of our society and most of them have to do in some measure with our ‘standing’ when viewed by others. To me this is all wrong. It doesn’t matter if a perfume is expensive or cheaper, if you made it yourself from rose petals or someone else made it by hand..all that matters is how you enjoy it one way or another.

The little thing you see are truly priceless but we have forgotten in our anxiety to put a monetary value on everything that just because there is a lot of something, it does not devalue its true worth. That kind of thinking is very dangerous for there are those who say there are millions of people who will kiss a few of them? Acceptable risk is not an ethical decision making process.

The little things may be worthless in terms of money but they are the things that make enjoyment deeper. A fresh day, a quiet moment, a perfect hedge flower, a dry piece of grass lazily dying down, a cool glass of water on a warm day.

Enjoyment comes from being able to live through everything you touch and see, to share your being with the moments and all they contain. Yes life is difficult without money, but it  is still enriched without any of the big things.

The Endless Search

I have heard many people talking about ‘finding themselves’ over the years and the myriad ways they go about it, I have often wondered what this idea of ‘self’ actually is. It is of course vitally important, perhaps the most important idea of any, as it does inform us of how we should act in the world.

Apart from the narrow versions that we are somehow more special than any other being it is both difficult and amazing to consider that our individuality flows from one egg and one sperm and that but for the processes of a second we would not exist at all. If you have ever considered being someone else’s children or being another gender you will have an idea of how odd it feels to think you could not be you.

Of the million, million accidents that bring us to birth and how that birth relies upon every coupling that has occurred in our ancestors since the dawn of life, and how everything they were is in us, self takes on an almost mystical essence.

It is way beyond name, nationality and something more than gender. It is a connectivity to the life, a voyage on a sea of perceptions, a willingness to breath and a passion to share. The self is nature’s gift to us to meet the challenge to understand all her ways and all her beliefs.

Far more majestic and more wise than our own.

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.

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.

The Sea

I learned to swim in a swimming pool but I did not feel I was swimming until I swam from a rock to a moored boat when I was 11 and felt I had not only achieved a marathon – the boat was a few yards away at most – but because I knew there was a lot of life swimming around in the same water I also felt strangely vulnerable.

I don’t like heights but I still climb trees and stand or sit gingerly as high as I can go wondering what I am doing there, looking at my dogs who are also wondering, riven in two between a certain degree of fear and a wonder that the tree exists and the view being beautiful. Living in the countryside I have been immensely spoiled for most of my life having gentlemen farmers who allow me to wander freely on their land. Thousands of acres of real estate have been my friend and comfort through the years of my mother’s illness.

The challenges of life can be immense but they can also be fundamental – to keep connected to those things you loved as a child. And when you have finally finished with toys, which doesn’t seem to be a human trait at all as we even use each other as throw-away playthings, to find what you love gives love back is a joy.

No Nature doesn’t love me in any traditional sense; but possesses me. Like any mother I understand her better with my adult mind and our conversations are endless, deep and productive.

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