Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Never Say Never

         From time to time I run into that region that indicates I need a rest. At least, that is how I have interpreted it ...... until now. In the past, this feeling has resulted in a change of studies, a change or routine, or simply a rest from what I had been doing, such as blogging for example. When I look back on those earlier periods of inner drought, I do not feel displeased or unhappy that I took what I believed to be appropriate responses. Often there was much that I gained. However, in hindsight, there had to come a time when a totally different kind of response was required, perhaps a response which I should have made back then, if I could have been consciously aware of what what happening to my inner life.
         Of late I have been feeling curiously happy, even in the light of horrendous world events, as well as distressing news from friends. What is the reason for this happiness? I suppose the reason is anybody's guess, and some would suggest I do not examine things too closely. Just enjoy. I do think there is some justification for examination, if that examination does not mean testing to destruction. The fact is that of late I have had a strong sense of being pulled into a new awareness. When that awareness is examined, I find that my way forward has become very clear to me.
         When I look back over my previous posts, I find that there have been hints and nudges along the way about which I have not taken due account. I have recently felt a need to re-examine my feelings about what I write, what I write about, and how I feel about the responses my writing engenders. This I have done, at least as far as I think is needed to clarify my future path. Of course, that path is not really being decided by me. My conscious role is to follow where that path leads.
         Well, I am trying to follow where I think I am being led, and it would appear that my new direction is such that I can no longer post what is happening. It is all too personal, explorative and experimental, and no researcher publishes his/her experiences until fully explored. It also transpires that I need to take up once again those practices that have been so 'fit for purpose' in the past, and for which I am discovering a new enthusiasm. These include keeping a detailed set of diaries, daily meditations, contemplative imagery, and so on. This new work is, as far into the future as I can see, strictly between me and that which I am pleased to name as God.
         The number of posts that I write will be much reduced because I am not good at spending time writing about mundane interests. And in any case, others do the job so much better than I can. I cannot, nor would I choose to, say never again to blogging. On the other hand, I say that my present activities must take priority over every other activity. And I am looking forward to experiencing what may seem to be like a monastic order of the mind.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Here's Some I Made Earlier

          Now how does one show one's wife that one loves her?
".....buy her diamonds or pearls, champagne, sables, and such....."? I think not!
".....call her at six on the dot....."? Maybe a little later in the morning, if it's wintry outside!
".....a line a day when I'm far away....."? A quick e-mail or mobile phone call wouldn't hurt!
".....blow her a kiss from across the room....."? Getting closer!
".....touch her hair as I pass her chair....."? Her neck's even nicer!
          Cook her some Indian vegetable dishes? Yes! Yes! Yes!

          Now it has to be said that the word "vegetables" doesn't exactly get my pulse racing, not like "hot buttered toast", "soft-boiled egg", "syrupy porridge", "yoghurt and bran flakes", alright, so I go too far! This is not to say that I do not like any vegetables. It's just that when asked if I want some, "No" is my default setting. If the nature of the proposed vegetable is spelled out, I do say, "Yes please!".....sometimes. Actually, the first meal I ever cooked for Lucy was Chicken Kiev with butter (Lima) beans and spinach. A bit nice that was.
          But times change, and we move on. We still eat Chicken Kiev, cooked (from scratch) by Lucy, and scrummy it always is. As people who read Gwynt will know, of late I have become very interested in cooking Indian food. So here are some Indian, vegetable dishes that I have cooked recently. They are very popular, but I am beginning to feel that I have been silly to myself. More and more are wanted. "When will satiety be achieved?" I ask myself. Will it be a case of, never.....or hardly ever?

Mushroom and Pea Curry

Cauliflower Curry

Curried Tomatoes and Onions

Curried Spinach

Fried Aubergine (Eggplant)

Curried Spinach with Fried Aubergine

As can be seen, the first three dishes were served with plain boiled, or fried rice. The final dish was served as a combination of the two previous dishes, and no rice. Also, although these dishes were served as complete suppers in their own right, they could have been used as side dishes for some other main dish. I should add that even writing this post is making me salivate...again!

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Morality or Survival?

          I wish to write, but the words either will not come, or are very difficult to find. I cannot ignore this wish because it would cause me too much discomfort, and at the same time seem to dishonour those innocents who were murdered on Friday 13th. in Paris. There will be few perhaps who will ever read this script, if indeed I am able to put my jumbled thoughts in print. Furthermore, I neither know, nor knew, anyone involved in the killings, and am therefore unable to offer them any support. I must own, therefore, that my need to write at this time is one that focuses on a very personal need, one that seeks to resolve a question of morality versus survival, a question that troubles me deeply.
          In a recent conversation with Lindsay the question of morality was discussed, and it is that conversation which now seems to demand some further attention. What is the issue here, in the light of the Paris killings? Is it, as well as the inevitable question of where we go from here, a moral issue, or is it one of survival? I think it is too easy to take a moralistic stance, and thus imply one has taken the high ground. In effect, to do that is to divorce oneself from the happenings, to "go up into one's head" or intellectualise the situation. That can even lead to spiritual pride as well as risking damning all those others "out there" who are not of one's nationality, race, creed, religion, political persuasion, or what-have-you.
          And neither do I find the high-flown language coming from the French and American presidents particularly helpful either. The terrorists were not attacking French values, because those values are shared by many countries, races, religionists and others. How dare anyone try to be partisan about high standards shared by so many. As the Conservative Party were so fond of saying until recently about the economic mess the UK found itself in, "We're in this together!"
          So let me be clear. I do not see the current issue as a moral issue. To take a moral stance one must first be alive to do so. There are eight terrorists and (currently) 129 innocent people dead who, presumably, can no longer hold a moral view. It is not for me, and I would suggest no-one else, to take a moral stance on their behalf, no matter how good and self-righteous that may make us feel. Thus, for me, the issue is one of survival; personal as well as group survival. Now either one can take the view, in light of these killings, that it is right to "turn the other cheek", and thus beg for more of the same, a particularly sick philosophy I feel, or we can admit that we wish to survive, own our instincts, and get on with the practical business of physical survival.
          Once that step is taken, we can begin to start the process of thinking, yes thinking! Our distraught emotions have then served their purpose of awakening us to a very real threat. In any conflict, the attackers always hold the advantage; the defenders - usually far more numerous - the disadvantage. A response to this, and any other, terrorist incident requires an honest, thought-out response, not a knee-jerk, prejudiced reaction disguised by some sense of self-righteousness. President Hollande referred to the Paris killings as an act of war. Was it? Was it really? If so it is a somewhat one-sided war, because the air attacks on ISIL do not seem to be having much, if any, effect.
          Democracies are slow to respond to aggression. It seems to have ever been thus. But there comes a point when a defensive posture is not enough. We need to open our eyes, and keep them open. We need to see that help may come from unexpected sources, if we do not alienate others who are just as innocent (even if they carry the "wrong" tags) as those who were murdered in Paris.
          There may be no easy answers. We may need to take actions which make us feel uncomfortable, even distressed. And we need, always, to question where we are going, and the means we employ to get there. The ends do not justify the means, because the means all too often can change the ends.
          Well, I have said my piece. Pouring out my emotions here would not have helped me, and might well have been unacceptable to my readers. If nothing else, I have tried to be honest in my thinking, and allow some clarification of thought to emerge. Whatever happens from now on is bound to affect our inner selves just as much as our outer world. God give us wisdom!

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Saving the Baby from the Bath Water

          "I have thrown out the baby with the bath water," I thought to myself. "That must not be." It was a long time ago that that realisation struck me, and did so with such force that I was obliged to rescue the baby, clean and dry it, then powder it with an occasional tickle. Laughter has always been a necessary part of genuine, spiritual recovery.
          All too often, when we attempt to bring about change in our lives, we undergo a process of conversion without enlightenment. As a species we seem to be very committed to converting people, whether the conversion is religious, political, sporting, social or even gender, to mention but a few. If conversion is not possible, then we attack and ostracise. For me, the notion of conversion is largely a nonsense unless genuine enlightenment precedes it.  That newly found understanding and wisdom will usually initiate a fundamental change in direction of its own accord.
          Consumed by the emotion of conversion, and I am thinking here particularly of psycho-spiritual conversion - all too often confused with religious conversion - one is apt to think that all of a sudden one has been moved from one non-spiritual plane to a plane where we feel a born-again spirituality. (I admit to my inability to define the words "spiritual" and "spirituality" in ways which might find general acceptance.) In my view, such a transposition from one plane to another is very far from the truth. Any change that might occur seems to relate to a change towards a hopeful belief, to an admitting to a desire to change direction, because life has become unacceptably painful. The life changes that are required do not occur unless some understanding of the factors that have brought one to the stage where change is seen to be desirable, is gained through the process of enlightenment. Put simply, genuine change does not happen without understanding and wisdom.
          What usually happens - in my own childhood experience, and observations of adults later in life - is that enthusiasm for the belatedly-realised impossibility of leading a life not grounded in denial-free understanding eventually wanes. The result is to fall back into a state of apparent failure, and the drawing of the conclusion that it was all rubbish anyway, and that if only conditions change all will be fine. The story of the "fox and the grapes" is apposite.  
          What I discovered was that so many traits that I had deemed to be wrong, were neither right nor wrong. They simply were! The baby simply is, and only requires a thorough cleansing. Even today, in our enlightened times, there are always people who will tell us what is right, and what is wrong; edicts based on their often blinded perceptions, but firmly rooted in egoistic selves drawing their sustenance from societal dogma rather than from truth.
          As I have said elsewhere, I do not believe the ego is bad: it simply is. But then fire simply is, and I do not intent to thrust my flesh into the fire in the foreseeable future. I will, however, continue to endeavour to use things that are fit for the purposes I have in mind. And I must never intentionally, through denial or any other means, cut the taproot that links my lower, egoistic self to that source of enlightenment which feeds my inner life.
          In choosing to talk about this subject I am intensely aware that it is like testing the quality of the Atlantic Ocean with a spoonful of its water taken at random. Every sentence threatened to draw me off into yet another vast subject with its own particular characteristics and interest. There are no clear-cut boundaries to the mind, or to consciousness, and I have had to pick my way carefully through my material to avoid becoming washed away on an errant wave of enthusiastic wonder.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

To Love Without Seeking Reward.....

          In one of Father Richard Rohr's recent meditations the point was made that:

"Even the best of human love is filled with self-seeking."  (Richard Rohr's Meditations - Dorothy Day: Crying Out for Justice - Wednesday, 28.10.2015)

          As part of a series of ongoing communications between Vincent and myself, he offered the following quote from one of David Hume's, "Selected Essays" on the question of love. In the essay Hume considers the commonly held belief that selfishness is our basic condition.

"All is self-love. Your children are loved only because they are yours: your friend for a like reason; and your country engages you only so far as it has a connection with yourself. Were the idea of self removed, nothing would affect you: you would be altogether unactive and insensible: or, if you ever give yourself any movement, it would only be from vanity, and a desire of fame and reputation to this same self."

But Hume then turns this master-myth around by making the counterintuitive and wonderfully ennobling point that vanity is proof of virtue rather than vice — a natural expression of how highly we value the qualities that make a person lovable, admirable, and a worthy member of society. He writes:

"There are two things which have led astray those philosophers that have insisted so much on the selfishness of man. In the first place, they found that every act of virtue or friendship was attended with a secret pleasure; whence they concluded, that friendship and virtue could not be disinterested. But the fallacy of this is obvious. The virtuous sentiment or passion produces the pleasure, and does not arise from it. I feel a pleasure in doing good to my friend, because I love him; but do not love him for the sake of that pleasure."

          The second thing to which Hume refers falls outside the scope of this post, and is not, therefore, quoted here. I am very inclined to the view, as is Vincent I believe, that David Hume is correct. But how can I be certain about the correctness of that conclusion? How do I choose between these apparently opposing views? In the end I can only decide the issue based on my own life's experiences.
          It must be well known by regular readers of Gwynt that many years ago I felt obliged, in the cause of restoring by spiritual sanity, to seek help after three years of living with a very sick alcoholic. I entered a treatment centre. There have been times since then that I have asked myself the question, "Why did I do that? Why did I subject myself to that very painful process of psycho-spiritual recovery?" I must add, and that right hastily, that I have never doubted the rightness of that decision. Nevertheless, the questions remain, even though I have offered many a possible answer to those questions.
          During my six-and-a-half weeks in that centre I did as was suggested by my counsellors, even though on occasion I looked askance as some of their suggestions, and even rebelled against one suggestion. All the time I was there I took it on trust that these people knew what they were talking about, and had acquired spiritual wisdom that I, without realising it, was subconsciously seeking. Like so much of my life, I have always felt that I was being led to an inevitable conclusion. Now that may sound odd to many, but that is the only description I can offer for the sense that all doors were being closed to me, leaving just the one I eventually entered. Of course, there was always an element of choice, but the alternative to the choice I actually made was, and has always remained, unacceptable.
          Over the time that has passed since that decision to walk the path of recovery, I have learned through experience that there is a part of me that is not egoistic, is not of the lower self as it has been named. There is another and higher aspect to our being, whatever we may choose to call it in our stumbling attempts to describe its presence. It is that, which one writer has described as that which calls to us from the future. It is a blueprint for wholeness; and C.G.Jung has named the archetype for wholeness by the single word, God.
          Whilst I do not doubt that actions dominated by my lower, egoistic self may always have an element of selfishness attached, there will always remain a part of me, a non-egoistic self, that knows of actions that are carried out from a sense of non-selfish love. St. Ignatius Loyola prayed:

"Teach us, good Lord,
to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost;
to fight and not to heed the wounds;
to toil and not to seek for rest;
to labour and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that we do your will."

This was written by a soldier, and filled with meaning that a dedicated soldier would understand. Yet when this was pointed out to me, I was filled with a sense of deep loss that demanded I probe deeper. As I let this prayer, and its undisputed (by me) origins and its sometimes twisted outcomes sink into my soul, I began to be filled with a joy of discovery. For this prayer describes completely the ethos of my pilgrimage through life. As Vincent has pointed out, there is mystical experience. One could speculate as to its origins or meaning. Or one could simply enjoy it.
          That is my experience of love and life. By that I stand.