Having a blog is something many people do and keeping it updated, or keeping your Facebook page updated, is something we are all expected to do. Expected? By whom? Whether it's FB telling you you haven't updated recently or that faint sense of "gotta stay current" that haunts so many blog writers, it's still a bit like the idea of making quota, of being urged on by guilt to produce something, anything, before the self-imposed deadline. This is rarely the way to produce quality. So I'd like to propose that we don't do that. It's time we stopped being so reactive, spouting the first thing we think we've thought, and it's also time to stop being so hungry for details, however ridiculous they may be, that put pressure on others to "produce".
I know - most of you probably don't care about vintage machinery, but I'm going to use it as a metaphor. So, twenty or more years ago I got my aged Matchless (1931). In my enthusiasm I looked at it and said - I can improve on a few things here. First - it needed a side stand (much easier to park). Then I felt it needed better lubrication in the transmission. So I set about updating things. Pretty soon I began to notice oil leaks and traced them to the crankcase pressure vent. So I created a pipe to take the excess oil away. Years pass. The oil still leaks, I try various things, and I get used to it. What I didn't realize was that the oh-so-convenient side stand tipped the bike to one side and caused oil to collect at a point where the oil pump couldn't get at it. This meant that once I got on the bike, and the bike was upright, all that oil went straight out of the crankcase pressure vent. In other words, if I had left everything alone and not "improved" the bike I wouldn't have had a problem. The transmission, also, only leaked because the bike was tipped to one side. This was not something I could have known, and no one was able to tell me. An improvement is not always something that looks good on paper, or that seems logical. An improvement depends upon understanding what was there before and working with it. If you doubt this, ask some of my friends from Iraq.
Wonder Woman has generated considerable discussion - about sexism in Hollywood, about heroines and the lack of them, gender equality, and so on. These are necessary discussions. Good. Any movie that is likely to appeal to younger viewers is going to have an impact on how they feel the world ought to be. In the process, though, we may be missing a major point. That is that Hollywood has for decades been producing films that glorify violence and anger. From those early Cowboy films, through John Wayne to Rocky, to Band of Brothers violence and anger have been validated over and over. It's so pervasive that it feels as if it's an essential part of life and growing up in America. Are we surprised then, that anger, violence and violent disagreement are now such a large part of our landscape? Wonder Woman is really no different from any other violent superhero, with her exploits in World War One, out-fighting the ordinary mortals she is pitted against. Violence is not naturally who we are. We have to learn it - children have to learn it. Might it be possible, therefore, to learn some other way of being?
Let us be clear - evil exists in the world. It exists in many forms and it must always be opposed and healed. The question is simply - how do we do this? Evil that is opposed ineffectively becomes entrenched. But evil that is invited to change can, very often, open new possibilities. There's not a tyrant that ever existed who actually wanted to be a tyrant, hated, despised, adored only by sycophants and the deluded. They came to it because they couldn't find any other way to feel good about themselves, and having achieved some transitory power they then had to hold on to it. As we all know, there are other ways to feel good, to feel loved and accepted. Many of our politicians are no different. They want to be adored. They want to be "successful" in terms of money and power and then wonder why no one truly respects them. Trump, for example, deeply desires to be loved. Multiple wives and affairs; placing his children in positions of power so they'll be grateful to him; making his corporate buddies even wealthier.... He wants to be liked. Yet we know that such behaviors will not make him loved. He, it seems, doesn't know this. And that is how evil grows. Evil is not only the absence of love. It is also the desire to get a substitute for love by whatever means possible. Evil is like a narcotic, much sought after and then it fails to deliver the ultimate high. So it must seek another fix. We can oppose those we love. Anyone who's ever been in a family knows about that. Perhaps loving opposition is the only way.
We were having some plumbing work done, and I was in the basement doing the laundry. And then I hear a scratching sound. Thinking it was mice I looked for its source, only to discover the sound was coming from inside the waste water pipes. So that meant rats. I went upstairs, saw that the s-bend had been removed below the kitchen sink, and immediately covered it. You see, when the s-bend is removed the air begins to flow again, and rats further down the pipes feel it. So they come to investigate. Why does this matter? Simply because there is a flow that we can learn from. Clean water comes from the taps, is used, and flows to waste. The same thing happens with our energy, our thoughts and our inspirations. We constantly receive them so that we can use them and then make space for new ones. But if this flow is interrupted then we don't get just stasis - we get rats climbing up the pipes. We invite destructive energies in - and they will come. Use this metaphor in your life. Accept the flow of energy and don't stop it or try to control it. That will only invite the rats in.
I have a now gas stove in my house and yes, it is very pleasant. Yet -- a couple of things have stayed with me through the process of buying it. Many stoves that look nice actually only have huge gas rings to deliver the heat. This means that unless you have a huge, flat-bottomed pan much of the heat will go around your pan and cause the food to get burned on to the side wall of said pan. So not only are you wasting heat, but you're causing a dishwashing nightmare for later. This is easily cured. For folks like me who need to heat up a small quantity of something all you need is a smaller ring. Yet -- try finding a stove that has those and looks halfway decent. An idea that is even better is that each ring can be made of two more more concentric flame rings. Big pot? Light them both. Small pot? Just light the smaller one. In Europe, where power is expensive, they've had this system for a long time. Why not here? In fact, think about that for a second: in Europe there are cars that routinely deliver 60 mpg, and have done for decades. If I were paying $10 a gallon I'd want that too. But here energy is still cheap - laughably so. Energy efficiency is being quietly subverted by simply not offering products that are truly energy efficient. Big business wins again.
I keep exploring these ideas, since they run counter to everything we take as "normal" -- and yet some of those ancient beliefs powered successful civilizations for far longer than our present, post-reformation belief system. How would our world be if we shifted away from "me" and "us" and "success" and such constructs? How would life be if we placed peace and sustainability first? What would happen if we focused on handing over the planet to our children and grandchildren in better condition than we found it? And better does not necessarily mean more concrete or more billionaires. One of the sacred symbols of the Eleuisian religions seems to have been the pine cone. Think of it: a protective structure for seeds; one that opens and closes in response to weather; one that is linked to an evergreen; one that decays to provide rooting for the seeds. What a great symbol that is of caring for the next generation, linking us to mortality and immortality. There's a huge example of one of these sacred pine cones, preserved in (of all places) the Vatican, which has a special courtyard for a very large bronze/gilt rendering, mounted on a stone plinth. The whole thing is about 25 feet high and dates from about the First Century AD. The pine cone was venerated for the reasons we have deduced already, and almost certainly for others. For example, its value as a symbol of renewable nature turned it into a favorite phallic symbol for the Greeks, when mounted on the top of a Thyrsus or pole. Fertility was on their minds, and that ties in pretty well with the Nature worship cults it was part of. And beyond that, perhaps, lurks a simple lesson: we are vessels (one way or another) for the generations that will follow. Anything we do must be in service to that. This is conveyed in a rather humorous version of this idea, one that dates from 480BC. A Menead thwacks a Satyr (always an image of sexual voracity) with a Thyrsus topped by a pine cone as if to say: there's more to the honoring of fertility than just individual pleasure.
Most mornings I look out and see the same procession. First comes the black and white collie dog; 15 yards behind comes its owner, the frail-looking lady who lives around the corner and who also dresses in mostly black and white; 15 yards behind her is a grey long haired cat, trotting along, but diverting into the front garden bushes if a car comes appears. The cat likes walks, too, it seems. I look across my own yard where, usually, the wild rabbit is chomping away in a favorite spot. I don't know what to make of this, but I do know that if it were to stop then I'd miss it enormously.
Mel Robbins (no relation to Tony) has some rather good Youtube videos about "The Five Second Rule". Briefly outlined - if you do not respond to an inner prompting within 5 seconds your brain will find reasons not to do it. This tends to work with things like exercise, where you want to do it but of course you can always find reasons not to. So you don't do it. Conversely, if you crave chocolate then you tend to put activating energy into those first five seconds even if it takes you a few more than five second to get to where your candy stash is. And chocolate is your reward. Mel's advice, then, is to act within that five second span before you talk yourself out of a great idea. This is the route to success. This is how I used to be. I used to act immediately on such inner promptings. What I learned, as time went by, was that doing so can be deeply annoying to one's nearest and dearest, who keep saying things like: calm down; can't you relax; and variants thereof. I'm tempted to conclude that "success" may be delightful, but if it comes at the expense of alienating household members, friends, and so on, then it might be a bit of a Phrryic victory.
I've been investigating early spiritual belief systems as reflected in European archaeological remains. This is a tricky topic - it's a bit like trying to imagine the original landscape after the developers have moved in, built high rises and parking lots and created a water-park. But it can be done. As I've been pondering Nature-based religions I'm struck by a couple of things. The first is how primal they are. Anyone can experience a state of wonder when looking at a flower - if you allow yourself to do so. Anyone can feel at one with the Natural world and its beauty, if we pause. The next step is the most challenging for us, though. If we accept that Nature is huge and that we are part of it, then we become part of the miracle. The trouble is we have to see that we're only a small part. Very small. We will die, like the flower, and our ultimate "value" is not in whether or not we leave behind copies of ourselves or our achievements for the next generation. Perhaps the flower will be eaten by an animal; perhaps it will decay and power the next series of plants. Who can tell? It serves its purpose one way or another. That's a very threatening idea to the ego-based consciousness that currently runs the human race. The ego wants to be validated. And that may be a clue. The powerful modern religions of the western world tend to focus on the stories of individuals: Moses, Jesus, Mohammed - even the Buddha in that belief system that isn't a religion. When we shift from the appreciation of Nature to focus on a specific life story (Jesus and the saints; the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets, etc.) we make the belief system more accessible, more personal. That's good. But we feed the ego of the worshipper as we do so. To say "I am like Jesus and will try to be like him" is very different from saying, "I am part of the vast miracle that is Nature". Humans have been around for a very long time, but the distinctive male-based monotheism that characterizes the West has not been around for very long. 5000 years seems to be the upper calculation. Perhaps it was that way of seeing which led us astray?