Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Mind games

It could be very flattering to find that even though you've not been posting (in my case, I note with mild horror, for over a month), some people ( 79Sparrows and Count Sneaky, for example) still remember you and consider your blog/s worth leaving a comment at or asking 'Wassup???' (sorta). 

It could be flattering.  In my case, it isn't.  It feels good though...the sort of feeling you have when an old friend calls or emails out of the blue (ever wondered why 'blue'?).  When that happens to me, I feel loved.  Oh, yes, I know, you may think it too strong a word for the context, but 'love' for me is not inebriated with either Hollywood or Christian extremism a la

I can't live without you
You make me complete
For god so loved the world that he gave his only son...

Rather, love for me is the flowing energy of the universe, the ocean of our very existence.  So to 'feel loved' means to feel that flow of energy in a fresh way, or to feel it when you have not felt it for a while.  It's a good feeling.

It's particularly good when you've been suffering (or should I say 'reaping') the cleansing benefits of a traditional Thai massage while adjusting to a dull landing from the frivolous heights and entertainments of a brief holiday. 

The former presented as a head cold - fluids suddenly emerging from the nose, head as tight as am overstretched Indian drum and a digestive system that wasn't a hundred percent cooperative.  (Who could blame it after all the excesses it had been subjected to?).

The latter on the other hand may have been a little less straightforward, shall we say.  A brief holiday...yes, well, a week, before which I wondered why and feebly resented the fact that I was spending it in Melbourne,  Again. 

No, no, don't get me wrong.  I LOVE Melbourne and I LOVE spending time with my daughter and we did have a FABULOUS time with LOTS of laughs and GREAT food and NICE walks and SILLY shopping and GOLD club movies.  So why the wondering and resentment?

Well, I guess it's because I really would have preferred to be in Paris or Amsterdam or New York breathing the air there, drinking their coffee, walking their streets, strolling their parks, visiting their bookstores, sitting in their cafes and eating their muffins or profiteroles or croissants or whatever, smelling their smells, watching and talking to their people.

But that was how I felt BEFORE I went to Melbourne and AFTER I returned.  While I was there, however, I was fully there and joy was mine. 

Returning, however, felt rather like that unavoidable and discomforting thud of an aircraft's wheels as it lands abruptly on flat ground, having only seconds before soared at flamboyant heights and speeds. The ground is the same - hard and flat - and, if you're lucky, it's not wet with pouring rain.  Not that I dislike pouring rain.  I love it, just not when I'm returning to same ol'.

So, you see, the mind plays these games: 

  • You enjoy one thing but you want more or, as in my case, something different. 
  • It is grateful, very grateful for all the things you have, but it wants other things...too...or instead.
  • It wants to be free of commitments but wants to be free to make those it chooses to.
  • It applies itself to the task or activity at hand but its background chorus wails 'This is not what I want'.
  • It allows you to smile and engage fully with people around you but afterwards it sulks because you haven't yet made the friends you say you want to make or done the things you say you want to do or been the places you say you want to be.
And it never fails to point out that, by and large, your life hasn't changed all that much despite your bold intentions and shameless faith.

But I think it could be mistaken.  Much has changed.  Dreams have become wilder and more vivid.  Steps, tiny as they may be, are being taken.  And faith quickly shows fear the door almost every time.

Significant changes.  Not to be taken lightly or overlooked. 

Your mind's games?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

'For no apparent reason'

I like simple answers.  I think most people do.  But we don’t always get simple answers in life, which can be a right pain in the rear.

Why are Mum and Dad divorced?  

Because they don’t feel they can continue to live with each other?

Why not?

Because they want different things in life and they feel they won't be able to have them while they are together.

In that case, can my little brother and I get divorced?

Eh, well no.

Why not?

Because you aren’t married.

But I don’t think we can continue to live with each other either.  And I want different things to what he wants.

Yes, but you’re not married to your little brother so it would not be possible to divorce him.

Well then, can we not live together anyway?

What’s the simple answer to that?  No?  If so, why not?  Yes?  If so, really? 

I wish we had simple answers to all questions.  

I suppose you might be wondering: What’s a ‘simple’ answer?  What’s the definition of ‘simple’?  And why is ‘simple’ attractive or desirable?

All good questions and, sadly, no simple answers!

The Free Online Dictionary offers several definitions, one of which is: 
having or composed of only one thing, element or part

When an answer is simple, it either speaks to only one part of a multifaceted whole or speaks to all of the whole equally.

Both of these may be adequate sometimes, though not always.
Any answer that satisfies a need is appealing.  An answer that does not require much or any additional information or processing than has already been expended is highly desirable.  And it is simple.

However, a short answer like Yes, No, I don’t know or Maybe, while brief and apparently simple may in fact pose, mask or invite great complexity.  

For instance,

How are you feeling?

I don’t know.

Why don’t you know?

Hmm…how does one answer that?


How are you feeling?

I don’t know.

Are you feeling sad?


Are you feeling confused?


Are you feeling comfortable?


What is one to make of that???

Or again:

Can you explain yourself?


Hmm…I wonder why…

So why am I interested in simple answers?  Because I find myself asking difficult questions like

What is this feeling I’m feeling where I’m despondent for no apparent reason?
How can I get out of it?
Why does this feeling feel sweet yet melancholic?  And,
Why am I afraid of it?

‘For no apparent reason’ is the least simple of all answers, come to think of it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Why meditate? And other realizations...

The composite image above is made up of two photographs that I took, one in Brisbane, the other in Melbourne. 

At various times today, in between the reading Ive been doing, I started writing what I thought might be blog posts.  But I wasn't drawn to finish them.  It's only since I've been playing with these images this evening that I felt I had something I wanted to share. 

And then there are some thoughts/reflections/insights that I've had and have been noting down.  These too I'd like to share.  The asterisked ones are those I know I've heard or read somewhere other than in my conscious mind.  Perhaps you've thought of them too.  I'd love to read your thoughts on them and other things that are on your mind, as always :)

When one door shuts, you have {Infinity-1} doors to choose to walk through to you next excitement and adventure.
Whatever you believe, you are right *
You are naturally free, limitless, powerful and abundant, nothing less.  
What do you want right now?  What is the next excitement, joy or delight you wish to feel?
Focus on what you want.  Dream bigger and bigger and bigger still.
You can never fail.  You have never failed.  You have merely experienced something you did not intend.  That is not failure.  That is a treasure trove of insights, understandings and opportunities for refinement.
You don’t have to believe everything you think. *
Who are you?  Who are you?  Who are you?  You are nothing short of Extraordinary, Remarkable, Magical, Undeniably Magnificent, Awesomely good.
The path to financial abundance is an emotional one. * Abraham of Esther and Jerry Hicks
You cannot convince yourself of who you are.  You can only recognize and accept it – your greatness, joy, peace, abundance and limitlessness – recognize and accept all of it.
Recover your attention from the limited perception you have of yourself and cast it back on infinite and eternal power, presence and possibility.
Hurrying is a reflection of a lack of faith, of complete knowing, that all is well and has only ever been well and will only ever be well.
Hurrying is a reflection of a lack of faith that the All-Power that expresses itself through you is not capable of bringing to you exactly that which you desire and at exactly when you are ready for it.
Here is a powerful realization – everything you do is an expression of habit, especially the habits of the mind.  
When you realize that most thoughts, feelings, words and actions are habits, nothing more, you will be ready to diffuse the power they seem to have on you and replace them with new habits that empower and honor you.
Be a god addressing other gods. * Wallace D Wattle

Saturday, September 10, 2011

When old dreams die

Spring has appeared like a new mural in the street gallery.  Leaves are falling like rain and while that may seem typical of autumn, here in Brisbane, it’s what spring does.  

The dried leaves of winter have decided to reconnect with mother earth.  I just swept some up from my little courtyard.

Uncharacteristically, there’s a cold wind blustering through and it's caught many of us unawares.  It's understandable. 

You look out your cozy dwelling and delight at the new leaves almost iridescent with golden sunlight while the sky beams a remarkable blue.  But step outside and the cold wind bites you with little hesitation.  Ouch!

I’ve never felt this way about spring before but I am feeling restless.  And yes, it is about spring for even though it is new and fresh and promising, I find myself standing still with a heart full of dying dreams.  

This spring is making me feel anxious.  No, I am not blaming it at all or holding it responsible.  I’m just saying that while it is offering me so much, I feel like I’ve been turned over like the page of winter in a book of seasons.  

I’m looking strangely wistfully at this new season and smelling the stale odor of these dying dreams of mine.  Why, I wonder, a little bewildered.

I think I know.  (Oh, don’t I love the process of writing for it brings to light what can hide in the shadows of familiar thoughts!)

I think they aren’t big enough anymore.  They no longer inspire me for they do not see enough of the largeness and grandeur of my spirit.  And that being so, I am now happy to let them die peacefully.

They’ve served their purpose.  They've kept me company through winter and like perfect gentlemen, they’re departing without overstaying their welcome.  

Thank you my gorgeous dreams of winter.  Thank you for keeping me warm and dancing with me throughout that season.  Thank you for walking me home.  And thank you for leaving so gracefully.

So, here I am spring, emboldened by your vibrant colors and unexpectedly cold winds.  Your candor is not wasted on me.  I shall rise to the occasion and fill your presence with mine. 

Like you, I’ll wear my bright colors and tease the air with fresh perfumes.  Like your new birds, I’ll sing and speak with enthusiasm and boldness.  And like the jacaranda that spreads its purple flowers softly across its branches and over the ground, I’ll spread my intentions and dreams softly across the universe.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Is anything possible? Or should that be...

Is anything impossible?

Stories like this just confirm to me that the source and capabilities of our power transcend the limitations of the *conditioned* mind.

I haven't been posting much this last couple of months. I've been occupied with some of the other things that I have a passion for - teaching, copywriting and mentoring.

All of these have been a wondrous and delightful manifestation of my desires and dreams - set free from the habitual fears and doubts that I've carried for most of my life.

And it's only getting better... :)

And how have you all been? How have you been traveling? How are you shaping your life? You know how much I love hearing from you. Please do drop a line or two and share with me.

May the Power of Infinite Love flow freely through us all!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What a brilliant idea!

This is an idea that could be used with anything really - music, writing, cooking, interior design, fashion, photography...I would certainly love to give it a go, not necessarily on the scale as Shea Hembrey's, but one wide enough to provide qualitatively different experiences as you entrain with the different *people* and their cultural, historical and personal backgrounds. Genius itself :)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

For the sheer joy of it, nothing less

I just want to get into your pants.  I’ll say anything that will help me achieve that goal.  This is who I am.  I’m not someone who wants to sit and have erudite conversations.  This is not a long term relationship.  Doing this (having sex) will not alter the course of my life. 

For some reason, I’m reminded just now of the now universally known quote:
 Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Matter of fact, I’m often reminded of it and I often find reason to remind myself of it.  It’s as much universally known as it is universally applicable.  There is not an area in my life where this quote doesn’t have meaning.  

So here I am with someone whom I’ve been getting to know over three encounters and no, we’ve not had sex although he’s certainly tried.  And yes, despite what he says, he is quite capable of engaging in highly *erudite* discussions and even looked like he enjoyed them.

But we’ve not had sex and this has clearly not pleased him.  I, on the other hand, am wondering what to make of this experience.  

Why have I not yielded?  Why have I behaved in ways that are all too familiar?  Why have I not allowed myself the freedom to do something just for the heck of it?  Or because it could help me loosen up, be more free?  
 Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Alright, I’ll admit, it’s been years since I’ve allowed anyone to get this *close* physically.  Let me put it this way:  It’s been years since I’ve allowed a man to kiss me and touch me in certain places.  To that extent, I suppose I’ve done something different.  But to take it all the way, no, that hasn’t changed.


Perhaps because I still haven’t uncoupled this association that I carry in my mind between sex and love.  I still believe that they need to go together.  

I’m not saying that this is how it should be for everyone.  No, not at all.  If anything, I envy people who can have one without the other.  Well, it’s true that I can love without sex but I am really talking about the converse – sex without love.

And yes, I am told that men are wired differently to women and that for many men that second option is not only easily possible but often preferred.  

Women are different, I am told.  Most need an emotional connection although whether they think of it as love or not is unclear to me.

Do I need an emotional connection?  Yes.  Do I think of it as love?  I would like to and I would certainly want to feel it.  At the very least, it seems to me that I would need to feel very positive toward a man in order to want to have sex with him.  

So, I’ve been thinking:

In order to love unconditionally, don’t we need to be free?  To free ourselves from our inhibitions and attachments?  To take each moment, each person without judgment or expectation?  To give of ourselves without seeking anything in return?

High ideals indeed and some might argue, impossibly so.  But I think the *rewards* would be great, immeasurable actually.  I mean, to be able to do something for the sheer joy of it and nothing else, in fact, nothing less.

What are your thoughts, I wonder? 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

To quote Meatloaf...'but I won't do that'

I made a decision some time ago that I wasn’t going to post a second comment at a blog that did not reciprocate my first comment with a visit to and comment at any one of my blogs.


Well, for the simple reason that I’m reading the failure to reciprocate as a lack of interest in engaging in a conversation with me.  That so, I’m not one to impose myself on someone who shows no interest in talking to me.

As I’ve said many times before, I blog mainly for the conversations that my posts will generate.  The post is merely a prompt.  It’s not the main event.  It may be for others but it almost always isn’t for me.  

There are some posts, admittedly, that I write with the overriding intention to share what I think may be useful insights and experiences.  These are found mainly in my Passion, Play and Purpose blog.  

But even there, I post with the hope that my posts will generate conversations.  

It doesn’t matter to me whether someone has grand or scintillatingly insightful comments to make or not.  I know that my own comments at other blogs are hardly of that order.

But I do appreciate a comment because it is a natural part of a conversation that I’ve either initiated with a  post or  engaged in with a comment I’ve left at a blog.

It doesn’t matter that the topics on their blog and mine are different, even vastly different.  It does matter that we talk.

It’s like being at a party and saying something to someone to which they say nothing.  I think that’s rude. 

Change the topic, by all means, if you have nothing to *add* or if the topic doesn't interest you.  Ask a question, if that helps. 

But not reciprocating, which in blog world means (to me), ‘I’m not interested in talking with you’, is telling me that I’m wasting my time leaving a comment at your blog.  

What are your thoughts on this subject?  I’d love to know and I will continue the conversation at your blog whether on the same topic or another…I love conversations, remember? J

Monday, May 2, 2011

Now try and tell me we're not old souls recycling on this (and other) planets/planes!

OMG, if I could play half as well, I'd be in perpetual ecstasy.  So what do you think of this 8 year old playing Gary Moore's Still Got the Blues?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

These are the things...

Easter Sunday 2011

I decided I would go to the organic markets at Northey Street.  The morning was warm and flush with sunlight as I walked to the bus station and from the bus stop to the markets.

I've always enjoyed myself at the markets, catching up with some friends and several acquaintances as we sit for hours under the trees with our cups of coffee or chai that have been trained to last long.

Meanwhile, kettles and a newly installed coffee machine hiss and gurgle earnestly in the hub of this marketplace as the queue for hot beverages and toast extends and shrinks across the dirt track and cracked concrete.

Every now and again, a name is called out and someone rushes over eagerly to collect their order.  It's all very grass roots-y. 

The dress code here is casual hippie.  Yes, I mean casual-hippie.  Dreadlocks, leather sandals, rubber thongs, fisherman pants, t-shirts making statements such as 'Worms grow here' and 'I could be your father', halter necks, beads and toe rings all seem to land evenly and congenially on this flood-prone plot of land that has been successfully turned into an organic farm.

Under the trees, magic seems to happen as traders trade and purchasers purchase and conversations are struck on matters ranging from sovereign rights, Law of Attraction, spiritual transcendence, relationships, babies and pure coconut oil from Fiji to solar panels and their wattage limitations.

Masseurs of exotic disciplines and esoteric traditions seem to be constantly occupied as are the owners of my favorite stall.

That's the one where you're likely to order a milk or coconut based shake that you'd thus far, never encountered, comprising, as you choose, ingredients as varied as figs, mint and watermelon.

In this rustic setting,, however, and given the privilege of peddle-blending your own shake on a stationary bicycle equipped with a motorized blender, you know you'd be missing out if you didn't extend your palate.

I've asked the owners when they'll be ready to sell me one of those bicycles.

'We're still improving the design'  they tell me, assuring me that it's not at all difficult to put together.

Hmm...I can do some things but this???  I don't think so.   So I've called on hope instead.

When I'd had my fill of the markets, I made my way to the city.  There were two shops I wanted to go to.  JB Hi-Fi, where a sound card reader was waiting for my collection - one I'd ordered for my new netbook (Oh yeah!).  The other, Rivers, where I was hoping to check out a pair of shoes that were on special.  Neither store was open.

But, as often happens in the mall, there was free entertainment.  Today, under a canopy of greying sky, a trio of two lasses and a lad were singing and playing music of a distinctly Celtic flavor.

Ah, someone must have been eavesdropping on my dreams of late where I'm lost in the enchanted idylls of Scotland :).  My smile stayed with me the rest of the day :)

A change in the flavor of the music finally broke the spell I'd willingly gone under, so off I went to the only other store I felt like going to - a kind of warehouse filled with discounted books, painting and other art and craft materials and toys.

How rich and moving it all felt to me, as if my soul's prayer had been answered - to be in the company of those things that it longs to indulge in.  I was sure my tears emerged  from an entangled mesh of joy and relief.

These are the things that we simply cannot afford to put aside and yet we do.  These are the things we need to give most time to and yet we don't.  These are the things that stir up joy within us and yet, we foolishly dismiss them as 'nice but not necessary'.  Fools are we!  Or at least I am.

I spent time fondling, squeezing (for sounds) and silently talking to several soft toys that caught my child's eye. I heard myself thinking that I was experiencing some of the childhood I'd never had, one bereft of cuddly toys.  Actually, one bereft of cuddles and hugs too.  A childhood poor in material but mostly in spirit, the latter plundered by a mentally disturbed parent. 

Still, I smiled thankful that I was experiencing that unknown childhood  now.  Thankful that I could.  Thankful, in fact, for all of my life, all of this day, all that I have become and all that I am becoming.

I am rich indeed!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Does the C-word bring out the best or the worst in you?

I recently responded to a question in a discussion forum relating to that C-word.  You know, the one that's known to bring out the best in some and the worst in others while leaving the majority clueless, indifferent or vicarious wannabe-s.  I'm talking about Competition.

Yes, it's something that I can't claim to have had a good relationship with.  Matter of fact, I've pretty much excluded it from my vocabulary except when explaining why, of course :).  However, I'm interested to know how you feel about competition. 

Let's face it, governments and businesses claim that the economy would suffer to the point of extinction without it.  And, truth be told, I am probably complicit in the survival of competition.  I mean, I do tend to shop where I believe things are cheapest.  Go on, call me a hypocrite.

But perhaps it's not quite as it seems?  You see, I shop where it's cheapest for these reasons:

1.  That's pretty much what I can afford
2.  That's pretty much what I'm willing to pay
3.  I don't believe that I should pay any more and we wouldn't have to if most businesses weren't out to make a profit (and please read *profit* in terms of consumer demand as well as the supply of resources - people and other- from a position of disadvantage).

So, am I really complicit?  Perhaps. 

I'm deliberately ambivalent here because, as I see it,  my intention is not to help put anyone out of business.  On the contrary, I can see that often, it helps the biggest profit-makers make even more profit since they are the ones who can afford to sell at the lower/more *competitive* prices.

Effectively, I gain wrt my immediate needs and desires but not wrt my broader, more humanitarian aspirations. 

I suppose I could raise a similar (and equally unconvincing) argument with respect to voting in governments who take their countries to war.  I don't want to go to war but it's part of the total election package, which overall, provides me with more benefits than losses .  It's too bad about the war thing. which, of course, I don't support.  Besides, I wouldn't give my vote to any of the other contenders...

Oh, look, I'm veering well off the topic of competition but I just thought I'd mention that war point since I talked about complicity (another C-word, in case you hadn't noticed :)).

Anyways, back to Competition.  Aside from the competition in the so-called *free* market, there are many other instances of competition.  Like I said earlier, even though I may be inadvertently complicit, I don't enjoy a very good relationship with Competition.  Here's why as I explained in my response at the discussion forum to a question about the 'ups and downs of competition':

The only logical reason I would have for entering a competition is to win. This effectively means that I need to do better than everyone else who enters that competition, however *better* is defined. It puts me right off.

I begin to feel anxious and my confidence and interest rapidly decline as I am certain that even though I would be doing my best, there could always be someone else who is *better*. That someone will win and I will not. All my effort and achievement will pale into insignificance in the blinding light of someone else's achievement. It's not a nice feeling at all.

To compete means to try and outdo others. I haven't yet found this a joyous thing.

Why do we have to try and outdo others? I guess for some people it may be an effective way to bring out the *best* in them. So far, it hasn't done this for me.

For me, my best is not a one-dimensional achievement but something that impacts on several aspects of my life in a holistic sort of way. It results in a sense of fulfillment that transcends my personal wellbeing and joy to the wellbeing and joy of others.

You could say that I feel I'm doing my best when what I do has a positive impact on myself as well as on others. In other words, I feel I'm doing my best when I'm contributing with harmony and joy. My experience of competitions to date has rarely been anchored in harmony and joy.

If, however, my motivation for doing something is to see how far I can go regardless of how far others have gone or may go, then I believe that I can (and do) do this without having to compete. I'm always *challenging* (I prefer *inviting* and *inspiring*) myself everyday in little ways. I am also inspired by others, including children. To respond from inspiration is a much kinder and loving way to treat myself and it allows me to enjoy the flow-on effects on others.

If, on the other hand, competition actually means *inspiration* then, hey, I'll be first in line (how's that for a bit of good ol' pushin' and shovin' :)) 

What are your thoughts?  I promise I won't be rewarding winners and punishing losers :)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Should we observe rituals before cutting down a tree?

A customer came into my store yesterday wearing a tee-shirt with a picture of a tree through which there were three horizontal lines marked Past, Present and Future. 

 Image from Threadibles

The top, green part represents the condition of trees, and by implication, the condition of our planet in the past.  The middle bit represents their current declining circumstance and the bottom bit their fate if business as usual rules.

It prompted a conversation in which he and his wife lamented the chopping down of a native tree in their body-corporate managed residential complex.  This, the man said, with deep emotion, despite pleas not to.  He was feeling particularly discouraged about the fate of our environment but managed to ask me if I had an affinity for trees.

Do I ever!  I shared with him two things that reflect my affinity with trees.  The first was that, as a child, I spent countless hours sitting on my back doorstep absorbed in the presence of the graceful and majestic trees that lined the street by my house.  They were hours of deep solace for me during a time in my life when domestic violence and turmoil were a certain part of the daily diet.

The other thing that I shared which was more recent was a sight that literally stopped me in my tracks.  I was walking up a hill towards the main street when a truck went charging past with its burden of pine logs that had been cut, shaped and *treated*. 

The sight of those logs, taken from trees that had been castrated and left with no dignity filled me with anguish.  I stood still, reeling from the pain that I felt for those trees and their brutal treatment.  It is an image that I have not forgotten and that brought tears to my eyes even as I described it to my customer.

When some people speak of the spirit of trees, I have a sense of what they mean.  After all, all beings arise from the same source, the same power that pervades the entire universe.  I became interested in how these people relate to non-human forms such as trees, rocks, rivers and all the other aspects of nature that most of us ignore or simply take for granted. 

I've read about druidism and am fascinated by the relationships between humans and other life forms in various cultures.  I especially love finding out about the rituals that are practiced. 

I have long abandoned the crude distinctions that I was taught in school and university about *living* and *non-living* things as well as *intelligent* and, by implication, *unintelligent* life forms.

But my recent conversation at work prompted me to look up the rituals for tree-cutting and here's one that I found relating to the Lumads in the Philippines:

Lumads also observe rituals before cutting down trees especially if these are believed to be inhabited by powerful spirits. An example is the balete tree the cutting of which is prohibited as a rule. If the tree grows in a farm lot and it becomes necessary to cut it down, the farmer gives offerings to the spirit-dweller and interprets his response. If the offerings remain untouched it means the spirit has agreed to transfer to another tree and the tree may be felled. But if the offerings are scattered, it means the spirit has turned down the request to cut down his dwelling place.
 This is the full article, A Glimpse of Indegenous Resource Management.

Do you have an affinity with trees?
Do you believe that the same life force pervades all of life?
Do you think that a ritual for tree-cutting should be encouraged?

I''d love to know :)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

There's nothing I wish to add to this

Published on ShanghaiDaily.com (http://www.shanghaidaily.com/)  
EDITOR'S note:                                                  

THIS letter, written by Vietnamese immigrant Ha Minh Thanh   working in
Fukushima as a policeman to a friend in Vietnam, was 
 posted on New America Media on March 19. It is a testimonial to   the
strength of the Japanese spirit, and an interesting slice of
 life near the epicenter of Japan 's crisis at the Fukushima   nuclear
power plant. It was translated by NAM editor Andrew Lam,
 author of "East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres." Shanghai
Daily condensed it.                                             
 Brother,                                              ;           
 How are you and your family? These last few days, everything was   in
chaos. When I close my eyes, I see dead bodies. When I open my  eyes, I
also see dead bodies.                          
 Each one of us must work 20 hours a day, yet I wish there were 48
hours in the day, so that we could continue helping and rescuing
 We are without water and electricity, and food rations are near   zero.
We barely manage to move refugees before there are new    
 orders to move them elsewhere.                                  
 I am currently in Fukushima , about 25 kilometers away from the nuclear
power plant. I have so much to tell you that if I could 
 write it all down, it would surely turn into a novel about human
relationships and behaviors during times of crisis.             
 People here remain calm - their sense of dignity and proper behavior
are very good - so things aren't as bad as they could  
 be. But given another week, I can't guarantee that things won't   get
to a point where we can no longer provide proper protection 
 and order.                                                      
 They are humans after all, and when hunger and thirst override
dignity, well, they will do whatever they have to do. The       
 government is trying to provide supplies by air, bringing in food  and
medicine, but it's like dropping a little salt into the     
 Brother, there was a really moving incident. It involves a little
Japanese boy who taught an adult like me a lesson on how to     
 behave like a human being.                                      
 Last night, I was sent to a little grammar school to help a charity
organization distribute food to the refugees. It was a  long line that
snaked this way and that and I saw a little boy  around 9 years old. He
was wearing a T-shirt and a pair of   shorts.

 It was getting very cold and the boy was at the very end of the   line.
I was worried that by the time his turn came there wouldn't
 be any food left. So I spoke to him. He said he was at school when the
earthquake happened. His father worked nearby and was  
 driving to the school. The boy was on the third floor balcony   when he
saw the tsunami sweep his father's car away.            
 I asked him about his mother. He said his house is right by the  beach
and that his mother and little sister probably didn't make
 it. He turned his head and wiped his tears when I asked about his
 The boy was shivering so I took off my police jacket and put it on him.
That's when my bag of food ration fell out. I picked it 
 up and gave it to him. "When it comes to your turn, they might   run
out of food. So here's my portion. I already ate. Why don't 
 you eat it?"                                                    
 The boy took my food and bowed. I thought he would eat it right away,
but he didn't. He took the bag of food, went up to where  
 the line ended and put it where all the food was waiting to be
 I was shocked. I asked him why he didn't eat it and instead added it to
the food pile. He answered: "Because I see a lot more     
 people hungrier than I am. If I put it there, then they will
distribute the food equally."                                   
 When I heard that I turned away so that people wouldn't see me cry.

 A society that can produce a 9-year-old who understands the concept of
sacrifice for the greater good must be a great       
 society, a great people.                             
 Well, a few lines to send you and your family my warm wishes. The hours
of my shift have begun again.                             
 Ha Minh Thanh    

Sunday, March 20, 2011

If I wasn't afraid of....what would I be doing right now?

Have you ever felt afraid? 

Of course, duh, you say (or think as you read this).  What a silly question!

Of course you’ve felt fear. You and I both know that.  But, fear is a masterful disguise artist, one who appears in so many different forms that often, he goes unrecognized.  By you.   And me, of course.

To be sure, you and I have, at some point or other, probably been afraid of

  • not having enough money
  • suffering some terrible illness
  • being betrayed or taken for granted
  • feeling lonely
  • losing someone we love
  • public speaking
  • failing at something e.g. an exam or job application/interview
  • being attacked or molested or abused

I’m sure the list could go on.  But, what about the things that seem so insignificant and arise so surreptitiously in the course of our daily lives that we don’t even recognize them as experiences of fear?

Like the fear of getting my lovely watch wet if I chose to walk in the rain, which incidentally, I did yesterday?  Walk home in the rain, that is, having first taken the precaution of tucking my watch into my backpack :)

Or the fear of what might happen if I didn’t get in touch with my daughter on the weekend?  

Or the fear of making custard that was lumpy?

Or the fear of wasting my life away?

You see, the difference between these fears and the ones in my list is that the former are more fleeting.  They arise as thoughts and feelings that are often quickly overridden by other more immediate demands on my attention or more immediate action (which may simply mask or suppress the fear rather than deal with it). 

It’s not that the ones in my list never leave my conscious attention.  They do. But they are so strong and persistent that I’m assured they’ll return sooner or later.  And, morbid as this may sound, it is almost reassuring! 

I know I’ll get a chance to tackle them or to at least acknowledge that they are *real* and potentially dangerous.  In other words, they’re not hidden from me and, to that extent, I feel I have some control.  Not over them, necessarily but in relation to them, whatever that means.

But the more subtle, fleeting, inconspicuous fears that stream through my mind, like the fear I had of getting my writing out of the way before my friend, J, turned up this afternoon – afraid that he might see it on my computer screen.  Not something I would have wanted as it was rather personal stuff.

Being aware of this fear and realizing, not for the first time, that there are so many of these types of unrecognized fears that are forever flushing through my mind and spirit made we wonder how much erosion they actually cause.

The big, recognizable fears are potentially erosive, I don’t doubt.  But at least I am aware of them and can take steps to deal with them.  But these little, silent fear experiences that I am only momentarily aware of do cause damage.  Rather like odorless fly sprays or roach bombs.

Over time, they cause me to attempt less, be wary of more, feel less free and settle for a whole lot less in life.  I know this to be true when I reflect over my life and consider the things I’ve avoided doing, the friends I’ve avoided making, the opportunities I’ve passed on and the things I’ve chosen to be skeptical about.

Collectively, they have prevented me from living fully and freely.  Damn!

So today, upon the most recent recognition of a fear, I asked myself:

If I didn’t have this fear, what would I be doing right now?  And how would I be feeling?  

I can tell you I felt exhilarated by my answers :)

How about you?  Are there any subtle, masterfully disguised, surreptitious fear bombs that you have been (momentarily) aware of?  Do you think they have eroded the quality of your life?  What have you done about them?  Do you think that just because they are fleeting, they have little effect?

I’d love to know, as always :)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Is the reporting of human disaster on TV looking more and more like entertainment to you?

I’ve noticed something and wonder if you have too.  Increasingly, disasters, whether *natural* or *man-made* are  broadcast on television rather like entertainment.

The repeated images, the attention-grabbing headlines and promotional taglines, the entertainment style delivery by newsreaders and program announcers of news bulletins charged with superlatives and provocative metaphors, the ticker-tape, so-called up-to-the-minute, yet repetitive, bite-sized, twitter-type news updates at the bottom of your screen…

You’d be forgiven if you thought it was information you simply could not afford to miss.  And by golly, they don’t let you.  Well, as long as you have your television on.

Let’s be fair here, you can turn the darn thing off.  And I do.  But when I do turn it on once a day to see the news (not an entirely unreasonable thing to do, wouldn't you agree?),  I am offended by the treatment of seriously catastrophic news as if it were entertainment.  I mean, one rarely has time for dramatic pauses and marketing worthy headlines and scripts when one sees tragedy or is sincerely and respectfully reporting it.  

The tragedy itself draws our attention and our somber regard and empathy for those involved.  There seems neither need nor place for the kind of melodramatic broadcasts that one expects and gets in the promotion of entertainmen.  In fact, I think it’s downright disrespectful and objectionable.  

Worse still, with all this kind of *reporting* and *broadcasts*, I find myself actually morbidly looking forward to the next worse catastrophe that is feared to unfold.  

‘How many more people will have died?  19 is too small a toll for a disaster of this proportion.’

‘Can we see images of people affected by the nuclear plant explosion?  I wonder what they will look like?’

‘Oh, wow, look at the height of that tidal wave!  Oh, look at those boats crashing into each other!  Oh, gosh, look at all those cars floating in the water and the trucks just tumbling over like tonka trucks’.

Are these some of my thoughts and reactions?  

Yes, they are.  But some of them (like the ‘tonka truck’ analogy) have been found fit to be broadcast.

How different is watching disaster reportage on television to watching an action movie or thriller?  Or people playing violent video games? 

Are you similarly affected by this as I am?  What are your thoughts?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A conversation with Che Part 3

Che, I’m sorry, but I’ve searched the internet and I couldn’t find anything you’d *written* dated 1972.  I did come across a heap of other interesting stuff about you though. 

What exactly did you look for?

Well…something that someone would have been inspired by you to write, I guess.  Something profound, about life, meaning, existence, the big questions….you know.

Actually, I don’t, but go ahead, tell me.  What are these *big* questions that you think are so big and important?  That, from the way you’ve been speaking so far, seems to be man’s overriding preoccupation?

(I’m a little aghast.  Surely, he must know?  Surely he’s grappled with them himself?  Is he teasing or testing me?  He does look genuinely serious, though.  I shift uneasily in my seat and he seems to sense my floundering confidence).

Hey, listen.  I’m not testing you although teasing you is, shall we say, becoming rather enjoyable (he smiles).  But seriously, this is not one of those occasions.  I am profoundly interested in what you consider the *big questions*.

But Che, you must know what they are! (I am feeling a little frustrated and puzzled at the same time).  I mean, you must have been preoccupied with them yourself!  I know you were!

You assume I was… 

Are you telling me…

Wait, let me finish. 

(He takes a deep breath and gives a long sigh).  

When you observe a man’s actions, you assume that he has put a lot of thought into it.  Sure, there are some actions that a man performs that you immediately condemn or dismiss as *mindless* but, for now, let’s leave those ones aside.  Let’s instead concentrate on the actions that we generally conclude have been well considered and thought through and which are performed as a result of deliberate choice and intent.

(He sighs again.  It is as if this topic has caused him considerable difficulty).

You have to understand something here.  There are many forces at work in bringing about the culmination of thought and intent and performed as action.

No, I didn’t say that well enough.  Let me try again.  There are many forces that shape and influence what we observe as a man’s actions AND as many forces that shape and influence our observation of such actions.

Now, I know you may be thinking that I haven’t said anything that you don’t already know but you may be surprised.  

(He interrupts himself to draw on his cigar.  After what seems to be an unbearably long pause, he continues).

A man’s actions are never his own.  Never.

(I allow that idea to permeate my mind, desperately hoping to experience an earth-shattering epiphany.  So far, there is none).

Listen mi amiga fiel (my faithful friend), what you see as life’s contradictions are really life’s resolutions.  The burden of humanity is unloaded through man’s actions.  Man must act for without acting, the burden of his humanity becomes unbearable.  

And what we observe as the action of an individual is in fact the collective act of humanity which unfairly places on the individual sole responsibility for what is in fact its collective act.  Can you understand this?

(Whoa!!! This is huge, I think to myself, and yes, it does make sense but…)

Are you saying that a man, an individual, cannot be held responsible for his or her actions?  

No, I’m saying that she or he cannot be held SOLELY responsible for his or her actions.

But if that were the case, does it not imply that a person, an individual, can never claim to be the sole author of his thoughts and the sole maker of whatever decisions or choices he makes? 

I mean, I think that you’re saying that we don’t really have free will, that we can never and have never been able to make completely unilateral decisions or choices.  And if that were true, why, I’m not sure I want to continue doing this.  

I mean, if there is no point at all, no matter how small and how far into the depths of consciousness I’ve got to go to reach it, at which I can stand and claim that this is purely MY thought and MY intention and MY choice, then what would be the bloody point of MY life????

(I am feeling terribly agitated to the point of panic almost.  This is just sooooooo not right, soooooooooo meaningless, sooooooooooo pointless).

Mi querido amiga fiel, mi mas querido amiga feil, (my dear faithful friend, my dear, dear faithful friend), I understand your disenchantment.  I truly do.  I felt the same way too when I first had this realization.  I wanted to destroy the whole world (not just this planet) and spit and vomit and piss in god’s face.  

What kind of a fucking cosmic joke was he playing on us???  What kind of a fucking joke was my fucking mind playing on me for after all, I was a fucking atheist!!!

God???  What a loser he was and who could possibly be attracted to him other than mother-fucking losers???  And I sure as hell wasn’t a mother-fucking loser.

(Despite the rising panic and disillusion that was searing my mind, I could feel the sincerity and honesty of his words)

(He paused with a deep and long sigh before continuing)

Please (looking at me tenderly), don’t cry.  Give this some time.  I promise you, you’ll understand.  It will make sense…

What if I don’t wish to understand?  What if this is something that I don’t wish to understand because it doesn’t deserve my understanding?  It fucking doesn’t deserve my understanding!  In fact, I’d say it doesn’t deserve anyone’s understanding!  To understand this would be to give up, to cop out.  I might as well slit my throat and die.

(Speaking quietly and tenderly) And that is what you must do.  You must die.

(I decide that silence and sullenness are my best response at this point.  This whole idea is outrageous.  Preposterous.  Downright disrespectful.  I want to be angry with him but for some reason I can’t.  I think I realize, on some level, that what he’s said is not his personal, individual understanding but the understanding of all of humanity, of existence.  Fuck!  This is exactly his point, isn’t it?)

I told you you’d understand (He’s smiling somewhat cautiously.  I think he’s trying to be sensitive).

(I’m fighting back a smile.  My mind is trying to hold on to my resentment but I can sense it’s losing the battle. I’m shaking my head and smiling and covering my eyes with my hand as if I’m embarrassed by the realization that he is right while he peers at me, making no attempt to hide his amusement. Fuck, fuck and triple fuck!).

(We both break into big smiles).

I think this calls for a celebration, don’t you?  Come on, I’ll take you to my favourite bar.

(I sigh deeply, feeling a tense mixture of relief, reluctance and resignation).  

Friday, March 4, 2011

A conversation with Che Part 2

I’ll tell you what hurts.  What makes me what to spit blood.  It’s the loss of human dignity.  It’s seeing that peasant trawling through his own excrement, hoping against any semblance of sanity to find something to keep him and his family alive for one more day.

There’s nothing glorifying about that.  It’s dehumanizing.  Even dogs don’t do that.

When a man has to do that, when he is reduced to such a level of existence, he must know that life is simply not worth living.  He must be prepared to give that life up.  Anything is better than living that kind of life, a subhuman life.

I can feel your anger as if it were exploding through the universe.  It’s not as loud as thunder or blinding as lightning but it feels more deadly.  Hearing you speak of it and I too find it loathsome, something that I feel I shouldn’t tolerate.

(Seething and heaving, eventually falling into a brooding, dark mood, shoulders bent over as tears slowly trickle down his cheeks.  When he speaks, it’s quiet and laboured by the lumps in his throat)

The Spirit wants to flee such a man for it will not allow itself such indignity.  It will sacrifice that body for such a body is no longer human.  It will chase after something grand, much, much grander than what this human body and this human brain are prepared to put up with.  It will not lower itself and rightly so.

I have learned since discarding my body, since living here, that ignorance and corruption are the causes of indignity.

But I thought you always knew that.  Wasn’t it what you…

I always thought I knew and this is such a dangerous thing.  More dangerous than weapons and revolutions, the one thing that destroys a man and insults him and his fellow human beings is thinking and believing that *he knows*.

He doesn’t know a fuck. 

(Seconds pass, perhaps a whole minute or two as I wait in my own shock and rising despair, wait for him to lift the hopelessness of his words with some joyful, promising revelation.  But he remains silent and when he finally speaks again, he has moved on to something else).

You must understand people.  At least you must try and understand them.

(I wait for him to continue).

By understanding people, you begin to understand the vastness of yourself.  And the smallness.  A man looks to another man for self-comprehension.  He cannot begin to comprehend himself if he were to live in isolation for in isolation, he is reduced to one single point, like a singularity, unable to see himself, feel himself, taste or hear himself.

This is why and how existence came into being.  From that one singularity, that dense, infinitesimal point, broke out all of life as it has been evolving.  And to sit in yourself without the knowledge or care for the others around you, the other things around you, animals and sky and plant and fish and so on, is to completely lack understanding of who you are.  It is to live in utter and ultimate ignorance.

But people do, I want to say, but I remain silent.

Do you know that children in Cuba start their day at school by invoking my spirit?  They say that they wish to have the spirit of adventure that I had.

Yes, I read that in Wikipedia.

(He laughs genuinely tickled by the fact that Wikipedia has become the world’s most frequently and readily accessed *authority* on any subject.)

You are a fool (he smiles at me) but I like fools far more than I like people who think they know it all.

Didn’t you think you knew it all?

Okay, I can see we’re coming full circle.  This is something we skirted around earlier.  You’ve got to understand something.  There is a difference between acting with certainty and acting with conviction.

Certainty is a dead end.  You can’t go beyond it.  You might as well stop breathing.  But conviction, ah, she is the ultimate seductress. 

I thought certainty and conviction have a lot to do with each other, I think to myself while waiting for him to explain.

You see, conviction urges you on without telling you exactly where you’re going.  All you know is that you’ve got to keep going, your very life depends on it.  Life would be utterly barren and hopeless without it. 

And you keep going, no matter how exhausted you get, even when you can’t breathe anymore.  You just keep going.  The fire’s in your belly.  You know, and this might be the only certain thing about it, that at some point, whether while still breathing or when you’ve finally stopped, you’ll go to bed with her for she’ll be waiting for you. 

And I tell you what, there’s a painful comfort in knowing that someone is waiting for you, no matter how long you take. 

Why is that?

Why is what?

Why is there comfort and why is it painful?

Because that’s how a man knows he’s returned home.  That’s how he reminds himself that he has a home, a place of rest and recuperation.  A place of belonging.  That’s the comfort.  And it’s painful because he knows he’s got to leave his home, his lover’s bed, sooner or later, briefly or lengthily. 

(I feel the truth of what he’s said and it is arresting.  For a while, there is no where I can move to and no thought that hurries in for my attention.  I’m just transfixed in the realization that all of life is a series of leaving home and returning). 

You know, one of the perks of being dead, or should I say, non-physical, is that I can actually read people’s minds.  Well, not exactly but I do have a more accurate sense of what’s going on in their heads.  It’s certainly better than when I was in physical form.

Are you trying to tell me that you can read my mind?  Have been reading my mind?

No, I haven’t been reading your mind.  Why make my time with you boring?  Che!  But, when you fell into that long silence just now, I tuned in and yes, I pretty much saw what you were thinking.  I’m making no apologies for it so please don’t expect me to.

(Smiling) You know, I’m actually flattered that you’d take the trouble with me!!!  I mean, who am I for you to take an interest in!

Okay, so you must understand what a moron is.  I’m not a moron.  The fact that I’ve spent the last hour or so talking to you should at least explain that I think you’re worth talking to.  And if you’re worth talking to, then surely it’s worth knowing what you’re thinking especially when you fall into an uncharacteristic silence like you just did.

Yes, yes, I know, silence with you is not uncharacteristic.  Okay, let’s make this simple.  I was getting bored listening to myself, so I tuned in to you to hear what was going on in your head.  Okay?  Does that satisfy you?

(Smiling) Sure.  To tell the truth, anything you say would satisfy me.

Hmm… another dangerous point of view but I’ll let it pass for now.  I’m more interested in your realization.

My realization?

Yes, that life is a series of leaving home and returning.

(Nodding my head) Yeah, it is, I’ve come to realize. 

And how does that make you feel?

Don’t you know?  I mean, you’ve tuned in after all!

Oh, hey, I don’t stay tuned in longer than I need to or want to.  It’s much more fun hearing your voice and hearing what you have to say.

But I’ve not been speaking, not with my mouth.

Yes, but your mental voice is a lot like your physical voice, only with a bit of echo.  There’s plenty of empty space (ha ha ha) between your ears, you know.

You are quite a tease. (I’m laughing)

I like you.  You’ve got what it takes.

To do what?

To be human. 

You know, for some reason that sounds really bizarre.  *I’ve got what it takes to be human*.  It kinda suggests that there’s a possibility I might not have been human, that I might have been a glow worm or a piece of igneous rock or something. 

(Nodding and chewing) You got that right.

You’re being serious, aren’t you?

Dead.  You know when people are sick?  When they get really sick and fade in and out of consciousness?  They’re making deals with their souls.  They’re deciding whether they want to continue in physical form or not and what kind of physical form too.

How do you know that?

I’ve been there myself.  And since being non-physical, I’ve been tuning in to people who’ve been in the process of making deals.  And besides, when I was treating sick people, I could sense it then too.

This is spinning me out.  I mean, why would a person choose to be an igneous rock or an ant?  And by choosing it, would they have to settle for the expected life span too?  I mean, a rock is gonna be around for a heck of a long time and an ant is gonna get trampled on or sprayed into oblivion pretty quickly.

Oh dear, now you’re actually starting to get boring.  I’m sorry, perhaps I’ve dealt with these questions to death that they’re all pretty much textbook information.  Entirely boring facts.  So please excuse me if I’d rather talk about something else right now.  Perhaps another day, if you can catch me in my sleep, I’ll be able to give you all your answers without losing sleep over it (like my irony???). 

Right now, though, I’m still curious about your realization.  How do you feel about the realization that life is about leaving home and returning again and again and again until perhaps you get tired of it all and you decide to pull the plug from the physical world? 

How do you feel about that?

You know, Che, this is what I find interesting – the fact that I don’t think it’s a big deal.  When you first said it and when I first realized it, it seemed like such a revelation, a big Wow.  But now, it just seems pretty ho-hum, you know? 

Yeah, we’re constantly leaving some place comfortable and moving toward some place less comfortable, new, different etcetera.  After a while, it gets comfortable and we move again and so on and so on.  (Shrugging my shoulders). Yep, that’s what happens.  It’s been happening from day one and will continue to.  I’m afraid I don’t find anything mouth-wateringly exciting about that.  Mundane, almost.

You might need to read something I wrote about existence.  


Because I think that this is one thing you really need to get excited about.  The purpose of being human. 

Are you saying that the purpose of being human is to…leave and return home again and again?  And I get that you might be speaking metaphorically.

Let me just direct you to what I wrote back in 72. 

You were dead in 72. 

I was non-physical in 72, yes.  And now, in 2011, I’m writing, che?  Or at least, speaking, che?


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