Heart to heart

“I don’t get it,” said my son. “We’re an island… how can we be short of water?” I had been telling him about the shocking state of the Derwent Valley reservoirs. I have seen them very low before, but never this low. The water is no more than a trickle in the lake bed and the villages drowned at their creation are once more feeling the sun on their stones. We discussed desalination, technology and our acceptance of water-on-tap in developed countries. From there, we went on to other countries, where the populace is not so lucky and water may have to be drawn from a dirty well several hours walk from home. My son continued, “I mean, if seventy per cent of the earth’s surface is covered with water, and, if it all comes from the sea to begin with and goes back into the water cycle, how come anyone is short of water?”

“Money.” I thought back to a job I once had, selling water coolers to offices. The company supported a water charity that dug clean wells and brought water to arid villages. I loved being on the road as a salesperson, but I could never reconcile the difference between the luxury of cooled, filtered spring water and children carrying water jars for miles.

It always tickled me too, that the elegant secretaries who convinced their bosses to buy the spring water would, for the most part, have been horrified if I had asked them to drink from a stream… the same streams that supply the now-industrialised springs. But they would happily drink chlorine-laden tap water, because that is clean and safe… even though it may also contain other things they wouldn’t even like to think about.

It is not that I think we should deny ourselves, or feel guilty about, enjoying the benefits of progress or earned luxuries… but we should not forget that we are privileged to be able to do so.

At least the company was putting money into the pot with every sale… but it is a poor set-up when charity is dependant upon profit. I agreed with my son, no one should be without access to clean water in this day and age. Globally, we have the money, the technology and the resources… if we chose to use them.

I was on my soap box. From water, it moved to access to adequate food, housing, education and healthcare… all basic human needs that should also be rights. I have worked in the charity sector and acknowledge both the incredible effort of the staff and volunteers, as well as the impact of the work they do. But why should we need to rely on charity for such basic human needs in a world where corporations and individuals have billions in the bank? It makes no sense to me.

Leaving aside ideas about the distribution of wealth, even the defence budget of a small nation would probably be enough to supply water to a continent… and don’t get me started on the misnomer of ‘defence’…

“But,” interjected my son, attempting to stop me in full flow, “why bother talking about it? What good will it do?” The question was obviously rhetorical, but, with the bit between my teeth, I was going to answer anyway…

Actions spring from ideas, and ideas are born when people talk about things… not when they sweep them under the carpet and can comfortably and conveniently forget that they are there.

Money may have the reputation as being the root of all evil, but I wonder if that is true. Is it not what choices people make that is at the heart of the problem? And how can we make informed choices unless we communicate?

I thought a lot about that on the way home. In this day and age when the internet connects us worldwide, it should be easier to talk… and we do, often about things that may seem quite unimportant… just the small doings of everyday…but by doing so, we keep the lines of communication open, and every so often, something really important filters through. The weight of public opinion can work miracles, changing the face of society…or making one life worth living.

Misunderstandings thrive when people do not talk. Relationships deteriorate when resentments cannot be aired and are allowed to fester. Loneliness and depression deepen when there is no-one to talk with. And whole worlds of possibility open up when we do.

 

It is the same on a personal level too, as we are talking to ourselves internally all the time. For most of us, there is a commentary on the surface of the mind and yet, we are conscious of other levels of thought running beside it, observing it, sometimes in agreement with our thoughts and actions, at other time raising metaphorical eyebrows.

But, although we are aware of these other levels of thought, observation and information, we seldom take the time to engage them in conversation. Meditation and contemplation are ways of doing so, and those who give some time to these methods reap rich rewards. Both conscience and consciousness reside within, and unless the surface mind is prepared to converse with them, we may be missing out on a large percentage of who we are and who we might become.

I wonder if ‘the root of all evil’, rather than simply blaming inanimate money, stems from the barriers we, and the way we live, erect around the core of our being? Barriers that seek to protect us by preventing us from really hearing what those around us and those inner voices may have to say?

When we let the barriers down and talk to someone openly and without subterfuge, we call it a ‘heart to heart’. Perhaps that is what we are missing… and maybe what we are afraid of in this modern world? The ability and the openness to speak and to listen, allowing our true selves to flow from the heart.

Non-linear thought

“How could they have known?”
This is a question I have often asked myself… how could those who have gone before us have known where to begin with an idea that has changed the human world. Take radio, for example. Wiki says that ‘James Clerk Maxwell showed in theoretical and mathematical form in 1864 that electromagnetic waves could propagate through free space…’ That’s all well and dandy, but why and how did he ever start thinking along those lines in the first place? What was it that made him start looking for ways in which it might work? Where did he get the idea?

Where do ideas come from? You can imagine that faced, for instance, with a sealed can of beans, someone might come up with the idea of a can opener… but where did the idea of the tin can come from? Or, for that matter, the idea of pre-cooking already-preserved beans and putting them in metal tubes? You can see where necessity may have prompted that idea, but a can of beans is, after all, a small thing when placed against the grand scheme of human evolution. What about the big ideas? Those that have transformed the human condition and fuelled a leap forward in knowledge and understanding?

“Reverse reincarnation…” Stuart‘s descriptive definition was perhaps less than accurate, but it captured the essence of the conversation perfectly. It was one of those long and involved discussions where inspiration flows as freely as water. We had been talking about time, evolution and how the very first spark of an idea might come into being.

The concept of reincarnation is, for many, not so much a matter of faith but one of inexplicable certainty. A study conducted in 2016 by the Global Research Society and the Institute for Social Research suggests that over half the world’s population believes in some form of reincarnation. The details may vary, tradition to tradition, but the basic premise is the same. The soul, that fragment of the divine at the core of our being, returns life after life, in order to learn, assimilating the knowledge and understanding gleaned during each lifetime before moving on to the next.

It is a commonly held belief in esoteric circles that what has been learned in a previous life can be rapidly regained in this one if a person is exposed to the right circumstances. It has also been argued that those exceptionally gifted individuals, like child prodigies and those who bring something special to the world may have ‘carried over’ skills and talents acquired in former lifetimes.

We are accustomed to think of reincarnation as a linear progression over time, with souls coming into being early in the life of the earth and evolving with it. Perhaps a lifetime in ancient Egypt…always a favourite… followed by Rome, then the Dark Ages, the Renaissance…and so on. What, we wondered, if this was not the case?

Within the Mysteries, it has long been held that time is not linear, only our need for organised perception makes it appear so to the human mind. It might explain those glitches in memory we call déjà vu. Science puts it down to a processing fault in the mind where we only think we have recalled an event prior to its happening. If time is non-linear, perhaps the explanation is simpler than that and the phenomenon is merely a momentary widening of temporal perception.

The concept of non-linear time is now being ever more widely explored and accepted by reputable physicists and, while we of the ‘lunatic fringe’ may rejoice at science and mysticism approaching each other by yet another step, it does raise some interesting questions. Some of them can tie your mind in knots or make your head explode, but they are well worth exploring…

What, we thought, if non-linear time means that we do not necessarily reincarnate in a neat and linear fashion? If all time is but one time, we could begin a new life at any point in past, present or future. What if the man who made, say, the first radio, knew at some deep and unconscious level, that it could be done… because he had already experienced it in a previous but future life? It could explain the birth of so many incredible ideas and so many of the apparent leaps mankind has made over the millennia…

The conversation went on for some time becoming ever more complex and convoluted…and throwing up many more possibilities for consideration. But how could it possibly be of any use in day-to-day life to think that everything that will happen has already happened? There is little point in theoretical knowledge unless it can be applied and fulfil a practical purpose.

Within the Mysteries we are taught to ‘ask the question’…and that is where such theories may find their home. If the soul stands outside of temporal constraints and carries with it the essence of all experience, life upon life…and if time is not a straight line, heading off into the unseen distance…then we each carry within us all the answers we will ever need. ‘The answers are within you’ is one of those oft quoted phrases that may offer little practical help to life’s problems. Yet maybe it is more practical than it seems… and maybe those elusive answers really are within us, because we have already lived enough to know…

Plagiarism and validation

Image: Pixabay
Noun: plagiarism:  the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.
Sometimes when I’m about to write about a particular idea, I will look at quotes on the subject. Not to use either the quote or the idea, but to spark ideas from them and follow where they might lead. Ideas come from many sources and while most of them seem to self-generate, there is every possibility that they originated somewhere else. Something you have seen, heard or read may have been incubating for years before it comes to the surface, reshaped and repackaged, with a relevance that is all your own. Indeed, unless you are deliberately plagiarising the work of another, you can say that it is your own. How else do we learn but by taking in what life offers and allowing our own mind and heart to work their alchemy?

Am I plagiarising the great poets when I use two words that rhyme, just because they have been used before? Or stealing the work of the creators of the alphabet when I rearrange their letters and write a book? There are only  very small number of letters after all; we are bound to string them together in a way that has already been done. If we are going to take things to their logical conclusion, existence itself is plagiarism. Whatever the creative force of existence is seen to be…scientific, religious or spiritual… there is a point of origin somewhere between non-being and being and, whatever its nature, the copyright of that particular creative Work must begin there. No matter how you look at any part of the world and seek to recreate it artistically, no matter what medium you may use… or by what name or image you know its origin… everything we know bears the same stamp… copyright © God.

That means we are all guilty of plagiarism when we seek to capture or reflect the beauty and character of the world around us. We choose to call it by another name…inspiration… yet the principle is the same, we take something from another source and, passing it through the filter of our own gifts and being, call it our own.

There is a darker side, though, to the way we appropriate and shape ideas that have originated in a mind other than ours.

I was looking back at old family school reports today. You could see the progression of child to teenager reflected in the comments, see how external events had affected the inner life and attitude of the child…and see where encouragement, rather than criticism, might have produced a more positive change. There was one particular teacher I came up against, in defence of one of my sons. He had just started at the ‘big school’, days after the death of my partner and had taken a keepsake into school with him against the rules. She confiscated it, telling him to collect it after school, which was fair enough. Then she went home, forgetting about it.
She was a teacher of French and that was where it all went wrong. I went in the next day. She chose to put discipline before compassion and, in front of my grieving son, said she did not care what the circumstances were…
I am fluent in French, having lived in France for many years. I believe my vocabulary was more than adequate for the occasion.
The fallout, though, was that regardless of excellent results, neither of my sons ever received a good report from her. They were always written from the perspective of, ‘he must do exactly as I say’. In one short entry, ‘he must’ featured over twenty times and the tone was that of an absolute dictator who brooked no deviance from her will. That may have been just her manner… but my sons never felt they did well enough for her and eventually stopped trying.

From our earliest days, we learn from others, taking in their opinions and understanding of the world. We unconsciously allow them to shape the way we too see the world and, crucially, how we see ourselves. As children, we seek approval from our parents and teachers, by trying to align our image of ourselves with theirs. We try to fit their vision of who we should be, before we are old enough to form a vision of our own. As we grow older and begin to question what we have learned, instead of forming something new as our idea of self, we measure ourselves against our perception of their vision.

They are the first to teach us self-discipline and we try to learn how to comply, not always knowing how… or we start to rebel. At neither stage are we likely to reach the high standards set by those who care enough to try to teach us, as the bar is constantly being raised as we grow. Consequently, we may face adulthood with an inner conflict between the natural confidence of youth and the nagging feeling of never quite measuring up to expectations that eats away at that confidence. We have learned to take others’ ideas as the yardstick by which we measure ourselves. In effect we are plagiarising their ideas and presenting them to the world as our ‘own work’…and we may even believe it to be true. We set out into the world unconsciously seeking validation in the eyes of others instead of in the heart of ourselves. Yet we are not reflections of other people and their opinions, even though they may shape our perception of ourselves… What we are is ourselves.

If you were to believe that I told a I lie…and I believed I had told you the truth, who would be right and who wrong? We could debate that for as long as we liked, but one thing that would remain untouched by perception or opinion is the truth. Whatever it is…and regardless of how, or even if, we could see it, the truth would not change any more that the essence of who we are changes because of the judgement of others. Our behaviour or theirs may change… but who we truly are remains.

By relying on the reflection of ourselves that we see in the eyes of others, we cannot learn who we truly are or who we have the potential to become. The first maxim of the Mysteries is ‘Know Thyself’….and that means more than just skimming the surface or accepting the perception of others. To acknowledge our strengths as well as our weaknesses, to allow our gifts as well as the inevitable flaws… to see the shining core of being that resides at the heart of every one of us, as pure and untainted as the heart of a child….and to allow it to grow.

When I looked at the quotes associated with the ideas for this post, I saw one that said ‘Validation is healing: surround yourself with those who validate you’. I do not agree. That validation can only come from within, when we can see that we are more than either our reactions or our reflections…when we can accept the perceptions of others, but not automatically condemn ourselves by them…and when we can learn to act from that clear space within that knows who we are.

 

A touch of inspiration

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I knew I should have pulled over and written it down. All the way into work, the words just flowed. It was good stuff and I was learning as I spoke the words out loud, writing the imaginary article with my voice in an attempt to fix it in my mind. So many things just clicked into place, opening my eyes to shreds of understanding that came together in a perfect tapestry of glowing colours… There was no way I was going to forget this.

But. There’s always a but… The cat was waiting behind the glass of the door…and the door wouldn’t open. The keys were still in place on the inside. I couldn’t wiggle my key in far enough… and it was raining….then the cat needed to be fed and let out… and my son shouted through for coffee…. and by the time I had finally managed a moment to pick up a pen, the entire thing had gone, vanished as if it had never been.

Midway through the morning, with my hands full of soapy dishes, it flashed back into consciousness. I dropped the dishes, dried my hands and grabbed the pencil that is kept on the counter… and realised it had gone again. Completely. Not a single thread of thought joined one moment to the next… yet, I know it is still in there, hiding in the dusty corners of consciousness. Memory, even the memory of a thought, doesn’t disappear. It may be placed beyond our reach in the deepest dungeons of the mind, or the retrieval system may itself fail, but the memories remain.

They can be very good at hiding though.

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When inspiration strikes, it is elusive. Unless captured on the instant, it disappears into the depths of memory and may remain forever hidden. Writers are well used to this phenomenon. Most of us waft around with an assortment of pens and pencils, a notebook or three and have been known to scribble such thoughts down in weird and wonderful ways. The trouble is that when inspiration strikes while you are driving through rush hour traffic on a busy road, you cannot stop to scribble at all and it is both inadvisable and illegal to try to fiddle with the mobile phone’s voice recorder.

Fixing  a thought in memory by speaking it aloud often works. Sometimes, so does creating a visual scene for it in imagination and placing the words and concepts within it. Sometimes, though, it doesn’t. Attention that has held the concept firmly in place is dragged away by events and the moment is lost.

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It isn’t just writing inspiration that comes that way though. The spiritual realisations come in a similar manner and are just as elusive. They can be even more difficult to pin down too as they are often so abstract that a single phrase encapsulates a whole world of meaning… and yet the phrase in itself means nothing; it is only a catalyst and a key, a crack in the doorway that lets the formless light of illumination flood in.

And then it is gone…and you feel as if, for a moment, you had been given the greatest of gifts, only to lose it in the mire.

Nothing is ever is wholly lost. Sometimes memories are placed beyond our reach by our own minds, by malfunction, or buried so deep in the archives that without the correct ‘file-path’ we can never find them again. Sometimes they are buried for a reason..perhaps to protect us from what we are not ready yet to remember or to know. But they are always there.

Just as a story may take years to come to fruition after the first seed of imagination emerges, so too, when the time is right and the ground fertile, will the seeds of inspiration thus planted germinate and bloom.

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