Thursday, 29 January 2009

Orlog - Tao - Flow - Dasein

It is funny how things can change so quickly.

Looking back over this blog, relatively short in time it is, it seems to reflect a kaleidoscope of moods, though perhaps too much orientated on the darker aspects of life.

Yet, despite the moments of gloom which seem, superficially, to be no different to the very dark times of 2006 for me, underlying it all there does seem to be a sense of progress.

Sometimes explicating and exploring things can be a form of therapy in itself: by blogging your thoughts and experiences, even - and probably especially - the bleak ones, you slowly come to a better understanding of yourself. And then how to move forward.

I have come to realise that all of my "problems" and "difficulties" have exactly the same underlying spiritual cause. A constant sense of strife, whereby my attempt to resolve it was to struggle and fight more. Yet there can be and never could be any victory on this path.

Rather, you win by letting go. In both Pagan and Daoist thought, the universal underlying law or way or Orlog or Tao is something that operates beyond any human control. It acts unto itself.

So, I had the same problem on every level.

For example, I wanted to write - in truth, it did not matter, particularly, on what - but never could find the words to say. I would constantly draw blank when confronted with the computer screen, much to my immense frustration, as an avalanche of thoughts would ordinarily be flowing through my mind the rest of the time.

I desperately wanted [romantic] love, so I poured all my energies out, searching, trying, a last ditch effort to find who and what I was looking for; that person whom I could share the endless intracies of life with.

I wanted a "career" and a sense of "going somewhere" - instead of a feeling of constant stasis.

And of me? What happened in this maelstorm? How did so many black clouds condense over and above me?

Release, rescind, empty, open: stop trying. Stop trying to even try.

It is a common, age old wisdom, but so hard to do in practise.

Sometimes, you have to throw the goals away and then they start to come back to you.

So, I started this blog. The only criterion was a simple one, and one that every writer of whatever type will always reiterate is most critical: just have the discipline of writing. That's it. It doesn't really matter - certainly initially - whether it is any good or not. But just keep doing it. Just flow. And flow is exactly what is happening.

Suddenly, where before I had to have a moment of "sublime inspiration" before I could write anything, now I can sit down and write. Whether any of it is worth reading is always ultimately up to the reader to judge, but irrespective of quality, the point is that the flow has occurred, and finally I have a natural outlet to externalise some of the torrent of thoughts that swirl through my mind every day.

I am certain the same discipline is necessary in every artistic endeavor, regardless of whether you do fine art, photography, pottery, music, whatever. Just keep doing it - and eventually you'll find your voice. You'll find the you in there that brings the human element.

Another thing I reflect on is that I always perceived my "problem" in terms of finding love was that I was too intense. That I just scared everyone off.

It wasn't the intensity. It was the spiritual turbulence that I had stirring around me!

People are very perceptive of energy.

Ironically enough, it was one of the guys at work today who illustrated this so clearly to me. Immediately upon arriving at work, He immediately shouted over in his enthusiastic and joking fashion that "I had a twinkle in my eye".

And he was absolutely right! For I felt more completely buoyant than I've felt in probably several years! Yet it was remarkable that from across the other side of the room, literally only moments after my arrival, before I'd utterly a single word or made any explicit gesture, that it was so blindingly obvious.

Things are starting to come to me. It is about cultivating the spirit of openness and receptivity, then having the impetus and confidence to develop them when the opportunity presents itself.

One of the ironies is that we tend to develop a sense of identity through attaching labels to ourselves, and also to the world and universe around us. We like to categorise and systematise things in an effort to understand things, in an effort to develop knowledge.

Yet sometimes the most progress is made when you discard all the labels; this isn't actually "you", this isn't actually "them", these people aren't just "this", and so on and so forth.

So, you empty yourself. You become the receptacle.

And what do you find?

Not emptiness, surprisingly. Not a void. You find being. You find that which cannot be explicitly described, but is known. Known before all other things. Indeed, that which must be known first and foremost to have the capability of knowing anything else at all.

Get rid of the self-programming, and see what flows towards you.

You'll be amazed. :-)

So, I'm managing to find the harmonious self that used to exist, before "it all went wrong". The intensity is still there but it is now accompanied by a certain "lightness of being".

Perhaps, in the distance, I see the first glimpses of the long lost joy. All I'd been doing by looking so hard was to go round in proverbial circles. Yet it had been within grasp all along.

Finally, I would not exchange the darkness, the suffering, the bleakness of recent years for easier ones.

They are actually a gift: a gift of a greater sense of self-knowlege, a deepening of my human experience on every level. The gift of treasuring what I do have, and the gift of giving more of myself, a gift of greater empathy.

It is a vastly over used quote, but a true one of Nietzsche's: "What does not destroy you makes you stronger." You cultivate strength through absorbing conflict rather than trying to blast it away.

I'm starting to feel an increasing sense of direction by reliquishing the constant search to find my bearings. I'm becoming my own magnetic North.

Where it will lead, I don't know.

It doesn't matter. It will be a journey, regardless.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Furtive glances through the apple garden.

Life always presents challenges, which are not necessarily difficulties: for a difficulty is something you must overcome or admit defeat, a challenge is a choice you decide to make.

Sometimes, on rare, and therefore cherished occasions, you can meet someone who represents a world to you. A world of possibilities, change, difference; the quality of newness. Keeping this newness a perpetual and continual reality is the challenge of making any long term relationship work. Therefore, it requires that each half continues in its own growth, individually and together.

Life is rarely straightforward - or at least certainly not in my case - and the obvious, perhaps rational appraisal of things is not always the case.

Nowhere is this more true than in the weaving and turnings of matters of the heart.

Yet if you were to meet someone who was simply the "perfect" match, then it would probably be the nullification of yourself. For, the person who could be best for you isn't necessarily the one you agree with, or share the same intellectual, political, social, religious, or even, spiritual viewpoint. If there was no difference, no conflict in any dimension, you would end up with a harmonious blandness. Conflict isn't always destruction, and harmony isn't always creation. Sometimes creation arises from conflict: much as new shoots reach up after a forest fire clears away the established fauna. Destruction and creation exist in a cyclical and coterminous relationship.

Rather, life is in the contrasts. Love is in the contrasts. The East understood this best where they explicated this in terms of the individuation and greater harmony of Yin-Yang and Tao. Love could be viewed as a process towards a higher synthesis - from the thesis and antithesis.

Analysis aside, Freyja must indeed be smiling on me at the moment, as someone has crossed into my path who has made me stop. And notice.

I hesitate to speculate on possibilities, and indeed command myself to be empty, as in receptive: to cease to try, and see what becomes. If she should like me for who I am, then what will be, will be. Whether that be something, or nothing at all.

"Heaven and Earth go on forever.


Because they have no sense of self.

The Wise advance,
by holding back.

They lose themselves,
and find the Whole.

Fulfilment comes from selflessness."

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching (Timothy Freke trans.).

I could attempt to describe the enormous variety of qualities that make her so attractive, but sometimes what is finest is what is most simple and perhaps most obvious.

She radiates a tremendous warmth of spirit, with an incredible smile and a joyful personality that exudes compassion and kindness.

When I am lucky enough to be around her, not only do I feel positively uplifted, but I feel that she draws out of me the qualities that can make me a better man, a better me. Such an emotional reaction sometimes makes it difficult for me to communicate adequately with her.

I can only hope that I share in the same fashion whatever I have to give to her.

There does seem to be an incredible instinctual energy between us. I have made errors in judgement before, but I sense that this time it isn't purely just "platonic" on her part, and that I am reading the correct metaphorical page (or even book!). I hope so.

I have no idea as to how to proceed, but all I can do is to tentatively reach out and see whether she wishes to reciprocate in fashion.

She may possibly even be reading this... and if so, will probably know who she is.

How many words in life we speak, yet with so few do we actually dare to say what we truly mean and hope! Instead we circumscribe around the matter, and hope that what is left not communicated is silently understood.

Still, I feel one must always be a warrior with the heart, and that no matter how badly broken it has been before, on however many occasions, one must always be prepared to risk it anew lest the opportunity forever passes and one is only left with greater burden to bear. The greatest prizes always come with the greatest risks.

Labels are labels: sometimes the real truth is that beyond the labels you share a commonality of principles. The challenge of pluralism in our modern era is to find those common principles.

So, sometimes, the person for you, and the person for them, isn't the obvious one.

Challenge yourself, live, and grow.

Perhaps with the onset of spring, I feel a sense of a renewal of being, as I feel great psychical shifts and undercurrents that have been slowly forming over the last two years starting to take shape.

What is success? What is achievement? In the Western world, it is often equated with wealth. With material security. A car. A home. A lucrative job. A continual sense of completing goals. Comfort. Holidays.

Yet what about the qualities that cannot be measured? Does the rich stockbroker constantly on the go really know him or herself? Or is their identity merely a constructed and projected one through all his/her external achievements?

Perhaps they might.

But perhaps they don't.

I have come to realise that the last couple of years have been years of achievement for me, but not on anything that is either quantifiable, measurable, or even easily demonstrable. But I know it.

The logical corollary of this, is that this probably will, it would be nice to think, at some subsequent point in the future, find expression in something that is "externally" recognisable. But such an eventuality is not ultimately critical; it is merely a satisfying addition.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

The lament of hope

rendered mute by such infinite perfection
nature's radiance, to which a measure cannot be made
to which, in every inexhaustible detail
the world is made, and I become;

I would quite happily die a thousand times over
if for but one brief, plaintive moment,
I could live up to the ideal that shines from your eyes,
the compassion that glows from your smile

a moment where what cannot be said
cannot be made, cannot be shown
finds release, and becomes as to which
life before was merely a shadow at night
witnessing the sunrise of your soul

I bask, and see, everything that could ever be
reflected, carried aloft from time's grip
the eagle's claws, reminding that each precious day
I should hope to see your world more clearly
and make myself a better me

the tiny spiders crawl along the wall;
the droplet that slides down the cup;
a blackbird upon a branch;
the red copper veins in the autumn leaf;
with fresh eyes anew, through the prism of you

an illumination, a source, a spectral symphony
do you know the music you bring,
as each day your footsteps sing your approach?

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Search, change, grow.

Hope: so easily destroyed, and yet it is the engine of all creation.

Believing in the capability of change is the prerequisite for effecting it.

Too many directions? How many lives do you wish to lead?

Try. Change. Try. Why not. With each change and each you, you see a new world.

"The Tao gives birth to One. One gives birth to yin and yang. Yin and yang give birth to all things... The complete whole is the complete whole. So also is any part the complete whole... But forget about understanding and harmonising and making all things one. The universe is already a harmonious oneness; just realize it."
- Lao Tzu, from the Hua Hu Ching.

I guess I try to hard. I'm also my own most savage and harsh critic. Perhaps my Yin was always in the Search? Perhaps it was never lost at all. Perhaps the braver thing was and is to refuse to settle until you find the correct path.

Or perhaps, by settling, you find the correct path comes to you.

Perhaps the correct path is always the one you're on already: you just can't yet see the broader context.

It would be heartening to think that as externally unstructured as the last few years have been, that an internal reorganisation has been occurring, and that, when a critical mass has been reached, it will manifest itself in the correct way in my external life.

We all become guilty of labouring under fixed and usually wrong impressions of ourself. Have to courage to destroy them.

And if you're very lucky, you might even have someone there to help you do it. And what better definition of love, than to say, to remove that which is not?

And could it be that there is nothing more lovable than someone who continually strives to change by growing? Change is life. Death is stasis.

And yes, blog readers, do you detect something new? A slight, faint glimpse of optimism?

Possibly indeed.

I didn't use to be so heavy of heart in the past. Perhaps a lightening of heart will see joy furtively returning, as a bird tentatively returns to the garden after getting disturbed from its reverie by a clumsy neighbour.


Monday, 19 January 2009

On art and modernity...

The Giant Mountains (1830 - 1835) by Caspar David Friedrich, a 19th century German Romantic painter.

In commentary of this image, courtesy of Wikipedia, which quotes the art historian Linda Siegel: "Friedrich sought not just to explore the blissful enjoyment of a beautiful view, as in the classic conception, but rather to examine an instant of sublimity, a reunion with the spiritual self through the
contemplation of nature". Or Christopher John Murray, suggesting his paintings direct "the viewer's gaze towards their metaphysical dimension".

This quote to me surmises the essence of art. With technical proficiency taken to virtually unsurpassed levels long ago achieved by masters such as Rembrandt, and the camera making possible perfect imitation in the modern era, it is hardly surprising that art increasingly has had to undergo a radicalisation, or reinvention, through several tangential directions: abstraction, impressionism, surrealism and a certain rationalisation or "conceptual art", etc., it order to continue to make itself relevant.

For me, art - in the widest definition of the term, encompassing music, literature, any creative pursuit... - is about suggesting, or a "pointing-towards" the sublime, the transcendental. That which goes beyond the limitations and necessary constraints of everything that can be communicated rationally and by and through mere concepts. It is inherently non-empirical. It is most definitively not merely logical positivist.

So, at heart, I perhaps most closely identify with the Germanic Romantic movement (I use the term relatively loosely) across all levels: its many superlative achievements in fine art (such as pictured), its music; Rachmaninov, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms..., its literature (particularly philosophy); Kant, Schopanhauer, Nietzsche, Goethe, Schelling, Fichte, Heidegger...

Hence why, in many respects I grow increasingly anti-modernist. Of course nothing is truly polarised, and one must always admit the incredible range of achievements and works of art in the modern era.

But. Modern trends in all fields of art (as epitomised, perhaps, most clearly by the Turner prize), perhaps obviously as a result of our increasing trend towards secularism, scientific physicalism and hence materiality, rather than aspire towards the metaphysical "pointing towards" that most deeply characterises human experience at its most mature, and correspondingly, most sublime, rather aims at a "closing off" as an existentialist expression: it is often about firmly relocating human experience in the mundane, generic, and aesthetically empty plane, devoid of ambition or betterment. To compensate for the resultant absence of beauty - which we could describe as the harmonising and regulating principle that allows us to recognise a congruence between that which is the object of the "pointing towards" and that which most deeply comprises our innermost essence of Being - we therefore find, instead, socio-political commentary and a form of cultural reactionism designed to generate interest though provocation. Art used as a tool for exposing and challenging social, cultural or religious biases and prejudices.

Is this what we really aspire from art? Is this really what we consider art to be today? Do we really need further existential prodding to recognise the ugliness, banality, and emptiness so prevalent in the [post-]modern world?

Should we not still be striving towards, that which is beyond the ordinary and the mundane, through that which elevates, uplifts, or cathartically reveals that which cannot be clearly communicated through specific concepts?

If we pre-formulate - that is, contrive - a particular "intellectual conception" of what a piece of art is supposed to represent, and those representations are directed purely towards objects or concepts in the plain material sphere; in essence, if we make it a piece of empirical art; are we not then depriving it of the true qualities of that which is art?

Death (2003) by the Chapman Brothers. Is the above image art, or simply social/political/cultural commentary, or perhaps rather, an attempt at antagonism?

Or, under the guise of an attempt at the type of "intellectual" art described previously, is The Lights Going On and Off, an empty room with lights repeatedly going on and off, another Turner prize winner, really contributing to the richness of our world?

Under modern definitions one would certain have to admit these examples as being "art". But is it good art? Does it have any quality?

Or rather, does it suggest that in the modern era we are simply moving towards banality and reactionist pseudo-intellectual posturing, a type of contrived culture; perhaps in recognition, of which no one wishes to admit, that the type of aesthetic genius that the world of antiquity provided in abundance across the globe across countless ages, is slowly disappearing, since virtually none have the necessary quality or skill to match it any more, or more importantly, even choose to strive towards it?

What does such modern art say about the current state of the world?

Well might Tamonten, Lord of the North, a deity from Japanese Buddhism, look down on the modern era, with great divine displeasure. And yet, perhaps, we might detect just a hint of a great sardonic mirth; for perhaps he recognised, and expected, such a degeneration.

And sometimes I cannot help but recognise the same look in myself! :-)

And we duly do look up to Tamoten, as we look up - in all senses of the term - in the work of this Edo era sculptor, an example of a great art.

Or perhaps, for example, such exquisite detail and symbolism from the bow of the Oseberg Viking ship:

Plentiful examples abound. This whole topic of thought for today's post was prompted by a splendid - that is, rare, since the opportunity for such quality of conversation face to face scarcely arises in my life - and very wide ranging conversation with a new friend at work today.

Her views on this subject are probably significantly different to mine (and I wouldn't presume to know at all what they are), but it was the fact that we had such a conversation that provided the inspiration for this blog entry.

And so, it seems only fitting, that I end with one of the photos she has taken of her art (since she herself is an artist), which, I am delighted to say, in my opinion, is both beautiful and most definitely has the necessary qualities to be considered real art, that does indeed on some level point towards the metaphysical - in this case, by evoking, perhaps indeed, even invoking, nature. Marvellous. :-)

Click on the link for her online Flickr gallery.

parquet (2006), by Amy Davies.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Navigating the hinterland of despair

Indyeah's comment on my last post made me realise I'd generalised too much based on circumstances from my own life.

The capability for unique or new memories and experiences is never a constant, nor a simple declining trend proportionate to age. Life always presents the possibility of change; the patterns you follow in day to day life can always, in theory, be drastically altered. Every life is different, and undergoes periods of relative stability and then of dynamic change.

Nevertheless, as a trend overall, life perhaps does tend to stagnate and become rather more static as you get older: for numerous reasons.

In my case, the somewhat cynical outlook was a reflection of the "outward" decline of my own life over the last five years. l wish I could say my life was full of joy; full of hope; full of energy; full of moments to remember. My inner world is rich because it has to be: it has to compensate for the prison that I have slowly slipped into in my material life.

I am still seeking the key. I have changed enormously over the last number of years - perhaps even more so than the "formative" teenage years to early adulthood. Yet I still wander aimlessly[1].

The ultra brief history? Went to University. Studied Computer Science. Met my [ex]-girlfriend (who I eventually ended up living with for six years). In the third and final year of University, after flying through the degree for the first two years, everything fell apart. The reasons are extremely complex, very wide ranging, and I am still trying to comprehend them all even today, six years later.

Suffice to say, the person towards the end of the degree was nothing like the person who had decided to embark on it.

Since then, I've spasmodically contemplated a near endless list of possible careers, with no success. Signed up to cooking school to train to be a chef. Ultimately decided against it (after already having paid a deposit). Spent a couple of years in retail. Decided to train to become a personal trainer and sports massage therapist. Got qualified. Briefly worked for a gym and realised that it wasn't me.

Since then, just back in retail, just barely paying the bills.

I just don't know what I want to do. Where I want to go. I have ideas about the sort of life I'd like to live, but no idea what career to do to support it. My thoughts in this area are intensely volatile; they vary drastically day to day.

Books and music are mostly all that I have to keep me going. I cannot remember, in all honesty, what it is like to be generally and genuinely happy any more. It has been that long. I mean happy as in a overall state of well-being, as in a generalised notion that "life is reasonably good". Happiness for me only comes in brief moments, punctuating a backdrop that feels bleak and largely hopeless. I realise that happiness is probably not a wise "goal" for life, and perhaps should not be regarded as the purpose of live. But regardless of the overarching goal, you nevertheless want a life where the predominant emotions are not those of unhappiness, frustration, sadness.

I barely earn enough to pay my bills; I have a career development loan from my personal training course that will still take me another three years to pay off; I have well over £10k+ in student debt from university (which, ironically, I won't ever have to pay off any time soon since I earn so far below the repayment threshold); I don't have a car. I am, in several senses, quite literally trapped. Without a car it is very difficult to get out into the wilds; public transport mainly just takes you to towns and cities (as you'd expect), and is expensive - cities are expensive. In real life I have met very few people at all that I can "connect" with. 

I spend my days off alone, in my dream world, reading books, listening to music, drinking tea.

Life has the potential for so much... and yet I feel myself rotting away. I have no one and I feel that I am being denied the type of human experiences that one cherishes as part of a complete human existence: companionship, love, sex. A future. Hope. Change.

For I realise that I am ultimately the source of my downfall. I'm average looking and earn little money. But most significantly at all: I am a man without a purpose. Without direction. Nothing could possibly be more unattractive to a woman than this aspect. My Yin has gone. Each year seems more or less identical to the next; only briefer.

I look and hope for change, and am open for it: but I seem to lack the capacity for effecting it. I am master of my own destiny, yet I know not where to go, what to do, how to do it. I have expended vast amounts of effort and energy searching myself, looking for the answer.

Yet, despite years of trying, it has so far been fruitless. I look down upon myself: I dishonour myself. I utterly waste all my talents and capabilities; I disperse myself aimlessly without goals.

I feel profoundly low in energy of late. Days off are spent in quiet reflection, almost as if I have accepted defeat, the death of myself. A cloud of depression hangs around me. I live almost in a state of resignation. No one would really know, of course[2]: I go to work, I smile, I'm fine.

But not really.

I walk into the park, sit on the bench, marvel at the beauty of the sky; the sound of the trees whispering in the wind; the warming glow of a low sun in the winter.

I watch all the couples walk past, hand in hand, laughing, smiling, sharing a thousand tiny details: I watch and I wonder, why can't that ever be me?    

And then I feel pathetic. Pathetic, and denied any opponent to allow me to conquer myself as much as them: For how does one acheive victory in such material, vapid times? Where shall I find my honour?

I write this blog to fight defeat: I write this blog to make some sort of challenge.

For one thing is certain. Life is a struggle, and all you can do is keep going.

[1] Hence the blog title. Sleipnir was Odin's magical eight legged steed, not merely a horse, but his gateway to the different spiritual realms. Symbolically, you could say, Sleipnir represented Odin's capability to transform and operate his life across all levels - material and spiritual - therefore, Sleipnir could never be a mere ordinary four legged horse. I am looking for a Sleipnir within myself to transform and ultimately free myself from myself*.

*Again, much as Odin sacrificed himself to himself, on the world tree Yggdrasil to gain wisdom (and knowledge of the runes, amongst other things). So, somehow or other, I need to frame a similar "rite of passage", of self-sacrifice, to emerge, hopefully, with clarity on where to go.

[2] Obviously anyone truly emotionally/spiritually perceptive - i.e. usually a woman, since generally their power of empathy and overall emotional receptivity is superior to us men - probably realises almost immediately, even if I seem apparently fine and cheerful. It hardly surprising, therefore, on the very rare occasions when I've got even remotely close to "meeting someone", that they are usually very quickly put off and steer clear. I guess I can't blame them. 

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Love, sex, death and lost time

So tired this evening.

Your subjective experience of time definitely changes as you get older: for the general, shared wisdom is: as you get older, time seems to go faster.

The cynical, and obvious - and also, incidentally, materialistic - answer to this would be the following: as we get older, and accumulate an ever increasing store of experience, less and less events in daily life that are either new or remarkable. We build less new [unique] memories. Hence, correspondingly, what is reminiscent, what, if you will, forms the barometer of time, each year, has less new material. Each year becomes less distinctive and less substantial.

The less obvious and more profound observation is the increasing realisation that time is merely an inner perception: that as we decline and deteriorate in the material sphere, so we grow and expand into the spiritual sphere. The spiritual dimension is temporally unbounded.

For yet, without getting to bogged down in technical details, it is precisely our transcendental awareness of the infinite beyond time, the infinite beyond any finite form, that provides the rule whereby we are able to identify pattern, identify recurring forms, identify structures, and thus make the world intelligible to some degree.

So in my life, the years now are noticeably disappearing: I may only be 27, yet I now have a sense of the overall progression of my life. I have now got, in a way that I didn't really have, say 10, 5, or even 2-3 years ago, what Heidegger described as a "being towards death". This "being-towards-death" was part of dasein - being. In other words, death isn't merely some concept you acquire whereby you intellectually realise your existence is necessarily finite and bounded, and will end: rather, the very awareness of death - even if relatively faint, in the elixir of youth - is nevertheless something always present in your psyche, in your being: you carry death with you. This presents an existential gravity.

Sometimes, in depressive states, this awareness almost becomes a neurosis for me. It is not that I am afraid of death, any more or less than any other typical person. Rather, it is a sense of time "running out" as I strive to seek the sort of experiences that I feel are missing from my life. Nowhere is this conflict more acute than with thoughts over sex. And this is entirely logical: for death and sex are intrinsically linked, completing a great cycle of creation and destruction. 

If we view loving sexual union as the point at which one is most perfectly harmonised, and most acutely actualising the physical dimension, so necessarily, is the logical counterpart to this death, as the point of the dissolution of the physical into not-physical, that which is the greatest actualisation of the spiritual principle. And so they connect, and at their apex they become one. Hence, why, it is precisely at this moment that one has the least perception of time, to the point where it almost does not exist, briefly. Also, why, philosophically, the French describe the orgasm as "le petite mort".

Whilst sex is the most acute example of the above, it occurs in infinitely other forms, if not, ultimately, with quite the same intensity. That is: whatever absorbs you, takes you "out of time" because it connects you with that which is beyond-you; it is from this beyond that we ultimately derive everything that gives us meaning.

So, to transpose the above into more general terms, I can say: "running out of time" for me is the state of spending too much of my life merely "in time". I flatten my existence when I do not give my being the opportunity to go beyond itself. I deny it the chance to "reach up to the gods".

Hence why modern life is often so crushing: the life of a modern office worker, chained to a PC for 8 hours a day, constantly monitoring a regulated "time", performing an activity that for virtualy every second claims a certain ownership to their existence by continually denying their awareness the opportunity of internal freedom through its enforced repetitive low-level mental tasks. Mentally escaping with awareness, during the allotted work hours, is therefore hard.

Note that this type of enforced mental state is drastically different from the type of Zen like awareness that is available when doing a repetitive, almost automatic, inherently physical task - such as sweeping leaves away off a path. This is sufficiently instinctual that it allows a clean structure within which an awareness can grow; the office drone is more akin to being trapped in a vast thicket of thorny bushes.

Sleepiness, fatigue and exhaustion are also highly conducive to inducing this awareness (like this evening, as I write this).

I don't - fortunately - have a the life of an office drone. I have done work such as this before, and detested it.

Nevertheless, I do feel that time is increasingly running out in terms of finding moments of clear awareness. Perhaps most significantly, the lack of any special person in my day to day life means that I have no one to share in this awareness. This is also perhaps suggestive of the link between sex and companionship. The relationship between them is that, properly arranged, they both partake of a shared awareness, and that having that "someone" in your life, means, on a metaphorical but also somewhat literal level, that you are constantly effectively having sex: even when, for the vast majority of the actual measured time you are "together", you are physically not (and indeed, not even physically present in the same space), of course. For they are "there" even when they are not "there", and you can effectively make something permanent beyond any particular sense of time. It remains for your lifetime - present. Love could perhaps be described as an ongoing sense of shared always present awareness between two people. That, which necessarily, precisely requires no explication in words, for it is already understood.

On a lesser level, we continually seek connections with other humans to experience this shared awareness. Fortunately this can still happen (and often with just as much, sometimes greater, intensity) in a huge variety of indirect forms: the written word, music, poetry, a history. Or somebodys blog.

I suppose I am being rather obscure in all of the above, but I am trying to release a flood of thoughts into a stream of consciousness to get it down, rather than try to form an entirely coherent body of thought.

I am making my own "time" beyond time - so for a while, at least briefly, I am not running short.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

The 2009 New Year's meme quiz

Well, from reading Vesper's lovely blog, I feel I cannot but follow suit and propagate the quiz meme she's answered onto yet another blog, so here goes. I suppose, somewhat lazily, it provides a topic/framework for me to write on without having to go to the effort of constructing a fresh one for myself!

As she points out, blogging is a process of discovery (particularly of self) - made infinitely more interesting by the prospect of an audience, however abstract that might be (for, in reality and probably likelihood, your words may just disappear into the overflowing ether of cyberspace heeded by practically no one). But regardless, the very fact that someone might, can, or will read what you have written, does give it an extra element of intensity: for every writer wants someone to read them. It is perhaps, in the smallest sense, an opportunity for a slight grasp of immortality; for you will exist as long as there is someone to hear you, even from the grave.

For the written word presents something incredibly rare: the chance for truly authentic, uncoloured, direct communication. Unlike the blinds and social respectability that common conversation enforces.

We might be accountable, as she points out; but we are also, simultaneously, free; most significantly, probably freer than anywhere else to really communicate, unabashedly.

Anyway. Here goes with this little quiz thing.

1. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before?

Set up and maintain a blog with at least some level of consistency. Although I have previously created a blog, it was a short lived affair with no stability; after an initial explosion of inspiration, it disappeared as quickly as it arrived, as it died a death as I felt I had nothing to say at the time. It had zero durability. I have improved in terms of persistance and patience, awareness of myself.

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I had no specific resolutions that I recall. I lacked the required insight into my own situation to make any truly meaningful ones that had the necessary qualities of targeted specificity with ostensible goals. So they fell into generic, and hence empty resolutions, devoid of real elements under my direct control - i.e. they were simply platitudes of "find love", "earn more money", etc., etc.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?


4. Did anyone close to you die?

No. Not in a literal sense, anyway.

5. What countries did you visit?

None, sadly.

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?

Where to start! Home, love, money. Pretty fundamental things.

But I shall be honest, and quite basic: sex.

7. What date from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

No particular date. 2008 was a year of the realisation, in an experiential sense, of the fact that we give temporal definition to our lives through awareness. We connect with what we incorporate into our being; it is in this sense that the past is truly "alive" for us here and now, in this very moment. It is always available provided one is present and alert to the moment; present and alert to oneself; present and alert to being. Time is by equal measure both scarce and infinite.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Taking a stand on a long running personal family issue of mine, that required me to be both authentic to myself, and demonstrate strength of character. Since it concerned something that was not easy to tackle, but was necessary; and that required accepted and facing the consequences of.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Being unable to clearly take control of my life into a direction I wish it to go. Continually, as usual, vacillating between too many diluted goals and directions.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

None notable. Physical health at least, overall, has been superb. In fact I have practically not had a single cold all year; or indeed barely for the last two years.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Nothing particularly of note. Perhaps, as incredibly mundane as it is, a soft shell jacket that has proved itself highly useful across a wide range of typical British weather.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

My mother. Under difficult financial circumstances she has managed to separate from her partner, secure a wonderful home (despite limited funds) and build a new life for herself; as usual she single-handedly has moved, shifted and done all the work pretty much for herself.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

Appalled? No one in particular, since that would imply surprise, as if I realistically expected any different from the people concerned. Depressed? Again no one particular person, but perhaps the seeming spiritual barrenness and lack of Dasein (being) that the Western world, as a whole, seems to further lack, as in many ways it just continues to decline...
14. Where did most of your money go?

Rent, as usual. What a waste. But how an earth to afford my own home?

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Actually getting a date for the first time in 2 years, pathetic as that sounds. Unfortunately the excitement ultimately proved unfounded...

16. What song will always remind you of 2008?

John Dowland's In darkness let me dwell. Dowland was a late 16th century lutenist and Elizabethan era English composer. His music is profoundly beautiful, melancholic, and cathartic. The lyrics to his songs are poetry of the highest calibre with exquisite use of language.

I saw Emma Kirkby, a brilliant soprano, and Anthony Rooley, a superb lutenist perform a concert of his songs towards the end of last year.

The final song, appropriately enough, was the aformentioned one.

The ending, the final notes, as it drifts off into silence, were heavy with the intensity of a collective catharsis; a true pathos, timeless, and utterly human. It was a few seconds that will be forever engrained on my memory.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
- i. happier or sadder? Happier since at least I have a job I like. Sadder in the sense that life seems to be a continual battle from within. Sadder since I feel a greater sense of existential gravity.
- ii. thinner or fatter? Thinner, barely. I vary very little.
- iii. richer or poorer? Richer. Which is a highly relative term that merely means "slightly less in debt".

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

As related to number 6. Yes, sex. Any at all would have been a start!

Otherwise, hiking, walking, cycling, kiting; anything that involves being out in nature in beautiful surroundings and fresh air.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Staring into space feeling hopeless. Having periods of feeling energetically zapped in a depressive gloom.

20. Did you fall in love in 2008?

Categorically no. Unfortunately. Unfortunately. Sadly.

21. How many one-night stands?

As should be pretty clear from previous answers, necessarily precisely zero.

22. What was your favourite TV program?

Scarce few options. My favourite new program was probably Stephen Fry's documentary series covering his travels across America. Simon Schauma's history/documentary on the American political history/future.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

I don't have any particular person I direct hatred towards. Apart from anything else, it is an immense waste of energy. People I strongly dislike I tend to filter out, ignore, forget about, not engage and not choose to waste any energy over.

24. What was the best book you read?

Now this is an especially difficult question. Several choices. Probably Alain de Benoist's On Being A Pagan towards the end of the year.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Messaien's Vingt Regards sur l'enfant Jésus or Brahm's Ballades (and the rest of his solo piano output, for that matter).

26. What did you want and get?

iRex iLiad electronic book (e-ink) reader. It is superb, though it still hasn't torn me away from paper books, if you'd excuse the pun!

27. What did you want and not get?

All the things that really matter. Love. Sex. A proper home. A true sense of direction in a specific career sense.
28. What were your favourite films of this year?

A very lean year for films for me; I've barely been to the cinema and have seen few new films. In fact I watched fewer films that practically ever before. I suppose I haven't felt like going and renting new DVDs for watching just by my lonesome.

At the risk of getting laughed at: Rambo. I found the grittyness and almost existentialist sense of grimness, violence, and inability of fundamental human change (collectively) quite cathartic.  I also enjoyed the Pursuit Of Happiness, right at the end of the year. 

My true love is world cinema, and disappointingly (with myself, as much as anything) did not watch anything new in this regard.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

27 rotations around Sol. Absolutely nothing. It was day of disappointment, and above all, isolation.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Finding someone to really connect with in person. And by connect, I certainly don't mean just sex (although that could certainly have featured!), since I just mean in general with a person of either sex.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?

Fashion concept? I am not one for fashion, particularly. Goal was well tapered, form fitting clothes rather than baggy, shapeless garments that just hang of me.

32. What kept you sane?

The usual: books. Music. Conversation, communication, recognition with a very small number of online contacts and a few people important to me in real life.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

No idea. Have no interest in celebrities or public figures really.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

I cannot recall a specific issue. I suppose I have been insular and measuring things against less obviously worldly measures.

35. Whom did you miss?

My ex, from time to time. I hope to visit her in her new home in 2009.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

Unquestionably a particular female friend I have made over Facebook who is resident in Colorado Springs. Her quirky reflections on life and musings on the peculiarities of the place she lives in and people that populate it have cheered me up on numerous occasions. She's also one of the few rare people I feel I can at least on some level identify with.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008:

Life is a continual struggle: this is something learnt not just as something merely theoretical (for that is both obvious and something you learn very young), but from the very depths of my being. The innate growing sense of one's own mortality (not that I am old by any stretch; simply that unlike a teenager, you don't have a sense that you will almost "live forever", since death seems like such an abstract concept) is what makes the awareness more acute.

On the the sense that it is only in the recent couple of years that I am starting to form a true comprehension as to who I really am. This is a gradual process of awakening.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

From John Dowland's In darkness let me dwell

"In darkness let me dwell; the ground shall sorrow be,
The roof despair, to bar all cheerful light from me;
The walls of marble black, that moist'ned still shall weep;
My music, hellish jarring sounds, to banish friendly sleep.
Thus, wedded to my woes, and bedded in my tomb,
O let me dying live, till death doth come, till death doth come.

In darkness let me dwell"

Sad, bleak; but beautiful in its pathos and intensity.