Changes.

At the end of the 1960s, and the mystical hippie dawning of the Aquarius age, we were all Still searching for meaning.

The big four philosophers when I was 18 were Hesse, Vonnegut, Brautigan and Tolkien.

Of course I read other influential writers, but at the time I really believed everything I needed to know about being a decent human being was in the works of those four, though it took me another 50 years to really begin to understand why.

There was another influential book I encountered.

In the course of exploring the world I came upon the I Ching. inevitably. It had a great deal of credibility amongst the hippies of my generation. Of course I looked into it. I still have, in my lock-up in New Zealand, a beautiful translation from Chinese through German to English, of the I Ching by Richard Wilhelm.

Yarrow sticks were hard to come by where I grew up, but I was a numismatist, and had in my collection several of those fascinating old Chinese coins with square holes. It seemed appropriate to use them. Having designated which side was heads and which was tails, I had a culturally acceptable method of obtaining a randomly generated hexagram, in accordance with the instructions accompanying the book.

My youthful, hopeful self was quite surprised to find how seemingly accurate and appropriate was the advice I gleaned from the wise words of the Tao. The last remnants of my Roman Catholic superstition we’re slowly fading at the time (now only the guilt remains) and I could possibly have easily fallen into the woo mentally of believing some spiritual power, something beyond myself, was guiding me, through the words of the book.

But I read something – I don’t recall exactly where – some scientific article, perhaps, that said our brains were hard-wired to look for patterns. We look for visual patterns, such as potentially threatening animal or human shapes hiding in the trees, and we look for patterns of events and try to make some sense, often wrong, of the coincidences and causality.

The evolutionary advantage of this pattern recognition behaviour is in the significance of the value of the false positive over the false negative.

If I see what looks like a lion lurking in the bushes, and run, the likelihood of staying alive is increased, whether it is a real or imagined lion. If I decide it’s a trick of the light, and ignore it, my chances of survival are decreased if I am wrong.

The same principle applies if we recognise a pattern of events that seem to coincide. Should it rain enough times after we ask nature politely for a shower to water the crop, we may come to believe that asking causes rain.

The downside of this, is that as there is, or was, an evolutionary advantage to being superstitious. We suffered from pareidolia. It became an affliction. We came to see those shapes and faces in the bark of trees, as beings, and ascribed to them powers and motives. We recognised patterns of events, some like the celestial movements, or the seasons, quite real. Then some smart arse recognised the patterns of our own behaviour, saw an opportunity for power and put himself forward as an intermediary between the common people and the spiritual world. And we got religion.

But I digress. I was speaking of the I Ching. I recognised that my brain was looking for patterns in the events of my own life. I was taking the words from an ancient book written in Chinese, translate first to German then to English, and gleaning valuable meaning from them. But this was not superstition. The advice the book was giving me was good. Why? Because it was written in such a way that it was inevitable that the reader would apply the general advice in such a way that it would most benefit him. Because the Tau was the way of the upright, it had to be good advice. For a few formative years the I Ching helped me make decisions that brought me to where I am now. I have few regrets.

These musings were inspired by coming upon this following little piece in one of the philosophical emails that turn up in my in-box from time to time.

After a few more hours swimming up and down the Bribie Island pool, I may have more to write on the subject.

The following is borrowed from Psychology Today.

Impact of the I Ching on Carl G. Jung & its implications

Jung, Taoist psychology, and cross-cultural communications

Posted Mar 01, 2017 

Although research has examined how world cultures (e.g., independent vs. interdependent ones) each uniquely shaped psychological experiences, few investigations focus on how cultures influence one another in the psychological domains. This issue is important, because cross-cultural information and knowledge exchange, contacts, and influences, though moderate in the past, have transformed all cultures, including the field of psychology. For example, Taoist psychology is one of the main cultural inspirations for Jungian psychology.

In May 1930, Jung gave the Eulogy at a memorial service in Munich for Richard Wilhelm. Jung integrated the Eastern philosophy into his principles of psychotherapy and human psyche through his study of Richard Wilhelm’s translations of I Ching (The Book of Changes), The Secret of the Golden Flower, and their frequent interactions that lasted from the early 1920’s until Wilhelm’s death in 1930 (Goulding, 2015; Karcher, 1999; Stein, 2005).

Jung said that Wilhelm “inoculated us with the living germ of the Chinese spirit and we found ourselves partaking of the spirit of the East as we experience the living power of the I Ching. It is capable of working a profound transformation of our thought.” Jung said that Wilhelm’s work was of such immense importance to him because it confirmed what he had been seeking in his efforts to alleviate the psychic suffering of Europeans. The book was both a carrier of human experience and a door to the energy of the archetypes. “I heard from him in clear language the things I had dimly divined in the confusion of the European subconscious. I received more from him than from any other man” (cited in Karcher, 1999; also see Goulding, 2015; Stein, 2005).

Jung expressed his deep gratitude for what he received from Wilhelm, because through his translations and teaching, Taoist psychology influenced Jung’s theoretical frameworks by facilitating the formation of his chief conceptions: synchronicity and individuation, in addition to confirming his views about the unconscious and nonlinear or circular psychological development for adult (Goulding, 2015; Karcher, 1999; Stein, 2005).

Jung’s comprehension of Tao is much deeper than the conventional translation “the way.” As he commented, Tao is the interaction between the mind and reality. The essential Taoist idea in I Ching suggests that all of the ingredients make up the observed moment. Understanding human experiences involves recognizing a special interdependence of objective events among themselves, as well as with the subjective (psychic) states of the observer or observers (Jung, 1967). In other words, according to I Ching, psychological experiences are determined by the interaction of the mind, time, space, situations, and action or non-action. The mind and reality interaction, rather than being an isolated or independent event, symbolically represents the person’s dialogue with a broad reality transcending a specific moment and space. It is the interactions that serve as the parameter for deciphering psychological experiences.

In short, Jung’s achievements in integrating the East and West demonstrate that psychological phenomena and principles are both cultural and universal.

References:

Goulding, J. (2015). The forgotten Frankfurt school: Richard Wilhelm’s China Institute. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 41:1-2 (March–June 2014) 170–186

Jung, C. G. (1967). Foreword. In The I Ching or Book of changes (C. F. Baynes, Trans.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Karcher, S. (1999). Jung, the Tao and the Classic of Change. Journal of Religion and Health, 38, 287-304.

Stein, M. (2005). Some reflections on the influence of Chinese thought on Jung and his  psychological theory. The Journal of Analytical Psychology, 50(2), 209-222. doi:10.1111/j.0021-8774.2005.00524

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Living Alone.

THE MORE LOVING ONE

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well

That, for all they care, I can go to hell,

But on earth indifference is the least

We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn

With a passion for us we could not return?

If equal affection cannot be,

Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am

Of stars that do not give a damn,

I cannot, now I see them, say

I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,

I should learn to look at an empty sky

And feel its total dark sublime,

Though this might take me a little time.

By W.H. Auden

Cragh

The Crow was reading poems aloud

From an ancient vellum manuscript

I strained to hear but could not parse,

Because of his strange accent, the words

– Which all sounded like “cragh!” –

I figured he was Irish.

Vai

The video is out.

You can buy it here or here on line, or ask your local dealer to get it for you.

I think you should.

Vai is a “portmanteau” film made by a group of female Pacific filmmakers, filmed on seven Pacific islands, and In New Zealand. It is about the journey of empowerment through culture over the lifetime of one woman, Vai. The theme of water, it’s ubiquity, it’s power, spiritual significance, connectivity and adaptability is a metaphor throughout the movie for the feminine and for the feminist principle.

Vai

One review includes this comment:

The filmmakers developed the script together but nevertheless, the consistency in their interpretation of her character is remarkable. Fierce, stubborn, passionate and strongly connected to her environment wherever she is, she (Vai) pushes at the limits of what women are expected to be at the same time as embodying the traditional feminine values of the region.

There is another very good review here.

Another here. So far I’ve only found very positive reviews.

One of my daughters is one of the directors, so you might expect me to say that her segment was among the best parts of the film, but I am not alone in that opinion. I have heard that said and seen it written by others.

For anyone not familiar with the diversity of cultures around the Pacific, the movie may seem a little bewildering at times because there are not too many specifically scripted explanations of the significance of what is happening in a cultural context. It is all decipherable in context, however, and the one thing viewers need to be aware of is that these cultural differences exist.

One importantly positive aspect is that despite the film being in segments that relate the experiences of the lead character (whose name varies slightly but always translates as “water” in the language used) and despite the character being portrayed by eight different actors of different cultures and different ages, it is easy to follow who she is each time.

What impressed me most is how beautifully this film was shot, with some exquisite camera work and direction, especially considering the limited budget and even more limited time available for rehearsal and shooting. More than one promising young director was involved in making this movie. And some very promising young first time actors also.

Eight and a half stars out of ten, seven if you discount the bit my daughter is responsible for.

🙂

Mach the Dog

My best ever non-human friend. And a better friend than many humans I’ve known.

Ob. Ch. Rolynj Illusion, CDX, UD. Known as Mach the Dog. He was going for TD when the hip dysplasia made him retire.

Originally, when we got him from the breeder, he was nicknamed Max. But after his first night at home, whining and fretting, I renamed him Mac. Because “Macbeth has murdered sleep” (Shakespearean reference). Later, when he had settled down and I saw how quick he was, I renamed him again. Mach. The speed of sound. He did not find his name changes confusing.

Mach went where I went. Love me, love my dog. He sailed with me on my catamaran and swam with me when I snorkelled. We walked the bush and beaches where dogs were permitted. He went to work with me on days I was out and about.

He was very well trained, something I consider one of my great personal achievements, because when I got him I discovered he had a severe character flaw; his temperament. It took a huge amount of patience and encouragement to overcome his timidity. He became a great swimmer eventually, though the first time I had to throw him into the Tutaekuri river.

I still remember the great breakthrough we had when he overcame his fears to fetch something for me the first time, and the first time he stayed in competition without panicking at the distractions of the judges. There was a special moment when I could see he had finally figured out what it was I wanted from him and he was suddenly enthusiastic about anything I wanted him to do. Pretty soon he was thinking for himself.

I remember the first time I was threatened by a Napier citizen after I had spoken to him about desisting from a nuisance he was committing. The ratepayer became irate. He had scarcely raised his voice and his hand to me when Mach was out of my Landrover and growling and bristling beside me. I was so proud of him at that moment. probably more so than when he finally won an obedience championship, or gained the letters after his name. He was an enthusiastic participant in obedience, utility and tracking trials, but his hips finally prevented him from completing the agility sections.

I left him in the care of friends, to whom I had also rented my house, for the time I was in Solomon Islands, and I was so glad to see him when I returned.

The last two years of his life he was self-appointed guardian of my first daughter and rarely left her alone. He came to find us if she awoke, needed changing, or cried. I had to remonstrate with him for trying to climb into her cot with her. He never needed telling twice. I believe he had more affection for her than for me. She was two and he was only 11 when he passed on 29 years ago.

I’ve had a few dogs since, and I loved them all, but there was none like Mach.

Snippet.

I sit quietly, regarding the empty compartments of the weekly pill organiser.

Time to refill it. It is Saturday again.

These pills, ten and a half taken every morning and five every evening – plus an iron supplement taken every second day (because it causes constipation), keep me going.

Metaphorically – or not – they replace love, family, professional pride, enthusiasm for sport and hobby, pets, wildlife, aquaria and frog ponds. Things that kept me going.

Again. It is empty again.

I look into the compartments, each a morning or an afternoon, and try to recall how it was I filled them. How I took again from them the medicine of each hour, and used it.

Medications

1973

Now here is a blast from the past. An old school friend just sent me this photo of me and him about to use our new SCUBA gear for the first time. So very long ago. it must have been about 1973. I know because the short speargun I’m holding was a 21st birthday gift from Glenn.

Until I was 18 surfing was the weekend sport, but then we discovered snorkelling. It didn’t take long before we ventured into SCUBA, took the training and became certified so we could rent the gear.

Eventually we could afford our own, and here we are, about to try it out for the first time.

That’s me on the left, with the mo and the sturdy legs.