Parsing Strangers

For some odd reason today I was reminded of a young nephew by marriage in Solomon Islands. For a long time I knew him as Lotion, which admittedly is an odd name. That’s what everyone called him and that’s what he answered to.

I imagined it must be a nickname and he probably earned it when he was young after an unseemly spill of insect repellent lotion or some similar story. That story pleased me because he was a pleasant young man and I could imagine him as a really cute funny toddler. All the toddlers I met in the villages were totally adorable. Pampered and loved, but somehow never spoilt, they were eager little puppies, keen to please and help in any way they could. They never complained if given a grown up task to do and would labour away while everyone laughed lovingly at their struggle.

But I digress.

One day I had to help Lotion fill out a form for school. He had to write his name and for the first time I saw it written in English. Lawson.

“So thats how you spell your name”I said.

“Yes, L A W S O N. Lotion”.

“In English we say that ‘Lawson'”

“Yes, that’s right, “Lotion”.

It didn’t matter how I pronounced it, Lotion heard his name. That was an insight to me, but I am still trying to figure out to what.

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Obituary

Mourners gather in Iceland on Sunday to commemorate the loss of Okjokull, which has died at the age of about 700. 

The glacier was officially declared dead in 2014 when it was no longer thick enough to move. 

What once was glacier has been reduced to a small patch of ice atop a volcano.

Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir, environment minister Gudmundur Ingi Gudbrandsson and former Irish president Mary Robinson will all take part in the ceremony.

After opening remarks by Ms Jakobsdottir, mourners will walk up the volcano northeast of the capital Reykjavik to lay a plaque which carries a letter to the future. 

“Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as glacier,” it reads. 

“In the next 200 years all our main glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. 

“Only you know if we did it.”

The dedication, written by Icelandic author Andri Snaer Magnason, ends with the date of the ceremony and the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air globally – 415 parts per million (ppm).

Read more here:

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-49345912

Raglan Road.

On Raglan Road on an Autumn Day,
I saw her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare
That I may one day rue.
I saw the danger, yet I walked
Along the enchanted way
And I said let grief be a falling leaf
At the dawning of the day.

On Grafton Street in November,
We tripped lightly along the ledge
Of a deep ravine where can be seen
The worst of passions pledged.
The Queen of Hearts still baking tarts
And I not making hay,
Well I loved too much; by such, by such
Is happiness thrown away.

I gave her the gifts of the mind.
I gave her the secret sign
That’s known to the artists who have
Known true Gods of Sound and Time.
With word and tint I did not stint.
I gave her reams of poems to say
With her own dark hair and her own name there
Like the clouds over fields of May.

On a quiet street where old ghosts meet,
I see her walking now
Away from me, So hurriedly.
My reason must allow,
For I have loved, not as I should,
A creature made of clay.
When the angel woos the clay, he’ll lose
His wings at the dawn of the day.

Paddy Moloney / Patrick Kavanagh / Van Morrison

 © BMG Rights Management

Climate Change Threatens the World’s Food Supply, United Nations Warns

Land and water resources around the globe are being exploited at “unprecedented rates,” a new United Nations report warns, threatening the ability of humanity to feed itself.

The report warns that climate change will exacerbate the dangers, as extreme weather threatens to disrupt and shrink the global food supply.

Food shortages could also increase a flow of immigration that is already redefining politics in North America, Europe and other regions. From 2010 to 2015, the number of migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras who traveled to the U.S. increased fivefold, coinciding with an unusually dry period that left many without enough food.

The world’s land and water resources are being exploited at “unprecedented rates,” a new United Nations report warns, which combined with climate change is putting dire pressure on the ability of humanity to feed itself.

The report, prepared by more than 100 experts from 52 countries and released in summary form in Geneva on Thursday, found that the window to address the threat is closing rapidly. A half-billion people already live in places turning into desert, and soil is being lost between 10 and 100 times faster than it is forming, according to the report.

Wisdom

Wisdom

When I have ceased to break my wings 
Against the faultiness of things, 
And learned that compromises wait 
Behind each hardly opened gate, 
When I can look Life in the eyes, 
Grown calm and very coldly wise, 
Life will have given me the Truth, 
And taken in exchange — my youth.

 Sara Teasdale, Love Songs)

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

So, What Did You do While the World was Ending?

Just another day, really. I had the main pool to myself for almost an hour, which is good because I got lane one, with the steps. Starting early pays.

I swam for an hour and a quarter. In the first quarter hour I managed eight lengths of breast stroke in just over sixteen minutes. After that I settled down to a more easily maintained six lengths in around fourteen minutes. Every sixth length I switched to back stroke. I have learned that backstroke is much easier, much more efficient, but also burns much less energy. I want to burn energy.

I also learned it uses completely different muscles, or so it seems. I don’t get the lactic burn and could probably cruise all day doing it. So making every sixth length back stroke gave me a wee break from the building ache, and enough time to fill out the rest of each quarter-hour with some water-assisted step-ups on the pool steps, and some water-assisted chin-ups on the rail of the starting block.

Efficient.

There’s time to muse when swimming, I muse a lot.

It seemed the oddest form of synchronicity to find later the Guardian’s First Dog on the Moon cartoon today covered exactly what I was musing about. Hence my previous post. It should be depressing, but I am way past that. I really have reached a stage in which my philosophy is “Shit Happens, It Doesn’t Matter”.

Also, whilst swimming on my back and looking unfocused up at an overcast sky, I saw just how many floaters I have in my eyeballs. I named the biggest one Eric.

One of my earliest memories is of seeing floaters in my eyes at bedtime and trying to tell my mother what I saw. I must have been four or so. I thought there was snow in my bedroom. She thought I was silly and told me to go to sleep.

I then moved to the indoor therapy pool. I had that completely to myself. The water, at 33C seemed very hot at first, after the cooling swim and a wet walk through a chilly breeze. Half an hour of side stepping, squats and leg stretches and assorted joint mobility exercises a hot shower and shampoo, then off to Aldi to hunt for a kitchen seive. They didn’t have one. When it comes to stuff like that Aldi can be hit and miss.

What they do have is a really good range of good quality foods Fresh meat and really fresh produce at astonishingly good prices. Today for the first time I spent a while just looking around at what they stock. There seems very little need to shop elsewhere for staples or luxury foods.

Almost seems a shame to discover this just as the world is ending.