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)

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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

It Doesn’t Really Matter Any More

I’m resigned to a lot of things, many of which I could never come to terms with before.

It has been hard letting things go. Letting people go.

But when the world as I know it is coming to an end,

and those who can do something about it won’t;

Nothing really matters.

MSG

Monosodium Glutamate, or MSG, has had a bad rap. There is no such thing as Chinese Restaurant Syndrome. No one has ever been able to reproduce it, or to explain a physiological mechanism for it. People who claim to be allergic to MSG, putting it plainly, aren’t. If they were they’d be allergic to mushrooms, soy sauce, Parmesan cheese AND tomatoes. All of these are naturally rich in glutamate. There is no Italian Restaurant Syndrome either. Obviously.

I have known this for a long time, and I’ve never been concerned about whether there was MSG in my food. These days however, there rarely is, all because of a myth. I can’t even find it in a supermarket any more, though I have tracked it down on line. So someone is still using it.

This became of interest, even of importance to me when my friend Bob commented on my post in which I talked about reducing my sodium intake for the sake of my failing kidneys. A quick check with a reputable source of scientific information confirmed that, as Bob had suggested, MSG will enhance the flavour of food significantly better than salt while contributing to the diet only 40% of the sodium that salt does.

Worth knowing. It may well be that salt is not the bad guy it is made out to be either, when it comes to blood pressure and heart attacks. A study a few years ago suggested that people tend to self regulate their salt intake, and though its consumption is higher in some societies than others, there is not much correlation between sodium intake and BP and heart conditions.

Be that as it may, it IS a known factor in chronic kidney disease.

While on the subject of food myths, let’s pop a few others;

Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day. This belief was generated by Mr Kellog, who wanted young men to stop wanking.

There is nothing scary or dangerous about GMOs. All our fruit and vegetables as well as our livestock are genetically modified. That is what evolution is. Modern science has just found a way to speed up the process and guide its direction.

There’s no such thing as a superfood. No discussion necessary. Good food is the basis of good health, it is not medicine. Though some foods have medicinal properties, they are not medicines because there is no way to know or standardise the concentration of active ingredient without processing and analysis. This is why most medicines and supplements are synthesised rather than extracted.

The body cannot distinguish between synthetic or natural substances. They are chemically identical and metabolised in exactly the same way. This means that the vitamin C in Berocca is as good as what is in an orange.

This principle also means there is no “good” sugar and no “bad” sugar. No “natural”or “organic” sugar. There is just sugar. The only bad thing about sugar is in the amount eaten. The poison is in the dose. Any diabetic knows that starch is metabolised into sugars. The important factor here is the rate of conversion, which is why complex carbohydrates are better for you.

Fats and oils, however, are chemically different, and are metabolised differently. So there are good fats and bad fats.

Lastly, and I speak from both expertise and experience, the only diet that ever works for weight loss is one in which the amount of energy, measured in Calories or kilojoules, that is taken in by way of food and drink, is exceeded by the energy burned in normal metabolism, activities and exercise. To gain weight, reverse the balance of the equation.

A healthy diet is one that contains all the components, in the proper overall proportion, for maintaining a healthy metabolism; protein, fat, fuel in the form of carbohydrate and sugar, vitamins and minerals. And don’t forget fibre to keep it all moving, and water!

The Power of Words.

I well understand the power of words. I understand their power to hurt and to soothe.

I know the not-so-subtle difference In meaning and context, for example between Women Being Raped, and Men Raping Women.

Ive been trained in forensic interview techniques. I’ve been lied to, insulted and cursed by the best, in several languages. When this happens, I do almost the same thing I do if I have somehow got myself into a life-threatening or dangerous situation. (I do that now and then. It is part of my nature to see how far I can go).

When I’m insulted, I become calm and analytical. I try to figure out if I am in the wrong, if I deserve the criticism, or whether it is a defence/offence mechanism.

So I was taken aback recently when, after posting an old photo of myself on my bike at Katanning airfield, one of my friends made the comment “Yobbo”.

It seems reasonable enough, one would think. I could be mistaken for a yob.

The comment was surely intended in the humorous vein of friendly joshing we all indulge in. I am sure of it.

So.

I don’t know why I’m so insulted by that comment. Maybe the word is psychologically loaded in my subconscious. Call me a larrikin or a yahoo and I’d probably smile and agree. But yobbo hits a raw nerve somehow. Is there something in my youth or childhood to explain this feeling?

I can’t recall. I have thought about it for a day and still my first instinct is to say “go fuck yourself” or delete the comment. Why? I’m 67 years old, I’ve been successful in at least some of my fields of endeavour, I’ve worked in 7 countries, speak three languages, can say basic phrases or at least “thank you”, “may I have”, and “where is … ?” in another 10. I understand the power of words. Where does this one gain its power over my subconscious?

This is most interesting. It’s like listening to a song that makes you cry, even though it is not the sort you might think would do that. There’s a trigger I don’t recall. Fascinating.

So be aware. “Yobbo”, for some reason I cannot explain is a grave insult to me. As bad as, or even worse than, “climate change denier” , “antivaxxer”, or “creationist”.

Yes. There are songs that make me cry.

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

Jungle Urban Legend

I came upon a short article about the “urban myth” of the lost, or relic, Japanese soldier who fought on alone long after the end of WWI.

It seems the story’s spread was due more to an episode of Gilligan’s Island than to the facts about Lt Onoda, who was finally found and repatriated from the Philippines in 1974.

In 1984 I was building small village water supplies in Western Province of Solomon Islands. In the jungle on the island of Vella Lavella I found plasticised paper notes in Japanese.

Come Home. The War is Over.

These had been dropped a few years before to convince one such soldier, believed at the time to be on Vella Lavella, to surrender himself.    
It turned out there had been a local legend of a lost soldier on the island, but I could not establish for certain how long the story had existed 
My enquiries and conversations with local people and expats who had lived there for a long time finally led me to believe that the claims of his existence may have been made up, probably after the news of Lt Onoda being found in the Philippines.  Someone saw the business opportunity, perhaps.
What is certainly true is that quite a lot of money was spent locally hiring guides for, and accommodating  search parties to look for the lost soldier and for the airdrops of leaflets that were made.
No one was ever found.  Nor, as far as I am aware was any evidence of his existence.