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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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.

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.

Circumnavigation

Writing my short piece of blank verse about my expedition into Mayor Island reminded me of another small odyssey undertaken in the same month. I was camped in South-east Bay for a couple of months. I had originally gone there with Glenn for a fortnight but I was having such a good time I stayed on after he went home. I was getting on right well with some of the other campers in my own age group, though I don’t recall their names now. We dived and fished together, shared meals, and drank at the big game fishing club where we also traded crayfish for supplies. The demand was high and the payments in kind were generous.

It was mainly through that illegal activity I was able to stay on camping so long, though at one point when the weather was bad and I couldn’t fish or dive, I was down to half a bag of onions and a loaf of mouldy bread. It was then I learned that if I trimmed off the mouldy crust and the black fruiting bodies of the mould, I could fry the bread in butter and it tasted like Madeira cake, because the hyphae of the fungus had grown through the bread and turned a lot of the starch to sugar. Fried bread and onions. Great sustenance.

I was even recruited as deckhand on a charter boat for a couple of days. I worked for food. The skipper loaned me a dinghy for a day. I took it out to the eastern side of the island where I caught the largest snapper I had ever seen. I took it back to the big game club and they weighed it for me. It was, as I recall somewhat over thirty pounds in weight. There was much excitement and the manager went off to consult the books (no internet back then).

It turned out I had caught a pinfish. A new weight record. Unfortunately as I was not a member of any fishing club it did not count. No pin. No record. But for a time I unofficially held a record. I heard later next year that a larger fish had been caught. The internet tells me that the latest record holder is Kiwi angler Neil Gorringe who caught a 32.5lb (14.75kg) snapper on 8kg line in 2016.

The biggest adventure was a snorkeling morning that turned into a bit of an odyssey. Five of us set out from western bay and at some point, far from where we had entered the water, we wondered how far we had come. I decided it was far enough to have go at continuing all the way around the island. The others were not so keen. In the end, being young and foolish, I decided to go it alone. The others turned back.

I was fit, I had flippers. I knew I could make it, though I had no real idea how far I had to swim (turns out to be just over 11 km).

It was an adventure. I experienced a lot of firsts on that trip and logged a lot of new sightings in the logbook I kept in those days. Particularly on the ocean side of the island, where the cliffs went deep below the surface, there were species I hadn’t yet encountered. Morays, congers, sharks, grouper. Most notably an electric ray. One of about 14 electric ray species in the world, Torpedo fairchildi, is found only in New Zealand. Exciting.

I was in the water seven hours or so, without a wetsuit, and even though the water was warm I was pretty drained by the time I got back to camp. The others said they had been about to send out a search party. As I said, I was young and stupid then. Now I’m old and stupid because I’d probably try it again. The sea is still my spiritual home.

Now that I think about it, I did not really complete a circumnavigation after all. I set out from Western bay and emerged in south east bay. I didn’t swim round the promontory between the two bays. I may have to go back, and do it again.

Home

Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the right place, the one true home, known or unknown, actual or visionary. A houseboat in Kashmir, a view down Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, a gray gothic farmhouse two stories high at the end of a red dog road in the Allegheny Mountains, a cabin on the shore of a blue lake in spruce and fir country, a greasy alley near the Hoboken waterfront, or even, possibly, for those of a less demanding sensibility, the world to be seen from a comfortable apartment high in the tender, velvety smog of Manhattan, Chicago, Paris, Tokyo, Rio or Rome — there’s no limit to the human capacity for the homing sentiment. Theologians, sky pilots, astronauts have even felt the appeal of home calling to them from up above, in the cold black outback of interstellar space.

Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire.

Where I am now does not feel like home. I hoped it would, but it doesn’t. It is the place where I currently live. I live in a caravan, which is an object. The caravan is in a park on Bribie Island, which is a location. Neither the domicile nor the location is home. I’m not even sure these days what, or where, home might be for me. Or even where it was.

Every place I’ve ever considered to be home has been taken from me or I have had to leave it behind. Every place I’ve been happy, I’ve had to abandon. As child I moved with my parents wherever their aspirations led. As a young man I followed employment opportunities and my own romantic hopes. For the last eleven years I’ve gone again where necessity sent me, albeit of my own free will. I have found the occasional Happy Place, where I can enjoy being alive and communing with the natural world in some positive heart-lightening way, but I have had no home in that time. No place where I could look around me and say “This is where I belong. This is where I shall stay”.

Looking back I realise I have been searching for such a place since I was a child exploring the hills and fields and streams of the Manawatu, and as a young man exploring the bush and beaches and under the seas around New Zealand

Also, of course, as I explored the possibilities of a shared life, relationships, offering and seeking love.

Home is more than a house, more than a place. It is people in familial and social relationships. Relationships which are enduring and settled. It turns out I’m not so good at maintaining relationships. Two failed marriages, other failed relationships, and very little constant contact or intercourse with family.

I’m not sure if this is caused by, or is what causes, depression.

Fortunately, or perhaps otherwise, I am comfortable and content in my own company. I don’t get lonely when I am alone. Even so, social interaction comes easily enough to me. I don’t have the difficulties that, for example, an autistic person might. I can be amusing, empathetic, and supportive. Caring. Nonetheless I cannot seem to get right the combination of interaction that will lead me to have constancy of companionship and the stability of location that feeling at home requires. Others move on. Or I must.

So here I am ageing, separated from friends and family, with my social interaction limited to a few short term acquaintances and virtual friends whom I no longer see in person or have never even met in the first place.

All I can do now is seek out a new Happy Place. One where I can stay. I have no idea what, or where it might be, though I have an inkling it must be somewhere on or near the sea. Most of my Happy Places have been. I find peace and contentment by the sea, or by water, more than anywhere else.

Does this introspective essay mean I am, after all, becoming lonely?

I have to think about that.

The Circus Animals’ Desertion

Now I understand
What you tried to say to me.

 

The Circus Animals’ Desertion

 

I

I sought a theme and sought for it in vain,
I sought it daily for six weeks or so.
Maybe at last being but a broken man
I must be satisfied with my heart, although
Winter and summer till old age began
My circus animals were all on show,
Those stilted boys, that burnished chariot,
Lion and woman and the Lord knows what.

II

What can I but enumerate old themes,
First that sea-rider Oisin led by the nose
Through three enchanted islands, allegorical dreams,
Vain gaiety, vain battle, vain repose,
Themes of the embittered heart, or so it seems,
That might adorn old songs or courtly shows;
But what cared I that set him on to ride,
I, starved for the bosom of his fairy bride.

And then a counter-truth filled out its play,
`The Countess Cathleen’ was the name I gave it,
She, pity-crazed, had given her soul away
But masterful Heaven had intervened to save it.
I thought my dear must her own soul destroy
So did fanaticism and hate enslave it,
And this brought forth a dream and soon enough
This dream itself had all my thought and love.

And when the Fool and Blind Man stole the bread
Cuchulain fought the ungovernable sea;
Heart mysteries there, and yet when all is said
It was the dream itself enchanted me:
Character isolated by a deed
To engross the present and dominate memory.
Players and painted stage took all my love
And not those things that they were emblems of.

III

Those masterful images because complete
Grew in pure mind but out of what began?
A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,
Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,
Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut
Who keeps the till. Now that my ladder’s gone
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

WB Yeats.

 

Search Google for…

Given the lack of personal social intercourse with humans, apart from watching Netflix, one of the ways I spend the long quiet evenings here is to follow up on little references that I encounter on Facebook.

I learn interesting things that I have forgotten again within days. Sometimes hours. So I look them up again.

I was thinking about this when I was searching through Netflix for something new to watch. I saw that I had rated some movies and series with a thumbs up, but I could not remember the title or the plot of a significantly large proportion of those I had clearly already watched at some time not too long ago.

So. I am losing my short term memory.

Where was I going with this?