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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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.

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.

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.

A Modest Proposal

At University, so very long ago, we learned about the PTC taste test. We all took test papers home and charted our families’ ability or inability to taste the bitter chemical, which is apparently not found in nature, though the story circulating at the time was that it was derived from horse piss.

PTC stands for phenylthiocarbamide. Also known as phenylthiourea, the chemical structure of PTC resembles toxic alkaloids found in some poisonous plants. The ability to taste it would be an evolutionary advantage. Roughly 25% of the population cannot taste it.

Informally, amongst ourselves, we also discovered there was a small proportion of people who actually liked the taste. Most of us didn’t. I was reminded of this many years later when my younger daughter developed pica, and was prescribed a nasty tasting iron solution to be dispensed only a drop at a time due to its toxicity. I was expecting to have trouble getting her to take it. To me, it tasted Nasty. Very Nasty. On the contrary, she begged for more.

What I am leading up to, is that people are Different. And Different is not necessarily Wrong.

There is a huge difference between liking pineapple on pizza or being gay, and being a paedophilic cannibalistic serial killer. The line is crossed, to my mind, only when someone is harmed.

The problem is that too many people draw the line in ridiculously arbitrary ways. Religion and other erroneous beliefs, such as those held by believers of feng shui and by antivaxxers are only of importance when someone is harmed as a result of those beliefs.

Increasingly, the failure to accept ANY difference of opinion or of lifestyle is becoming a serious problem in society. The line is becoming so blurred that it is now my opinion that it should be firmly placed by law, at the place it should be; where beliefs and practices cause harm to others. Intolerance of racism, paedophilia and homicidal behaviour must be encouraged. Intolerance of sexual identity, the telling of Irish jokes, or belittling those with a fondness for pineapple on pizza should be considered as hate speech and acted upon accordingly.

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.