Ahoy

The second activity passion of my life, after SCUBA diving, is one I have not enjoyed since the eighties, apart from a brief spell as half-owner of a cabin cruiser for a time in 2000. And my kayak in Fiji.

Boats. Especially the simply messing about in part.

From 1978 to the eighties, I had a Shearwater catamaran that I rebuilt from a wreck purchased in Napier for very few dollars. I had no idea how to rig it.

There was no manual, I could find nothing in the Library and of course there was no Internet. So I improvised and seemed to get it mostly right, because she sailed like a speedboat in a good breeze. I measured my time between the marker buoys on the Pania reef on one good sailing day, and later calculated that Peter Cox and I had taken her over 20 knots with Peter at the helm and me, the heavier one, stacking out in a harness.

I say I rigged her mostly right, because she had one characteristic that was not at all right. If one let go all the sheets while sailing with the wind, instead of luffing up and stalling like an obedient yacht, she would turn downwind and sail like billy-o. This became a problem one afternoon when I was sailing in Hawkes Bay out past the Esk river. I don’t recall exactly how, but I fell overboard.

My worthy vessel turned downwind and sailed away. The wind was onshore, so she headed for the beach. So did I, but more slowly. By the time I caught her she was washing around in the shingle with broken dagger boards. Which made sailing home to Ahuriri a difficult task.

In the early eighties I sailed her round the Hauraki Gulf, and one glorious summer took her to Bay of Islands, where Rob, a friend, and I camped out and swam and fished for a week. I even sailed her through the Hole in the Rock at Cape Brett.

Then in 1984 I went to Solomon Islands, where I worked as a volunteer with the Rural Water Supply, building water supplies in remote villages. I found myself skipper of a 20 foot glass canoe named Lady Allison after Allison Holst, a NZ TV cooking personality who did a fundraiser with the Lower Hutt Lions to purchase it.

I also bought a dugout which was a great deal of fun. I really regretted leaving it behind when I returned to NZ.

It was thinking about all this while I swam yesterday. I’m thinking I am getting fit enough to take to the water again in a small boat. I rather liked that glass canoe and wondered if I could find one here. It seems not. But one could buy one from Honiara for around $34,000 SBD which is just over $6,000 AUD. But then there would be shipping, import duty, an outboard, and safety gear. So probably not.

With my financial state I think I should consider, if anything, an aluminium dinghy, known here as a tinny.

Something to think about.

Pedals

The configuration of a bicycle is adjustable, but not always quite enough. For example in my case the crucial factor for comfort is the angle of the bend of my knee at the top of the pedal rotation. If the seat is too low that angle becomes acute, and causes acute pain. I just can’t bend my knees that far. It is the equivalent of doing a squat and is just not possible at present.

In order to manage this, I have to put the seat higher than I would prefer, which means I can only just touch the ground with my foot extended when stationary. This makes dismounting, and waiting at intersections a little precarious. Especially taking into consideration my inherent unsteadiness. I am getting the hang of it, but it is my most vulnerable time.

Fortunately there are so many bike paths here I rarely spend much time in traffic. I can often find somewhere to pull up by a curb, or fence, or a tree or a park bench for extra stability.

The problem manifests in another way. The tolerances are fine. Even wearing shoes with any significant thickness of sole puts extra strain on my knees. So I am reduced to wearing my Jandals or my Skinners..

This makes my feet a bit more vulnerable in case of an accident. A risk I’ve decided to take. I know that my death in a traffic accident would be very traumatic for the poor bastard who kills me, so I shall be very careful. Always thoughtful, me.

In the meantime, I am doing squats in the pool in an effort to rectify the situation. No noticeable improvement yet, but it is still early days.

Working

At first I had my doubts about the claimed 80 km range for the lithium battery in my bicycle. When I started I was returning after only twelve to fifteen km with the battery already half flat. That was when I was relying heavily on the electric motor to supplement my travels. Now the battery is not even a quarter used on my return from a ride of 12 to 15 km.

I have since learned to read the LED indicators that tell me how much contribution the battery is making to my progress. I have also relearned how to use all six of the gears to ensure I am making the most significant contribution, even up the few rare steep inclines I encounter.

Most importantly, I have learned that by maintaining the right posture I can control the knee discomfort and let my thigh muscles do the work. I contribute much more and I think I’m now probably putting in 60 to 70% of the effort.

Which is not to say I could do it all. I turned the motor off and tried. No. Not yet.

At the end of a ride my legs remind me they have been working hard, just as my shoulders do after a swim. The bathroom scales are beginning to confirm the predictions of my kilojoule log.

It’s working.

Speaking of working, I have been using the MyFitness app for over 185 days in a row according to the laudatory message it sent me a couple of days ago. In that time I have shed 17kg. Almost the kilo per ten days I set as a goal. Allowing for a little backsliding and some reward feasts on special occasions, I think that is a creditable effort.

What is not so encouraging is just how much there is left to lose. The mirror shows very little change so far. Even keeping up the current progress will take well over another 185 days to get halfway to my goal weight. There is no room for complacency.

Aberdeen

I’ve been a wanderer all of my life, and many’s the sight I’ve seen…

There is no Aberdeen to which I long to return. My whole life has been spent moving on. There has never been anywhere for me to return to, because it was no longer there after I left.

I can remember two homes in England before I was five. We had five more homes in four towns in New Zealand before I was eleven.

The most stable period of my youth was my teenage years in West Auckland. After that I moved around a lot again, until I acquired a family and had a second, relatively stable, period with them in only three locations. And that didn’t last either. Not nearly as long as I wanted. It was not my choice. Which does not mean it was not my fault. I don’t know.

What I do know is there is nowhere to which I can return. No family seat, no family. Just scattered relatives. A few friends.

In the small hours I wonder “What if?” There is no answer except the soft early call of the magpie who roosts in the trees behind my caravan.

I ponder the events that led me here. Living with anyone is difficult. When does the effort become too much? Is the person wiser who decides “enough” or the one who keeps trying? Who is at fault, when someone calls enough? Perhaps the fault must always be borne by both.

I am trying to be more zen in my introspection and self-appraisal. I accept what is, but still can’t help wondering what if? I am the sum of my memories. I owe it to myself and the world to ensure my memories are honest and clear.

I was not a good son, I was not a good brother, I proved to be a poor husband, Twice. I truly don’t know any more what kind of father I was. I want to write accurately about my memories. Of what made me what I am. That will not always put me in a good light, but it also may not please those who get to see themselves as I saw them. They may see my perception of causality as blame. But one does not blame the sun for sunburn. It is what happens.

Well. Wow. I didn’t know that was where I was going when I started this post.

Turning Point.

It has arrived. 236B463E-1FDF-4883-BD16-312A91D7F306

Assembled. Now charged.  Before I ride, however, I shall take it to a bike mechanic for service and checking. I did my bit right, but maybe the factory didn’t do theirs.

Even so, I shall not be riding it to the pool just yet, until I’ve satisfied myself I can do the distance and back.  For a while I shall just be riding around near home.  I have knee braces, which will, hopefully, keep the knee bones aligned while pedalling but I suspect I may have to build up to riding longer distances even with electric pedal assist.  I’ve decided not to turn on the no pedalling feature of the throttle as it appears to be illegal to use on the roads in Queensland and should only be used off road.  Otherwise I’d have to register this as a motorcycle.  No worries. This is going to be a benefit to my health and fitness.

Last night at my weekly weigh-in I confirmed I have lost 12.2 kg since I committed to trying to live a bit longer.  That seems awfully good and encouraging, until I remind myself I still have another 30 kg to go at least.  But I have proved to myself it’s possible.  I just have to stay on top of it.

I have learned how to manage on between 5,000 and 6,500 kJ a day and still eat foods I really enjoy most of the week. I have found at least one form of exercise that is painless and enjoyable.  I’m sleeping well and maintaining a good mental state most of the time.  I’m even thinking about how I might look for part-time work if I get just a bit more of my mobility back.  My original plan of doing locum EHO work for a couple of days a week could be back on the table sooner than I thought.  I still know where the vacancies are.

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 mentality 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

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.