The Reading Room

I received a friendly email from Arhaus.com. asking me if I would like to write a post about my ideal reading room.

I thought about this offer but decided I probably  wasn’t the right person for the job for I don’t read much mainstream fiction.   The enquiry did make me look at my own reading habits though.

Personally I like reading novels that help me understand the contemporary world.   I usually read at the kitchen table and have a notebook beside me where I sometimes jot down passages from novels.   I began this notebook in 2014.  I rarely go back and refer to it but the enquiry from Arhaus led me to take a look.  I discovered that many of the entries I’ve made follow a theme  –

The first entry is from “Lost for Words” by Edward St Aubyn.

“We are at the point in history where it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of Capitalism…

We would rather watch a movie about the threat of a meteor from outer space than contemplate the actual impact of the Capitalist meteor on the Earth…

Finally this is of no importance because both catastrophes, the fantastic and the actual, are deployed to distract us from the desert of the Real into which we have marched the exhausted culture of the West.   In this desert, it is forbidden to think.

Even if Capitalism is the crisis, Capitalism must be the solution.”

From “The Circle” by David Eggers

“The Human Rights of the Digital Age

  • We must all have the right to anonymity
  • Not every human activity can be measured
  • The ceaseless pursuit of data to quantify the value of any endeavour is catastrophic to true understanding.
  • The barrier between public and private must remain understandable.
  • We must have the right to disappear

From “Why are you so sad?”   Jason Porter

“Have we all sunken into a species-wide bout of clinical depression?   We are symptoms of a grieving planet.”

From “Open City” by Tesu Cole

“a cancerous violence had eaten into every political idea, had taken over the ideas themselves, and for so many, all that mattered was the willingness to do something.  Action led to action, free of any moorings, and the way to be someone, the way to catch the attention of the young and to recruit them to one’s cause, was to be enraged.”

From “The Beach beneath the pavement” by Roland Dinning

 (the narrator of the novel thinking about another character) –   “Kepler seemed to be claiming the world was deliberately flooded with contradictory conspiracy theories creating maelstroms of confusion…  Complexity, fear, uncertainty…   these are essentials conditions for Post Credibility.

“they control us by giving us what we want so we have to stop wanting things.   They want us to think life’s a supermarket and the longer the shelves are, the more free we are.”

and – “he’s internalised the system.   It’s what we all end up doing, not what we think we’re doing…   The silent copper in the head policing us from within.”

From “The Restoration Otto Laird” by Nigel Packer

“Everything has become a commodity nowadays: and maybe every person too.   All of us have become commodities to each other.   The profit motive has entered every sphere of life and its hegemony is complete.”

From “The Age of Magic” by Ben Okri

“ he felt momentarily free of the law he had invoked and set in motion:   the law that says you are what you think you are.   He also felt free of the other, more pernicious law:   the one that says you are what the world thinks you are.

For a moment Lao felt free of the prison of the constructed self, free also from the tyranny of the attachment to things.

The first freedom is freedom of mind, he thought”  maybe even, freedom from mind.”

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If I were to describe my dream reading room I would have to say it would be a warm, bright kitchen with large wooden table.  Cups of tea would magically appear when wanted and the coffee would be the best.    People people from all over the world would be free to enter this room and discuss ideas found in books they had read.

Percolating Poetry

I wrote this post a few months ago on Art and Life.   I think it’s worth bringing up to date and  reblogging here for it’s still pertinent – perhaps even more so now.

Is it that I’m percolating my reactions to current events,

global and personal,

outer and inner,

or is that I’m waiting for the dust to settle

on political changes here, there and everywhere

or on the inner spiritual upheaval/regeneration I have been experiencing?

Either way, percolating or letting the dust settle, it’s hard to string words together to form grammatically correct sentences.   I woke this morning to this thought/idea/concept-

                                                In the canyons of my mind

                                     Ginsberg howling from the Afterlife

                                                 ‘All is not how it seems’.

Unfortunately I jolted fully awake before Ginsberg could howl out his meanings and his posthumous perspectives on it all so I am still percolating/letting the dust settle as I try to work out it is, or even how it seems to be.

So much fear and loathing being expressed by so many right now – the fear of World War, of Muslims and of migrants.   My life long fear of nuclear holocaust  is triggered.

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As Ginsberg howls from the Afterlife I catch hold of ideas percolating in the ethers –

          I see that the old order is inherently corrupt

It favours the elite few over the often powerless and subjugated majority.

As new awareness and understanding, both political and spiritual, sweep across the globe the power base of the old elite is disintegrating.  As the old power structures begin to disintegrate chaos ensues.

Just what new frameworks we find to guide us into the future remains to be seen.

           Will the rabble baying for blood rule the day

            – will it be like the French Revolution where the elite were publicly beheaded

               or Nazi Germany where minority groups were shipped off to death camps?

                                    Will Trump nuke Isis and/or North Korea

                               – will we descend into the holocaust of global war?

Or will we somehow find our way, collectively and individually, to work together to create an egalitarian society where all humans co-exist peacefully in a world governed by sound ecological principles that ensure the ongoing survival of our species and of the bio-sphere we inhabit?

Our future hangs in the balance and the outcomes are, at present, unknown.

Percolating, or letting the dust settle, I dig over my new vegie plot.  I write haiku.  I meditate on peace.

I am free to change to my consciousness. I am free to transcend my fears and find a way forward that sustains me spiritually. All the same, it’s not a straightforward path.

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excerpt from Howl by Alan Ginsberg – (you can read the poem in full here – https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/49303)

Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstasies! gone down the American river!

Dreams! adorations! illuminations! religions! the whole boatload of sensitive bullshit!

Breakthroughs! over the river! flips and crucifixions! gone down the flood! Highs! Epiphanies! Despairs! Ten years’ animal screams and suicides! Minds! New loves! Mad generation! down on the rocks of Time!

Fairytales and creative doubt

As I go through blog archives self doubt creeps in.   While I’m enjoying finding forgotten posts about haiku writing techniques I’m beginning to wonder if any of my haiku have any merit whatsoever.   Meanwhile my neighbour chainsaws down a huge gum tree in his garden.    It feels timely that I should find this old post just now.   I intend to follow the advice I give  myself at the end of the post the minute I finish reblogging.   I have deleted my original introduction and jumped right into the information.  To illustrate the post and break up the large passages of text I have used digital images I created some time ago.  

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While the story of Demeter and Persephone obviously relates to the seasons of winter and spring the author,Mary Caelstro writes:

‘This cycle plays itself out within the creative individual as well. There are times when the words or music or painting seem to flow from the fingers. The inspiration cannot be harnessed fast enough. Like corn stalks reaching for the sky, the creative juices go from a small seedling to a towering plant in the span of a very short time. And then, as it usually happens, when the creative work is finished, or sometimes in the middle as our doubts and fears assail us, there is a lull. Inspiration fades away and the bleak expanse of our psyches can produce no more. In time, the block leaves and the creative individual can create again. But the barren time can be as long as winter with no end in sight.’

desert landscape

In her works, The Creative Fireclip_image001 and Women Who Run with the Wolvesclip_image001[1] Clarissa Pinkola Estes takes this idea further and relates the myth of Ceres and Persephone to the need to retreat sometimes and  go into our inner darkness for creative regeneration.

The story of The Handless Maiden which you can read here  delves more deeply into the idea of retreating into the darkness to be healed.

Seeking to understand this strange and disturbing tale I came across the blog Myth and Moor by Terri Windling.  In her probing analysis of this fairytale she explores  the idea that it is the forest where the healing transformation takes place.  As Marie-Louise von Franz wrote of The Handless Maiden:  “She is driven into nature… She has to go into deep introversion…. The forest [is] the place of unconventional.’

Clarissa Pinkola Estes elaborates: “To follow the example of the armless maiden is an invitation to sever old identities and crippling habits by journeying again and again into the forest. There we may once more encounter emergent selves waiting for us. inner life, in the deepest sense of the word.”

These, and other commentaries on the tale of The Handless Maiden suggest that while the forest can be seen as a metaphor for the inner world, the story also implies that immersion in the wild and untamed natural world heals and regenerates our creativity.

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On a personal note – I’m off to the forest – the inner, the outer, the metaphoric.