I love Mother Nature and Gaia

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London had suffered since the 13th century from poor air quality which worsened in the 1600s, but the Great Smog is known to be the worst air-pollution event in the history of the United Kingdom, and the most significant in terms of its effect on environmental research, government regulation, and public awareness of the relationship between air quality and health. It led to several changes in practices and regulations, including the Clean Air Act 1956.

Living in the east end of London was a very bleak existence in the 1950’s. I remember a smog alert when weather conditions and the coal fumes erupting from chimneys caused a health crisis. I was sent to St John’s Open Air School, in the country, because I was anaemic and the doctor recommended I escape the city for a while. It was there I developed my love for mother nature and that love has never diminished.  In my teens I would mount my five speed bike and cycle from the slums of London to the open air of Epping Forest. I would take off my shoes and ground my feet to the soil feeling at one with nature and Mother Earth. On other occasions I hiked the Pilgrims Way, camping overnight,  earning my hikers badge with the boy scouts.

In the mid seventies I discovered the Gaia Principle.  This principle, first espoused by a physicist James Lovelock, suggested that the earth was a living organism where humans along with all the other separate systems relied on each other. This theory found favour with philosophers, writers, poets and environmentalists but not scientists. It also found favour with me and I envisioned the earth and all its inhabitants as one. We were a symbiosis and dependant on each other for survival. What a grand utopian dream, us a single tribe of human beings, caring for and nurturing mother earth , who in turn would ensure our survival by nourishing us with its abundance. After all we would be stupid to bite the hand that feeds us. Right.  It was nice to dream for a while.

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“I am Mother Nature. All of creation bows before me. When people leave their cities and learn of me—walk in my woods, bathe in my rivers, eat of my harvest—they will find healing to their souls. But stray from me and return to the supposed wisdom of men, and they will find themselves in chains once more.”
― Seth Adam Smith, Rip Van Winkle and the Pumpkin Lantern

The latest feel good craze started by politicians/environmentalists is the banning of plastics straws. I would suggest a more comprehensive look at how we package all goods for consumption would further our issue with plastic and other disposables more than a token feel good talking point. But that’s the thing. Politics, economics, life style and other life issues get in the way of a comprehensive determined plan of action to do what is best for our planet.

And what is best for our planet?

Can we have our civilized cake and eat it to the detriment of sustaining our planet?

Where do we find the balance?

Is biodiversity necessary or is its disappearance part of evolution?

How much do human beings contribute to climate change versus natural events?

Can technology play a greater part in this process?

Am I personally doing all that I can to improve the well being of  my planet?

We have made progress. There is no longer smog over London due to electricity replacing coal. We are cleaning up rivers. The future of automobiles is electric rather than gas/diesel. We are legislating green belts encompassing our cities and hopefully this will be preserved and continued. We are planting more trees. There is still a lot to be done but there is also a greater awareness of these issues and hopefully over time more and more people will respond. With part of our energies focussed on saving our planet perhaps we can also spend some time to focus on preserving ourselves to enjoy its abundance. Peace.

 

 

 

 

Life is Sacred (except for wasps)

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“Folks, it’s time to evolve. That’s why we’re troubled. You know why our institutions are failing us, the church, the state, everything’s failing? It’s because, um – they’re no longer relevant. We’re supposed to keep evolving. Evolution did not end with us growing opposable thumbs. You do know that, right?”
― Bill Hicks

In my early thirties I signed up for a two year course training to become a yoga instructor. I remember a discussion with a fellow student, in the Bhagavad  Gita class, who espoused the theory that homo sapiens had gone through many incarnations and had always managed to destroy itself. He refused to believe that humans had only walked the planet for thousands of years when the earth was billions of years old. His theory was not a shock to me as we certainly do have a knack for anger, hate, self destruction and dancing to the tune of politicians who steer us to war.  If Social Media was programmed to eliminate hateful users  there would be very few survivors.  (Latest scientific theory is that the earth is 4.5 billion years old, and we, the current species of homo sapiens have populated it for 200,000 years).

Also in my yoga days, I became a vegetarian, decided to try AHIMSA and took a vow to do no harm to any life form. When my wife would scream at me to remove a spider from the house I would spend hours trying to capture the spider and remove it unharmed to the outside world. I invariably ended up pulling its legs off and consigning it to the outside world crippled and misshapen, to live the rest of its life in agony. The path to hell is paved with good intentions. My AHIMSA vocation came crashing to a halt because of my allergic reaction to the yellow jacketed wasp. One afternoon while relaxing on the patio, soaking in the sun’s rays, a wasp landed on my arm. I froze and very carefully reached out my hand to flick it away. Feeling irritated I then searched for the fly swatter and went to war with the wasps killing about eight in an hour. It was either them or me, survival at its most primal.  My irritation subsided when a vision of a giant hamburger floated in front of my eyes and I said “that’s it, a sign from God ” . So ended my vegetarian and AHIMSA period. It had lasted three months.

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“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
― Albert Einstein

So how do we survive our innate instincts to lash out and destroy that which we don’t understand or feel threatened by? The conclusion I have come to is to treat human life as sacred. I have a feeling of awe and reverence towards human life. I remind myself of the miracle of conception and the baby taking form within the womb, growing cell by cell possibly evolving into an Einstein or Madame Curie. I meditate on what a unique being I am, a whole micro eco system thriving within my body. I never to cease to wonder at the working of the brain, of being conscious and self-aware.  We should all be self aware, to be the ripple in the pond reaching out trying to improve the conditions of life wherever we go.  This includes acting positively on social media when our instincts want to lash out.

I don’t know if we need new institutions but we certainly need to renew present institutions. Religious institutions needs to evaluate its dogmas and update them in light of modern discoveries instead of being stuck in the past. They need to put its followers before the preservation of the institution. Political ideologies need to tone down their rhetoric and not be so polarizing. We should order our civilizations around ideas that are species preserving, life preserving and life advancing. Nietzsche’s ideas not mine. We have to try because our technological achievements are outstripping our mental capacity to keep pace. If we have evolved over the last 200,000 years, how are we evolving into the future? Have we reached our evolutionary limit? Can we progress and overcome our base natures before we destroy ourselves? I am somewhat optimistic. All I can do is ensure I do my best to evolve in my thinking and actions, and the rest is up to how others behave. I like the concept of building the City of God. But I’m going off topic. I’ll have to save that for another day.

 

“To Thine Own Self Be True”

Last week I left a comment on Sabrina33 blog as follows, ” Great blog Sabrina and so very true. Everyone needs friends they can rely on, who will tell them tWP_20180801_17_11_37_Prohe truth and support them. Keep on telling your truths. ”  I had no sooner pressed the send button when my mind went into overdrive, ‘why did I say that’, ‘do I even know what truth is’, and so have spent the last few days thinking on what do I mean by truth. I came up with a whole bunch of ideas and tried to distinguish truth from opinion from assumption. I eventually collapsed in hopeless confusion. Reviving myself after a few minutes I jumped up,  reached for the bottle of vodka, poured a shot and stared into space for additional inspiration. I then decided on three truths that were very self evident to me, typed them up and placed them on the fridge.

When I commented to Sabrina “speak your truth” I think I was saying be authentic in your speech and writing. Don’t be pretentious but sincere and honest and real. Of course if you want to do this you have to know yourself. You have to have a set of values and you have to incorporate these values into your being. For isn’t truth being in accord with a fact or reality. So if you don’t make your truth the reality of your being then you are just acting upon life’s stage, playing a character other then yourself.

Here’s a quote from Oscar Wilde, “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation. ”

I blogged a while ago on my “Red Pill” moment, when someone I was following on Twitter supposedly a devout Christian, who was taking a doctorate in theology, made fun of someone crying about the human race in a moment of despair. That Twitter person had read a whole lot of assumptions and opinions on being a Christian but hadn’t absorbed the truth of it. But who’s perfect.

Is there a universal truth. I don’t really know though I was fond of asking this question when interrogating priests in my youth. They would just repeat Catholic dogmas…..and perhaps some of these are truths. I do know that certain truths can change over time and things I once held to be true are no longer true. They are no longer true because I put them to the test and they failed the test. So we come back to having to live our truths because if we don’t try them out we don’t know whether they are truths and so we are just playing a role. It’s the same as practicing Lectio Divina. Chewing on a phrase from the bible. Reading the phrase a number of times, meditating on the phrase and taking the meaning into your soul. That’s what we have to do with our truths.

The title of this blog is from Shakespeare:

This above all; to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.

This quote is from Polonius in Hamlet. This sounds serious but in the context of the play Polonius was a self absorbed rambler in his speech who gave long winded advice.

I discovered a great three minute cartoon on YouTube today with loads of meaning. I encourage you to check it out ” This Land is Mine” by Nina Paley. I also checked her out on ninapaley.com.

I think my next three blogs will be on my three truths/values described above. I hope this hasn’t been too long winded.

Journaling is Cathartic

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“You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book… or you take a trip… and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating. The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death. Some never awaken.”
― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934

Way back in my school days it was general practice for teachers to hand out lines for some minor infraction in behaviour or class work. This would consist of, for example, having to write out one hundred times ” I will not misuse the blackboard in the teachers absence”. I took this punishment seriously and used the repetition of lines to improve my italic writing. Some creative teachers elected for students to copy a page or two from a book of their choice. This was much harder for me as I would haunt the library for hours trying to find the perfect book, the perfect page, to impress the teacher with my wisdom and knowledge. Where other boys dreamed of being a famous football star or leader of the known universe I would fantasize about being a monk in a monastery copying the ancient texts. I also loved the images of Bob Cratchit in the Christmas Carol sitting at his high desk, head bent over the Day Book keeping accounts for Scrooge. Even though I’m glad I never lived the actual experience of Mr. Cratchit, I found these imaginings calm and restful

After leaving school at fifteen I tried to write creatively for fun but my mind would not respond and so I became content with copying down my favorite poems and keeping a diary. I was very much a loner in those days, had zero confidence and would blush furiously whenever anyone told a dirty joke or talked about sexual escapades. As a teenager it was impossible to escape the sex topic. Even though I had a group of friends I felt that I had nothing in common with them, rarely participated in their discussions and just nodded and agreed to their comments. I often found speech so inadequate and wished that people could just communicate with their minds.  I understand now that this was extreme laziness on my part. When I was sixteen I fell in love for the first time. We worked in the same office and every time she spoke to me I would just blush and stammer and look down. It was then that I started writing my thoughts in a diary/journal. I would write how much I adored and loved her and would do anything for her. I would write a hundred times I love you, still practicing my italic writing. She was in a long term relationship with a boy so I knew it was pure fantasy on my part but a very nice fantasy. I eventually got over my shyness with her and we came to enjoy each others conversation. Then she came into work one day and confided that she had split with her boy friend. I asked her out, we dated for two months and then she got back with her boy friend and a year later they were married. I was invited to the wedding. I found that when I was under stress or had some difficulty concerning people I would return to journaling my experiences and thoughts. It certainly helped to clarify my feelings and work out any emotional issues I had.

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People who spend time writing carefully about themselves become happier, less anxious and depressed and physically healthier. They become more productive, persistent and engaged in life. This is because thinking about where you came from, who you are and where you are going helps you chart a simpler and more rewarding path

selfauthoring.com                    Jordan Peterson

In my early forties I was part of the RCIA team (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) for St. John of the Cross Catholic Church. We used journaling as a counselling method to help people coming into the church to feel a renewal or awakening in their life’s journey. We asked the participants to spend the first fifteen minutes in prayer reflecting on any negative emotions they were holding for family members, co-workers etc. We then asked them to spend an hour journaling these negative emotions and come up with some ways to dispel them. We then gathered all the journals, placed them in an urn and set a match to them consigning them to the past. This was a symbolic gesture to erase negative emotions from the mind and rise like the Phoenix from the ashes. Putting problems in writing helps to understand them a little better by actually thinking them through as we put pen to paper

When I was fifty we moved and in decluttering I decided to trash all my old journals as I no longer read them and had not journaled for a while. I stopped journaling and reading non-fiction and instead turned to reading fantasy fiction (elves, dwarves, magical swords) just for the sheer escapism of it all. Now twenty years on I have discovered Jordan Peterson on YouTube…. and he said Tidy Your Room, Stand Up Straight, Pet a Cat If You See One In The Street….and I said but I’m seventy years old…..and he said Pursue What Is Meaningful Not What Is Expedient, Be Precise In Your Speech, Do Not Lie (to yourself or others). So I’m now trying to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life. See. It never ends, it just keeps on going.

The last entries in my journaling ( I never trashed this book for I had only used two pages) :

Friday. September 2,1988.  While jogging had strong visualization of birth of creation as mating of good and evil energy. Evil as anti-life and Good as allowing life to exist and flourish, Two forces forever competing.  Jogged 10K. 46min 3 sec.

Saturday: September 3, 1988.   Went to library. Selected following. Human Engineering- John Langone;  Test Tube Life-Gerald Snyder. Decided to start scrapbook on development of life, articles, pictures etc.

Sunday: September 4, 1988. Kevin White (my nephew) cycled with me while I jogged 10k. 45min. 25 sec. Started practicing my yoga asanas using visualization in assuming postures.I am hopeless at head stand. Find I am not able to get sufficient time for meaningful meditation. Will have to work on it.

Expectations

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Walking home from school, one dreary afternoon in East London, I reached into my jacket and found a penny. Howling with triumph I ran to the sweet shop around the corner from Spitalfields Market to see what I could buy. I stepped inside and decided on the purchase of a gob stopper with my found penny (a gob stopper is a large, round, solid, delicious piece of candy that can be savoured for an hour if you suck slowly).  The next day in class, after the bell clanged for play time, Sister Ursula caught my arm as I was rushing from the classroom. ” Leonard, did you  find a penny in your jacket yesterday”. Yes Sister I replied. I was constantly told by Sister Ursula that God was everywhere and could read our most secret thoughts. But I never knew this also applied to her. Sister Ursula continued ” and what did you do with that penny Leonard”. ” I bought a gob stopper, Sister” I replied. Sister Ursula shook her head sadly ” Leonard, did you not know that the penny was not yours to spend. You should have returned it to me when you discovered it in your jacket. You stole the money to buy sweets. God isn’t happy with you”.  “Yes Sister” I replied instantly contrite and suddenly in fear of intended consequences for my action. ” Well, let that be a lesson for you Leonard. If you find something that doesn’t belong to you please return it to me. “Yes Sister, sorry Sister” I said and hurried from the classroom. Sister Ursula, as an experiment in honesty,  had placed a penny in a selected number of children’s coat pockets with the expectation that they would realize it wasn’t theirs and return the penny to her. Not one child returned the penny which must have been a great disappointment to her and a source of despair for the next generation. We clearly did not live up to Sister Ursula’s expectations of us.

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Sister Ursula must have thought that I was the best of a bad bunch because a week later, she once again  pulled me aside,  and asked if I had ever considered a vocation to the priesthood. I said I had not. She persevered with this line of enquiry until I found myself agreeing to attend a Salesian College for a three week trial period. The Salesians are a Roman Catholic religious institute founded in the late nineteenth century by Italian priest Saint John Bosco to help poor children during the Industrial Revolution.The Salesians’ charter call for spiritual and corporal works of charity towards the young, especially the poor, and the education of boys to the priesthood. It was three weeks of communal prayer upon wakening, morning mass, talks, a spiritually uplifting movie, communal evening prayer and benediction. A football game and a visit to the tuck shop were slotted in between our spiritual awakening. Things went well for the first week and I was rather enjoying the routine when disaster struck. We were allowed a daily visit to the tuck shop to buy pop and candy from an allowance that was deposited by our parents with the Salesians. My allowance was minimal so I could only afford to go to the tuck shop once a week. After buying my candy allotment in the afternoon I proceeded to the dormitory and placed the candy in my bedside locker before attending the next class. The following afternoon I returned to the dormitory to select a piece of candy from my locker only to discover that all the candy had disappeared. I was devastated. Weren’t we supposed to be the future hope for mankind by bringing Christ’s teachings to all, and yet there was a thief among us. I declined the opportunity for further study as the character of my fellow students trying out for the priesthood did not meet my expectations.

We should live our lives by marching to our own drummer and not by trying to live up to other peoples expectations of us. You can please some of the people some of the time………………

The Curious Case of Tommy Robinson

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A few weeks ago I was introduced to the divisive figure of Tommy Robinson by my nephew in England who had posted a Face Book page. The Face Book page concerned the appointment of a Muslim Sajid Javid as British Home Secretary. Along with this he posted a picture of Tommy Robinson with captions about the Radical Islamization of Britain. He asked for my opinion. I replied as follows

” I’m probably disappointing you here Paul but I read a number of articles on Sajid Javid and just find him an ambitious politician. He is a non practicing Muslim married to a Christian wife with four children. I assume if he doesn’t practice his religion then his kids will be brought up Christian. So I don’t see some grand design for Muslims to take over England in his being promoted to Home Secretary. I don’t believe in identity politics where the individual takes on the personality of the group. I hope that English parliament and rule of law are strong enough to withstand any one person. But of course the future will tell. As I said before I am still trying to understand the Muslim world which was founded on violence and has a propensity to mix politics and religion. But I do not lump 1 billion Muslims in with the extremists. It’s a complex faith. ”

I also looked up a bio of Tommy Robinson. He was born Stephen Yaxley-Lennon in 1982 in Luton, England. His parents were Irish immigrants. He changed his name to Tommy Robinson taking it from a prominent member of a hooligan crew which follows Luton Town Football Club. He has spent time in prison for disturbing the peace and forged documents. In the past he has been a member of far right groups but in December ,2015 he founded the British arm of PEGIDA ( Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West) a group founded in Germany to protest against the influx of Muslims from the Middle East. In 2012 he was part of a BBC documentary ” When Tommy met Mo” discussing Islamism and the Muslim community. Mo Anwar is a political and social commentator.

I personally find Tommy Robinson’s character to be rough edged and in your face and is not the type of person I would associate with. But I am talking about his views not his character. He formed PEGIDA to combat what he saw as the political correctness and lack of frank discussion on the politicization of Britain by Muslims as they gained access to seats of power through democratic means. He suggested that  Islam is a political religion and their religious thinking would govern their decision making on local councils etc. He in particular took issue with the grooming gangs preying on 13-15 year old white girls which had been going on in Britain for 30 years. These grooming gangs usually hung around schools and institutions for homeless children to befriend them,offer them drugs and alcohol which eventually led to prostitution. There are a number of such cases before the British courts. These grooming gangs are mainly Muslim. In at least one instance the police withheld a report about gangs of Muslim men grooming children in case it inflamed race relation before a national election. Political correctness once again comes before justice. There are a number of articles on this subject on the Internet.

On May 25, 2018 Tommy Robinson was arrested and told he was breaching the peace because he was live steaming outside a court room where a grooming trial was taking place of a number of Muslim men. He was on public property. This is where is all gets hazy and in my view slightly sinister. He was arrested by a number of police officers put in a van and whisked away. His friends went to the police station where he was to be charged and was told he wasn’t there and had probably been released. They phoned his lawyer who confirmed this. However, subsequent events confirmed this was a lie as within hours he was dragged before the courts and sentenced to 13 months in prison for contempt of court. He was not allowed to retain his own lawyer who was familiar with the previous case which led to the contempt charge but a lawyer present in the court. Furthermore a publication ban was put on the whole proceeding so main street media could not comment on his situation. On May 29 these reporting restrictions were lifted after complaints to the judge. I’m writing this because I had , perhaps naively, stood up for the ” English Rule of Law”. I’m now rethinking this statement.

 

I’ve Been Red Pilled

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“This is your last chance. After this there is no turning back. You take the blue pill: the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill: you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” – Morpheus, The Matrix

‘Red pill’ has become a popular phrase among cyberculture and signifies a free-thinking attitude, and a waking up from a “normal” life of sloth and ignorance. Red pills prefer the truth, no matter how gritty and painful it may be.

I opened a Twitter account on March 1 ,2018 and follow about 28 people, mostly journalists. I follow people from all sides of the political spectrum trying to achieve a balanced viewpoint. Two of the people I follow:

  • Jordan Peterson a university of Toronto professor lecturing in psychology. Currently on a world tour with his best selling book ‘ 12 Rules for Life, an antidote to chaos’. He has also well documented his history with severe depression. His grandfather, father and daughter also suffer from severe depression.
  • Michael Cohen a columnist, broadcaster and author of 16 books. He is currently studying for his Masters of Divinity at Trinity College, University of Toronto.

My red pill moment came last night when I read Michael Coren’s Twitter on Jordan Peterson. He wrote ” My kids mock me because I cried in The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants 2. Fair enough I suppose but this is going too far”. Attached to this Twitter was a two minute YouTube video of Jordan Peterson crying before a computer screen trying to express how he felt about individual suffering. I found it a sly and hypocritical way of mocking Jordan Peterson in his moment of anguish. Michael Coren’s intent was to mock and denigrate Professor Peterson by ensuring the video was viewed by his followers.

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This is some of the text that Jordan Peterson was crying over on the YouTube Video.

” In the 20th century there has been a loss of faith in the idea of the individual. It is only the individual that suffers, the group doesn’t suffer. Suffering is to be regarded seriously, without such regard there can be no motivation to reduce suffering”

The above are pretty simple and self evident words. But as in all things Jordan Peterson incorporates that belief into his speech and speaks with passion. He’s saying make up your own mind and don’t play identity politics. It’s you that will suffer not the group.

I Tweeted a reply ” So you mock someone who is crying over the suffering of individuals. Who has severe depression and understands suffering”.  I received no reply so noting that Michael Coren’s YouTube Tweet had received 12 likes I replied with a couple of tweets as follows:

  1. “This video has received 12 favorites. Am I missing something here. I wonder how many favored Tweets a crucifixion would get”.
  2. I then expanded on 1. by envisioning a scene at Calvary in the Twitter age and Tweeted as follows ” They’re putting him on the cross now. Look how he’s suffering.12 favorites.1 retweet. I do enjoy a good crucifixion.”
  3. I prepared a third Tweet to further expand this theme. ”  I’m at Gethsemane and there’s this guy here writhing in sadness and anguish crying over some cup taken from him. What a whiner”.  But I thought this might be over kill so I deleted it.

Now we come to my red pill moment. Michael Coren is a political and Christian commentator currently taking a Masters of Divinity at the University of Toronto. A few minutes later he Tweeted on Bishop Michael Curry’s speech on love at Harry and Meaghan’s wedding. ” Speaking truth to power. What wonderful stuff” Except he hadn’t really heard a word on the sermon of love. He hadn’t digested it and taken it into his soul. They were just words. If he had truly heard them he wouldn’t have sent a YouTube video mocking Professor Jordan Peterson speaking on the suffering of the individual. So I’ve freed myself from the hypocrisy of major religious faiths and political parties. I would rather listen to an agnostic/atheist such as Jordan Peterson than a supposedly Christian, man of God, like Michael Coren.