human being, Intelligence, natural, simplicity, Uncategorized

It Hits the Spot

This morning I was reminded that there are times when not knowing is just as important as knowing. This may seem a strange thing to hear from someone who writes articles and books, hoping each time to advance human knowing just a little. The fact is that I have started to feel, more strongly than ever, that we need mystery in our lives, just as much as we need knowing and the knowledge that flows from this.

I realised this today, as I was driving to Alp. I had been listening to the Beethoven Piano Sonatas for the last couple of weeks, but suddenly felt like a change. I switched to a Schubert quartet that I like, but knew within a minute that it was not this that I wanted. Then it dawned on me – and I put on the Violin Partita No. 2 by Bach, arranged for piano by Busoni, and performed masterfully by Jorge Bolet at Carnegie Hall in 1974. It really hit the spot!

And this is my point – I have no idea why. It’s a complete mystery. And I want it to stay that way. I have no desire to investigate further.

I know from experience that the spot changes from time to time. For a while, decades ago, it was Listz’s Sonata in B Minor, played by Pascal Roge. And then one day the spot shifted unaccountably to the First Movement of Rachmaninov’s 3rd Piano Concerto. On other parts of the music spectrum it has been Poetry in Motion (early 60s), Sultans of Swing, and now it is Raining Again by Supertramp.

I am sure these pieces could tell you a lot about me and about my state of being at the time. But I prefer not to know. The mystery is so much more interesting. I wonder where the spot will move to next!

being natural, human being, natural, simplicity, Taoist, Uncategorized

A Unique Contribution

Advised by good people, I am hearing two main schools of thought – “give them what they want” and “just do your own thing”. Needless to say, I have tried to reconcile the two. I have tried to do my own thing – offer my unique contribution – in ways that people seem to want. I don’t think I have been successful in this. So, I have decided to focus solely on writing and broadcasting my unique contribution. If some people want this and find it useful, then that is a bonus.

Confusingly, my unique contribution seems to be a mixture of things. Yet, perhaps this is the key. Perhaps it is the mixture that is unique, rather than the individual ingredients. What follows is me thinking aloud.

At the heart of my thinking are three core ideas: we are spiritual beings; we inhabit a spiritual universe; and we and the universe are mirror images of each other. Everything I write about – spiritual wealth, being natural, the New Economics, an expanded science, the “inner senses”, unusual abilities, intelligent simplicity, being a 21st Century Taoist – all of this can be traced back eventually to the three core ideas. But I suppose I need to explain what I mean by “spiritual”.

For me, “spiritual” means “transcending the physical”. If this feels disappointing, it is only because I do not wish to give the word “spiritual” more meaning than it needs to have. For example, I do not want to suggest that spiritual means “good” or “highly evolved” or anything like that. While it is true that these qualities may follow from being a spiritual being, they are not the essence, The essence is, as I said, that it transcends the physical. I suppose that this, too, needs a little explanation.

Although many people seem to confuse “physical” with “material”, it simply means that which is accessible to one of more of our five physical senses (hearing, sight etc.), and to extensions to these senses. So, although we cannot see all the moons of Saturn or a bacterium with the naked eye, we can see them with a telescope or microscope respectively. Similarly, although we cannot hear anything beyond the range of 20 – 20000 Hertz with the unaided ear, we can detect sound well outside this spectrum with sensitive instruments, which are, in effect, extensions to our ears. And so it is for each of our five senses. Scientific instruments enable us to experience much more of the physical world than we would normally experience with our unaided five senses. As I have written elsewhere, science officially believes that the universe is wholly physical, that there can be nothing apart from the physical. Although an increasing number of individual scientists believe otherwise, science as a whole does not accept that the “spiritual” (i.e. beyond the physical) is real. And, just to complete the circle, science believes that the universe is physical, and only physical, because it uses only the physical mode of perception to explore the world. The world responds accordingly, by giving the mistaken impression that it is wholly physical.

Perhaps, then, I should have said that at the heart of all my thinking and beliefs is my own personal experience that we human beings need not be limited to the physical mode of perception. We have other senses (I call them “inner senses”) that enable to perceive and experience the non-physical aspects of the world and ourselves. Although these inner senses are dormant in most people, they can be awakened and trained to the point where they are just as useful as our familiar physical senses. When this happens, the world and the human being look very different. Because they transcend the physical, they look spiritual!

More to come!

being natural, global change, human being, Intelligence, natural, simplicity, Taoist, Uncategorized

Being a Taoist Today

Taoism began about 2500 years ago, with a short book, the Tao Te Ching, written by an unknown author (in Chinese Lao Tze just means “the old guy”). That was a very different world. Today we have unprecedented problems. The list is alarmingly long: climate change; serious decline of all natural life-support systems: rapid species extinction: the threat of nuclear war; gross inequalities; and overpopulation.

We therefore need unprecedented solutions. This means several things: taking our problems much more seriously; acting with urgency; addressing the deeper underlying malaise of materialism; and approach our problems at all levels.

If we were all 21st Century Taoists, we would not have any of these problems. Why? Because we would be fully human, fully who we are capable of being. And we would act naturally, in accordance the the timeless principles of Nature. Unlike a Taoist 25 centuries ago, we would also be planetary, because we would be conscious of the planet as a whole, and of the global interconnectedness of everyone and everything.

I have today decided to write a book about this, about what it means to be a 21st Century Taoist

 

 

being natural, Intelligence, natural, simplicity, Taoist, Uncategorized

FULL OF AWE

I spent my honeymoon in 1970 on the banks of Loch Awe in Scotland. At the time I wondered whether its name had any relationship to “awe”, meaning “wonder, marvel”. It was only recently, when the word “awesome” became ubiquitous, that my mind went back to original meaning of this word.

As you may know, “awesome” is now used in virtually any situation to mean “the best, the greatest”, often when the thing being described is far from the greatest, far from the best. Whereas in Scotland, we might say “that’s not bad”, Americans (and many others) would say “awesome!!!”

Indeed, “awesome” seems to the word of choice in a world of permanent hyperbole. Nothing is ordinary any more!

It may interest you to know that “awesome” and awful” used to mean the opposite of what they mean today. Awful meant “full of awe” – therefore, wonderful, marvellous. Awesome, as the word suggests, meant “some awe” – therefore, not quite so wonderful.

I have no idea when the change occurred, but I can speculate why. I believe it is mainly because we live in a world of topsy-turvy values…where footballers get paid much more than nurses, and where people become overnight celebrities because they say something rude or stupid on Twitter or YouTube.

I had this cultural decline in mind when I organised and chaired a conference in Scotland in 2000 – entitled “Thinking Allowed”. The strapline was “Bring Back Thinking – All is Forgiven”. Of course, this was partly tongue in cheek, but the serious intent was to demonstrate that the quality and range of thinking has deteriorated markedly these last few decades.

A few years later, when I was living in New Mexico, I used to watch a programme called “Thinking Allowed” on Sunday mornings. As its host, Jeffrey Mishlove, pointed out, this was a play on words. He also pointed out that it was difficult to find people who could really think, and whose language reflected this. The fact that he was able to find a few was, of course, awesome!

global change, Intelligence, simplicity, Uncategorized

HOW TO RESPOND

As a Scot living in Catalunya, with a keen interest in world affairs, I often wonder how to respond to current events. The litany is all too familiar – the madness of Trump, the sadness of Brexit, the pathologies of radical Islam and climate change, as well as the local struggle here for independence.

Although there are dark clouds on the horizon, I see quite a few silver linings. Trump will go, probably sooner than we imagine; we will, at last, stop tolerating the stupidities and abuses of Islam; people will realise that Brexit is a big mistake, and do something about it; and, hard as it is to believe, we will eventually stop destroying this planet and its climate. Of all this I am certain.

True, we will go through some unpleasant moments before all this happens, but perhaps we need to. Perhaps we need extremely loud wake-up calls before we really do come to our senses. As for my adopted home, Catalunya, I know the strength of feeling here and the quiet determination. Independence will surely come, sooner or later.

You may be wondering what all this has to do with intelligent simplicity. Two things. First, it is intelligently simple to allow crises to pass – they always do! Trump, radical Islam, Brexit and climate change will all pass. When we recognise this, it makes it easier to live our lives. We don’t have to fret all the time!

Second, it is intelligently simple to be realistic about what you, personally, can do to change things. On the world stage you can do very little. On your own stage you can do a lot. For example, if you are living an intelligent and simple life, you are already making a difference. And if you are consciously working on your own evolution, the whole world somehow benefits.

being natural, Intelligence, less is better, simplicity

THE LITTLE THINGS

Take care of the pennies, and the pounds take care of themselves. And it’s true. When you pay attention to the “little things”, the big things usually work out well. Goethe no doubt had this in mind when he said “Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean.”

Of course, it is understandable that we think about the big things, be these personal, societal or global. We worry about the state of the world or about a particular problem, so we get involved in some movement to “change the world.” This could be politics or an NGO or some voluntary activity. Yet whoever it was who said “Be the change” knew what he or she was talking about! If you want to address climate change or indeed any other big problem, just make sure that you are not part of the problem. How you do this is up to you. Be the world in miniature that you wish to create.

None of this is to suggest that you should not get involved in politics or an NGO or some other “helping activity”. But it is to suggest that you first put your own house in order before you even think about trying to put society’s house in order. If you don’t, you are likely to end up like those people who preach “Do as I say, not as I do!”

The Japanese have taken all this to an art form. Paying attention to the little things and putting one’s own house in order are central components of their culture. To take one example – the tea ceremony (cha-no-yu). To an outsider this may seem painfully stylised. To a Japanese the intricate moves are confirmation that if you hope to do the big things well, you first have to learn top do the little things well. This is why, in a Zen or Taoist training, the pupil first has to learn to basic things well – things such as walking elegantly or sitting quietly, doing nothing. Believe it or not, it takes a lot of time to learn to basic things well. Only when the pupil has really mastered the basics is he or she ready to move on to the bigger things.

Now here’s a thought. Just set aside a day every so often when you pay attention only to the “little things.” Put the big things right out of your mind. See what a difference it makes!

CT
30 July 2018

being natural, Intelligence, less is better, natural, simplicity

FULLER AND FASTER

The world is fuller and faster. In fact, it’s more than that. The world is also noisier, busier and, by all accounts, more anxious.

The world is fuller, in the sense that there are more things in it, more things to do, and more of us. Just think of the word “shopping” and you will know what I mean. Never have we had so much choice, and never have we had so many pressures to acquire things.

The world is getting faster by the day. We can travel at speed, and we can communicate instantaneously with virtually anyone, anywhere. We have never experienced such speed and “instantness” before. We are not sure what to do with it.

The world is noisier. We say much more – on phones, email, texts, chat shows, and so many other ways. Much of this counts as noise, defined as “unwanted sound”. This is not all. Muzak is everywhere – in shops and shopping centres, and in trains and planes. To call this irritating is to be kind! And then there is the sound of traffic…and so on. We have made a very noisy world. Is this what we really want?

The world is busier – indeed people these days think being busy is a virtue! Many of us are constantly active, often doing more than one thing at a time…such as driving and texting and drinking coffee. If we are not actually doing something, we are probably planning the next activity. Sitting quietly, doing nothing has become so rare that people run courses in it under various banners, such as Zen and “mindfulness”.

And the world is more anxious, with good reason. The climate is changing dangerously. Sociopaths are in power. Inequality has reached Victorian levels. And there is no sign that we human beings have renounced war. Good cause indeed to be worried, and the anxiety is evident in many ways – retail therapy; “space-filling” activities, such as eating, drinking, sex and drugs; and the fact that we have become ludicrously risk-averse.

Need it be this way? Clearly not! One can easily envisage a world that is emptier, with more space, literally and metaphorically. It is slower, more leisurely. People are not rushing towards the end of their lives! They have time to stop and stare. It is a quieter, more peaceful world. People still talk, of course, and there is good music. But there is much less unwanted sound. It is a less busy world. People still do things, but they do fewer of them. They value the quality of what they do, rather than the quantity. And, yes, people are still anxious. That’s just part of being human. But I suspect that in an emptier, slower, quieter, less busy world, we would not have sociopaths in power, the climate would be in its natural state, gross inequality would be a thing of the past, and that we would use peaceful means to settle disputes. In short, we would be less anxious!