I recently spoke with a dear friend I haven’t been in touch
with for a very long time, to impart the sad news that our old art tutor, Ron
Julier, had died. I met Kaff Steggall at Trowbridge College when I was 16 – we
were both taking the same art course (a brand new course, an 'experiment' of sorts) and soon became the best of friends due to our highly compatible and exquisite taste in most forms of art; especially music and humour.
Kaff Steggall (centre) with Paul Smith to the right and Richard Hughes
Ex-students of Ron’s are filling the pages of a sketchbook in his honour - as a tribute. Sketchbooks were important to him and he
encouraged us to fill as many as possible with new ideas. ‘Catching the idea’
was paramount to him; to notice them and to nourish their potential into being.
He taught me that ideas are purely Creative Potentials. They exist. Potentially.
Ron was a short Welshman who mercilessly critiqued
everyone’s work, giving rise to my ‘famous’ indignant catchphrase, “WellI like it!” But I wanted him to like it, really. He could be
quite harsh when he didn’t – I left my tutorial in tears on more than one occasion
(and I wasn’t the only one). If he left the room for any period of time and
found anyone out of their seats on his return, he would appear in the doorway and half
shout/half sing in high-pitched Welsh accent, mug of tea in hand, “Get back on yer ‘edds!”.
I loved being at Art College; every day doing something I
enjoyed (except Art History). Life is rather like the giant white sheets of
paper that Ron made us tape the whole classroom floor with on the first day, giving
us paints and demanding that we all, “Go
wild!”. I have never forgotten that and have, ever since, taken it to heart.
There is so much to explore, see, feel, do and experience in a lifetime and it
takes courage to make a mark on that page... to “Get back on our heads” and
make these ideas manifest.
So here it is, from me... one last sketchbook page for Ron.
Firstly, you will need an open heart. So, OPEN YOUR HEART. The more you are
able, the deeper you go and the better it gets. Depth and passion are symbiotic.
If you won’t open your heart because you’re afraid of
attachment – stop... that’s a good place to start to think about what
attachment means to you. Is it loss of freedom, loss of yourself, or becoming
dependent on others, perhaps? If this is the case, you’ll need to learn to
become your own true love, your own best friend, mother, father, daughter, son,
sister, brother, etc. – this takes the pressure off everybody else in your life
to fulfil a need in you, which is what creates attachments in the first place.
You create them because you are archetypally incomplete. Learn to be in a
committed relationship with all aspects of yourself – make that commitment to
your own completeness.
When we honestly take a look at how we feel about
relationships, it oftentimes reveals a fear of intimacy or ‘into-me-you-see’ on
some level – emotional, spiritual or physical. Fear of others seeing ‘who we
really are’ prevents us from being it. Do you feel that you deserve to be
loved? Can you give and receive love with no conditions or expectations? Are
you willing to recognise and accept how divine you are; to step into your power
and take responsibility for co-creating the world as you know it?
Being deep does not mean being ‘serious’. It’s about being
and sharing your true Self IN THE MOMENT as far as you are able. A deep
connection with another develops when you’re free to ‘be’ and ‘do’ and ‘say’
whatever you feel moved to ‘be’ and ‘do’ and ‘say’ at any of these given
moments. Being deep requires that you trust yourself, your intuition and
feelings;break all the rules and
‘wing it’ – let go of the riverbank and let the current take you downstream
with the grace of a swan. As I said, the more you are able, the deeper you go
and the better it gets. As you go deeper, the challenge is not to slip into
attachment when new layers of reflections (positive or negative) emerge for you
to look at (and they will). If at any point you feel like you’re becoming
attached, step back, visualise cutting the ties that bind and take some time to
re-connect with, balance and centre your Self. Nature will help you, if you ask.
The most important trip you will ever make is the voyage to
the soul’s centre; it's the most beautiful location in the world To Build a Home, yet
ever so many people have never been there and maybe never will. It’s not an easy
journey and there’s no going back. I’m not there myself yet but, from what I’ve
seen of it so far, it’s well worth taking that risk. Live dangerously and your experience
and appreciation of the profundity of life, the universe and everything will
increase exponentially... I promise.
Pan himself was the Greek god of the wild, symbolising the powerful masculine force present in nature. He has many names in folklore and myth - The Green Man and Jack in the Green, among others... the most familiar of these archetypal guises being Peter Pan, written by J.M Barrie.
We choose which world we want to live in – to be our authentic, natural selves, or to follow the concrete path laid down for us all (“What do you want to be when you grow up?”). The ‘rules’ in place teach us at a very young age the correct
way to deal with certain life experiences, which mostly condition us to please
others and fit nicely into a society of double-standards and false principles. My
feeling is that this story has very little to do with youth, other than that
when you hit puberty, it becomes increasingly difficult to remain free and
to be yourself without being judged and ostracised for being selfish,
inconsiderate, thoughtless or irresponsible for doing so. Wendy eventually did what we all do – she caved-in only through guilt and the enormous pressure
we feel during our adolescent years to fulfil what is expected of us to become,
only to find that the experience of truly living eventually becomes something confined to the pages of the books we read to our children at bedtime.
All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, "Oh, why can’t you remain like this for ever!" This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.
Never-Neverland is perhaps so named because those who
control the society we live in never, never
want us to go there and discover that it really does exist! It’s the natural,
REAL world - a world 'made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust' - where your only limits are your imagination, life is always an
adventure, faeries exist, there is no time, and you can fly.
"Second to the right, and straight on till morning." That, Peter had told Wendy, was the way to the Neverland; but even birds, carrying maps and consulting them at windy corners could not have sighted it with these instructions. Peter, you see, just said anything that came into his head.
Peter stirs strong feelings in us because we intuitively know that he stands for natural, authentic principles. He lives in and for the moment. He’s not
afraid of anything... except losing his freedom. When analysing Pan, people
often assume that he’s afraid of his feelings, which is simply not the case. It’s
obvious that he feels very deeply, it’s just that he would never allow himself
to be defined by something so transient. You know how it goes... you tell
someone how you feel and all of a sudden a million-and-one expectations, assumptions
and labels invisibly appear and ruin everything. The human ‘urge to merge’ is so great that, unless
you are vigilant, you will lose
yourself in the relationship. Grown-ups are generally quite happy to do this, mostly because they define themselves by others and don’t value their uniqueness... but Pan (Oh, the cleverness of him!)will not surrender himself to anyone at any cost. “If growing up means it would be beneath my dignity to climb a tree, I'll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up! Not me!” Note that it's only because 'growing up' entails suppressing himself and adhering to unnatural behaviour and principles that he doesn't want any part of it.
He was so full of wrath against grown-ups, who as usual, were spoiling everything, that as soon as he got inside his tree he breathed intentionally quick short breaths at the rate of about five to a second. He did this because there is a saying in the Neverland, that everytime you breathe, a grown-up dies; and Peter was killing them off vindictively as fast as possible.
I've been wondering my whole life when I will turn into a grown-up. Once, I thought I had even managed it for a few weeks... but I was mistaken. It's as they say: Growing old is inevitable. Growing up is definitely optional. You have a choice. Now, excuse me, but I must fly... after all, to live is an awfully great adventure.
"The manifestation of true love is a natural activity, neither virtue nor sin."
~ Joshu Roshi
I feel very lucky to have been given many opportunities to
understand love. ‘Til now, I wouldn’t have written the words ‘understand’ and
‘love’ in the same sentence without a gargantuan ‘DO NOT’ before the ‘understand’. If there’s any reason for my life
on this planet at all, then it’s to find a way to love and be loved the way that I desire to love and be
loved. I regard love and nature as one and the same; not to keep it and cage it
but to love the freedom of it all as it IS.
The human pull toward companionship and intimacy (aka ‘The
Force’ in me) is strong. If I could avoid it whilst still remaining sane, then I would (and, believe me, I
have tried) – because it might surprise you to hear that I have not previously had
much success in my relationships... [cue the violins]... Hang on, hang on - this is actually a good thing... [cut the violins, please]... because I know that there’s got to be another way
to ‘do’ this that actually works... a sort of 'not relationship' relationship. I just haven't figured out how to do it yet.
In times-gone-by, as a (nearly) divorced single-mother over
40 [and it absolutely makes me cringe to use these labels on myself], I would
be considered unkindly by society as a ‘spinster’ or ‘old maid’... that there
must be something ‘wrong’ with me. Maybe some women in my situation feel this
way, but I certainly don’t! I feel happier ‘in my skin’ than I have ever felt.
... and then Along Comes a Man and every ‘button’ I ever had
(and some I forgot about) is pushed; all the insecurities and leaning start to
kick in. Nowadays, I’m conscious enough to observe what’s going on and can
nip this insidious cacophony in the bud before it has its wicked way with me. Breaking patterns does take quite some time and effort, I will admit. I’m currently on a
learning curve through no man’s land, where being a total romantic is both a
blessing and a curse. It’s total bliss and it hurts like hell, and everything
Mystery and Imagination arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness…
Darkness within darkness,
The gateway to all understanding.
~ Lao Tzu
On September the 27th, the comet Elenin will pass directly between the Earth
and the Sun. There's some speculation that this will block out the sunlight for
three whole days, as well as having
a potentially disruptive effect on electromagnetic fields and such things. Have
a read of this article by Will Hart on the Red Ice Creations website.
The thought of being plunged into darkness for three days
doesn’t scare me. Symbolically, this would be the perfect opportunity for me to
face my inner-shadow, explore my inner-light, seek visions and dream. Talk of
this reminds me to re-read Darkness
Visible by Simon Buxton and Ross Heaven – a book that examines the
spiritual and therapeutic practice of retreat in physical darkness. Simon
Buxton facilitates Shamanic Darkness Retreats at The Sacred Trust, along with his partner Naomi Lewis: “Using ceremonial darkness as a shamanic
tool is a classical method of shamans the world over for ‘stalking the self’,
accessing invisible landscapes and embracing deeper aspects of both unconscious
and super-conscious states. The procedure of being in darkness over several
days brings about a remarkable stilling of the mind and from this pool of
quietude the oft hidden gifts of intuition and creativity arise.”
Starting from childhood, we are programmed to fear the darkness
and ‘things that go bump in the night’. Pretty much every horrific scene in any
scary movie you watch happens at night. We line our streets with artificial
neon ‘suns’ and light our own homes after dark. It’s not just ‘so that we can
see better’ – it’s a pathology. Fear of the dark is an illness. It even has a
name – Nyctophobia. I would go so far
as to say that most of the world’s population is Nyctophobic. Imagine how it
would psychologically affect these people to be literally plunged into darkness
and spontaneously access the Collective Unconscious... it’s inevitable that,
should such a potentially initiatory event happen en-masse there would be pretty
big disruptions to the ‘normal everyday routine’.
However, it also kind of got me to thinking... flippin'
'eck... all these potential earth-changes (discussed in the article I mentioned
earlier)... the comets, meteors and solar flare events on their imminent way...
I know that what will be will be and
I can handle ANYTHING... but, more importantly,
my only desire is to share these changin’ times with those I love. I would say
that’s the most important thing any
of us can do at this time – to be with those we love. Whether anything 'happens', or not...
Every day, I am dropping deeper and deeper into my bliss. Love
has triggered this opening of my heart. I feel a heightened sensitivity to the
world around me where everything is
profoundly interconnected. (Yes, yes... I know I sound like a total hippy.)
Everything that did not work for me has either left my life
entirely or is in the process of changing. Some of these things – emotional,
mental and spiritual – I was already aware of. The physical things, like my landlord
out of the blue deciding to install a new stove (symbolically the ‘heart’ of
the home) and the following day, the sewage removal from the sesspit in my
garden (the literal removal of shit from my life) are welcome manifestations of
some of these changes that show me I must be doing something right.
What I have learned is to TRUST myself... let go instead of trying
to control things and go with that flow. Be open, especially when it’s painful
because that’s when we often shut down completely and, before we know it, we
are continually in ‘defence-mode’ by default – then you may just as well be
wearing a big sign on your back saying “KICK ME” (or worse).
When a rose unfurls its delicate petals, it naturally lifts
its face to the sun... and the wind... and rain. It’s natural to grow – to open
and hold your head high; to stand proud in grace and beauty and fearlessly weather
what comes. There is strength in being a rose (Eros).
Want is to need as thought is to deed.... There’s a fine
line between ‘em. If I want something, it’s not because I need it – though it’s
true to say that sometimes I want something that I need, like money, for
example. Having said that, I only had two pence to my name for a few days
recently, and although I wanted more money and thought that I needed some, I was perfectly happy when I realised
that I didn’t.
Sometimes we think we want something but then we get it and
find that we don’t. Today, for instance, I bought a new t-shirt, got home,
tried it on... and didn’t want it anymore. It looked good on the hanger but it
just wasn’t ‘me’. The idea is often
more attractive than the reality, isn’t it?
Now, as a small child, my mum repeatedly told me that, “I want doesn’t get.” Instead of heeding
this lesson in verbal etiquette, I, naturally, misunderstood that statement as
meaning that I couldn’t get what I wanted. That old chestnut still haunts me
from time-to-time. Thinking about it now, would my requesting, “Please may I have” mean that I can ‘have
what I may please’?
What’s interesting when you look at the etymology of the word
‘want’ is that the meaning we know well today – ‘to desire, wish for’ – wasn’t even
recorded until 1706. Before that, it actually meant ‘to be lacking’ (coming
from the Old Norse vanta, meaning ‘to
lack, want’). Maybe my mum was right, after all... it doesn’t seem an
appropriate word to use when seeking to acquire anything.
The word ‘need’ is no good, either. In Old English it was nied, and meant ‘necessity, compulsion,
duty’; originally ‘violence, force’ (from nauthis
– Old Norse nauðr). Common in Old English
were expressions such as niedfaru ‘a
compulsory journey’ (a euphemism for death); niedhæmed ‘rape’ (the second element being an Old English word
meaning ‘sexual intercourse’); and needling,
which meant ‘slave’. The Old English word for the whole shebang – ‘need,
necessity and want’ – was ðearf, which became connected to nied via a notion of trouble and pain. The
two then joined together, forming a new word niedðearf , meaning ‘need, necessity, compulsion, thing needed’. Need,
then, implies a painful experience. It's interesting that the rune Nauthis, which means ‘constraint, necessity,
pain’, is connected to need, which I hadn’t previously realised. Here it is:
‘Desire’, on the other hand, comes from the Latin desiderare, meaning ‘await what the
stars will bring’, from the phrase de
sidere ‘from the stars’. ‘Desire’ only became associated with lust by some
pervert in the mid-14th century. Until then, it was perfectly
innocent. From now on, I’m reclaiming its original usage in place of the ‘w’
word (which you will not hear from me again because it obviously doesn’t work
Feeling a deep sense of centred-ness, as I currently do, I
don’t really need anything, yet there are certain things that I desire, for sure. The desiring comes
from my appreciation of life – I see something beautiful, I desire it, so that
if it were to (metaphorically) knock on my door, I would smile and welcome it
with arms open. Desire is fine just as long as you are indeed willing to ‘await
what the stars will bring’. To deny desire is to lie to yourself.
What is your heart’s desire? Having it won't make you a
‘better person’; it may make you smile but it won’t improve you. What motivates
us to desire anything, whether that’s a nice place to live, a hug, resolving a
situation, freedom, friends, or consciousness, for example? Why do some people
desire what others abhor? It’s not always something we desire for ourselves,
either – we also desire others to have the things they desire. Beyond social conditioning, advertising, peer-pressure,
etc., there is true desire – a deep wish from the soul.
When I’m off-centre, it’s usually because I draw spurious conclusions
from not getting what I so desire and use it against myself to prove my
unworthiness. This happens from time-to-time, and, when it does, it can have
damaging consequences. What brings me
back to my centre is when I can look at what IS, at what I have got – fully appreciate those things... and thus contentedly ‘await
what the stars will bring’.
(And be careful what you desire, ‘cos you will get it.)
(Don't bother with the video - the song and the words are the thing in this case).
Now the Sirens have a still more fatal weapon than their song, namely their silence. And though admittedly such a thing has never happened, still it is conceivable that someone might possibly have escaped from their singing; but from their silence certainly never.
~ Franz Kafka, 'The Silence of the Sirens'
The myth of Ulysses (Odysseus) and the Sirens is a cautionary tale. You know how the popular version of the story goes... our hero sails in a ship through dangerous waters, where Sirens lure men to their doom. He orders his crew to plug their own ears with wax and to bind him tightly to the mast so that he may hear the Sirens’ song without succumbing to it.
On a practical note, the ocean itself has a powerful pull on the psyche. Having once been married to a fisherman, I can vouch for the fact that there is something mysteriously alluring about the sea that gets to every single one of them – you can see it in their eyes when they come ashore... they cannot wait to get back out there to ‘her’. I actually used to get a little bit jealous. You’ve as good as lost him for days, sometimes weeks on end, which is why other wives jokingly refer to one another as “Fishermen’s Widows”.
Needless to say, Ulysses’ experience with the Sirens is an allegory for the relationship between men and women, or, more appropriately, masculine and feminine energies. Ruth Martin has made an excellent study of it HERE. Her short thesis, entitled: Love at a Distance: Kafka and the Sirens, explains how this is a story of the heart and emotions, whichever way you interpret it.
You could also say this is a tale of unrequited love – that is, a love unreciprocated. But it’s not that Ulysses isn’t interested... he actually wants to hear the Sirens’ song and, when he does, it so attracts him that he yearns to surrender to it but is bound, both physically and by the rational command he’d already given to his crew to ignore his pleadings to be set free. Even before he heard the first note, he’d already decided not to allow himself that choice, which he appears to regret:
"They sang these words most musically, and as I longed to hear them further I made by frowning to my men that they should set me free; but they quickened their stroke, and Eurylochus and Perimedes bound me with still stronger bonds till we had got out of hearing of the Sirens' voices.” [Homer’s Odyssey].
Perhaps it’s as Ruth writes: “... the sirens’ song is only a projection of the hero’s own ideas of the perfect song, and in order to maintain the beauty of this idea, he doesn’t allow himself to come too close to it”.
The Sirens represent the power in feminine intuitive wisdom – the ability to ‘know’ with the heart, not the head. It is expression of feeling, not thinking. This is deadly to the masculine logical power to reason. For a man to yield to the feminine – to allow himself to be embraced by that intimacy and, in turn, become emotionally vulnerable – he must (shamanically-speaking) ‘die’. Could it be that our testosterone-fuelled champion was terrified that being embraced by this powerful feminine force could open his heart and therefore sabotage his quest?
This story illustrates how both masculine (Ulysses) and feminine (sirens) have the potential to destroy one another. The Sirens, watching the object of their attentions sail by, are heartbroken. They themselves want to be heard and acknowledged, not through brute force but subtle persuasion. As he passes them by “...They no longer had any desire to allure; all that they wanted was to hold as long as they could the radiance that fell from Ulysses' great eyes” [Kafka – The Silence of the Sirens]. Depending on which version of the story you hear, they are so overcome with grief at their loss that they then take their own lives by dashing themselves on the rocks.
Surely, as they are all-wise and all-knowing, doesn’t it seem more likely that they would just wait for the next ship and someone courageous who was up for it?