Category: A-Z Blogging Challenge

REFLECTIONS ON A-Z blog challenge.

survivor

It was an extraordinary journey for me … very time consuming but so worthwhile. I only wish that I could have read many more posts but it was impossible. Not only responding back to those who commented on mine, but responding to theirs and checking out and commenting on my neighbours who interestingly, did not do likewise save for a few.

I am not computer savvy by any stretch of the imagination and I am sure there were easier ways of doing things. I know that the blogger ID did not work, that many looked at my posts but when that blogger ID came up it said ‘no posts found’. I could not rectify this sad to say. So my apologies if anyone was irritated.

Also, I was awarded a few awards from different sources – I had no clue how to put them up on my A-Z blog, though obviously thanked those who so kindly gave them to me. Hopefully when there is more time I can put them up.

I am not even sure that I have added the correct link to this reflections post. Which reminds me of the mess up I made right at the beginning of the A-Z; some kind soul rectified this for me at the request of my son who lives far away. My sons put up the 2 musical links in 2 of my posts, from a distance.

It was so gratifying to be a part of this. I met so many wonderful people from all parts of the world, from my home here in Johannesburg, South Africa. I so enjoyed their posts and it was a thrill to see comments on mine. I am keen to get this off now before deadline and would like to mention them all by name, but am nervous of messing it up.

My sincere thanks to all of you at the A-Z for inspiring us. Thank you thank you thank you!

And to all of us who finished it, so well done!

Z: ZORBA

 Z: ZORBA THE GREEK

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         Who can forget the music from the film?

Who of us has actually read the book by Nikos Kazantakis, published in 1946?

Who can forget Anthony Quinn playing Zorba, those of us old enough to have seen it? Alan Bates played Basil, the young intellectual who Zorba helps in Basil’s business venture on Crete, a large island off Greece. Who can forget the lessons in the film, that of resilience of an indomitable spirit such as Zorba’s. No matter how many times life knocked him down – ‘the full catastrophe!’ – up he got.

Much of the focus in the novel is on the law and politics in which Kazantakis was deeply interested, himself a philosopher.

In premodern Greek society, women’s status was second class. Patriarchy ruled, iron fisted, and the fact that a widow refused to re-marry incensed the men who wanted her led to her murder, honour bound as they were by their own rules and regulations, to keep shame at bay. *‘Women without husbands were viewed as worthless and shameful by both men and women’.

Basil is a young, very detached intellectual who immerses himself in a Buddha type life style in service to his soul. Not so Zorba, who lives for life, who is involved in the ‘full catastrophe’ of life with all its pain and pleasure, love and food … ALL of life is to be experienced, first hand, all the good and bad bits. He is just himself.

So, these two opposite characters who meet and connect with each other.

The April A-Z blog challenge has also been like that, many of us connecting and learning from each other. It has been an exhilarating journey for me, coming across so many talented writers, who have made me smile, laugh out loud, reflect, and be in awe. I am indebted even for the many distractions which had me reading previous posts or following a link supplied. I am full of admiration for so many, from whom I have learned much. To those who have shared the meaning of words and how to use them to build up characters in writing, I am indebted. Animals stories …There are so many: Barbara, 2 Elizabeth’s, Patricia, Sherrey, Kern, Kristen, Ida, too many to mention … and Damyanti, popping in to give us encouragement to go the long haul.

It has been so gratifying to receive comments on my own blog and I thank you all for taking the time to do so. I learned so much from those comments!

A few quotes from Zorba:

“I felt once more how simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. Nothing else.”

“God changes his appearance every second. Blessed is the man who can recognise him in all his disguises.”

“Every man has his folly, but the greatest folly of all … is not to have one.”

* Barbra Dillon, Managing Editor, Fanboy Comics, 28 March 2011.

Y: YOGA

 Y: YOGA
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There’s something so simple and yet so complex about yoga. I’m in awe of those who hold  tree poses with apparent ease, perfectly aligned, with one foot resting against the other inner knee, knee turned outward, hands in the prayer position and then they raise arms high, bring them down again, and change legs.

The head stand: arms in triangle on the floor, forehead on ground, then in one fluid moment, legs up and body in one straight line, perfectly inverted.

My late mother was a yoga teacher. She took up yoga when diagnosed at around age 45 that she was likely to be wheelchair-bound because of a particular medical condition. Not acceptable to my mother. For many years she studied under the best teachers and then she began her own yoga teaching practice. So many years ago it was considered rather esoteric and odd. The results of her yoga teaching were remarkable; so much so that medical doctors began referring patients to her. I have several letters in a file I have on my mother from GP’s and specialists who referred their patients to her and reported back that ‘Mrs so and so seems much improved’. And dozens more from grateful pupils who found this time out in her studio to fill ‘..a much needed place in modern life’ (1969). Another: ‘…I couldn’t walk far…lack of breath…especially your breathing exercises…you said to me it was a challenge to overcome…I haven’t had a single asthmatic wheeze or tightening of breath…’. ‘I…my limbs feel as if they’re becoming firmer’.

She was a practitioner of Hatha Yoga. ‘Ha’ means Sun, ‘Tha’ means Moon I gather. Her yoga teaching involved holding the posture with breathing exercises. Do you know that most of us don’t breath correctly? When you breath IN, it is like filling a balloon with air so the tummy rises. When you let the ballon deflate, it is the same when you breath OUT; the tummy deflates.

She also taught pro bono at homes for the elderly. Many of these patients in their 80’s and 90’s were able to leave their wheelchairs and walk unaided; I have press releases that show them doing the shoulder stand! (Though head stands and shoulder stands were postures that my mother alllowed only after a few years of regular yoga). And dozens of testimonies from grateful patients who said goodbye to their e.g. asthma inhalers.

Letters from mothers who very successfully delivered their babies , one of whose doctors gave her ‘…101% for my performance and it was all due to you’.

The relaxation at the end of class would be my mother’s voice instructing her pupils to feel the breathing, from the tips of our toes to the crowns of our heads, stretch, stretch in between, sinking into our mats, further, deeper, letting go, relaxing, relaxing until we were almost comatose. This would be followed by a recording of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata Movement One – blissed in and out –

I am listening to it as I write. If I could embed it and share it I would, but neither of my sons is available right now to help me with this telephonically.

It’s never too late to take up yoga.

X: Xenophobia

JungX : XENOPHOBIA

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We know that xenophobia refers to fear of the other, fear of the foreigner. Here in South Africa where I live, xenophobic attacks occur. Sometimes small scale, sometimes large scale. Irrespective of race, colour or creed, we are shocked to see such violence perpetrated on other human beings, sharing the same living space.

What is it that is instrumental in our own people here in South Africa burning down the Somali’s shop and livelihood, the Zimbabwean doctor’s rooms.

I wondered about xenophobia, fear of the other, fear of the foreigner, the stranger amidst us. Such irrational and dehumanising acts of violence against those who have caused no harm and who provide a service to the community.

What is it that causes inter alia The Spanish Inquisition, the Holocaust, Rwanda, Cambodia.

Could we be xenophobic toward ourselves using the above definition? Could we take this from the macro to the micro level? It’s a bit of a leap, but why not?

On the personal micro level, we too have that shadow lurking within who we do not want to acknowledge. That shadow that belongs to us and is as real as the shadow we see on the ground when the sun is shining. And even when it’s not. That repressed inner other to which we pay scant attention. Those parts of ourselves that we don’t want to own and that we project out onto the other. And if not actually onto the other, then in some form of self destruction towards our own selves as in e.g. eating disorders, drugs, alcoholism in our attempts to fill an empty space.

Could we bring our own mostly unconscious shadow – ‘the thing a person has no wish to be’ *- out in to the open, without doing harm to another? Can the shadow live side by side with our waking lives, in a peaceful way? Can what we perceive to be the demon within be our daemon if we befriend it and use it’s endless, renewal resource as we come to know ourselves better? Can the simple art of listening for the inner call, change our habituated pattern of perception? Can we break the pattern of fearing the stranger within?

As our perceptions change, so too does our reality. Gold can be extracted from the dark.

Can we play our small part in preventing xenophobia? 

 This is a quote by Albert Schweitzer, medical missionary who established a medical facility in a jungle village Lambarene, Gabon. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952.

‘You know of the disease in Central Africa called sleeping sickness. There also exists a sleeping sickness of the soul. Its most dangerous aspect is that one is unaware of its coming. That is why you have to be careful. As soon as you notice the slightest sign of indifference, the moment you become aware of the loss of a certain seriousness, of longing, of enthusiasm and zest, take it as a warning. You should realise that your soul suffers if you live superficially’.

Today is “Freedom Day” here in South Africa, the day Mr. Nelson Mandela was elected in our first democratically held elections, in 1994.

Song below is The Kiffness ‘Never Again’ and uses voice samples of Mr. Mandela in this pumping vibrant piece of music, made by my son David Scott in honour of Mr. Mandela.

 * C.G. Jung

W : WHY?

                  W: WHY?

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My late father told me a story a long time ago from a long time ago. He was a Rhodes scholar selected from his school in Cape Town in the early 1930’s. At that time, Rhodes scholars at Oxford typically read PPE, Philosophy, Politics and Economics. They were sitting their Philosophy exam in Brasenose College. The exam paper was put before them. On it was one question.

Why?

I remember my father saying that the students were writing away furiously, filling up their papers with all sorts of explanatory answers within the 3 hours allocated. One student thought for about 5 minutes, wrote down his answer in a second or two, lay down his pen and left the examination room. His answer was –

Why not?

That pupil got full marks.

Well, I think it’s a lovely story and something I think about from time to time in one way or another. It expresses a deeply interesting philosophical, if perplexing question. It requires a sort of justification or explanation as to e.g. why did this happen? – and to further questioning e.g. what is the cause of this? What is the meaning behind this? How can I understand this? Why me? I think of Job remaining steadfast in his wrestling with God.

The whirlpool of why’s are never ending, and yet I believe it is important to never stop asking why. We may never have any final answers to our questions much as we want them. The answers remain a mystery and perhaps sometimes this is how it should be.

In a previous post, my friend on the Internet, Van, commented last night on my ‘Tree’ post, 3 back. I have his permission to quote him. He wrote that squirrels bury the Oak’s ‘…acorns in the ground in order to have food in the winter. But they never go back to get them all. In fact, most of those acorns hidden in the ground have a better chance of becoming oak trees than dinner for a squirrel. Maybe the squirrels can remind mankind of a way long forgotten before it became practice to consume more than what is replenished. Besides conservation, the squirrels and the oak trees offer to teach us the value of cooperation’.

Can we learn something of value from this? Why not? But I am asking this question in a positive if rhetorical way ie. why not observe and reflect on all we observe all about us. See the reflection in the mirror, in a lake of the trees, the birds, the sky, ourselves. Why not learn from our relationships? Why does the same pattern keep on repeating itself? Why not keeping on asking those questions, why? and why not?

V: VACUUM

 V: VACUUM

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light in the darkness

 

*And no, my post is not on ‘vacuum cleaner’ – (which works on the vacuum principle but pardon me if I don’t go any further on this).

This morning driving home from teaching reading for pupils (for those who need assistance) at a primary school, I was going through in my head about words beginning with “V” followed by a e i o u. I thought variously of ‘vacillate’; ‘vexation’; ‘vicarious violence’; ‘voice’; ‘vulture’. I felt in a vacuum, vacuously wondering –

And while driving, I realised that a vacuum may occur when the A-Z is over. 

Natura vacuum abhorret. Nature abhors a vacuum. I may find myself living in an existential vacuum at least for a while. Not for a moment will I have nothing to do; all those many other activities that have been neglected will come to the fore; packing to move into the townhouse (vacating our 26 years here in our lovely old home); maybe vacuum packing precious glassware; my own writing and much more. Maybe I’ll be able to provide a decent supper for my hard working husband on the odd occasion – veal as a treat?

‘Vacuum’ is defined as a region of space in which there is no matter, there is nothing.

Viktor Frankl writes on the ‘existential vacuum’. He posits that when we as individuals sense a vacuum in our lives, we ensure that we have stuff to do to fill it up which will provide ‘satisfaction’. Anything that keeps that vacuum-filled feeling at bay, an emptiness within, a sense of futility, we will find a way to fill it. We know in what way we fill it. A compulsion to passivity e.g.TV where violence real or otherwise is played out on the screen and from which we derive a vicarious pleasure because it is not us; conformity from a fear of being just ourselves; over eating. We vacuum up everything we can. We suck it up, faster, better, brighter. In some societies, where the government of the day is not fulfilling their promises to the population, people may find themselves living in a vacuum where nothing is happening. They may align themselves to a fundamental sect, right or left, to give their lives meaning, thus filling the vacuum.

Naomi Klein: ‘Politics hates a vacuum. If it isn’t filled with hope, someone will fill it with fear.’

Desmond Tutu our own recent past Archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize winner: ‘I am a leader by default, only because nature does not allow a vacuum’.

I often find myself in a vacuum when I try to create with words. My mind feels vacuum-filled. I imagine others who create with different media e.g. paint, canvas, chisel, block, film feel similarly. The screen or canvas or the instruments remain motionless and nothing comes.

Yet, somehow the voice comes and out of the nothing all is contained.

*Sophia Loren: Spaghetti can be eaten most successfully if you inhale it like a vacuum cleaner.

U : UNEXPECTED

 U : UNEXPECTED

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Oscar Wilde: To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect.

A compliment, a gift, a phone call from a long lost friend or relative (just as you were thinking briefly of them); a powerful piece of piercing prose that unexpectedly punches you in the paunch; bright sunlight after dreary days of downpour; a note of appreciation from someone least expected; finding money thought lost in the most unexpected place possible; all these events seem to happen out of nowhere.

Happy instances of the unexpected.

A novel, or a fairy tale, where the wind or seemingly callous creature guides the hapless sojourner and against all odds, all is well. Roald Dahl’s unexpected twists and turns in his writings that has us on edge, wondering what next? (Actually, now that I think about it, a book of his is called ‘Tales of the Unexpected’). A dream that was thoroughly unexpected – they usually are – perhaps disturbing, maybe comforting. Scientists arriving at unexpected results when researching, opening up other ‘avenues’; artists seeing the unexpected happen as they craft – going places in their work not originally imagined –

An unexpected pregnancy when all else has failed. Unexpectedly falling in love with the person least imagined. Making unexpected and unplanned for friendships over the Internet, as in this A-Z April blog challenge. Receiving nominations for awards from them which was so unexpected and for which I am grateful thank you!

All this is light and bright, and things seem to work in our favour, giving life extra flavour.

So many times though, we’re ambushed when the totally unexpected happens. It comes out and under from left field, a curve ball, urgently smacking us hard in the face.

Later: 12 noon

I drafted the above this morning. I had an 10.00 a.m. appointment with my husband’s 91 yr old aunt this morning, so off I went to her retirement village a way away with a gift of a pot of tulips (the buds tightly closed and of a crimson hue) and a small bar of her favourite nougat. The sun was not shining, it was cold and overcast.  I entered the front door, another woman the back door. Granny Barbie was dozing in her arm chair. I placed the small pot of tulips on a side table next to her. Mary and I introduced ourselves to each other and we gently woke Barbie.

Mary was an extraordinary woman, small, white haired, bright blue eyes and she held me captivated as we talked about all sorts of things. Somehow we talked of soul and the holy spirit (I think she is a lay pastor), the Bible, contemporary books on the Bible, Israel and ancient biblical stories, her upcoming trip to Iceland on a cruise with her cousin in Kent UK.

I felt my blood cells expanding as we talked, my heart opening in conversation with this erudite, ageless woman. All of a sudden she said: look at those tulips – they were opening up as we talked. From being tightly closed, they were opening. A ray of sun came through the windows. I felt a shift within me, the synchronicity to me was extraordinary. I said to Mary as such, and that this was a manifestation of something entirely unexpected and that it was a good feeling.

So, for me, an entirely unexpected meeting with Mary … and I’m so glad it happened.

T: TREE

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T: TREE
The picture on the right is one I took late yesterday afternoon. My friend Jan helped me put it on my computer last night at the meeting that we had here at my home, so my thanks go to him. It is an oak, some say alba oak (white oak), some say black oak, others have identified it as another type of oak.
I don’t know how old it is, I imagine 100 years. It is huge, in terms of its width, 23 paces.
It is outside our front door, though the picture I took is from another angle. You can see all the leaves that are being shed – autumn here in South Africa, winter fast approaching. I wrote about our imminent move from our lovely home for the ‘C’ letter, and now that day is coming closer.
The estate agent, buyer and his 2 architects came by last Friday a.m. It was a dreadful morning, cold, raining. I knew that this would be my opportunity to find out what the buyers’ plans were – to bash down the house, build townhouses? But what about the tree? This was my biggest concern.
I had a fantasy of chaining myself to the tree, when they came at 11.00, but frankly, it was too darned cold and wet. Instead, I made a huge sign on red paper and attached it to the tree just before they came; thankfully it had stopped pouring. The sign said:
I am an old oak
Please may I stay
I will protect you
Thank you
I was the happiest person when assured over and over that the tree was staying and that one of the reasons Eugene and his partner bought the house was because of the Tree. They’re bashing down the house down and rebuilding it – and now that I think about it, it’s the same sort of thing we did with my husband’s late father’s townhouse, the one that we’ll be moving to.
So, The Tree: standing tall, like a sentry, guarding and protecting, its branches spreading wide, enduring weather, always regenerating, a symbol of strength.
I like the further symbolism of the Tree – ‘…its connection with the three levels of the cosmos – the Underworld through its roots burrowing deep into the soil; the Earth’s surface with their trunk and lower branches; the Heavens with their upper branches and top, reaching up to the height’.* So the connection is there with the upper and lower and in-between.
And of course, the two trees in the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. And Yggdrasil, in Norse Mythology is the World Tree, where the gods lived. Isis, the tree goddess..
I’ll be picking up an acorn or two to plant in a pot at the townhouse as a symbolic gesture, at Jan’s excellent suggestion.
*The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols: Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant

view from my study Oct 2012

 This is a photo of trees from my study …

S: SOUL & SPIRIT

S: SOUL & SPIRIT

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moon on water

S: SOUL AND SPIRIT

Soul sinks. Spirit soars.

Soul resides in the depths, spirit in the heights.

Different images of these words.

If we use the ordinary language of logic and law in trying to define what each means, we lose the essence of these image laden words. Let’s look at them metaphorically and imaginatively and hopefully get a better sense of why they initially need separation; and if they can both work together.

Soul does not attempt to escape the grittiness and hardships of life. Spirit seeks to transcend them and rise above them. Soul resides in the psyche in each individual though  there are times when call a person soul-less. ‘S/he has no soul’. Spirit is formless, impersonal, abstract, the breath (pneuma) of God given to each of us from the moment of birth yet is always above and overshadowing us.

Soul resides in the vales (valleys), in the deep ground of our being. It is the raw material, the experiences we have on a daily basis, both good and not so good. It is in the blood, sweat and tears of everyday life, the precious salt of life, the dark of life, the depths, the swamps – the cooking, crooked, circular complexities of our being in e.g. relationships or on our own. It says yes: it is this and it is that also and all belong. Transformation happens in soul work, the deeper we go.

People who seek spiritual enlightenment very often seek them in the highest altitudes, those peaks where the light is bright and piercing. Illuminating? Often it is a solitary journey, leaving the soul behind, in ascent of spirit. It is usually goal oriented, seeking inspiration, absolute truth, yearning to be inspirited in those distant, superior lofty heights. The linear approach to spirit says: it is this and not that.

Is there a middle position between the two?

Do we experience soul in the world, and is spirit a split off from the soul? Can they be reconciled? It is of immense value to have a spiritual vision, one of divine perfection. But this is an ideal, and is not necessarily ‘of the world’, this world in which we live. Can they be metaphorically, mystically married? Can the one animate the other? Can each feed into the other using our gift of imagination to bring these two closer together?

John Keats: (In letters to his sister Georgiana) “Call the world, if you please, the vale of soul-making. Then you will find out the use of the world”.

I am indebted to the work of Carl Jung, James Hillman and Thomas Moore for the elucidation of soul and spirit.
And – I am adding this 7 hours after posting it, that both north and south stars are lodestars that are guiding lights and show the ‘way’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

R: REJECTION, REPRESSION & RESISTANCE

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Rumi

R: REJECTION, REPRESSION & RESISTANCE

OT: Psalms 118 vs 22 “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’’.

Our history is littered with events of overt rejection and repression that are clearly recognizable and with which we are familiar. The ‘other’ is too often rejected and repressed, or resisted against.

But what of less clearly recognizable ‘events’ of, and in, the psyche? Those more covert ways in which we reject others, or we reject what we don’t like in ourselves and thus seek to repress them? Or we resist asking ourselves what role we played in situations that did not work out. Are we even aware of these dynamics repeatedly going on, in ourselves and towards others?

Anything that is rejected, repressed and resisted within ourselves, or without, or simply buried in the hopes that it will never be unearthed, will always find a way out, in fateful manner, for good or ill. That which has been banished will always return, albeit in a different guise in its natural bid for expression (e.g. Lilith in guise of serpent in the Garden of Eden).

We know that sometimes our illness is psychosomatic, e.g. raised blood pressure, a skin rash, a dark mood, a stomachache or worse. This may be the result of denied and unexpressed feelings of rage and anger, even towards our most beloved.

What are we to do with these unexpressed dark, unhappy emotions? Those highly charged emotions are meant to disturb us and are valuable for that very reason – they want our attention; they want to be recognized for what they are and not lie festering in unreachable places. They want to brought out into the open and reconciled with ourselves in some constructive way.

Too often, we project onto the ‘other’, though the ‘other’ may well be the ‘other’ in you, which requires a willingness to step into those disowned and unknown parts of ourselves. Hard work, yes. And if we are still under the yoke of our patriarchal conditioning, it is quite possible that we unconsciously fear that any questioning or displays of anger or disagreement may result in a punishment, rejection and banishment similar to that meted out to Lilith and Eve.

So, we need courage – to not resist getting to know ourselves better, to not repress what rightfully belongs, and not reject the cornerstone. If we can dig, and dig some more, into the reaches of our psyches, we may find the treasure or the Philosopher’s Stone that resides there.

If one does not reject, repress and resist what we are, and rather considers it in a new way, using the skills of differentiation, discrimination and discernment, one may change one’s thinking and feeling about the situation – in the inner and outer – and ponder it anew.

Don’t ignore what seems to be irrational. Give them their due. Be responsible for yourself. Reality is freeing. Illusions keep us bound.

 

 

Q : QUO VADIS

 

 Q: QUO VADIS?

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The words spoken by Peter to Christ : Quo Vadis – Whither goest thou?

The song by Diana Ross :  Do you know where we’re going to, do you know …?

I quake when I observe all that is going on in the world.

I have qualms about our planet and the damage to Mother Nature

I query bank charges and government policy

I hate queues and will not wait for a restaurant table

I quiz myself often about my purpose in life

I walk, cook and read quickly

I love reading about historical quests and wonder about my own

I love quotes

I am fascinated by quantum physics where the wave is also a particle

Quarks are also interesting

I sometimes want to call it quits when faced with my untidy study

The question is sometimes more important than the answer

I wonder about my allocated quota for the time left to live

The British Queen Elizabeth is gracious and I love Queen the music rock star

I sometimes have to get quarantine shots if travelling abroad

I am not mad about quince

I love quartz crystals

Some doctors are quacks

How to quell my desire for quality chocolate is ongoing

People who quibble over inconsequentials are irritating

Old and quaint are often lovely as in quill pens

I sometimes feel as if I am stepping into quicksand if I take on too much

I qualify as mother wife sister friend writer wonderer

I love night time when all is quiet and quarrels are forgotten

quarries can be dangerous if fascinating

Mac quarter pounders? My sons love them

Ok, enough already – But the movie ‘The Quartet’ was wonderful and quixotic

and my husband always has a quip to make even though the subject matter is serious

P : PEACE

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P: PEACE
Is Peace Possible? Between nations, between tribes, between ourselves in our relationships and peace within our own selves, peace of heart, mind and soul? Can the warring that goes on within and without ever be calmed and the lion lie down with the lamb?
 Moshe Dyan (1915-1981) past Israeli Military leader and crusader for peace:
“If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies”.
Talk: don’t dismiss out of hand. Engage and take it from there. Listen. Who knows, one may find that there are more similarities between the two ‘negotiaters’ than one realised. The demons may become daemons.
We all have our inner demons. They rage within us. But unless they are engaged with, they remain hidden, festering in the dark shadows. And there they stay, scratching, like any problem or conflict that is swept under the carpet. Yet, those demons are enacted ‘out there’ in ways that are inappropriate and harmful, not only to ourselves but to others too.
But if we brought those demons out into the clear light of day, ‘do battle’ with them, and do the hard work demanded of us, then we may find the middle ground, acceptance of our shadow, allowing it it’s rightful place. The ego does not have to be discarded by any means, though our shadow will ‘do battle’ with it. The ego wants supremacy. The shadow needs acknowledgement that it is very much a part of us, and does not want to be ignored. It wants to be met by us, engaged with, listened to, not to be swept under the carpet. It is a kind of violence to ignore what is within us –
What is the reality of war and fighting in the name of peace? Who gains most? The  propagandists of war who drum up patriotic fervour, are usually not those in the front line. They are not the ones who have their limbs blown off by bombs, shrapnel and guns; they are not the casualties of war who are gang-raped by blood thirsty war mongers; they are not the ones whose children are dead; they are not the ones whose sons and daughters return home, shattered by the horrors of the reality on the ground, air, or the seas.
At what price peace? Are there ‘just wars’? I believe there are, but now is not the place to go into this. Every nation has a right and duty to defend itself against unjust aggression.
‘We have a terrible Love of War’ as James Hillman says. There is no more intense an experience than being in the middle of the archetypal forces of LIfe and Death, fully in the middle. Can this tension be held?
Are our inner demons played out on the world stage? Can we start with ourselves and wrestle with our own inner demons and transform them into helpful daemons, thereby playing our part in promoting peace?
Gandhi: Everyone who wills can hear the inner voice. It is within everyone.
Namaste.

O – OPPOSITES

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O: OPPOSITES

Is reconciliation possible between the few opposites I have listed below? Is there any value in uniting those opposites? Is there a centre? Are they opposites or do they belong to each other, two sides of coin, part of a larger cycle?

 acceptance : rejection

  peace :  war

          salvation: damnation

       light : dark

     good : bad

         spirit : matter

        day : night

     angel : devil

           strength : weakness

         saint : sinner

        sacred: profane

They seem to lie so far apart from one another and we may inclined to identify with one side of the pole over the other; if not for ourselves, then we view the one pole as more ‘ideal’.

But, like the moon, we darken and there are times that the devil gets into us and we enact in some way our darker impulses and then we wonder how we, ‘angels’ as we view ourselves, or the person who we thought was ‘above’ such action could have been so devilish. Somehow the unconscious within, seems to act counter to the wishes of the conscious mind.

We do meet these opposites in our every day lives. I know from personal experience and from wondering about them as to how it was possible for example, that I could have both the sinner and saint within me. I can be manic one moment and depressed the next. I can feel optimistic about life in general and an incident can have me swinging over to the other side. I know that I can be creative one moment and hugely destructive the next in relation to e.g. food whereby I had been mindful for several days of exercise and good eating habits, then in a fit of something (unconsciousness), will undo all the good that has been done.

All the opposites reside within our psyches. We ALL contain the polarities of good and evil, agony and ecstasy, sainthood and sinfulness, bliss and pain. Things are seldom ‘either-or’. When we are racked by conflict, we can be sure that an opposite has been activated within. The task is to hold the tension between the two until a symbol reconciling the two appears. After one has differentiated the opposites, a third, uniting factor can appear. Both poles are necessary although at timed we experience only one pole for a while. We sit in that uncomfortable place even if the destructive dimension is more apparent.

We know that our weakness can turn into our strength. What we may perceive as our vulnerabilities may in fact be our strength if we can work it out.

This is a vast subject and I have definitely bitten off more than I can chew. It was an over reaching on my side to attempt to write about this in 500 words or less. But I hope that this brief glimpse into the opposites gives you something to chew on.

And I sincerely hope that from the tragedy of the Boston bombing, for the survivors and their families, for all those grieving and for all of America, some light will shine on this terrible darkness.

 

 

N – Night : Nigredo

N: NIGHT-NIGREDO

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It is a Dark Day for

Boston and the marathoners; for all of America. My deepest sympathies are with you all for this terrible tragedy. May the law take its course and the perpetrator/s be brought to justice.

Some of our South Africans are among the injured as they were crossing the finish line. Our president has sent his condolences to your president and expressed our outrage at this.

Night has fallen too soon for too many …

 I’m writing about the dark night of the soul – that deep, dense, dark, desert-dry, dreaded silence where even God does not answer. Our souls lose connection with everything in the world and with God. No one can reach us. It is too deep, even beyond pain. It is a ‘disintegration’; a spiritual or existential crisis par excellence. There is no meaning in life. There is no way out, all doors are closed and bolted. The night is dense indeed.

Many of us have experienced the ‘dark night’ in some way or the other. Deep grief and loss on the death of a loved one, illness, breakdown of a marriage, loss of secure job, betrayal by friend, rejection, coming to a stage in our lives where there seems to be no meaning in it any more. The empty nest syndrome is very real where the mother has no identity other than being the caretaker for her offspring. The list is endless. We do not enter into this willingly.

Those who are severely depressed, experience this on an ongoing basis. If they are in a state of immobilisation and unable to work effectively, they may be fortunate enough to  make use of safe medically prescribed drugs. Others may seek the help of a skilled therapist who can act as a safe ‘container’ for their ‘dark night’. Yet, many others seek a way out of escaping that darkness by means of inter alia drugs, drink, food, or throwing their energies into work, work, work, avoiding relationship with their partners.

    Can we escape this metaphoric darkness? I doubt it. Can we listen to what our soul is saying to us by way of e.g. dreams and pay them the attention they deserve? If we can acknowledge the ‘shadow’ that we each have in the dark recesses of our psyche, meet the dragon and come to terms with it, we may be able to lighten the dark. Is it something that we can apply a band-aid to and be done with it? No. It needs to be suffered through, allowed to incubate, turn blacker if necessary and our fragility and vulnerability is to be honoured.

The deep night ultimately does give way to the dawn – the darkness though, needs to be made conscious.

C.G. Jung says: ‘Right at the beginning you meet the dragon, the chthonic spirit, the devil or, as the alchemists called it, the blackness, the nigredo, and this encounter produces suffering’. Jung saw this deepening stage as necessary for the individuation of the individual, i.e. for coming a wholeness of `Self’.

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