Philosophical minded folks (like me) often forget that Big is not better. The Big Questions can be anything but good, they are often pretentious and also impossible to answer (which is one reason for their perennial popularity; we will be able to argue about them for many more long winter evenings…).
I recently talked with the wife of a very good and important friend who passed away in cancer. How do you cope, I asked her.
Fine, she said, and then – Do you know the hardest bit, what I miss the most? Coming home and there is somebody who says: How are you? How has you day been? Tell me about it!
These are the small but oh so important questions. Forget the meaning of life and the universe. Forget Truth. All you want to do is to tell somebody you love that your day has been gray and monotonous. Or that you have been at the dentist and she carved around in your face for two hours, with no anaesthetic (your choice), and now your skull feels like a war zone.
De har inget hyfs och inga manér. De kallas skådespelare men är en samling anarkister hela bunten. De tar plats på scenen, men redan det låter för fint. De tar inte plats, de tar över scenen, precis hur de vill. Ingen bryr sig om någon annan: man hoppar upp på scenen, slåss på scenen, knuffar ner från scenen, knuffas ner från scenen, allt med samma ohejdade impulsivitet.
Impulser är allt som finns. Hit, dit, ner, upp, men alltid bakom nyckelordet JAG. Jag vill, jag ska ha, jag tar, jag talar…
Alla menar att deras namn är “Jag”, vilket leder till förväxlingar. När det ropas i högtalaren “Kan Jag komma till scenen?” kommer hela kompaniet springande. Dvs om de inte redan VAR på scenen allihopa, fajtandes om vem som ska stå i strålkastarljuset, vem som ska ha mikrofonen.
De har förstås ingen regissör, även om de låtsas som om det har det. (Det vore inte anarki annars.)
Men det finns en regissör. Han är inte med kompaniet. Det är han som heter Jag på riktigt.
When making affirmations — “I am successful, energetic, wise and have lots of hair on my chest” — we are at the same time affirming something about ourselves. Namely that we are limited, tired, ignorant students of life with endless questions and much ignorance — but smoothly hairless as a baby´s butt.
In short, that we NEED affirmations.
These are not good affirmations.
The paradox of affirmations: If we WERE all the things that we say (over and over again) we ARE, we wouldn´t repeat those phrases. Catch 22?
How to get around this?
Perhaps by making nonverbal affirmations. Be your affirmation. Don´t say anything, don´t be mental, just imagine in a flesh and blood manner that you ARE the person you want to be.
Change costume. Give this person a name. If you deep down inside are convinced that you are Clark Kent, how then can you be Superman?
Maybe it´s not a question of trying to become a different, better being, but a case of a better being trying to get out from inside us, from our limiting beliefs.
The magnificent statue was perhaps lurking in the block of stone all along, hidden, silent, until a friendly sculptor released him from bondage…
Axel Ebbe was a friendly sculptor . Look at the figure in the upper right corner, this instant breaking free from his limitations. He doesn´t have to say “I am not a stone, I am not a stone”. He knows he isn´t.
There is a very valuable, and somewhat rare, quality for humans navigating through life: the ability to tell the difference between friend and foe.
Some people say nice things to us, others sharp, critical things. That is not enough for making the distinction, far too much black and white.
There are people who wish us well and only want our best and then there are others who are envious, mean and actually want our worst. (And of course a big spectrum in between.)
BUT — the latter group quite often says nice things to us, while the former, far from always but sometimes (when they are what I would call real friends) can say very sharp and critical things. Which confuses things, a bit.
The real factor of distinction is whether the person wishes me well or not, not whether her words are sweet or pungent. Which is better, a sugary but forked tongue or plain critical speech?
Honest, well-meaning criticism from someone who wants our best is something rare in life, almost a luxury. It is so much easier to swallow criticism (what complications might not arise?) than to express it. Silence never hurt anybody, right? Maybe wrong.
By all means, defend yourself against enemies (if you have any), but don´t defend yourself against friends who give you difficult to swallow advice of the pungent kind.
They are perhaps your very best friends. Don´t confuse them with foes.
Contradicting what my extraterrestrials friends from the Groovy Galaxy told me the other day, I DO think that writing matters, that it changes something, that is has some small value at least — the value of digestion.
Impressions can be raw, un-chewed, can pass right through your system without any nourishment being taken up. Or they can be reflected upon, considered, pondered, digested. That end product, digested experience, is somehow what I bring to the world (apart from my music, which is on another plane).
But how is this digested product of value to the world? I don´t know, but I guess by being read and heard by others, who thereby carry it in THEIR consciousness, who somehow make it part of their being.
This is rather clear to me when it comes to music. If it has touched me deeply it leaves a mark, gets to have a special place in my heart. A great photograph (or painting) can have the same effect. It “impresses” (itself on) me, I am touched, I remember it and carry it with(in) me.
Thoughts I am less sure about. You read a book, sure, it can make a big impression on you. but even then you might forget it in a week. Poems can be stronger in this respect. Many a poem helps to establish and keep alive national identity, insights about different subjects, can create contact with elevated energies, feelings of thankfulness, humility, love or pride.
My own ditty “All you need is broadband” might have had some such effect. (Many people don´t even know that I wrote it, which gives the whole thing an old-fashioned Anon-feeling.)
Anyway, I am a scribe and think, and definitely hope, that my reflections on life, myself, you and the universe are somehow of some value to humanity. If not humanity, then the Cosmos (“no energy, be it ever so mental or aristocratic, is ever lost”).
Postscript: I can definitely say that being a scribe is a gift to myself: while writing, at least my own energies are vivified and strengthened. Presently I find it very hard to imagine life without the possibility to write down my thoughts.
Speech is civilization. The word,
even the most contradictory word,
preserves contact — it is silence
which isolates. (Thomas Mann)
Of these three — speech, contact and civilization — I would say that contact is the most important and essential one.
We need not necessarily speak, and “civilization” is a dubious thing. As a sharp observer asked: Is it civilization if a cannibal eats with knife and fork? Much of what goes under the name of civilization is cannibalism with fancy make-up, and table manners, and tie.
Contact, however, seems more and more essential to me. This can be a question of human intercourse, umgänge, and such. Nice enough. I love to sit at a sidewalk café and chat with friends and strangers about all kinds of things.
But what seems even more important is a more general contact. When I look at you, or you, or the room I am in, or the small bottle of Metaxa I just bought, or my hands, or anything else, then I can have contact with you / it /me . Or not.
I can be there — or not. Present, or not.
When it comes to big city life one always hears that because of the great masses of city folk flowing like lava in the streets it is necessary to screen out impressions, sounds and people. One couldn´t survive otherwise.
I am no longer sure about that. I definitely suffer from street noise and big crowds and the rush hour energy. So I withdraw and retreat into myself.
But is it really myself I retreat into? Behind that train of thought lies the premise that I end HERE, just where the big noisy world starts. Within a radius of maybe two meters (including my aura) live I, beyond that lives the rest of the world.
But what if I am bigger than that? Then I am cutting off something that in a way belongs to me, or that together with me is part of something bigger. Maybe we are two fragments of a Whole, and in that case contact between us is not only inevitable, but also something that is desirable to recognize, accept, affirm.
While FULLY looking and establishing actual contact with you, the room, the bottle of Metaxa, or my hand, I am perhaps not shrinking at all, but the opposite. What I feel when looking earnestly at you — really bringing you into myself as an impression and “taste” — is possibly my greater self. Of which you are a part (?).
There is a wonderful saying that mirrors this train of thought.
Or sit I. Here is an interesting variation on the same theme.
One could say that the question is about being personal. Impersonal means denying any connection between us, certainly any kinship.
We (I) often look at waiters and chamber maids with an impersonal look. That is “normal”. What is maybe worse is to look with an impersonal eye on friends, acquaintances, even our lovers. Nobody home, vacant eye, no contact….
No eye contact, and no I contact. Looking inwards into “I” is at least as important as looking out.
Besides, we live with ourselves 24 hours a day (some of us 25), so if we have a poor relationship there, we will have lots of sad drama, all the time.
One more thing we can have contact with is time. This time, this hour, this second.
You, my dear, might still be here tomorrow, giving me a chance to be real and present, which I wasn´t yesterday and today. But the yesterday moment will be gone, floated far away on the river of merciless Time.
As the Incredible String Band sang: “If I don´t kiss you, that kiss is untasted, I´ll never, no never get it back…”
[I was trying to be funny when I came up with this headline, but actually it´s quite fitting.]
What does it mean to play a role in life? I am not talking about theatrical roles or “life roles (whatever they are) but about people adopting different roles towards each other. These can be short-lived and incidental, or long-lasting, as in marriages or between parent and child.
Roles we play with colleagues at work or waiters at our favorite restaurant are short-lived, though regularly recurring. Predictability is the keyword.
Roles we play with a partner can be more chronic. A usual variation: one person playing the parent role, the other the role of an irresponsible child. Such roles fit each other like hand and glove, which makes it hard, and rather uninteresting, to abandon the roles. “Why should we, when we fit each other so well…?”
But what happens if one of the persons leaves her/his role? Then what is the other to do? Where does the hand go when the glove is gone?
It very probably finds itself another glove, often very similar if not identical to the old one. And so the beat goes on — the same beat, same tempo and same (dis)harmony — identical roles hiding behind different faces.
This new glove makes it difficult — and, again, uninteresting — for the hand to change. Why should it, now that it has another fitting glove…?
However, if the hand is abandoned and left alone, glove-less, it might radically revise its role playing. No well-fitting glove-partner reinforces its old patterns, thus it is more free to find new roles. Or, radically, no roles at all.
(Of course, even if takes a long break from gloves (= pattern-reinforcing partners) it can still fall back into the same pattern when it meets a new partner, even after years of lonely life.)
I imagine that if it manages to leave its old roles behind it will be like a spontaneous actor — no script but all the freedom in the world. It can choose, in the moment, from millions of temporary mini-roles, all based on honesty of the moment (which is more than whim of the moment), instead of being weighed down by one or two roles that hijack it for for their own agenda.
A role, it seems to me, is a collection of habits, almost a syndrome. “This is how I usually act, react, think and feel.” Situation A leads to perception/ reaction B, meeting person C leads to reaction D, E to f, etc.
Habits are predictable and based on the past. Perhaps I, to be frank, would like to go from A to F, but I am so damned used to go to B… so I will probably just go to B!
Going from A to F (or J or Z) is what I would call “rocking” (the boat).
In a way roles are close to what we call “identity”. What people recognize as us is possibly just lingering roles and stubborn habits. When they see us acting “our way”, they think “Yes, that´s him all-right”. They could better say “Yes, there goes his old habits, his encrusted roles again.”
Habits are sometimes called “second nature”. Which leads to the question: What is first nature? and to the scary follow up question: IS there a first nature…? Or are we mainly a bundle of cohesive habits that are fused into roles, non-changing (or very slowly changing) patterns of practical, mental and emotional behavior?
Habits can be changed, with much persistence, and much desire to change them. If habits are changed, roles can be loosened, leaving more place for real spontaneity and in the moment-responses, instead of memorized reactions and reflexes. In short, more Now and less reruns of the Old, less sinking feeling of “There I go AGAIN... for the nth time!?!”
Desideratum: second-nature of roles and habits giving way to first-nature of the Real Actor. Aim: rocking the boat so as to get rid of “well-fitting” gloves.
Blah blah. It is quite obvious to me how abstract all this is. I have not fully digested these ideas; as yet they are mainly in my head, intellectual.
But it´s a start, if not yet rock´n´roll.
Hoochie Koo: To live a rock and roll lifestyle, free from worry and anxiety. Being a true free-spirit. (Urban Dictionary)
To move away from the center, this way and that — and look, over there! – can be a most enjoyable sensation and feeling. I know it well.
As everything else, it also has a dark downside. If I were a bird I probably wouldn´t think much about it. I would fly to this bough and that, park on this tree and that park bench. But now I am a human, Homo sapiens, and there´s more to life than flying in different directions.
The directions and rays can be collected and directed in one specific angle. This is not longer a Free as a bird, happy go lucky-thing, more like a Let´s save and put money in the bank-thing.
One could say, it is not a Grasshopper but an Ant thing.
As I young child I read this fable (La Fontaine) and, without much reflection or doubt, identified subconsciously with the song and dance man: the grasshopper.
The fable in short; the grasshopper sings and makes music all summer long but when winter comes has no food. He then goes to the the ant, who has been constantly toiling toiling, to beg for food….
“What were you doing at the warm season ?
She asked this borrower.
— Night and day, to anyone
I sang, please you if it may.
— You sang ? I’m delighted :
So, go on and dance now.”
One could compress the whole thing into a short question: Food or Fun?
But actually centrifugality is not only fun. It is not the same thing as music or dancing. What centrifugality hinders or stops is building. You cannot (at least I cannot) dance a castle into reality. It has to be built stone by stone, which demands consistency and dedication, day after day.
So how to get out of this binary cul de sac, this choice between two evils (fun without food versus food without fun)?
Tim Ferriss has a great, balanced view on this (and many other thing). He suggests mini-retirements.
“Though similar to a vacation or a sabbatical, mini-retirements differ in some key ways:
A sabbatical is a one-time event. Mini-retirements are meant to recur throughout a lifetime.
A vacation is short, and often involves a tourist lifestyle with little immersion in a new way of life. A mini-retirement is long (one to six months), and allows one to fully participate in his new environment.”
So, the idea of mini-retirement seems to put an end to the old dichotomy between ant and grasshopper. You can dance and still have food for the winter!
However, this is not exactly the same as centrifugality and centripetality. The latter has a lot to do with inner peace, with being collected, calm, reflecting, with choosing “deepband” rather than broadband.
One more thing. The distinctions between regular retirement, sabbatical and vacation are worth pondering.
Regular retirement mean the end phase of life, you are winding down, you are out of circulation, old, worn, have not much to look forward too. Sabbatical, as the quote says, is a one-time event, at least not something recurrent. And vacations, well, some say that after many a vacation you need a vacation…
Perhaps what your really need is a mini-retirement. (The touristy aspects of vacations I certainly find tiring and exhausting. And very centrifugal.)
This subject is clearly not exhausted. Will come back to it, God and (centrifugal) Winds willing.
One can do it with envy; Why is the grass greener over there…?? An important factor here is that we wonder about the greener grass without knowing so much, or perhaps anything, about it. We imagine or think it is greener. So actually we are standing on both sides of the fence, in our own attire and in disguise. Nice make-believe, this. If not torturous.
But there are positive ways of looking over the fence as well. Imagining what we want to create, do or be. This is no weird masquerade but rather a projecting and willing of a certain future. The fence in this case is time; today on this side, tomorrow on that. Ah, how wonderful it will be next week when I land at Shangri-La Airport…..!!
Then there´s Cole Porter´s “Don´t fence me in”. This fence is neither time or make-believe, it´s about being locked in.
But it is also a dream .-)
I want to ride to the ridge where the West commences Gaze at the moon till I lose my senses