Saturday, 31 October 2009

766 - Samhain Moonpath

Walking home between Cullercoats Harbour and Whitley Bay. This photo's for you.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Thursday, 22 October 2009

768 - Forty Two

Quick thought:

Relativity says that time is an aspect of space, and space an aspect of time, right?

So we've evolved to live a certain length in years, and occupy a certain space. In terms of the speed of light it's fair to say that the distance light can travel over our lifespan is magnificently huge compared to the amount of space we occupy (Seventy light years, rather than a metre, give or take, in any given direction).

Bear with me: through evolution we've achieved a certain complexity, and that complexity gives us awareness. Without the complexity, there'd be no life, no us. The complexity is the important thing.

So what I'm wondering is, what if the ratio of dimensions, time to space, is reversed? Over a huge space, but a fraction of time, similar levels of complexity exist to those that make up who we are. Given that particular complex states might exist for fractions of a second, located over billions upon billions of cubic metres of space, it would be challenging to perceive their existence, focused as we are lengthwise through time. But by what criteria could we argue that they were not alive? Aware? Even, acting in and upon the same universe as we are?

Hmm. Potentially freaked :)

Monday, 19 October 2009

769 - Wedding Pic

I'd totally forgotten drawing this...!

It was for a couple of friends I'd met at Whitley Bay Baptist Church, whose daughter was getting married. Each item of luggage references something about her or her husband-to-be.

Not a brilliant image: just a point-and-click camera, but you can pick out some of the details, including Sarah's favourite childhood game.

But man! That took more brainpower to recollect than I care to mention!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

770 - Happystone, Whitley Bay

Found a stone and gave it back to the sea. Then looked down and found this looking back up at me. Later, my good poet friend Ira Lightman pointed me to a poem by ee cummings:

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles, and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles: and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea

771 - Middlemarch

After thirty eight years dodging the Nineteenth Century (although admittedly the first ten years or so of that I was more into Ant and Bee and Doctor Who), I've finally started Middlemarch.

What swung it was an acute essay by a psychoanalyst on George Eliot's observations of the interior life. But from the first page of the Preface to Middlemarch, I'm hooked.

She's so sharp about the state of women in relation to social convention, to men. Remember, this as a George: 'Some have felt that these [women's] blundering lives are due to the inconvenient indefiniteness with which the Supreme Power has fashioned the natures of women: if there were one level of feminine incompetence as strict as the ability to count three and no more, the social lot of women might be treated with scientific certitude. Meanwhile the indefiniteness remains, and the limits of variation are really much wider than any one would imagine from the sameness of women's coiffure and the favourite love-stories in prose and verse.' How many layers of irony! How relevant today!

But scarily, relevant not just about women. Something about her use of the word 'indefiniteness'. Because in reality George Eliot believes that indefiniteness is a virtue. It is definiteness that crushes Dorothea Brooke over the course of the novel: were she free to pursue her ideals and desires untrammelled, she might be another Saint Therese - instead society crushes her under a million labelled inconsequentialities and pretends that it is she who is the problem.

Dorothea's indefiniteness sounds to me like the state of the label-rejecting Hunter Gatherer. Perhaps she has been forced into this position, because no useful societal role has been offered to her save that of decoration. But it is a potent state to be in. Nowadays, however, if I'm right, we are all placed in this state - the choices open to us, on the one hand, and our impotence on a political level, on the other, press us to it. But if we are all indefinite, we are also, like Dorothea, crushable. So Middlemarch is a prophetic cry, of universal relevance.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

772 - DIY

A lovely moment this morning when, ringing up for a quote from a Damp Proofing specialist, I overheard, at the call centre, a woman insist down her phoneline, "No, no, we are not the NHS."

And I wondered, do they do damp-proofing on the NHS? For what? And how?

Friday, 9 October 2009

773 - Glass Hearts

I spent a summer playing with the fragments of polished glass we pick up on the beach at Whitley. The shattering of something useful, and its transformation into something precious. This looks good on an OHP with its projection against a wall.

774 - That Game Of Scrabble

I've a couple of big pictures on the go, so a good chance to show you some earlier work.

This is the second of two pictures based around the eroticism (9 letter word - 13 points + 50 bonus) of Scrabble...

775 - Not Of General Public Importance

Gary McKinnon's appeal against extradition refused, because it's deemed by the High Court 'not of general public importance'.

So that's okay. Justice, except when it's not important enough.

For the text of the Home Office letter to me, clarifying their position re: the extradition, see here. That they bothered to write such a long letter to Joe Bloggs on the street argues that it is a little more important to them than the High Court seems to think.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

776 - All Those Spiders...

... Perhaps now's the perfect time for poetical reflection on the WWW?

Thursday, 1 October 2009

777 - The Brethren of the Free Spirit

I've come across these people before - Wikipedia is good here - but this quote from Black Mass, by John Gray, is pertinent:

...Whether the people they attracted were affected by war, plague or economic hardship, these movements [inspired by millenarian beliefs] thrived among groups who found themselves in a society they could no longer recognize or identify with. The most extraordinary was the Brethren of the Free Spirit, a network of adepts and disciples that extended across large areas of Europe for several centuries. The Free Spirit may not have been only a Christian heresy. The Beghards, or holy beggars, as followers of the Free Spirit were sometimes known, wore robes similar to those of Sufis, who preached similar heterodox beliefs in twelfth-century Spain and elsewhere, and the Free Spirit may also have imbibed inspiration from surviving Gnostic traditions, which were never only Christian. In any event, before they were anything else - Christian or Muslim - the Brethren of the Free Spirit were mystics who believed they had access to a type of experience beyond ordinary understanding. This illumination was not, as the Church believed, a rare episode in the life of the believer granted by God as an act of grace. Those who had known this state became incapable of sin and could no longer be distinguished - in their own eyes - from God. Released from the moral ties that restrain ordinary humanity they could do as they willed. This sense of being divinely privileged was expressed in a condemnation of all established institutions - not only the Chruch but also the family and private property - as fetters on spiritual liberty.

It might be thought that mystical beliefs of this sort could not have much practical impact. In fact, interacting with millenarian beliefs about a coming End-Time, they helped fuel peasant revolts in several parts of late medieval Europe. In the town of Munster in north-west Germany this volatile mix gave birth to an experiment in communism....
(pp. 12-13)

If I'm honest, I feel a lot of affinity with the Brethren, though I'd take issue with any suggestion of exclusivity (as Gray implies) in terms of the experiences that have brought me to this point. Much better in this regard is the approach of Hugh Brody, who has identified a fault line between cultures separating those oriented towards Hunter Gathering and those towards Agriculture - with farming dominant in the 'developed' world, and leading to town and city-dwelling, institutionalism and much of the drive behind politics and technological development. I would therefore situate mysticism not with Hunter Gatherering, but with the realisation that fundamentally different cultural paths are open to anyone, and that therefore, what it means to be human is revealed at a point 'before' such cultural allignments are made.

I reached this realisation after making a six-year adult commitment to Evangelical Christianity, and a subsequent eight-year deconstruction of that commitment. I see no reason why, in the process of growing up, everyone shouldn't pass through some variation of this journey. It need not include passage through an institutional religion. It is probably a natural human process. It might not be tied to a fixed age, though maturity is traditionally recognised as occurring around the thirties - the age at which grandparenting becomes possible, when one becomes less focused on parenting children, and more on parenting the parents they have become; on contributing to village debates; on achieving eldership; on shaping a community's culture, having grown up within it.

What is unusual about periods when groups like the Brethren become visible is that because of culture shifts, different cultural patterns exist in a highly visible way alongside one another. Moreover there may not be an obvious lead towards one pattern above the others. It is not, therefore, surprising to find people stripped of one culture and unalligned to the next. These people may well find themselves nomadic, naked, unaffiliated to institutions and traditional moral formations, and whilst some (but perhaps not all) utopian promises might offer temporary and appealing answers, one can also see that if premature formulations are held out against, maturity might develop, out of which these people can formulate and grow/build wholly new cultures.

We are probably in such a time - the death of old certainties, the reality of environmental degradation, multiculturalism, globalisation, the Nano-technical Information Age. Not surprising then that increasing numbers of us might look and behave like holy beggars, at least until our new cultures grow. I'm guessing this isn't the last we've heard of the Brethren of the Free Spirit.

Oh, and John Gray's from Tyneside.