Bring art to the street to make it accessible to all.
Create space within community for creation of culture.
Creativity is a state of mind that we can use to make our lives richer.
Prepare the individual and collective mind for global change.
The mission of the artist is to send light to the depths of the human heart. (Schumann)
A small initiation to art can impact the common person’s life in immeasurable, extraordinary ways.
Art is a mirror to who we presently are.
Creation is a first step on a path to Love.
Development of conscious ethics and morals.
Art comes from the soul, it converts the artist into a creator not a repeater.
Are we constraining art so that it cannot benefit all of society?
Liberation, surely, is to become our own individual being?
What can we do to return to a healthy, balanced world?
To create art is to create a world.
Bring art onto the streets to motivate each one of us to contribute to culture in their own unique way.
One of the practical ways that we can evolve as a human society is to move art into the street – out from the ‘white box’ of the gallery and the art museum – to an open place that all types of people are comfortable accessing. Art Out Of The Room gives people of all walks of life the space and freedom to react to new experiences in their own personal way without the constraints of silent white walls.
As Kandinsky says, ‘The spirit, like the body, can be strengthened and developed by frequent exercise. Just as the body, if neglected, grows weaker and finally impotent, so the spirit perishes if untended.’
Art within rooms has so many barriers to reach the general public: time, entrance tickets, the daunting entrance into worlds unknown, the intimidation of elitism, fears of inaccessible ideas that cannot be easily talked about. Art on the street breaks down the idea that art needs an erudite knowledge and encourages simple, honest, sensorial responses of genuine feeling experiences. It allows the artist to talk to people and to adapt their approach to each individual. This creates a connection at a humane level opening space for the public to ask questions and the artist to observe the reaction of many different kinds of people to their work. This produces invaluable feedback that otherwise would have been impossible for both the artists and viewers.
This project allows art to come to the people, rather than making people overcome so many barriers to get to it. It allows people who would never enter a gallery to be stimulated by what otherwise they would never have seen. Art on the street impacts the cultural community to create culture where presently there is little motivation. It gives the common person the confidence to access their own contributions.
Art Out Of The Room is not only a concept to make art accessible for people from any background, but also for the artist, for the street doesn’t have the traditional barriers generally encountered with galleries – managers, regulations, waiting lists fully booked for years in advance and the stress of covering associated costs. Art Out Of The Room gives the opportunity for the artist to easily overcome these barriers to be able to show their work to the public. The artist is able to show their work in a space that is owned by everyone. It lets Art breathe.
Art arises out from the street, out from the experiences of what it is to be part of humanity; we should allow it to go back to the street, to be able to give back to its source and to give back to humanity. Art Out Of The Room gives art a greater chance to weave its magic.
But what is Art? And why is it so important that people interact with it?
Art and creative societies are the only communities that can realistically survive in the long term. Art allows a vision of who we are and how we think and interpret reality. It opens avenues for us to become aware of who we are becoming as individuals and as a collective. Art fosters creativity within artists and within its observers, and creativity is what allows us to grow as people, as a society, to adapt to what is, right here, right now. Creativity is a state of mind that we can use to make our lives richer.
Allowing people to have greater exposure to art – when it is let free from rooms and can be accessed in the daily life of the street – prepares the individual and collective mind for global change. It allows societies to evolve. Art allows the deconstruction of the mind’s obsolete patterns and opens the heart to be able to see the world in new ways: to create and evolve culture.
But, yet another question, what is culture?
Culture is the organisation and structure of a society – it is the state of art of this here and now – at the community, group, family and individual level. Culture embraces and contains our interaction and understanding of important aspects of life such as education, philosophy, politics, relationships and the understanding of the social fabric and it unifies all these varying aspects of life. Culture can be seen as the development of the Spirit of a town, of a society, of a family and its individuals.
To create culture it is essential that it be imparted in the early years of one’s life and be continually developed as we grow into old age. Our lives weave in and out of questions such as, ‘What are values?’ ‘What are ethics?’ ‘What are aesthetics?’ ‘What is beauty?’ ‘What is it to be alive?’ and the enquiry into questions such as these creates a culture within and between us. Nature, the base of culture, creates a feedback of senses of how it is to live, to be alive on this planet as living, moving, breathing beings. Art reflects nature. Schumann said that the mission of the artist is to send light to the depths of the human heart.
A small initiation to art can impact the common person’s life in immeasurable, extraordinary ways.
The way of art is the path to freedom because there is no ‘must’ in art – because art is free, but this freedom needs responsibility and preparation of each individual. Art is a mirror to who we presently are. Stepping onto the path of creation is stepping onto a path that leads to Love. As Kandinsky says, ‘There will come a time when art will overflow its containing boundaries, so life itself becomes a work of art.’
This is not from only from doing, but from developing conscious ethics and morals. The industrial society leads to the development of technology and homogenization. Factory lines create exact repetition. The cultural society is in opposition to this as it arises from the origin from where we all emanate and which we each express in our unique way. Art comes from the soul, it converts the artist into a creator not a repeater. This unique expression of experience of who we are feeds the soul, both of the artist and the viewer.
Culture must balance these two tendencies, but it certainly feels that as a modern society we are heading in the wrong direction, we need only look at our ecology, our society and our traditions that are breaking down. We are being consumed as we consume.
But how can we liberate ourselves from this modern slavery of unbalanced homogenised consumerism? It is to become individual. It is to find our individual spirit, not a repetition of another but our own unique expression of our Origin, as we become motivated to discover our own soul and that which is Eternal.
When we create, we directly become part of the process of becoming ourselves and of co-creating culture, of co-creating with life. Art and sharing of our artistic expressions motivates both ourselves and others to embark upon this path.
Democracy in its truest sense was created in Athens by the Ancient Greeks, in which they did not censor artistic, creative expression but collected minds and knowledge: writers, musicians, scientists, philosophers, artists – all were untouchable. Why? Because the Ancient Greeks understood the necessity and the benefits to everyone of having minds reflect back to society who we are, who we are becoming.
And yet another question begs: what have we done in this modern world to art and artists? Has it become yet another commodity for those with resources? Are we constraining art so that it cannot benefit all of society?
What can we do to return to a healthy balanced world?
We each have our own path, our own responsibility to explore the freedom of our uniqueness. Art can be our initiator, art can be a series of sign posts along each of our individual journeys to becoming our truer selves, to living our own answers, to discovering who we are and being it on purpose. Art, when given the space to open up in a community, affects the fabric of who we become, at an individual level right through to a global level. To create art is to create a world.
This project Art Out Of The Room is proposed as a potential for a small push in that direction, not just for gallery goers and art lovers, but for all who walk down the streets of our society. This is a project that can be developed across cultures, across the world. Art Out Of The Room is a project that aims to enrich us all.
Felicia Liu Fangling is a Singaporean film maker debuting her recent short film, Võõrastetuba (Guest Room) that she wrote and directed in Estonia. She discloses how making this film changed the way she experiences freedom and how she uses film to give voice to those who are voiceless.
What motivated you to film animals in captivity?
When I was younger, in Singapore, I attended a conference about Dolphins in captivity and the disastrous, horrible conditions that they have to live in. Dolphins are thought to be more intelligent than humans – they have a language that we cannot decipher and they can also communicate telepathically. In that same conference I met a person from the crew who filmed Black Fish a movie which changed my own life. Black Fish brought light to something that I didn’t know about – killer whales in captivity. Due to this film there was an outcry from the public against the whaling industry and the industry suffered and declined. It inspired me to impact people with film.
My first film Blue Heist, was a precursor for Võõrastetuba which dealt with the captivity of dolphins. Despite it being an amateur production it had a really good response, which motivated me to write and direct Võõrastetuba. (See the trailer.)
Up until now all of your work has involved animals in capture. What is it that draws to you this over other humanitarian fields or issues that also need attention?
What draws me in is that animals don’t have a voice. Growing up I didn’t feel as if I did either. I was a shy kid, the quiet one in the corner but I could relate with animals – they were a huge source of comfort for me. I felt like I could communicate empathically with them and through eye contact see the emotions inside of them. Animals are so similar to humans! Especially chimps, ohh my god, and the horrible things that we subject these living beings to without any real consciousness on our behalf! We don’t stop to listen and the animals have no voice. We put them in vile situations that are just not right, only because it’s hidden from our world.
So one of my aims in making films is to motivate humans to have greater feeling capacity towards animals.
After making the film, on the day of completion, you ran happily through the snow to your car, slipped and broke a leg. You then had to be in bed for several weeks, also a ‘captive’ of bodily limitations. Do you feel that is a simply coincidence or a synchronous event? It is amazingly similar!
I’ve not thought about it like that, but yes, now that you say it, I was just like the protagonist: stuck in bed, totally reliant on others for food, drink, even to go to the toilet.
What did you learn from that experience in relation to the film?
I remember the feeling of stepping out of the door for the first time. The feeling of fresh air. I could step to the right or to the left – I had freedom! By freedom I mean in the most basic sense of being able to step out of the house without limitations.
Freedom from what?
Ohh that’s a good question! Let me think.
From repetition. Yes that’s it. From the repetition of my brain, from all those thoughts that after a while become really circular, from the repetitions of seeing the same things day in day out, the same curtains, the same walls. Even meditation became stuck. And the same bad smells. Colours seemed so dull. I would sit at the window just to see outside. And freedom from boredom, utterly soul destroying boredom.
How did it feel to have been free and then to be so incapacitated?
It was really hard. I felt so impotent. I couldn’t do anything without help from my flatmate and friends. I couldn’t eat, or drink, or even go to the bathroom by myself. My sense of sovereignty completely disappeared. I was captive to my circumstances and it got me down. I just wanted to be able to move, to get out, to have the life I was used to living.
The relationships that I had started to shift in my mind too. Like, were these people here for me because they want to be here for me or because, in a sense, the situation of a broken leg forces them to be here with me? And the dynamics changed my way of relating, and I think for the others too. The relationships weren’t natural anymore but instead based on circumstances that none of us could get away from: I mean, as much as we all wanted, no one could make my broken leg not be broken.
So my physical limitation created limitations in my emotional world. It was a little harder, a little tenser here and there as I could sense people were doing things for me that they didn’t necessarily want to do. We all sort of hit limitations at some point.
I guess we all have limitations that we aren’t aware of until we are forced to see them. It’s hard to deal with them even knowing that they may change. But in your film, from the chimps’ point of view it’s impossible to get through those metal bars. They don’t have much of a chance of changing their conditions…
You know I tried to portray that the feeling of misery comes with the feeling of loss. The thing to realise is that we never had anything. If it is all that we know, do we suffer as much as when we can imagine something more?
When I broke my leg I suffered over the ideas that the days were lovely and sunny and everything I would do if I didn’t have a broken leg. If I had gotten to do all those things, would I have felt what I was imagining I would feel?
The little girl who was born in the cage is quite happy, and the adults, well they are depressed for so many reasons like losing their kid and being boxed in with each other. They are tormented by knowing that there is something outside, but they are not blaming the system, because that’s just the way it is, they never thought things could be different.
If animals don’t know any better, born into miserable conditions, are they unhappy? Do we project onto them the idea of being depressed? But it still leaves the question, is it moral for us to treat animals so badly even if they have no idea of how badly they are being treated? And even if they are conscious of what we are doing to them they have no voice to do anything about it, what rights do we have over them? What are our morals towards other beings and how does that reflect we way we treat each other as humans?
Do you see yourself in the film?
You know I’ve thought about that. Of course when I was writing I was just expressing what was coming up, trying to make a story and then getting it to fit together and while we were filming there wasn’t a lot of time to be reflecting on life, it was more about sorting out technological issues and wrapping it up.
But afterwards while I was lying in bed with the leg, I realised quite a few things. My favourite part of the film is when they are playing music with the water in the wine glasses. While I was at Film School one afternoon my flatmate showed me how to play the glasses. You know I honestly didn’t know that was possible! It was like a door opening into new possibilities. The sound is so beautiful.
The other thing that crept in is the drawing that Mia does of the pig. I drew that same pig all of my childhood. It was me and my friends’ thing to do in class instead of listening to the teacher.
Did you like school?
Erm, seriously? No I didn’t. It was so strict. We had to wear a uniform. The skirt had to go down to the knee, the socks never below the ankle. If we had short hair it shouldn’t touch the collar of our shirts, if it was long it had to be tied up. No dye, absolutely no colour in our hair. Of course, I understood the importance of learning discipline through basic things like appearance and all, but for me it was like another cage!
Childhood in a cage…
Yeah, and you know, when I started to think more about it, I realised that the main action in the film is the interaction of Mia with a little girl who wants Mia to be her mother. The little girl wants a reunion with her missing mom and then is forced to go away – it’s all fake.
Often big things happen in families that are just too hard for little people to deal with by themselves, and yet they are ‘protected’ from that ‘savage reality outside’ by covering it all up as if nothing had happened at all. Maybe the outside isn’t so savage in those jungles of being alive and instead we cage ourselves in to something far worse: silence.
So I guess this film could also be about escaping from the jail of unvoiced feeling.
How do you find a voice for childhood feelings now as an adult?
I do a silent meditation called Vipassana. It has really helped. Each time I do a ten-day sit I feel it heals me more and more. I mean when I was a kid I knew what the ‘healthy response’ was. I was good at hiding. It was like my emotions were frozen. Emotions were to be avoided at all cost! And Vipassana allows me to feel all that I’ve stored away in there. It comes up and if I let it, if I let go, it comes up and goes out. It gives me space to feel something else, something new. Actually it gives me space to just not feel, or think, but just be.
I’ve also found my voice through film. I’ve done it for all that real stuff that comes up that people just can’t talk about, for whatever reasons, all those covered over emotional non-expressions. Film is a way to contact with the feelings in a safer environment in a way that ‘isn’t real’ and yet really is.
I have recently been told (again) that my expression of what I am feeling is excessive and grotesque. Maybe so. However I believe that the feminines (not necessarily females) will comprehend that from this mire the lotus grows. I have written this for them, so in reading may perhaps step into the warmth of knowing we are not alone; to offer words like reflections into the caves within.
I have just sat a ten day Vipassana course and served another ten day course. It was one journey. I began by realising that I crave to yearn for someone. A man. Actually almost any man. I crave the perfect relationship and can fantasise about this not only for hours, but for years. I have done it. I like it. I like the poetic urges of a far away attraction of something that is beyond this world. I know that it is fantasy: that is why I do not wish for it to come to fruition. I am not addicted to the perfect relationship, I am addicted to craving the perfect relationship. Having the relationship is counterproductive to this strange, silent, invisible addiction.
I just want to write love poems, not actually take on the responsibilities of love.
Vipassana gives a way to become more aware of the inner weather, of the storms, of the rains, of the lightening, of the peaceful sunny afternoons…one starts to see the seeds of the clouds. And I saw myself creating image after image of perfect relationship. My invisible syringe that no-one can see, not even myself.
Vipassana also gives a way to come out of craving: being aware and equanimous of sensations. And I am proud to say that I kept my nerve, and like an alcoholic who says no to a drink, I kept over and over (and over) turning my attention away from the delicious sticky feelings of those perfect images, of perfectly ironed white bed clothes in the arms of a perfectly loving, perfectly attractive, perfectly perfect situation;
Instead: sensation in left elbow.
Of holding hands walking down a perfectly romantic path;
Instead: sensation in left wrist.
Of having a perfectly perfect connection that is wordless and clear and secret;
Instead: sensation in left hand.
Of being adored perfectly, of adoring perfectly;
Instead realisation: I have forgotten where I was up to. Mind is scanning stomach…it’s a good enough place to start again: sensations in stomach.
Perfect perfectly perfect love relationship.
Instead: sensations in lower body.
And slowly the images became less powerful, less vibrant, less addictive. I was able to move my attention back to sensations faster. I drained the life out of all this craving for perfect relationship.
And then I started imagining other perfects. A perfect relationship with my folks. A perfect relationship with my brother.
Back to sensation: what’s going on in my neck?
But how can I have a relationship with someone who will not talk to me?
Back to sensation on my chin.
And in so doing I realised that this desire for the perfect relationship with a man, is in fact covering over an infantile desire for a perfect relationship with my parents: which I do not have. There is no perfect. There is, in this case WhatApp messages and a knowledge that inside of both my mother and father they have an object that they call daughter that they love dearly. We all have these idealised relationships in our heads, my mother, my father, my brother, myself. None of us are really willing to actually materialise these images, they are too precious to us. In the experience with my brother, we tried to make it real, and it blew up in our faces. Years of cold, painful silence.
I can only content myself to believe that the images that my parents have of me sometimes even resemble who I am.
Who am I?
How can anyone know who I am if I don’t?
Do we ever get to the end of the rabbit hole?
The answer is no in relation to the definition of ‘I’. We never find out. Because there isn’t one. There is only what we are not.
And instead of dreaming of perfect relationship I begin to wonder why I don’t have one, with anyone. Why I find it hard to have one with my folks, with my partners. Which took me quickly to intolerance of control freaks.
And there was one in the kitchen where I was working.
What to do?
Back to sensations. Burning sensations. Moving sensations. Sensations that in any other situation may push me into a scream.
It came to a head over whether or not to serve potatoes for breakfast. I (for some reason unknown even to me) was completely against it. I was consciously trying to let go, to not get into an alpha fight over who is the ‘rightest’. And we served potatoes for breakfast.
In the morning meditation I begin to wonder, what is it about wanting to be right? There is a whole range of dozens (or infinite?) balances of possibilities. Why choose just one and then fight for it? Why do we want to always be right? Why get obsessed over one colour in the infinite rainbow of beauty?
So in the kitchen I ask. The surprising deep answer comes back that (as a male – is this important?) he remembers being a baby close to his mother’s breast. The security, the warmth, the pleasantness. Then mother disappears – beyond the comprehension of the baby. Darkness, cold, insecurity. If the mother doesn’t return: death.
How long will this last? Will she ever return? Craving, craving, craving…for warmth, light, security.
When we want to be ‘right’ he says, it is more that we want to be heard, to be recognised, to be remembered, so that mother will come back and give us the warmth. Not being right, or heard, is tautological with darkness and potential death.
So when I sank into a smug security that I had ‘got it,’ I was then assuaged by a second control freak who tried to tell me how to do porridge after I had been doing it every morning for nine days. I breathed in, felt sensations, tried to understand.
‘Why?’ I ask my friend in our secret meeting place, ‘Why?’
I myself came to the realisation that I cannot be in the box and controllers cannot be out of the box. They cannot give themselves that liberty. I cannot give myself that security.
‘But why not?’ I ask my friend as we snuggled behind the building like two teenagers trying to understand the big world outside. I look at the clouds lit by this magnficient Latvian sun slanting into our atmosphere.
‘I believe that inside she got stuck at a young age needing to get recognition and value for everything she does,’ see pauses. A bird floats in the distance, ‘…or rather seeking self value in the regard of others for what she has done.’
‘Well that pressure to maintain that external mask of perfection…’
‘Perfection! That old thing!’
‘Yes! Trying to maintain that image of perfection – which she has ingrained in her as a need in order to get (external) recognition and value – is too pressurising…if she lets go for a moment, maybe the inside will explode, the monsters within…’
‘The fear that she doesn’t deserve recognition or value…’
‘Or worse, will be rejected…’
‘Yes, that fear that maybe somehow her father was right…that she is worthless…’
‘Do no leave the box…’
‘You know I remember my father shouting at me, ‘YOU HAVE TO GET BACK INTO THE BOX!’’
Next meditation session I saw how my father and my brother are under the effects of intense pressure cookers, and that is why they shout so much when things are not being perfect. I suddenly have deep compassion for them. It must be horrible to live with all that inside and out. The fear. The pressure. The need to be right.
And I feel the pressure I felt on my head to try and make things perfect and smooth and not shouting (not that it happened often, it was always subjacent, almost invisible). I feel the pressure I still hold onto to be perfect and have a perfect life and have a perfect relationship and a perfect job and a perfect house and perfect everything while presently facing an absolute nothing of any of these.
Maybe then I will get recognition?
And I realised that all this craving for the perfect relationship was actually very sinister indeed: my monsters inside.
And I wondered, what is wrong with being wrong?
I remembered the complete disaster of an improvisation piece once. How I sat up on a toilet wall with 50 eyes on me watching my brain freeze, watching the intense discomfort of having nothing to say or do, with the terror of everyone seeing me as a failure, and sitting there, dangling my legs, sweating cold damp over my entire body and daring to look each person in the eyes. As I did so, as I lifted my heavy head I realised, ‘This is abject failure, and actually – it is not so bad. It really is not so bad. I can handle this…’
It was so liberating. So incredibly opening to the unknown. If failure is not a big deal, nothing is really a big deal.
And weirdly quite a few people came to me afterwards and said, ‘That was my favourite piece…’
‘What?’ I asked gasping
‘It was so raw…so real…what is in all of us.’
The reality of humanity: it is impossible to be a failure if we are honest about it.
And yet still I cling to be ‘right’.
And I come to the reasoning that I am afraid of the dark, of the unknown.
As simple as that.
Like, wow, simple.
How to calm this crazy mind?
Back to sensations in the thigh, knee, ankle, leg.
Raimons Cirulis is a Latvian interior designer with soul. Cirulis is globally famous for his collection of furniture made from basalt fiber. He features on the Wikipedia page ‘Chair’ for having created a volcanic hanging chair that is a handmade out of volcanic rock: the Manu Nest. Last week the Dalai Lama sat in his design called the Bhudda chair. He is a designer, inventor and physician who is able to bring many diverse disciplines into one. For more of his design go to www.unknown-furniture.com
What is Design?
Q: Our egos want to be Eternal, is Art simply a way for our egos to extend themselves through time?
We need to define art, certainly the finished product is something that can outlive our ephemeral nature, and these products of a process can be a postulate of the ego. But this is not art, this is the creation of a self image created by the ego.
To create real art one must not be been driven by the ego. True art takes you out of yourself into a place where time and space stop existing. In fact you could say that you become nothing more than a channel for something bigger than us to express Itself through us. Art, in its highest sense, is innocent. Art in its highest sense is Eternity that has grounded into the material for us to be inspired by it, to discover it for ourselves and also within ourselves.
For Eternity is not out of time itself, but it is going so far within time that it stops, you could say like the eye of a hurricane, if we considered time to be wind for a moment, and right down in the centre of all that commotion is stillness. It is when we enter into flow and loose sense of ourselves, and afterwards come out to remember where we are and find that we are surprised how much time has passed. Eternity, and entering into it is what feeds our souls. Ego is what feeds our mortality.
Design is also art. The material life needs art to ground into the material world, often through industry.
Take for example, an engineer who uses 100% of their mind, this is not soul. For inspiration comes from a place outside of the mind. You cannot calculate inspiration, and anything calculated cannot contain spirit. So you could say that good design holds movement within its form: it has spirit.
Jonathan Ive said, ‘To design soething really new and innovative, you have to reject reason’.
From this perspective good design is the same as art. We can call sketching, photography, graphic design, architectural design, ‘design’ but this is not the correct postulation. It is not what you call yourself that allows you to be a designer, it is the process you embarked upon to create an item.
The word ‘design’ comes from ‘de’ and ‘signum’ which is Latin for ‘identifying mark, sign’. That is the true final product, a sign of the Eternal. The process of creation deepens the soul of the designer and the final product, which can be considered a souvenir of the process, leaves others with a sign as to how they got there: by becoming timeless and spaceless and allowing themselves to flow as a channel for the Eternal to express Itself.
When you feel that you have created a piece of art, or a good design, in fact it is not you who has created it, it has been created through you by the real creator (you can call it as you will). I call it the Creative Matrix. You are simply the channel. And like the artist who signs the bottom of the painting or the design product, the Creative Matrix leaves its sign within the finished product so that others may too be nourished by its recognition. Perhaps our only reason of being on this planet is to be nourished by the recognition of Beauty, to give it soul and bring it down onto this, our material plane.
That is why, when you are a designer or an artist and have created true works of art and have been immersed frequently in the Eternal, you often see that artists and designers live longer!
How do you see the ‘Creative Matrix’ and how does it express Itself?
Design, as a form, has energy. Form and energy are almost the same thing, only in different states. Like water can be ice or steam or water, from and energy are the same material. Energy is encoded by design so that is why we instantly like or dislike a design piece because it either speaks to us energetically or it detracts from who we see ourselves as.
Form is an energy unit like music is. It allows us to connect to the deepest parts within us and become more aware of our connection with Eternity, it opens up our heart to communicate with the Creative Matrix.
Therefore design that is not created with the soul of the person, but simply cut and pasted from a hasty sketch created in order to make money, is in fact dangerous for society because design holds form. This form is an expression of energy and this energy can impact the public’s sense of self – the ‘I’ – in detrimental ways.
From my point of view design is a creative part of the matrix that communicates with society: it is the matrix’s sign for society to be impacted by. Distorting this message is not nutritious, nor beneficial to anyone, even if you make a lot of money doing so, for the form stays within the mind and the mind becomes prey to the distorted message: we become further away from discovering who we are.
Feeling, touching, sensing good design helps us change our programming closer to who we really are. Discovering who we are is an endless process that done well gives joy, fulfilment and all the real things that we are unconsciously looking for as humanity. When we become lost and off track from who we each are, it creates tension and therefore unhappiness. There is so much bad design in our present society that it is as if we have become used to feeling like this. Good design inspires one to life live outside and inside in peace, joy and happiness. How much of that do you see in society these days?
So design allows this process of discovering deeper connections and truer communication with each of the parts and gives this gift, this sign, to society. Becoming a designer for others comes therefore with a great responsibility. The soul of the designer needs to be as pure as humanly possible.
But previously you asked about ego and if it uses art and design in an attempt to become eternal. If the design has been made exclusively to create money, then it is not creation, but money making. The design will be without soul, a mere commodity, as we have already spoken. This type of design, even if it is pretty, can indeed make the life of everyone who uses the item worse off. It is such a temptation in present day society to accumulate instead of choose items that are meaningful. For example there are millions of designs of coffee cups, but only a few with soul. They are ones that you want to drink out of. They are more than just utilitarian. They add to the experience of drinking. How is that so?
Another way that ego can get involved in design is creating items for public recognition and status. This is not a good attitude to design and eventually it is meaningless. Good design, as it is created by the eternal, is eternally meaningful. Status comes and goes, bad design even that which is well marketed, has a sell by date.
We are co-creators. If we believe we are the ones who have created something, then it is probably bad design and the design will not work. If the designer has a pure spirit at the time of creating, and is not thinking, or feeling, but simply sensing with his or her tools, following the unreasonable, simple urge to just ‘go and do’ for no other reason that ‘going and doing’ then the design often works.
But not only that, a good designer is changed themselves by the design process. Form has a heavy impact on the senses which rely information of an undisclosed part of synergy back to us, so being in the creative process can change our own programming. Good design where the ‘I’ is not so present changes our programming to be more in align with nature, whereas bad design changes us to be more like our ‘I’ would like, which as we all know, is generally erroneous. Bad design creates unhappiness.
Therefore design has to be as absolute and perfect as possible, within the skills of the co-creator (the designer). Imagine a house full of good design, and now imagine a house full of bad design…how does each make you feel?
Yes, I can imagine. One fills me with a warm feeling and the other of emptiness. It is like this Christmas. I asked my mother for a woolly hat. She had no time, not even to buy. A friend of hers was coming for Christmas and asked my mother what I wanted. So I got a store bought hat from her friend. I didn’t want the hat. It was functional, it was actually quite attractive, but I was looking for something that my mum had made me, something that held her love in it, something that had her unique stamp on it encoded in the imperfections and covered-over mistakes. I wear the perfect store bought hat, but it leaves me cold. How can industry be anything other than soulless?
Well it doesn’t all depend on the designer and how much soul he or she has put into the design, but also how well a factory can create the product and reproduce the designer’s soul.
At present society is moving towards a creative industry where every single item can be made in small quantities – just a few samples – with the same pricing as if it were large serial quantities. You only have to look at things like print-on-design books to see how we are shifting as a society. This ability to create a few products at a time changes everything.
Nanotechnology is being created where the materials are built up by themselves from a signal. It is able to create textiles that copy the human mistakes industrially so that it doesn’t look so industrial to us. Factories in Japan are actually adding in mistakes to their products to create imperfection on purpose.
Society is returning to a synergy with nature. If you think about it, nature’s design expresses like a factory! Nature is an industrial design manufacturing plant! However, despite millions of trees, there are not two leaves that are the same. This is possible because of fractals, which the modern manufacturing process is beginning to duplicate: a program that has built into it the idea that not one single end result will be the same. So in that way R&D is copying nature.
This is the way of the future that society will move in. We buy industrial products because they are cheaper, we don’t buy handicrafts any more, only on special occasion – life has become too complicated, at least at the moment, to stop and make everything by hand. Factories do it so much faster. But at the moment the problem with factories is that they create homogenization.
Nature self satisfies (and we are all part of nature) by creating endless differences. Therefore present industrial design, as you say, could in some aspect be considered somewhat soulless as it copies and pastes the previous item exactly and cannot innovate individual items. But it does not mean that industrial design is indeed soulless. You only have to do a simple Google search on any item and you will find thousands of versions of the same expression, a cup, a plate, a hand railing, anything! Differences exist now in the industry, but it is not yet recognised how the Creative Matrix is manifesting.
Different people create different designs. We are part of nature and each of us is a fractal of that nature. Every design, in this sense, has a right to exist. Each person has to right to design of course! If we were to all design without trying to control the process, with just our consciousness of who we are as an individual, then we would find that every single thing designed is unique. We are all unique and seeing unique things gives the human soul nourishment. We have to learn from nature that every difference is perfect and beautiful in its varying aspects of form and function. It is as Nature is.
So I guess I need to reform my question to: in the manufacturing process how can we make each item unique?
We can create in our consciousness what it is that we are dreaming of bringing into the material world and learn to transfer it to the outer material world. I was going to say the ‘real world’ but the internal world within us is just as real. How we translate this consciousness of the inner world to the outer world at present is poor. In the future technology will directly read from our mind and send the information to the factory line.
So in the future there will be no ‘designers’?
Everyone is a co-creator, they often simply do not recognise it. It is daunting to create for many, and it is daunting if you are not used to it to create for yourself for it opens the door to our inner world, it is a mirror to who, at this moment, we have become. If inside we are dark and sinister, we will create, as a pure expression, something that is ugly, or we have to copy what someone else did and it is not our expression. It is hard to cope with what we see in this mirror to the internal world. But as we learn to become less impacted by the ego, we can be more confident creating.
So there would be no shopping? We, when we need to buy a glass, we will simply imagine it and then send the information to the factory? All our items will be an expression of who we are?
Yes, I think this is the future. Already the defence industry have high speed jets that are piloted by will, not by hands; and tanks.
Anything is electromagnetic. Atoms and molecules create this field. For example, this mug here contains 5 million atoms that make up molecules which make up electromagnetic fields from each particle and also from the relationship between each particle. So shape has an electromagnetic unification. If it is there we can read it, and vice versa, if we create that energy in our minds, computers are becoming able to read it and create it in the material world.
Good design has ‘good energy’ in the sense that each of the particles and the relationships between the particles are in harmony.
How would you suggest to the general public on ways to begin this process of creation?
First you have to wish. ‘I want to…’
Secondly you have to put in your will. The will to do something is the work: the work of testing your skills, honing them, and the will to open up the creative part of the mind. It is like we know how to train our logical sides, but this is a training of our illogical mind. We could say that this training of our creativity is what creates culture.
Then just do, allow yourself to make mistakes knowing that there are no mistakes, laugh, and continue creating, until it speaks to you and says, ‘I’m done.’ Then you have your first finished product. Anything! Just make as you feel.
What if I don’t want to be an artist? What if it’s not my path?
Everything is art! Everything is creation! If you don’t want to put your soul into anything then you’ll have a lousy life. Art knows no boundaries. A good engineer, who has to use so much logic, is also an artist. A regular engineer uses only logic. Instead of the soul he or she uses only the brain. The brain can only use what it knows, knowledge that it already has. This type of engineer uses only materials that are already in existence, forms that have already been created and evolved by others. Emotions open the door, the illogical opens the door to change, to something new. Emotions teach us how to relate and evaluate the connections within products and people. Great engineers create the new through the imagination of the soul.
But surely evaluation is logical?
You can use your mind or your soul to evaluate. Your mind can think about it, but your soul is filled with joy when it is a positive evaluation. Yes, and the soul gives us flights of fancy into the unknown. It allows us to travel into the field of the Creative Matrix and that definitely knows everything. It allows the mind to take ideas and concepts from its realm if you are open to it, able to connect. It is like picking fruit from a tree, or rather letting a piece of fruit fall into your lap and then instead of seeing what you want to see, you see the exact apple that has fallen. An apple is an apple, a pear a pear. Maybe you will find a fruit you have never seen: don’t make it into an apple.
You have spoken about how design affects society, how does society affect design?
Design is impacted by various factors. The first, for me, is the social experience of culture, social background and history. By this I mean, what is it that we have all decided together makes a ‘nice item’.
The limitations of our technology and the ability of our technology affects design in the way of what we can do and with what materials.
Furthermore, how to say this? ‘Social future visions’ or we could say the ‘collective imagination of the future’ is very important. What moves society, what motivates society to change, and in what direction? We can go, for example, into further industrialization or into complete self sufficiency. We can all choose to live more in the external world, or the internal world, to foster aggressive consumption or not. The orientation of society affects every individual within that society and this includes the designer.
And finally how individuals translate the signs of the Creative Matrix affects how it is expressed. This is called self development. How skilful are we in transferring the Creative Matrix’s signs and signposts into the material world? Do we listen or do we block the incoming signs? Do we use our minds to change it into a systematic that we already know and can control, or do we accept it purely as it is at the intuitive level?
You must know Niko Tesla – the inventor who is changing the world? You know he introduced the alternative current AC, X-rays, robotics, the laser, a car that runs without petrol. How did he do it? How did he come up with what wasn’t then and is now? He implemented direct translation from the Creative Matrix into the material world. He has been able to create the wonders of the modern world. He simply listened and allowed the Creative Matrix to run through him, like he did the AC current. He was able to pick up in the pristine form of ideas from the Creative Matrix. He was a super conductor!
As designers we work with our hands and attempt to recreate the original idea in its closest form that we can manage. When we feel that, as Hermes said, ‘As Above, So Below’, when we feel we have got the closest match possible, we feel it and pronounce it ‘finished’. We have created something and fixed an idea from the chaos of the Creative Matrix into matter. And then we move onto the next thing that drops into our laps. The next idea that comes to us asking us to create it in the material form.
Creation is therefore the special condition of becoming the readymade ideal. We do not think of a concept, or try to bring the concept into our work, we become the concept, we are it. We lose our sense of self to something that is more than us. We are each a channel, we each express this readymade ideal differently, uniquely. Design is an absolute creation tool, it is up to us to bring The Absolute into society.
Design is all that exists, recreated on the material plane.
I am coming to an end to the ‘Cyprus Period’ and synopsing myself into a thread of a story. What is that story? France was so horribly dreadful. On the Greek side of Cyprus, thanks to Kat we landed in a safe place and were able to untramatise ourselves somewhat. Then it seemed the Universe needed to send Fabian and I on different paths for a while.
I went to Umut’s land, where I slowed down to the rhythm of nature, living between trees and spending time with Umut (et al) who had decided that his mission on the land was to watch the trees grow. I looked around, understood his project for the land and quite simply, agreed.
A tree takes a few years to mature.
It blew my mind. It was real.
And suddenly I zoomed into a different pace, a pace where there really isn’t anything to do but plant seeds, mulch, pull out weeds, work on the forest garden, make fires, cook vegetables, eat, drink, be merry, be quiet, sing.
Sat in the shade of the agave trees I read a book by Starhawk in which she explained how our troubles began. In the 1600s landowners realised that wool could be taken to market (as opposed to lettuces that wilted on the way) commoners were suddenly tragically pushed off the land as sheep were herded in. She explains how our communities were divided by the fear of witch hunting, as the women and men who held the communities together in their wisdom and care – were tortured.
She painted, amongst so many other stories how the separation from the land and the healers affected us on so many levels. How we lost our power, without but almost more importantly within. Doctors took over the role of healers and suddenly we were forced into paying some stranger called a doctor instead of calling for the person you know and trust helping you through sickness. Take childbirth for example: it is so painful, it is almost impossible to do by oneself. So we ask someone to accompany us, and we give our power to them, to let them guide us through the process while we concentrate on other things, such as suriving pain. If you give your power to a woman who is like you, you are giving your power away to someone you can also be, you are not giving your power away, you are simply sharing power. Whereas a man in a white jacket is not like you and never will be, and suddenly instead of saying, ‘I couldn’t have got through that without you, you who are like me, and I can accept your power when you need help from me too,’ it shifted to, ‘He knows, I know nothing.’ Shift of power, from the collective, to what we have now.
Kant, ahead of his time says that we need to internalise responsibility (again), that we have projected outwards, to doctors (to look after our bodies), to lawyers (to tell us what is fair), to politicians (to know how to organise ourselves), to priests (to tell us what to believe), to teachers (to tell us what to learn) etc etc etc
It struck me deep. We have been removed from our natures. We have been taught to mistrust each other, to trust only Endorsed Authority in the white jackets of the greedy and the back habits of the arrogant. We are being abused.
We are all stuck on computers trying desperately hard to pay for our mortgage, to stay up on the market, to not fall behind and be made into a laughing stock of a failure. We are all running so fast, in desperation. And since we are all doing it, we hardly notice.
We hardly notice we have no land.
While I was on Umut’s land he was working with the ‘Bricks of Resistance’, an abode brick workshop. We were all invited. I wasn’t expecting to be on a self build workshop, it blindsided me. I was simply following like a sheep.
I was struck by how we have everything we need already to make our lives. We have mud. We have (or rather had in the 1600s) land. We don’t need to go to the factory to work for money to buy concrete that is destroying our planet.
Shifts, shifts, shifts.
We bantered around the word ‘sustainable’ like it were a girl guide’s batch. I began stitching it into my too tight uniform of concepts.
But what is sustainability?
Put simply, a system that can sustain itself.
We heard an economics professor from the University tell us that economics is nothing to do with money, but about resources: the deployment of energy, matter. And he went on to tell us about thermodynamics. He admitted that he didn’t know that much about it (and I know less and am repeating him parrot fashion) but the thread goes like this:
So, I got stuck on, if you cannot destroy energy how come it tends to degrade? But entropy doesn’t mean that, it means, thermal energy not available to do work (such as myself) or the tendency to evolve into inert uniformity. The fact that energy cannot be destroyed does not mean it cannot deteriorate.
He went on to say, if we were to make a cup of tea, we take a pan, boil water, turn on the gas. The gas we use has come from the bottom of the sea where it has taken thousands of years – if not longer – to form. We turn on the gas and it heats the sides of the cooker, the sides of the pan, the water, the lid. We pour the water onto the teabag, it heats the tealeaves, the side of the mug, we lift it to our lips, it heats our lips, warms our tongue, our throats, in our stomach it becomes energy for us (to lift the cup to drink more).
Now, if we were to try and return back to the intensity of the energy contained within the original gas that we used, to take out the heat from our tongues, mugs, pans, cooker…it would take more energy to do that than the original amount of energy that we had.
‘Sustainable,’ says the Professor, is a system that can ‘go backwards’.
So, suddenly I understand why people are bleating on about adobe bricks. In the long gone past (but not so long gone here in Cyprus) we went to the bottom of the shared land and made bricks. Not for ourselves necessarily, but for a couple about to wed. Together we would have made a house for them, like the community did for us, which they could extend as their family grew, as the community grew.
An adobe building needs a lot of care, for it is alive. It attracts birds who nest, snakes who slither and creatures that crawl. It allows seeds to root. You have to be constantly on the ball. You have to waterproof every other year or so. It is work.
And if you don’t? It collapses and turns back into mud: earth that you can use to plant vegetables.
That is not true of concrete. We saw that in Famagusta, where after the war here in 1974, all the Greeks had to flee and the Turks have kept it as bartering power. It has fallen into ruin – it is a ghost city. All that concrete is good for nothing, and it will not decay. All the energy of heating up that lime and sand to thousands of degrees Celsius will not be recuperated. It is not destroyed, it is scattered, powerless, held in the shackles of division. It is as if energy has been stored in death. Not destroyed, but not giving life.
It made me think of money, and how we have managed to manufacture something as human beings that doesn’t decay, that goes contrary to all things in nature and yet is in line with our feeble egos that want to become immortal.
And the concept of adobe changed me. It made me want to live in a living building, that is natural, that will return to dust, like I will one day, that is alive.
And then the course ended along with the relationship with Fabian, and Umut told me that the problem I have is that of having no direction. I have no aims, no objectives, and if I had, he says delicately, I probably wouldn’t have any major problems with Fabian. It went in like a hot arrow through the butter fat of my heart.
Next day, the last day of the adobe course, I ask Martin who seems to be well connected in Cyprus about renting a room. He tells me about a course of Traditional Crafts he directs and suddenly I have enrolled.
And there I am, sat on the Greek side, in a little ramshackle courtyard, squinting into a tightly woven linen I have the misfortune to have choosen as a sewing project, trying and failing miserably to sew ‘traditional lace’.
It is excruciating. I can’t see the holes. I can’t count how many holes I have to sew over, my mind keeps flipping the pattern around so I end up unpicking what I’ve arduously slaved over because it is in reverse. In short: an absolute disaster. This, my first week in a workshop that I hadn’t consciously signed up for, a workshop called, ‘Patience’.
The next week is easier because it is interesting: mosaics. I love doing it. I spend a whole week cutting little pieces of tiles and gluing them into place. I feel myself getting into it.
And then a week in an art studio painting masks and a backing board. Slow. Very slow. Each day I go further in. Each day I slow down. Each day goes by faster, more enjoyably. Each day I go on the phone less.
Poem for the Green Man
Up from the depths of sleep
Silenos arises to kiss
the beauty within,
Ohh Green Man,
– Nature –
bring us out
from inert matter
so in our deaths
we can turn to seed
into the Eternal.
And then this morning, I get a wonderful message from Maya Delic saying that maybe we can meet up? She’s coming over to Cyprus to see her mother. We plunge into conversation as if it isn’t years and years since we’ve even texted. (Spoiler: I’m about to blow my own trumpet). She says, ‘btw, i didn’t get to reading the book yet and even tho nothing can be said to excuse such insanity, i do have to say that the past 3 years have made me completely reading challenged (sitting down challenged, relaxing challenged, watching movie challenged, fuck, even challenge challenged!) So my roommate at the time took advantage of this and got to reading it first (and really really loved it:):) making it popular in a chat with my guests which resulted in it being further borrowed AND LOVED♡ …which filled me with a peculiar sort of indescribable pride and joy:) ♡ Aahh Jewels! Tomorrow I’m calling that woman to get my book back!!’
And I realised that yes, me too, over the last few years I have been finding it harder and harder to relax, to sit down, to read, to watch a film, to do ‘Dolce far Niente’ (‘The Sweetness of Doing Nothing’). I find myself more and more addicted to superficial, silly commenting on facebook, to the dopamine rush of getting a message that massage my ego. I realise I have less contact with people, with myself. I don’t have time, because I am entroping my time and myself doing everything and nothing on such a superficial level that I cannot remember what I have done, only that it was exhausting and the very idea of having to sit with someone FACE TO FACE (omg) and actually talk, is like the last straw on the pixelated camel’s back.
And yet, I awake this morning to the house empty. Which is no small thing. This is the first time I have been alone for a month. I have been alone for about three days in the last six months. I like it. I love it. I want isolation! I realise that I am getting so attention deficit that having no one around means that it is so much easier to do my chores, get them done in an almost linear fashion.
And then suddenly enters the shirt.
A friend Gabi invited us to her house for the weekend and showed us how to dye a shirt. We used onion skins, camomile, walnut leaves, other leaves (that I wasn’t paying attention to their names only their shape) and an organic purple (bought) dye. We rolled out and dyed a half unpicked shirt, it was exhilarating.
Then it was up to me to stitch it back together. In my mind it was a no-boner. In reality it lay in my room for two week. Today, alone was the day. I panic as reality rushes in but somehow I manage to sit down and have the patience to unpick where I had messed up on attempt number one (on the machine) and ran out of time; and the other swervy line of machine sewing (attempt number two). Silk is not easy to sew. This was actually the second attempt at unpicking, after the first in which I had groaned and given up. Session number four, today: I manage to sit on a chair and hand sew one seam. There are four seams. It is daunting. It is like seeing the towering dark of Mordor looming down from above while hearing without knowing where it is coming from, the despair of my deceased Nana Tetsil.
The only solution is a cup of tea.
I sit there, sipping, staring into thin air and wonder if I should do a seam a day, knowing that I won’t get around to it. And I continue on another seam. I snack on an enormous pomelo. I get around to seam three with a podcast from ‘This American Life’ and continued, and continued, and continued. Will it ever end? By the time Fabian calls, I can listen to him and sew (please note ability of multi-tasking) and notice that I am smoother, my lines are better. But I have to end the call to do the spiral at the end.
And suddenly it is completed!
And I feel so proud. I have made something that I can wear and not feel stupid in. It is sustainable. It is not made with Chinese workers chained to a sewing machine. It is made by my own sweat (it’s 32 degrees here).
And suddenly I realise that had it not been for slowing down at Umut’s, for being forced to be patient with lace making from hell, if I had not been too hot to be able to get up and run away, that it would have been almost impossible to do something that my grandma did quietly all of her life.
And I realise how sick we have all become.
Addicted to skimming over life. Addicted to shallow highs and selfies that take a second to click. Addicted to checking social media. Addicted to not living in the moment, just recording it for posterity.
And I realise in the contrast of having been able (through someone else’s forced structuring) to make craft, of somehow changing the goal post to something that is much closer but slower to get to, that I am building patience (impatiently) within. I want more! NOW!
And I recognise that this little bit of patience, this ray of light, is bringing me a level of peace that I do not get on facebook. Is this a way out? I realise that with patience life is so much easier to deal with. I realise that with patience I can let things go knowing that the small mistakes are nothing, can be rectified, covered over, made into a feature and does not ruin or impede the final result. I am getting it…patience is golden. Patience is an old fashioned way of accepting the world as it is, right now, without having to become a Buddhist.
But I go back out from a drowsy village in the middle of the hills on Cyprus and am hit with modern day society. I am forced back into speed, into running, into red lights and blaring horns, into short texts, into snapping experiences before moving rapidly onto the next. I realise that I have not made any money to survive in this modern world. I click back into attention deficit, where I do nothing but feel I am doing everything all too fast to be able to savour it, but too slow for my jangling nerves.
We are becoming buzz words that means nothing. What is happening to society? I look around and see a large proportion of people looking into small screens. What can we do? How can we shift back into a place where we can sit and read a book, listen through an opera, sew some clothes, relax without throwing the technological baby out with the bath water?
It’s hard to live like I do. No home. No house. No basecamp. Friends who have long known me say I am just a natural nomad.
Each time gets a little harder. The dreams and joys a little smaller. The apprehensions a little bigger.
I start to notice time, that was once an infinite bank account, has contracts, has demands, has an end date. It may be long into the future, but instead of being around births, I’m hearing more about deaths.
I’ve got half way through a natural life.
The immediate future starts to loom, rather than be a far off promise.
And still life, as I thought I would have it pretty much sorted by now, is not controllable. Not really even understandable. Sometimes I have to refuge in the flimsy idea that as I die and I experience the totally of my life flashing before my eyes, it will make sense. Because if not?
Over time things that seemed to help me make sense of things I don’t believe in anymore. Is knowing about one’s own psychology of any use when the psyche is taking an AWOL out of one’s own control? Is trying to ‘fix’ the mind, with the same mind (that is not ‘fixed’) of any use at all? Is taking six months off to explore dance of any use in the long run? Is achieving dreams only a way to not have any dreams left?
And yet each day shines light. Each nightfall brings candles.
And I wonder what is life all about?
Going ‘home’ is hard too. All those people, school friends, people who set out on this ‘race’, who started this ‘game’ in the same corral, with the same sort of opportunities; now have a house, have children, have jobs and careers and (I imagine) respect from society.
And I wonder where I went wrong. And I wonder if I went wrong.
In the car, taking me to the station between Xmas and New Year my I tell my good friend (who has a well paying job in management in the Police Force, who has a family, who has a husband she fell in love with at 16 who also has a good job, who has a beautiful home) how I admire her, how she has made it in life. House, career, children. She tells me how hard it is for her. How tiring. How difficult to withstand the pressures of daily living, of bringing up children, how neither of them would do their jobs if they didn’t have to, how she feels worn down by life.
She proceeds to tell me how she admires my life, how she thinks I have made it. I get confused. ‘Made it?’
‘Experienced things, done things…’
Here I am feeling lost and disoriented and somehow a person is admiring my life. And my friend feeling lost and disoriented and I am admiring hers. Perhaps because each of us sees what we want to see – all that we do not have that the other does – and we don’t want to see what price the other’s had to pay?
The grass is greener.
And I sit on the white toilet that for two months I can call my own, wondering in this my life, in that her life. A strong perception comes into me: with the ‘current climates’ it is hard for everyone – either because of a lack of money, a lack of time, or a lack of love. Perhaps simply, at the moment, the price to pay to be alive is rather, ridiculously high. But what can we do about that? It’s not personal. It’s global. It could simply be as dangerous as over population. And the human globe strains under the weight.
The flower still grows. The oak tree adds a little bark. The sky holds the weather. They have not changed, in their constant change.
And perhaps the bank of wealth is simply the ability to find mental space amongst chaos, regardless of what life you are living: from the rich to the poor, from the disinherited to the privileged, from the bonded to the free.
And who would want to live without a few quotes from Helen Keller? Wealth of experience galore:
“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.”
“One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar.”
“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows.”
“Believe. No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars or sailed to an uncharted land or opened a new heaven to the human spirit.”
“What I am looking for is not out there; it is in me.”
It is not a question of money, it is a question of wealth to look at a flower, or observe a sunset, or to wake up in time to see a sun rise. It is enormous if you can get off the treadmill of the habituated mind for a little while to do something you love but don’t often do. And those who are doing small things they love regularly – yea tops! If you can have a nice conversations with friends and people in general you are much wealthier than Trump. If you feel movements in your heart, if you remember you can breathe slowly and deeply as if drinking from a fountain of life, if you eat an orange as if it were the first time, write a poem, draw a silly little drawing, if you can dance around your kitchen, or play a song … perhaps this what life is about?
I have written this blog inspired by a woman, a friend of my friend Alice, who I met two days ago in the Sound Art Radio Studio. I didn’t get her name. I don’t think we got that far. She has eyes that are clear and sparkling and full of fear (NB: maybe I am projecting here) of not being good enough, or fear that the other will not like her or will disagree. Beautiful, clear eyes, light blue. I could have swum in them. I spoke briefly with her – but to be honest I was all over the place. So I couldn’t really talk in a straight line long enough to properly talk. I’d just performed and was in that post high. So I was doing a lot of one-liners. She didn’t speak much at all. Smiled a lot. I liked her instantly.
I know Alice lives in a caravan, like me. But her friend doesn’t know I’ve been living in a caravan. In the midst of many words that were sparkling and exciting about myself, like a true spiritual hero, I suddenly remembered through the rush of post performance hormones that I am not the only person valid here to talk about, and asked her, ‘Do you work here?’
‘No,’ she says, looking at Alice who does. She seemed apologetic. Like maybe she should.
So, without information forthcoming I take another guess, ‘Do you live in the caravan up the top?’
‘Yes,’ she says, clear beautiful eyes tinged again with I ‘only’ live in a caravan, a shyness to her eyes, a trying to cover-overness of herself and what ‘shouldn’t be’. I caught a vibration of: I have not got it together to get a brick and mortar house.
My reactions to her could be projection again, but I don’t think so. I had already explained my heroic adventures with the four mice to Alice, that her and I knew were all staged in the caravan. To Alice and I it was clear we were all in the same boat (so to speak) but the woman with the clear, sparkling eyes perhaps it wasn’t obvious.
I love living in a caravan. I feel proud of it now – of being able to make the most of it, of being a strong enough personality to cope with the inconveniences, so to be able to enjoy the pure beauty of waking up every morning to the sounds of birds, river, wind in the trees. Of going down to the river in wellies, half asleep, to wash a dish, get washing up water or to wash my face.
Silence weaving into the habituated gurgling of the river.
Watching the seasons fall off the trees.
Ducking back up under the washing line.
I wanted to be in a sort of gang of caravan dwellers. But it didn’t happen. I sensed she was afraid of what I would think of her for living in a caravan. And it affected me. What got me was the difference between my eyes looking into her beautiful, beautiful eyes and the eyes she was expecting to feel and therefore (more than probably) did.
I wanted to write this for her. And for me, on this the day that I am sailing out of England on another adventure. Blissfully free. My life packed once again into a suitcase (note the upgrade from a backpack!?), a trumpet case, a computer, a kindle and a tennis racquet. As I reduce all my stuff back into bags I feel life expanding out again.
What I wished I’d realised twenty years ago
I have just looked in the mirror and realised: I am too old to be a mother. Or rather I suddenly get that the women entering into motherhood – a stage I have always considered something for the future – are all (except in very extreme circumstances) much, much younger than me now.
I look in the mirror and see the lines. It doesn’t help that for a couple of days I’ve been packing my life up again, worrying about getting everything into bags and boxes, worrying about the long hitch to the port (which turned out to be a dream of a journey) and this morning waking up to the stomach wrenching sensations of the early hours to get myself on the ferry (which I nearly missed). With all that and slight sea sickness, I’m not looking my best.
However there is no denying: time is moving on. It is strange when, like last night in the AirBnB, I watch English television and see the same people on the screen as I saw as a child. But they are not the same – not at all. In fact their heads are slightly deformed, ears protrude, white or no hair, shrunken, shrivelled. They are old and about to die.
And I have entered into middle age.
Enric once told me that the basic foundations of one’s personality are developed in the years up to the age of seven. I believe him. And in those years you are asked a lot about the future. Who do you want to be? Those tender responses go deep. And they are responses also to please the adult. To get a smile. To be able to move on and get back to the Lego before my brother finds the piece I’m looking for. I’ve never heard a little child say, ‘Robber’ for example, or, ‘It sounds really good fun to be a hooligan,’ (perhaps because at that age they already are). Answers are normally more in the range of something successful and so socially acceptable they could easily slip into a child’s bed time story.
And so on the occasions when I go back to my childhood home, middle aged and not ‘successful’ is actually, quite terrifying. The eyes of that seven year old gain power all over again – eyes that were borrowed from the then adults in my life: my mum, my dad, my teachers, my Brownie guides’ Brown Owl, the priest.
‘Who have you become?’ is now the question. And suddenly I begin to crumble.
It doesn’t matter how many self-development workshops I’ve done. How many Vipassana’s I have sat. How deep I have gone into myself. I tremble.
This year, my mum celebrated 70 years on this planet. It was the first time in three years that I was to see my brother after him going into radio silence with me. He doesn’t like that I haven’t become someone. Told me he feels he needs to protect his children from me.
So, like flour, eggs and milk make cake, whisk all these ingredients up – no motherhood, no job, no fixed idea of life, family reunion – and you get a dribbling, panicking Julia. Someone who was perfectly ok and happy in life and feeling blessed is suddenly attacked and felled by the inner thoughts of ‘failure’, of ‘trouble maker with those wacko ideas’, of ‘wanderer drifting her life away’, of ‘never did much with all that she was given’…
It is gross and it is ugly. It is black and vile and it can get hairy. I do not contain all this horribleness to myself, ohh no, I spread it about all around me. Fabián knows only too well. As do all of my ex’s (evidence that it has nothing to do with them, though at the time I am convinced they are the root of all evil).
I begin to imagine myself hanging from a tree: a blissful end to the onslaught of this darkness, of these cursing emotions and sensations that threaten to not only bring me to my knees, but to destroy me. And I logically, but unwisely, conclude: better to destroy myself, at least then I am in control.
Through the snot and the tears and the wailing of, ‘I should die’, ‘I am worthless’, and ‘How did it ever get to this?’ Fabián, a true trooper, stands firm, dodges bullets, does not, in some miracle of psychological strength, blame me for being so horrible.
Instead he says, ‘See yourself through your own eyes.’
I have no idea what he means.
I go back to the idea of dangling on the end of a rope.
Through the mind fog I hear echoes of him saying, ‘You are wonderful, you are a genius, you write so beautifully, you are great company,’ (Great company?! Look, look now! You are only as good as your last game. I am making your life hell), ‘I love you, you play the trumpet, you speak languages, you are wise,’ – it all seems so naïve – ‘Look at yourself! Look in the mirror. Stop using your father’s eyes.’
That wakes me up.
‘Stop using your brother’s eyes.’
I stop in my victimhood. The eye of the storm. I open into the brief inner silence.
I am OK here, in this little caravan by my caring man, but what about when I go back up north? ‘But what can I say when they ask, ‘So what do you do now?’’
The winds pick up. Panic. New sob. The addictively exciting tingling of hysteria coming on…
Memories of past disasters. Of sly looks. Of quiet slights. Of disappointment.
I was brought up with middle-class, well to do, conservative ideals. I mean my father (still) proudly voted for Margaret Thatcher. I knew from an early age the advantages of laissez-faire. We were taught to be adventurous within the realms of what is correct, but not to step over the line. We were brought up Catholics with the fear of going to Hell to control our unruly instincts. Dad’s garden is still a perfect green, mowed crisscross. Mum was head of flower arranging and church cleaning. My brother always wanted to be a priest.
‘Tell them that you have just written a book, that you are living in a beautiful place, that you have a lovely relationship with me, that you are enjoying life,’ Fabián whispers with soft force.
‘But the book isn’t selling well?’
‘But a few people have said that it was life changing…you’re proud of the contents, you said so yourself…’
‘They are only interested in if I’ve made money…and we live in a caravan…’
Fabián stays bravely in his soft voice and says, ‘It is beautiful here, silence, we can listen to the river, we live between trees! It is a privilege to be here!’ I begin to come out of my hell mind, back into the world where there is this kind man whose face is flickering in and out of the candle light.
‘But they mean, ‘What do I do as a job, how do I get money…’’
‘Tell them… ‘I sell books, I do psychotherapy sessions with patients, I model for art school and sometimes get paid for playing music, but what’s great is that I’ve learnt to live so very basically that I don’t actually need a lot of money…yes…things are going well.’’
It is like falling into a soft comfortable clean bed after a hard day.
‘But,’ I panic, suddenly sitting up again, ‘What if my brother asks me?’
So, somehow we end up role playing it. And Fabián (who is me) and I (who am Adrian) have a practise conversation. I know what to say as Adrian, it is ingrained in my cells. ‘So what are you doing now with your life?’ I use the right tone: derogative, but pretending to be interested. Images of no children, no house, no car, no real income, nothing…waste of a life, ‘I’ve just written a book, published it, I’m pleased with it, especially the contents…’ says Fabián who is me, pathetic me, stupid me, airhead me.
The conversation goes on and I can only see in front of me some ridiculous girl-woman who will not settle down, can’t get her life together, who is never going to get anywhere, who will not listen to reason. I’ve tried to help. Tried to give her support. She won’t stop doing what she is doing, running around like a headless chicken, and she is just really, really annoying. Ever looking for adventure. If you won’t change, please get out of my life. Fabián continues to tell me how ‘she’ is enjoying living in nature, working in some phony art school, written some book that can’t keep ‘her’ alive… blah blah blah. Get out of my face!
It is terrible.
‘Swop,’ says Fabian. ‘Find some answers like I had…’ he says in a positive voice that I just can’t believe.
So, for the sake of getting to know myself workshop style or perhaps out of desperation, faced with the army of rightwing do-gooders who are all successfully wealthy and keen to compete, I swop roles. Who are you? Are you better or worse than me?
I am me. Fabián is Adrian.
He asks me the same questions. I answer, not how I think I should based on what they want to hear but how I feel. I am enjoying life. I have written a book. I play in a couple of bands that I love. I actually have enough money coming in to cover my costs. Actually I am pleased to be able to live so economically – it really takes the pressure off. Especially having no car. Hitching has helped us get to meet a lot of people, we connected with Miguel who helped Fabián with wood sculpting tools and deep friendship, we were in a cabaret thanks to meeting Traci hitching, we met so many interesting diverse views of life.
I think, but don’t mention, the young woman with dreadlocks who has 28 dogs on their farm, and when I asked her how they manage to feed them all she told me about how her mother got into breeding grey parrots, how she herself works in a supermarket in the morning and walks dogs the afternoon, how in the summer she specialises in lama sheering in…England!
I love how meeting so many people opens horizons to what is ‘normal’ what is ‘real’ what is an ‘acceptable way to live’.
I don’t actually say any of this. What I suddenly see is that the person I am talking to cannot see or hear any of the value of what I am saying, even when I reduce it, simplify it. It is too far over their horizon.
And as I feel all of the juice of being alive in my life, I feel satisfied just saying, ‘Yeah, things are well. Thanks.’
Actually that is enough. I don’t need to defend, show, prove. I am happy with where I am at.
That was a big lesson.
But a bigger lesson was seeing how closed down and narrow minded ‘the person’ I was talking to, the ‘person’ I had just embodied. So afraid. As I express myself 180 degrees in a rainbow of colours, he is seeing a 10 degree view in black and white – actually much more black than white. And that incomplete vision, that segment of who actually I am not, will not really change, regardless of what I do or what I say.
I cannot change that level of vision that is bordering on terrifying – for him, for me. I suddenly ‘see’ how he will never be able to see me as anything other than ‘failed’ or ‘not quite right in the head’ or ‘messing up her life with ‘one more adventure’’ – or worse still, given we were brought up together – as a ‘traitor’.
I get it.
A light turns on in the dark room of my mind.
I suddenly realise I am impotent to change his vision of me. It is his and it is, unless something big happens to shift it, it is fixed.
My choice is to either take his vision on as my own or stick with my own richer, more rounded vision of myself.
To see with my own eyes, or not?
How absurd suddenly! Why would I ever see myself as someone else’s partial fractured view of me? How can we ever know what it is like to be someone else? How can anyone ever know what it is to be me? Why would I look at myself with an impartial other person’s view?
I am happy with myself.
I like living in nature.
I love living with Fabián.
I actually am really proud of writing the book, or rather letting the book be written through me.
I love having so much free time.
I DO have enough money.
I do like hitch hiking and meeting interesting people and not having to park, or pay for MOTs and petrol and breakdowns in the middle of the night.
I love being forced to get fit on my bike.
And though I am very rarely asked (with delicate respect to those women who wanted and couldn’t have children) and though I will never actually know the answer because one cannot live both answers, I believe I am happy with my decision to not have children. I like quiet. I like being able to be selfish.
And though when it is cold and raining and I have my hands full and have to open and close cattle gates to get to a little caravan at the bottom of two wellington-boot-slippy muddy fields – I love living in nature. I actually like the challenges and steadily staying more and more comfortable and stable within the ‘hardships’. My comfort zone is expanding. It feels like my system is waking up again, coming into its nature, into what is my true nature. I mean what a privilege to be able to live in nature, with nothing but a thin un-insulated tin wall between us!
Zoom on a week. I am in the party. I am slightly high. I am excited to have been able to connect again – if only briefly – with my nephews who, bless them, have not forgotten me. They have honoured the bond we created. I feel the familiar excitement, the creativity, the being alive together feeling we’ve always had. We shot some videos together of being cool on the climbing frame. They came out brill.
And I go into inside to where the ‘adults’ are. The room is full of all the individuals that I had imagined as a single mass (an army) of right wingers who value money more than living: they are all the adults I grew up with. Neighbours who I still call Aunty someone, the mums and dads of my first two boyfriends, aged 5 and aged 9. The mum of my best friend aged 8. My best friend from college when we were 16 and her husband who was in Geography class with us. And they are all each with their individual lives, wading through their own issues. And they each ask, ‘How are you?’
And I answer.
I answer truthfully, with my own eyes. Who I am. What I am doing. How I love living in a caravan. The book – contents and people’s reactions to the book. ‘Couldn’t put it down,’ says my friend’s partner, ‘You could say it is life changing,’ said a friend, actually two friends, ‘I had a messy unclean house for days, I couldn’t stop reading it,’ said another friend.
‘Ohh the caravan! It is so beautiful to live there! We have candle-lit meals every night. We ate in the summer by the river. It’s so relaxing.’
People look at me, happy, admiring. Aunty Jenny from round the corner says, ‘I’m so happy for you.’ Aunty Maria, who told me fifteen years ago when my bro got married, ‘You’ve got to stop searching! Settle down…’ said, ‘You’ve only got one life, kiddo, keep living it!’ All these people who, from a young age have loved me, who I love in that strange I-hardly-know-who-you-are-these-days-but-hey-43-years-later-here-we-still-are sort of way. Christmas days together. Nativity plays gone wrong. Chinese take-aways. Games that we would all like to play now, but don’t have time for. Memories, memories, memories. Sweet memories of from before we all had to be someone, get somewhere.
I am transported back to when we would all sit on sofas together, the only distraction the wooden rimmed television that wasn’t allowed to be turned on and the occasional ring of the land line that we didn’t call land line because there weren’t any other ‘lines’.
We would play silly games that we would all laugh over together. We had songs that we all knew the movements for. We each had our own magic trick. The delight of getting the cork out of the wine bottle with a handkerchief. ‘Do you remember?’ I ask Aunty Christine. That was Chris’s speciality. Chris being my boyfriend, who I jumped on in the Wendy house.
We would laugh at each other messing up, laugh at not getting it, laugh at the absurd, laugh at our humanity – forming relationships between us without knowing it that are indelible. I will probably go to many of their funerals. Real life long relationships.
And here they are, for the first time, not worrying about me, not asking me awkward questions, but having discovered that despite travelling for a second time, despite leaving my fancy job in London, despite moving around and living in economy stricken countries, despite living for the day, I am alive, I am well, I have lived.
I stand there in my mother’s party and feeling the present and the past mixing in floods of happy memories, also feel the pride of being able to show up as I see myself rather than hiding behind someone else’s dogma. I stand in my own truth, vulnerable in being different. And I see, feel all these smiling faces egging me on to live my own life. To go for it. The sparkle in their eyes. The hugs.
I guess they are softening with age, like a good wine.
But suddenly I don’t mind what they think. That’s their prerogative.
So, I just had a funny little, disturbing idea. I find myself interacting frequently with a person who I like and whom I consider, from my great psychological height, to be somewhat on the autistic scale. And so I adapt. Because I am benevolent.
I just went to the toilet and heard him, and again thought, Maybe Asperger’s? (Apparently 40% of the white male population have some degree of Asperger’s…according to another friend who has an Austistic friend with all this no-emotions-thank-you-very-much-we-prefer-to-think info).
It is sort of mainstream now, to label with these selectable conditions. You are allowed to be so many things these days. I, as well, enjoy labelling myself to give myself special conditions and allowances. I sort of enjoy the feeling of ‘not being normal’.
But this time, having dealt out my silent analysis of a psyche next door and I am I about to sit on the toilet I correct myself, the workshops on non-judgment are beginning to pay off, and say to myself, No he is just low emotion on his typology, he is a thinking typology, probably with sensation as the wing‘. And though I am affectively doing the same thing (psychoanalysing him), he suddenly changes in my head, from someone with a condition, to someone with a personality.
And it shocks me.
Perhaps even I am beginning to accept myself? Less judgment in my projections? I sit there quite smug.
And suddenly I think of all the teenagers I’ve hung around in classes pretending to teach, and kids of friends, all of whom are quick and keen to pronounce psycho-babble as much as I am. I remember an ex’s 12 year old girl saying how ‘Passive Aggressive’ the teacher had been that day and it shocked me because I didn’t know anything about passive aggression until I was about 35. How did she know? And I think of the waves of our joint consciousness informing us, as we, like mushrooms, communicate below the surface. Those of us able to stay awake, surfing the lastest wave, regardless of age. Evolution is not just about getting older. We are all in this together.
And now I am about to start to wee and I think…he who I can hear through the wall has no psychological problem that hinders him from living, he is simply ok. In his own way. He is fine. He is simply an individual. Equally different to the next Joe Bloggs.
Perhaps, as we have become more and more psychologically aware, instead of realising that we are ‘all different’, we realise that we are ‘different for a reason’ (dyslexia, OCD, ADHD, passive aggression developed from inappropriate upbringing, phobias, tendency to psychosis etc etc etc Roll out the DSM-5).
And perhaps, I think, going for the toilet roll, we have unconsciously created MORE of a norm. For the message is: your not-normal-stuff is due to a psychological issue. Therefore leaving lurking in the background a hazy undefined concept of a ‘perfectly normal’ or ‘perfectly standard’ person who would not find themselves reflected in a single page of the DSM-5, who has no psychological disorder at all – not one smidgen. For surely we cannot all have a disorder? That would mean we were all normal ordered. And the DSM-5 tells us otherwise. In fact, I have never met a person who was not psychologically damaged. But still…maybe…one day…
And so somehow, like a parallel dream world, this ‘who I would be if I were not psychologically damaged’ walks along a parallel corridor of life alongside us. The who we should have been but never managed to shrug off our imperfections to become. The normal adapted. The one who never suffers. Ever. Which of course no-one (consciously) believes in. Or do we?
Could it be that we are battering ourselves into a norm set by television and the homogenisation of nearly all of our human processes: the make-us-all-equal internet, the greater mix of regional influences that boil down into homogeny as we move around cities, counties, countries – the world…the greater connectivity. We all wear almost the same clothes as the television and the magazines, eat the same shitty supermarket crap that’s wrapped in beautiful designed packaging, hear the same news at the same time, have the same opinions as our friends on facebook etc etc
But of course, we all believe we are being completely Unique.
Perhaps instead of becoming our true selves we are, and stepping along the path of individuation, we are in fact becoming a mass of similarity and convention. It is as if we all aim, pay for, and talk so as to be ‘normal’ one day, to be accepted by Rupert Murdock, dropping like dandruff the peculiarities of our personalities (which we are calling psychological disorders). It is as if the room to be different is being reduced so much in general societies, it threatens our psyche…and so our psyche/soul needs to kick out.
And then we are labelled.
And suddenly I wondered if psychology, in its present state, is doing us more harm than good?
I remember adults in big coats, saying in kind tones from far above, ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’ I never really knew, all I wanted to do was learn, to go to school, to big school, to university…but what I felt sure in my bones was that I was going to be someone great. I held onto illusions easily formed in the afterglow of winning the sack race, or getting first prize in the Women’s Institute Painting Competition, or always being the one to do the solo for parent events at secondary it even extended into Uni as I felt the warm glow of achieving the highest mark of my year group for my final year thesis. I somehow believed I would naturally succeed. I always had, so why would it be any different?
Even in my early twenties, travelling the world, I expected a glorious, fantastic future. In Hollywood, USA, I met an English man who took me around in his convertible. We went to see all the famous peoples’ houses on the hill underneath the big H O L L Y W O O D sign. None of them were quite what I was looking for. I wanted more, and I wasn’t joking.
And so at the age of 42 I’m in a caravan. There is no shower, no toilet. I wash in the river that is five metres away. There is no drinking water supply; we carry the water through three muddy fields. There is no road; we wheel-barrow our food in from internet shopping. Click Fresh! Ohh and there is no electricity apart from a little solar panel that lights up LED bulbs at night, that we don’t use much. White cold light. Candle light is so much warmer. There is a log fire made out of an old gas cylinder. There is wood. Plenty of.
And how do I feel?
I feel like I never want to go back. I said to Fabián recently, ‘I don’t think I ever want to have electricity again. Why would anyone live without candles?’ It is winter time now, we came here in summer. The long summer days were glorious, we would eat our dinner by the slate table Fabián set up on the beach by the river, watching the water flow by, watching birds – kingfishers my favourite – swooping up and down the river highway. We saw an otter once when we were on our cheese course. But now the nights come in around four thirty. Four thirty in the night. We light the candles. We cook. We eat together. We talk. We relax. We go to bed, tired. Often it is 7.30 in the night. Sometimes we make ourselves stay up till 9pm. Hibernation.
Living in nature one starts to come back to nature – the Nature of the earth, our own Nature, the Nature of living.
And I feel my body is different. It is stronger, more robust. People say, ‘You still living down there?’
‘Isn’t it cold?’
‘You get used to it,’ I say, ‘We’re still ‘swimming’ in the river.’
By swimming I mean: one of us says by the log fire in the caravan, ‘I need to wash,’ with a slight groan, slight apprehension, and slight excitement. The other one says, ‘Really?’ with admiration and slight fear of maybe having to do the same. ‘Yes,’ confirmation. No going back. Man/Woman or mouse? Then in the caravan, a psychological hurdle: having to take clothes off like you mean it. Putting on the warmest coat and taking towel. Deciding whether to use crocks (quicker to get back to warm feet in caravan) or wellingtons (a bit of complicated balancing to dry feet on beach but feet warmed earlier). ‘I’m going with the crocks.’ The other looking out through the window, or putting on a coat to watch from the safety of the land. Then the walk down the five metre path: a walk to the gallows. A bramble scratches a leg. A branch swipes for the face. Putting towel down and feeling the night air on my birthday suit. It is glorious. It is a bit scary. It is romantic, especially at night under the stars. It is very close to being very cold. Standing there on the beach, breathing in, trying to enjoy such freedom as the mind shouts, pleads, gets angry, ‘THIS IS STUPID, YOU ARE GOING TO HURT YOURSELF, YOU WILL GET SICK, THIS IS STUPID, STOP, STOP, STOP’. Not listening. Taking off clothes fast before I change your mind. Wading in, feeling the cold. It’s not so bad. It’s not so bad. Washing privates. Washing under the arms and then…the plunge. A shiver of delight and pain down the back. It’s actually OK. ‘GET OUT. GET OUT! GET OUT!!! THIS IS DANGEROUS.’ It’s actually OK. I could swim a bit. Two strokes. Cold. Cold. Getting colder. Is this too much? Exhilaration of tittering on the edge of a physical limit. I get out. As I walk out onto the beach – even when there is rain or hale – I think, ‘I could have stayed in longer.’ Suddenly the world is warm. My body is fine in this temperature. Except my feet. I waltz back to the caravan. ‘Not a biggie,’ I say, again. Surprised. Feeling wonderful. Feeling healthy. Feeling my body buzzing alive. ‘I’m so glad we have to do this every day.’
Apparently, and I think it is true, the cold dilates the veins in the body – probably in shock – to stop hypothermia. Going in everyday the veins get used to being a little more stretched (like a muscle) until they are naturally wider and wider. And I have to say, proudly, that now in December, living in an un-insulated tin caravan, I have not felt the cold. I mean, I feel my body reacting to the cold – I am not in a Tshirt running around in the snow – but the cold doesn’t affect me. And if you had ever seen me come back to England when I had been living decades in the Mediterranean, you will notice a huge difference. From squirming wimp to healthy adaption.
And then there is the immune system. Apparently cold water really helps to crank it up. Perhaps that is the buzzing feeling of wellness after the ‘swim’? Now research is suggesting that depression is connected not to synapsing in the brain but to immune system malfunction. Like when you get the flu and feel awfully sorry for yourself. When the immune system is down it affects our mood. The idea is that immune system was turned on for a good reason and somehow failed to turn off again, so that it is constantly firing, and tiring, and getting depressed. I think, based on the river bathing experience and walking through the fears of it, that cold water helps it reset.
But cold water bathing is not the only thing that is making me love living in the caravan. There are lots of health brilliances.
Apparently, the gut has more neurons than the brain. I read that somewhere. I also heard this week that the first amoeba in what is to become a human, forms into the intestine. It is the first thing created in us when we are a group of cells. The brain is in fact a growth out of the gut – which is why they are so connected.
According to my friend Hayley who is doing a course in herbal remedies and essences, people who live in the city have 60% less gut flora. The city life is too sterile. Not necessarily too clean, but too sterile. Meanwhile, here in caravan river tree land, we are not sterile. At all. For six months we have not used soap or shampoo. We have used clothes soap. We have washed our clothes in the river (and when it piled up in Paul Hussell’s house, bless his cotton socks). At first it was hard for me to live with this perceived level of ‘grime’. I was so used to washing my hands often, with soap and clear water. Let me remind you there is no toilet. Au naturel. Going to the toilet means finding a place. Often mean scratching your legs on spiky vegetable. Ohh and just going down to the beach for dinner means scratches, or a quick stab of pain of a nettle, or the fire in winter means a quick burn on the ends of a couple of fingers. And the cold water of the river washing is quite a lot of sensation. It makes the immune system wake up. I’m sure it does. In an amongst all this mud, country dirt, and nature’s sharper edges nothing happens. Nothing gets sceptic, nothing turns into anything more than a scratch. Stones fall on your toes. It hurts for a bit. It gets better. Head itches, scratch, stops itching. The intense cold of the river gives inner heat. Lack of running water makes you appreciate how much we actually have. Mosquito bites don’t bother too much after a while. Meanwhile over time, gradually, I feel more and more healthy, not the opposite.
While we sit in cars and go to sterile offices and eat food from supermarkets that have been thoroughly cleaned (to reduce as much as we can the effects of modern agricultural chemicals) and we’ve been somewhere public, ‘NOW WASH YOUR HANDS’ with the ‘THIS GEL KILLS 99% OF GERMS’ and gone home and had a shower within clean ceramic tiles – we’ve won the war on germs. But in winning, it seems to me, we’ve lost. Our immune systems have shut down. It is like the famous poem ‘The Orange Grove’ we had to learn it for GCSE Literature, where the prince in his refinery (who is obviously perfectly spotlessly clean) is sat on silk sheets reading an exquisite book. He hears the castle wall door not being knocked upon, but banged on. The brutes, the heathens, the men with clubs are here, ready to fight. The prince has forgotten to fight. We are left to guess who wins.
Coming soon like an old fashioned cinema and a 50p cornetto – Part II: What the River Dart, the woods and the caravan have taught me.
Just when I am not expecting anything, in those moments where distracted by routine into a nothing space in my head, I let go of my thoughts and something happens, something gets in. Normally my thoughts run wildly fast, creating a convenient barrier between me and the world, like an electron in an atom (some travel up to 90% of the speed of light) that in empty space creates rock hard material. My thoughts are like a smoke screen that stops the movement of vision from ‘in’ to ‘out’ and ‘out’ to ‘in’.
In 2014 there was a moment when my brain stopped making thoughts.
They say that when you enter the temple, the divine is present and sometimes it is not. It was not the first time that I cycled down the narrow path between the white washed Greek buildings to my little home. It was not the first time that I flew absentmindedly over the crazy paving cracks painted white, it was not the first time I ever felt lost…it was not the first time I was unconsciously in a zen state…but it was the first time that I felt an atomic bomb of an idea go off: we are killing ourselves from the inside out.
Back then I was in art school and we were reading ‘Odyseus’ by Homer. I read about Telemachus, his son, walking down the beach trying to decide what to do with his life. There was a choice: face the huge leap into the dark void of the unknown, face the start of his own epic hero journey even though his knees wanted to buckle under the weight of the fear of leaving all that is known, loved, comfortable, to enter into almost certain suffering, disorientation, constant unknown challenge (that he may not overcome) or stay home with Mom. In his state he calls out to Athena. Athena is the goddess of War, of Courage, of Wisdom. Bejesus he needed it.
Days later I am walking along a similar beach only thousands of years later, mulling over it. The words ‘God’ or ‘Gods’ these days create so much pre-judgemental tension that they are more like arms of mass destruction – and not without cause. Personally I was brought up in the Catholic system, and though I managed to ‘get out’ by the age of fifteen realising that (for myself) this was not a valid path, this was not an authentic path, and that even the parish priest didn’t seem to be able to bridge any of the dogma with actual life (either outside in the material world or inside in the ‘spiritual’/energetic/psychic world) it took me decades to break through my anger, through the illusion of being deceived, through my hatred. I wasn’t able to walk into a church without feeling alarm bells going off and wanting to graffiti the angst in my heart all over the stain glass windows, let alone begin to believe, or think, of ‘God’. Fuck that.
It took walking the ‘Camino de Santiago’ to get me into a little chapel. They were so numerous, so many little shrines dotted along the path that it was irritating. They were getting in the way of my walk within myself. So after about three weeks of waking up, breakfasting, walking, lunching, walking, dining, sleeping, waking up, walking etc I felt the need to feel the experience of going into a church after more than a two decades of rejection, spite and repulsion. To say the least.
My heart felt like it was going to burst through my chest. My vision went white around the edges. I was immersed in an inner soundtrack of a war film. I left.
Next chapel the same but less.
A couple of days later I tried again.
I mean I could go through all of the chapels but needless to say behavioural-cognitive theory does have its place. After I while I started to break down my automatic response systems.
I stood eventually in a chapel and was able – in relative stillness of mind – to realise that nothing is happening. I am not being forced to do anything. I am not being forced to believe anything. This is just a building, that is, actually, rather pleasant. Good acoustics. I tried out a Beatles song.
But many people have not broken through the word God. Or Gods. I’ve felt that atomic bomb go off in my face too many times.
So much so that when I wrote a book about all this I felt it wise to change the strap line from, ‘On Intimacy: Bringing back the Gods’ to ‘On Intimacy: A Forgotten Art’. I prefer the first, it sums up better for me what I was trying to achieve, but there again I am not still angry at the word God, and most of the people I know are.
I mean we can call it ‘Higher presence’, or ‘Higher self’, or ‘the One’ or ‘Oneness’ or ‘That which is more than us’. Your choice whether to use capitals. But over the years of sitting course after course of Vipassana meditation, of exploring the world through forty-two countries, living in seven, of being a serial consumer of workshop courses, of studying a masters of Jungian Psychology and Psychoanalysis, of having a string of partners all of whom I found to be loving and deep and glad to move away from once we had learnt what we needed from each other, I cannot in my heart of hearts say that there is not something more than ‘I’; I cannot say there isn’t anything more than my own sense of self, of who I am.
Telemachus taught me about the gods. About Greek gods at least. I am mortal, completely mortal, and though I have not died yet and find it hard to even imagine myself not being healthy, I know – though can’t really accept – that I will sooner or later clock it. But there is something in me that is Eternal. I know it. Emotions for one.
Presumably (because I wasn’t there) the Troglodytes felt happiness. Presumably the Chinese people inventing ink felt happiness once it worked. Presumably the Ancient Greeks felt happiness because from my modern perspective I have read about it. Happiness is Eternal. As is Joy, Truth, Peace, Beauty, Desire and all those archetypal states. I mean you only need to go to Wikipedia and scan and scan and scan down to see how many Greek Gods there are, each representing something Eternal. And there is Death and War and Madness too that are eternal. Consciousness holds everything.
In a Jungian analysis there was a patient who had a dream. It went like this. There is a flock of birds. They are all flying in the sky. He sees a bird being birthed in the sky, in the stream of their flow. He sees dead birds drop leaving their collective flight. Then he sees that through the birds there is a continual stream of light. Each bird is like an electron in a stream of light. Each bird is needed to let the light pass through it and onwards. When the bird dies, another one takes its place. Nothing is wasted. We are all needed.
Happiness can flow within any person, between any people. We have all experienced this Eternal feeling. Maybe we all feel it differently. Maybe we distort it in our own individual warped-upness, but happiness is Eternal.
Athena, the goddess of war and courage and wisdom visits Telemachus as he walks along the Greek island beach. He was in fear. He was bewildered. He didn’t know what to do. Then he called on Her, within himself, he called on courage, and opening to her, surrendering to Her, he began to feel it (Her) flow through his veins. He was full of courage. He set off. He went.
So spoke the goddess, flashing-eyed Athena, and departed, flying upward as a bird; and in his heart she put strength and courage.
THE ODYSSEY – BOOK 1.
Eternity is not this great thing. Perhaps a god is simply that which is eternal.
And cycling down that white washed street in an emotional crisis in the middle of an economic crisis it hit me, like Athena hit Telemachus, that we are killing our gods. We are killing what is eternal within us. Killing? Well, no not really: it is impossible to kill the Eternal, but we are disconnecting, not allowing it flow, we are not allowing it pass. Do not pass go, go straight to jail. We are not allowing time to let in the eternal.
I thought of my friends, of the Greeks, of the people working in shops, all with drawn faces. All working through the terror of not being able to survive. People didn’t have enough to eat. There were collections for the most vulnerable kids in the primary school to be able to give them at least one meal a day. People had cars but couldn’t get them out of the garage, petrol was too much of a stretch. People were working double, being paid half. People were feeding on worry.
Terror, is also Eternal. So is Death and War and Madness each with their own Greek God. We do not harness them either as a drive, but let them immobilise us. On that bike home I felt like we are killing all the creativity within us, the courage to live, and letting fear and terror destroy us rather than make us. In this world climate it feels that, if we actually manage to feel authentic emotions, if we manage to allow an e-motion to move us, it is in destruction, in fear, leading us down the garden path to become more haggard, less nourished, to block any ability to thrive. Perhaps it is the age old, eternal battle of the light and the dark. And we are losing.
I think if we knew how to, we would all naturally choose to fight for the Light. Or rather would like to relax into love. I personally would like to shed fear. I would like to connect with others and create something between us that is more than each one of us. I want to believe in creativity rather than buying in to short term solutions.
So over the last two years I wrote and published a book called, ‘On Intimacy: A Forgotten Art’ because maybe, just maybe, if we were to find deeper ways to nourish ourselves rather than trying to buy and sell ourselves, if we were able to find meaningful peace within ourselves and with others, perhaps we will change the world as we bring back the smile of the ‘gods’. Perhaps we will allow more light to stream through ourselves and our societies? Perhaps we will thrive…
And as I wrote the book, the book wrote me. As I delved into the fields of what intimacy may mean, I realised that the adage, ‘The Truth lies in the simple for it is where most overlook’ is absolutely true. It took me 450 pages to realise a very easy thing that changes worlds within; that if we were all to accept this truth – but it’s hard because it’s so simple – we could possibly god-damn-it can change the entire blasted world for the better, for our better, for the better of everyone and everything.
But what is this truth? I hear you ask. It is so simple that is as difficult to accept as the knowledge that one day we will die, and it is this: YOU are good enough as you are.
It’s all we need to know. That’s it.
You are good enough.
And child’s play is so easy. It is just so darned hard to get to. To allow. To enter up into.
I mean you can buy the book, read the journey of philosophy and depth psychology, of polyamory, of dance and it could nudge you in the right direction inside, (three friends have said that they literally couldn’t put it down, it was life changing) but essentially this is what it says: you are good enough.
Because you are.
I don’t know how to write it any simpler, any more accessible-ly.
Though I would love you to, you don’t need to read the book. Deep down you already know.
It’s our responsibility to bring back the Gods. Just remember.