Springingtiger's Blog


Peace that Passes Understanding
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Photo from Don Macbride

There is a common misconception that peace is merely an absence of war. I notice this is something those who support the retention of nuclear weapons keep trotting out in support of Trident renewal, “Nuclear Weapons have kept the peace for over half a century”. It is true that no one has launched a nuclear attack upon us since the second world war, however there is no evidence that this is because we have nuclear weapons. Another one popular right now is that because of the European Union European Countries have been at peace with each other for over half a century. There is rather more reason to accept this as true because of the active cooperation of member states. What we must not forget is that although European nations have not been fighting each other and we have not had a nuclear war we have been engaged in armed conflicts more or less non-stop since the end of World War Two and the situation is not improving.

I have heard it said that ‘Peace is the absence of fear’. Down in the South of England the people who love having nuclear weapons may not fear a nuclear attack. It is somewhat different in Scotland where the Faslane Submarine Base is the UK’s primary nuclear target. Even if there is never a nuclear attack Scotland has to put up with a fear imposed by the English who happily run military convoys carrying nuclear materials through Scottish towns by road and rail. The most likely source of attack on UK soil is apparently from terrorists and what more inviting target than nuclear warheads being transported by lorry? Even were there never to be a terrorist attack, trains can be derailed, lorries can skid and crash. There can be no peace as long as England insists on keeping its weapons of mass destruction in Scotland. And as long as it seems that they are prepared to risk Scottish lives in order to protect their own, there will be little of peace in the Scots’ attitude towards them.

But what sort of peace can a people know when thousands are forced to sleep rough on the streets and many more compelled to turn to food banks to stave off starvation because the English government is imposing austerity upon them. There is no freedom from fear for the disabled whose ability to retain a job is threatened by the English Government’s removal of their Employment Support Allowance. What peace is there when in the Commons debate on ESA the English government made scarcely veiled threats against the Scottish Government should they try to prevent implementation of the cuts? I can’t remember the exact quote but it went along the lines of ‘It would turn them from Law Makers into law breakers’, Westminster refused to say what sanctions they would take preferring to leave the threat open ended. When an extreme government is deliberately hurting its own people it is a country that cannot know peace. When a subject nation is unable to care for its own people and has austerity forced upon it by a more powerful neighbour the country cannot know peace. The ordinary citizens of the various countries of the UK are being forced to live with an unnecessary level of uncertainty by the Westminster government and the vested interests that it represents. Would destroying the protected peace of those vested interests bring about peace for the rest? Justice and fairness perhaps, but peace? Peace is another matter.

Human life is fraught with uncertainty and no amount of wealth or legislation can prevent that. It is pitiful to see rich people desperately trying to hide behind walls or worse, like Howard Hughes, living in fear of natural processes of illness and disease. It is sad to see chubby children getting fatter because their parents fear to let them out into a world perceived to be too dangerous. No matter how much people anaesthetise themselves with religion, drink, sex, drugs, television or anything else, there is no peace. There is no peace anywhere. There is no peace anywhere unless you create it for yourself. The only people who know peace are those who generate it within themselves. They may be poor or rich, living in Syria or Sheffield, educated or illiterate, married or single, it does not matter, peace is not a function of what you have but of whom you are. Remove every cause for fear you can imagine, you will find new ones. Remove poverty, old age, disease, you will still find cause for anxiety. Fear is nothing more than perception; the conduct it causes: wars, amassing weapons or money, passing restrictive laws, following priests and politicians are the actions of immature and deluded fools who, whether they like it or not, will die. But the person who creates his own peace passes untouched through wars and recession, plagues and famine, celebration and bereavement. The man who generates peace from within may find no pleasure in some things, no pain in others, but joy in everything.



Dancing on Glass

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I was at the Doctor’s surgery for a blood test. The nurse said to me, “Are you okay with this?”

To which I replied, “I took part as a volunteer in a clinical trial recently so I’m used to it, but I don’t like injections.”

She looked at my arm and said, “It’s funny how many people who have tattoos don’t like injections.”

“The funny thing is that I don’t really feel them.”

“Did the tattoo hurt?”

“No. It’s not the pain, it’s the thought of needles I don’t like. I don’t even usually have an injection when I have fillings.”

“Oh, I couldn’t do that!” She said.

It is strange how things that don’t worry one person can really disturb another and how different are our reactions to physical sensations. Pain is very much on my mind of late, literally as I am using mindfulness to manage mine.

Yesterday I was considering how different can be peoples tastes in films, music and the arts. There are many films I won’t watch because I don’t feel they will contribute anything of value to me. I don’t need to watch slasher horror, I find enough evidence of human depravity in the newspapers. I do use films, television, books and music to manipulate my mood quite systematically. I have a stock of films that can lift my mood and they are not all comedies although the Marx Brothers do feature strongly among them. Surprisingly some are war films, not because I approve of war, but I like to see human virtues triumphing under impossible circumstances and, for all its horror and evil, war often has people reach heights of courage and altruism to which they would ordinarily not think to aspire.

I do watch films with violence in them, purposeful violence. I don’t approve of violence, however I accept it as a reality of life and sometimes unavoidable. It may even be justifiable under certain circumstances. The sad thing is just how high a proportion of films and television depend on violent story lines. I try to balance my viewing because I am aware that some films do drag down my mood and stimulate unwanted emotions. I don’t know whether a diet of horrific violence whether in films or video games can be blamed for aberrant behaviour, I like to think people have the ability to discriminate between good and evil, fantasy and reality. I suspect that, like life, our viewing and reading probably benefits from variety. The broader our experiences, and our reading and viewing, the more balanced we are likely, but not inevitably, to be.

Physical pain can be very unpleasant. Psychological pain perhaps even more so. Just as we seek nourishing and good food and a healthy body, I think we should nourish our psyches with stimuli that on balance cause us to grow and expand our horizons. That means enough negativity to enable our understanding, but countered with considerably more positives to encourage us to grow into our full potential. Enough pain to allow us to appreciate pleasure and to stimulate our awareness, but not enough to demoralise our spirits and dampen our enjoyment of life. There is a sweet point of balance and to retain it we need to constantly adjust our sensory input and thinking. As in riding a bicycle or walking a tightrope the balance is found in movement and in recognising the input we need for optimum well-being. It is a dance of mental stimulation, education, diet, exercise; the trick lies in being aware of our changing needs just as a dancer listens for changes in tempo. As long as we are alive we have sensations, reactions, thoughts and beliefs. The dance only ends when we do…if it ever ends.



The Language of Choice. 1

How do you know what you chose? It’s what you got!” Werner Erhard

I was reading recently an article by Darren Eden  ̶ who teaches a course called ‘The Transformation’ ̶ in which he said that “setting goals is futile” and that we should instead “orient to our Greatness and make Choices”. I am not going to argue with the article it made some very valid points. However it highlighted for me that we have some seriously collapsed distinctions around our language of choice  ̶ or perhaps, our choice of language.

Darren Eden distinguishes between ‘choices’ and ‘goals’ whereas Robert Fritz ̶ whose work Darren references in his course ̶ distinguishes a Primary Choice as a “long term goal”. Is it a choice or a goal? In Fritz’s book ‘The Path of Least Resistance’ he looks at three types of choice: The Fundamental Choice that goes to the essence of who a person is, the Primary Choice which is a long term goal, and the Secondary Choice which supports a primary choice. Darren Eden’s system to some extent collapses the Primary and Fundamental Choices, which I think is part of his differentiation of ‘choice’ from ‘goal’. Fritz’s Primary Choices are goals because they are measurable whereas Eden’s Primary Choices like Fritz’s Fundamental Choices are subjective and not objectively measurable. What is observable about a Primary Choice in either system is firstly, that they are given by love and secondly, that they are ̶ as Fritz puts it ̶ “about some result you want in and for itself. It is not something you want because it will lead you to something else ̶ even though it may. A Primary Choice does not function mainly as a step in a series of steps. It functions as the primary goal.” If a choice has an ‘in order to’ it is not a Primary Choice. Thus ̶ if we take Robert Fritz’s example of a chef whose Primary Choice is to cook a delicious meal ̶ as long as the goal is the meal and the experience of cooking and enjoying the meal it remains a Primary Choice, but the moment it becomes something like ‘I choose to cook a beautiful meal to enhance my reputation as a chef’ it becomes a Secondary Choice. A Secondary Choice serves a Primary, so there is probably a Primary about being a chef. Another quotation from ‘The Path of Least Resistance’ that illustrates the difference between Fritz and Eden on the identity of choices and goals is, “In organisations the leader as creator understands the relationship between choices that are primary ̶ such as results, objectives, and goals ̶ and choices that are secondary ̶ those strategic choices of employee teams, hours of work, timing, training scheduling, researching, meeting, and so on.”

The process by which Robert Fritz’s students and Darren Eden’s arrive at a Primary Choice are very different and this is probably another factor in their different understanding of goals. Fritz uses a systematic process to elicit a person’s vision of what they love, whereas Eden’s process involves arriving intuitively at one’s vision and drawing the Primary Choice from that. It is not for me to expound their processes as they form a part of larger courses and ̶ I think ̶ it is best to learn these things in their appropriate context. Context is another reason Eden and Fritz differ in their approach to goals. Both run successful courses ̶ by successful I don’t primarily mean profitable, but that they produce desirable results for the participants. Darren Eden’s ‘The Transformation’ is “an eight month training which will lead you on a magical journey of transformation into your Greatness.

You will learn how to harness the power of your imagination and intuition to artfully and masterfully create the life you truly love.” Whereas Robert Fritz runs several different programs on Creativity, Structural Thinking, and decision making. I would not argue with either teacher’s terminology, the trick is to use the terminology appropriate to the context.

One thing that is apparent in both systems is that ̶ whatever you choose to call them ̶ Secondary Choices tend to be goals. Primary Choices may be given by the vision of what a person would love, Secondary Choices are very less obviously so. Secondary Choices are frequently things a person doesn’t want to do like get up at 06:00 to train for a marathon, before showering and going into work. However when they have the Primary Choice of running a marathon, the Secondary Goal makes sense. Generally Secondary Choices have measurable outcomes and can be formulated as goals. However there is a specific type of Secondary Choice in Darren Eden’s system called a ‘Bridge’ which may or may not have an objectively measurable outcome. It is a way of returning a person’s focus to their vision of what they would love and hence it is a Secondary Choice.

Ultimately whether someone makes a choice or formulates a goal much of the power of the choice depends upon whether it frees them to act and create or becomes a burden restricting their access to possibility.



Lost In Space

Once again I am running late on my blog and it is entirely my own fault. I was so totally absorbed in what I was doing that everything else vanished from my consciousness. My daughter and my grandchildren have finally moved into their new flat. I was in my daughter’s room armed with notebook, pencil and measuring tape working out how to best utilise the space she has left behind her. I was inspired and totally focused, time stood still for me. However for the rest of the world time moved on.

By a judicious re arrangement of furniture and the installation of a day bed the room can be transformed into a very nice little sitting, consulting room which will double as a spare bedroom. I need to get to work on it soon, as it is only a matter of time before we get a visit from an American friend and I’d like to accommodate him comfortably.

Although there will be some capital outlay I expect to be able to complete the job for less than four hundred pounds and that includes the day bed and mattresses. Because we were in the process of sorting out the house before my daughter moved in, I have already bought the floor covering, which would have added to the cost somewhat.

The job should take very little time. The painting itself will take one day, it is not a large room. If I allow a day for laying the floor covering and a couple for emptying and moving furniture I hope four days will be adequate so I’ll allow myself a week to get the job done. I really do need to have a door made specially for the room to best utilise the space, but it’s not a complicated job.The worst and most time consuming part of the operation will be emptying the room to paint it. There will have to be a sifting and dumping exercise. However that is true of the whole house. The clearing and tidying exercise has been on hold for a year, but now, while I am on holiday, it begins again. I’m actually quite excited, but oh, there’s a lot to do now we have the house to ourselves again. As the saying goes, Watch this space!



Aspergian Thoughts on Meaning

Do people with Asperger’s think more than humans, it feels like it? Whereas some moo seem to be able to get through life with a minimum of constructive thought, we are condemned to analyse and assess everything, we even analyse our analyses. We are locked in a never ending quest to make sense of your world and its inhabitants.

Of course, if it is true that, with our thoughts we create the world we perceive, then perhaps our problem is merely that we over think. Perhaps we are looking for a meaning that is not there, perhaps your lives are meaningless. We look for purpose in your lives, perhaps there is none; what if your ultimate purpose is to live until you die having spawned your next generation? Would that be so bad? An examination of virtually any species shows that their purpose is generally to reproduce, are humans really any different?

One wonders why people need to find meaning, higher purpose for their lives. Is it not enough just to live and enjoy? Humans have, it seems, an unlimited capacity for enjoyment and so many ways to satisfy their senses, food, music, art, theatre, cinema, sport. There seems to be a certain reality to emotions, perhaps they are no more than chemical reactions, but people certainly feel them. What someone can feel they can enjoy, and that is certainly true of emotions, as any grandparent, watching their granddaughter discovering butterflies, can affirm. With so much to see, and do, and feel and, above all, to enjoy do you really need a higher purpose, is this not enough?

And of my own search for meaning? Perhaps that is my purpose, to search for meaning. The search is the purpose, for if one should ever find the meaning of life then their would be no more purpose, the game would be over.



Memories

As a former pupil of Giggleswick School I am sent Gig: News, the magazine that keeps us in touch with the school. As well as news, it always contains plenty of reminiscence, which stirs my own memories of a childhood which grows happier the further I am removed from it. The latest edition contained a report of the quincentenary OG Day chapel service, which reminded me of having to learn the hymns for the end of term service which, in tribute to the former pupils who served in two World Wars, took place in blackout conditions. I was amused and pleased when the words of “Oh God Our Help in Ages Past” sprang without effort to my mind after forty years. I, personally, loved the end of term service and always found it moving and magical, learning the hymns was a small price to pay. Of course, back then learning by rote was common, I still have fragments of poems learned nearly half a century ago immovably fixed in my memory.

I have cause to be grateful for the religious life of Giggleswick. When, freed from the discipline of Gig, my university career fell apart I sank into one of my periodic, debilitating, depressions. For a period the only thing that held me together were remembered pieces of the “Book of Common Prayers and from “Hymns: Ancient and Modern”, they were all that kept me from surrendering to utter despair. However it was not the beliefs behind the words that sustained me, but rather, the beauty and familiarity of the words themselves; were it not for the ten years of repetition in the school chapel that fixed the words in my mind, I doubt I would be alive today.

Today we tend not to learn pieces of writing by heart as we used, but I am inclined to the opinion that it was useful discipline that extended beyond the chapel or the classroom. I suppose it may be argued that rather than fill our heads with information, we can substitute Google for memory. To some extent it’s a valid point that we don’t need information as long as we know how to access it, it is better to know “how” rather than “what”. Just as we learn how to perform mathematical calculations rather than memorise the answers to all possible sums, it is better to learn systems rather than facts. However there may come a time when one is cut off from the internet or the library, and the only place to which one can turn for answers is one’s own mind; that is when one will be glad to have more on which to draw than systems. There is a value in remembered stories, poems, songs, and dramatic scripts, the building bricks of our culture. The memory is a tool which if not used becomes rusty and when needed may fail. Remembering should be practised and the use of memory taught to our children.



Sometimes You Can Go Back

This week I have been revisiting my past, happily without disappointment. It must be about nine years since I saw The Mavericks, however Neelam discovered that they were performing in the Usher Hall in Edinburgh on Wednesday and bought tickets. Each of our Front Stall tickets was thirty five pounds, I have to say that occurs ad great value. The support act was a singer/songwriter, Declan O’Rourke; his first two slow songs led me to believe I was going to be bored by him, but then he went into an acappella song about a sailor marrying the sea and the rest of his set was funny, inspired and lively. Of course the audience was the Mavericks’ audience and The Mavericks did not disappoint. Their new material was blended with the classics we all knew and bopped along to, some of the arrangements were new, but the enjoyment was unchanged. When the band took it’s interval, Raoul Malo was away long enough for a quick pee and then came back to play a solo set until the band returned. Very few of the audience say for long during the second half, it is easier to listen to The Mavericks while dancing! It may have been nearly a decade since I saw them, buy there were as great as I remembered.

I spent three weeks living in Edinburgh in 1986 as part of the British Telecom Special Events Team at the Commonwealth Games and I thoroughly enjoyed myself, perhaps too well. Since then I have only visited as a day tripper, Neelam and I decided this time to stay for a couple of nights. Edinburgh is still an easy place in which to have fun and find good food. Even were one to choose not to enter any of the city’s attractions, just walking around the streets is an entertainment provided by the tourists and the amazing views that present themselves at every turn. I have returned to Edinburgh and I was not disappointed.

Back in my student days I used to hang out in Turnbull Hall, the Catholic chaplaincy. Among the crowd were Mike Foster and his girl friend Angiolina, two of the nicest people one could have hoped to meet. I am notoriously bad at maintaining contacts, but Neelam has been encountering both Mike and Angiolina at various points in her professional life. Neelam set up for is to meet Angiolina, who is now a director in the Scottish Government over coffee in St. Andrew’s House. In all honesty I was not entirely looking forward to the meeting, it had been a long time since we had met and I didn’t want to be disappointed. I should not have worried, Angiolina was every bit as lovely as I remembered and it was great to catch up on the intervening thirty seven years (I did say I’m not good at keeping in contact with people!) I was not disappointed, far from it, it crowned a very enjoyable mini holiday.

People say it’s not a good idea to revisit one’s past because of the danger of disappointment, they are entitled to their opinions. However I have revisited my past and I was not disappointed. After the last few days, should I get an opportunity to revisit my past I will not hesitate; the possible joy to be derived from revisiting my past far outweighs the risk of disappointment.




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