The rhizome of life: Carl Jung

Life has always seemed to me like a plant that lives on its rhizome. Its true life is invisible, hidden in the rhizome. The part that appears above ground lasts only a single summer. Then it withers away–an ephemeral apparition. When we think of the unending growth and decay of life and civilizations, we cannot escape the impression of absolute nullity. Yet I have never lost a sense of something that lives and endures underneath the eternal flux. What we see is the blossom, which passes. The rhizome remains.

Jung Carl from Memories Dreams Reflections

–x–

These times we live, the trials of our lives, they can seem such a drama.  However, is this just a question of perspective?  Are we too close?  Are events the petals that will drop? If so, will they fertilise the soil?

Perhaps, in this, we have no choice, causality rules and as long as humanity endures the tapestry of rhizome develops.  What can we do to ensure a healthy growth?

A perspective on the ever shifting collective consciousness of humanity, inspired by Jung.

The Frog and the Scorpion

A frog is about to cross a river at its narrow point when he notices a fearsome scorpion prowling the bank. The frog quickly tries to take cover in some reeds but the scorpion has already seen him and moves closer.  Just as the frog is about to jump into the water and flee he notices the scorpion’s demeanour, it looks almost sad.  The scorpion asks, ‘please will you help me to cross this river? I can jump on your back and you can carry me.’   Being a kind creature the frog pauses and listens.  However, the frog is no fool and replies ‘But, you will sting me and kill me!’  The scorpion responds, ‘If I did we would both drown.’  The frog considers for a moment and compassion and kindness take hold.  The frog agrees.  Midway across the river the frog feels a sharp pain in his back as the scorpion’s stinger penetrates his skin.  ‘Why did you do that?’ asks the Frog, ‘we will both now drown!’.  The scorpion replies, ‘I could not help it, it’s in my nature’.

—x—

This is one of those very simple stories that we can relate with in many different ways.  When I first heard this my thoughts was of nature, transience, impermanence and the thought that however hopeful, we cannot change that much of the negative nature of this physical world, time passes, things change, decay and die. Tagging some keywords for this post was revealing about the depth of meaning that I take from this, a much more positive outlook.

Frog Scorpion Keywords - AnAccidentalAnarchist.com

I empathise with the frog, the frog is hopeful or change, it wants to believe the good in something seen as bad.  Perhaps the frog was naive, he should have trusted his knowledge and not trusted the scorpion.  But, the frog tried to make a better world, it died doing so, but at least it tried.

But, perhaps sometimes things are just not meant to be, people are not ready to change, as hopeful and however much we give and try, we often have to accept this and take care of ourselves.

As for the scorpion? I do not view the scorpion as all bad, its acting from it’s conditioning as a scorpion, it just cannot help itself.  It’s ‘nature’ cost them their lives.  Life is such, somethings we cannot change, we just have to accept them.

I can also empathise with the scorpion, sometimes my nature has led me towards patterns of behaviour that upon reflection I have regretted – but like the scorpion we can only act according to our current level of consciousness.

Of course, I would rather live like the frog, with hope and optimism and risk getting stung – that’s in my nature.

Optimism reposted: Rather light a candle than complain about darkness

I love this expression, it has been important to my optimism in life.  On a simple level it helped me to stop complaining about problems and instead to do something about it, obvious really?

Well, not quite for me.  You see, there has been a few points in my life where I have felt quite depressed with life and the world that we live in. During these times I knew it was really important to take actions against my own stupor. However, I just saw no solution to the problems in my life and my place in the world. After all, lighting a single candle is not going to dispel the darkness.  Many people will still be selfish, greedy, unfair and hurtful. Society will still be making demands that I feel are wrong. The rich will still have all the wealth while people die of hunger.

The problem with my thinking was that I was focusing too much on the big problems  all on my own; problems that can’t be solved individually or quickly.  It took some understanding of non-duality to realise that I won’t resolve any big problem alone.  I can light a candle myself and make my world brighter. In doing so I might also brighten those around me. I can make it easier for me to dwell in my environment by making positive changes to my life. Without effort, these changes then cast light for others, and perhaps they too might light a candle.

For example, I don’t eat meat. That’s one candle lit. This does not change the world and nor does it save many animals but it brightens my existence.  It also provides some light for others to see and perhaps they too, one day, follow.

So I used to look at the big scale, the macro changes in the world and I would feel down.  Now I focus on myself, make myself brighter and better, shine for myself and then sometimes others. If we all lit candles instead of complaining then together all those little lights would be quite bright. After all, tiny rain drops can cause a flood just as tiny snowflakes can cover a landscape.

So please light a candle and be happier


This was first published 9 months ago and has been resurrected to spread further light.

What do you do that spreads light?

Peace and love!

Terrorism and trees

If a tree falls in a forest, and there is no one to  hear it, does it make a sound?

I am pretty sure trees fall quite often,  yet it is not something that I worry about.    But, what would happen if a tree falling – like terrorism – were reported across every news outlet constantly for days and days?  Imagine if we walked into stores and instead of terrorism, we saw newspapers depicting falling trees – the devastation caused,  interviews with survivors and witnesses and experts discussing all the potential ways that trees could fall in future.   We would probably become quite concerned about the issue.

This is exactly what happens with the media whenever something ‘news worthy’  occurs.

Recently, in the UK we suffered a terrorist attack.  In truth it was quite minor with a handful of deaths.   Now, I am in no way am I dismissing the trauma to those concerned but we need to keep this event in perspective.

The reality check

In 2015, Europe suffered 175  fatalities from terrorism [1].  In 2015 Europe suffered 26,000 road traffic fatalities [2].   Furthermore, according to research published in the Lancet it takes 29 minutes for 175 children to die from malnutrition in this world [3]  – that’s 10 seconds per child death.

The media is responsible for propagating the irrational fear of terrorist  attacks.  The reality is that the world faces far greater problems.  So please,  let’s keep perspective. Even in the face  of the hysterical  publicity of events  that, in reality,  are not a major risk.

What concerns me

I vow to continue my life without fear of terrorism,  however I do also vow to something to help poverty in this world.  Something that kills far more people than terrorism.

Sources

[1] http://ec.europa.eu/transport/road_safety/specialist/statistics_en

[2] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22935692

[3] http://ec.europa.eu/transport/road_safety/sites/roadsafety/files/pdf/observatory/trends_figures.pdf

The wow moment from knocking down walls

The ground falls away beneath your feet leaving you feeling suspended in open space, weightless, boundless, light, optimistic and free. A wow moment.

A wow moment is that feeling when something shifts in my world; much like a wall collapsing to reveal something more spacious.  The sudden loss of some constraining boundary feels vast and boundless.  It is very hard to describe the experience itself beyond a sudden sense of freedom and expansiveness.

So what triggers these moments?

I consume a good many spiritual teachings from Buddhist monks, more mainstream spiritual teachers and other sources including academic sociology, philosophy and psychology.  In addition to studying, I also ‘try’ to practice a life of mindfulness; a life without too much intellectualisation.  But, these two activities:  study and mindfulness, seem to oppose one another.

If the aim is to be mindful, ‘why do I consume written or spoken material?’ Rather than simply experiencing and being present? Isn’t the study like ‘reading about living rather than experiencing living?’  or like ‘reading about swimming without actually swimming?’  Well, I don’t find that so, and here is why.

For one, I find studying very calming. It is also an inspiration for my future experiential practices.  It gives me more motivation to return to some practice with fresh vigor.  However, I also find that reading or listening has the capability of inducing one of these wow moments.  For example, I might find myself listening to a spiritual lecture and at some point the teaching might say something that breaks down a wall that was constraining my thinking.  The studying brings about a shift in my world and in my consciousness.

Often I cannot articulate precisely the notion that has caused the shift. However the feeling is quite a strong, “ooh, wow, yes” followed by an opening.   The wow moment is this very liberating feeling; a lightening of some load; a realisation. It’s an amazing experience and one that keeps me returning to study.

That’s not to say that I have not also had these wow moments during meditation or mindful activity. But, I do believe that studying also has the capacity to open my mind to some shift in my being too.

Sharing the wow

And this is why I continue to listen, to read and to learn.  It’s an utter pleasure to think that at times, perhaps, me passing on some of what I have read or experienced could bring about a ‘wow’ moment for others; not from some conceit but as an act of loving kindness.

May you all find and enjoy your ‘wow’ moments, whenever and wherever you find them.

Peace and love.

wow moments - AnAccidentalAnarchist.com

Freud’s requiem and the joy of transience

This writing is a translation of an original short essay written by Sigmund Freud in November 1915. It’s often referred to as his ‘Requiem’ (an act or token of remembrance) and is quite a positive outlook on the true nature of our existence.

I came across this writing during one of the darkest moments of my life and I offer it as a crutch to everyone else.

Enjoy!

On Transience, By Sigmund Freud (Novemeber, 1915)
Translation by James Strachey

Not long ago I went on a summer walk through a smiling countryside in the company of a taciturn friend and of a young but already famous poet. The poet admired the beauty of the scene around us but felt no joy in it. He was disturbed by the thought that all this beauty was fated to extinction, that it would vanish when winter came, like all human beauty and all the beauty and splendour that men have created or may create. All that he would otherwise have loved and admired seemed to him to be shorn of its worth by the transience which was its doom.

The proneness to decay of all that is beautiful and perfect can, as we know, give rise to two different impulses in the mind. The one leads to the aching despondency felt by the young poet, while the other leads to rebellion against the fact asserted. No! it is impossible that all this loveliness of Nature and Art, of the world of our sensations and of the world outside, will really fade away into nothing. It would be too senseless and too presumptuous to believe it. Somehow or other this loveliness must be able to persist and to escape all the powers of destruction.

But this demand for immortality is a product of our wishes too unmistakable to lay claim to reality: what is painful may none the less be true. I could not see my way to dispute the transience of all things, nor could I insist upon an exception in favour of what is beautiful and perfect. But I did dispute the pessimistic poet’s view that the transience of what is beautiful involves any loss in its worth.

On the contrary, an increase! Transience value is scarcity value in time. Limitation in the possibility of an enjoyment raises the value of the enjoyment. It was incomprehensible, I declared, that the thought of the transience of beauty should interfere with our joy in it. As regards the beauty of Nature, each time it is destroyed by winter it comes again next year, so that in relation to the length of our lives it can in fact be regarded as eternal. The beauty of the human form and face vanish for ever in the course of our own lives, but their evanescence only lends them a fresh charm. A flower that blossoms only for a single night does not seem to us on that account less lovely. Nor can I understand any better why the beauty and perfection of a work of art or of an intellectual achievement should lose its worth because of its temporal limitation. A time may indeed come when the pictures and statues which we admire to-day will crumble to dust, or a race of men may follow us who no longer understand the works of our poets and thinkers, or a geological epoch may even arrive when all animate life upon the earth ceases; but since the value of all this beauty and perfection is determined only by its significance for our own emotional lives, it has no need to survive us and is therefore independent of absolute duration.

These considerations appeared to me incontestable; but I noticed that I had made no impression either upon the poet or upon my friend. My failure led me to infer that some powerful emotional factor was at work which was disturbing their judgement, and I believed later that I had discovered what it was. What spoilt their enjoyment of beauty must have been a revolt in their minds against mourning. The idea that all this beauty was transient was giving these two sensitive minds a foretaste of mourning over its decease; and, since the mind instinctively recoils from anything that is painful, they felt their enjoyment of beauty interfered with by thoughts of its transience.

Mourning over the loss of something that we have loved or admired seems so natural to the layman that he regards it as self-evident. But to psychologists mourning is a great riddle, one of those phenomena which cannot themselves be explained but to which other obscurities can be traced back. We possess, as it seems, a certain amount of capacity for love—what we call libido—which in the earliest stages of development is directed towards our own ego. Later, though still at a very early time, this libido is diverted from the ego on to objects, which are thus in a sense taken into our ego. If the objects are destroyed or if they are lost to us, our capacity for love (our libido) is once more liberated; and it can then either take other objects instead or can temporarily return to the ego. But why it is that this detachment of libido from its objects should be such a painful process is a mystery to us and we have not hitherto been able to frame any hypothesis to account for it. We only see that libido clings to its objects and will not renounce those that are lost even when a substitute lies ready to hand. Such then is mourning.

My conversation with the poet took place in the summer before the war. A year later the war broke out and robbed the world of its beauties. It destroyed not only the beauty of the countrysides through which it passed and the works of art which it met with on its path but it also shattered our pride in the achievements of our civilization, our admiration for many philosophers and artists and our hopes of a final triumph over the differences between nations and races. It tarnished the lofty impartiality of our science, it revealed our instincts in all their nakedness and let loose the evil spirits within us which we thought had been tamed for ever by centuries of continuous education by the noblest minds. It made our country small again and made the rest of the world far remote. It robbed us of very much that we had loved, and showed us how ephemeral were many things that we had regarded as changeless.

We cannot be surprised that our libido, thus bereft of so many of its objects, has clung with all the greater intensity to what is left to us, that our love of our country, our affection for those nearest us and our pride in what is common to us have suddenly grown stronger. But have those other possessions, which we have now lost, really ceased to have any worth for us because they have proved so perishable and so unresistant? To many of us this seems to be so, but once more wrongly, in my view. I believe that those who think thus, and seem ready to make a permanent renunciation because what was precious has proved not to be lasting, are simply in a state of mourning for what is Lost. Mourning, as we know, however painful it may be comes to a spontaneous end. When it has renounced everything that has been lost, then it has consumed itself, and our libido is once more free (in so far as we are still young and active) to replace the lost objects by fresh ones equally or still more precious. It is to be hoped that the same will be true of the losses caused by this war. When once the mourning is over, it will be found that our high opinion of the riches of civilization has lost nothing from our discovery of their fragility. We shall build up again all that war has destroyed, and perhaps on firmer ground and more lastingly than before.

Short quote from Jung on alchemical studies

A lovely quote from Carl Jung describing one of his patient’s awakening and his subsequent acceptance:
Out of evil, much good has come to me. By keeping quiet, repressing nothing, remaining attentive, and by accepting reality – taking things as they are, and not as I wanted them to be – by doing all this, unusual knowledge has come to me, and unusual powers as well, such as I could never have imagined before.
I always thought that when we accepted things they overpowered us in some way or other. This turns out not to be true at all, and it is only by accepting them that one can assume and attitude towards them.
So now I intend to play the game of life, being receptive to whatever comes to me, good and bad, sun and shadow forever alternating, and, in this way, also accepting my own nature with its positive and negative sides. Thus everything becomes more alive to me.
What a fool I was! How I tried to force everything to go according to way I thought it ought to.”
an ex patient of C. G. Jung (Alchemical Studies, pg 47)

Mindfulness and overthinking abstraction

Abstraction is a fundamental part of human thought and conscious, something we use throughout our work, our studies and our daily life. Most people exist in a world of abstraction, so what is it? and why do we do it?

Abstraction is a fundamental part of human thought and consciousness, something we use throughout our work, our studies and our daily life.  Most people exist in a world of abstraction, so what is it? and why do we do it?

Essentially abstraction is a reductionist approach as it looks to take away aspects of the object of consideration, specifically to take away their uniqueness. Unique things are concrete and specific. Abstractions are general and non-unique.  This is a central part of Buddhism and modern mindfulness practices.

over abstraction and how to be mindful - from the AnAccidentalAnarchist.com

Abstraction seeks commonalities between things so that things can be operated upon within our minds. As mind entities abstractions do not have a physical manifestation. In contrast concrete things have a physical manifestation. For example, the concept of a brick is abstract, whereas the realisation of an actual brick is unique and concrete.

over abstraction and how to be mindful - from the AnAccidentalAnarchist.com over abstraction and how to be mindful - from the AnAccidentalAnarchist.com

Concepts are real in the mind, but not real in the physical world. Many spiritual practices such as meditation and mindfulness attempt to pull consciousness back from the abstract concepts, which they often claim is not alive since it only exists in the mind. Instead such practices try to bring conscious back to the uniqueness of the concrete things. If abstractions are reductionist then an opposite approach, mindfulness,  is expansive as it encompasses all of the thing in its entirety. Mindfulness encourages anti-abstraction, so that when we meet an object in the world, we do not see the abstraction but rather see the thing in its fullness. In doing so we move from a mode of thinking and unreality and back into a mode of open full perception and reality.

A real brick has a uniqueness that if I try to describe now I will unavoidably reduce. The only true way to know a concrete thing is to experience it, it’s unique texture arrangement, colour, flaws etc. however my ‘words’ already reduce the experience and are an abstraction.

Indeed, part of the problem with excessive abstraction stems from the need for communication. If every experience is unique, ‘how to we communicate this to each other?’  We have to abstract to speak and speaking and writing is always an abstraction of some level. Another part of over abstraction is that we perceive far too much for our brains to process everything individually.  Abstraction allows us to deal with things that we encounter in the world without having to really see them or think about them. We can pick up a pen and write without really thinking, in doing so we don’t need to focus on the pen or the paper but rather the words. This can be extended to the desk, the chair, the light, etc. Abstraction allows us to ignore the non-essential, it thus save us time and thought. It is perhaps for these reasons that human society has evolved massive repositories of abstractions, from language, semantics to domain concepts.

This is problematic though, as the abstract mode of existence becomes the only mode of existing for many people and as such they see a reduced world. When we go to the park, we see the abstract forms, labelled, compartmentalised and therefore reduced. When we stop and really look at the uniqueness of things, which takes more time, we see the world more fully, more clearly, more alive. Our world and our existence becomes alive. This however takes time, it also takes a conscious effort. The practice of mindfulness is about making this reconnection with real things and therefore a reconnection with reality

over abstraction and how to be mindful - from the AnAccidentalAnarchist.com

Easy satisfaction, don’t be the man with a ‘never satisfied’ attitude

 “I am easily satisfied”

What a beautiful statement for a human being, such a person must be very happy.

This week I witnessed someone seemingly unhappy at work; a man with a “never satisfied attitude”.  The background to this encounter was that he was a reviewer at a meeting, a senior figure from a major educational institution, he was highly opinionated, judgmental and above all rarely satisfied.  Witnessing him in action was enlightening for me, he frowned, he criticised, he reveled in being the bad guy and to an outside observer he seemed quite wretched. Although, I think he was actually enjoying himself in some sadistic manner, furthermore I believe he felt virtuous in executing his duty as judge.

So my question from this was:

‘why does western society, specifically the business environment, value people that are never satisfied?’

Why is it wrong to feel satisfied?  Look at what it means to be satisfied, it means being content, fulfilled, appeased.  All of these are lovely states of mind in which to dwell.  Conversely, unsatisfied is to be unfulfilled, unhappy, discontent.  Surely not a pleasant state.

Why then does society value people that are not fulfilled, people that are not satisfied.  I am sure we have all heard a person praised for having the ‘never satisfied’ mentality, those driven people, business leaders, winners, perfectionists who by definition must be unhappy. This world seems so backward in its thinking, a world where being satisfied, content and happy is not required but instead people who are unsatisfied, driven and basically unhappy are praised as having strong character.

Be content instead

Give me happiness and contentment anytime. Give me a world where someone comes into a working environment and says, ‘that’s lovely, everything is fine’.  Let’s face it though, you are not going to get far in business if you go around telling people how easily satisfied you are.  See how fast you can fail a job interview with a statement like “yes, I am easily content at work, I am satisfied quite easily”.

Why does business value people who are never satisfied? - from AnAccidentalAnarchist.com

 

Doesn’t that seem odd though?  Almost wrong?  Why is contentment just not valued? furthermore, almost seen as bad.  Our society is so geared towards criticism and dissatisfaction, it’s no wonder mental health problems are rising. Regardless, I choose to be easily satisfied in my life, I choose to be happy and content.

Easy satisfaction, don’t be the man with a ‘never satisfied’ attitude

 “I am easily satisfied”

What a beautiful statement for a human being, such a person must be very happy.

This week I witnessed someone seemingly unhappy at work; a man with a “never satisfied attitude”.  The background to this encounter was that he was a reviewer at a meeting, a senior figure from a major educational institution, he was highly opinionated, judgmental and above all rarely satisfied.  Witnessing him in action was enlightening for me, he frowned, he criticised, he reveled in being the bad guy and to an outside observer he seemed quite wretched. Although, I think he was actually enjoying himself in some sadistic manner, furthermore I believe he felt virtuous in executing his duty as judge.

So my question from this was:

‘why does western society, specifically the business environment, value people that are never satisfied?’

Why is it wrong to feel satisfied?  Look at what it means to be satisfied, it means being content, fulfilled, appeased.  All of these are lovely states of mind in which to dwell.  Conversely, unsatisfied is to be unfulfilled, unhappy, discontent.  Surely not a pleasant state.

Why then does society value people that are not fulfilled, people that are not satisfied.  I am sure we have all heard a person praised for having the ‘never satisfied’ mentality, those driven people, business leaders, winners, perfectionists who by definition must be unhappy. This world seems so backward in its thinking, a world where being satisfied, content and happy is not required but instead people who are unsatisfied, driven and basically unhappy are praised as having strong character.

Be content instead

Give me happiness and contentment anytime. Give me a world where someone comes into a working environment and says, ‘that’s lovely, everything is fine’.  Let’s face it though, you are not going to get far in business if you go around telling people how easily satisfied you are.  See how fast you can fail a job interview with a statement like “yes, I am easily content at work, I am satisfied quite easily”.

Why does business value people who are never satisfied? - from AnAccidentalAnarchist.com

 

Doesn’t that seem odd though?  Almost wrong?  Why is contentment just not valued? furthermore, almost seen as bad.  Our society is so geared towards criticism and dissatisfaction, it’s no wonder mental health problems are rising. Regardless, I choose to be easily satisfied in my life, I choose to be happy and content.