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Archive for the ‘perception’ Category

person-in-box

It strikes me that one of the biggest questions facing us now is “how are we going to live together?”, and the answer to that depends on the extent of our consciousness and awareness.

How big is the box you are living in?

Is it only big enough for you? Do all other human beings exist outside of your conscious limits? I bet they don’t. For some people their box isn’t much bigger than their own family, or the village, street or town in which they live. For others its the size of their network of like-minded souls – the ones who agree with them, who share the same values, behave the same way, speak the same language. For yet others the box is a whole country. They want to put their own country first, and others can just get on and do the same. If there’s to be competition over space or resources, they’ll fight the others for it, hoping for one winner, and for the rest to be losers.

Maybe the box is the size of our species, though. Maybe it contains every living human being. After all, in this increasingly networked world of relationships, travel, agreements, and exchanges, artificially created boxes the size of a single country are increasingly hard to maintain.

Some people call this bigger box, globalisation, and kick against it. What they experience is personal loss, due, they believe, to others’ gain. But the current model of globalisation is just a way of us living together. We all live in the same world. It’s increasingly impossible to live as if others in other parts of this planet either don’t exist, or don’t matter. When people kick against globalisation, I think they are kicking against a way of us all living together. The answers will lie in finding a better way, not in pretending we all live in disconnected, entirely separate boxes.

Let me just stretch this out a wee bit further. Because I think the reality is not that we humans live together in a separate box on this earth. We are part of Nature. We live in constant interaction with the air, the soil, the water and the energy from the Sun. We are an integral part of the biosphere – living in an intricate web with the entirety of Life on Earth.

How often are we conscious of that? How often do we take that awareness and apply it to come up with good ways to live together….not just all we humans, but with the entire biosphere on the finite planet which we share.

 

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tree-vine-fog

As I was opening the shutters yesterday morning I caught sight of some swirls of mist lying amongst the vines towards the next village. I took a few photos. Here’s one of my favourite ones. It pleases me. Enormously. There’s an entrancing beauty to it. And it’s one of those photos which stimulates all kinds of thoughts for me.

I look at this and I think of two of the fundamental forces of the universe – the ones which Thomas Berry called “wildness” and “discipline”. The large tree in the centre of the image grows wild. It grows naturally and it spreads out above and below ground creating this ever branching structure which looks like its reaching out to the world. It looks like it’s stretching upwards and outwards to feel the sky and the moist air. In front of it are rows and rows of vines, trained and pruned by human hand, disciplined to grow along the wires. The vines form a complex web of life. As I look at them now it’s hard to discern where one plant stops and the next one begins.

When I think of these two forces, I think of the two hemispheres of the brain, each with its distinctive style of engaging with the world. The right hemisphere exploring, seeking the new, making connections. The left hemisphere exploiting, grasping, structuring. Iain McGilchrist writes in “The Divided Brain“, that the right hemisphere characteristically seeks to care, it seeks to engage with “the other” empathically. The left hemisphere seeks to control, seeking to deal with “the other” by categorising, labelling and separating.

How we see these forces at work in the world today!

 

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The other day I read an article posted in the Science section of Forbes.com. The title was “Earth’s skies are violet, we just see them as blue“. It explained how the different colours of light scatter differently in the Earth’s atmosphere according to their wavelength, with shorter blue light scattering most which is why the skies seem blue, but then goes on to point out that violet light has an even shorter wavelength than blue so our skies should look violet. Why don’t they? Well, it’s because our eyeballs have three kinds of colour light detector in them. We call these detectors “cones” and each is most sensitive to either blue, red or green (most sensitive to, not only sensitive too) – the blue stimulates most so the skies look blue….

But, wait! Look at this from the other day here (no “post-processing” going on – just as I actually saw it)

violet

Skies look blue, except when they don’t…….(thank you, clouds)

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fluffy-seeds sunlit-seeds

The sun illuminating these seeds caught my eye the other day. Aren’t they stunning? The way the light caught them they were glowing, almost as if the source of the light was from within them. When I looked closer I was stunned by their proliferation. It seemed they just suddenly appeared in the corner of the field. Look how soft and fluffy they are! There are various ways for plants to travel around the world, catching the wind is one of them, and it’s the method this particular plant intends to use.

What popped into my mind after I took this photo was part of a review of a book about the history of France which was published in “Le Monde” the other day. I know, that sounds strange, but bear with me. The part which really caught my attention was the author’s statement of his intention – he wanted to write a history of France from the perspective of the global forces which have shaped it, rather than the more traditional approach which focuses on personalities and events within France. It’s a shift from thinking of a country as a separate entity to be understood by looking within, to thinking of a country as it emerges in relationship with global phenomena – especially the global phenomena which pass over frontiers and the ones for which borders are irrelevant.

Migrants and goods pass over frontiers. They always have, and they always will. The British government’s determination to harden its borders focuses on the first of these – the movement of people. They seem to see people moving from one country to another as THE problem, which, if solved (they mean stopped completely or at least significantly), will allow a flourishing, healthy, happy country to emerge. However, at the same time, they want the free flow of the second of these phenomena – goods – claiming they want to create a “free trade” “global” Britain (as if they even knew what “free trade” is).

My own feeling is that of Europe’s “four freedoms” – freedom of movement of people, goods, services and capital – a government’s desire to stop only one of these reveals its underlying values. It’s the freedom of people they want to inhibit, not the freedom of goods, services and money.

The historian went on to describe some other country-shaping phenomena which pass over frontiers – ideas, symbols, pandemics, climate and technological revolutions. I think he could have at least added stories because whether its “fake news” or life-shaping mythologies, stories spread amongst human beings irrespective of frontiers.

Whether its the spread of the politics of populism, the scattering of radiation over thousands of miles after nuclear power plant disasters such as Chernobyl or Fukushima, global warming, the spread of “particle pollution” in the air, the actions of multinational corporations, or the growth of global economic inequality….there are countless examples of this insight that what shapes a country are the phenomena which cross frontiers.

No country can be understood from a narcissistic perspective which sees itself as disconnected and walled off in this world we all share.

The question facing us all is “how are we going to live together?” Because we all ARE living TOGETHER.

 

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rainbow-lining

You know those moments when you’re walking in bright sunshine and suddenly the world seems to go dark? You look up and a cloud has drifted in front of the sun. How long will it take to pass? If it’s a cloud with pretty definite visible edges you know it might not be too long. If it’s one that stretches from one horizon to the other, well, it’s probably going to be a while….maybe even not until tomorrow.

When I looked up to see what was going I saw this cloud. Wow, does it look BLACK! But immediately behind it I could see a bright white one too….one of those times which confirms the old saying about every cloud having a silver lining. In fact, on this occasion it was so striking, I decided to take a photo.

But, wait!

What’s that above these clouds? It’s a rainbow of colours! Faint, delicate, and more like paint on the cloud than a proper rainbow, but clear as anything. Isn’t it beautiful? I haven’t altered this photo at all and maybe it doesn’t quite capture the intensity of the colours, but they weren’t actually very intense at all. Just a hint. A bit more than a suggestion. If I’d been concentrating only the contrasts between the black and the white clouds, I might have missed it.

I look at this again now and it sets off a few thoughts….there’s the silver lining first of all, and in this week with the news full of Donald Trump and Brexiteers I’m glad to be reminded of silver linings…..just not entirely sure what they are yet!

But it’s the colour spectrum which really fires my imagination. It’s as if it is literally reminding me that the universe is diverse, that it contains many more colours than we may be aware of, that it manifests a greater range of complexity and beauty the more closely we look. The contrast between the coloured area and the black and white one, inspires me again to remember that reality is rarely, if ever, “either this or that”. Everything we see, everything we hear, everything we experience lies on a spectrum of ever evolving, ever developing difference.

Those who try to convince us that the world can be divided into “us” and “them” are proven wrong every day by the rich manifestation of uniqueness which refuses to be stuffed into one of two boxes.

 

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twelve-project-day-twelve

Day twelve of the “twelve project”, the final day.

Over the last twelve days, starting on Boxing Day, I’ve uploaded one photo I’ve taken from each of the twelve months of 2016, then created a post about that photo, one per day. Here’s the final image, this one from December.

I think its particularly appropriate to finish this project with a sunset. One of advantages of living here is that there are many, many spectacular sunsets. It’s really not unusual to be so caught by the colours in the sky at sunset that we stop whatever we were doing and either open the windows to get a better look, or dash out into the garden to climb on the wall and gaze at this most wonderful, most extraordinary, most ordinary of natural phenomena.

You might think that we’d get used to it, see a sunset like this and just think, “that’s the sun going down”. But we don’t. When I lived in Stirling I looked out from my second floor apartment to some of Scotland’s mountains, in particular to Ben Ledi. I swear that every single day it looked different to me. I never ever tired of it. It never became so familiar that I stopped noticing it. It’s the same with these sunsets here. I’m sure it would be the same if I lived on the coast and looked out onto the sea. The sea, equally, is different every time you look at it. I think that’s why artists like Cezanne painted the “same view” so many times (Mont Sainte-Victoire in his case) – because he was entranced by how different even a mountain could look every day, or, indeed, every hour of the day.

But there’s more to this image than the colours of the sunset. If you look carefully you can see the Moon and the planet Venus. I adore those early evening planets and stars and I am more aware of the current phase of the moon than I have been at any time in my life. The skies here are pretty dark. Those little lights you see at the bottom right of the photo are from the houses in the next village. So, you can see, there isn’t a lot of “light pollution”. That means that once it gets really dark I can see the Milky Way very, very clearly, and I can see stars I’ve never seen before.

And there’s one more thing in this photo. To the left you can see the branches of the Mulberry Tree which grows in the garden here. I just love that tree. I love following its seasons, from buds in the Spring, to the rich cover of huge leaves which I shelter under in the heat of the Summer, to the abundant mulberry berries which are the strangest looking berries I’ve ever seen, to the pleasure of raking up the leaves in the Autumn, and the striking shape of the bare branches in the Winter.

For all of these reasons and more, this is a great image to end the year with. It’s good to be alive.

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Twelve project Day eleven.jpg

On a wall which runs the full length of one side of my garden grows a plant which isn’t like any other plant I’ve ever seen. It’s name in English is “Boston Ivy”, and its a kind of vine. One of my friends calls it “mile a minute” referring to its speed of growth.

One of the things I like most about it is its complexity. At different times of year its shape, colour and appearance is completely different. Right now in the winter when it’s lost all of its leaves it is a web of stems, creepers and woody trunks. In the height of the summer its lusciously green and is literally a-buzz with bees while providing protected hidden spaces for blackbirds to build their nests. There’s a point in the summer where the seed pods all pop and the sound of millions and millions of the pod shells falling through the leaves to the ground sounds for all the world like a waterfall. The first time I heard it I actually went to look for where the water.

But it’s in the autumn when the leaves turn these glorious shades of red, yellow and gold. It’s breathtakingly beautiful. Then once the leaves fall the plant reveals its gorgeous little bluish black berries on bright red stalks. The birds come in their dozens for those!

Having lived here for two years now I see every one of these phases in the context of the ones which came before and the ones still to come. It’s a very physical experience of the reality of stories, or better, of storied reality.

 

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