Thursday, 29 November 2012


It is a disturbing film, especially for one approaching old age. It left me feeling the terror of being unable to communicate my needs, being cared for by people who don't care.

Pondering what resources I have to cope with such a situation, what struck me was the title of the film 'Love'. This couple had an apparently blissful marriage, no lack of money, and a rich cultural environment. They had shared interests, and had been good companions. He still found her attractive. This is what stands for 'love' in our society. When these elements are taken away they find not only their love fades, but, even more crucially, they have nothing to live for.
 The film appears to be a dispassionate look at losing physical faculties, the terror of illness and growing old. Death is seen as a welcome relief from suffering. But it is actually an indictment of what we take to be 'love' – the idea that finding happiness in loving another can obviate the need to develop our own understanding of what life means to us.

So for a while I connected with that experience of the emptiness of life, identifying with the couple, and feeling the terror at the possibility of losing my physical capacities. What would I have if I couldn't move my limbs, dress myself, feed myself, or express my needs. Could I rely on my loving daughter to provide for me? Supposing I was stuck in a hospital with staff too busy to respond to my needs.

What saved me from this paranoid fantasy was coming into the Now. Bringing myself back to where I am, with the insight that I have no idea what the next moment will bring, re-instates the adventure of life. Thinking I know something about the future or the past is the most deadening thing.

This couple had lost touch with the Now. But they had lost it years before. They never became conscious of needing it because they had each other. There is a telling little cameo when they are sitting to a meal, and he holds up the saltcellar and says-there is no salt. She doesn't respond so he fills it himself. She would normally have jumped up to fill it, and at that moment he realises something is wrong. 

That is what their 'Love' was based on, their routines, their shared interests, their culture, and their money.  But when it comes to the crunch these things are not enough. If my life is inherently meaningless to me then all the add-ons do not significantly alter the result.  If my life is zero, then no matter how many zeros I add the result is still zero. However if my life is 1 then all the add-ons – in themselves of no value, ie 0, will contribute to the richness of my life, ie 1 plus 0000 ad infinitum.


Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Beautiful Film of Greek struggle

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Building the Alternative

We have the beginning here of building the alternative economy. The websites brought together here,,  together with bitcoin  and give us all the data we need to get started. The Occupy Sandy set up in NYC is a great example of what can happen in response to a catastrophe. ZAD in France shows what can come together in an emergency protest situation. These positive developments tend to get lost in the discussion about dates for strikes and protest marches.

Things are already happening. We are preparing for a clash, but we don’t know what form it will take. The next step would be to establish locations with communities which are committed to providing food, shelter, and basic necessities, for people who are temporarily or permanently opting out of the system. There must be many cooperatives, farmers who have land, individuals and groups who share the same values. The most difficult will be in urban areas. But opening our doors to strangers in need will not be easy.

What might help is to forsee the coming struggle and upheaval and so be prepared in some way. Many have said ‘things cannot go on like this’, but they do, and as yet there is no real indication of breakdown here in developed coutries. Scandals and corruption revealed, but everything continues as ‘normal’ on the surface. So it is likely that when the crash comes it will come very suddenly, with no warning. Focussing on preparation now may be the most positive contribution we can make.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

What course of action might enable us to discover who we are​.

First thing is to trust, trust that the process is already happening: To begin to understand that there is something in us which is longing to be discovered, call it truth, call it reality, call it love. It is who we are, and it's desire to be known is far stronger than our desire to know it. It is what life is about, even though appearances would seem to say something completely different.

Often at times of difficulty we think everything is against us, feel desperate and alone. It is very difficult then to trust that the process is happening. We talk about the 'dark night of the soul', when there appears to be nothing and no-one to turn to. I myself went through a 'breakdown' like that, when for six months I felt dead inside, unable to eat or sleep, or take part in any social activities. I was locked in a dark hole with no light, no way out that I could see. Unfortunately many at that point end up in mental hospitals, drugged to suppress the symptoms. (R D Laing is still relevant here) I was fortunate that my sister took me in and let me sit in the garden, doing nothing, just letting the process happen. Which it did. Now I can look back and see with some understanding how a shell that I had erected around me to cope with wartime situations when I was young, was breaking down and allowing me to get in touch with parts of myself I had shut out. I became more whole but it was a painful process.

The masters tell stories to illustrate this process. There is a well known one about the footsteps in the sand, initially two pairs walking side by side, then one pair on its own, then two pairs again. And the question 'why did you abandon me then', and the answer comes 'I was carrying you'.

So I would say first 'trust' that it is already happening. That doesn't mean there is nothing for us to do. But we can only discover our part by connecting with who we really are. When we are in tune then the rest follows. What do you do to make trust happen? There is no ready made formula, it takes a lifetime.

Then take a deep breath, and feel how sweet that breath is that is provided freely with every moment. When we come from anxiety about the future, then we create more fear. The anxiety is understandable but it will take us away from the love which sustains us. This poem by Hafiz talks about that love:

All this time
The sun never
says to the earth,
"You owe Me."

What happens
With a love like that.

It lights up the

I think this is the point about Jesus and Buddha not behaving in a way 'so that' something would follow.  Unfortunately these precepts have been used by religion, particularly when associated with the state, and given a different interpretation. The whole notion of the Golden Rule was a later interpretation I would guess, and used to try to control people by rulers, 'princes', etc. not something spoken about by Jesus or Buddha,

I'm not saying 'it's just no use trying to talk spirituality in secular language.' In fact just the opposite. Let's use our everyday experience to become 'mindful' of who we are.

 I'm not telling you anything you don't know. This is common religious doctrine, 'trust god, have faith in god'. But the meaning needs to be rediscovered.

Monday, 12 November 2012

6th form Climate Change Conference on Food

Bradford Cathedral - conference on Food: Local and Global issues.

My response to the invitation:

Matt has passed me your letter with a request for someone interested in food and spirituality. I would be very happy to facilitate a workshop with 6th formers on these topics, and be on the panel.
I attended the meeting on food sovereignty held earlier this year in Lee Valley, and was instrumental in helping to create Horton Community Farm, and the Bradford Food plan which has been introduced by the local council. I am currently in London attending a week of seminars on the Commons, which of course includes food though most production is currently in the private sector.
My faith does not follow any particular religion but I see the necessity to come from the heart in all our activities, and live in profound gratitude for the gift of life - which I don't always achieve, but which leads to experiencing the preciousness of each moment and personal encounter, together with taking responsibility for the state of the planet for present and future generations. Sorry that was a bit of a mouthful, but it does express where I am coming from.

My suggestion for the conference structure:

I have been wondering what structure you are planning for the conference. In my experience people learn much better through participation in an atmosphere of collaboration, and I have a suggestion for organising the conference in a way which promotes this type of learning.

These 6th formers, on the verge of leaving school, are not children and my guess is that they all have access to the internet, where pretty well all 'expert' knowledge is available at  the touch of a button, and moreover is often updated daily.  What can be presented in a lecture or powerpoint as factual may already have been overtaken by new information.

What they probably lack is the opportunity to self organise and really listen to each other's different viewpoints, rather than focussing on which one is 'right'. Though the suggested 25 minutes may be a good length for a short powerpoint presentation followed by some questions, it is too short for the sort of 'collborative workshop' I am proposing.

My suggestion is that each 'expert' is asked to give 4 or 5 salient points from their topic to be printed on cards which are arranged on several tables. The 6th formers would be invited to breakout into small groups round a table; then using the information on the cards discuss among themselves the problems and /or solutions, making sure that each person in their group is heard, and taking notes of the discussion. After a certain length of time they could move to another table or change groups. Finally conclusions could be presented in a plenary.

The 'experts' could mingle with the 6th formers, listen to their discussions, and interject where they feel to.  But essentially they would be on a level with them, not talking down to them as in a lecture. Their expertise would be available as needed, but not seen as superior. Mutual respect would be the ethos.

If you like this idea I would be happy to explore it more with you and would be willing to contribute in any way I could help.