On the morning sun.
From Brutality Beauty May Arise.
It’s strange for me to realise that deception, deceit, and dishonesty have been swept from what remains of my life. It happened in an heartbeat.
Yesterday I visited my dying father in his nursing home. I have never seen the face of a living person look so horrific. All I can compare him to are the bare survivors of a Nazi Death Camp. There was nothing nice, caring, or spiritual about the instant experience. There was the bare husk of a man in an hospital bed, and nothing passed between us. I don’t even know if he was aware of my existence.
I tried to read from the poetry of Rudyard Kipling, just to let him hear my voice. I am uncertain if I am proud or ashamed that I was too choked to read more than a verse or two.
What happened to me? A lifetime was swept away. All the compromises, illusions, disillusionments, self-deceptions, and self-loathing were picked up and turned to a fine dust that was blown away in a dying man’s hoarse breath. What was left to me was the very essence of a man, and I am that man.
This was not what I expected or wanted.
I will be there when my father dies, maybe in a day or so, or maybe between 0100 and 0200 on Wednesday. As he passes I will celebrate his life and his dying. Unless something passes between us in his last moments, I will not understand the change in me.
How can a man ever understand the fire, the hammer, and the anvil from which the core of steel in his soul has emerged?
Please understand that I am happy it took the horrific face of my dying father to reveal the true man within my soul.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan.
These days I seldom dream. Last night I had a vivid dream reminding me of a moment in my past.
There was a roadside casualty, a girl in the gutter. Obviously I stopped my car, got out to give assistance, and while I was putting the girl in the recovery position someone drove off in my car. Then the girl got up and ran off, and a guy does not chase a woman late at night. All of which was a bummer because I was then stranded on the wrong side of London, late at night, no wallet and no cell. (We call them mobile phones, and my wallet was in my jacket in the damn car.) Just getting back to my place took until mid-morning, and then all the phone calls cancelling cards, contacting my insurance company, telling the office I wouldn’t be in…. And that was a great car, which I never saw again.
That wasn’t the first, or the last time, my being a ‘Good Samaritan’ caused me much grief, pain, and suffering.
From trying to help a drunken woman in the street, to giving my bank details to a charity worker, (bogus), to rescuing a woman who was being hassled by a drunk in a bar, to driving an acquaintance home late at night, to helping out a coworker solve a tricky problem, to not having first date sex with an inebriated woman… Well, the list of ‘nice’ things I’ve done which then caused me much grief goes on, and on, and on.
Too often in my life I have tried to do the right thing, to be the good guy, the man in the white suit ~ and what has it ever got me? Trouble.
Even in close relationships I’ve found, to my cost, that being a genuinely kind, caring, and considerate guy, leads to trouble in the end. Women can and will walk all over a nice guy.
It seems that many people see a good guy as a soft touch, someone that can be trampled underfoot, someone of no real account. A geek, a jerk, a loser.
Well, maybe that’s their loss.
I can retain my ethics and morality, but my dream tells me that I also need to exercise harsh judgement in the people I am prepared to be kind to. There is no more universally nice Jack Collier.
What ever became of the Good Samaritan anyway?
To travel is to take a journey into yourself.
Doing a little research on something else, I was bored enough to read a narrow-minded American’s opinion of visit to England, which pissed me off somewhat. Here are some real facts about Americans;
64% of Americans do not own a passport.
In states such as; Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, and South Carolina only about 25% of US citizens own a valid passport.
When most Americans visit another country it’s to either Mexico or Canada.
Annually, less than 5% of Americans travel overseas.
More than half of all Americans have never been outside of America.
Most Americans have not been to more than 5 US states.
Many Americans have never been more than 100 miles from where they were born.
The commonest complaints of Americans visiting England are;
- ‘the bacon is terrible…’
- ‘few ethnicities are represented in London cuisine…’
- ‘there is no Mexican or Latin American food in Britain…’
- ‘British people are cold and hard to befriend…’
- ‘the London subway is unreliable…’
- ‘the British are obsessed with the Queen and Royal Family…’
- ‘it always rains in England…’
- ‘the English drive on the wrong side of the road…’
- ‘British cars are undrivable…’
- ‘free healthcare is such a stupid idea…’
- ‘British TV sucks…’
- ‘refrigerators and washing machines are very small…’
- ‘there’s no dress code…’
- ‘black people are just people…’
- ‘they eat with their forks upside down…’
I’ve travelled all over the world, I’ve worked, lived, and had many vacations in the United States, I have some close friends in America, and none of the above surprises me one little bit. American culture is so in-your-face and all-pervasive, (you only had to watch the recent Oscars ceremony to realise that), that all Americans think the rest of the world is just like America ~ trust me, it isn’t.
In addition, working Americans are allowed and take so few vacation days, (average 10 days a year), that the idea of visiting some of the great cultural sites in Europe just never crosses their minds.
The whole world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a single page. ~ Saint Augustine
Which is why it does not surprise me that;
- Middle America elected Donald Trump as their President.
- Americans are obsessed with social media like Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.
- More than 80% of Americans believe in conspiracy theories, and that the Government has kept secrets about UFOs.
- More than 85% of Americans believe in one or more of; aliens, flying saucers, angels, astrology, extra-sensory-perception, Big Foot, ghosts, reincarnation, the healing power of crystals, witchcraft, that they can win money in Las Vegas casinos, and that winning the lottery is a viable financial plan.
- Over 75% of Californians believe that more than 25% of Americans are Gay or Lesbian, (the true figure is 3.5% of Americans are LGBT).
- 25% of Americans believe in creation theory and that the Earth is the centre of the universe.
- 25% of Americans believe they won their Independence from a country other than Great Britain.
- All Americans feel they need a planned and fixed itinerary before setting off on their travels.
A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving. ~ Lao Tzu
To a well-travelled, well-read, and well-educated Englishman like me, it’s very sad that most Americans are like a Monday morning quarterback ~ they think they can talk a good game, but mostly they talk bullshit. Actually, it’s worse than that, most Americans think their opinions matter to others. They need to get out into the world a bit more.
And in England, ‘Trump’ is still another word for ‘Fart’.
Have a nice day.
moderation, moral courage, self-denial, self-discipline
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent and comes 46 days before Easter. Since Easter itself is a movable feast, Ash Wednesday can happen on any Wednesday from February 4th to March 10th. Ash Wednesday is really a Pagan festival, having only been adopted by the Christian Church in 325 AD by Constantine the Great. (Although almost all Christians will deny it, most, if not all Christian Festivals are built on the back of festivals from other and older religions, civilisations, and cultures.)
Lent and Easter is a long festival of Spring ~ in fact the modern English words Lent and Lenten derive from the Old English word Lencten, which means Spring. As it happens, even the English word Easter derives from the Goddess Oestar / Ostara / Éostre, the Pagan Goddess of Spring, (one of them).
Which begs a couple of questions. Firstly, when does spring begin? Conventionally, in the Northern Hemisphere, in England in particular, Spring starts at the vernal equinox, or on the night of March 20th / 21st. Stonehenge and similar ancient monuments were set up to predict and confirm these astronomical events. And secondly, what does Lent have to do with Spring? And I believe the answer to that is in ancient times the end of winter, coming up to Springtime at the vernal equinox, was a time of hunger, starvation, and hard work preparing the land for spring planting. Ergo, in ancient times people would fast during what is modern Lent, not out of choice, but of absolute necessity.
The deeper one goes into the rituals, superstitions, and deities of these old cultures the more connected to the seasons everything seems to be. Persephone, the beautiful Greek Goddess of Spring, (Roman Proserpina), was also the Goddess of Death and the Underworld. That makes perfect sense because the end of winter, when the food was running out and the weather was bad, would be when the old, young, and infirm were very likely to die.
So, Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, the time leading up to Spring, makes perfect sense when looked at from the point of view of our ancestors. It’s not really time for a festival, carnival, or feasting ~ it’s more a time of self-denial and self-discipline.
It all makes sense in terms of the Four Noble Truths of the Buddha too. The end of winter is a time of pain and suffering. Indulging our wants, desires, and lusts just makes everything worse. The road to freedom from suffering is through self-discipline in body, mind, and spirit. The way to get through those hard days at the end of winter would have been through self-discipline in body, mind, and spirit.
So starting today, what am I giving up for the 46 days of Lent? It’s going to be something difficult. Starting today I will not take impulsive and negative actions when I have negative thoughts and feelings like; anger, jealousy, insecurity, anxiety, or fears of abandonment ~ all those old symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder. I know that I will have those negative feelings, I just won’t let them get to me.
Maybe I should have decided to give up chocolate instead ~ I’ve already given up booze.
Maybe I’ll just lock myself in the garret for Lent.
confession, penance, atonement, amends, forgiveness
Today, the 28th of February, is Shrove Tuesday ~ a day when the basic tenents of religion, 12 step recovery programmes, and a spiritual lifestyle all come together. It’s all based on strength, honesty, purity, unselfishness, and love. It’s sometimes called a moral inventory, and it may involve the God /Goddess of your understanding, your Higher Power, your most trusted friend, or any combination or variation of all three. Ash Wednesday, and by extension Shrove Tuesday, is really a Pagan Festival anyway ~ the main thing is that today is a good day for me to take the next step on my own spiritual journey.
All this, the whole point of Shrove Tuesday, may have nothing to do with religion, or recovery from an addiction, or eating special meals, or the carnival celebrations of Mardis Gras ~ but what it should have to do with is acceptance of who we are, who we used to be, and who we wish to become in the future. Today I will take a long look at who I was and what I did, all the good, the bad and the ugly. I will try to accept and understand the past. I will acknowledge the reality of the past, and think about making my amends in the future. Today I will forgive myself for yesterday’s mistakes, and hope that others do too. I will think about being a ‘better’ man tomorrow than I was yesterday. My personal tools for doing this are the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.
I am not a follower of the Buddha ~ in fact my personal ‘higher power’ is the Mother Goddess, in one of her forms, (it’s complicated). But the Buddha’s Teachings will make sense to me today ~ Shrove Tuesday. I will be making pancakes today, but the whole idea of Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Carnival is not really an English Gentleman’s thing. Mardi Gras isn’t really a spiritual event, it’s just a street party.
Have a Happy Fat Tuesday, a Great Carnival, a Joyous Mardi Gras, and a Calm and Spiritual Shrove Tuesday.
(Maybe one day I’ll look for a cool woman wearing a great mask at Mardi Gras.)
Do fish know when it’s raining?
Imagine for a moment that you are a goldfish. Let your mind wander and spiral inwards. You live in a small goldfish bowl, on a table, in the corner of a room. That’s all you can see. Everything you see is by looking through goldfish eyes, first through water, and then curved glass. Your world is going to look spherical and distorted. If you don’t work very hard on your memory then you will forget everything within three seconds. If you train really hard you might remember things for up to five months. By human standards, you’re going to have a very strange and very limited understanding of the Cosmos.
Nothing is quite what it appears to be, when it’s only with your eyes you see. ~ N’Zuri Za Austin
In absolute terms, when you stop imagining that you’re a goldfish your understanding of the cosmos doesn’t get a whole lot better. Each of us has only a small and distorted view of ourselves, the people we think we know, the world we live in, and out to the edges of time and space. We see through a glass, darkly.
Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth. ~ Marcus Aurelius.
However, a goldfish is probably blissfully unaware that there is a multiverse beyond its bowl and the room it can see. A goldfish most likely doesn’t agonise over the past, think about the present, or worry much about the future. A goldfish does not have much knowledge, does not bemoan its ignorance, and does not seek for reality. Most of us human beings do think of the past, try to make the most of the present, and make plans for the future.
Making our plans for the future can only be an imperfect and ephemeral endeavour at best ~ there are just too many variables, a host of outside influences, and the very strong likelihood that other people will not do as we would wish or expect them to. More often than not we will find ourselves reacting to events, rather than controlling them. But we are not goldfish. To some extent we are in control of our own destiny. To a great extent we are in control of our own minds.
To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe. ~ Anatole France
We can choose what we think, we can change what we believe, and we can decide how we will react and respond to the things that happen to us. We do not have to swim around in little circles with our mouths opening and closing mindlessly. We do not have to forget most things within three seconds. Uniquely some of us learn to accept that there is a difference between what we see, the things we believe to be true, and reality.
The map is not the territory. ~ Alfred Korzybski
To become the very best version of you that you can ever be, you must first begin to leave aside childish thoughts and beliefs. You must learn to distinguish between what is false and what is real; between what is truth and what is a popular lie. As 90% of the people you will ever meet are jerks, wazzocks, and fools for 90% of the time, if you take the path to truth you will be walking a lonely road. Many people never learn that what they believe probably isn’t reality, truth, congruent, tenable, or even probable.
Most people go through life living in a goldfish bowl of their own making, too afraid to see the truth beyond their own little world, unwilling to remember the truth of their own past, and hence unable to learn from their triumphs and disasters. Most people are happy to move around in little circles opening and closing their mouths constantly and pointlessly. What we all need is a little moral courage to seek and face the truth of painful reality.
It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare. ~ Mark Twain.
Because you are reading this you probably just about know the next step on the path you must take towards becoming the best version of you that you can ever be. But just for a while look inwards, imagine your world is as limited as that of a goldfish in a bowl. Eventually your soul will make it clear what should most matter to you, and what you need to do next on your life’s journey to ultimate truth and reality.
Look where you have been; view where you are at; seek where you want to be. ~ Gwendolyn Moore
The paradox is that the less we look out into the world, the more we see of ourselves.
these thoughts are mine and mine alone
stargazing aurora pale dawning
fantastic castles clouds imaginings
daybreak reverie slivered brightening
vulnerable warm softly slowly unfolding
delicate sensual transient fleeting touching
dawn horizon brightening adoration delighting
before we knew it, it was over, a memory, fleeting
words and pictures by jack collier
All you need is love ~ but roses help too.
how can I show you,
I’m glad I got to know you?
this guy’s in love with you
pictures by jack collier
every flower is a soul blossoming in nature
rest peacefully with a kiss from a bloom
exquisite soft petals hides her sharp thorns
a sweet opium scent presages dreaming doom
and her softest moon-shadows hide not the loss
female sexual predator in elegantly pastel costume
brings willing soul ultimately false blissful happiness
here’s the mystery of it all, for in the end, even bliss palls
words and pictures by jack collier