Materiality – a mark, a yen, a buck or a pound…

If you happen to rich
And you feel like a night’s entertainment
You can pay for a gay escapade
If you happen to be rich and alone
And you need a companion
You can ring (ting-a-ling) for the maid

If you happen to be rich
And you find you are left by your lover
And you moan and you groan quite a lot
You can take it on the chin
Call a cab and begin to recover
On your 14-karat yacht! What!?

Money makes the world go around
The world go around
The world go around
Money makes the world go aroung
Of that we both are sure
On being poor!

When you haven’t any coal in the stove
And you freeze in the winter
And you curse to the wind at your fate
When you haven’t any shoes on your feet
Your coat’s thin as paper
And you look 30 pounds underweight
When you go to get a word of advice
From the fat little pastor
He will tell you to love evermore
But when hunger comes to rap
Rat-a-tat rat-a-tat at the window
(At the window!)
Who’s there? (hunger) oh, hunger!
See how love flies out the door

The Illusion of Control

Do you control your own fate, your destiny?

Are you in control of the direction of “your” life?

It seems to me that many get mightily upset when things don’t go “their” way.

I remember having a conversation with our French teacher prior to Brexit being “done” and perhaps “dusted”. I said that the whole story / drama / endless saga about fishing rights would drag on way after any “agreement” was made. She and I agreed that this was likely to be the case.

It was so foxtrotting obvious!

{Don’t worry Boris it is just a detail. They are never important when you can build a bridge from Scotland to Norway, using imaginary money which you just don’t have.}

There is no such thing as a binary clean-cut divorce without some ill-will and rankling. The British press are suggesting that the French are sulking, and the French are saying that perfidious Albion is being just as perfidious as ever. You cannot cut with a knife without at least leaving some scar tissue.

We may like to think that we have our shit together, are clever and cunning, and are driving our lives towards the imagined nirvana of our goals and ambitions. But life has a whole bunch of spanners, curve balls etc. in its back pocket which it can at any time unleash. Fate has a whole rucksack full of quirks.

I used to have a trick to demonstrate this a little to groups I was facilitating. On one side of flip chart paper, I had:

“When God sees humans making plans…”

I would ask people to comment on this, it often solicited some strange reactions. Most people would refer to God as He. “If He exists blah, blah…”

On the next piece of paper, it said:

“She laughs…”

When I revealed this there was usually a very mixed reaction, I had deliberately thrown a cat amongst the pigeons as a facilitative manoeuvre.

The upshot of this was that any group I was facilitating realised that I was a stranger fish than they had at first estimated. Boring science dude might be a bit weirder than quantum mechanics.

Right now, people are getting flooded, houses are being swallowed by lava or destroyed by bush fires, “cuddly” polar bears are dying, people in Madagascar are starving, the Lebanon is in dire straits, Haiti is up shit creek without a paddle and Biden is talking to the head of the biggest paedophile organisation this planet has ever known. And the French and the British are arguing about foxtrotting fish and scallops. Squabbling siblings with a love-hate relationship…

You can buy Bulldog cushions here in France and posters of Provence in the UK.

And Greta is Rick-Rolling us…

We foxtrotting deserve it…

——————————-

Do you control your own fate, your destiny?

Are you in control of the direction of “your” life?

We’re no strangers to love

You know the rules and so do I

A full commitment’s what I’m thinking of

You wouldn’t get this from any other guy

I just wanna tell you how I’m feeling

Gotta make you understand

Never gonna give you up

Never gonna let you down

Never gonna run around and desert you

Never gonna make you cry

Never gonna say goodbye

Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you

—-

We’ve known each other for so long

Your heart’s been aching but you’re too shy to say it

Inside we both know what’s been going on

We know the game and we’re gonna play it

And if you ask me how I’m feeling

Don’t tell me you’re too blind to see

—————

Foxtrot Foxtrot Sierra

Have You Ever Missed the Mark?

I’ll start this off with a quasi-satirical and perhaps partially philosophical question.

Is it possible for the self-diagnosed omniscient to ever get entirely the wrong end of the stick?

I have often wondered to myself why we, as a species, are so very blessed with such a large number of people who are sufficiently adamant that the world will be a better place for having had the benefit of their opinion so as to profess said opinion with an apparent conviction.

What have we done as a lowly bunch of plebs to receive such stupendous bounty?

I have an alternative hypothesis to many things.

One could argue that it is because of a tragic flaw in my character that I threw away everything and therefore will come to my tragic end alone and semi-impoverished in a foreign land.

Or one could develop the thematic alternate around this statement

Sie einen großen Fehler gemacht haben.

So, who missed the mark, is it I?

Or is it they?

One version of this narrative has way more implications than the other.

If ‘tis solely yours truly who has foxtrotted uniform, then there is no wider problem.

But should it be that others have foxtrotted uniform because of their erroneous self-diagnosis, then that is an altogether different matter….

Towards Freedom – Temporary Concluding Remarks

I have used the term temporary to offset the meaning of concluding, for in a relative universe the idea of a finite end is a bit off. And as this is a work in progress, it is unfinished. In this pamphlet I have introduced something of an overview, I have been scant on detail and general in approach. I am making no claims of originality, nor am I saying that these are the teachings of some “master” or other. They were not given to me by any disincarnate being. If you are familiar with Buddhist teaching, then you might notice some similarity to “The Middle Way”. You may notice a flavour of other “teachings”. This pamphlet is a verbalisation and aims at being somewhat contemporary. I have steered clear of words used in various traditions, but cannot do so entirely. Language is limited after all.

In attempting a general approach, I have made thematic reference to the challenges on the road towards freedom. It differs by individuality yet shares some commonality. As an overview it might be generally applicable. It cannot be exhaustive. Hopefully it is of interest and of use.

It is currently envisaged that this pamphlet is the first in a series.

Towards Freedom – Caveat

If the seed, the germ of freedom starts to germinate in you, there may be a long way to go and that quest is beset with pitfalls. It is a noble quest and one that tests your mettle. Humanity is, perhaps, heading towards a new age where the forms and structures both current and of the past, are starting to quiver and fail. Against such a backdrop, for the right kind of individual, the times are more fertile in terms of this quest. With the individuating being less needful of organisations and churches, the genuinely new has yet to materialise. As such the role of devotion, mindless or otherwise, shall cease to dominate. The cult of the personality fades as the masses are educated and learn to think for themselves. The need to hand power over to some hero, guru or leader, is less strong. Nevertheless, belonging to a club, an organisation, a group, a party, a cult or a church, still has a strong draw. That idea of belonging, tribal as it may be, remains powerful.  If you are to hand your salvation over to a saviour, of whatever denomination, in all likelihood, you will be disappointed. Given so much power over, few can resist its temptation.

This is not to say that within organisations there is nothing of merit. Many have great value in their core teachings and a sense of community in their society. To swap one world version for a better one, is not bad. It is ultimately limiting. In this the provenance of lineage is often touted. The idea is that the teachings are pure. However, if genuine adherence to doctrine is maintained, it swiftly becomes out of date. A truth remains a truth, but it is best flavoured with an essence of the times and not laden with the vinegar of preservation. A teaching intended for an Indian body and psyche, may not transfer directly to a Dane or a Belgian. Flexibility, according to make-up and culture can enhance learning. Dogmatic worship of the past, can hinder. Be very wary of anyone, or any organisation, that asks you to hand your power over to them. Even if you seek the kudos and bragging rights of beings associated with some guru or other, use discernment. As I have suggested before a free being will not seek power over any other being. Handing your power over to a saviour does not make you free; paying for blessings and potions, cannot liberate you. There is only one reliable way, do it yourself.

One can cherry pick from a tradition, but this can, at least in the early stages, lead to confusion. Some immersion is needed to gain benefit. This is best done with the caveat of discernment. There are no short cuts, you will have to hanker down for the long run. As you traverse you will see that what appear to be major differences in ideology may simply be down to manner of communication and contextual setting. When you get to this stage cherry picking is much safer.

Along the way you will encounter your own prejudices and predilection. If you are by nature a space cadet, unless something is weird and far out, it will not attract you. If you perceive yourself a rational being with a scientific approach, you will seek out evidential proof from within the context of your world version. There must be proof. Unfortunately, not all things in the universe are subject to reductionist working. This may jar with how you think things ought to be. The trick is to be open minded and reserve judgement, yet not to be gullible and over easily led.

The glamour of ritual holds strong with many. It accentuates a sense of belonging and can create a near hypnotic state as mind is handed over to group mind. These experiences can be pleasant or otherwise. They do not represent freedom in its purest. Glamour can be found on all sides and as one develops it is easier to assume a premature omniscience, which exists not. The human Ego is one tricky son of a bitch and it will play game after game with you. In this respect taking most things with a pinch of salt, is helpful. Do not be overly cynical and negative because, guess what? That can be your omniscient Ego talking to you….

It is likely that you may be attracted to people who think in a roughly similar manner to you, this provides the coterie of group satisfaction. It generates a group consensus, to which temporary loyalty may be felt. It can lead to defence and an inward-looking mentality. History shows that when groups of beings, blinded by devotion, encounter others, war results. This group-think is by definition, limited and cannot be free. The parameter space of truth and reality cannot be fully explored whilst there is subscription to consensual world version. There is an added problem in that within all groups there is a tendency towards social politics and hierarchical position. With a sad inevitability this leads to intrigue and gossip. These are the antithesis of freedom and not the predilection of a free being. Should you start in earnest on the walk to freedom, sooner or later, you will experience the pointing finger and the stabbing tongue.    

Having made these caveats, and should you be determined or fated, then what are you waiting for?

The quest for freedom starts with an urge, proceeds via control over your own mind and talking, towards a greater objectivity. In being honest and real, you will start to listen to your heart. The concrete world version you started with will slowly dissolve as you open your mind. In the search beyond the façade for your authentic essence, you will develop an authenticity hitherto unsuspected. Thence a sense of equanimity and choice develops. No more will you be a slave to drama and soap opera. And without knowing it you will be imbued with both a centre of beingness and an ever-increasing understanding of freedom. You will be on your way to becoming a free being, a magical creature of the universe.

Amish Paradise

A local boy kicked me in the butt last week
I just smiled at him and turned the other cheek
I really don’t care, in fact I wish him well
‘Cause I’ll be laughing my head off when he’s burning in hell
But I ain’t never punched a tourist even if he deserved it
An Amish with a ‘tude? You know that’s unheard of
I never wear buttons but I got a cool hat
And my homies all I agree I really look good in black… fool
If you come to visit, you’ll be bored to tears
We haven’t even paid the phone bill in 300 years
But we ain’t really quaint, so please don’t point and stare
We’re just technologically impaired

****

There’s no phone, no lights, no motorcar
Not a single luxury
Like Robinson Crusoe
It’s as primitive as can be

Towards Freedom – The Corporeal

Unless you are some dis-incarnate being wandering through space-time it is likely that you are, as yet, corporeal. And this meatiness of being corporeal presents a major challenge for the times I live in. We have the new phenomenon of body dysmorphia and the ability to surgically alter outer appearance. Thanks to the availability of leisure time and high definition photography we are surrounded by images of people, bodies and food. Due to the decline of manual labour and the availability of food, for the first time in history, humanity has a problem with being overweight. The advances in modern medicine together with its magic bullet hint at an increased longevity and a panacea for old age. People can compare what they look like to those held to be exemplar and beautiful. The obsession with corporeal image is at the root of much unhappiness and dissatisfaction. The simple truth remains, as things stand, all humans face the prospect of growing old, losing their faculties and dying. It comes to us all. There is an identification with form, with body and a hypochondriacal worry about its workings and the imminence of death. People are shit scared of dying, by and large. This corporeal identification is a part of the fear, as well as fear of the unknown.

Are you your body or your thoughts?

This simple question points at the fact that the essence which makes you a being is more than either your body or your thoughts. It is possible to observe your body and let people stick needles in it. It is possible to observe your thoughts. This means that there is something more than these, something extra or maybe less, doing the observations, your essence. If a partial non-attachment is possible, then it follows that this degree of detachment might be enhanced, with practice. If you are going to vacate the form, the body and are unpractised, when the time comes it is going to be harder. Now here is the weird bit, many understand that they are not simply a body full of thoughts at an intellectual level, but that is as far as it goes. The thinking isn’t joined up, or clear.

If you are going to drive a car, then it is best that the car is looked after, serviced and checked out from time to time. There is nothing wrong with taking care of the form you inhabit, but when it becomes an obsession that is unhelpful. When you are continually worrying about the next MOT test, you can forget to live. It doesn’t matter if someone else has an Audi, you have the car you were born into. You can’t swap cars, but you might be able to add a spoiler and change the exhaust. So long as the car functions it can still get you from A to B, from birth to death. The car may have a few tantrums and with the help of a mechanic (doctor) you can get it back on the road again. Changing the badge on the car does not change what is inside the car or the car itself. When you get to B, you will have to leave the car at the breakers’ yard. There is no choice in this. It may be used for spare parts or simply torched or buried.

In order to have more freedom, it is necessary to lessen the corporeal attachment and reduce the levels of drama about both its appearance and how it works. Not everyone can run as fast as Bolt. The body has certain biological functions, and these are necessary, it has reproductive drive, it has hunger. Associated with these functions is a mass of mind stuff where the mind makes up a whole bunch of drama to indulge in. The primal reproductive desire is overlaid with pleasure seeking gratification and indulgence. People can fuck themselves stupid. To be free is to have these urges in balance and not to be slave to them. One must see them as they are and not as some glamorous thing, some competition. Remember freedom is increased by reducing the number of things which have power over you. If sexual lust controls you, there is no freedom, simply a commanding basal urge. 

In our antiseptic times there is a tremendous squeamishness about bodily function and phobias against bacteria. Whilst some prudence is good, it can get out of control. And to have a taboo about basic bodily function is to be hung up by them. Just like death we all have some commonality in the need of these. Anything which you have a hang up about, impinges on your freedom. To be precious is to be constrained. In the west we have the luxury of modern sanitation which renders life easy and lowers health hazards. Being a little more earthy about the body demystifies it and frees up. I am not going to delve into the psychology of bodily function here, but the mental drama so associated is widespread and unnatural. In this respect modern western living, largely detached as it is from nature, lends a hand to phobia.

If one over exercises in order to sculpt a body, there is a very real danger that body identification increases. This worry in comparison to others does not liberate. The wretched pass time of comparison is at the root of much dissatisfaction and suffering. You have the car you were born with, learn to appreciate it and treat it reasonably well. Find out what it can do instead of comparing it to the Joneses all the time.

If one has invested heavily in the body and the intellect thereof, the degree of attachment increases, as does the fear of loss. But if you are not your body or your thoughts, both of these are simply on loan and impermanent. Everyone knows that they will die, yet this emphatic evidence of corporeal impermanence is set to one side and ignored by most, at least for the first four decades or so. It is only when the body starts to malfunction and grumble that the reality of death starts to knock. The gift of a body is taken for granted and imagined eternal. 

 Along with materialism, corporeal obsession works to decrease freedom. If someone can take away your possessions, they can take away your life or injure your vehicle. Fear of this is rife. Thinking a little it follows that if fear has power over you, then you are not free. And so many human fears are associated with this, the corporeal. These meat fears and social faux pas fears both inhibit freedom.  I am not here advocating a reckless disregard, rather a decrease in identification with the form side of life. If your essence is not the form, then why be so overly concerned about the form? Treat it with some respect but do not let it dictate.

 The more control over your mind you gain, the clearer you see that the corporeal is not tantamount, it is not the be all and end all. Perhaps you can see the degree of interrelation of mind and body, beyond mind there is essence. It is with the essence that authenticity lies. Getting to this essential core does not happen overnight. Glimpses of it loosens corporeal obsession, which increases freedom. And when the time comes you are much more ready and willing to let go of the body. This transition is less fearful, and you don’t live with the cloud of fear overhanging.

In this sense the body is but a vehicle used to explore the earthly reality of our day-to-day world. It did not ought to be master. One can enjoy the use of the body but to over indulge in it is unhelpful. Equanimity arises out of an increasing objectivity, where corporeal function is seen for what it is and no more.  We are here to learn, and the means is corporeal.

Towards Freedom – Materialism and Possession

I think it fair to comment that a swathe of humanity is somewhat obsessed with material things; houses, ‘phones, cars and maybe even yachts. There is a desire for the less concrete material things, the man-made things, like position, status and kudos. These are the markers, the accoutrements of the show-and-tell story of success, material success. People attach a lot to objects and stuff. Some houses are brimming. There is a like of the shiny, the medals, the trophies of societal conformity. One can even have a trophy wife and post-nominal letters. These things can be taken away, an event which causes distress and suffering because of the attachment, thereto. People have possessions and are possessed by them. That which they are attached to has power over them. In the hunger for acquisition rarely does it occur that people are giving their power over to their possessions.

If you are to be free then the equation of freedom is that the fewer things that have material power over you there are, the freer you become. In the limit of no possessions, one might wander the streets penniless dependent upon the hand-outs of others. This, depending upon mind-state, is a state of powerlessness. This can also not be free, because of the dependency. Is there perhaps a happy medium? Well in a world where relative might operate, there is. One can have only those belongings which one actually needs and that suffices. Many acquire way more than this, perhaps in a vain attempt to satiate some hunger, some hole in being. Their “happiness” is correlated somehow, to number count of material accoutrement. It is straightforward to see that, in such cases, the thinking behind is faulty.

Even then it is likely that some degree of clinging to accoutrement occurs. This clinging is needy and not free. If one uses, with respect the needed things, knowing that their use is a temporary gift of the universe and without a sense of entitlement, there is less attachment. Non-attachment without respect is wasteful and profligate, it engenders a throw-away society. Non-attachment with respect is perhaps a hallmark of a free being. In this one has no belief that the universe owes us a living or anything much at all. Thereby one is grateful for the loan of the material things offered, yet not attached to having them.

Materialism implies a lack of spirituality, which comes in many flavours and degrees. Despite all the reason, logic and justification, many find that some sense of spirit is the icing on the cake of life. Without it life is incomplete, unfinished. In our times spirit seems to be dying in favour of material, it may be that this underlies the tremendous levels of world angst and anger. This is an opinion for you to consider.

There are many wise quotes that suggest materialism is a hollow path, that whilst shiny and bauble laden, offers no lasting happiness or peace. This gnawing materialism is insatiable; at the end of its rainbow is the pot of enough, which cannot be found because for those so oriented it simply does not exist. This elusive enough, often sought, can cause suffering. It is sought with the wrong mind-set and motive and ergo, is elusive.  There is a Buddhist expression which I am fond of; hungry ghosts. A ghost then is a being divested of spirit seeking always to quench a thirst and silence a hunger pain, in the netherworld of materialism. If you don’t believe in “actual” ghosts, perhaps you can see the manifest hungry ghosts walking alongside you on our streets? They are quite common, and they do come out during the day.

In order to walk towards freedom, it is necessary to reorient in respect of the material so that it all but ceases to have power over you.  Despite the prevalence of totems, relics and the like, they have no inherent power. The power is only in the mind of the reverential and acquisitional. This power is a mental construct attached by the being who holds it. These attachments can bind and hold.

Objects can be the talismans of memories, markers of stories and anchors of such. They evoke baggage and strengthen its hold. To be free of the past is to reconcile and dissolve it. To evoke and bolster it is unwise. In this respect sentimentality is a burden.

A major part of the obsession with materialism is, as I have hinted, this show-and-tell competitive social behaviours based in comparison mind and exploited by the advertiser. This fear of missing out on the latest grooviest thing is the marketer’s dream and a fundamental weakness in the herd of consumers. So many buy stuff they do not need so as to partake of a show-and-tell life. This to the extent of living beyond means in many cases. A trophy cabinet is of little solace when the creditors foreclose. You could say that this attraction to shiny baubles is a little primitive and yet pervasive.

If one looks ever outward to the material world for “happiness”, reward and acknowledgment, the inner world becomes barren and untended. There is no balance, no centre. It is difficult to be free when near perpetually off balance.  In this respect simplicity is a counterpoint to acquisition, where need as opposed to want or desire, is the basis of interaction with the material world. Not everyone can tolerate the idea of monastic sparseness, yet relative comfort without excess is liveable for most. And in not feeling owed, or attached, knowing that your tenure of goods is transitory not guaranteed, equanimity can be found. The concept of ownership and permanent ownership at that, is a human invention. Nature can at any time challenge human perceived ownership of goods and irrevocably so. This construct of ownership and possession is of human origin and thereby a part of the illusion of the common dream, the prevailing world version.  The mantram of “must have” is chanted daily by millions and it is not a mantram of peace or fulfilment. It is mantram of hunger. “Must have” is not free.

In order to be free, one must at least lessen the power which things and awards have over one. There needs to be a responsible lessening of attachment, perhaps in a stepwise manner. Slowly the umbilical to the world of materialism needs severed. To be possessed by possessions is to be hooked to them and their purveyors. And short of a full-blown exorcism it is best to wean yourself towards autonomous living and thinking. This addiction to materialism is powerful and it holds power over most.