General

Before everything got amplified

This scene from the TV series Elementary moved me. Strongly.

I watched it several days ago. And yet, my thoughts return to it still.

Like “Sherlock”, I have often wondered … well, wished … if I should have been born in another time. All my life, indeed, I have had occasion to entertain this wish. This feeling, of somehow being … out of place. But it is only recently that my reason for doing so has echoed Sherlock’s.

Distraction.

As a child, and an avid reader of books, I oh so easily imagined myself living in the earliest era of aviation. Being one of those “magnificent men in their flying machines”.

In my early teenage years, a friend introduced me to the novels of Wilbur Smith. Need I say more.

The first decade or so of my adulthood, however, brought no pause for such contemplations, as I busied myself with the trappings of the world.

Witnessing the near-death experience of my older brother changed everything. My “conversion”, my “spiritual awakening”, or “rebirthing”, if you will, ushered me into the dawning of profound change, of most all my previous perspectives.

During those energetic years in pursuit of my piece of all the best the world appeared to offer, I found it very easy, natural, to focus intently on the achievement, the attainment, of many and various desired outcomes. From the immediate, to the somewhat more distant of aspirations.

I have always had a great ability to focus. To exist as in a tunnel, striving, seeing only the chosen object. For the time required, all else completely eclipsed, as though it did not exist.

From my days as a child reading “Reach for the Sky” for the umpteenth time, oblivious to calls to the supper table, to my days as a late teen road running in rain, hail, or shine, oblivious to the blared horns and flailed arms of friends passing by seeking to capture my attention, to my days as a young entrepreneur powering through 19 hour days at the office, it seems that I have always had a great natural ability to completely shut out from mind all but that which I wanted to exist there.

Perhaps the most profound change, one experienced immediately on my conversion, my transcendence to the “new life” of the spiritual world, was a tremendous stillness, or silence, of the activities of mind. To describe that bliss, I have not words even remotely adequate to the attempt.

This may strike you as paradoxical; my claim to natural capacity for focus, contrasted with an expression of joy on being relieved of all thoughts.

Not so, for I have always been a “complex person”, given to much thought. It is of importance to note that my ability to shut out unwanted thought has always been predicated on desire … on my first having chosen a particular some thing that I wished to achieve, or attain.

But on my rebirthing, I suddenly awoke from my former life, to find myself quite bereft of predicates.

Strangely, happily, I wanted nothing.

Absolutely. No thing.

I felt complete contentment.

I no longer felt desire for any thing. That is to say, any other thing. Only that which I was experiencing.

I desired no material thing.

And no intellectual thing.

Intellectualism, the power of rational thought, of ideas, it is a subtle master, and one to whom I had been a perpetual slave. Sifting, sorting, analysing, contextualising, prioritising, debating, arguing; these had long been activities, or better I can now say, exertions, of mind in which I had ceaselessly, remorselessly engaged. Nought did I know then, for I could not see, how vain, how unnecessary, how unimportant were all these exertions , in the greater and true scheme of all things.

(For it has now become clear to me, that we employ our intellectual strivings, almost exclusively, in the service of attaining material, and transient things. Goods. Objects. Status. Recognition. A higher total of electronic digits at a bank. Illusions of Safety, Prosperity, and Security.)

And so it was, oh blessed joy, what peace, a great bliss, to suddenly, effortlessly, find myself in a place relieved of these exertions! Shut out, kept far from me, almost as though with a magical, invisible force field.

Immediately, and only the more clearly in time, I saw the truth of our quest for knowledge, and our pride in acquisition, in attainment of “information” and “facts”. Of the great, transcendent value of Knowing, as compared to merely knowing. And so it came to be that not only the name of my first blog, The Blissful Ignoramus, but also the tagline, encapsulated my new perspective.

“I Don’t Know… the truth that sets me free”

Most of the time, on most topics, I don’t know.

Instead, I only “know” what someone else has said.

I don’t know, if they really know. Often they too, only “know” what they’ve heard or read from someone else.

Most of the time, on most topics, we merely parrot what others have said. And imagine, that we really Know.

I have learned, that this a very important thing to Know.

Recognising what I don’t know, makes me feel humble.

Accepting that I don’t know, makes me feel free.

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Observing when others really don’t know either, makes me feel equal… and forewarned.

Intuiting when no one really knows, makes me feel unity, understanding, and empathy.

We’re all in this world of lies, half-truths (now called ‘spin’)… together. And what a sad and sorry flock of unthinking parrots we all are! In truth, none of us really Knows much about anything.

On looking back over the archives of The Blissful Ignoramus, I can see clearly where my spiritual state has gone awry in recent years. At approximately the same time as I began to turn, in mind and heart, back towards certain problems of the world, desiring to, in some way, contribute to redressing them, commensurate with the rate of turning, my “blissful ignorance” began to fade. The clear, effortless, simple insights expressed there in aphoristic form, became the more infrequent.

I have in consequence found myself in a strange and dry place, perhaps somewhat like that expressed by St. Paul. Seemingly caught between two worlds. Unable to “have”, to “fit” into, or even to truly desire, either one. And in this neither world, that invisible force field, the one formerly shutting out the noise, the cacophony, of worldly things and my own thought processes, it too departed from me, along with my state of blissful “ignorance”.

But happily, over the past week, since those events chronicled in These Present Waters, I have again begun to experience, to Know, albeit sporadically, the experience of blissful ignorance. And in so Knowing, I have become profoundly aware once again of the intrusion, the enormous, dark, and snatching power of distraction, arising from all the noise “out there”.

It seems to me that it is only when one has experienced being set free from all the noise that goes on inside one’s own mind — when one has let go of it all, and fallen back into the deep, quiet, silent well of Living Water — that one can truly see how intrusive, how distracting from what is truly important, is all the noise, amplified, coming from “out there”.

Perhaps too, this is why, over the past week, I have most often Known the experience of that “blissful ignorance” — stillness, silence of mind and heart — while having my earplugs in, wind softly rustling, and V-Twin rhythmically pulsing through my body.

It’s the consistency. The constancy. The blessed monotony.

It’s the sound of a “steady state”, you see.

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I rode out to the lakeside

In turmoil of mind and soul

There, in time

I met again, with a long lost friend

Thanks to the Ancress of Lynn

Who pointed me straight

To the fountain

The Living Water

Which did not burst forth, strong, overfilling

As before

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My head bowed, eyes closed

He came

Like dew forming

Gently, gently

Gently rising

Cool refreshing, slowly soaking

Shadow moistening

The dry walls of my well

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And now, this place, this quiet

Gentle, light and floating bliss

Mystical oasis,

Surrounded yet

Untouched by cursed desert

Has not remained behind, by the lakeside

Fading

Soon after I rode away

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It has come with me

Within me

I feel, I see

A presence

Dissolving my compulsions

Anxieties, and hatreds

As though they were all

Ever so distant

Alien things

Those former companions now

Seem foreign to me

And true it is

So long as I continue

To hold my peace

And look in upon

The face of these Present Waters

They rise a little

A little

A little more

To meet my thankful gaze.

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“Thou shalt not please Me

so well as thou dost

when thou art in silence,

and suffrest Me to speak

in thy soul.”

 

“If thou wilt be

high with Me in heaven,

keep Me alway in thy mind

as much as thou mayst…”

 

“In nothing that thou dost

or sayest…

thou mayst

no better please God

than believe

that He loveth thee.”

 

— from A Short Treatyse Of Contemplation

Taught By

Our Lord Jesu Christ,

Or

Taken Out Of The Book

Of Margery Kempe,

Ancress Of Lynn

General

These Present Waters

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General

Turn around

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And He called a little child to Himself

and put him in the midst of them,

And said,

Truly I say to you,

unless you turn around

and become like little children,

you can never enter the kingdom of heaven.

— Matthew 18:2-3

 

Truly I tell you,

whoever does not receive and accept

and welcome the kingdom of God

like a little child

shall not enter it at all.

— Mark 10:15

 

Image credit: @therealbanksy

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General

Imagine a world with no words

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I often wish that we humans had no words. No ability to speak, or write. For I often think that the world would be a better place, if not for the presence of words.

True enough, words can lift up, bless, and inspire. There is much good that can be said of words. But how often do words deceive. How often do they hurt. How often are they misheard, misperceived, and misunderstood. Does the good outweigh the bad? Or is the bad so repellent, that it might be better just to not have either? To forgo all the good, in order to be rid of all the bad too.

I often wish that we might communicate by telepathy. I wish that, not words, but understandings, could be transmitted — nay, implanted — directly into the mind of our fellow. Clear. Complete. Nothing added. Nothing withheld. Perfect understanding. Perfect knowing.

Some years ago, I worked in the city nearest my home. I became pleasantly accustomed to spending my lunch break sitting on a lonely, grassy hilltop, in a parkland overlooking the Pacific Ocean. At times, serendipitously, others would come, and sit quietly nearby. Eating. Reading. Dozing in the sunshine. Playing with children, or a family pet. Rarely would any words pass between us. Only smiles. And nods of knowing.  

I was inspired by these experiences, and sought to establish a Meetup social group to encourage this. I called it “Alone Together”.

The idea was simply to set a regular time, and picturesque place, where attendees could come and sit, silently. Alone, and yet, Together. For as long, or as little, as each one wished. The only rule: no words. No communication, spoken, or written. Alas, I lost enthusiasm for this idea — perhaps, in hindsight, somewhat precipitately — when initial inquirers quickly proved to be motivated only by the most superficial — that is to say, physically romantic — of intentions.

A week or three ago, I met a lovely older lady at my present favourite lakeside haven of solitude and tranquillity. As I sat quietly on the grass watching the Whistling Kites nesting above, I heard the sound of a vehicle approaching over the field behind. Through the passenger side window, “Helen” began speaking with me about our feathered companions. Evidently she had observed that I was photographing them. Joy in this activity is a pleasure we share in common. I imagine this explains why a little old lady would approach a strange leathered man, in an isolated rural location, when his ape-hangered iron steed scowling darkly nearby might otherwise suggest a risk of his being a “bad ass biker”.

Although I did enjoy meeting and conversing with Helen, an observation has since occurred to me. The “conversing” part was entirely unnecessary. Superfluous. And in a sense, detrimental. Indeed, I can imagine an alternative first encounter — a Take 2 — that would seem to me to be far more pleasurable, and enriching.

In a world without words, our meeting might instead have resembled my Alone Together social vision. Helen might have driven up and, instead of speaking to me, simply done what she came to do. Watch the birds. Silently. Alone, as it were. Perhaps inevitably, our eyes would meet. Smiles would be exchanged. Understanding — knowing — would be shared. Just the essential. The apparent. That we both enjoy observing the birds.

And that would be enough. More than enough.

What is more, the not knowing any more than this, would make for an added pleasure. That of mystery. Of quiet anticipation. That some day, we two strangers might meet there again. And again share, silently, our mutual pleasure.

Sadly, I must confess that because many words passed between us, I have little wish to meet again. I now know too much. To join Helen’s formal birdwatching club — though I do appreciate the invitation — holds little attraction. To meet again in my — our — private place by the lakeside, will mean an intrusion. A slightly unwelcome, and certainly an unnecessary intrusion — the intrusion of words — on the very activity, the essential reason why I — we — travel to that beautiful place in the first place. 

I know this to be true. Because it has already happened.

I would much prefer that we could simply be alone … together … in a world with no words.

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“Enter Pyongyang” is another stunning collaboration between city-­branding pioneer JT Singh and flow-motion videographer Rob Whitworth. Blending time-lapse photography, acceleration and slow motion, HD and digital animation, they have produced a cutting‐edge panorama of a city hardly known, but one emerging on the visitor’s landscape as North Korea’s opening unfolds.

North Korea was the last country seemingly immune to change—but no longer. Recent years have witnessed mobile phone penetration, a surge in tourists, and even a marathon. Numerous special economic zones have been launched in cooperation with China, Russia, and South Korea, with railways planned linking all countries in the region. “Enter Pyongyang” captures not just the city, but this dynamism and sense of potential.

This video is the single most significant multi-­media contribution to transcending clichés about North Korea as a society defined by reclusiveness and destitution. To travel there is to witness a proud civilization, though one caught in a Cold War time-warp. Korean cultural traditions are meticulously preserved and displayed in authentic richness. Anyone who has witnessed the awe-inspiring Mass Games knows that, with great sacrifice, North Koreans can pull off a performance unparalleled in its precision.

“Enter Pyongyang” captures the reality of North Korean citizens as earnest and humane, not automatons. The infamous traffic ladies and subway guards stand stiff and sentinel—but today they share a smile too. The more North Koreans one meets, the more one sees an organic society that wants to be a normal country. If you travel there not to judge but to appreciate, you will come away with a better understanding of how challenging national transformation can be.

"Enter Pyongyang" is above all an invitation to explore. Few places in the world have been as hermetically sealed as North Korea, but Koryo Tours has made it possible not just to see North Korea but to engage with it in ways that were impossible until very recently. This is a window of opportunity not to be missed. If Pyongyang is no longer off limits, no place is.

–Foreword by Dr. Parag Khanna, Director, Hybrid Reality

Koryo Group: The Koryo team brought a wealth of valuable knowledge and expertise to this project. Thanks to their extensive experience in running tourism and cultural engagement projects in North Korea since 1993, we were able to get unprecedented access in Pyongyang. We are thankful to the Koryo team and their Korean partners for an unforgettable experience.

FAQs

-How were you guys allowed to film in Pyongyang?

This project was produced in conjunction with Koryo Tours, the leading North Korea travel specialist. Vicky Mohieddeen of Koryo Tours was with us throughout the shoot.

-Were there restrictions on what was allowed to be filmed?

We were closely assisted by two guides from the National Tourism Administration, who helped us gain special access to locations and made sure that we followed all the rules. As is standard for all foreign visitors to the country, we were not allowed to shoot any construction sites, undeveloped locations or military personnel. Other than that we were given relatively free reign.

-Isn’t this all fake? You don’t see the real North Korea.

The average visitor to Pyongyang is likely to be surprised by the scenes they encounter and are especially surprised about how clean and orderly the city actually is. Indeed, people living in Pyongyang and other major cities enjoy a higher quality of life than those in other parts of the county.

-Are people allowed to travel to North Korea?

Yes, despite what the majority of people think, it is possible to visit North Korea as a tourist. North Korea does not release official data on the number of Western tourists it receives, but estimates range from 4,000 to 6,000 per year. Most of the foreign tourists are from Mainland China, estimated in the tens of thousands annually.

-Were you paid to make this film?

We volunteered for this project with no pay at all. All other travel expenses for the 6 day trip were covered by Koryo Tours.

-Does this film support the DPRK government?

"Enter Pyongyang" is an observational film. At no point did Koryo Tours or we have to pretend to be supporters of the DPRK Government or their philosophy in order to be granted permission to shoot this film. Amazingly, we were given complete editorial control in the making of this piece.

Tom Day (Music)
Website: http://www.tomday.me
Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/tomday

JT Singh
Website: http://www.jtsingh.com/
Facebook: facebook.com/jtssingh
Twitter: twitter.com/jtssingh

Rob Whitworth
Website: http://www.robwhitworth.co.uk/
Facebook: facebook.com/RobWhitworthPhotography
Twitter: twitter.com/kwhi02

Koryo Tours
Website: http://www.koryogroup.com
Facebook: facebook.com/koryotours
Twitter: twitter.com/koryotours

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Visit Psalmistice on Flickr for more photos.
 

General

Reflections

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Depart from evil, and do good;
Seek peace, and pursue it.

— Psalm 34:14

 
Over the past 24 hours, the world commemorated the outbreak of “The War To End All Wars”.

I observed a holyday. In the quiet company of nature’s family.

To enjoy all the sacred sounds, you may wish to crank up the volume —

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General

The heart of Lucy

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Yesterday I went out for dinner and a movie, with an old friend who is lonely.

He is a father. And a divorcee. His own father passed recently.

The movie was called Lucy.

I found it thought provoking. And on further reflection, disturbing.

In a penultimate scene, Lucy has just disappeared, at the very instant of reaching “100%”, and, just as the bad guy protagonist empties a pistol into her head. A policeman asks, “Where is she?”

A text message immediately appears on his mobile phone.

“I AM EVERYWHERE”.

This movie presents a message.

An aspiration.

An ideal.

That if only we could access 20%, 30%, 40%, or 100% of the capacity of our brains, we could become as gods.

All knowledgeable.

All powerful.

Immortal.

But in becoming as gods*, we lose our humanity.

When I consider the violence, oppression, pain, suffering, destruction, torment, devastation, deceit, and mass murder we have wrought in the world over the past century — throughout our much-lauded, Panglossian age of scientific discovery, of technology, of Information, and of ever-growing Knowledge … but not, it seems, of Wisdom — I wonder.

Why do we not make movies that present a very different message.

Imagine a world where we all would access 100% of the capacity of our hearts.

 

* Johansson’s character becomes cold, violent, murderous, inconsiderate, demanding, manipulative, self-obsessed. Heartless. One wonders what kind of “god” it is the film writers are presenting as an aspirational ideal.

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From where comes that light

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My soul weeps with longing,
For the eye of my soul it sees,
Flashes, fleeting moments,
Emanations of that which is Best,
Pure, Virtuous, and wholly Divine.

I see Goodness, Truth, Mercy, Justice,
Twinkling in imperfect man,
How little faith is needed,
The existence of the Perfect implied,
By that which is imperfect.

Oh how I love,
And long to be forever lost in,
What is on other side,
The darkness,
Pierced through with darts of Light.

But a kiss from the lips of God,
Once tasted,
My soul cannot be sated,
By this promise of His Essence,
For I long that all might share in Perfect Bliss.

Come, darkness, draw near, gather all about,
For so much the sooner your time will end,
I pray not that I should pass over into that Light,
But that the Light will move you on,
And dawn over us all.

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