Journal 2020-10-27

The whole song can be better heard by listening, rather than spreading noise.

The problem is the insistence on certainty, and building an identity around this, with everyone thinking they are always right.

No matter how certain you think you are, even if momentarily touched with lucid insight, you are probably not completely right (yes, including this).

There is no shame in not seeing everything or not understanding all the complexities and ramifications of all ends.

Journal 2020-10-25

My school up to age of 11 was unusual because I remember doing a lot of arts and crafts, singing, drama and creative writing. This type of education has probably disappeared now under the weight of standard curricula, exams and league tables.

I only really developed a passion for learning again when I had the opportunity later on to study at UCL and Imperial, of which I am very grateful. I think the difference was access to primary sources and the culture of novel enquiry for contributions to knowledge, rather than teaching by numbers, no matter how nominally effective.

A Contrast

A few years ago, out of curiosity and in the hope of encountering some benevolent people, I went to a Buddhist centre in London. I could see the practical benefit in the exercises being taught and listened to some wisdom words, but was far less impressed with the paradigm of shared beliefs being advocated. There were several comments that jarred me, such as hero worshipping and speculating in earnestness as to who was the greatest recent guru; or the retelling of fantastical cosmologies as a matter of fact. My mind was truly decided, however, when music and singing was attempted. No doubt the purpose was to emote joy, but the result was blank for me. Nothing close to truth would create art – the expression of the soul – that uninspiring.

On leaving, the assembly exited the front door past two Buddhist people standing on either side, giving their goodbyes. The first person was everything I hoped to find there – she clearly just radiated a sense of peace, compassion, joy and love. The second, who from the literature seemed to be the leader of the place did not have the same effect on me. I had a feeling of disquiet and, to be honest, slight revulsion.

I never went back. I think the religion is great if it can help a person grow into the state of consciousness of the woman I encountered. Most importantly though the experience lasts in my memory because of the contrast presented to me between the two people: do I want to be more like the one or the other?

First World Problems

What to do when you have everything?

Want more.

Invent more problems.

Feel unsatisfied, waiting for an event in the future that never comes.

Fill the void with distractions and medications.

Become increasingly selfish, shallow and self-obsessed.

Worry about losing what you have.

Want what you have to be acknowledged as better than others.

And repeat…

(unless you can break this loop).

Podcast #5

“Th’ expense of spirit in a waste of shame”

– SONNET 129 BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
A Little Bit of Drama

Th’ expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action; and till action, lust
Is perjured, murd’rous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,
Enjoyed no sooner but despisèd straight,
Past reason hunted; and, no sooner had
Past reason hated as a swallowed bait
On purpose laid to make the taker mad;
Mad in pursuit and in possession so,
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof and proved, a very woe;
Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.
All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.

Journal 2020-09-18

Watching performers, I appreciate quality but I don’t get particularly excited by even exquisite technical excellence. Looks attract, certainly, but interest is quickly lost if there is nothing real going on beyond the performance. I detach emotionally when there is anything conceited or contrived. What holds me is real lived human experience, with all its perfect imperfections; something genuine that has emerged in the moment and surprised even the performer.

Journal 2020-09-10

I really don’t like listening to or watching any recent performance of mine, even if I am generally pleased with how it turned out. This is weird because I don’t mind after a while, when there is some distance and I have forgotten about the process involved. I suppose the time delay helps me listen/watch as an audience member rather than identifying so firmly as the performer.

Podcast #4

“When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes”

– Sonnet 29 by William Shakespeare
A Little Bit of Drama

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
(Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

Journal 2020-09-01

Listened on YouTube to various attempts at turning Shakespeare’s sonnets into songs. I don’t think these straight translations work very well. However Shakespeare is so clever that if you read the lines of his sonnets out of sequence as rhyming couplets (e.g. line 1 then 3 then 2 then 4 etc.) the sonnet usually still works well without losing the meaning. So I picked up a guitar, strummed some rhythms and improvised some vocal melodies to the rejigged lines and it all works great!

Sonnet 129

It is so important with the poetic flow of Shakespeare that every word means something real to the actor, otherwise the viewer will get lost in the density of content coming at them. Watching performances of Shakespeare, it is so obvious when an actor is merely ploughing through the rhythms in a conventional Shakespearean style, rather than really living the powerful words given to them. Thankfully there are lots of good actors and performances out there – this one I just watched of Sonnet 129 is a good example: https://youtu.be/EEvW5lyWgKQ

Metaphysics

The dictionary definition of “atheist” as a non-believer in God or Gods isn’t accurate because anecdotally there seems to be many people who think the doctrinal teachings from religious institutions are cultural based anachronisms – and so would be labelled “atheist” for not adhering to definitive religious beliefs about deities – yet believe in some higher power they cannot define. This type of thought would be different from believing the universe’s purpose and function is completely explicable in terms contained within itself by matter and its interactions.

There are a lot of belief jumps in this sentence: the universe is a purposeless collection of matter that mindlessly configured itself by chance out of nothing, existing in time with causes and effects and had no beginning. A reasonable-minded adherent might be aware of the glaring uncertainties in this position but state it is more parsimonious to adopt a materialistic concept of reality than implant a God belief system as an additional layer in the theory. Yet the certainty with which many proponents preach this position as absolute truth, suggests a type of commitment witnessed in religious belief.

An agnostic would state that the ultimate “why” questions are unanswerable, so from a practical perspective we should just be concerned with the “how” questions. The materialist’s objections to agnosticism based on the burden of proof for God being on the proponent, misses the point to an agnostic who has already ruled-out religious explanations of God but not higher meaning and purpose to reality. A particularly zealous materialist might overplay the remit of verifiable facts by stating opinions about ultimate meaning are irrelevant if they are not scientifically falsifiable – ignoring the fact that their own conceptual model for reality contains unfalsifiable conjecture.

My own instinctive opinion is that I believe religions share the same spiritual root, although the core message was often corrupted by the doctrines and institutions that arose. This is my personal version of “spiritual but not particularly religious”. As I am most familiar with Christianity I can be labelled Christian, however I do adopt a filter and select only what resonates with me, mindful that the scriptures were written and edited by early practitioners of the religion and that the Biblical canon was decided upon by the politics of powerful men in ecumenical councils, rather than being the unadulterated teachings of Christ. Looking back in history, the cruelties that have been perpetrated by professed followers of the religion represent the antithesis of the message of Christ; for real spirituality – the root of Christianity – is always inspired by love, joy, harmony, peace and reconciliation.