Monday, August 28, 2006

POEM - THE MIND & THE MOMENT OF MURDER

What is murder like,
and why is it always called cold ?
as in fish or collation,
as though one word, a name,
in a small elasticated notebook
could be neatly ruled out in red pen
and returned to a pocket, coldly
without thought, without care, without mercy,
without anything,
where must a mind be
in that moment
of bringing trembling hands
and a shaking head to death ?
where has the icon of beauty gone,
amongst the shudders, shivers ,sweats ?
fogged in a blizzard of responses,
persisting like bees at a closed window,
a sharp intake of breath,
a cascade of no,
a necklace of teardrops,
a tie dyed bruise of purple ships
skirting around a neck,
a ruby bead on a lip,
in a stab, in a slash, in a shot,
as the trigger clicks,
what is it that flicks across a mind
or mutters in a heart
at that moment of taking,
to take, not loan or borrow,
to steal, rob and remove ?
what flavour had the moments before?
from which closeted vault,
if indeed it was closeted
and not a grubby delinquent cave
perhaps tidy or clinical,
from which neat recess
are blood crimes unlocked ?
what power emerges through
and what is erased by
an unshackled rage ?
where in that tangle of arms,
in that theft and violation,
amidst an act of love,
did the purpose and desire
shift its shape to a flailing pandemonium ?
ending in the pyrrhic body blow,
of a triumphant animal,
but there is no ceasing
or stemming to the stream of intent,
which stumbles but sweeps on
over the murderous rapids
until all is expunged, becalmed,
or unclamped
from round the throat of love,
what flavour has the moment after
when everything has been extinguished,
quietly relinquished,
and the burnished glow of hatred
rapidly dims ?


VIDYAVAJRA

BOOK REVIEW - TONY PARKER

TONY PARKER – Life after Life
Interviews with twelve murderers.
Publisher - Harper Collins – 1990.

Angered by someone’s words or actions we might think momentarily ‘I’ll kill him.’ These three words, similar to ‘I love you’, cannot always be taken at face value. We rarely know the real depth of our love until it’s tested. Likewise our understanding of our more murderous impulses. We’d like to think we’d have more self control in moments of high passion, than to kill. This book demonstrates the power of emotion to override our rational mind and social conscience.

The twelve murderers that Tony so skillfully interviews, tell a universal and sad story. Nine men and three women speak of their lives before the murder, the murder itself and their life after the murder. How they describe their crime varies from distant, to matter of fact, to recollections that are vivid or chilled with regret. Decades later some are still trying to come to terms with what happened to them. Why did they do what they did ?

Their previous life experiences could easily be used to excuse their actions. No one does that. Though it is plain to see that these people had a lot stacked against them. Their lives are dogged by difficult upbringings, social disadvantage or early mis-behaviour that escalates to murder. Some are hopelessly naive individuals, brutalised by circumstance, some socially inadequate or simple minded. The lives and events that lead up to the murder are not insignificant factors. They explain the rage and why they lost control, without excusing it. The murders took only a moment. This book demonstrates just how tragic that one moment was, as the consequences roll on decades later.

Murder is something you can never expunge. You cannot make, or set things right again. For ‘ all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little flower.’ All twelve people are haunted by those few seconds of rage, where their self control fell absent. Their lives are also stained by societies abhorrence. Even after they’ve done time, their lives are immensely difficult. A murderer is a person imprisoned forever by their heinous crime. Society cannot trust them anymore, and doesn’t really believe in the possibility of their reform. Myra Hindley was demonised right up till the moment of her death, and will be written into criminal history in that light.

But then, when you read the account of Phillip Derbyshire’s crime, your sympathies are stopped in their tracks. On one night, unable to handle his floundering relationship with his wife and frustrated by the crying of his eighteen month old son. He vigorously shakes him, throws him in a fire, pours boiling water on him and swings him flat against a wall. He cannot remember when the child stopped crying, nor when it was dead, so consumed was he by his rage. He tells this, then says to Parker ‘ It has to be told first, you have to know about it so you can decide whether you want to come and talk to someone like me, a person who did what I did’ His whole story is heavy with regret and still riddled with incomprehension.

It is noticable how little self justification or rationalisation they weave into the retelling of their stories. There is precious little here to lead you to think they are laying on a sob story to elicit sympathy. Their storytelling is often quite brutally frank and has an authentic air of remorse.

The focus of this book is obviously on the murderers, but we get little sense of the impact on the victims family. Studs Terkel, Parker’s American counterpart, would have interviewed everyone involved; a victims family, the murderer’s family, witnesses to the murder, policemen etc. This way you would bear witness to the whole situation, not just a partial slice. Terkel is also non partisan, he definitely doesn’t take sides. He keeps his own opinions to himself. If I have any criticism of Parker it is that he definitely has a social agenda. He wants to open our eyes to the suffering of the perpetrators of crime. This he does extremely well, but for me the partiality is it’s major flaw. Parker, like Terkel, is a great listener and a sensitive transcriber and editor. He uses vocabulary and sentence structure to give you a sense of his subjects expressiveness, intelligence and ability to reflect. Their character emerges off the page via their style and habits of speech.


The victims of crime so easily illicit our sympathy. Whilst criminals too quickly become evil and unworthy of consideration. It is ,however, useful to appreciate that suffering is universal and impartial to a degree we hardly dare acknowledge. We all suffer from the causes of our actions. Hard and fast definitions of good and evil distort and make a travesty of our perceptions. They really do not help. As people tend then to rush toward the moral high ground and dehumanise the victims and the perpetrators. They also make it impossible for some one to reform, change or move on. Yes, a wrong has been done in often a cruel and gruesome manner. However, would we wish to be described and defined solely by one single act, perpetrated decades ago, that took barely a few seconds of our life ?

DIARY 6 - I'VE BEEN WAITING FOR TOMORROW ALL MY LIFE

Anticipation is a subtle poison, robbing the pleasures of each moment and replacing them with a future horizon that is forever over a hill. Such has been this week. Having decided that going back to Retail was the best way for me to earn better money. Working where my strengths and confidence is readily used. I had an interview for a Manager’s job with Rington’s in a new shop they’re setting up. The Interview went well and I felt I presented and acquitted myself the best that I could. I felt relaxed and confident. I certainly had the sense I had left a favourable impression on the woman who interviewed me. She had other people to interview this week so wouldn’t be able to ring me till Thursday of this week.

I haven’t slept well all week. Anxiety and anticipation have circled around in my consciousness, leaving me unsettled.and tired. The prospect of change, of moving forward lifted my spirits at work and made things seem bearable. Sometimes as soon as someone speaks you know it’s not good what they’re going to tell you. So when I heard her voice I knew I hadn’t got the job. She really liked my personality but unfortunately…. Crestfallen ,yes, I was crestfallen, and I’d kept telling myself not to build up an expectation all week. However, they had built up regardless. I so want to get out of the financial tightrope I’m currently walking on. So my desires felt frustrated, I was negative and pissed off for twenty four morose hours. I went internet surfing for jobs the next morning, slightly desperate, yet at the same time disinterested in everything I came across. Not a particularly good mental space to be looking for work in. Unsurprisingly I didn’t find much I could realistically apply for.

Since then, David has returned from retreat, so I’m no longer on my own in the flat. It was such a pleasure and delight to see him back. I do have a tendency, if I have no one to talk to, to get into melancholic states. I need interaction and connection to help create perspective and positivity. So I’m in a better state of mind now. If the worst comes to the worst I could take up the Crematoriums offer of working full time to sort out my financial predicament. If that offer is still a live prospect. What I do longer term is up in the air. Any other plans I have will have to wait till this immediate difficulty has been sorted.

This isn’t easy as I’ve often had to wait or defer resolutions. Things get shelved till the circumstances change. They either don’t transpire or arrive too late. By which time my patience and resolve are exasperated from my ideas weighing too heavy upon my soul.

Friday, August 25, 2006

POEM - DWINDLING

The pain has become
more stabbing lately,
localised and sharp
when for months, maybe years,
it was an indistinct disquiet,
but this summer drew long
and the winter
was longer than the autumn,
a gradual weakening,
and narrowing of my confinement,
reached out to snatch away
distractions, my palliatives,
I stopped looking in the mirror
when the gauntness got the better of me,
now I can’t even get to the mirror,
so I’ve stopped wondering
what my face looks like,
I’m left with how I feel
which is everywhere hurts,
what I can see of my body,
beneath the bed clothes,
resting on me like a dead weight,
is something that no longer
reminds me of me,
it’s a strangers body not mine,
my tattoos, that I used to be so proud of,
are wrinkled stains, indecipherable on my arms,
my mind, my memory is becoming like that too
and much as I’d like it to stay,
it’s packing it’s bags and leaving.


VIDYAVAJRA

BOOK REVIEW - STUDS TERKEL

STUDS TERKEL – Will the circle be unbroken ?
Reflections on Death, Rebirth and Hunger for Faith.
Publisher – The New Press – 2001

Studs Terkel isn’t a well known name in this country, but really he should be. He’s ninety four these days, but was in his late eighties when he compiled this book. Originally an actor, his political activism post war caused him trouble in the McCarthy era. In America, particularly in Chicago, he’s famous for his radio interviews. What marks these interviews out is Terkel’s powers as a listener and an ability to ask just the right question to bring out more from his interviewee. He has a great capacity and interest in people, regardless of what political perspective they come from. He just wants to discover why they think what they think, and do what they do. So he lets them speak for themselves, editing out his interventions and questions as much as possible. Often what is left are well crafted monologues of unaffected directness and humanity. You cannot fail to be moved with recognition, and to deep admiration for his skill.

Only in how he compiles his books do you get any sense of Studs Terkel, his integrity and meticulousness. I’ve read ‘Hope Dies Last’ – about political activism in 20th century America, ‘Working’ – interviews with working people in Seventies USA & ‘Coming of Age’ – about people in their Nineties still actively engaged in life. He interviews and records people on tape, then transcribes, edits, groups and programmes the sequence for the book. Each book, though it has it’s own theme, is put together each time in the same thoughtful way.

This book ‘Will the circle be unbroken’ explores different attitudes and approaches to death. He does so in typical Terkel fashion, giving you different perspectives on the same subject. He interviews two brothers, one a fireman the other a policeman, a homicide detective and then a former death-row inmate, a gay man with HIV, then people working in an AIDS Hospice. Also; a Hiroshima survivor, various religious ministers, Doctors, Nurses, Artists and plain ordinary folk. Often the interviews show how within two generations of one family, perspectives on Life and Death have changed. Teasing out and revealing how life experiences have come to shape their beliefs.

There are many people whose testaments in this book affected me. The most memorable was that of a Nurse, Claire Hellstern. The interview before hers was with a former gang member in one of Chicago’s roughest districts. Claire Hellstern has deliberately chosen to work as a nurse in this district. Daily she faces death, in just walking to her car she takes her life in her hands. However, she is one brave, tough and very cool cookie. Here is how she handled being mugged :-

“ One time, I’m walking down the street and a young man about nineteen pulled a switchblade out of his sleeve. I had only seen these in movies, switchblades. It flipped open. I was kind of fascinated. He said, ‘I want your wallet.’ I handed him my wallet and he says, ‘Only ninety cents?’ I said, ‘Buddy, I’ve had my purse stolen six times. Do I look stupid? I don't’ carry much money on me - I don’t make much money. And I’ve got to go open the clinic.’ He returned the wallet and said, ‘Give me your whole purse!’ I said, ‘Young man, I know you don’t use my type of comb, and you don’t wear lipstick. I’d hate to have gossipers talking about you walking around with a lady’s purse’ – impromptu reasoning. I talked calmly and directly into his eyes, and I talked softly. He did not have the switchblade up to my neck, he had it at the side of his body. So I knew from at least some street smarts that he was a novice. If he’d had it at my neck, I would have said, ‘Take anything. Come. I’ll do your cooking,’ whatever, just to survive.’’

I’m left breathless in admiration that when faced with the switchblade she says ‘I was kind if fascinated.’ By such honest and frank recollections Terkel’s book does repeatedly astonish. Without resorting to transposing dialect directly on to the page. He gives just enough colour to convey the style of delivery, but not so much as to makes it incomprehensible or stereotypical. One gets a sense of the character and physical presence of these people. He respects where each person is coming from and lets them say what they want to say. Terkel may have his own opinion, but he never exposes it in the course of an interview. His opinions don’t matter here, he’s more a person who documents and records. So where is the skill here? The skill is in his openness and receptivity, he’s not into banging his own drum at all. I’ll finish with an extract from Tony Parker’s interview with Studs Terkel, he’s talking about interviewing technique.

‘‘The first thing I’d say to an interviewer is… ‘Listen’ It’s the second thing too, and the third, and the fourth. ‘Listen…Listen…Listen…Listen.’ And if you do, people will talk. They’ll always talk. Why? Because no one has ever listened to them before in all their lives, Perhaps they’ve not ever listened to themselves. You don’t have to agree with them or disagree with them, all of that’s irrelevant. Don’t push them, don’t rush them, don’t chase them or harass them with getting on to the next question. Take your time. Or no, let’s put it the right way, let them take their time.

And I’ll tell you something else you should always have in your mind, and remind yourself constantly about it – they’re doing you a favour. This person you’re talking to is entrusting you with their memories and their hopes, their realities and their dreams. So remember that, handle them carefully, they’re holding out to you fragile things.’’





Saturday, August 19, 2006

POEM - DIVINE JUSTICE

With his pouting lips and leering demeanour,
god is a bastard in thick leather boots,
forced to the ground, kicked in the goolies
he bristles his vengeance and shoots.


VIDYAVAJRA



LIST - 40 FAVOURITE SONGS

In no particular order.

DISC ONE

T.REX – TWENTIETH CENTURY BOY.
From – Marc Bolan & T.Rex The Essential Collection.
DAVID BOWIE – The man who sold the world
From –The man who sold the world.
ABBA – Take a chance on me.
From – Greatest Hits.
CAPTAIN BEEFHEART – Long Neck Bottles
From – Clear Spot.
DEEP PURPLE – Highway Star.
From – Machine Head.
SPARKS – This town ain’t big enough for the both of us.
From – Kimono my House.
BRIAN ENO – Back in Judy’s Jungle
From-Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy.
KRAFTWERK – Trans Europe Express.
From - Trans Europe Express
HOLGER CZUKAY – Persian Love
From- Movies.
TALKING HEADS – Found a Job
From - More songs about buildings & food.
PATTI SMITH – Land
From – Horses.
JONATHAN RICHMAN – Lonely Financial Zone.
From Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers
A CERTAIN RATIO – Flight
From-Early.
SUICIDE –Ghost Rider
From-Suicide.
THE FALL – Living too late.
From – Bend Sinister
WIRE – A Mutual friend
From- 154
THE BIRTHDAY PARTY – Mutiny in Heaven.
From – Mutiny !
IGGY POP – Lust for Life.
From – Lust for life.

DISC TWO

THE HUMAN LEAGUE – Dreams of Leaving.
From – Travelogue
CABARET VOLTAIRE – Don’t Argue.
From – The Original Sound of Sheffield 83/87.
THE THE – This is the day
From- Soul Mining.
GRACE JONES – Pull up to the Bumper.
From – Nightclubbing
JOHN COOPER CLARKE – The It man
From- Snap,Crakle & Bop.
YELLO – Great mission / You gotta say yes to another excess
From- You gotta say yes to another excess.
YOUNG MARBLE GIANTS – Choci Loni
From- Young Marble Giants.
COCTEAU TWINS – Musette & Drums
From - Head over Heels.
THE SMITHS – How soon is now?
From- Hat full of hollow.
THE RESIDENTS – Perfect Love
From – The Commercial Album.
TOM WAITS – Romeo is Bleeding
From- Blue Valentine.
TALKING HEADS – Nothing but Flowers.
From – Naked.
MATILDE SANTING – Our Days
From – Water under the bridge.
SCOTT WALKER – Sleepwalkers Woman
From- Climate of Hunter
NICK CAVE – The Ballad of Robert Moore & Betty Coltrane
From- B Sides & Rarities
LAURIE ANDERSON – One Beautiful Evening
From - Life on a String.
SHOW OF HANDS – Don’t be a Stranger.
From – Country Life.
TERRY HALL & MUSHTAQ – Ten Eleven.
From – The Hour of Two Lights.
SPARKS – Ugly Guys with Beautiful Girls.
From – Lil Beethoven.
ARCTIC MONKEYS – Mardy Bum
From- Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not.
SCISSOR SISTERS – Filthy Gourgeous.
From – Scissor Sisters.

BONUS DISC

MIKEY DREAD – Saturday Night Style.
From – African Anthem
SOUAD MASSI – Yawlidi ( My little boy )
from-Deb ( Heart broken )
TARAF DE HAIDOUKS – Carolina
from- Band of Gypsies
YOUSSOU N’DOUR – Yaru
from- Nothing’s in Vain.
AUGUSTUS PABLO – King Tubby meets the Rockers Uptown.
from-Classic Rockers.
KING SUNNY ADE – Synchro System
from- Synchro System..
FELA KUTI – Chop & Quench.
From – Fela Ransome Kuti.
KEN BOOTHE & STRANGER COLE – Arte Belle.
From – Studio One Ska.
MAHLATHINI & THE MAHOTELLA QUEENS – Jive Makgona.
From – The Kings & Queens of Township Jive.
IBRAHIM FERRER – Que Bueno Bella Usted.
From - Ibrahim Ferrer.



POEM - BRIGHT BLUE TUNES

His kite flies high
at the winds insistence,
and he is tense
like a telegraph wire plucked by crows
provoking him to thought,
here, a sliver of just desserts,
sweet and delicate,
a taste as fragile as a meringue,
melts on his lips with regret
for the day when he stopped whistling,
the original shingle
sifts between his fingers,
as he lies on the speckled bank,
delight having lost its tongue
to the retreating tide,
carefully he feeds kite string to the sky,
and feels the dead weight in every inch,
yet still he wishes he could
rattle the dusty squeeze box,
and press bright blue tunes from his lips
to relieve the gravity of yearning
to fly up with a slip stream,
whistling unchained melodies.



VIDYAVAJRA

DIARY 5 - FINDING OUT WHAT YOU NEED

In our flat on the Newmarket Road we have a lovely bay window. It looks out, unfortunately, onto a rather dismal football ground car park. The light in the bay is beautiful and a number of plants on the windowsill appear to thrive. Except for one, a Fichus Benjamin, with weak straggly stems and crinkled leaves. It appeared dried, wizened and unhappy. Last year, at the point where Autumn is no longer Autumn, but Winter is not yet Winter, it began to lose leaves. Not just a small loss, but a serious defoliation. Something was wrong, but what were we to do?

It was still in the Homebase pot it was bought in, complete with a useless Plant Care label stuck into its soil. I decided to take unilateral action. The pot was too small, it needed a larger size. When I removed the old pot the evidence was conclusive. Every fraction of soil space was bound in the stranglehold of white root tendrils. I bought a new pot, some non peat based compost and a bottle of plant reviving tonic. Within a few weeks there were new leaves sprouting, it seemed my instincts were right and here was the proof. All was saved.

All was well until the early Summer when the leaf drop started again, this time it really looked like the end. I decided it was getting too much direct intense heat, so I moved it to a position where it got more broken sunlight. The leaf fall did not stop. David suggested I checked on the internet and find out what it really needed. The site on the internet said Fichus Benjamin dislikes two things; being repotted and being moved. So much for going by my instincts ! What it likes is being sprayed regularly with water. If you have leaf drop begin spraying it regularly with water. Do not over water the soil. Wait until the leaves stop falling and then feed regularly. This seems so far to have worked. The leaf drop has largely ceased and luscious green leaves are beginning to become established.

I’ve been reflecting and finding parallels with my own recent process. A few years ago I was pot bound. Entangled in a web of self discipline and self limiting views. Unhelpful habitual ways of thinking about myself, some of which went way back. Leaves were dropping off slowly as the stream of my formal spiritual practices dried up. Since then I’ve done quite a bit of self exploration, listening to myself, becoming more aware. Looking for what nutrients I could find. I’ve changed my lifestyle and left behind a lot of things. Carrying forward with me anything that I knew was important. All with the intention of finding a way of being more content and less restless. What I needed to do to alleviate the physical stress symptoms, for my body to cease aching. Pains that were telling me to stop doing whatever it is that it’s had enough of.

You see plants are straightforward you just go to the internet and get the correct information and apply it. So far I’ve changed heaps of things, and though they’re all in the right ball park they’re not it completely. Some essential pieces seem to be missing from the jigsaw.

I know I’m just responding to my impatience, feeling restless and anxious. After nearly three years of soul searching ,followed by all sorts of upheavals and changes, I still haven’t conclusively sorted this out. I’m beginning to think that perhaps I never will. I’ll be fifty next year. That’s half a century of growth and development. I really ought to know what I need in order to flourish. Sometimes I wish I was a plant, life is so much simpler.

POEM - LATIN BLOOD IN AN ENGLISHMAN

It does not take long before it reaches my hands,
the rhythm of a rumba pounded out on a piano.
And when it’s vibrations touch my hips and soles
I stop sitting on my hands and shake everything vigorously.


VIDYAVAJRA

PROFILE - WHAT I LIKE

This is not a ‘what I’m like’ profile, but a ‘what I like’ profile. From these interests and obsessions you can judge for yourself.

I like good coffee – Lavazza or Illy, I like eating out at a good curry or pizza restaurant. I particularly like a goodly sized portion of chips, murdered with tomato ketchup. I like Japanese food because it is simultaneously tasty and beautiful to look at.

I’m a big music fan and have been since my teenage years. The Arctic Monkeys have recently grabbed my attention for their northern verve, colloquial lyricism and humour. Wordsmiths are generally what hold my interest, particularly when combined with am adventurous approach to music making. Those who for me fall into this bracket are Nick Cave, The Smiths and Tom Waits, Lately I’m rediscovering the shear musical / lyrical wit and irony of Sparks. The Mael Brothers seem to me to be the Gilbert & Sullivan’s our their era, now entering their fourth decade of innovative music making. ( This only touches on my music obsession, for more see 40 FAVOURITE SONGS )

I’ve had a passion for history almost from birth. As a child I read history books in preference to fiction, because fiction for me wasn’t real. My earliest historical obsession was with Ancient Egypt. Today I have an interest in the mediaeval period, 13th Century Monasticism and architecture. I love visiting monastic ruins, castles and Parish Churches. I particularly like the historian Eamon Duffy’s books, ‘The stripping of the altars’, and ‘The voices of Morebath’.

These days I do like reading fiction, but I have to say its quite a few years since I felt overwhelmed with admiration for a fiction writer. Anything by Donna Tart or Peter Ackroyd I reckon is a good investment. The mediaeval murder detective stories of C.J.Samson. The stories of Ronald Firbank always amuse me immensely when ever I re-read them. Generally I like a story, rather than a mood piece or a coruscating dissection of the narrative form. Lately I’ve been reading books from my partner David’s book collection, such as William Gibson, Clive Barker and Iain M Banks.

I keep a record each year of the books I read. Its interesting to look from 1973 onwards and see my interests flare into life and then move on. These days non fiction and biography are primary. I expect this is a return to my interest in real life rather than fiction. My enthusiasms recently have been anything by Studs Terkel or Tony Parker. I love beyond reasonable limits anything by Anton de St Exupery or Bill Bryson. I like the exploratory world of Archetypal Psychology, so anything by James Hillman, Thomas Moore, David Whyte or Shaun McNiff.

As a writer of poetry I obviously can’t leave poets out. Since I first came across him in the late seventies I’ve admired Edwin Brock. For his earthy humour, perception and poetic structure, I’ve learnt a lot from him. Others worth a mention are Vladimir Holan, Walt Whitman, Pablo Neruda, Rumi, Ryokan, Baudalaire, Dylan Thomas and Yevgeny Yevtushenko.

As a practicing Buddhist I obviously have had an interest in reading the Dharma. As my first introduction to eastern spirituality Alan Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity I still hold in fond regard for that reason only. The books of Sangharakshita, as the founder of the WBO, have obviously had a profound influence on me. He has certainly formed my view of Buddhism indelible. At the same time I have to admit his writing style is lacking in rich imaginative metaphor. To counter balance his dry rigorous intellect and analytical interpretation, I have to go to Zen. For these writers and teachers speak to my heart and inspire me. Dogen is a huge influence in this regard, speaking simultaneously to heart and mind.

I go regularly to the cinema. Films I’ve liked in recent years were Christopher Guests’s -Best in Show, anything by Pedro Almodovar, particularly Talk to Her. I must say that generally I find film emotionally a cool medium. I go to the cinema or watch DVD’s because it’s a cheap form of entertainment. I love the theatre passionately and would go more often if it were not so damned expensive. Some of the most inspiring, moving and life enhancing evenings have taken place there. Seeing the performance artists Laurie Anderson and Rose English. Seeing a Jan Fabre production for the first time. Any Shakespeare play at The Globe in London, The National Theatre’s productions of The Orestia and The Mystery Plays. Any production by Lindsey Kemp or an Arthur Miller play. I recently saw the Almedia theatre’s production of Festen, which was simply a stunning piece of theatre. Managing to be both contemporary and revive the ghosts of Greek Tragedy.

My favourite artist’s are a bit of a mixed bag but are long lasting enthusiasms. Van Gogh, Paul Klee, Emile Nolde, Kurt Schwitters, Hans Arp, Juan Miro, Richard Long, Andy Goldsworthy, David Mache, Christo, & Gilbert & George.

Favourite places to visit are anywhere on the North Norfolk Coast, or Shingle Street in Suffolk. I’ve not traveled abroad much, but I am fond of Valencia which I’ve visited twice.

POEM - THE FIRES FOR TRUTH

THE FIRES FOR TRUTH


If god had not been on our side

and had not come to aid us,

the foes with all their power and pride

would surely have dismayed us;

for we, his flock, would have to fear

the threat of men both far and near

who rise in might against us.


Their furious wrath, did God permit,

would surely have consumed us

and as a deep and yawning pit

with life and limb entombed us,

like men o’er whom dark waters roll

their wrath would have engulfed our soul

and, like a flood, o’er whelmed us.’


A Hymn written by MARTIN LUTHER



Luther put down his pen, massaged his eyelids and sat back rocking the chair. The heat of the day and the force of his arguments still flowed in his blood. Ninety five pointedly stated reasons felt belligerent, bludgeoning even, once he’d laid them down on paper. Perhaps a better means of expression would be found by someone else, after all he wasn’t a man known for his subtly. The argument was theologically sound, held its nerve and struck a loud ethical chord. He hoped to stimulate a wide ranging debate amongst his elders and contemporaries at the University. So he would post his message in the time honoured way.



A righteous thought

bears down with speed,

streaks it’s pure vapor trail across the sky

all too easily

redefining the heterodox,

by making brutal cuts in reason,

it failed to wrestle in the mud with humanity,

plucked compassion and

punched it to the ground,

a bird of certainty,

wings stretched wide,

swooped on, taking its message

toward the towering branches

of a populous and wealthy city.


A soft brush of air flew past Luther’s cheek as he raised his arm. Not one moment of doubt as the hammer came down, the full weight of gravity behind it, nailing the paper to the heavy oak door. As it struck, piercing the wood, the space behind it boomed as though something exploded within. Unlike God, words held no fear for him. Words were his chosen weapon. Words alone would stoke the fires for truth to manifest itself. He stepped back, confident word would travel - his words would travel. He strode home along the street, his mind preoccupied in speculation. The townsfolk looking quizzically at him, his broad strong hand tightly gripping a lump hammer.



Angry beasts, bull necked,

full steam, and on crusade,

pound the drum of the desert ground,

ready to knock the stuffing

out of any quibbling,

consensus is belittled,

sharp, caustic odors

flare the flags and nostrums,

indignant at the sweat of history

and made lucid by rage,

all will be expelled

from their homes, from their earth,

by democratic teeth

speaking from a corrupted mouth.



Luther had learnt to cultivate a more considered demeanor. To temper the indignance and violence so often implicit in his rhetoric. He could never rein himself in, too proud to be anything less than right. Today, he was sat in front of a council of justice, whose soul purpose was, by peaceful means, to quell his voice of dissent. He listened, their questions hid more truth than was revealed. His motives were painted in heretical colours. He’d wanted to reform the institution he loved, return it to the path of truth. This body now wanted to reform or expel him like a canker. He stood up, hands gripped behind his back, and tried hard not to spit his words out.



No one was listening,

so quietly vengeful serpents

began roaming

the cities escalators and tunnels,

not without fear, but resolved

to burst the arteries of the capital,

with fire and mayhem

lives would be consumed,

the books they’d be reading

would lie burnt on their laps

all words are dead

when they take life

they will take away truth

with their own blood.



Luther’s lifelong battle with depression finally wore him out. Some mornings he awoke and all sense of what was true, what he placed his faith upon, had vanished and been relinquished from the grasp of his mind. This often happened just when the movement for reform needed firmer steering, from him. Usually external wealth and influence were perverting the purity of the restored faith, and the potential for violence would increase in response. As he grew older his tolerance soured and he became prone to bitter regretful outbursts. His own words echoing from his heart to his mind like an antiphon, ‘the more force we use the greater our disaster’.




VIDYAVAJRA

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

DIARY 4 - FUZZY HEADED MORNING

Sometimes, you know how it is, you wake up more than a little fuzzy headed in the mornings. Lack of, or imperfect sleep leaves you wandering around half the morning believing you've left someone at home. I got to work on autopilot, the car drove itself here I'm sure.

Last night I was leading mitra study with Paco. It was all good stuff, going into the Kalama Sutta. How do you judge or assess your own and other peoples views, opinions and beliefs. You look to what are the likely consequences of a thought or act and decide whether its beneficial or detrimental. Or observe the judgement/censure of those you consider wise. Meaty stuff and perhaps my dreams were a little rich last night. I remember one dream that was set in my old office at Windhorse. Usually its a quiet place quite calm and peaceful. In my dream it was crammed to the gills with people. Everyone was rushing around shouting like they were working for the stock exchange. I recollect thinking'I wouldn't want to work here, I'd heard Windhorse had changed'.

So, maybe all that was just too much input, too late at night. Which maybe why I'm a little fuzzy headed this morning. I'll have just become clearheaded by the time I leave work at 12pm. Then I have the whole afternoon to myself. I think I'll try and complete the first draft of a talk on a Dogen discourse I am in the process of writing. If so I might post it here soon.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

DIARY 3 - TAKING THE INITIATIVE OUT OF LIFE

Outside the East Chapel is a car port, well hearse port. It's connected to the Chapel by a glass roof. This glass roof is covered in green algae and those little tufts of moss shaped like collapsed golf balls. It looks quite awful. I could take the initiative and just clean it, but I've been told I can't. Under Health & Safety Regs only someone whose had the requisite Height Training can go up a ladder. As I haven't had the said training I have to stay grounded and the roof has to stay mucky. This has been the case now for months.

Once upon a time in the seventies ( BT ~ ie Before Thatcher ) the problem with taking the initiative was unions. If you were caught doing someone elses job you were for it. Things went from bad to worse with Union Regs fossilising the status quo. Under the cover of minimising risk, reducing accidents and more importantly risk of litigation, Health & Safety Regs are used so tightly in the public services, that initiative is being systematically irradicated.

Assessing the degree of risk seems to be the problem. It would appear common sense can no longer be accounted for, so as much risk as possible has to be legislated against. We English are so good at the fervent application of rules, that they become oppressive. Look at the way the Human Rights Legislation is being misused, so much so some people want it withdrawn, despite all the good things it protects and upholds.

So many times I hear on the radio, a well meaning advocate imploring that a situation 'should never be allowed to happen again'. My first response is, I'm ever so sorry I'm afraid it's bound to'. Life is troublesome, life is risky and life cannot have suffering legislated out of existence. Whilst rules and regulations are useful, if used too heavyhandedly we end up smothering the wholehearted engagement in the joys of life.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

POEM - WHEN THE ANGELUS FAILS

What happened at midnight

I felt sure was foretold,

as the angel of the lord,

incandescent oracle, mystic and biblical pest

hung from the edge of my penthouse roof,

he appeared, willingly, to let go his grip,

once I had pulverised his finger tips

and told him to ‘fuck off and leave me alone’

he faded or fell away

I found it hard to tell.

whether he plunged hard or rose effortlessly,

no rope was found to aid his descent,

no passing weather balloon to hitch a lift on,

if he were invincible he’d have bounced back.

though I didn’t need a buttercup handy

to predict his life expectancy would be short,

the cleared space in my wardrobe,

is now fully occupied by dread, of an order

such as, when you miss the only plane

to take you home from a war torn country,

such as, walking the streets at night in broken shoes

deserted by your friends,

such as, the stomach ache which knows

that when Christ comes to save us all,

he’s going to leave you behind,

this mood settles upon everything,

a mist upon my cloak of conceit,

wrapped around by damp, Grey, dismal thoughts

that breathe their smoke into my ear

and in a small recognisable voice, saying

‘all help and assistance previously offered

will no longer be forthcoming.’



Vidyavajra

Saturday, August 05, 2006

DIARY 2 - WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING THIS FOR ?

I'm at work in the Crematorium waiting for a few people to arrive before I go off and scatter some ashes for a family. This work as a Chapel attendant was fine for a while, but now after four and a half months I'm realising that it doesn't quite meet my needs for interaction with people. Also,I am quite a lively playful individual, and as you can guess there isn't much call for that in my work. Not from the bereaved, and definitely not from the deceased. I work pretty much on my own so I'm getting lonely and bored a great deal of the time.

Working here has made me realise my perspective on death is buddhist. I'm not particularly attached to the physical body as being the person. So what is left after the cremation likewise is not the person either. Whilst I sympathise with the bereaved, and often feel their grief quite strongly, I find how people understand or comprehend death in 21st century baffling. A mixture of sentiment and superstition pervades much of it. But also some half remembered Christian Victorian Traditions linger on, even amongst the agnostic. I get a sense though that the last generation of really devout practicing Christians is passing. In the next ten to twenty years funeral traditions might have changed out of all recognition. There are early signs.

So, I'm planning to move on once I've got another job. I'm hoping to find a job soon in retail, which is where I have most experience. Once my financial situation has stabilised i'm currently investigating whether to do a Part-Time TEFL Course or begin training as a Counsellor. It is all a bit dependant on my finding a job soon. Most courses will be starting in Sept/Oct. without the confidence of a full time job I can't really go ahead with my plans. This might mean I have to wait another year. That might be better if it means I get a chance to sort out my finances, before plunging into more expense. Training is expensive.