Wednesday, December 28, 2011

ARTICLE ~ I Let Go - No 11


I suppose I may have dreamed whilst I was in the womb. What those dreams consisted of is hard to say, probably vague unspecific feelings of pleasure or discomfort. A babies experience in the womb most likely consists of relatively unrefined sensation. Can they even dream? Is dreaming or the desire for something other than what is currently happening, dependent on having experience of there being a choice. If all you've ever known are the comforting susurrations of the womb, with no experience of unmuted light,freedom and sensory stimulus - would you nonetheless become bored with the darkness, and the attendant limitations to movement and sensation? Wouldn't you dream of it being different? Receptive and affected, but able to do little about the containing envelope of ones own Mother's emotional states. Wouldn't you feel an impulse to kick at the walls and rebel?

A babies birth can be a thing of wonder, yet also a pain filled process a mother goes through. But what on earth must the baby be feeling about it ? Does it want to stay put in the womb warmth that it loves and knows? Has it dreamt for weeks and months of being released into whatever is outside? It doesn't yet know that the outside world will feel colder, more exposed and feel less interdependent. To live in an unfocused brightness, a place of shadows and voices, that will leer out at you from the unknown. Recognising only the familiar tones of its parents voices. Does it fall into and welcome life, or is it reluctantly pushed? Expelled harshly from Eden.

Whilst pregnant with me, my Mother may have been understandably quite anxious. She'd had a miscarriage between my sister's and my birth, shortly before my inception. I know from what my Mother has told me,that my birth was prolonged; starting in the afternoon and on through the night. Until I finally popped out my head in the early hours of the 26th June 1957. I was, what was considered then, a very big baby. Very pink, very wrinkled and very hairy, apparently, and well over nine pounds in weight. In the early days of life asleep under fluffy blankets in my cot, what went through my mind? If I dreamt of anything specific, what was it I dreamt of? How seminal an influence on my attitude towards the world was the nine months I spent in my Mother's womb, and the emerging from it into the world?

As much as I might be tempted to conjecture about this, it would be futile. What makes us how we are is a complex tangle of crossed wires. It's impossible to fully know or unpick the philosophical underpinning, let alone the practical mechanisms of karma and rebirth. Not that it stops people putting huge amounts of intellectual energy into trying to unravel or dismiss them. So I'd best leave it there, and focus on to what I know and have experienced – The things that my dreams have been made of. Not the nocturnal, but the aspirational, the vocational, the ideal dreams I had, or still have for my life.

Childhood Dreams

A child dream or see the need to become anything. They try on occupations as imaginative roles for play, they don't necessarily wish to become a King say, in later life. Nevertheless, this dressing up and acting out of an admittedly childish view of adult life, helps them learn through broad mimicry, how a person might choose to live, work and play. We try things on for size, copying how grown ups interact with the world, and find out what the consequences of behaving well or badly are. All from a position of little or no understanding of what an job might really entail. Nor whether we will have the necessary talents, opportunity or determination to take it up as a career in later life. As a child we wear our dreams lightly, with no sense of our making a longer term commitment,

I had a dream of becoming a fireman

As a child, I had a red trike. I threw anything I found in the streets into its swing lidded boot. Sometimes it would be leaves or earth, but quite often it was stones or nails. I just loved the way they loudly rattled as I tore around cobbled back streets, and up and down snickets, making one hell of a row. In addition I made ringing noises like a fire engine. The neighbours complained, but I remained fond of seeing myself as a fireman. A ragged shadow of this early enthusiasm passed briefly across my mind in my teens, as I imagined what my future might be.

I had a dream of going to Egypt

It's hard to say what initially sparked this. However, in 1956 ,the year before I was born, MGM's blockbuster The Ten Commandments, starring Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner, was released. I remember excitedly queuing to see it as a very young child. Most likely it was this that fired my imaginative engagement. Whatever the prompt, the result for me was an early compulsion. From then on I avidly sought out and devoured any book about Egypt, and readily turned any tea towel into Phaoronic headdress. This imaginative engagement has stayed with me. In 1988,in order to fulfill a lifetimes desire I went there on holiday for three weeks.

I had a dream of making perfume

Fired up to become young entrepreneurs, a friend and I decided to become perfume makers. We started by collecting rose petals, well, we stole them really. Surreptitiously creeping along the gardens of our terraced street. Not paying too much attention to quality control, we just tore off flower heads till we had a bucket-load. I think to us perfume manufacture seemed the same as beer making. We soaked the petals in water as long as we thought appropriate, bottled up the result and went round the self same house we'd stolen the petals from, to sell them our 'rose perfume'. Well, there's capitalism in the raw for you.

I had a dream of becoming a vicar

When I was seven I had a good boy soprano voice. Being brought up a Methodist, there was no choral tradition. So my parents obtained me an audition to join the Halifax Parish Church choir. This expanded my horizons, and nourished my appreciation of church architecture, music and ritual. For in comparison to the stripped back simple services of non-conformism, the Church of England seemed a much more ancient,richer and emotionally engaging seam of devotion than I was used to. At home, I found two small candlesticks, a wooden crucifix, turned my desk into an altar and performed daily services for a while, casting myself as the vicar.

I had a dream of joining the Royal Navy

There was a school trip to see a Royal Navy ship in Goole Docks. All I remember now, is the pack of cards with silhouette pictures of navy ships I was given. Never particularly fit or combative, I suddenly wanted to join the Navy. A life of heroic action wasn't what I wanted, it was to ride on the ocean waves. I'd read adventure novels so I had a fictional conception of what this might entail. The desire was to explore what the wider world was really like. I discovered I was largely an adventurer in carpet slippers. So a life in the Navy, was not to be.

I had a dream of becoming a historian

My early reading about Ancient Egypt, Kings & Queens of England and Church architecture, built the foundations for a lifelong fascination with history. As a child I wanted to read about people and events that actually happened, and not entirely imaginary versions. I thought then that perhaps I'd become someone in the world of history, maybe an archaeologist. No one seemed able to tell me what else might be done with a love of history. Unable to discover what my options with history really were, I turned my face in an entirely different direction. History became demoted to an enthusiasm, not the personal vocation I had originally envisaged.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

DIARY 149 ~ 14 Things I Treasured In 2011

1 ~ MUSIC - Anna Calvi

2 ~ TELEVISION - The Killing Series 1 and 2

3 ~ NOVEL - An Awfully Big Adventure

4 ~ MUSIC - Niki and The Dove

5 ~ FILM - Animal Kingdom

6 ~ NOVEL - The Death Of Bunny Munroe

7 ~ DANCE - Far

8 ~ MUSIC - The Young Proffessionals

9 ~  BUDDHISM - Realizing Genjo Koan


11 ~ MUSIC - Capsule

12 ~ THEATRE - Earthquakes In London

13 - FILM - Of Gods And Men

14 ~ MUSIC - The Smiths Project

Friday, December 02, 2011

FEATURE 102 - Early Eno Video

Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy is undoubtedly my favourite of Brian Eno's early albums. It's probably in my all time Top Ten too. I've owned it previously on vinyl, then cassette tape, and now on CD. The vinyl recording had a terrific screen print gatefold cover,with four different colour-ways of the same print, by the artist Peter Schmidt. Something which my CD insert cannot inevitable quite capture. I've listened to this album so closely in the past, to see what tape-looped tweets, clicks and moans were buried in the deeper layers of Eno's - 'Oblique Strategy' led recording process.

Here is a video that's just appeared on You Tube, from 1974 produced by Eno for Chins My China. Musically he throws everything into the song, lead guitar recorded and played in reverse, typewriter noise in percussive overlay. with nonsense cut up, stream of association lyrics. In other words, this was Eno at his most dissonant, edgy and experimental. The Dadaist & Velvet Underground influences abound, but its alive with fresh innovation, playfulness and wit. Something which, for all the aural beauty of his ambient sound-scapes, his later work sometimes sadly lacks. Lighten up dear.

Oh, and just in case you weren't entirely sure they're really meant to be there, those two women weren't in on the original recording of this track.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

FEATURE 101 - Capsule

Some of the coolest videos I've seen in a long while. By the Japanese Electro group Capsule.

ARTICLE ~ I Let Go - No 10


Recollecting some of my past activity,
what I did, and what I would have wanted to do

Good times for a change
See, the luck I've had
Can make a good man turn bad
So please please please
Let me, let me, let me
Let me get what I want
This time
Haven't had a dream in a long time
See, the life I've had
Can make a good man bad

So for once in my life

Let me get what I want
Lord knows, it would be the first time
Lord knows, it would be the first time

Lyrics to - Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Wantby Morrissey / Marr

Such is the power of maudlin self pity to move me, when expressed via a song lyric. That Morrissey's melancholic, burdensome level of disappointment with life,as much an existential statement as it was popular poetry, struck a very plaintive chord with me. Why this was so, I'll sketch out here only in brief. For what I'm about to describe is the youthful optimism and the dreams and desires I held for myself, and how these gradually fell apart as they encountered the indifferent nature of concrete reality. It seems from a Buddhist perspective, thirty plus years later, that this was kind of inevitable, with things 'being impermanent by nature' etc. The affect on me,however, was much longer lasting than you'd think.
Like most young men in their late teens / early twenties,I was quite unprepared for my first contact with the world, as it actually was. My parents, the extended years as an art student, and my own unrealistic daydreaming, had all sheltered and protected me from the harsher realities of life, I would need to earn money, to afford a place of my own, to have food, clothes and a social life. To do the things I enjoyed would entail working. That a job that might have little meaning for you, could take a toll on the energy left spare at the end of a day, had never occurred to me. Nor that a life spent just earning a living, might wear thin your positivity, aspirations, and curiosity about life.

In the mid-seventies, the UK was in the midst of a dire economic recession. There was a huge level of unemployment,high inflation, and social unrest. A power struggle between the unions and the Labour government was on the brink of bringing the country to a standstill. If there was work available it was often low skilled,low paid, physically hard work. My dream, if I had one at all, about work (apart from not working at all) was only to do something I enjoyed. I left comprehensive school with a scattering of middling 'O' level grades, with a plan to go on to 'A' levels. During the lazy hot days of the summer holidays,a growing antipathy towards further study and exams burgeoned. Much to my parents consternation, I abandoned the previous plan to go on to further education.

I loved gardening and just getting my hands dirty. So I applied for, and got, a job working in the Scunthorpe Parks Department. I arrived on the first day, fresh faced and quite nervous, walking towards the staff hut with a flask of coffee and a lunchpack. I wonder now whether these more experienced men saw me coming, and wanted to test what my metal for hard physical work was. For on that first day, there was no gentle mowing or trimming of edges of flower beds. I was set to hoeing weeds from an uneven patch of ancient,but still extremely tough tarmac. By the end of a second day of this, my hands were raw and blistered, and suddenly further education seemed an infinitely more preferable option. This reversal further infuriated my parents, as they quickly tried to ascertain if I could still go to sixth form at all. I might have had to wait another year, as the new intake had already started. The Sixth Form Principal said he was still happy to have me, so I joined albeit a week or so late.

I'd been trying for years to determine what my future career might be. I had my dreams, but essentially I was scared of them. Mainly of what they might require me to do, and how secure they might be. I was naive, insecure and lacked sufficient confidence in my interests and talents to really get behind them. I subtly betrayed my integrity, by trying to sidestep my low self-esteem and high anxiety. This made settling on a career choice doubly difficult. My choices were made by what I unwittingly stumbled upon. These showed me one way forward, to follow the line of least resistance that I'd find easier to do.

From my childhood through to teenage years, history had been vaguely what I'd envisaged my life would revolve around. It was always my best subject, what I was most fascinated by, and loved. Had it not been for the confident encouragement of my art tutor at sixth form college, I might easily have become some fusty history teacher specialising in an obscure aspect of 12th century monasticism. Perhaps instinctively I knew I might not be suited to the painstakingly detailed research of a career in history. Being an artist felt somehow sexier. So I remained an enthusiastic amateur, but didn't take up the route of making history my profession.

I have often found some aspects of my character difficult to explain, or find adequate expression for. Nothing seems to quite match my needs for long, I become restless for fresher fields all too soon. There's often been an uneasy relationship between the introverted and extroverted sides of my desires. I rarely finding myself truly comfortable with either for very long. Introversion can quickly turn into a stifling prison, whilst extroversion exposes the underlying raw anxiety, and scares me to
death. I am simultaneously bigger and smaller than I imagine. Switching polarities all the time.

My eventual career in the arts was founded on a laudable, but admittedly naive dream. An impulse to improve or make the world a more beautiful place. This wasn't driven by an ardent desire for self-expression, but a more altruistic desire to put my creativity towards making something that was of practical benefit to everyone. I flirted with becoming an artist whilst on my Foundation Arts Course in Hull. Though, to be honest, I knew I'd find it hard to sell this idea with enough conviction to my parents. Who'd view ' being an artist.' as synonymous with being a sponger,drug taker and time waster. I had inculcated this inner pragmatic voice over the years of living with my parents. Frequently ruling out many dreams before I'd even tested or spoken of them.

So I decided to become a graphic designer instead of an artist. From today's perspective, it seems that somewhere in my late teens I did seem to surrender who I was, and what it was I wanted to do, up to the hands of fate. My decisions were directed by my dreams, only to the extent my levels of confidence and anxiety would allow them to be. Nevertheless, the alluring deluding siren of Art did captivate my imagination, and pulled my infatuation away from history. Whilst the pragmatic tone of my internal critic, did for a while stifle a fuller embrace of the pursuit of art. These days, I may view some of these decisions with a tinge of regret. But this is after all what I did, and it cannot be undone, just be more gently understood.
Old dreams can be difficult to really put to bed. Whilst your head might be being turned by fresher things taking place in the present, these dreams might simply be sulking in the corner of the pub, downing pint after to pint, dulling the experience of being ignored. One may have put down and turned aside from old dreams, but you may have not yet truly let go of them. It's as though, whilst there's still breath left in your body, there's still hope.

The graphic design course I eventually was accepted on, was at Leeds Polytechnic. It had a good reputation. As it progressed, we all got to know from painful experience that it's reputation was somewhat in tatters. Most of us became embroiled, and were used as pawns, in the egotistically driven power politics of the tutors in the department. Whose side you aligned yourself with, affected how much a tutor would help,support and guide you. In the end your allegiance could well decide the level of degree you'd be awarded. The head of the department, we found out later, had been having an affair with one student who ended up being awarded the highest degree in our year. That's indicative of how corrupt it was. By the second year, I'd extricated myself from being manipulated by certain tutors. I was disillusioned not just with the design course. I wasn't at all sure now that a career in graphic design was what I wanted to do with my life any more.

The final year of the course arrived, and my projects were incomplete and lacked a consistent aesthetic and design approach. Some of this was due to the uncertain confidence I had in them. This was, in part, what had led me in the first place into being pulled this way and that, by tutors with very differing ideas about design, and the creative process. By the time of my degree show, whilst a lot of my work showed promise, it had not been either refined or fulfilled. I had very few fully completed projects. What finished work there was, was achieved by hard graft and a personal determination not to be beaten by the dysfunctional ethos of the department. This was how my degree course drew to an end.

I finished in the early summer of 1980. Before I left, I was informed, in a rather patronising tone, by the Principal that I'd been given a degree (with no honours) almost as the best they could do under the circumstances. If I wanted to go on to teaching I'd have to retake my final year, and hope to get a better result. By then I just wanted out, the thought of staying on anywhere for another year seemed an horrendous prospect. Besides, I had only persisted with it this far in order to demonstrate to myself I could actually complete it. To have something to show to my parents to justify three years of further education. Unfortunately, I wasn't always able to so easily avoid disappointing them over the next few decades.
Out of necessity I had to return home, for ten rather frustrating and disheartening months. It was hard to re-accustom myself to the constrictions of living in a quiet rural village, with ones parents! Particularly after engaging in the life of a bustling city, with its freedom to do whatever I pleased. The contrast and sense of loss felt dramatic. 

Then there was the signing on for benefits. As I lived in a rural village I was sent a form once a fortnight, that I had to get someone outside my family to witness me signing. This entailed going into the local butcher, who seemed willing to oblige me in the midst of serving customers. As the months clocked up, this process felt more and more a humbling thing to do. Thus it went on throughout the summer,autumn and winter of 1980/81. The year before, the recently elected Thatcher Government had instigated a radical redirection of the countries economic priorities, and we were once again teetering on the edge of a recession. It seems that my career choices would always be taking place whilst the country was in the midst of one.

In the meantime I continued sending out job applications, with an increasing lack of confidence. This resulted over the ten months, in one weeks work experience in a design studio in Grimsby, and two job interviews. I was almost about to give up, when the second of these, thankfully landed me a job in the design department of a book publisher in Mayfair, London. So in April 1981, I finally started my career as a graphic designer, and moved to London. I ended up living in North London, because family friends there offered to put me up for a while. The suburbs of Crouch End, Muswell Hill and East Finchley, were my stomping ground for all the years I lived in London.

The job at the publishers showed me what day to day work as a graphic designer was actually like. It was all a bit humdrum and pedestrian really. The Art Director chose the images for the book covers, often even down to the style of lettering. What creative input you had, might only be doing the artwork, choosing the colour on the spine, or the text size etc. As our Art Director was somewhat colour blind, and I have a good eye for colour, this job of selecting colours often fell my way. Occasionally, I was given an enjoyable layout job for the inside of an annual film review book, or an illustrated compendium of Sherlock Holmes stories. But this was rare, and it felt as if my time on the degree course had been lived in an entirely alternative universe, one I was unlikely ever to see again.

Towards the end of that year the publisher I worked for was bought by an American company. They sold off a popular imprint, and instigated a series of staff cuts across all departments. As the last one to join the art studio, I was first to be given the push. So, seven months after starting my first job, I lost it. To say I was devastated, would be an understatement. I eked out my redundancy money into the New Year. Telling no one, least of all my parents, that I'd lost my job. The whole idea of going back on the job hunting trail, dragging my portfolio across London, appalled me.

After one desultory visit to a design studio, where my work had been viewed in the same manner you'd casually flick through a Sunday magazine. I felt pissed off and angry, as I sat on the Northern Line heading back home to East Finchley. As I got off the train and walked up the side path leading to the estate where I lived, it suddenly came to me that I didn't have to do this any more, if I didn't want to. In fact I wasn't going to do this any more. I'd be prepared to do anything, I didn't mind what - dig holes – sweep the streets – be a newspaper vendor -anything but this. This is the only time, that in one moment I completely let go. I completely and irreversibly let go of the idea of being a graphic designer. The effect on me was instantaneous and immense relief. There was an ebullient, if not intoxicating, sense of liberation from a commitment that had become oppressive and restrictive.

The first such job I got was as an Art Shop Assistant in Barnet, My arts background, meant I was ideally suited to working in Art Shops. I was not to know then, that this step would be so significant. For working in retail would consequently absorb most of my working life. I worked in this shop in Barnet for about eighteen months. When the business was sold to new owners, they kept me on long enough to learn the ropes from me. Then on my first day back after a summer holiday, they made me redundant. Sending me off with a few weeks money and a cheap transistor radio ( the sort of thing you get given free with stationery deals) as my parting gift.

Though I found another job in an Art Shop in Crouch End within a few weeks, being made redundant twice within two years did somewhat strangle the life out of any remaining idealism I had. Over the following years - the erratic sleep pattern I still suffer from started - I became increasingly biting and cynical in my conversation - the viewpoint that 'I never got what I wanted' gradually became more firmly entrenched. It remained there unquestioned and unanalysed until I'd been a practising Buddhist for many years.

By the time The Smiths had become famous in 1983, I was twenty five years old. I'd already given up on a career in design, and lost my job twice. So some of the keening phrases of 'Please, please, please, let me get what I want' expressed the tone of sentiment and despair, that lurked hidden beneath my external shell of hardened apathy. I did still care about my life, and what I did with it. I just couldn't bring myself to be idealistic about it, and hence vulnerable to disappointment. I hadn't allowed myself a dream in a long time. Pragmatism and aesthetic distraction, were now the rules of my life.

Every subsequent set back, heartbreak, business failure, or dream that got deflated, further reinforced the view that 'I never got what I wanted.' It actively cultivated a spirit of discontent with whatever was happening around me, and an inability to stay for long with situations that disappointed or disillusioned me. Until much later in life, this prevented me from seeing how fortunate I'd been to stay employed despite all the numerous recessions. Nor the true value of other benefits my life, jobs and circumstances had brought me. Though perhaps not fully meeting my ambitions, I've still been able to do a huge amount with my life, however underpinned it may have been by despair, and wavering levels of self-belief and confidence. Perhaps this had not been what I desired in my dreams, and 'never getting what I want' was really a melancholics habitual way of saying - my life turned out entirely different to how I first dreamt of it.

I let go
I turn aside
I put down
what I have been
or would have wished to be in the past

ARTICLE ~ I Let Go - No 9


I let go, I turn aside, I put down
all agreeable or painful memories
relating to what I have done
or would have wished to do in the past
relating to all the episodes of my past activity.

I am packing to leave a place where I've been staying with a group of friends. I'm stuffing things into my holdall in a hurry, roughly throwing a seemingly odd selection of items into it. My friends wait impatiently upstairs for me to get my act together. Finally I pull the zip up, and put the bag down whilst I go find my friends, to tell them I'm ready. When it comes time to leave the gallery we are now in, there are many similar bags strewn in parts of the room. I start searching for mine but cannot find it. The bag contains important things such as my most treasured paintings and writing. What follows is a relentless, exasperating and ultimately fruitless search to find where the bag now is.

I have dreamt this dream, or a variant on this dream many times over a number of decades. Each time there is an important bag to be found. The emotional impetus is to find what has been lost. The dreams have their own individual 'feeling tone' related to what has been lost and why it has to be found. This can be driven by a nostalgic urgency to rediscover, be confused or bewildered by conflicting pulls, be disorientated in unfamiliar surroundings, or be driven by an unspecified existential anxiety. What does the bag mean?

Though I cannot recollect these previous occasions in minute detail, I believe this type of dream does happens at specific times in my life. When I find myself in a place of unknowing. For what ever reason, my faith or spiritual compass has become unreliable or unreadable. I look back over my shoulder to the past as a way of regaining my bearings, or reconnect with something I seem temporarily to have lost sight of. I believe it really is as simple as that. The dream puts me through the mangle of emotional distress, and out I come pressed flat on the other side. Perhaps this is in order to wring some sense out of me, or to demonstrate the barren futility of looking backwards with sentimental eyes.

Whether its real, nostalgic or a dream, we cling to a sense of our personality and its history as a drowning person does to a buoy. To have no memories at all, would feel like we had lost all sense of who we were. It seems its important for us to know where we've come from, in order to have continuity and meaning in the present. What we've done in the past, who we've been, the successes and failures, its pleasures and its pain, all contributed, for good or ill, to who we believe we now are. Our self-image, our self-esteem, our self-confidence rest on the imperfectly remembered foundations of what we've previously experienced. These memories are so frequently double edged ones, simultaneously telling us who we are and who we are not. What we can and what we cannot be. What we are capable of achieving and what we are not capable of achieving. In this way memories can be both a blessing and a curse, the very act of definition placing a limitation. Inverting the commas, inserting the closed brackets and full stops.

We cannot avoid having 'agreeable and painful memories' they are the psychological outcomes, the sifted residue of every experience we've ever had. Well, perhaps not the original experience itself, but more the emotional responses we've subsequently had to that original experience. Falling off a bicycle and cutting ones leg, is an undoubtedly painful experience. We make this sense of personal injury more acute if we subsequently self-recriminate and punish ourselves over a perceived personal failing, or remonstrate internally or actually with someone else whom we see as the cause of our emotional pain. All our feelings, whether agreeable or not, are twofold; they have a physical and a mental companion. The Buddha referred to these as the twin arrows that cause us to feel pained; first by the event and then our response to it.

Its worth noting that our emotional reactions to an event, whether we felt hurt or pleased, is often the only thing we end up remembering. These subjective recollections based on our feelings, are seldom about the objective facts of the original situation at all. Retrospectively we self-justify how we have responded by turning these feelings into a incontrovertible hard fact, where even the the irrational can be rationalised.

Imagine there is a friend whom you work with. They appear to be evading your company. Don't stop to talk to you, turns away or ignores you when they pass in the office corridor. It would be very easy to feel hurt and to take it personally, to start assuming what the motives are behind this behaviour. Perhaps you've done something to upset them, or maybe they want to dump you as a friend because they think you're boring, or they're just trying to further their career and see you as holding them back – after all they were always quite selfish and looked after No1. It doesn't take long to actively cultivated a dislike, if not a hatred for them. Then one day, they confide to you that they've been struggling to come to terms with having a quite serious illness. Suddenly this fact puts everything you've experienced into a different perspective. Your assumptions we're not based on fact at all. They came more out of personal negativity, weak self-esteem or mild paranoia, which perhaps now you can take responsibility for – and rightly feel ashamed of. There was no rational basis at all for what was assumed.

The first of our verses refers to two events that these 'agreeable or painful memories' emerge in response too – 'what I have done or would have wished to do in the past.' In other words, what we wanted to happen, and what actually happened – the dream and the rather more mundane reality. Sometimes what is dreamed of and desired, does actually happen. We generally find that an agreeable experience, and this causes us to feel to some degree of personal pleasure or happiness. Sometimes what is dreamed of and desired, doesn't happen. Mostly we find this disagreeable, and it causes us to feel pain, disillusion and unhappiness. There is the desire, then what actually happens. Our response will be coloured by to what degree our original desire was fulfilled or not. If we find ourselves experiencing huge amounts of emotional suffering, then the source of it will rarely be found in a single event, but in our general expectations of life. Our desires and cravings for a specific, pleasurable outcome.

' The tragedy is not that we don't get what we want, but that we do get what we want, and then we're stuck with it, and very often we find that it's not what we wanted at all.'1

Counter intuitive as what Sangharakshita is saying may sound, he is pointing us towards two really fundamental human delusions - that we think we know what we want, and believe reality can be conformed to our desires. Every time we do get what we want, our confidence in this delusive tendency is revived and reinvigorated. Even if the number of times we're disappointed with the result, or not getting what we want vastly outnumber the times we do. What is it that would keep a gambler betting on racing horses when they lose nine times out of ten - can it just be hope springing eternally?

A child might go to bed every day ardently wishing for a wonderful new toy for their birthday or for Christmas. A starving man in a drought stricken country might kneel to his gods, fervently praying and wishing for rain and food. A woman might not be able to start her day before she's checked what her stars say on an astrology website. A young couple wanting good weather for their wedding, keep looking at the Met Office advance weather forecast for reassurance. We travel hopefully, but rarely confidently. All sorts of people, from vastly different backgrounds or cultures, act on the basis of superstitions, they carry talismans, wear lucky clothes or shoes, or perform certain ritual behaviours in an attempt to determine or fix a wished for outcome. We can hold a strong belief in the power of our thoughts, that the depth of our heartfelt desire can determine the conclusion we want. We can do this without fully realising its what we are doing. I certainly have had a version of this view right into my adult life. Ironically, after all my years of wishing and hoping and still not getting what I wanted, it wasn't the inadequacy of wishing where I placed the blame, but on myself and the inadequate feebleness of my wishing. This contributed in the long term to the cultivation of a view of myself as someone 'who never got what he wanted.'

I let go
I turn aside
I put down
what I have been
or would have wished to be in the past

1 - Taken from Peace Is A Fire, By Sangharakshita , published by Windhorse Publications 1995