consciousness

Fiction Friction

We have just ‘celebrated’ ANZAC day, and I did a lot of thinking and reflecting. I had mixed feelings all day, wondering about the meaning we have made, should make, or unmake from history. To challenge anything other than the media produced reverence is cultural blasphemy, as Australian sports presenter Scott McIntyre did and was promptly fired. A part of me understands this from the tightly woven narratives around sport and war. That aside, what frightens me more are the parallels with the themes George Orwell wrote about in 1984.

Orwells 1984 has been studied by many but few like to consider the realities of such a world, let alone that it might already be upon us. Dystopian worlds have become romanticised in teen literature and movies to a point where the harsh edges of power have been reworked into love, adventure and survival themes which are far easier to sell. So I want to take you through some of my favourite quotes because the date will come and go but what will we remember as 1915 and ‘1984’ mark real and imagined horror.

1: ‘Ignorance is strength’ – one of the 3 slogans, but my favourite because it allow for the other two to be made possible by ensuring people believe that ‘war is peace’ and ‘freedom is slavery’.

2: “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” – History is a selective lens that focuses attention on certain details while overlooking or blocking out others. It means we continually see a chosen perspective – one that serves particular interests. It is why I am very interested in agnotology as a field of inquiry (funny how it always comes up underlined for spell checking – clearly a word that needs more promoting…unless the ministry of truth get hold of it).

3: “Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.” – I see this happening through the media propaganda machine and the use of fear.

4: “So long as they (the Proles) continued to work and breed, their other activities were without importance….Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbors, films, football, beer and above all, gambling filled up the horizon of their minds. To keep them in control was not difficult.” – So let me check what is on the news and tv…sport, sport, weather, sport, game shows, reality tv…looking quite accurate George.

5: “Until they became conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.” – I see flickers of consciousness at times but I also see it being extinguished. Consciousness without action maintains the status quo. Rebelling need not look like public protest, it can be a quiet internal realisation.

6: “Orthodoxy means not thinking–not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.” – I think we have a form of secular fundamentalism setting in. With forms of cultural doctrine that are unquestionable, and evangelical public figures use fear and suspicion to cast shame on those who do not agree with the prescribed truth. Persecution is swift and exile follows – again, say the wrong thing on twitter and you are a gonner. The thought police will get you.

7: “The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better.” – Yes ignorance is bliss after all. The problem at the moment is no-one is quite sure what freedom is. We have set the bar so low, that any meeting of basic needs is now seen as a luxury. If we are outraged and horrified, saddened or affected by event’s – its only until the bachelor comes on, or the rugby starts.

Others have spoken on similar themes and a healthy mature society should be able to ask questions and revisit what we believe to be ‘true’. Being right is not the same as truth. One suggests a single event the other provides for alternative viewpoints and information to be considered.

Lest we forget what we have chosen to remember.

Out Of Time

What is time to a fish? How do the seconds pass? If a fish was riding a bike would it notice the relative speed of the vehicles? Was I that fish on a bike today when caught in the headlights of a car at a roundabout that hadn’t been there a moment ago. The honking of a horn indicating the arrival of another stream of time and momentum. The jolt of awareness that signalled a dislocation in the fabric of collectively agreed rights of passage that I seemed to have disrupted or ruptured.

Speed, space, time, distance, colluding to segregate and define who can participate in the flow of life. If you become relocated in this and live somewhere in between there is unease and distrust – a disruption to the flow. The ability to be ‘present’ and ‘here’ ‘now’ communicating in ways that identify and signify we know where we are located defines intimacy. When people are tuned to a different frequency the ability to connect on an intimately personal level shifts and the signals we usually pick up become lost in the static hum of confusion.

Common functioning suggests we all must locate our consciousness and awareness and sense of who we are within a narrowly defined criteria. Those experiencing neurological diversity (ASD – Autistic Spectrum Disorders – or – Alternative Sensory Downloads) and other forms of time/space re-location (alzheimer’s, amnesia, altered states of consciousness) highlight the pervasive normalisation of human functioning and fear associated with intentionally attempting to create those conditions – messing with mysterious interactions and perception we can have of reality.

Losing someone in time is hard. They can be physically present but elsewhere, they are not ‘around’ and the grief associated can be experienced in the same way as death. Let’s acknowledge this more instead of brushing over the obvious that they are carrying on regular metabolic functioning – AKA alive, and require people to be grateful for this experience. However my heart tells me love transcends the limits of 3rd dimensional space, we might never truly know how someone experiences the warmth of our caring but to quote Carl Sagan, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

If you do see a fish on a bike, you just might want to check what is in your ‘special’ coffee. And just be a bit patient – no need to get into a flap about it and watch out for those red herrings aye.

Dancing In The Dark

This is a bit of a part 2 to my recent thrashing of dance as a metaphor to explore restorative practice in schools. My apologies if it’s getting a little overcooked for some but I will stay with it as there are lovely parallels if you dare to take the floor with me.

I mentioned in part 1 that I dabbled in ballroom dancing as a teen, and those who know me personally will probably find that hilarious. I was also seduced by contemporary dance at university for a short period of time and tried my hand at choreography with mixed results. While I enjoyed the classes I often had a tinge of envy for those who had a bit more of a base. Picking up the steps seemed to require far more concentration and effort than some of my peers who looked like they were bored, stoned or possibly both – yet managed to pull out the sequences well ahead of me. I would often ask them for help, and ask them to slow things down and did a lot of repetition – and it helped.

Choreography is fascinating. Studying various styles and techniques developed and feeling how these shifts in energy and the use of the body allowed me to appreciate the skills needed to become and accomplished choreographer and produce works of moving art. Dancers who study for years under a particular style move with those distinct patterns and flourishes that have been worked into an unconscious level. Moving through the steps and movement of restorative praxis follows a similar dynamic. Where those who have studied rigorously at the school of traditional disciplining practices will move in a particular way, their steps will be precise and definite. Much like ballet that has a long history and language with familiar transferable expectations. People can recognise ballet when the see it. Traditional school discipline practices to me seem a lot like ballet – if you get my point (insert cymbal crash).

The role of the choreographer is to design and create – be the architect of the movement sequence. Sometimes they will have an end point in mind a sense of definite outcomes and how things should look. This high level of control and precision leaves little room for error and means the dancers must all be clear about their role and trained appropriately so they can dance the steps expected. In fact a choreographer will choose dancers they know have the expertise and necessary skills to complete the movement and hoped for outcomes.

School leaders are much like choreographers with a selection of skilled dancers among their staff. They might need to see them perform in different contexts before assessing their ability to carry out the restorative steps. But if a team of leaders cannot agree on the steps or style of dance being performed or communicated with the dancers, one being given one set of movement the others a different the sequencing, and flow and energy of the relationships between the dancers will suffer. There will be confusion and concern about who has got it right. Sometimes choreography is done in collaboration with dancers, allowing their expertise and knowledge to enrich the process and foster a sense of ownership so that those performing have a deeper connection to the overall feel of a piece of work.

My hope is that those in schools who assume the role of choreographer of restorative practice have the ability to recognise when they are putting dancers through sequences that do not fit their style. Because even the most accomplished ballet dancer is likely to look like someone having a seizure if they are asked to do hip hop. No amount of hoodies and baggy pants are going to cover that up.

Oh and if you had a certain tune running through your head reading the title – well done – The Boss says now DANCE! Any style will do.

Talk that needs to change frequency

It’s a bit of a conundrum turning the radio on in the morning with a young pair of ears in the car. There is the option of popping in a CD but sometimes it’s nice to let someone else do the music selection with a bit of banter, but some like to talk, ….and talk, and rant, and make sexual references. While this is happening I am desperately reaching for the off button and juggling hot coffee. Bracing for the questions and planning a response at that hour of the morning is mental gymnastics and my brain is barely warmed up and feels like it’s about to do the splits.

Some might say ‘well just don’t listen’ and I could agree to some extent that choosing to switch or change channel might be a good option. But it was also evident at the Weetbix Tryathlon where radio DJ’s host the pre and post event hyping there was a general disregard for the age of the audience that was largely children. What I’m not so sure about is why DJ’s feel so compelled these days to entertain via the use of humiliation and degradation? It’s a bit like what’s happened to MTV – yes Music Television… I don’t see a lot of music on there anymore, time for a rebrand I think. The strange thing about radio is you often don’t see it coming like with TV and the content can swing so suddenly as to catch you off guard – a psychic side swipe. But I also don’t want sanitised radio with no humour (gosh I’m sounding hard to please).

But here is the thing, if I like a particular style of music then there is an assumption made about my character or personality and perhaps DJ’s make generalisations and think up clever ways to embarrass people or shame them in the name of attracting more listeners and maybe that is the point. Radio has become a vehicle for adults to legitimately bully others with music thrown in for good measure from time to time. Commuters scrunched up in rush hour traffic want to vent, so DJ’s are encouraged in some ways go to lowest levels to distract listeners from the mundane and target the frustration elsewhere. Some stations and DJ combinations are worse than others and I have never had any issue with the concert programme funnily enough – just not a lot of nine inch nails or foo fighters, not even as covers (although you never know).

Just spin records guys and stop spinning s*&^
Ahhh just realised radio is all digital…
Only real DJ’s spin vinyl

Book Ends

I go through book binges. This summer I managed to get through The Luminaries…on which one does not ‘binge’ rather pick away carefully and take time between courses, but I am already losing the plot. I also read two books in successive weekends that were…well…illuminating.

Waitangi weekend, celebrating the signing of a historical document destined to both unite and divide our identity as a nation, I read Russell Brand’s book Revolution. If someone asked me to describe it I would say it’s a – rant – rehab coach – militant – radical peace – best and worst of conspiracy – consciousness – political commentary – autobiography. Or, a bit like a Billy T James skit colliding with bikram yoga.

The follow weekend was Valentines day, celebrating the cultural signs of commercial coupledom destined to both unite and divide our identity, I read A Short History of Stupid, equally digestible with beer and chips, but a bit of a shift from Russell. It was like listening to philosophy grad students talking at the pub after a shandy showing of their ability to both think and drink and solve the worlds problems.

Both managed to capture an individual and global perspective, albeit with differing emphasis. Much like the concept of yin and yang, complementing interconnected forces with aspects running through each other. It was also an excellent example of polarity and diversity. From simple to complex, personal to global, theory and experience all giving rise to intersections of ideas that evoke some challenges to status quo commentaries. I think the authors of both would liven up a dinner party conversation with some charades or twister, but maybe not trivial pursuit. The common use of humour was strong, particularly the ability to locate the ‘self’ as both an individual and in relation to systemic political, historical, geographical….(you probably get the idea) structures. Occasionally both overly self indulgent but read back to back the interlocking of patterns and meaning was intriguing. In the days in between I read How To Train Your Dragon where a sense of irony curled itself into the ouroboros of meaning. The ongoing reproduction, recycling and reinvention of stories past, present and future are all lived now.

Where do the dragons fit? They are mythical to some and real to others with varying degrees of evidence and belief adding weight to the truth. But in the book they are mischievous and generally difficult to bring under human control. Think I might have some dragon in me, well, I do like to breathe fire from time to time…lots of heat and plenty of light…illuminating.

Just mind the kerosene burps after – hydrocarbons not so palatable.

Shifty Greys Of Shade

I scowl with frustration in the mirrored lenses of my glasses that are smeared with sweat and sun tan lotion. Damp patches growing as the summer heat refuses to surrender its suffocating mask of humidity. My hair pulled back in a pony tail does little to alleviate this. Crawling under the nearest Pohutukawa the dappled light offering a temporary reprieve but my skin aches for the cool caress of a delicate breeze. The temporary disorientation gives way to annoyance as a picnic blanket occupies the private space I had hoped to accommodate. Carnal urges to kick sand all over the place are pushed aside as I move toward another tantalising dark corner of the beach. Fingers already reaching deep inside my bag to fondle the corners of my book in anticipation. I duck under the low slung branches, thick matted aerial roots like hair brush my cheek. The blazing glare behind me I take a moment to orientate myself in the strobing shadows. There it is, the solid outline of sand untouched by the blowtorch outside. The cool sand pushing between my toes and the loamy smells beckoning I need no more seduction. I throw myself onto my towel and grasp the generous mass of literary flesh that is The Luminaries and devour every word. My quiet ecstasy as the words penetrate layers of my consciousness pulling me into a void filled with imagery and mystery. I am between worlds now and letting go, surrendering to the pleasure and delight of my heart and mind no longer being caged. My lips curled in a half smile and a tear of joy moves to the corner of my eye, lashes holding it until the surface tension gives way.

My neck aches, I reach inside for something to rest my head on. There is another book that might do the trick. Fifty…

Crying Vowel

Auckland harbour has a problem with effluent. Oh, I’m sorry that should read affluent. What a difference a simple vowel can make. The giant superyacht Serene belonging to Russian Vodka Baron Yuri Schefler is a great monument to the excesses of ‘big business’. How wonderful that someone can make that much money producing a neurotoxin that causes so much physiological, social and emotional harm. Do I agree that this is wonderful for tourism? It might, but what does the Serene leaves me with an extremely uneasy feely, a queasy giddy sense of vertigo not unlike being intoxicated. The opulence, is both breath taking for its grand statement of financial success and a monument to the stench of consumption with so many chewed up and shat out in the process.

The difference between rich and poo is R we willing to put our heads that far into a dark place and pretend the air is sweet? Think I need a drink…dang it… out of fejoa vodka. Perhaps I could get an I O U.

Happy new yeah…nah

I’ve been out running this afternoon. Winding my way along the Manukau harbour, observing people starting their new years eve celebrations. Over the next 24hrs people all over the world join in one of the few celebrations that are not tied to any particular religion or historical event. The right to celebrate isn’t limited or restricted to any particular group and there are no set traditions, although many would say that drinking, dancing, and other shenanigans most certainly seem pretty well established.

I find the ritual of setting new year resolutions curious. I’m not ‘for’ or ‘against’ that would be too easy. Instead I wonder about why we feel the compulsion to do it at all. I don’t know if it has to do with the altered states of consciousness people are in but declarations and commitments fill the ether. It is like a contractual agreement made stronger sometimes by collective witnessing even joining with others in similar states of intoxication to monitor and cheer each other on. These contracts are made spontaneously usually or perhaps there had been some prior thought but there is nothing like a NY resolution – they just seem more binding.

But the irony is no-one would EVER consider a contract signed under these conditions as valid in the real world. Yet we hold ourselves and sometimes others to account – that is if we can remember what was said. So here is some ‘fine print’ I would be mindful of if I was tempted (which I not – and tea and gingernuts are not likely to open the wrath of my subconscious) to make a NYR.

• All declarations of love are subject to confirmation upon sobriety
• Promises made under influence of substances are not binding
• If found praying while emptying stomach contents – all utterances are null and void
• Actions cannot be considered in character unless the behaviour is consistent outside of the 24hrs
• Kissing is not considered binding
• Recollection of events might be subject to impairment – in light of new information the holder of this contract has the right to edit, censor or remain silent
• It is advisable to wait at least a week – in which time negotiation with your past, present and future self is warranted
• Awkward and embarrassing feelings may be rescinded

Whether you do or don’t make a resolution remember you can change your mind at any time. Don’t wait a whole year.

A Con-vexed question

This morning I sat staring at a bauble looking at the distorted image of my face stretch across the surface I felt a stirring of a smirk. The Cheshire Cat effect only added to a surreal sense of hysteria as I played with my reflection. I had been pondering my previous posts about Christmas, and trying to pinpoint my disquiet which seems to keep shifting like the light bouncing back at me. The shimmering mirage reminded me of the book/movie Sphere. As a quick plot summary then, a giant gold orb (like a Christmas bauble for a tree the size of very tall building) is found on a UFO found at the bottom of the ocean. It just happens to have come from earth…in the future, but it’s been there over 300 years or so (thanks to biology and the growth rate of coral). In the movie it (the UFO not the coral) has ‘trash cans’ and a skeleton on board that looks like it was borrowed from set of Indiana Jones. I’ll leave the ‘book vrs movie’ debate up to the IMDB message board.

Turns out the orb has one function, to enable the instant manifestation of thought to occur. Trouble is in the presence of humans it did that all too well – playing on the fears of the crew sent to investigate it, so that they do not realise they have created their own nightmares playing out underwater…it’s very claustrophobic. When they eventually figure out what is happening they decide that humanity is not ready for such power and use the one thing that might send the golden globe back and get a refund on collective paranoia ride. They use the power to forget.

I sometimes wonder if all the mini baubles on Christmas trees have that power. That in spite of our best efforts to focus our intentions on those values we hope are reflected there is an ugly and terrifying truth of consumerism is hard to ignore that polishes off the last resistance to the glittering prize of the ‘bargain’. The hypnotic seduction of advertising has done its amnesiac work as Kiwis spent record amounts of money – well done – slow clap – now look in the mirror.

To quote Sphere:
“This is the gift of your species and this is the danger, because you do not choose to control your imaginings. You imagine wonderful things and you imagine terrible things, and you take no responsibility for the choice. You say you have inside you both the power of good and the power of evil, the angel and the devil, but in truth you have just one thing inside you – the ability to imagine.”
Michael Crichton, Sphere

As the tinsel lights and trees come down and shiny baubles are packed away it really is time to reflect – without distortion. I for one am not about to con-cave in.

Sleighing Santa With Science

I break into a cold sweat around this time of year. For me at least, Christmas represents a morphing of social, cultural, religious, and consumerstic psychosis, wrapped in narcissism and tied with ribbons of expectation, contradiction and excitement. It is a potent combination and one that is set to stay for some time yet, so those of us who feel like the ‘festive’ season is more like a festering sore season need to find ways to cope because to be outed as anti Christmas is rapidly becoming less acceptable than wearing crocs to a wedding.

I’ve also been pondering the dilemma’s parents face when the Santa subject inevitably comes up. Parents are entitled to a short window of blackmail each year. What better way to emotionally manipulate small children into complying that to threaten the potential for complete rejection from big red himself. In a world rapidly running out of a love of mystery and the unknown, where imagination and the realm of folk-law is being eradicated by the insatiable rationalistic machinations of science, we have a curious opportunity as a culture to blend some of the new sciences such as quantum physics with these colourful patchwork rituals that seem to be permanently sewn into our collective consciousness.

This is not to say I am an expert in quantum physics (people get pretty zealous when it comes to stating an ‘understanding’ of this kind of knowledge). However it is hard to ignore the allure of some of its more popular concepts that have become fodder for life coaches and gurus world wide espousing the power of ‘manifestation’. But with science making the quantum world more available as a backdrop for conversations, where time and space can be overcome and reality is ever unfolding, we can make some tentative connections to the role of consciousness and the observable world. Rational, logical, empiricist parents may now safely enter the Santa conversation armed with scientific back up! Here are a couple of simple explanations exploiting BASIC quantum physics:

Schrodingers Santa – This is based loosely on the experiment conducted by Erwin Schrodinger about the relationship between the location of particles and consciousness which has spawned the somewhat macabre obsession with killing cats…perhaps Gareth Morgan is related. Anyway Schrodingers Cat: Very simply cat is in a box, there is something deadly in the box with the cat (gunpowder or poisonous gas…depending on choice of death…ethics were a little different in the 1930’s) the fate of the cat is tied in with the observer, the cat is both alive and dead until the box is opened…or something close to that (plenty of Youtube videos willing to explain it to you much better than I can). So here is my Santa version, as he comes down the chimney this is ‘the box’ and upon waking in the morning ‘naughty or nice’ will be decided by what is under the tree. So this means that santa list is only valid until the moment of waking in the morning – all possibilities exist until children wake up. It means being able to extend the ‘be good or else’ hold for so much longer.

Santas special sleigh – if time and space can be overcome through manipulating wormholes or creating star gates of sorts then it is possible for Santa to cover the entire world in one night because he would have the power to time travel. The sleigh would be for show and the santa sack would be a quantum field of infinite depth where all presents would fit. Anti-gravity technology fits the sleigh and the reindeer of course could stay as part of the picture as he doesn’t want to leave a carbon footprint…just a snowy one.

The awkward conundrum for those in the southern hemisphere is the seasonal issue. Explaining why Santa is dressed in a coat and is dressed for the snow is kind of hard in the middle of summer. The fact that Santa is based at the North Pole could mean that he needs to stay cold so has built a force field around the sleigh to keep him feeling at home. Having said that, the capricious nature of NZ summers means it could be snowing in the South Island at Christmas.

So there are a couple of possibilities to get people started. I will continue to remain proudly detached from Christmas as a whole, but I respect those who have particular rituals, and beliefs that add to the significance of this time of year. My wish this year is for people to think beyond presents to presence and make the most of the connections and love with all things.

No cats were harmed in the writing of this blog…yet…just be mindful if they are playing in boxes.