Monday, May 28, 2012

As I see it . . .

Here's a question that's been bothering me, one that preoccupied Einstein.  May I share it with you?
What is reality?  And can our view of reality ever be anything other than subjective?

Strictly speaking, I suppose that those are two questions, but they came to mind recently when I was expecting a friend to tea.  Two hours before her arrival, looking at my flat with the eyes of one who is expecting a visitor, it looked completely different from the familiar home I'd viewed a minute previously.  All at once I noticed the untidiness.  All at once I was aware of the dust on the shelves.  All at once my much-loved home looked badly in need of some attention before being considered in any way worthy of the discriminating guest who would soon be ringing the door bell.

The reality changed from that of a comfortable home to that of a dusty, untidy flat.  I set to work to improve matters.  What the reality was to my visitor, who arrived a little tired and preoccupied, I'll never know.  She probably noticed little more than the waiting chair, and the steaming cup of tea.

A similar switch in perspective can occur if you are taken into the countryside and shown a beautiful view.  You relax, let your vision wander, listen to the birdsong . . . life feels good.  Then you are told by you companion that a new road is planned to cut through the view you are admiring.  You are, in fact, standing on what will be the verge of a busy motorway.  The view hasn't changed, but suddenly it shines in a totally different light.  What is the reality?

To muddle things even further, did you realise that we have acquired a European focus?
This was brought home to me when a Japanese friend came to visit.  We looked at the same things, but there was no doubt that we saw them differently . . . to be more precise, we 'looked' at them differently.
The Western eye focuses quickly on what it consider to be the important aspect of the scene, it looks at specific points.  Were a Westerner to look at the Mona Lisa, he or she would probably focus on the smile, or on the eyes, paying little attention to the background or any folds in the clothing.  A person from Japan, on the other hand, would, my friend told me, see the picture indiscriminately and in its entirety.  This same difference occurs in thought processes.  Whereas we in the West are highly subjective in our views and judgements, the Japanese it appears tend to have a more communal viewpoint.
My Japanese friend and I don't disagree, we just look out at the world from our two different perspectives . . . we look at two different worlds.  Our choice of words gives us away:
"As I see it . . . " we say, and "From my  point of view . . . ".

Are you getting confused?  So am I!
Let's turn from the confusion of reality to the certainty of what is real.

Here, at long last, we can find a foothold in the shifting sand.  There's no argument as to what is real.
It cannot be defined, but we know it when we see it.  We recognise the truth in a voice, the light in an eye, the beauty in a flower.

Let's look at that plaque on the wall:
"What is real," it tell us,  "is not the external form but the essence itself".

I'm willing to settle for that . . .  if you are.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Before Atlas Shrugs

This is going to sound a stupid question, but have you ever stopped and thought about your breathing?  Not in the way one does when suffering from a cold or a chest infection, but quite simply as an unconscious process that carries on quietly and continuously in the background.

I was listening to an interesting speaker the other day and this was his initial instruction to his audience:
"Pay attention to your breathing," he said, "it's the greatest miracle there is."
So I did . . . I observed the air going in . . . I observed the air going out . . . I paid attention to the rising and falling of my chest . . . I dimly perceived the inner, regular thumping of my heart.
A miracle . . . ?
He was right.  Without that regular breath, without the air providing oxygen to my lungs and vitality to my heart, I wouldn't have been alive, I wouldn't have been able to question the statement and make the observation.
Breath facilitates life.  When breath goes . . . life goes.
And what is life?  Don't let's fool ourselves.  Giving it a name doesn't mean that we know what it is.

We marvel at the latest scientific discoveries . . . and they are incredible, who would want to deny the amazing breakthroughs that seem to occur with increasing frequency.  But does our thirst for the new, coupled with a tendency to ignore the familiar, cause us to disregard the two marvels that are constantly with us . . . the miracle of breath . . . the mystery of life?

It has been scientifically proved that, given unity of breath, unity of purpose and unity of intent, our hearts beat in unison.  When members of a choir sing together their hearts form a coherent beat.  Is it any wonder that the unifying drumbeat of a military band exerted such power when leading armies into battle?

HeartMath, an institute which undertakes scientific studies into the function of the heart, claims as its mission 'to establish heart-based living and global coherence by inspiring people to connect the intelligence and guidance of their hearts'.
I strongly recommend their website.  But perhaps what is most striking is the evidence they have provided into the power of heart coherence.

If we all breathe together, focus our hearts on love and unity . . .   could we, perhaps, heal the schisms that are currently fracturing human society on our troubled planet?

Before Atlas shrugs, and we're in danger of toppling, surely it's worth a try . . . ?

Monday, May 14, 2012

A very proud Mum!

I fully accept that I could be prejudiced . . . all right, I fully accept that I AM prejudiced . . . but, say what you like, as of this week I'm an inordinately proud Mum!

It is now fourteen months since Chloe, my Bengal cat, started her 'work' for the Pets As Therapy charity.  Each Friday morning, after a quick session of tree-climbing to reduce her energy levels, we pay our weekly visit to the local nursing-home.  Here, although she has seven regular 'clients', additional, unscheduled visits frequently occur during the course of the morning.

Chloe adjusts her performance to the needs of the individual.  For the sick and bed-bound, clearly in the belief that they need stimulus, she is exuberant and inquisitive.  For those who are alert and sitting upright in their chairs, Chloe often chooses to perch in close proximity on a table, stool or window-sill from where she can blink happy acknowledgement of the unfailing flow of complements.
Does she have favourites?  Well, being a frivolous little girl, a frivolous little girl with a warm heart, is it so surprising that she rather enjoys flirting with the men?

All this I've grown accustomed to.  Chloe knows what she's doing.
But she retains the power to amaze me . . . and that is what happened this week.

Normally on our visits I carry her in my arms as we make our way down the various passages. This week, as she was wriggling to be put down, I let her walk.  With surprising confidence, Chloe trotted ahead of me on her lead.  On reaching the ground floor entrance to the lift, she sat and waited for the lift's arrival.  Once the door had opened, she stepped briskly inside and settled down for the brief journey.  On arrival at the second floor she trotted out of the lift, turned right and found herself in the familiar passage leading to Muriel's room.  Hurrying past a succession of open doors, she finally arrived, with an air of great self-satisfaction, at the side of Muriel's bed.

On leaving Muriel there were no doubts in Chloe's mind as to where she was taking me next. It was back to the lift, down to the first floor, along another passage in order to receive a warm welcome from Margaret . . . then on to Tony . . . and Sylvie . . . and John . . . and, finally, back to the lift to finish her weekly routine by entertaining the ground-floor friends who were still awaiting her.

If she was a little tired on reaching home, was it so surprising?
And if I'm an inordinately proud Mum . . . can you blame me?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

An Early Night

He said he'd ring as soon as he returned.
At nine indulgent of her eagerness,
She settled down with joy to wait and turned
Her chair to face the 'phone. At ten the stress
Of waiting prompted her to make some tea;
Eleven found her mind in disarray
Imagining some dire calamity
Or accident encountered on his way.
At half-past twelve . . . should she dial 999?
At one she went to bed. He rang next day:
"Darling, I'm sorry . . . everything is fine.
But Eric's wife was ill. I had to stay."
Fondly he said, "I knew you'd be all right."
"Of course," she lied, "I had an early night."