The Nigerian poet/writer, Ben Okri, wrote somewhere: “I grew up in a tradition where there are simply more dimensions to reality: legends and myths and ancestors and spirits and death….” This made me think of my own upbringing – and while I know nothing of the culture of the Urhobo people – being raised a Scottish catholic in 1940s/50s, had its own cast of unlikely characters and stories. Alongside eternal truths (the sermon on the mount), I learned harmful nonsense about ‘sinful’ behaviour and ‘divine retribution’. My personal journey has been gradual – from the credulity of childhood, to an evidence-based rationalism. I cannot imagine, again adopting any ‘closed’ system of belief, ordained by some God or prophet; I’ve learned the call of freedom – ‘show me the science’.
One of my most valued mentors, Carl Jung disagrees: “The more critical reason dominates, the more impoverished life becomes; but the more of the unconscious, the more myth we are capable of making conscious, the more of life we integrate”. Jung taught that there is a deeper layer to the psyche than the purely personal; he discerned universal patterns of instinct and imagination, that can be found in all cultures and at all times in human history. These primordial images represent humankind’s experience of hunger, sexuality, creativity, the divine etc; he called them the ‘archetypes of the collective unconscious’. Although he called himself a scientist, Jung refused to move at the snail pace of science; a visionary – he saw that there are ‘simply more dimensions to reality’.
In 1987, I spent 5 weeks in the USA looking at Community Organising; my greatest shock was the difference between being a white or black American – because the true level of racism is filtered-out of their media products. Those of us who consider Donald Trump to be mentally unstable, wonder how long he can last; first Covid and now the George Floyd riots seem to be tipping him into a ‘mad emperor’ state –
photo 1 and photo 2. But his decisions are only wildly irrational if your aim is to reconcile a divided country; it’s quite possible, that this president’s election strategy is to take his chances on all out conflict – which could become very ugly indeed. Arwa Mahdawi, in the Guardian, asks if Trump has declared war on the USA.
I’m afraid I enjoy Fintan O’Toole’s undying rage at English ‘exceptionalism’:
his piece about Johnson and Cummings contempt for lockdown rules doesn’t disappoint – merciless. “To hold power, you must never make your electorate feel like fools; they delivered an unpardonable snigger of elite condescension”.
Concern for the absence of birds from my garden – all varieties of tits – particularly bluetits – have been in decline since spring. Nothing online – except for
this in the Conversation, which tells of a deadly virus, suttonella ornithicola. Particularly at this time, the absence of bluetits feeding their young brings sadness.
Another progressive version this week of how the Scottish economy should ‘shape up’ as we climb out of lockdown: Common Weal’s
vision of a ‘resilient economy’. There is an encouraging level of energy on the left in Scotland – but the contributors are too dispersed to wield much political heft. Good blog by Douglas Fraser.
The sunshine last weekend brought crowds to our wee hamlet – worrying. But Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership (fastidious detail) has most Scots behaving ourselves. I’ve had my first fish supper and garden centre visit – both responsibly served – I feel optimistic going forward.
New ‘lockdown laws’ would not be enforceable.
The writer, the late Ursula Le Guin, was feminist, influenced by Carl Jung and Taoist philosophy; I came to think of her as one of the wisest people alive (
some quotes). Her thoughts on mortality:
“You will die. You will not live forever. Nor will any man nor any thing. Nothing is immortal. But only to us is it given to know that we must die. And that is a great gift: the gift of selfhood. For we have only what we know we must lose, what we are willing to lose… That selfhood which is our torment, and our treasure, and our humanity, does not endure. It changes it is gone, a wave on the sea. Would you have the sea grow still and the tides cease, to save one wave, to save yourself?” —
The Farthest Shore, 1972 (Earthsea Cycle #3).