Sunday, 28 May 2017

The Compasion Question.

I was asked: ‘Do you think it’s possible to learn compassion?’

Not being a psychologist I wouldn’t know, but I suspect it isn't. I’m sure that compassion can be released if it’s been covered over and suppressed by cultural conditioning, bad experiences, bad parenting, and negative traits like anger and control obsession, but I suspect it has to be there in the first place. I think it’s probably genetic.

But do keep trying…

Saturday, 27 May 2017

On Muzak and a Marriage.

There’s some loud noise coming up from Mill Lane tonight, and I would like to be down there among it just so I can say:

‘Who the hell chose this bloody music, because it isn’t music, is it? It’s mindless, mediocre muzak. It has no personality, no character, no identity. It isn’t rock and pop, it isn’t folk, it isn’t classical, it isn’t jazz, it isn’t blues, it isn’t even middle of the road. It’s just pointless noise fit only for people with about as much taste as a piece of virgin polystyrene. And it’s far too loud. I bet it can be heard clear as a bell 500 yards up the hill where I live.’

Only I am 500 yards up the hill where I live, and I would have been right. I suspect it’s coming from the pub, but maybe not because…

*  *  *

Somebody from the village got married today. My suspicions regarding the marquees to which I referred in an earlier post were right. Wedding reception. Mmm…

But I doubt that’s where the noise is coming from because the quality of the people who live in that house would suggest otherwise. That house is of substantial historical significance to me. I like the people connected with it, which is why I’m mightily intrigued to know which of them got married today. I don’t suppose anybody will tell me.

Wondering About Donald.

I missed the incident in which the President of the Leader of the Free World pushed some minor Prime Minister aside (at the G7 Summit, I think. As I said, I missed it.) People from my little corner of the globe would ask: 'Was he brought up or dragged up?'

Donald really is a one, isn’t he? So now I find myself trying to decide whether pushing a Prime Minister is more or less damning than picking your nose over the bowl of sheep’s eye. Let’s call them different but equal, since they both send the reputation of America down into the frigid zone at the base of the thermometer.

And I wonder whether he was privy to Kushner’s slimy little Russia antics. Do father-in-laws concern themselves with such matters, I ask myself, when they’re busy making their country great?

And I further wonder whether he will maintain his position of being out of step with the rest of the world in being the only one to abdicate the cause of trying to save the planet. Maybe he feels that America’s greatness puts it above such concerns. Maybe it’s a Divine Right of Kings thing.

On Winds and Freedom.

The winds of change are rising in the world of JJ. I hear the singing in the wires and feel the breath on my face. I know where they’re coming from, but I don’t yet know how strong the blast will be or where it will blow me.

At such times I lose faith in the principle of Taoist equanimity. Instead I get fretful, feeling like a caged animal waiting to be removed to a different zoo. Will it be a better zoo than this one, or will it be worse? And why do I have to be in a zoo at all?

And I lose patience with the self-styled gurus who sit smugly within the pages of their profitable self-help books, telling their rapt readers who want to believe:

You can be whoever you want to be. You can do whatever you want to do and go wherever you want to go.

It doesn’t actually work in practice, does it? Life isn’t designed like that. Try telling it to a caged tiger pacing back and forth in a 12ft square cage until sadness and desperation turns him into a vegetable, and the only instinct he has left is to attack whatever comes within striking distance.

As for we higher minded creatures, the concept of freedom – whether defining it or living it – is actually both complex and subjective, and you could probably argue that nobody but the suicide is ever entirely free.

*  *  *

Meanwhile, what should I make of the two huge marquees that have appeared in somebody’s garden locally? Why do people spend large sums of money having huge marquees erected in their gardens? I have my suspicions, and I’m growing tired of enforced endings.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Finding My Predecessor.

My ex-wife had some unusual tastes, including a fascination with Chinese and Japanese culture, and especially their literature. Two of her favourite works were The Tale of Genji and The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, and I had occasion to mention the fact in a YouTube comment tonight.

So then I read the Wiki articles and found this description of The Pillow Book:

The Pillow Book (枕草子? Makura no Sōshi) is a book of observations and musings recorded by Sei Shōnagon during her time as court lady to Empress Consort Teishi (定子) during the 990s and early 1000s in Heian Japan. The book was completed in the year 1002.

The work of Shōnagon consists of a collection of essays, lists, anecdotes, poems, and descriptive passages that have little connection to one another except for the fact that they are ideas and whims of what Shōnagon was thinking of in any given moment in her daily life.’

It sounds almost eerily redolent of my blog, and so I wondered whether I might become famous in a thousand years time, and whether I should re-title my little effort: The Pillow Book of JJ Beazley. I concluded that it doesn’t have quite the same ring, so I don’t think I’ll bother.

The Genius and Me.

I just watched a YouTube video on the ten personal qualities which indicate genius. I only scored 8½ out of 10. Sorry to disappoint.

I was struck by the fact that throughout the video there was a constant presumption that geniuses – or at least highly intelligent people – are the most successful members of society. I haven’t found that to be true. Some of the most intelligent people I have known have been the least successful, largely because they can’t be bothered trying to fit in with the stupid way in which humans go about conducting their affairs. It’s the Donald Trumps of this world who enjoy worldly success. It’s a self-evident fact that western society, at least, tends to reward the psychopath, not the genius.

And that made me feel better since I’ve never been successful at anything. One of the personal qualities not included in the ten was a tendency to be restless, a tendency to feel the need to move on and explore something else once you’ve reached a level which you consider acceptable, or at least proved you can do it. Maybe they didn’t include it because restlessness is considered a failing.

Right then, so that’s my excuse for being a committed failure. And it really doesn’t matter anyway since I never claimed to be any sort of genius. I’m just looking for an excuse to make a blog post because it’s been a boring sort of day.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

An Eternal Fixation.

Today I saw the woman I’ve mentioned a few times before on this blog, the one I’ve referred to as ‘the most beautiful woman I ever met.’

I’ve seen her a few times across the years and managed to meet each encounter with composed resignation. Today I felt unusually sad. I was reminded of the fact that she it was who ignited my fondness for a popular Irish ballad. It’s one I've posted it before, but I’ll post it again in case anybody’s interested (and I won’t be offended if nobody is.) The poetry is a compound of the sublime, the unsophisticated, and the slightly silly, but the narrative bears some small resemblance to my own experience:

It also occurred to me that writers can be a little prone to fixations with that one bright light which sucks them in, caresses them with a firm but demure eye, and then holds them with their walk, their personality, their demeanour, and their lightness of being – all the things which make a woman beautiful whether she is pretty or not. And if she adds that quality into the mix, well…

Kavanagh had his Hilda, Yeats his Maud, Dickens his Ellen, and TS Eliot even married his fixation when he was sixty eight and she was only thirty. (It takes a woman’s particular brand of courage to do that, I think.)

And then my own minor ditty flowed quickly and remorselessly into my head. It’s embarrassingly syrupy, but I do admit to there being an embarrassingly syrupy side to my nature, a side which occasionally – though not often, thankfully – finds egress when I’m not frowning and staring steely eyed at people I dislike.

Do kiss me once before I die
Before the redd’ning of the sky
Before the final lullaby
Before the dark'ning of my eye

Before the race of life is run
Before the setting of the sun
Before the battle’s lost and won
Before my deeds come all undone

But no, belay that trifling plea
Forgive the shameful symmetry
For ladies fair must ever be
In concord with their honesty

Trump Gives a Speech (to Arabs...)

According to the BBC News website, Trump is going to deliver a speech in Riyadh this afternoon on the subject of ‘good versus evil.’

Ha ha
Ha ha ha
Ha ha ha ha

It then goes on to say that he will ‘call on regional leaders to condemn violence done in the name of religion.’ It omits to mention whether he will also condemn the far greater levels of violence traditionally done in the name of protecting western, and particularly American, pecuniary interests.

And I’m curious to know whether Trump’s ‘good versus evil’ speech will represent the mindset of a rich, secular American businessman, or a rich, ostensibly religious oil Sheik, or a poor, fanatically religious Arab peasant. Just who exactly will he – or at least his speech writers and policy advisers – be trying to impress?

I suppose the hope has to be that he will have written the speech himself, in which case it will probably be a string of semi-literate gobbledegook which nobody will understand anyway, so no harm will be done.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

In Praise of Daily Mail Tories.

With only twelve days to go to the British General Election there are divisions in Tory ranks over a manifesto pledge to reduce a particular welfare benefit paid to pensioners. John Stanley of the Bow Group (a Tory think tank) said: “The impact on the core vote will be awful - what I call the ‘Tory Shire’.” He then goes on to define the ‘Tory Shire’ as:

Those Tories who work hard, play the game, live life by the rules.

This is most enlightening because it illustrates the truth about that section of society which the Tories aim to represent. They’re the followers, the conformers, the obedient ones, the ones who go through life in a smug state of certainty that Big Brother knows best, the people who accept the instruction: “Keep your eyes, ears and mouths shut. Accept what traditional culture dictates is the right way to think and act. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t question us. Rebellion is evil by definition.”

I don’t necessarily condemn such people; we all have the right to be what we think is the proper way to be. But isn’t it mind-numbingly one dimensional? Doesn’t it fail to take account of the differences in personality types and social attitudes? Aren’t we now supposed to be living in a better modern world courtesy of the suffragettes, the Chartists, the early trade union leaders, and those who fought for the abolition of slavery? Did they conform and keep their eyes and mouths shut? Did they “play the game and live life by the rules”? And so doesn’t it reveal as nonsense Mrs May’s disingenuous pledge to represent the whole of society with the aim of making it better?

Maybe best of all, though, is what Mr Stanley said next:

They're going to wake up Monday around the family copy of the Daily Mail asking themselves what on earth has just happened.

The Daily Mail? Need I say more?

Trump's Travels.

It’s going to be interesting to see how Trump fares on his first trip abroad. The first bit’s easy, of course. As long as he keeps away from the issue of human rights, which I gather he intends to do, it’s just a matter of being polite while the mega-buck deals are being signed. Money is one area in which Trump has some expertise. Table manners, on the other hand, are a different matter entirely. If he starts licking the remnants of the gravy from his plate, or picking his nose while poring over the sheep’s eyes, the odd eyebrow might be raised in Riyadh.

And then it’s off to Israel where they will no doubt applaud every one of his words and actions enthusiastically (especially since he’s promised to make no mention of human rights.) But what of Palestine? I expect he’ll be ring-fenced by an unholy alliance of Mossad, the CIA, and the Israeli military, but will he be able to escape noticing the fact that seriously oppressed people don’t like him very much? We’ll see.

As for the Pope, well… One thing you can be sure of is that the Pope won’t be cowed by Trump’s coarse, materialistic megalomania, or even his hairstyle. And I think it just possible that he might raise the issue of human rights whether the Pres likes it or not. What I’m really curious to see is whether Donald tries to hold the pontiff’s hand, or will he just kiss his ring like everybody else? Will he even bring it home with him?

Brussels? I doubt that Donald even knows where Brussels is, but I expect the pilot will so the good burghers of Belgium will have to put up with him whether they want him there or not.

Then it’s home sweet home. Back to the country he was never actually elected to lead. Back to the mud slinging, the back stabbing and the contradictory values (I must make another post some time on why it seems to me that making America great doesn’t quite square with putting America first.) The squeals of delight and cries of ‘Daddy’s home’ will soon fill the air again, and all will be for the best in the best of all possible worlds.

Oh to be in America now that Trump is here.