Thursday, 13 September 2012

On Calstock

Objects reflected in that mirror of a river may appear closer than they really are. That dark valley intensifies charismatic light and those who live here - whether full time or not - have no choice but to be transfixed by every new shiny beacon that floats by. The promise of salvation taunts your fingertips when you're living by the tides and in the tribe. And that promise is like a spark is to oxygen when you are feeling dead inside, but like ash to a tongue when you are feeling shiny. The grey of London is a relief after the extremes of the valley. It's allowing me space to be creative again.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Falling in Love Weekly

I seem to be falling in love weekly lately. Indeed, I'm getting rather good at it. Last night, I met a softly spoken, adorably polite yet super-sharp Kenyan CFO in a nice linen suit on the train at Exeter. We bumped into each other at the luggage rack and then serendipitously, our seat reservations had us sharing a table. His Sony Vaio brushed flirtatiously against my Mac. I avoided eye contact and pretended to read Vanity Fair. Then he wished me "bon appetit" as I inhaled my Morrison's Best ploughmans sandwhich, to which I saucily replied “merci” with a grin and let him imagine that I can string a sentence together in French. Which I can’t.

Was I visiting family he wanted to know? Yes, actually (boymen are so dreamy when they’re right about things) and was he visiting Britain on business? Of course he was. Clever me. Clearly we’re both psychic and therefore obviously soulmates, so I let him use my internet tethering and shared my grapes. He gave me a carton of apple juice, a dairy milk and some walkers and we fell in love a little bit. He ate his BLT and got mayo all over his face, which I found just fascinating because of the contrast against his very dark skin. He subtly mentioned his big beachfront house in Kenya and I told my voodoo child story about my musician parents meeting in New Orleans.

He explained how he’s going to change the world through sound financial practise and I explained why working in weddings is just like being a psychologist. We reassured each other that these points were completely unpretentious universal truths, and the fact that the rest of the world just hadn’t cottoned on to them yet only strengthened our bond.

He taught me how to pronounce his surname and watched me fiddle with my hair, and I pretended not to notice him stealing a sort-of-sneaky glance at my chest. He expressed disapproval towards black men who objectify light skinned/mixed race women and I expressed a desire to make a difference in the world. We laughed, we debated, we spoke of giraffes and canoeing, time differences and cowboys, tribal behaviours, the state of the Euro, the healing power of song, Germany, and cultural identity. We agreed that Steve Irwin was a very silly man, that hats are brilliant and that France has the best Jazz and then just before Reading he asked to take me back to Kenya to be his wife. Tempted, so I told him to find me on facebook. Marriage proposal response 2012 style. Last time I received a proposal from a stranger I gave the guy my email address. Odd how fast email has become passé. True Story.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Expectations, laziness and forgiveness

If you inspire me or teach me in any small way, I will forgive you a multitude of sins. Friends say this makes me a doormat. In fact, a lot of the time, you don’t even need to have inspired me. I feel that it means my priorities are to spend energy learning rather than attempting to reform others by shouting at them when they are crap.

If you are a dear friend, I'm likely to give you some tough love when you are crap. But if you are exiting my life, I always instinctively go uncharacteristically quiet and opt for forgiveness and acceptance. Quiet forgiveness allows me to conserve my own energy to go on improving myself. Is this selfish? Does this mean I am exhibiting a lack of responsibility? By not feeling the need to spew negativity every time someone disappoints me, am I affirming and enabling that person's poor behaviour and therefore being a lazy member of society?

And isn't disappointment just an inevitable product of expectations? I always try not to place expectations upon people. I expect people to keep to their word, and that’s about it. It’s kind of Buddhist, actually. A quick google of “Buddhism Expectations” returned this, and many other hits:

“Another slant on this is lower your expectations. Quit expecting so much out of everyone, even yourself. Show and feel compassion for yourself and others. Live in the current moment and enjoy it! Realize the truth that you and everyone else is imperfect.

“Now, lower your expectations in a realistic way, don't settle for less because it is easier, or you have low self-esteem, or that you are lazy. Correct these conditions, and you can, then move forward.”

Still – how do you “lower your expectations in a realistic way” and know you’re not being lazy or insecure?

Time to start meditating?

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Empath

Comparing the intelligence of men and women is like comparing the usefulness of cars and tractors - they are similar, but designed for different uses. Cars will completely fail to perform tasks that tractors do all day long, and no matter how hard they are pushed, and how much fuel they consume, tractors will never be useful for the same things as cars. 
Of course, that all depends on where one draws the line between useful and pointless. This is down to which individual is drawing the line, and the individual set of circumstances surrounding the task to be performed.
'Intelligence' is also a subjective term, and I think that this is something that people forget. A study is a good study until it is disproved. The IQ test is generally accepted as a good barometer, but is also successfully challenged on a regular basis.
Let's not debate the subjectivity of the word 'success' right now eh? ;)
What is intelligence? The Oxford American dictionary definition reads thus:
Intelligence |inˈtelijəns|
the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills : an eminent man of great intelligence | they underestimated her intelligence.
• a person or being with this ability : extraterrestrial intelligences.
the collection of information of military or political value : the chief of military intelligence | [as adj. ] the intelligence department.
• people employed in this, regarded collectively : French intelligence has been able to secure numerous local informers.
• information collected in this way : the gathering of intelligence.
• archaic information in general; news.
Groan...perhaps intelligence is not a good place to start when comparing the sexes. It seems that the word itself connotes masculinity, at least to some. We need a new word, somewhere between intelligence and empathy, methinks.
If intelligence is about thinking and empathy is about feeling, which is more important for survival? Let's just assume for the sake of argument that it is generally accepted that men are better at thinking and women are better at feeling. Somewhere along the way in history, perhaps a culture has evolved where thinking is deemed more important and useful for survival, and therefore we have structured our society to put the thinkers in charge.
However, Baumeister* makes an excellent point that cultures tend to shield their women from risky situations. When asking the question of which gender is more important to society, Baumeister’s point makes one question whether a conclusion should be drawn based upon which gender is in charge. The question of who is in charge is interesting, but the question of who is deemed important enough to be given the best chance of survival is fascinating. Modern examples that spring to mind are China and their attitude towards baby girls or America and their (some would say) cavalier approach to sending their young men into battle and their utter failure to provide adequate healthcare for their elderly.  
If woman is an empath and man an intellectual, then surely the instinct of many cultures to protect their empaths from the line of fire suggests an understanding that empaths keep families together long enough to successfully procreate. It suggests a perceived value for their intuitive ability to respond to the needs of child and mate, and their instinctive actions to avoid or solve familial discord.
Empaths also make great healers (because to regain health – the aim of modern medicine - is not always to heal), teachers, and stress-relievers (whether through entertainment, nurturing, joviality etc.). Before the intellectuals begin their tasks, during their periods of rest, and after they are done, they need those things. They will be more successful if they have an empath around to hold up a mirror and talk through feelings and prejudices. Emotional implications are challenging to the intellectual, due to their need for order and lack of understanding of emotional processes.
This is not to imply that the male intellectual is incapable of empathy. Just as women hone their intellectual talents, men will often train their intuition. It has been asserted that highly developed empathic skills save many lives during combat. There are many accounts of male soldiers in the jungle in Vietnam just 'knowing' what was about to happen, where an enemy had placed a trap, when to move and when to freeze. These accounts place a large emphasis on an 'extrasensory perception' or 'sixth sense'. It could be argued that this is just the same mechanism in a woman that allows her to know when her children are in trouble 50 miles away. Empathy, intuition, whatever you want to call it, I argue that not only is it real, it is important, and that culturally, we know this and therefore keep our empaths safe. 
It's worth noting that in many native/tribal cultures, the empath is not necessary female. Native American shamans were more often male. But their function was the same. To use a sense other than one of the main five to assist the tribe with hunting, teaching, fertility, medicine, celebration, entertainment and general wellbeing.
However, the dictionary defines an empath as:
empath |ˈempaθ|
(chiefly in science fiction) a person with the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual.
Paranormal apparently means "beyond the scope of scientific understanding." And this is why, I think, our women as empaths and intuitive beings have historically been undervalued or repressed. Western culture subscribes heavily to science as the dominant belief system, and the primary tool for deciding what is valid and indeed what is 'real' and what is not. It is not surprising that the logical, intellectual male is a big fan of science. After all, science is reasonable. There is a proven reason for all that is deemed real. This doesn’t leave a lot of room for empaths nor spirituality nor anything that cannot be explained through reason.
Most members of native/tribal societies generally agree that there is a lot about the world that they cannot explain, and this is ok, comforting even, because they have a spiritual connection to their environment and do their best to trust their environment to provide for them. They live flexibly in relation to shifting circumstances and give a lot of power and weight to empathy, intuition and spirituality. The western scientific system of generally agreeing to our reality in intellectual terms is inflexible. Everything must be explained, in controlled circumstances, and anything which cannot be is dismissed as not ‘real’ or as ‘hocus pocus’ etc. This system allows intellectuals to thrive, but it disempowers the empath.
While science reigns, the empath can only contribute to the outcomes of the push-pull/proven-disproved nature of scientific society. Unless she wants to develop her intellectual skills, the best the empath can hope for is to fulfil her role as healer, teacher, nurturer, entertainer and stress-reliever as best she can and hope the intellectuals don’t fuck it all up.

*Baumeister, R. (2007) "Is there anything good about men?"

Thursday, 19 January 2012


 Kinship = new favourite word. Tis synonymous with 'affinity' which is itself a synonym for 'force' and for 'chemical attraction' (according to my trusty thesaurus). Also, I had oodles of thesaurus fun looking up 'force'. Try it :)
"The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed." - Carl Jung. Think he was nearly there with that one.

Chemicals are how people become tribekin - prolonged exposure breeds affinity. Strong and persistant chemical reaction = omnipresent chemicals in blood = those not previously related by blood have a different chemical make up due to a person being present in their lives. If this isn't kin, I'm not sure what is. Gives a whole new meaning to friends being the family you choose imho.