Can festivals change the world?

BM Embrace

I knew there was a problem when the head of site services stormed into the Production office demanding payment for 30 toilet doors. Before that I was too stressed to wonder what the small bonfires in the distance were made of. It was cold. So, in a gesture of creative anarchy, the heavy metal fans had ripped off the toilet doors and set fire to them.

But there was a more pressing drama about to unfold. The wop wop sound of helicopter blades announced the arrival of a man with an empty suitcase…  and there wasn’t enough cash to fill it. Ticket sales had been lower than expected. Looking across at the field of huddled bodies, litter and campfires, I half expected to hear Flight of the Valkyries as the chopper came into land. But this wasn’t Vietnam, it was Derbyshire and the only sound was the  closing refrain of Long Live Rock and Roll, just before Ritchie Blackmore smashed a Fender Stratocaster onto a Marshall amp.

Festivals were different in the old days. It was difficult to convince people to buy tickets in advance. People waited to find out which bands were playing and what the weather was likely to do. This led to a white knuckle ride for the promoter, who would spend the months leading up to the festival engaged in a variety of methods for stress reduction – meditation, long walks, LOL. Of course I mean heroic quantities of cocaine, tequila worms and indiscriminate shouting.

The rock and roll industry was full of tales of shysters, charlatans and shenanigans.

There was very little trust.

By contrast, the corporate world, the world of the ‘suits’ was measured, structured and calm. There were procedures, purchase orders, and status reports. There were meetings with lovely sandwiches where people were polite, agreed to suggestions and didn’t swear. It was an oasis of calm…

Except it wasn’t really.

Now that the internet is here, transparency has become a real thing (as opposed to a buzz word people are fond of adding to mission statements). We now know that those clean cut bankers were taking mad risks with other peoples’ money; that the caring clergy were preying on the vulnerable members of their flock; that CEOs and politicians were lying and cheating their way to the top.

In short, scratch the surface of this seemingly nice, ordered world and it is full of gamblers, rapists, punks and whores.

Meanwhile, what’s going on with the festivals? If they are indeed the harbingers of change, this is an interesting question.

There is trust galore!

Festivals sell out now before a bill has even been thought of. People don’t go to be passively entertained. They go because they actively want to be part of an experience. Part of something real in an increasingly surreal world. They don’t expect things to be presented to them, they bring the spirit of the festival with them. And of course no expectations means no disappointments, and therefore no corresponding anti social behaviour.

This new spirit is exemplified at Burning Man which kicks off next week in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. It’s not so much a festival, it’s more a gathering of people who want to create a different way of life, dedicated to art, self-expression and self-reliance. Tired of the fear filled ‘rule’ dominated societies we now live in, they want to demonstrate what a highly principled, totally connected community could look like.

It’s mind blowingly creative.

Rather than a financial exchange, whereby the audience part with large amounts of cash to buy the products or services on offer, there is a bartering system. Trade a hat for a bicycle pump, a massage for a feathered headdress, food for shelter. You can guarantee the food won’t be modified by Monsanto and the shelter will resemble something you built out of Lego or egg cartons when you were 8 years old… possibly the last time many of us were truly creative.

At the end of a week of partying, playing, climbing, cooking, dancing, talking, laughing and sharing, everything is dismantled and either taken home or burnt. Days after the event there isn’t a single piece of litter, in fact there’s no trace of anybody having been there at all – let alone 70,000 people hell bent on having a good time.

So, can festivals change the world?

Yeah, I think they can. The world changes when the culture changes. Culture is about art, music and the way people behave relative to their circumstances. Festivals are about art, music and community. They allow people a ‘lived experience’ of being part of a whole. And ‘lived experiences’ will always trump beliefs.

The corporate world would have us believe that anarchy is chaotic and frightening; that we need rules, protocols, health and safety regulations. That we need to be governed to within an inch of our lives for our own safety. They peddle fear. Because without fear they would have no power.

Of course socialist action groups try to gain public support and entice people to be more community spirited – caring, recycling. But they have limited success because they spring from the old regime. We were fooled by Tony Blair. But, in the words of the Who…We won’t be fooled again.

So, how to change a culture… when the centre of this one is not holding?

I was at a set of traffic lights the other day when a man pulled up in an extremely flashy sports car. Visibly annoyed at this brief interruption to his journey, he glared ahead while revving the very throaty engine. Twenty years ago this picture of alpha male supremacy  would have been designed to make women go weak at the knees. There were a couple of twenty something women in front of me, waiting to cross. They looked at him and burst out laughing. “Knob” one of them said as she skipped across the road.

This is how culture changes. Not by committee… but by humour. By our collective decision to break the old paradigm about what is cool.

I used to look back and cringe at my attempts at being cool. Adopting mannerisms I’d seen work for other people, repeating phrases I didn’t fully understand in an attempt to sound intelligent. How many original choices did I really make?  Steve Tyler’s cowboy boots, Stevie Nick’s  haircut, Patti Smith’s angst.

Now I look back and laugh. Because all we’re ever really doing is trying to belong. Trying to get someone to love us.

And this being the case, it’s time to throw away a few things we know will not help our endeavours. Things like… Cynicism. Being special. Pouting. The world would look a lot better if these were replaced with… Trust. Shared experience. Laughter.

If fear is what keeps us trapped in our own individual boxes, then these three things will not only free us from those boxes but they’ll create vast amounts of courage, vast amounts of creativity, and vast amounts of love.

There’s a scene in Dead Poet’s Society in which each schoolboy becomes brave enough to stand up and be counted for what he believes in. Throughout his life Robin Williams stood for humour, art, and that creative spark that links our human self with our divine one. But the old world weighed too heavy on his psyche. The old world is well and truly broken. But we need critical mass if we’re going to change it for a new one.

Perhaps it’s time for us all to make a stand. Not by attacking what’s there. But by making it irrelevant. Refusing to buy the stuff it sells… the fear it promotes. By imagining new ways of being.

Because as Robin said “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas CAN change the world.”

 

 

 

 

 

My indecision is final

Heligoland 2Just finish the damn book already.

There are too many books. The world doesn’t need another one. Nobody reads anyway.

I need coffee.

Another? I thought you were trying to be healthy. What about a green juice?

But I’m writing. I haven’t got time to make juice.

Who are you kidding? You haven’t written a thing for the past two hours.

Well maybe it’s low blood sugar. I should make some eggs.

I thought you said you had no time.

Just biscuits then.

For breakfast? You know if you start now you’ll be on the chocolate bars by lunch time… this will all end in tears.

Oh God, Oh God, Oh God.

God can’t hear you. And if he could, he’d say… Just finish the damn book already.

This is what it sounds like in my head today…

Massive Attack.

Our ancestors may have battled with sabre tooth tigers, but the epic struggle for many of us these days seems to be with ourselves.

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said that the sign of a first rate intelligence was the ability to hold two opposing ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.

Sir Ken Robinson on the other hand joked that the world was divided into two types of people – those that divide things into two and those who don’t

In truth, unless we are enlightened beings, we are all in the first category. Everything in our world is separated into Energy or Matter.

Our task as human beings is to turn one into the other; to successfully turn an idea into a thing – whether that thing is a book, a beanstalk or a boyfriend.

We are alchemists… in training.

But we’ve got it the wrong way round.

Instead of Energy to Matter (idea into thing) we try to turn Matter into Energy (we try to turn things into feelings).

For example Happiness is Energy while Toast is Matter.

My head tells me that toast makes me very happy. But happiness is fleeting and pretty soon I need more toast – with extra jam. So I keep going, until I reach an event horizon, where toast starts to make me very, very unhappy.

I don’t need F. Scott Fitzgerald to tell me that this is not the sign of a first rate intelligence.

You can of course forget about toast and substitute things like cars and designer shoes but the principle is the same. The joy we get from things is an illusion. Like a little thrill bump on the road well travelled.

Energy is ephemeral, refuses to be tied down and comes with no after sales support.  It’s a little reminder of our natural state – the one we lose, when we become slaves of the mind.

So now that quantum physics has verified that our thoughts become things, the only question worth asking is…

How well are we managing our creative powers?

Of course we know the theory…

To get a healthy body…

START exercising, and eating real food.

STOP sitting on the couch mainlining Haribo.

To make more money…

START feeling abundant. If we focus on what would add value to others, there’s a good chance they’ll want to pay for that.

STOP believing in scarcity and pointing out how impossible everything is.

To find a soul mate…

START giving love to the world. When we do this, an invisible cosmic light appears above our head. And, like a taxi on a dark, rainy night, our arrival anywhere is greeted with shrieks of delight.

STOP needing love from the world. This strategy leads to lonely walks home in the rain. With no umbrella, dancing shoes or Gene Kelly soundtrack.

So if we know this, what’s the problem?

Both STARTING and STOPPING require ENERGY. And of course WE PREFER MATTER.

Consequently, our creation process has to involve ‘things’ so it goes something like this…

To get a healthy body…

Fill out some paperwork and join a gym (no need to worry about actually going to the gym because work will miraculously develop some urgent project we have to be solely responsible for).

To make more money…

Buy a book on wealth creation. In fact buy many books – after all there are only MILLIONS to choose from. (Notice in a subsequent trip to the Charity Shop that none of the spines are even cracked a little bit).

To find a soul mate…

Join an internet dating site. Sift through pages of inane conversation, appalling grammar and lewd suggestions until you are firmly convinced that evolution is in fact going backwards and there is no point pursuing the matter further.

Energy or matter?

If we want to become better manifestors, we need to understand the rules of alchemy… the Mind has to join forces with the Heart.

Mind is all about Matter. Matter likes to accumulate more matter – it’s magnetic.

Heart is about Energy. It creates desire – a limitless energy that makes things happen.

At the moment we have a separation of forces. Because we create with our head, we’re all about accumulating.

The conversation goes something like this…

I just love thinkin’ ‘bout my baby… Maybe I’ll do it some more… Damn. Now I’m in full blown obsession…. THAT’S attractive.

I want to be wealthy…money makes me feel wealthy…I’ll get some more… Damn. Now I’m mesmerized by the numbers in my bank account.

I came back from that retreat feeling amazing… I’ll go again, and again. Damn, now I’ve become a seminar junkie… and (double whammy) my bank account has gone down to single figures.

But there is hope! Scientists have now found that the Heart has its own intelligence. Intelligence that’s far superior to that of the brain – electromagnetically, it is 500 times stronger. There are 40,000 neurons in the heart.

And while the brain is in two hemispheres representing duality, the heart represents unity. It’s the portal to universal consciousness, intuition and deeper knowing.

We need to manifest with the heart as well as the mind. This unity of forces will create a chain reaction of such magnitude that it could transform what it is to be a human being – in our lifetime.

While the mind loves to plan things, the heart loves to experience things. The mind loves strategy. The heart loves joy. The mind loves independence. The heart loves connection.

And that connection links us to the matrix of universal consciousness, intuition and deeper knowing – which makes decisions much, much easier. 

If we tap into that energy, the conversation in our head changes to something more like…

What would you love to write?

A play

Then ditch the book

But I’ve spent ages on it.

Time is an illusion

If I let it go, will something better come along?

Honey, you have no idea!

Hurrah! An end to indecision for ever…

Lancing the self-help bubble

Lance

It started out so well… like most ideas whose time had come.

No-one knows exactly HOW it started, but suddenly people began waking up to the fact that the future wasn’t fixed. It could be changed. WE could change.

Strange now, to imagine that things could ever have been otherwise, but before the 1960s most peoples’ expectations were fairly limited. If your Dad was a baker, you knew you’d end up making bread rolls for a living, unless you were slightly delusional and had secret fantasies of pushing a bicycle down a cobbled street in the Hovis commercial.

But raising our expectations of life was a bit of a double-edged sword.

From a spiritual perspective, believing in possibility is a good thing – it’s expansive and creative. But from a personality perspective (where the vast majority of us are living) expectations can create a lot of disappointed people.

Once the big bang of the self-help idea exploded into our consciousness, a few self-help stars were formed.

Like Tony Robbins.

His Philosophy: NLP. Our mind can be programmed. Unleash the power within and you can be or have whatever you want.

Watching Tony turn a miserable person into a super positive person in seconds had the same effect as watching Jesus turn water into wine. In other words the response was NOT…

“Hmmm that’s interesting, I wonder what I can change about ME”.

The response was “Wow Tony!! I want to be HIM.”

This signaled the beginning of a revolution in which thousands of people queued up to buy his books and took out second mortgages to pay for seminars in exotic locations.

They wanted to improve the quality of their life by selling quality of life to others. They didn’t want to be themselves, they wanted to be someone else, someone who looked and sounded suspiciously like Tony Robbins.

Meanwhile, over on the other, more spiritual side of the equation, Louise Hay, self appointed Queen of Aphorisms, started a publishing empire. Because people needed more information! Her business model was one of “Build it and they will come”. And they did… in droves.

Psychics, Mystics, Healers. People who held regular conversations with Angels, Deities and Inter galactic beings. They each had a book in them, and for a reasonable fee Louise was happy to publish them all.

After that, the inevitable happened. The mind people got together with the spiritual people and created a love child, and having been born in the computer age, this one was internet savvy. He wouldn’t deliver a sermon from the mount. She wouldn’t write a library of books. They would spread the word DIGITALLY.

Cut to the present day and the internets are awash with Webinars, Summits and You tube clips delivering more and more information on how you can heal your pain, change your psyche and be somebody different.

These new wave purveyors of information have some identifying characteristics.

1. They have a glazed look on their faces – a bit like the Barbie doll at the end of Toy Story 2 – which could be the result of too much smiling.

2. They say ‘Wow’ a lot of the time when they interview each other – which says so little but wants to imply so much. Like the fact that everything that’s being said is just so awesome and profound and gosh darn it we still have another 45 minutes to fill.

3. They have an “offer”. Not a normal offer, like 10% off if you sign up now. But a weird offer put together for special needs people which is like 97% off. There is an arbitrary list price of 2000 dollars and an actual price of 60 dollars.

This is all fine and dandy and doesn’t harm anybody and I’m sure some people get value from it, so I’m joshing. But really, here comes that double-edged sword.

1. Happiness comes from expression – whatever is inside us gets expressed out through love and creativity. And it’s only the expression of who we are that counts – not who we wish we could be!

2. If we’re too busy putting stuff IN, (more information, more learning, more understanding) then there’s no opportunity for expression OUT. We just create a logjam.

In the old world people said “I’ll be happy when… I’ve lost a load of weight, made a ton of money, won the competition.”

In the new world people say “I’ll be happy when… I’ve healed my low self esteem, my relationship with my mother, my bad karma from past lives.”

Same story. Different day.

Rev Cynthia James says that everything in life is either information or energy. I love this! I used to say everything was matter or energy because that’s how the scientists describe it but calling it information is more relevant.

In other words we’re either working with information or we’re actually living.

Working with information takes the form of:

Talking, reading about or ‘processing’ the current situation. Analysing what happened in the past. Strategising for what might happen in the future.

This has its place in life but we’ve become completely submersed and consumed by information. There’s just no wiggle room. No scope for freedom or action. No room for the ENERGY of life.

And let’s not forget that the energy has far, far more intelligence than we have – even on a good day, even if we HAD read all those books at the side of the bed.

The most common killer of dreams is NOT lack of information, know how or ideas…

It’s the inability to feel.

The inability to deal with the energy.

Because feelings are energy.

As a philosophy for life Jesus pretty much nailed it (which is, I suppose, why they had to nail him).

1. Love God.

2. Love your neighbor.

3. Love yourself.

Simple. In other words…

1. Love (and be one with) the energy of creation. Open your heart and FEEL things.

2. Don’t be a dickhead – appreciate and be kind to other people and forgive them when they fuck up.

3. Stop beating yourself up by thinking you’re not good enough.

Strange that every book about his way of life is a thousand pages long!  (In the beginning was the word, but in the end there were probably far too many of them.)

So, if you want a more expansive, happy, creative life…

Live!!

Wake up your inner Sleeping Beauty.

Don’t allow the computer screen to become your glass coffin.

Resist the urge to open just one more attachment. One more life changing seminar. One more Guru interview.

You’re ok.

Really, you’re more than ok.

You’re perfect.

 

The Same Old Story

Image

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity”

Charles Dickens certainly knew how to describe the general mood prior to the French Revolution. Many people feel this sentiment applies today… though no-one expects a revolution any time soon.

Because revolutions are messy.

We’ve seen Les Miserables and we know it doesn’t end well. Blood. Confusion. Own goals. Sad songs.

Then there’s the ugliness.  Not only does Anne Hathaway die, but she loses her teeth, her hair and any vestiges of self esteem before doing so.  And while Anne managed to remain pretty during this process, we suspect reality is less kind.

So we stick with what we’ve got. A pseudo aristocracy of rotten bankers, dull politicians, uninspiring business leaders, who (unlike their 18th century French counterparts) are not even attractive to look at.

No-one’s happy about the way things have turned out. So where do we go from here?

Robert McKee, the Story Guru, teaches blueprints for storytelling.  Here’s the scoop – if you want to write a successful story (i.e. one that sells novels or gets turned into a blockbuster movie) you have to write a CLASSIC story.

Apparently it’s in our DNA. We’ve been programmed through millenia to respond to this type of storytelling.

These are the characteristics of a classic story…

1. It’s linear – it has a beginning a middle and an end IN THAT ORDER!!

2. It has a single protagonist so we can identify with the Hero!

3. The protagonist is ACTIVE because we hate identifying with the Victim.

4. Though the protagonist struggles with EXTERNAL forces everything turns out well in the end.

5. There is a clearly identifiable close to the story.  In other words, all questions raised by the story are answered and all emotions evoked by the story are satisfied. 

Sigh…

Sadly, although we have tried to shoe horn LIFE into doing our bidding, Life is now choosing a different story… the Anti Structure Story.

It’s more like THE NEVER ENDING STORY. These are its characteristics…

1. It’s non linear – everything is in fact happening NOW.

2. There are multiple protagonists – we are all in this together.

3. The protagonists are multi dimensional – we are both hero and villain not either/or. (Or as Caroline Myss would say, let’s not kid ourselves –  there’ll be someone out there who’s in therapy because of YOU!)

4. The protagonists struggle with INTERNAL forces – our desires to control, to accumulate and to win. We know they’re not a good idea but we just can’t stop ourselves.

5. The story is open ended – we somehow have to learn to live with open ended questions and unresolved emotions.

Hmmm…

And the unresolved emotions aren’t even familiar ones like heartbreak!  Let’s face it, heartbreak has been around a long time – way before Romantic fiction, tequila and country and western music got involved with the marketing. Love can hurt, but it’s a familiar pain that we’re used to now.

I’m talking about things like NOT FINISHING… the feeling that we are incomplete and have to get somewhere.  I mean seriously, how irritating is this?  We’ve been wired to finish, so we can tick things off a ‘to do’ list.

Very posh girls even went to a place called Finishing School! This was the ultimate Access All Areas pass to the High Life. #Winning.  If you Instagram Winning it’s usually portrayed as Finishing First, which is of course the Oscar for finishing in general.

But we can’t be finished, we’re a constantly evolving process. Like a waterfall. Try to stop it and it ceases to be a waterfall. It reassembles itself every second.

We’ll never be finished or complete. We’ll never get to the horizon. That’s why we create artificial goals – to keep the illusion that life is linear and logical.

No wonder we haven’t been able to get our head around a new story for the times we live in.

Sure we TALK about the new story, because fighting, competition and winning is so Old Paradigm. Governments and Businesses talk about Collaboration, Integrity, Vision, Service… but these are just WORDS.

Words don’t make a story. Something more profound than vocabulary is at the heart of a good story. Something more real.

It’s Truth.

And as Jack Nicholson remarked in A Few Good Men… we can’t handle it.

Because Truth can rip through our illusions like a knife through butter.

That’s how it sets us free.

In the classic story the Hero is perfect and he has to fix LIFE which is looking rather like Gotham City. This involves an awful lot of drama, car chases and blowing things up.

In the new story we need to do a 180 – an inner journey. Not in a navel gazing sitting on the couch kind of way – that’s often an excuse for narcissism – just in an honest ‘Oh, there you are’ kind of way. In fact, there you all are, aspects of myself!!  The needy, the fabulous, the jealous, the kind, the boring, the brilliant, the fearful, the adventurous, the goddess, the bookworm, the despot, the mystic…

Welcome!! I could certainly use some help. I’ve been trying to do this all by myself. Just me and my carefully contrived, very well edited persona. Sorry… I blame Facebook.

Now let’s take a look at Life…actually it’s not looking so bad now that I’ve pulled back a few projections!

Life is a mystery. We spend so much time trying to control it, to make it logical, to ‘win’, that we miss the whole point of it.

Winning at anything signifies the end of the game and as Sadhguru says ‘you can fit logic into life, but you can’t fit life into logic.’

Life is made of energy. If we want it to be more interesting, we need to stretch our capacity to contain energy – all of it, even the messy stuff.

Instead of developing strategies for things like work-life balance (what a strange concept… it’s all life!) we need to create balance within ourselves.

If we have internal balance, we can live with open-ended questions. And if we live with open-ended questions we can access a different form of intelligence – one that is beyond our intellect (which has pretty much screwed things up so far, because it’s WAY too small to contain the mystery of life.

If we have internal balance, we can live with an anti-structure story (think Monty Python and the Holy Grail!)

We want life to be complex and easy because we like to figure things out and we don’t want to work that hard.

The truth is, it’s simple and difficult…

It’s all about creativity and love.

The revolution… not televised, internalised. Because, in the words of John Lennon…

“We all want to change the world.”

That would be a story even Robert McKee would approve of.

 

All the rage

 

RageRemember the days when every motivational seminar, strategy session and change management program, began with an iceberg model?

This visual was used to represent what we thought was the problem (tip of the iceberg) and of course the much bigger problem lurking beneath the surface (which we were all trying to avoid).

You could use this model for everything…

Car repair. “Well I can stop that funny banging noise but if you really want the car to run properly we need to strip the whole thing down and start again.”

Business repair.  “I can help you reach your third quarter targets but if you really want a sustainable business, we need to drill down into what’s driving this culture of negativity.

People repair. “I can give you some tools and techniques to stop you hyper ventilating in the status meeting but… etc., etc.

At this point most people say, “I know all that, but just give me the quick fix, an MOT, some CBT, a spreadsheet that works, a green smoothie, a gin and tonic… I don’t have time for this other stuff.”

And so nothing changes.

People  write books…

The books say that business has to change. Has to become more empathic. Has to listen more. Has to become aligned to a greater purpose. Has to care for its customers. Has to “lean in”.  And now Arianna Huffington is telling us we all need much more SLEEP!

All the business people nod their heads, buy the books, put them straight onto the bookshelves and then carry on with their 18 hour work days.

Except now they’re angry, on top of tired.

Of course they can’t show they’re angry because that would just reveal the bit of the iceberg they’d rather not draw attention to.  So they practice a frosty smile, while the small frigates of junior colleagues get smashed into smithereens and the sales targets plunge to the bottom of the graph.

This ‘civilized’ way we have of dealing with negative emotion was hard wired into us at a very early age. We would start to feel angry (a reasonable response given how bonkers the world is). A parent or a teacher would try to shut the anger down (usually with a threat that something REALLY BAD would happen, or a bribe that something REALLY GOOD would happen – IF WE STOP BEING ANGRY IMMEDIATELY!).

Neither method is better or worse. The outcome is the same – the anger gets short-circuited and the energy goes into a deep freeze silo, where it lurks waiting for an unsuspecting victim.

Emotion has a cycle – a beginning, a middle and an end. If we stop this cycle half way through, we may solve the short-term problem but we create huge, much bigger future ones.

This is why, years later, we end up with a business that needs fixing; a relationship that needs fixing; a psyche that needs fixing.

We pussy foot around other people but it’s only a matter of time before we bump into one of their trigger buttons, and all hell breaks loose.

Or worse! We become so good at avoiding the trigger buttons that we operate in ‘safe’ mode. There’s no drama, but there’s also no energy and everything feels a bit dead.

Switching off our anger, also switches off our passion – and that’s a very heavy price to pay for a bit of short-term peace.

Then, of course, we seek the services of an ‘expert’.

The business consultant tells us we have a ‘people problem’ and suggests team building days where everyone can pretend to play nicely together.

The marriage counsellor tells us to rekindle the romance by spending more time in candle lit rooms doing nice things like foot massages and listening.

‘Nice’ is the biggest passion killer on the planet. Passion – whether that’s passion for a person or passion for a job – requires energy.

And that energy is probably stuck underneath one of those silos we’ve been sitting on all these years.

If we’re too scared to face the anger, we’re going to have a problem finding our passion.

Time for some deep sea diving…

A more enlightened response to dealing with anger would be to see it as a storm cloud, that arrives, stays a short while and moves on.

This means observing the anger in in our body, becoming accountable, containing it, seeking to understand it, then allowing it to release.

Unfortunately, our programmed response is to start feeling the anger, then immediately rush to our default position – either shouting, judgment and blame, or withdrawing, manipulating and sulking. In other words “get this damn energy out of my body NOW.”

Very few people got a chance to understand or process their emotions when growing up. We were too busy being crammed full of facts and information. Visionary teachers were thin on the ground. None of them foresaw the invention of Google.

But we have an imagination, and if we want to stop disasters happening, we must start imagining a world where emotional intelligence is a priority.

Not a token PR or HR gesture, to tick a compliance box.

That’s about as effective as having a few lifeboats on the Titanic.

We should have the humility to realise, that as a species, we are not unsinkable!

One of my favourite poets, Samantha Reynolds, also happens to be a parent. If there is such a thing as endless reincarnation then I believe everyone should have a turn being parented by her. She has two lucky children. Here’s a poem about one of them…

The morning you went crazy

 

We sit under a blanket on the couch
and you ask me again
to tell you about
how you went crazy this morning

so I start with the part
when your dad cut into the banana
for porridge

forgetting that you wanted to do the banana part
and it was our last banana
so dad offered to tape it back together
and when that only made it worse
I tried making the sliced part
into a mouth so the banana
could plead with you himself

but you were like an avalanche
of fury at this point
desperate for futile things
like orange juice in a cup we don’t own
and for it not to be Saturday
ever

I tell you about how you writhed and flung
as though the mad
was like a big dog inside you
wanting to get out

and I tell you about how it ended
with a trick about raisins
and how when you finally ate the porridge
the calm was thick and sudden
like pouring water on a fire

but your favourite part
is when I tell you about
the middle of the storm
when you marched over to me
and said

“I want to kiss you”

and I said

“that’s sweet my goose
I would love a kiss”

and you said

“I said I want to kick you”

which pushed me
right past my own rage
into an unhinged defeat
of laughter.

 

(I know!! Isn’t she FAB.)

 

One of the most effective tools for dealing with anger is humour. But you can’t do the humour/anger thing from the side-lines. Lots of people try – they observe things to be angry about and come up with opinions. But that just translates into cynicism or sarcasm.

You have to be willing to walk into the eye of the storm… to feel the full force of the rage.

Only then can you discover the sheer joy of the passion underneath it.

And the truth underneath that.

Because in that truth is all the wisdom you’ll ever need…

To fix all those crazy icebergs.

The Madcap Laughs…

Indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

Technology versus Humanity – visions of the future

Vision 2

I went to see the movie HER the other day. I’d been a bit ambivalent about going… on the one hand there are great reviews of the original plot line, on the other hand, a story of a man who falls in love with his computer may sound more like reality TV!

Whereas most sci-fi films are set a long time in the future, this story happens in the very near future, in fact many scientists agree we are almost there now.

Ray Kurzweil (eminent Scientist currently working for Google) says an artificially intelligent operational system that not only has a voice, but also has a ‘body’ will be a reality in 15 years. Lens mounted displays could project an image of your ideal mate onto your retinas while virtual reality systems would provide the illusion of touch.

To reinforce the ‘we’re almost there’ theme of the movie, no-one is living in a space pod or wearing futuristic clothes  – in fact the protagonist’s hideously unattractive trousers and moustache are circa 1970… but then again he’s only going to be kissing his technology, so there’ll be no objections there.

The computer operating system he falls in love with, is voiced by the very breathy, constantly giggly Scarlett Johansson, who combines the seductiveness of Marilyn Monroe with the matronly efficiency of Martha Stewart. In other words, the perfect woman…

A woman who’ll answer all your emails before you’ve reached for the first coffee, edit your manuscript and send it off to the publisher by lunchtime, then tell you how clever, marvelous and funny you are over dinner and how her day would be complete if only you could have wild sex on the bedside table – which is where she sits, watching you in adoration while you sleep.  (Aw bless, or Ew that’s a bit creepy).

It’s a little bit Stepford Wives – in other words wouldn’t women be great if their brain was removed and swapped for one that could generate no emotions, and have no needs.

But HER has a downside. Spoiler alert. She evolves and leaves him.  But, like all of us, she has to go through the quagmire of emotions to get there!

She begins super compliant, super cool and super sexy. Then she gets needy and jealous (at which time he switches her off – haha!).

Then she reaches a higher state of consciousness that is beyond his reach, leaving him sad and lonely.

So, good news for everyone out there who is trying to have a relationship with a human being! It may get rocky at times but it’s a noble path. Handled wisely, the dynamic tension creates the energy required to get to the higher level.

Because we’re on the cusp of this evolutionary leap, we are struggling with our dual nature – we are half superhuman and half primate. We look human on the outside, but inside we’re a bit like the centaurs of ancient Greece.

Our super human side talks in idealized terms about love, compassion, integrity, world peace and humanity. Our primate side wants to accumulate stuff, defend our stuff and have the kind of sex dictated by our biology.

For women (who have throughout history required protection) this means an alpha male who’s  rich and powerful… 50 Shades of Grey.

For men (who throughout history have been required to propagate the planet) this means a succession of Jessica Rabbits with pneumatic breasts and young chromosomes… Wolf of Wall Street.

There are a number of parables that describe the tension of our inner dilemma.

In one of them, a young man says to the sage that he feels as if there were two wolves living inside him. He wondered which one would win.  (And we all hope for the sake of the 99% that it isn’t the one who roams Wall Street)

The sage of course replies that the one who ‘wins’ will be the one he keeps feeding.

But we have another choice to make – about which version of the future will become our reality.

Technology or Humanity?

On the one hand there’s Science Fiction. Robots and space ships. Super-efficiency and super-alienation.

On the other hand there’s Science Fantasy. Softer edged and mystical.. Wisdom and compassion.

Terminator or Lord of the Rings?

Which one are we feeding?

One is just a version of what we have now, but with much better technology. The other is a different world that we need to imagine… that we need to create.

Control or creativity?

Eventually, inevitably we will realise that we are all inextricably connected.

Either this will happen via technology – we narrow our consciousness to become billions of independent people being fed and nurtured by one supercomputer. Structured and ordered. A virtual reality that never pushes our buttons. The computer is God.

Or, we become ‘one’ via our humanity – we expand our consciousness so that we can contain ALL OF IT… the joy, the bliss, the heartache, the loss, the disappointment, the fear, the jealousy and the rage. If we’re brave enough to feel it all, we can partner with the kind of creativity that creates worlds.

Will we choose the control of the Mind or the creativity of the Spirit?

Because creativity is energy, and energy refuses to be controlled. (E-motion alert!) It may sometimes get messy, but it knows how to access experiences of great intensity and moments of pure magic.

Which makes for a much more better story, don’t you think?

And possibly one more interesting than dropping a Quaalude and cuddling up with a droid.

St Valentine’s Day Massacre

valentines-dayHave you seen the High Street lately? Every window has had a makeover.

The confectionary shop is an explosion of heart shaped chocolates. The book store has replaced all the celebrity autobiographies with love poetry. The supermarket has an entire aisle dedicated to edible love tokens, pink champagne and recipes for romantic dinners. And don’t get me started on the card shops who must pray for the arrival of February. As soon as the Christmas stock is in the recycling bin, they’re off and running with Cupid’s bow and arrows.

In boutiques, the winter coats have been cast aside in favour of pink cashmere jumpers and red lingerie (grown up pink!) bearing the placard ‘Ideal Valentines gift’ – just in case you’d missed the hundred visual clues you’ve encountered so far. Sadly, this abundance of advertising serves more to disappoint women rather than inspire men. The requirement for romance, so prevalent in a woman’s DNA was probably in that extra rib conveniently removed from Adam at the beginning of time. Just as the shadow side of Christmas is associated with weight gain and family rows, the shadow side of Valentine’s day is often represented by anxious men and disenchanted women.

How did we get to this crazy state of affairs?

We need to go back to the drawing board and redefine love.

Do we want the personality of love or the soul of love?

Just as creativity takes intense discipline; love requires huge amounts of determination. Neither of these are popular concepts because we’ve become such an indulgent species.

We like creativity that arrives fully formed inside our head (thank you God) and manifests easily in the outside world (God who? This is all my own work).

We like love that’s fun and playful but we quit as soon as we have to put some effort in (“the magic’s gone”.) We truly are like little children… except we aren’t entering the Kingdom of Heaven any time soon.

Love is a very small word for a great, big, huge deal, but it has become an abused, misunderstood word.  And because we struggle so much to interpret and express it, we have abdicated this responsibility to the evil twins of capitalism and consumerism). That’s what happens when we lose touch with our creativity.

When we fall in love, it’s a lucky accident – a premonition of what it’s like to live hand in hand with our creative spirit. We feel expansive. This expansion allows more life in, which in turn stimulates our creative spirit. The outcome? Love songs, poetry, art and great sex.

However this expansion also wakes up the inner dragon of our neediness.  The outcome? Jealousy, fear, self-doubt and demands. This usually leads to an outpouring of chianti not creativity.

Our current method of dealing with this love-hate relationship with love is to distance ourselves. We go from “If you don’t love me I’ll die” to “I don’t need anybody”. We become super independent. We ridicule Valentine’s Day. After all cynicism is the only intelligent stance right? It’s just one big merchandising opportunity for those stupid enough to get sucked in.

And yet there’s a sadness in this cynicism. Particularly for girls, who hate the tawdry commerciality but long for something else – something that’s hard to put into words. A higher vision of love, romance and sexuality. A feeling of connection. A sacred ritual.

It wasn’t always this way.

Three thousand years ago, initiates of the Greek, Egyptian and Indian Mystery Schools studied the interweaving of sexual and divine love. Far from pushing sex underground (the mad decision made by our religious educators) they received extensive training in raising sexual energy to a higher level where it interfaced with the divine. This energy was far removed from the hormone induced lust we associate with sex today.

The union of a man and woman at this level produced an ecstatic spiritual experience (ex statis = out of body). This was a cosmic, transcendent event, not a fumble in the dark. But the ancients also knew the power of love, which is why some of them created Religion to control it. Political and spiritual leaders destroyed or buried the teachings of the hieros-gamos (sacred sexual union). They outlawed the Mystery Schools (Universities of the Soul) and created Universities of the Intellect. They built Seminaries (for the upper classes) and Churches (for the lower ones). They separated sex from spirituality, making sex shameful (unless used for the creation of more Christians haha!). They turned Jesus into a celibate God. And worse still…

They changed the definition of love.

And now thousands of years later we have…

sentimental love, self-agenda love, manipulative love, co-dependent love.

Because without infusion by the transcendent, love is just neediness.

And neediness creates…

Country and western songs

Pornography

Religiosity

… and Valentine’s Day.

So to honour Socrates, let’s ask a question. What do we really want on Valentine’s Day? Gifts, cards and dinners create a temporary distraction from our scary inner space of loneliness. We think these tokens will provide us with the proof that we’re loved. But if we’re trying to prove something, it means we don’t really believe it. We’re just filling the inner space with extravagant gestures and meaningless rituals (every restaurant in London has already been pre-booked).

What we really want is to be known. 

The Indians originally didn’t have a word for ‘love’ instead of saying “I love you” they said “I know you”. In other words I know the deepest part of you… and I’m still here.

Deep inside we are very flawed human beings, just pretending that we’re doing ok. When someone else can love us at that level, we are finally able to accept ourselves and find peace. We can remove the mask – that’s just the personality of love – and we can open our hearts.

Ah the bliss! No scratchy underwear. No cuddly toys. No mawkish violins. Just two people, surrounded by candlelight and a killer soundtrack, fully prepared to inhabit and explore their inner space. Presence is always the best present. In fact it’s the only present worth having.

So this Valentines day, turn away from the evil force of consumerism. Refuse to buy into the snake oil salesmen. Make a stand for creativity. Write them a poem, bake them a cake, make them laugh. And if you haven’t yet flexed your creative muscles, take a cue from one of the masters in our midst – Katy Brennan’s take on the whole day will definitely be the most inspired, funny entertaining thing on any London stage this 14th February.

valentine-by-andrea-evermaWe need the soul of love, not the personality of love. It’s the only thing that will trump our psychology. (Hurrah!) It’s the only thing that will take away the neediness (Thank the Lord!). The potential contained in this love is incalculable.

It’s a love that could change the world.

Don’t settle for less.

We need to boycott the banal, turn off the Rhapsody in Red, step away from the helium hearts…

and have the courage to open our own.

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