The Smith's Journal - April 2007

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My 37th year begins with my best birthday present from Ruth: namely Rob Brezsny's wondrous book Pronoia is The Antidote for Paranoia: (How the Whole World Is Conspiring To Shower You with Blessings). This is another one of those life-changing tomes, along with The Fourth Way and The Celestine Prophecy (albeit more down-to-earth and accessible, but also just a little bit crazy), that gives you the signposts needed to shake off the shackles of daily life and Become Real. Of course, you've got to want to help yourself, and it requires some efforts on all our parts, but his amazingly diverse pool of knowledge and creative humour defies all known forms of negativity.

I could direct you to his wonderful website of Beauty And Truth, but for me that just isn't enough; you need a whole two-monthly course of daily doses of Brezsny that only 296 beautifully typeset A4 pages of witty inspirational Truth-telling can bring. His wisdom is surely the cure we all need, and in a particularly nice parallel universe, he's president of the New World.

Expect a radically pronoid view from now on - I feel something hatching inside...!

WARNING - From this point on, the Classification of this Journal will be raised one level to permit disclosure of items that are NO LONGER SECRET, and shall include Naked Truths, candid confessions and brutal frankness. We do not apologise in advance for any shock, horror, offence or entertainment caused. We would like to thank Mr. Brezsny for opening the doors to these hidden memes.

Something landed in the garden...

Meanwhile, some very weird goings on in the garden...


Bledlow Ridge

After work I found myself near High Wycombe, so went to meet Justine at The Three Horseshoes, an enchanting pub in a tiny village hidden away in a secret valley you'd never find. On entering the beer garden, I knew we were in safe (surrealist) hands when I saw an old-fashioned red telephone box almost totally submerged in the duckpond, just the top windows showing (must take my camera next time! ;-) We talked until sunset and then returned to her house to finalise details of Justine's website that I've just finished building.

Driving home over the spiritual runway that is Bledlow Ridge, I found instant nirvana hearing (and singing along with) Louis Andriessen's minimalist classic "De Volharding" ('Perseverance'). Wow, every time I visit this place (and even thinking of it now) I'm full of tears of joy. Does anyone have a leyline map of that area? Some big magic occurs there.

I arrived home just after dark to find the garden path covered in snails and slugs, and all manner of crawling things, obviously enjoying the warm concrete after this hottest day of the year so far. I tentatively tiptoed my way between them like Indiana Jones, all the while hoping this place doesn't turn into the garden from the end of the Peter Greenaway film "A Zed And Two Noughts"...

Jeffrey Sachs' Reith Lectures

Flipping radio channels later, I heard professor Jeffrey Sachs give a stunning Reith Lecture of Optimism for the 21st Century - something much needed. This was the first of five programmes, and had me inspired and again in tears, such was his passion that we actually sort stuff out here on Earth:

I spend my time with people who are dying. Twenty-two years ago I started to say that we needed debt cancellation for the poorest countries. (APPLAUSE) It came late, but it came. I can't give up, [just believing] that we are doomed. (APPLAUSE)

My attention was initially grabbed by this enlightened statement:

We are entering I believe a new politics, and potentially a hopeful politics. I'm going to call it open-source leadership. If Wikipedia and Linux can be built in an open source manner, politics can be done in that manner as well.

Way to go! During questions afterwards, he elegantly dealt with the worst efforts of some of the more depressive sceptics in the audience to bring people back down to their level. Luckily some of us are gradually waking up to this new positivity... :-) File under Pronoia, Naked Truth, Good Things, etc. [I was later thrilled to find that each of the entire lectures is available online as MP3 downloads and also as text.]


Africa photos online

It's taken me 15 months of scanning and editing, but finally, we have images of my African trip. Only someone as sad as I would spend so many man-hours manually editing dust and dirt from pictures of Africa! The place is full of dust and dirt! :-) But we do have your best interests at heart, and can't bear to host photos with obvious blemishes caused by the scanning process.

My recent email to about a hundred drumming friends worldwide announcing these pages full of huge JPEGs resulted in the following message from my website hosting company:

Your account has gone over quota for traffic for the week ending 2007-04-22 by 90MB using 490 of your 400MB supplied with your Plus account. [...]

Great, I've managed to slashdot myself! ;-)


Peak experiences

I just caught Colin Wilson being interviewed on Radio 3 talking about peak experiences, those magic moments that bring rays of light and hope to our often dreary and difficult world. He mentioned the work of psychologist Abraham Maslow, who was already next on my list to read, and who coincidentally shares my birthday, albeit 63 years earlier; he died on a friend's birthday in the year before I was born... (reincarnated...? :-) Maslow decided that instead of studying the mentally ill as did most of his profession, it would be better to study the mental health of people considered happy and well-adjusted. He found that one characteristic these people shared was that they often had peak experiences of joy and well-being, which gave them a big sense of being at one with the world. He then went further by wondering if these peaks could be induced by the will power of the person, but decided that they just happened sporadically, without any degree of control. Colin had asked Maslow about this, since he believed that these experiences could indeed be encouraged, practised and ultimately brought about at will.

Some years ago I first discovered that I was able to do this. At the time I put it down to the purest purist diet I had adopted for spiritual reasons, or the fruits of my readings of esoteric literature, or perhaps angels or holy spirits wandering past :-) The first occurrence happened while driving slowly past Edmonton Cemetery on the congested A10 in North London. My whole body was overtaken with a warm inner glowing sensation, a sort of molecular shimmer. My head felt like someone had removed the top and poured in pure sunlight. My vision brightened. I was not on any drugs at the time (by then, not even sugar), let alone anything that would prohibit the use of heavy machinery or driving, yet I still managed to control the vehicle as my state of grace gradually subsided a minute later.

Such events led me to reading about Eastern philosophies of yoga, chakras and chi, the life force misunderstood by Western science, but I must admit to not really getting very far with these theoretical studies yet. These phenomena have likely been explained in different ways by different cultures.

Over recent years I have subsequently entered similar states of bliss while in otherwise ordinary life situations, sometimes brought on by extreme emotions or physical endurance. Now I find that I can attain at least a limited altitude of elation purely by the act of thinking myself there, recalling past ecstasies or using memories of special things/places/people/art-works/music as a catalyst. Indeed, for me music is possibly the strongest key to unlock this power, and hence is the thing that brings me closest to self-actualization in realising my true potential: I am most I when composing.

It is surely a very useful thing to be able to positively affect one's own emotional state. The most difficult thing is to remember to keep doing so! It is so easy to get caught up in life's trials, so that one forgets and sinks down into the drudgery of the Troughs of human existence. Gurdjieff and Ouspensky spoke in their teachings of the need for self-remembering, remaining conscious and observant of everything we do, which in practice is very hard/impossible to sustain indefinitely, due to various human weaknesses.

Where possible, and while I can remain awake, I try and use this ability to direct every conscious action. Any decision I need to make consults this force and if feelings of well-being result, then it is a Good decision. You'd be amazed what can happen.

Colin Wilson also said that Maslow's students had reported that their peak experiences returned when they described them to others, and were even induced in the listeners. So I sincerely hope, Dear Reader, that you are feeling this right here and now, as the waves of energy pulse down the lines towards you :-) I wish you a deep ocean of radiant joy, a sacred place to always remember yourselves in times of need.


The Naked Gardener

[OK, that's got your attention! Nothing like a crowd-pleaser headline, especially one that sounds like the title of some Hollywood blockbuster ;-]

Spring is blooming marvellously, and necessitates another idyllic day tending my paradise garden. Being lucky enough to have no neighbours, well, one thing led to another and what with the scorching sunshine and hard work mowing the lawns, it only seemed au natrel to shed the clothes altogether.

Since my unfenced lawns can be seen from the road, it's probably not advisable to mow them nude, especially since the mower noise would drown out audible warnings of visitors on the drive (some strangers did actually drive up one day, perhaps thinking it was a road - they may get a shock next time! :-) But getting closer to the ground and staying away from exposed areas is safe to wear just boots and gloves for pruning and weeding out the nettles [careful!]. There's nothing quite like the feel of sun and air and grass on skin; besides, it's good to keep the Vitamin D levels up to prevent cancer. (Sorry, no pictures available - I need to build my physique first ;-)

I've never been one for social nudity, let alone forcing my nakedness on others (unless they ask me nicely :-) But like most creatures of Earth, I do enjoy the Great Outdoors as it was designed to be experienced. In years gone by, I used to sunbathe in secluded forests and would sometimes go out for midnight walks when all was quiet. One time I even laid naked on the dotted lines of an empty dual-carriageway and gazed at the clear night sky, which is highly recommended* but only in the middle of the night! Maybe soon our culture will overcome its complex about the naked human body. I won't hold my breath though...

[DISCLAIMER - We take no responsibility for any injuries or deaths or excruciating accidents with hedge trimmers resulting from reading this web page. Do not attempt while drunk.]

I managed to kill off and remove all the elder and ivy infesting the privet hedges, which was viewed on other planes as being a necessary cutting away of older and poisonous beliefs and behaviours. The apple trees soon rewarded my efforts of freeing them from their ivy stranglehold by leaping joyously into blossom :-)

[This Journal entry was sponsored by multitudes of rural estate agents :-) I'm happy to do my bit to help sort out the over-inflated London house prices - why live in an overcrowded city when you can get naked with the bunnies out in the country? :-]

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Licence © The right to copy is left with the user copyleft Malcolm Smith 2007-04-03 - last updated 2007-07-12