Tag: Hariod Brawn

Relationships.

Everything comes down to our relationships.

It is not the first time that I have written on the theme of the importance of relationships. However, I am inspired by a number of separate and discrete outcomes in the last couple of days that compell me to return to this most important principle of all: We are what we think about most.

The first outcome was a lovely reply left by Hariod Brawn to yesterday’s post. This is what she wrote:

My GSD had hip dysplasia too, Paul – if that’s what you’re alluding to with Pharaoh. He still was able to die a natural death though, as his rear quarters became paralysed with the dysplasia and he felt no pain. There were plenty of other problems resulting from his immobility, but I wouldn’t have traded those difficulties and the incredible communication we shared as a result of them, for anything – his last few weeks were some of the most powerful and precious of my entire life.

Then after my response, Hariod went on to say:

It was a deeply profound time for me, and I honestly wouldn’t have believed anyone had they told me what I experienced, but experience it I did. It was not the product of fanciful imagination, much as it might sound so in words. The communication between the two of us was quite incredible, and which really was empathic in nature, in the deepest sense of the word. We always had great communication and understanding, which all dog lovers do with their charges, of course, but this was another level altogether. Some might call it ‘psychic’, as if that meant something mystical and woo-like, but it just means ‘of the mind’. The question is, does the mind have the psychical power to share in understanding across physical borders? You will doubtless know of J. Allen Boone:

I will return to that mention of J. Allen Boone at the end of the post.

Then later on there was a further reply to the post from Barb of Passionate About Pets :

Thanks for re-publishing Gina’s post here, I found it interesting because Poppy, my little shih-tzu is an old dame now – she will be 17 in two months time. She has developed serious separation anxiety in the last year and if I am working in the garden, she barks for me to get back inside even though my husband is inside with her – she wants us BOTH with her. She is weak in her back legs so her walks are shorter. All these signs of old age make me so sad. Just like you and Pharoah, old age is creeping up on us all.
A special thank you to Hariod for including that video clip of J. Allen Boone’s dog Strongheart and the very special connection they had; he was so wise about Strongheart’s qualities – they never die. It really resonated with me.
Thank you for a wonderful post.

You can see why I entitled today’s post Relationships!

Then earlier on in my day I had a call with Jon Lavin, a friend from my days when I lived in Devon, South-West England. Jon and I still speak on a regular basis and yesterday I was complimenting Jon on a wonderful post he had written on his own business blog The People Workshop.

Jon’s post was about relationships in the workplace, his area of professional experience, and I was struck by how far the messages were relevant to all of us, in all areas of our lives. But just as key it was another reminder of the importance of all of us who express themselves on blogs; both as authors and as commentators. Because those expressions make, build and maintain great relationships.

Jon’s post is republished here with his full permission.

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Relationships in the workplace

Posted on

Poppies and sea
Poppies and sea

When you look at how much of our lives we spend at work it’s really quite attention-grabbing. I did a very rough calculation based on 40 years and 40 hours a week – and I took out holidays and weekends. It works out approximately at 4900 hours. That’s a lot of hours, especially if you do lots of overtime and weekends. All of that time, you’re probably going to be mixing with people – usually, quite a large number of people.

We are ‘relationship seeking’, says Eric Berne, originator of Transactional Analysis. So for all of that time, we’re moving in and out of relationships with other people. So here, I’m categorising any interaction with another as ‘relationship’.

Then there’s what happens when we go home, another set of relationships, and where we came from – our parents and families.

So how we are in relationship with others is very important and has a major impact on the results we get generally and particularly in the context of this article, at work.

I hear a lot of talk about ’employee engagement’ at the moment. I believe that for employees to be ‘engaged’, so actively involved in what they’re doing, thinking about it, in the ‘here and now’, they’ve got to be in relationship with their manager and probably, the team they’re part of, at least, if the job is being done properly.

I see it as the role of the manager or team leader that they have the skills and ability to develop these relationships with as many team members as possible, any exclusions being the exception. This requires a lot of self-awareness and confidence, plus the ability to build high levels of trust with a wide range of character types. I think it also requires the ability to see the world from the view point of the other person – ‘putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes’, we say. That’s quite difficult to do in my experience. However, we can donate the time to get to know the people in our team and so increase the likelihood of all of us coming from the same angle.

I think this is about the ability to value the uniqueness of others in all the different forms and approaches that manifests in, and finding ways of harnessing those skills and abilities.

These are not easy things and I am aware of the relatively few, good people managers I come across in my work but it is possible to develop these skills. You need to have the intention to want the best from ALL relationships. Also, to be prepared to use the feedback we all get, especially when things don’t go to plan in a relationship, and be continually revisiting and adjusting your approach so that you get more of what works. This way, you automatically get less of what doesn’t work.

Never under estimate the power of intention.

Stormy seas
Stormy seas

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I am now going to close today’s post with those words of  J. Allen Boone that Hariod had in her second reply:

To echo Jon’s closing message, let us never cease our intention of having wonderful relationships; with our dogs, with others and, not least of all, with ourselves.

With power comes responsibility.

“The price of greatness is responsibility.”

So said Sir Winston Churchill. It applies equally to the price of power.

There was an essay recently written and published by Hariod Brawn over on her blog Contentedness.net that was incredibly thought-provoking and very beautiful besides. Hariod has given me permission to republish it and it follows shortly.

I have no doubt that Hariod’s essay was, in part, inspired by that terrible photograph that has been circulated and commented upon by thousands around the world.

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In the words of the BBC, “The pictured boy is reported to be three-year-old Aylan, who drowned along with his five-year-old brother Galip and their mother, Rihan. Their father, Abdullah Kurdi, survived.”

The emotions created by this and other tragic photographs are disturbing, and I am no exception to having those same emotions. But as friend, Chris Snuggs, mentioned in a telephone call between us yesterday morning, what has been happening in Syria is no less terrible, perhaps even more so when one looks at the blood that is, metaphorically, on the hands of a number of western governments. The old saying of reaping what we sow comes to mind.

None of which takes away the intense beauty of Hariod’s essay: Empathetic apes.

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Empathic apes

Orangutan mother and kids. By Patrick Bouquet, Chantilly.
Orangutan mother and kids. By Patrick Bouquet, Chantilly.

The year is 1955, and far from the nearest village, somewhere within the Northwestern jungle region of Thailand, a 48 year-old Englishman and ordainee to the Buddhist monkhood sits quietly in studious attention. A few feet away, a female ape sits, arms carefully wrapped around some precious possession. The monk first chanced upon her the previous day, and due to the curiosity roused in observing her melancholic countenance, has remained respectfully nearby to her. A trust has developed, the ape sensing the monk’s gentle disposition and harmlessness. He really ought to be making his way to the village for alms, yet somehow senses that he should stay. A silent, palpable communication has developed between the two, and slowly, carefully and deliberately, the ape, her sadness still etched upon her face, finally unfolds her arms and offers a first sight of what she has been protecting. The monk slowly approaches to within a pace or two, sensing the invitation, only to catch sight of her lifeless and terribly deformed baby.

Two empathic apes, ancestrally and psychologically speaking, separated by little more in this moment than a distant, lineage-splitting, speciation event. Opposable thumbs, one hers and one his, in turn chase away a monk’s tear and a delicately mottled butterfly as it alights from the baby’s forehead, though cannot do the same for their conjoined feelings. Eyes meet, evincing as they do a deepening rush of sadness. Nothing can be done – is this what she is thinking in her way? In his unknowing, the saffron-robed wanderer radiates compassion, yet knows he has nothing to do with it; an offering from wisdom, not from the self. All that need be known arrives in the fullest of measures. What use now the venerable elder’s sagacity, his knowledge of emptiness, renunciation, equanimity, the void? She inhabits the void, is the void, her bleak knowing piercing its veils. Without turning, the monk slowly retreats, still reverently holding her gaze alongside a shared understanding. A slight suggestion of a bowing head betokens what passes between them.

It is the ability to empathise which in part distinguishes the psychopathic mind from its otherwise healthy state, and the primary orbit of empathy is that of feeling, not the mere gyrations of intellect. This is why many species of sentience can empathise, and we human animals are but one of them. We may erroneously presume that an ability to reflect upon others’ situations facilitates human empathic capacity; yet the state of those others and their situations need not be known as verbally abstracted objects in the mind – little stories packaged in words. We may just as well occupy others’ frames of reference by intuited means; and vitality, morbidity, distress and joy may all be recognised across species in differing ways; one need not indulge any anthropomorphisation, for clear evidence abounds. What is intuited here, or instinctively known, is the nature of the other’s felt emotional condition; and in this way, 60 years ago, the grieving mother ape and mendicant monk shared that intense experience – a wordless world of deep, primate feeling.

Engraving of Orangutan. By Willem Piso (1611-1678). Courtesy Wellcome Trust

Was the mother ape empathic? Well, she came to appreciate the monk’s amity; she felt able to extend trust; she intuited the monk’s concern for her as well as his desire for understanding as to the reasons for, and significance of, her sadness; and finally, she recognised that the monk would feel something of that sadness in revealing its causes to him. This is all to say that she significantly placed herself within the monk’s frame of reference and innately understood that emotions can be matched in shared experience – the personal does not expire at the boundary of the body. Her empathic appreciation was sophisticated, certainly moreso than any psychopathic human ape. Now, one way to cheat the system is to mimic expressions and gestures, which results in a like proprioceptive sense. This means our feelings echo the other’s, so affecting an emotional contagion of sorts, whether volitionally induced or not. Yet neither jungle dweller did so, their empathic link being forged in mind purely intuitively, and silently.

Empathy subsists in knowledge; it is in part to know the mind of the other, and whilst its currency is both cognitive (knowing) and emotional (feeling) in nature, it is the latter that strengthens the connective link to altruistic and prosocial leanings, as well as ameliorating aggressive traits. Primates’ mirror-neuron systems help forge innate empathic leanings, with research suggesting that empathy evolved in part as a survival mechanism. Right now, tens of thousands of refugees are fleeing war-torn regions of Africa and the Middle East so as to seek sanctuary, and survival, in Europe. A few hours ago, a three year-old Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, drowned and was washed up on the shores of the Greek island of Kos. Equally tragically, his five year-old brother met a similar fate. Whilst Europe’s politicians exhibit an ongoing empathy gap, innocent children are dying. We live, not literally, though metaphorically, in a jungle, sharing the empathic faculties of the monk and bereaved mother ape. Are we wise enough to nurture the same?

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We need leaders who understand the integrity that is required from them. We need leaders that accept and understand the responsibilities that they have embraced, indivisible from the power that society has lent to them. We need leaders that understand a different aspect of their power, the power of those unanticipated consequences from their actions.

Until we the people understand that electing leaders who do not embrace integrity then Aylan Kurdi and thousands of others in those ‘hot spots’ around the world will continue dying in vain.

Integrity equates to being truthful, to being honest. It doesn’t mean being right all the time, of course not, but integrity does mean accepting responsibility for all our actions, for feeling remorse and apologising when we make mistakes. Integrity means learning, being reliable, being a builder rather than a destroyer. It means being authentic. That authenticity is precisely and exactly what we see in our dogs.

The starting point for what we must learn from our dogs is integrity.

Habituated to eating

A startling and counter-intuitive essay from George Monbiot.

Hariod Brawn, she of the blog Contentedness.net, left a response to yesterday’s post in this place. Here is what Hariod said:

Yes Paul, I too recognise the value in understanding the neural substrates involved, regardless of what may in any case be reliably inferred and readily apparent in behavioural evidence. The social intelligence of the dog seems remarkably advanced of course, and so naturally provides a rich source for such research. Having said that, I am struck by the amount of academic funding that goes into confirming what is already self-evident, and wonder if the apportioning of funds is done quite as effectively as it could be. Much is determined by commercial interests of course.

“Much is determined by commercial interests …”

I have been a resident of the United States since April 2011. There has been much to take in and embrace at so many levels. However, one of the things that has seemed very foreign to my eyes was the extent of the obesity seen almost everywhere that one is out and about. At first it seemed more of an American issue, but over the last few years watching news items from the UK and seeing other general items on the internet from ‘the old country’ I came to realise that countries both ‘sides of the pond’ are grappling with what could be fairly described as an epidemic.

Yesterday, George Monbiot published an essay called Slim Chance. As with so many of Mr. Monbiot’s essays this one highlights issues that I am sure are not widely appreciated. It is republished here with Mr. Monbiot’s kind permission.

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Slim Chance

11th August 2015

New evidence suggests that obesity might be incurable. So why does the government propose to punish sufferers?

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 12th August 2015

Is overeating more addictive than crack cocaine? It’s hard to compare addiction rates, or to produce a clear definition that holds true across all substances and behaviours. But consider this crude contrast. Between 10 and 20% of people who use crack cocaine become addicted to it. Across a 9-year study of 176,000 obese people, 98.3% of the men and 97.8% of the women failed to return to a healthy weight. Once extreme overeating begins, it appears to be almost impossible to stop.

A paper published in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews proposed that “food addiction” is a less accurate description of this condition than “eating addiction”. There is little evidence that people who are driven to overeat become dependent on a single ingredient; instead they tend to seek out a range of highly palatable, energy-dense foods, of the kind with which we are now surrounded.

The activation of reward systems in the brain and the loss of impulse control are similar to those involved in dependency on drugs. But eating addiction appears to be more powerful. As the same paper notes, in laboratory experiments “a majority of rats will prefer a sweet reward over a cocaine reward.”

Once you become obese, an article published in the Lancet this year explains, biological changes lock you in. Fat cells proliferate. The brain becomes habituated to dopamine signalling (the reward pathway), driving you to compensate by increasing your consumption. If you try to lose weight, the body perceives that it is being starved, and powerful adaptations (such as an increase in metabolic efficiency) try to bounce you back to your previous state. People who manage, against great odds, to return to a normal weight must consume 300 fewer calories per day than those who have never been obese, if they are not to put the weight back on. “Once obesity is established, … bodyweight seems to become biologically stamped in”. The more weight you lose, the stronger the biological pressure to get back to your former, excessive size.

The researchers find that “these biological adaptations often persist indefinitely”: in other words, if you have once been obese, staying slim means sticking to a strict diet for life. The best you can hope for is not a dietary cure, but “obesity in remission”. The only effective, long-term treatment for obesity currently available, the same paper says, is bariatric surgery. This can cause a number of grim complications.

I know this statement will be unwelcome. I too hate the idea that people cannot change their circumstances. But the terrible truth is that, except through surgery, for the great majority of sufferers, obesity is an incurable disease. In one respect it resembles cancer: the changes in lifestyle that might have prevented it are unlikely to be of use in curing it.

Fat-shaming is worse than useless. Another paper found that the more weight-conscious people are, the more likely they are to overeat: the stress it induces is a trigger for comfort eating. As Sarah Boseley points out in her book The Shape We’re In, “the diet industry … is one of the biggest frauds of our time”. For the obese, temporary reductions in weight will almost inevitably be reversed.

People who are merely overweight, rather than obese (in other words who have a BMI of between 25 and 30) appear not to suffer from the same biochemical adaptations: their size is not “stamped in”. For them, changes of diet and exercise are likely to be effective. But urging obese people to buck up produces nothing but misery.

The crucial task is to reach children before they succumb to this addiction. As well as help and advice for parents, this surely requires a major change in what scientists call “the obesogenic environment” (high energy foods and drinks and the advertising and packaging that reinforces their attraction). Unless children are steered away from overeating from the beginning, they are likely to be trapped for life.

You might have expected this knowledge to lead to acceptance, empathy and an end to stigmatisation. Fat chance. A fortnight ago, just after the figures I mentioned at the top of this article were published, David Cameron announced a review that could lead to obese people being deprived of social security payments if they fail to accept “treatment” for their condition.

This review, conducted by Dame Carol Black, has already pre-empted its conclusions: eight times it describes obesity as “treatable”. Really? How? It will consider the case “for linking benefit entitlements to take up of appropriate treatment”. Are Cameron and Black proposing that benefit claimants will be forced to undergo surgery? Or will they be pressed into a useless and punitive dietary regime? These proposals look to me like a transfer of blame for the disease away from food manufacturers and advertisers and onto those afflicted.

Why do we have an obesity epidemic? Has the composition of the human species changed? Have we suffered a general collapse in willpower? No. The evidence points to high-fat, high-sugar foods that overwhelm the impulse control of children and young adults, packaged and promoted to create the impression that they are fun, cool and life-enhancing. Many are placed in the shops where children are bound to encounter them: around the tills, at grasping height.

The disease will keep ravaging the population (and slowly overwhelm the health service) until these circumstances change. But the government’s sole contribution has been to tear down mandatory controls, replacing them with a voluntary – and therefore useless – “responsibility deal” with manufacturers and retailers. It allows them to choose whether or not to use the traffic light system, which is the most effective way of informing people about the likely impact of what they eat. And many corporations, unsurprisingly, choose not to. As far as nutritional content is concerned, food manufacturing is effectively unregulated.

Industry and government will resist the obvious solutions until they can be resisted no longer. Eventually, the change will have to happen: similar restrictions on advertising, sponsorship, display and accessibility to those imposed on the tobacco pedlars. One day, though not before many thousands have needlessly died, it will become illegal to advertise any food or drink that merits a red traffic light warning. They will be sold only in plain packaging, with health warnings, on high shelves.

Does this seem draconian to you? If so, remember that obesity afflicts a quarter of the adult population, and is rising rapidly. It causes a range of hideous conditions, just one of which – diabetes – accounts for one sixth of NHS admissions and 10% of its budget. If smoking demands fierce intervention, why not overeating?

This is the choice we face. To recognise that the only humane and effective means of addressing the obesity epidemic is to prevent more people from being hooked, by restricting the pushers. Or to continue a programme of fat-shaming, bullying and compulsory treatment, whose only likely outcome is unhappiness. Now ask yourself again: which of these two options is draconian?

www.monbiot.com

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Let me close with an image. The image that George Monbiot believes will be seen very widely and representing the same common-sense in eating that we have been used to with regard to No Smoking signs.

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Synecdoche : Little World

The concluding part of Hariod Brawn’s wonderful essay.

Haroid’s opening part was republished by me in this place yesterday, under the blog title of Alone in a sea of many. For the concluding part, I have named this blog post in accordance with Hariod’s chosen name. Thank you to all who read Part One and I hope you find Part Two equally stimulating.

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Synecdoche (Part Two): Little Person

Fool’s Cap Map of the World. Unknown origin c.1580-1590
Fool’s Cap Map of the World. Unknown origin c.1580-1590

In the first part of this article, we discussed how each person, in coming to understand how they construct themselves as the self-entity they take themselves to be, must in the process come to understand how all others do too. In other words, self-knowledge is not particular to the individual, because the self – in essence an embedded, accumulating and by graduation morphing narrative and body schema – comes into being by identical means in our species. Each of us remains unique in many ways, such as in our formative experience, our psychological make-up, conditioned traits, genetic inheritance, and in our individuated physicalities. Yet that which we regard as our quintessence, the enduring internalised construct we each unquestioningly hold as the self and the aspect of ourselves which we most intimately cling to, is little more than a formulaic pretence determined and governed solely by means of evolved, unbidden and unconscious processes.

Each character has a given name, societal position, cultural identity and perhaps a hierarchical status; yet all such markers are in part a figure of speech, or synecdoche, denoting an undeniable correlation with countless others. The markers delineate superficial distinctions alone, and the greater the number of them, the more we remove from our understanding the underlying truth of the other’s commonality with us. In much the same way, in our coming to understand how the worlds we ourselves inhabit are constructed, we see also that same world as a synecdoche for all others. How I relate to my home and environment, my relatives and loved ones, those I engage with out of chance or necessity, and those whom I depend upon or those who depend upon me, human or non-human, all make up my little world. It is a relational world, an interactive adventure forged from myriad connections, surprisingly few of which do I have great control over.

The argument against this is to assert that such correlations are facile, that how can I, a materially secure Westerner living in a largely strife-free state, possibly share any commonality with the oppressed and malnourished other on, say, the Indian sub-continent? Are these conditions not worlds apart, if only qualitatively? Well, in examining human suffering, we find it has a common genesis, proceeding as it does from the mind. For example, we commonly mistake unpleasant bodily sensations for suffering, failing to distinguish between physical pain and the attendant overlay of mental anguish. Is the suffering of the wealthy financier who contemplates suicide at her portfolio’s decimation greater than that of the homesteader in sub-Saharan Africa facing a crop failure of a few sacksful of grain? Objectively, then yes, these are worlds apart, yet the subjective suffering of each may be qualitatively indistinct, even in their wildly differing experiential settings.

Geography of Twitter. By Eric Fischer, Washington, DC
Geography of Twitter. By Eric Fischer, Washington, DC

And what of care and affection; are we to suppose that our world as comprising love is any the lesser or greater than others? Ought we to suppose the human instinct to loving solicitude is greater than that of our fellow creatures? Who amongst us knows what human love is as distinct from other forms of animal love, and whether it is qualitatively superior? Am I so arrogant as to suggest my altruistic benevolence is any the greater than that of my pet Border Collie, for it seems far from being so? If I am unable to define precisely what constitutes this world aspect, how am I to know that those of other animals are not simulacra of my own, there being no original and authentic love-world other than the one as represented by the many – is this not a truth hard to refute? I may describe a personal world of felt affection, yet in doing so prescribe but a figure of speech alone, a synecdoche for all worlds inhabited perhaps by most beings of sentience.

My little world is forged at the interface between psyche and otherness, between ideas and the world as impressed upon my senses. Those impressions and the precise nature of that otherness differ in every detail from the next person’s, yet the means of forging are identical. This shared action results in distinct narratives of course, and it is these that are held to in our bids to assert the pre-eminence of individuality over commonality. I want to believe I am, if not special, then unique; yet that is only true in the differing stories of what I am and what my little world is. To those without privilege to my narratives of self and world, my assumed mantle of uniqueness is meaningless, and the same is true of theirs to me. We may here be at a cold and sterile juncture, yet it also is a starting point from which we may begin to introduce the binding agents of humankind – our innate qualities of kindness and compassion, of empathic understanding.

So what, why should I care about such ideas when I have altogether more pressing concerns? What is the point in abstracting notions such as these from the warp and weft of daily living, the place where I earn my crust, feed my children, and work on my betterment as a means of personal fulfilment? Perhaps the answer lies somewhat starkly in the evidence, and which seems to me to be in a state of constant deterioration. We live in a polarised world, where theists fight theists and atheists argue against both, where the wealthy seldom flinch in their impoverishment of others, and where power-hungry and psychopathic leaders crush the potential of all they have dominion over. Is it not time to find our common humanity, or even our common animality? We humans are destroying our sole environment; we are chasing down the darkening corridors of economic systems at the point of failure. Can we not rest awhile so as to perceive our little worlds as one?

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My sense is that for quite a few readers who read yesterday’s and today’s postings, they were not the easiest read that has been seen on Learning from Dogs. But in a world where the dumbing down of the English vocabulary seems ever more present, to read Hariod’s essay slowly and carefully, and let the deeper meanings of her arguments settle within the mind, is a profound and compelling reminder of the beauty and elegance of the English language.

This introspective mood continues tomorrow: you have been warned!

Alone in a sea of many

A few days of inner contemplation.

I suspect that many, if not most, originally came to this place expecting the blog to be directly about dogs. And, in many instances, the posts are directly about canis lupus familiaris. But the original idea behind choosing the blog name Learning from Dogs was the sense that we, as in mankind, have to change our ways if we are to offer our grandchildren a viable planet upon which they may live. More succinctly expressed in The Vision for this blog:

Our children require a world that understands the importance of faith, integrity and honesty,

Learning from Dogs will serve as a reminder of the values of life and the power of unconditional love – as so many, many dogs prove each and every day,

Constantly trying to get to the truth …

The power of greater self-awareness and faith; faith that the only way forward for us is through the truth …

If you have read this far you may be wondering if the old guy has lost yet another marble!

So what has prompted this introspection? I’ll tell you.

I subscribe to Hariod Brawn’s blogsite Contentedness.net For those that do not know Hariod’s writings then her About page offers (in part):

We’re here to discuss aspects of human well-being as they relate to our sense of self, our personal identity and whatever other notions we may hold for our own uniquely human sense of being. This means the discussion centres upon the pragmatic or real-life dimensions of experience – things like our sense of contentedness, of personal meaningfulness, and other tangibly perceived aspects of well-being. The discussion is positive, respectful, non-judgemental, considerate.

That, as you can see, resonates very much with me thinking of Learning from Dogs as a means, metaphorically so, of finding greater self-awareness.

On June 10th, Hariod published the first part of an essay called Synecdoche: Little Person. I found the essay extraordinarily interesting and wanted to share it with you in this place. Hariod generously gave me permission, so here is Part One.

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Synecdoche (Part One): Little Person

Hariod1

I am just a little person, one person in a sea of many little people who are not aware of me, yet each potentially a simultaneous understanding of the other; each, in a sense, a simulacrum or synecdoche for all others: if I understand myself sufficiently deeply, then in that moment I understand the other, however remote my presence to them. This is not to say I can appreciate their specific complexities, of course, and the detail, the true intricacy of any given life, remains forever removed from that quota of awareness I am privileged to. Each little person, tagged with their own unique package of characteristics, is still a synecdoche though, potentially at least, for all the little people out in the sea of otherness. The word means literally ‘take with something else’, so conveying the idea that even a partial representation alone is sufficient to apprehend the whole, or vice versa.

This sounds rather fanciful to the contemporary mind, conditioned as it is in a belief as to the total, inarguable individuality of each little person. What an appealing belief this is too, for this same little person here finds a seemingly plausible counter to a reluctantly intuited sense of homogeneity, which word itself derives from the Greek ‘homogene’, meaning ‘of the same kind’: Homo Sapiens. Even though each of the little person’s internal organs are replaceable with those fished from the sea of many little people, even though their blood, hair, bones, limbs, eyes and hands can be substituted with biological or manufactured alternatives, still the little person resists the evidence, demanding their status as a uniquely enduring entity. It is of course the mind itself that insists upon countering the intuited and actual homogeneity, and the mind, so the little person believes, belongs to them.

Hariod2

This raises a problem, for if the little person’s physicality is all but totally interchangeable, then at what point during this theoretical process does the supposed possessor of the mind cease to exist? When does the point arrive at which we can no longer claim the mind belongs to any little person? If we hold to Physicalism, or Hard Materialism, we assert the mind belongs, if not to the little person, then to the organ of the brain. Should we be an Eliminative Materialist, we say there is no mind, and so no such question arises. I resist these philosophical perspectives, for to me there is a non-locality of awareness, meaning it arises both within as well as about what we think of as the little person, and whilst we call this aware experience ‘mind’, I do not adhere to any Cranialism; it’s not exclusively headstuff. In accepting this, we logically must ask whether the mind is under ownership.

Ownership implies agency, or self-determination, and it is belief in this that makes the little person feel unique and autonomous, directing their life just as all others would theirs. Yet this owning agent is never verifiable other than as consciousness, for it is only ever a belief that resides within and as that consciousness. Now, all conscious displays are themselves non-local simulacra, representations of otherness that are neither the little person nor any owning agent, and which clearly may never be evidenced outside of consciousness. This means the little person is always a thought-construct, a put-up job forged by mind and subsisting in otherness but never in essence itself. Should this hypothesis obtain, then the little person is a synecdoche for the entirety of others in kind; this is because every little person, being a fabrication of mind, comes into apparent existence in an identical manner.

Hariod3

Where are we? We heard that the mind persists in countering a reluctantly intuited homogeneity of all the little persons. Further, we said the mind forges each little person as a thought-construct, and that the little person does not exist as an enduringly instantiated entity – just like a house, a car, or a computer, its parts are interchangeable. Beyond this, we learned the mind produces only conscious effects as verification of its own fabrications, and that these subsist universally for all the apparent little persons, being as they are culled from the same sea of otherness. And lastly, we found that the hypothesis as a whole demonstrates that each apparent little person is a synecdoche for the sea of many little people. So, in understanding myself sufficiently deeply, then in that moment I understand the other, which was the assertion of the opening paragraph and a challenge to the curious mind.

In the ‘Ship of Theseus’ paradox, a parallel question is raised: in replacing a wooden ship plank by plank, are the ongoing resultants still the original ship? In point of fact, only the conception itself endures across the constant transitioning. The ship, as known, is not a wooden construct; it is a thought-construct, a fixed conception presenting to any observing little person, all of whom create each the other in identical fashion. Each parallel the ship in that their structure constantly mutates whilst a sense of enduring selfhood smears out across the whole, forged in mind in homogeneous ways. Now, if the little person turns the mind in on itself reflectively, they in time realise that they must be more than a thought-construct, a belief. They see that the little person whom they believed they existed as was a synecdoche: a motif in play which in its perfectly clear seeing brings knowledge of all of its kind.

Images courtesy of New Zealand Government Archives.

ooOOoo

The concluding part of Hariod’s essay is published tomorrow.

Bitter Lake ripples.

Reflections on last Thursday’s post.

Last Thursday, I published a post under the title of Oil, money, banks, guns and blood. It was such a departure from my normal style of blog post that I anticipated that it would slide by without any comment. Wrong! It had the highest readership of the week and attracted some powerful and insightful replies. So much so that I expressed the desire to reflect on those replies before responding. Thus, today’s post is my response to your comments and feelings.

First, Hariod Brawn of the blogsite Contentedness responded, in part:

Now, where are we? Val’s words are a good place to begin: “Nothing is what is seems, or will ever be the same again.” Nobody knows for sure, but piecing together fragments of world events, my instinct (fwiw) tells me that we are in the incipient stages of the collapse of the 20th.c. paradigm. Neoliberalism has failed; further than that, Capitalism has failed – we have no free markets where it counts; they’re all rigged. Politics has failed too, having been bought out by the corporates. [There are over 30,000 lobbyists in Washington alone] All that Western Governments have to offer is a doomed re-run of failed practices (same with Japan actually). Worse still, they have gone down on their knees and begged the financial sector to create a fix. The private banks have been given access to vast sums of QE cash at virtually zero interest in order to continue rigging markets (via their agents) all to their benefit whilst also creating huge market distortions in asset bubbles. Has the wealth they created trickled down? Has it hell. Whilst all this is going on, and as the film so clearly demonstrates, the Middle East looks like fulfilling its promise of the last century as being the flashpoint for warfare on a vast scale. And of course, if by some miracle we escape financial collapse, and world peace is not threatened by warfare, then the environment is going down the pan because – guess what? – our politicians have failed us once again. I have said enough on this.

Hariod then went on to recommend the films of Chris Hedges that will be featured on Learning from Dogs at a future date.

Then Val Boyco, her blogsite being Find Your Middle Ground, wrote a response before viewing the film:

Without being informed yet … my thinking is that the world we live in is so complex, stressful and fast that we can’t absorb everything that happens. We simplify and label, in order to make sense. We chop and segment in order to understand, but we miss the full story and many have lost the ability to grasp the bigger picture…. or are too fearful of going against the expectations of others and becoming one of “them” instead of one of “us”.

Then reinforced by her comment after watching the film:

I just watched the movie Paul. It is powerful and very disturbing. As you say, it undermines what we believe is real. It also reveals the complexity – misunderstanding – manipulation – corruption – opium, oil and the struggle for power – naivety – chaos.
In the dualistic fairy tale world of good vs evil it has created a nightmare of errors.
Nothing is what is seems.
Or will ever be the same again.

There was a comment from Patrice Ayme:

Giant American global corporations, the 200 largest ones, do 100 billion dollars of tax evasion through Luxembourg alone. Each year. Many are media companies. Wonder why stories make no sense?

Juncker directed that. Now he is head of the European Commission, and insist Greece shall pay every single penny.

As it happened, my dad was among a European group of geologists working for the Afghan government, who discovered Afghanistan’s riches… In the 1970s. All hell broke loose shortly thereafter.

I write about these sorts of things, day in, day out. But most people prefer the opium of feel-good…

Patrice then went further in offering a post over on his own blog that carried the specific title of Great Bitter Lake. Let me quote a little from that:

“Bitter Lake” is about the conspiracy between American plutocracy and Saudi plutocracy. Plutocrat Roosevelt was freshly flown from Yalta, to the Great Bitter Lake, on the Suez Canal. The idea was to steal the Maghreb, and the Middle East from the French and the British, by making a theocratic alliance.

At Yalta, Roosevelt had given half of Europe to his Comrade Stalin. (Plutocrats of the world naturally unite!)

Never mind that Poland had fought the Nazis courageously the Nazis, at a time when the USA was militarily and diplomatically collaborating… with the Nazis (or maybe, precisely, the Poles had to be punished!) Roosevelt had to be strict: the French had successfully escaped from the military occupation (AMGOT) he had set-up for them.

The movie “Bitter Lake” exposes (some) of the American plutocracy led conspiracies which led to the devastation, among other things, of Afghanistan, and other constituencies, thanks to the Wahhabist Islam it unleashed on the world.

Readers of this site will be familiar with the general ambiance.

One caveat: all what is in the documentary and makes American plutocrats (Roosevelt) and their servants (Reagan) look bad, is correct. However the real situation, the real badness is way worse. (For example the secret, official USA intervention in Afghanistan was under Carter, on July 3, 1979. However the real even more secret intervention, through the Pakistani ISI was even earlier and even more vicious.

So what is my response?

It is this:

In 1887, Oscar Wilde said, referring to the differences between the British and the Americans: “We have really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language.

By way of example there is a saying back in my old country that when something is “… going to the dogs”, it means an irreversible decline in standards; the phrase usually aimed at an organisation or even a country.

Many, especially those of my age, might nod sagely and reflect that something ‘is going to the dogs‘ in terms of the wider Western world.

Let me be specific. There are destructive and dysfunctional issues in modern societies that I would list as: Selfishness; Power & Corruption; Short-termism; Materialism; Population growth; Greed, inequality and poverty. It’s not an exhaustive list!

Now many would argue the ‘whys’ and ‘wherefores’ about what precisely is wrong with Western societies in this 21st century but far fewer would argue with the underlying premise; that something is fundamentally wrong with today’s world.

Indeed, one of the things that is impossible to miss is the body language, the look on a face, the shrug of a shoulder, when one casually remarks that these are interesting times! From strangers and friends alike.

There is no question that what mankind has ‘enjoyed’ these last fifty years or so cannot be continued for very much longer. That the era since the 1960s of growth, materialism and consumption is running one very basic and fundamental resource dry. You know the one I am referring to: Planet Earth.

My hope is that the widely-felt feelings that something is fundamentally wrong with today, are the feelings man has always experienced, since time immemorial, when mankind has passed through the threshold between two eras.

My hope is that the new era, one that we quite possibly may now just be entering, a new era of sustainable living on this planet, of social and political changes to replace extreme levels of inequality, of stronger communities of like-minded persons, will be obvious to all, but especially obvious to our next generation, within the next ten years; possibly fewer than ten years.

One thing is for sure. The sharing of ideas and feelings as is the style of modern blogging is critical to the forming of the opinions that precede the changes that so many now see as unstoppable.

Avro Vulcan XH558 – a tribute!

Not only to the aircraft but to all the many individuals who made it happen!

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post Nostalgia with wings, today I was going to write about a particular aircraft: The Avro Vulcan.

Vulcan

I chose the image above because it resonated so strongly with the comment left by Hariod Brawn that I included in yesterday’s post. Namely:

I took my father [who test-piloted the Vulcan and Victor. PH] to see Vulcan XH558 fly what was then thought to be its final flight (it subsequently was overhauled and took to the skies again). It flew along the length of the runway at a 45 degree angle with its bomb bay doors open. On the inside of the doors in huge letters was the single word ‘farewell’. It was really quite an emotional experience both for my father and myself.

There’s a lengthy item on WikiPedia about this aircraft. I will repost a couple of parts of that article.

Avro Vulcan XH558 (civil aircraft registration G-VLCN) The Spirit Of Great Britain is the only airworthy example of the 134 Avro Vulcan V bombers that were operated by the Royal Air Force from 1953 until 1985. Vulcan XH558 served with the RAF between 1960 and 1985 in the bomber, maritime reconnaissance and air-to-air refuelling roles. The RAF operated XH558 as a display aircraft from 1986 until 1992, when budget cuts forced its retirement.

It is operated by the Vulcan to the Sky Trust as a display aircraft, funded entirely by charitable donations and the UK Heritage Lottery Fund. It is registered with the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority as G-VLCN but has an exemption to fly in Royal Air Force markings as XH558.

Restoration to flight
The engineering staff of the Vulcan Operating Company (the engineering arm of Vulcan to the Sky Trust, owners of XH558) worked to return Vulcan XH558 to flight, with the first test flight taking place on 18 October 2007. They were supported by the “Vulcan to the Sky” club, a supporters and fundraising organisation. Though the website carried an announcement on 1 August 2006 that the project was in danger of being abandoned due to lack of finance, the target of raising the remaining £1.2m was achieved on 31 August 2006, thanks to a high-profile publicity campaign orchestrated by the supporters club, Vulcan to the Sky Club (formerly Vulcan 558 Club).

Time had almost run out for XH558 when Sir Jack Hayward, a British philanthropist, donated £500,000, which topped off the £860,000 already raised by Vulcan to the Sky Club and Friends. Although the aircraft restoration was nearly complete, the aircraft was not ready for the flypast down The Mall in London for the 25th Anniversary of the Falklands conflict on 17 June 2007 or the RAF Waddington Airshow and the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT).

It was intended that the Vulcan would fly during at least one UK airshow during the 2007 season, but due to delays in returning the aircraft to flight, mainly down to delays in the return of refurbished flight-critical components, the aircraft was not ready for the display season.

On 16 August 2007, the aircraft started engine testing on the airfield at Bruntingthorpe. On the next day, XH558’s No.3 Rolls-Royce Olympus 202 jet engine was run for the first time in over 20 years. This is a different engine from that used by XH558 during its final season with the RAF’s Vulcan Display Flight in 1992, with all four of the Vulcan’s original Olympus 202 engines having been replaced by zero-hour units which had been stored since 1982. The VTS Team also has another four fully inhibited engines in stock. The removed engines were either scrapped, sectioned for display or passed on to VRT’s XL426 at Southend. Another milestone in the restoration project was achieved on 22 August 2007, when all four of XH558’s Olympus engines were run at nearly full power settings, for short intervals.

The first post-restoration flight, which lasted 34 minutes, took place on 18 October 2007.

What a great project!

Now to a couple of videos. (There are many to chose from on YouTube, by the way.)

The first is a 45-minute documentary that I have only watched for the first few minutes, but it looks a good one.

and the second is much shorter but reveals to great effect the wonderful sound of the Vulcan’s engines.

Published on Oct 28, 2012
When the engines exceed 92% power, the Vulcan makes this cool howl sound.

On to New Year’s Eve!