Saturday 29 January 2011

State of Grace

Here we are at the end of January and your Blogger is recognising that she should be sending out pearls of Gnostic wisdom to the Universe, but is struggling out under the combined mortal coils of making a living, writing, and getting over flu.

How to continue stimulating ideas that you might find of interest without taking them away from other areas in my life? We have been together for a while now and I don't want to let you down.

Sometimes the answers to these questions come from areas we would least expect. Let me explain.

A goodly number of hours of my life right now are dedicated to working with a child who has somewhat extensive learning disabilities and who has for various reasons not had a lot of formal education. It is a blessing and a burden. A blessing because I can do what I have dreamed of doing probably since I taught my teddy bears at age 7: teach what I think is important in the overall scheme of things. Sift through "general knowledge" for reasons for our being, here and now. In that we are doing incredibly well and both of us are learning at an advanced rate. It means that I have to look at new ways in which to teach as the national curriculum is of little use to me. We are voyagers of discovery in a learning world where music might give us adjectives, and adjectives an insight into feelings and prejudice. I love it.

But it is also a burden in that I know that I have fewer and fewer hours now to dedicate to writing "Compostela". Sometimes, telling yourself at 8 at night: " get on with it!" just doesn't seem to work when you are writing historical fiction and you are too tired to think about the present, let alone immerse yourself in the past. And my usual 10pm to 4am late nights are compromised by having to get up at 7:30 with new and challenging teaching ideas.

Excuses for not having this year's scintillating blog? You betcha!


In the course of this week, I came across this video from Disney's Fantasia 2000 re-make which frankly I had never heard of. I found one of my most favourite pieces of music: Stravinsky's Firebird.

This of course, would prejudice me in favour of this piece, but the first time I saw this, I was simply stunned. "This has a message, but beyond the obvious, what is it?" So I watched it again.

And again. And the last time I had tears truly rolling down my cheeks and I think that rather than hollow sentiment I truly understood why.

Please, do watch this and then as you do, mentally (or literally) slow this down. You are at 8 minutes 42 seconds. (8:42). Go slow. I know it is counter to today's pace but do it anyway!

There is far more symbolism than just forestry re-generation at work here. Go deeper... Challenge youself to the inner - and very spiritual - message.

What is going through her mind as this happens, and his at what follows? Who are they supposed to represent? Does it matter anyway?

Is this Bliss? Is this in Christian terms a "State of Grace"? Is it a glimpse into the Taoist world? Is nature created, or "Emanated"?

What is all the other stuff about?

Is this the ultimate that we all crave from the moment we are born into a magical world full of opportunity and potential only to become cynical, practical, and ultimately preparing for and ready for death? From a teacher's point of view: what happens between grade 4 and grade 8? Where does the wonder go? Why does cynicism win out? Why is it only small children and philosophers ask the "right" questions?

Your answers, comments, confusions are always welcome...

Saturday 15 January 2011

The Butterfly Effect...

If a butterfly moves its wings in Brazil, can it set off a tornado in Texas?

This question is at the basis of the Butterfly Effect: the idea that even the tiniest changes in the atmosphere could have far reaching effects many thousands of miles away. The term itself is based on the work of Edward Lorenz who while investigating chaos theory said that there were implications for meteorology. The effect in a line of causation may seem to have nothing to do with the cause which may occur far away either physically or even metaphorically. Anyone who has seen the brilliant though disturbing film Babel will know exactly what I am talking about.

I will shamelessly quote Wikipedia on the subject of the butterfly effect:

“Recurrence, the approximate return of a system towards its initial conditions, together with sensitive dependence on initial conditions are the two main ingredients for chaotic motion. They have the practical consequence of making complex systems, such as the weather, difficult to predict past a certain time range (approximately a week in the case of weather), since it is impossible to measure the starting atmospheric conditions completely accurately.”

A film called The Butterfly Effect met with mixed reaction when it was released in 2004, although it did go on to win some more obscure awards. The implications for the butterfly effect seem to me most obviously demonstrated in deep ecology where the introduction of just one member of a species, one plant, even one seed can cause disastrous and long-term consequences for the environment. But in my case, I am hoping that one positive and optimistic act can set off a positive chain of events, as in another excellent movie Pay It Forward. I have a friend in Canada who regularly, while in line at the drive in, will buy a cup of coffee for the person in the car behind. Her rationale is that we are all trying to do the best we can and this might really make someone's day.

I have special friends...

So now you know…

Sunday 9 January 2011


And so finally we are back to the original question: why do I "like" Gnosticism?

Did the Cathar belief leave with the last to die? I don't know. What I do know is that there is a hunger in the world today. A hunger to release us from the chains of econotheism, and the wholesale worship of technology: of the Easy Option. A spiritual hunger? I don't know. Perhaps it is a hunger of the developed world which ignores or pays mere lip service to the real hunger of countries like Eritrea, Haiti, Pakistan...

But whatever it is, it has a hold on many of us.

Perhaps you recognise yourself here: wondering just what it is that you were put on this earth to do, or the even more difficult question: in terms of science, does my life count for nothing? Will I make no real mark on the grand scale of the existence (chaotic existence or...?) of this planet? Am I just a spread of time between birth and death? Am I a "waste of space"?

I hope that what I have written here on this blog in recent months and before will persuade you that you are UNIQUE and VALUABLE. Your very presence on this earth can affect anything you wish it to. All you have to do is to push just one domino...and you will affect everything that happens in the world after that. Every single thing! You are a butterfly. Flap your wings!

I was asked not long ago, why I “liked” Gnosticism. This was my brief when I was asked to speak at the Gnostcism conference at Brock University last September. I laughed. I mean I can tell you why I like high-heeled snakeskin boots, sushi, movies starring Sandra Bullock, and old Volvos. But as to why did I like Gnosticism? It just had me giggling.

But I am going to try: I like Gnosticism because it respects me as a person, a spirit, a flight of occasional fancy, an intellect, a once-in-a-while penitent, a craving, a light, a dreamer, a child in the clearing. I like Gnosticism because it respects my questioning mind; it does not seek to chain me to irreconcilable paradox to which I am told I must believe because it is absurd.

I like Gnosticism because it gives me liberation from the world, resurrection of the body, restitution of the Spirit in this life. It allows me to see the beauty of the world but not the need to identify with it in order to find my true home.
"It restoreth my soul"

I like Gnosticism.

I hope you do too.

(Beautiful photo of Tarifa beach by Rebecca Saunders)