Category Archives: history

A Vague Thought

Vague

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‘Great Wave Off Kanagawa’, ‘La Vague d’Hokusai’ or ‘The Wave’ – by Katushika Hokusai (1760 – 1849) an artist and printmaker of the Edo or classical period. Hokusai was a prolific artist, and his paintings were popular in his lifetime, and in Europe and have become world famous since. It has been said that Monet was deeply influenced by Hokusai. He originated Hokusai Manga (manga = random drawings, so no connection with the modern usage of manga), a body of reference for other artists (some fifteen volumes).

In this painting, the waves have claws and are menacing, the humans in tiny boats are, by comparison, vulnerable and at the mercy of nature. Mt. Fuji in the background also dominates, the only natural thing not threatened by the water.

The connection to vague is of course the French translation = a wave of panic swept over me. So, in French the title implies what the painting is showing, the wave about to sweep over the fishermen.

Hokusai was concerned for the decline of society and was also seeing the end of the classical period. The painting shows judgement, the wave about to sweep over the fishermen and the community was a judgement on the people. I would retitle it – Nature Strikes Back.

The perspective of Hokusai is striking, because he is commnicating that the way Japanese society was behaving – it could not, should not continue.

But that is more real for us today because we have intervened in nature, with chemicals, polution, clearing, salinity, depletion of species, nature can strike back as a result of the changes it faces. Researchers have long been saying that weather patterns are changing, rainfall has changed, the earth’s atmosphere is warming. The positive is that there are many who are working hard to get our attention and change that.

In a more personal sense the painting speaks of consequences, if we don’t care for ourselves, if we don’t check our excesses, if we don’t care for others, then there are consequences that will affect us. Without reflective time, without some quiet within the daily, without healthy diet and exercise, without love and loving, without the capacity to listen and to share, to be creative, we are at risk of life sweeping over us with claws waiting to consume us. Mindfulness is not a mystery, it simply learning to to put our ego drive away and focus on the real self and its potential and relations. to use a cliche – stop and smell the roses.

But unlike the fishermen in the painting we are not at the mercy of such things, we can (we must) stop and take time, and we can work together on the crises that seem to surround us. And not in the least to begin to challenge the work ethic which will consume us first if we don’t.

Nature rises up
the claws of consequence
time to paint

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Chiron’s Parallel Process

via Daily Prompt: Parallel

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The sort of parallel lines that matter to me. I’ve long held a passion for railways, and as a child loved following train tracks, I still do. This photo was taken at Dwellingup, at Hotham Valley Tourist Railway.

There’s a lot of talk today in therapy and social work circles about parallel process. Carl Jung coined the term to explain that those who take up psychotherapy and counselling do so because they have faced pain in their own lives. Jung turned to Greek mythology to help define what he meant. He used the myth of Chiron.

Chiron (if you remember) was the child born by the union of kronus and the nymph Philyra. Kronos was out looking for his son Zeus and he encountered Philyra and lusted after her. Philyra was having none of it and changed into a mare in order to escape. But Kronos changes into a stallion and overtakes her. Kronos rapes Philyra and departs, the result of this union is Chiron, a centaur. Philyra rejects the child. So the child Chiron is abandoned by both his parents. But Apollo adopts Chiron. Apollo (god of music, poetry, healing) taught Chiron everything he knew, and Chiron became a mentor to many.

Chiron became friends with Hercules, which was unusual because Hercules was always fighting with the Centaurs. One day in a skirmish, Hercules accidentally wounds Chiron in the knee. The arrows Hercules had used caused a would that would never heal (they were dipped in the blood of Hydra), and for an immortal like Chiron, this was an eternal would, a would never to heal. Hercules and Chiron work out how to end it, Chiron must become a mortal and die, so Chiron does by trading places with Prometheus. In death Chiron was rewarded for his deeds with the constelation Centaurus.

Jung was referring to the pain of Chiron’s abandonment as leading him to be such a great and understanding mentor for so many. In a clinical sense the term refers to how there is sometiems a similarity betwen the client’s and the therapist’s situations. Because they are similar, thus parallel. Sometimes the therapist may not realise and sometimes the therapist may erroneously beleive that what worked for their situation should work for the client and they may risk becoming directive.

For the rest of us it may be helpful when we are simply sharing, to note what comes up for us, and like Chiron, to find ways of reaching out to those we know and love, and to find ways of compassionately journeying with them, reflectively listening, and holding the space for them to speak and unburden. There’s nothing greater than love, especially offering non-judgmental love, and being able to share doubts, anxieties, joys and hopes. People around us may be in similar experience or situation, and though it is never the same, and though we must never be directive, we can all be there for each other and hold the space knowing we need that too, and knowing we can, in the end be part of the healing process by sharing our stories with them. And we all have something to share. In that sense we are wounded healers, helping others and ourselves to find healing through our woundedness.

As Irving Yalom says: “We are fellow travellers in our pain and joy.” 

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Daily Prompt: Fret

via Daily Prompt: Fret

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As bricks and mortar age they fret, or wear away. The photo shows Balladonia Station homestead (c. 2007 © P. V. Cannon) on the Eyre Highway, east of Norseman. It is a conglomerate of 1890s to 1930s construction, but even the 1930s parts are showing their age, the mortar between the bricks has been fretting and someone has made a hasty repair to prevent the bricks falling away. The stone and bricks are also fretting.

The owner was in process of repairs, but it would be an enourmous task and very costly (distance from any city would mean high transport costs). We were fortunate that day as the manager was home and showed us around and gave us quite a bit of the history of Balladonia. One snippet was that Balladonia was part of the crash site for Skylab in 1979 when it re-entered earth’s atmosphere (the local roadhouse has memorabilia pieces from the Skylab on display). A lot of history has passed through this place.

Buildings tend to fret on the outside earlier due to exposure to the elements of weather. We tend to fret on the inside ealier because, unless we take care, we are exposed to the ravages of hurt, grief, anger, worry, anxiety … which, while normal life experiences, can become embedded and drive us, wear us down, drag us low.

We really need good boundaries, supportive relationships and conversation with deep empathic listening, even having accountability partners who hold us to account on our issues. An ability to reflect, journal and meditate can be a wonderful help. Reality is perception, but comfort and solace is human friendship, the very best antidote to fretting. The old saying, prevention is better than cure, rings true, though it’s never too late to make repairs.

The Roman poet Aulus Persius Flaccus (34 – 62 CE) wrote: “We consume our tomorrows fretting about our yesterdays.”

Living in the present moment is one of the few ways of not being consumed by our yesterdays or even our tomorrows. Maintaining perspective is another. That’s why we need others around us, they can help to keep us grounded and true to ourselves.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Songs Lift My Soul

via Daily Prompt: Song

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In 2013 The Bridgetown Cidery became home to a regular Folk Music Night, where local artists performed both solo and together as a band. In the Photo above we have Daun on percussion, a woman whose name I sadly can’t remember, Mary Myfanwy (who has her own solo career), and Adrian Williams (who can play a number of string instruments) who was a catalyst for the venture. This was taken July 2014 when I was still living in the town. I regularly attended these events because I love folk music, and on occasion there’d be something from the archive of Steeleye Span or Fairport Convention, among others. It was a fabulous time.

When I was around three years old, I have a distinct memory (I can still locate myself by a song, even my mood at the time on some occasions) of the songs of Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, and Bob Dylan (who I met in 1978 in Perth) and I have ever since had a soft spot for folk music of many kinds. My mother always had the radio on, BBC of course, and through those long English winters, trapped indoors, it was wonderful to be able to listen to music of all kinds. Fats Domino, Lonny Donegan, Cliff Richard and the Shadows, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Tom Jones, The Platters, Gene Vincent, Sam Cooke and more became known to me by their songs, it would be some years later that I would identify the songs by those who sang them. I loved music, I loved participating too. As with all children I was in the school “orchestra or band” I played the triangle, and eventually graduated to tambourine. I sang in a church choir for a time as a child, but when my voice broke it was deemed better that I not do that anymore 🙂

The sixties music had a profound effect on me. Who could ever deny the impact of the Beatles, but so many good songs and the bands who brought them into being.

My school band days migrated to the Australian school system where everyone was expected to learn to play the recorder (which drove my teachers and my Parents mad)  and every class had a singing session weekly to learn songs. I loved it all. I never did learn to read music, and for a brief moment in time I started to learn to play bass guitar, and was in a couple of attempted start-up bands. I did write some songs, but found I was a better poet than a straight up song writer. It was all good fun.

When I was in my teens, music, like reading, was a great escape, and I found music could also lift my soul, that hasn’t changed, it still does. I have my favourite songs, but I have a broad love of music and genre, from from folk to pop, blues to rock, gospel to hip hop, and classical and jazz. I have really enjoyed fusion, and the collaboration between cultures as pioneered by people like Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon, George Harrison, and including Robert Plant, and many others.

I find music affects me body, mind and soul. There are some songs or pieces that bring me goose-bumps, and ecstasy, others are deeply meditative, some energising.

Even the very serious Friedrich Nietzsche once said: “Without music, life would be a mistake.”

I agree, it would be a tragedy. But thankfully humanity is creative and expressive and we have a vast body of ever growing work to choose from. I wonder what your favourite song is? Perhaps like me you find it hard to choose just one. For me, in this moment, Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A Changin” In 1964, it was a very real song, an anthem. But now it is more – it is my constant hope.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

 

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In Memory of Karen Silkwood

via Daily Prompt: Radiant

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My mother entered her teens during WW2, and as a consequence she enthused her children to know about it. In my own meanderings around the subject of the war I could not reconcile the use of nuclear weapons (depite the plea for shortening the war), I was deeply moved by the photographic footage of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I still am (one photo the evokes the same response is the image of Phan Khi Kim Phuc Running while burned by napalm). The results of Chernobyl and Fukushima are horrifying.

But the story that really got me was the story of Karen Silkwood which I first encountered through the movie Silkwood starring Meeryl Streep, and thereafter through reading. The story of how she raised the issue of health and safety at the Kerr-Mcgee chemical factory, and how she mysteriously disappeared on her way to meet a journalist. In 1974 she testified before the Atomic Energy Commission about her concerns. Silkwood was also suffering from the inadequate safety of the chemical plant where she worked – she said she was suffering from plutonium contamination.

Silkwood’s story told me then that the nuclear industry could be easily compromised (but then, which industry can’t be compromised?) by sloppy safety practices and the lust for profits and market gain. And look at the results:-

Windscale, UK, 1957 – Windscale 1 caught fire, the radiation reached Europe (200 cancer related deaths documented).

Sodium Reactor Experiment, USA, 1959 – 13 fuel rods overheated, the gaseous material that resulted was discharged into the atmosphere.

SL – 1, USA, 1961 – power surge caused by single fuel rod extraction, the steam explosion killed the three workers on duty that day, they all received lethal doses of radiation.

Enrico Fermi Unit 1, USA, 1966 – the first and only fast breeder reactor that overheated.

Three Mile Island Unit 2, USA, 1978 – nuclear reactor coolant escaped.

Chernobyl, Ukraine, 1986 – massive release of radiation across the Soviet Union and Europe. Poor safety procedures during a scheduled maintenance operation resulted in the reactor suffering a series of explosions, followed by a fire which also accelerated the release of radiation.

Fukushima Daiichi, Japan, 2011 – and earthquake and subsequent tsunami damaged the nuclear plant, it overheated and suffered a series of explosions, and massive amounts of radiation were released.

Needless to say these are the big ones, there are myriads of small problems with radiation release due to reactor problems, but also from radioactive waste control problems. Currently the issue of nuclear waste rages as the state and federal govt. determine whether or not to place a nuclear dump at a small rural centre in South Australia, at Kimba (we stayed there last year, great little town). Of course, the community have been given all sorts of guarantees! But once you’ve understood Silkwood, once you’ve checked the serious nuclear disaster list and seen how most of them are human error issues,  guarantees don’t mean much. In my view, nuclear reactors = radiation in our environment.

I don’t know that I can stop the whole thing, I stay informed, I write to politicians, I bring it up with others, short of chaining myself to a fence in South Australia, that’s about it, but if more of us wrote and lobbied it would at least, if nothing else, alert our local reps to our understanding and concern. Guarantees don’t cut it! Don’t be fooled.

For those interested: https://antinuclear.net

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Betrayal Hurts

via Daily Prompt: Betrayed

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Photo: moviedb.org  – Richard Burton as Alec Leamas, the spy who takes on one more mission in East Germany, only to discover layer upon layer of deception, and his own betrayal (‘The Spy Who Came In From The Cold’ by John le Carre), a story often used, and most recently in Atomic Blonde (from the graphic novel ‘The Coldest City’).

We’ve all tasted betrayal.

Betrayal is an auspicious topic for Good Friday. Today recognises the crucifixion of Jesus. One particular detail in the story, is the cold and public betrayal by his disciple Judas. Judas is dazzled by money, he’d been stealing from the communal purse and now he was enamoured with the thirty pieces of silver he was offered to publicly identify Jesus to an arrest party. As the story goes, Judas leads a party of soldiers and police to where Jesus is, and identifies Jesus by greeting and kissing him. Essentially the kiss of death for a man he professed to follow.

There are many classic stories of betrayal. The Song of the Niebulungs which tells of the betrayal of the dragon slayer Siegfried. Odin was considered by the Norse to be the god of frenzy and betrayal. Euripides’ famous story of how Jason abandons his wife Medea for a younger woman is chilling, it ends badly.

Modern stories abound. Anything by Graham Greene, but especially ‘The End of the Affair’, and classic spy stories are essentially betrayal stories especially as written by John le Carre.

The stories of betrayal, whether true or fiction, actually bear out the popular saying: “The saddest thing about betrayal is that it never comes from your enemies, it comes from your friends and loved ones.” That’s why it hurts so much. Siegfried’s wife takes revenge, Medea kills the children, Alec Leamas chooses death even when he is able to reach freedom. We’re not told what Jesus thinks about betrayal, but he is consistent with his teaching about forgiveness and love, he refuses to stoop to the level of those who whip and kill him.

But for us mere mortals there is a piece of very sound advice to heed: “If someone betrays you once, it’s their fault; if they betray you twice, it’s your fault.” (Eleanor Roosevelt) Clearly boundaries matter. But even then …

I find myself drawn to what Jesus lived and taught – that forgiveness (properly understood) is life giving.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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The Four Quartets

Quartet

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I love music of many kinds, so quartet brings to mind the Norwegian musicians – Vertavo String Quartet, or from a jazz perspective, the John Coltrane Quartet. However, What is forever etched on my mind are four poems,  the ‘Four Quartets’ by T.S. Eliot.

The ‘Four Quartets’ are reflective meditations on humanity’s relationship with time. Eliot engages spiritual themes, and philosophy, and includes such influences as John of the Cross, Julian of Norwich (mystics), presocratic thinkers (Greek philosophy), and the Bhagavad Gita (Hindu).  The poems were written between 1936 and 1945 and originally published separately, until 1948 when Faber published them in one volume. The period in which he wote these poems is perhaps indicative of the content. The threat of war, followed by the long war and the blitz, which he endured, must have impacted his sense of mortality and time.

The Quartets are: ‘Burn Norton’, ‘East Coker’, ‘The Dry Salvages’, and ‘Little Gidding.’

My favourite of the four is Little Gidding, simply because it contains a profound observation of the human condition that is neither perfunctory, nor damning, but rather, somehow, encouraging. That observation of Eliot’s comes in part five of ‘Little Gidding.’

We shall not cease from exploration
And at the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

As I’ve quoted before, Proust puts it well when he says: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

Eliot is not at odds with Proust in this. He too is suggesting that we humans are curious, we are seekers of truth, of belief, fact, geography, place and space, and more. But, in spite of great travels and in spite of much learning, eventually we return to our roots, our beginning points, and see them afresh.

For me that means seeing the horizons of body, mind and soul with new inner eyes, being able to see with the eyes of wholeness, forgiveness, love, kindness, compassion, and self-giving. Eliot also speaks of how experience is transformative (if we allow it to be so). He also speaks to how we mature in those experiences along life’s journey, and how time affects us, that aging and experience might afford us opportunity to see ourselves afresh. We engage with our youthfulness and “kick the traces” as we used to say, rebelling; we turn to masks, we invent personae for the public I, denial is the trope of our lives. But in the end, at our very core, there is only ever, our true self, if we but look carefully. And if we attend to our true self, accept our self, loev our self, we see ourselves whole as if for the first time.

In a stark reminder, he’s also suggesting that, as with the story of Adam and Eve, so with all of us, we never leave the awkwardness of self-awareness, separation, and a sense even an anxiety, that we could do better we could be someone. All of us strive to overcome those things, but find that we were/are, perhaps, a little too hard on ourselves and that we just need to see ourselves as good. The journey we engage is one to be whole and perfect, but yet, the end of our searching leads us back to where we began, that we were indeed whole in the first place, and that nothing is ever perfect.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under history, life, mindfulness, Philosophy/Theology, poetry, religion, Spirituality

The Efficient Inefficient

via Daily Prompt: Inefficient

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I think there are different types or contexts for inefficiency. I get worried about any inefficiency around protecting the environment. Protecting water, soil, air, all life forms are for me, absolutely vital. I get annoyed when I see leaking garden reticulation, those who flaunt the water restrictions, those who ignore recycling, the use of plastic, and so on.

I think too, that government agencies are amazingly inefficient, but that is not always unhelpful 😀

But in a sense, efficiency is a construct. If efficiency is about cutting waste that endangers life then I’m all for it. But, if efficiency is about productivity and profit, then no, I’m not too concerned. Capitalism drives economic efficiency, well, a type of economic efficiency, and one I’d prefer not to be too enmeshed with. If you go back to the works of Charles Dickens, you discover a world of cruel and base living in order to survive the machine that is economics, the drive to produce more and produce more efficiently. And, has anything changed since Dickens’ time? This form of economics has sucked the life out of our planet, it has weakened our politicians who have no resolve to confront the power of production, it has duped us into brand lust, and it has lied to us about the benefits. It is our addiction. So, the idea of efficiency for the sake of money – especially someone else’s money, which in fact becomes environmentally inefficient, is not attractive to me.

But in capitalism there is also a brutal twist, it becomes efficiency at the expense of life. Productivity becomes life threatening. Tar sands, the destruction of fracking, oil spills, pipelines burst, trees lost, water lost, homes lost … if you have a strong stomach then follow this link to watch the controversial commercial (banned from cinemas in the UK) from 2011 about Conflict Minerals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The commercial, which is aptly called “Unwatchable”, is rated 18+, it is violent, unpleasant, and disturbing, but that’s why they made it – to confront us with our culpability in the conflict and forced labour in the DRC. There is still a petition available to sign with it –  Unwatchable

When I think of inefficient, I connect very strongly with what writer Brenda Ueland says in the quote above. It says to me, very clearly, that efficiency/productivity is not advantageous, it stifles our thought, our creativity, our imagination. I’ve had a few superiors in my working life who have been wise, and have urged that it is better if I have times where I am less productive, but am more mindful, more imaginative. I know that if my life is too full, I am creatively stifled. Equally, if there is no balance in my life, I become unhealthy, body, mind and soul. I am less mindful, and just driven. Those around me can testify to the ugly nature of that. Then I become inefficient in health, in relationships, in work, in creativity.

For me life is not about perfection, efficiency, productivity. They are often based on external forces, expectations, learned behaviour, dependency, drivenness, greed … For me, life is about taking time, awareness, noticing, attending, loving, imagining, and sharing compassion – if I am to be efficient, I want to be efficient and productive in those positives for the good of all. Imagine if we were all efficient in that way, it could just change the world. In short, I want to be the efficient inefficient!

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Don’t Swallow Everything, Or, Gullibility Doesn’t Look Good On You

via Daily Prompt: Swallow

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Some people will swallow anything. But many may not know they are being manipulated. Two years ago I was listening to a radio interview with a Sydney academic who had just published findings in the role of the press, churches, State Government, and Police Dept. in 1930s Sydney. This was the era of the Razor Gang. I was driving and did’t think to stop and note the show and the author, but this is the gist of it (thereby proving my headline):

The research showed that although there were some razor gang attacks, the press exaggerated the occurence at a time when the police dept. were trying to get an increase in their budget and more officers on the street. The state government were clearly open to pressure on this issue. So, the theory goes, between the press, the police and the government, legislation was drawn up to deal with the issue. The public went along for the ride, for a while.

The back story: guns had earlier become a criminal issue, and legislation was effective in supporting the police in containing gang access to and use of guns. The gangs then resorted to other weapons and tactics.

The legislation drawn up to deal with the razor gangs was based on consorting and public gathering as offences. If two or three people met together on the street Police could detain them under the new law. The research was all about disproving what has come to light as a pure moral panic created by the press of the day, and which benefitted the reputation of the state govenment and enabled police to gain greater power and resource. We would call that collusion. Apparently, the arrest info showed that mostly prostitutes and petty thieves were rounded up, as well many inncoent people gathering for such innocuous reasons as street preaching, hawking goods, and meeting up to go to a cafe. So few actual razor gang members were ever arrested, and even fewer prosecuted. The research also showed that it was the churches of Sydney who turned the tide, they took a stance of setting the record straight, exposing the moral panic as a political and journalistic lie, and presured the government, successfully, into dropping the legislation and the moral panic. The tide turned.

The infamous Nazi, Joseph Goebbels once said: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” (often falsely attributed to Adolf Hitler) Goebbels was the master of lies as chief propagandist for the Reich, so he knew a thing or two about lying to people, it was his job. I think he’s right.

Haven’t we, at times, swallowed that race matters, colour defines? Does economic Austerity really work? Did you believe for a time that Saddam Hussein really had weapons of mass destruction? Add your own.

There’s a lot out there to swallow, if you’re not careful it will either leave a bad taste or choke you (metaphorically speaking). In this age of opinion and fake news it is hard to know what is and isn’t truth, but patience, reflection, and open conversation are gifts of discernment we can use to find our way, together.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Faceless Fawkes

via Daily Prompt: Faceless

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To wear a mask is to be intentionally faceless, or differently faced. The Guy Fawkes (he of the Fifth of November plot) mask has become popular, especially with the Occupy Movement (which is still active, if you were wondering) and Anonymous. It’s modern usage was inspired by the grahic novel V For Vendetta, which is a dystopian story in which the hero, an anarchist seeks to defeat the fascist government ruling England. Ironically, V desires anarchy – people will be allowed to do as they please, there will be no more control, yet this replaces the total control of fascism. One extreme to the other! I call V’s version ‘no-hopia.’ V’s dream comes to fruition even as he is dying, and in the novel it is the final scene where the lights go out on the freeway that makes the point, V’s mask hides another form of dystopia. England has gone from total repressive control to no control, and nothing in between. V’s goal was no goal.

One of the criticisms of the Occupy Movement is that it has had no real goal or drive other than to protest the evil of capitalism. Perhaps that is the frustrated view of those who expected anarchy, or revolution to ensue in some particular way? Another group, Anonymous have been associated with anarchism, exposure and disruption of governemnt and corporations. For me the Occupy Movement and Anonymous were symbolised by the mask, lacking face and lacking cohesion. In my view they were hiding even from themselves and perhaps, therefore, from purpose. Protest for protests sake goes nowhere, there must be resolve, there must be purpose, and it must be authentic.

We have enjoyed many masked heroes too. Batman stands out, but yet Batman is as dark as his enemies, and his mask belies the hero (which in reality I accept, who is perfect? No one is that good).

But Guy Fawkes never wore a mask. He was caught red-handed ready to light the fuse that would blow up the English pariament house. That’s courage, that’s purpose. Not that I’m encouraging anyone to rush out and follow his example (however …).

As e.e. cummings said: “The greatest battle we face as human beings is the battle to protect our true selves from the self the world wants us to become.”

Psychology teaches us that we all wear masks, to protect, hide, obscure, change who we are in differnt contexts. We seek to avoid being found out (the Imposter Syndrome), sometimes we believe we are unworthy and so we project a personae to cope, to win friends, to make our niche, to avoid being hurt. Sometimes we hide too much and people miss who we really are, or colleagues never really appreciate our potential, there are risks with masks.

There is always the real self, the deeper you, the authentic you inside. I want the real you.

Oscar Wilde once said: “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.”

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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