Tag Archives: life

The Gordian Knot

via Daily Prompt: Complication

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In downtown ancient Phrygia in Anatolia, in Asia Minor (now modern Turkey) the population were without a king for sometime, and a prophecy was given that the new king would be a man who drove an ox-cart through the city gate. And, a peasant farmer did just that. His name was Gordias, and as per the oracle’s prophecy, Gordias was named king of Phrygia.

Gordias’ son Midas was so grateful that he tied that ox-cart to a post using an complicated knot made from cornel (cornus mas) bark and dedicated it to the god Sabazios (or as the Greeks would say – Zeus). The knot was said to be very complicated, it was described as being several knots together, so intertwined that it was impossible to find the beginning or the end of it, hence its entry into legend as the Gordian Knot.

The legend went on, with a new prophecy that whoever undid the knot would rule all of Asia. Enter Alexander the Great. There are two stories of Alexander undoing the knot, in the first he simply slices it in two with his sword after wrestling with it. In the second, he discovers the central strand and successfully unravels it. Either way, he went on to rule Asia Minor and beyond.

Today it carries the meaning of complication. We use the term “cut the Gordian Knot”, which refers to decisively solving a problem or puzzle. The term also refers to any problem or conundrum that can only be solved with lateral or creative thinking.

We all carry an internal Gordian Knot or two. I think where love is concerned when we meet our life partner we are the key to unravelling the complications of attraction, bonding, and releasing each other in new creative ways. I think there are other knots we carry. Some carry the whole world on their shoulders, others carry depression, anxiety, heartache, grief. Others carry hate, jealousy, anger. Some carry physical knots of illness. It’s a complicated world, and none of these knots can be treated as simple or trite. These knots can’t be dealt with like Alexander slicing them open, nice as that would be.

The ancients believed that the knot was actually a code to be unravelled first, so that the knot would also unravel. In a way it is a metaphor for life – to be patient, to learn the clues to self, to understand self and one’s passions, abilities, and possible paths in life. For me the Gordian Knot is life opening up as I attend to the mindful path, strand by strand, not being too concerned with slicing or loosing the whole, but discovering each intricate strand and its role. Life is a Gordian Knot, and it cannot be short circuited, you cannot succeed by simply getting frustrated and slicing it open. Life, as the cliche goes, must be lived. Our clues to success are in the living into the glorious chaos we call life, remembering Samuel Butler’s comment: “Life is not an exact science, it is an art”, and finding our way. But above all, we are often the key to each other’s unravelling our inner knots, it is an imprecise science or art, sometimes we are totally unware it is happening, it’s called relationship, it begins with dialogue …

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under history, life, mindfulness, Mythology, quote

Who’s A Cur?

via Daily Prompt: Cur

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Nope, definitely not a cur. Vienna is on loan to see if she fits into our family and life, but after two weeks we are already quite taken with her, and she with us. She is no low, viscious dog, but a lovong member of the family.

The cur is the grumbling, growling, biting dog, the back alley dog, the drooling menace, the lowest of the low. A dog of mixed breed, or unknown parentage, ugly, fearful yet aggressive, angry but yet a true coward.

The cur doesn’t discern, but simply lashes out, bites and runs away. The cur hides in darkness, in shadows, is easily whipped by the masters tongue, and grovels to the one who feeds.

As a child I heard this term used as a putdown on a number of ocassions, listening to the men talking at the BBQ, now and again an absent man would come into discussion (isn’t that the way of it? To analyse and disect the absent ones) and I have a memory, that some were described by the epithet cur, or its equivalent mongrel! “That bloke’s just a lying cur.” “He’s just a no-good mongrel.” “He’s just a bastard.”

Something in me would twinge, I felt for the absent ones. Was this how we were all described when absent? Was this the sum view of all who didn’t fit this group? Besides, I knew some of these ‘curs’ and I didn’t share that view! Ever since I have puzzled over the way we tend to use comparison, to take nature and make it a negative description of a person. You pig, you scaredy cat, you cow, you dog, you wounded duck, you silly goose and so on. It all rolls easily off the tongue, especially when angry.

Cur when applied to humans, means, the person who is grumbling, annoying, untrustworthy, reactive, unreliable, disliked, cowardly …

Sadly labels stick – either directly in the social milieu, or in the mind of the agressor, or worse, in the mind of the victim, there is no easy escape. We so readily resort to defiining the other, and sometimes negatively, boxing them in, giving us and them a mind-map to follow, defining their potential and their future. Words have meaning, words convey place, words have power, most especially in the mind, but also in the group. With a word we convey goodness and hope, with another social death, and isolation. With words we steal life itself and terminate those we so easily label, sucking their identity from them, and boxing them into our definition. Control!

But there is some redemtion of the term. There are dog breeds known as curs in the US. The Catahoula Cur, the Blackmouthed Cur, and others. These are dogs bred for rugged conditions, mountain dwelling, coping with bears, pumas, coyotes, and other threats while guarding sheep and cattle. They are adept hunting dogs, and loyal to the family or individuals who care for them.

What I like about that is the opportunity to turn the term around. So what if the cur is loyal, hard working, protective, fearless, helpful …

I love binary terms, they shouldn’t exist but they do, and in the end the positives always outweigh the negatives. The binary of cur is a gift. We can use that gift to refute the negatives and redeem the victims everytime. I believe there is good in everyone, we just have to set aside our filters and bias to see the true person before us. With a word we have the power to box people in, or, set them free.

I want to set them free! (And, I too want to be free)

That your name is cur
recurs, recurs, until we
set you free to be

©Paul Cannon

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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Filed under life, mindfulness, nature, poetry

The Inchoate Life

via Daily Prompt: Inchoate

What is the sound of?

The inchoate Zen koan!

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Steps?! More an inchoate mess. On the day I cursed these, they had deterorated and certainly hinderd rather than helped the climb. Some sections were good, but around 400 metres of this and you soon tire. However it was worth the agony just to achieve the summit. Coming down was no easier.

A kind of parallel to my life –  incomplete, messy, no less easier after the climb through youth. Tough steps. But worth every minute and all the effort, and more to come. An inchoate life.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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A Captivating Dream

via Daily Prompt: Captivating

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It is not slender, it is not pretty (to some), it is not straight or elegant or young. It is in fact old, gnarled and mishapen. It has obviously survived fires, storms, wind damage, dry spells and more. Yet it is captivating for the real life it offers. As with any tree it offers me the Co2 – O2 exchange that is vital to my very breath. It provides shade for the understory and any creature that passes by. Many living things exist in its bark, or depend on its leaves, transpiration, or shed detritus that helps form the humous at its base. Its blossom is a source of nectar for indigenous bees as well as European honey bees, and for a variety of insects. Its seed provides new life and is a food source too. Probably the fact that it is so gnarly has saved it from the tree fellers over the past four decades, so it is a survivor. Which just goes to show that looks aren’t everything. I was captivated by it. It is striking by comparison, and stands out in the forest of straight and elegant comapnions.

Back in 1980, the story of Joseph Merrick resurfaced through a movie made by David Lynch, called the “Elephant Man.” It had little chance of being uplifting, it was in fact, deeply saddening. Merrick died at 27 due to compications of his body weight to head weight ratio. I left the movie feeling quite heavy, mostly because of the lack of knowledge then to help him adapt to a better to life, and also because of how some in society treated him. Merrick was a real person, but not everyone treated him as such.

Scroll forward to another movie in 2001, “Shallow Hal” by the Farrelly Brothers. It was a comedy, but a very real look into the real potential for humanity to be superficial and shallow in regard to relationships. It had a manufactured ending, it was after all a work of fiction, so it ended well. But it resonated for me in my experiences of people who only see the surface of anything or anyone. But in reality, as we develop in life, we are all faced with the moment of choice – are relationships merely about taking, or are they mutual? The latter, of course, relies on our wholeness and our ability to see beyond self.

I am captivated by the life force and life giving capacity of the gnarled old tree. I was captivated by the story of Joseph Merrick and his struggle in the sea of human indifference, a short life that, perhaps, only pointed to the need for a better way, but that was something. And I was captivated by the desire of the makers of Shallow Hal to make the movie resolve in favour of true love, honesty, and integrity (but then, it is a hollywood production) in a world where, sometimes, the complete opposite is true in relationships.

My hope, dream, is that we will all be captivated by the real self in relation to other real selves, that we are not blindly becoming consumers of other people, that we’re not just in some symbiotic dependency, but rather in mutual and interdependent relationships that share values and dreams, love, compassion, and hope ….

In a time when our fellow life forms need advocacy, when sexual identity has become a battle ground, when class remains and economic injustice, and where wealth remains an obscenity, and where leadership has become a vacuous celebrity circus, we need the real.

I’m captivated by the potential of all forms of life, in particular, by the potential of humanity to excell and rise above shallow and look deeply inside to see the true beauty of all living things. Imagine.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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Filed under community, environment, history, life, love, nature, self-development

The Uncompromising Alison Hargreaves

via Daily Prompt: Uncompromising

In honour of International Women’s Day:

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I’ve been captivated by many women, and not in the least my wife Lyn. But one woman who, having read her story, and who has remained in my mind, is the uncompromising Alison Hargreaves.

Hargreaves was born on February 17, 1962 in Derbyshire, England. The town she grew up in, Belper, was in the Peak District, a much loved climbing area. She was deeply influenced by one of her teachers, and outdoor pursuit teacher Hilary Collins. When she left high school she chose to open a mountaineering equipment store with Jim Ballard, whom she eventually married. Ballard was already a climber, and he saw Hargreave’s potential and became her mentor and coach, encouraging her and supporting her to extend herself.

Even in the early 80s it was unusual to see women rock climbers, and Hargreaves was a distinct figure on the rock climbing circuit. She had a strong inner drive and enthusiasm, and she pushed herself to achieve. And in the early 80s she had already begun to make a name for herself, conquering the Alps in Europe. In 1986 she went with a small team led by Jeff Lowe of the US to climb Kantega in the Himalayas, and she successfully summitted. Rather than return to the Himalayas while pregnant, Hargreaves instead chose to climb the north face of the Eiger and became the first British female climber to summit. After the birth of her first child, son Tom, she also gave birth a second child two years later – Kate, and Hargreaves now gave primary time to raising her children, yet venturing out to the Peak District and then across to Europe’s Alps. She set herself a goal – to climb all of the six most famous Alpine north faces, and solo in a single season. She did it, and in record times.

In 1994 she set another goal, to climb Everest, solo and without oxygen, ascending to the South Col, she turned back as she risked frostbite. She returned six months later to ascend the north face (following Mallory’s route) solo and without oxygen. Hargreaves successfully summitted and also made a safe and rapid descent.

In early 1995 she was 33, and in her climbing prime. Hargreaves had set a goal to climb the three big peaks in the Karakorum Range in Pakistan, Everest, K-2, and Kangchejunga, in sequence and unassisted in the same year. In May 95 she summitted Everest, and in August 95 she successfully summitted K-2. However, Hargreaves got caught in a severe storm descending K-2 and died. Such a tragedy.

Her story is amazing, and her success and death belie the personal struggles she faced, and the povery she and her husband Jim endured to pursue their humble business and her climbing career. The lost both their business and their home, and faced severe tensions in their relationship (which was subject to much speculation). Hargreaves faced unstinting criticism from the public in pursuing her climbing career – what sort of wife and mother would do that? What woman would put herself first? She was criticised as being driven, self-focussed, a poor mother, a bad wife, for being uncautious, egotisitical … The press and public were , at times, unrelenting in their negativity. Hargreaves ignored them.

For me she is a haunting figure of triumph even in death because she was true to her passion and her vocation. this was indeed a calling, a true vocation, and she gave herself to it, even to the risk of death. Even as I write this, her story still moves me. And if I take anything away from her example of life, it is to honour your vocation, your calling, fearlessly and unstintingly, even in the face of criticism and ridicule. My guess is that had she not died climbing, she would have died inwardly by being deprived of it, a pining away. Hargreaves achieved many of her personal goals, and achieved a deep respect in the climbing community for her ability and the successes she had. Even in tragedy, she is an inspiration, never giving up. She was uncompromising, tenacious, and yes, driven. But she achieved so much, and not in the least for herself, but also for climbers, and especialy for women. Her death does not diminish her, it is in fact a testimony to living authentically. Something we must all reflect on for our own journey.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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Filed under history, life, Mountaineering, self-development

Branches of Life

via Daily Prompt: Branch

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I marvel at trees, they’re the lungs for all life, I call them bio-lungs. The photo shows young Karri trees in the regrowth forest at Boranup, these are the tallest Australian trees.

Karris tend to branch higher than most trees, probably because of their height. But as with all trees, branches are crucial for the survival and growth of the tree, they develop branchlets and in turn, they develop leaves which as you know are the locus for gas exchange CO2 to O2, on which our lives depend.

Branches in other forms like banks, shops, or production centers are all extensions of the parent company. But the branch of a tree is not an extension, it is an integral part of the body the whole organism of the livng tree. Which for me extends to a metaphor about human life too. There are many parts to us that form our living being. Our sexuality, spirituality, physicality, mentaility. But then there’s the application – relationships, work, hobbies, activities. No one thing defines us, but all are integral to our very being, and without them we diminish or languish, and there is no capacity without these aspects of life to flourish. So our branches are also critical to life, and we need plenty of branches.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under environment, life, mindfulness, nature, self-development, Spirituality

Letting Go

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I think planning can be helpful, even important, but I also believe that it is just as important to let go of the plan especially when it’s not working, but also when life calls us down a slightly diferent road.

I loved reading Joseph Campbell, he had deep insight, and he once said:

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

Which is similar to John Lennon’s well known comment: “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” Good to plan, not so good to be too rigid about it. Good to have direction, so long as you’re willing to modify or change as needed. Sometimes we can’t see, don’t realise, for any number of reasons, that plans get us going, but we need to allow for points of departure. And yet, strangely enough, looking back, the twists and turns, the points of departure look something like a plan that was meant to be all along. Sometimes we need to attend to those deep inner shifts in us that disturb our moods and thoughts, feelings that twinge, and attend to where life is calling us.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under life, mindfulness, psychology, self-development, Spirituality

Do You Have a Reservation?

via Daily Prompt: Reservation

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This grumpy horse didn’t have a reservation for lunch, but he tried to stop us going in and tried to bite Geoff (because I pushed the horse out of the way, instant karma), and he seemed to want to come in. The owner, the barmaid went out to sweet talk him (not Geoff, the horse), and by the time we’d finished and headed back out he’d moved down a bit. Apparently he hadn’t been fed and had come looking for a feed. No wonder he was grumpy.

On Boxing Day we all went to a well known winery to see if we could get lunch, we didn’t have a reservation, we thought we’d wing it (many other places were closed, so the pressure was on). We arrived and, predictably,  the place was packed, and I wasn’t too confident there was a spare table. But the waiter said there was one table for our size group, the last one (Phew!), and it took my breath away, because the place was busy and there were people still arriving behind us at the door. It was a fabulous lunch and time together.

And for me that’s more what life is really like, you can’t always reserve everything, you can’t be certain of everything, or have everything controlled and managed. The point of life for me is in just showing up and seeing what happens, and often there’s a surprise. I have no reservations, but I do have an intention of showing up, and I suppose there will be a few challenges, a few grumpy horses to push aside.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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Finally

via Daily Prompt: Finally

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The trail for the day was 20kms. The day was warm for walking, but not too hot. However it was a long morning getting to this spot for our late break. It seemed like it was never going to happen. But we finally made it and collapsed happily on our log chair that nature had readily provided. A bit like getting through a year really. And today was unusual in that it was the most relaxing day we’ve had for weeks, a real break in a long run, and it has been a long trail without many log chairs to sit on. And now there’s the next section, there’s more ahead to entice and look forward to, and I wonder what’s up around the next bend. Hope that’s true for you too.

Finally it is 2018, Happy New Year fellow bloggers.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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Miracle of life

via Daily Prompt: Miraculous

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Our precious friends the trees are nature’s great miracle. They give us oxygen in a carbon exchange, they water pump and transpire, they keep salts at bay, hold soils in place, give shelter to all life, are a habitat for many living things from spores and parasites, to insects, birds, mammals, and more, trees together also provide cool air, and they provide a rich resource for each generation when cared for. Really they are a gift that keeps on giving, miraculous, and without them we are doomed.

Although not perfect, some Oak and other species forests of Europe, Britain, and Russia have been intentionally managed over several centuries, whereas in Asia, the Americas, and Africa, deforrestation has been merciless. The ancient celts venerated trees as special participants in community, where ther ewere trees there was life, and the gods were said to appear in the groves which were ‘Thin places’ (places where the spirit world comes close to us). The first nation peoples have long advocated for the preservation of forests, their ancient wisdom knowing about erosion, salinity, polution, and imbalance when trees were disregarded.

Neil Young’s song ‘Comes a time’ and the line, “it’s a wonder tall trees ain’t layin’ down.” It was a rhetorical question.

But more pointedly, ‘Silent Spring’ (Silent Spring  ) by Rachel Carson sets us in our place environmentally. In regard to the preservation of life, the value of ecology and relationaship with nature, Carson made it clear we were heading in a disastrous direction, we were poisoning nature and thereby killing ourselves. The miracle of life that is a tree needs us to play our part in safeguaring the miraculous contribution they make, or they will be laying down.

The photo is one I took a few years ago of one of our Karri forests called Boranup, which means place of the Dingo (which have not been here for well over a century). Karri trees are our tallest trees (shorter than a Redwood), and these are a regrowth forest, on land reclaimed from strip logging and farming. it is a beautiful place to just be.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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