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Thursday
Jun232016

Common Sense

I read today of a man who predicts we will all become brains uploaded to software living in a world of robots...and people in merely human bodies will be marginalised. Apparently he has paid to have his brain cryogenically stored- frozen- until this great development happens. What happens if the brain freezer company goes bust? This happened and a lot of would-be supermen lost their chance. But what interested me is that this futurist believs he has constructed his model of the future using basic science and common sense...

It's a tricky word nowadays. It used to mean...common sense. Now it can be code for right wing politics, lack of empathy, lack of perception- the very opposite of what it originally meant. Quite a few sophisticated people sneer at the very idea of common sense; strangely these people are also the ones most likely to embrace the idea that we are 'all equal'. They think that the term has become hopelessly hijacked but still people use it, less sophisticated more common people perhaps.

Mostly it now means- 'what I find obvious'.

Maybe a word that still finds common support is 'sane'. Obviously a man who thinks the world is going to end up like the matrix but without even the dance rave in Sion is not quite sane- however much he thinks he has common sense.

People want their kids to grow up sane with the ability to regain sanity quickly after the inevitable upendings life provides. Do sane people have common sense- yes, the old style low key version that stops you from completely falling on your face.

If common sense is used to support extremism it becomes uncommon sense. It may even be right- fleeing Hitler's germany in 1933 probably looked a bit extreme to most people- but it was uncommon sense.

Regain sanity quickly, use common and uncommon sense.

Thursday
Jun162016

Hero or victim?

As theatre maestro Keith Johnstone puts it. 'A victim is a man in a hole. A hero is a man in a hole trying to get out.'

Monday
Jun132016

Beginner's Mind- a course for writers

Beginner's Mind is a zen concept referring to the unsullied state of mind, not riven by greed, ambition and imagination, a mind fully plugged in to just LEARNING. It's the mind of someone beginning a study of something- they don't know enough to start 'criticising' and taking a stance on things. But very shortly they will get sucked in to all the politics and received opinions that surround every subject from flower arranging to...writing.

This course- 23 and 24 July 2016  in Bridport, Dorset, UK aims to send the participants back to that earlier stage, before they even thought about writing or being a writer, maybe back to the first words they ever wrote- strangely enough mine were pure fiction 'On Saturday I went fishing with my Dad.' Only years later did I actually go fishing with my Dad - but then I find fiction writing can very often be a kind of precognition- yet another example of the varied and strange powers of Beginner's Mind. And maybe not that USEFUL, however, what is, is the ability to scythe away all the accumulated detritus that drags your pure and powerful creativity down.

If you suspect there is a lion caged within you waiting to explode with creative energy, the exercises and experiences of Beginner's Mind wiritng course may be for you.

More information at Bridportwriting.co.uk

Wednesday
May252016

Salisbury and the Great War 

How were the towns and cities of the UK affected by the calamity that became known as The Great War? The Military Publishers, ‘Pen and Sword’, have addressed this issue in an illuminating series including the recent ‘Salisbury in the Great War’ by Neil G M Hall.  Thoroughly researched with startling illustrations, interviews with surviving family members – one lady still lives on her own in the house where she was born in 1912 - and drawing on vividly documented records Hall plots the impact of an industrial war upon a sleepy cathedral city. As expected there was much pathos. The mother who advertises locally in an endeavour to find her soldier son only to discover that he is dead – killed in the Gallipoli campaign – is just one example. There is disaster as successful businesses crumble but dollops of humour too. In what circumstances did a very young publican’s daughter learn to sing “Mademoiselle from Armentières”? Interesting – and the reference to why the local fish-and-chip-man escaped conscription lightens the load as does the trial of the animal trainer accused of thrashing his chimpanzee. Did he? Hall invites the reader to discover for himself. Hall also poses a mystery. How did a Canadian’s mascot bear morph into a world famous children’s hero? ‘The war invisibly regulated our lives‘, so wrote a Salisbury resident. Away from the trenches Hall’s skills draw the read into a wider understanding, not of battles and conflict, but the wider effect of war.

ISBN – 10   1473843731
ISBN -  13   978 - 1473843738

Tuesday
May242016

drugs and the path

Many enlightened people have fallen victim to various kinds of drug addiction. Drugs can give a glimpse of a state that can only be made permanent by other means. But drugs can also render, temporarily, a situation as 'normal' when for various reasons- pressure, illness, pain it isn't. Every drug, of course, causes the brain to make adjustments, normalising its use and exacting a precise cost for doing so. The question to ask is: does any actor act better on stage whilst drunk or on drugs- of course not. One reason why actors are particularly prone to both when they are supposed to be resting is because they they are not 'acting' as actors, they really think they ARE actors. For some reason I am reminded of something written by Idries Shah: "Just because you know you're a moving target doesn't mean you stop being one."

Tuesday
May172016

to act or not to act

Someone seems phoney and we condemn them- 'he's a real actor, it's all an act'. Someone is ill and they put a brave face on it and refuse to burden others with their woes in situations where burdening isn't useful for anyone- that person is a model citizen. It all depends on the act, your acting. What is this acting we do in everyday life? (I am reminded of a line in the movie My dinner with Andre; 'Grotowski gave up the theatre because he thought we were all acting so well all the time anyway...') What about the person who says- what you see is what you get- I don't hide anything? What they hide is their desire to hide things...Being upfront about everything is a kind of crudity, certainly it means you are reading your own signals before being sensitive to those of the situation. Of course you can be TOO sensitive...Politeness is supposed to be an act, so are good manners- but the best manners are simply being considerate- which you can observe in the poorest, and richest, of people. Of course you can be TOO considerate...Acting is following a template or model of behaviour for a situation rather than re-acting using habitual responses. You either act or re-act, you can't escape it. When you're acting you may get 'stuck in the role'- my character just wouldn't do that actors complain to a writer. Make your character do it! You're surrounded by friends and family and feel very relaxed- how do you act? I imagine you suppress half unconciously certain aspects of your life that won't quite fit in in this environment.

In the traditional world your act is given to you on a plate. Everything about a traditional society has survived for good reason- and it breaks down for good reason too. You can't go back, however to observe it you can see that the demeanor, words, clothes, rites of passage, manner of address are all programmed into the society rather than, as in a modern 'free' society being largely the responsibilty of the individual. Of course you have to 'act' by putting on a suit, being polite to your boss- but the act is often resented, if only you were a millionaire you wouldn't have to act at all! But an actor doesn't resent his costume, he just tweaks it so that it 'works' for him- or her, the actress Archie Punjabi insisted on always wearing boots when she played a certain role- it made her feel tougher, which enhanced the act. So those people who are always 'themselves' might just be using props that allow them to stay 'in character'. So become aware of props, costumes, mannerisms which make acting a certain way effortless.

As a teacher in front of a class of children you have to act- you cannot react. People who are 'cool' are those who have habitualised certain responses early on in life. It looks like they aren't acting which is why they sometimes make good actors in movies.

You can look at acting as deciding on a certain persona or stance you conciously adopt for which you face most situations in life. It's OK to go with the flow, but it stops you from drowning if you have a boat. Doesn't have to be that big either.

Friday
May132016

desire for oblivion

Desire for oblivion often masquerades as humility. But it's just another form of giving up. Using the 'I'm not good enough' excuse to not do things can feel like you are being 'humble' and lacking in self-centredness. But doing things, even if they aren't wildly 'successful', is more positive and has more developmental possibilities. If you've got a donkey why not ride it? No one gets anywhere just looking at their donkey and seeing all its faults.