Meditation for the politico

27 May

Of all the quotes gracing my masthead over the years, usually from the most astute of political minds, past and present, one of my favourites is not by a political analyst but a comedian.

We’re all a bit of a dick. It’s the human condition, nothing to be afraid of.

Steve Coogan

Hold that backhandedly affirmative thought. (Affirmative because so often we are paralysed by fear not so much of Getting It Wrong as of Being Caught Getting It Wrong. Backhanded because at first blush it seems the antithesis of affirmation.)

My Gallic friend Alain emailed late last night with a quote from Caitlin Johnstone in deepest Oz, and by that fact some 12 hours ahead of me.

Meditation, self-enquiry, healing and energy practices, whatever gets you there, but surely you’ve got to have SOMETHING before you can stare into the face of the beast continuously without going mad. I can’t imagine looking at this thing every day without any kind of a practice.

She has the uncanny knack of echoing my own conclusions up to the day or even hour. I awoke this morning disturbed by a couple of needlessly derogatory references in recent posts. For instance I spoke yesterday not once but twice of “expensively educated halfwits”. As summary of my own milieu that doesn’t come close to the totality of what I actually think – good, bad and indifferent – of those who remain blind – as, prior to Syria, I had been blind – to the extent of our leaders’ corruption and that of the media through which we form “our” opinions of the world.

And even if it did, it’s lousy salesmanship.

So there’s me, arising ridiculously early as is my wont, but today with the cognition that (a) I’m a bit of a dick and (b) one reason for that – not an excuse but a factor – is that the enormity of what is going down over Ukraine is taking its toll, and it just might be a good idea to resume spiritual practices long abandoned.

Then I saw Alain’s e-alert to Caitlin’s remark. As it happens I’d the previous day written as follows to a Buddhist pal, a man of high intelligence and insight:

Some aspects of [the havoc wreaked by capitalism] – a trashed environment, the drive to war, and levels of inequality as dysfunctional as they are obscene – are easily shown, empirically and theoretically, to be direct consequences of that way of organising social and other resources to the end of creating and recreating the material conditions of human existence. Another – that under capitalism we are all to greater or lesser degree insane – is less acknowledged …

Time was, I used to meditate a minimum of two hours a day. I’ve no inclination to go quite that far these days but I do take seriously Caitlin’s warning that we who eyeball the beast day after day, year on year, must assuredly do something  to avert or mitigate the threat of madness.

Just saying.

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13 Replies to “Meditation for the politico

    • Quite. I began this morning with a half hour sit. It’s no magic bullet, but at a minimum can be described as a form of psychological hygiene: a daily rediscovery of the truth that we are not our minds.

      If we were, meditation in the form I was taught – see the final paragraph of my reply to Susan, below – would not be possible.

  1. I’ve never been involved in meditation, I don’t have the patience(I’m slightly hyperactive). As I have mentioned before I am often very disturbed by that confrontation with the beast on a daily basis. I decide it’s time for bed but must just look up that article with the link I wanted to check out and 2 hours late it’s the wee hours. What do I do when I wake in the morning sleep deprived? I feed and let the dog out and go to my laptop to apprise myself of the latest and greatest events unfolding. I don’t read newspapers and won’t watch the msm news, so if I want to know what’s happening I have to find out from my many sites of real news.
    I really wish I could find a way to unwind and rid myself of concerns regarding world affairs but it never works. I could hit the bottle again, but that really isn’t an answer. It’s easier to wrap myself in minds more stable and truthful on my favourite sites and know I’m not alone(my dog is really not a very good conversationalist so off loading onto her is a failed exercise).
    I found an article last night by Terje Maloy on World War 1:Propaganda(which I’d appropriately filed under propaganda, wonder of wonders) and in the comments section that I’d also printed off was the deliberate sinking of the Lusitainia via British perfidy and Churchill’s exceptionally monstrous and chilling connivance, by proxy of course, courtesy of the German U 20 under the command of Kapitanleutnant Walter Schwieger. Also under the comments section was a letter by Churchill to Walter Runciman regarding his malignly unethical Q Boat policy. (Churchill really was the embodiment of Perfidous Albion)
    That knowledge was what I went to bed with last night. Utterly charming. People laugh when I say that I am an Irish/English mongrel mix because they don’t understand the reason why I want to distance myself from the likes of Churchill, Balfour, Asquith, Rhodes, Lords Salisbury and Rosebury and Asquith et al who orchestrated the First World War and according to Mark Curtis, since 1945 the British elites having been a systematic violator of International Law has been responsible for approximately 8-13 million deaths globally.
    It’s no wonder I don’t sleep well, the problem is, I have a conscience! Dammit!
    But I have Freya. A dim witted but kind ex racing greyhound, if I need to bring myself back to some semblance of peace I have only to look in those dark supplicating eyes and I am home again in Kansas.
    All the best Phil.


    • I often find myself telling anyone who’ll listen that photographing a still beautiful natural world is my primary antidote to the ugliness of an inhumane and untenable socio-political world.

      Though yes – having a dog is an incredible antidote too. Another masthead quote I had, a few years ago, was by Anatole France.

      Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.

      But meditation is something else again: about our relationship to our own minds. It calls for less patience than you might think, though we do have to cultivate the habit – practically impossible when acting in the world – of disengaging from the play of the mind. Not seeking to stop its movement; rather, observing impassively the endless babble of thoughts, each with a greater or lesser emotional charge, as if it to a conversation, neither personally implicating nor especially interesting, faintly heard in the next room.

    • Good heavens man. That’s one helluva “out there” interpretation, but humorous. Since I no longer receive a paycheck I am, most inconveniently, a “useless eater” and maybe I don’t want to be around in ten years time. Not sure about the rope and scaffolding, couldn’t you just settle for a Lemming type version of Geena Davis & Sarandon solution, after all, there really are too many cars on the roads these days and a lot of them driven by useless eaters!

      • Sticking with that (humorous) theme for a moment your comment:

        “I am, most inconveniently, a “useless eater” ”

        Brings back the standard reply from my army days:

        “Have you got a ‘chitty’ (Official piece of paper) to prove it?”

        Moving back to more serious ground I’d argue everyone in this saloon are far from useless eaters. In fact we all possess something which is rarer than rocking horse droppings – at least in the West. Its called experience and expertise.

        As the the PSI article notes:

        “You know what you can’t quantify when it comes to production by an elderly person?

        You cannot quantify the knowledge that they have acquired over a lifetime.

        You can’t quantify the cookies they bake and give to the neighborhood children every summer.

        You can’t quantify how much a grandmother does by watching her grandchildren so that her single daughter can produce money to take care of those children.

        You can’t quantify the number of times they call their adult daughter or son and ask if they’re OK.

        You can’t quantify the number of hours that they volunteer at the hospital directing people and helping people to their cars.

        You can’t quantify how many hours they spent handing out food at a food bank.

        You can’t quantify the number of Christmases and how productive that was for their family due to a boost in morale.

        You can’t quantify the production of an elderly person because most of their production is done outside of the economy.

        By discounting the things that they do because they aren’t paid a dollar for it you are discounting humanity completely.”

        Its why elites and their politicians (who are merely a type of coper [to cope means to manage]) hate older people and engineers because we know and inconveniently explain how reality hinders fantasy.

        So stick around Susan. The gathering evidence strongly indicates those with experience, expertise, knowledge and gumption – all of which are in short supply – are going to be needed in the not too distant future.

        The Universe runs on foot blisters (irritants). We keep the Universe on its toes.

    • Probably not nearly enough rope, also you might want to recruit the Russian and Chinese Armies to help. After that is successfully concluded, probably need to buy more rope, but get the proletariat to help?

  2. ” observing impassively the endless babble of thoughts,”
    The Alexander Technique says that the endless mental chater is associated with muscle activity that you are not aware of.

    • Well it’s really something to just let it be, Johnny. It’s some five weeks since I resumed, for an hour each morning very early, after a gap of close to twenty years. It’s like I never stopped.

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