Moral Compass

My daughter lent me a book a year or so ago. I started it then put it down. It lay. She asked about its return and I said, ‘Oh, but I haven’t read it yet. Can I hang onto it a bit longer?’

She queried why I hadn’t finished it, given how quickly I can normally go through a book. It was hard to explain.

From what I had already read of it, I was going to enjoy it. It was going to be enlightening. She had already assured me of the fact that it had opened her eyes to a better understanding of the world. So, why the delay on my part?

Maybe I thought it was going to be heavy-going and I wasn’t in the mood for that.

Maybe I was already in the middle of another book or there was one enticing me more.

Maybe I was reading so many tweets and links and becoming lost in the maze of verification of links that I just didn’t have the time or inclination to delve into something that needed concentration and commitment to read.

And it certainly wasn’t going to be a book to become lost in just before sleeping, when you can’t put an exciting story down until you finally fall asleep with the book on your chest only to wake later, remove the book, extinguish lights and succumb to sleep.

It didn’t feel like it was that kind of book.

Then she asked me again. ‘Mum, I’d quite like to read that book again. Any chance you’ve finished it yet?’

I pleaded for a bit more time.

And began to read the book. From the beginning. So much time had elapsed since I had initially begun it that I’d lost the thread.

Lockdown seemed the ideal time to satisfy her urging to read the book so that we could discuss it.

And she was right.

It is an enlightening book. A perception-changing book.

I still have just under a hundred pages to go.

And, even now, I want to finish it then go back to the beginning to start again. To take in more of the information. To etch it into my mind and remember the history of mankind in a new way.

That, by the way, is the title of the book.

‘Sapiens. A Brief History of Mankind’, by Yuval Noah Harari.

Now, it might not sound like everyone’s cup of tea but I would urge you to invest in the book – you’ll want to keep it – and read it. Then read it again.

I am in awe at how much I did not know of the history of our own species. About how much of what I did know was half-baked or missing essential clarification.

Harari, a Doctor of History and university lecturer, has a talent for turning history into meaningful context. He uses anecdotes to enhance the information he delivers. I want to be in his class. I want him to bring history alive for me, in person, in exactly the way he does in his book. I want to ask him questions.

I want to know more.

He begins 13.5 billion years ago and brings us right up to the present. Yup, history with a bang.

The book is divided into four parts:- The Cognitive Revolution; The Agricultural revolution; The Unification of Humankind and The Scientific Revolution.

The book is further sub-divided into chapters, covering everything one could wish to know and understand about our evolution and why we believe the things we believe. He deconstructs the constructs we have created and opens our eyes to our living stories or the lies we have told ourselves to make it possible for societies to function.

He has studied and explored history and presented it in a way that delivers it to the reader in much the same way as the best teacher you’ve ever had.

Now, I can’t begin to go into all of what is covered.

Suffice to say that as soon as I have finished writing this I’ll read some more. Then I’ll put it down and think about what I’ve read, maybe phone my daughter to have a chat about it, discuss how it is so relevant for today amid all of the clamour that is asking for our attention.

And that brings me to why I decided to write about it at all.

I was checking through my emails and noticed that Beth had posted something. I read it and, as usual, thought, ‘Yup. Spot on.’

Then I got to thinking that I would love to have a chat with Beth about the book. She, like Harari, has a PhD in history, was a lecturer and thinks about the way history and constructs impact the way our world operates. Beth would expand on areas that I want to explore further.

That, by the way, is what Beth’s post is about.

Listening and learning from the experiences of people who are tired of asking and waiting for recognition as full members of the one and only race that exists upon this planet – the human race.

I retweeted a thread yesterday on Twitter about much the same thing. A white author, beseeching readers to educate themselves on what it means to be black in this world. Not to ignore what is going on. Not to patronise with platitudes of support but to listen and learn and, hopefully, understand.

I also retweeted this yesterday. The simple question had me close to tears. We owe it to our black brothers and sisters, our brethren of every nation, colour and creed, to answer the question. We owe it to ourselves. To our species. We owe.

White privilege exists. Do we answer the question? Do we educate ourselves and listen and learn? Do we find out why we believe the things we do? Or do we just go on as before and ignore history and the lessons it ought to teach us?

The final chapter of Harari’s book is entitled, ‘The End of Homo Sapiens’.

Now, I never peek at endings but I’m kind of filled with trepidation at how this book will finish.

There is sufficient evidence, within the book, of the impact Sapiens have had on each and every place we have explored; of our decimation of other life forms as we passed through or settled; of the exploitation, principally by perceived white superiority, of people of colour; of ethnic and religious divisions, cultivated to maintain power; of economic and social injustice within nations; of humankind losing its way, to cause me to fear the journey ahead.

There is sufficient evidence today, all over, of where the direction of travel for our race will lead us. And I don’t fancy our chances.

We need to ask the questions and take the actions that will allow for alternate ways, both in our dealings with our fellow Sapiens and the actions we take that affect our chances of survival.

You bet your bottom dollar that those in positions of power are thinking and planning for the journey ahead and investing and capitalising on human misery. That has always been the way.

It can’t be any different. Or can it?

One person at a time, one human being at a time, one Sapiens at a time, I believe it can. And I commit to doing what I can to help make it so.

By first challenging myself to listen more and learn more.

Pivotal times afford opportunities for change. We are in those times. We need to change. We need to challenge ourselves.

As one race, won’t we reset our moral compass and prepare for a new direction of travel?

Casts A Shadow

Upon an open road, it casts a shadow

Though its presence is unseen by all who pass

While they search, pursuing source of dark reflection

It passes on, unheeding of their gasps

 

Tho’ expressions upon faces are amusing

It whiles away its days in search of eyes

Who see its semblance, silent, standing upright

But no one gives the spirit second glance

 

It stands upon some legs that are unnumbered

Raises arms, too countless, to really be a thing

Breathes deeply of the air that passes through it

And thinks a tune no voice can gladly sing

 

It’s covered miles and lands, encountered millions

Who gape and stare but cannot see it’s there

And when, soul-weary, worn, such is their blindness

It rests upon a chair that isn’t there

 

Such consternation, when it perches roadside

The anguish as they seek out shadowed form

It shrugs in silence, helpless to explain how

It’s normal to be cast in spirit form

 

The carcasses they carry seem so heavy

The hunger, fear and thirst that they must bear

It sometimes contemplates reactions if it offered

Respite for the bodies everywhere

 

We’ve seen it, sometimes, while we weren’t looking

A glimpse of something present when it’s not

When we lower eyelids, heavy with reflection

To dream of something that we’ve always sought

When A Coo Calves A Cuddy

Ca’ canny, mockit skies reveal intention

Shoogly coxcomb twirls an’ cross-eyes altered wyes

Bide fae the toon tho’ gallus bawface greets it’s awright

Huv gumption! Sleekit scunner’s tellin’ lies

 

Fair wabbit fae the info; heid’s a-burlin’!

But ah’ll dingy aw the footerers in thon hoose

Huvnae goat a scooby wit they’re daein’

It’s sidey wyes tae let us aw gang loose

 

Backhauners mid the roasters maks it awright

Lang spoons ur needed if ye sup wi’ thon

Mind yer feetie fae the coo pats as they’re drappin

It’s bowfin’ fae the stench o’ Eton’s sons

 

Ah’ll hae advice fae wans wh’urnae playin’ shove ha’peny

Wh’urnae lookin’ ower their shooders tae the croon

An’ when they cry, come oot, it’s clear, it’s awright

Will be time enough tae lay the fences doon

 

Fur it’s trust, ye see, ah cannae gie tae thon yins

Nae faith, ye ken, fur hist’ry’s made it so

When a coo calves a cuddy, ah’ll reconsider

Then ah’ll fire aff damp squibs tae let ye know

Bidean nam Bian

On Saturday, 25th January, I’ll be heading off with my better half, to some friends in Ayr, to celebrate the annual homage to Rabbie Burns. Each of us has a part to play. This year I’ll be opening the singing and poems with a rendition of Ae Fond Kiss. Everyone will, thereafter, take turns at singing traditional Scottish songs or reciting poetry. The whisky will flow and, before we know it, even the shy folk will be clamouring to start another, with cries of, ‘Who knows this wan?’ 

My contribution will be this song I’ve written, about, possibly, my most favourite place on earth. I started singing the first verse last week while driving home from work then left it. Two successive 4.01a.m. rises, these last two mornings, insisted on the rest.

(source)

My heart’s in the heilins fae dusk untae dawn

My soul’s bidin’ wi’ it; it’s where I belong

Where three sisters are guardin’ their people below

Heart and soul in the heilins; in the wilds ae Glencoe.

 

The mountains, they measure the years that amass

As history’s sentinels, none can surpass

Testifying to troubles as clouds frame their peaks

Witnessing joys, have their lessons to teach.

 

While wind whips the weather, they stand for us aw

Against all adversity; backs to the wa’

They’re stalwart and strengthened, determined to rise

Fae the soil, wi’ good reason, they reach for the skies.

 

The streets ae the city seem uncouth an’ unclean

Hashin’ an’ bashin’ and fashin’ ma dreams

Ma soul wants tae be where the air’s fresh and free

Bidean nam Bian calls, ‘Come thee tae me’

 

The sisters, they beckon, ‘Come, feel what we feel

The spirit ae freedom, untarnished and real

We thrive where we’re planted tho’ folk trespass our paths

Formidable, fantastic and we have the last laugh.

 

The brave and the stupid, we’ve seen them a’ here

Cautious and careless, some showin’ nae fear

We wait an’ we watch while they navigate steps

One at a time till they’re out ae their depths.’

 

The mountains remember each climber, each fa’

They know who has loved them when none cared at a’

Respect is their due while they lend us their land

They’ll lead us tae skyline if we take their hand

 

Who can negate them, who ignore what they’ve seen

Who disnae listen tae their hopes and their dreams

While they push against gravity, reveal hidden glens

The mountains of Glencoe hold truth’s treasured gems

 

They’ve watched as their weans fought ower cattle an’ grass

Wept at the massacre there in the Pass

Whistled the wind while it whispered their tales

And when no one listened, regaled them in gales

 

Remember their hist’ry, absorb what they feel

Filter through cloud’s fog, clear the mists tae what’s real

When I’m in the heilins I’m hame and I’m free

An’ the path tae the heilins hauds its haun oot tae me.

 

Aye, ma heart’s in the heilins fae dusk untae dawn

My soul’s bidin’ wi’ it; it’s where I belong

Where Bidean nam Bian hums, ‘Know what we know,

Come, find yersel’ in the soul of Glencoe.’

Transitions

Silhouetted dawn, the boundaries blurring

Separation into liminal

Night and day contrive while skylines warring

Threshold held before peak critical

 

War of worlds, deprived from ever meeting

Till, pressured light, through darkness, pivotal

Accorded prominence, afforded being

Daily battle reaches pinnacle

 

Bricks and mortar, ‘neath, sleep undiscerning

Fragile humans held subliminal

Awakening to the miracle of morning

Unseen conflict, disturbance minimal

 

But, arise before encounter is commencing

Witness struggle rarely visible

Master of the night holds firm till light, absolving

Reaffirms all life’s transitional

 

Foot-weary soldiers, rest, for day is dawning

Though battles rage, by turns, they’re integral

Nothing’s lost while we are still proclaiming

The yoke of darkness never shall prevail

 

Bullshite and Empathy

A cautious, ‘Hi’, here.

My response to Mark, at https://healingyourheartfromwithin.com.au/2019/08/28/empathy/

was becoming rather lengthy so I figured, make a post of it.

I reckon there are others who feel as I do.

Forgive me, Mark, please, for using a comment as a post. Haven’t quite mastered the art of brevity.

Hi Mark, the prodigal Scot is dipping her toes back in WP waters and you’re the first one I came across in my comments. I don’t even know if I’ll read anything else.

No, I’ll visit Beth at Colemining. You and she are two of strong connection. And that might be it.

Some of the lovely people I had met on here don’t figure in my thoughts when I’m away. That’s just life. Fleeting moments of remembrance and brief connection and we move on.

I hardly know why I’ve been away so long but your post has struck a chord.

Empathy.

It’s a bugger for me. Not only me. I was speaking to one of my sons recently and he was feeling emotionally and mentally drained to the point of …not depression…but similar… a hopelessness. He works with troubled young people while also studying at uni. He feels. He feels the world. It’s painful. I tried to explain what you are saying, in your post, but I don’t think I got it myself.

One of my daughters is the same. Mostly, the others of my crew practise a lot of sublimation. Or, maybe they just deal with the part of the world they have any control over and they’re better at separating the two than some of us are. Force them, and they’ll talk. They’ll give their opinions. They’ll tell you their beliefs. But, mostly, they get on with life. And I try to do the same.

But a few of us here struggle with the realities of what is happening all over and fluctuate between action and inaction, depending on how much energy we have left after dealing with life.

Empathy. The drain.

I’m struggling with the world. My own corner of it. What a mess is going on here. That’s kind of why I’ve been absent from WP. I decided to do something instead of writing and talking about it. But I’m not sure that what I’m doing is making any difference. Any more than words would.

Communication, for me, has always been key to dealing with people. Although, frankly, I don’t really relish being with people. It’s like I love humanity but I’m not so fond of it on an individual basis.

Someone once described an introvert as a person who can party hard with everyone else but needs a long time to recover. I rather liked that description. It fits who I am. I’m compelled to deal with people – kids, mostly – all day and, at the end of it, I just want to sit quietly in a corner. But I can’t, for the most part, because life demands and commands.

I began to take a more active role in politics last year, in the belief that actions speak louder than words. I still think that’s the case but those who have the time for action tend not to be holding down a full-time job and managing a household. Something always suffers. My writing has. It has become the last thing I do after everything else.

But it’s been bugging me. The same son I was speaking of earlier told me once, ‘Mum, writing’s a constant for you in your life. You always return to it.’

He gets me. The lass who feels the same also writes – in between living.

And that’s the shitty bit.

Something that constantly returns, but has to be put on hold, suffers neglect because arseholes are making a mess of doing the job they’re supposed to be doing.

I’d have been sacked for less.

And quite rightly.

They have all day, every day, to manipulate the world and I – we – are ants in the middle of it. Working till we drop.

I can’t stop seeing a bigger picture. It’s hazy. But not as hazy as I’d like it to be. All too clear, in lots of ways. And I’m bleeding energy for the state of the world.

What do I do about that, Mark?

How do I make empathy work for me? For the world? Because, right now, all it’s doing is draining me of the hope that has been as constant as the writing.

Thank god, right now, we have the September Weekend – a four-day break from work that’s a Scottish holiday. How I need it!

 

I had no intention of posting anything on WP. Hasn’t even figured in my mind at all in months. But, your post, Mark, speaks to me. I just don’t get it.

I don’t know how to separate what I think and feel from my energy source. When I think, I feel. When I feel, I’m exhausted.

I need a course on how not to let thinking and feeling drain me.

I need to retire, quite frankly!

But, I’m not going to do that until I see a world fit for my kids. This momma didn’t raise no cannon fodder!

Just tell me how to stop feeling everything and letting it bleed me dry.

If not, tell me a joke so’s I can laugh and move on.

And, I’m only half kidding.

I need a laugh to deal with the bull.

Thank god, I have a few comedians here who keep me smiling despite angst. Great leveller is humour. And so much truth in it too.

(There’s a slight glitch in the video but it only lasts seconds and it’s well worth hearing till the end)

Seeds Assigned

A seed, some soil, the skill

The will and willing

A hook, a line, some bait

And world revolves

The rising and the effort

These things telling 

Of evolved and elements

With basics solved

 

A pestilence, a shark 

The challenge waiting 

Some ingenuity, against the odds,

And life goes on

Then cultivators, trailing nets

The size of mammon,

Defeat survival

This phenomenon

 

A scourge upon all husbandry

And basics

Though sources rich

The system undermines

So what is grown, is caught

Is earned for living

Becomes not yours or ours

But is assigned

 

Till effort, willing, rising

Is diminished

Impotent deviations

Futile highs

An abstract of all life

The givers, taken,

Conceptual norms

Becoming life despised

 

A mere idea defeating

What is normal

A notion of all functions

In control

Of beneficiaries

In a shameful structure

Begs the question

What, exactly, is our role?

Head For Home

It must be evident, to anyone tuned into Westminster politics, that the representatives, elected by the Scottish people, are out of place in that house. It is a house of representation for English politicians. Numbers and attitude confirm that this is no union of equal nations. So be it. @SNP, come on home. Build bridges here.

You’ve done all you can

With ideas, open hands

Eyes and ears ever mindful

To their plans

They’ve made grave mistakes

Now we need a break

They’re ‘on the make’

We must be done

 

Head for home

‘Run as fast as you can

Oh-oh-oh run’, repeat, come right on home

Head for home

‘Run as fast as you can

Oh-oh-oh run’, repeat, come right on home

 

You’ve ‘seen all the frowns

On the faces of the clowns’

Ignore the vows that they made

Unguaranteed

And you’ve heard all the noise

From Westminster’s prams and toys

‘But they don’t mean a’ thing

If we’re not free

 

Head for home

‘Run as fast as you can

Oh-oh-oh run’, repeat, come right on home

 

You’ve been to that place in that town

Where their words let us down

While they ‘stare at each other’

You’ve lampooned them

‘Screamed at the moon’

They behaved like buffoons

And you’ve discovered

 

Head for home

‘Run as fast as you can

Oh-oh-oh run’, repeat, come right on home

Head for home

‘Run as fast as you can

Oh-oh-oh run’, repeat, come right on home

Head for home

‘Run as fast as you can

Oh-oh-oh run’, repeat, come right on home

 

You’ve travelled the land

Their trajectory, crash land

Seen their faces in that place

Misunderstand

Yes, you’ve witnessed their world

Seen their tactics unfurled

And their ‘noise

That destroys and commands’

 

Head for home

‘Run as fast as you can

Oh-oh-oh run’, repeat, come right on home

Head for home

‘Run as fast as you can

Oh-oh-oh run’, repeat, come right on home

 

Where Extremes Meet

Imbalanced, unsteady

World out of whack

Cosmos chaotic

Can we find our way back?

 

Heavens to hell

We’re caught in between

Is anyone listening?

Do you know what I mean?

 

Richest to poorest

Filet mignon to mince

Palace to pavement

Paupers, crown prince

 

Eden to Gaza

Stripped of what’s best

Points of the compass

Confused east to west

 

Morbid obesity

Starved unto death

Billionaires, beggars

Comfort, bereft

 

Extremes in nature

Whole world in flux

Empathic encounters

While some give no fucks

 

Leisurely, lazy

Or worked to the bone

Temperate to pissed

Hyped-up to stoned

 

Scales have all shifted

They’re whirling like mad

Weighed down or lifted

Sky-high or launch-pad

 

Graven pretenders

Vying with Christ

Compassion, contemptible

Virtue and vice

 

A planet imploding

With greed, avarice

Don’t know about you

But I never voted for this

 

Button to reset

That might be the plan

Pit one against other

Warring woman to man

 

Polarised humanity

Silenced, shrill scream

Trying to stay upright

On an unsteady beam

 

Pendulum’s swinging

And the clock’s ticking down

Minutes to midnight

Of tragedy and clowns

 

Terrified faces

Rictus, raw smiles

Fiddles on scary

No deliverance for miles

 

We’re caught on a swing

With a g-force of ten

Tensioned to torment

Released, repeated again

 

Scrambling brains

By the power of extreme

While I’m seeking balance

Please say you know what I mean