Category Archives: Mikel’s Posts

“Our” Music

Does your country have something you all call “our” music?

Australia does not.

Aboriginal tribes have their own forms of song and rhythm tools and the magical didgeridoo.  White Australia has often borrowed the digeridoo and some successful bands have been of Aboriginal origin and driven by a desire to share an Aboriginal experience of being Australian via their music and performance.

However, White Australia, us later comers who have lived here only two hundred years, after stealing the land the Aboriginal tribes and clans had been custodians of for forty, fifty, sixty THOUSAND years, have not yet created our own music form.

We generally have a lot of live music venues, pubs and the like, so emerging artists of the popular ilk can find places to practice their craft with the immediate feedback of a positive or negative audience.

We borrow other forms of music,  blues, pop, rock and do them really well, but they are not OURS.  We also do a lot of classical music really superbly, but again, not OURS.

Every now and then an artist will come along who writes songs about our experience that makes our cities and our streets sound as cool and important as the songs we love from the UK or the US make their cities sound.   I’m thinking of Paul Kelly or Richard Clapton as examples, or Midnight Oil or Skyhooks or ………..    more and more as I think about it.

As wonderful as these artists are, we still have not created OUR music, there is no form that originated with us.  Not yet.

How about your country?

Do you have a music that you all say is “our music”?

Peace,

Mikel.

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The Scale of Your World?

I was stunned the first time I discovered that there were teenagers living in Australian cities who had never seen a living sheep or a living cow.

I grew up being taken on touring country holidays by my parents and just assumed that ‘everyone’ had travelled outside the city limits.

I was equally astonished to discover that you could be elected President of the USA (George Bush Jnr) without ever having left the United States.  Astonishing to consider someone with that kind of power in the world, never having visited that world before acquiring that power.  More than a bit scary frankly.

See, I assumed that the wider world was INTERESTING to everyone and that if you had the money to visit the world, you would absolutely want to do that.  I was wrong.

I know the first time I visited the UK as an adult, it opened my world UP hugely.

That “opening” continues to do this day.  Indeed this blog is hoped to be part of that ‘opening to the world’ process – conversing with people from around the world to learn from them and share with them.

That first adult overseas trip not only opened me up to the World – I came home with an entirely deeper and richer sense of my home country and new eyes to see it and appreciate it.

One country I visited quite a bit in the past astonished me when I met a number of people there who felt comfortable saying to me, as a visitor from another country, that they did not care what happened to my country as long as their country did as it pleased.   I was mildly astonished at the attitude but mostly astonished at the fact that people felt comfortable SAYING that to me – telling me how unimportant my country was to them in comparison to their country.

That was the point at which I started to understand the old statement “patriotism is the last refuge to which a scoundrel clings” (I heard that first in a Bob Dylan song but it pre-dates his usage of it.).

Some of us are comfortable living in a very local world.

Some of us are comfortable living in a totally global world.

I suspect most of us are somewhere in between those extremes.

My own path has been that the more I have experienced the world which is NOT “mine” – the richer I feel as a human being, the deeper I grasp my connection to others and to the planet and the more powerful and nuanced my experience of “my” local world becomes.  Your mileage may differ.

Peace,

Mikel Azure.

Curtains?

Are curtains universal?

Strange question?   Not really, I just looked up at the windows in the room I am sitting in, saw the curtains and then immediately noticed that I was assuming that everyone who looked up at the window in their room would be looking up at curtains.

Just an assumption.  A simple assumption that everyone else on the planet has the same experience as me.

That assumption, about curtains, illustrates something we all do without noticing.   Something that when the assumptions are about other things than curtains is a real problem.

This unconscious assumption, that people everywhere have the same experience as me, see the world the same way, even live in the same world as me, is groundless and easily demonstrated to be fundamentally wrong.

This blog is an experiment in noticing the ways we DO share a reality across cultures and the ways we DON’T share the same reality.

So curtains –  I’m looking at two sets of curtains over the windows.   There is a light, white, mostly sheer set of curtains that hang in front of the windows, during the day those sheer curtains allow me to look out, but anyone outside cannot see IN thru the window because the sunlight reflects of the outside of the white curtains and the light from inside the room is dark and cannot compete with the reflected light outside.    The second set of curtains are “blockout” curtains, thick and heavy, normally they are pulled to each side of the windows, but when you pull them across the windows they block out the heat from a hot summer day, or block in the heat of a warm room on a cold winter’s day.

Normal for me, might seem strange to you.

So, what covers or does not cover the windows you are looking at right now?

Peace,

Mikel.

Being Connected – Cannot Be Anything Else.

One of the key tenants of the school of philosophy to which I vaguely give allegiance (Existentialism) argues effectively that there is no such thing as the “autonomous individual” – that all Being is intrinsically  “Being-In-Relation”.

At the heart of every one of our cells is that truth – our dna is half the code of one human that is “in relation” with half the code from another human.  At our chemical core we are a community of two but also the expression of a community of survivors stretching back roughly three billion years.

Being-In-Relation.   That is our Being.  Intrinsically connected.  Our development from newborn to adult requires connection – the quality of the connection we are given has a powerful impact on how we develop and how much of our genetic potential is undermined or supported and released.

In strange ways we are also in relationships with our self.

We are “self aware” – we are aware that we are thinking, we even “watch” or “listen” to our self think.   Have you ever thought about how wonderful and strange that is?   If I am listening to my self think,  who is the “I” who is listening?  Of course some argue that this is just a verbal trick and that the grammar we use to construct such sentences mislead us into thinking some actual reality is being expressed, when it is not.  Huh,  personally I am not convinced by that argument, but I can’t disprove it either. 🙂

If we are lucky we get to share connection with awesome people who inspire us, feed us, enrich us and empower us.

It is a nice moment when someone experiences ME as the person who inspires, feeds, enriches or empowers THEM.  It is never expected but it is truly sweet and wonderful when it happens.

Being-in-Relation  is not a one way flow – we are all part of an astonishingly complex web of relationships, we are putting our gold out into the web, where it flows far out of our sight, and the gifts that others have released into relationships far from us come to us humble, nameless and no less enriching for that anonymity.

Our different cultures will probably have many similar but different and different but similar  models and concepts of how to relate together.   When I travel, this is one of the areas I am always curious about – so much to learn about what is possible for me as a human by watching those who are not like me.

Peace,

Mikel.

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Sick and Hiding.

Glad to see David has been keeping the flag flying while I have been sick and in hiding.

So that is my tendency – when I get sick I like to withdraw from the world,  do less, think less, connect less, huddle down in my little space, conserve energy, sleep a lot, kind of spiral down into a semi-hibernation kind of state while my body fights off whatever is the problem.

That is where I have been for about three weeks – hiding from the world, from “effort”, while my body, and some modern medicines, fight a particularly potent wee germ that wanted to take up residence in my respiratory system.

Fortunately, now, my body is winning and I am returning to some inclination to make an effort.

The mythology in my neck of the woods is that “men” tend to fit into one of two modes when it comes to being sick – either we refuse to notice any sickness until it almost kills us and puts us in hospital  OR we are complete babies when we get sick and make a huge fuss about even small physical illnesses.

Both these myths are ways to draw attention to that nonsense idea that is built into the equally nonsense idea of “masculinity” – that it is “manly” to “tough it out”.

Even a cursory analysis will make it clear that all humans “tough it out” – that quality, behaviour or ability is not associated with testicles or testosterone – it is not a “masculine” trait.   I put “masculine” in inverted commas because I don’t believe that it is a real thing – it’s a constructed filter/frame we use to distort what we actually see so that what we see fits into the myth of  gender binary with inbuilt gender power imbalance.

So on one hand, in my neck of the woods, we notice that men “tough it out” when sick – ignoring it and denying it until catastrophe strikes.  On the other hand we notice that men don’t “tough it out” but instead do the opposite – over dramatizing their sickness and demanding inappropriate amounts of care and attention in relation to their actual sickness or weakness.   Both myths highlight the other myth – that toughing it out is a “masculine” quality.   Interestingly the second myth – sick man as drama baby – penalizes men for NOT “toughing it out” – a good illustration of how men are trained to have an unhealthy attitude to their own bodies – which stretches all the way to how, in most societies, men are expected to waste their bodies in state sanctioned violence (Soldiering) and that is considered “normal”.

I’m training myself out of that kind of behaviour –  I am my body is me –  Iamybodyisme    as good a summary of my understanding of “identity” and “self”.      So I am happy to hide my body away when I get sick, to nurture it, protect it, shield it, preserve it, coddle it – in doing that I am nurturing, protecting, shielding, preserving and coddling ME.   Which is an approach I would be happy for every person on the planet to adopt.

I’m back,

Mikel.

Extrovert……Introvert.

Here’s something I’m pretty sure will be a global experience.

I also suspect there might be strong differences in how being introvert or extrovert is engaged within different cultures.

The simplest way to identify if you are basically introvert or extrovert is that introverts gain energy and a sense of balance from being on their own, extroverts gain energy and a sense of balance from engaging with other people.

The other way to express that dynamic is that introverts can fully enjoy socializing but it also uses up their energy and at some point they start to feel flat and tired and exhausted in social space.   Extroverts can enjoy being on their own but it also uses up their energy and at some point they start to feel flat and tired and exhausted being solitary and they need to go hang around with people to get their zoom back.

Now this particular model has its origins in observing individuals but the basic concept has some interpretive value for looking at cultures and societies as well.   Well I think it does.  (I might be the only who does.)

For instance, it seems to me that the public culture of Australia, Japan and the UK is introvert and the public culture of the US is extrovert.

Introvert individuals tend to put their focus and energy into their inner world and often don’t give away a lot of external energy unless something really engages their interest.  Introverts can think and reflect long after it might be appropriate to take some action.  Does that sound a bit like the UK or Australia’s public life?

Extrovert individuals tend to put their focus and energy OUT into the world, pumping out lots of talk and action and engagement of other people’s energy, creating and building and ACTING and not wanting or needing to do a lot of inner reflecting.  Does that sound a bit like the US?

Now it has to be said my little thought experiment has a number of problems,  such as the fact that I’ve posted at other times that my own country, Australia, in our public culture, really does not do much deep thinking, (Not without great leadership and effort.) but I have also said that we tend to keep our deepest places hidden and private, presenting a casual façade except at sporting events.

The kind of stories that are common motifs in a culture can tell us something as well.

For instance a very common narrative in US storytelling is the family thanksgiving weekend and how it can be a great, warm family connection experience or it can be one long and intense family argument where all the worst aspects of a family are put on display.   Now the point is that both those versions of thanksgiving weekend are extrovert – intense social expression, either warm and good or heated and conflicted – but both are extroverted dynamics.

I can’t think of a similar common story in Australia’s storytelling.  We have lots of BBQ’s but we don’t tell stories about them. We just have them and we keep things relaxed and easygoing and then we all go home, put our feet up in the quiet and watch some footy….or tennis….or horse racing….or car racing……..or…..

Now what would be really interesting would be if there was an American with a fair bit of experience of Australia who could blog this idea in reverse, I’d love to read that!

In truth all these kind of models or frameworks are not right or wrong, true or false, they are tools to think about what we see,  ways to play with and organise observations,  invitations to reflection and dialogue. When someone, me, makes such observations you are learning as much or more about me than you are about the things I am commenting on.  🙂

I seem to have said whatever it was I felt like saying.

Peace, Mikel.

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Embodiment and Philosophy

Hey David, interesting how what you wrote sprang from a dream you woke up from a few nights ago and what I am about to write was something I scrawled down just before going to sleep a few nights ago, literally wrote these ideas in a notepad with my head on the pillow.  I wrote the idea several ways and have not yet settled on one summary version, or slogan, if you will.

You may not have considered that you were proposing a philosophical project when you suggested we need to give reasons for why we say “this is good” but I think the idea stands within the history of human philosophical musings very nicely.

I’ve been reading some Western philosophy recently, to help my chew over my own ‘first principles’ in my own meaning making project and perhaps the first of my first principles is that any attempt to explain ourselves to ourselves must start by recognising and embracing the reality that our humanity is embodied and that our truth seeking must also be embodied from the foundation up.

I breathe, therefore I am.

All human knowledge is embodied.

Reason is a bodily function.

Philosophy without shit is bullshit.

Emoting and thinking are one.

Feeling is primary, thinking is secondary.

Reason without body is nonsense.

Just a few of the things I scrawled before falling asleep.   I apologise for the few “must” words I used a few sentences back, I rarely use ‘must’, it rarely aids a conversation.  In this instance I’ll simply say that I’m really talking to myself when I say that my philosophy “must” start with embodiment and adopt a process that is explicicitly an embodied process.  I am not suggesting anyone else in this conversation ‘must’ do anything!

To be honest I’m not super clear on what an embodied philosophical process will be, which is part of the adventure, but I do know that an embodied process is one that recognises that dividing our interior experience into “thoughts” and “feelings” or “reason” and “emotion” is a false division and is a fundamental mistake at the very foundations of Western philosophy.   The mistake is not merely in the distortion of describing a single process as two processes but in the further groundless demand that one of those fake distinctions be valued as more useful and more reliable than the other.

Western society continues to declare to itself that reason and thinking are reliable, testable, trustable and that emotion and sensation are unreliable, unstable, problematic.    Groundless assertions but ones with character references all the way back to the early Greek philosophers.

My idea of an embodied philosophical process recognises that the ‘knowing’ process going on inside my skin is ONE process that is layered, complex, systemic and grounded in my flesh, bone, sinew and nerve.

The “correctional” way of putting this might be that my philosophy will take my body and my feelings and sensations as seriously as traditional philosophy has taken “reason”.   I don’t really like the correctional explanation as it continues to use the binary of ‘reason/emotion’ and I consider that to be a mere linguistic artifact that serves, among other things, the current construction of gender roles and the alienation of humans from their own bodies.

In practical terms in the current discussion,  if I were to answer why I think such and such is “good” my answer must start with information coming up out of all of my body, not merely with sentences being generated in my “brain”.

This might not seem like it really is connected to what you wrote David, but I immediately concieved this blog on reading yours, so that’s how I’ve played it.

Truth is embodied or it’s not true.

Mikel Azure.

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Honesty and Privacy.

I really am going to be brief.  Really.

My personal experience suggests that often adults require or demand “honesty” from children and what is actually happening is that the adult wants to invade the privacy of the child, wants the child to give away their autonomy.

Rather than ask themselves the question, “Why don’t the children I care for feel safe telling me their important stuff?” it is easier for adults to use their position of power and authority to FORCE information out of children against that child’s wishes.

As I think about it right now – obviously adults do this to each other as well and I think that is just as unhealthy, illegitimate and damaging when adults do it.

But when adults use power against children – that always gets my goat.

Mikel.

Sisters and Love

One thing I’m pretty sure is a global thing – the importance of family.

I’m fairly non mainstream on this topic – I don’t buy into the stupid romantic nonsense about how family always loves you and blood is thicker than water and all that mythology that works as effective social glue but which is as wrong as it is right.

As its not my focus for this wee blog I won’t unpack most of my attitude to family reality – just the one basic idea before I move on to talking about my amazing sisters.

Family can be great or vile and every mixture of every quality in any ratio – because humans are that – every mixture of every ratio of every possible character quality and humans in families are usually at their best and at their worst simultaneously. That’s fine when they are being at their best and it is truly epically devastating for family members when one of them is being at their truly worst.  (For example, as bad as it is to share an office with an angry bullying control freak – sharing a loungeroom or a bedroom with them is infinitely worse and seriously dangerous and unhealthy.)

Friends is the concept that matters to me.   Blood does not count for anything.  If you share blood with me but don’t treat me the way a good friend treats me, then the blood bond is empty of meaning.  If we don’t share blood but we do share friendship, then the friendship is the deepest, richest, core of life thing.

I have three sisters, all older than me.  I am a very fortunate man that despite me being a withdrawn and quite unsociable little human being when I was a boy and my relationship to my sisters has overcome those early days. As I have grown healthier, freer and more able to accept my own responsibility for how relationships I’ve been in were the way they were at least HALF because of the way I was behaving, it is no surprise that my sisters have been on similar journey and we are all starting to like each other and respect each other and really SEE each other in a magical new way.

We four, plus one of my cool brothers in law, had lunch yesterday and it was one of those human miracles – where something so simple and mundane as a meal at a table can be deep and rich and heart touching, life affirming.

My sisters are my friends, friends of deep quality, human beings I admire and who’s company I enjoy more and more.

It sounds like Abner and I both had a good Easter thanks to the company we kept.

Dry Spells – I’m Guessing They are Cross Cultural?

I’m having a dry spell, as revealed in my dearth of postings recently.

So I’ve adopted an old writer’s trick when in a dry spell or when stuck by “writer’s block” – I’m going to write about not being able to write.

The immediate effect of starting to write about not being able to write is that I have to face the fact that I CAN write as …here I am writing.

Which leads to one point of clarity – the problem is not the ability to write, the problem is something else.

I have a basic belief about myself and most humans in most situations –  if I’m not doing something then I’m not doing it because I don’t want to do it.  I might have very good reasons TO do it but still not WANT to do it, for other good reasons.

Oh that is another part of my beliefs here – all reasons are “good” reasons.  I don’t mean morally good, or good as in helpful, I mean good as in genuine, actual, real, to be respected, worth recognising and understanding.

Sometimes understanding “reasons” helps bring an internal change, but often change does not require insight – in fact there is plenty of research that suggests that ‘personal insight’ leads to changes in our behaviour no more often than any other dynamic, including external inputs such as good luck or bad luck.

Back to my dilemma, I have had a few dry weeks, each time I thought about writing a blog for this blog my “don’t think about that” skills would kick in and a couple of days later I’d notice I had forgotten to start to write.  I’d feel slightly bad for a few moments then go back to not thinking about it for another couple of days.

Clearly I have been avoiding something but I have no idea what I am avoiding.

I’m glad that David has been pressing on with his postings here, that is one of the good things about being in a partnership, being part of a team – nothing rests on a single pair of shoulders and the progress of other team members can help drag me out of my own spot of bogged-down-ness.  Yes, I could have written “inertia” but reading bogged-down-ness has a bit of the quality to which it refers and that is a great characteristic for words.  For word lovers, please note that inertia and bogged-down-ness both have three syllables, at least in actual pronunciation, but one slides off the tongue and the other grabs your tongue and clumsily flails around trying to go back down your throat rather than out between your lips.

Words are cool, a whole world of wonders and mysteries and delights and playfulness.

My basic assumption about myself is that when I’m not doing something I really enjoy doing the most likely reason for my inaction is my fear.

I assume that even when I am not aware of feeling fear and when I don’t have much clue about what COULD be worth fearing in the task or activity.

Fear and death are related, at least in the West, where I was raised and still live.  I’m not going to go off on a tangent here in which I make my argument about fear and death being related in people’s psychology and in social discourse, by which I mean, the things we discourse about only obliquely, in code, or not at all.

I think the connection for me, forgive me leaving out an awful lot of background and details that might make this seem more sensible to you gentle reader, is that death echoes with pointlessness and meaninglessness and whatever it is I fear is probably somehow related also to beliefs or concerns I have about pointlessness or meaninglessness.  It is a kind of circle, which I might unpack some other time or in some other place but not here and now as here and now my only goal is to write about not writing and thus to stop not writing at least for a few hundred words.

As to the title of this post –  I’m pretty sure that all cultures that have written language have the concept of “writer’s block” or “dry spells”, indeed as I think as I write I see that any culture with artists, even without a written language, might have the concept of ‘dry spell’.

We can see that I have ‘assumed’ a psychological explanation for my own dry spell.

That is interesting because the psychological way of seeing humans is a fairly new thing, only about one hundred and fifty years old.  We tend to read our psychological narrative back into things we read from antiquity but just because some of the words look familiar, or can be interpreted with our psychological frame of reference does not mean folks hundreds of years ago were seeing humans the way we see ourselves.

Psychological thinking is really creative storytelling tradition, it has helped us understand ourselves a lot, its a great tool, but it is not “the truth” any more than myths and legends and stories told under star bright skies around murmuring open fires are “the truth”, nor any more than the stories we tell ourselves in our movies and tv shows and pop songs –  all are tools we use to talk about ourselves to ourselves.  None are “the truth”, certainly not the psychology story but it is the story I just jumped right into using as I wrote this blog stream of consciousness style.

I wonder what narratives, what frames of reference, what explanations, other cultures use to explain a creative dry spell?

Peace,

Mikel.

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