Bienvenidos Chicas y Chicos,
Well my focus is definitely improving, as the posts are arriving like buses at present… you wait ages for one then 2 or 3 come along at once. Although I have made an effort to leave a day or so between them, so 2 of them don’t pass you by! Take heed of that simple concept BORIS!
I decided to split this post into three smaller chunks in recognition of the chaos you the reader will be living in (oh the irony). The chance of anyone having the time to read all three in a day in today’s world of pure noise is zero! Following on from my brief foray into the ‘journey’ aspect of my thoughts, I would now like to focus on the possibility of signs that may be given to use as we progress through life. You choose to interpret the world before you in your own way and there is a possibility messages present themselves to you, as you progress down life’s path. It is whether or not you are in the right frame of mind at specific junctures, which will enable you to firstly; see them for what they are and secondly; choose to acknowledge them as such and take action!
“With our thoughts we create our world” (The Buddha)
I have often thought about the concept of contentment, that moment where you have no cares in the world; no insecurities; no thoughts about anything that causes you past regression or future tenseness; where for whatever or whoever the reason you are content with yourself. For many of us these can be fleeting moments but often in these states you may notice that ‘random things happen’ (hence the comment about things happening when you least expect it… as in this frame of mind you are not expecting or wanting anything). You will bump into a friend you haven’t seen in 10 years walking down the street, a unexpected job opportunity will emerge etc. Or as has happened to me on a few occasions; individual words, randomly seen on the street, are linked and resonate with you (anyone else had this? Names on a postcard please).
A journalist friend writing an article for a well known men’s magazine questioned me the other day and we had a long discussion on whether ‘love for someone else’ actually exists, or whether as a well known author once commented, it is actually at this moment that you are in love with yourself! As knowing someone cares for you and is attracted to you, allows you to reach that self state of contentment without having to achieve it on your own. An interesting concept and not one I am going to dwell on here.
When you are at one with yourself and the world around you, or as some people might say… your ‘chi’ is inline with the world’s energy, things are drawn to you. I like to think of it more as following your true path in that moment and because of this you attract good from around you (perhaps what some people have termed karma). The Alchemist touches on this subject as the quotes below illustrate and this is why the book made such a connection with me:
“…whoever you are, or whatever you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth” (The Alchemist)
You may or may not agree with this concept but I also think ‘luck’ is another word that has developed for this. The old saying about ‘you make your own luck’ might well be true! By this I mean, you make it through being content with whatever life has thrown at you, may be you help others in need, may be you are following your passion, may be you are old couple in Scotland enjoying your later years (I am speculating here, it is true) and the big spongy Lotto finger smacks you in the face!!
‘The Men that stare at Goats’ is all about being at one with the energy of the universe! The basic concept that put a lot of people off watching the film was the power to stop a goat’s heart beat with your mind. The central theme is Jeff Bridges character exploring hippie beliefs and forming a specialised unit of jedi mind warriors – bare with me here!! The premise is that these warriors are able to combat weapons with the power of control over the mind and through manipulation of the universes energy.
For me the film is a lot deeper than this and nothing sums this up better than the scene where Jeff Bridges is reciting the following prose, while doing yoga with Ewan McGregor on top of a jeep in the army compound at daybreak:
Mother Earth you are my life support system;
As a soldier I must drink your blue water, live inside your red clay, eat your green skin;
Help me to balance myself as you hold in balance the earth, sea and space environments;
Help me to open my heart knowing that the universe will feed me;
I pray my boots will always kiss your face and my footsteps match your heart beat;
Carry my body through space and time;
You are my connection to the universe and all that comes after;
I am yours and you are mine;
I salute you !!!
I immediately felt compelled to write it down and annoyed my fellow viewers by rewinding it to do so! Just reading it seems to sum up how insignificant all our worries are. We are such a small part of the overall universe, yet we seem to have created a huge bubble of superiority over all other species and even the natural environment. Everyone living in their own selfish small worlds and being subconsciously manipulated by media, advertising and government (anyone heard about the Chem-trails??). Having an unseen structure unwittingly forced upon us all, surrounded by a chaotic spiralling poisonous unyielding cloud of psychological warfare = how we should all look and live in social stereotypes, cosmetics that change their names every week promising the holy grail and clothing labels making you feel special… and the frickin London text dating game WTF? (We don’t have that rubbish up north… it’s … a pie & pint, check her banter & cooking skills and bob is your uncle; fanny is your ant!).
Pythagoras Edge went off on yet another tangent there, so lets get back to the concept of omens/signs. In all the autobiographical prison break novels there are specific moments when fate or chance decides to intervene to change the outcome of a dangerous situation. There are countless examples in ‘Papillon’, ‘Banco’, ‘The long Walk’, and ‘Shantaram’ when the main characters are incarcerated and toiling with the dangers of escape and fellow inmates. Henri Charrier eventually escapes from French Guyana in Papillon after 14 failed attempts; he had visions in his dreams of returning to France, for vengeance and to proving his innocence. He was able to swim across shark-infested waters while others lost their life’s. In the Long Walk they endured starvation but on finding a lonely girl in the mountains and allowing her to join them they succeeded in finding food at the next village.
In A Million Little Pieces James Frey was given a book called ‘Tao Te Ching’ by his brother that was to be his talisman throughout his recovery; a girl in the rehab centre also entered his life as did Leonard a mafia boss, who was to become a close friend. The Alchemist is littered with omens to challenge and guide Santiago. What is apparent through the novels’ is that all the main characters while hitting rock bottom, all show compassion for others; Santiago to the shop owner, Henri Charrier and Slavomir to weaker inmates who wouldn’t have made it; James Frey eventually to fellow addicts. Is this why they succeeded in their journeys?
“At some point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and yearn for everything they would like to see happen. But as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it is impossible for them to realise their destiny” (The Alchemist)
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” (The Alchemist)
Some direction is required, as without it we will be tumbling through the chaos, in order to embrace it you need to be following your true destiny and then the universe will applaud you!
[End of part 2]…
In ‘Invisible Light’ posted on March 16th 2011, I implied there was a more cathartic article to follow concerning embracing the chaos that surrounds us all, in everyday life. Well, following a concerted effort over the last few weeks to structure my personal productivity, I have actually managed to allocate time to pull together my notes and overall message(s). I have two aims for this article 1) to help articulate the thoughts I had while reading the books/films discussed; and 2) facilitate a response of any kind from anyone reading it - be that a direct correlation/alignment to my thoughts or even just a positive or negative opinion on the overall content. It is said there is no such thing as bad press! …Well… bar Kinga & the wine bottle on BB6, this is probably true!
Considering the cathartic countenance of this post, it seems somewhat bizarre that the initial creative spark that gave birth to it came from watching the film ‘The Hot Tube Time Machine’. During this time travelling comedic romp with John Cussack, there is a cameo appearance made by the legend that is Chevvy Chase as a mystical hot tube engineer. Ok, so on the surface it is doesn’t seem like a deep thinking film, but it does challenge how events in our early lives affect our future states (Sliding Doors-esk). But there was one line delivered by Mr Chase in the film that has resonated with me ever since:
“Embrace the chaos... that way life might just astonish you!”
This quote formed the corner stone (not Veronica of Anchorman fame) while pulling together my thoughts on; The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho; Papillion and its follow-up Banco by Henri Charriere; The Long Walk by Slavomir Rawicz; and Shantaram by David Gregory Roberts. These books all have an underlying theme of personal challenges and physical journeys of self-discovery. While, A Million Little Pieces by James Frey; Survivor and Fight Club by Chuck Palahnuik; are more centred on the internal manipulation of the mind and its challenges.
I will endeavour to articulate how all these publications and the film 'The Men that stare at Goats’ fitted neatly with the chaos (check out the paradox there!!).
A Challenging Journey
As I have mentioned in previous posts I have been riding the natural flow of ‘what will be will be’ when it comes to literature lately. Drawn to each book through random discussions with friends and impromptu meanders through bookshops. However these books found me, they all did so at a specific time in my life that allowed me to see shared themes between them all.
I wasn’t expecting much from George Clooney’s film ‘The men that stare at Goats’ but it surprised me and is now definitely one of my favourite movies (Point break being firmly at number 1 – 100% Utah)! It has a very spiritual undercurrent, which we will discuss later in the post. It was while watching this movie that a friend mentioned ‘The Alchemist – by Paulo Coelho’, a book I had bought 2 yrs ago but had not read. While Papillon, Banco and The Long Walk are all about prison breaks and the many adventures that occur; The Alchemist is about a young Andalusian shepherd’s recurring dream and the journey to discover his destiny.
At first it may not seem like there is much in common but many of the messages which Coelho conveys in the Alchemist exist in Papillon, Banco, The Long Walk and Shantaram. A critical person might suggest that certain aspects of these autobiographies have been embellished to ensure these messages are present. I know for certain if I was writing a novel about my experiences after a daring escape, I might bend the truth slightly (…yep 3 sharks killed with my bare hands, two babies saved and my leg grew back … a normal day for me sunshine…). So what messages I hear you ask… well let me give you a very brief overview of the Alchemist:
“A consistent man believes in destiny, a capricious man in chance” (Benjamin Desrali)
“It is in moments of decision that destiny is shaped” (Anthony Robbins)
Whether you believe in the notion of destiny or not we all have to make decisions that impact on our journey don’t we? Is it possible to deviate from the plan and fight the flow of the river? Or is fate going to lead us back to the same place or is fate just an excuse for not taking action? (I will explore this more in part 2).
“I will find a way or make one” (Hannibal)
The Alchemist is summed up on the back of the novel eloquently as…. a transforming novel about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, learning to read omens/signs strewn along life’s path and above all following our dreams.
In a sense the characters in Papillon, Banco, The Long Walk and Shantaram were on a journey to achieve their dream – that being of escape from the confinement they all were in. They too had omens and signs on the way to stop them from being recaptured or surviving dangerous events (e.g. Shantaram – his time in Afghanistan; The Long Walk – starvation and the elements). In all the books the world seems to present a dichotomy by conspiring against them, while also providing solace and embrace to guide them along their way. The main characters have to overcome mental as well as physical anguish.
Three further novels present more of an internal journey of self-discovery, while no physical journey in terms of crossing country boards is made, I read into them similar messages to the books mentioned above. ‘A Million Little Pieces’ by James Frey, ‘Fight Club’ and ‘Survivor’ by Chuck Palahniuk all depict mental journeys. In ‘A Million Little Pieces’ James has to overcome drug and alcohol addiction (it was since proved on Oprah that he had great embellished the truth, with regards to how far he had fallen). The novel is a riveting read and depicts James journey in graphic detail and similar characters and events seem to guide him at times through choppy waters. He regains compassion by the end of the book and is able to connect with people and the world again.
Both Chuck’s books have darker messages and almost revel in putting a mirror up to the chaos we exist in and the negative effects it can course. I am sure you are all aware of ‘Fight Club’ about a ticking-time-bomb insomniac and a slippery soap salesman Tyler Durben (who are one and the same) channelling primal male aggression into a shocking new form of therapy. The crux of the story being that the main character is unable to cope with his dull working life existence that he creates a character in his mind to express his anger through, attaching to him traits that he dreams of having (e.g. cool persona, a womanising rebel non-conformist).
‘Survivor’ is a story about a soul survivor of an American cult and the journey is about his re-introduction into the real world, becoming a TV religious icon and then ultimately committing suicide. A slightly darker take on ‘Embracing the chaos’ you would have to agree. The main character Tender Branson lives in a spiralling freak show of an existence, which has a massive affect on his frame of mind and the way he views world around him.
All the books apart from Chuck’s, in one way or another, depict triumphs in the face of despair! Where as ‘Survivor’ and ‘Fight Club’ depict a less desirable alternative.
We are all on our own journeys and I have to remind myself of this when I find myself comparing my current situation to some of my peers. I realise that everyone is different and we have all succumbed to different effects of the nature & nurture process. I often wonder what is must be like to have known your calling from an early age, chosen your academic route to achieve this goal. It seems to me that there is a sense of contentment to knowing where you are heading and that you are immersing yourself body and soul in achieve your dream. But this is probably a rose tinted spectacle look over the garden fence at the grass in its greener glory! Or more likely I see my past lack of direction as being a blockage to me achieving my own contentment.
The vast majority of us will never experience trials and tribulations like the characters in the novels. Life is a challenge for all of us, in different ways, and I strongly believe that the journey I have had over the last 10 yrs in the big smoke has shaped me in a way to help me fully achieve my dreams (ok… probably not the one about the huge calculator and a the girl elephant smoking a cigar, playing tennis and talking in an American accent! … I just made that up before any of you try and analyse it ….. e.g. Lee is calculating his chances of finding Beautiful American woman who is as dirty as Monica Lewinski, as athletic as Anna Kournikova and with the intelligence of a savant so they can win BIG in Vegas!!).
It has taken me some time to realise it but I have always been on a journey to where as a young wipper snapper (child for none northerners), I wanted to be (e.g. drawing, painting, photography, business). May be we have all been heading in the right directions and we just need to open our eyes and see the signs to guide us…..
Destiny - “It’s what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their destiny is” (The Alchemist)
[End of part 1] …
The cathartic musings of a CRE8IV mind, living at the EDGE of chaos.