Feline Focus

Feline Focus
My latest puma, July 2016

Carra

Carra
Beloved companion to Sarah, Nov 2015

Window To The Soul

Window To The Soul
Watercolour Horse, June 2015

Sleeping Beauties

Sleeping Beauties
Watercolour Lionesses, Nov 2012

QUOTES QUOTA

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others."

Groucho Marx




Snow Stalker

Snow Stalker
Another snow leopard - my latest watercolour offering - July 2013

06 August 2017

LITERARY INSPIRATION #9

BOOK - MOON OVER MANIFEST by Clare Vanderpool


 ‘I thought I knew a thing or two about people.  Even had my list of universals.  But I wondered.  Maybe the world wasn’t made of universals that could be summed up in neat little packages.  Maybe there were just people.  People who were tired and hurt and lonely and kind in their own way and their own time.
Once again, I felt off balance, as if I was playing tug-of-war and the person I was tugging against let go.’


‘They talked of their common experiences of travelling to America on ships filled with immigrants, tears of emotion welling up as they recounted their first sightings of the Statue of Liberty, and the joy and fear of arriving at Ellis Island.
“I was so afraid I would be turned back,” said Mrs Cybulskis, wiping her brow with the back of her hand.  “The way they examined everyone for disease and malady.”  The women nodded in agreement.  They had all experienced the fear of being labelled unfit to enter America.  A simple chalk mark drawn by the medical examiner on one’s clothes could have a person barred from entering his newly adopted country.  An E for eye problems, an L for lameness, an H for heart problems.  They would have to board another boat and go back to wherever they’d come from no matter how long a journey they had just travelled.’

My experience with buying and reading recently published children’s books has been a bit hit and miss - I prefer older books, which I have found are generally (though not always) much better written.  But occasionally I’ve stumbled upon some good newer ones, this being one of those.  

I really loved this book, and it made me cry (though that isn’t to say that it is one of those awful, gloomy books, designed to manipulate your emotions - I read one of those a few months back, and I was so angry with it I gave it away: I couldn’t bear to have it in my home, it pissed me off so much).  It’s bitter-sweet, and so beautiful.

As you can see from the second quote above, it is also extremely relevant to what is going on in the world today, with the “immigrant crisis”.  And yet the book, published in 2010, switches between a dual timeline of 1917/18, and 1936, and is describing how immigrants were treated back when they were fleeing Europe and the devastation of the First World War.  
So nothing much has changed, then.  Immigrants are still as unwelcome as they’ve always been, it seems.  And yet the irony in this is the fact that most of us are either immigrants, or the descendants of immigrants (whether in the recent or long distant past), but so many people don’t realise, or choose to forget, that fact.  No matter how you try to look at it, “All is One” and, therefore, we are all part of the whole.

Peace to all.  Namaste.


05 August 2017

FOOD FOR THOUGHT #3

"My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust.  But how had I got this idea of just and unjust?  A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.  What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?"     C S Lewis

I do love Lewis, despite not being a Christian myself.  

As to his quote, I do this all the time (mostly now in other areas of my life), and it always leaves me feeling frustrated, conflicted, and out of synch with myself and God.  And where do I get my ideas?  From other people: and not just non-autistic people (who are my default guides to how to live a 'better' life), but also from people who are as out of step with God (or even more so) as I am.  The blind leading the blind, indeed.

I compare my "universe" with other peoples', which only serves to confirm my beliefs about myself - that I'm not doing well enough; that I should try harder; that I'd be happy if I did it someone else's way, blah blah blah.

Take, for example, my obsession with the idea of the need for discipline, and more productivity.  My personality, my wiring, does not lend itself to consistency - I am, by nature, erratic.  I get enthusiastic about something, and want to do it all the time (right now I'm really into posting these quotes - it'll pass, unfortunately).  But then, after a while, I lose interest and move on to the next thing (told you it'll pass).  

But rather than accepting this about myself, going with the ebb and flow (no-one ever mentions the ebb), trusting that I'll always return to the things which really are my special interests (like writing, and art), and that this is God directing me, instead I compare myself to those people who propagate the idea of self-determination (some of them even talk about "setting an intention" to do something, which makes it sound quite spiritual, but which, on careful examination, often looks suspiciously like self-will to me); who elevate and seem almost to worship the ideas of daily discipline, productivity, and consistency.  

Yet I fail, every time, to live up to these expectations and ideas - ideas which seem to be universally accepted as being the blueprint for a happy, successful, and fulfilling life.  So, of course, for those of us who fail to follow these guidelines, the natural assumption is that our unhappiness, etc is because we aren't following them, and trying harder to walk this path is the only way to to achieve these goals, and get what we want.

And therein lies my other source of conflict - my relationship with God. As I understand it, I get a choice to either follow God's guidance, or my own; to ask Him/Her/It to direct my life and my thinking (this is where inspiration comes from), or to think for myself (which basically means following other people, because I'm relying on my limited stock of acquired information, nearly all of which originates from them; and which also incorporates my wobbly autistic interpretation of said ideas).  So what I want, or think I want (if I even have half an inkling, which I mostly don't), is not necessarily what I need, or what God wants for me. 

To me, therefore, if I'm following God, then me deciding what I want to do is in direct opposition to this.  The minute I decide I want to be more productive, or more organised, I fall back on my default, narrow-minded understanding of what this means (the one that I have picked up from other people, and which always involves a plan of some sort, even if it's just a mental decision to write or paint every day, for example), and therefore take back control of directing my own life again, rather than turning it over to God to guide me throughout the day.  

Being rigid in nature makes it impossible for me to shift focus between any plan for the day that I've made, and trying to let God direct me. Following the plan becomes my obsession.

Along with that, my black or white viewpoint also impedes my ability to see that there might be any alternative interpretations - that there isn't just one way to manifest organisation, productivity, consistency, etc. As my friend Dee frequently jokes, I am actually consistent - consistently inconsistent; I'm also reliably unreliable; and even chaotically organised.  

Yet I laugh these things off, and view them as qualities which need to be overcome, because the bar against which I am measuring them is one created by a society which is primarily obsessed with efficiency, productivity, and keeping people under control, and doesn't really allow for creative alternatives.  Things which God isn't interested in at all.  S/He doesn't want to control me; S/He doesn't want me to follow the crowd.  S/He wants me to be free.

So the assumption that the reason I can't find happiness, peace, and fulfilment is because I'm failing to try harder to follow the path laid out by other people, is wrong.  The reason I can't find those things is because their path is the wrong one for me: it's too narrow, and it literally leads to unhappiness. Yet I keep insisting on trying to walk down it.  And God won't walk down it with me.  So there goes my peace, happiness, freedom, and fulfilment, waving to me as I walk away from Him, once again.  

       

03 August 2017

FOOD FOR THOUGHT #2

"God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine.  A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else.  Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself.  He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on.  There is no other.  That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion (spirituality).  God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself because it is not there."     C S Lewis

Having tried numerous other options to achieve happiness and peace, I know this to be true for myself.  Finding this connection with God (as I understand Her/Him/It) is the greatest gift I received from following the AA 12 Step Programme.  

It even says in the Basic Text (which is nicknamed the AA Big Book) that the solution to our problem is a Power greater than ourselves, which we choose to call God; that the purpose of doing the Steps is to find that Power; and that the Power will solve our problem -  NOT that S/He/It will help us to solve our problem.  We've proven that we can't sort it out, which is manifested in our various addictions, unhealthy behaviours, and the variety and variance in  degrees of emotional and mental turmoil and/or illness which we suffer.  

And this problem of which we speak?  Life.  That conundrum which causes so many of us such problems in our attempts to navigate our way through it; especially because we believe we have to go it alone, relying only, or primarily, on our own resources, our own thinking.  

All of which turn out to be limited, and temporary, in their ability to bring about a state of happiness or peace (if they even manage to achieve that at all - I thought that writing, and art, would do that for me: turns out that a lot of the time they make me feel worse, not better!)  

Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard
An experiment in watercolour and gouache

Quotes Quota

"Do you believe in Magic?" asked Colin.

"That I do, lad," she answered. "I never knowed it by that name, but what does th' name matter? I warrant they call it a different name i' France an' a different one i' Germany. Th' same thing as set th' seeds swellin' an' th' sun shinin' made thee well lad an' it's th' Good Thing. It isn't like us poor fools as think it matters if us is called out of our names. Th' Big Good Thing doesn't stop to worrit, bless thee. It goes on makin' worlds by th' million - worlds like us. Never thee stop believin' in th' Big Good Thing an' knowin' th' world's full of it - an call it what tha' likes. Eh! lad, lad - what's names to th' Joy Maker."

From 'The Secret Garden', by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Love

Love
Copied from photograph of the same name by Roberto Dutesco

Quotes Quota

"There is no way to happiness - happiness is the way."
The Dalai Lama

"If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything."

Malcolm X

On The Prowl

On The Prowl
Watercolour tiger

Quotes Quota

"What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step."

"There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind."

C S Lewis