Audio/Video

‘Dissolving conflict in life and death’ – James Low

Teacakes – well… softness with a somewhat cloying sweetness – high-calorie comfort-food.

These teachings, recorded this July at Emerson College, now available to listen or download – may be the perfect food for these troubled times – highly nutritious, softening, and… strangely slimming too!

From this                                                      to this

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with hidden….                                                         tomg22329780.700-1_800

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THE LAND OF THE ENLIGHTENED

image.phpOn 11 November the cinema was less than full – in fact only four people had come to watching this extraordinary and impactful film.

 http://thelandoftheenlightened.com

The number watching was no indication of its quality – its evocation of the complete madness and irresponsibility of the war in Afghanistan and its enduring legacy, of the energy and resilience of the children and of scenery of great vastness… of harshness and beauty.

International Film Festival Rotterdam (USA, 2016) World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award: Best Cinematography at Sundance Film Festival

SHORT SYNOPSIS from savage films

A gang of Afghan kids from the Kuchi tribe dig out old Soviet mines and sell the explosives to children working in a lapis lazuli mine. When not dreaming of the time when American troops finally withdraw from their land, another gang of children keeps tight control on the caravans smuggling the blue gemstones through the arid mountains of Pamir.
SYNOPSIS

In this seamless blend of fictional and documentary form, we experience a stunning cinematic journey into the beauty of war-tormented Afghanistan. Shot over seven years on evocative 16mm footage, first-time director Pieter-Jan De Pue paints a whimsical yet haunting look at the condition of Afghanistan left for the next generation. As American soldiers prepare to leave, we follow De Pue deep into this hidden land where young boys form wild gangs to control trade routes, sell explosives from mines left over from war, and climb rusting tanks as playgrounds-making the new rules of war based on the harsh landscape left to them.  De Pue’s transportative and wonderfully crafted film confronts the visceral beauty and roughness of survival, serving as a testament to the spirited innovation of childhood and the extreme resilience of a people and country.  – Sundance Film Festival

This seems to be available free to download on the internet.

Macclesfield videos/audios

From 2003 James has taught in Macclesfield  either once or twice a year. Originally when he came up he taught in a little room above pizza express, in a park building and in a hospital out-building.  After that the group of practitioners in Macclesfield had the use of a building which became a buddhist centre…

For about a decade Chris Coppock, who was a major contributor to this, made audio recordings of the talks which James gave and also made (latterly with Charles Lomas) some video-recordings.

These video–recordings are being archived and Barbara is adding them to the Vimeo collection on the simplybeing.co.uk website.

Latest set of videos now available – Refuge is liberation / Garab Dorje’s Three Points as the essence of refuge. From fusion to dualistic intention to  non-dual liberation…    ( Nov 2008)

Due to causes and conditions that buddhist centre eventually folded but happily James has continued to come north and teach in different venues, annually, since then.

I know some people are following through with the audios of the Macclesfield talks and thought it might be helpful to put the links to the available videos and audios which are available to listen or download from the simplybeing website…all grouped together on one page.

So far we have:

1. View of dzogchen  Nov 2003      audio talk                (audio only )

2. Dzogchen practice-Focussing and Distraction July 2004 audio  (audio only )

 

3. Living with anxiety and doubt February 2005   audio        (audio only )

 

4. Wisdom and compassion   May 2006   audio              (audio only )

 

5. Lojong – Mind training  Dec 2006    audio                videos (x3)

 

6. The transmission of  flow and the flow of transmission  June 2007   audio      videos(x3)

 

7. Clearing the clutter November 2007     audio       videos  (x3)

 

8. Integrating the dzogchen view with basic buddhist practice March 2008    audio     videos (x3)

 

9. Refuge is liberation- Garab Dorje’s Three Points as the
essence of refuge-From fusion to dualistic intention to
non-dual liberation     Nov 2008           audio       videos  (x3)

 

10. Love,compassion,joy and equanimity- the four immeasurables June 2009 audio 

 

11. Four foundations of mindfulness-a dzogchen perspective Jan 2010     audio

 

12. Working with change and impermanence   Nov 2010      audio

 

13.  The illusory nature of experience  March 2012    “The Heart Sutra”      audio      videos(x3) 

 

14. Integrating openness and presence   Feb 2013   audio    (audio only)

 

15. Balancing relation and effort in buddhism Feb 2014 audio  (audio only )

 

16. Staying open to life as it is      Feb  2015        audio            (audio only )

 

17. Buddhism and creativity         Feb 2016       audio                    (audio only )

 

18. Dissolving attachment in the openness of being  Feb 2017                audio    video

 

We’re working on the videos for talks 10, 11 and 12 and I’ll add the links as they become available…

‘Where to invade next’

720x405-MCDWHTO_EC042_HThis film is maybe good  to see  after watching The Divide..it shows much that’s good in other   countries’ ways of living.

It’s not a film which I would have thought of going to see… but a friend wanted to and I was in town…so i did and was glad.

It’s not in fact about which country America is really about to invade next…. but about comparing some of the best of humanitarian attitudes in other countries, for example with regard to education, workers rights, attitude towards criminals ( bankers and others!) and contrasting them with what generally happens in the USA.

I had heard of the prison off the coast of Norway where maximum security offenders are treated with respect and rehabilitated  in such a way that the rates of recidivism are astonishingly low compared with the U.K. and U.S. and it was a treat to see the quality of the relationships, both between the inmates and the inmates with their guards…. violence being meted out by the police is unimaginable to prisoners and guards alike. Here prisoners are trusted with the use of large sharp kitchen knives for food prep. in the kitchen…and they are used just for that!          I remember hearing that the training for those working with offenders in prison is lengthy, often at degree level, in countries  where there is a genuine interest in rehabilitation and re–education rather than punishment…the training in our country can be just a matter of months.   Recently there was mention of an intention of making prisoners in this country work productively and there is footage of American prisoners doing just this which is so dispiriting. Their living conditions and working conditions are so poor and they are paid maybe as little as $.37 an hour for franchised work…the contrast is stark.

Having heard a bit about the educational system in Finland it was delightful to see  the faces of the teachers  in whose aim is to  facilitate the growth of healthy happy communicative  citizens,  and who  feel that our method of ‘education to pass standardised tests’ is deadening and diminishing to the potential of teacher and the child. These children have no homework… home time is for friends, family, living life.. not bowed down by hours and hours of homework, in fact they have almost none – yet their educational system is producing students with some of the highest functioning in the world.

In our country we work long hours (though not as long as the USA) and our productivity is a lot lower than in many countries which work shorter hours. The film shows employers in other countries  who actually care about the happiness of the workforce and appreciate the positive impact resulting from involving them in decision-making… and also having them on the board of directors.

There are countries with eight weeks paid leave, generous maternity/paternity leave; countries where those who are stressed can go to a spa on prescription…. it is cheaper than treating people with depression ( way back in 1990 this cost was $44 billion in the USA  of which drug treatment was 10%, one quarter was due to treatment and the rest to absenteeism and premature death… I haven’t looked but I should imagine it’s a great deal more now)

I have heard a senior official in the drug squad pleading for decriminalisation… I don’t think many people wanted to hear what he had to say even though it was clear that he was in a position to know what he was talking about.
In Portugal drugs are not an issue, not a matter of concern for the police, but rehabilitation is  freely available. The Portuguese police who were interviewed appeared horrified and saddened at the lack of humanity in the use of the death-penalty in the USA.

French children, even in deprived areas, who all sit down together for an hour and enjoy a very high quality school meal at lunchtime. Passing food and drink between each other and chatting….lovely!

Yes…  this is  a quick breeze across the upside of many countries.. yet the relaxed faces speak volumes about the healthy impact of the humanitarian attitudes shown. It was a pleasure just  to listen to and see the faces of people around the world who were concerned for the welfare of those around them and were prepared to orientate their lives away from  ‘looking after number one’ to looking after the welfare of the wider community.

A Tunisia woman who had been educated in Paris (and knew much about the USA) was filmed begging for an interest from the USA in that which was good about her country….

Perhaps this is not representative but it stuck in my mind… In 1981 I was in the State Department office in Houston, Texas asking to buy a visa for Guatemala… and I was asked which state that was in? “Well,it’s the country  down from Mexico…two down from the USA!”                                  Many states in America are vast, and the news in each state was mainly about state happenings with some information about national happenings… but as far as international happenings there was very little.

Other countries have other problems and for sure there’s no quick fixes, as you shift one thing it has an impact on others (written pre-referendum!)  … but there is much non-fattening food for thought for both the UK and the USA about how to live well in this film… if you’ve a mind to see it.

The Divide

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The focus of this film is the vast ‘wealth divide’ where the top 0.1% of the population of the UK and USA have wealth equal to that of the bottom 90% – illustrated through a look at the lives of seven people.

It was very poignant to see footage of the lived situation of the people at the bottom of the economic divide, and their faces, as they spoke about trying to make ends meet and survive… but also the faces at the top – there is not much joy or freedom in their bunkered situations… manicured and deadened…

Heidegger said ethics is ‘first philosophy’…what is for the benefit of all? This is not operational here. One delightful female banker who had had qualms about the sub-prime market said that ‘when you remove ethics you become very efficient’. Perhaps in some ways it seems so… but the Walmart employee in the film had, prior to the changes within the company, loved her job, felt valued for her contribution both in ideas and behaviour. Through the changes which removed that culture of appreciation and included shifting to unknown flexible hours – the company itself was devalued. She was about to become homeless and did not look likely to survive for long.

The cinema was almost full but, as the man sitting next to me said, ‘unfortunately the people who needed to see this wouldn’t be watching’. But i thought, even if you could get them to watch many, because of their conditioning, would just see people who are a ‘hopeless’, a ‘waste of space’, a ‘drain on the economy’, ‘losers’.

Yet in the USA the ‘KIP’ schools, which operate in in hugely deprived areas and whose overriding focus is to get their students into college, succeed with 33% of their kids…compared with, i think it was, 8% for other schools in these areas of deprivation and a 32% national average …also their students tend not to drop out…

There are many stories of prisoners who turned their lives around with the help of the genuine love and support of others, and people whose lives have changed as a result of being seen to have value – having this different way of seeing themselves reflected back through someone else’s eyes.

You might enjoy this episode of desert island discs with John Timpson and the enlightened attitude to ex-offenders shown by his son, himself, and the firm.

Behaviour patterns tend to insist but have the potential for transformation if they are recognised as such and given space to resolve under a light and kindly attention. There is a beautiful quote which i paraphrase(having lost the original) as……..

” Birds that live on golden mountain take on the colour of the sun”.

So many many factors, causes and conditions, bring about the circumstances in which people find themselves…from a dharma perspective, in ‘relative reality’ karma is operational. So whilst hoping to equalise the ability to utilise the opportunities available is unrealistic… the attitude that genetics or social circumstances are definitional and that it is acceptable to ” fiddle away that which has come to you while Rome burns” does a violence to the potential for people to grow and to show themselves in many different ways… and ignores our interconnectedness. Everybody has ‘buddha–nature’ and to be indifferent to the state of others is to diminish ourselves.

A 70-year-old venture capitalist raised a laugh in the cinema as he explained very determinedly (after a long list of his activities, assets, and achievements…ending with having three children under 13) that he was a ‘Creator’…he was far from thinking that ‘all this will end’, that this ‘self’ is insubstantial and ‘disintegration’ is also on the list.
The possibility of awakening was never part of his game plan…a plan conditioned by his family, mental aptitude, the culture of the time…influenced by so many factors.
Prior to the crash the words ‘greed is good’ were heard without much if any irony; being ‘something in the city’ was admired, and when times were ‘good’ some of these people felt that they could walk on water…and some still do…but it’s ‘for a while’…and was it only the bankers who were greedy or is there some projection going on here?
Life is short how shall we be? We are lucky to know we have choices…and whether or not to judge others may be instinctive, a choice influenced by virtuous intention or, in awareness, no-choice.

A while ago I spent some time with people living in poverty… they had mostly flour and water to eat and drink. The flour was mixed with water to make the major part of their meals and the water was not running water but they had to fetch it in big plastic containers from a tap some distance away. They lived in little caves, just one room, no ensuite!

So these people are near the bottom economic heap and need our help to raise their standard of living…I wonder, shall we create a charity?

I am joking… these were some of the happiest people that I’ve met in my life… no amount of money would make them happier, they were practising the dharma…life had meaning well beyond self-concern.

To be able to practise for the welfare of all beings continuously one doesn’t need a cave…just a heart that’s open to suffering and a desire to practice according to our capacity ….decreasing the divisions created in the mind.

‘Human Hubris’ may seem a poncey strapline but it is, i think, applicable to some behaviours in the film The Pearl Button …

…and i have a fondness for alliteration!

I looked up the word ‘hubris’ when i first came across it a little while ago and thought it a useful word… it means insolence, arrogance, such as invites disaster:overweening… and boy, are humans capable of manifesting this!

‘Cape Horn marks the northern boundary of the Drake Passage and is where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans collide. For decades it was a major milestone on the clipper route, by which sailing ships carried trade around the world. The waters around Cape Horn are particularly hazardous, owing to strong winds, large waves, strong currents and Icebergs; these dangers have made it notorious as a sailors’ graveyard.’ (wikipedia)1801

So what would current health and safety rules make of a family taking a 12-year-old in a tiny open boat, hollowed from a tree trunk, around Cape Horn?  The native Patagonian with the links back to his pre-Colombian ancestors who was interviewed in this film made the passage twice (the first time when he was 12) yet now, at late middle-age, he’s not allowed…the men with big ships say it’s not safe to for him to do this.
He is one of the remaining few with the knowledge of his ancestors and the ability and desire to use it.
His people were water-people, they knew how to read sea, the winds, the thousand miles or so of shoreline, the weather, and how to navigate by looking at the sky. The younger generation does not have this, those that remember the old days and ways are dying out.

They lived like this from pre-columbian times for thousands of years but in the early 19th century Patagonia was mapped by a British naval officer and later, in exchange for a mother-of-pearl button, one of these people was brought to England, to London for two years…and then returned. Unsurprisingly he was never the same again.

Europeans and Chileans then brought the Patagonians the teachings of Catholicism, put them into school, unwittingly gave them clothing permeated with unknown bacteria (for these naked painted people had to be made decent and covered up) and herded them together, onto an island off the coast.
Their faces in photographs, before and after, said it all…and their numbers were soon decimated.
Later the remaining indigenous people were hunted… money was paid for the testicles and breasts of adults and for the ears of children killed. This made room for proper people to do proper farming and live as people should….well that was the thinking at the time!

Yet the farming is not that successful. The torture (for killing sake, not to extract information…that was already known) and disposal of the victims by helicopter into the sea under the military dictatorship which overthrew the socialist Salvador Allende’s rule (with some help from others…if you are interested you can easily discover who) in the 1970’s is another sorry addition to the story…  under his rule there had been a movement to return land to the indigenous people.

The Guardian’s critic Andrew Pulver says ‘It really is intelligent, magnificent film-making’

If you have time you can see it tonight at the Exeter picture house cinema. I found it  shocking and poignant, with some astonishingly beautiful photography… another, generally unmarked, holocaust.

Dheepan

4628In one of James’ Macclesfield talks he invited us to imagine what it would feel like be to be a wee kid in Pakistan speaking Urdu and with a large connected family fully embedded in that culture who is uprooted when his family comes to England.

I couldn’t imagine what that would feel like but this film brought me a little closer – a ‘put together’ family ( a way of using a dead families passport)  fleeing the fighting in Sri Lanka  is followed as they try to find their way as refugees in a foreign country.

As a Native American Indian saying goes you have to walk for two moons in someone else’s mocassins before you can judge them – (and then your understanding of their situation would be so great that you wouldn’t!)

The loss of everything which seemed to comprise your identity is gone, can be turned to nothing, no value, no use, in fact sometimes the opposite in this different setting. A completely foreign language, religion, culture, politics, schooling, family relationships,etc. to get used to and to try to work with. Its a phenomenal undertaking for someone in good physical mental and financial health –  rarely the luck of refugees!

The film does evoke some question marks well covered i think in this review:

http://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2016/apr/20/dheepan-immigration-depiction-selective-jacques-audiard-multiracial-france

 

My Nazi Legacy

1799This was one of the saddest films I have seen. You could see it through many different lenses dependent upon your belief structure but for me it was about seeing how destructive  it can be when there is an insistence on ‘either black or white!’ with no room for grey – grey which, as well as being a mixture of both colours, can be created from a mixture of all colours…you are judged as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, worthy or not worthy, dependant upon whether or not your beliefs match those of the judge.

At the beginning we have two elderly gentlemen, Niklas and Horst, who have kept a tender friendship going despite differences in views for many many decades, genuinely referring to each other as ‘my dear friend’. The fathers of these friends were accessories to the most ghastly atrocities. Niklas, received no love from his father and had none for him. The other, Horst, loved his father and felt that his father had tried to do some good, putting his father’s connection with the horrors out of his mind. So…. despite their differences and Horst’s ‘denial’ they enjoyed and appreciated each others existence.

Then, so very late in their lives, a human rights lawyer who has lost all of his family apart from one in these same atrocities, is introduced to Horst, by his good friend Niklas, who believed that he would enjoy the meeting. This is not so, in fact he finds Horst’s denial so appalling that he is determined to bring realisation of the full horror of what the ‘beloved father’ had done home to the son. To what end though ?…To me the interventions in the film lacked any heart, any softness or tenderness, quite the contrary. The result would seem to be an increase rather than decrease in suffering for all those concerned and we are left with the taste of ashes in our mouths.

The friendship comes to provide a vehicle to explore and expose both the extent of the atrocities and the existence of denial, and finally it itself is deemed intolerable. Yet Horst committed no atrocity… he did not cripple his life by taking the weight of his father’s actions upon himself but then he was not responsible for them, and he seemed to be wordlessly but deeply moved by Phillipe’s grief in the filming which took place at the site of the massacre.

Hearing the question ‘what would  this man have to do for him no longer to be your friend?’ felt completely tragic. The hardening around beliefs, the certainty of judgment, of reification and totalisation of a human being was infinitely sad. To me it is unsurprising that in the face of being cornered, and considering the force behind ‘helping’ him see differently, Horst visibly shrinks and then warms to those who regard his father warmly. Without the making of this film would he have had any direct contact with these people?

In the interviews it would seem that Horst was traumatised by his loss of security aged six as allied bombs were dropped in the adjacent lake; that Niklas suffered deeply from a lack of love as a child, and the suffering motivating the lawyer Phillipe’s actions is obvious. All of this is so deeply sad.

Suffering upon suffering!

Most of us would say ‘i would never do what those nazi officials did’…but that is just what we would like to think, a thought which feels right to our egoic editor!  When our lives and those of whom we love would be lost, our homes, friends and assets stripped away, would we then be so sure of the right course of action? Might we not think ‘well better to keep my head and see what can be salvaged….maybe do some good ‘undercover’?’….or, having been depressed and hopeless, maybe swept along with the tide of optimism and blind faith in a strong leader?

I really don’t think we can know outside of the exact situation what we would do….but dharma practise points in the direction of clarity, of compassion, arising from wisdom. People are as they are due to multiple and variable factors, how best to be with them?…if any activity has the widest perspective for the welfare of all concerned then that will be a gift for the world arising from the heart.

~~~

The words ‘the quality of mercy is not strained’ kept popping into my head in the weeks before seeing this film….and then the question ‘strained by what?’. Eventually the answer arose…anything.

If you are thinking ‘what right does she have  to speak? Is she a nazi sympathiser? Not at all; my father was in the S.A.S. during the war and the consequences of the extreme stress he endured at a young age played out in his parenting…with negative consequences, as it has done for so many millions of others involved in conflicts across the world, with a  hardening and the manifestation of repressed fear, despair and anger. So when I see people treating each other with tenderness, i find that beautiful…if they can do that despite their hurts, their fears, and their differences – very beautiful indeed….

My view of course depends upon my experience and practice and differs in tone from that of the critic in the Guardian so i think i should also include that here.

~~~

This film so moved me that i did a bit of research  which i have attached should you be interested. If you’ve only got a second maybe take a look at Portias words below and the meaning of Shalom at the end.

Mercy (Middle English, from Anglo-French merci, from Medieval Latin merced-, merces, from Latin, “price paid, wages”, from merc-, merxi “merchandise”) is a broad term that refers to benevolence, forgiveness and kindness in a variety of ethical, religious, social and legal contexts

Kwan Yin the bodhisattva of mercy and compassion, is one of the best known and most venerated Bodhisattva in Asia.[21]

A famous literary example that alludes to the impact of the ethical components of mercy on the legal aspects is from The Merchant of Venice when Portia asks Shylock to show mercy. He asks, “On what compulsion, must I?” She responds:

The quality of mercy is not strain’d.

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

 

http://www.bardweb.net/content/readings/merchant/lines.html

Here’s an interesting bit of trivia, by the way, since Portia is invoking God in this speech. The word “mercy” has 276 occurrences in the King James Bible, according to concordances; the word “justice” occurs 28 times. Ironically, the two have only one line in common: Psalm 89, verse 14 (“Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face”)

 

Righteousness – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Righteousness

Righteousness (also called rectitude) is a theological concept in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. It is an attribute that implies that a person’s actions are justified, and can have the connotation that the person has been “judged” or “reckoned” as leading a life that is pleasing to God.

From the Jewish virtual library:

RIGHTEOUSNESS, the fulfillment of all legal and moral obligations. Righteousness is not an abstract notion but rather consists in doing what is just and right in all relationships; “…keep justice and do righteousness at all times” (Ps. 106:3; cf. Isa. 64:4; Jer. 22:3; Ezek. 18:19–27; Ps. 15:2). Righteous action results in social stability and ultimately in peace: And the work of righteousness shall be peace (Isa. 32:17; cf. Hos. 10:12; Avot 2:7).

Against the juridical background of righteousness, the paradox of divine justice comes into prominence. A doctrine of exactly balanced rewards and punishments contradicts the reality in which the just man suffers in consequence of his very righteousness (Eccles. 7:15; cf. Gen. 18:23; Jer. 12:1; Hab. 1:13; Mal. 3:15; Ps. 32:10; Job, passim; Wisd. 2–3; Lev. R. 27; Ber. 7a; Shab. 55b; Hor. 10b). This individual problem takes on a national character in Jewish history, throughout which an innocent nation is constantly being persecuted (Wisd. 10:15; IV Ezra 10:22). The paradox becomes even more striking in view of the legal character of the covenant between God and His people: “And I will betroth thee unto Me in righteousness and in justice” (Hos. 2:21).

Attempts to come to grips with this paradox account for the notion that the righteous man suffers for and with his generation, and that his death expiates for their sins (MK 28a; Ex. R. 43:1; cf. Gen R. 34:2; Sanh. 108a). Often, however, man’s anger and righteous indignation in the face of overwhelming injustice causes him to invoke that absolute righteousness which rests only with God: “for Thou art righteous” (Neh. 9:8; cf. II Chron. 12:6; lsa. 5:16; 45:22–25; Ps. 89: 16; II Macc. 12:6; Ḥag. 12b).

In Talmudic Literature

In rabbinic theology, God’s right hand represents the Attribute of Mercy, his left hand, the Attribute of Judgment (MRY, p. 134). Similarly the question of the Midrash on the verse I Kings 22:19, “I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the Host of Heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left,” namely, “Is there then a left on high? Is it not all right there?… (Song. R. to 1:9, no. 1) indicates that in the upper realm there is only mercy, and no judgment.

 

http://www.faithstreet.com/onfaith/2014/06/06/how-the-bible-understands-justice/32339

One of the clearest and most holistic words for justice is the Hebrew shalom, which means both “justice” and “peace.” Shalom includes “wholeness,” or everything that makes for people’s well being, security, and, in particular, the restoration of relationships that have been broken. Justice, therefore, is about repairing broken relationships both with other people and to structures — of courts and punishments, money and economics, land and resources, and kings and rulers.

 

Amour

So, another Valentine’s Day comes and goes… I just looked at the post I made last year around this time which you can still find, if you wish, under Writings> With love on Valentine’s Day.

Those words still hold good but you should have a new present… an invitation to watch, if you can, the film Amour.

sweetpea-bunch-7402The tenderness of the husband towards his wife in the end stages of life brings tears to my eyes as i think of it. His ability to be with things as they are, sensing and feeling how best to respond to a changing and very challenging situation, his lack of self-pity and his ability to work around the bullying certainties of others who are out of touch are just beautiful……. and burst the heart open with the poignancy of the scent of a freshly-picked bunch of  sweet-peas flowers.

Winner of the 2012 Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival….

 

 

Fear of Thirteen

Q.Why go to watch a film which is a monologue delivered by an ex-prisoner from America’s 1800Death Row?

A. Because its an extraordinary true story of actions having consequences way beyond what one might imagine…. of someone not inherently bad but coming to behave badly as one thing led to another…of judgments based on prejudice…of love, growth and of beautiful actions suddenly sparkling like diamonds in the muck…of luck/karma and its exhausting twists and turns.

As Dogwood productions says:

After 23 years on Death Row a convicted murderer petitions the court asking to be executed, but as his story unfolds, it becomes clear that nothing is what it seems.

Synopsis

A Death Row inmate petitions the court asking to be executed. As he goes on to tell his story, it gradually becomes clear that nothing is quite what it seems. THE FEAR OF 13 is a stylistically daring experiment in storytelling that is part confessional and part performance. Nick, the sole protagonist, tells a tale with all the twists and turns of classic crime drama with a final shocking twist which casts everything in a new light.

 

A film of thoughts – ‘He called me Malala’

Malala_Yousafzai_at_Girl_Summit_2014I was helping a neighbour with something a bit tricky  and saw that she had the book “He named me Malala” on her bookshelf. I had already been toying with the idea of going to see it, so that triggered my asking if she would like to come with me.

By watching other people, who are not essentially different from us, as they  embody characteristics that we feel we lack, we can get a sense or flavour of that tone and absorb it. Courage and the determination not to be overawed by circumstances, with a sense that your life and the life of others matters come across strongly in this film and afterwards the neighbour, who is ‘finding her feet’ after a difficult time said that she was so thankful to have seen it and would remember it until she died!

As I was watching the film I enjoyed memories of journeys to different but somewhat similar places, imagining smells and warmth evoked by the pictures of the streets and countryside appearing in front of me.

I saw  pictures of Malala and her  family members showing different expressions –  a proud dad, a brave girl, a smiling mum, cheery brothers – simple comments that fitted the pictures shown of these doubtless complex and variable characters.

By bringing my own imagination into the picture, I could conjure up the fear they were living with.

I could imagine the smell of the plastic as the videos were burned in the street.

I could think how shocking for her to be with her friends sitting in class and then be faced with a man carrying a gun who shoots at her and her friends because she had been bold enough to speak out about their situation and to name the  people who were  having such an impact on their lives.

I could try to imagine how her mum and dad felt after she was shot… but the film moves so quickly onto the next image.

I thought how lucky to get such good surgical care.

I thought how lucky to have a team of physiotherapists to help her to get better.

How lucky to have a cochlear implant fitted as the repairs to her skull were being carried out.

How lucky to be living in a house, safe in Birmingham.

How sad to be living in a house in Birmingham leaving behind the colours smell, connections, history culture and weather of her homeland.

How nice to be talking with other girls like yourself in different countries.

How lovely to be able to deal with awkward questions so charmingly.

How nice to have a Dad cooking breakfast.

How hard not to feel able to be understood by her classmates.

How busy and directed her life is.

How calm and confident she seems.

How having a purpose gives her life a shape.

What a nice smile and giggle she has.

How lucky we are if we have inspiring teachers and the chance to learn.

How tricky it might be for her to find time/space for other relationships and interests.

–– just a sample of the huge number of thoughts which arose while watching the film.

There I was, sitting in a chair inside a cinema in England, watching a projection – points of light forming images of light of different shapes and colours – and listening to such a variety of different sounds.

As i watched this display so many thought and feelings arose and passed; and it was out of the movement of energy – of sound and light– in combination with these thoughts and feelings, in that theatre of experience, that i experienced my own film.

Later another friend who had seen the film asked me in an email what i thought about it, and Malala.

I had stopped thinking about it … I could say something…but, as always with experience, what can be said about anything is like saw-dust compared with the experience itself….. A few sentences of concepts, biased by my own viewpoint, relating in a backwards way to something which has gone sounds as dull as ditchwater. Experience is unique and evanescent, whatever i said would only be  some touch of  connection…

…so I mentioned some of the good qualities which i had seen in that portrayal of Malala. Then, partly because this person had mentioned the quiet beauty of Malala’s mum, i thought some more about her and said how big i thought her heart must need to be in order to be at ease with the time Dad and daughter spend together, and how hard it must  be for her to cope with our lousy weather, the awkwardness of trying to communicate in a foreign language, and the sadness of the loss of connection with her way of life back home…

…we really do speak to each other across a void using words which are often such poor servants, also we have little idea, unless we are with the recipient, as to how what we are saying is being received.

So it’s not possible to be certain that you will enjoy this film; our moods, expectations, stress levels, critical judges, the sound volume (of the film and sweet chomping neighbours), the comfort of the seat, the ambience, tiredness, biases and our own interpretative matrices can all affect our appreciation.

It could feel a bit like a very impactful news-reel but If you do  go to see it i hope you also will enjoy it. In my case cake and coffee beforehand while looking out at the city lights, and the neighbours enjoyment contributed to my own!

P.S. Apparently the book explores the situation in greater depth.

From a practitioners point of view…..

I once asked James about the authenticity of an object in my possession and he just made a whirling motion with his fingers….reminding me that within relative reality there are many interesting conceptual avenues down which I could  wander, all of which will remove me from awareness …That ‘I will never be caught by a thought’ is the leitmotif which, until stability is gained, can easily be overwhelmed by strong emotions. So, for meditators, the chapter in Simply Being, The Expansive Oral Instructions: 3, the five perfections, is very helpful in instructing how to remain relaxed in our own place, regardless of the thoughts arising in response to the five senses.

In this way all thoughts are liberated in natural freedom and so whatever arises in the mind becomes an aid to meditation.

 

 

 

Timbuktu

images Timbuktu is an extraordinary film. If you click the link you’ll  find  a series of  plaudits for this including – ‘Gracefully assembled and ultimately disquieting, Timbuktu is a timely film with a powerful message’ and ‘Abderrahmane Sissako’s film about religious intolerance is full of life, irony and poetry.’    It shows the oppressors as complex human beings yet running rules, like tanks, over other beings…like pushing a metal grid into soft flesh…and that things are always complicated – that the application of simple solutions into complex situations will be a further violence.

I was thanking a member of the Picturehouse staff for showing this film, which is not a crowd-pleaser, when the devastating sadness of so many lives being cut across by the sword of rigidity… and the bleakness of life when dance and music which had been integral to a culture are suddenly prohibited, evoked a feeling of complete sadness.

I recently went to a dance improvisation group and the people who came after work were stressed and tired with heavy faces…yet after an hour and a half of moving as they liked to music their bodies and their faces had softened and relaxed so much it was lovely to see the change in them. In our country maybe we tend to take such freedoms for granted but perhaps here it is more the internal oppressions which can inhibit participation and freedom of movement…”What will they think of me – how would i do that – i don’t know if i’d like it – what are the rules?”    ‘There aren’t any’    “Well what’s the point?”    ‘There isn’t one, you don’t get to compete or work towards some idea of perfection…but you might just enjoy it, and its perfect whatever you do…’   “ooo, i don’t feel sure…maybe you go and tell me about it”   but i can’t give you my experience and i can’t really tell you about it either, that’s like spitting sawdust…

Looks like you can pay to view this film if want to see it but can’t get to a cinema, though the landscape begs a big screen …hope you enjoy it…and the dance improvisation ; )

June: The Seven Samurai

From headless chickens to calm and clear – the film The Seven Samurai shows how the peasants were able to do this.

It’s a classic and James’ top  ‘dharma film’ recommendation.

I first watched this in sections on YouTube, then bought the BFI  version for my group.

The BFI version is 190 minutes long and the most complete version available; it has been digitally remastered from a new print.

A very worthwhile way of spending three hours….. well Ethan(13) and i thought so :-).

May – chirruping in Spain

I take my hat off to the translators of James talks. They have to keep remembering everything he has said… which can be a lot… until he stops speaking and then they have to correctly re-present all this to the audience. To express this in a manner which is ‘simpatico’ is a joy to behold. So I hope you enjoy this video in ten parts – Emptiness and Dzogchen – from Grenada, translated by Juan.