Krishnamurti and the Distance From the Face of the Earth

Why is Truth a pathless land (as Krishnamurti says), when every human, every living thing has to make a way? I wonder if he knows what he means by Truth.

*Is Truth what happens; what is?
The great thing about Truth is, no-one can really know what it is for sure so anyone can make up whatever rhubarb they like about it.  And Krishnamurti was a master of the art of Rhubarb.  For someone who professed to have no answers and no advice, this singularly useless individual had done a Hell of a lot of talking and writing in his lifetime.  Volumes of his transcripts and writings fill the dusty stacks of some large public libraries and that is by no means all of them.

An ex-lover of mine used to go to Kings Cross (in the 1980s) on the 2nd Saturday of every month and, dragging me with him, would stand for what seemed hours watching film of the great man – who refused to call himself a guru – talk non-stop in a kind of convoluted cerebral monologue laced with an affectation of endless, if somewhat detached love of life before crowds of attentive people.

Again and again I would strain to work out any sense of what he said, but the essence of what he said was invariably the same.  In amongst all the metaphors flowering in his great meadow of Life was the same old equation:

What is rhubarb = What is not rhubarb and vice versa

and ‘Stop trying to work out what I mean, you lot of inferior listeners!  If you are intelligent enough to understand what rhubarb I am about to say, then you will see my point’

What he did not cover was the exotic caramel-nut sweet, languorous, straw-like scent of the palm tree rustling in this dull, rainy cool afternoon and wondering what sunny tropical island it would have come from.

The day – early afternoon now – is grey and the colours under their light dusting of drizzle are fresh and vivid hues of green and yellow. The black asphalt road shines a silver sheen of damp and the air pulses with a hot, white light.  Crimson rosellas screech delightedly in the Bottle-brush trees waving gently in the breeze.  A cloud has shifted, revealing a patch of china blue sky.  Summer has remitted its debt of sun, but only for a moment.  It starts to sprinkle again and so the ephemeral moment of the present moves on.

‘A profoundly sick society…’ – says Krishnamurti. But human society is what it is, has been for all this time.  There are lots of pious pronouncements from detached saints, gurus and anti-gurus prescribing ways of changing things.  But they miss the point.  Railing against the ‘sickness’ of society – of the endless folly and empty materialism of the world can be just another excuse for refusing to accept humanity, of refusing to engage with life and this, our only world.  You have to forgive at least a part of it.  And those who feel so cleft from the face of the earth, must find a way to live on it.


*27/12/10 – personal journal entry


Sir Tony Abbott and the City of God

Today, dour and overcast, is the day after the night before.  The 2013 federal election in Australia has been fought and won by the conservatives again and us as a family watched the strange posthumous battle of vote-counting develop to see most of the Labor marginal seats fall to the Liberal National Party.  Still the grave former Defence Minister Stephen Smith said he would be pleased to see any number of Labor seats ‘with a five in front of it’, and they got there, with 54 confirmed seats so far.

But as Kevin Rudd’s cheerful defeat gives over to Tony Abbott’s strained rictus-grin of victory, I am reminded of an observation the journalist David Marr makes of the victor: ‘What makes next week, let alone next year, so peculiarly hard to predict, is this romantic notion that a better person will emerge once he gets there: a Tony Abbott that resolves the old contradictions between the principled Catholic and the ruthless populist who has got him where he will be tonight.’

But where does Tony Abbott, with all his scholarly acumen, get the idea that somehow the alchemy of public office will magically transform him into some sort of divinity?  Isn’t it up to himself to resolve what moral dilemmas come his way, for instance whether to take action on Syria or not?  Or yet see the moral turpitude of incarcerating wretched asylum seekers trying to reach our shores in concentration camps?  Surely the idea that the very fact of being in power will somehow enforce a discipline to the soul and thus take him to the City of God is utterly naive?

Didn’t a certain British historian, politician and writer, Lord Acton remark that ‘all power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely’? It’s interesting that he himself was a Catholic.

As accounts of his personal life go, Tony Abbott seems to have veered between the pleasures of the flesh and the sanctity of chaste priesthood – and turned out to his apparent disappointment a Sir Lancelot rather than the saintly and irreproachable Sir Galahad, who did find the Holy Grail and died a very holy death.  Maybe it’s not so surprising that Sir Abbott’s journey consists of such a longing for the redemption that he imagines the demands of political power to bring, as if Parliament House was the City of God and that celestial virtue (which was never his own) will descend accordingly and settle itself on his shoulders like a royal cloak.

‘The ancient world found an end to anarchy in the Roman Empire, but the Roman Empire was a brute fact, not an idea.’  Writes the philosopher Bertrand Russell as a preface to his chapters on modern philosophy in his ‘A History of Western Philosophy’.  ‘

‘The Catholic world sought an end to anarchy in the Church, which was an idea, but was never adequately embodied in fact.  Neither the ancient nor the medieval solution was satisfactory – the one because it could not be idealized, the other because it could not be actualized.  The modern world, at present, seems to be moving towards a solution like that of antiquity: a social order imposed by force, representing the will of the powerful rather than the hopes of common men.  The problem of a durable and satisfactory social order can only be solved by combining the solidity of the Roman Empire with the idealism of St. Augustine’s City of God.  To achieve this a new philosophy will be needed’.

The ‘will of the powerful’ verses ‘the hopes of common men’.  Already Tony Abbott is enmeshed in the demands of the will of powerful men.  The media magnate Rupert Murdoch, whose phone-hacking scandals have disgraced him to the world, has supported the LNP with a vociferous campaign of some of the most ethically challenged journalistic bias in media history.  Abbott may quite rightly claim that he owes the old fox Murdoch nothing, but he also said nothing in protest about his unconscionable media juggernaut.

Abbott says he will govern for all Australians, but what does he know about the hopes of common men?  His main appeal to common people is to their individualistic material aspirations, of taking away superannuation for low income earners to fund parental leave for upper middle-class women.  He spurns anything to do with unions and their historic, hard-fought campaigns for a better way of life for everybody.  In fact he was heavily involved in the ill-fated ‘Work Choices’ campaign of a previous conservative government to take those rights away.  In a working world of term-contracts, casual work and imported labour, workers in the future may have to fight for better pay and conditions all over again.

It is all so easy in the City of God to propound on what is right and what is good in the imagination of the exalted ecstasy of faith.  But Middle-Earth, a place where the struggle for survival against circumstance and uncertainty is perpetual, has a way of muddying and obscuring such gems of ideals under clods of earth, whereby what seems fine on a mountain means foul to those who live beneath its shadow.

I will be watching Sir Abbott’s journey as Prime Minister with interest.  Is he aware, or is he blind?

Biocentrism and its detractors

Today was a bleak day.  I did not go to work because of trouble getting up in the morning.  I hate to say depressed although things like having a shower, or fixing lunch is so hard and takes so long to do.  It is autumn and for the last couple of weeks it has been fine and hot and dry.  Indian summer.  Too much heat, too much sunshine.  I feel desolate as usual in the autumn with that falling feeling, but it is made doubly worse by the facade of joy over the reality of disintegration and decay.

I look at the meaty dun concrete and charcoal asphalt roads and footpaths with eyes that are no longer young in the melting hot over-ripe yellow of the blazing afternoon sun.  Memories activate with every impression, leaving not much more to perceive except the procession of reality, the line of moving cars, the clouds floating above and the leaves of garden shrubs and street trees waving in the breeze.  I have a mature understanding of the cityscape that I see and will never see it like a child does – all new and strange – again…

Upon reading a totally unrelated article on the Guardian website today about the evil pedophile Mr Savile, I fell into what appeared to be an advert about this scientist Robert Lanza.  Well actually it was an article by him about why he thinks there is life after death and this theory of everything called biocentrism – all about infinite multiverses and energy never being destroyed or created.

I was curious about this dude – and searched his website to see if he wasn’t some kind of wacky christian.  But no,  Robert Lanza is a respectable scientist who has published articles in The Lancet and according to Wikepedia has played a leading role in stem cell research.  Right.  According to this theory, Biocentrism, life created the universe, and reality is basically a construct of our own perceptions.

Actually this absurd philosophical theory is not new, since Berkeley in the 17th century held pretty much the same idea.  Bertrand Russell argues otherwise and quite effectively, but concedes that the philosophical problem of how we actually perceive reality – something outside ourselves – remains unsolved.  Maybe because it’s one of those things we know instinctively, but have a hard time trying to explicate.

So I googled ‘Robert Lanza – criticism’ and came across this Indian rationalist website, Nirmukta who debunks his theory exhaustively (try reading it, phew!) point by point.  And it turns out that Robert Lanza co-authored his theory with none other than that wacky new age charlatan Deepak Chopra.  Say no more!

And I’d like to say as someone with a history of schizophrenia, that there is nothing more comforting than the thought of an objective universe out there which is totally indifferent as to whether I live or die, and very importantly as to what I think.  To think that there is some almighty, inanimate Other that is out there that is not watching me, judging me, or sending me to Hell or Heaven, that is something I can explore and discover – gives me a sense of immense freedom and relief.

A particularly awful aspect of psychosis is the feeling that someone is watching you and controlling you from a distance.  And if God remains an imagined presence, the pendulum of belief swings as it must from benign love and hope to horror, paranoia and despair.  Who knows if you’re actually going to Heaven or not?  You never do as long as you believe in God and accept all of the scriptures as gospel.

It follows as a point of sanity that there is an objective universe, which the self was born from but is for the time being separate from that.  With that thought, I feel better already!