Light Bites, Sound Bites … and Life Things

A special feature post today … Enjoy!

A Light Bite?
It’s not Killarney ~ © Catherine Drea, Foxglove Lane Studio, under CC A-SA License

I recall that when I was a fit, young and vaguely ambitious man – a man always in a hurry – I didn’t have time … nay, I didn’t make time … to open my mind, my eyes and my ears a little more often. I didn’t make time to read more widely, to see things more clearly and to listen more attentively to those, who had something meaningful to say. I guess my thinking was muddled by the testosterone coursing my veins. Whilst I did have a thirst to understand the world, scientifically, and humanity, philosophically, my quests to do so, particularly for the latter, were brief and too often supported by sound bites and misunderstandings, both of which I think are inextricably linked.

The trouble is that life is too full of sound bites – quotations and neat little epithets – and light bites – pictures and particularly imagery – all of which bear influence far more than we consciously give them credit, in those brief moments we spend giving them glancing attention. It is tempting to use these bites to act as the cornerstones of our thinking, easy meat for our cluttered memory banks and agitated minds, which can provide, at a moment’s notice, a convenient prop to any conversation that occasionally transcends our mundane and ordinary existence. But it is likely that they will be cited too often and probably well beyond their use by date! Look no further than our Facebook News Feed, and count the number of quotations to see how popular these bites of information are!

All of this would be well and good, if it weren’t for the fact that life is far more complicated than we’d like it to be. It is for this reason that these bites are so convenient, easy to digest and recall. In my early adult years, I was kept far too busy working to survive and support my family, feed my material ambitions and improve my financial status. This trail I blazed didn’t only inhibit, but also prevented me from spending more time delving deeper into life’s mysteries and, more importantly, examining my own conscience and coming to terms with myself. In a perverse sort of way, it serves the paymasters, marketeers and our representative political leaders well for us not to have time to think and ask questions that really need to be asked, like “does it really have to be this way?”.

Streams of Light
Streams of Light ~ Catherine Drea, Foxglove Lane Studio, under CC A-SA License

That each of us is unique, almost goes without saying. That we are all connected, doesn’t. A problem arises when I realised that each of us has a built-in human instinct, a genetic coding, not just to do our best for the furtherance of our race as a whole, but primarily to ensure our own survival; a built-in selfishness, if you like. How that selfishness is channelled is crucial to what happens next. If we are fortunate enough to have been born with the right genetic coding, into the right environment and economic circumstances, then the temptation to use this to our own personal advantage, for a vast majority of human beings, is almost impossible to resist; we cannot control that urge, because we are never fully in control of our lives. Only a few exceptional human beings ever manage to resist this selfish urge.

These facts may seem to be a deviation from the theme of this essay, but at its core is a truth that each of us is a victim of our circumstances. If those circumstances place us within that ninety-nine percent of the population, who are not independently wealthy enough to determine their own lives and become their own ‘masters’, by virtue of their financial means, then we need to become worker bees. Now there is nothing wrong with this position, nothing at all, in fact there is much to recommend it … unless, and I repeat unless we allow our own conscience to be overruled by someone else’s conscience, so completely imbued with the ‘culture’ that envelopes us in our working, religious or political environment that we permit someone else to dictate the way we think, consciously or unconsciously. This is a perennial conundrum.

I place myself firmly in that section of humanity, commonly referred to as the ninety-nine percent, who are dependent on working for their living or on the performance of others for it – whatever that living may be. We are always in danger of allowing our lives to be controlled by ‘others’, directly, for example by corporate masters, or indirectly, by the advertisers and marketing men, who strive to fill our brains with ‘needs’ we didn’t know we had and anxieties about our status, health, looks and dietary needs …  that we wouldn’t otherwise think we had. This forces some of us, maybe more than a few, who are gullible enough, into spending endless amounts of our hard earned income on products that purport to make us better, richer, more attractive, more talented, more admired people. Primarily, this makes the creators of products ‘for the promised land’ wealthier and even more powerful.

So beware of sound bites (notably from politicians, but increasingly from marketing people) and light bites (dazzlingly attractive imagery, primarily from those corporate marketing men) – or the combination of both – and beware the effect they will have on your mind, your thinking and your conversations with others: you know, those casual conversations, which are based on our original instincts for survival, but which have been perverted by those clever PR people, so that, deep down, they make you feel you have to be the one who has the edge; who has the bigger house in the better area of town, the more upmarket car, the better class of friends and acquaintances, the more exotic holidays. All of this is just what those marketing people – and politicians bent on ensuring economic ‘growth’ – continually like to nurture in our minds. This is a kind of envy and an ‘addiction’, which leads us to keep on buying and upgrading. Political leaderships like to play the same tricks, for their own reasons, plying us with those little bites of information, extolling their virtues and wooing us for our votes.

Image by Randi G Fine (http://randigfine.com/life-meaning-picture-quote-2/)
Image by Randi G Fine

So, I am trying to stand out from the crowd, but not in a show-off kind of way. Rather, I want to be a free thinker. I am trying to achieve a deeper understanding of the human condition and my own conscience; in other words, I am trying to come to terms with myself, discover more about what lies beneath the superficial surface of life, over which it is easier to skate too hastily towards our terminus. I realise that it is a journey that could transport me to places, from which I’ll not wish to turn back and which will bring me previously unimagined joy and fulfilment. I suspect there will be some discomfort on the way, but one thing is for sure. I wish someone had offered me this advice when I was a young man … or perhaps they did and I never listened!

Text: © 2014 John Anstie.

Photo Credits: Main Images ~ © Catherine Drea, Foxglove Lane Studio, under CC A-SA License – Small Image with caption ~ © Randi G Fine (http://randigfine.com/life-meaning-picture-quote-2/)

[This was, in part, inspired by the fact that The Bardo dedicated most of the month of May to International Photography Month. The subject of light (and shade), particularly important in black and white photography, is ever present in our consciousness, but at no other time in history has photography, as well as digital sound, been so important in the world of politics, commerce and art, as it is now. The mood of this essay has turned out slightly darker – or should I say ‘more in the shadows’ – than perhaps it should. I hope that this doesn’t push a potentially younger audience further away from the Bardo, because there is so much here, from my fellow contributors, that is of so much value to all ages. I’d like to make special mention of Catherine Drea, and to thank her for allowing this blogazine to have access to her very special collection of beautiful photographs on Foxglove Lane Studio]

P.S. On the subject of ‘bites’ in a piece that could run parallel to this, extolling the virtues of short poems, I thoroughly recommend reading a post on ‘Poetry and Zen‘ over at Jim Murdoch’s excellent blog, “The Truth About Lies”]

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John_in_Pose_Half_Face3JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British writer and poet, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Singer, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer”. He has participated in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union as well as a being a ‘spoken-voice’ participant in Roger Allen Baut’s excellent ‘Blue Sky Highway‘ radio broadcasts. John has been blogging since the beginning of 2011. He is also a member of The Poetry Society (UK).

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51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_John has also been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

The Crow

A few weeks ago we posted a Facebook video about a raven asking people for aid. The raven had encountered a porcupine and had quills embedded in its face. A couple of weeks later, we returned from our time in Maine to discover a severely injured a crow (close cousin to the Raven) in our back yard. Neighbors informed us the crow had slowly, with great intent, worked its way from the woods to our yard.

Beach Roses, MaineThe crow appeared to have a broken wing and was having difficulty standing. Upon closer inspection we discovered its foot was caught in a vine. The crow allowed me to release the trapped foot which appeared to help a little. We then offer the bird food and water, which it mostly ignored; it seemed to welcome a little gentle stroking. We then made phone calls. A former bird rehabilitator suggested we provide a box for shelter for the night as rain threatened. We then waited to hear from the crow specialist.

Yesterday morning the crow was still in our yard. Jennie took a neighbor’s advice and offered it some hard-boiled egg. The crow ate a very small portion. It seemed to be in pain so we talked over next steps, carefully weighing our options. Then the rehibilitator called; he could not make it to our house till evening, but suggested we place the crow in a cat carrier to keep it safe until he arrived. I carefully lifted the bird into the carrier and the crow fell on its side. We removed the bird briefly and placed some rags in the base of the carrier to offer some cushioning. When we returned the very large crow to the carrier we realized the bird, given the broken wing, was too large for it. We also realized the bird was not likely to survive, and after consulting the crow specialist, decided to take it to a vet to be put down.

I lifted it once more and placed it in a large recycling tub. As I was about to put the tub in the car, the crow looked me squarely in the eye, squawked loudly three times, and died. My strong impression was that the crow was expressing appreciation for our efforts, and probably chastising us a little for causing it pain. Anthropomorphizing? One had to be there.

We carefully buried the crow, performing ceremony for it. We had seen no other crows since our return, a strange absence given their frequenting of our yard and woods, and the presence of an injured member of the flock. We wondered whether the visiting crow had been ostracized by the flock. During the burial and ceremony I heard a solitary squawk from far away.

We were left with great sadness that we had, in our efforts to aid, caused the crow suffering, yet gratitude the crow had come to us. Today the sadness lingers. We are reminded of Crow’s large spirit, great intelligence and keen intent. We wish this crow a speedy and safe journey into the spirit world.

Michael Watson, Ph.D.

© 2013, essay and photographs (includes the one below), Michael Watson, All rights reserved

michael drumMICHAEL WATSON, M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC (Dreaming the World) ~ is a contributing editor to Into the Bardo, an essayist and a practitioner of the Shamanic arts, psychotherapist, educator and artist of Native American and European descent. He lives and works in Burlington, Vermont, where he teaches in undergraduate and graduate programs at Burlington College,. He was once Dean of Students there. Recently Michael has been teaching in India and Hong Kong. His experiences are documented on his blog. In childhood he had polio, an event that taught him much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.