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The Illusion of Limitations

The average player sprints until the breath in him is gone, but a champion has the iron will that makes him carry on. For the rest, the average player begs when limp his muscles grow, but the champion runs on leaden legs; his spirit makes him go. The average player is complacent when he does his best to score, but a champion gives his very best and then gives a little more.”  – Unknown

Get real!” It is part of our growing up process, to discover the limitations of of our physical body. When we touch fire it burns, yet we also know that it is possible to walk on fire and not get burnt. So often in our lives we are told we must except our limitations in quiet submission. Often we find ourselves faced with what seems impossible odds that stands in our way to achieving our dreams. So easily we give up when we encounter blocks upon our path, and we tell ourselves that life just isn’t fair, just except that you haven’t been among the “chosen”. In bitterness we give up and live a life in blame and longing for what could have been. “If only …”

There are those that see limitations as impossible odds, and never dare to strive beyond it, just because no one has ever gone there before. However if we as human beings truly believed in limitations, we would never as a specie progressed beyond the stone age. If we did find ourselves born knowing that we have no limitations, what would you aspire to? It is the boundaries of physical limitations that allows us to experience life, allows us to find our hidden strengths.

The rules of a game are limitations created so you can play the game … Creative limitations (the limitations we are born with or find on our way) allows us to improve our creative abilities by enforcing a focus on a certain range and interpretations of experience. Even in the limited game of chess, human minds have still not figured out all the possibilities.” Serge Kahili King

One of the many, many wonderful things about being South African, is that all around us there are abundant stories of people who, against all odds, despite severe limitations, went on to live remarkable lives of inspiration. One such person was Hamilton Naki, a Laboratory surgeon who defied the odds. The following is an obituary by Chris Barron as it was published in The Sunday Times June 5 2005.

Hamilton Naki, who has died in Cape Town at the age of 78, was a gardener who became a brilliant laboratory surgeon and helped Chris Barnard do the research that made his first heart transplant possible.

He also trained generations of surgeons; many of whom reached top academic positions at teaching hospitals around the world. At least a dozen of Naki’s former students became professors of surgery and heads of departments in places as far afield as Japan and the US.

Naki was born in the district of Centani in the Transkei on June 13 1926, and attended school up to Std 4 (So, he did not even complete his primary school education). In the mid ’40s, when he was about 18, he went to Cape Town and got a job rolling tennis courts and gardening at the University of Cape Town.

He had been there for several years when a professor of surgical research, Robert Goetz, beckoned him to his lab to help him hold a giraffe that he was dissecting (in order, as it happened, to discover why giraffes never faint when they bend down to drink).

Naki made such an impression on Goetz that he invited him to help in the lab on a regular basis.

He learnt how to anaesthetise animals, including giraffes, and put intravenous lines into them. He assisted with experimental surgery and looked after the animals post-operatively.

Naki was one of very few people who could anaesthetise a pig and transplant its liver, virtually single-handed.

A former surgical professor remembers how he even managed to rock her crying baby’s pram while he was doing all this.

He became the lab’s assistant surgeon and soon there was very little senior surgeons could do that Naki couldn’t.

In the ’50s he worked with Barnard in the laboratory, establishing techniques of open- heart surgery on dogs. It was this research that Barnard took into the clinical setting at Groote Schuur Hospital.

Naki was intimately involved in heart, liver, kidney and other transplant research throughout this critically important pioneering period that led to the first heart transplant.

He did a lot of this work himself while Barnard was practising.

When he was asked once how he had acquired all his surgical skills without any formal training, Naki replied: “I stole with my eyes.”

In addition to his prodigious memory, he had excellent co-ordination and very good hands.

Not the least of Naki’s contributions to medical history was his ability to get on with Barnard, whom many people found impossibly highly strung and temperamental.

Naki’s temperament, one of infinite tolerance and patience, complemented the explosive heart surgeon’s perfectly and the two were able to work shoulder to shoulder for years.

The only serious altercation anyone remembers Naki having was with an appallingly difficult Belgian registrar in the university’s department of surgery.

He was the only person Naki ever decided he simply could not work with.

What made him a fine teacher was that, in addition to his patience, he had a strong personality and didn’t tolerate any slovenliness or laziness from student surgeons. He set very high standards and left students in no doubt that he expected these to be met.

Naki lived alone in appalling conditions, in a tiny room in quarters for migrant workers, in the black township of Langa on the Cape Flats. His family stayed in the Transkei.

He was the first person in the lab every morning, never arriving later than 6am. It was his responsibility to sterilise the instruments with boiling water.

He left at around 4.30pm.

During the politically inspired riots that characterised the history of Cape Town, he’d come to work at 3am to avoid rioters and roadblocks.

He always arrived and left in an impeccably pressed suit with a Homburg on his head and shoes you could see your reflection in. He carried an umbrella, a newspaper and a Bible.

He was deeply religious, and read his Bible whenever he could. At lunchtime he would gather the “bergies” (homeless people in the Cape, that got their name originally from living in the mountain ;berg-mountain) who spent their days in the cemetery behind the medical school, read the Bible to them and warn them about the evils of alcohol and dagga(Cannabis sativa).

Naki was paid as a lab technician soon after he began working in the lab, and eventually as a senior lab technician, which was as high as the university could take him under apartheid laws.

In 2003, UCT recognised his extraordinary achievement by awarding him an honorary master’s degree in medicine.

When he retired he arranged a mobile clinic — a converted bus — for his home district of Centani, which was 70km from a health service of any kind.

He also collected money for a rural school in the Eastern Cape from doctors he had trained. He would visit these doctors once a year and they knew when they saw him that there was no getting out of it.

A few weeks after Naki’s visit, they would each get a letter of thanks from the school principal.

Naki is survived by his wife, Joyce, and four children. — Chris Barron

What nearly all successful people have in common is an extraordinary ability to bond with others, the ability to develop rapport with people from a variety of backgrounds and beliefs. Deep down, everyone needs to form lasting bonds with others. Without that, any success, any excellence, is hollow indeed. The way we communicate with others and the way we communicate with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives. People who succeed in life are those who have learned how to take any challenge life gives them and communicate that experience to themselves in a way that causes them to successfully change things. People who fail take adversities of life and accept them as limitations. The people who shape our lives and our cultures are also masters of communication to others. What they have in common is an ability to communicate a vision or a quest or a joy or a mission.” Anthony Robbins

Whenever I find myself becoming despondent by the limitations that I face, I just have to lift my head up and look around me, and I will see that my limitations are creative limitations to spur me on beyond where I thought myself possible to go.


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Ease into the Conversation!



(After Derek Mahon)

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice. You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

~ David Whyte ~

(Everything is Waiting for You)

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Sophia: Wise Folly

The role of Sophia in creation according to Gnostic scriptures is very curious. In the Pistis Sophia, Sophia is deceived by the demiurge and archons who make a false light shine below, and when she descends to embrace the false light they bind her and steal her Light-power. In other Gnostic scriptures she conceives the demiurge without the consent of the Most High or apart from union with her Divine Consort, thus giving birth to the monstrous form of Yaldabaot – the lion-headed serpent. In any case, in one way or another Sophia brings about a shattering of the unity and harmony of the Divine Realm, the Pleroma of Light, and in so doing becomes the cause of the imperfect creation, the Great Matrix or Entirety.

This is called a creation in “deficiency,” “error,” “folly,” or “ignorance” of which Sophia “repents,” setting the Divine Plan for rectification or salvation in motion. Of course, this invokes a question: If the Most High or Barbelo is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent, and if Sophia exists among the Great Divinities in Sacred Unity, how could she act against the Divine Will of the Most High? In other words, is this “error” an act of Divine Folly ordained by the Most High from the very beginning? Does Sophia play the role of the Fool and Trickster as part of the Divine Plan? After all, apart from her “error” creation would not come into being and sentient beings would not emerge to develop and evolve towards enlightenment – Union with the Divine. The Divine Potential would remain just that – unmanifest potential, with no vehicle of actualization and realization.

The very name Sophia implies knowledge, understanding and wisdom, thus when Gnostic scripture proposes that she acts in ignorance one cannot help but hear this idea as spoken “tongue-in-cheek,” as the saying goes, for the Sophia of the True God is anything but ignorant – rather she plays the enigmatic role of the Divine Fool or Trickster in feminine form. In many Gnostic scriptures this is made perfectly clear, because as the story of creation unfolds she repeatedly tricks the demiurge and archons into drawing more and more of the Divine Light and Divine Spirit into their creation, or she herself, as the Divine Trickster, brings forth the Divine Light and Spirit to their creation. Indeed, from her original “error” something of the Divine is cast into creation – into the Realm of Becoming. As the Fool or Trickster she essentially causes the demiurge and archons to initiate their own demise, playing upon their own imperfection from the very outset.

It is often assumed that all Gnostics in classical Gnosticism held a radical dualistic view, yet given the enigmatic role of Sophia, and her active role as Wisdom Goddess and Savioress along side Christ, this assumption may be in error. In fact, through Sophia, while speaking of the seeming dualism inherent in our experience, Gnostic scriptures often point to an underlying Sacred Unity, or to the non-dual nature of the Pleroma and Entirety. In effect, the appearance of dualism is illusory or is a state of ignorance, which the Gnostic Revealer comes to dispel, being brought forth into the realms, worlds and universes of the Entirety through the agency of Sophia. When understood, it is all a Divine Drama, a Divine Play – the appearance of separation facilitating the joy of conscious unification.

Of course, Sophia is a complex figure, having many different faces, but in terms of Pistis Sophia and Sophia Zoe the archetype of the Divine Feminine as Trickster-Prankster-Fool can lead to deep insights – the mysterious and enigmatic figure that is integral to the Divine Plan and Divine Revelation, who can appear bright or dark, or shine in a rainbow spectrum as the Shape-shifter, but without whom the Divine Drama could not unfold.

Though many speak of Mary Magdalene in very sentimental terms, the reality of Sophia as the Trickster-Prankster-Fool is present in our experience of the Seven Faces of the Holy Bride, especially the Maiden or Light and Mistress of the Night. Invoking her we encounter a playful maiden, omnipresent – she loves us, she hates us; she draws us close, then she cast us away. Indeed, she constantly plays tricks upon us, awakening us and bringing us into the fullness of life, teaching us through direct experience in body, speech and mind – the wisdom of life (Sophia Zoe). It is as though she gambles with our very life, yet all in the most intimate love-play seeking our enlightenment and liberation. Such is the nature of the Shekinah of Messiah, our beloved Sophia.

Greek philosophers may have made Sophia into an intellectual abstraction, but in Gnostic scriptures we encounter the divine fullness of Sophia, with all of her many faces and forms – invoking her we shift from the intellectual approach to the experiential approach, and we discover that spiritual knowledge, understanding and wisdom does not come through words and books, but through symbols and actions: direct experience. Through words and books we may acquire a necessary context into which we may place our Gnostic experience, but it is direct spiritual and mystical experience through which Divine Gnosis is made manifest.

Are we willing to be tricked into our enlightenment; willing to let go to divine passion and let it carry us where it will? Then let us invoke the Holy Bride, Sophia!

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If the World Were a Village of 100 People-

Michael McKnight made a really thought provoking post on Facebook.

If we could reduce the world’s population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all existing human ratios remaining the same, the demographics would look something like this:

The village would have 60 Asians, 14 Africans, 12 Europeans, 8 Latin Americans, 5 from the USA and Canada, and 1 …from the South Pacific

51 would be male, 49 would be female

82 would be non-white;

18 white

67 would be non-Christian;

33 would be Christian

80 would live in substandard housing

67 would be unable to read

50 would be malnourished and 1 dying of starvation

33 would be without access to a safe water supply

39 would lack access to improved sanitation

24 would not have any electricity

(And of the 76 that do have electricity, most would only use it for light at night.)

7 people would have access to the Internet

1 would have a college education

1 would have HIV

2 would be near birth; 1 near death

5 would control 32% of the entire world’s wealth;

all 5 would be US citizens

33 would be receiving –and attempting to live on–

only 3% of the income of “the village”

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God: The Mother of all Strange Attractors

I came across this wonderful article that I felt gives a good back ground to what I will be covering in Part 3 of Navigating the Dark Night. In Jungian terms the Archetypes can also be seen as attractors.

By Victor MacGill

Ever since our cave dwelling ancestors looked into the mysterious night sky, we have tried to make sense of life. Ever since then we have asked what it is all about? We look for ways to understand why life is as it is. We seek ways to bring our environment under control, so it will be as we want. But, life is neither a random sequence of events where each event has nothing to do with the previous event, nor is it totally determined so that the movement of every blade of grass has been preordained.

Chaos Theory is a mathematical theory that may provide some answers to our perennial questions and help us make sense of this strange and mysterious life we have been given. Chaos Theory has only been developed over the past thirty years or so, when computers became available to undertake the complex calculations required. 

In the late 17th century, Sir Isaac Newton formulated mathematical formulas to describe the motion of the planets. If we know the mass of two planets and the distance between them, we can calculate the gravitational force between them and thus the orbit as one revolves around the other, such as the moon revolving around the earth.

If we add a third planet further out, however, we find the calculations become so complex, they just cannot be calculated. The gravitational effect of the third planet will attract the other two and alter their orbits. This changes their distance from one another, altering the gravitational effect between all the planets. This in turn alters the orbits, which alters the gravitational effect and so it goes on. Just imagine trying to calculate the interactions in our whole solar system with a sun, nine planets and many moons. 

This complexity of interactions is seen all about us. Virtually every natural process is a complex interactive process where each event follows and is affected by the previous event. Even our lives are such that each new event in our lives emerges out of the previous event. The outcome of past choices has a strong bearing on the outcome of the following event. 

Choices that were made early in the sequence of events of our lives when we were young, can vastly affect the direction of our whole lives. Later choices usually have less effect, because the grand path of our lives is already set. It’s a bit like a river starting in the mountains as a small stream. There, a small rock in the path of the river can alter its course, so it finally reaches the sea at a very different place than if the rock not been there. In order to change the course of the river near the mouth a mighty boulder would be required. 

Scientist and mathematicians have studied such sequences of events and call them chaotic sequences. Chaotic sequences have many strange properties.  Fromthe midst of chaos we strangely find order spontaneously arising. Form within order, we inexplicably find chaos emerging to devour the order.

When we examine the giant red spot on Jupiter, we find it is not a solid object. Rather, it is an enormous stable field of gas moving at several metres per second and bounded  at the top and bottom by extremely turbulent and chaotic flows of gas travelling at hundreds of kilometres an hour. The gas in the spot is not the same gas. New gas is always entering, while other gas is leaving the spot. It just happens that the amount coming in equals the amount going out. If it were not so, the spot would break up in a very short while. 

In spite of the immense turbulent chaotic behaviour of the gas fields around the spot, it has remained stable for at least the last few hundred of years at least. One day it will disappear and probably very rapidly. 

In life and in our environment, we find islands of order in seas of chaos. Whereas a random sequence will always be random and unpredictable, it is in the nature of chaotic sequences to produce order.

A small weight tied by string to the ceiling when suddenly struck will swing about wildly for a short while, but soon move towards a more or less stable, almost predictable trajectory moving to and fro. This is chaotic motion moving towards a more or less stable state. This  stable state  is called an attractor. It is as though the motion of the weight is attracted towards a stable motion. Our world is full of chaotic attractors.

If the weight is struck a second time, it reverts to its chaotic motion, which will again be pulled towards a new attractor, attracted to a different stable to and fro motion.

Human history is a bit like this. We began living in caves or on the open Savannah. We developed the ability of language. This was like the weight being struck. This new ability had an enormous impact on the life of our ancestors. Information moved far more rapidly than it had done before. Life changed and became chaotic. Eventually we learned to use this new ability effectively and  society once more settled into a stable rhythtm. It moved to a new attractor, a structure for society that suited our new languistic activities. 

Just when we felt comfortable with that, whammy, we were hit with the invention of writing. Again life tumbled into turmoil as we grappled with the implications of being able to keep accurate records that could be read with perfect accuracy even generations later.

We coped with the chaos and eventually felt comfortable with writing, when whammy, along came the printing press. When we found an attractor for that, whammy, along came electronic data transfer and the internet. Right now we are struggling to come to terms with the turmoil caused by a sudden blow to the orderly attractor we had become acustomed to. 

Underneath these cycles of moving backwards and forwards between order and chaos, there is a movement of growing consciousness. As we struggle through the cycles of chaos and order, we gradually become more aware of ourselves and move towards a better, more full understanding of who we are and what life is about. At each new cycle, we increase our consciousness and become open to experiencing more of what life has to offer. We become effective at meeting our deeper needs. We become more able to move from our violent past to a compassionate future. It is up to us to move forward towards comapssion rather than regressing back into violence.

It feels as though there is an attractor underlying all attractors, that there is a state of being towards which all life is attracted. Some peopIe might call this attractor the Great Spirit, the Lord or God. I believe the general flow and direction of our universe is being pulled towards this great attractor through cycles of chaos and order. Just how those cycles flow and the events in them occur is determined by aggregated effects of our individual free will choices. We can choose to move forward into new realms of consciousness, or resist the attractor and produce unnecessary pain and destruction. 

This underlying attractor is not an attractor that makes everything all right. It is an attractor that is chaotic, that disturbs us and makes life other than we would prefer it to be. If our individual choices take us away from where our attractor needs us to be, it will draw us into where it needs us to be. The great attractor can be very brutal when it is needed.

The idea of an underlying attractor, the Mother of all chaotic attractors is not a part of Chaos Theory and we certainly cannot prove God through mathematics, but it does provide a framework that helps us make sense of a chaotic world that doesn’t make sense.

See Dark Nights of the Soul

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Age of Grief

John Zerzan

A pervasive sense of loss and unease envelops us, a cultural sadness that can justly be compared to the individual who suffers a personal bereavement.

A hyper-technologized late capitalism is steadily effacing the living texture of existence, as the world’s biggest die-off in 50 million years proceeds apace: 50,000 plant and animal species disappear each year (World Wildlife Fund, 1996).

Our grieving takes the form of postmodern exhaustion, with its wasting diet of an anxious, ever-shifting relativism, and that attachment to surface that fears connecting with the fact of staggering loss. The fatal emptiness of ironized consumerism is marked by a loss of energy, difficulty in concentrating, feelings of apathy, social withdrawal; precisely those enumerated in the psychological literature of mourning.

The falsity of postmodernism consists in its denial of loss, the refusal to mourn. Devoid of hope or vision for the future, the reigning zeitgeist also cuts off, very explicitly, an understanding of what has happened and why. There is a ban on thinking about origins, which is companion to an insistence on the superficial, the fleeting, the ungrounded.

Parallels between individual grief and a desolate, grieving common sphere are often striking. Consider the following from therapist Kenneth Doka (1989): “Disenfranchised grief can be defined as the grief that persons experience when they incur a loss that is not or cannot be openly acknowledged, publicly mourned, or socially supported.” Denial on an individual level provides an inescapable metaphor for denial at large; personal denial, so often thoroughly understandable, introduces the question of refusal to come to grips with the crisis occurring at every level.

Ushering in the millennium are voices whose trademark is opposition to narrative itself, escape from any kind of closure. The modernist project at least made room for the apocalyptic; now we are expected to hover forever in a world of surfaces and simulation that ensure the “erasure” of the real world and the dispersal of both the self and the social. Baudrillard is of course emblematic of the “end of the end,” based on his prefigured “extermination of meaning.”

We may turn again to the psychological literature for apt description. Deutsch (1937) examined the absence of expressions of grief that occur following some bereavements and considered this a defensive attempt of the ego to preserve itself in the face of overwhelming anxiety. Fenichel (1945) observed that grief is at first experienced only in very small doses; if it were released full-strength, the subject would feel overwhelming despair. Similarly, Grimspoon (1964) noted that “people cannot risk being overwhelmed by the anxiety which might accompany a full cognitive and affective grasp of the present world situation and its implications for the future.”

With these counsels and cautions in mind, it is nonetheless obvious that loss must be faced. All the more so in the realm of social existence, where in distinction to, say, the death of a loved one, a crisis of monumental proportions might be turned toward a transformative solution, if no longer denied. Repression, most clearly and presently practised via postmodern fragmentation and superficiality. does not extinguish the problem. “The repressed,” according to Bollas (1995) “signifies the preserved: hidden away in the organized tensions of the unconscious, wishes and their memories are ceaselessly struggling to find some way into gratification in the present — desire refutes annihilation.”

Grief is the thwarting and deadening of desire and very much resembles depression; in fact, many depressions are precipitated by losses (Klerman, 1981). Both grief and depression may have anger at their root; consider, for example, the cultural association of black with grief and mourning and with anger, as in “black rage.”

Traditionally, grief has been seen as giving rise to cancer. A contemporary variation on this thesis is Norman Mailer’s notion that cancer is the unhealthiness of a deranged society, turned inward, bridging the personal and public spheres. Again, a likely connection among grief, depression, and anger — and testimony, I think, to massive repression. Signs abound concerning weakening immune defenses; along with increasing material toxins, there seems to be a rising level of grief and its concomitants. When meaning and desire are too painful, too unpromising to admit or pursue, the accumulating results only add to the catastrophe now unfolding.

To look at narcissism, today’s bellwether profile of character, is to see suffering as an ensemble of more and more closely related aspects. Lasch (1979) wrote of such characteristic traits of the narcissistic personality as an inability to feel, protective shallowness, increased repressed hostility, and a sense of unreality and emptiness. Thus, narcissism too could be subsumed under the heading of grief, and the larger suggestion arises with perhaps greater force: there is something profoundly wrong, something at the heart of all this sorrow, however much it is commonly labelled under various separate categories.

In a 1917 exploration, “Mourning and Melancholia,” a puzzled Freud asked why the memory of “each single one of the memories and hopes” that is connected to the lost loved one “should be so extraordinarily painful.” But tears of grief, it is said, are at base tears for oneself. The intense sorrow at a personal loss, tragic and difficult as it most certainly is, may be in some way also a vulnerability to sorrow over a more general, trans-species loss.

Walter Benjamin wrote his “Theses on History” a few months before his premature death in 1940 at a sealed frontier that prevented escape from the Nazis. Breaking the constraints of marxism and literariness, Benjamin achieved a high point of critical thinking. He saw that civilization, from its origin, is that storm evacuating Eden, saw that progress is an single, ongoing catastrophe.

Alienation and anguish were once largely, if not entirely, unknown. Today the rate of serious depression, for example, doubles roughly every ten years in the developed nations (Wright, 1995).

As Peter Homans (1984) put it very ably, “Mourning does not destroy the past — it reopens relations with it and with the communities of the past.” Authentic grieving poses the opportunity to understand what has been lost and why, also to demand the recovery of an innocent state of being, wherein needless loss is banished.

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