Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Responding Creatively and Compassionately to changes in the Body

Seeing as the G-ds I worship are creativity and balance (and probably the two are one, with creativity being the dynamic expression of the movement towards balance, and balance being the still field from which movement emerges) it behooves me to articulate how people may respond to changes in their body, and how they human creativity expresses itself in the abilty to adjust to diminished physical ability.

I have been struggling to walk the way I used to - I was always a big walker - and now walking requires more effort and concentration - since I sprained my ankle over a year ago. I first noticed that my walking had become more tentative about two years ago when emerging from a swimming pool and walking on the wet tiles. This may have been because there was already slight proprioceptive loss, and being in the water without orientating surfaces can apparently exacerbate this.

But it was when I was in Israel in Haifa walking on the tayelet (promenade) and found it very difficult even just to walk on a level pavement (these things often seem to happen when elsewhere, as it did with my mom on holiday at a place called at Duiwelskloof, when she got the first indications of cancer) that I became scared, because it was so strange and new - not being able to easily do something as elementary and taken for granted by myself as walking. That was an episodic attack, and it receded, but now that these bouts have become a more or less ongoing issue I have responded creatively to it, and put in place tens of little strategies to deal with what may or may not be a new emerging norm. These include the way I move my feet, using a shoppong trolley if feeling particularly shaky, choosing my footware carefully and so forth.

A vital part of all this is the languaging of the situation - what words are used to describe whatever is happening. "Changes" is a much more neutral term than "ageing" which again has a different feel to it than "degeneration". And tis would be true of everything...the story we tell paints what we see and how we interact with what is arising in our field of vision.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

My reservations about allopathic medicine

I went to a doctor
his words filled me with fear
he didn't tell me anything
that was helpful to hear

no sense of context
no sense of space
nothing I could do
the absence of grace

a future of decline
and operations
filled my sight
a future without hope
a future without light

it took conversations with friends
and family to get some proportion
breathe and feel the ground and
put aside mind's distortion

al tivtechu bindivim, beven adam she ayn lo teshua

on friday I had the nerve conduction test
he recommended I see a surgeon to put my mind at rest
but upon reflection where will this go

on sunday I played tennis, my strokes were better
than they'd been for a while
I had aches and pains, but if they were not for the new label
- cervical canal stenosis in C5/C6...i.e slight compression of nerves in neck - with spondylolisthesis -
I wouldn't have made much of it. As my sister said
"never underestimate the power of auto suggestion", every micro twinge
can become a harbing
of loss of autonomy and mobility
depending on where you focus your attention
getting stuck to the pain body as Eckhart Tolle describes the commotion
this is calling me forth to be clear

Sunday, October 20, 2013

When bad things happen to good people

About 20 or 30 years ago someone wrote a well intentioned book titled "when bad things happen to good people." Right from the outset the clumsiness of this title, and the enormous assumptions which underpin it, irked me, but tonight while lying in a hot bath it suddenly struck me how I might highlight these more lightly than with some outraged, and probably boring, polemic. So here goes an attempt to render my reservations in slightly more poetic form: 

When bad things happen to good people
when good things happen to bad people
when bad things happen to bad people
when good things happen to good people

when good people turn out to be a bit bad
when bad people turn out to be a bit good
when the categorising mind takes a  lunch break
when most people turn out to be bad and good

when bad things turn out to be not so bad
when good things turn out to be not so good
when everything is in transition
and labels fall off like leaves in Autumn

when good people eat good animals
when nameless animals eat other nameless animals
when trending to good people make judgement calls other good people judge as bad
when bad people unwhittingly or knowingly do good perhaps because
they're having  the afternoon off

when green things push up through the cracks 
when the mind's circus stops whirling hither and thither
when everything begins in something else
like a great chain of clasped hands across the universe that slowly let go
'cos they've traced themselves back to the same body

when the burning question falls away


(then I see that what I dislike and fear I call bad
and what I like and embrace I call good
and what threatens what I am attached to I call bad
and what seems to support it I call good

when I am completely suspect
when people turn out not to be people
when things turn out not to be things)

Uncle Dick
with plutonium rods up his arse
had a torrid time of it
on the medical
not so merry
go round
confirmed he was
with many afflictions
(but not because of any one of them)

the tight-lipped doctors couldn't quite
put their fingers on the pulse
of what was wrong and
at night the obscure terms
specialists afflicted him with
chased themselves
around his brain
until sleep came
at 4am
in front of the television sprawled on the floor
waking bleary and blurry
a pool of drool
gathered at his chin

or made love to an assemblage of pixels on his
smart phone
(at least that still worked)
I moaned my moans
and wrote a few poems

I am always ready to be anything
a permaculture farmer
a dog walker
a gag writer for a tv satire show
a technician or tradesman
with a useful skill
a guru
a lecturer
a counsellor
a radio personality
a quiz show kid
constantly beginning again
like a spreading puddle
I flow from nowhere
to nowhere
looking for a large pair
of cupping hands

I am wanting to have an affair
with a large breasted
wasp waisted being
to compliment my hairy pot belly
and greying hair
and she will not mind
how I wish to play with her body
will be easy being Chava
to the secret stirrings of my every Adam
and most importantly to the fantasy
from our joinings and partings
no suffering
will be born

Despite my best efforts
to corrupt my spinifex hoppers
with free handouts
of easy food
they still after four years
bolt from my hand
remaining true to their
G-dly mouse

G-d made everything in two colours:
red and white
I try to keep them separate
but inconveniently
they keep on coming together again
I open the cupboard
looking for milk
but find blood

G-d made everything in 3 colours:
black, white
and red
pulsing underneath
only held in check by a layer thin
as skin

Psychoillogical Stories

There was a ghost
called inadequacy
living in my house
I tried to avoid it
but kept on bumping into it
I tried not to think about it
but the thoughts returned
like familiar friends
so one day i sat down with inadequacy
over a cup of tea
and invited him to tell me his story
and this is what he said (to me):
I am your friend
when I sometimes worry
or tell you you're not enough
it keeps you from
not knowing
and that's much worse than me
this way you don't
have to take risks


To a tuna 

Once you swam in the sea
then you became part of my body
if ever one day the cemetery
lies submerged under a rising sea
perhaps your descendants will sup on me
thus favours returned


A school hat with a name in it
of a child who has long since left the school
a small photograph of a woman who
has long since left this world
a pigeon flying overhead
carrying the DNA
for a thousand future generations of pigeons
all cross my path


yesterday I received a promotional offer from an insurance company
to win $25 000  so that "you can wake up anywhere in the world."
Ok then, I choose to wake up
right now
right here


Its eleven o clock
at night
we're all tired
I'm rounding soft and crumbly walnuts and dates
into coconut coated balls
and wondering how we're going to pay the bills
and slow to a trickle
the changes in my body
and how instead of
lethargic and sombre and heavy 
I can become
vital and youthful again
just for long enough to
get us to somewhere 

Different kinds of robots: Jewbots; Islamobots; Bhuddistbots; Pub-bots;
progressivebots, conservobots; coparatebots; sportsbots; 

I tried to speak to the girl
I watched in the playground
and held in my mind
on my bed
but was too afraid
my voice and leg would shake
or my face go red
so that great emotion
remained unsaid
The sonic landscape of Jimi Hendrix
a wall of scrap metal
arranged in inventive

protean sculptures
Bach on steroids

with a flattened fourth note

A Love Letter

Dear Immanuel

I will not with hold my love from you any more

Love and respect


My next poetry collection, G-d willing, will either be called

A Way with Words

Skipping in the House of G-d

something else. 

It may just be a collection of titles with no poems.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Safa Mechudeshet

When I overhear people speaking Hebrew
I still get excited
and not just if they're doctors or writers
war heroes or farmers
even if they are criminals playing ten-pin bowling
or pimps or pawn shop owners
or any kind of folk I wouldn't normally spend too much time
hanging out with
its still the old new language I love
that was arrested in prayer books for 2000 years
and now flows through newspapers and basketball games and
women's magazines and erotic novels and flight manuals
that was silenced and now can't stop speaking
which represents for me
the potential for rebirth and empowerment
in visionary groundedness
the ancient one of days
from which light and dark
were created.

Artwork by Nikki Green

And on a different note: Unwritten histories#38:

 "The crowd grew hushed as Sir Donald Bradman put down his bat and strode to the outfield where he bent down on all fours and appered to be examining the grass.
"What are you doing?" asked a puzzled member of the South African team
"I'm pulling out bindies (a thorny Australian weed) in case anyone plays barefoot here" explained Sir Donald.
"Come ON, Aba will you leave the grass alone, said Guy."

Saturday, October 12, 2013

To make the acquaintence of birds

In contrast to my rather bleak post evoked by Jonathan Franzen's article in National Geographic documenting the trapping and slaughter of song birds all across Europe and the Middle East, I recently came across a sweet and gentle book about the joy observing birds can bring.

The book was lying untouched in a colleague's office, so I brought it home to read and enjoy, and I share two sample pages from it here - click on images to enlarge. The book was written and beautifully illustrated by Ran Levi Yamamori, with translation into Arabic by Balig Achmad Jazi. Yamamori seems to run a publishing house which produces many beautiful books.

The Hoopoe (above)  is Israel's national bird

PS. The book reminded me of this poem by Yehuda Amichai.

 I came upon an old zoology textbook,
 Brehm, Volume II, Birds:
 in sweet phrases, an account of the life of the starling,
 swallow, and thrush. Full of mistakes in antiquated
 Gothic typeface, but full of love, too. "Our feathered
 friends." "Migrate from us to warmer climes."
 Nest, speckled egg, soft plumage, nightingale,
 stork. "The harbirngers of spring." The robin,

 Year of publication: 1913, Germany,
 on the eve of the war that was to be
 the eve of all my wars.
 My good friend who died in my arms, in
 his blood,
 on the sands of Ashdod. 1948, June.

 Oh my-friend,
(From 7 Laments for the War Dead) 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Power of the Monkey Mind, the Power of Clear Support

I recently had a health scare (hopefully past tense but still need to undergo some more tests) which really frightened me and my wife, all because of what we did with four words the neurologist had put on a page.

After a week of terror and tenderness, the immediate threat receded, and I went back to all my old (bad?) habits. But what I learnt from this experience was

a) The power of the mind to pull me out of now into all kinds of imaginary scenarios based on complete conjecture - i filled the vacuum with worst case scenarios

b)living in the shadow of imagined death and decay can bring a certain clarity to what one does with one's time, and helps to be much more purposeful about choosing bigger purposes over smaller ones

c) the extent to which family and friends and others provided invaluable life-saving support in the form of remaining calm, clear and cool, and refusing to join me in jumping to the conclusions I was jumping to. Their sanity and wait and see approach has prevailed...they were my anchor when I was adrift, my ground when I was untethered, my stabilisers when I was unhinged. I can pay it back by paying it forward, and hopefully doing the same for others.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Watching Myself: Keeping Safe

A big part of my agenda is to keep safe (there are exceptional and unique circumstances where this has receded, and may still recede.)

Keeping safe is not the same as wanting to preserve privilege - the intentions behind them are different - but because there is no end to the project of keeping safe (its a subjective thing, some people may only feel safe when they've destroyed the world) they are de facto indistinguishable.

This makes me and Australia a good fit, because one of the central collective values here - as evidenced by the results of the last elections - is to keep safe/ preserve privilege.


The written word is the snail trail of our process. As soon as its down on the page its not completely true, because putting it down has changed your's a little poem about that

stumped somewhat that whatever I say
the opposite’s equally true
perhaps it’s not my, but language’s sin
that I’ve perjured myself
before I begin