Sunday, December 31, 2017

With apologies to Raymond Carver: what we talk about when we talk about love

Lots of people talk about love, especially at this time of year, but what does that word translate too in our day to day, minute to minute experience?
What does love mean in a traffic jam or crowded parking lot when other people don't behave as you have it they should?
what does love mean in the context of family members who refuse to conform to your expectations
what does love mean in abbatoirs and factory farms?
what does love mean in the supermarket aisle and at the rubbish bin
what does love mean in casinos and advertising agencies and news rooms and in our addictions to the dark sticky energies of conflict and resentment and self justification?
what does love mean in aged care facilities with a ratio of one worker to ten inmates
what does love mean for animals that you have stewardship of
what does love mean when we don't know, or are overwhelmed, or are hurt, 

or are masking hurt with anger, or trying to escape what looks like boredom?
how does love acknowledge our limitations?
how would love support us?
what would love have us let go of, if anything?
what would love have us accept and embrace?
what would love have us do?
what would love have us be?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The seeing is the doing (Krishnamurti)

Once we understand how the mechanism of self -justification works in our selves - how we make things alright and fudge boundaries as soon as we see an advantage for ourselves in something - and everyone has some area where they do this - then we can better understand how to manage this in ourselves, and possibly model this self management for others.

The heart's slight sleight of hand
how friends become food in enabling circumstances
how good neighbours
may strip and rob other neighbours
of their family heirlooms
when the barbarians invade
and how some do not

how everyone does good
up to a point. and beyond that doesn't care,
or cares, up to the point they know
everyone cares about something
but certainly not about what you think they should care
so take care

The body as process

When I returned from India early 1998 I went around telling people they are not their bodies ( or their minds ). Some people were receptive to this idea, others were threatened by it. My source for this was the aempirical discourse of advaita (non-dualism), which has no need of the evidence game, but while reading Norman Doidge's book on neuroplasticity "The Brain That Changes Itself" I found "scientific" corroboration for this truism.

In the chapter titled "pain" Doidge reviews the brilliant work of neurologist V.S.Ramachandran on the phantom limbs of amputees, and on the difference between the body ( which is itself an abstraction, assembled out of episodic flashes of sensation) and body image.


I did a shop today with an 86 year old Jew originally from Hungary that was like a Vegan Greenie's worst nightmare. He stopped at a Europen style 'delicatessen' and bought many flacid, pink phallus-like things stuffed with minced pig flesh and nitrates and god knows what else. He bought shaved ham and pulled ham and quartered ham and tortured ham. He bought salamis and brockwurst and blackwurst and bloodwurst and umpteen cheeses. He bought duck liver pates and if he could have bought the testicles of bulls and the brains of sheep he would have.

Then we tottered on grimly to Coles where, despite my offers of cotton bags I'd specifically brought along, and despite my horrified and hate filled glances, he insisted on putting each piece of fruit, and each vegetable he bought, into a separate plastic bag...those microthin plastic bags that are good only for choking turtles and uglifying landscapes. By the time we got back to his unit I was ready to accidentally push him down the lift shaft, but somehow desisted. Instead I whistled the tune from "Bridge over the River Kwai."

Toxic masculinity, nature, nurture or a combination?

I wonder if any research has been done in Australia re profiling men who murder their female partners. I'd be curious to know if patterns and common denominators emerge in areas like:

family of origin - what were the dynamics there?

schooling - single sex schools and the reinforcement of toxic masculinity

post school education, including apprenticeships

working life and industrial sector - do certain sectors like mining with its FIFO workers (Fly In Fly Out) experience greater levels of domestic violence along with the higher levels of drug and alcohol use?

alcohol and drug use, gambling

social connectedness vs isolation

nature of bonds and bonding with other men

presence or absence of healthy cross generational relationships with older male mentors
financial stress

rigid or flexible expectations and beliefs around male and female roles

beliefs around honour and shame

If anyone knows of research done in this area please point me to it

Male sexuality and # me too

We have many parts of ourselves, where and when - if anywhere -  will the subversive inappropriate self - the one that cares nothing for the superego or the past or the future or prudence or respectability or empathy - be allowed to live in the sun? If it is shamed into hiding will it just vanish? 

Once, I think perhaps for my 45th birthday, I went on a day long Tantra workshop. In one exercise the women were encouraged to dance freely and "womanly" in the centre of the room, while the men were asked to stand on the perimeter and "hunt" a particular woman they felt attracted to with their eyes or body language, or through dance ...I think direct touch may or may not have been excluded by the female facilitator. 

In such an environment, where we were being encouraged to play with a ritualized male female polarity, where men were being invited to own and act out a 'predatory' sexual role, and women to seduce or signal availability, and where all participants were consenting adults who had come to explore and find some kind of hoped for fulfillment, I found it "impossible" to participate in this exercise, and stood there wooden and paralysed and perhaps terrified of something (rejection? shaming?) that I had brought with me into the room from my past and conditioning. 

Certainly there were women there who moved me, but to own this in an overt and visible way was not accessible. And I experienced this as a kind of blockage in a natural flow...these things are nuanced and delicate and the reactive world with its fear driven approximations and demand for guarantees does not often support the kind of unpackings which really resolve an issue. 

"The seeing is the doing". (Krishnamurti)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A hopefully unscientific ongoing investigation into suffering and its meaning for me

"Not even in our most devious dreams could we have designed a surrogate as evil as these real monkey mothers were", he wrote. But of course he was speaking of himself.

I want to sing a song
about something I read
and how it squeezed my heart
like bellows of some hellish
icy fire that gives out neither
light nor warmth but sucks them in.
About a man who, like all of us,
is deserving of any spare
compassion you or I
may have in our pocket.
His name? Not relevant,
he had already changed it from
fear of loss, but he called himself a
scientist and a psychologist, and indeed some of his work
served to underscore the importance of touch
and the physical expression of parental affection,
at a time when mothers were encouraged by men in white coats
to ignore their instincts and crying children, and shake hands
goodnight rather than have a hug or kiss.

As a man in a white coat he helped change all that,
providing "proof" of the opposite  -
which allowed dutiful 1950s wives and mothers
to do what they knew already was best,  
and any child or adult who is not touch deprived
because of that work must be credited in some part
to him.

Yet his intellectual curiosity, if that is what it was,  - so human, so inhuman - untempered by something we might call mercy or seeing one's self in the other - inflicted great damage on his
non-human primate subjects
cutting out sections of their brains, subjecting them to massive doses of radiation,
forcing cobalt into their cortex....nothing that other "researchers" were not doing at the time,
or were to do, but worse was to come.

A scientist is G-d in their laboratory, as we are all G-ds in our world - laboratories.
Sometimes low functioning people with distressing thoughts
and problems of human living end up in jails or locked wards or out on the streets
Sometimes high functioning people with distressing thoughts and problems of human living
end up as leaders and politicians and clergy and jailers
and psychiatrists and hackers and scientists

and at some point his second wife
who was very dear to him
got cancer and after struggling with the
disease died. He sank into a black depression, received
electro-convulsive therapy
and then continued with increasingly sadistic "experiments" on
rhesus monkeys, ostensibly to find out
what was obvious, but perhaps to push
the pain or heaviness in him
into other beings, to "act out" his own psychic distress
(he said as much),
to lighten his load, to punish women, to punish Life, who knows?

Now a disembodied curiosity,
detached or numbed from his own heart and hurt
he improved his devices designed to deprive and torture:   

"the hostile mother"
"iron maidens"
"the rape rack" and

 "the pit of despair"

and it was appropriate he named them for what they were,
rather than with some scientific euphemism,
like LD 50 tests where animals are poisoned for a better shampoo,
or "deafferentation*"- cutting sensory ganglia that supply nerves to the fingers, hands, arms, and legs of  monkeys so that they cannot feel their limbs.

perhaps it was a cry for help?
"I am in a pit of despair, someone help me, someone stop me,
I'm sick and I don't know how to stop myself" - how many addicts have silently or loudly screamed this prayer as they seem to fall beyond abasement,
in light-less concrete cellars of blood and vomit

but no one stopped him, instead
they gave him scientific medals and funding,
although there were critics who rang the alarm bell on what was being done in our name,
thus enabled he continued spiralling down, aided and abetted by doctoral fellows,
ostensibly to see if severe deprivation
could irreparably damage
sentient beings.
Surprise, it does.

He stopped
when age and Parkinsons
finished his blighted frame
Reading of it threw me
into the pit of despair
I joined him
and the monkeys

at first I wanted
he be resurrected from the grave, so that
I could strangle him with my own hands
before it could happen, to clean this stain
off our family
I wanted him slowly tortured
so that the pain in me and his monkeys
would become his again,
followed by thoughts of more subtly sadistic
 and devastating forms of "justice"
where he would be endlessly exposed to the suffering he caused
and presided over, til it cut through his denial and was perceived
til he understood and his heart
burst from remorse and regret

like a murderer who must meet the loving and weeping parents and children and siblings of the people they have killed, every day for the rest of their life, with no means to undo what they have done, (but how will that help the grieving kin?)
and then I wished a fiery end to alla cleansing fire, so that we could begin again,
untainted by human perversity,
but I already knew, and saw ever more clearly
then I as doing to him
and me, what he did to those monkeys,
righteous anger and revenge fantasies only go so far
and my heart broke once again, for double futility

both they and him long gone, borne away on the river of time
only reemerging now when attention turns to what it
says about us,
and what we already know:
that whatever is fed, grows

but still the wound in me
not scoured clean

I will not watch
footage of the helpless monkeys
in their tiny bleak beyond bleak
my identification with them
so strong
why haunt myself
it seems I cannot bear
my own helplessness

to reach across time
to bring comfort
(though what i see
is just an image -
they have been free
these 45 years)

nor can I bear to name him
(infamy be wiped out and leave no trace)
or hear his voice or see his likeness
from shame and sorrow, would that he
and all cruelty
were never born

but the day, the hour, the minute, the second  will come
when I will let both he and I go,
compelled by my
non-indifference to sorrow

and after I had ached for them, and me, and eventually him I thought
if he had known that he could not free himself 
like that, if he had found a way back to his heart, if he
could have left the prison of the lab and his career and his
imagined loss and found comfort he
would never have done that,
it would not have been a possibility for him
to seal a baby in a cold steel tin

so like Leonard Cohen
bringing flowers to a mass murderer
in the garden of my heart
I pick some fresh blooms
and take them to him
before it all began
for when we do not know
we do begin again



"In our study of psychopathology, we began as sadists trying to produce abnormality. Today, we are psychiatrists trying to achieve normality and equanimity." he wrote

He wanted to test how isolation would affect parenting skills, but the isolated monkeys were unable to mate. So he and his assisstants devised what he called a "rape rack", to which the damaged female monkeys  were tied in normal monkey mating posture. He found that, just as they were incapable of having sexual relations, they were also unable to parent their offspring, either abusing or neglecting them.  Having no social experience themselves, they were incapable of appropriate social interaction. One mother held her baby's face to the floor and chewed off his feet and fingers. Another crushed her baby's head. Most of them simply ignored their offspring.

* deafferentation -  While developing the new  constraint-induced movement therapy that helped, and helps, restore the use of affected limbs in stroke patients, psychologist Edward Taub used restraint and electric shock to force the monkeys to use the limbs they could not feel. He discovered that, when motivated by extreme hunger or the desire to avoid electric shock, they could be induced to use their deafferented limbs. The research led in part to the discovery of neuroplasticity within the primate motor system.

Some of this research in the 1990s parallels what was already known, or used, on shell shocked first world war soldiers who underwent lobotomies, or who were tortured  - literally - back into a degree of functionality.

"Mutism and speech disorders were the most common form of war neurosis. They were thought to be symptoms of a soldiers repressed aggression towards his superior officers. The rate of war neurosis, however, was four times higher among officers then among the regular soldiers. Their positions required them to continually repress their emotions in order to set an example for their men. The most severe cases of shellshock occurred in officers who had made a name for themselves as daredevils. These man were ashamed by their overwhelming fear and performed daredevil acts to show their men that they were not afraid.

The treatments of shellshock were many and varied. Disciplinary treatment was the most common at the time. The doctors involved with this form of treatment had harsh moral views of hysteria and stressed quick cures as the goal of wartime psychiatry was to keep men fighting. Shaming, physical re-education and the infliction of pain were the main methods used. Electric Shock Treatment was very popular. This involved an electric current being applied to various body parts to cure the symptoms of shellshock. For example, an electric current would be applied to the pharynx of a soldier suffering from mutism or to the spine of a man who had problems walking.
Another form of treatment consisted of "finding out the main likes and dislikes of patients and then ordering them to abstain from the former and apply themselves diligently to the latter". Patients who had a fear of noise were given rooms looking onto a main road, men who had been teachers or writers before the war were refused access to the library and men who feared being alone were put into isolation."

See also this theatre review

Journey into the heart of darkness

If you tend towards brooding melancholy then skip this post, but if you've never thought too much about what motivates scientists who perform unnecessary experiments on sentient beings then this extract from a harrowing play - but which nevertheless evokes laughter because contradiction is inescapable living life as a person -  may expose you to some new perspectives.

And here is an intelligent review of the play

Monday, November 13, 2017

Here we go....again

Have been experiencing quite extreme mood and energy cycling / swings, not just from day to day but during a single day. So at 1pm may find myself unable to keep my eyes open, feeling too heavy too move, or terrribly oppressed, and then - sometimes after a short nap if that is available to me, or just lying down and listening to Mooji or Byron Katie or, today, for a change, Allan Watts - I find myself busy doing things again, my energy levels restored. This may last a while, then there is another crash, and sometimes before bed time there may be one more small burst of energy and animation.

I try to be mindful and not get fully identified with the feelings that arise, particulary the denser paralysing ones, which for some reason - probably an imagined future - I am more resistant too than the "ups".

I think it can be liberating if I can let go and trust that Life is beneficient, and allow what is changing to change, without clinging too tightly to notions of how my body should feel, or what my energy levels should be like, at any given time.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

What do the dead think of the Holocaust?

My question is this: Once suffering is behind us, what concerns us?

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Legal vs The Psychological Domain; Differing Understandings of Causality

This post emerged out of a discussion with a client, so thank you client

In the legal domain the intention of the perpetrator matters little, and victim impact matters a lot. Nor does the victim's subjective meaning making matter much...the police will tend to arrest Jean Valjean even if the Bishop does not want to press charges, does not think of the silver candlesticks as ever being his - "to the Lord is the earth and the fullness thereof" - or that they were "stolen."

Perhaps this is because the law is concerned with regulating society, with reinforcing norms (right and wrong), with punishment and with - too rarely - restorative justice. It does not question the notions of agency, private property, free will, volition or responsibility, and nor does it explore - in the areas of libel, defamation, intimidation, boundary violations, bullying, harassment, traumatisation etc - how the 'victim' may co-create the injury along with the perpetrator, by the kind of conceptualising and languaging they use to describe to themself what has happened. (And which is subtly reinforced by the agendas and power struggles and discourses of those around them)

In the psychological domain, however, it is different. Perhaps because this domain is less concerned with "good" and "bad" than with balance, happiness, well-being and freedom. The intentions of the perpetrator are unknowable, even if the perpetrator says what they were....because the perpetrator may be an unreliable witness. But the meaning making of the survivor / victim / overcomer is accessible, and this meaning making is all important as to whether minutes or hours in the past will grow into a huge and heavy wound-burden in the present, (what Eckhart Tolle calls an identity maintained by identification with the pain body) or whether the person will turn from digging in the graveyard of the past to dwell in the house of the present and presence.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Both "good" and "bad" are impermanent states

How can we do permanent "good" in a dynamic environment? Yesterdays "good" turns into tomorrows "bad" - perhaps better to question the notion of do-ership and agency all together - not in a way that leaves us believing we are powerless, but rather in a way that we acknowledge that what Reality needs to happen will happen, through us or through another...its a very delicate dance and perhaps getting our small "i" out of the way will make for a more elegant and suffering-less performance....

Rav Kook, of blessed memory, wrote a lot about how the seeming individual will (ratzon prati) works within and merges with, the general will, the Divine will.

The Rambam (Maimonides) the great Medieval Jewish philosopher and physician described the fluidity and context dependence of "good" and "bad" a 1000 years ago, and advised it best to adopt a stoic "wait and see" attitude of reserving judgement.

פירוש הרמב"ם על המשנה בברכות, ט, ה

[ה.] חייב אדם לברך על הרעה כשם שמברך על הטובה כו' – מה שאמר: כשם שהוא מברך על הטובה – רוצה לומר, לקבל אותו בשמחה ולב טוב ולכבוש כעסו, וייטיב נפשו כשיברך "דיין האמת", כמו שיעשה בשעה שיברך "הטוב והמטיב". וכמו שהיו אומרים החכמים ברוב דבריהם: "כל מה דעביד מן שמיא – לטב". וזה דבר שכלי אצל בעלי השכל, ואפילו לא הורה הכתוב עליו, לפי שיש דברים רבים, נראים [שתחילתם רעה, ויהיה אחריתם טובה רבה, ויש דברים, נראין] בתחילתם טובים, ויהיה אחריתם רעה רבה. ועל כן אין ראוי למשכיל להשתומם כשתבוא עליו צרה גדולה, מפני שאינו יודע סופה; [וכמו כן אל יפתה לבבו וישמח שמחה שלימה כשתבואהו טובה לפי מחשבתו, מפני שאינו יודע סופה].

To bless "the bad"

 מדרש עמנואל
לקבל יסורים באהבה
זה השער לה' נגילה ונשמחה בו
אל תקרא שער אלא צער

The Mishnah (Blessings - Brachot- Chapter Nine Verse Five) says a person should bless on the "bad" in exactly the same way they bless on the "good". The thinkers who redacted the Mishna say the source text for this is the biblical verse "and you will love the aspect of mercy and the aspect of justice with all your heart and with all your singular life energy and with all your beyondness (Deuteronomy 6).

Why does the verse say to love G?d / That Which Is with these three different dimensions of being? Doesn't the verse saying you will love G?d with all your heart include the other two? Are they not redundant? The wise ones explain that loving G?d with your soul, or life energy, is to include "even when G?d takes that soul, or life energy away."

I'm not enough of a Hebrew scholar to be sure of this, but I find it strange the word "even" (afeeloo) is used..."even when your life is taken." Surely, given that everyone's life is "taken" (or given, or surrendered) sooner or later, the wording could better be "when....i.e "you will love G?d when your (personal) life is taken and name and form end." Would love to hear your comments.

A final thought, and again perhaps I am defying the laws of Hebrew grammar, but it seems to me the text can be read as predicative and descriptive rather than imperative. In other words, it is not a command to love G-d, but rather a prediction - all will come to Love.

Shabbat shalom

חיב אדם לברך על הרעה כשם שהוא מברך על הטובה, שנאמר (דברים ו) ואהבת את יי אלהיך בכל לבבך ובכל נפשך ובכל מאדך.
בכל לבבך, בשני יצריך, ביצר טוב וביצר רע י.
ובכל נפשך, אפלו הוא נוטל את נפשך.
ובכל מאדך, בכל ממונך.
דבר אחר בכל מאדך, בכל מדה ומדה שהוא מודד לך הוי מודה לו במאד מאד.

פירוש הרמבם

חייב אדם לברך על הרעה כשם שמברך על הטובה כו' – מה שאמר: כשם שהוא מברך על הטובה – רוצה לומר, לקבל אותו בשמחה ולב טוב ולכבוש כעסו, וייטיב נפשו כשיברך "דיין האמת", כמו שיעשה בשעה שיברך "הטוב והמטיב". וכמו שהיו אומרים החכמים ברוב דבריהם: "כל מה דעביד מן שמיא – לטב". וזה דבר שכלי אצל בעלי השכל, ואפילו לא הורה הכתוב עליו, לפי שיש דברים רבים, נראים [שתחילתם רעה, ויהיה אחריתם טובה רבה, ויש דברים, נראין] בתחילתם טובים, ויהיה אחריתם רעה רבה. ועל כן אין ראוי למשכיל להשתומם כשתבוא עליו צרה גדולה, מפני שאינו יודע סופה; [וכמו כן אל יפתה לבבו וישמח שמחה שלימה כשתבואהו טובה לפי מחשבתו, מפני שאינו יודע סופה].

Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so

"No one can humiliate you without your permission" (Eleanor Rooseveldt)

In CBT and similar approaches between external event and internal emotional response there is the interpretive, meaning making faculty of the mind. "He / they made me feel dirty..." "She hurt me" "You're making me angry.."...all of these statements demonstrate the principle of false causation. It is your - and my -unquestioned thoughts about the external event which leave us feeling sad, heavy, tense, hurt, angry, numb, resentful or the opposite - light, easy, relaxed, open, alive.

This is why two people can respond completely differently to the same external event, and experience opposite emotional reactions.

When Shakespeare said nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so he meant it, and with no exceptions. Violence, disease, death, the end of relationships, accidents, amputations - all of these have hidden blessings and their meaning in our lives shifts depending upon which set of thoughts we have about them.
Gam zoo letovah - "also this is for the good", it says in the Talmud, i.e something that at first seems like a terrible tragedy may slowly or quickly reveal itself as a gift, if we are open enough to receive it. Perhps this is also a reason the Talmud says a person

That this is so is experientially verifiable. It puts people firmly back in the driving seat, able to generate an internal contentment irrespective of what happens and how it initially differed from our expectations ( really demands) of how Life and people "should be".

But people give this power away to others - treat me right and I'll be happy, treat me (what I consider) bad and I'll be sad. These are the mind forged manacles Blake writes about, and these are the mind forged manacles Victor Frankl threw aside in the concentration camps.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Even murderers need a pretext. First invent the crime, then perpetrate the violence...

For some people - perhaps most in particular times and places - it is more important psychologically to belong than to tell the truth. This is one of the reasons people create and happily disseminate conspiracy theories that do not have a shred of verifiable evidence to support them. They get to belong to an insiders club who have "secret " knowledge that must be shared with the ignorant and hoodwinked. Most of these paranoid stories are a mixture of pure fiction mixed with a few cherry picked half truths for artistry's sake, to please the outright liars and provide feathering for the gullible and predisposed.

The basic stance is to attribute near omnipotent powers to a fictional "they" - Jews, Rothschilds, Bankers, 'Burgerbuilders', Zionists, George Soros - and to attribute - indeed to find -  sinister motives of control, power or profit to these actors, thus 'reexplaining' events which have either commonly accepted and prosaic explanations, or which like many things in life, have a complex array of causes, or are seemingly random and arbitrary, or whose causes - if any - are simply unknown. 
(Often the truth is we just don't know - we don't know why something happened, or didn't happen, or why things are the way they seem to be...but its not easy to sit with "I don't know.")

Attack is the best defence; how conspiracy theorists avoid taking responsibility for the consequences of their everyday actions and inactions, habits and addictions.

You can be a wife beater, a drunkard, a pedophile, a fraudster, unreliable and hence unemployable, an animal abuser, a liar and thief, numbed out, shut down, disconnected, lacking in initiative, overwhelmed by feelings of helplessness, but hitch yourself  to a conspiracy theory and suddenly no introspection is required, no ownership of the mess you have created or the pain you have buried is necessary: it's all someone else's fault. In Jungian terms your own shadow has been projected onto a fictitious other you have summoned into existence. "If the Jew did not exist" wrote Satre 60 years ago, "the anti-semite would create him." 

When you meet someone who is determined to make you wrong, no matter what, because of a psychological need of theirs, who is determined to find in the most innocent or prosaic of behaviours dark and devious purposes, no amount of goodwill, explaining, proving, open hearted sharing and transparency will shift this impulse to hold you as "wrong' and "bad"

These accusatory tales - whether backed by a state or political movement or faith group or simply created by individuals for financial gain, as in the case of Icke - always locate their originators and disseminators in a place beyond reproof: The inquisitors, the judge and jurists in Salem, the lynch mobs in the deep South, the settlers in Tasmania who hunted Aboriginals, Churches' and nazis blood libel agains Jews, The Tsarist secret police's protocols of the elders of Zion, the Stalinist - Maoist purges, the Hutus hate propoganda that preceded the slaying of 800 000 Tutsis, some elements in the Islamic world's fanciful attribution of 9/11, ISIS, Sunni - Shia secterian bloodletting to 'the Mossad' - those who point the finger and kill by word, and often later by deed - grant themselves and anyone who colludes with them moral immunity and an implied, and completely unearned "righteousness".

This dynamic is often at work in every kind of exclusionary and persecutory prejudice. Its a particularly pernicious form of stealing self esteem and the ego's self justification.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Friend or Food, Food or Friend?

The long queue of animals stretched all the way down the platform until it was lost to view. Sheep and cattle stood anxiously next to dogs, horses, pigs, ducks, chickens, and pigeons. Cats attempted not to get trod underfoot and hissed angrily at rabbits who attempted to move away from the cats....without much success. men with electric prods and whips kept the line tight, yelling and shouting in a strange language the animals did not understand.
What's going on up there a heifer asked a large bull next to him, can you see anything?
The bull shook his head irritably and blinked his bloodshot eyes. He'd not had any sleep in the cramped cattle trucks which had brought them to this barren place, which had a strange, unnerving smell in the air.
"Nothing" he lowed, "just a wall with a big gate in it."
A turkey gobbled something unintelligible. An anxious foal turned to her aunty and said
"have you seen my mamma? Its been two days and she never leaves me alone for this long."
Slowly the line inched forward.
A group of men in stained blue overalls stood next to some tables on which was a jug of water and some glasses. All the animals looked thirstily at the water, but if any of them moved towards it they immediately received a painful shock, or a blow from the whip.
When the foal arrived at the table a man roughly grabbed her head and pushed her lips back to examine her teeth.
Ow, neighed the foal, you're hurting me...but the man paid no attention.
Don't touch me said thje foal, but the man was now raising her front leg to examine her hooves.
Excuse me, said the foal, turning to a man who was also dressed in the blue overalls stood, but seemed to have a kinder face. Have you seen my mama. She's maple coloured, and about 13 hands high...
The man gave her a long look. When she spoke the foal realised it was a woman, with her long hair tied up in a net.
"To the knackery" said the woman, "he's got a fracture in the rear right leg. Next"
The foal did not understand but a sharp stinging blow made him hobble forward, towards a group of animals on the left, which included pigs, dugs, chickens, cows, some turkeys and rabbits.
Follow me, said another man, and with shouts and blows the group began to move towards a large building which did not smell very good. Men with hoses sprayed muddy water onto a thick red liquid that ran in big gutters at the side of the building.
I can't breathe said a chicken who had managed to fly up onto the broad back of a sow.   

Thursday, August 17, 2017

She made me do it officer

The Talmudic imagination: you got to love it...they boldly went where no men had gone before. One of the Taludic sages Rava ( literally 'the great one' )says in Tractate Yevamot folio 53b, that a man can never be considered forced to carry out a sex act, because an erection comes only willingly. In response Rabah, R. Chiyah and others conceive of bizarre alternative circumstances, such as a man falling from a roof with his erect penis (erect because he was planning on sex with his wife) landing in another woman's vagina. Or someone literally inserting the man's penis (erect because he planned on sex with his wife) into another woman.

Sadly, perhaps, I have not experienced either of these possibly delightful scenarios, but they cum to mind because there is another Jewish legal principle "“ones Rachmana patreh” — that the Torah does not hold a person accountable for an involuntary act. With same sex marriage on the public agenda in Australia at the moment, what is the halachic take on it? Well of course that depends on which authority you ask, and if you shop around Jewdiciously enough you will find one that confirms your world view. ( As is the case with all religions and their adherents.) So if for one individual same sex attraction is involuntary, hard-wired, genetic, then the Torah's explicit prohibition and punishing of homosexual intercourse - presumably penetration - would not apply, but would apply to someone who is bi curious and can seemingly 'choose' between hetero or homosexual relationships.

Rava's claim is that erections are always voluntary, and therefore the male who penetrates another male's body is liable for sanction and punishment. The other rabbis attempt to come up with scenarios where penetration was not a voluntary act. ( "He made me do it officer")
What has always fascinated me about these 1800 year old texts is how all subjects are discussed with equal gravitas, and how creative the arguments and counter arguments are.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Flip Flop

For the last two weeks I have had trouble starting my car. I'd be running late, rushing to get my daughter to school, my partner already long gone to her job.
Click click click click click.
"Fuck it."
"Right mushroom, we're riding our bikes to school today."
"But I don't want to ride my bike daddy, I'm tired."
"I understand pumpkin, but my car is being naughty. It won't start."
Sometimes it did. And sometimes it didn't. For a while it started four, maybe five times in a row. I got careless. I got greedy. I got over confident. I did a big shop at the nearest mall, some three  kilometers from our house.
I don't like to bother my partner, who's always busy with some major project, but I do reluctantly call her  when I have no other option. 
"I can't. I really can't. I've got meetings though to 6pm."
"But the sorbet's melting. And the fish will go off."
"I'm sorry. Maybe you can catch a bus?"
We went back that night. Eventually after numerous tries we managed to start it with jumpers.
But the next morning - a cold clear morning with the first crisp notes of winter in the air, it wouldn't start. And so it went on all of last week, and this one. Sometimes I had to ask the neighbours for help, sometimes perfect strangers.
I saw mechanic after mechanic. Their diagnoses were, to say the least, ambiguous.
"Well your alternator is charging" said one, "it might be the battery, but its hard to tell with these modern sealed batteries."
"Nope mate" said another, "its your started motor. Its sticking. Could be the battery as well. I cant say til' you book it in and we can have a proper look."
"Can you give me a rough idea of what it could cost"
"Mate minimum labour charge is just 260 and 80 an hour after that. If its the battery and the starter then parts will cost you aound 700. Plus GST on that."
"And how many hours do you guestimate?"
"To get the starter motor out is  big job.... have to remove the heat shield, and if the flex plate or flywheel have damaged teeth I'll have to remove the transmission - I'd say 6 to 8 hours."
I was unemployed at the time. Still am as a matter of fact. The car itself was a third hand one I'd picked up for a few thousand shekels. It had looked sparkly and new in the used car lot. I couldn't believe it had done over a hundred thousand kilometers. It seemed to drive fine. The honeymoon lasted two months. Then the horn suddenly stopped working. Soon afterwards the switch for the driver's electric window popped out of its slot and would not go back in. And then the trouble with starting began.
I decided to wait with the repairs. Maybe the car would miraculously cure itself.
But it didn't.
I never knew if I was going to be stuck at my destination or not. I'd take the dogs for a walk at a favourite park, and then, because the car wouldn't start, have to walk home with them - a 40 minute exercise of getting them out of other people's gardens, dawdling, sniffing, wrestling junk food packaging from their mouths that people had carelessly thrown down on the pavement.
Living with the uncertainty took its toll.
I began drinking heavily. I took ice, cocaine, steroids, vitamin pills, heroin, ecstacy , uppers, downers and diaganols. I began eating junk food obsessively, something I had not done for twenty years.
I put on 70 kilos. My joints ached. I had mysterious shooting pains down my right leg. My xcma flared up fom nowhere, and I went though tubes of cortisone cream tying to stop scratching the red and angry skin on my flabby belly. My doctor said she could find nothing wrong with my joints and that I should stop coming to see her every four days. I became suicidal. I didn't form an actual plan but I thought I and everyone around me would be better off.
I ignored my partner or snapped at her. I sat staring at the wall, my brain a heavy mush.
"Sorry sweetpea" I told our daughter, "I'm not feeling very well, maybe you can just play on you tablet instead."
I ignored the dishes in the sink. I avoided looking at the laundy in the laundry basket. The dogs didn't get walked. Other than my partner calling to check in on me my phone never rang, but if it had I wouldn't have answered it.
The days were gray and the nights filled with sleepless worry. I lay in bed next to my snoring partner,  seeing the last of our savings being spent on buying another car. I saw endless hassles tying to sell the lemon I had bought. I wouldn't even get half of what I'd paid for it. I was good at spending money but useless at making it. I imagined being car-less and having to use public transport. Visions of long waits at bus stops or trudging home from another failed job-interview pursued me. This was the beginning of the end. I should never have bought that car. Just one more proof of my incompetency. Scenting weakness, the sellers had taken advantage of me. Story of my life.
"Why don't you speak to Grant" said my counsellor, who I saw off and on, "he's my auto electrician. He's honest."
I went to see Grant. I had nothing left to lose.
"Its your battery" he said, "definitely. Just start the engine again please sir, and rev it a few times.
Yes, no doubt about it. Your starter motor's fine. Its all good. I can fit the battery right now."
One hundred and fifty shekels. That was all. And when I tuned the key the car immediately and obediently shuddered into life. And with it I too shuddered back into life. In that moment a huge burden was taken off my shoulders. I noticed that the sky was blue. Even though it was an industrial area I heard some birdsong. I looked at Grant with adoring puppy eyes and silently wished him a long and blessed life.
As I drove home, wind blowing in my thinning hair, the audio belting out some good times music, I felt reborn. What  a difference a heavy plastic box about 25X10X15cms could make. New energy. New flow. Possibility. To go to wherever I needed to go. It was a simple as that.  I was in motion again, empowered, free to find work and get my life in order
"I'll fetch you from school" I texted my daughter, "how about we take the dogs to Goloolies farm, and get some yummy pancakes there."
And on the way I stopped to get some flowers for my wife. I was maxing out the credit card but who cared? The future was rosy.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Our new toilet

Not to shabby eh Nige?

Sunday, April 23, 2017


Even before they had turned the corner Ella would pick up speed and begin running. The big tan wolfhound cross with the lion-like mane looked fearsome. People with small dogs steered away from her, only to have her sidle up to them and - most times -  give their dog a polite sniff before rubbing herself affectionately against the owner. But now Ella was in full fighting mode, and by the time they reached the green gate her head was down, tail up, teeth barred, and the hair on the back of her neck bristling. The white dog was already there, snarling and snapping and barking almost as loudly as Ella. 

The two of them would lunge at each other through the gate, repeatedly, so that the gate banged and anyone who happened to be in the street turned to stare and see what the commotion was about. This would go on for two or three minutes, as snouts tried to push themselves through the narrow gap at the bottom of the gate. Slobber flew, intermingled with ferocious barking and growling.

"Calm down", he had told her, but she took no notice. Whatever ancient ritual she was tuned into was much louder than his half-hearted command. So he allowed it. Let them work it out of their system, he told himself. Perhaps the fight provided the white dog with the only stimulation it had all day. He couldn't tell. Certainly all its pent-up frustration and boredom seemed to come pouring out when Ella came by, invading its territory and showing no respect.

"Better separate them" said a delivery man who was dropping a parcel off at a neighbouring house. "or they'll kill each other." 

That was hardly possible, with the gate between them, but they did manage to injure each other and themselves.  One time he heard the other dog whimper, a high-pitched yelp, and afterwards there was some white fur on Ella's cheek. Another time Ella managed to cut herself on a bit of wire that was sticking out from a corner of the gate. And a week later the white dog managed to grab Ella's lip and it bled profusely for an hour or so afterwards. It didn't seem to bother her. Pleased as punch, she left the gate and followed him down the street, satisfied with a job well done. One of her big floppy V shaped ears had got folded back on top of her head, and he gently flipped it down, so that, as she trotted along beside him, they flapped loosely, like miniature hairy angel wings. 

He avoided the house the next day, crossing over to the other side of the street. Ella charged across the road anyway, and once again the dogs snapped and snarled at each other for what seemed like a long time as he fumbled with her collar, eventually slipping the lead on and dragging her away.

For a while their daily walks followed a different route. But a month later he absentmindedly set out in the wrong direction, and before he knew it Ella was tearing down the street and the two dogs were at it again. He let them be. For the white dog’s sake. Ella’s lip had healed, and as long as the gate was there they couldn’t seriously harm each other. So the snapping-snarling-barking match again became a daily fixture.

Then one day, Ella charged as usual, long before they turned the corner. By the time she got to the gate, bum in the air and forequarters low so that she could get her snout down to the gap, she should have been met by another snout and some bared teeth. But there was no snout, no teeth, no one to lunge at. Ella barked and sniffed, but no one came. She lifted her head and cocked it to one side, listening. She gave another short little bark, and waited. The bark disappeared into the noise of the traffic, without any answering bark to complete it. She cocked her hear to the other side, scratched at the gate, waiting expectantly.

He walked to the front gate, the house looked forlorn and bare, unoccupied. The shoes normally parked on the front porch were not there. Perhaps the residents had relocated, together with the dog. He hoped so, and that they hadn't just abandoned it. Either way, the snout, and its owners, were gone.

Unchallenged, now sole queen of the street, Ella reluctantly sidled after him. And if a dog can look mournful, she did.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Video Installation

Ten alternative facts about chickens

1) chickens are descended from tyrannosaurus rex

2) Young chickens, called chicks, hatch from eggs

3) the chicks feed on their mother's milk during the first few hours after hatching. Because mature hens have only one mammary gland ( chicken breast) which is difficult to find, competition​ to feed can be fierce, and the chicks will sometimes eat each other alive, to get rid of their siblings

4) Chickens, like the fish they eat, can actually count

6)) When angry, a chicken will count to ten

7) The flesh of chickens may be brown or white, but never both in the same bird, largely due to archaic segregation laws 

8) chickens have thighs, but no calves

9) some chickens are male, but the vast majority are female. In rare instances a chicken may self pollinate 

10) chickens tend to think on their feet

Please send any more facts you have on these fascinating amphibians so we can add them to our data base. Thank you

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Crime and nourishment

Has anyone tried making yoghurt, cheese, ice-cream, quiches, cream, butter and custard using human breast milk? For those of us who find it extremely difficult to kick the dairy habit, because it is associated with nurture and satiation, human breast milk might be the ideal solution. It can be produced without cruelty, and is specifically designed for human beings (as opposed to cow's milk, which is not.)

Establishing a market for human milk might help mothers both in the developing and over developed world create an income stream ( forgive the association) for themselves at a time when they cannot do other work. While at first the idea may seem as strange as a baby sucking on her mother's breast instead of being fed formula from a bottle, a little pause for reflection can take the edge of the newness of the concept.

There are approximately 2 billion women of reproductive age on the planet. If only a small percentage of these are lactating at any one time, and if only a small percentage of that number were willing to sell some of their milk, their could still be enough for Jews to have their cheesecake at Shavuot, Christians to have their eggnog at Christmas, Hindus to have their Gulub Jamuns at Holli, Bhuddists to have their erzatz yak butter upon re entering the fifth Bardo, and Moslems to have their Kunafa, Atayef and Luqaimat during Ramadan.

The reduction in methane emissions is likely to be significant, as well as the ending of the peverse treatment of cows and their offspring in contemporary factory farms. In addition there may be some immune system benefits, especially for younger consumers. I see it as a win win solution, and giving new meaning to the phrase "the milk of human kindness."

Coming up from down

Went off anti-depressants about two weeks ago. Had cut down from 20mg of Lexipro daily to 10 mg every two days and then just decided to stop....or it was decided....

About four days after quitting began to  feel mushy headed, stoned, light headed, euphoric, on occasion very sleepy, stoned again, giggly, hyperverbal, stoned again, funny, odd, and stoned (as in the effect of marijuana) during my waking hours. Most of the feelings have been very or slightly pleasant. On the whole have been quite energised, but on one day and a few hours here and there have experienced  complete heavy immobility with associated hopelessnes and absence of motivation to do anything. Stoned includes a feeling of disconnect from my body, pleasant pressure/ non pressure / in my skull and around / behind my eyes, a cloudyness where my brain normally is (but normally I would not have any sensations there, or would not be giving any attention to those sensations, i.e no call from there for attention) sluggishness, discombobulation, head - body separation (with the 'different' feelings seemingly mainly in the area of my skull. No rush for this phase to be over, but interesting how long the changes in my brain's neurochemistry are continuing....will this go on for several weeks?  

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Fill your garden with Papaya, Pomegranate and Passion Fruit

Just a little green sells organically grown papaya and pomegranate fruit trees, as well as passion fruit vines. We advise you on how and where and when to replant the trees, and also offer on-site visits for general help and advice with organic gardening.

Our trees are grown from seed, not grafted, so have a great deal of genetic variability. Raised with love, and fed with chook and earthworm poo, kindly donated by our chooks and earthworms. Prices start from $15.00 up to $150, depending on size of tree and/or container. Height varies from 10cms to over 1.5 metres.

Papaya and pomegranate fruit has many spectacular health benefits. Papaya has strong antioxidant properties which may help reduce the risk of many diseases, especially the ones that tend to come with age, such as heart disease and cancer. Research suggests that the lycopene in papaya can reduce cancer risk. It may also be beneficial for people who are being treated for cancer. Papaya's cancer-fighting ability appears to be due to its ability to reduce free radicals that contribute to cancer development and progression. Papayas are also very high in carotenoids that can reduce inflammation

There are two unique substances in pomegranates that are responsible for most of their health benefits. Punicalagins are extremely powerful antioxidants found in the juice and peel of the fruit. Pomegranate juice has been found to have three times the antioxidant activity of red wine and green tea. Laboratory studies have shown that pomegranate extract can slow down cancer cell reproduction, and even induce apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells. There is preliminary evidence that pomegranate juice can be useful in men with prostate cancer, potentially inhibiting cancer growth and lowering the risk of a premature death. Men whose PSA levels double in a short period are at increased risk of death from prostate cancer. A human study found that 237 ml of pomegranate juice per day increased the PSA doubling time from 15 months to 54 months. Punicic acid, also known as pomegranate seed oil, is the main fatty acid in the pomegranate seeds. It reduces the chronic inflammation associated with many diseases including heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's and obesity. In addition, regular intake of pomegranate juice has been shown to lower blood pressure levels in as little as 2 weeks.

Papayas and Pomegranates

  • Small - between 10 and 20 cms - one for $25, four for $95.00
  • Medium - between 21 and 45cms - one for $40.00 four for $140.00
  • Large - between 45 and 90cms - one for $70, four for $250
  • Extra-large - between 90 and 150 cms - $160 per tree, or four for $550

Passion Fruit

  • Small – up to 20 cms - $15.00
  • Large – more than 20cms - $20.00
  • X large – more than 70cms - $30.00

Trees are available for viewing and pickup in Matraville, in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney. If you are taking several larger trees, you might need a ute, SUV, or trailer, and someone strong to help you lift them. Alternatively, delivery can be arranged for a small fee.