Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cultivating a good understanding of what is and is not a cult......

I was talking to a friend yesterday about her experience with a 'self awareness group' quite a few years ago and how long it took her to work through the effects. She was lucky because she was aware and had a grounded, sensible partner but it still took three years for her to get her 'mind' and Self back, as she said.

I may be suspicious by nature but I have always felt that seminars, healing workshops, spiritual courses etc., have the potential to do as much if not more damage than healing if you are the wrong person in the wrong place or end up in the wrong hands. Psychological and emotional healing is not meant to happen overnight or in a weekend or a week and if it does, or you are told it will, then warning bells should ring.

 The so-called 'human potential movement' is huge these days but along with the good, a lot of damage can be done. How do you tell the difference was the question she asked. The course she did looked okay and a friend was going so it seemed okay - it was only later that she realised how deeply her mind and thinking had been affected. Then again, a lot of these groups in the name of healing look to de-stabilise the psyche in order to gain followers, power and often money.

The human mind is tricky and we can get caught up in movements which have us doing things we would never normally do if we applied common sense and reason; but such groups often tap into need. I guess my instinct would be that anything which is 'absolute' in any way is likely to have a lot of 'cult' in it, no mater how noble the aspirations and promises.

Read, research, discuss, ponder so you can tell  if there are cult aspects at work.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The hollow ring to Holocaust....

As Holocaust Day comes around again, a day which should be dedicated to all who have suffered from genocide but which has been 'confiscated' by Judaism, it is hard not to think of what has been done in the name of this Jewish experience of holocaust. And never has the word sounded so hollow!

The bitter truth is that Israel gives Jews and Judaism a bad name and betrays the very best of that religion. It also makes a mockery of those who died at the hands of the Nazis.

I am sure those who died would be spinning in their graves at the reality of the Israeli State today - a state which calls itself a democracy and yet which is a theocracy, a religiously defined State which discriminates on the basis of religion and which holds the indigenous people of the land it colonised under one of the most murderous and brutal military 'boots' in modern history as it seeks to establish an apartheid State which can entrench injustice.

I know many Jews and a few Israelis who grieve for what has been done in the name of Judaism and are filled with shame at the State which claims to represent that religion. The only consolation is that more and more people around the world now know the truth of Israel's foundation and its behaviour and the prospect of bringing this bloody mess to just resolution is closer than it has ever been.

In a matter of years, more people are now aware that the real 'facts on the ground' are that Israel is a racist, apartheid State which commits human rights abuses and war crimes as part of State sanctioned terrorism to maintain its elitist nature. Most importantly, more and more Americans, whose money pays for the State of Israel and without which it could not survive, are becoming aware of what is being done with their money and in their name. And they do not like it.

A decade ago if you read posts on article threads you would find that there was about 60% support for Israel and 40% criticism. That has changed to 95% criticism and 5% support. In terms of Americans the change is even more dramatic. Before the murderous attack on the Gaza concentration camp a few years ago, in essence, Israel's Sharpeville, you could expect American posters to be 90% pro-Israel whatever it did and 10% critical. Now those percentages are switched around and most Americans who post comments in regard to Israel are vigorously if not bitterly opposed to the Israeli State. And for good reason. Prior to the attack on Gaza most Americans did not know what Israel was and did and it was and is modern technology which makes the truth harder to hide. In addition, given the parlous state of the US economy there is greater resentment of wasted money or money spent on such an egregious injustice.

In that irony of life while modern technology makes it easier to spread propaganda, it makes it harder to to convince people and to hide the truth. You can tell lies more easily but they are more easily discovered.

And to be fair to some Israelis, in recent years Israeli historians have had the integrity and courage to print the truth about their nation and its foundation and human rights and peace groups like B'Tselem, Peace Now and Breaking the Silence, among others,  have done wonderful and courageous work to bring the reality of Israel's occupation, colonisation and apartheid State to the world. This work has been carried on by Jewish groups around the world and all have played a part in bringing greater understanding of this deadly and tragic conflict, which is, and always was, a colonial war. Understanding how something came about and how it functions is the first step to resolution.

At the most basic level, the UN had no right to partition Palestine against the will of the people  living there, into a State for them and a racist state for followers of a religion. That is the core reality. The UN partition was most certainly immoral and probably illegal.
It w
ould NEVER happen in this day and age. And the concept of a religiously defined State, a theocracy in essence, which gives superior rights to followers of a religion is not simply non-democratic it is utterly unjust. The UN's actions forced a racist State upon the Palestinians and one which has held them under occupation, colonisation and apartheid ever since.

It was only the power of the Zionist lobby, an inherently bigoted and racist organisation which got it pushed through the UN in the first place.  And while it has many foaming at the mouth to hear it, the  reason given for the foundation of a Jewish State on Palestine,  the death of 6million Jews, was talked about by the Zionists decades before Hitler ever appeared on the scene, or a Nazi manifesto came to be written. The plan to colonise Palestine in the name of Judaism  and a Jewish holocaust, existed long before any literal holocaust took place. However, the why and the what of it matters little compared to the reality of the injustice today and what needs to be done.

Whatever plans and lies the Zionists may have had or told, what needs to be dealt with is the reality of Israel in the here and now. Israel not only dispossesses and abuses the indigenous Palestinians it gives superior rights to followers of a religion - Judaism. If any other nation which called itself a democracy did that it would be rightly condemned. South Africa was not allowed to keep its apartheid State and Judaism should never have been allowed to create one in the first place and should not be allowed to keep it now. One state with equal rights for all regardless of religion - just like every other coloniser and democracy has done is the only answer and always was.
As indigenous people dispossessed and colonised and essentially powerless, the Palestinians have never been to blame. Their violence, and I don't condone violence in the name of anything, has been done to free themselves from occupation and colonisation while Israeli violence has been and is done to maintain that injustice. The Palestinians have mitigating factors while the Israelis have none.

Perhaps a little known fact, but a fact all the same is that many if not most orthodox Jews opposed the creation of a literal State of Israel because they said Israel was only ever a metaphor. Just as the concept of a Jewish people was a metaphor.

Just because a few followers of Judaism camped in Palestine millenia ago gives them no more right to that land than to any of the non-Jewish other tribes who were there. Religions do not get homelands or have land-rights and do not make for indigenes and never did.

Having said that, Israel does have a right to exist just like all other historically recent colonisers. What it DOES NOT have the right to is a racist, apartheid State nor to continued occupation and colonisation. The reality of Israel is even more appalling given that it claims to be a democracy. Patently it is not!

Let's deal with reality, not fantasy. Jews are not a people. Not any more than Catholics, Hindus, Moslems are a people. They are members of a religion. Drop the religion and you are not Jewish as many have done and still do; convert and you are Jewish as many have done and still do. That is exactly the same for any religion.
Equally, followers of Judaism comprise all races and hundreds of nationalities - just like any other religion. More to the point, most do not live in Israel, never wanted to and still do not want to. In addition, nearly a quarter of Israelis are not Jewish which makes them second-class citizens in a symbolic and literal sense.

One can understand the delusion, lies, guilt, fantasy and ignorance which led to the foundation of a religious State in Palestine for a select few, but there is no justification for supporting it now when the reality of its foundation and its form is so well known and so cruelly seen.

And the bitter irony, given how much blood, death and suffering have come through this colonial enterprise is that followers of Judaism never needed their own State and most never wanted to live there and most do not live there and still do not want to live there.

I realise no-one is innocent but generally we take the view that those who are occupied and colonised and who are essentially powerless are more innocent than others. In other words, there are mitigating factors. We do not judge the indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa or Australasia for their resistance against colonial oppressors and yet many seek to do just that in regard to the Palestinians.

There is a colonial war waged in Palestine and it is no different to colonial wars waged everywhere else, in the past and now. Except for the fact that Israel is the only democracy waging a colonial war. And it is the supposed democratic West which supports it by omission or commission.

Israel uses State sanctioned terrorism to maintain occupation and colonisation and the Palestinian freedom fighters use it to fight against occupation and colonisation. The right of the Palestinians to fight is enshrined in the Geneva Convention and UN Resolutions - the Israelis have no right to commit war crimes and human rights abuses to maintain their occupation of Palestine and certainly not to defend an apartheid State based on a belief that Jews are superior and anyone with a Jewish ancestor, even if non-practising, even if he or she never practised and neither did their parents, is something called a secular Jew and therefore superior to an indigenous Palestinian is disgraceful in a State which calls itself a democracy.

The idea that you can be a secular Jew is no more than racist propaganda. There is no such thing as a secular Jew any more than there is a secular Christian. There are lapsed Jews and lapsed Christians but that is quite different. If you call yourself Jewish you align yourself with the religion. Otherwise you do what millions have done, drop it, and you are no longer Jewish. Ditto for Christians, Muslims, Hindus - any religion.

The concept of a secular Jew is laughable to the religion itself and was 'created' by Zionism on the basis of racism to ensure that the indigenous Palestinians could never be a majority. That is why Israel has taken 'Jews' whose only claim to Judaism is a grandparent or great-grandparent who practised the religion. On that basis  even I could become a citizen of Israel where a Palestinian in a refugee camp, holding keys to a home in Jerusalem where his family lived for 600 years could not!

But times have changed for Israel and the days of the apartheid State are numbered. The boycotts and sanctions movement will bring a one-state solution and justice, 
just as it did in South Africa. While South Africans felt the pain mostly through being banned from international sport and Israelis will feel the pain being banned from academic and scientific events, because, contrary to all evidence, Israelis do believe, as part of the religious teaching, that they are superior to others, particularly intellectually, the truth is that Israel will be brought to its senses for the same reason South Africa was - money! Only when SA was teetering on the edge of economic collapse did it bring about change and Israel will be no different. It won't take as long with Israel because it is far less economically viable than South Africa was but no politician or leader can maintain a practice which destroys his or her country's economy.

On that basis one can feel sorry for those who wanted a theocratic Israel - a religious State for Jews - but such a State was always doomed because it has no place in a democratic or civilized world. Such a State is racist in conception and expression.

If Israelis had been smart, and so much for the much lauded superior intelligence of members of the Jewish religion, they would have negotiated legitimate borders and a two state solution with the Palestinians long ago. At least then they could have had their religious State for a time although it would never have lasted long as such.

Instead, racism and bigotry have set them on a path which has caused such terrible suffering to the Palestinians that when the inevitable one-state solution comes into being, with its Palestinian majority, it is highly unlikely it will be called Israel. So not only will there not be a Jewish State, there will not be a State of Israel. And the Israelis will have no-one to blame but themselves.

Justice will best come through non-violence and supporting the BDS movement is a responsibility for anyone of conscience who believes in  ending injustice wherever it appears.

Some examples of the growth of the BDS movement just in the past year are:

The world of football has joined the growing BDS movement against the apartheid state of Israel. Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo has donated 1.5 million euros to fund schools in Gaza following Israel’s recent military assault. The money was raised when Ronaldo auctioned the Golden Boot he was awarded for being Europe’s top goal scorer last season.

A special rapporteur for the UN’s Human Rights Council has called for a boycott on all companies involved with Israeli settlements until they adhere to international rights standards. Israel and the US have condemned the move.

A prominent Roman Catholic NGO in Germany has called for a wide-ranging boycott of Israeli products.

The petition represents an expansion of the boycott, divestment and sanction (BDS) movement against Israel in Germany, where efforts by pro-Palestinian activists to delegitimize the Jewish state continue to pick up momentum.

The global reach of the BDS movement is maybe best highlighted by this year’s edition of the BDS Global Day of Action which took place in 23 countries and the fact that the 8th annual Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) was organized this year on campuses in 202 cities across the world, causing near panic in the Israeli public diplomacy ministry, which scrambled 100 envoys to counter IAW around the world.

Popular consumer boycotts of Israeli products and campaigns against companies that export and sell Israeli products, particularly those implicated in Israel’s illegal colonies in the occupied Palestinian territory, have not only raised awareness among ordinary citizens in countless cities across the world but led to significant damage to complicit Israeli companies:

Some of the world's biggest stars – from Madonna to the Red Hot Chili Peppers – are being accused of putting profit before principle in a growing backlash against artists performing in Israel.

An academic boycott of Israeli universities isn't an attack on freedom of speech. The evidence tells us these institutions are key battlegrounds for breaches of international law towards the Palestinians, argues Antony Loewenstein.

New Zealand's $20 billion national pension fund announced this month that it was divesting from three Israeli companies that were complicit in the building of colonies in the West Bank and the annexation wall that runs deep into Palestinian territory.

To name just a few....................................
The world of football has joined the growing BDS movement against the apartheid

South Africa's Ruling Party Endorses Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Against Israel
The ANC is 'unapologetic in its view that the Palestinians are the victims and the oppressed in the conflict with Israel'

While in the UK:

Since the landmark policy passed at the TUC last year to boycott all companies complicit in the illegal Occupation, the PSC has launched a new campaign calling supermarkets to stop using suppliers that profit from the Occupation.

Gaza, the West Bank and Eat Jerusalem are all under an illegal occupation by Israel, which profits from exporting goods, including fruit and vegetables and herbs, grown in illegal settlements on stolen Palestinian land, in to the UK.
The African National Congress, South Africa's ruling party, endorsed on Thursday...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What is common sense?

I remember when my children were young, listening to parents talking about what they wanted or wished for their children which was usually academic, sporting or professional achievement or good looks or good luck and asking myself what I wanted for my children.

And the answer was, if I had to choose one thing, it would be common sense. Fortunately, time showed  that they had common sense in abundance. I thought they would have because my observations seemed to show that common sense ran in families, or not, as the case may be. But is that nature or nurture?  Perhaps, as is so often the case, it is a bit of both.

I came to believe that everyone is born with varying levels of common sense and astrology would say the same thing, but that quality can be increased or diminished by the environment in which the child is raised. One of the core aspects of common sense is experience and the only way we can learn from experience is if we are allowed to learn from experience. The more children are protected then the less mistakes they are likely to make and the less they will learn. The more children are protected then the less responsibility they will take for themselves or their lives and the less developed their innate capacity for common sense will be.

If I had to define what common sense was, I would do it so: common sense is a 'skill' sourced in instinct, intuition, a capacity to reason and knowledge gained through experience. Small children and animals have the first two qualities and not the third and less of the last quality. But given the fact that some people are simply born with more common sense, perhaps because it has been handed down at a cellular or psychic level, you can get five year olds with far more common sense than some fifty year olds.

In terms of the 'experts' the view on what common sense is varies with many definitions discussing what common sense does, rather than what it is. To my mind Aristotle was closer to understanding common sense and its importance than modern psychology.

Aristotle saw common sense as an actual power of inner sensation as opposed to the external five senses. Modern psychology sees it more as 'sound judgement sourced in experience.'  In other words, Aristotle saw common sense as pre-existing to a large degree, which is how I see it, and psychologists today would see it as something learned or gained through experience.

There is no doubt that experience can help develop common sense but it is also clear, observing human behaviour, that many people, and nations or systems for that matter, continue to repeat the same behaviour even though they get the same negative results. Those who do not, those who learn from the experience or the circumstance have more of what I and Aristotle would call common sense.

Is common sense more common in some cultures and belief systems than others? I would say that it is, having lived in dozens of countries around the world. Is the level of common sense predicated on the level of education? Absolutely not. Some of the most sensible people I have met have had little or no education and some of the most foolish, or lacking in common sense, the most educated or most 'brilliant.' The brilliance being defined in an academic sense and bearing no relation to them as human beings nor how successfully they live their lives.

So common sense has nothing to do with being academically clever, nor to do with one's level of education. So what is it? I believe it is a quality sourced in a sensitivity which allows good instinctual and intuitive function - in other words, you can 'smell' or 'feel' what is 'right' to do or 'wrong' about someone or a situation. When this is combined with an ability to reason - to weigh up, the pro's and cons of a given action or situation - and that requires good skills of observation and memory - then the chances of making a sensible or wise decision are greater.

Combine this with a childhood where one is encouraged to take responsibility, within age limitations, to make mistakes and learn from them, to experience as varied a world as possible, then the mind has a wealth of material with which to work through a process of reasoning and intuiting, which is most likely to result in less foolhardy behaviour or decisions.

Culture does play a part but many parents simply do not trust their children. How can a child trust themselves or their capacity to be sensible if their parents do not trust them? They cannot.

In essence, if we are to encourage common sense then we need to allow our children to think for themselves wherever it is possible; to take responsibility for their actions within age limitations; to encourage our children to take reasonable risks and to deal with failure, disappointment, pain and perhaps humiliation and to trust our children enough to allow them to practise with, and develop all, of the qualities which will allow optimum development of their capacity for common sense.

A world sourced in common sense must be a saner, more functional and better place for everyone.

Time to ban tipping as the legalised 'begging' that it is......

There was a story in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning about employers in restaurants confiscating tips. It  provides yet another reason to ban tipping.

Given the fact that staff in Australia are paid a good minimum wage and don't have to live on their tips as they do in some other countries - most places in Australia actually pool all tips and divide them amongst all staff which is much fairer - the practice of tipping is a patronising hangover from the English and their class system.

The first tips were coins thrown by English nobles at serfs who held their horse, cleaned their boots and served their food. The fact that tipping has continued only in the hospitality industry in Australia although there was a time when for some ridiculous reason hairdressers were tipped as well and we have long given up tipping taxi-drivers, makes one question the point of it.

Does someone waiting on table deserve some extra money in a way that the supermarket checkout operator or the cleaner in your office block does not? And why not tip the doctor and the doctor's receptionist as
they do in the Third World? Why not tip everyone actually? Or more sensibly tip no-one!

Tips are thoroughly insulting in the First World where people should be paid a decent wage and not subjected to such humiliating patronisation nor such a desperate fear they won't make enough in tips to manage.

The US system is the worst and heaven knows how people manage when they live on their tips and clearly have no way of planning any sort of budget week to week because they don't know how much they will earn!  It is quite simply shameful. Tipping is no more than legalised begging and when it exists in First World countries where people have no need, or should have no need to beg, it is unforgivable.  And how humiliating and embarrassing and fear-making it must be for those people who have a job which pays only in tips.

In America in essence you pay the staff in restaurants and cafes and the hotel porters. In other words, you have the cost of these employees instead of the employer. It is ridiculous and it is unfair to the workers and the customers. The employers are doing very nicely indeed thankyou because Americans are stupid enough to put up with it.

I could never understand why in the States you had to tip the guy who got the bags out of the car; tip the guy who carried them into the hotel and then tip the guy who carried them up to the room! The end result was walking around with a pocketful of money to give to people who were in essence working in a job which amounted to 'begging.'

But old habits die hard and when you travel around the world it is the Americans more than any who are throwing money around to everyone they come across in hotels, restaurants and cafes. And half of them are so obsessed with their largesse and how 'good' it makes them feel that they completely miss the fact that in the United Kingdom and many parts of Europe, there is a 'gratuity' included on the bill - found, on the bottom of the bill, in very small print - and so they are coughing up twice; double tipping which the locals love and which just makes them look like fools.

Thank goodness we have avoided the tipping disease in Australia in the main and maybe we can get rid of it completely. Sadly, when it comes to tipping at its worst the reality is that once again it is, only in America. The irony for Americans is how exploited they are living in a country they believe offers the greatest freedom of all. It doesn't and probably never did. Let's hope things change and even there people can be paid a living wage and work with self-respect and certainty.

And let’s bear in mind that those who tip and don’t mind tipping are either so brainwashed about it they have never thought of what it really means, or they get such a kick out of acting and feeling superior, that they never bother to think about how it feels to the person on the receiving end. And I am talking First World not Third although even there the patronising and ego-trip factors are involved.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Australia Day and the whole flag thing....

While it is nice to see the Australian flag flying on Australia Day, let's not get too desperate about it. It is just a flag. Let's remember that one of the good things about being Australian is that we take many things seriously but nothing too seriously and that includes the flag, the country, the nationality! Just relax and enjoy.

Getting soppy or fanatical about the flag is not healthy. Something else to remember is:

During World War Two, all German students would daily make a pledge of allegiance to Hitler, and had the swastika flag in every classroom as well as a portrait of Adolf Hitler......

We are all in this world together. No person or country is any better than any other. If we like living in the country of our birth and enjoy the best quality of life that is on offer at this point in history we are fortunate. Many do not have that even though they love the country of their birth.

There are no great countries, only 'great' places to live and they are made so by people - not by flags, songs, or nationalistic trappings and parroted propaganda.

As my kids so often said to me when they were growing up: CHILL. Just have fun and be grateful you can.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Trying to find some sanity in the evolution versus creation debate

On the basis that the internet tends to provide extremist positions on any issue because ‘those who care the most post the most sites to defend their position’ and perspective can be hard to find and never more so than with this issue, it is important to find information which comes from neither extreme.

In addition, because the evolutionist/creationist ‘battle’ is greater and more hysterical in the US, for all sorts of reasons, most information comes from that quarter and is influenced by the ‘desperate’ nature of the ‘war’ between the two sides.

I for one am interested in any sites which can discuss ‘intelligence’ at work in this world without any sort of religious agenda. I am more than happy to take a position that says science can and should play an important part in this.
Every position will have its prejudices and subjectivity and the site I am going to link admits this, but we have to start somewhere and this is from something called IDEA, which is also US based, but hopefully provides some information not tainted by religious dogma.

They say of themselves: Intelligent design is a scientific theory which has its roots in information theory and observations about intelligent action. Intelligent design theory makes inferences based upon observations about the types of complexity that can be produced by the action of intelligent agents vs. the types of information that can be produced through purely natural processes to infer that life was designed by an intelligence or multiple intelligences. It makes no statements about the identity of the intelligent designer(s), but merely says that intelligent action was involved at some points with the origins of various aspects of biological life.’

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Synchronicity and cosmic reminders

Photo: White-headed Black Chat.

In August of last year I wrote about a small blue and yellow bird which keeps banging on our lounge room window which, lined with a film of reflective sun protection, is in essence a mirror - trying to connect with what it believes is another bird but which is really itself.

At the time I said:
Synchronicities abound in life and more so when we become aware of them. There is a little bird, gloriously, shimmeringly blue, which bangs on our lounge-room window at various times of the day.

And now, as of this past week, we have another bird doing the same thing but this one is black and white and much larger.  The closest I have found to it is the White-headed Black Chat although I am not sure it is this bird. It looks like a version of our Australian magpie, akin to the size of the Piper Magpie.

The noise as it bangs against the glass and the image of itself, mistaken for something other, is much, much louder. It is three times the size of the small blue and yellow bird. Is the cosmos upping the ante on the message it is sending me? I am beginning to think the answer is yes.

Black and white are opposites and birds are believed to be symbolic of a link between heaven of earth; between the material and the spiritual; between ego and psyche.

Given that my ponderings of late have been around beliefs, rights and wrongs, blacks and whites, Self and other, this 'message' may well be a reminder that when I 'bang my head' against the 'mirror' which is my life, I am doing so because I see the image as 'other' when in fact it is me. This fits of course with the philosophy that we are all connected and what we do unto others we do to ourselves. It also fits with one of my favourite maxims: 'That which we condemn in others is that which we deny in ourselves.'

So given the pointlessness of the bird banging at the glass because it wants to connect with what it believes is another bird, the message for me perhaps is that 'banging away' at the 'glass' of division which I see as a separating barrier between myself and others in terms of belief, is just as pointless.

There are many aspects of my life at present where this is relevant. Just as the bird is mistaken in believing the image is 'other' so I am mistaken in believing in a similar image whether it be of individual or belief. I would not have thought I was like this but the cosmos is wonderfully frank and blunt when it speaks to us and this is the language of synchronicity, just as it is of dreams.

We talk about 'banging our head' when we are trying to be understood, to be heard, to bring about change and in essence that is what the bird is also trying to achieve. He or she wants to connect, to join with the image, which is perceived as other - it is in essence a reaching out but one which achieves nothing because there is no 'other' and the image is mere illusion.

The world is a magical place and never more so than when we see through the language of symbol and meaning. Jung said symbol was the lost language of the soul and given my almost desperate search for answers to current problems, well, perceived problems, and issues, in recent weeks, and given the lack of anything approximating an answer, perhaps this is it and my cosmic guides are saying;' turn away from the false image, the mirror reflection, the illusion that something is other and return to the certainty and the centre of Self.

The language of Soul has never been so precise, nor so beautiful.

NB: It is Sunday and the same bird is now flinging itself against my bedroom window which I can see from my desk when the door is open. There is no sun-protective film on this window, so no mirror reflection, but s/he kept at it for a while. Perhaps I did not heed the message well enough. And it does fit with an experience last night where I pondered who and what I was and wanted to be and then had a dream about being pregnant and giving birth which always reflects a birth of Self, particularly at my age.

And the meaning of the magpie in symbolic terms offers insight:

Quick List of symbolic traits of the magpie:
  • opportunistic
  • intellect
  • perceptive
  • flashy
  • refined
  • communicative
  • social
  • deceptive
  • illusion
  • expressive
  • willful
The magpie's speech is symbolic of communication and creative expression. When we hear the magpie speak it is a message to us that we might need to listen to what is being spoken to us - listen with more attention. The chatter of the magpie is also a symbolic message that we may need to speak our minds more clearly....speak up, express our opinions, be creative with our spoken words.

The magpie's obsession with shiny things is symbolic of our tendency to chase after false ideas or perceptions. When the magpie comes into our lives it is often a reminder that we may have to re-evaluate our priorities. Are we chasing after unsuitable desires? Are we serving a false ideal? Are we putting materialism ahead of matters of the soul?

The magpie builds its home in the thickest "V" of trees. Forks or V's in nature are symbolic of gateways or paths into the spirit realm. In this fashion, the magpie asks us about our level of spiritual perception. Specifically, the magpie asks to keep an open mind in matters of the spirit. She also asks us where our spiritual foundation is and encourages us to open the gateways of higher (spiritual) vision.

So the message is about communication but the way the magpie appears makes me think that when it comes to communication I am 'banging my head' against the glass - glass ceiling perhaps - because I mistake the 'image' for reality. I am also thinking that when I feel conflicted in discussions, or about things I have said, it is when I am talking to men. I find women can have differences of opinion more easily and discuss in robust terms and with passionate input without giving or taking offence, far more than men can.

What I am not sure about is whether the message is to say more and trust my own path to truth or to say less and leave the 'speaking out to others.' Perhaps it is time to ask the I Ching or the Tarot, or both.

The I Ching gave Hexagram 13 which is Fellowship with Men. (True fellowship is founded on fellowship with the Sage. Exclude the Sage and there can be no true or lasting fellowship.

The achievement of peace and harmony with one's fellows is the natural drive of the human heart.  We often receive this hexagram when some adjustment or change in attitude is needed. Either we need to make sure that what we require of others is correct, or we need to search out hidden reservations in our attitude which isolate us from the Sage. (The sage is the term used by the I Ching and refers to the spiritual, Higher Self, God, whatever works for the individual.)

By correcting our relationship with the Sage we correct all relationships. From A Guide to the I Ching, Carol K. Anthony.

The gist of this seems to be that problems occur when we go along with something which is incorrect and this takes me to the nub of my problem - I feel guilty about speaking out about what I believe is right and just when others do not agree. Despite the fact that the debate last night which triggered a dream about 'giving birth' and the bird at the window, was in regard to the extra-judicial murders carried out by the United States and supported by omission or commission by allies, including my country, Australia, I still felt guilty about taking a stand. Why on earth should I? Perhaps the Virgo in me.

As I said, and the discussion was with a male,  and he was the one who brought the topic up by saying he was glad Osama Bin Laden had been killed, when so-called developed nations establish a precedent which betrays the foundations of the civilized and democratic world, by carrying out, allowing, or supporting such things like assassination at will or whim, or torture for that matter, or arrests without charge .... then they put in peril the future of the modern world.

After all, if the US can charge someone like Osama Bin Laden with a crime and then just murder him without trial in a court of law, then anyone can murder anyone. If an Iraqi, or Afghan, or these days a Pakistani, assassinated George Bush or Barack Obama for their crimes then how would it be different? It wouldn't. Setting one 'bar' for yourself and another for the rest is not only unjust it is hypocritical. The United States may have great military power for the moment, and plenty of toadying allies, but that does not give it the right to murder people, no matter what they are 'said' to have done, when it takes their fancy.

When we betray principles of law and justice we betray all those who will follow us and mock the blood and suffering of those who fought so hard to bring it into being in the first place.

The message seems to be: Your responsibility is to God and God at work in you, and not to others. What matters is speaking the truth despite what anyone may think of you.

At least that is how I read it but there will be more pondering required I am sure.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The origin of the F-word.

Etymology is fascinating. The origin of the F-word.

‘It comes from peig, a crawling, wicked Indo-European word meaning evil and hostile, the sure makings of a curse. It becomes poikos, then gafaihaz in Germanic and gefah in Old english, signifying foe. It turned from poikyos into faigjaz in Germanic and faege in Old English, meaning fated to die, leading to ‘fey.’ It went on from fehida in Old English to become ‘feud’, and fokken in Old Dutch which then became the word we know today in English. ( – fuck - my addition)

'Somehow from these beginnings,it transformed itself into one of the most powerful English expletives, meaning something like: ‘Die before your time.’ from Lewis Thomas, The Lives of a Cell – a collection of essays, not all about cells although he talks of language as something akin to an organism.

Given that there is a reason for everything one wonders if the word began to evolve through the language of soldiers who, particularly in the past and to perhaps lesser degrees today, made a habit of raping the women of their enemy, or taking them as whores and sex slaves. Given that in war many women were and are raped to death then the ‘fated to die’ aspect fits.

And the 'evil' and 'hostile' connotations were a perfect fit for the patriarchal misogyny which has poisoned the world for a few thousand years. No wonder this was and in some societies still is, a word used against women who were considered to be undeserving of respect, for whatever reason.

And perhaps there is also a link with the French term for orgasm: ‘Le Petit Mort,’ The Little Death. And sex and death are biologically related given that orgasm, identifiable in the case of men, is common at the moment of death.

There is more in words than we might think and perhaps more truth to the esoteric belief that words have energy and power which impacts even if we do not know it. When we ‘use’ a word we are ‘using’ all that word has meant and means whether we know it or not.

Which makes the origin of the word 'doctor' thought-provoking in terms of the power and energy at work in the word. As Lewis Thomas writes:

'Leech' is a fascinating word. it is an antique term for physician, and also for the aquatic worm sanguisugus, used for leeching. The two words appear to be quite separate, but there is something like biological mimicry going on: leech the doctor means the doctor who uses leech the worm; leech the worm is a symbol for the doctor. Leech the doctor comes from the Indo-European leg which means to collect, with numerous derivatives meaning to speak. Leg became Germanic lekjaz  meaning one who speaks magic words, an enchanter, and also laece in Old English, meaning physician. (in Denmark the word for doctor is still laege, in Swedish, lakare.)

' Leg in its senses of gathering, choosing, and speaking gave rise to the Latin legere, and thus words like 'lecture' and 'legible.' In Greek, it became legein, meaning to gather and to speak; legal and legislator and other such words derived.  Leg was further transformed in Greek, to logos, signifying reason.

' All this history seems both plausible and creditable, good reading for doctors, but there is always that other leech, the worm. It is not certain how it came. Somehow it began its descent through the language at the same time as leech the doctor, turning up both as laece and lyce in Old English, always recognizable as something distinctly the worm and at the same time important in medicine. It also took on the meaning of someone parasitic, living on the flesh of others. Gradually, perhaps under the influence of a Middle English AMA, the worm was given sole rights to the word and the doctor became the doctor, out of dek, meaning to accept, later to teach.'
So the 'meanings' within our word for doctor contains lecture, legible, speak, reason, parasite, magic, enchanter - all of which would seem to fit. Although the 'energy' of parasite, living on the flesh of others, has, metaphorically, become more of a reality with modern medicine where doctors in particular and the medical system in general make enormous amounts of money out of 'the flesh' of their patients.

And 'legible' strikes an ironic and perhaps symbolic chord given how illegible is the handwriting of so many doctors, so much so, that it has become something of a given that doctors will write in ways which will be hard to decipher. Perhaps that reflects the 'magic' and 'enchanter' aspect of the profession where doctors, like shamans and witch-doctors of the past and in some places now, use 'placebo' effects in form and word, in an attempt to heal.

They say we 'forget our history at our peril' but perhaps more perilous is our lack of knowledge and understanding of the meanings inherent in the words that we so casually use.

Science and religion are two sides of the same coin

My only opposition to science is where it claims to have the only answers or the only way of finding answers. I have great respect for the scientific methodology and its achievements within the limitations of its paradigm. I take the same view of religion.

Both are systems which are limited by their mindset but which, each in their own way, offer valuable insight and some answers and many more potential answers as a result.

Many of the supporters of science say it would be a bad idea to accept anything without rigid testing.  But this means rigid testing as defined by the current scientific materialistic and mechanistic mindset and I would say that while that can work in some instances, it cannot work in all.

The fact that a materialistic, mechanistic mindset cannot adequately ‘test’ everything is a reality and to dismiss things which do not fit into that narrow belief system is not only unwise, it is irresponsible.

Two often the defenders claim that there are ‘two’ approaches on this issue – that of questioning and that of trusting. I question everything and the only ‘trust’ I exercise is in a belief that one needs to keep an open mind and that more often than not, everything works as it should. Life is a process, not an absolute. I have no faith either. I take what is of value from religion, just as I take what is of value from science, but I am an acolyte of neither.

What I believe is sourced in a process of discovery and change where one applies common sense, logic, reason and personal experience to the ‘pot’ and arrives at conclusions which may be temporary or may be permanent.

The world and everything in it has more ‘grey’ than ‘black or white’ and both the religious and the scientific systems think in terms of absolutes and are therefore found wanting as the source of many answers.

Of rhyme and rhythm

Call me a Luddite but to me poetry has always been form and rhyme - real poetry. I can appreciate what is called 'free-verse' but to my mind it is simply creative prose.

Poetry by its very nature is song-like and the earliest bards not only spoke their poetry they sang it. The era of free-verse has been interesting as an exercise but I don't happen to believe it has added anything at all to the rich trove of poetic expression. The greatest poetry we have ever known has form and some rhyming capacity and therein lies the template.

Because poetry, like music, has a rhythm, a metre, a 'beat' there will be, as with music, always a basic and traditional form and the future may bring variations on the theme but nothing substantially different. There is a structure and order to mathematics and music, and the two are closely linked, and I believe poetry is the same.

There is a reason why in ancient times poets or bards were not simply honoured, but revered. They were seen as links to a sacred expression at work in the material world. Beyond everything else I still believe that is the true foundation of the poetic template.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Oils in progress

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The children of Circe are gathered - India and its women

The plight of women in India has been a topic of conversation around the world following the brutal rape and murder of a young medical student. This is an excerpt from a novel I have written about India, Children of the Lie.

They came upon Kamathipura suddenly. For a moment it did not seem so .different to the other suburbs through which they had  passed.  But  it was  different; here was one  place at least where  the birth of  a daughter brought joy. This was the place of the 'cages,' the red-light district of Bombay. Jan  wanted to see one of the women who worked  the seedy streets.  Jo was simply curious. Her name was Ana, Jan said, and she was the daughter of a woman who had died recently in the south.   He knew the family through the mission where  he was working and he  had known them well enough  to be sure that  no-one would write to  Ana, the lost daughter, to tell her of her mother's death.  They would no longer even speak her name,  such shame did she bring upon the family.   That they accepted  in silence the  money she sent them, was a different matter altogether.
Jan had told the old woman,  as she lay dying, that he would find her daughter when he was in Bombay and he would tell her what  had happened.  The drifting,  distant eyes had given no  indication, either one  way or the other,  that  the old woman wanted this to be  done.  Even if she had rejected what  he proposed, he would  have done it just the same. That the daughter,  no matter what path she had  taken, had a right to mourn the death of her mother, was without question. And so he had sought the  help of a social worker, Nita, who promised to find the  woman and send them  word when she had.  The call had come the previous evening.
Jan searched  through the  window on  his side  for some sign of  Nita who said she  would meet them  in Shuklaji Lane,  while  Jo  looked  around her  at  this  squalid,  but amazingly lucrative place of prostitution. It was a  place as much of children, as  it was of women and the  men who paid  for their  services; for not  only the children of the prostitutes  wandered the filthy streets, but of the whores themselves, some  twenty percent were below  the age of eighteen  and almost as many were  below the age of sixteen. 
Young  girls were considered to be  good meat in this  bustling market  place; not  surprising then,  that the birth of a  girl child should bring rejoicing.   To the pimp, she was immediately marked off  as a future source of income, to the brothel-keeper, she was  that premium prize, a virgin, and as such  would bring a high price; at  least once; and to the money-lenders she was a  valuable pawn to be secured when her mother came to him, as she invariably would, for money. 
The street  was paved with  square blocks of  cement and the rooms  ranged along either  side, with doors  and windows barred,   for  greater   security:  It   was  this   physical self-imprisoning,  which  had brought  it  the  name of  'the cages.' Pieces of clothing hung across the chipped and broken wood of doors  and window-sills; even here,  there was always washing to be done. Many  of  the  women  stood  by  their  doorways;  those openings  into Stygian  depths; others sprawled on  charpoys laid out  in the  slush of the  street, or  squatted, scrawny knees close to  their chins, in a bird-like  gathering on the doorsteps.
 They  were dressed  brightly,  in  the main,  in richly  coloured  skirts and  tight-fitting tops  of shiny fabric,  but some wore drab  saris, and  yet others were in Western style dresses;  there was something in  fact, to suit the taste of  every man, no matter how jaded  his palate.  If they shared one thing  it was a dullness of eye  and a set of face which spoke of the  most unspeakable boredom.  They said little, even to each other; moving only to scratch listlessly at  their bodies.   Small,  pinched faces  peered from  their pigeon-holes; women of the night  before the age of ten, they waited, just  like all the others, for the fall  of darkness and the coming of the men.
Children played  in the streets, darting  nimbly between the heaps of rotting garbage; jumping to avoid the swipe of a hand;  running  barefoot,  with  all the  energy  that  their scraggy  bodies could  muster.  Dressed  in dirty  rags, they roamed  the putrid  alley-ways in  search of  childhood.  The younger ones, those below the  age of ten, could still laugh, in a  free and innocent bubbling from the heart.   They knew that their mothers were dhandas,  they knew what the price of an hour was, and what it cost for the whole night.  They knew about  condoms and  how  to use  them and about the aphrodisiacs which were sold at every street corner in the area.
  They knew  too, all that happened in the  name of sex, but they did  not truly know, not as yet,  what it all meant. When they  learned that,   they would  become sullen,  and then they would  no longer play,  but would sit,  without smiling, along  the sides  of the  road.   Some of  them would  choose instead to stay  inside, hidden in the darkness  of the room. Others, especially the boys, would  run away, knowing all the while that there was not far to run. The room was at best, a  temporary haven for come six in the evning the children would be  fed and then, thrown out of their homes,  they would be  left to their own  devices until the following  morning while their mothers  worked the night.
The  very  small children  would  be  allowed to  remain inside, pushed beneath the rough wooden bed; beaten back into silence, should they disturb any of the succession of men who came to share it with their  mother through the long hours of darkness.  The lucky  ones would be given opium  to keep them quiet: respite in the realms  of blissful ignorance.  As soon as they  could walk they  would be  put to work  cleaning the room and preparing it for the next customer.  They would work especially hard  in the mornings because  their mothers would be catching up on lost sleep.
It was  perhaps appropriate that  much of the  facade in the otherwise  dingy street, was painted  blue.  However worn and faded  it all was, there  came with it still,  a sense of the sky  and sea-green, those  colours of infinity,  of peace and compassion,  of gentleness and caring;  feminine colours, the blue  of the cloak  of the Holy  Mary; the shades  of the  Mother Goddess.   Since ancient  times it  is blue  which has been  known as  the  ray of  love, the  colour  of truth,  of revelation,   wisdom,  loyalty,   fertility,  constancy   and chastity ... it has also been known as the colour of rigidity and self-righteousness, behind which,  some may seek to hide, believing their  intentions to  be honest,  and yet,  all the while, manipulating reason for their own ends.
The truth  of Kamathipura,  was far  more likely  to be, that one  of the pimps had  come upon a source  of cheap blue paint, mislaid by  one factory or another, and so  had made a commercial  killing  in the  district,  bringing  as he  did, although  unwittingly,  a  touch  of sky  brightness  to  the wretched place.
There  she  is,"  said  Jan suddenly,  waving  one  arm through his  window.  "Come on,"  he added, opening  his door and disappearing in what seemed an instant. Nita,  who was  wearing  a cotton  kalwar  sameez in  a busily printed fabric of yellow  and green, appeared to be in her  early  twenties, although  there  was  still about  her, something  of  the child.   She  had  been working  with  the children of the  prostitutes for the past year.   She was not yet married and her parents did not know what it was that she did. They would not have approved.  She loved the children and she wanted  to make their  welfare her life's  work, although she knew it was unlikely that she would  find a husband who would approve  of such a thing.  She had yet  to make up her mind as to whether or  not she had the strength to oppose her parents  for the  sake of her  chosen career.   She hoped that she would not have to.   She was young enough to believe in miracles.
"Hello,  hello," she  said cheerfully,  as they  reached her, rocking her head from side to side and flashing the most glorious  of smiles.   She had  a  wild curl  of hair,  which framed a small,  thin face of pointed chin  and rounded nose. Her  eyes danced,  and while  she was  not pretty,  and would perhaps have trailed in any  serious marriage stakes, she had about her the  quality of some slight, bright  elf.  That the children knew her as their  fairy queen could not be doubted for they  thronged  about her  in  laughing  dance, each  seeking desperately to gain  her attention.  She shushed  them with a laugh, which  was as  close to  a tinkle  as any  human being could get, and promised that she would be with them soon, but first, she  had some work  to do  with the gentleman  who had come to see her.   He was a man of God and  they must be very good and very quiet while she talked with him. They were not of course very quiet, but they were reasonably good and while some wandered off  to play, keeping her always  in sight, the others trailed slowly behind as she  led the way to the house of the woman who had lost her mother.
 As they made  their way through the press  and huddle of the lane, she told them about her work.  She ran a school for the  children whose  ages ranged  from five  to fifteen  and although it was non-formal, it  was an opportunity to provide some education  for them,  some hope, however  meagre. These children  wanted to  learn so desperately  and yet without money there  was little hope.  Even  if their mothers did save the money to send them to a proper school they would be cruelly rejected  as soon as the other  children found out where they lived, for then they would know, just what work it was that their mother did.
These  children   were  outcasts  wherever   they  went, condemned as  pariahs by the  society at large, for  no other reason than the  accident of their birth.  Many  of them, she said,  were fiercely  possessive  of their  school, or  their 'home,' as  they called  it, for the  bare two  rooms offered them  more acceptance  and normality  than the  cramped space which  they  shared with  countless  others  and which  would otherwise have been called home.  The girls especially had to fight hard to come to  school, both against their mothers who may want them to stay home and clean and scrub and the pimps, who did not want their young meat ruined by education.
Jo felt compelled to ask why  it was that so many of the prostitutes had  children.  It  was, explained Nita,  the one thing  which they  could  do which  put them  on  a par  with respectable women. The  child was the one  human being with whom she  could relate with  human dignity.  Until  the  child reached  the  age  of  understanding, she  would  have  total acceptance; some sort  of love. It was one way in which  she could enter into a tangible human  relationship:  it  was  the  only  one  which  offered anything  genuine in  an  otherwise  shallow and  meaningless existence.   The prostitute,  with  the  grubby little  child clinging to her  worn sari, had given birth in  order to know love.   She had  wanted to  give love  and to  receive it  in return.  That she  believed in love, was  at least something, Jan remarked.
Jo nodded in agreement but she could not help but think that there was something cruel about these babies, born out of a quest for love, but doomed to a life of exploitation and misery.   She wondered how  long the love lasted.   At least  they had  someone like  Nita.  She couldn't  offer  much,  she  said, but  it  was  better  than nothing.   The school  was  a place  of  refuge.  There  were rudimentary lessons in history,  geography, biology, and also time spent on drawing, dancing  and singing.  It was the last three subjects which the children preferred, if only because they were, in the  main, hyper-active and sometimes neurotic. That they needed to yell and  scream, to jump up and down, to fight and even  to belly-dance when the fancy  took them, was accepted.  They led brutal lives and  the cruelly suppressed energy needed to go somewhere.
Many of  them were  scarred without  as well  as within, from  the  beatings  and  cigarette  burnings  which  were  a frequent  form  of  punishment  from the  pimps  and  brothel owners.   There was  Ashok whose  face was  a mass  of scars, burns driven  deep by the  press of live  cigarette butts, and Vikas,  who would carry to  the grave the imprint  of the horsewhip which ripped  across his bare buttocks  when he was four-years-old; and Ajay, who tries to squeeze the breasts of his  teacher  in  greeting,  because that  is  what  he  sees happening around him. And  there was  little Sushama,  a broken  tearing of  a child, twig-like; her  mother dead, she was fed  from time to time by the  pimps, in order to keep her  alive; she would be fattened  when  the time  was  right.   She clutched  to  her brittle chest  a dirty, plastic  doll, its bald  head covered with a bright scrap of rag:  she hugged it tight to her heart with the  wide-eyed joy which  belongs to any little  girl in possession of a doll.
At one  time, said  Nita, she could  give them  milk and bananas  but  it  was  not possible  any  longer  because  of financial  constraints.  There  was  also a  chance that  the school itself  would be  closed when  the current  funds were exhausted.   Such projects  were not popular; the  prejudice against these  children was  very strong. And yet, she told them,  without such schools they would have no hope  at all since it was almost  impossible to bring them into the normal school system.  It was held by many that such children  were tainted  and would,  in turn,  blight all other  youngsters  with  whom  they came  in  contact.   Some shelters and boarding houses,  which could otherwise offer an alternative,  openly refused  to  take prostitute's  children because it  was believed  that they  would 'spoil'  the other children.  While some prostitutes  did succeed in  sending a child, usually a son, far away to be educated in safety, most did not.  This,  said Nita, was why her work was so important:if the children were to be helped then it had to be done here.
They stopped at last by  a narrow doorway.  From between the heavy stones, pushing bravely from a minute bed of earth, was some green and reaching sapling.   It was a palm tree; or it would have  been had it chosen some  more hospitable place to take  root.  It was doomed,  but for the moment  at least, like the little children, it gloried in life.
Nita led them up the feculent, unlit stairs, through the nauseating stench  of this crushed and  apathetic life.  They passed  a  succession  of  women and  child-women,  all  with heavily painted  smiles, draping  themselves in a  variety of seductive poses. There was Salma, who had been brought to Bombay when she was twelve by a friend of her family who promised to find her  a  job.  She  found  herself  instead, enrolled  in  the world's oldest profession.  After  a fortnight of torture she received her first customer.  Her rates were sixty rupee for the whole night and twenty rupee for an hour.  While she made anywhere  between eight  hundred  to twelve  hundred rupee  a month, she earned only one hundred rupee for herself. There was Mira, all of twelve  years old but wise in the ways of  the world.  Her  parents had sold her  in marriage when she was ten years old, to an Arab sheikh in his sixties. He had paid an  enormous dowry  for her  and after  two days spent in a hotel in her home  town he had been taking her out of the country.   But she had been found crying  on the plane by one of the air hostesses and had blurted out her story and begged to be freed.  Her  husband had been arrested and the court had ruled that she be returned to her parents. Her  parents were  enraged at  the  fuss she  had made.   Her mother  beat her,  and  then, some  months later, when it  was felt safe to do so,  she had been bundled off to  Bombay in the custody  of a woman she  called aunty but  who   was  better   called  pimp.
She was an  object of shame she was told  and her family no longer wanted her.  She  was threatened with an even worse fate if she should try once again to return to them.  She had not of course.  Children learn quickly. Many  of  the  child  prostitutes were  the  victims  of incest.  There was Sushama, a  fourteen year old girl who had been sold  to a brothel  by her own father  following incest. The girl was now twenty, and  said Nita, was still in a state of shock.   She was also  syphilitic.  Many of the  girls had been abducted, like  little Geeta, who had  been brought from the  north and  sold and  re-sold into  various brothels  and forced into sexual intercourse with  seven to ten males every day.   By  the end  of  the  first  year she  had  contracted tuberculosis.
Quite a few of  the little girls  had been brought  from Nepal; some as  young as nine.  It  was easy to see  why, said Nita, there was  great poverty in  the country, most of  the people were  illiterate,  and, in  the  main,  the girls  were  also fair-skinned and attractive.  The girls from Bangladesh were popular  too, and  cheap, relatively;  one for the price  of three scrawny cows.  It was a busy trade across the border.
Many of the prostitutes too were devdasis, those who had been dedicated to the Goddess Yelamma.  Despite the fact that the system  was banned  by law, some  three thousand  or more girls, aged  between nine to fifteen,  are ritually dedicated each year, usually on the full  moon of the eleventh month of the Hindu calendar.  When the red and white beads are tied around her neck she can no  longer marry, she is devdasi.  In the old  days she  would have remained  with the  temple, but now,  in  the modern world,  she will  find her  home  in Kamathipura, or some other such place.
There  was a  terrifying enormity  to the  problem, said Nita, and now  with AIDS it was even worse.  More than sixty  percent of these women and  girls tested positive.  She shook her head as she conveyed this last piece of information.  The light, bright  smile had  gone.  And they had arrived.  The door in front  was that of Ana, the woman they had come to see.
She  was  younger  than  Jo expected;  swarthy  of complexion and pockmarked, just a little, on the rise of each cheek.  She  wore a scarlet  sari in shiny, cheap  silk.  The room was  bare, apart from a  narrow, wooden bed and  a small side table, upon which lay,  a neatly placed round mirror and a green comb.   She looked, thought  Jo, so ordinary  and hers was no more than the rough, bitter-sweet  love sought by  sailors in any port.
She nodded her  head slowly as Nita  introduced them and then explained that Father Jan had  come to see her.  A flash of something akin to fear lit for a moment the dull depths of her eyes,  and then,  as Nita translated  to her,  what Father Jan conveyed in English,  there came a deep howl, born in  the depths  of an  anguished  soul.  It  poured from  the woman; a cry of pain and  fear and terrible rage. Jo found herself holding  both hands  to  her chest,  as if to protect her own heart.  Jan looked stricken, and yet, he must have expected at least this.  But the grief was so real, so great, and so much more than a mere mourning for her mother's death.  It was that  extra, unexpected power,  which reached out and shook viciously, all those who stood within the room.
When they left her,  in the care of  two of  the other women who  had told Nita they were friends, each felt as if they had taken something terrible  into a life which had more than enough of its own horrors  already.  And yet, it had had to be  done, and perhaps  in the final awful  grieving, which was both for her mother and for herself, the woman Ana, would find some semblance of peace.
As  they drove away, Jo  looked back  through the  rear window.  It seemed  strange to be able to walk  into and then out  of such  a place  when so  many within  were irrevocably trapped.  It  did not seem  right that they should  enter and then leave with such ease. A little girl watched them as they went.  She  looked to be about five  years old, standing at the  corner, her coal  black skin in stark relief against the purest white of her dress.  The garment appeared  to be new: shocking in its purity.  Her long, black  hair was pulled back  from her forehead, tied at the top of  her head with a  trailing of thin,  white ribbon.  She looked for all the world like  some freshly frocked child about  to take her first communion, except  for the fact that  she was barefoot.  Standing  there on  the  dusty path,  watching, waiting,  she looked for all the world like.....

........Adriane, the woman who had  stood by the hospital gate, day in  and day out, watching  and waiting for the  return of her lover.  She too had been barefoot.  She  said it allowed the earth to speak to her, allowed her to  walk the music of her own making.
Adriane’s hair had been long and straight, tied in a ribbon at the top,  but her trailing locks  were the colour  of ice and the ribbon was black, as was her dress. She had  been forty-one, with milk-white  skin and soft, grey  eyes; beautiful  of body  still, while  yet rotting  of mind.  She had been  married by  then, for  some twenty-four years and given birth to  two sons, and yet she believed, that she  had become once  again, a virgin:  immaculate.  She waited, for the arrival of her  lover, her hero, her lord; he who would  surely come, even  though he had never  existed in any place other  than her head.  He would carry  her away and to him, only to him, would she give of her perfect, unsullied self.
She came  from a place deep within the  heart of the country.  When she was  barely seventeen she married a man who  owned a cattle  station.  Her father had  died the previous year  and she was sent  to live with  a maiden aunt.  She was nine when her mother  walked out with another man.  She  saw her father's  pain and  she learned that to love brought only  the hurt of losing and so, unknown to herself,  she chose a man whom  she could not love.  That  he had married  her almost solely for  her looks meant the match was doubly doomed.
In the beginning each found  enough satisfaction in the physical union to bring an element of contentment, but as the  years passed,  each began  to  sense that  the agreement between them was less than honourable.  It had never been  a conscious thing, and that  of course,  was the problem.  Neither could she  acknowledge that he or she had  played an  active  part  in the  creation  of this arid reality. The anger came, in  its own  good time, and  in the course of things, that too was replaced, by indifference and apathy, enough to see them through the middle years.  But then, almost without warning, came the time of hatred: a slow and bitter drip upon the soul.
And so  they  had  lived, the  last  five  years,  held together in the bonds of  holy hatelock, until that day, when they found her, out  behind the water bore, crouched down in the blood-red dust, naked, gnawing at the raw haunch of a calf; engrossed in a sharp, white tearing of the flesh.  They sent her  south; banished such  Dionysian frenzy from their  realm.  She was forsaken  by  both husband  and full-grown sons: they possessed no stomach  for the orgy of  passion which had been  released.  They  feared  her nocturnal  ragings; shrank  at  her  awful shriekings.   They decreed that  the dance of  madness would be done  alone, and they would not listen to the drums.
Jo  met  her, some  many, many  months later,  after leaving the hospital.  She ran into her in the city.  Her hair was cut shorter, but still hung straight, ice-white, either side of her face.  It had been  strange to see her out in the world, so  lost had she seemed  when Jo first  knew her. She would not  return to the north, she said.  She had a new life, a  job, and she hoped that the  divorce would leave her with some  money, but if not, then it  did not matter; it was enough to be free, to know her own self at last. She had seen  her mother again, after so  many years and come  to understand that her  leaving had been more  of a separation  for survival,  than  a desertion.   She had  been clinging to  things which were  not real.  She had  fled from the truth into a loveless marriage and become the bride of death.  And  when at last, she sought the underworld, had entered  the labyrinth, that  realm of both hell  and the soul where  life is found or souls are lost forever,  it was her  mother for  whom she searched.   Her decision, never  to love  again, after  the suffering  of her  mother's betrayal, had merely doomed her  never to live.  In forgiving her mother  she had begun to  put back the pieces  of her own self; begun  to live  again.  That  she in time found herself  to be the  mistress of the labyrinth was unexpected.
In the end, she had met herself at the gate: it was she who  came  to her  own rescue.  She  came as  her own hero, her own lover.  She became woman in relation to her own powers, not as defined by relationship with others. She promised the  doctor, she had confided  to Jo with a laugh, that she would stay  away from steak tartare.  She in fact became a vegetarian,  having found, that for the time being at least, she could not stomach meat of any kind. Perhaps it was that which gave her milky skin an added translucence, a shining, or perhaps it was merely happiness instead.
She was still a virgin, she said, if only because she had given birth to herself and been renewed.  It was not perhaps in the sense of hymen intacta, she had added with a wink,  but in a symbolic sense and that was far more important.  She believed that she had something pure and unsullied to offer, both to herself and to the right man when he came along, as she knew he would ... but even then, she would remain a virgin in the truest sense ... a woman unto herself.
To think of Adriane now, as they drove away from Kamathipura, seemed somehow strange and yet the figure of the small girl had taken the hand of memory and dragged it into the light. Perhaps there was a link, because these women too watched and waited for their lovers, day in and day out, with the same sense of helplessness and perhaps madness that had possessed Adriane.  But she had found a way to freedom, a way through to herself and that  was something which could never be for the women of Kamathipura.  Their destiny  and culture condemned them to remain forever as they were, circling the boundaries of life in a cruel and foolish dance.