Saturday, November 30, 2013

Brain, Mind, Soul, and Self

There is a 'reductionism' a foot which says that we are merely our brains. We are the neurosynapses and the chemical reactions of bits of neurotissue.
The difficulty with 'reductionism' is it's so appealing to the lazy, perverse and stupid.  It denies 'reality' and is fundamentally psychotic but it's happy as only a good cabbage can be.  Dumb down all messages and they appeal to the masses. The oldest propaganda is 'reductionism'.
The brain is a truly amazing organ.  Lizards have them and the lizard brain manages eating, sleeping, fighting and fornicating all with very rudimentary capacity.  The functions of the lizard brain are well demonstrated in the range of 98% by computer programs.  Even mammalian rat brains can be reduced to fight or flight, reproduction and pleasure seeking, pain avoidance.  Similiarly computer programs can match most of what rats might do.  But rats and monkeys and higher animals aren't so 'simple' as we might think. Every day we learn of vaster implications of the minds of monkeys in grioups and dolphins and whales.  Who would have guessed the profound power and complexity of whale communication and 'song'.
How does utilitarian reductionism explain the 'art' of animals and the 'play' of advanced life forms, let alone the genius of man.
Keep it simple, stupid can so easily become Keep it Stupid, simpleton.  We believe our own explanations because rationalization and intellectualization likes to winnow away conflicting arguments and focus on the 'evidence' that supports a 'limited' perspective.  We overlook the 'whole' for the parts.
So here we are with brains that neuroscience now shows has as many neurons as imaginable with an infinitely higher number of connections between these neurons.  These interconnections include an on and off and slow or fast switch to each of them.  Couple this with the idea of anatomy where we learn that there are indeed 'areas' of the brain where mostly certain things happen.  Unfortunately for the reductionist the evidence is now overriding that this is like saying that French people are in France without considering all the French people that exist around the world. Add to this the idea of neuroplasty and we see that the brain, say 'feeling disgusted about something' can have that located in a 'broca' geographical location but if there is damage to that location, or just profundity,  then the 'function' of 'feeing disgusted about something' may be outsourced to another area.
A 16 year old who lost half his brain, by 25 was functionally normally as the heterogeneity of the rest of his brain took over the lost functions previously lateralized.  This is not as easily done, sadly, for the old brain which has been 'pruned' by age and choice.  The capacity exists which is why the future holds such promise for stem cell research and regenerative cures.
Now the brain is further a soup of hormones, proteins and sugars.  The overall functioning of any part of the brain is superbly modulated by the master chefs 'sauce' that surrounds and permeates all aspects of the brain.  Amazing, isn't it?  Truly miraculous!
The potentiality of this 'creation' is so astounding that knowing the exact time of 'big bang' from physics and the actual length of man's existence on earth we can with certaintly say that 'evolution' by all known explanations could not possibly in the time allotted have created as much as the 'idea' of humanity let alone the extraordinary complexity and synchronicity of the brain.
Just as there are fixed geographical anatomical areas and neuropathways with chemical communications at synapses modulated by the soup of  communicators, there is further a 'grid' electrical phenomena that results in quantum change potentiality.  This 'grid' is 'aura like' and the evidence of the electrical nature of the brain is seen in the Electron encephalogram. Further this electrical grid is modified even more by the magnetic grid which is seen by way of the fMRI, functional Magetic resonance instruments.  So there's the forces of electricity and magnetism combined with issues of locational and geographical specialization but also generalizations.  These areas of specialization and generalizations are themselves sky scrapers of communication tissue layers with their own set of nodal junctions in the superhighways of the brain coupled to a 'google earth' like display of every other interconnecting track.  To date we're only getting an idea on the 'superhighway's and haven't a clue about the countless deer track communication channels that parallel these freeways we have a vague inkling about.
There are 50 neurotransmitters which we know. Every day we learn more.  Dopamine alone is associated with receptors which are named , D1, D2, D3 and still counting.
So 'reductionism' is a product of the paranoid delusions of those arrogant in their fear as to actually think we can know the 'whole' from the parts.  This we can, in part,  but only in so much as we appreciate the holographic 4 dimensional chess game nature of this thing we're considering.
The humble have long ago accepted the idea of a 'higher power'.  This is where the notion of 'mind' arises.
We have an organ, the brain, but that organ is akin to a hand or foot.  The organ doesn't create the 'intention' or 'plan' or 'strategy'.  The organ is not 'self aware'.  The brain is by no means the mind.  What fool would think the 'foot' is the source of all the play and significance in the game of football, soccer or rugby.
The emperor has no clothes. Very devious cunning men and women have been selling you particularly a bag of goods which is to say the least, 'bull shit' or to the politically correct, "cow shit".   The brain is not the mind and it's certainly not the self and it's no more the soul than the foot is a soccer match.
Wake up.
The Mind is understood to be interconnected with the community and reality internally and externally to which the brain exists in.  A marvellous science fiction thriller had an evil scientist removing the brain of a lover,  putting it in a petrie dish and connected by leads to a feed back loop.  There was this poor 'creature' thinking thoughts of love and living in the memories while the girlfriend looks on at the petrie dish and wonders how ever they'll be able to get the 'brain' back into a 'body' so that the 'mind' will be connected to reality.  It was evident she still loved him and he her.  The brain can't love in that sense since it only lusts at best.
We have countless evidences now of 'brain death' with electrical discontinuation and the persistence of the 'mind' and 'awareness' and 'memory' and 'experience' while in a state of 'coma'.  I dream when I sleep. I'm not 'turned off' even though my brain is turned off.
The Soul is the spiritual hypothesis of a connection between the self, individually and the multiplicity of selves and souls and greater souls and multiverse souls and all that other 'collective' nonsensical potential of mystery and ecstasy which gives rise to the sense of awe. It's the sacred and the "aha". It's the novelty beyond the 'limits' of reductionism' and stupidity. It's the essence of creativity and laughter and joy and celebration and wonder.  It's true art and true science.  It's beyond my adolescent understanding of everything that is and will be.  I am but a part in a whole and as such I can only see to the extent my eyes are open.
So my world is limited by my pride. The greater my pride the smaller the potential for all else.  The humbler I am the greater potential for miracle and wonder.
Reductionists are lying to you because they're either stupid, paranoid or deviously taking advantage of others by selling  a crock of politically correct ,non gendered, 'Shit".  They're like terrorists who says 'kill the other guys' and life will be a bowl of cherries.  We' ve been killing the other guy for tens of thousands of years and life has never be a bowl of cherries for everyman.
There is infinite possibility in even the brain, and the mind is a true wonderland beyond that while the self and soul are beyond infinity, time and all that really matters.
Wake up.  

Friday, November 29, 2013

My Book Launch

"Love Between the Sacred and Profane" a collection of some of my poetry, was written, edited, printed, and is now set for launch! Come join.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Oxford Movement

I'm reading, "For Sinners Only", A.J. Russel, the Book of the Oxford Groups.  The Oxford Movement did have a beginning of sorts in Oxford University.  Later the university would back away from the notoriety of the Oxford Group but at first those at the university attended in Oxford and several Oxford dons wrote letters of support.  It was 'procedurally' criticized not unlike the modern day Vineyard movement.  It lacked ritual and organization.
However it was based on 4 standards of conduct that appealed to the orthodox.  It claimed to judge conduct against
1) Absolute Love to all
2) Absolute purity
3) Absolute unselfishness
4) Absolute honesty.
Later 12 step groups would pull away from the Oxford Groups, citing the difficulty with these 'absolutes".  Indeed the AA programs states frankly, "we are not saints'.  I'm not sure that is a clear understanding of the message of 'sin' that also was central to the Oxford groups.
As for 1) Absolute love to all, the definitive writing on Love from a Christian and philosophical basis had been C.S.Lewis's book "Four Loves".  These were Affection, Friendship, Eros, and Charity.  Lewis felt that the likes and loves known to humans were entertained but at the best when they were linked to love of God.  God's love, the highest love, was charity. Interestingly, the word 'charity' to me ties it to 'grace' and 'generosity' or 'abundance'.  Godly love is not niggardly.  (Is niggardly still an acceptable word, or politically incorrect, does it's roots precede or follow from the same root as nigger?  Writing I can so easily be distracted into the search of meaning of something so simple as this, but if  i do then I'll not write what I set out to write, something about the Oxford Groups, not about the opposite of absolute love - the miserly and measured 'political correctness'. )
Jesus said "Love your enemies" because clearly that was human as even animals loved their family and tribe.  The book, "Evolution of God", strongly suggested that the initial Biblical interpretations, especially the old testament, were 'tribal'.  As a Jew I only had to love Jews.  As a Communist I only had to love Communists.  As a Smith I only had to love Smiths.  It was in the New Testament that the debate over circumcision and genital mutilation of men occurred. It's the same debate ironically raging now, like a soap opera,  about genital mutilation of women.  Greeks being rational didn't want to circumcise themselves to join a new religion so the 'brand' wasn't making much progress outside of Israel when Paul said to the Jewish purist faction, that it's one thing for you old Jews to say circumcision is necessary since you were violated and abused by your parents when you were too young to remember. All that is left is Freuds fear of death and fixation on his mother with all manner of unconscious trauma issues culminating in Woody Allen's sex life, all because your mothers and fathers cut up your peniss as babies. We can't expect adult men to subject themselves to such insanity and brutality for 'love of God'.  It's barbaric.
What followed was a major rift in the church.  Judaism has always remained a 'minority' religion with focus on the methodology of the politics of minority factions.  By contrast the two other Abrahamic religions, Christianity and Islamic, could go onto 'universality'.
I feel sorry for those who are ignorant and don't read the Bible or the Koran or the Bhagadvagita.  Recently at a Buddhist shrine I was enjoying the presence of the monkeys fornicating and crapping all around it because 'monkey gods' were sacred to the people of the Buddha.  Reincarnation themes prevail in all aspects of that religion and the relationship to others is tied to the idea that the ant or the monkey might well be your grandmother or your grandchild.  It permeates the thinking and being of all aspects of the society.  We take so much for granted not knowing the differences that derive historically from the very fabric of the culture. The dualism of western mind, deriving from Aristotle, is not clear in the east where politically the 'god-king' remained theoretically long past the developmental phase of Britains 12th and 13th century Magna Carta movements.  Superstitiousness, i.e. 'luck' and 'fortune' run rampant through the east while they're present in the west but more like 'rabbit foots'.  They exist but are more extraneous.
Love of the other and love of self are intrinsically tied to an understanding of God and reality.  We are 'forced' to accept a 'division', self and thing, matter and mind, a 'dualism' which is 'useful' and 'functional' especially scientifically but may not have any true 'validity'.
All of this was considered in the 30's when the Oxford Movement began and the subsequent AA and 12 step programs were developing.  Spiritualism was at it's height.  Madame Blavatsky was all the rage. Marx and Lenin were "revolutionary' ideas.  Stalin hadn't killed 80 million and Mao Tse Tung hadn't killed 120 million.  The War to End all Wars had failed.  Television hadn't come along to 'dumb' down the world and fairlytales were something children read, not adults. Propaganda was just beginning with Goebbells genius as yet not fully developed to the CNN/Internet standards of today.  The people of the 30's who were involved religiously in community were highly intellectual.
Reading For Sinners Only, one sees the intellectual capability, of that brilliant generation that gave rise to the Oxford Movement and the 12 step movements.  This wasn't dumb functionalism, technician based thinking, this was the kind of philosophical genius that gave rise to the Age of Enlightenment and essentially the Revivalism movements through time.
What is love?  Are you being absolutely loving when you pay your taxes?  Is it loving to refuse sex with your wife or husband?  Is it absolute love to hunt and fish?  Is day care 'absolute love'?  Is lying loving? There's all manner of questions, all politically incorrect, mind you, but all philosophically and theologically valid, which derive from consideration of 'absolutes' and 'love'.
The very question of 'absolute' is itself a consideration since it's a 'scientific' word to my mind. The 'absolutes'  I know are those of chemistry, such as 'absolute temperature'.  In the arts they refer to something considered 'independent and unrelated to anything else", the ultimate basis", "perfect' and 'complete'.
Note that Absolute is thoroughly 'alien' to the moral relativism of our day.  Everything, especially to those who smoke marijuania, is 'sort of okay'.  It's been said the 'devil is in the detail' because  as long as everyone is being 'agreeable' we actually don't have to 'agree' on anything. That's the basis of the propaganda of 'political correctness' and the history of the lesson of 'give them cake'.   So long as we're zombies we aren't thinking and we can be manipulated, conned, but more importantly we can con ourselves.
So it's not surprising that the words 'absolute' and 'love' are tied together by these deep thinking men and women of the 30's who'd just witnessed WWI, the most brutal slaughter of horses and men by machines known.  The annihilation of the finest and brightest of the world's greatest nations with the utter stupidity and callous brutality of the leading lizard brains of the day caused everyone to rethink reality.  It's the same kind of process that so affected Jewish thinking after the Holocaust of WWII.  While the rest of society looked at having 'won' against the dastardly Germans and Japanese, the individual jew, had to consider the 'victory' had cost them near genocide.  The genius of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, Martin Buber and others isn't independent of the times, any more than the Oxford Movement was or the 12 step movement.  Bill Wilson, co founder of AA had been a soldier and witnessed war. His alcoholism so understood by the eugenics thinking of the day which ultimately gave rise to 'genetics', was as much a product of the post traumatic stress disorder that permeated the soldiers of the day.
But absolute love to CS Lewis was 'charity'.  Charity refers to giving freely. This is at the human level.  Grace is the word we use for God's charity.  All we have and know in our relation with a higher power is 'grace'.  The 'covenant' of Judaism is the 'relationship' between God and Man.  The prophets of the Old Testament of the Bible refer to Israel as a nation deviating from God's will.  In the day, "individualism' didn't exit.  Alienation and Isolation were not the problems of our forefathers. These are 'modern' considerations post Camus, post Kaffka, post existentialism.  "Every man for himself" is a modern day phrase.  The nuclear bomb and the one button are today's issues. In the past , no man was alone.  Erick was even to the Vikings 'Erickson'.  Everyone was related, as the Natives of North America are rediscovering their tribal roots in the phrase 'all my relations'.
Jared Diamond, the brilliant anthropologist, has described well the nature of 'tribal' society as part of the 'nation' state and subsequent 'empires'.  We're at the evolutionary end and beginning of a old new age in the individualism which the word 'agape' or 'absolute love', charity and grace challenge.
Descartes studied the idea of self as did Carl Jung later.  Cogito Ergo Sum, "I think therefore I am" was the realization of Descartes who is considered to many the modern father of 'dualism'.  Thanks to his realization of the god like capacity of our 'thinking' we could today be considered as 'gods that shit'.  We may have all manner of great ideas but we are still attached to an animal like body.
Mario de Beauregaard, the brilliant neuroscientist, has written the book "Spritual Brain'.  In dualism , matter and spirit, there has been a functional reductionism for medicine to be an off shoot of veterinarianism.  Man is considered a monkey and doctors are merely one species vets.  The following is that the brain is not a mind. Mario Beauregaard with modern Pet Scans, ironically has shown that nothing could be so stupid.  Even the idea of the brain as merely a 'super computer', 'man as machine' is limited.
The question becomes then are we mirror or is the mirror us.
This kind of thinking isn't farcical but central to the failure of the present day legal system and the errors of the politics of the day distracted by the idea of Gaia, or earth god worship and the 'shit' of creation.  As C. S. Lewis would say, why look in the wall for the architect.
Today we create 'modern' 'myths' but myths are still myths.
Absolute love isn't Jerry Springer or even Oprah. It's a terrible idea that started a world wide movement that continues today .  It was a nuclear explosion of an idea generated solely by the combination of two words, "absolute' and 'love'.  Frank Buchman and the Oxford Groups, later Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob, thought about 'absolute love'.  It's hard to think about absolute anything when you're drunk or hung over.  It's hard to think about 'absolutes' today(period), because the propaganda is anything but the 'pale blue dot' of reality.  Our earth is not the centre of the universe.  So even considering relativism, if I am not the centre of the universe what is. What is the multiverse?
Over and over again we come back to "Grace" and "Charity" and "Pride" and "Humility".
2)  Absolute Unselfishness -  This is clearly the opposite of Neitze's master race. The Oxford Movement had it's first advocates on Fleet Street. It was a movement that appealed to the Wall Street of the day. It's no surprise that Oprah has with all her wealth and success developed a tribal school for black girls in Africa modelled on Oxford ideas.  Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are promoting "altruism'. The greatest American businessman of all times was  Carnegy who gave his wealth to charity.  So here I am trying to make it rich only to find that those who have become ultimately rich say the greatest joy is not in 'keeping' wealth but in 'giving it away'.  The great Canadian story of Duddy Kravitz was the sad tragedy of the man who walked over everyone to become wealthy only to find himself alone with his wealth.  Alone and wealthy is a far more horrible state perhaps than poor and alone because it's like a man who cried 'my kingdom for a horse'.  All the wealth in the world can't 'buy' happiness.  All the wealth in the world 'can't' 'buy' love' What money 'buys' is not 'absolute love'.  The message of television is 'facsimile'.  There is nothing 'absolute' about the 'mirror'.
The orabunga is a circle, a snake eating it's tail and one of the oldest representations of 'God'. The myth is that God alone and lonely divided self into known and unknown so today we really only have to ask am I the eater or the eaten.  The central law of all religions is the golden rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Love your neighbour as yourself.  Ultimately if we are one and only divided into two theoretically, at the level of reality, then I'm stuck not really knowing whether I'm the fucked or the fucker.  Emerson , the great American philosopher, wrote "if the reds layer thinks he slays or the slain thinks he is slain , they know not well the ways I keep and turn and toss again".  Death is an idea 'individually'. I can't know my own death by witnessing the death of another. I assume my mortality but it's an inference not an 'absolute truth'.  I go to sleep similarly but don't 'know' I'll wake up.  There is so much about reality that I infer or deduce.
3) Absolute honesty - now there's the rub - as an animal I'm successful by deceit.  A hunter gatherer is not going to tell a bear that he's wanting to eat him. The hunter would best sneak up on either enemy or prey to kill or eat it.  But what of enlightenment. The world we know, the market world of wall street, the ridiculous laughable, materialist white collar gambling machine of wall street and the blue collar gambling machine of Vegas are both superstitious 'luck' based ideologies that live on 'dishonesty'.  Myths and hollywood and adult fairytales predominate.  The religion of love is a mirror to the war of fear.  Lovers versus terrorists. The hippies versus the police. The flower children versus the hard knocks.  Temperance movement versus the drunks. The prohibitionists versus the addicts.  It's all dichotomies and in dichotomy there is no 'absolute'.  Hegelian philosophy argued for the trinity of 'thesis, antithesis' and synthesis'.  Synthesis is beyond dichotomy and scienficially the 'synthesis' is the prevailing 'hypothesis' that becomes the starting point for the new thesis.
The key then is that 'absolute honesty' may be something that is highly dangerous to even consider in a society of hypocrisy where deceit is the norm, especially in a world of fashion, superficiality and political correctness. But what about 'absolute honesty' with oneself.  If I am a God that shits would it be wise to deny the shit or the God part?  This whole question of 'absolute honesty' was central to the failure of alcoholics to become and remain sober.  Those who failed were considered unable to be honest with themselves.  This issue of 'honesty with oneself' is central to the idea of the 'psychopath' who lacks a 'conscience' i.e. is incapable of self reflection or honesty'.
It's easy to parrot the words but the words are just keys to a plethora of welcome or unwelcome ideas.  Am I honest with my taxes? Am I absolutely honest with the boss ?  Am I honest with the children?
4) Absolute Purity - this is my personal bug bear.  I'm going to stop here because I have to go to work and frankly 'purity' is difficult for me. I am a sinner .  Sin is the word for human or 'imperfect'. It's been much abused by Hollywood and lost on the stupid. It's a powerfully important word that simply means that what I intend doesn't always happen as i intend it.  This is why we have 'outcome measures' and 'quality control' and 'target practice'.  If there was no sin in the world, I would think something and it would be as I thought it. I'd be God who doesn't shit or God who shits and thoroughly enjoys the shit and cleans up the shit or has a shit cleaner upper encoded into the shit.  There would be no shit possibly.  As a friend says, 'sin' is the second law of physics.  (period).  Entropy is sin at the cosmic level. Personally 'sin' is for me 'fat'.  If there was no 'sin' I'd be able to eat chocolate without getting diabetes or fat.  Sin is a sinfully good word that is unfortunately much maligned.   But at the level of 'sin' I've a problem with purity.
I feel 'impure'.  And that's where I'll pick up from at some point , that feeling of 'oldness' and 'wrongness' and 'jadedness' and 'bitterness' and 'soiled' and 'usedness'.  That's the issue of 'purity' and 'purification' was a whole process of the old religions. Coming back from Angkor Wat temple complex is saw the process of 'purification' ,the taking off of shoes, washing of feet, lots of water used in 'purification'.  The whole process of 'purification' How can I get that Madonna feeling of being 'just like a virgin' again. How can I make my boat 'new' and 'shiny'. How can I be 'fresh' like a douche advertisement or a mouthwash ad. What is this purification thing anyway. Isn't there something bodily and shit like inherent in this idea of purification.  Cleansing and renewing and such.
It's something to consider.
But those were the 4 absolutes - Absolute Love, Absolute Unselfishness, Absolute Honesty, Absolute Purity. Those were what I was to consider my conduct as a Christian against.  How do I measure up?  Am I being human or beast? Am I being a human or a machine?  Am I loving or politically correct?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Jet Lag

I may be here in Vancouver barely awake but my circadian rhythm has me back in Cambodia.  I've simply not adjusted. Coming back from Azerbaijan a couple of months back I was a few days waking in the middle of the night.  Last night I was asleep by 9, only an hour or so after my flight arrived back from Hong Kong.  The trouble was I woke at 4 am and now I'm bagged.  I could seriously use a nap but have an hour to go in this clinic. Two coffees and a walk are barely keeping me going.  More fresh air planned .

Jet lag is a chronobiological problem , a disruption of the body's circadian rhythyms.  It's all to do with the transmeridian, east - west or west- east flight schedule.

I looked up the symptons and surely they're difficulty falling asleep if flying east and difficulty with early morning wakening flying west. Well, I sure had disrupted sleep and now poor concentration but I can't say I've noticed frequency of defecation. Surely I'd notice that.

Travelling east is worse.

The Journey Home

The plane flew into Vancouver Airport last night. I'd spent the last hour of the flight with a very sick man.  Both flights I'd responded to the call for 'doctor on board'.  It's the responding as much as anything.  In arriving I bring confidence and experience. There is a palpable diminution of distress by all involved.
I am always thankful for my training.  I proceed systematically through the A,B,C's taught so long ago to me by wiser teachers.  I exclude systematically the enormous and frightening, then the less so, and eventually I am convinced that a thing is something like another group of things I had previously encountered as mystery.  Then I share this information with the person who in their anxiety have no doubt done their own checklist but with a lot more concern than I, a little off from the centre of the experience, as it were. Standing side by side, touching an arm, holding to a wrist, looking into eyes.  And no sooner than it has begun, this time is past, the emergency is over, and ambulances arriving at the air port  whisk this shaking pale chap to colleagues in an emergency department who will take it from there.  I am thankful to be part of a team, part of humanity.
My search for God is as important as the finding really.  It comes and goes this thing of faith and grace.  I 'believe'. I acknowledge my 'ignorance'. Only humble can I be present to be presented.  I can not know with the certainty I can believe I can, the existence of a grape.  But this unknown otherness I have learned to long for and trust is a different thing, unseen, but not truly unfelt.  Not emotional or intellectual but somehow transcendent.
I lack the arrogance to put limits on creation.  All is possible in this impossible world.  I am just a traveller and sojourner.  But in seeking God I am lifted out of the mire of myself, moved beyond navel gazing.  We are a society of masturbaters, a 'culture of masturbation',to quote John Burdett.  Alone with our iPhones and television, individualized experiences, like Kurt Vonnegut's "peepholes on reality".
We were described long ago as a 'culture of narcissism', then with our addiction to abortion and now euthanasia, a 'culture of death', but frankly I prefer 'John Burdett's 'culture of masturbation' because it is moving if only in illusion. Hypocrtically we decry the brothel of the east while we have television pornography available in every hotel room.  That's more available these days than the once ubiquitous Gideon's Bible.
So the search for God is a search outside of myself. There's a directional sense from baby to old man. I'm either on the up elevator or down elevator. The rythymn fluctuates. It's an oscilloscope this life.  In the west, that is, whereas in the east its a circle.  There are no direct lines.  Some say you can't get to here from there or even there from here.
I am home. Landing I gather my luggage and enjoy the 'normalcy' of the Vancouver airport. After days of alien experience, surrounded by novelty, the complete unknown, I am now again confronted by memory.  Everything comes together like the experience of watching a man quiver with with hypocalcemia likely secondary to hypokalemia brought on by repetitive vomitting.  I know these things like I know the Jet setter bus will take me to the long term parking where my Mazda Miata will be waiting.
The air is so fresh. It's what I first notice stepping out of the airport. The air is rich in its purity. The weather is cool.  Coolness has such a premium in the south.  Here I could use another layer, a sweater or a flannel shirt, to dispel the chill I feel through my wind breaker. It's wonderful to be back in the chill.  After the heat and humidity I'll once again not be drenched in sweat after a little exertion or wiping my brow of perspiration just walking through my day.  It's home, this air and this climate.  
The city seems little changed. I see it with new eyes and know that there is mystery everywhere if I want to search for it.  I've only gone on my known routes, walked into the stores and homes of those I've grown safe and secure with.  Yet this city has millions and there is so much I can not know, no more than I could knowthe superficial layer of a Kuala Lumpur or Singapore or Siem Reap, previously wholly unknown to me.  I always have to go thousands of miles away to know my home in a different newer way.
I like driving through the city. I like that I've cellular without the extortionary fee risks of 'data roaming'. I can use my iPhone gps and plot the quickest way to Hannah's.  Landing I've texted my arrival and asked when I might pick up Gilbert. The plane was hours delayed in Hong Kong.
Gilbert is beside himself with meeting. He sniffs me briefly then jumps and shouts and barks and squirms and is quite inconsolable. Lifted up he licks my face and down on the ground again runs in circles looking no doubt for a yellow tennis ball. His girlfriend dog is joining in the canine carnival of meetings.  Mia is there with Hannah's sister. I'm invited in but really feeling badly at the gracious hospitality fear driving home even now as I'm so utterly tired and exhausted after a 20 hour journey. It is evening for others here but near midnight for me and a day a head as well.  There is such tension in the acceptance of responsibility in emergencies.  It's been a working vacation in more ways than one, with days of lectures, two emergencies and such learning of experience. I'll be a better doctor for my patients who come the east. I've been in an immersion experience.  My 'whiteness' has been challenged and my comfortable assumptions have been confronted.  Moslem, Buddhist, Hindu, Animalist, Pagan.  Malaysian, Indian, Chinese.  As a Christian and Canadian I was a distinct minority.  I so often had to explain where Canada was, and few knew where Vancouver was.  My very importance was inconsequential in the irrelevance of my own geography to that a world away and millions more.
The god journey is like the journey home. I've been to Ankgor Wat in Cambodia.  Now I'm in Vancouver.  Angkor Wat was the temple complex for Hindus then Buddhists.  A site of empire and war and peace.  It's a monument of artistry and a celebration of God and life. I prayed in the Changi Chapel in Singapore, attended St. Andrews Cathedral there too.  I was glad to be among soul searchers there as  I was to meet with colleague healers at a conference addressing the idolatry of our age, the addictions of heroin, cocaine, cannibis , gambling, sex, alcohol.
I am thankful now to be home.  I'm alive and have my health and all that was in my two bags has arrived safe with me.  Every moment of my return my possessions explode. From being alone I'm now with this little buddy whose head was  intermittently out the sportscar window or coming over to my side to lick my ear.  Reassuring us both of restored friendship. I am his human. He is my dog.  My known relationships are expanding. My possessions increasing.  First the car and then my boat.
Arriving at my boat on the dock, I found the electricity has been disconnected. It was very chilly and I went through a diagnostic only to find the shore cable has come lose, no doubt, in wind.   Electricity restored again and yet with the batteries charging, I can not fully use the heaters so lit candles and propane stove.
Then I filled my water tank, thankful the water lines weren't frozen or just turned off.   I lit the propane water heater. There was hot water  then for the much appreciated shower to cleanse away the clammy soiled feelings of travel. Clean clothes and food.  I threw the yellow tennis ball between every activity. Gilbert was ecstatic with this return to normalcy.  He races up and down the boat twisting and turning chasing the ball and returning it to my feet wherever my feet maybe.
Bundled up warm, clean, I relax, surrounded by all the wants and needs of a lifetime.  There is even a stethoscope here and scalpel, needle driver, iodine along with myriad other tools.  My little comrade is curled on the couch beside me, having eaten two little caesars, the batteries are charging, candle light and heaters warmed the space,  the gentle rolling motion of sea beneath me.  I am on the couch, my couch, in my man space, this corner of the world where I'm most at home, with laptop and book, wifi connected, email read, cell phone within reach, relaxed, safe. There is even a cutlass hanging on the wall to dispel intruders.
This is my space, my home, in my greater home, Vancouver.  Here I have searched for God and myself. Here I have journeyed across oceans and chasms.  Here I am home as home as I can be in an uncertain world, a world of mystery, here in this space I know. I am surrounded by radios, fishing rods, books on navigation and literature, panels of dials and gauges. Here I am home. Here is all that I need of the world to sustain the physical self.  There was even frozen bread, butter and peanut, apples and potatoes in the galley.  I've canned goods   beneath the seat and spare parts and tools to repair almost all that might go wrong.  I've friends near by as well. I've already got calls from good people I know, not strangers, not unknowns, friends who have proven true for decades.
Just as my dog was ecstatic to see me after a week and a half, I'm so happy to hear and see those people I know after a similar lapse of time. But my journey has been half a world away and cultures and history and multitudes.  I'm home and here is where I meditate and pray and read books of inspiration and ask for guidance from God. Here I look to this world and the next or the in between, the unseen and the seen.  My brief departure has been so alien intense.
Here I'm home.  Here I can relax. I love the sea air.  I look forward to the sound of sea gulls cries in the morning.  I've awoken in the night, my inner clock not yet coordinated to this longitude.  It's dark and daylight will renew this city that is mine. Then the journey will be of the day. One day I will progress, seeking God, in myself, in my fellow man and in this world around me.  In this known world I'll continue to long for the creator, seek the peace that passes all understanding, and be thankful.  I'm here again.  The journey home begins anew.
The journey home is always the spiritual one.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Hong Kong Airport

I just flew in on Dragonair from Cambodia.  The stewardesses were exceptional. One even helped a little child down the stairs all the while the little girl was talking a mile a minute.  I really enjoyed my flight from KL to Siem Reap, Cambodia on Dragonair. The services are exceptional.
I loved flying over Hong Kong harbour. It's an amazing harbour. One of the finest, obviously, in the world. A sailor's delight.  I imagine the joy the early square riggers found in putting in here.  Even now the big boats look happy at anchor.
I remember my time here fondly, doing early morning tai chi in Chatterly Square, the only gaijin in hundreds.  Was that the name of the square? I loved that what would be a 'department' in a department store was a city block or more here. I bought my first palm pilot here, the precursor of the iPhone 4 I"m using now.  I loved typing on the little keyboard with the breast pocket palm screen adequate for my needs. I had all the medical texts and references I needed early in this digital game. I carried them with me.  Now their equivalent is on the iPhone. I've wifi and cellular internet too.
The Hong Kong Airport is ultra modern.  There's a space station feel to all air stations , for me raised on cars and trains. My dad took us up in small planes as children but I didn't fly from big airports myself till I was in my teens. Now children fly, coming and going from these air stations, taking for granted this world of hours away versus days.  Next we'll be "beaming" on Star Trek.
My flight from here to Vancouver, some 12 hours in the air, has been delayed by a wait over here for 4 more.  I've already been in the air for 3 hours and 2 hours earlier.  The Air Canada desk was pleasant and helpful, giving me a food voucher for use in Hong Kong airport. I see there's showers and after this McCafe mocha I might 'spruce' up.  If I bought a fresh shirt that would go along way to helping me feel human for this long day of travel.  Eating helps.  Travelling is tiring, surprisingly so, given that all one is doing is sitting and eating and moving through a tiny bit of space around a pale blue dot in the universe.
There must be something in the atmosphere. Psychologically there must be a displacements of sorts.  In the plane the air seems never to refresh but here in airports its something more than the neon lights.  I think it's in the press of people all in transit and all displaced. Sitting in a toilet cubicle I feel a sense of peace in the aloneness. I was in the business lounge earlier today, having flown business class, on Dragonair. There was greater quiet.  Perhaps its in the sound, the constant talk, especially here, where the Chinese do chatter, and the machine noise in the background.  I'll get out my earphones and listen to a bit of Steve Bell.  I'll be seeing him in concert one day too.
I've got some Hermes cologne. The girl at the desk didn't think I'd never need to wash again. I'm of an age where the young can be horrified, thinking I'm serious.  A shower, a fresh shirt, a meal, cologne. All that I need more is Gilbert, the cockapoo,  and a yellow tennis ball. He'd keep me entertained and would love to run the lengths of this huge complex.
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Monday, November 25, 2013

Motorcycles of Siem Reap, Cambodia

I love motorcycles.  So do the people of Siem Reap.  This town is a motorcyclists rallying place. There are more cycles than cars.  Further the motorcycles are fully and truly used to their capacities.  Not uncommonly 4 may be seen on a cycle, but every now and then 5 are being carried. Women are always riding motorcycles.  Helmuts appear optional.  No one wears leathers or armour. I doubt that would be possible in the heat. But boots are bypassed too in favour of flip flops.  The only accident I saw was a tumble when a dog ran in front of the cycle and the driver with a saffron clad monk passenger, braked and swerved to miss it, toppling over in the process.  Everyone is on the look out for everyone else so amazingly there's not more crashes. People are alert here.
The passengers and sometimes the drivers are doing all sorts of things while driving. Answering cell phones, fixing hair, carrying babies, you name it.  The drivers are attentive but the passengers are so used to being on the back of motorcycles that it's like they're riding in a car.  Some are reading books even. It's just part of the way of life here.
Now that's the motorcycles and people.  The motorcycles are used to haul major amounts of things, themselves and coupled with a hitch to a trailer. The trailers are the size of truck beds.  Most of the bikes are 110 to 123 cc but occasionally especially the ones pulling trailer may be over 200 cc.  There are also the ubiquitous taxi carriages, these are trailers that really take off from the horse drawn carriage of years gone by, with room for 4 to 6 seated easily.  Each carriage has it's own character and design.
My Honda 250 would do well here. I saw an older version.  Most of the bikes are low to the ground and commonly vespa like scooters.  My 16000 Harley Davidson Classic cruiser would not fare well here.  It's just too big for the crowded traffic.  I might get by with my old Harley 1200 Roadster. My Buell Blast 600 cc would love Siem Leap and surroundings. It's that sort of place where lighter weight motorcycles have the advantage. The roads aren't set up for high speed so anything over 650 would be extraneous, even with luggage.  I'm tempted to buy a trailer seeing how well they've worked here.
I really like that the motorcyclists of Siem Reap really are getting the most out of their motorcycles.
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Kampong Phluk, the floating village, near Siam Reap, Cambodia

I love the water. I love boats. I loved the floating village of Kampong Phluk. Vandy, my driver, and I took a road to where we hired a boat which took us on a great ride up the river past rice fields.  In the village we left the boat and visited the school and temple.  Later we stopped at a restaurant in the village. I had the best tasting cat fish ever as well as strong coffee with concentrated canned milk for cream.
Along the way, people were fishing with nets and children were swimming in the water.  A white stork was fishing too. The main form of transportation are these flat bottomed boats with an elevated motor driven water cooled propeller. At the village itself people got about with canoes. After lunch we drove out to the big lake with gets flood waters from the Mekong.  Our driver was really adept on the river handling his craft like a master.  I could definitely live here.  They actually have a hotel.  Hemingway move over.  Time for "Old man and the River!"
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