Collective Narcissism 

I like Eric C’s post on Signs of Collective Narcissism, which seems to capture a useful concept that neatly describes some of today’s more alarming phenomena – nationalism, religious extremism, political extremism, populism, racism, sexism…

Of course this is the collective equivalent of narcissism of the invidual ego – the narcissism of a group. The job of all groups is to transcend this group ego and place it in support/ service of the whole, rather than serving itself at the expense of the whole.

Political parties, religions, followers of strong leaders, in particular please note.



People of the Lie

“…the uncanny game of hide and seek in the obscurity of the soul, in which it, the single human soul, evades itself, avoids itself, hides from itself.”

Martin Buber

Recent events brought to mind psychotherapist M.Scott Peck’s book People of the Lie: The hope for healing human evil, published 1983, which I read many years ago now.

Peck’s book is actually about the psychology of evil, or rather seeking towards such a thing.

He gives a useful definition of evil:

  • Evil is that which kills or suppresses life or the life force.
  • Goodness is its opposite – that which promotes life and liveliness.

There is an element of such evil in all of us, but what matters is how we respond and evolve. If we invoke the mask of self righteousness, a self-image of perfection, and are not open to the evil that might be within then we deceive ourselves – the biggest lie.Read More »

Magic Money Trees

“There’s no magic money tree”

Tory general election campaign slogan.

Well there are lots of them, actually.

How about the ability of banks to create money out of thin air and charge interest on it, gaining profits in the process? Why do you think banks have the biggest buildings in towns and cities and reliably generate huge salaries, bonuses and profits? Central banks could take over all money creation, to the benefit of all. See discussion at Positive Money.Read More »

The Plastic Grass Gardening Society

Echoes my own thoughts:

Eyes in the back of my Head

P1010824This is real grass…

Neighbours whose garden backs on to ours are having some hefty work done. Workmen arrived a couple of days ago, dismantling the decking, bashing all hell out of the concrete underneath, roughly rotovating the lawn (most of the garden is lawn) and clearing everything. Today – horror of horrors – a large white sheet covering the rotovated area has been put in place and we know what that probably means.

Plastic grass.

Someone we know recently killed off all signs of wildlife in their garden by laying plastic grass and installing a stone patio. A tree had to come down to allow this to happen, but there was a promise of pots and tubs to bring a bit of life to the area.

I dislike plastic grass intensely and nurture a secret desire to discover, in a guerilla kind of way, if it melts or burns….

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There’s a Way, May

Prime Minister Theresa May appears to have misunderstood the result of the recent UK general election. She asked for a mandate on Brexit. The mandate she got with a hung parliament was to work with the other parties to achieve a Brexit acceptable to the majority.

The intended agreement with the DUP is a dangerous and irrelevant sideshow. Who wants to revive any signs of the Irish Troubles we lived through for so many years? So the UK government must be seen to be scrupulously non-partisan.

It’s irrelevant because her own party will never agree on the way forward, so she needs agreement from parts of other parties, particularly Labour, to reach an acceptable Brexit deal.

Personally I’d like to see a government of national unity in this national emergency. But failing that, how about the Brexit negotiating group being led jointly by David Davis and Kier Starmer, with members from both parties?

There’s a Way, May.

Simian encounter

We were quietly gliding through the peaceful mangrove swamps at Damas Estuary near Quepos, Costa Rica, and came across a troupe of capuchin monkeys, or white-faced monkeys as they are more colloquially called. As we edged into the bank two came over to size us up. The younger one was a bit disturbed.

Soon we got the warning baring of teeth, not to come closer, but the older monkey realised we were no threat. His face looks quite wise. Real natural wisdom.

Costa Rica has just four species of monkey: the howler monkey mentioned in a previous post, these capuchins, spider monkeys and the smaller squirrel monkeys. We saw squirrel monkeys, but they moved around too quickly to get good photos.

Broad billed motmot

‘There’s a motmot’, our guide at Hanging Bridges near Arenal volcano in Costa Rica exclaimed. It was hiding up in the branches and the first photographs were miserable. By moving around the tree I managed to get a better shot. This seems to be a broad billed motmot, part of the motmot family.


motmot tailThese birds are closely related to the kingfisher, see the beak, and have long tails, unfortunately cut off in the photo. But see this one.

Blue crowned manakin

I believe that this little bird we saw in Costa Rica’s Danaus Ecocentre is a female blue crowned manakin. It’s not at all blue, I hear you say. It seems the female is not, whereas the male has a beautiful iridescent cian cap

blue crowned manakin f

This picture from Flikr would seem to confirm the identification. The more obvious green manakin is theoretically only in Panama, but then that’s not far from Costa Rica.

Anyone got any better identification?



Auntie Edie

It is the early-to-mid 1950s, I’m around 8 years old. We arrive by train from Lincoln at the old Manchester Exchange Station. Uncle Wilfred meets us; we transfer ourselves into a taxi, cases affixed to the side, and set off. At the first corner the cases take on a life of their own, leave the taxi and slide across the road. After a brief panic, cases are soon retrieved and re-affixed. Wilfred chuckles, my father says ‘crikey’. Wilfred was always chuckling, could always see the funny side of things. My brother and I rather liked him.Read More »

Those pink flowers

In the English springtime one of the constant companions of bluebells and wild garlic are various pink flowers that I’ve seen many times, but never known the name of. On our recent visit to Cornwall I decided to discover the names of two of the most common: pink campion and herb robert.

These are easily distinguished by leaves or number of petals.

Herb Robert (left below) has five petals and serrated parsley- or fern-like leaves, and is related to geraniums.

Pink Campion (right above, also in red and white variants) has five split petals, so it looks like there are around ten. Its leaves are pointed oval.


A beautiful clear blue sky on a sunny spring morning. A cup of coffee in hand. A skylark serenades us with the most sublime of songs, visible on a nearby branch. Another sings nearby. Heaven smiles.

skylark on branch

I covered the plight of the skylark in an earlier post Blithe Spirit. The above recent experience at Lizard in Cornwall shows that skylarks can still thrive in England when farming practices allow for it. Much of the coastline at The Lizard is part of the National Trust’s Lizard National Nature Reserve.

Meetings with amazing people

meetings with amazing peopleLooking back, do you not find that some particular individual people and synchronistic events have had a special influence on your life? This is what Will Parfitt focuses on, related to his own life, in his recently published book Meetings with Amazing People – somewhat along the lines of GI Gurdjieff’s Meetings with Remarkable Men. 

I remember reading Gurdjieff’s book many years ago, at a time when I was fascinated by the life and ideas of that remarkable person and his associate and sometime collaborator PD Ouspensky. That book really was a thrilling and at times hair raising read, and gave good insight into where Gurdjieff was coming from.

It would be wrong to try to measure Will Parfitt’s book against such an illustrious benchmark. Will has been for many years a leading UK exponent of psychosynthesis and qabala, so this is the context. Does it give insight into the formative influences on Will and the development of his practice?

The answer is a resounding yes. Will identifies seven key influences on his early development, in the intriguing context of a task set by a mysterious messenger, Sri Anandapuran. Each of these seven individuals had a significant and formative influence on Will’s future outlook on life.

The story in this short book is very readable and well told, to the extent that the reader can feel why each episode was of such importance. It also provides an intriguing glimpse of a life inspired by synchronous occurrences and  ‘swinging 1960s UK’.

For me, the added benefit is to inspire your own consideration of what were the significant and synchronous influences in your own life,  what was the universe really trying to tell you,  and did you listen and act upon it.

Health warning: Will’s story is imaginative and readable, and not necessarily an exact factual statement of events in his life.

Heirs to forgotten kingdoms

forgotten kingdomsAs we know, the war-torn Middle East is in a bit of a mess today. Gerard Russell was a British diplomat in various countries of the region for many years, and took a particular interest in some of its minority religions. His book of the above title reflects on these: Mandaeans, Yazidis, Zoroastrians, Druze, Samaritans, Copts, Kalasha.

The remarkable thing is that communities practicing these religions have survived for thousands of years, including long periods of Islamic dominance. Russell points out that in fact Islam has proved to be more tolerant in the Middle East than has Christianity in Europe,  where heretical and the so-called pagan religions were all but eliminated, notably through the Catholic Inquisition (e.g. Cathars).

Today, however, in the current environment of conflict, the survival of these communities is very much in doubt – for example the recent problems of the Yazidis and Copts have had wide publicity. Russell finds evidence that some members of the communities have found sanctuary in the US, but cultural dilution seems almost inevitable in such cases.

This readable and interesting book is written very much from the author’s personal experience, and is all the better for that. Worth reading if the subject appeals. I learned a lot about the various faiths. Russell has captured a picture of a disappearing world.

The message of the need for tolerance of the faith and beliefs of others is never ending.

Auntie Lillie

auntie lillieAuntie Lillie (or was it Aunty Lily) has been (internally) pestering me to be aired on this blog for some time, as part of the series of recollections of being brought up in Lincoln in the 1950s. Lillie usually turned up at our house about once a year, for a pleasant chat and a cup of tea. People did that then to keep in touch, otherwise it was just letters. She was my mother’s aunt, really, grandad’s (and Ive‘s) sister.

Lillie’s face had not been treated kindly by the ravages of time in her later years, having various extrusions and blemishes, which of course fascinated us young boys, though they could not be spoken of.

She lived mysteriously in a place called Rothwell, and was clearly not married. I later realised that she was probably ‘in service’, which I think was common in the previous generation, but was becoming much less common in hers. She probably did not have an easy life, but always seemed cheery , as indeed she looks in the photo, from the mid/late 1930s.