A Sense of Self - Are We Forgetting How To Be

Ian R Thorpe By Ian R Thorpe, 6th Sep 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/3xz7k9qy/
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Philosophy>Personal Philosophy

In the 1920s D H Lawrence said; "Mankind has to get back in touch with the rhythms of nature." Instead we moved away from nature and towards technocracy and now we face pandemics of depression and stress. Materially we in the west are better off than any generation before us. But somehow our ancestors and people in poor nations seem happier. Have we forgotten how to be and thus lost sight of who we are?

Rediscovering the joy of just being.

Spring arrived late this year, the warm days not arriving until late May. Thus, in early September the main flowers in the garden are still in bloom; Geraniums, Lavender, Cistus, Hollyhocks. These are overlapping with the later flowering species, Buddleia, Hydrangea, Climbing Roses, Mombresia, Canterbury Bells, Aster all adding their splashes of colour.
Gardeners will probably have noted that I keep a fairly low maintenance plot. Well there's no sense making hard work of something that can be enjoyed with minimum effort. Also the garden is not over - neat. Things are allowed to grow a little wild, a little shaggy. They look much more interesting that way.
One of my favourite pastimes in summer is to sit in the garden and watch insects busy around the various flowers. Honey Bees love Lavender, Butterflies flock round the Buddleia. All the different types of flower have their flying fans of course and the action is enhanced by the planting scheme ... or lack of one perhaps.
No well ordered blocks of colour here, no graduated heights to ensure everything is clearly visible. The vibrant blue of cornflowers jostles for attention with the large bright yellow splashes of the day lilies (Hemerocallis). A short distance away the delicate red of Cistus preens in front of the Wgewood blue Canterbury Bells.
And around all of them butterflies, bugs and moths hum and flutter while on the ground bettles, snails, worms and ants are busy. Behind our garden a wooded bank rises about fifty feet. Birds build their nests in the trees year after year fly backwards and forwards gathering food for their young. Everything has its place in the natural order, everything has a role to play. The whole continues, the oneness, oblivious to all thse small lives and yet they are as vital to its being as it is to theirs.

A garden, even a smallish urban plot like ours is a wonderful place, I can sit for a whole afternoon just watching nature happening right in front of me. What a glorious waste of time… Or is it?
As pace of modern life becomes increasingly frenetic, as the constant stream of propaganda from the conspicuous consumption industries becomes more intense, as we are brainwashed with the idea that to sit doing nothing is a sin almost as great as dying, (never mention out loud dying, hospitals are no longer allowed to allow patients to die, people simply have a negative patient outcome while doctors congratulate themselves on extending the average life expectancy by a few days, ) which is the ultimate failure in a society that aims to be failure free.
But is doing nothing such a bad thing. Do we become slobs, couch potatoes, wasters, the moment we leave off filling "each unforgiving minute with sixty - seconds' worth of distance run" as Rudyard Kipling put it in is poem “If”, and take time out to just experience the joy of being?
I would say no, doing nothing is one of the most important therapies we can give ourselves. Should you really feel guilty at the thought of doing nothing, you can always call it meditation
The result of all the frantic headlong rush at life modern society compels us to is we have ended up in a pressure cooker world. What guilt people experience if they are not either working to get richer or involving themselves in some "improving" activity.
Forget all those management-speak meets psychobabble mantras like "time is money," "live in the now," "efficient time -management is the key to a successful life," and "we must always position ourselves to take advantage of our opportunity." We all need a little slack time. If you don't have a garden where you can watch insects, if you have a demanding career like the one that finally broke my health (leaving me free to sit in the garden doing nothing) you can still make a little empty time to valuably do nothing.
Watching a river, stream or waterfall is great therapy, just watch the water run, our bodies are mainly water so no wonder so many people have an affinity with it. Fountains in the town square or your local park are just as good. Watching birds is a fine way of doing nothing slowly too. Walking is wonderful so long as you do not say to yourself "I have to get from here to there in two hours or set yourselves any targets."
I feel sure such competitiveness, the constant impulse to prove something to one's self or the world is behind the pandemic of every kind of stress related illness currently afflicting the western nations. Make your walk easy paced, say "I'll be back when I get back," and plan a route that gives opportunities to deviate should the impulse take you.
Another great therapy, although it does not quite qualify as doing nothing, is baking bread. Mixes of all types are available from the supermarket now so there is really no problem. It isn't the weighting out that releases the pressure but kneading the dough. And then as you wait for the dough to rise you are watching nature happening again. And most important, you are not thinking, not measuring yourself against others, not feeling compelled to try to be number one, or at least progress a few steps up the ladder towards number one. All of which makes it very relaxing.
Whatever way you choose to spend your lazy time I guarantee you will feel refreshed and maybe even inspired. Such time is almost magical in its ability to let you see things in a better perspective or allow solutions to problems to reveal themselves.
Whichever way you spend your "do nothing" time the trick is to empty your mind, let all that tension drain out through the soles of your feet.
To go back to that line from Rudyard Kipling's poem “If"; why should we fill each unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run. Why can't we just sit back and wave the unforgiving minute goodbye as it races on its way to do something worthwhile before it is consigned to oblivion. Let it go, its just an upstart. The thing about minutes is that as soon as one goes past, another follows right behind it. Put the little attention seekers in their place. Time is just an illusion anyway, people tell us to live in the present but we must always live in the past. Think it through, there is always a slight delay between something happening and our senses, our nervous system sending the sensation to the brain to be processed, analysed, put into context and finally filed.
Ever noticed how your computer slows down when the processor is busy or it is running out of memory? Our biological systems have the same kind of delay. And so what we are experiencing is a perception of actually what happened a fraction of a second ago, after it has been rationalised in the light of past experience and individual personality.
According to legend we have seventy years to get our lives lived, modern science extends that to an average of over eighty and British scientist and longevity researcher Aubrey de Grey is sure we are approaching escape velocity, the point at which life expectancy increases faster than we are living. So why all the rush?
While you are so desperate to do something as a means of proving to yourself who you are, you are losing the skill of simply being from which we get our sense of self.
If we lose our connection with nature in this modern, high tech world, where do we find a sense of self.....? Are we really so dehumanized we have to rely on designer labels and cellphone ring tones to give us a sense of who we are and how we present ourselves to the world.
The whole thing started in the 1980s I guess, when the wild - eyed advocates of free market economics, who ironically were not advocates of capitalism but corporatism, the control freak antithesis of free market thinking, were tearing apart the fabric of our communities and urging us all to follow the creed of "we are what we own." It was at that time people first started wearing labels on the outside of their clothes. "Look at me, I am a successful and cool person, those D&G or DKNY labels proclaimed. Fashion always changes however and by the mid 1990s lads and ladettes ruled the roost, Jackson Pollocking city centre pavements with pools of vomit and abandoning all self restraint as they binge drank their way to social cachet. The supercool were by then wearing Sweatshirts that bore the legend FCUK, which sent out the message, "hey look at me, I'm a cool, wacky and outrageous person who does not give a damn about anything except having a good time. I wear clothes that nearly say FUCK.
The bottom line was the people wearing such designer shock schlock were insecure ikkle bunny wabbits who only wanted to be liked and so were almost naughty in a cute, cuddly and inoffensive way.
The most exclusive designer labels are now readily available on cheap and cheerless clothes imported from China so designer labels have lost their cool and are only for wannabees. Mobile telephone ring tones too have had their day. I have to say at this juncture, my ten year old cellphone lets me know it needs attention by going BEEP, BEEP. I call it the Roadrunner ring tone. It does the job and I feel very secure in my relative anonymity.
Gadgets seem to be the currently fashionable for people to announce to the world who they are. But even the Apple logo, the essential must have of a few years ago is losing it's cachet.
It was easier to know who we were in days of yore. A man named John who wrought carts for a living would be called John Cartwright and by that everybody in the community would know a lot about him. Another John who fletched arrows could look at himself with satisfaction, safe in the knowledge that everybody in his world, which probably did not extend much beyond the village where he was born, knew he was John Fletcher, the man who made arrows. Being an arrow-maker was a very worthy thing and so he had a sense of self.
But what happens to a generation of Justin and Sheryl Customer-Service-Assistant? Brett and Britney Burger – Flipper? How do they find meaning in their mundane existence?
Perhaps, rather than looking for new tags to hang on ourselves it is time we all took a long look at the ant hill society we have become part of and beyond the illusion to see who we really are.
As the Scottish poet Robert burns put it in his poem To A Louse:
O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us
An foolish notion:
What airs in dress an gait wad lea'es us,
An ev'n devotion!

Waterfall Therapy

Watching waterfalls can be very theraputic. Thornton Force is Yorkshire, though not a big fall, is my favourite. Seen here with David and Gabrielle then aged about twelve and eight, standing on the flat rock hoping I would take them along the natural walkway made by that fissure in the rock face so we could stand behind the cascade.
We managed it and 25 years later they still think it is one of the best things they did as children.


Awareness, Life, Life Journey, Meditation, Nature, Philosophy, Self, Self Awareness, Self-Esteem

Meet the author

author avatar Ian R Thorpe
Born Manchester UK, 1948. varied early career from clerk via construction site worker and street trader to I T consultant. Performance poet, broadcaster, fiction writer and essayist on many topics.

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author avatar AnnH
7th Sep 2013 (#)

This is such a deep reflection on society, thanks for sharing.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
7th Sep 2013 (#)

Thought provoking Ian, a much needed reflection of our lifestyles and where we are headed for - to nothingness and emptiness of our soul. I take a slower path by making a choice and not let others judge me by their yardsticks - siva

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author avatar sukkran
7th Sep 2013 (#)

an interesting read lan. very much enjoyed my visit. thanks.

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