Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Look what can happen if you close your eyes and turn away

Serendipity brought me to a web page which led back to the BBC's report on RESPECTacles, the Holocaust memorial set up in the Town Hall in Liverpool for Holocaust Memorial Day.

It's hard to look at, because it is moving and eloquent. It seems appropriate, and thought-provoking, these piles of spectacles donated by people around Liverpool, some with messages attached, some from survivors, some from celebrities.

It's painful to look back and see what happened to the people sent away for concentration camps. It's easy to think that it was a problem of a different age, and that it wouldn't happen again.

Some years ago I watched a very moving documentary which was being filmed in the former Yugoslavia... it started with two neighbours, lifelong friends. One had hidden the other's son during the Second World War. You would have said that they would be friends forever, come what may. By the end of the film, they found themselves on different sides of the conflict. It made me realise that the strongest bonds can be broken when you are in fear for your life, even the bonds to your own integrity, to the beliefs and dreams that make you the person you are.

Only by becoming alert to any attempt to dehumanise people, to put other people into a different category of humanity, can we prevent this happening to other people in the future. It's one of the reasons why I think it is important to close down Guantanamo Bay, and to use one standrard of human rights for all.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Fortune telling

I have a skill which I don't often tell people about. It tends to make them look at me as though I am an unexploded bomb that may go off at any moment. The world divides into skeptics who think that anyone who talks of clairvoyance is deluded, and those who will beg for a reading.

Not that I go in for that sort of thing: I have prophetic dreams. Sounds impressive, eh?

It isn't though. Usually what I see is a section of a tv programme I am going to see, a chapter of a book I will read, or headlines on newspapers. Nothing useful... on the occasions that I see something of more importance I usually don't realise until afterwards. And what use is a vision of the future that you only understand once you are in that future? I have no unfair advantage over those people who do not have such dreams.

Ah, but it's just like that cold reading the mediums do... I hear you say... you've seen the tv programme and forgotten it. Or read a review of the book, or the headline is one of those the papers drag out from time to time. Maybe, maybe that IS all it is, and I am deluded.

If I can see a pattern in my life, can see meaning in the small and insignificant things that happen, I don't think that can hurt anyone unless I start to believe I am God and try to entice people to gather on the white cliffs for a leap into eternity. And I don't plan on doing anything like that. Not this week, anyway.

The incident which impressed me the most was a dream I had, some years ago, which seemed completely entrancing and marvellous - so marvellous I told people I knew about it in minute detail. I don't usually inflict my dreams on others, there is nothing quite so boring than someone who recounts their dreams in detail. The wonder and the richness of the experience always melts like snow in sunshine, and you are left with a wet patch where the brilliance was.

A week later, I was away from home, and visited the magnificently potty Martello bookshop in Rye. It was owned then by Cynthia Reavell, who had a very eccentrically English way of running a bookshop. Instead of bothering with the critics from the national newspapers, Cynthia used to read the books herself and write her own terse review of the books, which was placed upon them on a card.

Cynthia, for those who do not follow such things, was a leading fan of the writer E.F. Benson, who was determined that, despite all evidence pointing to his having been gay, no one should actually label him as homosexual unless there was independent evidence from witnesses under oath. I will save Fred for another time. Cynthia used to write enraged letters to editors when E.F.B.'s books were reprinted, (having come briefly out of copyright when the law changed and they went straight back in again) and they'd put a foreward on which implied or said E.F.B. might have been gay. I should say that the circumstantial evidence for the whole family being gay is quite strong: and those that weren't gay were rather odd. His father told his mother that he planned to marry her when the mother was still a child and the father was an adult, and the mother, after her husband's death, took up with the daughter of another Archibishop and slept in her bed.

Anyway, I whiled away a little while browsing the bookshop, and came across a book called Destiny, by Martin Heald. It looked interesting, and promised a story of reincarnation. So, I bought it, and a little while later began to read it. And there, in black and white, was the substance of my dream, in detail.

I have often wondered what the message for me was in that experience. I know, I know, you will say it was coincidence, and that there is nothing of significance to be learned from it. But I don't know. I like looking for the meaning in the things which happen to me. And I like to think that E.F.B., or Fred as he was known to his friends, who wrote stories about reincarnation and was interested in the the dutiful son of an Archbishop of Canterbury should surely do... would have approved.

Psychic Crosswords

I find myself, via BoingBoing on the Daily Telegraph's online site, reading the answer to a conundrum that I have come across from time to time: the mystery of how many of the words associated with the D-Day landings came to be in the Daily Telegraph crossword.

For years it has seemed that the crossword compiler might have been a gifted psychic, equipped with an internal radar which picked up many of the code words chosen by the powers that be for the invasions of Normandy. I had read on many occasions about the mild-mannered headmaster, questioned closely to discover how he had come to insert those codewords into the grid. Was he a spy? Was he clairvoyant?

The truth, it seems, is much more pedestrian. The boys at the evacuated school used to fraternise with the English and American soldiers in an encampment nearby, and picked up all the secret codewords by eavesdropping or asking questions. They were often asked for help in filling in the answer grid for the headmaster, who was one of the Daily Telegraphs commpilers. Thus those with their heads full of the planned invasion were more likely to use the words they had been hearing.

It seems likely that all Hitler would have needed to gain a thorough advance knowledge of the invasions was a 14 year old boy in cadet uniform.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Derren Brown

I sorta love him and hate him, but there is no one like Derren Brown. He is shown above in a Wikipedia photograph from Olz06. His programmes have sometimes worried me, in case the oh-so-clever manipulation of other people's psyches may come back to bite him - and them - in the bottom at some stage in the future.

He's cool and creepy, arrogant and then strangely vulnerable when one reads his autobiography, but one has to assume he is able to look after himself.

I have noticed that he bears a remarkable resemblance to the hypnotist met by Dr Paul Brunton in his tour of Egypt, Dr Eduard Ades. Of course, one of Derren Brown's well-known allergies, is to anything considered supernatural or occult, and I presume reincarnation might also be included in that broad area. So he would hate hate HATE any suggestion that he might be a reincarnated Dr Ades, returning to the profession which brought him success in his last life....

The wonderful Eddie Izzard

I've been a member of the Eddie Izzard (seen above in a wikipedia creative commons photograph by Dave Morris) signed up fan club from the moment I saw his first performance... unfortunately using an old email account I can no longer access. But it is the thought that counts.

He's able to ramble in a most creative and wonderful way. If you haven't seen his recorded shows, beg, borrow or barter for them. This is his website.