“People are just as wonderful as sunsets if you let them be. When I look at a sunset, I don't find myself saying, "Soften the orange a bit on the right hand corner." I don't try to control a sunset. I watch with awe as it unfolds.” (Carl Rogers)

Thursday, 27 April 2017

The Bridgewater Boulder and the Prostrate Girl

Good God — the eastward position, and all creation groaning!
The quotation is from Jude the Obscure and references two clergymen debating the fatuous positioning of the eastward altar in the midst of human tragedy. Hardy's words echo in this post.

Having just attended a wonderful classical music concert at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, I was very taken by the giant stone shaped sculpture outside the hall, the 'Ishinki Touchstone', created by Japanese sculptor Kan Yasuda. Or rather I was taken by the impromptu addition to the artwork, which is why I took this picture:

Ishinki Touchstone: a form returning to its heart
I thought it was so unexpected, out of context, and so, funny! Others did, too, I enjoyed watching their amused reactions. It was only afterwards, after the concert, looking again at the picture, that I noticed a small huddled figure on the right hand side, just to the right of the bust of conductor John Barbirolli. It's a young girl and she is begging for money from the concert-goers. I didn't see her. If I had, I would have given her money, because she's asking and she wouldn't ask if she didn't need. Especially not in this particular way.

Perhaps because one of the musical pieces was a particularly unnerving religious exposition called 'Offertorium' or 'an offering', on top of recent experience of church services and, in particular, her prostrate position, I got to thinking about organised religion in 21st century society. Major world religions employ prostration as an act of submissiveness (worship) to a supreme being. I don't think she is worshipping, simply indicating that she is submissive, helpless, in need. Prostrate with a plastic cup.

I have had a small tourist-like experience of being in her position, being at ground level during street interactions. I sat with a street girl in Worcester for an hour or so one evening, just to talk to her (I'd had a pint which had loosened my tongue). She was really nice, friendly, glad to be heard, I guess - and was quite routinely verbally abused, mostly by young men. She was kicked once. And old fish and chip papers were thrown at her. One hour, one girl, one City. Nowadays, it is commonplace in UK, which is the fifth richest country in the world (£6.01 trillion in private wealth - honestly, I don't know what a trillion is, but it works out to £115,000 for each and every one of us. Or it would if we shared some...)

Out of respect for this young girl, for this precious human being who has equal dignity and value to all of the rest of us humans on this earth, I have not blown up that portion of the picture in order to show that her posture is prostrate. Nobody asked her to gesture in this way, she is not part, I'm guessing anyway, of any sect, this is a universal act of submission and I find it shocking. I don't find her choice shocking - I think she is perhaps very brave to be there, or just utterly desperate. No, what's shocking is the ubiquity of vulnerable humans with no help and no prospect of help. The stone artist, Yasuda, translated Ishinki as meaning a 'form returning to its heart' and if we think about 'heart' as 'empathy' or 'compassion', and then think about this girl in this place, 'governed' by the Tories (yes, really, fuck them), then the heart we return to really is a heart of stone.

Clearly, the impromtu political message on the boulder is particularly relevant because we are in the midst of an election which is in danger of moving unmaginable power towards a very secretive and wealthy right wing clique. But, here's the point that I wanted to make about organised religion.

The church in this country really means the Church of England, who say this:
Christian life is lived in relationship with God through Jesus Christ and, in common with other Christians, seeking to deepen that relationship and to follow the way that Jesus taught.

Jesus Christ, the revolutionary, would have held this girl close to him. He would see those £££ figures above and say, right, you give her enough money to live on, you have more than enough. And he could point at the Tory government and see quickly that they have allowed this situation to develop where 'the poor' are a permanent feature in our 'fifth richest country'. So, what might the Church of England do about it? They could, very simply, OPPOSE this kind of politics that is deliberately removing the social safety net that was fought for by millions of working people. They could come out of hiding and state their opposition to all that is happening in front of them. They could SUPPORT Jeremy Corbyn and his radical socially progressive policies which will begin to unpick the damage and begin providing help for our fellow humans once more.

Do I think they might do such a thing? No. Why not? Well, to put it in bald terms, the Church of England stands to gain like all other wealthy power groups in our society. The Church holds an estimated £4.3bn (with a return on investment of 19.1% = £821.3 million (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/apr/28/religion.anglicanism). 4.3 billion pounds. 4.3 BILLION! (Jesus! You might well exclaim!). And what do they do with all this wonga (I know)? They are mostly concerned with continuing ceremonies and practices for thin congregations by paid vicars and bishops in its thousands of churches nationwide (which it also pays to maintain). So, the form of the Church of England, its ceremonials, its clergy, its buildings, is what they are concerned with and there seems little chance of this form returning to its heart, to its original principles.

By way of example, in the midst of such social degradation and suffering the Twitter feed of Justin Welby (@JustinWelby), ostensible follower of the path of Jesus Christ and CEO of Church of England Inc. is primarily concerned with those very ceremonials and says this: "The resurrection of Jesus doesn't just change how we look at the world around us - it changes the reality of the world around us." Not for the girl in the picture it doesn't - or the millions whose lives have been reduced to helplessness by the policitics of heartlessness. Two years ago, the Church seemed to be showing some Jesus-like commitment. Now, where are they? I believe they could turn this whole thing around, change the reality of the world around us, by intervening in the same way Jesus would have done.

George Monbiot catches this perfectly:
The choice before us is as follows: a party that, through strong leadership and iron discipline, allows three million children to go hungry while hedge fund bosses stash their money in the Caribbean, and a party that hopes, however untidily, to make this a kinder, more equal, more inclusive nation.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Curious monkeys all connected

I find this quote, from the remarkable Brain Pickings, to be both accurate and optimistic - it's a kindness, really, to remind ourselves that we are not the overlords of the universe, but rather thinking monkeys trying to make sense of all that we are and all that we find at hand:
I consider that we are still monkeys; we just came down from the trees rather recently, and it’s astonishing how well we can do. The fact that we can even write down partial differential equations, let alone solve them, to me is a miracle. The fact that we ourselves at the moment have very limited understanding of things doesn’t surprise me at all.
And then something about what we have called 'God' as our universal connection in growth:
I like to describe [God] as the “world soul” — which was my mother’s phrase — so that we are little bits of the world soul. And so it may well be that we are part of the world’s growth. That’s the kind of world I would like to live in, and as a working hypothesis it seems to me quite reasonable. In detail the world shows no evidence of any sort of conscious design. If there is to be a conscious design, it probably has to be ours.
And more kindness to ourselves, responding to a question about the mystery of life's complexity:
It’s a question that we don’t know the answer to yet. Maybe one day we will. It seems to me a perfectly sensible question. There’s nothing in it that makes it inherently unanswerable. Of course I don’t know the answer. I’m not an expert, but the experts don’t know either. Why should they? After all, we’ve been studying life scientifically only since Aristotle, two thousand years, and that’s a generous estimate. How could you expect us really to understand it in such a short time? It’s amazing how much we have discovered in such a short time. The idea that you should solve these major riddles just at the first try seems to me to be asking much more than is reasonable.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Reasons to be Cheerful (Part Forty Eight: looking forward)

2016. New year, new choices - I shall start these on day one and hit it running.  Will's will will...

I will learn Ableton Live by teaching myself drum beats as a foundation for recording my songs.

I will learn reading a compass, reading maps and using handheld satnav.

I will have a dry January

I will maintain a strict 5:2 diet until I reach my target weight, when I will revert to 6:1

Reasons to be Cheerful (Part Forty Eight: looking back)

This R2bC has become a rather dull weekly burden now, pedestrian, automatic - the opposite of what writing and life should be, so I shall discontinue in 2016. However, having nobody to reflect back at, it has been very successful as a tool of positive psychology in reminding me that I have done some things that I like to do and I have learnt some things and that this fact makes me feel more content. This is the review of 2015 and its reasons to be cheerful - and I had grand plans to do an extensive and detailed overview, but, well, life's too short and I've got other, more interesting things to do - a positive in itself. Here's the tag for detail: http://www.billymiller.eu/search/label/reasonstobecheerful

So. Health and Wellbeing. Starting with dad - he is not going to get healthier. It's been a bit of a trial for him at times, but regular doctor and hospital visits keep him ticking over. And drugs. Not huge quality of life though, I have to say. Glad I'm here for him, all the same - he does experience some pleasure in life and he is a very sunny soul on the whole. I've also benefited from coming to care for him - I'm not tied to a bullshit job, so I've been left free to write and I've also dealt with a few demons since I've been here.

As for me, well, surprised by my middle aged man health MOT - slightly overweight, but apart from that all very well indeed, pulse, heart, battery of blood tests. January plan should make a dent in the overweight biznis - next check in five years, apparently... Managed some great walks this year, too - and I shall build on that in 2016. Got a handheld satnav that I'm working out - and once I have, then it gives more scope for solo jaunts.

Been writing some great songs lately and the blakesongs are up to around 25-30 minutes and I'm very happy with them, too. The doctorate is taking a final shape and that feels great. Completed some quite difficult chapters this year and am feeling confident about it.

Finally, TLCfeelsgood - my project-in-the-world - just keeps rolling on. Every meeting, a new idea, a new direction. Again, I feel confident that this thing will be if we just keep at it.

So, there we are. 2015. I end much more robust and self-reliant than I began, and, partially due to the self-recognition of these very reasons to be cheerful. Ça va!
I keep hope and I keep compassion and I stand with those in the way of the mean people of this land.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Reasons to be Cheerful (Part Forty Seven)

Later than hoped, but TLCfeelsgood bank account finally set up - co op motherfuckers not ethical at all, dissed because computer say no, unethical behaviour to treat people like that. Anyway! Done.

Did more written work on already submitted chapter. Also, with the extra notes here, my next chapter (chapters?) are shaping up, too.

Went to songwriting group thanks to and with Chris. Interesting and shall return. Some talented people there.

More of the 4am night terrors prompting me to get up and write rather than the futile and anxious struggle to find sleep again. Happily, got more drugs and they don't seem to be having any noticeable side effects. Everything crossed.

My clever guitar teacher sneakily extending my technique with the pinkie and Blake's 'The Fly' emerges buzzing. Very satisfying!

My Friday reading day brought me Plato's Cave and Heidegger, which also brought me Dark City and City of Ember - more of this later...

Carer's poetry group also inspired - and I've written up to completion two more poems - it's flowing!

Maggot Brain has infested me. I played this about 6 times on Friday night. George Clinton (on LSD, normal for George) told Eddie Hazel to 'play like your momma just died'. You decide...

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Reasons to be Cheerful (Part Forty Six)

Well, I feel that this 'reasons to be cheerful' thing has turned into a routine kind of event, and I seem to have stopped blogging blogging, saving it all for my weekly updates instead. However, it still feels valuable in terms of capturing the variety of things that I do and I think it plays a part in me not becoming low due to the utter pointlessness of it all!

Well? Shall we go?
Yes, let's go.
They do not move.

Sums it up nicely, somehow. Beckett always does.

Anyway, having seen enough of me belly button, here we go, fix that smile and...

I've been very focused on writing and the mysterious Enframing essay is in a near-finished state so I submitted a draft chapter and thus hit another deadline. It's satisfying!

I took a trip to Covenham reservoir with Chris and sang 'A trip to Covenham reservoir' there. Not an astounding thing to have done, but I liked it (although I was glad to get to the end of the song as it was bloody cold). Later that same evening... I went to see the great Alan Barnes in festive mood with Josie and Emma.

Out of six articles I read on my Wetherspoons Friday Doctorate Day, there was only one useful one. Quite good in one way, as there are fewer notes to write up... However, I realise that I have developed an intense dislike of the work of Jacques Derrida - perhaps it's because I've read the wrong texts, I don't know. But what I have read thus far, he strikes me as a fop, a clever fop, but a fop nevertheless - he reminds me of nothing more than Monty Python's Whistler and Wilde, making ever more outrageous statements for their effect, but mostly empty of meaning - jouissance is a lovely idea but it gets fucking boring after a short while, like a stream of bats piss...

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Reasons to be Cheerful (Part Forty Five)

Much focus on dad's health this week, trips to health centres and hospitals - seems to be doing fine, although I think the memory worsened somewhat. He forgets that his sister died a year ago and keeps being reminded of it when he asks about her. I do this as gently as possible, but it must be horrible news to keep getting over and over.

Difficult section of doctorate being written but I have a sense that I'm nearer than I thought to the end of this...

Two really excellent meetings, lots of movement and a fabulous social event (Jazz and Poetry! Great!) with TLCfeelsgood and all going smoothly, until... the bastard banking system glitched me and our bank account was poo pooed - basically, the computer says no - a human says 'it's because of the way the world is and all that' - oh, fuck off - it's because of the way you make the world be! So, anyway, I was both pissed off and angry about it yesterday, but more sanguine today and sorting out plan B - we are inevitably delayed. Fucking bastards, though! :-)

Read Jacques Derrida's book, The animal that therefore I am. Derrida considers the animal as 'other' and the power of naming (we have given ourselves the right and authority to confer names on the living other - on animals). He considers Heidegger's project of world and being and contends that his schema for being-in-the-world is flawed. For Heidegger, stone is without world, animal is poor in world and human is world-forming. However, Derrida challenges Heidegger as being essentially cartesian (shock!) in his assumptions about animal being.

I'd be much more convinced by Derrida if he had the courage of his convictions. In this text that essentially argues for an equality with 'animals' and 'humans' - however, nowhere can I discover if Derrida is vegetarian - which is really the inevitable conclusion from all he says. He says somewhere that he was a 'vegetarian in the soul'. Yeah, right, and in the meantime the crimes against animality of the 'animal' holocaust continues unabated...

Monday, 30 November 2015

Reasons to be Cheerful (Part Forty Four) - and review

'A trip to Covenham Reservoir' set successfully to music - I wouldn't have got round to this yet but for being a part of a carers' poetry group, so am very pleased to be a part.
I am now officially v excited about TLCfeelsgood after another enthusiastic meeting with some great Great Grimsby people. Contrarily, I start to become a little anxious over small details like the bank account etc - will 'they' unconceal my life of hedonistic waste and profligacy and prevent me from being a meddling do-gooder? Watch this space.

Latter half of the week I've been at a very low ebb energy-wise, some kind of virus working its way through me. I'm grateful that I can just recognise what's happening and put the brakes on for a few days. 

But, still managed to ROAR like a lion! Otherwise known as gave a presentation about the person-centred model and how shitty neoliberal education is and it went down rather well :-)


  • Deliberate and irresistible forward motion for TLCfeelsgood, 
  • began a project in the person-centred community to get Carl Rogers' published works freely and openly available online, 
  • Heidegger reading complete (enough for now) and writing has begun on this most difficult of chapters - very pleasing, 
  • read Discipline and Punish, 
  • finished poetry anthology and history of poetry book, 
  • played my music to some (few) people and got some feedback online for 'The wheelie bins of time', 
  • got a 'stupid phone', 
  • presented the pca model to rapturous acclaim (in my head at least). 

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Reasons to be Cheerful (Part Forty Three)

A lot of TLC talking with people about funding as the project progresses. Such a lot that it can feel like a full-time occupation already, which is of course a problem because I must focus on the doctoral work. However, it's amazing fun and great work - and will be my work work after the doctorate is done. Submitting funding bids as soon as bank account set up.

Started a project in the person-centred community to try and get carl rogers' work openly and freely available. People joined in and we seem to have made rather swift progress, so watch this space (or probably another space as I'll create a blog to manage it).

So, what with all of this, I struggled to get any doctoral work done - but did finish foucault discipline and punish, a very important book which changed the way I look at our world... and also finally began to focus on writing Heidegger up, which really only leaves me critical pedagogy and paths to the clearing... a good thing because if all happens as it might with TLC, I'm going to be needed to give maximum focus on the social enterprise from March/April time, just 3 or 4 months, so I'm now aiming at bringing my finish date forward to there. The power of a deadline is a healthy thing, though, and I will do it!

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Reasons to be Cheerful (Part Forty Two)

Fucking 'smart' phone broke again. I'm not replacing the screen again - about £150, fuck that - I'm changing the phone. I'm not getting a smartphone, I'm withdrawing, I'm out. Further from the grid, baby. I've now got a flip-phone, a 'stupid' phone which only makes phone calls and SMS. Even the SMS is limited, because it's so difficult to write text on it, so I keep to an absolute minimum now. I'm already enjoying the peace it's giving me - no more will I feel the urge to see if I've got an email, a newsfeed - breaking news! - what the weather's going to be. I'll just look and see. I will miss google maps when I'm going to places, but I'll just have to be resourceful again! 

TLC is now incorporated and we had an evening of voracious research on our competitors, conclusions being that every one of them sells beer. And we drink beer. On a different evening, there was an excellent TLC catchup meet with additional and unexpected wife beater indulgence after. 

And I've been writing. Properly writing. I feel as if I'm finding my own voice in any number of ways, but writing is one place that feels good. My big Heidegger reading time is more or less done, I have to stop somewhere, sometime, and yet I surprised myself by writing around exam, ritual and foucault. I'm carried by the thesis, it writes me. I'm constantly surprised by where this thing takes me and happy to go along with it. Properly discovering Michel Foucault has been invigorating.

Finished two books I've been reading a few pages at a time for the last... year? two years? Not sure, but they are highly recommended and have filled in lots of gaps in my knowledge - of poetry, especially...
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