Archive for category Galooloo
Galooloo says something outrageous about anything. No diplomacy, no ducking for cover but only if its fun.
This post marks the beginning of a new phase. It has been some time between posts. The phase that is passing has been one where I have had no idea what is coming next or even what I want to come next. At times exciting and at times unsettling.
I am about to leave the USA after a 3 month stay in Northern California. Throughout this period I have been participating in a lot of practices with the school of meditation that I love, where the sense of the Divine possibility is never far away. Of course it is a process of deconstruction that has plenty of ouch along the way but its so much better than not doing it.
My sanity breaks during my time in the USA were solo camping at Mount Lassen Volcanic Park and Mount Shasta. Magnificent land energies at both locations which will be the subject of future posts. Solo camping, for me, is akin to solo meditation. Better than the rest.
What next for me is the subject of much speculation and I prefer to allow that to unfold with time. More to come soon.
I have thought a lot about the cult of the personality. It is a fascinating topic that I find plays out in daily life. I had to ask myself why I was interested in writing about the topic when this blog is supposed to be fun and devotional.
One answer is that observing the complexities of human behavior is always fun. People do fascinating things even when they are annoying.
The more important answer is that personality cults can get in the way of our devotional paths simply because in my view, following a narcissist leader – be they the local community leader, or the social clique – is not compatible with a spiritual path.
Even the apparently most innocuous of personality cults can weave us into something that we didn’t consciously want but we may take on because we liked the way the leader of the cult dressed or spoke, or wanted the popularity that came with that particular association.
It seems that the term personality cult first arose to describe totalitarian regimes wanting to radically transform society. The single leader associated with what might have been revolutionary transformation was known as the benevolent guide for those who jumped on the transformation ride. Adolf Hitler was described in this way. (1)
Obviously not all dictatorships are personality cults and also not all personality cults are dictatorships. It seems to depend on the level of public adulation. Big cults require lots of public adulation.
I am interested only in the day-to-day influences of the personality cults that affect our lives in often unconscious and innocuous ways. I am also interested in the people that set themselves up as the personality cult leaders. Charismatic authority is a term sometimes used for leaders of cults. That definition seems more appropriate for the bigger cults.
For the ordinary personality cult – I find that the leaders are generally narcissist and typically benevolent narcissistic leaders who operate with a thin veneer of pleasantries, but beneath that can lurk something very different.
I see personality cults playing out in many potentially different, but I think ultimately similar ways. Especially within organisational memes (2). At times I find it amusing and sometimes annoying, depending on the level of narcissism and control expressed by the leaders of these personality cults. Strangely, the lower that the cult is on the social food chain – the more cult-like it seems to be.
For example – say there is a community group of people with similar interests. Someone with narcissistic tendencies, but usually fairly ordinary skills, will eventually become the leader of the group. Partly because those people with sought after skills are busy applying them usefully somewhere else and partly because narcissism is a very useful personality trait if you want to lead groups of people.
The office clique and the social clique has similar characteristics to those of the local community group of interested members. They are smallish groups of people who are either like minded or who are thrown together because of a particular link such as working at the same place or attending the same school.
What I have often seen is that the narcissist leader gathers around them a group of sheepy followers. In this scenario, I often see the leader as popular, and of course the sheep-like followers want to share some of that popularity. It may be that the only way for those who perceive themselves as lower down the social popularity chain get an opportunity for elevation by association with someone who seems to have the capacity to make them look or feel better than they otherwise would. Happiness by proxy I think.
The narcissist leader will usually weave a web of benevolence which when scratched is paper thin, offering bonuses to the most loyal. These bonuses act as incentives to those who seek to climb the ladder of popularity. And withdrawing bonuses from those who are not sufficiently supplicant is another important tactic of the benevolent narcissist leader.
Not everyone is a follower and this becomes apparent when the rules are not followed by some individuals. All personality cult-memes have rules. Usually unspoken or often passed onto the group in subtle ways. These rules include the notion that ‘you are either in or you are out’.
I am sure we can all find examples of this kind of cult in daily life.
Where you can hear people say “well xxx just doesn’t really fit in with us”.
Or “What is wrong with xxxx? He/she just doesn’t seem to gel with us”.
Or “I just can’t seem to relate to xxxx”.
Then of course the group must submit to the leaders position and opinion to resolve these internal conflicts.
Woe betide those who disagree with the leader of the personality cult. This can result in severe reprimand.
Narcissists are very often control freaks, even benevolent narcissists. He or she may seem very friendly and relaxed and pour favours upon those who support them, but only as long as the adoration flows.
You must not disobey and you definitely must not question the opinion of the narcissist leader, even if they say it is OK to do so. It is simply not in the nature of the narcissist personality cult leader to be open to differing opinion.
To offer a different opinion to that of the narcissist leader is typically seen as a criticism and thus to be disloyal not just to the leader, but to the cult as a whole.
Not following the leader’s will, ultimately results is some form of ostracism for the person who doesn’t wish to follow. The usual response to the person who voices a different opinion is vilification of some kind. There will be some basic personality flaws assigned to that individual that will constantly be dragged up as the foundation of their opinions in order to nullify what they are saying.
Take a look around you at your workplace, your school, your club. See for yourself if you have become unconsciously woven into a personality cult.
Where are the narcissist leaders? Are you a follower? Or perhaps even a leader with narcissist tendencies? What do you get from following or leading? What would happen if you chose not to follow or if others chose not to follow you?
Think about the negative and positive impacts this personality cult has on your life. It may be more limiting than you think at first glance.
Enough said. This song by Living Colour says a lot about the cult of personality, and I like how they do it.
A footnote – I like to use images in my posts and searched for some time to find something to lighten up this topic. There are plenty but I could not find one that did not link me in some way with the opinions underlying the image which seemed to contradict the topic itself. No other images – just music.
(2) A meme is a cultural unit (an idea or value or pattern of behavior) that is passed from one person to another by non-genetic means (as by imitation); “memes are the cultural counterpart of genes”
I was taken back to spaces I had travelled after reading a Sufi scholars discourse on the ‘longing of the Soul’ and the time when the Soul begins to recognize itself (1). This is a journey that can only end in one place – with God. But none of us can know when or how it will end.
The Sufi’s says that when our soul calls us – our higher part is saying that it is time to discover who we are. This is when the yearning of the Soul begins. Longing and the pain of separation prevails so that our hearts can awaken to our connection with God. At this time the cry of the Soul can be hidden under all manner of nafs (emotions and desires). This is the separation. Who we think we are. Sometimes sad, sometimes angry, or hurt, or just closed. It is this journey that takes us to the dark shadow or our dark conscious, as Jung as told us. Knowing our dark shadow from Jung is the self knowledge of the Sufi’s.
For me, Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah tells a story of the longing and the pain of separation along with the dark shadow that lives within us. He talks to God from the ‘dark shadow’ or our dark consciousness, that knows the separation, and struggles to stay with the journey.
I looked for the best cover or version of this remarkable music and after listening to many many versions decided that these were the best of the best and which is better depends on what is hurting at the time and how much it hurts.
I started with the great Leonard Cohen who makes me want to stand up and conquer the pain, rebel against it. Then KD Lang who is perhaps my favourite and makes me want to dissolve into the ecstasy of the pain. She is tied closely with this performance from Jeff Buckley that makes me cry and cry. Finally I had to include the beautiful boys – Il Divo – who offer the candy that makes me feel a whole lot better about the pain.
(1) Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee “Love is a Fire and I am Wood: The Sufi’s Mystical Journey Home. http://www.goldensufi.org/
Recently I have been confronted with all the things that we think make us special. It seems to be at best nothing more than grasping for something that isn’t likely to serve us, and at worst it leads to war and oppression.
In just one day, yesterday, I was listening to Donald Kagan’s (1) history lectures on Ancient Greece and specifically the Peloponnesian War (2). Then reading an excellent review of Sufi Orders and finally watching the movie Agora. All topics led to the same conclusion. We think we are so special.
I recall that Ancient Greek historians put forward the view that war was inevitable for 3 reasons that I have paraphrased:
to redeem honor; to become more powerful; to have access to booty.
Here is Donald Kagan’s introduction to the topic. It can be heavy going but worth persevering. There is much more from the esteemed Donald Kagan. If you prefer a summary of this war, to an hour lecture, then check out the wiki link below.
Then I moved onto to read some more of a fabulous book “Mystical Islam” (3) which traces the origins and developments of Sufism throughout the Muslim regions and centuries. My interest in Sufi orders is linked to their Devotional practices. Deep and profound practices. But there are many and varied Sufi orders and Baldick’s book makes that point very clear.
One Sufi order is not like the next and orders from one location are not like necessarily like another location. The libertine dervishes could be found in many locations, and even today. They are basically thugs or opportunists dressed up as Sufi’s. There is also a long history of Sufi orders taking on roles of administrators, tax collectors and special war forces, especially in Turkey and Egypt. Here is a clip that gives an idea of what some of the Sufi orders got involved in. This was specifically the Alevi-Bektashi order which is now viewed as an open and caring order and frowned upon by more conservative Muslims.
I finished the day with the movie Agora which is also the topic of another post under icons. This movie, more than most, illustrated the grab for power behind Christian expansion and the dreadful cruelty that was a part of those times. You could easily come away from the movie with a very dim view of Christianity. It is a powerful film and mostly about the grab for power.
The Dawkins disciples must love the film Agora because it speaks directly to many of their complaints about religion. In my view Dawkins is no different to the Christians of Agora. He wants to destroy religious hope and faith and wants to replace it with his own scientific hope and faith. It seems that he thinks he and his beliefs are more special that the others. He appears to stand for the religion of Scientific Atheism. He wants evidence of God. I am confident he will have that evidence one day.
But really, they are all so bloody special.
From the Spartans and the Athenians who went to war with one another and believed in the same gods; to the Sufi orders who took arms against their Muslim brothers; to the Christians who destroyed all that came before them (the Pagans, the Jews and the Gnostics to name a few, all in the name of God; and, to Dawkins who asks us to trust his science that brought us the nuclear bomb, global warming and toxic waste dumping, to list just a few of the accomplishments of science.
They all say, I am special and the others guys are not. They all say, I am so special that I am better than you are. I am smarter than you are, and my belief is better than your belief. Please God, give me the strength not to be special!
Avoiding being special would seem to me to be a good thing to do. As such, I am reminded of many of the Aphorisms from the Master of the Nimatullahi Order (4), a Sufi that have made me welcome to share some of their practices.
#1 “O Sufi!
The basis of Sufism is consideration of the hearts and feelings of others. If you haven’t the will to gladden someone’s heart, then at least beware lest you hurt someone’s heart, ‘for on our Path no sin exists but this’ “.
There are many more like this from Dr Javad Nurbakhsh (5) but perhaps this one is best to close this discussion.
#23 “O Sufi!
Where there is talk of ‘I and you’ and miraculous powers, Sufism does not exist. Where pretension and self-existence are expressed, Truth does not exist. The criterion of being a Sufi is selflessness. The more Selfless you are, the more a Sufi you become”.
(1) You can download the series of these lectures from itunes U and individual lectures from youtube. This is a superb lecture series.
(3) Julian Baldick. Mystical Islam: An Introduction to Sufism. Tauris Parke Paperbacks. 2000
(5) Dr Javad Nurbakhsh. Discourses on the Sufi Path. Khaniqahi Publications. 1996
Setting the space is an important part of meditating. In group meditation it is easy because the person in charge does that for you but its always important to put something of yourself into the space that you want to meditate from. For my week of silent group meditation last week – I chose the poetry of the great Hafez, (or Hafiz) Persian or Sufi poet born around 1320 AD. I have seen a reference to Goethe’s impressions of Hafez poetry who apparently inscribed his work as having undeniable truth indelibly … Hafiz has no peer! For what it is worth – I agree. (1)
I took the Divan of Hafez as translated by Reza Saberi and read a few poems throughout the day of meditation, just before beginning a sit. For me Hafez describes his (Sufi) devotional journey to God with beauty and irony. It seems that for Hafez, the reality is in the journey, not the arrival, as all arrivals are transient.
In the same poem he speaks of his love for God (the Beloved) at many levels. At first it seems he is writing about a beautiful woman, then the material world, maybe his Sufi Master, then God, then someone else. Its trickery but maybe that is the reality of the journey also. Hafez never wastes an opportunity for irony. He looks back on the journey he is describing and shares his wisdom often with an ironic twist.
Others have written (2) that Hafez combines profound mystical wisdom with sublime sensuousness. He writes in the poetic form known as the ghazal(pronounced “guzzle”), an ode or song consisting of rhymed couplets celebrating divine love. He tells us of wine and the intoxication it brings as an expression of his devotional love in all its joyful abandon, painful longing, bewilderment, and surrender. His mystical world is the Winehouse, with happy minstrels, a bewitching Winebringer, and companions in drunken longing whose hearts cry out, “More wine!”. Here is some of his wise drunkard’s advice to the seekers of God:
In this world of illusion, take nothing other than this cup of wine;
In this playhouse, don’t play any games but love.
Here is #203 from the Divan as translated by Reza Saberi (3).
“Rememer the time when my dwelling was in your street,
When the light of my eye came from the dust of your door
As a result of pure society, like that of the rose and the lily,
I had on my tongue whatever you had in your heart.
As my heart quoted the subtle words of the Pir (4) of wisdom,
Love explained that which was difficult for it.
My heart’s attempt was never to be away from my beloved.
Alas, my heart’s endeavor and mine were in vain.
Last night, remembering the drinkers, I went to the tavern.
I saw the wine-jar had its feet in mud and its heart in blood.
I wandered a lot to find the cause of the pain of separation.
The Mufti (5) of intellect was unwise on this matter.
Indeed the turquoise signet of Bu-es-haq shone beautifully.
But it was a precipitate fortune.
Hafez, did you see that chatter of the strutting partridge
Who was unaware of the claws of the eagle of fate?”
I wondered about today’s great poets and saw something remarkable in Jon Bon Jovi’s work.
He speaks of love and at times it seems that, like Hafez, the lover he describes can be a woman, or the lover might also be God. It seems to me that Bon Jovi also celebrates the Devotional journey in this beautiful song.
Is a fabulous web site for all things Hafez.
(3) Reza Saberi. The Divan of Hafez: A Bilingual Text Persian-English. University Press of America. 2002.
(4) Pir usually refers to a Sufi Master
(5) Mufti is a jurist who interprets Moslem religious law
I heard a partial track from Cat Stevens while driving and I found myself instantly transported to a deep and beautiful space. The song was ‘Where do the Children Play?” Yes, I have always been a big fan of Cat Stevens but have not brought his music since it was on vinyl so I don’t hear it that often.
The man has magic. Intense, aspirational and caring. I find it unsurprising that he gave up his musical career for a spiritual path. He gives and he gives. Today he works in a range of humanitarian pursuits.
I went in search of a video that could take me back to the same space deep and beautiful space and here it is. I hope the music takes you there also.
I am reading a sociological examination of desires (1) which includes ’the Right to be Heard’. Its fascinating on many levels. Hugh Mackay is an excellent social researcher and I think in this book he has important things to say about ‘The Ten Desires that Drive Us’. My attention was particularly riveted to the section on ‘the desire to be taken seriously’. Mackay really nails us. The book is rich with sensitive and intelligent exploration of modern social behaviors.
Mackay makes few suggestions. This is not a self-help book. One suggestion he makes clearly is that ‘listening is the greatest gift of all’ (1) (p 29) since we all long to be taken seriously. Now this is where I am not so convinced. My own view on that some people spend all their time talking or complaining as a means of not seeing who they really are. I suggest that there are many levels to ‘the right to be heard’.
It can be serious business. A google search on the topic revealed considerable interest from government in making sure that people are heard. There maybe penalties if they are not. Consumer groups establish mediation sessions to ensure that people have a right to be heard. Legal aide is provided to crime victims who should have the right to be heard. I wish to acknowledge the obvious importance of the right to be heard when human rights have been abused. From there I wish to ponder on when the right to be heard can translate to the level of nonsense.
Is this when we write those endlessly long and rambling emails to people who we are angry with?
So I wondered what the worst email was that I had received. There have been some bad ones and I looked through them and found one that made me laugh a lot.
Well this person certainly had a good vent at my expense. So was the vent justified because of the ‘right to be heard’? Or was the whole scenario opportunistic and driven by the need to be heard?
Here are the best parts of the email that are sufficiently anonymous with my comments added. I will call the writer Napoleon, who is also referring to another person who I shall call Josephine.
“You are right about one thing – there is tension between us. Your letter only confirms further that I am unable to work with you. And I don’t think any amount of talking is going to resolve it. It illustrates how you are a pusher and in subtle ways lacking integrity, which I find quite disturbing to be on the receiving end of. I would even use the word “steamroller” – which is what I felt after our last meeting. It took me a few days to recover from it…… It all really smacks of a strategizing, manipulating corporate character.”
You know I do have a steam-roller character that kicks in when the job is about to go pear-shaped. In my experience the people that complain about my ‘steam-roller’, are usually unacknowledged steam-rollers themselves. In addition, they are typically on a power trip, somewhat delusional about their capabilities, and I believe that they just want it all to be about them. Maybe the next paragraph will illustrate my point because I find that an encounter with my ‘steam-roller’ character by people like Napoleon often gives rise to their telling of fabrications of considerable magnitude.
“More recently, Josephine has been trying to lure me out with sexual invitations and sending such energy. When I rebuffed Josephine on this, Josephine again accused me of planning to murder her, followed by a noxious spewing of venom through email, which she has obviously been holding for over years. ….. But you have come along and been seduced by both Josephine’s sweetness and the energy behind her.”
Wouldn’t this paragraph be a great synopsis for a movie script? In just a few lines we have sex, attempted murder, seduction, noxious spewing of venoum. Frankly I was envious. I don’t think my life is that exciting. So maybe I should be taking tips from Napoleon as to how to lead a more exciting life – or more accurately – how to pretend I am leading an exciting life? I was also somewhat touched by his reference to Josephine’s ‘sweetness and energy’. Despite all the potential for death and sex – maybe not in that order – he still cares. Awe that’s sweet.
“In the final analysis, I think you think you know and understand who I am and what is going on, but I don’t feel that at all and many of your comments have made that clear to me. Furthermore, when you’re not sure of what is going on, you fall back onto programs to cover yourself, but they actually block vision. I will repeat what I said earlier, the breakdown here is not about Josephine. That was simply the test to see how things would be handled.”
Well yes, it is all about him and now its clear to me. It was all a test to see if I was good enough. Obviously I failed the test rather badly. I am clearly blocked by my propensity to base my actions on some sense of protocol. I am not sure what he thought my alternative strategy should have been but I bet his preference would have been more exciting than my practiced protocols.
“You have not shown respect and trust toward me, and I do not have that toward you either – at least as far as a working together. Where there is lack of trust there is no basis for future work together – and there certainly is no joy in working together. In the end I hope you don’t take this completely negatively, as you have done a good job here. And that is appreciated. But based on my experience of you, I do not see that there can be any productive dialogue with you over this.”
You know – I did my best not to take it negatively. After all it was just a test. And he did say I did a good job but obviously that wasn’t the desirable criteria for this particular test. So why did I fail the test?
Oh yes, I remember – I didn’t let him get his own way because in this particular instance, it would have discriminated against a young woman who was vulnerable because she was intellectually challenged. But never mind about her – it was all about him.
Returning to the present, I obviously really want to be heard myself otherwise I would not be writing this blog. That is self evident. While I understand the good intentions expressed in Hugh Mackay’s suggestion that listening to people is a gift – I think I would be happy not to have to listen to this kind of vent. Of course I will have to listen to it because I have signed on to do certain things and I would like to be kind to people whenever I can, but I am not sure I could ever find it easy to listen to nonsense of this kind without wanting to grab the person by the scruff of the neck and try to shake them into some kind of recognition of what is really going for them.
The guru of all things important, John Cleese, has described people who just want to vent. He says they think they are Champions of Truth but maybe they are just sad paranoid schizophrenics. Here is the Cleese video clip.
(1) Mackay. Hugh. What Makes Us Tick? The Ten Desires That Drive Us. Hachette Australia. 2010
Today was just one of those less than ordinary days. Nothing to brag about, tempted to complain, did, and then a friend sent me a link to a clip and I remembered what was important to me.
Watching this cellist and this incredibly inspired conductor and orchestra, I remembered that life needs to be lived and loved.
Here is Jian Wang with Gustavo Dudamel conducting the Simon Bolivar Youth Symphony of Venezula.
I feel better now.
The orchestra is very special.