My Slough of Despond

The past few weeks haven’t exactly been good ones for me. They haven’t been all that bad, either, but they’ve been bad enough for me to come up with the title of this blog, My Slough of Despond.

Christian in the Slough of Despond by William Blake

Christian in the Slough of Despond by William Blake

It started with a flu that happened to coincide with a downturn in work. At the same time my flu degenerated into a reasonably bad case of bronchitis, members of my family started falling ill and a neighbour suddenly died. All of these events put an enormous strain on my limited income and made me wonder, once again, how I’m ever going to be able to provide for my Cambodian family indefinitely.

On a more global scale, I read about how the fallout from Fukushima is much worse than has been reported and have watched the rhetoric for war in Syria, Iran and Central Africa pick up speed. Here in Cambodia, a Chinese company is turning a large chunk of virgin rainforest and turning it into a city sized resort/casino and a Cambodian rubber baron is destroying another swathe of land in Ratanakiri.

I didn’t write a post last week because I was just too depressed. On Sunday, my title came to me, but stuck in the slough as I was, I couldn’t get beyond it. Looking for inspiration this morning, I googled ‘slough of despond’ and discovered that I’m not the only one who is feeling or has felt this way.

My first search took me to the transcript of a podcast written in 2006 on a blog simply called Shane’s Pages. This is how it begins:

Do you still listen to or watch the news or have you given up in despair? Do you often have a real sense of foreboding and unease? Do you find yourself staring off into space wondering what our world is becoming? If you do, you’re not alone.

A little further along, Shane says:

We hear, read or watch the suffering of innocent civilians caught up in somebody else’s war and identify with them. We cheer on the aid workers and medical and relief teams as they do their work in trying to alleviate the suffering. At the same time we watch, read or hear about the importation of more weapons at another port that will, in a few short hours, be used to inflict more carnage in the innocents. All this is information is thrown at us and in some way we try and cope.

Had the page title not simply been August 2006 #1, I would have thought it had been written yesterday.

Shane, who sounds like a really interesting guy, by the way, went on to say something spookily relevant to my personal slough of despond.

While waking up to the news of a child who will forever wear the scars of her ripped face due to some bullshit masculinity which deems keeping animals bred to kill in your backyard as a rational thing to do, you overhear the waking whimper of your own children and wonder if its luck, genetics or just good timing that separates you from parent of the other child.

Fortunately, the story is not quite as tragic here, but another source of frustration and despondency for me and my neighbours has been the pit bull some idiot brought over from America. After killing two street dogs, the neighbours asked him to destroy his dog before it attacked a child, but he refused on the grounds that it was an expensive dog.

That story has a “happy” ending. Even though he promised to keep it enclosed or on a lead, he continued to take it out for exercise and it was hit by a car the other day.

The next place I looked for the slough of despond was in images. I found this one by Wm. Blake on a blog called this Public Address. Interestingly (to me), the author is also a woodworker as I was and still am inside and also likes Stickley furniture. There was no text with the image, but on the home page, I came across an excerpt from an interview with artist Jim Dine, who says:

Yes, that’s the running thread—the alchemical aspect of it—turning shit into gold, hopefully. That’s always been my intention.

Last week, my daughter Chloe brought my attention to Kony 2012, a documentary about the atrocities committed by Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda. The documentary has gone viral and has brought Kony into the public spotlight for the first time. However, Kony and his army have not been active for years and it’s only recently that the United States has decided to do something about it.  Is it a case of “better late than never” or is there something sinister behind it?

This morning I got what I believe may be my best answer to this question in my inbox. The title of the article is KONY 2012: Merchandising and Branding Support for US Military Intervention in Central Africa. Its author, Nile Bowie, sets up his argument in the opening paragraph:

Edward Bernays believed that society could not be trusted to make rational and informed decisions on their own, and that guiding public opinion was essential within a democratic society. Bernays founded the Council on Public Relations and his 1928 book, Propaganda cites the methodology used in the application of effective emotional communication.

He then goes on to examine why the video may be part of a propaganda campaign aimed towards garnering “mainstream acceptance of US presence in Africa through a proposed archipelago of AFRICOM military bases in the region.” He questions the necessity of such bases with lines like this:

According to Invisible Children’s own LRA Crisis Tracker, not a single case of LRA activity has been reported in Uganda since 2006.

I’ll leave it to you to read the article if you choose to do so. I definitely recommend reading it before or after watching Kony 2012.

I like to wrap up my posts with something positive, but I’m still in the slough of despond and nothing’s coming to me. How do you turn the “shit” that’s happening in the world into gold? I suppose you can get all your information from CNN and CNBC and believe that the world’s only superpower and its allies are engaging in “humanitarian intervention” and that an “economy recovery” is occurring. Maybe you can pin your hopes on the outcome of the next election or the one after that. I can’t, but maybe you can.

Right now, I’m pinning my hopes on karma. The man’s pit bull was killed by the car and no longer threatens our neighbourhood. Was it a random accident, divine intervention or karma?

Christian dragged out of the slough of despond by Help - Wm Blake

Christian dragged out of the slough of despond by Help - Wm Blake

Of course, seeking karmic vengeance when you feel otherwise hopeless is a pretty pathetic way to feel hope, but right now it’s hard for me to “love everybody” as Neem Karoli Baba suggested we do. I think I’ll take my readers’ advice and finish My Guru Who is Not My Guru pages and see what happens. Thanks for your words of encouragement, everyone. That’s a story that’s worth telling and one of the few that only I can tell. I promise, I’ll do it this week.

In the meantime, this cover of Nirvana’s Come as You Are by Malaysian artist Yuna definitely helped restore my faith in some parts of humanity. Thanks, Chloe, for helping me out of the slough by recommending it.

Thomas Campbell, William Blake and John Lennon: A Strange Symbiosis

Tom Campbell

Well, I’ve finally finished listening to all 18 segments of a Thomas Campbell lecture. I still like him, but don’t feel like I’ve learned anything new. I think he would agree that it is not his intention to teach anything new: his intention is to get his listeners to explore consciousness in their own way, through personal experimentation and exploration.

William Blake

At the same time I was listening to Tom Campbell, a quote from Wm. Blake kept popping into my head, but I couldn’t remember all of the words. Finally, I paused the video and googled the few words I could remember: “or be enslaved by another man’s.” This is the result I got:

“I must create a system or be enslaved by another mans; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.”

My curiosity sated, I went back to listening to Thomas Campbell. He did have a lot of interesting things to say and it was fascinating to see how he had come to so many realisations using the language and symbolism of physics. To me it was a demonstration of the truth of the old adage, “Many paths lead to the same goal.”

Towards the end of the video I had just about convinced myself that I had nothing else to say about Tom Campbell’s Big Toe other than to point out that he points out that he deliberately gave his book the title, My Big Toe instead of The Big Toe. The reason he did it was to emphasise that he was not advocating following his path, but encouraging others to follow their own. Then, as if by magic, very near the conclusion of his presentation, during the Q&A session, he said this:

“You must develop your personal big picture from your personal experience.”

Let’s compare this with what Wm. Blake wrote, 200 years ago:

“I must create a system or be enslaved by another mans; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.”

Jacob's Ladder, by Wm Blake

Wm. Blake was a visionary artist. Tom Campbell is a physicist. They occupy different mythological landscapes but find common ground in the same ultimate reality. If you wade through Blake’s poetry, you find that behind the darkness in the struggle between good and evil is light and love. After wading through Campbell’s presentation, I discovered his ultimate message was the same:

Question: “You say that by eliminating fear and ego and lowering entropy you become love?”

Answer: “Yes. Consciousness is love. Spirituality is love.”

So there you have it. How many times does it have to be said, by how many teachers, before we get it? As Thomas Campbell and William Blake say: ultimately we have to create our own system and follow our own path. Why? As Campbell says with a shrug: “That’s just the way the system works.”

Just one more thing before I go. I’m a big advocate of brainwave entrainment, because it is an easy and relatively safe way to experience altered states of consciousness. Tom Campbell learned to leave his body partly by using brainwave entrainment technology. He happened to use Robert Monroe’s Hemisync program. In fact, I think he helped develop it. Does he advocate Hemisync? He was asked this question towards the end of the lecture. Basically, he does advocate learning and practising meditation, but using brainwave entrainment or learning to leave the body are optional. When asked, “Does entering other realms lower entropy?” his reply was short and to the point: “It does not. It’s not important.”

As John Lennon said: “All you need is love.”

Sympathy for the Illuminati

With deepest apologies to the Rolling Stones and for my terrible poetry:

Blake's Lucifer

Lucifer - William Blake

Please allow us to introduce ourselves, we are men of wealth and fame.
Although you think you know us, you do not know our name.
You used to call me Lucifer and that’s just fine with me,
But we are legion now, so call us by our new name, the Illuminati.

A long, long time ago, I was just like you, struggling to make ends meet,
Selling gold in London town on a little backend street.
Then one day it dawned on me, no one knew how much was in my vault.
I started lending money. You were dumb enough to take it: it really wasn’t my fault.

I was doing pretty well, more than getting by,
But greedy as I am, I needed more, just to keep me high.
Then one rainy morning, fate stepped in and lent me a hand,
A great and powerful leader needed money for his scam.

He asked me for a loan and I asked him for how much.
“As much as you can give me, I really need a bunch.
Yeah, I know it costs a lot to wage a war,
but when I win I’ll give you back much more.”

We struck a deal, the war took place and the King was in my debt.
Then I hatched a plan to rule the world, making a safe bet.
Why not lend some more, this time to the enemy,
And when the war is over, the winner surely will be me?

I needed help in my endeavours, but that was easily done.
The lights of greed and power are brighter than the sun.
I sent out a clarion call and I sounded my great horn.
Then before I knew it, the Illuminati were born.

We set a date and made the world our goal.
This war would last forever and we would have it all.
We would bankrupt nations and bring them to their knees.
With everyone indebted, we could then do as we please.

You saw through our ruse and stopped our victory train.
Now our days are numbered, but spare us your disdain.
We wanted to stay well hidden, creatures of fear and awe,
Lest when you saw our fragile bodies, you laughed at what you saw.

Let us tell you one thing more before we go,
It’s something you really need to know.
You are the real Illuminati,
That’s a fact we never wanted you to see.