Brexit – the German view

I am now reading the reaction of the German media to Brexit, and will summarise what I find here – so you guys in the UK can prepare.

The Handelsblatt (a business newspaper) reports that the German finance minister, Schäuble, has prepared a plan for Brexit, in which he aims for the UK to have an “associated” status, but will avoid being too accommodating so as to discourage imitators.
The HB also has a list of ten possible consequences:
1. Cameron resigns (and Johnson could get in)
2. new Scottish referendum, uncertain future for UK
3. financial markets lose, Frankfurt and Paris gain
4. chain reaction in Europe, more exit referenda (NL, I, F), Scandinavia loses ally
5. crisis for democracies due to angry voters (inequality, globalisation, political elites)
6. Berlin and Paris could move towards EU integration to avoid break-up, increasing the fight over its direction
7. populist movements on both the right and left get stronger; watch parliamentary elections in Spain on Sunday
8. resistance against refugees and immigrants
9. weaker foreign and defence politics for Europe, e.g. sanctions against Moscow
10. turbulent financial markets

The HB Live Blog also says that Merkel is meeting with Tusk (EU Council), Hollande and Renzi on Monday, while the four bodies of the EU urge the UK to apply Article 50 immediately. European Central Bank and Bank of England are providing extra liquidity; Switzerland has stopped the Franc from rising too quickly. British Airways announced revised, lower result, their shares having declined 20%. The start-up sector sees Berlin as the winner, while London loses. Business Europe urges EU cooperation to counteract uncertainty; a left-wing politician says the EU will have it easier now without the UK.

The Live Blog goes on in a similar vein. One addition of note, currently on page 4: E.ON have a mixed view: their UK business is “regional” not national; converting profits into EUR will diminish them, but it’s balanced by the lower value of their GBP debt. Their CEO adds that the EU should now begin its campaign to make itself matter to the people again, and that we should not take the wealth and security of recent years for granted.

Raghuram Rajan (formerly IMF, now Governor of the Reserve Bank of India) says the UK faces high costs and low prospects, and this would be a warning to the other EU countries. Also, the effects on the global economy are likely higher than those of a Grexit would be.

Of particular interest: reaction from Jakob von Weizsäcker, MEP and grandnephew of a former German president, who said: “Brexit is not the end of the EU, but a loud warning shot … Europeans increasingly see the EU as a Losers Club … changes should be made”.

Anyway what I’ve gleaned so far is that German businesses are set to withdraw from the UK, or at least stop investing there, because of uncertainty and expected higher costs in future. Here’s the Federation of German Industries: there will be “hard and immediate” cuts in trade with the UK, and direct investment on the island should not be expected. Almost 400,000 people work for German companies in the UK, especially in the car, energy, telecoms, electronics, metal, retail and finance sectors, and now face an uncertain future. The focus of exit negotiations would be “maximum damage limitation”.

Politicians tend to talk more about consequences for Europe, especially in terms of the far-right populist voices; most of them are pro-EU, pro closer integration, and also recommend reforms and a positive PR campaign. In no way is anyone agreeing with Farage’s “death to the EU” view, certainly not in Germany.

Many of them are also hardline against concessions to the UK: at best, they are for it remaining in the Free Trade Zone, i.e. continuing with all the costs and obligations, but having no voice anymore… as many of my friends have also been predicting.

Alexander Graf Lambsdorff (Vice-President of the European Parliament and another member of an old German family who have been in politics forever) directly blames Cameron for the Brexit: “You can’t spend ten years criticising the EU and hope to turn it all around six weeks before the Referendum. Voters tend to notice.”

 

Next up: Deloitte Germany wrote some papers back in May as to the possible consequences of a Brexit, and have posted a summary and video exploring their views (German and English).

And: Marcel Fratzscher, President of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) and Professor of Macroeconomics and Finance at the Humboldt University in Berlin: “The Brexit decision is a catastrophe for all Europeans.”

 

Moving on to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a newspaper focused on finance and business, and generally centre-right and liberal-conservative. Its reporting is broadly similar to the Handelsblatt; one of their reports is under the heading “What the outcome of the divorce could be“, the intro of which reads: “Brits want the Brexit. But how do they intend to work with the EU in future? The negotiations will go on for two years – or is it going to be more like a divorce case? What are the possible solutions?”

The article proposes three scenarios: “Norway”, “Switzerland” and “Bangladesh” (or other third-party countries); this is based on a 200-page briefing by George Osborne. “Norway”, the closest cooperation model, brings with it the fewest economic consequences, costing only 4% of UK GDP in exchange for independence, and involves joining the EEA. Norway has to pay about the same as “real” members into the Cohesion Fund, and Brexit supporters are unlikely to be satisfied with this path. “Switzerland” seems more likely, although it’s a very labour-intensive process of individual agreements to be part of the Free Trade Zone, and would cost 6% of GDP. Two years would be tight to negotiate all of this. The most difficult would be the WTO variant, which would mean the most autonomy for the UK, cost 7.5% of GDP (which is GBP 6.600 per household and year), lose access to the internal market and re-introduce customs duties.

The WTO itself warned about a Brexit on these grounds: the UK would have to make trade agreements with 58 countries, costing a huge amount of time and money. Import duties would come to nine billion pounds, plus 5.5 billion pounds in export duties, as per a calculation by Roberto Azevedo, Director-General of the World Trade Organization.

An analysis by the FAZ on the Referendum says “Old people voted to leave“. Their data is based on pre-vote opinion polls by YouGov and the Times, and the conclusion is that old people want “their country” back, whereas young people can’t imagine a time of borders, having grown up with globalisation and increasing European integration. The article also mentions regional differences (Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales); city vs country; rich vs poor; working class vs middle class. It reports participation as over 72%, a clear plus over the last General Election at 66.1%.

A Victory for Mistrust” is the headline of the FAZ commentary: “This is not just about the EU. Behind the Brexit decision, there is an urgent problem that affects many other countries too”. After outlining various negative and positive consequences, the article goes on to talk about the lack of factual debate and the emotional campaign, and the rise in nationalist and populist parties across Western democracies; these are blamed on the sense of mistrust between political elites and the wider population. As an example, Leave supporters mistrust experts in favour of “common sense” and “the man on the street”; even when it is demonstrated that it is poor Britons, especially in rural areas, who benefit from the EU, these are the very people voting against it, and for reductions in immigration. Xenophobia in areas with few immigrants is also a feature in Switzerland and Germany; the same areas are also economically weaker. So maybe this isn’t so much about foreigners as about a sense of having been left to straggle behind: lacking in growth, in wealth, in participation in the world. Worldwide, any recent economic developments have not benefited the lower and middle classes, but rather, the poor and the elites. The commentary concludes that it is these elites – educated, with valuable talents and able to command high prices for them – who most welcome globalisation and international integration. Those who lack money for foreign travel and whose only local employer is threatened by global competition tend to react with fear and mistrust.

Terror and Shadows

Let me start this by saying, I do NOT want to write this entry. Most of it arrived in my head yesterday, and I tried to ignore it, and then I couldn’t sleep even though it was late, so at this point, writing equals self-preservation. I’m just glad I’m not a real writer, I imagine this happens to them all the time.

If you’ve been paying attention to the media, new or old, over the last few days, you will know that there were terror attacks on Paris – see coverage by the BBC and Al-Jazeera (in-depth), for example, in case you don’t know, or are reading this at a later date. Then also, please take a moment to read this perspective: it’s by Australian independent news site NewMatilda.com. I only mention its origin because otherwise it looks like it’s unfairly pointing the finger at Australian politicians: nothing special about them, just the most relevant to NM’s readers. It quite correctly raises awareness for the fact that Paris got all the headline news, while simultaneous and/or worse terror attacks occur in other parts of the world that do not get attention in the same way. It is a selective blindness of the Euro- and US-centric media around the world that we are not incited into outrage when these events happen to brown people, only white ones.

Poem by Karuna Ezara, found on Facebook and Instagram

Poem by Karuna Ezara, found on Facebook and Instagram

This is all well and good, and it’s always useful to question the messages we are being told, to broaden our horizons, to seek a balanced view.

But none of that goes far enough. The simple truth is that there is no peace without war – and no war without peace. This principle is so simple, and so true, that it is found over and over, in religious systems, in philosophical ones and in psychology: it is the Yin and Yang of Chinese philosophy (Daoism and Confucianism both). It is found in the Western magic systems from the Hermetic tradition onwards, where it is expressed as “as above, so below” – with corollaries like “as within, so without”. There are references to the principle in the Christian Bible as well; and to my mind, it is also the principle that underlies C.G. Jung’s statement that “what you resist, persists”.

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
with thanks to Nathan Doe for finding and posting it

So how does the principle apply to attacks carried out by terrorists on innocent people in major European cities? It is because we do not understand our own roles in the world’s wars and conflicts. We are like children, pointing the finger of blame at “that evil boy over there, Miss, he did it!” Well, what is the instant and predictable reaction of “that evil boy over there”? He says “it wasn’t me, HE/SHE MADE ME DO IT!” – and the wise teacher knows it takes two to argue. A wiser adult knows that we all have responsibility for our world, that it matters what we do, and what we say, and what we think, because we have power. We don’t think we do, because we like to believe that we are victims because then we get to be passive, but this is not so.

The other way we like to hide from the truth is that we externalise that which we cannot tolerate in ourselves. This again is a straight-forward principle from psychology: ask any therapist, in fact any person working with people in a therapeutic setting, and they will confirm that we “act out” those things we cannot bear to look at in ourselves. We make others be “evil” and hurt us; we say that they are bad and we are good; they are violent and we are peaceful; they are strange and foreign and we belong here. It is a perfectly normal psychological reaction, our minds are evolved to do this, but if we have wisdom, we run through this game a few times and then stop – because we realise: I am good AND bad, I am violent AND peaceful, I am alien AND I belong. We are all God – or made in the image of God, or however you want to word it: we all contain everything there is. Everything. And the sooner we realise that the violence lives inside us, and that we are externalising by pretending it does not, that we seek scapegoats for everything we cannot bear in ourselves; the sooner we realise that our job is to heal the conflict within ourselves, the sooner it will stop in the outside world.

There’s an interesting tangent here: consider Judas. Yep, the one who snitched on Jesus, as per the story in the New Testament. The one we love to hate, the evil one: he’s actually one of my favourite characters in that story, because without him, there would be no story. Without the villain, there can be no hero. How many stories do you know in which the Hero only becomes heroic because there is a Villain to overcome? How many heroes are normal, ordinary people first, trucking along, trying to avoid their destiny, until the threat becomes so great that they must develop the inner strength, courage, and so on, to meet and best the villain? Consider also the issue of Karma: how easy it is, in a sense, to have the Karma of the Hero: you get to develop as a person, and everybody loves you in the end. You are celebrated for doing what you must! Then also consider the Karma of the Villain: the one we love to hate. You too are vital to the story, maybe more so than the Hero, but you get no thanks. You are excluded and reviled, often you die for doing what you must, and your name is only remembered with a curse. Yet how much greater you are to take all this on yourself! I bow to the Villains in thanks for their service, which truly is for the good of all.

This is no mere intellectual philosophising for me, I might add. This is my own experience, extrapolated. And yes, much of this is wisdom gained from working with the Shadow: another concept brought into our awareness by C.G. Jung, to “describe the repressed or denied part of the Self”. (If you are unfamiliar with Shadow work, here is a reasonably good primer found via a quick search.) I know that “evil” is inside me, just as “good” is, and I have watched others do this work and come to the same realisation. I don’t know what we have to do to help everybody else see it, too; maybe this post is part of the effort. What I do know is that every time one of us points the finger of blame and curses some supposed villain, we perpetuate the situation we claim to oppose, and we do none of the work required to integrate the evil within us. We remain child-like, although we are given opportunity after opportunity after opportunity (when does it end?!) to grow up, to wake up and see the truth. Really, the Universe is trying super hard to help us, to teach us, and we choose blindness and ignorance, over and over. Why?

Here is my good friend Claire Heron, asking basically the same question in her own words:

“I don’t much use the word God in relation to my own experience, but maybe I’m going to start. God is the living mystery of Beingness that pulses through everything. It is our beginning and our end. God contains us, permeates us, creates us and destroys us. God is the actuality of reality, irrespective of our stupid little ways, our grand gestures, our hopes, our fears. God is before time, before space, before thought, before identity.

Religion is what happens when the human need to be right tries to grasp the unknowable. I don’t know what happened to our species, that we became so disconnected from the living reality of God that we no longer take our cue on how to live from the present moment. I can’t imagine what strange twists resulted in us allowing priests, politicians and monarchs to dictate to us what is right and what is wrong. I cannot know and I do not need to know. And here’s the crux – that desire to work things out, to find an answer and “Be Right” about things is the beginning of the religious road. There is a choice. To stop now, and rather than feed the desire for the correct answer, cultivate a relationship with the mystery of life in this moment. We can never arrive at a place of “being right” we can only ever listen deeply to life and do our best to respond honestly and whole heartedly. That response will shift and flow as life shifts and flows. Finding a resting place in “rightness” and building a shelter there will lead to it becoming a grand palace and then a fortress that we will do anything to defend. In allowing ourselves to be unknowing we can be open to the actuality of life as it is right now. Some people think that prayer is talking to god, but I prefer to see it as listening to god. Listen first and then see if we still have anything to declare.

My thoughts are with all those suffering as a result of others’ need to be right.”

Claire Heron, 14.11.2015

“The mainstream media is largely a tool to manipulate our minds and keep us safely in the prison of our hopes and fears. It may be more healthy to be giving attention to the birdsong and the sound of the wind in the trees, to strengthening our connections with our friends and neighbours and to the beating of our heart.”

Claire Heron, 14.11.2015

Please do not let another opportunity pass to learn this lesson. Look to your Shadow, realise your own violence and hatred and integrate it, rather than wasting more time foaming at the mouth about how bad the world is and all the evil people in it, and how you are good and would never do such things and how could they. I know, I KNOW this is challenging, it is hard, it’s the most difficult thing I’ve had to do, but it is necessary.

Consider also this: so much of the strife in this world is born out of the idea of “us and them”, and especially, out of “us” being right and good and knowing the truth, and “them” being wrong and bad and deluded. Well, I’ve got to tell you, we no longer have time for that game. We no longer have the luxury of engaging in duality: while it was an essential part of us realising our humanity, that very humanity is now threatened, to the point of extinction, by the duality. The sooner we realise that the problems we now face on our Earth can only be solved by us, TOGETHER, the higher the chance we will actually do so. What country, by itself, can reverse climate change? In the face of the possible extinction of this planet, by means environmental, atomic, bio- or nano-technological, by means of division and blindness – what relevance does a country even have? Or skin colour? Or religious views?

In the face of the global problems we face, how can you, how dare you, perpetuate them by absolving yourself of responsibility for them?

one other thing. the way you feel after a tragedy? feel like that every day. the way you write after a tragedy? write like that everyday. the way your priorities shift after a tragedy? keep them there. tuesday, february, valentines day, national redhead’s day, fuck columbus day–all the days. it shouldn’t take a tragedy to remind everyone to give a fuck and pay attention. you’re dying, you’re alive. we’re dying, we are alive. the planet is crying, the planet is alive. feel it.

Rebecca Lee, 14.11.2015

Byung-Chul Han: “I’m sorry, but those are facts”

He is seen as a rising star in his profession, who can topple thought structures that underpin our everyday existence with a few sentences. For this, he is both admired and attacked. A conversation with Berlin philosopher Byung-Chun Han
By Niels Boeing and Andreas Lebert

7 SEPTEMBER 2014, 14:17 / ZEIT WISSEN NO. 5/2014, 19 AUGUST 2014

Byung-Chun Han has suggested Café Liebling in Prenzlauer Berg as a meeting place. The reticent philosopher teaches at the Universität der Künste (University of the Arts) in Berlin and has made waves with books about Fatigue Society and Transparency Society. He avoids interviews.

The time agreed for this meeting passed ten minutes ago. Has he stood us up? Then Han comes cycling down the street. He sits down and orders a coke.

ZEIT Wissen: Where have you just come from?

Byung-Chul Han: My desk, as usual.

ZEIT Wissen: What are you working on?

Han: I’m writing a new book about beauty. I decided to do it after reading an interview with Botho Strauss. When asked what he misses, Botho Strauss answered: “beauty”. He didn’t say anything else – I miss beauty, and I got it. So then I thought, I’ll write a book about beauty.

ZEIT Wissen: So you are thinking about beauty. What does this thinking look like?

Han: Thinking consists of perceiving similarities. I often experience that I suddenly perceive similarities between events, between a current event and an event in the past, or between things that are happening at the same time. I pursue these relationships.

ZEIT Wissen: And what do you think beauty is?

Han: I perceive a connection between different things that are taking place today or are popular today. For example, Brazilian waxing, Jeff Koons’ sculptures and the iPhone.

ZEIT Wissen: You are comparing the removal of body hair with a smartphone and an artist?

NIELS BOEING AND ANDREAS LEBERT anticipated that the world view of philosopher Byung-Chul Han would put them in rather a dark mood, but after four hours of conversation, the atmosphere was almost exhilarated. Maybe this is proof of Han’s theory that it is primarily an excess of positivity that causes depression.

Han: The common feature is easy to see: it’s about smoothness. This smoothness characterises our present day. You know the G Flex, a smartphone made by LG? This smartphone has a very special coating: if it gets scratches, they disappear after a very short time, so it has a self-healing skin, almost an organic skin. This means that the smartphone remains totally smooth. I ask myself, why would a few scratches matter on an object? Why this striving for a smooth surface? And there we have a connection between the smooth smartphone, smooth skin and love.

ZEIT Wissen: Love? Please explain.

Han: This smooth surface on the smartphone is a skin that is not vulnerable, that avoids all injury. And is it not true that when it comes to love, we also avoid injury these days? We don’t want to be vulnerable, we avoid hurting or being hurt in any way. Love requires a great deal of commitment, but we avoid this commitment, because it leads to injury. We avoid passion, and falling in love hurts too much.

Falling in love is not allowed any more, in French you would say “tomber amoureux”. This falling is too negative, indeed it’s an injury that should be avoided. I see a link with another idea…

We live in the age of “Like”. There is no “Dislike” button on Facebook, there is only “Like”, and this “Like” speeds up communication, whereas “Dislike” slows it down. Similarly, being hurt slows communication down. Even art no longer wants to hurt anyone today. In Jeff Koons’ sculptures, there is no injury, no breaks, no cracks, no fractures, no sharp edges, not even any seams. Everything flows in soft, smooth transitions. Everything seems rounded off, polished, smoothed down – Jeff Koons’ art is smooth surfaces. A culture of likeability is emerging today. I can apply that to politics as well.

ZEIT Wissen: You mean that politics is smooth?

Han: Politicians also avoid any kind of commitment. What is evolving is likeability politics. Which politician is an example of this likeability? Maybe Angela Merkel. That’s why she’s so popular. She obviously has no convictions, no vision. She keeps an eye on public opinion, and if it changes, she changes her views, too. After the nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima, she was suddenly against nuclear power. You could also say that she’s slippery like an eel. So today, we really are dealing with smooth politics.

There is an interesting connection between smooth skin, smooth art and smooth politics. In the emphatic sense, though, political action requires vision and commitment. It must be capable of hurting. But today’s smooth politics doesn’t do that. It’s not just Angela Merkel, none of the politicians today are able to do it. They are only the system’s likeable henchmen. They repair any parts where the system fails, and do so in an illusion that there is no alternative. But politics must offer alternatives, otherwise it’s no different from a dictatorship. Today, we live under a dictatorship of neoliberalism. In neoliberalism, everybody is an entrepreneur of themselves. In Marx’ day, capitalism had a completely different work structure. The economy consisted of factory owners and factory workers, and no factory worker was an entrepreneur of themselves. There was external exploitation. Today, we exploit ourselves – I exploit myself under the illusion that I am expressing myself.

“Freedom is the opposite of compulsion”

ZEIT Wissen: The term neoliberalism is therefore frequently seen as a left wing weapon.

Han: That’s not correct. Neoliberalism describes the state of current society very well, because it’s about exploiting freedom. The system strives towards increasing productivity, and so it switches from exploiting others to exploiting the self, because this generates more efficiency and more productivity, all under the guise of freedom.

ZEIT Wissen: Your analysis isn’t very encouraging. We exploit ourselves, we risk nothing, neither in love nor in politics, and we don’t want to be wounded or to wound.

Han: I’m sorry, but those are facts.

ZEIT Wissen: How can an individual in this society find happiness – should we be more committed to our ideals?

Han: The system makes that difficult. We don’t even know what we want. The needs that I perceive as my needs, are not my needs. Take for example Primark, the clothing discount store. People organise car shares because there isn’t a Primark store in every town. Then they arrive and virtually ransack the shop. There was a newspaper article recently about a girl: when she heard that Primark was opening a store next to C&A on Alexanderplatz [Berlin], she screamed with joy and said, if there’s a Primark here then my life is perfect. Is this life really a perfect life for her, or is it an illusion generated by consumer culture? Let’s look at what is happening here, exactly. Girls buy hundreds of dresses, each dress costing maybe five euros – which in itself is madness, because people die for these clothes in countries like Bangladesh if a clothing factory collapses. These girls buy a hundred dresses, but they hardly wear them. Do you know what they do with them?

ZEIT Wissen: They show these clothes on YouTube, in Haul Videos.

Han: Exactly, they advertise! They make masses of videos in which they plug the clothes that they’ve bought and play at being models. Every YouTube video is watched half a million times. Consumers buy clothes and other things, but they don’t use them, they advertise them, and these adverts generate new consumption. In other words, this is absolute consumption that is disconnected from the use of things. Companies have delegated advertising to the consumers. They themselves no longer advertise. It is a perfect system.

ZEIT Wissen: Should we protest against it?

Han: Why should I protest if Primark arrives and makes my life perfect?

ZEIT Wissen: “Freedom will have been an episode”, you write in your new book, Psychopolitik [Psychopolitics]. Why?

Han: Freedom is the opposite of compulsion. If you subconsciously see the compulsion that you are subjected to as freedom, then that’s the end of freedom. That’s why we’re in a crisis. The crisis of freedom is that we perceive compulsion as freedom, so no resistance is possible. If you compel me to do something, then I can fight this external compulsion. But if there is no longer an opponent who is compelling me to do something, then there can be no resistance. That’s why I chose the motto for the beginning of my book: “protect me from what I want”, the phrase made famous by the artist Jenny Holzer.

ZEIT Wissen: So we have to protect ourselves from ourselves?

Han: If a system attacks my freedom, then I have to resist. The perfidious thing is though that the system today doesn’t attack freedom, but instrumentalises it. For example: when there was a census in the 1980s, there were demonstrations. There was even a bomb in a government office. People took to the streets because they had an enemy in the state that wanted to take information from them against their will. Today, we hand over more data about ourselves than ever before. Why is there no protest about that? Because compared to then, we feel free. At that time, people felt that their freedom was being attacked or reduced, and that’s why they took to the streets. Today, we feel free and we hand over our data voluntarily.

ZEIT Wissen: Maybe because smartphones can help us get to where we want to go. We consider the benefit to be greater than the harm.

Han: Maybe, but in its structure, this society is no different from medieval feudalism. We are in serfdom. Digital feudal lords like Facebook give us land and say: plough it, and you can have it for free. And we plough it like crazy, this land. At the end, the feudal lords come and take the harvest. This is an exploitation of communication. We communicate with each other, and we feel free. The feudal lords make money from this communication, and secret services monitor it. This system is extremely efficient. There is no protest against it, because we are living in a system that exploits freedom.

 

“The digital society of today is not a classless society”

ZEIT Wissen: How do you deal with it personally?

Han: Like everybody else, I am uncomfortable when I’m not connected, of course. I am a victim, too. Without all this digital communication, I can’t do my job, as a professor or as a writer. Everybody is involved, integrated.

ZEIT Wissen: What role do Big Data technologies play?

Han: An important one, because Big Data is not just being used for surveillance, but particularly for controlling human behaviour. And if human behaviour is being controlled, if the decisions we make in the feeling of being free are totally manipulated, then our free will is endangered. In other words, Big Data challenges our free will.

ZEIT Wissen: You wrote that Big Data gives rise to a new class society.

Han: The digital society of today is not a classless society. Take for example Acxiom, the data company: it divides people into categories. The last category is “waste”. Acxiom trades data from about 300 million US citizen, which is almost all of them. By now, the company knows more about US citizens than the FBI, probably even more than the NSA. At Acxiom, people are divided into seventy categories, and they are offered in a catalogue like retail goods, and you can buy one for every kind of need. Consumers with a high market value are in the “Shooting Stars” group. They are between 26 and 45 years old, dynamic, get up early to go jogging, don’t have any kids but might be married, and they have a vegan lifestyle, like to travel, watch Seinfeld on TV. This is how Big Data is generating a new digital class society.

ZEIT Wissen: And who is in the “waste” class?

Han: Those with a poor score value. They can’t get credit, for example. And so, alongside the Panopticon, Jeremy Bentham’s ideal prison, we have a “ban-opticon”, as sociologist Zygmunt Bauman called it. The Panopticon monitors the enclosed inmates of the system, while the ban-opticon is a measure that identifies people as undesirable and excludes people who are outside of or hostile to the system. The classic Panopticon is used for discipline, the ban-opticon however ensures the system’s security and efficiency. It is interesting that the NSA and Acxiom are working together, that is, the secret service and the market.

ZEIT Wissen: Is it possible that the “waste” class reaches critical mass eventually, so that it can no longer be controlled?

Han: No. They hide, they are ashamed, they are on unemployment benefit, for example. They are constantly being made to feel afraid. It’s crazy how much fear job seekers live with here. They are imprisoned in this ban-opticon, so that they can’t break out of their fear prison. I know many job seekers, they are treated like waste. In one of the richest countries in the world, in Germany, people are treated like scum. Their dignity is taken away. Of course these people don’t protest, because they are ashamed. They accuse themselves, instead of making society responsible, or accusing it. No political act can be expected from this class.

ZEIT Wissen: Pretty depressing. Where will it all end?

Han: In any case it can’t continue like this, because of natural resources if nothing else. Oil will last maybe another 50 years. We are living under an illusion here in Germany. We have largely outsourced production. China now manufactures our computers, our clothes, our mobile phones. But the desert is getting closer and closer to Beijing, and you can barely breathe there because of the smog. When I was in Korea, I saw that these yellow dust clouds travel all the way to Seoul. You had to wear a face mask because the fine particles damage your lungs. The way things are developing there is very dramatic. Even if it works out okay for a bit longer – what kind of a life is it? Or just look at those people who put all sorts of sensors on their bodies and measure blood pressure, blood sugar and fat percentages around the clock, and put these data on the net! It’s called self-tracking. These people are already zombies, they are puppets whose strings are being pulled by unknown powers, as Georg Büchner said in Danton’s Death.

At this point it’s worth mentioning that our conversation in Café Liebling was frequently at risk of derailing. There was a constant stream of street musicians at our table who, without a second thought, shoved their instruments worryingly close to the recording equipment and played their hearts out: a saxophonist with Glenn Miller hits, an accordion player with tunes from Paris, a singer and guitarist with a “Que Sera” chorus. But Byung-Chul Han spoke with great concentration, you could almost watch his thoughts forming until they became sentences, which he then lined up precisely. In these moments, his attention was entirely on his thoughts – not on the people he was presenting them to. Nor did the entertainment derail him in the slightest.

 

“Happiness is not a state I aim for”

ZEIT Wissen: Professor Han, in South Korea you first studied metallurgy. How come prospective metal technician Byung-Chul Han became a philosopher and vocal system critic?

Han: I’m a technology freak. When I was a child, I loved to tinker, on radios and other electronic and mechanical appliances. I actually wanted to study electrical or mechanical engineering, but it turned out to be metallurgy. I really was an enthusiastic technician and tinkerer.

ZEIT Wissen: And why did you stop?

Han: Because one time, when I was experimenting with chemicals, there was an explosion. I still have the scars. I almost died, or at least I could have been blinded.

ZEIT Wissen: Where was that?

Han: At home in Seoul. I was a student. I spent the whole day tinkering, milling, soldering. My drawers were full of wires, meters and chemicals. I was a kind of alchemist. Metallurgy is modern alchemy, really. But I stopped on the day of the explosion. I still tinker, but not with wires or soldering irons. Thinking is a kind of tinkering, too. And thinking can lead to explosions. Thinking is the most dangerous activity, maybe more dangerous than atomic bombs. It can change the world. This is why Lenin said: “learn, learn, learn!”

ZEIT Wissen: Do you want to hurt people?

Han: No. I try to describe what is present. It is hard to see through things. That’s why I try to see more – to learn to see. I write down what I’ve seen. It is possible that my books hurt, because I show things that people don’t want to see. It is not me, not my analysis that is merciless, but the world in which we live; it’s merciless, crazy and absurd.

ZEIT Wissen: Are you a happy person?

Han: I don’t ask that question.

ZEIT Wissen: Do you mean that this question shouldn’t be asked?

Han: It is actually a meaningless question. Happiness is not a state I aim for. You have to define the term. What do you mean with happiness?

ZEIT Wissen: Quite simply: I enjoy being in the world, I feel at home in the world, I enjoy the world, I sleep well.

Han: Let’s start with the last one. I don’t sleep well. The day before yesterday, at a symposium about the good life with the philosopher Wilhelm Schmidt, I opened with a piece of music: the Goldberg Variations. Bach composed the Goldberg Variations for a Count who suffered from serious insomnia. I reminded the audience of the first sentence of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. In English, it goes: “For a long time, I went to bed early.” But in French, it is actually: “Longtemps je me suis couché de bonne heure.Bonheur is happiness. So the correct translation would be: “For a long time, I went to bed happy.” I told the audience that sleeping well is a sign of a good and happy life. I suffer from insomnia myself.

ZEIT Wissen: What do you do when you can’t sleep?

Han: What do I do? I just lie there. On the other point: do I like being in the world? How can you like being in this false world? That’s not possible, and so, I am not happy. I often don’t understand the world. It seems very absurd to me. You can’t be happy in the absurd. For happiness you need a lot of illusions, I think.

ZEIT Wissen: You enjoy…?

Han: What?

ZEIT Wissen: What do you enjoy?

Han: I can’t enjoy the world.

ZEIT Wissen: A nice piece of cake?

Han: I don’t eat cake. I could enjoy a good meal, but food in Berlin, in Germany, is a problem. Germans don’t seem to appreciate good food. Maybe it comes from Protestantism, this hostility towards sensuality. In Asia, food has a totally different value, a much higher one. People spend a lot of money on it, unlike in Germany. Take Japan, for example: food is a cult there, an aesthetic. Especially the unbelievable freshness of it! Fragrant rice could make someone happy, as well.

ZEIT Wissen: That sounds like a grain of happiness. You’ve lived in Germany for 30 years. How do you tolerate it?

Han: I wouldn’t say tolerate. I like living in Germany. I love the quiet here, which I wouldn’t have in Seoul. I particularly love the German language, its words as well. Anyone who reads my books can see that. I have a language here in which I can philosophise very well. Yes, there are things that make me happy. Food not so much, but Bach played by Glenn Gould. I often listen to Bach for hours. I don’t know if I would have stayed in Germany this long without Bach, without Schubert’s Winterreise, without Schumann’s Dichterliebe. During my philosophy degree, I used to sing a lot, especially the songs of Schumann and Schubert, and I took a lot of singing lessons for it as well. Singing Winterreise accompanied by the piano, that’s very nice…

 

“Language is being silenced”

ZEIT Wissen: So there is beauty! You spend a lot of time badmouthing the world.

Han: Maybe. I really make my students despair, because I tell them all of these problems in my lectures. When I said in the lecture before the last one, today we are going to think about solutions, some of them applauded. At last! Now he’s going to free us from despair!

ZEIT Wissen: How lovely. Solutions is a topic we want to discuss with you, too.

Han: I wanted to think about solutions, but then I only described more problems.

ZEIT Wissen: Oh well. So what other problems are there?

Han: There is no language today – there is speechlessness and helplessness. Language is being silenced. On the one hand, there is this immense noise, communication noise, on the other there is this huge wordlessness, a wordlessness that is different from silence. Silence is very eloquent. Silence has a language. Stillness is also eloquent, and it can be a language, too. But noise and wordlessness are without language. There is only wordless, noisy communication, which is a problem. Today, there is not even knowledge, only information. Knowing is completely different from information. Knowledge and truth sound old-fashioned now. Knowledge also has a different time structure, it spans past and future. And the temporality of information is the present, now. Knowing also comes from experience. A master has knowledge. Today, we live with the terror of amateurishness.

ZEIT Wissen: What do you think of what is happening in science? Does it not create knowledge?

Han: Scientists no longer reflect on the social context of knowledge. They are doing positive research. Every knowing takes places within a power relationship, and power relationships, new capacities, generate new knowledge, a new discourse. Knowledge is always embedded in a power structure. You can simply do positive research without recognising that you are under the spell of this power, and without reflecting on the contextuality of knowledge. This reflection on contextuality no longer takes place. Philosophy is becoming a positive science too. It doesn’t refer to society, only to itself. It’s becoming blind to society.

ZEIT Wissen: Do you mean the whole of academic life?

Han: More or less. What happens now is Google Science, without critical reflection about our own activity. The humanities should think critically about their own activity, but this is not happening. Many are doing emotion research, for example. I would love to ask a scientist who is involved in this research: why do you do what you do? They don’t think about their own activity.

ZEIT Wissen: What do you suggest?

Han: This is about what social relevance the humanities have. We have to understand clearly the social background of our own research, because all knowledge is embedded in the power relationships of the system. Why is emotion research being done so intensively today? Maybe because emotions are now seen as a productive force. Emotions are being used as tools of control. If you influence emotions, you can control and manipulate human behaviour on a subconscious level.

ZEIT Wissen: Now you sound like a conspiracy theorist. Is it possible to create a better system with more intelligence?

Han: Intelligence comes from intel-legere, reading between, differentiating. Intelligence is an activity of differentiation within a system. Intelligence cannot develop a new system, a new language. The mind[1] is completely different from intelligence. I do not believe that very intelligent computers could copy the human mind[2]. You can design a totally intelligent machine, but machines will never invent a new language, something completely different, I believe. A machine has no mind[3]. No machine can output more than its input. This is precisely the miracle of life, that it can output more than its input, and can output something completely different from its input. That is life. Life is spirit[4]. That’s how it’s different from a machine. But this life is endangered when everything is automated, when everything is ruled by algorithms. An immortal machine human, as imagined by posthumanists like Ray Kurzweil, would no longer be human. Maybe we will achieve immortality eventually with the help of technology, but we will lose life. We will achieve immortality at the cost of life.

 

© for the translation: Rebecca Darby, November 2015.

Original article, published on 7/9/2014: http://www.zeit.de/zeit-wissen/2014/05/byung-chul-han-philosophie-neoliberalismus/komplettansicht


 

[1] The German term used here is “Geist”, which can mean “mind”, or “spirit”, or “essence”, or even “ghost”.

[2] Ditto.

[3] Ditto.

[4] Ditto.

Enlightenment Intensives

I’ve been promising for a while that I’ll write up my experiences with Enlightenment Intensives (EIs), and it seems I’m more or less ready to do that now.

First up, I don’t want to go over what they are in too much detail, because everything you could want to know is already covered elsewhere online: the Wikipedia article is a good introduction, and there are various other sources: the Dacres’ site, Shivam O’Brien’s Authentic Self site, Anthony Johnston’s site. ([edited to add:] I’ve been made aware that the Dacres have been quiet for a while. There’s another site for EIs in Bath.) You can find much more online, just look for mention of Charles Berner and you’ll know you’re on the right track. You can even read the Manual, if you’re so inclined; there really are no secrets to it at all.

My first EI was with Anthony in June 2012, the second with Shivam in December 2013, and the third, again with Shivam, in August 2014. I contemplated “who am I?” for the first two, and then “what am I?”. I will add at this point that I find the rigorous schedule a complete delight; there is nothing more nurturing and comforting to me than not having to make any choices about when to wake or sleep, what or how much to eat, and so on. Having my mind completely free for contemplation is one of the greatest luxuries I know, so although quasi-monastic rules may seem daunting, take heart, it’s not so bad and can in fact bring great peace to the mind. As one participant quipped: “this is a very peculiar process!”[1], but one I think holds enormous rewards.

Once those worries about keeping ourselves alive go, along with any thoughts of the outside world and our duties within it, and once we have talked ourselves out about all the surface aspects of our lives, our jobs and our relationships and our wounds… not that EIs are intended as spaces to “work out” in our minds what we should do with our lives, it’s just that these things can come up and are not rejected… once our usual mental occupations go, we start to get down to the business of learning who we truly are. No matter where I am on my spiritual path and/or in my life, that space to truly look at myself and learn who/what I am always brings me great insight, and opens the door to that experience of Oneness with All that we refer to as “enlightenment”. Which, by the way, is completely real, available to anyone who wants to experience it directly and without need of any intermediaries (e.g. priests, gurus, etc.), and has nothing to do with “faith” or “belief” in anything at all. This is one aspect that EIs and Vipassana meditation share: we don’t have to believe anything; in fact, belief hinders the process; we only have to experience ourselves, authentically and without trying to change anything, and that is where the knowing comes from. From there, all the rest of life simply unfolds.

I’ve mentioned “insights” a few times, let me try and define what I mean here: I am not talking about “working it out in the mind”, like a process of logical deduction, “if a then b” and so forth. Insights have not so much to do with thinking, much more with experiencing and knowing. They don’t conform to how we believe things “ought” to be, only with how they actually are, and this sometimes makes them a bit challenging to accept and integrate; however, they usually arrive with such absolute truth to them that there is no option but to integrate them in our lives; let our other ideas and beliefs fall in line with what we know to be true, rather than the other way round.

I’ve seen a bit of debate over whether it’s okay to share specific insights, the argument against being that it might “give away” some of the answers one might arrive at and thus prejudice participants into trying to get to a specific outcome. However, it’s usually pretty clear whether we are repeating a statement we think is expected of us or speaking about something that comes up authentically, and it may be the case that hearing from others about their insights makes it more permissible to speak about our own. I also want to acknowledge that it feels vulnerable to talk about myself in this way: I can’t think of anything more personal than statements about my true self! On my first EI, it was about my self or personality: as a Creator, as a woman, as a truth seeker. I learnt how my anger and my passion are very close bedfellows: I experienced that I have definite ideas about how to do things ‘properly’, and watching others shy away from truly facing themselves makes me angry on their behalf and all the more determined for myself. I also found a great source of calm or stillness within myself that I can access any time I choose to.

My second EI seemed to have as its theme understanding the nature of duality. Without getting into a lengthy theological or philosophical debate, and in my own simplistic way, I realised that getting into Unity is pretty easy (in a manner of speaking): we die and return to Source, hey presto. So what is the point of being inside the human experience and so divided from Unity, why the experience of individual Self and Others? It’s because human beings are the only ones capable of separating ourselves from Source, and hence having an individual experience. With further reading and contemplation, I’ve since worked out that the point is not so much returning to a child-like sense of unity-with-all, i.e. the state of being before we become conscious of ourselves, but to go fully into separation and duality and consciousness and coming out on the other side, i.e. transcending it.

My third EI brought me into full realisation that I had already had a huge Direct Experience (which is a shorthand way of saying “experiencing unity with the object of contemplation, i.e. the self and/or the divine”) when I was about 21 years old. I had no knowledge or framework to explain what had happened, and so it took me a long time to talk about it, and in fact I misunderstood what had happened, although I knew right away that it was big and important and should influence everything from there on in: it happened spontaneously, without any effort on my part, which just goes to show that it’s a matter of grace, not will, and can afflict any old idiot whether they deserve it or not! The second insight was regarding my fear and embarrassment at being in a direct experience while someone else is present with me; I had decided it was safer if I had this on my own, but I got over that; I also spent some time in an awesome teenage sulk. Finally, I became utterly clear on something that Carl Jung appears to have said:

We cannot change anything unless we accept it.

I had been face-to-face with my own resistance, over and over, by which I mean: feeling or thinking something, immediately rejecting it as “stupid” or unwanted in some way, and then battling it for hours, until I surrendered to it, at which point it vanished into thin air, to be replaced by the next thing to look at and surrender to. If I have a “process” at all, it is this, but I’m not even going to try and say it’s easy. Resistance usually has a reason or a purpose, accepting things anyway is truly challenging and yet the only thing that can be done, unless we want to expend all of our energy on fighting. My journey therefore is finding ever more things to accept.

I hope that this gives some idea of what EIs are and what can be gained from putting ourselves through this “peculiar process”. I really hesitate to tell people that they should sit an Enlightenment Intensive: I absolutely think they are fantastic and that almost anyone can gain something from the process, but they aren’t kidding about the “intensive” part. The retreats are not recommended for anyone on antidepressants, for example, or other kinds of medication for mental health problems, or for people with addictions. They are physically tough to endure; there isn’t a lot of sleep or food, and about 18 hours of contemplation for at least two days running, so if you have big and obvious mental or emotional problems, an EI is probably not the right environment because there are essentially no therapists on hand to wrestle your demons back into the box. There are of course people around to support participants, both the Master (facilitator) and the Monitors exist solely to do so, but they carry the whole group rather than individuals. Finally, I don’t think I have it in me to carry the burden of making this kind of decision on anyone else’s behalf[2]: if it all went wrong and you hated it, I would not want to be responsible for your well-being!

But with all those conditions firmly in place, I hope that learning about my experience will encourage at least some of you to look into Enlightenment Intensives, and the process of spiritual growth generally; if there is any part of you that feels called to learn more, and you’ll know whether this is so or not, I am always available to talk more about it and help in any way I can.

I also intend to learn how to Monitor (and maybe facilitate) Enlightenment Intensives. There, that’s the third time I’ve said so in public, by any system of magic worth its salt it will now happen!


[1] If you’ve attended an EI, let me add that this was on the third day, by which time our group was moving and living as one, and it was said in a moment of silence… so it made many of us laugh! What a sacred moment, one I will never forget.

[2] As it happens, I think Radical Self-Reliance is an important principle, and as such I believe that we all have to take responsibility for our own path: I cannot walk yours for you!

Q1 report for 2014

So far this year, I have:

  • spent a month in Ghana
  • dissolved my living arrangement with my husband
  • project managed and written copy for a new work website – due to go live imminently
  • decluttered and boxed up all my possessions – due to complete today
  • arranged to move house – due to complete tomorrow
  • spent 4 days in Germany
  • attended an intensive two-day workshop
  • started a successful new gig as a copywriter
  • started a successful new gig as an events organiser
  • developed a good working relationship with a new therapist
  • done a major piece of psychological work concerning my mother
  • established a daily meditation practice (it’s still shaky but it’s there)
  • successfully bid on some work which will ensure income for months, if not longer – agency-client negotiations today, result on Sunday
  • tried out a new martial art
  • arranged finances for it all

All this while:

  • looking after the physical and emotional well-being of my cat Makita
  • looking after my own physical, mental and emotional well-being
  • doing paid work as and when it’s been required
  • keeping on top of finances
  • keeping on top of business admin
  • doing the bare minimum of housework
  • not losing my rag at anyone
  • not succumbing to stress
  • not getting ill
  • not dying!

What I haven’t done much of:

  • dating, starting new relationships, maintaining current ones
  • seeing friends – with a few notable exceptions
  • going out to events, clubs, parties – again with notable exceptions

I think I should refer back to this next time I’m concerned I’m getting lazy.

Choose your own adventure, the London edition

More and more, I believe that our attention may be our only true possession.

It is also one of the few things (maybe the only thing?) that we have a degree of control over. Not that it’s easy to control attention, it takes quite a lot of discipline, and there are many things that constantly grab it away from us: other people and warning signs and noises and fast movement and notifications and colours and so on, but it seems to me that we can choose to ignore them, to move ourselves to a different environment, and sooner or later change what we give our attention to. Much of our life seems to be given over to finding pleasing environments and experiences, whatever constitutes “pleasing” for any given individual. And of course all of it is filtered through our senses and our thoughts and beliefs: another opportunity to change our world is by changing our thoughts about it.

In this view, money is another form into which attention transmutes: time spent doing a job is turned into bits of paper that buy products, services and space which in turn have been attended to by other people. Attention is money in a more direct way when we think about advertising: “pay attention”, it demands.

We become better at the skills and tasks we pay attention to: I haven’t quite worked out the importance of innate ability or genius, but it’s certainly true that we have to practice in order to become truly proficient at anything, and investing our attention over and over for years makes us experts, again something we can turn into other kinds of currency.

It feels good when people give us their attention, and we do many things to gain and hold the attention of others. Everybody loves to be listened to, to be seen as we are without judgement, and with as much attention or presence as possible. At the same time, we find it so hard to give our full attention to anyone: so many conflicting demands on us, not to mention the fact that we are always most concerned with ourselves! Somehow, sometimes, we choose a person to set our worries aside for, at least temporarily: and this seems to me to be the glue that holds our relationships together. Once we stop applying this glue, our connection dries up and drifts apart. When relationships that are important to us seem to be doing this, we are often advised to “work” on them – a term I disagree with, because I prefer to define work quite narrowly as “tasks carried out for payment” – but there is little doubt that we have to give our attention back to the other person and to the relationship itself in order to reapply this glue, and that this can feel the opposite of natural and easy.

My recent news is that I’m moving out of the flat I’ve been sharing with my husband for the last 11 years, and lots of people have expressed their sorrow at this event. I feel sorrow, too, because I find it sad and disappointing that we haven’t managed to do what we intended to and now can’t fulfil the promise we made to each other. However, I’m not feeling totally crushed or heart-broken; my feelings are more complex than that. There is some excitement about my immediate and long-term future; there’s also some relief because the move resolves my problem of living with a chronically depressed person, which has gone from sort-of-manageable to untenable over the last year. It gets even more complex because I have equated, to some extent, my husband with the ideas of “home” and “family”. It’s going to take me a while to unravel what these terms will mean to me in future, and this is happening also within the context of my personal development efforts towards learning about self-parenting: as such, it seems almost inevitable that I would have to strike out on my own and create my own home from within myself. I don’t feel as though my identity as a wife is particularly central to who I am, but I may be wrong; I’m also seeing this primarily as a change in living arrangements, rather than a final dissolution of the whole relationship; these things will emerge in time.

What isn’t happening, unlike in previous relationships that broke up, is endless and irresolvable fighting, bitterness, hatred or resentment. We’re actually getting on really well, and talking about how we want to navigate this turn of events has even brought us slightly closer together – just not so much as to change the fundamental fact that both our minds are on other matters, with no signs of us being willing or able to steer back round to each other: we’re both carrying out some fairly significant inquiry into ourselves and trying to heal. How could it possibly be the right answer to interrupt this process in order to keep the relationship static in its current form?

So this is very much the right move at the right time, and consequently there’s been quite a lot going right without the need for major struggle. The one thing I’m dragging my feet on is sifting through 11 years of accumulated Stuff: I’m pretty clear on the idea that I want to move only what is essential or important to me, and that this will likely be a major downsizing of possessions. I’m arranging for friends to lend me moral support so I don’t falter in the task, and I’ve set aside next week to get through it. I hope that once I gather momentum, it will be much easier than the epic and exhausting slog I currently envisage it to be (and writing this, I realise that I could and probably ought to re-vision it and set an intention to make it easier on myself). Maybe a good prism on it is attention: time to draw back all the scattered little bits of attention held in all the Stuff, all the potential and might-have-beens, release the dense matter back into the world, break my attachment, and refill my energy bar.

Meanwhile, the rest of my life isn’t standing still until I’m ready, either: on the translation side, my father and I are putting together a joint website with a view towards expanding the client base and training me up in financial translations. I will show the site off when it’s ready; it’s likely to be launched at the end of the month. I’m also bidding on a major job, a process that keeps stalling for reasons I’m unclear about, but it would be extremely cool to get it. I’m working with Sacred Pleasures, which I’ll talk about another time and possibly elsewhere. I’m in a tricky bit with my counselling/therapy; it’s going well but of course it didn’t take long to get into tough areas, what with all this other business going on. I continue to be interested in all sorts of nonsense, especially learning skills towards being an ever more bad-ass person. I’m squeezing in a bit of social life here and there, maybe even the odd date, who knows? It could easily feel like too much stress, but instead I’m actually more energetic than I’ve been in quite some time, buzzing almost: but that could just be Spring!

How are you celebrating Love today?

… that was the question Faerie asked, and it’s got me thinking.

I’ve been in Ghana for almost three weeks now, only a few more days left before I fly back to London. Once the novelty wore off a bit, I started to feel very far away from nearly everyone I know and love; we’ve all been trying our best to stay in touch electronically, but our thoughts and voices aren’t enough when presence and touch are what we need. So the distance can hurt, and I haven’t wanted to be reminded of Love more than necessary.

I also harden my heart against the obligations and social expectations that come with romantic relationships, forced gifts and bargains struck: roses and a meal for guaranteed sex and a promise to stay together, to avoid being single for another year. The hunt for The One who will “complete” me, who will be the outward sign of my success in convincing the world at large that I’m okay, that I’ve bent myself into a shape others consider to be acceptable.

Heart wrapped in red yarn.

Image courtesy of sritangphoto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Instead, I find myself adored and celebrated, just as I am: my heart softens to Love in its many forms. The woman who barely knows her own beauty, and whose generous heart pours Love for all who raise our cups to her. The magical being, in love with all that is, whose divine nature shines so brightly she illuminates everyone. The lover who lends me his eyes and ears so I can be in two places at once. The man who sings and whistles to music I can’t hear, unselfconsciously, because it moves him too much to contain.

I remember: I’ve been loved since the day I was born. I’ve been adored since the beginning of time. Creation Herself is totally crazy about me. As far as I can tell, this is set to go on until the end of days, no matter whether I love Her back, or choose to be in one of my unreasonable moods and cut myself off from feeling this Love. My little heart is not so constant, it ebbs and flows like the sea. Mark my location on your maps, if you like; but sometimes you’ll walk far to meet me, and sometimes a wave will wash right over your head where you stand.

When I pour my attention into my creations, it’s a tiny reflection of the Love poured into me to bring about my life, a mirror of the Love that creates all things.

How do I celebrate all this? I observe, I feel, I write; I am moved. I receive Love.