Sometimes it’s good to take on a topic that’s a bit taboo so that you can straighten out your thoughts on it. the topic came up on one of the TaSTA podcasts recently and it wanted to go a bit more into it, so What does ‘Man Up’ Mean?
The phrase ‘Man Up’ has a bad reputation but honestly I’ve always seen it as a good thing. I understand why it’s a bit of a sensitive subject but associating the phrase with what has become known as ‘toxic masculinity’ is the absolute opposite of what I’d define it as.
Growing up in 1980s Ireland it wasn’t ‘manly’ to show feelings. I wrote last time about attending tons of funerals growing up and it was a rare event to see a bereaved man crying at a funeral in the village. It wasn’t gossiped about or anything like that, it just wasn’t really a thing. You’d see men crying at funerals on American television programmes or films but hardly ever in real life. The odd time it would happen but more than likely it wasn’t a thing.
Now this can be put down to a few things. The man was supposed to be the rock for other people to turn too. He would put his feelings aside for the time being and be there for others. At least that was the way I saw it, it wasn’t until I got a bit older that I understood that for many people in rural Ireland showing emotions publicly, particularly sadness, was showing a weakness. Thankfully things have changed now and men are a bit more open in public with their emotions and there’s no stigma surrounding it at funerals anymore.
It’s a weird thing to think that telling someone to ‘man up’ or ‘be a man’ has become entrenched with the whole idea of what we now call ‘toxic masculinity’. But first let me explain what I believe ‘man up’ to mean.
What does ‘Man Up’ Mean?
Luckily for me there was usually a bit of philosophy around my house, my uncle is a priest and he used to tell me about various philosophers, from Aristotle to Zoroaster, Plato to Nietzsche to Sts Francis and Thomas Aquinas. Martin Luther always got a bashing, not a philosopher of course but his name came up a fair bit, particularly as he came from the order of priests that ran my school, which wasn’t the one he’d gone to. Anyway, the wee geek that I am, I thought it was interesting stuff. These men of history wrote books and gave teachings on what were basically the ethics of being a good person. What’s not to like about that? It was back then I learnt about the four virtues, also known as the cardinal virtues in Christianity. They are; Wisdom, Justice, Courage and Temperance. The Christian versions would list them as; Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance.
So that was it for me and always has been. To be a good person you lead by example and try to strive towards seeking wisdom, being fair, being brave and having self-control. To ‘man up’ meant to be a good citizen of the world, an ethical person. Of course this is very much easier said than done but these four little words hold much power and you’d be hard pressed to argue against living a life that doesn’t involve them. They’re the opposite of what I’d think of when I hear the words ‘toxic masculinity’. Total opposite. Men who display toxic behaviour aren’t wise, just, brave or temperate. They’ve failed on all four counts. Failed spectacularly.
What’s gone wrong then? Or maybe I’ve misunderstood the term all this time? But for me, ‘man-ning up’ has always meant ‘be virtuous’. How could it possibly mean anything else? The Chinese philosopher Confusious once wrote “The virtuous is driven by responsibility, the non-virtuous is driven by profit.” and St Thomas Aquinas wrote “Happiness is secured through virtue; it is a good attained by man’s own will.” Confucius saying there that a good person is driven by his inherent responsibility to be good while Thomas Aquinas says that man’s will is to be virtuous, which is what brings true happiness. While these ideals of eastern and western philosophy are nice to think about and to try and live up to growing up in a culture/society or household where emotions are denied cannot lead to emotional happiness at all. But we can all take it on ourselves to break the chain of emotional denial. It’s not ‘manly’ to push down your feelings, it’s cowardly. The courageous thing to do would be to face them head on and deal with them and the consequences.
There’s no need to go into a tirade about ‘toxic masculinity’ here. We all know what it means by now. There was a very interesting article I came across last week from Psyche.co entitled “Talk of toxic masculinity puts the blame in all the wrong places” where the author really went into why labelling a problem isn’t good enough to tackle it. There’s this common parlance on Irish radio where some pundit will come on a show and when they run out of ideas they’ll toss out something like ‘we need to have a conversation about XYZ’ all the while being totally unaware that they’re actually involved in a conversation at that very moment. But this is part of it, labelling something as a problem does very little, all it does is give it a name. Admittedly it’s a start but all too often we get stuck at the start of something and never progress, let alone bring it to a satisfying conclusion. Anyway, the article is quite good and really makes a great point of showing up middle class pontificating for what it really is; just that, all talk and very little action. If the west is to put an end to ‘toxic masculinity’ it has to tackle the root causes of social inequality.
So much of our behaviour comes from what we saw growing up and being raised by whoever it was that raised us and by our peers. If you’ve heard of mirror neurons you’ll know they’re bloody fascinating. Basically a neuron is a bit like a path builder in your brain, you take up a new habit and after a while a new neuron is established in your brain and it becomes associated with associated behaviours and triggers and the like. Mirror neurons pick up on the behaviour of others in your circle and your brain learns a behaviour from them. A bit like a crossroads or an intersection on a motorway. Fascinating stuff. This is probably why I would have voted for the same political party as me auld lad, or supported the same football team, or why we use the same swear words at similar moments. It’s hardwired into your brain from an awful long time ago.
But this is where we can break the chain of bad behaviour. Like stopping smoking or drinking it’s not easy because the brain has built some hardwired neurons in there and they’ve now part of the infrastructure. Finding a detour around them, over them, under them or just plain bulldozing right through them is how to break them on a personal level. If you want to give up smoking you need to stop the behaviour of having one while waiting on the bus, having a last one before bed, having one with a coffee at lunch etc.
I’d like to think that most people want to be a good example for others around them. Some are, obviously many aren’t. But I want to be and I try to be and on my bad days I even try to want to be. None of us are getting out of here as a perfect specimen but if we want to leave this world a better place when we depart it then we have a responsibility to be virtuous, to be brave, just, temperate, wise; to man up.
Marcus Aurelius is a name familiar with us all and with Stoicism making a bit of a comeback over the last few years (what a weird thing to write, a philosophy making a comeback, well, y’know what I mean, there are tons of Stoic-themed podcasts and YouTube channels now) his name has become even more widespread. Which is no bad thing. I hadn’t read Meditations until late last year so I can make no claims to be some kind of stoic hipster that was doing it before anyone else. What exactly would a stoic hipster be anyway? Wasn’t the school of thought prior to the early stoics Cynicism? No matter, Meditations is a belter of a book, it’s as simple as that and one of those rare books that you find yourself going back to time and time again because it’s full of globs of wisdom and pearls of philosophy.
There’s a passage in particular I want to have a look at for this post. If you have a copy of the book, it’s from Book 4, verse 1-3. What really struck me here about these few sentences is Aurelius’ way of acknowledging that the world is full of distractions and our minds will follow them to their unending ends but learning to quieten the mind and appreciating its connection to the universe/the One/etc./ gives us not only our sense of our true place in the cosmos but also total freedom within ourselves.
Marcus Aurelius, the Stoic Emperor
He starts off with acknowledging his, and all of ours, propensity to give in to desires…
“Men seek retreats for themselves – in the country, by the sea, in the hills – and you yourself are particularly prone to this yearning. But all this is quite unphilosophic, when it is open to you, at any time you want, to retreat into yourself.”
Poor auld Marcus gives out to himself quite a bit in the book, it was his personal diary after all, and here he is telling himself off for the horrible crime of even wanting a holiday. But here’s the thing; there comes a time when we all have to admit it; holidays aren’t relaxing. The preparation, the packing, the travelling, the puking kids, the getting lost, the tourist traps, being ripped off by taxi drivers, upset stomachs from water you’re not used to drinking, sleepless nights because the place is noisier or not as dark as your bedroom. We don’t need holidays to relax. You have everything you’ll ever need right between those floppy ears of yours. And yes, you might roll your eyes but give the former Roman Emperor a chance here…
“No retreat offers someone more quiet and relaxation than that into his own mind, especially if he can dip into thoughts there which put him at immediate and complete ease: and by ease I simply mean a well-ordered life. So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.”
Here’s a man who ruled over the biggest empire in the world at the time, saw off rebellions and won wars against invading forces, deflated the Roman denarius so more people would afford food and did what he could to save people from an outbreak of Plague during his reign. And, here he is, in his personal diary, telling himself not to become distracted by the outside world and to enjoy the fruits of a steady mind. A mind that knows its place in the world…
“Look at the speed of universal oblivion, the gulf of immeasurable time both before and after, the vacuity of applause, the indiscriminate fickleness of your apparent supporters, the tiny room in which all this is confined. The whole earth is a mere point in space: what a minute cranny within this is your own habitation, and how many and what sort will sing your praises here!”
We’ve a saying in Ireland ‘You’re a long time dead’ and the Stoics were big on this. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase ‘memento mori’ before, if not then please do look it up. Nothing gives life more meaning than to know it’s all incredibly temporary. I’ve had a streak of existentialism in me for pretty much as long as I can remember and I’m not really sure where it came from. Maybe it was growing up in rural Ireland where there’s another saying ‘a good funeral is better than a bad wedding’ although this probably, well, more than probably, can be traced back to the Bible where in Ecclesiastes 7:2 it says “Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies— so the living should take this to heart.”
Death was everywhere when I was growing up, it was, well, still is, a small village and when someone died you usually went to the funeral. You just become accustomed to it. Living in the different places I have over the years it always blew my mind that people didn’t attend the funerals of neighbours. I think it’s good to give the dead a good send off and to celebrate their lives with other mourners and as sad as it usually is it’s good to share stories about the deceased and even get to know them a bit better after the fact.
Anyway, we’re a long time dead and we’re not very significant. That’s something I’ve always believed. But we are significant to our friends and family and we should be able to set an example for how to live a good life. That doesn’t mean hedonism though, it means striving to live a moral life.
Back to Marcus…
“Finally, then, remember this retreat into your own little territory within yourself. Above all, no agonies, no tensions. Be your own master, and look at things as a man, as a human being, as a citizen, as a mortal creature. And here are two of the most immediately useful thoughts you will dip into. First that things cannot touch the mind: they are external and inert; anxieties can only come from your internal judgement. Second, that all these things you see will change almost as you look at them, and then will be no more. Constantly bring to mind all that you yourself have already seen changed. The universe is change: life is judgement.”
Quietening the Monkey Mind
Once you quieten the monkey mind you have the reigns and are the master. Can it ever really be mastered though? I think even the most enlightened of people still lose their grip of the reigns and the horse is always waiting for his chance to bolt. I’m reading this beast of a book of late: Living Theurgy and the author explains the ins and outs of what the Neoplatonists believed made up the soul/mind. It evolved as time went on but in early Greek legends the soul was made up of two parts, the rational and irrational, both were thought of as horses pulling a chariot (showing your Proto-Indo roots there lads) with one pulling in one direction and the other in the other. Balance being the key to a happy soul/mind it would seem. Funny how so many philosophies all hint at the same thing isn’t it?
Everything is temporary and as Aurelius says our anxieties come from our internal judgement meaning they are the fault of our monkey minds and when we control that beast we can control our reactions to what is causing the anxiety. Even hopefully being able to catch it early enough to stop it completely. All is change though and ever-changing, we have very little, if any, control of what happens around us, we can though, at least, attempt to control our minds and how we react. Indeed, we have a moral responsibility as good citizens of the world to do so.
On May 17th 2021, I had a vision. I was given a piece of paper on which nine things were written. I was told to teach them. They lead to All Together-ness; Oneness; OmniSyn. On the TaSTA podcast released on May 19th (you can listen here) we spoke about what I had experienced. Here’s the transcript:
Spud: I had this dream a while ago where, and I spoke about this on the end of the last podcast, where I became lucid in a dream and I was in a forest and I ended up walking down into a cave with something that I now know is called a torch…
Tommie: hahahaha…ahh so many people made a point of telling you. Haha, that was brilliant…
Spud: I’m so stupid…just because I wear glasses doesn’t mean I’m smart, it means I’m blind…
Tommie: I actually saw it on Discord, on YouTube and on Twitter…it was brilliant, I was so happy…
Spud: Hahaha! Well, I mean, thanks everyone for telling me…
Tommie: Some people even sent pictures which were extremely helpful. I found that really good.
Spud: Hahaha! Yea, so I ended up down in this cave and the stalagmites and the stalactites have grown together but it’s this ice cave and the whole way through the dream like, these different stages had happened; I’m in the forest or I’m in a meadow, I come to the cave, I always had this trudging sense of (sighs) ok, let’s get this over with because I kinda know what’s coming, y’know?
Spud: Or I know who I’m going to meet kind of thing. So, yea, I get down into the cave and even though I don’t see her I see this kinda thing, this lady passing between the pillars y’know? I don’t know who it is but I’m kind of thinking it’s Persephone, right? But then just as I’m about to meet her this like Monthy Python hand comes down and grabs me and pulls me back up to consciousness and I’m awake. Haha! It’s quite bizarre. But like, it’s happened before when I have these, when I’m lying down and I’m…I’m…I’m up somewhere, I’m not dreaming but I’m not awake either and it’s happened a few times where this hand, haha, just comes in and just grabs me and (shouting), Naw, you’re not ready! No, no, no, no! Don’t go there man.
So, again I find myself in a forest Tommie, right. So, not like the last one I’m….I have notes here in front of me so I might go to them every now and then…
Tommie: yea, yea, yea, yea, yea…
Spud: …because when this was all over that evening I went for a walk with the dog and I took out my phone and just blurted out what I could remember. Ended up being like half an hour long, like me, just talking. Maybe it was like channelling or I dunno…
Tommie: Right, yea?
Spud: like, I don’t know what the fuck was going on. I have no idea. Alright? Make of this what you will…
Tommie: Transcribe it. Stick it in a book! (laughs)
Spud: (laughs) hahaha. I’d like your opinion and I, like, I texted one or two of the lads on Discord yesterday coz there’s something coming tomorrow lads and I want yous to listen coz I’d like to know what yous think and some help with it or whatever.
Spud: Might be nothing, might be something. I don’t know. We’ll see. So, erm, like, erm, the last time I was kind of like (sigh) oh, let’s get this over with. This time I wasn’t like that at all. This time I was like, right, here I am, let’s see what happens. So I’m walking through this forest and then there’s this meadow; gorgeous sunrise is coming up, there’s, er, big, long grass, meadow, flowers, rabbits, hares, whatever…it’s gorgeous. It’s idyllic, y’know, this beautiful morning, a dew on the grass…
Tommie: A jew on the grass…?
Spud: …a heavy dew on the grass, just one. Rabbi! Shalom!
Tommie: Just a rabbi, just there, haha!
Spud: I didn’t say rabbit did I? I meant rabbi. A rabbi and a hare, the curly hairs, y’know those guys…?
Tommie: Yea, fine, fine, that’s normal….
Spud: hahaha, y’know, I was worried that this bit might get too serious, hahaha!
Spud: Anyway, so there’s this door. I don’t know like…sometimes they have these at like music festivals at Ireland, they’ll just have a door frame and a door and like there’s no wall, it’s just a door frame and a door and you open the door…
Tommie: yea, yea, yea….
Spud: …it’s like an Alice in Wonderland or Narnia-type situation. I think it was Narnia, wasn’t it? There was a door beside a lamppost? Anway…
Tommie: A wardrobe? I couldn’t tell ya I never read the books…
Spud: Well, the wardrobe was on our side and I think the door was on their side in Narnia. I think. But anyway, I open this door and straight away it reminds me of when we were scrying the Aethers. (accent) Ate-hers!
Tommie: (heavy West of Ireland accent) The Ate’hers! Scryting the auld Eigh’Hers!
Spud: (heavy West or Ireland accents) Scrything the Eigh’Hers!…and there’s this massive…hallway of doors. Just fuckin huge. And I’m a bit over-…very, very similar to the Aethers, it was the same kind of thing there were doors and she was saying ‘right, I’ll show yous around, where do you want to go’ type of thing.
Spud: But this was just me with all these doors out in front of me. And there were corridors off corridors kind of thing, just…all labyrinth-y style, just doors, doors, doors, doors. Kinda like a hotel if you’re looking down on it, y’know?
Tommie: Yea, yea, yea, or Scooby-doo cartoon (laughs)
Spud: (laughs) hahahaha! Oh jinkies! So I, eh, hahahaha, I eh, oh man! So…Next thing I get a bit discombobulated and everything is…becomes overwhelming for me and there’s too much of a choice and I don’t know where to go. It all starts spinning, revolving, moving and I start feeling nauseous, and I’m going, shit…I’m losing this and I want to stay in this and see where this goes. So, I’m like, right, I know where to go and so, my HGA’s number is 317 alright?
Spud: So I decide that’s the number I need to find, that’s the room I need to find…
Tommie: …can I inter…is the HGA number different from your number?
Spud: I’ve never looked up my own number, I don’t think…
Tommie: Do you not have a number, a three digit number that we’ve talked about before that follows you around that you can…
Spud: Ah yea, yea yea! Well, mines, four, but yea, naw, that’s different. Ha, I didn’t even think of that one actually. Funny. But as well like, even with say, looking up my own number, I mean what name do I go by? Spud, Paddy, Patrick? Do I use my surname? I’ve too many fuckin names y’know what I mean like, I don’t know…
Tommie: yea, yea yea. Ken Wilber would say, what was your name before you were born? What was your name before your parents were born?
Spud: Well, I know what my name would’ve been if I’d been a girl. They were gonna call me Dawn. That would have been..
Tommie: Dawn, like the morning…
Spud: …Get up on the crack of Dawn. Get up at Dawn, get up on Dawn. Get on top of Dawn. I mean imagine the bullying. It would have been horrendous.
Tommie: What’s that Irish for Dawn? It’s probably really pretty?
Spud: (laughs) Hair-in-moch-a-loch-a-toch…
Tommie: ….ár fad (laughts)
Spud: (laughs) So….317 is the number right?
Tommie: …sorry…is that the same number as the Stanley Kubrick documentary?
Spud: ohhhhh I don’t know. Maybe.Have a look. Google it there. And em, so err, yea, so I realise where I have to go and as I locate kind of where I need to go, the direction of where 317 is…as I get up to the door, herself is standing there.In her full, fuckin battle dress y’know. She has the…as, as she appears as a Roman goddess, right, she has the war helmet, she has the spear, she has the fuckin shield wrapped around her arm, the way the centurians used to do. Medusa’s head is on it.
Tommie: Right, right!
Spud: …and the little owl is around her too. She looks fuckin ready for fighting and I’m….
Tommie: So, it’s like the HGA in Dark Song, that similar? That kinda Roman…
Spud: Oh yea, yea, yea. Huh, that’s mad.
Tommie: Yea, Room 317 is a song and a comic but nothing to do with Stanley Kubrick. There’s actually a lot of stuff you could look at there…
Spud: OK, this is getting weirder then. So, I say to her ‘What’s going on?” And she said ‘Now you’re ready.’ I say..’Woah, like, for what?’ And she says ‘You know.’ (sighs) ‘Alright’ So, we open the door and there’s these steps going down to the cave like from the last one (vision) but the cave is a bit different, it’s not….I grab another torch…
Tommie: …Coz you know what it is this time…(laughs)
Spud: (laugh) Yea, coz I know what a torch is this time…
Tommie: Now, you’re ready…you were missing that information previously (laughs)
Spud: (laughing) so…(laughs) we’re both going down these steps looking like fucking Gandalf and Gimli, I’m Gimli obviously…
Spud: (makes angry Drawf noises and accent) …with my axe and my torch…Oh these beautiful caves, what it must have been like in the hayday of….anyway, so we go down but it doesn’t turn to ice like the last time with the pillars and the stalagmites and all this but it turns into…a bit like, maybe what the Mines of Moria were like in the Lord of the Rings book, well, not in the book because they were deserted but when they were busy. There’s this massive cavernous, huge cathedral-like…just huge bastard of a room, pillars, arches, yadda-yadda…it’s amazing, it looks like…it reminds me of…even in the dream I thought this is like the Salt Mines in Krakow because all along the walls, the walls were black or very, very, very, very, very, very, very dark blue, like Fr. Teds socks…
Tommie: haha, yea, yea…
Spud: Priests don’t wear black socks, just very, very, very, very dark blue ones…but in the rock there’s some minerals so it looks kinda shiny, it looks like a starry night, but on the walls y’know? So we’re standing there and over in the far corner of the cavern we can see there’s this, eh, table or an altar, big candles on either side of a box. So, I walk over to the box and on top of it is written The Great Work. So, I look at her and she looks at me and I open it up…and there’s another box…
Spud: And I says ‘So, I open the box yea?’ and she says ‘Yes, open the box.’ So, I open the box and there’s another box and I’m like, Ahhh c’mon…
Spud: haha, even in my dreams I’m taking the piss out of myself…So, I open the third box and there’s this er…. There’s a tree drawn on it and the numbers one to nine. But the numbers one to three are from the ground to the branches…
Spud: …and four to six are the roots underneath the ground and seven to nine are the branches and the upper parts of it. And so, one to three says ‘The Three ‘Shons’, and they are Meditation, Exploration and Divination. Four to six is Shadowland or Underworld, it has both of them, and this is The Guardian and Ancestors, Confrontation & Rebirth. And then seven to nine is Strengthening, Wisdom and Unity. Right….
Spud: So, I’m looking at this going, ehh, wow, like, what the hell is going on? And then she comes in. There’s this voice and she just starts…I’m getting all shaky now trying to remember…
Spud: It’s not Persephone though, I know it’s not her but I don’t know who it is…
Spud: This is like the master of feminine something. I don’t even know what she’s called.
Tommie: Well, Sophia? Sophia is the thing, yea?
Spud: Sophia, Gaia is another name? I dunno. This feminine…I dunno, is it Yin Yang. Ying? No Yang? Yang, yea? Maybe it’s her. I don’t know. It’s just this….woman. OK. (puts on angry Dublin accent) It’s just this feckin’ woman…)
Tommie: hahaha, yea, yea…women!
Spud: This is awful…It’s ‘her’ OK? It is her…
Tommie: Oh, that’s her name…what’s the film? Her that cannot be named?
Spud: She who cannot…isn’t that Minder?
Spud: No, that’s ‘her indoors’ isn’t it? Hahaha
Tommie: 1950s stand-up comedy. Take my wife…please, ba-dum-tish.
Spud: Wa-hey. So, it’s, it’s, her. It’s the feminine of the One. I’m not making any sense here. It’s so hard to…
Tommie: No, you are, you absolutely are…
Spud: OK. So, I finish reading this and the voice comes to me and she says ‘You can help teach people to be at ease with themselves, to be at peace, to live with love and compassion for the betterment of all and living this way people will learn their true nature and what they really are and that is One.’ So, there’s a few other bits and pieces, but I dunno how far you wanna go into it but there’s other stuff as well…
Tommie: Ohhh, I want to go into it…
Spud: You wanna keep going?
Tommie: Oh yea, oh yea…
Spud: I’m not freaking you out here, starting to freak myself out here bringing it back. She said to me…look this isn’t everything alright? When I clean up the audio… coz like I’m walking the dog, the dog’s barking, there’s people talking kinda stuff, even a kid ran out in front of me at one stage…
Spud: I’ll edit down the audio and I’ll send it to you, you can have a proper listen to it. And it’s weird as well, during the audio…
Tommie: D’you wanna put it on the feed or you want to keep it? We’ll see, we’ll talk about it…
Spud: I dunno, I think I’d rather have the opinion of people before releasing it.
Spud: haha, No Spud, you’re batshit, you need help hahaha. Or y’know…So, this isn’t everything but I will share ya that. So, I’m asking her questions about like who are we, where do we come from, all this kind of stuff that I want to know. But, towards the end of it she says ‘look, it’s not your responsibility to have places of worship, or dogmatic rules or even to look for people. People will find you when they need you or when they’re ready to learn. But, you will need help.’ And then she says ‘There are many teachings of this teaching but they all say the same thing; We’re all one, there is no separation, other than what is perceived. By teaching you learn more and by learning you’ll know more and teach more. Help your brothers and sisters and they, in turn, can help theirs when called on.
If you can help, then help. If you cannot, at least do not add to strife. Do good, accept yourself with love and compassion and others with the same love and compassion.’ She gave me a word, which is…
Tommie: Don’t say it…
Tommie: No, don’t. You can tell me later but don’t say it.
Spud: haha, what?
Tommie: Yea, you can tell me later but don’t say it…
Tommie: I’ve always a hesitation, don’t share the word(s) man.
Spud: Ok, ok, ok, we’ll keep that one. She spoke for a bit then about that and…there was a conversation and I was asking her more stuff. But I finished up and I said ‘So, the box said The Great Work, am I finished now with this?’ And she laughed (haha) and she said…but like, it was this…aww man, it’s hard to explain this…it was a laugh that cut me in two.
Spud: Destroyed me!
Tommie: right, right…
Spud: Abso-…just killed me. But at the same time there was a bliss in it as well.
Tommie: Yea, yea…
Spud: Does that make sense..?
Tommie: Yea, absolutely…
Spud: It’s this thing of she destroyed me and brought it all back again…
Tommie: It’s like that thing of realising you’re a arsehole but also realising you don’t have to be it anymore….the shame and the release…
Spud: …And then she said something like “My darling fool, the wheel is round and ever turning until you get off. This is a beginning, an end and a continuation.’ After that then she kinda faded off and yea, we were left alone. Minerva stooped down and gave me a hug and we just kinda…fused and there was just this light. Fuckin starlight man…
Tommie: Ohhh so weird when you did that…
Tommie: Your webcam totally lit up…that’s mental…hahaha. I wonder will that record?
Spud: hahahaha! Yea, fused into one and I just…I just came back to myself and err…yea, I just kind of lay there in silence. Nothing happened for a while. Now, I’ve no idea how long this…I was there for two, three, five minutes, an hour, I’ve no fuckin idea…
Tommie: yea, yea, yea
Spud: But even this after bit when I’m just lying there in thought. There was no bliss, no dejection, there was nothing. Just nothing. Emptiness. Emptiness isn’t even the right word coz emptiness means that there was something there…y’know, there’s a box where inside it is emptiness. Just nothing…
Tommie: A Void
Spud: Void, yea, blank. My mind is blank. And then a doubt starts coming in and I’m like…ah shit, she’s gone. Aww fuck, like..oh no and I start getting upset. Oh no, what have I done? Where’s this gone? But then I was able to see that because I’m upset about it I’m only upset because I’m perceiving that…I’m putting that onto it…
Spud: It’s a…ah what’s the word, I’m looking for…ah…a projection, I’m projecting that..
Spud: I’m projecting being upset onto it. If I can put being upset on it then what the fuck am I doing being upset about it, this is amazing. Y’know and then booooommmmmm (head explosion)
Spud: Just…woooooooowwww. Just amazing….ehh, Molly..
Spud: Holy fuckin shit. But it didn’t last very long. I’ve had these bliss moments before and they do last quite long. One time it lasted for a couple of days.
Tommie: Yea, I remember that. The Doctor’s one?
Spud: Yea, yea, yea, but this was just..bang! Fast. Boom! Explosion in my head and just going…and then I started crying…hahah, it was like that, y’know… men are so ugly when they cry, horrible…
Tommie: I’m extremely sexy when I cry. How dare you!
Tommie: I’m at my most beautiful…
Spud: The thing I wrote down here was Sylvester Stallone crying ‘Adriannnn!’
Spud: I’m like that, I’m just this sobbing mess..of just…emotions and yuaauauaa, what the fuck is going on? That was it then. Then I stopped crying and I eh, I gathered myself together and I went down and started carving some wood…
Tommie: …giving out to the kids hahaha
Spud: hahaha….that evening then I went for a walk with the dog and recorded everything I could remember.
I am a son of Poetry
Poetry son of Scrutiny,
Scrutiny son of Meditation,
Meditation son of Great Knowledge,
Great Knowledge son of Enquiry,
Enquiry son of Investigation,
Investigation son of Great Knowledge
Great Knowledge son of Great Sense,
Great Sense son of Understanding,
Understanding son of Wisdom,
Wisdom, son of Three Gods of Skill.
The quote is taken from Mark William’s Ireland Immortals – A History of the Gods of Irish Myth, page 166.
Many moons ago now when I was making flirty eyes at music journalism, like all good, failed musicians, I had a thing for Irish rap. Of course this led to plenty of interviews, free albums and gig passes but, unlike, the vast amount of musical genres what makes rap a load of fun is the rap battle.
Obviously enough you’re going to be thinking of lads in tracksuits free-styling lyrics over a beat with the aim of bettering their opponents. Lots of swearing and belittling goes on. You’re almost correct with your mental image though. In Ireland and Britain most rap battles don’t involve any music and it looks like what the Septics call Slam Poetry. It’s pretty bizarre in fairness, seeing working-class lads abuse the bejaysus out of each other in front of a crowd of young people in what is, basically poetry. But don’t call it poetry, it’s rap, but it’s rap without the beat, which is pretty much poetry but you just can’t call it poetry.
The Book of Leinster holds the oldest known Irish example of something not a million miles from today’s rap battles, the Colloquy of the Two Sages (Immacallam in dá Thuarad ). This 12th Century, 187-page book is home to some of the founding stories of Irish mythology. The Book of Invasions , Lebor Gabála Érenn (Irelands’ creation myths) is included in its pages, as is the most complete version of Táin Bó Cuailnge, the legendary story of a civil war in Ireland over a bull, and, used to hold, the Martyrology of Tallaght until the pages were lost. Why mention this last one? Well, the Martyrology of Tallaght was a book used by Irish clergy as it contains the Saint Days and an general entry about the day regarding Irish history, usually. It dated though from some time in the 8th-9th century meaning that our epic rap battle could be from around that time, although must accept it as coming from closer to the time of the Book of Leinster.
It’s quite a long poem and we don’t really need to go into it all here but the section at the beginning of the article is what really caught my peepers. But we need to have a quick synopses to get an understanding of it.
There was an ollamh called Adnae in Ulster. He was the foremost ollamh of science and poetry. An ollamh was a high-ranking poet or fili. Now the filí were basically the remnants of the druids. Men of learning. Adnae was a poet of the court of Conchobar mac Nessa, probably the most famous of the Ulster kings. Poets back then were also historians, story-tellers, bards, and what we would call these days genealogists. If you told this lad your full name he’d be able to trace back your roots to earlier tribes and chieftains. Adnae died suddenly and his role needed to be filled. His son, Néde, was studying the ‘sciences’ of the time in Scotland and one day at the seashore he heard the waves tell him of his father’s death and that another fili, Ferchertne, had been given his father’s fili robe after his death by a chap called Bricriu.
Bricriu’s name pops up a bit in the Ulster cycle and he’s a bit like Littlefinger from Game of Thrones. Scheming and disrespectful towards the Ulstermen he finds himself in a position of power but does get him comeuppance in the end. Anyway, for this Colloquy of the Two Sages he meets Néde on his return to Ireland and tells the young fili that he cannot become the ollamh as he’s too young. Néde casts a spell and the grass in his hand becomes a long, flowing beard and takes his place in Adnae’s vacant chair close to the king. Bricriu, being the whiny sod that he was, goes off and tells Ferchertne about it, who then storms into the court demanding an explanation as to why Adnae’s son is sitting in his courtly chair.
What follows then is a battle of wits and intelligence, guile and spirit in the form of a poem. Ferchertne ends up winning but is so impressed by Néde’s intelligence that he takes on the young fili to help him finish his education. A reminder then of the lyrics that caught my eyes:
I am a son of Poetry
Poetry son of Scrutiny,
Scrutiny son of Meditation,
Meditation son of Great Knowledge,
Great Knowledge son of Enquiry,
Enquiry son of Investigation,
Investigation son of Great Knowledge
Great Knowledge son of Great Sense,
Great Sense son of Understanding,
Understanding son of Wisdom,
Wisdom, son of Three Gods of Skill.
Just prior to this section Néde asks Ferchertne what gives him the right to be where he is. Ferchertne replies that he’s basically a lynchpin element in important things and without him they couldn’t work. Obviously enough implying the court wouldn’t function without him in his role. He asks Néde what does he know of the art of poetry and the scene is set for Néde to play his aces and make his argument to win.
Poetry was the highest artform in Ireland, it was through poetry and the oral tradition (eh now, stop the teenage jokes) that the druids and the later fili learnt their trade, or indeed, trades as the case was. Druids and fili were actually divided into subcategories, some were experts in history, some in law, some in spells, some in divination etc. But to be one you had to learn the ways of the language inside out so that you could eventually bend it to your will once you became a druid/fili. Here, Néde lays out his case that he’s the son of Poetry, i.e. the highest form of knowledge and that his knowledge comes from a long tradition of scrutiny, meditation, instinct, wisdom and so on. The last lines claim he comes from the line of the Three Gods of Skill who were Tuath dé gods.
The gods of skill were: Guibniu, a blacksmith, Credne, a bronze smith and Luchta, a wright (a master of woodwork). The three brothers were sons of the Tuath dé goddess Bridgit, herself the daughter of the All-Father god, the Dagda. So you see here that Néde is saying that the very roots of his wisdom and knowledge started with the three gods who worked with their hands to form masterful crafts. This mastery led on to wisdom, which then led to understanding, great sense etc.
What’s also implied here is that meditation, insight and investigation were all of great importance to the druids/filí. Something which has all but been washed out of Irish history and mythology. But the druids came from the Vedic tradition of India, of course they meditated. It was from the Vedic tradition that the Buddha himself learned to meditate after all. Eventually I’ll get around to an article about Celtic/Druidic mediation but to shorten an already long article it went like this:
Teinm Láida (a bit like today’s mindfullness meditation), Dichetal Do Chennaib (akin to mantra meditation) and Imbas Forosnai (forsight meditation/a bit like incubation or sensory deprivation meditation).
Looking back into our mythology we can at times catch real glimpses of what the spiritual practicioners did. There’s not much evidence but from what we do have we can put together pieces that show the druids weren’t just beardy-biker-looking dudes with sickles chopping mistletoe and sleeping under oak trees but were actually insightful mediators obsessed with acquiring knowledge, wisdom and mastering crafts.
Finally then, the Colloquy of the Two Sages, would seem to be an Irish version of Flyting, which dated from around the same time too, Flyting was an exchange of insults between two people. They weren’t usually written down but again, what’s interesting is that it wasn’t really the trading of insults here, but it’s more like they’re fighting verbally for a job that’s going. Imagine you had to do a rap battle to bag your next job, now that would be fun. Oh and Mark William’s book is fantastic. I’ll be writing a good bit more in it in the coming weeks and months.
These articles, for now anyway, well be wonderings on Daniel Ingram’s book Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha…” where I’ll start with a quote and give my thoughts and feeling on it.
…awakening is about understanding the fundamental nature of all sensate experiences, and what they happen to be is ultimately completely and utterly irrelevant to awakening. Thus, very awakened beings understand something fundamental about whatever arises or however their lives manifest, that is, its impermanence, emptiness, luminosity, groundlessness, or however they wish to describe it. However, they have no more knowledge about the specifics of the world than they have acquired in just the way that anyone else acquires knowledge about the specifics of the world. They can even have all sorts of psychological baggage to deal with, and this is probably the norm.’ page 116-117
Well, I may as well start with something difficult to get my teeth into eh? Anyone who listens to the TASTA podcast will know that Tommie and I are taking on the mantel of the Baptist’s Head amazing twosome, Duncan Barford and Alan Chapman, and trying to plough our way to enlightenment on a fast track. Currently it’s very much a scatter-gun approach but we’re blind men in the dark and once we get to grips with finding the door and even the lightswitch for the room we’re in we’ll probably, maybe, become a little more organised. Or maybe we won’t. I don’t know. Does it matter? We’re playing it by ear at the minute. Sure, it’s nice to travel on the comfortable train and get to where you’re going but sometimes you just have to get on the next train that arrives. Let’s make a note Tommie, maybe we should try more 30-day challenges, like our Star Ruby thingy from a while ago.
Back to the quote above though. I’d said on the podcast before that this book really wasn’t singing to me at the beginning. And that’s on me, I just didn’t, and indeed, don’t know a whole lot about Buddhism. I had to put it down and thanks to both Tommie and a listener, can I namedrop D. here? Let’s leave it at D. in case he doesn’t want his name here, anyway, thanks to both I’ve been able to learn plenty more about it and going back to the book it feels like new eyes are on it and I’ve a bit more of a foundation to build upon.
Awakening, for me, must be the end goal of all this magic(k), consciousness hacking, psycho-technology whatever you want to call it. Honestly, calling it magic still doesn’t sit well with me. Images of Paul Daniels and David Copperfield just flood my head when I see that. I’m into this because I think there’s a road to enlightenment/awakening/individuation or whatever you want to call it. Basically, I think you can be a pretty decent human if you get yourself in order and be a better man. That’s my goal here. Simple as that. But as usual the simple things are pretty difficult to get correct.
Awakening, as Ingram say above, is ultimately the understanding of our sensing of reality. The knowledge and realisation that everything, every single moment is temporary and our moods, feelings, wants, needs, whatever, are the same. Knowing, or learning, that every moment is sacred is mind-blowingly humbling because it’s in those moments that we appreciate our transience and by embracing that we get a fleeting touch with the eternal.
Does that make sense? By being alive right here, right now and seeing it, really seeing and experiencing it; that’s touching the surface of the waters of eternity, that great big Sea of Infinity.
For some reason though we’ve come to think of those who are ‘awake’ as somehow smarter, more intelligent than then rest of us. This is a mistake here according to Ingram. It’s that old thing about the teacher and the student. The teacher can only really learn to teach from his students as y’know, every student is different and must be taught in a different way so you can share what knowledge you have with them. And just because someone is enlightened/awake certainly doesn’t mean they’re any more intelligent than you, they’re just a bit more wise when it comes to knowing their place in this mad universe.