Consider the cigales of the fields

Here's a bit of rounding up as I get myself back into gear after the quick visit back to England.

Jesus clearly taught that a (the?) primary way we learn about the meaning of life was to look closely at the world - to consider the lilies of the field and the birds of the air and then make up our own minds on the basis of this looking rather than on the basis of some arbitrary and imposed external human authority. Connected with this call to look remember Spinoza said that the more we know singular things the more we understand God (or Nature) - Ethics V.24. In other words the natural world looked at closely, with a single, diamond pointed concentration that transcends the self, shows us something true about God-or-Nature (Deus-sive-Natura) - that is reality or Pure-Being. Looked at thus nature can help reveal to us that the mind-body division which has so coloured the western outlook is, when absolutised and turned into a metaphysics, a false one.

One 'thing' that took my whole concentration this week was actually seeing, up close, a cigale - a cicada. As many of you will know during summer their extraordinary sound pervades the region and yet, for all their presence, they are very hard to see. A few weeks a go Susanna an I looked at one in a tree through binoculars but this week in Vaison la Romaine we spotted one just sitting on the pavement. So here are a couple of photos and a short video clip of the marvellous insect. I hope it elicits in you something of the wonder we felt.

Secondly, my friend and musical colleague (he's a kind of anarcho-Zen-Buddhist-composer-cyclist-backwoodsman-cum-saxophonist and all round nice-guy) Kevin Flanagan has a blog at last. God knows what it will be like but it will never be less than interesting. Looks like I might be posting some stuff there, too, since it is connected to the Riprap Collective with whom I work. By the way, the friend who knocked him off his bike recently WAS NOT me. I think I know who it was but I won't say. Anyway check it out if you are so minded.

Thirdly I have been enjoying greatly the recent re-release of Dennis Wilson's wonderful 1977 album Pacific Ocean Blue along with unreleased stuff that was to have been called "Bambu." Sublime and perfect music for the 30 degree heat here. It's the official soundtrack for this sabbatical. Here is a link to a short promo film about the release if you are interested.

Fourthly - reading. Am deep into Paul Wienpahl's Zen Diary. This is a very interesting out of print book by a philosopher who I discovered because of his wonderful book "Radical Spinoza." (Here's a link to an earlier blog by me with other links connected with Wienpahl.) In his diary he shows all kinds of connections between the thinking of Spinoza, Wittgenstein and Zen. Now that has been a real buzz for me because I sort of discovered that myself along the way and didn't reject it - nice when that happens isn't it? Ralph Waldo Emerson said something about this kind of thing - "A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam that flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his own thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a sort of alienated majesty." Weinpahl writes much better and more clearly than me but I can say I read him with no sense of alienation. Anyway, a key idea of his is of the importance of engaging in philosophy as a practical therapy.

I'm also getting through Robert Pogue Harrison's delightful essay Gardens - An Essay on the Human Condition recently recommended to me by Jonathan in some comments to earlier blogs. Thank you Jonathan. Needless to say I am reading this to help me see how a Philosophical Garden (a la Epicurus) might be the kind of structure liberal religionists should be investigating in the face of the continuing demise of the church in all its forms. Also I'm re-reading Freya Mathews and the Stoics (Epictetus, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius et. al.). On the Stoics and how one might practically engage with that tradition it is worth checking out Keith Sneddon's site here.

So, that will do for the moment as I'm going to lie down and snooze after a long ride in the heat in the hills around Chateauneuf du Pape. I might listen to Dennis as I drift off into the Pacific Ocean Blue with the sound of the cigales in the background - which you can do right now too . . .