Saturday, September 01, 2012

Somewhere in the Middle of Nowhere
There’s an old joke that goes like this: A group of women are protesting at the American nuclear naval base at Holy Loch in western Scotland, watched over by a few bored sailors. One elderly lady holds up a placard and shouts to a young recruit, “hey, why don’t you take those nuclear missiles and stick them in the middle of nowhere?” The sailor replies, “lady, I’m from Brooklyn, believe me this is the middle of nowhere.”

It’s amusing the way perceptions are coloured by different visions of the world and one’s sense of place. What may seem off the beaten track to one person is the centre of the social world for another.
Whether humans emerged in a particular place then spread around the globe in a manner of diffusion, or there was a simultaneous but divergent evolution of the species in various parts of the planet we might never know, but either way we’ve since managed to circumnavigate Earth, mapping time along the way. We’ve also pretty much run out of places to discover, populate and exploit that haven’t already seen activity from some culture or other.
Even so, there are still amazing and jaw-droopingly stunning places in this world that most Westerners don’t know exist.
There are fascinating cultures with fine art and complex architecture, beautiful music and dance and stories as rich as the tapestries draped in great cathedrals that some simply don’t understand or appreciate. The same applies to people in other places whose awareness of the world is also tainted by religious and ethnic stereotypes and government propaganda insinuated into the imagination of its populace through a complicit, or at the very least acquiescent media.
Global news organisations are controlled by a very few people and hugely wealthy organisations whose interest lies in distributing a version of events that maintains the power structure of the industrial-consumerist enterprise, and the people who report for them are simply cogs in the machine of the crisis and disaster business. I’ve become so disgusted by and yet indifferent to the biased accounts of events I see regularly on the corporate news channels that I’ve simply stopped watching television.
You wouldn’t believe how much less stress I have in my life because every minor problem somewhere that is blown up into a major incident by these hounds of tragedy no longer actually affects me personally. In fact they never did, but now at least I don’t have to hear about it from these in-your-face soundbite-programmed sources.
Perhaps that sounds a bit like I’m hiding from the world here in the middle of nowhere. On the contrary, I’m more involved now than I had been for a few years before leaving the security of middle England and America, not simply letting life wash over me filling my mind with sadness and trouble.

I'm definitely somewhere. Most westerners may not be familiar with here, but it’s the heart of my world and the pulse of life is all around. Observing actual experience and becoming a participant is liberating and gives one a direct sense of influence over what is happening than sitting in front of a flickering screen absorbing the negative and harmful ions that beam out at us from all corners of the globe.
I worked for many years in hospitals and homes for the mentally ill, and it is interesting that schizophrenics would frequently present themselves saying that “rays and beams” were being aimed at them. Naturally, this is a culturally constructed manifestation of the condition of paranoia (one of the 4 attendant symptoms of the diagnosis), however, how far from the truth are they?
Their extreme response and inability to adapt to the stress of life pushed them over the edge into that ‘abnormal’ state of mind where treatment became necessary. But the rest of us, the sane ones, we simply put the madness of the world on the back burner, bury it in some closet of the mind and carry on about our business while the bombs drop and the children starve and the truly insane ones behead people for dancing.
I had a friend who slept with the radio tuned to a news station all night, and woke up every morning feeling depressed and run-down. I told her I used to do that but had realised the negative effects of hearing bad news, even in my sleep, was causing me to feel more weary than rested. I suggested she try what I had done and listen to easy listening or classical music. She didn’t, and her constant anxiety and frantic behaviour continued.
While I hope she no longer surrounds herself with the depressive misfortunes of this world that dragged her dreams into darkness, I now sleep to the chant of crickets and wake to the songs of birds. What a difference it makes to one’s state of mind to slumber to the lullaby of nature.
Everybody knows this is nowhere ~ Neil Young

Over the past few weeks I’ve been on the road again, down the coast past the middle of nowhere to the beautiful Mediterranean city of Antalya, with its many extravagant fountains and urban parks in full bloom. I visited the region on assignment and stayed a few nights at a lovely hotel on the famous Lara Beach where I was the only native English speaker.

There were the usual German, French and Turkish guests, though several parties of Iranians were also enjoying their summer holidays, and everyone was using English to communicate outside his or her respective group.
The global language, as some of my students have called it, is quickly becoming an indispensable tool. Whether of a personal or business nature people everywhere uses these same verbal symbols to establish contacts and relationships and exchange information for all sorts of purposes. However, the variety and form of English is subject to change according to education, employment and method of learning.
Regardless of the standard of teaching local parlance is still thrown in to the mix, which results in some very interesting compositions. With work in editing and publication coming my way, I know I’ve got my job cut out for me when I read some of the translations in magazines and brochures, and even published books.

Although this book, presented to me as a gift by the hotel staff in Antalya, has some stunning photographs of the region. Interestingly, one of the photos is almost identical to one I took myself while visiting Dudem Falls; apparently people go fishing daily in this same spot in the mist of the roaring water.
Wherever we may wander, wherever we may roam,
the centre of the circle will always be our home ~ John Lennon
The luxurious hotel I teach at a couple days each week is a strict Islamic complex with separate swimming pools for men and women and not a bar in sight; I’m always the only non-Muslim in the compound, and treated with great respect. This resort on the Med was fully integrated. There were a few women sitting around the pool area or on the beach wearing long coats and headscarves (God only knows how they manage in the 50c degree heat and stifling humidity reminiscent of the USA’s East Coast at its worst), however, most were in bikinis and happily benefiting from the therapeutic sunshine, drinking margaritas and splashing in the sparkling clear water.

I wondered how many Westerners have ever thought about Iranians taking holidays never mind wearing swimsuits, smoking and drinking alcohol and associating freely with people from other countries. Let's be straight about this, I don't want Iran having nuclear power, or the technology to make weapons. But, I don't want anyone having that power regardless of their political association or nationality, not the USA or UK or Israel, not Pakistan or India, not Japan or Germany, no one. There are alternative energy sources available if we would invest in the future of these cleaner methods.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every day people could cast out their line into the sea of culture and find something sporting and exciting to grapple with, just for the enjoyment of it? Difference is what makes us all unique, and in diversity we find similarities.

An anthropologist mentor from the University of Maryland once told me that differences within cultures are greater than differences between cultures. If everyone understood that simple fact then just maybe there would be less enmity and strife and unnecessary misunderstanding and we could rid the world of politicians and those who create and thrive on catastrophe and chaos. How much more civilised and cultured could we be as humans if everyone tried to learn from each other? What level of freedom we could enjoy if all people were able to express their culture in a tolerant and involved society.
Utopia: 1551 from Modern Latin, lit. “nowhere”, first used by Thomas More as the short title of his book (1516) about an imaginary island enjoying perfect legal, social and political systems, from Greek ou “not” and topos “place”.

Freedom has obligations as well as rights, and that means respect for others without harming anyone else along the way. Relativists consider all cultures and truths as equally valid, but how do we in the rest of the world deal with the mindless savagery of those people who abhor dancing and the ordinary enjoyment of gender-integrated companionship so deeply that they would kill those who engage in this natural human activity?
I’m a great believer in education and that through knowledge we come to understanding and compassion, though in the meantime, something must be done to prevent these acts of terror, everyone everywhere must stand against this insanity.

It seems to me that the middle of nowhere is a state of mind, and those who refuse to respect free will are smack dab in the centre of mystery and fear, and that is a dark and dreadful place.
It's a funny old world, as they say, but I love the variety and splendour of life in a liberated contemporary society, and through education and try to do my part to calm the choppy sea of confusion that other less well-meaning people spread with culutral disinformation and bitter lies about spiritual truths.

Let's hope a light will soon appear in the hearts and minds of these madmen and all people can live to express joy and happiness without fear of reprisal from the deceptive and violent evil ones who claim to act in the name of God. Love truly is the answer to all of life's most difficult questions. Through sharing that truth we come to wisdom, for love in all its many forms is the starting point and the finish line, the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end of wisdom.

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