Friday, June 13, 2014

Relationships which rely on the written word are problematic

The internet is a new medium and like all things contains the capacity to be both gift and curse.

Aggression is more common in internet exchanges than one finds in the real world and for all sorts of understandable reasons, and in moderation, is no real issue.

However, when it degenerates to a Lord of the Flies scenario, as it can and as is increasingly raised by psychologists,  it is more problematic. What is it about internet interactions which makes aggression so much more common?

It was interesting talking to a friend last night about workplace relationships and the problematic issue of email exchanges which seem to be a lesser version of the internet exchanges but where people misunderstand each other frequently. This is more common when people are not working in the same office and while there may be some personal knowledge, there is not regular contact or physical relationship.

We wondered if there was a 'labelling' going on unconsciously, sourced in the only real information available, which was 'how the person wrote.' We are so used to classifying people on how they dress and often on their accent that it seems human nature to want to 'find a place' for people or to want to have some understanding or knowledge of them even though the label may be completely wrong. If we cannot be in the same room with them and all we have are their words on the screen then that is what we will try to decipher so we can gain some understanding, or control of the relationship.

People who can be articulate and direct in their email communications are often seen as aggressive, we decided, when in fact they are just being articulate and direct. And any impression of aggression equates with a sense of power and the kneejerk reaction is often defensive, if not aggressive and before long, offence is taken.

If this happens at work where people have some knowledge of each other and in families where people have a great deal of knowledge of each other, and it does, then it is hardly surprising it is so much worse on the internet where there is no real knowledge of each other.

For one thing many people hide behind pseudonyms and in that anonymity obviously feel safe to say what they want in anyway that they want. No doubt the insulation provided by anonymity also makes them more reckless and less disciplined in terms of how they behave and this means the unconscious will be more active and projection more common.

But even where people are known to others there can be a tendency for the cryptic 'dig' which is possibly sourced in the fact that it is just so easy to 'have a go' at someone online without having to deal with repercussions in the real world, although that is also likely to be fallacious.

Or is it that many do not appreciate the circumstances in which they relate and understand the courtesies required in the written word which are more important because one does not have access to the senses, nor often, personal information, which allows a better assessment of what someone says and of who someone is?

I am sure after many years as a journalist there is a heightened awareness of the power of the written word and the capacity to misunderstand, misinterpret, misquote and misread what someone is saying in ways that most people without this experience, mostly cannot have. What is written on a public forum has the potential to be a legal document and there can be a fine and often misunderstood line between libel and slander and humour and honesty.

And the majority of people interacting on line have no experience of the power of the written word, nor an appreciation for the need to be considered if not cautious in what you write, how you write and to whom you write and perhaps that is why aggression has become a factor, to lesser and greater degrees, in online communications.

Erring on the side of courtesy and consideration and imputing the best of motives to people when assessing what they have said is wise. And if someone you know has embarrassed you by 'having a dig' publicly then don't get into a brawl in public - raise it with them privately.

And just as we choose our friends, we also need to make considered decisions about sites where we comment because while most are absolutely fine, some have cultures of paranoia and venality which are best avoided.

Any online site, like any club, or organisation is as good as its management. Moderated sites can be intensely annoying because they are often selectively over-moderated but unmoderated sites can be a literal nightmare.

Like anything new there is a strong element of 'winging it' with social networks and online communication and the reason why so many of the more professional sites have Moderators is because without them, conversation would be more likely to degenerate to the most base level.

As someone who believes that words have power at a frequency level, choose your friends, acquaintances and connections carefully online for aggression and unpleasantness are not good environments for anyone.

Monday, June 02, 2014

What I would like to write to poetry editors, publishers and agents when I submit......

I offer you my poetry to read. Your acceptance or approval would be pleasant, indeed useful, but neither is indicative of any worth, or constitutes a reflection on me or on my work.

If you don’t like it that does not make it inferior or bad or unworthy, it just means it is not to your taste, at least at this point in time, because your taste results from many sources, including what which your peers and the world of poetry which you inhabit, deem to be ‘good.’

My work will either ‘speak to you’ or it will not and that will be regardless of how much you ‘like’ what I have said and how I have submitted. We both know that the how to submit rules are meaningless where there is appreciation.

We also both know from experience that success and talent are not synonymous and that fate, fashion, circumstance and dumb luck all play a part in how a submission is received.
Thanks for your time.

And when it comes to submitting novels to agents or publishers:

I do sometimes feel like writing in response, submitting according to sensible rules along the lines of:
I have no idea who would read my book; I have no idea what genre it really is; I have not a clue as to its market; I have no idea how to promote my book and no intention of doing so; I am vastly older than 30 and I am not the least bit interested in promotional activities, etc. etc. …. it is a collection of words which create a story so make of it what you will as any reader must!

p.s. I am not the least bit photogenic but I do have a ready wit and can hold my own in conservation.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Dealing with rejection as a writer

How does one deal with rejection as a writer?

The simple reality is that success and talent are not synonymous and never have been. Good and great writing gets rejected and bad writing gets accepted. It has ever been so. Of course you can learn lessons and you will learn lessons but that does not mean that success will come.

Many of those writers which are now called 'great' were rejected for years; many were not published until after they were dead. In a hoax a few years ago submissions using the work of some great writers were sent to agents and publishers and all were rejected. Can you imagine James Joyce and Ulysses even getting a look-in these days when the fashion is for 'shopping list' writing? He was serially and seriously rejected in his time until someone actually recognised brilliance but today he would be unlikely to be accepted by anyone.

Which raises the other issues which relate to whether or not one is rejected or accepted and first on the list is, taste, or 'fashion.' With the death and dearth of brave and brilliant literary agents and publishers - although the developments online are helping improve this situation - it is the market which drives decisions. In other words, what the agents and publishers believe will sell is what matters, not the quality of the writing.

So your writing may be utterly brilliant, but not to the 'taste' of agents, publishers and the market at this point in time. Rejections will push many to make a decision as to whether or not they continue to write in their own unique and distinct way, no matter if they are never accepted, or whether they will try to change their style to 'suit' the fashion. The latter choice will not gaurantee acceptance either. Which brings me to the other factor at work and that is fate.

Returning to the stark reality that success and talent are not synonymous, and never have been, in any field, takes one to the issue of fate, destiny and plain old dumb luck. There are countless brilliant writers, poets, singers, artists, lawyers, architects - pick a profession or creative skill - out there who will never succeed. There are some who will, alongside lots of mediocre if not incompetent others.

So while there may be valuable lessons to learn which may bring acceptance and success for some, for most there will not. And the only lesson left is to enjoy what you do, speak in your own true voice, gain satisfaction from your creative expression and leave the rest to fate.

At the end of your life, the quality of your creative expression will not be important, no matter how much of a success or failure society might deem you to be; who you were, are and how you lived your life as a person first and writer second will be what matters, to you and to everyone else you touched.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Saving poetry from the 'poets'

Why is there so much bad poetry around today? Or so much prose which is called poetry but isn't.

Perhaps the problem is the fact that poetry is so little studied in any general sense by most people and therefore they have less ability to differentiate between what is good poetry and what is bad.

In recent decades poetry has become to mean any collection of words, anywhere from three to thirty thousand, written on a page when much of it is not poetry but prose and some of it akin to shopping lists, bus tickets or delusional dream remnants.

One wonders, with some of the poetry which succeeds or is acclaimed, whether judges are erring on the side of the obscure, as in, they don't really understand what it is saying, if anything, but it sounds clever (sometimes it meanders all over the page and so looks clever as well) and not wanting to admit to their ignorance, being sophisticated intellectuals after all, then they 'stamp' it as good, brilliant, excellent or exceptional.

Erring as we all do, on the side of caution. And one can do that more with poetry than other forms of writing because poetry pretty much never makes money for anyone. Ironically, the same argument should create a situation of higher standards not lesser.

There was in the past a criteria for poetry and generally it was expected to be thematic, rhythmic, musical (rhyme) to some degree, and to actually say something, if not paint a picture in words.

So much poetry, and even those poems which win awards, contain none of the above criteria and would have left our greatest poets throughout history shaking their heads. Does it matter? Yes and no.

 Language is like life always in a state of evolution so why should not writing be the same?  And if more people feel inclined to write because they don't have to follow any rules at all then that too is a good thing because it is creative expression which is vital for mind, body and soul.

But surely at some point, just as all systems require principles, standards, guidelines and 'rules,' so too does poetry. And if we are to have a world where poetry is again, the finest and highest expression of the bard - the ancient soul workers and guides - then that will need to be pushed not just by those who are weary of so much bad poetry, or prose masquerading as poetry, but by those who can actually tell the difference.

And the only way to tell the difference is to spend more time reading the work of our greatest poets, for therein lies not just knowledge but perspective.

Friday, May 24, 2013


Oil on Canvas, Outback, Roslyn Ross. 2013

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Love is letting go

Watercolour, Psyche's Ocean, December 2012, Roslyn Ross.

Sometimes we are not right in people's lives and stepping back is a gift to them and Self - both theirs and ours.

At such times what matters is knowing you have done all that you could to work on the relationship and when soul paths take different directions there are no regrets about what you might 'have said' or might 'have done,' because you have said and have done all that you could. This does not mean there is no grieving for as long as we love, we feel, but there are no doubts that we could have done more than we have done.

Real love contains within in it the power and grace to set free those you care about deeply, even when, with every fibre of your heart and being, you would wish it to be other.

It is always so very much harder to do this when family is involved than when it is a friend but perhaps there, the depth of love is greater and so too is the power to do what needs to be done.

And sometimes, these parting of the ways, in truth, have nothing to do with you. Relationships are not always equal and responsibility is not always shared although it is better to approach in the beginning, as if this were so.

People change. People become wounded, or their inherent damaged-ness is re-awakened by life and what you are to them or appear to them or seem to them, just adds to the hurt. It doesn't have to be your fault. In truth it does not have to be anyone's fault - they cannot help what has happened to them and they are struggling to heal and learn in their own way. The fact that you now get in the way of that healing and learning is just the way of it; a turn in the trap of life.

Hanging in there in any active sense with someone you love is required - but only for a time. If the path does not show hope of resolution and the hurts you feel and no doubt the hurts they feel, continue to grow, then it is time to step back.

It is not that the door is closed but rather that you set them free to continue their journey alone, hoping that in time, their path will lead back to where you are. It may or it may not and it is the fear of the latter which often keeps us holding on beyond the place where pain is bearable.

All of life is a journey and such journeys are made in various forms from the physical and literal to the emotional and psychological and on to the spiritual. We stand in airports waving goodbye to those we love, crying often, as they head to distant and often unknown lands, sometimes for a brief visit and sometimes for a long one and sometimes for the rest of their lives or ours.

Journeys of the soul and psyche are like that. Some things we need to do alone. Just as many cannot die while those they love remain in the room, so too perhaps, many cannot die to Self in order to be reborn, while those they love and who love them in return remain in the 'room' and so unconsciously begins, a process of rejection.

I liken this to the adolescent need to learn the shape of her or his Self; to step out from the shadow of the parent's tree in order to stand strong, independent, and to gain enough 'sun' or light of consciousness, to send down sure, stable, certain and individual roots. The child cannot reject the parent - the psyche will never allow it a- and so the child challenges the parent, torments, hurts, attacks the parent, so the parent will push the child away. In time the child as adult can and should return, but the original breaking away must be done by the parent for it is the parent who has the power; the parent who will always have the greater power. The parent, or anyone in your life who has been 'given' that role by you, consciously or unconsciously, will always have a greater capacity to hurt the 'child.' It is the nature of the dynamic.

And so it is with relationships. When we love it is because we are drawn together as Souls - whether familial or friend. And when someone we love, demonstrates, for it is often demonstration in the beginning in subtle ways, by a word, or lack of word, by an expression or lack of expression, by an act or lack of an act, that somehow they are not comfortable with us in their world or they are not comfortable in our world, then so is beginning the process of disconnection which the Soul and Psyche require for their journey of becoming.

The first 'signs' are akin to those of someone who begins to talk about taking a journey far away. This may not be a modern journey where technology allows communication to continue wherever they might travel, but more like a journey of old where a loved one sailed away to distant lands and might never be seen or heard from again - or where occasional 'words' came back from them or others, that they were still 'alive' and had thought of you.

It is when the 'ticket' for this journey is purchased that the one who is 'left behind' must accept the inevitable and take a deep, grieving breath to wish them good voyage, safe travel and farewell. The 'ticket' for such a journey usually comes in the shape of anger or even rage. They fear we will hold them back; they fear our power over them and just as the last dying breaths will be held off until we give them permission to 'leave' so too, in such times of 'death and rebirth' we need to let go; to accept the inevitable no matter how much it sears our heart and wreaks havoc with our mind.

For they are being called to 'distant lands' within; places where we may not travel. We cannot go with them. We may not even know where they are going, when or if they get there, nor what they find if they do arrive safely. We may never 'see' or 'hear' from them again.

Just as our ancestors watched their loved ones sail on oceans of tears in order to 'make a better life for themselves' in a material sense, so too, are most of us called, at some time or another, to do the same in a spiritual sense. For that journey to Self is a spiritual journey and some are drawn or called to it more than others.

We can only 'see' the shape of ourselves when we are alone and unconsciously that is what we will be driven to achieve. What holds us back more than anything is 'love' or those bonds of connection which we fear, unconsciously, will keep us trapped and beholden. They have no need to of course, but for some, the fear is so great, that breaking free is the only option.

You can only ever prepare yourself for their journey and do what you can to prepare them, if they should wish it, and then accept that they have gone and only the breath of prayers and the eternal drape of your invisible love will go with them.

To 'sail' beyond the bounds of the 'known world' still happens, but it is done within the mythic realms of psyche and often will require a physical demonstration of their commitment to the Path - they will 'leave' and the only comfort is knowing that they must!

Don't take it personally

One of The Four Agreements is a commitment to 'not take anything personally' and while this seems wise and admirable at first sight, it is in truth, impractical and unlikely when it involves someone you know and love deeply - of course it is personal because the relationship is personal.

The only time we can 'not take it personally' is when something happens between us and someone we do not know or care about or when life flicks a difficult situation our way, but when relationships are personal it is impossible not to take personally the hurtful things which happen.

It is the presence of hurt which signifies the depth of love that we have for another; it is the pain which signifies how much we care.

In a world where none of us took anything personally there would be no pain, that is true, but neither would there be love, compassion, joy, connectedness and the depth of feeling which holds us together in that fine dance between healing and hurting.

Because when we take something personally we are involved and most importantly, we feel! If we do this when we have no personal connection with someone or a situation then we need to look closely at what it is inside of us which has so 'personalised' it and see the feeling response as a guide to what is at work within us.

But if we are personally connected to someone or a situation then our responses are perfectly natural. If we did not feel we would not be human. If we did not feel we would not care. If we did not feel we would not love. It is the connection which creates the feeling response to our sense that we are involved and when the connection is about a family member or an old, close or dear friend then of course we are involved and of course it is personal.

Don't take it personally

Don't take it personally they said,
for that is where hurt lies
and the place where pain is waiting.
But it is personal, I replied,
because there is a relationship,
and reaching out is what is required.
Don't take it personally they said,
for that is just your ego at work
and your needs in regard to others.
But it is personal, I replied,
because it is the love I have
which seeks always to connect.
Don't take it personally they said,
for then you make yourself vulnerable,
and give your power to others.
But it is personal, I replied,
because our hearts are drawn together,
and our minds are intertwined.
Don't take it personally they said,
for that means you want an outcome,
and they will have you in their power.
But it is personal, I replied,
because that is the way of love
and love is birthed in need and pain and grief.
Don't take it personally they said,
for your life will be so much more complicated,
and disappointing if you do.
But it is personal, I replied,
and a life without complications
or disappointments is a life without compassion.
Don't take it personally they said.....
and I replied that love is pure connectedness
and its only condition is that we are personal.....
because we are persons seeking to know
ourselves, and the other and that can
never be impersonal if it is to be real.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Synchronicity and cosmic reminders

Photo: White-headed Black Chat.
In August of last year I wrote about a small blue and yellow bird which keeps banging on our lounge room window which, lined with a film of reflective sun protection, is in essence a mirror – trying to connect with what it believes is another bird but which is really itself.
At the time I said:
Synchronicities abound in life and more so when we become aware of them. There is a little bird, gloriously, shimmeringly blue, which bangs on our lounge-room window at various times of the day.
And now, as of this past week, we have another bird doing the same thing but this one is black and white and much larger.  The closest I have found to it is the White-headed Black Chat although I am not sure it is this bird. It looks like a version of our Australian magpie, akin to the size of the Piper Magpie.
The noise as it bangs against the glass and the image of itself, mistaken for something other, is much, much louder. It is three times the size of the small blue and yellow bird. Is the cosmos upping the ante on the message it is sending me? I am beginning to think the answer is yes.
Black and white are opposites and birds are believed to be symbolic of a link between heaven of earth; between the material and the spiritual; between ego and psyche.
Given that my ponderings of late have been around beliefs, rights and wrongs, blacks and whites, Self and other, this ‘message’ may well be a reminder that when I ‘bang my head’ against the ‘mirror’ which is my life, I am doing so because I see the image as ‘other’ when in fact it is me. This fits of course with the philosophy that we are all connected and what we do unto others we do to ourselves. It also fits with one of my favourite maxims: ‘That which we condemn in others is that which we deny in ourselves.’
So given the pointlessness of the bird banging at the glass because it wants to connect with what it believes is another bird, the message for me perhaps is that ‘banging away’ at the ‘glass’ of division which I see as a separating barrier between myself and others in terms of belief, is just as pointless.
There are many aspects of my life at present where this is relevant. Just as the bird is mistaken in believing the image is ‘other’ so I am mistaken in believing in a similar image whether it be of individual or belief. I would not have thought I was like this but the cosmos is wonderfully frank and blunt when it speaks to us and this is the language of synchronicity, just as it is of dreams.
We talk about ‘banging our head’ when we are trying to be understood, to be heard, to bring about change and in essence that is what the bird is also trying to achieve. He or she wants to connect, to join with the image, which is perceived as other – it is in essence a reaching out but one which achieves nothing because there is no ‘other’ and the image is mere illusion.
The world is a magical place and never more so than when we see through the language of symbol and meaning. Jung said symbol was the lost language of the soul and given my almost desperate search for answers to current problems, well, perceived problems, and issues, in recent weeks, and given the lack of anything approximating an answer, perhaps this is it and my cosmic guides are saying;’ turn away from the false image, the mirror reflection, the illusion that something is other and return to the certainty and the centre of Self.
The language of Soul has never been so precise, nor so beautiful.

NB: It is Sunday and the same bird is now flinging itself against my bedroom window which I can see from my desk when the door is open. There is no sun-protective film on this window, so no mirror reflection, but s/he kept at it for a while. Perhaps I did not heed the message well enough. And it does fit with an experience last night where I pondered who and what I was and wanted to be and then had a dream about being pregnant and giving birth which always reflects a birth of Self, particularly at my age.

And the meaning of the magpie in symbolic terms offers insight:

Quick List of symbolic traits of the magpie:
  • opportunistic
  • intellect
  • perceptive
  • flashy
  • refined
  • communicative
  • social
  • deceptive
  • illusion
  • expressive
  • willful
The magpie's speech is symbolic of communication and creative expression. When we hear the magpie speak it is a message to us that we might need to listen to what is being spoken to us - listen with more attention. The chatter of the magpie is also a symbolic message that we may need to speak our minds more clearly....speak up, express our opinions, be creative with our spoken words.

The magpie's obsession with shiny things is symbolic of our tendency to chase after false ideas or perceptions. When the magpie comes into our lives it is often a reminder that we may have to re-evaluate our priorities. Are we chasing after unsuitable desires? Are we serving a false ideal? Are we putting materialism ahead of matters of the soul?

The magpie builds its home in the thickest "V" of trees. Forks or V's in nature are symbolic of gateways or paths into the spirit realm. In this fashion, the magpie asks us about our level of spiritual perception. Specifically, the magpie asks to keep an open mind in matters of the spirit. She also asks us where our spiritual foundation is and encourages us to open the gateways of higher (spiritual) vision.

So the message is about communication but the way the magpie appears makes me think that when it comes to communication I am 'banging my head' against the glass - glass ceiling perhaps - because I mistake the 'image' for reality. I am also thinking that when I feel conflicted in discussions, or about things I have said, it is when I am talking to men. I find women can have differences of opinion more easily and discuss in robust terms and with passionate input without giving or taking offence, far more than men can.

What I am not sure about is whether the message is to say more and trust my own path to truth or to say less and leave the 'speaking out to others.' Perhaps it is time to ask the I Ching or the Tarot, or both.

The I Ching gave Hexagram 13 which is Fellowship with Men. (True fellowship is founded on fellowship with the Sage. Exclude the Sage and there can be no true or lasting fellowship.

The achievement of peace and harmony with one's fellows is the natural drive of the human heart.  We often receive this hexagram when some adjustment or change in attitude is needed. Either we need to make sure that what we require of others is correct, or we need to search out hidden reservations in our attitude which isolate us from the Sage. (The sage is the term used by the I Ching and refers to the spiritual, Higher Self, God, whatever works for the individual.)

By correcting our relationship with the Sage we correct all relationships. From A Guide to the I Ching, Carol K. Anthony.

The gist of this seems to be that problems occur when we go along with something which is incorrect and this takes me to the nub of my problem - I feel guilty about speaking out about what I believe is right and just when others do not agree. Despite the fact that the debate last night which triggered a dream about 'giving birth' and the bird at the window, was in regard to the extra-judicial murders carried out by the United States and supported by omission or commission by allies, including my country, Australia, I still felt guilty about taking a stand. Why on earth should I? Perhaps the Virgo in me.

As I said, and the discussion was with a male,  and he was the one who brought the topic up by saying he was glad Osama Bin Laden had been killed, when so-called developed nations establish a precedent which betrays the foundations of the civilized and democratic world, by carrying out, allowing, or supporting such things like assassination at will or whim, or torture for that matter, or arrests without charge .... then they put in peril the future of the modern world.

After all, if the US can charge someone like Osama Bin Laden with a crime and then just murder him without trial in a court of law, then anyone can murder anyone. If an Iraqi, or Afghan, or these days a Pakistani, assassinated George Bush or Barack Obama for their crimes then how would it be different? It wouldn't. Setting one 'bar' for yourself and another for the rest is not only unjust it is hypocritical. The United States may have great military power for the moment, and plenty of toadying allies, but that does not give it the right to murder people, no matter what they are 'said' to have done, when it takes their fancy.

When we betray principles of law and justice we betray all those who will follow us and mock the blood and suffering of those who fought so hard to bring it into being in the first place.

The message seems to be: Your responsibility is to God and God at work in you, and not to others. What matters is speaking the truth despite what anyone may think of you.

At least that is how I read it but there will be more pondering required I am sure.