“Of mice and morality – a parable for adults” (Part 1)

This last piece of bicultural fiction in my book “Pithy Perspectives” has entranced readers. I offer it in segments, because of its length, but also to allow ‘Wordpress’ readers to digest the events presented. The New South Wales President of the Federation of Australian Writers was quite entranced by this parable.

The Plan

House spoke. He had the right to speak first because he was the Elder of the tribe. Speaking first has traditionally been understood in all manner of societies to indicate unobtrusively, implicitly, and without further sign or signal the authority necessary to lead. Yet, it was also understood that age or seniority did not necessarily deliver that authority. However, House’s tribe had agreed in that democratic way that had been lost since the demise of the Athenians (who, one might remember, had resided in that location which, nearly 1,500 years later, had become part of a new nation called Greece), that House was entitled to speak first.

So, House the mouse spoke first. But, as soon as he started to articulate his scrambled thoughts, for rapidly advancing age does tend to scramble – as with an egg in a frying pan being man-handled (so to speak) – thoughts, both formed and preformed, Mona (his number one wife) began to moan. Her moaning did not, however, discomfit the tribe because Mona always knew what House was going to say – so she claimed.

Was she clairvoyant? On the contrary, she had lived with House long enough to anticipate not only his words but also his thoughts. Ah, so she thought! She really should have consulted his sainted mother, now in the land of the angels, and thereby able to guide her. For House was not a common house mouse (that is how he received his pseudonym) or even a garden mouse. He was indeed an intellectual mouse who, when the moon was in conjunction with Pluto (not the neighbor’s dog), could not only see into the future but also anticipate trouble. That might explain why he had not been eaten by Whicky, the Persian cat who shared the house with him.

Whicky, so named by little Virginia who, at age eighteen months, had displayed the normal age-related inability to say certain sounds, was a very relaxed beast. He must have been since he seemed unable to see or even sense the presence of House when they were only a meter apart in the kitchen. But Whicky was not the problem. It was Mangy Maxwell (MM), Whicky’s best friend, who lived next door, who posed an existence-threatening problem. Existence is, of course, as Whicky had already intuited, an ephemeral matter. Well, not so much matter as energy perhaps. For, as the ancient Hindus have taught, not only is matter interchangeable with energy, all existence is only Maya; that is, neither real (but not in a Platonic sense) nor unreal and that both real and unreal are merely transitory emanations from that ocean of consciousness from which all objects with form and name arise.

To counter MM, the mice in House’s environs had tried travelling en masse. Yet, after each foraging trip through the paddocks adjoining House’s domain, there would be one less member. They believed that cunning MM had somehow managed to side-swipe into his maws one of their lot.

House had finally decided to have a confabulation. He, in his Whicky-derived wisdom – because it was Whicky’s demeanor which had allowed House to grow old and thereby wise – knew what the solution was. But, before he could speak, Mona had risen with all the authority of ancient wives to speak for him. Big mistake! Wife number two, Angelina, much younger and not as bound by habituation, was not about to let Mona upstage House. So she broke into the moaning that had just begun to flow like water over-flowing a bathtub and insisted – ever so courteously and in that acceptable voice of gentility which is far more persuasive than any other kind of oral delivery – that House should have his leadership say.

Gratefully, House stood up (on his hind legs of course) and spoke. He spoke with that authority which can only come from leadership – whether imposed or earned. He uttered these words of profound wisdom: “We need to bell that cat!”

 

The Problem

Thus, in the beginning were the words. The words were: “We need to bell that cat!”

Then came the void – the void of ocean-deep silence. And what silence! Was there such a silence after God had said to her entourage, “I am, there I create”?

The silence convinced House that he had not dropped a clanger. His suggested solution for the tribe was sound. That terrible silence surrounded the mice and suspended all potential sounds in much the same way as a sea mist seeps onto its foreshore, engulfing, as it were, all other matter whether alive or dead, animate or inanimate, conscious or unconscious. The silence which had suddenly flooded the consciousness of the mice was not as heavy as that winter fog that can press down upon one with its weight of moisture about to be deposited without discrimination upon freedom-filled flesh or feathers. It was also not like the summer mist that filters the dawning light to produce an enlightening glow which yet renders insubstantial all that it subsumes.

Instead, in that deep void of silence, all the brains brought to the confabulation of mice suddenly went berserk. Never had these brains been so stimulated. Never had the normal chatter of trivia which so occupies the lives of mice (and mankind) been silenced by the enormity of this plan of concerted action. And thus and thereby, all the brains went into hyper-drive. If channeled into some kind of propulsive mechanism, collectively they could have found themselves in one of the inter-galactic “worm-holes” alleged by certain speculative cosmologists to link any one universe with another.

But then what would mice know about the Cosmos? On the other hand, how are we humans to know whether intergalactic or interstellar travelers (viz. anthropologists, members of the food supply industry, or armament merchants) have not already insinuated themselves into each and every life-form on Earth? If this has already happened, it would only be an extension of the now well-known path of neo-colonialism. This process of entrapment of the resources and minds of “others” (that is, those who are not “us”) is currently being propagated with a prodigious proficiency by the lust of the last of the white-skinned colonizers. As ever, similarly pigment-deficient accumulators of the assets of others had, over a few recent centuries, not accepted that all humans are but projections from the one and only Creator of the universe and that the urge to control resources that transitorily belong to “others” is truly futile. After all, one cannot even take one’s material body into the ether on Judgment Day. It must be admitted, however, that mice normally do not bother themselves with matters which preoccupy the minds of socially sensitive souls of the human kind, intergalactic and interstellar observer-participants of mice (and mankind) possibly (and probably) excluded.

After an extended silence of the void created by many minds in gear, one mouse started to speak. In his excitement at having suddenly produced a clear and undeniable thought, he forgot to ask for permission to speak from the chairman, his tribal leader. House therefore would not accept his right to stand up (on his hind legs of course) and to speak. As soon as the others saw Porthos (the mouse who thought that he had a clear and undeniable thought) stand up, they erupted. Vesuvius, that great volcano of ancient lore, would have been envious. Fortunately, unlike that eruption that had destroyed Pompeii, the eruption at the confabulation of mice was only oral. An observer of this aural reverberation might be forgiven for remembering, with some amusement, that famous childhood aphorism: “I tought I tought I saw a puddy tat”. For any vision of the pussycat MM, whether real, imagined, or illusory, would certainly have caused a comparable decampment.

The dam was now broken. All those mouse brains in gear, silently churning all manner of clear ideas and fragmentary thoughts as well as visions and feelings not quite ready to be transformed mentally into unspoken words now switched from processing to projection. All that mental grinding, not unlike the grinding of the tectonic plates below the surface of Earth, led to the uplifting into potentially vocal sounds, again not unlike the uplifting of ground-up magma within a volcano, and finally to that mighty explosion of sound. Vesuvius would indeed have been envious.

In the process, poor Porthos was drowned out, but only aurally. Even if the sounds were all near-subliminal squeaks, the uproar was truly deafening. But House cleverly allowed them all to jump up and down and have their say. This they all did simultaneously. He realized that all that brain-power had to be released. He therefore waited patiently for that strange phenomenon demonstrated by large vocal groups: when all the froth and fury of self-expression had been exhausted, there would be a silence – the silence of uncertainty. The unspoken question would then be: “Where do we go from here?” Or, more pithily (as that great Chinese sage Lin Yu Tang might have said to his porcine pet): “What now, old sow?’

 

 

‘Joshua’s last stand’

‘THE WORLD IS CHANGING FAST, BUT I HOPE …’

Joshua was dying.  But, there is nothing unusual about dying , is there?  Yet, why was he dying so young?  Because he had plunged a carving knife into his middle.  Why had he done that?  Because of his mortification;  he had been identified as a paedophile.

As he lay dying, he thought how unfair it all was.  Now, if he had been a priest … …!  And he could have continued to give pleasure (he was sure of that) to youngsters, but in another district.  And, in the olden days, one could seduce a servant, service the wife of a brother or other relative, and generally have one’s way without all this sanctimonious fuss and bother.  So he communed with himself even as he sought to combat the physical pain he had inflicted upon himself.

As he lay dying, he thought that he could feel the eternal flames of hell nibbling at his toes and warming his feet.  As an upright man (his peccadilloes aside), the flames had surely to start with his feet.  Given his origins, he had to fear death – even as he had hastened the end of his life through social pressure.

This fear of death had been inculcated in his ancestors by the priests religiously attached to the trading marauders from the Iberian Peninsula and parts of the globe further north and east.  The traders had been in search of those spices which would cover the stench and terrible taste of the rotting meat that was normal fare for their peoples – that is, when they could find a kill.

Because of their superior weaponry, they had managed to acquire control some of the harbours which had given them succour;  and to build trading and wenching posts in the hinterland.  They had soon begun to feel racially and culturally superior to the coloured peoples (now described as natives) they had so easily dominated.  Their priests were ecstatic.  Here were so many sinners (they said) awaiting conversion to the one and only faith.  Their souls would be saved.

Joshua’s ancestors did have their souls saved, but they were not sure from what;  their life of desperation remained unchanged.  Their souls, on the other hand, were mighty pleased:  they sang of salvation with silent satisfaction.  Little did they realise that the priests were on an ego trip, blind to the reality of the origins of their founding authorities and their man-made doctrines of salvation with superiority.

At birth, Joshua had been a sore disappointment.  He was as puny as the rest of his community.  Centuries of living a life of hardship and deprivation, the inheritance of the masses in any part of the world, had resulted in weedy specimens of mankind.  The injection of solid Scottish (or, was it English?) genes, blood and whisky two generations back  had done little for his stature – both physical and social.  The pure of blood are normally not inclined to respect the genetic  infusion received by those who had been the beneficiaries of foreign infusions; often, the recipient had been under some duress.  Yet, the whisky was acceptable by one and all, as the local liquors were never of competitive quality.

As he lay dying, Joshua said to himself, “The world is indeed changing fast.  The oh-so-superior priests are facing strong competition from faiths which deny human intermediaries.  Colonial so-called powers have been forced to withdraw to their own borders.  A few nabobs had, however, established mansions at home, with assets seized from the colonies, matching the mansions of those money changers whose faiths allowed such a business as honourable.”

“As for my alleged sin, surely giving pleasure should not be seen as a sin.  How many men-of-god have given pleasure to lonely wives.  As well, when my ancestors were converted in their faith, they were promised salvation.  I know that the world is changing fast, but I sincerely hope that salvation will not be denied me.  Even as I feel the eternal flames seeking to devour me, I hold tightly to this hope.  For, without hope, life and death is indeed meaningless.”  So said Joshua as he took his last breath.

(Fiction by Ratnam)

‘Light on the darkness of the mind’ (fiction by RAR)

The phone rings.  It is in a largely empty office.  Downsising is now an art form.  Insurance is, after all, very expensive.  Eventually, the phone is answered.  ‘Hopalong Insurance Company’ says a high-pitched female voice.  Before she could say anything else, the caller asks ‘Is that you, Tripalong?’

‘Pardon?’  queries the female.  ‘Never mind’ says the caller.  ‘I want to speak to Mr. Ali.’  ‘We do not have a Mr. Ali here’ says the female.  ‘Has he left the company?’ asks the caller.  ‘We have never had a Mr. Ali .  But, my boss is named Ellie.’  Before the caller can respond, female voice no. 1 is replaced by a deeper female voice.    ‘Ellie speaking’ she says, with an inviting voice.

‘I don’t want to speak with you, Ellie.  I want Mr. Ali.  He wrote to me about my policies’ says the caller.  He sounds quite testy.  ‘I wrote to you.  I am Ellie.’  Female voice no. 2 sounds testy too.  ‘If your name is Ellie, why do you sign your name as Ali?’   ‘That is my name.’  She feels quite cross.  Her voice has risen an octave.  It is almost squeaky with indignation.

An angry voice at the other end of the phone shouts.  ’Why do you, a woman, use a good Muslim man’s name?  Have you no shame?  You insult the Prophet!’  At that point Ellie becomes mindful of the company’s future.  An image of a fire-bomb fills her mind.  She calms down a little.  She now says ‘Could I have your name please?’  ‘No!’ roars the caller.  ‘I want Ali.  He will be more sensible.’  ‘Please, mister, there is no Ali here.’  Since the caller obviously doesn’t believe her, she continues.  ‘I am in charge of the policy renewal section.  I wrote to all our customers last week.  How can I help you?’

‘Listen dumdum Ellie, …’   Before he could say further, Ellie shouts.  ‘Don’t you dumdum me, you Islamist hoon.  Give me your name.  I will delete it from our files.’  At that, the caller remembers reality.  The reality of cash.  ‘Wait, wait!  Your company offered me a 20% discount if I placed all my insurance with you.  You know, house, contents, my life, car, boat.’

Even in the hot darkness of her mind, Ellie (written as Ali) realises what her boss will be saying to her were this customer to take his business elsewhere.  The cold light of reality dampens her anger.  She speaks sweetly.  ‘Could we meet in the coffee shop downstairs to discuss your policies please?’  The caller is now confused.  He thinks:  ‘I want that discount.  What do I care if she is Ellie or Ali?’  ‘O.K.’ he says.  He gives her his name and other identification.  They agree, with shared anger under control, on a date and a time for the policy renewal- with- coffee.

On the day, they approach each other warily.  When their eyes meet, that well-known spark lights the darkness of wariness in both of them.  The light of mutual attraction casts aside all preconceptions.  They sign the renewal policies amicably.  They arrange to meet for another coffee, very, very soon.  The hoon and the dumdum seem quite compatible.  Hopalong Insurance continues to operate successfully.

Some time into their marriage, she asks about Tripalong.  Who was she?  He explains.  She was the wife of a film actor.  He rode long distances on his horse, singing away merrily.  His name was Hopalong Cassidy.  Because she always accompanied him on his travels, his wife was referred to as Tripalong.    Thus, ‘Islamic  hoon’ and ‘dumdum Ellie’ (written as Ali) tripped along the path of life happily, but without any horses.

 

 

Quotes on re-birth

Karma brings us ever back to rebirth, binds us to the wheel of births and deaths. Good Karma drags us back as relentlessly as bad, and the chain which is wrought out of our virtues holds as firmly and as closely as that forged from our vices. Annie Besant
Assimilation of the fruits of each past life takes place before the spirit descends to rebirth, and consequently, the character generated is fully formed and readily expressed in the subtle, mobile mind-stuff of the Region of Concrete Thought, where the archetype of the coming dense body is built. Max Heindel
A rebirth out of spiritual adversity causes us to become new creatures. James E. Faust
One thing I want to make clear, as far as my own rebirth is concerned, the final authority is myself and no one else, and obviously not China’s Communists. Dalai Lama
Everyone focuses on the earthly state, but how cool might death be? I believe in spiritual rebirth, and I can’t wait to experience that. Barry Zito

“Tell a wise person, or else keep silent,
because the mass man will mock it right away.
I praise what is truly alive,
what longs to be burned to death.

In the calm water of the love-nights,
where you were begotten, where you have begotten,
a strange feeling comes over you,
when you see the silent candle burning.

Now you are no longer caught
in the obsession with darkness,
and a desire for higher love-making
sweeps you upward.

Distance does not make you falter.
Now, arriving in magic, flying,
and finally, insane for the light,
you are the butterfly and you are gone.

And so long as you haven’t experienced
this: to die and so to grow,
you are only a troubled guest
on the dark earth.” ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

 

 

 

 

The mystery of religious faith

As a metaphysical Hindu and a functional church-attending Christian, and who is also a freethinker in matters religious (that is, I believe that the major religions are equal in their offerings), I found the following extract from The life of Pi by Yann Martel (pages 48/49) the clearest delineation of the core of Hindu belief.

“The universe makes sense to me through Hindu eyes. There is Brahman, the world soul, the sustaining frame upon which is woven, warp and weft, the cloth of being, with all its decorative elements of space and time. There is Brahman nirguna, without qualities, which lies beyond understanding, beyond reproach; with our poor words we sew a suit for it – One, Truth, Unity, Absolute, Ultimate Reality, Ground of Being – and try to make it fit, but Brahman nirguna always bursts the seams. We are left speechless.

But there is also Brahman saguna, with qualities, where the suit fits. Now we call it Shiva, Krishna, Shakti, Ganesha; we can approach it with some understanding; we can discern certain attitudes – loving, merciful, frightening – and we feel the gentle pull of relationship. Brahman saguna is Brahman made manifest to our limited senses, Brahman expressed not only in gods but in humans, animals, trees, in a handful of earth, for everything has a trace of the divine in it.

The truth of life is that Brahman is no different from atman, the spiritual force within us, what you might call the soul. The individual soul touches upon the world soul like a well reaches for the water table. That which sustains the universe beyond thought and language, and which is at the core of us and struggles for expression, is the same thing. The finite within the infinite, the infinite within the finite.

If you ask me how Brahman and atman relate precisely, I would say in the same way the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit relate: mysteriously.

But one thing is clear: atman seeks to realise Brahman to be united with the Absolute, and it travels in this life on a pilgrimage where it is born and dies, and is born again and dies again, and again, and again, until it manages to shed the sheaths that imprisons it here below. The paths to liberation are numerous, but the bank along the way is always the same, the Bank of Karma, where the liberation account of each of us is credited or debited depending on our actions.”

Adaptation and settlement

Soon after the end of World War Two, Australia opened its doors to much-needed immigrants (white, of course, having regard to the prevailing White Australia policy). Offered equal opportunity, which was underpinned by the fabled ‘fair-go’ ethos of the Australian working class, non-English speaking immigrants from Europe had good reason to learn English as quickly as possible, and to fit into their nation of choice.

Apart from some Australians of a superior colonial mien, who had forgotten that their land had been acquired from black indigenes by invasion, not by invitation, the foreigners were initially tolerated, then embraced; their offspring reportedly have done better in life (because of a superior work ethic?). See my ‘Karma of Culture’ which sets out the issues involved as I see them.

Successful immigrant settlement does involve careful screening and selection. The applicant for migrant or refugee entry has to be seen as capable of adapting successfully to the host nation, and willing to be a coherent part of it, rather than to set up camp and refuse to integrate; there can be no place for tribal superiority in a relatively new nation still finding its feet.

Until recent times, there has been little evidence of the formation of what used to referred to as ghettos. That might be because of the settlement assistance available, the access to equal opportunity  processes, and a reciprocity of response by the immigrants recognising that they are not to be cheap  fodder for the workforce.