Category Archives: Guest Blogger

Quiet – a review

Quiet, by Susan Cain, reviewed by Guest Blogger Stephen Palmer

There is a difference between extrovert and introvert, but it’s not the difference most people think of when they hear those descriptions. The standard view is of party animals versus non-party animals. Dorothy Rowe explained that extroverts feel a more real outer world, and are uncomfortable with being on their own since their inner world is more insubstantial, whereas introverts feel a more real inner world, and are often uncomfortable in the hurly burly of social life. Introverts can be happy in times of solitude: extroverts alone feel a void inside themselves, and seek company.

This is one useful explanation, given by a master of the field. Susan Cain’s equivalent in her remarkable book Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking is based around the concept of sensitivity, which is in the main a biologically determined quality. We all have different types of brains. Our brains, linked to our many senses, operate at various levels of sensitivity – introverts tend towards maximal sensitivity, extroverts towards the norm, or less.

“The highly sensitive [introverted] tend to be philosophical or spiritual in their orientation, rather than materialistic or hedonistic… They often describe themselves as creative or intuitive… They love music, nature, art, physical beauty. They feel exceptionally strong emotions – sometimes acute bouts of joy, but also sorrow, melancholy, and fear. Highly sensitive people also process information about their environments – both physical and emotional – unusually deeply. They tend to notice subtleties that others miss – another person’s shift in mood, say, or a lightbulb burning a touch too brightly.”

When I was younger I wondered for a long time why I was so different to most of my friends and colleagues in this regard, and it all comes down to my high level of introversion. In fact I got a triple dose – one dose from each parent, plus being right-brained. That’s a hell of a lot of introversion to have to cope with.

“Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.”

Is this starting to ring some bells with you…? Then you’re an introvert, and you should stop trying to fit in with the extrovert world that we have in the West. (One of the most interesting chapters in Quiet is the one contrasting the Western ideal of extroversion with the Eastern ideal of introversion – although there is more to it than that dichotomy.) Susan Cain is strong and determined in her critique of Western extrovert standards:

“Introversion – along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness – is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology. Introverts living in the Extrovert Ideal are like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are. Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.”

Many people in the literary world will grasp all this; we literate types are quiet thinkers. If you feel likewise, then Quiet is for you.

The book is split into four sections. The first deals with what Susan Cain calls the extrovert ideal, and this is done mostly from an American perspective. Part two deals with the tricky subject of nature versus nurture – biology versus self, but also the role of free will in changing behaviour, and the roles of risk and reward. Examples given include the Roosevelts and Warren Buffett. Part three is a single chapter on Asian-Americans and how they deal with the American cultural standard of high sociability and constant conversation. Part four deals with strategies for the introvert, and for the extroverts who live with them.

This book is also great because it features some brilliant and pithy quotes:

“Solitude matters, and for some people, it’s the air they breathe”

“Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured.”

Another crucial aspect of this book is Susan Cain’s separation of shyness and introversion, which many people use as interchangeable concepts. But they’re not:

“Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating. Shyness is inherently painful; introversion is not.”

In a nutshell, for anybody who has gone through social hell or even just anxiety, and who wonders why they feel exhausted at the end of a whirl of socialising – even if that’s spending time with friends or family in the most relaxed of circumstances – this is the book for you. It made a big difference in my own life, as I was finally able to explain a few of my own puzzling character traits. Understanding introversion is the first step on the road to coping with it. I spent a long time not coping, but, luckily, now I do.

“Now that you’re an adult, you might still feel a pang of guilt when you decline a dinner invitation in favour of a good book. Or maybe you like to eat alone in restaurants and could do without the pitying looks from fellow diners. Or you’re told that you’re “in your head too much”, a phrase that’s often deployed against the quiet and cerebral. Or maybe there’s another word for such people: thinkers.”

This was for me one of the most inspirational of books. It was given to me completely out of the blue by a friend of mine. I still thank him for that kindness when occasionally I see him.

 

 

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The Great House

A guest post from Christopher Blackwell

I have lived in The Great House almost all of my life since I was a young man and now I am very very old and will soon die. Another young man will inherit the house for that is how it has always been done though I have no idea whom it will be. It is not necessary for me to know. I have always had a thing for a odd house, in my case a medieval house that built at different levels, using different types of measurements in each room, and different building material, often with step between different rooms, various stairs that go oddly to unexpected to unknown levels.

A house that sprawls, and seem to go on and on. A house where inside, you never can quite determine where you are in the house, or how to get to where you would like to be. Consider it something like a A Four-Dimensional Maze. Yet unknowingly you could always get to wherever you wished to go, or somewhere much like it. Every type if room was repeated in other wings of the house, but designed uniquely different. But any dining room would have a full meal set out as needed. Any book that you could ever want to read would be easy to find in any of the libraries, even if you had just suddenly decided on a particular book. Wardrobe , closet, or set of drawers, would have whatever clothes that you needed at a time, always a perfect fit, storage always had what was needed at the time. There would be no servants or builders, but the house was always perfectly maintained, except for portions what would be in decay or near ruin, and new parts of the house continued to build, though the sound of construction was never heard.

Always when one owner died, usually at great age, and new young person would discover that they had just inherited the house, though they were never aware of being related to the last owner. All they had to do was live in the house for one year and their title of ownership was solid and legal. Of course leaving the house was never possible throughout their long life, nor did anyone ever turn down the chance to inherit The Great House. Somethings just had to be. with no reason or explanation.


Treehouse TV

I know Sheena Cundy through Moon Books – she’s a massively creative person – a fiction writer singer, songwriter, and now she interviews people in a tree…

In this video, Tim Gwyn Clay talks to Sheena in the Treehouse about his transition from 20yrs of C of E ministry into Druidism, the issue of hierarchy in religion and his call to serve Andraste, British Goddess of the Iceni.

 

In this video, Imelda tells the story behind her book, Natural Born Shamans – inspired by her spirit-led work with young people – and the importance of the shamanic perspective when dealing with the challenges of life today.

 

 


The boar-hunt – excerpt from The Grail

This is an excerpt from Simon Stirling’s The Grail, which I reviewed here – https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2018/04/29/the-grail-relic-of-an-ancient-religion-a-review/

The Annals of Tigernach list four battles for the year 594:

 

The battle of Ratha in Druadh & the battle of Áird Sendoim.  The slaying of the sons of Áedán i.e. Bran & Domangart & Eochaid Find & Artúr, in the battle of Circhenn, in which Áedán was the victor, & the battle of Corann.

 

The first two battles were closely linked, the battle of Áird Sendoim (‘The Headland’, near Peterhead, ‘on the coast of Mordei’) being immediately followed by Arthur’s ‘Unrestrained Ravaging’ of Morgan’s Tillymorgan hill-fort.  The Annals of Ulster described this as the ‘battle of Ràth in druaid’ (Early Irish ràth, a ‘residence surrounded by an earthen rampart’).  It took place in the ‘Sorcerer’s land’ (Early Irish drui – a ‘Druid’; genitive druad).  Morgan was considered ‘skilful’ (medrod) by the Britons, which would imply some level of Druidic knowhow – including, no doubt, the art of raising a ‘ghost fence’, such as that which Geraint fatally crossed above the sands of Cruden Bay.

The Arthurian legend of Culhwch and Olwen recalls that ‘when Arthur had landed in the country’ in pursuit of the fearsome king-turned-boar, Twrch Trwyth, ‘there came unto him the saints of Ireland and besought his protection.’  There were Irish monks at Old Deer, just west of Peterhead.  Arthur then went ‘as far as Esgeir Oerfel’ – the ‘Cold Ridge’ of the Grampians – ‘where the Boar Trwyth was with his seven young pigs.’

There followed three days of fighting, after which Arthur sent in his interpreter to parley.  Morgan’s spokesman vowed that he would yield nothing to Arthur: ‘“And tomorrow morning we will rise up hence, and we will go into Arthur’s country, and there we will do all the mischief that we can.”’

Morgan escaped with Gwenhwyfar, quite possibly in the Chariot of Morgan the Wealthy (Car Morgan Mwynfawr), which became one of the Thirteen Treasures of Britain: ‘if a man went in it, he might wish to be wherever he would, and he would be there quickly.’  Arthur, meanwhile, sought to block the arrival of any hostile reinforcements from his half-brother’s Highland kingdom.

The evidence for this move on Arthur’s part is the presence of an Arthur’s Seat (Suiarthour in 1638; now it is just Suie) at the head of Glen Livet.  This was the channel, on the eastern edge of the Highlands, through which Gartnait’s warriors might have hastened to Morgan’s defence.

What happened next was hinted at by Myrddin:

 

I predict a summer of fury,

Contention of brothers,

Treachery out of Gwynedd:

The lofty exile and the good-pledge [i.e. ‘hostage’],

The tall one [Gwenhwyfar] from the land of Gwynedd.

Seven hundred-ships from Saxon-land,

Blown north by the wind;

And in Aberdeen they confer.

 

Morgan’s ‘Saxon’ allies – the Angles of Northumbria – sent seven ships, each carrying 100 men, to supplement his Miathi spears (Geoffrey of Monmouth later bumped this up to ‘eight hundred ships’).  Arthur almost certainly spied these reinforcements from the hill of Bennachie in Aberdeenshire (an Arthur’s Cairn – Arthouriscairne – was recorded there in 1595), having paused at Percylieu (perc-y-llew, the ‘Lion’s Perch’; rendered as ‘Preseleu’ in the Culhwch and Olwen legend) en route to the coast.

The Gododdin were with Arthur, meaning that Lothian was barely defended.  Morgan and his supporters saw their opportunity to race south and seize Manau (Stirling) and the Edinburgh capital of Lothian.

The tale of Culhwch and Olwen recounts the bloody pursuit of the Boar-King from the ‘Cold Ridge’ towards the ‘Vale of Manau’ (Dyffryn Amanw).  Morgan’s spokesman had sworn that they would ‘go into Arthur’s country’ and there do ‘all the mischief that we can.’  And so Morgan, with his Saxons and his Picts, made for the crucial bulwark of Manau Gododdin.

Arthur and his battered war-band followed them into Angus.

 

Find out more about the book here – http://www.moon-books.net/books/grail


The Myomancer

The Tragic History Of Aisling Ó Rathaille

(Or The Myomancer)

By Aodhagán Ó Rathaille

 

Aisling was never a strange child – not when we considered the very many stranger people that dwell around here. She kept herself to herself but then who could blame her? And as dutifully protective parents we were needless to say delighted that she preferred her own company to that of the unquestionably sinister orphans with which this island is undoubtedly over populated.

When we moved into The House, I confess there were noises ; the wind moved through the pneumanated marrow of the place and the timbers gave it voice. That is what we assumed. And The House was so very beautiful back then, standing proud on a set of impressive rock arches near the cliff edge like a last bastion of sanity and hope erected by some bold and indomitable architect.

So very pretty. So very very sad.

Aisling loved The House. She even asked us to have built for her an ornate replica for her bedroom and she filled it with dolls and spent almost every hour playing happily with it. It was a task to get her to go to bed and even, on occasion, we would wake in the night to find her busy arranging the furniture there ‘just so.’

I say dolls. I think it was late October when we noticed they were puddle rats.

“I’d like you to play a game with me,” Aisling said. We were in the parlour after church, entertaining half the town as usual. Aisling hardly ever invited audience or participant to her private pastimes and so, as doting parents, we were naturally intrigued by this sudden change in temperament.  As were the children in the party for I believe they looked to Aisling as something of a paradigm, you know? Some Poetic Vision of childhood…

“I’m going to tell your fortunes,” Aisling said brightly. Everything about her was bright. Her black curls gleamed in the candleglow and her neat pleat skirts caught the radiance as it blistered over the grain like fire woven into the fabric. The afternoon had promised to be a dull one but now the winged thing’s mantra  thrummed through the heart of the little gathering and we fairly giggled and tweeted our way up the  simple white painted staircase to the nursery.

How I had failed to notice the changes that my daughter had wrought to her beloved dolls house I cannot say. Where she had found the time, the skill, and the mechanical components I am also at a loss to fathom.  Suffice to say each of the tiny intricate replica rooms was now a tiny intricate chamber of death.

We stared.

Parental duty no doubt dictates that if One’s child appears to have constructed a portable torture chamber worthy of the most depraved and fanciful minds of The Inquisition itself, One ought really to put One’s foot down and confiscate the damn thing at once.

Somewhere in the more primal recesses of my mind I am certain I acknowledged this wise course of action. But I did not act upon it. I simply stared. We all stared.

“You, Harriet. You may go first.”

The small child nodded in a small way and shuffled forward.

“Choose a Guide,” Aisling pointed to a birdcage by the window and if our jaws were not already hanging a little slack they now hit the floor in unison. The cage was crammed full of puddle rats, each dressed in a hideous array of silks, satins and lace. Each like a little animate doll. Why had we not noticed them before? Where was the stench that notoriously accompanied these rabid rodents? A faint perfume of heather and primrose hung about the room and as little Harriet cautiously approached the cage, the muttering began.

I have said before that we thought the old house plagued by vocal drafts, but as soon as I heard those lispering, whispering voices I knew these creatures had been living in our walls from the moment of our arrival.

What they were saying I cannot tell you but perhaps Harriet knew for she seemed obviously drawn to one particularly large female rat in a lavender skirt and poke bonnet.

Aisling smiled and withdrew the rat from the cage, sending the others into a wild frenzy of shrieks and howls. Carefully she placed the rat into the centre hallway of the house and then we all watched and waited and felt uncomfortable and hoped that someone else would intervene or voice the ethical objections we knew they must be feeling… but no one spoke or moved except the puddle rat.

It spent a theatrical amount of time sniffing the doors to each of the rooms and pondering the staircase before finally climbing it to the top floor and perishing with dignity in the bath full of acid.

Aisling turned to the traumatised Harriet and beamed “Tomorrow you will go tree climbing. You will fall and break your collar bone but if you dig under the place where you fell you will find a small casket buried there and inside it is an emerald brooch.”

Our guests erupted in ecstasy; the drama, the terror, the excitement … some demon had a clasp on their hearts for sure as they eagerly jostled and shoved to be next in line for The Game – for that was obviously what it was, a game, a fancy, a titillation to alleviate the boredom of another Hopelessly damp October afternoon and at length when each had had their turn we closed the door on the backs of a crowd whose bellies were full of nondescript vegetablish stew and whose souls were elevated by a tasteful mix of revulsion and whimsy.

The next day young Harriet went tree climbing, fell and broke her collar bone and, when her parents dug rabidly beneath the twisted tree she had fallen from, they discovered a casket that contained an emerald brooch.

Our lives were changed forever.

Day in, day out the door rang off its hinges with townsfolk wanting their fortunes told by our little Aisling, until in the end we took the damn thing down completely and let the queue of desperate bodies trail out down the garden path and along the street.

Aisling seemed to thrive on it all at first, at least we thought she did, looking back I suppose we simply failed to see what was happening. I said before she seemed bright that day back in October – everything about her seemed to shine. As the days and weeks and months went by this strange ethereal glow became increasingly intense until it were better likened to an unearthly luminescence. Her eyes no longer captured the gleam of light external but were lit from within by a feverish flame and seemed never to focus upon anything apart from her beloved puddle rats.

The rats kept coming. We never saw them appear but the cage was always full to bursting with them and the people kept on coming too. Everything seemed fine, after a fashion, and we certainly couldn’t complain about the gifts and gratitude lavished upon us by all those who had been assisted by Aisling’s predictions, but fate will notoriously turn …

It had apparently been a long and uncharacteristically clement summer, though we had seen none of it, and it was coming to a close when Aisling suddenly Took Ill. That was the story we put about. The doctor came but we sent him away with a nonchalant wave and a confident smile; she would be fine, just fine in a day or two, nothing to worry about, do call back on Thursday for tea…

Upstairs we drew the shutters as Aisling frothed and raved and foamed and screamed, her pupils like dinner plates and her whole body robed in some vile, pulsing, misamatic aura that reeked of heather and primroses. She didn’t speak, but when she opened her mouth the spittling, spattling voices of the puddle rats spoke through her – they were not happy, they wanted The House for a temple, they wanted the townsfolk for slaves, Aisling was their Oracle, their Priestess, their Queen and they would rule this island through her flesh…

The island of Hopeless was blighted, they said, and overrun with monsters, clergy and demons, but all was not lost if only we would listen to the puddle rats, who only desired to be our benevolent custodians and guides…

If we chose not to embrace our Salvation however, the Hopeless Situation would only become increasingly dire; we would be visited by the Plagues of Egypt, the Plague Of The Black Death, The Plague Of The Red Death, The Plague Of Justinian, The Plague of The Continent and The Common Cold, which of course no man  can endure.

We nodded sagely, we soothed, we simpered, we cringed, we cowered, we begged, we eventually took the matter to the town elders. My wife and I have always been law abiding citizens, when it comes down to it, and we both agreed that, doting parents or not, when we signed the Birth Certificate it said nothing about ‘Duty Of Care In The Event Of Sinister Rodent Possession’.

The overwhelming consensus of our fellow townsfolk was that we did not, really, all things considered, wish to be ruled over by vermin – who does?  And so we did what every other town in human history has done, and I hope will continue to do, when faced with a den of rats attempting to lord power over them ; with no piper in sight, we set flame to our torches, sharpened our pitch forks  and, in the depths of night, we marched upon The House.

I cannot say if the creatures sensed the intention of our Midnight Court or heard our lusty cries of “Tie an anchor of brandy to her, To give a dram to the seals! ” and so forth,  if mayhap the unseen Fates chose to intervene for their own amusement , or if what happened next was mere coincidence …  as we crossed the scrap of heath towards the cliffs, the links between the rock arches on which The House stood, began to crumble into the pulsing waves below.

If you are a Student of Geography , a Celtic Bard or a fanatic of Bostonian Gothic Fiction you will have seen that coming from the outset, but we did not and so the entire town simply stood, impotent  weapons in hand, watching as the bridge between ourselves and our demons came crashing down into the sea.

It is decades now since those events took place. The House still stands upon its rock stack, so covered with lichen, moss and fungi that it seems to have grown up out of the landscape rather than having been built upon it. Whether or not the creature that was once my daughter still resides within I cannot say but every now and then, when a family becomes desperate and no other course of action can be found, a lone rowing boat may be seen, late in the evening or under a shining sliver of yellow moon, making its way across the foam towards the stack.

And this night it is my turn to set oar to rowlock and brave the surf, I am not much longer for this world and my conscience is resolved to make certain the fate of my beautiful daughter before the devils come and claim my soul for good – for how else will I be able to claim the epitaph  ‘Father Of The Aisling’ upon my tombstone?

 

Written by Lou Pulford, set in Hopeless, Maine.


Liminal Walking

A guest post from Graeme K Talboys

I am constantly aware of the fact that we live and work on the border. Directly in front of me, as I write, is the sea. Behind me is the land. In stormy weather, waves break no more than ten metres from my front door and foam fills the front garden. Borders are… exciting places.

As you become aware of the natural world and watch it with a close eye; as you become more self-aware and explore your inner being and its relationship with the outer world; you begin to realize that being Druid means living and working on the border.

Although this places us in a different space to most people, this is no bad thing. Western thought – the metaphysic that underpins the way we structure our society, relationships, social institutions, activities, culture, education, knowledge, and so on, is based on a crude approximation of the world. It compartmentalizes, divides the world, presents an ‘either/or’ model.

Yet that is not how the world works. And as ‘our’ lives speed up, it becomes increasingly difficult to live in a subtle manner that is in accord with nature. Our ancestors appreciated this. It is apparent in all we know of them; their stories, their artefacts; their social structures.

If we live slowly, we are better able to appreciate, from the examples of nature, that the world has no sharp divisions. Watch a shoreline for a day and you will see it change as the tide comes in and goes out. Different species of bird come and go, the winds changes direction, the sounds and scents change, the colours transform. And if you follow many cycles you will see that each one is able to be both the same as all the others and unique at the same time.

Watch a tree for a few weeks. When did autumn start? It didn’t. Not in the sense that yesterday was summer and today is a different season. Each tree is constantly changing in subtle ways and in its own time. Only by taking the long view do we see this.

And the same is true of our inner and outer being. Many people think there is a strict division between what goes on ‘out there’ and what happens internally. That is what we are taught to believe. This is not an overt teaching, but it underpins modern metaphysical models, and it is, I would contend, why we are in such terrible trouble as a species.

We are complex beings and our psychological existence is built up from all the things we experience. For example, the emotions we experience are all valid, no matter what prompts them. I can be just as upset, shocked, or happy at something I read in a book as I can at something that happens to me in respect of my relationships with my family or friends. In the same way, my view of the world is shaped by my experiences, only some of which come from walking in a forest or riding on a bus or going shopping, being out in the ‘real’ world, in other words. In fact, I probably derive more from my reading, from thinking, and from sitting quietly in the back garden. If that creates within me a world in which it is possible to converse with ancestral spirits, that is no less real, no less valid, than any other sort of world. If other people do not see the world that way, all it means is they do not see it from my perspective, which is hardly surprising as I am the only person who can.

Walking the borders, being aware of these realities, accepting them even if we cannot know them, is part of the mindset that belongs with being Druid. If we walk the borders, if we find the paths between each nexus, we know that all realities are equally valid and equally real. If they were not, the ways between them, the places where one becomes another, would not be real. And we know they are real as they are all around us in the world.

 

Find out more about Graeme’s work here – http://www.graemektalboys.me.uk/ 


The Employment Problem

A guest blog from Stephen Palmer.

Blog originally posted 15/4/17

In recent months much has been written by various media publications about the likelihood of jobs being “taken” by robots and other automated systems, including by AI (or AGI – Artificial General Intelligence – as it is often called now). There are various possible scenarios: hyper-rich individuals owning AGIs and thereby removing the need for employees, resulting in mass unemployment; a huge change in the types of jobs being done, as with the change from manufacturing to services in the case of Britain over the past few decades; or perhaps a strengthening of the exploitation effects inherent in the capitalist system. In my novel No Grave For A Fox I had the latter option prevalent, with the nexus embodied in various android-type bodies. In Beautiful Intelligence the effect was not so obvious, the main employment effect being a decentralising one.

But in the Factory Girl trilogy I also considered these options, despite the 1910-11 setting. The automata (or horas as they are sometimes known) which are one of the mysteries of the novels are owned by Sir Tantalus Blackmore, a classic Victorian entrepreneur who exploits everything and everybody to become as rich as possible – or so it seems at first glance. But, whatever his motives, Sir Tantalus does own outright the ability to utilise the automata made by his Factory. In this regard he is deemed one of the sources of the wave of mass unemployment affecting my alternate Britain, as shown in this early conversation between Kora and Dr Spellman:

They stepped out of the hansom cab, waiting on the pavement while the automaton lifted Dr Spellman’s luggage off the rack. “Will you pay it?” Kora asked. “No.” “Why not? You paid the one in London.” “Yes,” said Dr Spellman, “but he was human.” “That is not fair. How can the Factory make money if nobody pays the automata?” Dr Spellman chuckled. “A very good point! You’re not daft, are you? Well, you see, the local Council pays your father for the automata who do all the work.”

In other words Sir Tantalus has a monopoly, which even extends to public use, as exemplified by the Sheffield Town Council having to pay him.

Although there was unemployment in Edwardian times, I did have in mind future possibilities when I was preparing the scenario for the three novels. Sir Tantalus is a private individual. He has broken the link between people giving their labour in return for a salary. Labouring individuals can associate into unions, which gives them power, since, if the business is dependent on labour, they can go on strike. This is not the case with Sir Tantalus or with any private individual who might use an AGI. If, rather than changing the mode of employment, an AGI owner bypasses labour entirely via their AGI then that labour loses its power of strike; and this is perhaps the worst danger of future AGI use. Such an owner would have the ability to accumulate capital without any hindrance – and that has never happened before.

Sir Tantalus enjoys exactly this option. Although there is mystery behind the creation of the automata, he in essence – especially in the early days of his operation – can accumulate as much capital as he likes, since the automata, like AGIs, have no power of strike.

And Sir Tantalus does what any self-obsessed Victorian entrepreneur would do in the circumstances – he sucks up to nobility:

Roka … nodded. “Is [Sir Tantalus in Parliament], then?” “Not in Parliament, no. What he does is far more cunning. He influences from behind the scenes to get what he wants. Why, he’d like to be a lord, you know, but…” “But what?” Dr Spellman shrugged, standing up to continue walking. “He was born into a poor Yorkshire family. Real lords don’t want him anywhere near them.” “That’s not fair.” Dr Spellman chuckled. “It’s one of his weak points, his obsession with nobility. His envy eats him up, Roka.”

Regarding unemployment, there are two sides to the argument in the Factory Girl novels, one which sees the automata as beneficial (pro-hora) and one which sees them as usurping (anti-hora).

Rather surprisingly, Sir Tantalus stands in the latter category:

Sir Tantalus continued, “With the benefit of hindsight, I wonder whether the achievement of hora emancipation – of Abolition, as Parliament would have it – would in fact be a hollow victory. In Sheffield you perhaps do not see the cruel tide of unemployment that affects London, Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester. My Factory gives work to more people than you can imagine, and I am glad for that. But as an older man, with little time remaining to him, I can see that there are too many horas in the world today. They do all the work we ask them to. But what of the little man? What of the ordinary man? It is for them that I worry.”

Later in the trilogy the reason for this becomes clear. But others are pro-hora:

“Regardless of the origin of the hora,” Lenin continued, “the hora is a worker, and as such acquires rights such as any worker should enjoy. Though we use the hora as an automatic worker to do tasks such as we do not wish to do, the hora is part of the great commonality of the working class – and it is being exploited by capitalist masters. In the essential regard about which I speak, the hora is akin to the man.

The above speech by Lenin should not perhaps be too surprising. (Lenin lived in Britain for a few years from 1902, so I thought it would be appropriate to have him play a small part in my novel.) But there is another aspect to these considerations which I wanted to use as a main part of the plot, and that is the way capitalism, unlike nature, posits no limit to growth. Though Lenin rightly saw automata as workers, he did not in my novels grasp the dangers of their mode of manufacture. He only saw the end result – employment in Sir Tantalus’ Factory for the men of south Yorkshire, and a force of hora workers who deserved rights. But the danger becomes clear in the third volume, The Girl With No Soul:

Agricultural fields lay littered with inutile horas, thousands of them, their steel exteriors glittering in the sunlight. In distant lanes he saw hundreds more walking apparently at random. The sheer quantity horrified him, and he realised that the Factory was still over-producing. What was Sir Tantalus doing inside?

The outer streets of the city were also strewn with horas, and with hora parts, as if a kind of grisly mechanical fury had ripped through the place. Through a gap in the blinds he observed lines of men at soup kitchens, elsewhere rubble and shattered glass; and everywhere a chaotic press of people with pale, starved faces. Police patrolled the streets in groups – never alone – and there were even a few army officers in uniform.

Over-production – a small, curious, and mostly ignored effect in the first novel – has by the time of the third novel become an overpowering concern. As Erasmus later says:

“Roka – you already know this to be true. You, a Marxist, can see the madness of capitalism, which uses resources as if they are unlimited. Capitalism posits no natural limit to economic growth, and therefore dooms the culture in which it exists – and its environment too. Now do you see?” She nodded. “Capitalism is cancer…“

This is the equivalent of the first option presented in the introduction to this post. A proliferation of automata, like a proliferation of AGIs with nobody to control their creation or use, swiftly gets out of hand. Humanity is blithely doing itself out of an existence. At a time of global population explosion that’s not wise…

The second option is a change in employment styles. In Edwardian times, with severe social stratification, there was little chance for such ‘portfolio careers’ as they’re known today. Most people, especially on the lower rungs of the ladder, had a trade for life. It is in fact the far-sighted men of the Malthus Brigade who change the options for the malformed horas which they collect and adapt:

AutoRoka continued, “Malthus wrote about a future where disease and famine checked the growth of population, suggesting there was a limit to such growth.” Roka said, “Do you believe then that people will all die of starvation in the future?” The man [Ernest] shook his head. “Not people. We’re talkin’ about automata. Thee not noticed ‘ow many of them there are these days?” Roka shook her head. “It’s why the police waste so much time gatherin’ up the loose ones. Soon we’ll be drownin’ beneath them.” Roka grimaced at the image. “You really believe that?” “Oh, aye. It’s inevitable. So we’re takin’ malformed automata, which otherwise would do nowt, to make a force.”

And Ernest sees further, albeit under the spell of mass unemployment:

“ … The whole bloody Empire is built on automata labour, thee sees. No automata – no Empire. No nothin’, in fact.” “I suppose so,” Roka agreed.

Employment not only brings a salary to an employee, it offers far more. Human beings live in entwined worlds of meaning, and employment is one of the main sources of purpose in life. In previous centuries it was obvious to some that making an individual perform the same task over and over again militated against humanity. We cannot do production-line work and remain sane.

If we create a future in which AGIs dispense medical diagnoses, direct trade deals and trade itself, drive cars, trains and planes, or perhaps run all our personal finances, we are creating a future with far less space for meaning. We’ll be making stressed, anxious zombies of ourselves – and there’ll be billions of those.

 

My review of The Factory Girl Trilogy over here – https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2018/05/13/the-factory-girl-trilogy-review/


What’s the point of poetry?

A guest blog from Ziggy Dicks

In 2016 I started the Gloucester Poetry Society and sure enough there was an interest there but it was far from being what it is today; and still growing in scope.

I had a plan to unify people through words but wanted to create a forum that hadn’t been done before. I’d seen events, that had a small online presence and others with a strong online presence but little engagement. I saw a gap, so took the people I knew, introduced them to each other and created new working (and personal) friendships.

The way I did this was offering people opportunities to share, to perform and write. The aspects that didn’t draw interest I either discarded or waited for a more appropriate time to try, for example, workshops in the community which are now growing.

The trick was to focus on the positive and carry it in all activities but why poetry? Why not something else? Well frankly, I love poetry, know that it can enhance confidence through performance, can be used to assist people going through a difficult time and it’s entertaining too.

The point of poetry, is to show aspects of life that may be uncomfortable or wonderful or both. I wanted to reveal that all poetry is is a way of recording experience to be shared. All I’ve done is give people a place to share, whomever they are.

Is that the only point to poetry? Even if everything I write from this day in is drivel, which hopefully it won’t be, it has brought a community together, draws people to Gloucester.

It has been a great experience linking in with venues in Gloucester who have shown their belief in my project. It has enabled me to create a vast array of events including our Gloucester Poetry Festival in October.

All are welcome join us online in our Facebook group where we share work and ideas or you could join us at any of our events. Our attitude is ‘life is poetry’ so if there is something you would like to do with poetry and we can help, as a group, we will endeavour to help you.

We have our monthly Villanelles event at the Fountain Inn at West Gate Street Gloucester the last Thursday of the month. We have a generative workshop to start so even if you’ve never written before you can pick up some tips and after we have our poets performing, of which you could be if you wanted but there really is no pressure. We have many events throughout the year as well.

The Gloucester Poetry Festival in October and it is about hearing as many voices as possible (and having a good time) we’d love to see you there, It is a living art and is best experience first hand,

You can contact the team through our website
www.thegloucesterpoetrysociety.co.uk


Rainbow related awareness – a guest blog from Suvi

On facebook earlier this week, Suvi shared a post of things that they, as an intersex person, wanted the world to know. I offered Druid Life as a platform (this is something I am always happy to do, get in touch if you need to borrow the space.) For anyone not familiar with the term, intersex people are born with mixed sexual characteristics. I’ve seen estimates of around 2% of the population affected by this. Surgery to ‘normalise’ their bodies to one or other gender is usually carried out in infancy, with little regard to internal organs or how the child might self-identify.

Over to Suvi…

I have no physical sense of self or desire to make that connection

Puberty is bad enough; second puberties really suck

The secret we carry leads to our complete isolation

I have never been able to undertake any gender specific activities of either gender including sports

I’m inhibited, a mass of numb physical scars

I want to run away

Relationships with those of the gender you have been forced to conform to are difficult as faced with a body that looks nothing like yours. Normally they freak out and run away.

You avoid mirrors; outward appearances are very outward

If you can never live up to expectations of your parents; you don’t feel like you are loved

Desperation to be loved makes you very vulnerable as a young person and can lock you into abusive relationships; terrified that no one else will want you

Any manipulator can use the no one else will want you card; employers will use it against you too

Then, for many we don’t exist. That is until we have to fill in a form with gender boxes; we get caught up in every piece of red tape going. Until recently (in the last 5 years) we had no human rights. Tick the box ticked on your birth certificate they say; mine says “undetermined”

Trans and intersex are not the same thing; they want surgery and can’t get it, we don’t want surgery and have no choice in the matter. Apart from in Malta where intersex surgeries are illegal.

That said intersex people can be trans if they identify as male or female gendered and not amalga-gendered. Currently 10% of intersex people identify as trans. All of us have little choice but to be mis-gendered by those who don’t know us, and most of us play binary in public to avoid assault. Verbal and physical violence against intersex people is horribly common.

Intersex is not a sexuality. We are on the rainbow as due to being intersex the sexuality or sexualities we do have are going to be queer. Yes; we can have sex. No, we can’t have children.

If we have been operated on as babies or small children we are most likely to have been lied to. As have our parents. Trying to get any truth out of the medical establishment is like trying to get blood out of a stone. It was only confirmed in January that my condition (though I’ve known for decades) only affects boys; up to then I was told I was a girl and it was my fault I looked and felt differently. You would think though that having a prostate gland would be a give-away.

Please could we be included in the legalisation our existence is used to justify. Australian intersex folk can marry who they choose and Scotland to her credit is working on it. But nowhere else can we marry.

Could the world get over bathrooms please; if you have one in your home its unisex

My sign for Pride this year and no its not original, but very apt will say: Ugh, where do I start?


Guest blog from Jason Lewis

Jason contacted me by email to ask if I’d host this post. It’s interesting stuff – I think we should be doing more to explore the social impact of religion. I don’t think you need to believe anything specific to benefit from many of the things a religious practice can do – themes I’ve explored in Spirituality without Structure and When a Pagan Prays. I think what Jason says has relevance for all faith groups and its interesting to think about how we might apply this to a Pagan context.

 

This Is Why Seniors  Should Attend Church

Whether you’re ultra-religious, simply spiritual, or somewhere in between, church can give you perspective on life’s ups and downs in a safe environment. While people of all ages can benefit from a weekly prayer session, it can be particularly helpful for seniors — here’s why.

 

Mental Health

Due to life circumstances that may be unique to their age or health concerns, elderly people often confront a variety of emotions or mindsets that may be somewhat debilitating and hard to bear. These include a sense of isolation, loneliness, boredom, and grief, as well as others. Seniors need activity in their lives to help ward off isolation and depression, which can lead to risky behavior like substance abuse. Studies show that seniors who regularly attend church have greater mental health than those who do not. In fact, depressive symptoms improved and they were able to cope with illness better later on in life.

 

Preventative Care

Seniors who regularly attend church are more apt to stay on top of preventative care such as flu shots and cancer screenings. Those struggling with medical costs will benefit from church-sponsored health fairs that offer service like those listed above and more. Church communities tend to promote ways to live a healthier life.

 

Social Life

Research suggests that when seniors retain some semblance of a social life, they can decrease — or slow down — the rate of cognitive decline. It’s likely that they’ll make friends who they’ll see outside of the church environment. Even acquaintances can be beneficial as there’s the possibility of meeting someone younger who can help with lawn work or occasional errands.

There may even be an opportunity to contribute to the community, which can give the elderly a sense of purpose that could help ward off depression. Going to a place of worship gives seniors a safe place to get support through good times and bad.

 

Cognitive Health

Between participating in church services (singing, reciting prayers, listening to a sermon, etc.) to socializing with other members of the congregation, the church environment can help prevent dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other cognitive disorders.

 

Longer Life Span

Studies indicate that attending church can lower stress levels, which reduces inflammation that increases the risk for disease — it actually may reduce mortality rate by 55 percent. Religious attendance is also known to boost the immune system, decrease blood pressure, and possibly change bad behaviors such as smoking, excess drinking, and promiscuity.

 

Increased Optimism

Though it’s not exactly clear why, there’s a link between optimism and attending church. Seniors who attend more than once a week are 56 percent more likely to have an optimistic outlook on life in comparison to those who never go. Churchgoers are also 22 percent less likely to experience depression.

 

Physical Health

Having a reason to get dressed and leave the house may be just what a senior needs to keep moving. Findings show that leaving the house every day — even a short trip — can help seniors live longer. Staying indoors regularly can contribute to physical and mental decline.

 

Improved Coping Methods

The golden years can be an emotionally challenging time because seniors live to see the passing of friends and family while experiencing their own illness. Going to church can help seniors cope through sad and stressful times by encouraging mindfulness.

It doesn’t matter who or what you believe in as the benefits that come from attending a place of worship are the same. Don’t worry if you never regularly attended church in the past. There’s never a bad time to incorporate spirituality into your life.

 

Photo Credit: Pexels