I wonder if
when we first …
… arrived here,
in our ear,
“Welcome to …
… the Asylum of Answers“?
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“It was said in late lore that Hera or Ares sent the Sphinx … to Thebes in Greece where she asks all passersby the most famous riddle in history:
in the morning goes on four legs,
at mid-day on two,
and in the evening upon three,
and the more legs it has,
the weaker it be?“
She strangled and devoured anyone unable to answer …
… Oedipus solved the riddle by answering: Man—who crawls on all fours as a baby, then walks on two feet as an adult, and then walks with a cane in old age
“Bested at last, the tale continues, the Sphinx then threw herself from her high rock and died. An alternative version tells that she devoured herself“
Perhaps the sphinx has been given a bad rap.
“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions” ~Naguib Mahfouz
Perhaps Oedipus was a very clever, stupid man.
Or perhaps Oedipus was a joke.
A very bad joke.
“Thus Oedipus can be recognized as a “liminal” or threshold figure…
… helping effect the transition between the old religious practices, represented by the death of the Sphinx, and the …
… rise of the new, Olympian gods“(wiki)
What happened when Oedipus ‘busted’ the sphinx?
“The foundational stories we tell about Western Civilisation are stories of trauma. Oedipus is wounded & abandoned by his parents, who drive a stake through his feet (hence the name Oedipus, which means “swollen foot”) & … leave the baby on a hillside to die. Oedipus is fated to kill his father, Lauis & marry his mother Jocasta” ~ Birth of Pleasure Carol Gilligan
The tale goes from bad to worse with Oedipus eventually …
… blinding himself, his mother/wife hanging herself, their two sons killing each other & another daughter hanging herself …
Why the repeated strangulation of the women I wonder?
“The name ‘sphinx’ which means ‘strangler‘ was first given by the Greeks to a fabulous creature which had the head of a woman and the body of a lion and the wings of a bird. She is mythicised as treacherous and merciless. Those who cannot answer her riddle suffer a fate typical in such mythological stories, as they are killed and eaten by this ravenous monster“
What if Oedipus got it all wrong?
“Among the Egyptians, sphinxes were placed at the entrance of the temple to guard the mysteries, by warning those who penetrated within, that they should conceal a knowledge of them from the uninitiated“
What if the correct response to the sphinx was not to answer the question, but to question the questioner?
What if Oedipus doomed mankind to its traumatic fate because he would not ask his own questions?
If you want to know who rules the world
look no farther than those
who formulate the questions.
When other’s decide your questions,
they also ‘own‘ your answers.
During the behind-the-scenes conversations of our recent show, there was an exploration into just what was happening within our dialogue that allowed such immense changes, within a very short space of time.
One thing I had noticed was that there were times when a question was posed, that my mind would go a complete blank. Instead of struggling to answer as I would feel obliged to in ‘normal’ life, I felt free to say that “I could not answer” & then ask for the question to be rephrased.
This put the responsibility back where it belonged – where it should always belong – on the questioner.
I would like to suggest that one of the greatest barriers to human re-connection lies in our unrecognised addiction to …
… Question Abuse.
The fallout from un-thought-out questions, detonated around the world on a daily basis makes the …
… Tsar Bomba pale in comparison.
What if the Sphinx’s enigma was actually a …
… cautionary tale
A tale to warn of the dangers
brought upon ourselves when we ingest
Let’s suggest that if a question cannot be responded to, with ease, it is because the question is …
… unfit for human consumption
& needs to be sent back to its cook,
Let’s go a step further & wonder…
What if questions have a power
Funny isn’t it,
they come from the throat …
& then so often,
for the throat’.
Is this what the fate of the women in the Oedipus tale
was warning us?
Through the enforcing of questions
our culture has been moulded into a
Cult of (right) Answers.
That is damnably stupid & dangerous.
From their earliest days, humans are herded into …
… answering (correctly).
Whether a human is rewarded or shamed isn’t really important –
what matters is that they
learn to place
… on a pedestal.
I grew up with a grudge against my mouth – it failed me time & time again – never giving the correct answer, when it really mattered – the answers that would have made my mother understand or get people to like me & allow me into their world – the way it was in reality on the tv, when everyone always said the right thing.
It’s only so very recently that I have seen that it was not me, my mouth or my ‘messed-up’ answers that were faulty – it was the questions.
What madness is it that causes a civilisation
… idolise answers?
What madness is it that causes a civilisation
… daily/hourly swallow pre-packaged answers?
How did we allow ourselves to be tricked into believing that:
Answers = Intelligence?
Perhaps there is a tie-in to trauma-generated genetic-memories of humanity …
… when giving the wrong answer led straight to
torture & death.
But we really have to smarten up.
Here are some monkeys to help us begin to make sense of our stupidity.
“Enculturated apes Kanzi, Washoe, Sarah … underwent extensive language training programs … successfully learned to answer quite complex questions and requests (including question words “who” what“, “where“) …
… although so far they failed to learn how to ask questions themselves … “Though she [Sarah] understood the question, she did not herself ask any questions — unlike the child who asks interminable questions, such as What that? Who making noise? When Daddy come home? Me go Granny’s house? Where puppy? …
… Sarah never delayed the departure of her trainer after her lessons by asking where the trainer was going, when she was returning, or anything else“
To answer is simple,
to question divine?
What if Answer Worship has been deployed as an insanely clever process of devolution.
“The questions which one asks oneself begin, at least, to illuminate the world, and become one’s key to the experience of others” James” ~ A. Baldwin
“There is frequently more to be learned from the unexpected questions of a child than the discourses of men” ~John Locke
“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes” ~Albert Einstein
Those are great quotes.
But we didn’t go down that road.
Why ever not?
Instead we were schooled into answering.
If questions decide ‘who rules’ we’d better taker a closer look.
Kudos to Michael for pointing out that a question mark reminded him of…
… the grim reaper’s sickle/scythe.
We may also see …
… a hook.
Both point to death & that’s just begging for closer scrutiny.
“Lynne Truss attributes an early form of the question mark to Alcuin of York. Truss describes the punctus interrogativus of the late 8th century as “a lightning flash, striking from right to left”.” (wiki)
Those familiar with the Celtic Rebel’s work will have found that of interest.
Here’s a little more on Alcuin of York, nicknamed Albinus (“white”) or …
… “Flaccus” – variously interpreted as meaning “big ears”, “flop ears”, “floppy”, or “fatty”.
“Alcuin of York … (730s or 740s – 19 May 804) …
… was an English scholar, ecclesiastic, poet and teacher … At the invitation of Charlemagne, he became a leading scholar and teacher at the Carolingian court … “The most learned man anywhere to be found” … he is considered among the most important architects of the Carolingian Renaissance. Among his pupils were many of the dominant intellectuals of the Carolingian era.
… From 782-790, Alcuin taught Charlemagne himself, his sons, … the young men sent to be educated at court and the young clerics attached to the palace chapel.
Charlemagne was a master at gathering the best men of every land in his court … It seems that he made many of these men his closest friends and counsellors. They referred to him as ‘David’, a reference to the Biblical king David. Alcuin soon found himself on…
… intimate terms with Charlemagne and the other men at court …
Alcuin’s friendships also extended to the ladies of the court, especially the queen mother and the king’s daughters. His relationships with these women never reached the intense level of those of the men around him. Modern commentators, have identified the homo-erotic tone of some of Alcuin’s poetry, emphasising the spiritual and idealistic aspects of his love for his friends and his pupils.“
Back to the subject of death for a mo – here’s the man who went all to pieces – look what interesting crook-shape (?) he carries in his mitts …
“The Crook and Flail are the emblems …
… of Osiris … held across the chest of the Pharaoh … It [the crook] symbolized the very concept of rule and was even employed as the hieroglyph for the word “rule“.”
“Few objects are as closely associated with the rulers’ dominion over Egypt as the crook and the flail. Of Osiris … it was said in the Book of the Dead:
“The White Crown is set on your head. You seized the crook and the flail when you were (still) in the womb and had not (yet) emerged onto the earth.”
After the king took possession of the regalia upon his accession they remained with him all his life and even in the beyond. They were instrumental in the renewal of the king’s powers.
The gods shown wielding the crook and the flail are rulers“
When other’s decide your questions, they also ‘own‘ your answers.
Another ‘crook-holding-question-asking-reaper’ …
… was this lad.
“100 Questions that Jesus asked and YOU must answer”
“The key is simply this: Answer the Question! Among the many things Jesus did, he asked a lot of questions! And whenever you read the Gospels and Jesus asks a question, answer it! Do not wait to see what Peter or Magdalene, or the Pharisees or the crowd say for an answer. You answer the question, in your own words”
“Roy Zuck wrote a book called Teaching as Jesus Taught and identified fifteen reasons that Jesus asked questions. Here is his list for your consideration: –
To cause someone to recall facts, To promote conversation, To point out something that isn’t true, To get agreement, To push for an expression of faith, To prod for an opinion, To prove faith and commitment, To promote reflection and thinking, To persuade critics of error, To pull people up, To pour out emotions, To reveal motives, To prick the conscience, To pinpoint a topic, To press for the application of the truth.“
When other’s decide your questions, they also ‘own‘ your answers.
How often have you felt backed into a corner by a question?
And worse, how often have you backed someone else into a corner with yours? We’ve all done it.
“I found I wasn’t asking good enough questions because I assumed I knew something. I would box them into a corner with a badly formed question, and they didn’t know how to get out of it …” ~Alan Alda
There is a whole world we are missing out on because we have been misled in the formulation & use, of questions.
Mind you, the fact that we all come to all our conversations …
… armed to the teeth,
doesn’t really help any either.
I’m beginning to wonder if questions target a particular part of our immune system, & with each unwilling answer dragged from us, it diminishes it a little more.
Make no mistake,
All too often that’s what they’re designed to do.
“Interrogation … commonly employed by officers of the police, military, and Intelligence agencies with the goal of extracting a confession or obtaining information”
“Police interrogators are highly trained in psychological tactics”
“the fact that detectives sometimes end up with confessions from the innocent testifies to their expertise in psychological manipulation“
I reckon the majority of our current questions are manipulative – designed simply for the use by us, the questioner. I should think that most often what is happening is below conscious awareness – not surprising since no one taught us to question our questions.
Reasons may include my wishing to feel more comfortable around someone e.g
- are you in the same social group as ME?
- if not are you above or below ME?
- what do you think of ME?
- do you have anything in common with ME?
Without realising it, we have been taught to interact with others through methods that may equate to in-terror-gation.
These power-over methods may be highly addictive – even a joker knows that.
“The Riddler’s criminal modus operandi is so deeply ingrained into his personality that he is virtually powerless to stop himself from acting it out … He cannot simply kill his opponents when he has the upper hand; he has to put them in a deathtrap to see if he can devise a life and death intellectual challenge that the hero cannot solve and escape“
If we have not experienced the life force that comes through real conversation, we may mistake this power-over for what we are missing.
The Riddler’s name, Edward Nigma tells us what the damaged question mark really looks like:
The Riddler = Edward Nigma
Edward Nigma = “A grimed wand”
which is what …
… this becomes
when we abuse it.
It is completely possible for us to begin to communicate with each other the way we are meant to, & hunger for. It wasn’t meant to be this way:
“these white brother will steal everything from us but our spirits ..
… The great dark shadow of the ravenous bird of death has fallen over the people.“
This question & answer formula that we have lived by is fake – it serves an agenda that is not ours:
“These are the type of questions we are used to hearing from journalists. They are not requests for information so much as an attempt to place the PM in a difficult position”
“Journalists and the general public ask questions of their leaders for different reasons. Journalists need stories to publish”
Here’s a salesman who has some wisdom to impart:
“Sellin’ ain’t tellin’, askin’ is.” I heard this simple but true homily years ago … this … has been one of the most powerful and useful lessons I’ve ever learned … The person asking questions is always in control of a discussion. This control can be used gracefully … or it can be abused.
Questions are the keys to unlock the vaults of information, needs, wants and emotions … Use the word ‘feel’ with women & they’ll tell you what they think …Use the word ‘think’ with men & they’ll tell you how they feel.
… there are two critical ingredients … The first is trust. You have to build a pattern of behavior that will allow a person to trust you. Trust comes from asking good questions, consistent behavior and keeping your commitments. The second is empathy. This relates to how much you really care. It does not matter what level of education a person has they seem to know if another person is real or not“
If you think sculpting questions is easy, please print out the sign below & staple it to your forehead:
“A powerful question…
simple and clear
Opens new possibilities
Evokes more questions“
However a good question can change your life.
And a great question may change the world.
There is a delicacy & lightness-of-touch to ‘live’ questions that belies their power – they are like small children, our very own children – that once ‘spoken’ have left home & gone out into the world, for better or for worse.
“Philosophers are adults who persist in asking childish questions” ~ Isaiah Berlin
“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers” ~Voltaire
“My whole life is waiting for the questions to which I have prepared answers” ~Tom Stoppard
“You mustn’t always believe what I say. Questions tempt you to tell lies, particularly when there is no answer.” Pablo Picasso
Questions may free us or choke us & those we interact with.
It matters a lot that we understand this
To finish this article I asked my friends Katherine & Michael if they could come up with a quick list of examples of when they struggle with questions:
K: if i feel like the question is an attack….like they are trying to get me to answer a certain way, almost like it’s a weapon
M: yea thats what I meant, your answer isnt an option
k: oh….and when it’s really vague
M: when its an accusation, like “did you do ____?” “do you think that _____?”
K: i like the accusation one……like if someone is implying something in the question or like “are you still mad at me?”
M: or if the question is asked as an opener for them to push their “agenda”
K: yeah, or to belittle your views
M: yes your answer doesnt matter then, they just want an excuse to say what they wanted to and give the illusion that its a conversation, but its really just them talking at you, not with you
K: when it’s really personal…..so even if i know the answer i don’t want to give it, but then feel guilty about not saying it yea I understand this
K: oh or when they are disapproving….i guess sort of like “oh you really do/think/feel etc??” or condescending
K: i get this a lot since i don’t watch TV or newer movies “You’ve never seen that, REALLY?!?!”
M: when the question is demanding an immediate answer and not an explanation because they dont want to understand you then, they want something from you even if its just an answer they’re demanding it right then and there
A few days after the re-humanising women, reigniting conversation show, my sister Rachel invited me on a jaunt to the Coromandel. The timing was perfect, it was just what I needed.
I thought you might enjoy a visual jaunt –
I didn’t always have my camera,
so there are many amazing sights missing,
but I think you can still get the picture.
To all my friends who were part of/helped with, the show this is dedicated to you too.
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“Time & tide wait for no man” … except in NZ
a travelling companion
… of childhood
when long ago …
… we used to camp on the dunes of this beach
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I’m working on a new article atm but thought you might enjoy a change of scene.
The comments & feedback from our show have been truly inspiring.
from all of us
Last Sunday five women came together (via Rebel Path Radio) to begin a change.
We stepped out of the the apparently unstoppable
current human direction
& walked back towards life.
A long time ago I found a Turkish proverb that resonated deeply with me – I feel it is essential now.
“No matter how far you have gone on a wrong road, turn back“
You can hear our show by playing it below downloadable
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Despite all my good intentions, a write-up has eluded me. I think perhaps it is because if you did not ‘get’ our show, there is really nothing I can say here that will make any difference.
Instead I’m going to leave the words of my sister, written in the early hours of this morning, when she couldn’t sleep, having visited our mother the day before – I cannot think of anything more honest or poignant at the moment. The terrible waste of life that comes so frequently in our culture. The cost to so many when a woman breaks. If you have a sensitive nature you may not want to read.
“It has become a house of disgust and doom. Filth, flies and urine stench coat the inside. As I go to open the back door, hoards of flies are hovering waiting to enter their new paradise. You begin to question is there something else there decaying besides the old woman you call your mother. She looks so much older now, smaller, stooped and her face looks uneven, like she has had a stroke.
As I enter the house so do the flies and they greet their other friends who are well established in the kitchen. There is a dirty wet cloth smell coming from the kitchen bench. Dirty tea stained cups and plates are placed on the bench along with cigarette butts, ash and old tea bags. The dining room table is piled with paper, old bills, old fruit and the odd item of dirty underwear draped over the dining chairs. The floor is filthy showing no signs of a vacuum cleaner or mop ever greeting its presence. The carpet edges are worn away and underneath are the carpet beetles who are also devouring this house.
I rush to the bathroom as I need to go, but can’t decide if I really want to as more than a dozen flies compete for the room. There are two old ice-cream containers at the back of the downpipe where there is a leak, and as I flush the toilet more is added to it. I wash my hands but dare not use a towel as it will be contaminated with urine too. The bathroom tiles are starting to wear away and I wonder how many insects lie beneath it waiting to devour the floor.
I go to the only room without a fly, my parents old bedroom and find the vacuum cleaner. I know it will need to be emptied but can’t bring myself to even see the inside of the bag. I start in her bedroom and try to hold my breath and not look at the urine stained mattress protector I got her for the bed. The floor is strewn with old clothes the odd used sanitary pad used to combat the urine leaks at nights.
This room once belonged to my sister and I. We shared this room for 15 years until we both made our escape. I move on and clean my brothers old room. Inside is a single bed covered with our old friends who we spent endless hours cuddling: our teddies. You see we never had parents to could cuddle or hug us so it was our teddies that gave us love. We didn’t even realise that we could cuddle each other.
The same wallpaper and orange curtains hang in the room I use to spend hours sitting on the floor and listening to my records on my brother Peters record player. Peter and my younger brother Bernard shared this room. They were 12 years apart but got on really well with Peter always looking out for Bernard.
Next the hall has been covered with an old grey carpet which was placed over a long rug. The very rug I hid my mashed potatoes under when I could not get in to the bathroom to flush it down the toilet. We had to eat mashed potatoes most nights and both my sister Alex and I hated it we would almost vomit. If I couldn’t feed it to the black Labrador under our table I would pocket it and flush it down the toilet. One day I panicked as I heard my mother coming and lifted the rug in the hall and squashed it down. It stayed there until she found a mouse in the house and my old mashed potatoes. Of course I had to come clean as I was a good catholic and I think I got the wooden spoon that day.
The ceiling in the lounge is also wasting away as all the old paints leaves its once save haven. This is the room we came to at night and just sat and watched Television or on a Sunday night after church listened to my parents choice of music. Those hours were spent wishing away I could be somewhere else. A place where there was life.
Every time I have to go to this house I feel the impending doom, I am sucked into it as I enter the house. It is like a dark heavy cloak which doesn’t just sit over you, but seeps into your every pore then drags you down into her world.“
There is no pleasure for me in posting this story – we are supposed to keep all our family secrets tucked away in closets, but my sister said recently how she feels that her closet is bulging & almost ready to burst open – I think it is that way with many.
This story may not be pretty, but I had such a strong feeling that it might help others & I wished to help my sister reclaim her voice. If something in this tale helps you in your life, then perhaps my mother’s life is not so tragically wasted.
I do want to address a topic brought up in the show, but I will do that on a separate article.
Once again I thank Katherine, Shannon, Anna & Sinead for their tremendous courage & heart-warming friendship & their power-filled voices.
You are warmly invited to the “mysterious show”
that will be taking place
Sunday 15th January
at 11.00pm (USA Eastern standard time)
Rebel Path Radio.
The reason it’s mysterious
is not really a mystery,
it’s just that there aren’t words,
at the moment …
A huge amount of passion & commitment & honesty is going into this show that will be hosted by five women.
One of my co-hosts, Katherine, & I were recent guests on Kyle Hunt’s Star Theory – link to Kyle’s article & the show here.
Katherine has written an eye-opening article on make-up that was a major part of that radio show – Making Up Our Suffering.
You have nothing to lose
that you really wouldn’t want to lose,
by joining us.