Is there a quota system for the number of “Big Beasts” a political party can have? Another EU directive, perhaps?
I ask because ConservativeHome’s Tim Montgomerie wrote the following in Saturday’s Daily Mail: “A few big Labour beasts including Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander and defence spokesman Jim Murphy are quietly muttering in the corner …”.
Do Big Beasts mutter in corners? And quietly?
Douglas Alexander, “wee Dougie”, is a personable fellow who made a rather good joke in the Libyan debate, although I can’t for the life of me remember what it was.
Jim Murphy talks very quietly on aspects of defence, but I’m not sure I recall any details.
Nowadays, parties are defined by their Big Beasts and their roars. Ed Balls certainly roars, and is very beastly, but “Big Ed”?
Don’t you get the impression that Labour is the Incredible Shrinking Party?
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So CERN has captured antimatter — antihydrogen atoms, to be precise — for 16 minutes and 40 seconds. What are the implications of this for the rest of us?
For science it’s a chance to reconstruct the beginnings of the universe. Isn’t it always?
What though if the universe didn’t have a beginning? Is it inconceivable to the boffin bonce that not everything has to start somewhen?
It’s interesting to the mystic mind because it gives physical validation to one of its profoundest tenets: that matter is really “mind” or rather, consciousness.
Consider, if every particle in the universe has an antiparticle which destroys both on contact, and therefore the sum total is Zero, ie, the universe only exists physically as a state of tension between equal but opposite and, crucially, separate electrical charges, an overview of all of it would reveal nothing but emptiness. A void, in fact.
Once again, scientists reduce everything to nothingness, but miss one important element: Intelligence. The aliveness of space, in its general and particular senses, completely eludes them.
At its heart, the universe is made up of consciousness alone, or what used to be called Spirit. That is the mystic’s view. It actually explains everything so much better than science does, because consciousness/spirit displays “intelligence,” something science claims as its own yet denies to the void that is the universe.
The problem has always been that consciousness/spirit is so close to us, all-pervading in fact, that it’s possible to stumble through life without ever knowing it exists. It’s easy to view life as just a barrage of thoughts.
Look at existence through a telescope and spirit/consciousness is invisible. View life through a spiritual lens, by creating a silent space within, and all becomes clear.
And when you see it, everything makes sense. Scientists appear as primitive creatures, rattling around and making a lot of noise in a universe beyond their understanding.
Mystics try not to laugh. They are basically compassionate people. They would not be mystics if they didn’t have all-embracing temperaments.
But sometimes it’s very hard not to.
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I spend a lot of my time tracking one of the great tragedies/farces of our age. I refer, of course, to the fate of the euro.
I’m not sure why, especially since Great Britain — as we should now get used to calling our homeland — avoided it by the skin its teeth. The “great and the good,” as is usual, unerringly chose the wrong option, loudly proclaiming that staying out would be disastrous. Tut, tut.
There is a fascination in observing a slow-motion system wreckage in real time. Most economists — not the most accurate of prophets — now fall on the side of pessimism about this wonky, schizoid currency group.
The psychology of the process is even more interesting than watching the gradually disintegrating Heath-Robinson contraption.
Politicians are in an enormous quandary, damned if they do, and obliterated if they don’t. Eurocrats are chasing what tails they have left after the kicking they’ve taken by the forces of history. The astonishing part is that most of them have yet to budge from their pre-set positions. It’s as if they are frozen in a prehistoric landscape unable to summon the will to awaken.
Most interesting is observing those few who do come round from the Brussels Trance and either slink away into obscurity, or shrug a pair of pragmatic shoulders and carry on as if nothing had happened.
The pachyderm in the tool shed though is the European Central Bank (ECB) which is so stuffed with almost worthless Greek and peripheral countries’ debt that it is effectively bankrupt. It daren’t let Greece default because its balance sheet would collapse.
Prognosis? Some species of disaster, ranging from a devastating bust up, to total collapse of the system, leading to another calamitous global financial crash.
China might then emerge as the dominant power in the world, and we will dance to a Communist tune. The Marxist-Leninists will have won after all.
Britain might at least break away from this self-inflicted tragedy by calling the promised in-out referendum on the EU.
It would, at minimum, show a direction of travel that is inevitable at some point.
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Book of the Week
The travails of many big political projects remind me of one of my favourite books:
Back in the 1970s Shunryu Suzuki (not to be confused with D.T. Suzuki), was then Abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center. He wrote a classic of Zen and world literature called Zen Mind, Beginners’ Mind.
The theme of the book was that “experts” have closed minds with few possibilities, while “beginners” have open minds with many possibilities. Therefore it’s better to be a beginner than an expert.
It’s a wonderful book, full of wisdom and terrific writing. But is it true? In our society, experts are the ones who make the money. And money is the measure of success or failure. Beginners: students, interns, rookies, greenhorns, apprentices, newbies … are the ones we pass over in silence, and often without pay.
What Suzuki was really getting at is that beginners view everything as if it were new, fresh, and deeply interesting. Their minds are focused ferociously on the matter in hand, like a child with a new toy. They get more out of every experience because they are fully present to it — the essence of Zen.
Experts, by contrast, take a rather jaded, “seen it all before” view of the same events. Their minds are turning to “more important” matters like their diary for the coming week, upcoming meetings, papers to be written and presented, dinner parties to attend, boards to chair …
Suzuki felt that “attention” is the most important aspect of any person’s life. Attend fully to the matter in hand and you are fully alive. Split your mind by putting some things on autopilot and you’re not present to the moment, so partially dead. Marriages often suffer from this tendency and don’t last long once the robot takes over.
I’ve read Suzuki’s book a number of times in the past few years and I’m always amazed at the influence his simple message continues to have at the highest levels, especially among experts.
Steve Jobs, legendary founder of Apple, advises: “Stay hungry, stay foolish”.
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Thought of the Week
Plan A supposes a Plan B. A plan is just a plan, but an A without a B is superfluous and misleading. If George Osborne is set on only one plan for the economy, he should say, “There is no Plan A, just The Plan.”
Any philosopher worth his hemlock will tell you that.
Who is the author of The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face? Available from Amazon and all good booksellers.
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