Karl Jaspers – a very brief, very relevant reminder from the past.

Nationalism: you can get it anywhere.

A summary of Karl Jaspers’ writing, “Sunk in the noise of nationalism and technology, people become intellectually and emotionally stifled, stuck. The crowd rules. Slogans and rhetoric pass for meaningful conversations”. Marietta McCarthy, How philosophy can save your life. Penguin Australia 2009.

What have we learnt? A German survivor of the first and second world wars, Jaspers was an early 20th century philosopher. He still speaks to us with relevance, as if alive today. Nationalism is destructive. Those who seek advantage through manipulating others naive enough to follow blindly, to adopt the slogans of ill considered electronic media and rally to the flags of puppet masters – will be perpetrators of great harm.

However, Jaspers was not without hope. “Amidst discussion, a silence is possible in which people may listen together and hear the truth.”

Are we still able to effectively hear the truth, to discover and explore the scant remaining silence? Or have we sunk so deep into the swamp of nationalism and the noise of technology to be beyond positive, constructive, truth seeking communication?

The green cane chair

The green cane chair
 I sit 
 on my green cane chair
 The best chair for thinking
 It is outside 
 It has the advantage 
 of being 
 in a good place 
 A verandah from which
 there is much to see
 Even if the weather is cold
 it is in the right position 
 because the wind slides past 
 In this chair 
 you can avoid 
 confronting winds of change
 You can sit here for 
 a long time 
 you won’t have to move 
 or make way 
 for someone or something
 You can watch 
 all sorts of things 
 unfold from this chair
 Insects birds animals people 
 the day the night 
 the light 
 Seasons pass you by 
 I unfold from this chair
 This is a sitting for thinking chair 
 It gives access 
 to great scope for thought
 A matching cane table 
 by this chair
 It is for
 all the paraphernalia 
 I choose to utilise
 for observation and thinking
 for research recording and writing
 Endless cups of tea 
 Vegemite and salad rolls 
 Fruit  nuts
 stacks of books
 Pens paper 
 Camera iPad and phone 
 Background noises 
 surrounding this chair 
 are soothing
 Creek water 
 tumbling over rocks
 An irregular breeze
 wafting at leaves
 Morning song birdsong evensong

 Another nice sound
 I often hear from this chair 
 is children playing 
 Always happy to be outside
 In cooler months
 running along the bush track   
 In summer  
 swimming in the waterhole by the bridge
 or excitedly calling to each other
 as they splash 
 about amongst the cascades
 You need to wear 
 a brimmed hat 
 sitting in this chair 
 regardless of the season
 This is to shade your eyes 
 from the northerly and westering sun 
 To balance the glare 
 against the shadows 
 on the surface 
 you are working on
 This chair has soft cushions 
 for the seat and for the back
 They rest against its structure of
 bent cane
 It is a very good fit 
 You can sit for a long time 
 before needing to move 
 However, the arms of this chair are narrow 
 They may confine you 
 to a limited range of positions
 This has the advantage
 of forcing movement
 This state of affairs 
 is  conducive 
 to constructive
 thinking by prompting
 physical activity
 around the house 
 along the verandah 
 in the garden 
 along the creek
 Such activity can be necessary 
 to continue to be 
 A mental activity reset
 New approaches 
 come with a reset
 Quite often they are so
 you get a pleasant surprise 
 This is because 
 you didn’t  know 
 they were there 
 within you
 Another way to reset is
 change the scene
 move this chair
 to the edge of the verandah 
 or reorientate
 A different outlook
 New space
 New thinking
 You have to remember 
 to take the cushions 
 every evening 
 to stop them
 getting damp
 They get tired and worn
 They are due for 
 a new skin
 Just like me
 This chair is exposed to the elements 
 One day it won’t be there
 I wonder will another chair
 be so generous?