moving finger writes....
When I first
began to describe my experiences, I had no plan to write what you have
read so far. Initially I wrote in order to try to help individuals who
had begun to 'hear voices' and who were also experiencing some or all
of the other phenomena generally associated with what is commonly called
schizophrenia. As fast as I wrote, my screen was avidly read by friends
who currently work in branches of psychiatry. As my account unfolded -
an account of events that began in 1979 - my friends wanted to know about
You have just read about 'before', which ended in or about 1976. As I
wrote of those times I became concerned that someone reading about the
events of 1979 et sec might conclude that they arose as a result of my
earlier experiences, and might write them off as the experiences of a
'damaged' mind. I am as certain as I can ever be about anything that the
only connection between the two parts of my history is that they occurred
to and in me. In order to try to create a break in thinking and any consequential
linking, I wrote the section just ended ('When I use a word
the next one ('And there were Giants in those days'). The former enabled
me to philosophise a little about my relationship with psychiatrists and
psychiatry. The next section, while providing a break, will also enable
me to introduce some information and speculation that are both necessary
when I come to what will be the penultimate part of my work.
Because I know where the writing is taking me, I know that the information
will be necessary for a full understanding. However, I know from the comments
of some who have already read the next section that I might be in danger
of losing you as a reader. I ask you most strongly to try to stick
with it even though as you read you may wonder how any of it can possibly
be of relevance in the field of mental health and the care of the disturbed.
All that I can say now is that I ask you to ponder the fact that we as
humans are the product of all that has gone before in our evolution, and
that every aspect of our physical, mental and spiritual life and previous
development, impact upon our current state of being. Thus something as
mundane as diet, or as esoteric as our interaction with our total environment
- physical and electrical - can dictate how we react physically and mentally.
Everything reacts with everything else - and we are piggy in the middle!
An understanding of our precarious place in evolution can help us to mould
our lives in such a way that we minimise our chances of ill health, or
can help us to recover from any distressful state into which we have succumbed.
So as you read remember that this is my goal. If you can't cope or fail
to see the relevance, just skip, although unfortunately much of what comes
later when I am providing information about survival strategies might
be lost on you. I'll leave it to you
having writ moves on...
who is born in imagination
discovers the latent forces of NATURE.
Besides the stars that are established
there is yet another
that begets a new star and a new heaven.
For as long
as I can possibly remember, I have been fascinated by water. Not, in spite
of my mother's exhortations, the sort that would have removed the tide-mark
from around my neck, but the sort that harboured fishes; that provided
a home and food supply for wildfowl; but, most of all, the sort on which
boats plied, on which ships sailed. Given the chance, I would have spent
my days in a boat. I sailed and tried to build model yachts, and read
about them, and drooled over catalogues of fittings - goosenecks
and deadeyes and the rest - whose use on real vessels I
could only guess at. I read, read, and lived it all -the voyages of Lightning,
Flying Cloud, Thermopylae, Cutty Sark -The Fight of the Firecrest
- the voyages of Joshua Slocum. So much did I absorb and live what I read
that, when I first took the tiller of a small boat, I knew what
the feel of a weather helm would be, where the wind would be on my cheek
and how the luff of the sail would lightly shiver as we sailed close-hauled.
What a day of memories in the making! What a day. The Naval Division at
Glasgow University had acquired sailing facilities on a loch just north
of Glasgow and, as well as sailing dinghies on loan, had 'won' a whaler
- an open sea-boat of about 21 feet long, and built on the lines of the
Viking vessels - high bow and stern and swept lines. It was a bright,
scudding April day: blue sky and clouds - and the feel of a boat
under sail. What can I say? I have sailed in many small boats since, and
in many places - Famagusta, Haifa, around Britain - yet nothing can override
or extinguish the memories of that first time. And to cap it all, the
setting. The loch was in a hollow as the land rose around it, and on the
brae beside the water, the field was being worked with horses, while a
man scattered seed two-handed - the Lutterell Psalter come to life. Oh,
how I loved it all!
But as well as the ships and the sailing, I had an equally passionate
love, and that was for navigation. From a second-hand bookstall in our
local market I had bought a book on coastal navigation and, again, read
and read and absorbed. When, then, the war gave me the chance to do what
I had always wanted, to go to sea, and I joined the Navy, with the hope
of getting a commission as I have related, I found before me another chance
to bring to life my daydreams and imaginings, and to add them to the sailing,
for part of the early training involved chart-work. I revelled in the
struggle with tides and currents, compass deviation and variation and
the like, and in the feel of parallel rulers and dividers as the courses
were laid off. As you have seen, I didn't achieve the hoped for commission
but, instead, transferred to what was later to influence the course of
my life and choice of career.
Radar is an important adjunct to navigation and as such has to be equally
reliable, precise. Thus the coast as shown on the radar screen has to
be exactly as represented - twenty miles and bearing such and such,
not give or take a mile or so; or plus or minus so many degrees. In that
training and work with radar was born what has become in essence a way
of life, of being in touch with reality, of having to be accurate, precise
and reliable - the very qualities that were essential in, and pervaded,
my whole working life in measurement and safety.
From my love of navigation stemmed another and essentially parallel one
- a love of maps and charts, and, by extension, a great interest in mapmakers,
navigators and the early explorers. Travelling back in time for two millennia,
one of the key centres for the study of all of the sciences and of astronomy
and navigation, was Alexandria - centre also for exploration and trade.
From the Alexandria of AD 150, came a map and a science that were to influence
thought, travel and exploration for the next fifteen hundred years. Claudius
Ptolomaeus - Ptolemy - was primarily an astronomer and mathematician,
but also a geographer and cartographer. "He stands a Colossus astride
the ancient world and his influence is even felt today", says one
modern writer. With access to the extensive libraries of Alexandria, and
with contact with the mariners who traded to the east and west of this
hub of human activity, Ptolemy was in a position to map the known world.
Into the accumulated data he was able to introduce an order or system
that has since been followed by geographers in all ages; it was he who
introduced the method and names of latitude and longitude.
However, in certain very important elements, Ptolemy was in serious error.
By his method of measurement, and choice of the Canary Islands for his
prime meridian, he greatly overestimated the length of land eastward from
this line, and consequently reduced the gap, presumed water, between Europe
and Asia. Moreover, whereas the early Greeks had been content to leave
blanks in their maps where knowledge ceased, Ptolemy filled in the blanks
with theoretical concepts. Such actions would not have mattered so much
in a lesser man, but so great was the reputation of Ptolemy that his theories
assumed equal validity with his undoubted facts, and were not seriously
questioned for 1,500 years. His reputation allowed him to influence a
debate whose outcome and repercussions were to reverberate down the centuries.
Ptolemy placed the earth at the centre of the universe, and there it stayed,
in spite of the arguments of great minds, until the force of observation
and truth prevailed.
Will you not weep inside if not openly as Galileo must have done when
he was forced to write:
because I have been enjoined, by this Holy Office, altogether to abandon
the false opinion which maintains that the Sun is the centre and immovable,
and forbidden to hold, defend, or teach, the said false doctrine in any
manner........I abjure, curse and detest the said errors and heresies,
and generally every other error and sect contrary to the said
you not spare a thought for the predicament of Christopher Columbus as
he sailed westward in the mistaken belief that the globe was as small
as Ptolemy had indicated? And after sailing as far as your calculations
deemed necessary, how do you come to terms with the fact that you have
not reached Japan or the Indies as planned - but where?
"Dammit", "Shiver me timbers" and other such vile
nautical oaths, "It must be the Indies". And so, dear
children, that is how the West Indies got their name, for that,
in fact, is where Columbus had arrived - blame it all on Ptolemy.