LISTENING TO THE SILENCES

 

CHAPTER 4 PAGE 1

And

there were

G
I
A
N
T
S

in those days.


The 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 'before'.

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…') and 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…

And having writ moves on...

He who is born in imagination
discovers the latent forces of NATURE.
Besides the stars that are established
there is yet another
IMAGINATION
that begets a new star and a new heaven.

Paracelsus

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:

'...but 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
Holy Church...'

Galileo Galilei

And will 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.

 

NEXT PAGE

 

HOME | CHAPTER 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 | CONTACT
Copyright © 2003 Roy Vincent