Friday, September 22, 2023

Cyprus Part Two

After a fair amount of island hopping in the Caribbean, I have come to the conclusion that I have had enough of post colonial islands. Presumably they once all had an indigenous population and a culture of their own but that was before the British Empire marched in and robbed them of both.  But the cultural wasteland of the caribbean in the wake of colonial takeover is not unique to the Americas. Cyprus bears the same hallmarks. These days, like its cousins in the Caribbean, Cyprus doesn't seem to know who it is. In the restaurants you can order hummus and souvlaki, not to mention fish and chips.

Like these other wandering island identites, it has come down to a dependence on tourism. In days of yore, Cyprus was the copper center of the ancient world. It used to be a Mecca for devotees of Aphrodite. Now it is home to a large British ex-pat population that likes foreigness to a small degree but is much more comfortable with creating its own Little Britain of the Aegian. Thus, it joins Mallorca, Tenerife, Malta, all these former territories struggling to remember what they were before. Scotland enjoys something of the same dilemma. 

I didn't know what to expect when my plane touched down in Paphos, Cyprus. In my youth, I spent a few months wandering around the Greek isles, but this was not that. Greece has never doubted its own worth . If you go to Greece, you get Greece. Of course, my youth was a long time ago, and things may have changed, but there is so much uninterrupted history there. Wherever Greeks roam, they take Greece with them. The blood is strong.

But Cyprus, in the spaghetti junction of East meets West, has, through the ages, passed from hand to hand, and no one really knows anymore who the first hands belonged to. Some say the Minoans, others some pre-Greek culture with remnants scattered in language and vestiges left in some traditions. The pre-Greek religious icons are of a different type: their goddess is not what would morph into Aphrodite of the sexy bum. The ancient icon is more primal, a nurturing mother figure with outstretched arms. A sort of cross. Perhaps the first.

Empires are a very regrettable development in human civilisation (or lack thereof.) The more recent ones were made possible by a 15th C papal bull that encouraged subjucation of the heathen. An empire, by its very nature, has already taken the arrogant step of declaring superiority over anything that is not itself. For this, Christianity has a lot to answer for. Not that takeovers didn't happen before, but the British one was more extensive, and, backed by the church, went under the guise of a type of nobility. These days the wastelands of the former British Empire suggest otherwise.  Once a colony, it seems, and like the Hotel California, you can check out but you can never really leave.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023


I was just in Cyprus, doing research for a book. Every time I go to a place to do this type of research, somewhere along the way, I seem to lose one protagonist and gain another. This book is the second in a series. The first took place in Israel, so I went to work there a few years ago to get a sense for the place. I was going to write a novel about Mary Magdalene, so I signed up to work at a Catholic mission on the shores of Galilee in the very town of Magdala where Mary, or Miriam in her native Aramaic, lived. I am not a Catholic. Neither am I a Christian of any stamp. But in my youth, I was. My father was a minister, and so I grew up entrenched in the Christian narrative. That is something very hard to shake, even when you are a radical student and you believe Nietzsche is nothing if not a misunderstood prophet. 

But Mary Magdalene is interesting. In the gospels, she is one of the wealthy women who supported the ministry of this Jesus character. Let's call him Yeshua, because that was his name. Yeshua Ben Yosev. The church, in its inimicable way, managed to take this woman and equate her with a prostitute in some other story. She was a woman in a patrarchy, for God's sake, and therefore suspect. 

I digress. This Catholic mission did not allow me, as a heathen protestant, to attend mass in Magdala, which took place every morning for the workers and the consecrated people that lived in the compound. So, instead, I would wander down the path through tall reeds to the shores of Galilee and walk along the water's edge. You know, it was surprisingly like a Scottish loch, with hills and a few houses. And even though I didn't find Mary Magdalene there, I did find Yeshua, and so I wrote a novel about his life, as much as possible trying to discard the religious dross and come up with a human story.

That was that book. Now I am embarking on a serial, because I can't let this thing go, my need to make sense of how we came to this juncture in the West (but really more than just the West, because Islam might not have happened if it hadn't been for this other evangelical religion expanding at full speed on the wings of the Roman Empire.) How have we come to a place where Jesus has become an instrument of division, when the mission of Yeshua was precisely the opposite? Really, very quickly Christianity went off the rails. It wasn't very long before people were killing in the name of this "mountain, field and lake preacher." This man who taught the primacy of compassion has become a paradigm of "us against the rest." A violent paradigm at that.

Scripture can take some of the blame for this, and here's where my new novel comes in. Take the first gospel in the New Testament, which is widely agreed to be Mark. He wrote it around 75 C.E. He had not known Yeshua. He spoke Greek, not Hebrew. He didn't seem to know about the geography of Israel. He didn't come from there, but he wanted to put in writing all those stories about Yeshua that had been circulating for decades. Mark doesn't have a virgin birth in his narrative. No shepherds washing their socks by night. No We three kings.  Mark ends his story with three women (our Miriam being one) coming to the tomb, finding it empty and fleeing. They tell no one. End of story. Later scribes stepped up and put that right for him. 

I went to Cyprus to find Markus, the writer of the first gospel (no-one knows where he wrote it, so Cyprus, the crossroads of East and West, seemed as good a place as any.) Who I found there was someone else from that time period, an older woman who tends the shrine at Aphrodite's Temple in Paphos. Marcus is going to be woven into the story, of course, just as Miriam was in the first book. The shrine to Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, had been there since 12thC BCE, until the Christians came in and replaced her with their own symbol of Love, a male figure. The ruins of the shrine remain for tourists to wander among, which is what I was doing in Cyprus, knowing that somehow, with words as my only tool, I was going to have to rebuild it. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Getting Out of the Way of Your Own Writing

February 2023

There is a romantic tradition predominant in the West that favours seeing the artist (not just writers but artists of all types) as this:

It is a picture of the solitary artist, stripped down to the grimmest self, tearing art out in the way a harakiri warrior rips out his own entrails. The author in this paradigm is divided within himself, tormented and always trying to dodge the oncoming train of writer’s block. The unbearable weight of dragging art out of him or herself takes its toll and thus we have the tradition in the West of writers and heavy drinking.
 Examples are legion: Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Vonnegut, Twain, Steinbeck, Poe, Kerouac, Tennessee Williams, Raymond Carver, John Cleever, Hunter Thompson, Anne Sexton and Dylan Thomas who literally drank himself to death in one sitting. 

“Write while you’re drunk,” Hemingway famously said, “Edit sober.”

But to look at art in this way is to disconnect the artist from the creative process itself. The desired result is seen as out beyond the self and only under unusual circumstances (as with the help of a bottle) do the two come into happy coalition. It is my contention that the very first step into writer’s block is this disconnection of the writer from the field of creativity, what we sometimes call "the flow." It is out at this distance, that the Hemmingway cycle kicks in.

"Edit sober." But, out here, we are easy prey for a type of creative schizophrenia. We compare ourselves and our work to others. We even compare ourselves to ourselves: to how we have sounded before, how we ought to sound. We encounter the dreaded block because we start reaching for an outfit instead of settling into our naked selves. 


There is a different way to view the creative process, however, a better paradigm:

 “The artist is not a person endowed with free will who seeks his own ends, but one who allows art to realize its purpose through him. As a human being he may have moods and a will and personal aims, but as an artist he is “mensch” in a higher sense – he is “collective man” – one who carries and shapes the unconscious, psychic forms of mankind.”  

Carl Jung wrote this many decades ago, but it is an approach that goes a long way to dispelling the image of the tortured artist. If the creation of art is not all up to you and your “creativity,” then a huge burden is lifted off your shoulders. On this model, if you’re facing writer’s block, you’re simply standing in your own shadow. What you have to do is to step around, face the sun and not block it. 


I think that through the ages musicians have recognised this model of creativity better than their literary counterparts. 

Beethoven saw the role of the artist as “disseminating divine rays among mankind.”

Brahms claimed that he received his art in a flow direct from God. 

Elgar wrote the main theme for his cello concerto on a napkin after waking up from surgery.

Paul McCartney claims he dreamed the melody for “Yesterday,” the most recorded song in history, and it took him a while to allow himself to claim it.

James Taylor describes songwriting as a “Mysterious and uncontrolled process.”  “I don’t know much about God,” he says, “But if everything does originate with God, then certainly songs do.”

So, if this underbelly of what James Joyce called “The uncreated conscience of my race," is available to all and particularly to the artist, the question becomes: how do we go about connecting ourselves to it?

First of all we have to see that we are not separate from it but are an integral part of the field itself. Everything we need to write down or slap on a canvas or put into song is already contained within us. I think the key here is listening, deep listening.

Of course, in our culture we are bombarded with sense stimuli and so we have learned to surface-listen, just as we surface see and surface evaluate. What is lacking is stillness, not something our culture favours. 

Creating art is not i
nvention, but reflection. You have to let go of the reins, and, when things go quiet, listen, and then listen even harder. It is not a lack of skill that is missing in the sufferer of writer’s block. It is the art of listening. When you open yourself and listen, you are becoming the kind of channel that Jung is talking about.

Let me cite a couple of trivial examples of recent writers who have done this (even without realising it) :  


When JK Rowling was sitting in that dingy little café in Edinburgh Scotland writing down what must have seemed at the time this whacky story of muggles and wizards, she had no notion at all of what this story was going to amount to. The key was that she was following what arose spontaneously out of her.  What she was channeling was “the uncreated conscience” of her race.

Wonder and magic are so innately human, that you can only suppress it for so long. JK Rowling sitting in her Edinburgh café was willy nilly tapping into this Vesuvius of feeling; what she was countering was the long-held Christian fear of the pagan.  But who would have thought? She wouldn’t have thought it, when Harry Potter was getting rejection after rejection from publishers. Who would have thought that this silly story about wizards and speaking hats and flying cars would go on to sell 450 million copies in 73 languages? 

And then there's The Da Vinci Code. In 2000 Dan Brown published a book entitled “Angels and Demons,” which introduced the protagonist- crime-solver Robert Langdon. Brown was unknown at the time and the book sold poorly, which was disappointing to the publisher and presumably to Dan Brown himself. 

At this point, Dan Brown could have given up. But he didn’t. Three years later he went on to publish The Da Vinci code. It was very similar to its predecessor in structure, in writing style. The protagonist is the same Robert Langdon solving a similar kind of intrigue in the same impossibly short time. What’s the difference? The difference can be summed up in two words “Sacred Feminine,” another area (though not unrelated) that the church throughout the ages has systematically repressed.  

Dan Brown's expectations were low.  But little did he know: The Da Vinci Code became a best seller in the first week and has gone on to become one of the best selling books of all time, selling 81 million copies in 44 languages. 

So, Art from the Heart, deep listening, re-connecting yourself to a field of energy and creativity that you are already a part of. This is certainly a much more helpful paradigm than the one of the solitary individual in a pre-set and unforgiving universe pulling meaning and art out of a machine encased within the cage of the skull.

The model of the tortured writer needs to shift. You can lay down your arms, let the battle cease. It is not up to you and your creativity. The muse is your friend, but she's not a person who takes hissy fits and deserts you. Being tied to your own solitary brain is the equivalent to being tied to an Iphone (much like my teenage daughter is) but without service. There is no use in shaking the phone when it isn’t receiving service, no more does shaking yourself when you can’t think of what to write. Just wait a while, listen deeply until you are connected again. More precisely, get out of the way of yourself (or again as my teenage daughter would put it – get over yourself!) 

You do not even have to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, remain still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you unasked. It has no choice. It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”




Thursday, January 12, 2023


In August of last year, just as he was being introduced to give a talk at a small upstate New York conference, an assailant rushed the stage and attacked muslim author Salmon Rushdie with a knife, presumably intending to kill him. His "sin" in the eye of the perpetrator (and in the opinion of the Ayatollah in Iran who placed this fatwa on him) was that a book he wrote 34 years ago cast aspersions on the authenticity of the Qu'ran.  

Salmon Rushdie did not die, but has lost the use of one of his eyes, and also one arm. The author survived this tale perpetrated by an idiot, but I wonder where he is in his own mind and emotions on the matter. Does he wonder, as I do, if this incident of stabbing disqualifies him from the fatwa, or must he stay now forever out of the public forum?  In dark moments, does he ponder whether it has all been worth it? 

I am not alone in my outrage that he should ever have been put in this position. He is an author, for God's sake. Not a politician. Not an idealogue. Not a preacher in a pulpit. He is a person who had an idea. His idea was, as it is for anyone starting to write a novel, "What If?" It is a question that conjurs a Neverland and bids the reader come along for the journey. 

In 1955, Nikos Kazantzakis asked the reader that same question when he began "The Last Temptation." "What if," he asked, "the dying Christ on the cross reviewed his life and wondered if it could have played out differently."  The Greek Synod in Athens excommunicated him and the Catholic church banned the book. In 1988, when the film version came out, good American Christians burned it.  

But this is a fundamental misunderstanding of what art is. The reader doesn't have to go on a journey with any particular author. If you don't like his or her Neverland, then don't go. These artistic journeys are fantastical - they are not claiming to be a treatise. Kazantzakis is not saying, "You know that Yeshua Ben Yosef - he wasn't really what he said he was. He wasn't really for celibacy, but in actual fact, entertained ideas about having a wife and children." Kazantzakis was doing what everyone in the arts in any free society does, just laying out a vision, a what if? It is telling that when free societies collapse into authoritarianism, the first thing that disappears is art. (An aside, just look at all the censorship of literature going on in USA right now.) Art requires that space to wander, and that is not the kind of freedom that sits well with top-down control. 

There is a well-respected professor of Early Christianity, Bart Ehrman, who, when Dan Brown published his best-selling novel "The Da Vinci Code," went after the author. He in fact wrote an entire book putting Dan Brown right and excoriating him in lectures. His point of contention was that Brown flat out misrepresented what was decided at The Council Of Nicaea. Ehrmann did not call out a fatwa on Dan Brown (though he did call for outrage ), so, it makes it different in kind from what was going on that evening Salmon Rushdie was stabbed. (In the spirit of transparency, I should add that I am a paying member of Bart Ehrmann's daily blog. He is an accomplished historian. I appreciate him.) Still, Ehrmann fails, like the others, to really grasp what the artist is about. A novel is in pursuit of an idea, this "what if?" I have been talking about. The reader can either go with it or not, but the reader is in no position to say they won't accept the what if, whether for historical or political or religious reasons. 

Salmon Rushdie once, in 1998 went on a journey. It took him a few years to accomplish. Random House had faith in his journey and published "The Satanic Verses." This novel, like all novels, stands or falls with how many decide to go to that Neverland with the author. It is a piece of art, and its creator should never have been placed under a death threat (nor the many translators who were stabbed for their trouble, including one who died.) I hope Rushdie gathers his courage and goes on other journeys. It's probably what keeps him going. As a writer myself, I will vouch for that. As the author of an upcoming book re-imagining what the Jewish visionary Yeshua Ben Yosev was all about, I suppose I must gird up my own loins and expect a torrent of similar voices who don't really understand the quest.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Her Majesty's a Pretty Nice Girl

At the back of my cutlery drawer, my fingers graze the tarnished coronation teaspoon that was the sugar spoon in my family for all my growing up. My mother came by it in 1952 upon the accession of Princess Elizabeth Windsor to the throne of England. I sincerely doubt that my ever-thrifty mother went out and bought the spoon. It was probably a freebie handed out in the kind of forced celebration we have been witnessing this week upon the death of said queen. Yesterday, to commemorate the queen's funeral, the entire UK was shut down - no airplanes, no doctor's visits, no chemo appointments, no weddings, no other funerals. If they could have sutured pregnant women's vaginas shut, there would have been no births either. 

You would be forgiven for thinking this kind of state control smacks of the deaths of dictators in more repressive regimes, but in some ways it is worse. You can force a reluctant populace to go through the motions of grief, but in London at Westminster, there were subjects lined up for miles and many hours, wiping their tears as they walked past the queen's coffin (whether or not there was an actual body inside.) The last couple in line told reporters that this was the biggest day of their lives, surpassing the births of their three children. 

The BBC, which used to have a reputation as an upstanding purveyor of news and quality television, has shifted in recent years to toeing the government line. So, once the death of the queen was announced, the beeb went into overdrive, covering the queue past the coffin at Westminster twenty four hours a day. 

I understand that we live in desperate times, that the three year pandemic has taken its toll on the minds of humankind. If you want to dig deeper, you could recognise this mental instability as a result of the breakdown of the Empire and or of Christianity which is on very loose footing these days on the British island.  The ebb of a moral compass that has governed the hearts and minds of a populace back into the misty shades of recorded history is no inconsequential drift. 

But the hysteria surrounding the passing of a ninety-six year old monarch in England (judging by the sparse attendance in Edinburgh's Holyrood Park, the Scots felt differently) was, well, hysterical. The Left Bank TV production The Crown has in recent years displayed for all to see the depth of dysfunction that lies at the heart of this royal family. I won't go into the untimely death of Diana (though satirist Trevor Noah did), but the proscriptions for who should marry whom, the poor children left to the care of nannies,  the pathology of the "stiff upper lip," the strangeness of lives lived to the drumbeat of a past (and brutal) empire, would give any good psychologist a field day. 

It's hard to topple icons. It is proving near impossible to indict obviously criminal former American president Donald Trump. But when that icon lives rent free in the minds of its subjects, the task is even harder. We all grew up wth Queen Elizabeth as the model of decorum, as the height of a social ladder  that only the pedigreed few could climb. When I was a girl, I marvelled at royal speech. No one else quite speaks like that. It requires a certain quality of pole in the rectum. But back then I didn't want to be another anonymous Scottish girl with a Scottish accent. In the sixth verse of the empire hymn, the National Anthem, is a line about crushing the rebellious Scots.  I didn't want to be in the way of the crushing engine that levelled my agency and left me no credence.

Many, many years later, royal speech, like royal authority, rings hollow in my ears. You cannot ignore the steam roller that accompanies the march of the Empire and everything the royal family represents.  The younger royals have tried to look more accessible, have tried to present themselves as just anther family. But what does it do to the mind of a little George VII that he will one day ascend to the throne of England?  The best of the royals have tried to get out, but there is never enough time to escape the swipe of the steam roller. Princess Margaret, Princess Diana, many others who were hid from sight, and now Prince Harry have tried thrusting through the thorny forest to escape the shadow of the castle. 

In the past week, I have had to look away from the spectacle of a week-long funeral pageant in the name of such an obviously flawed institution. As a Scot, coming down from ancestors who were moved off their land in the Highland clearances and who were disregarded by the powers that have since 1707 resided in London, it all leaves me with a nasty taste, a bitter pill, and not one that even a spoonful of sugar from my mother's royal spoon will ever dispel. 

The queen's death at Balmoral in the highlands of Scotland was well orchestrated. She famously feared the break up of the Union, and this was her final gesture. But, as a Scot by birth,  it is my hope that this symbol of the queen's death in Scotland will carry into history a different weight. Just as the icon of the British Empire gave out her last breath on Scottish soil, so let the union follow swiftly behind.

Friday, April 22, 2022


Years ago, I studied for a week with author Paul Harding.  His book Tinkers is one of those books I keep going back to, because the language is so rich and the images so captivating. I rarely find those qualities in a modern book (though another is James Galvin's The Meadow.) Harding won the Pulitzer prize for Tinkers, and nothing he has produced since has come close.  I think he got self-conscious, as tends to happen when great accolades are thrown at an author. I remember him saying to me that he was afraid all the attention would just disappear. And it did. But, as I told him, the book that won the prize is still worthy, still in print, ever more worn and thumbed through on my shelf. 

I recently came across a diary entry I made during that period of study, and I wanted to blog about it, because I think it raises an interesting question about how much of their own self a writer interjects into their characters.  

One last harp on having studied with Paul Harding a couple of weeks ago and then I'll let him go: I had a question I was bursting to ask him or any other significant writer which had to do with how much the author inhabits his or her characters.  See, when I started my own book Veil Of Time (which then became a trilogy) I thought to myself that for once I would have a protagonist who wasn't sort of a mirror doppleganger of myself. It's not that I'm an especial egoist or overly vain (though I might also be both of those things), but just that somehow my protagonists mostly are me with my set of values and ideas, my cosmology. I called this character Maggie Livingstone, who was a childhood friend of mine (still is, in fact, and lives now in the exact location of my book.)

I wasn't going to make my protagonist Maggie Livingstone, who is a veterinarian and sort of a no-nonsense type of person, but I thought if I gave her that name, she wouldn't end up spouting my religious beliefs and my longings and my moral values. I kept that up for a while, but the more my character moved through the scenes and the book came to take shape, there I was in the middle of the action, masquerading as my friend. 

So, my question to Paul Harding was just this: how can you keep yourself out of your writing and create rounded characters who aren't you. (I put this to him when the rest of the class had gone on coffee break.) I was a little bit surprised by his answer, because (being an egoist and vain) I had thought this was a problem unique to myself. But no, he said he had struggled with the same thing and that every author did. He said from time to time he wondered that if he were a better writer, he might be able to write protagonists that weren't him, but ultimately the author is putting his or her self on the page and that's the way it should be. (I'm not talking about genre writing here - John Le Carre didn't need to be a spy himself, though he did need to have an overwhelming interest in the subject. Formula novels don't run into this problem so much because the characters are more cookie cut out of material that is already made to a certain recipe.) 

I was looking at Elizabeth Strout's new book "The Burgess Boys," her follow-up to "Olive Kitteredge." I wasn't surprised to find another Olive Kitteredge between the pages doing business under another name. Location was the same, character almost the same. It's just that our psyches are populated by certain characters or archetypes and the author would have to twist him or herself into all kinds of contortions to make this inner world come out on the page as something else.

So Herman Hesse wrote a large number of books and basically they all come with the same message, the same set of values and the same array of characters. (I read them all nevertheless.) DH Lawrence, the favourite of my youth, wrote the same book over and over.  The point is, in the words of Martin Luther in the fifteenth century, "Hier stehe ich. Anders can ich nicht" (the famous, "Here I stand, I can do no other.") 

So I got my question answered, and I feel better about Maggie Livingstone turned Claire McDougall (though she may not!) Paul Harding said that the opening of "Tinkers," where his protagonist hallucinates that the ceiling is cracking and falling in on him springs right out of his own history with  his grandfather. 

Friday, October 15, 2021


 October 15th 2021

I have spent much of my many years fighting. That's not the way I started, though. I am told I was the most laid-back of babies, always smiling, never disgruntled. Somewhere along the road, and I think fairly early on, I started trying to go through walls instead of around them. Just last week, pain in my chest and a racing heart took me off to the hospital, where everything settled down quite quickly, and I was given the all-clear. In retrospect, I am wondering if these were symptoms of anxiety.  

With English PM Boris Johnson trying to run Scotland into the ground and after four years of Trump corruption in USA, most of us have learned to walk a fine line between resignation and despair. If you're like me, it has turned you into a nail-biting news junkie. In my case, a Twitter addict. After all, the best line of defense has always been offense. Finding myself up at 4 am, checking the latest round of Breaking News, should have sounded some kind of alarm.  

Then came Covid, another platform over a dinky swimming pool for the clowns that run the world to dive into. I had Sars2 early on, even before it had been named in the popular press. Over days of 104 degree temperatures and what felt like a sickness unto death, I was forced to fight.  

Another thing I stay up in arms over is my country. Like a persistent bagpipe drone, Scotland's struggle to free itself from "servile chains," to regain its own self, is mine by dint of birth. Scotland wants out of the United Kingdom, because this union serves only the overlords in their mink and pageantry.  

Because of these things, life often feels more like a battle field, with me in the middle in a state of profound amnesia about how I once looked out on a calm sea from these sea green eyes. 

Two nights ago, under cover of dark, a bear came into my garden to raid my apple trees. It broke branches and shat all over the grass and even in my raised strawberry beds. One bear can produce one hell of a lot of scat. By daylight, I walked around, stepping over the piles, weary as I am these days, with no inclination to cut down the broken limbs or scoop up the piles. 

Later, however, I noticed the magpies picking out half-digested apples from all that bear poo. And in that moment of epiphany, I saw something I have been apparently slow to take on board: it is easier to see the glass half empty. It is hard to navigate around the wall, when complaining about the wall requires nothing but standing your ground.  

I have always had great eyesight, but perhaps my inner focus has been too honed in on the next standard to raise, the next fight.  Perhaps I should unlearn my adult self and become more like the bear that smells ripe fruit, climbs over a fence, eats apples, shits and leaves. The bear that is not disgruntled by the fact that it soon needs to find a place under the snow to exist in limber close to death until the earth cycles round and begins again to feed it. 

Perhaps it's time to let go of Tyger Tyger Burning Bright, and look instead for the bear-necessities. It would make for fewer walls, more open space, more oxygen, even a little clarity. And no doubt a steadier heart rate and better sleep as well.