Posts filed under ‘My Old Journals’

Why I Wrote the 7th Python – Part 1

In 2012-13 I was in court with the Monty Python group over my share of royalties from Spamalot and other spin-off income from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I had this share of royalties because I Produced the film. After the trial ended I felt unable to write about the 7 frustrating years of this legal battle. But after about a year, my friend David Cohen suggested I should try to recount it. By this time I felt sufficiently distanced from the events to take that look back.

7 years is a very long time, and it represents what is termed a ‘little life’. For example the Chinese believe in 7 year cycles of life. so that the ages 7,14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 49, 56, 63, 70, 77, and so on represent important stages in life, in which significant physical and emotional changes take place. So I wondered what these 7 years had done to me. I wanted to review how I dealt with this emotional rollercoaster.

Luckily, since 2001 I have been keeping a journal, and I had reflected during 2005-2013 about the stressful situation I found myself in. I was curious to read through those journals to see what I had been thinking, and to examine how I coped with that stress. I have quoted extensively from my journals in the book.

I also had the lawyers’ correspondence and the transcripts of the trial, so I could review the whole transit of the case from beginning to end. I could trace it from the first email to the final Judgement, and everything in between. I wonder how many real lawsuits (as against fictional ones) have had this kind of scrutiny. It was a bit like performing an autopsy, a forensic examination of all the elements that went into the case: the dispute with the Pythons’ managers, the lawyers brought in to argue it, my appeals for help to Michael Palin, a failed mediation, my unexpected meeting with Palin in a Soho street, the Pythons’ witness statements and their appearance in court (something which I never believed would happen), the witnesses, the barristers, the Judge and then the press. The transcripts are particularly revealing. 

When I read through the journals, I realised that the 7 years had at least done me one good thing. I could see that in preparing for the case I had to review in detail the events surrounding the 1974 production of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I split from the Pythons in 1975, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say they split with me. This split was not on the surface acrimonious, and in fact the split was not communicated to me officially for a couple of years. I had to work it out for myself. But the fact that I was no longer involved with them left me feeling betrayed, since the film was a huge success and went on to become the most successful independently produced film ever made in the UK. It has made around £ 30m in profit and the Pythons have each received about £ 2m from the film. It was my work which helped to create this wealth, and this feeling of betrayal stayed with me for many years, gradually losing its power. I was forced to look again at this break-up, and I could see, from a new perspective, how the events actually played out. This allowed me to re-evaluate what I thought was a failing on my part, but which I could now see was really a mutual kind of naiveté. I was pleased that I now understood what had really happened and could stop blaming myself.

This freeing myself of blame, of thinking that the break-up was my fault, is very liberating, since I was dogged with that feeling (albeit much diminished over time) for all these years. I now feel a kind of re-birth, that these events have freed me from some kind of barrier or obstacle in myself, and I now have the opportunity to continue to create books or films with a new energy and a new creative freedom. This book is therefore the first flourishing of this new freedom. Having discovered what had actually happened, I felt the need to communicate these ideas, and to use the book as a recognition of the catharsis that I had achieved.

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November 13, 2015 at 10:21 am Leave a comment

Concerning the I Ching (from my journals 2007)

March 10, 2007

I have been reading The Taoist I Ching, starting at Hexagram 1 to hopefully the end, and as I read it, I realise that my understanding of it before was totally selective and subjective, in fact discriminating in the extreme. Because I was reading it then to understand yin and yang, to understand how the changes occur and how to read them and respond to them. In other words I was reading the I Ching looking for personal advantage, and I was also consulting it (as everyone does) for answers to personal questions. That must be a valid approach to the I Ching: ask it questions that concern or bother or intrigue or baffle you. The I Ching supplies a cryptic answer. But when you just read it (The Taoist I Ching being a specific Taoist interpretation of the book) you realise how you did not understand it before, because you ignored some of what the book was saying and concentrated only on those bits that you felt you could use, put into action etc. But the bits you read but really skipped over were (are) the important parts: they are about living your own truth and if you can’t do that then all the other stuff in the book really can’t help you.

First you must be able to tell the truth from the false and then you have to live that truth. It’s obviously as simple as that, but somehow we can’t seem to live that simply. We like to follow obscure deviations, or believe there is some arcane secret that will reveal to us how to live well, when all the time it comes down to what the simplest child knows deep in its heart: it is better to tell the truth than to lie. And if you can tell the truth you must live with and by that truth no matter how inconvenient it may be for your ideas of personal advantage (ideas of benefitting the self), which all your life you have acted on. Acting like this is just wrong, and it’s now time to set aside personal advantage (the self) and follow the truth wherever it leads, this being a selfless action. It’s taken you a long time to get to this place, but better late than never. Time after all is relative. and can go back as well as forward.

January 5, 2014 at 12:35 pm Leave a comment

A Cultivator’s Diary Pt 7 (from my journals 2008)

March 21, 2008

Woke this morning wanting to read again about Cheng Man Ching’s idea of accepting loss and accepting pain, since this is what I have to do, in fact what I feel I have now done. No more anger, no more bitterness, no more regrets, now these need to be transformed into compassion for the Pythons, for their ignorance.

Also reminded of Richard Sennett’s ‘corrosion of character’, about dealing with failure. He says there are many books about achieving success but few about coping with failure. We have to buy into our failure in the same way that Cheng says buy into your pain and loss- they are all the same thing. Accept your failure, incorporate it into your body and mind, let it become part of you, but not to let it distort you. To make loss, pain and failure streams that flow into the ocean of your strength and therefore can’t harm it or alter it but only add to it.

That which does not destroy you makes you stronger.

January 2, 2014 at 2:24 pm Leave a comment

A Cultivator’s Diary Pt 6 (from my journals 2007)

February 11, 2007

I read an article by Melanie McFadyean about her grandfather, Herbert Guttman from Berlin, whose father started the Dresdner Bank. Guttman went from an 80 room villa in Berlin to homelessness in London in 1939, but his attitude was “Money lost, nothing lost. Sense of humour lost, everything lost“. This is the right attitude to have in your current situation, where you are starting to worry about how you can fund everything. But this will all work out. Have faith.

February 24

I hope my energy improves soon. It’s now almost two weeks since I got ill and I hate the feeling of low energy, low enthusiasm and tiredness. It’s no good for work or life.

February 25

When you get ill, you realise how dying will feel, and you sense how old you are. What if you never recovered from this tiredness? Illness leads to thoughts of death, of continual weakness increasing (or rather strength decreasing) so that an illness creates a new lower plateau of being which can never be overcome and increased in most old people (unless they are very healthy).

What if you were a smoker? What would this illness, which has thrown up so much phlegm and bouts of deep coughing, do to someone who smoked? It would really devastate them, possibly leaving them in that lowered state of energy and being in which the next virus or cold or even damp weather might hit them again and lower their energy even more. So one can see an illness acting on the results of another previous illness, leading to a lower resistance and an inclination to get yet another disease. And so we go on into old age, declining year by year until we are gone.

Is there a lesson for you in this illness? Perhaps this is how you have to learn compassion. To feel so weak and low yourself, and to know that this is how many elderly and ill people feel every day, without the possibility of ever getting better. Knowing this is how they feel, surely you can sympathise with their feelings of health, extend compassion towards them, and understand that they and you are the same, in both health and illness. Sometimes well, sometimes ill, but always the same shared feelings of mind and body.

January 1, 2014 at 3:16 pm 1 comment

A Cultivator’s Diary – Part 5 (From my journal 2007)

February 12, 2007 – Berlin

Tired today travelling to Berlin for the Film Festival. Here in the hotel I feel a headache coming on, and during the day my legs hurt.

With so little to do here, it would be easy to say fuck it- give up. You are getting few responses to your emails, your schedule is light, and its an uphill battle getting people to take your projects seriously. Travelling on Easyjet is no joke too.

It would be very easy to give up, to stop trying, to avoid the hassle of travel and the frustration of fighting to get projects off the ground. But you should see it as a test of character. If you feel that you had the ability but lost it due to circumstances (including your own errors) then that ability must still be there 30 years later. As Epictetus said, the ox only knows its power when it is attacked by a lion. Until that time, its ability is in potential, there is no evidence that this animal has the strength to take on and defeat a lion until the event actually takes place. Until that time it is a slow and placid animal, but inside it is an essence, a power, a ‘de’ which it can call on in moments of danger. If this is how you see yourself, then you must continue, no matter how much frustration you feel.

It’s clear that your feelings of yesterday were due to a cold coming on. Tuesday I went for my meetings, but started to feel chilled inside the Film Market building and after lunch I went back to the hotel, bathed and crept into bed. Today I am still cold, but my nose isn’t dripping any longer so I’m doing to go to the sauna to try to clear my chest.

February 16, 2007 – London

Still low in energy, coughing a bit, and with muscle ache in my back. Thought this flu would have gone away by now, but it’s still here.

Living in Berlin with such a weak body, one chilled by the damp, cold and wind, gave me a preview of what it must like to be old – the slow deliberate walk, wrapping up in layers to try to keep warm, the inability to pick up a heavy suitcase and move it around – these are all signs of future times, what life will be like for you one day. The thing is, you don’t know when that will be – by 70, 75, 80, 85, 90?

It can happen at any time- a stroke that takes away function from half your body or reduces you to a senile vegetable. This should really make you appreciate your good health even more.

A few years ago, when you got the flu you found it almost impossible to walk across the park – each step was an enormous undertaking, and the energy was just not there to propel you down the path. You had to keep stopping to recapture breath and strength. This too was a premonition, and the two give you a picture and an experience of what it will be like to be an old man.

December 24, 2013 at 10:27 am Leave a comment

A Cultivator’s Diary – Part 4 (from my journal 2007)

January 26, 2007

Last night I decided to try Lucid Dreaming, as taught by Liu Ming. He explained that to get to the point of perceiving yourself falling asleep, you should lie on your back in ‘sleep’ meditation, visualise or allow white light to gather in your head, and then send it down to your liver. This I did and had the following experience:

As I lay there breathing, taking the white light down to the liver, after a period of time I became aware of images and their voices infiltrating my consciousness. My eyes were closed, so my mind was not in communication with the visual world, and the house was silent, so no sounds entered either. I tried to ‘look’ inward, to allow my eyeballs to sink into their sockets, so that the energy that came in on an in breath was felt in the 3rd eye area entering into the back of the head and then travelling down to the liver. While doing this I tried to relax my muscles as much as possible and I also held my breath for long periods of time.

I had just read Master Nan who said if you control (hold) your inbreath then the chi in your body will naturally take over. Indeed there were gurglings and releasing sounds in my belly, chest and kidney area when I did this. After some time I realised that I was ‘seeing’ a figure and having a conversation with someone. The realisation was my conscious mind, my waking state, becoming aware that I had entered the twilight zone, that time/space/mental state between waking and sleeping, while dream elements started to encroach on my waking state and take it over.

As I continued in this state, more images and voices seemed to come in, a real confusion of noises and sights. It felt like what a mental patient might experience, what would be called a ‘deluded’ state. This is also a disturbing state to be in. When you dream the pictures seem to be in your head front and centre. You must ‘place’ them there because of the habit of vision – using the eyes to see what is in front of us.

But these ‘deluded’ images seemed to appear from the side of the head as if emerging from behind me. Was it that they were coming from another place in the brain and that the mind had to give them a ‘spatial’ aspect that made sense- or are these ‘hidden’ images that one can only come out once one enters this twilight zone?

It seems that there are two types of sleep- Nrem and Rem. There are 4 stages to Nrem and the first 2 stages could well be the twilight zone where there are ‘hypnagogic hallucinations’. With many people there is fear associated with these hallucinations. and also the fear of death. Presumably the practise aspect of this type of dream practise must be to go into these images and sounds without fear and without fear of death. This is to learn to exist happily in a strange death-like state, and also to learn to be comfortable in both waking, dreaming and intermediate states.

December 23, 2013 at 10:18 am Leave a comment

A Cultivator’s Diary – Part 3 (From my journal 2007)

January 25 2007

In the morning, when everyone has left the house to go to work or school, there is a great silence and peace in the house. But at the same time, because there is so little for me to do, a great lassitude comes over me. This reluctance to move but only rest (the desire to read a book or contrarily to go out and buy a newspaper) needs a certain discipline to get me into the yoga room to practise. Once there it is easier- force of habit and the feeling in my body that moving and stretching are what I really need take over and I am into it.

I want to see if my arms/shoulders have changed since yesterday’s work. Is there as much pain in those specific points? Is there more mobility? What effect did this work have on other parts of the body, if any?


Reading To Realise Enlightenment by Master Nan Huai-Chin. He talks of how you have to understand that Form is Emptiness and Emptiness Form. Quantum physics also says that Form is Emptiness, that atoms, which make up the Form of the material world, are 99.9% empty once you open them up. What we take to be solid and stable is actually dancing and ultimately empty, separating out into vast areas of emptiness in a tiny space. Since space is relative a tiny space can be a vast space. Inside the atom it certainly acts like one.

So if my body, my Form, is Empty, then as Nan says it is birthless and deathless. What is born is a Form, a baby, developed from a smaller Form, an embryo which grew from a sperm and egg. But if all of these are Forms, however small or large, then all of them are also Empty and once they are all resolved to Emptiness, how is Emptiness ‘born’ and how does Emptiness ‘die’? If we are all Empty then we are all unborn, and our births and deaths just transformations of Form, something which the elements we are made of have been doing from the beginningless beginning of time.

Can you live with a mind that sees that all is Emptiness? Can you put that into practise? How does that relate to your law suit with the Pythons? That is certainly part of the world of Form – it exists as a concept and a thing so must be Empty. I suppose the attitude should be: I’ll pursue my case because people have cheated me and I should not allow myself to be cheated. However if I lose the case I should just walk away from it with no regrets, bitterness or anger. And while it is going on I should feel no anxiety about the outcome, no matter whether I win or lose. In fact Emptiness means that winning and losing do not exist. They dissolve away into an equality of Empty Form.

December 22, 2013 at 3:39 pm Leave a comment

A Cultivator’s Diary – Part 2 (From my journals 2007)

January 24, 2007

While standing in a semi-horse pose, I realised that once I lost my attention and my mind wandered, that I then felt fatigue or strong tension in my legs and had the inclination to stop. But what came first ? Was it that the stress on my legs led to a feeling of tiredness and this filtered through to my mind, which added its own thoughts of defeat and loss to the mix? Defeat of not being able to keep the posture, loss of muscle power due to old age ?

But trying again to stay present in the pose, I tried to keep my awareness steady, to keep concentrating on my stance, muscles, awareness, trying not to let my mind slip away. What I found when I did this was that I could keep concentration and therefore also keep the pose longer, overriding the stress in the legs. When I finished the pose I saw that I did 9 minutes, the longest one yet. So my conclusion is that the sense of defeat and of loss are there in the background, in the unconscious, waiting to come out whenever there is a suitable physical moment when they can attach to a physiological response.

I know when I get tired I also get depressed. This is the same syndrome. Doing a strong standing pose puts pressure on my muscles, increases tension, and if at that time I lose concentration on the pose, then the first thing which comes into my mind- the first thought that arises- is a negative one that causes me to feel defeated and powerless and to let go of the stance, when in fact I still have energy available to continue, far longer than even today’s 9 minutes.

Perhaps a time to experiment more.

December 21, 2013 at 2:08 pm Leave a comment

A Cultivator’s Diary – Part 1- (My Journals 2007)

January 23 2007

Today I took this journal up to the yoga room, so that I could write when the inspiration strikes.

I was ‘standing’ (Chi Gong Standing Pole) in front of the window, trying to see if my arms were hanging down while at the same time my sternum was straight, my head upright and balanced on my neck, my lumbar spine curved and so on, when I had the feeling that I should give up.

This is an unconscious feeling which from time to time comes to me. You could say that it’s a defeatist, pessimistic feeling, and it would be easy just to ignore it, to say just carry on, what you are doing with your body/mind is good – continue with your practise. It’s the right thing to do, it will give you results.

The results I’m talking about are increased suppleness, flexibility and strength, as well as a proper functioning of the organs of the body, full and complete circulation of chi, blood and lymph etc. The aim is to age without pain and disease and to be able to let go of life in the easy manner of the old Zen monks: just to let life go, as you let everything else go. This is something important to strive for. But what that niggling voice is saying is that all your effort is wasted. You will die; you are a diminishing resource, no matter how much effort you put in your practice. Perhaps you’re trying too hard, are getting a bit obsessive about it, which is also not good. Do you feel like a deadline is approaching, time weighing heavy on you, putting pressure on you to release those hamstrings before it’s too late?

This is all bullshit. You have all the time you need. If you can loosen your hamstrings tomorrow or next month they will not tighten up on you again, even if your practice becomes more intermittent through work.

You are an arrow heading in one direction- towards health, suppleness etc, and you can not go in reverse or go back to unhealthy habits or ways of abusing your body.

Why? Because your mind won’t let you. In the end it is the mind that is changed first and this allows the body to change. People who know say get into the position you want and then imagine yourself into it better, without obstructions, tightness or difficulty and your mind will get your body to ease up and get you there.

Paul Brunton says that time is a mental construct, as is space. If you allow time to rule you, then you are letting your own sense of time have dominance over your thoughts and actions. Try to lose that sense of time and instead feel each instant as an eternal time, a now that extends through all of time. Stay in it but don’t be pushed or influenced by it.

How long will you live to? 85/90/100 ? You are 63 – that means you have at least 20 years and possibly 30 or 35 to live out your time. What can you accomplish, even in 20 years, if you want to do something in film or other work? In 30 years, you can be born, grow up, get educated, get married, start a career and a family- in other words you have vast amounts of time available to you. What you don’t have is youth, and energy, hunger and the enthusiasm born of youth. But you have experience and knowledge and it is the knowledge of the body and mind and how they work that you are using to make up for the missing youth factors. There is no doubt that you have more than enough time, and enough energy to do whatever you want to do. Admittedly what I want to do is very little –

This is the idea of Wu Wei – do nothing and everything gets done. Do less and less- do little. It’s so hard to follow the way of Wu Wei, but in fact you are doing it. You may have fallen into it, it wasn’t a deliberate policy or plan to work out how to live through Wu Wei, but in reality I think you are. So don’t feel guilty that you are doing nothing, don’t feel bad that you are becoming increasingly ‘idle’ – i.e. not hustling, not working hard to get movies made or finding new projects. You are doing all of this, but in a much more laidback way. Luckily your Holy Grail has given you the means to do this, and in this you are privileged. It’s an experiment with life, work and yourself, and you are trying to see if it can be self-sustaining. Live easily and openly just waiting to see what the outcome will be. Will Wu Wei succeed? Is it true? Watch this space.

December 20, 2013 at 4:15 pm Leave a comment

Living Philosophy – from my journal October 2006

Whatever happens is going to happen. Things will play out as they are going to, and nothing you can do will alter that. The more you try to fight or alter the way it is going, the more frustrated you will be, and the more energy you will lose trying to fight against the flow of things. And the flow of things is the Tao. Relax, lay back, play the cards you are dealt in the best way you can, but don’t get too worked up. Try to enjoy the situation and the circumstances rather than getting angry and worked up, which only hurts you, makes you sour and bitter.  Better to laugh at it all, smile, take it easy and enjoy the ride.

This is real philosophy, if only you could live it like this, rather than just writing about, that’s the test, walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

December 18, 2013 at 11:29 am Leave a comment

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The Blog That Fell From The Sky

Reflections on an age of anxiety.