Travel Journal March 21, 1999
To the mouth of the Ness.

Northern Scotland

Drive from Stonehaven to Inverness, the gateway to Loch Ness. The drive is scenic no matter what route you take, and there are plenty of things to see along the way. You may want to stop at the artists' community at Findhorn, which I've never been to but have been told is fascinating - I had one traveler who went there for an afternoon and stayed for a week. - Richard Foss

The drive to Inverness is certainly scenic, as you can see from the pictures I took. It rained quite a bit, however; I took these shots inbetween showers.


I did find the fishing village of Findhorn, and here are two pictures of the village.

Findhorn itself is an unremarkable fishing village, which has little to offer other than rustic charm. The artists community Rick mentioned is actually in a trailer park (or rather, what used to be a trailer park) a few miles outside of town (you actually pass it on the way to the village).

Actually, "artists colony" isn't really a good description of it; a more accurate one would be "new age retreat". I stopped into the bookstore, and discovered works on astrology, tarot, buddhism, women's spirituality, American Indian myths, etc. In other words, the same sort of standard fare that you find in any occult bookstore in San Francisco. Although I have a substantial interest in Wicca and Paganism (not New Age!), I really didn't see anything that pushed my particular buttons. I walked around the park for a while and admired the construction of some of the buildings; It kind of reminded me of a Scottish version of Esalen.

There are often times when I feel a barrier between myself and other people, when it becomes almost impossible to start up a conversation with anyone. This is especially true when the other person appears to be absorbed in concentration; I dislike interrupting people's train of thought. This just might be the introverted side of my nature coming out, I don't know. But whatever it was, at that point, standing in the parking lot of the Findhorn Open Community, watching the inhabitants of the community come and go in their self-absorbed fashion, some part of me was strongly resisting the idea of introducing myself and saying "hello." It may be that I got a bad reaction from browsing the bookstore.

This in turn has to do with my attitude towards occultism and spiritualism, which is rather complicated. On the one hand, I have a large number of friends who I would categorize as "rational skeptics". I love the stark, austere elegance and simplicity of a reductionist, scientific worldview that is consistent and logical. I look down upon sloppy reasoning and wishful thinking.

At the same time, however, not one of these rational, logical thinkers is able to provide me with the kind of nurturing, emotional support that I sometimes need. For that, I have to turn to a different set of friends, who are emotionally demonstrative, supportive, and for the most part fairly mentally healthy. Yet, it seems that many of these people hold opinions or ideas which to me seem clearly self-delusional, that are not only inconsistent with observed reality, but self-inconsistent as well.

This is further complicated by the fact that many of these self-delusional beliefs seem to have a useful function in society. In addition, it is my observation that religious beliefs are in fact a part of our evolutionary heritage, that religion and humans have to a certain extent co-evolved. Religion is in our very nature, and dismissing it as a "mere fable" is an error, if not downright fraudulent.

There are also moral, social, and aesthetic issues which are addressed by modern religions, issues upon which "science" is completely silent. If you look at a typical religion from a functional perspective, it really does about eight different things, including a pedagogical function (how do we prevent our children from growing up to be monsters), a source of artistic inspiration, and a social organization which is the basis of a community. What is needed, therefore, is a body of spiritual beliefs that confines itself to these issues, and does not attempt to tread upon the territory which science has so decisively staked out for itself. (Modern neopaganism, or at least some flavors of it, seem to come closer to this ideal than many other belief systems that I have examined. Some pagans have gone so far as to state that "pagan beliefs should not contradict with the findings of science.")

My current method of resolving this dilemma is to "humor" my friends in their quirky beliefs, in other words to tolerate points of view other than my own without comment. But this in itself is a deception which is the source of much inner turmoil for me. All too often people think that because I am silent I agree with them. When another person makes a statement to me and I respond by saying "I understand", it means only that I understood the meaning of their words. I feel very odd entering a conversation or debate under what I feel are false pretenses. An example would be going to a cathedral and having a theological discussion with one of the guides there, and having the guide assume that I am a Christian when in fact I am not. Yet revealing such a fact often changes (nay, distorts) the nature of the conversation to the point of uselessness. An equally problematic example would be a discussion involving astrology in which I was genuinely interested in the details of the astrological calculation, despite the fact that I am highly suspicious of the whole notion of divination. Were I to reveal this fact, the conversation would either most likely end, or transmogrify into some sort of prosletyzing, neither of which is interesting to me. Yet not to reveal it is in some way deceitful.

So perhaps my reason for not wishing to talk to anyone at Findhorn was rooted in this very dilemma. Here are a whole bunch of very interesting people who are trying very hard to live life in a different way, who just happen to have a bookstore full of a lot of ideas which I think are utter bunk. If I was bluntly honest and told them what I really thought at that moment, they'd most likely be hurt and insulted. Yet I respect them enough not to want to hurt their feelings.

So instead I got in my car and drove to Inverness.


Here's a couple of photos of Inverness, specifically the river Ness which runs through the town. The prefix "Inver-", by the way, means "at the mouth of." If the town were at the source of the river, it would have been called "Strathness".

Here's a closeup of the river. The water looks black - you can only see a few feet down. From a distance it looks like flowing black oil. This is because of all of the peat dissolved in the water. This is the stuff that they make Scotch from, fellows.

Some workmen were repairing some of the cobbles in the street, and I thought the process looked rather interesting. (You'll notice that a lot of my photos are of the "nuts and bolts" variety, showing the workings behind the pretty facade.)

Later that evening: I'm feeling pretty melancholy. The weather has been lousy for several days, many sights that I wanted to see are closed for the winter, and I'm feeling very alone (of course, I feel that way most of the time...) Maybe the weather will be better tomorrow.

Finally, a wall texture for you: