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On the resolution of balance #10:
When I think of balance, the image of teetering on top of a pyramid, adjusting an arm here, a foot there to maintain the position, comes to mind. But there is a harder way to balance, one that requires more effort. Here the image is reversed and I am at the bottom flexing my back and shoulders to balance hold and life aloft. This second type of balance is how we maintain our lives. Life is carried; we balance it on our shoulders and this is not for show, but for those we love.
October must be the most unfinished and aimless month in the calendar. Something about a month that starts with a vowel just gets it off to a false start. The name makes me want to look backwards to see where the last consonant went before the long drawn out breath for the ‘o’ is expelled. April doesn’t have the same issues. The ‘a’ is short and sharp and stands up to any scrutiny. And August ends with a thump that pulls it up sharply. It is only October that drifts past like a disembodied thought that will soon be forgotten.
What can I say? What did I want to say? I have become allergic to people who start a sentence with “So …”. What follows will always be dismissive and patronising. From previous experience, I know that what follows will re-framing and summarising of my argument to support a principle or goal of the speaker. Whatever I said prior to the ‘so’ can be ignored and replaced with new facts or a new version of my argument, with only the picked-out points salient to the argument the speaker wants to progress.
“So,” she said. “We agree and can move on?”
Wandering through a museum is both a treat and an adventure; I cannot recall the last time I indulged. I love these buildings, mostly empty, and free entry. They echo, resonating with footsteps always walk away, vague metallic ringings, struck glass or chiming bells, hushed voices and distantly banging doors. The empty rooms seemed full, crowded not only with objects but with the longing and dreams of those who lived before. I find evidence in the smoothed and polished surfaces of these treasured objects of the resilience of the past, where palms were pressed time and time again until burnished.
The evidence of experience #29:
Experience has taught me to shortcut through life, skipping over the highlights because they won’t be so surprising after all, and not even blinking, as I run on auto-pilot. This is the danger, after years of trial and error, of knowing what I want and like. Ironically, danger is the least of my concerns in this life. All risk is removed: I hear what I expect to hear, find what I look for. Living without randomisation, I feel that the essential sap has been sucked out of my life and been replaced with lemons soup.
Life as documentary #30: That hollow laugh you hear is mine as I listen to another story of heartbreak and misery from the young and dating or the lonely middle-aged and wedded. There but for the benefit of wisdom and now as I look back with hindsight would be me. I had invitations – or should I say proposals – from suitors in my time, but each was deflected in time to cause no-one harm. I left no broken hearts behind, but neither did I leave memories. In all these encounters I watched as the friend moved on and married someone else.
She felt time compress and capture her here, wrenching her out of her comfortable daydream. Time wrapped around her as if lacquered on and pressed in, constricting her breathing. Unable to escape, she found she was also unable to react. Even her vision had altered, the landscape flattened and stretched giving a wide-angled view that her eyes scanned left and right trying to understand. She knew this anxiety, an easily evoked companion she had befriended lately and who appeared at the least provocation, and she felt and struggled to suppress the flight response as around her emotions bloomed and festered.
I have an orchid bought while in flower months ago that is still flowering. There are still buds to open, but none of the opened flowers has faded. This feature of these flowers slightly reduces my enjoyment of the plant. This plasticity and resilience has an artificial quality and I would prefer instead to see growth and decline over time. When portraits were delivered to demonstrate the social status of the sitter, frequently the artists inserted insects or corruption alongside as proof of life. I resile against this plant that is surviving without change as I deteriorate daily.
‘Lean in and speak softly.’ This was told to me, by someone leaning in and speaking softly, as if it were an elixir, wisdom, the way to take charge. I had always seen from the footlights the hunkering of shoulders of powerful men gathered together, heads down talking quietly, shortly followed by booming laughter. My anxiety may have inclined me to think that all womanhood was the object on which all these jokes were built. But I know that inserting myself into this elite claque and softly whispering a joke of my own would not have them erupting with laughter.
A glass of wine with a meal seems so simple and it eases the evening, helping me settle peacefully. Yet an open bottle takes me three days to finish and on the third day, I am drinking the last glassful with gritted teeth and without pleasure. What grates is the necessity, the imperative to finish the wine while it is in prime condition and this removes the element of free will. Any decision now is dictated by my parsimonious and penny-pinching ways. If I buy wine it will be a good wine and a good wine should not be wasted.
For some reason frugally parsing my joy has become a thing and spontaneous joy, only a distant memory. I don’t now recognise unscheduled joy, even when it runs me over, and this needs to change. My life is slowly dissolving into a two-dimensional facsimile of life, at least when the lighting is good. Mostly, maybe on a good day, the dissolving blends the cracks together and my reactive jerks resemble seamless segues. I promised myself that as I aged, I would acquire grace and style but somewhere along the way I missed a signpost or just lost track of time.
All that’s needed is a stiff high collar that rides up the neck where red and pulsing veins in their fragile and delicate throbbing evoke every high tempered authoritarian with weapons to punish who breathed down upon the heads of their charges. Pernicious and untreated high blood pressure does not excuse the temerity of the villain towering over quaking underlings. But it was the gold braid and sharply ironed creases that revealed in advance that a starched personality inhabited the uniform. In the attire, whether a formal or assumed garb of authority, told only of an ego rampant and unchallenged.
The summer blinds are still raised and I am loath to bring them down when I can look in all directions to see clear sky. Scattered light displays as refracting blue until close on the horizon, when it becomes a pale, almost yellow tone where the softness of the sky contrasts the black serrated rise of mountains. I sit in sunlight filtered through tall trees where the leaves are just opening, slowly replacing the blossoms. The air, warmed under the sun with a light breeze stirring the branches, feels mild. In this bowl of sky, I am alone, at peace.
Where are my glasses? – not that I need them to see these days; more often than not the glasses obstruct what I am trying to see. My concern has taken on the mannerism of a long-held habit where without my glasses to hand, my mind will not engage. My eyesight has in recent years improved, the near sight clearer, to the point where my search for my glasses is not from necessity but for security: I like to have this physical barrier between me and the real world. When not wearing my glasses, I tend to not look.
There is a comfort in being disengaged, in not feeling obliged to answer the phone or walk to the door when there is a knock or the door rings. I feel swayed by exclusivity and elitism: picking and choosing to whom and when I speak is my secret power and one I wield with savage, almost pathological vigour. This is what growing old is all about – license to be cruel and unsympathetic to all with impunity. I feel no guilt in this behaviour, no shame in the cruelty, no blame for the harm caused. Everyone is ignored; all are equal.
Why is it that ‘poetry in motion’ can be used as a compliment, but bringing up the subject of poetry, of poems read or spoken, makes people react as if frightened or disgusted where they want to crawl up walls to escape? How can the same word produce such different reactions, evoke such contrasting emotions? Can this dichotomy come from the difference between poetry and poems? How can the specific reputation of poems changed and acquired this repellent nature while poetry, the global expression of the same, retain glory? How words evolve is one of life’s unresolved mysteries.
I am constructing an exegesis to formulate communications of the un-said. These are not implied and intuited expressions expressed as gestures, but the un-said that evolves in spaces left purposely between words where they circulate and associate in new ways. Therein ideas lie prior to being put into words. We need to pollute our minds, overlaying them with words and images, contradictions and likenesses, metaphors and aphorisms, that draw out features like strings of spaghetti we throw on the ceiling to test if they are cooked. I want raw and unframed thoughts, ideas that sparkle as they transition to memory.
Thinking is not the same as moving. You can think about it, but there is still an air-gap, a point of decision that needs to be breached before an action can be put into effect. There is an odd resistance there, one that can be overcome with practice and repetition, but it lends itself to confirmation of the mind-body separation. How the mind the body experience and interact within their realities differs: one consciousness exists in black and white, the other in colour; in one perception there are no angles or edges. in the other, everything is sharp and linear.
My mind constantly revolves inside a white-noise camouflage, observing fleeting shadows that dissolve into the mist. This background covers an eternal pulse and throb in my veins, that like the suck and sighing of the sea that pulls air into the lungs even as it helps the birds rise and soar. Without these sounds I would be deaf in the silence, breathlessly waiting, breathless. And yet here I am, as if nothing has changed when all around the world revolves and the clouds build and fall and move on, leaving the sky washed and clear, the air damp and cool.
A hand, the watch, a white cuff and cufflink, the arm of a jacket: I saw these before the car turned and left. In a cloud of dust, the car had disappeared around the corner before I realised that I should have read the number plate, paid attention to the driver, noticed more. But I had been on a leisurely walk; I was daydreaming. I had walked randomly, my way determined by the angle of the sun and the view, and entered the square in time to see a car driving away at speed and a body on the road.
Behind a scene of carnage, we find evil purposely directing the actions and conversely, when unexpectedly saved from death or dismemberment, the hand of providence is deemed to have affected our rescue. In trying to understand what is happening, we jump to a flawed logic linking correlation with causation. We surmise causal links, adduce patterns where none exist, and we deliberately misrepresent data to support these beliefs. With this hard-wired fatalism, we disguise our lack of agency and convince ourselves that we deserve both the good and the bad when an objective analysis of the facts would disprove it all.
‘Everything that has happened can be proven to be deliberate. Tell me what you believe has no logical explanation and I will tell you how it was meant to happen. I can show you how everything happens as planned. The world does not need superstition; it needs logic. Nothing you do or say can shake my confidence in the power of logic. Try me: ask me anything.’
When he stopped talking the room fell silent. We waited breathlessly, watching to see what would happen next, unsurprised when a giant fist reached down from above and squashed him like a bug.
To listeners, music is a quarry where the listener is the hunter tracking down its prey. We pursue an unidentifiable entity, a demon or angel; these creatures who spawn myths and legends. They are larger than life yet elude and evade and escape even in the most limpid and limitless places. We hunt without the aid of touch or smell or sight, navigating only by the tensity of sound and the prey hides in clear sight. An imperfect print of the pursuit might be recalled or randomly triggered, but music cannot be caught or locked away, it always stays free.
When we study our planet, looking back, we call it research and explain that we are expanding our knowledge, honing our skills, testing assumptions and gathering data. We watch now to confirm our theories and observe the future we predicted. Knowledge made us leave home; we left because we had to, to survive. Our world was dying. Even now, decades later, we hear home calling us back. We accepted the decision to leave, but we look back with longing. Our emotions are bounded by Earth; earth grounds us. When the sun finally explodes, Earth will still tug on our hearts.
Meanwhile, we drift away and the sun we loved, that we basked in and adored, becomes just another dim light in a distant and dusty part of the galaxy. Ask anyone and they can point to it, without hesitation. In our hearts is a sense of longing for all we are leaving behind. And where this longing sits, feels like a bruise; it settles like a weakness we must nurture in a worn-out muscle that we still lean on. As we travel away, we are grieving. Having left behind our lives and youth there is only pain and death ahead.
Repetitive use has only negative outcomes: it wears out equipment, is physically harming and it dulls the mind. The irony is that to sustain life, repetitive work options exist for the majority of those looking for work. Unskilled jobs are available, even when automation could make then redundant because human casualties don’t need to be counted when the workforce is cheap and there is an endless supply. There is always casual employment tightening bolts or lifting and moving objects left and right. We pick fruit, work on factory production lines for eight to ten hours a day, and don’t complain.
The angle of the camera would not have flattered many people and looking down from a height and behind the shoulders of the two women, their twisted limbs bore witness to lifetimes of bad posture. I suppose it is mean to criticise the way they were standing, but there was a lot of time to observe them and to see how their legs bent awkwardly at the knees and ankles, splayed out like upended twigs carrying more weight than they were designed to hold. They swayed as they stood, watching the action before them, unaware that they were also watched.
They swayed gently standing behind their counters, wearing smiles both placid and beaming and, even as crowds flow around them like a river, projecting an aura of patience and serenity. To those travelling past them, these women might have been two-dimensional caricatures or facsimiles put in place for visual relief, rather than real people there to provide a service. The rhythmic movement, their swaying, seemed mesmeric; they rocked backwards and forwards, synchronised, like automatons, seemingly unaffected by the bustle and chaos around them yet their movement created eddies and whirls in the flow of the crowd moving around about them.
You are unremittingly brutal and blunt. I don’t know if this is how you habitually behave or if you have put on this arrogant front to impress me, not that this type of uncouth behaviour would influence me, but I have to tell you that you need to rethink your approach. This kind of gross behaviour can only coarsen and encourage worse in those you consort with and cannot be condoned here where we need to set an example. This style may work for some arcane fictional anti-hero, but a nuanced approach, if delivered with finesse can achieve better results.
‘In the current circumstances, I am saying nothing.’
‘How enigmatic. It seems you have lots to say but withholding information doesn’t give you the upper hand. We can only go ahead with the facts on the table.’
‘As I said, circumstances. I believe my input would not be assessed fairly here. This isn’t the right forum.’
‘You don’t contribute, yet you imply that we are not fully informed. If there is information you have that we need, by withholding it, you are trying to undermine this committee. Can you confirm, at least, that you will comply with what is decided?’
Each story in a recent collection read, shook my reality stem to root. They meandered through myths to brutalism, tripped on mystical realism, and eviscerated issues of gender, self-image, power and abuse. They thrilled me not because I was wooed and cosseted by narrative or characters, but from the opposite. Reading felt like falling down a well and landing in a place unimagined in any dream but one that touched my mind. They seemed so real. Not to defend my naivety or expose a foolish or gullible nature, I was amazed at how easily shocked I could be by fiction.
The Tip Jar