REPORT A PROBLEM
On the movement of static things #3:
Objects can appear static to one another when they move in the same directions at the same speed relative to the objects around them. Within shifting and changing planes of the universe, this can be an illusion. In a two-dimensional alignment their movement can seems to be synchronised, but on a third they can be shifting apart or moving closer. Space between them is filling as they shift apart, condensing as they move closer; movement noted by changes in colours, the dilution or increase of oscillations, a fading or blooming in tonal frequencies.
My hashtag family has grown around me. This unwelcome bunch can’t be gotten rid of, they just turned up uninvited. This pile-on community is living in my space: no-one rules or governs or decides who can join; and everyone has the right to disagree, to dispute, to recant, to resile. They all critique. All you need to join us is an opinion you can voice vociferously. These family members clamour for attention, unhappy unless there is a baying crowd attending to their every word, unless they hold the bridle of popular opinion and are sat astride it, riding it hard.
The question is: Would one coin make you wealthy and if not one, how many? This question will identify the gullible, our target: a person you can persuade and manipulate; who can make you a fortune. The answer is, yes; without doubt, one coin can make you wealthy. Every fortune has one coin to start, whether that coin was earned or gleaned.
Wealth is an illusion pinned to a fiction; one coin is a tangible representation of many more to come. Separate your target from the tangible and leave them the dream, and both parties are happy, in that moment.
Hibernation should be a valid choice available to every sane person on the brink of sliding downhill to that irrevocable layer of behaviour where lurks disaster. There are times when the only valid survival tactic is to retreat, to step back, from the seasonal havoc of communal commitments and unbound expectations of those around. Familial tensions and community pressures have few polite releases, this is where many hover in disputed territories. To have the option to throw up your hands and ask for a time-out should be praised, yet society’s response is to reward those who battle their way through.
The structure and patterns of trees, the varied styles of leaves, the passage of vines climbing on trellises or spilling over rockeries, have been for a long time a source of fascination. One early memory is of watching shadows on a tiled wall as the light streamed through a high window to where I was alone sitting in a shallow bath, splashing water as leaf patterns, semi-translucent and flattened, moved in a gentle breeze. The open hand shape of the leaves, evoking the shape of my hand slapping the water, could only have been from a grape vine.
The evidence of experience #7:
It is strange the way we confuse and even compare “winners and losers” with “givers and receivers”, especially this time of year. We feel compelled to group individuals into sets, and in pairing and ordering, attempt to understand the world around us. The graphical simplicity of Venn diagrams seems the safest, most logical way to represent sets of elements in a way that is meaningful. In their interlocking shapes, the captured denatured data is displayed as an overview, where all the parts are assigned to a global view, where “losers” and “receivers” are forever estranged.
‘I don’t know which is worse,’ he said. ‘There are two things you have to think about here. We can’t leave it like this.’
‘But this is going well.’
‘This is the thing – there is one problem if it works, and another if it doesn’t. Ethically, I can’t tell you what to do. We are standing knee-deep in grey territory: damned if we do, and damned if we don’t.’
‘Get the hell out. You are just being contrarian, aren’t you? There is nothing wrong. I could cash up now and leave with money in my pocket and not look back.’
I would like to draw your attention to the expression “of or related to” in reference materials to define terms. In this era of every increasing density of facts aligned with every reducing degrees of separation, definitions that include these words, by not excluding anything, are worth less than the paper they are written on. Sometimes these caveats go even further: for instance. the definition of the adjective riparian begins – “of, relating to, or situated or dwelling on the bank of …”. I wonder why this word is obscure, when it could be applied anywhere water is mentioned.
As the sea withdrew the shore, newly exposed, resembled a carcase: deep ridges like ribcages and rocky ridges appeared like loose teeth on a shoreline that dropped away steeply as the water reared away, running backward towards the horizon. This now unprotected crust was buried in places by large gelatinous patches of seaweed. Limply flattened and exposed to the air the seaweed, once luminous emerald in colour, was now drying out to black as waves of steam reached out and rolled over them. The retreating water stranded swimming sea-life too, without shelter they boiled in the shallows where they swam.
Life as documentary #6:
Are there recognise able elements to self-efficacy: essential attributes of a life in action, a life moved and charged with meaning for the person living? What features denote this life? This way of living is not recognised by the absence of pain, an abundance of pleasure, an accumulation of wealth or belongings: these are, if anything, the antithesis. With wealth, peace, and pleasure, the drive to live effectively recedes. Happiness and satisfaction are Emotional responses that come afterward; they are recognised when the thread is worn thin, as you look behind and your committed efforts lapse.
‘Work is onerous. Against all measures all work does is wear you out.’
‘Can’t say that I disagree with you there. For me, work is like the weather. If the weather was always the same, we wouldn’t even give it a name. Same with work; it’s always changing. They both give us something to fear. You can’t change the weather, but it can surely make your life miserable if you don’t pay attention. The same with work, if you don’t start to figure it out and try and get ahead of it, work will wear you down and kill you.’
The punishment for holding on too tightly to a single dream is to have it realised, not in a way that you would choose but, like a random backhand slap in the face, reality gives you your wish as it kicks out and knocks off dirt from its boots and moves on, not looking back. Then you are left with a life that has no centre, no purpose, the dream little more than a torn piece of paper, a handful of threads and entanglements, already unravelling. And you watch, as your life just go on, as if nothing has happened.
I had not thought of a good life as an aspirational value. Looking back, I could see the many strings that had been threaded together and how I had put them together, this web of disparate ideas, into a virtual image of myself, my future, the world I saw myself ahead. I could play through the threads like prayer beads: I recalled choosing, testing the tensile strength of each thread, platting them into a rope. Like the reins for a running horse, I held this rope more to keep me astride, than to steer: pulled forwards by my ambitious desires.
‘Every little thing; you nag me about every little thing. I can’t tell you how often I’ve felt like screaming when you start on, telling me how to think, what to think. And then there are your rants.’
‘Don’t criticise me. Isn’t that what you’re doing now, ranting?’
‘I am just telling you how I feel, how you make me feel, sometimes. I’m not stupid. It was just football, nothing serious. Football is a game with a foot and a ball; I don’t know codes. It was just conversation.’
‘No wonder I can’t take seriously anything you say to me.’
You find resisting the pull of commitments has a satisfying tension. The delay may be artificial, but the pull resisted promotes a sense of pleasure, not unlike deferring a gratification. You have the desire to complete this task held fast in your mind: you don’t do this to avoid or renege. This delay is the equivalent of stretching a tight muscle after heavy exercise, or standing upright and re-aligning your frame and skeleton to enable stronger movements; it is a momentary gathering of resources, of tempering your strength. You stand before the final assault, with the end in sight, ready.
The extended revival started as a joke and led to many embarrassing situations. What does it mean to be a hippy? Those days are past, gone, relegated to the story of history created by those who followed. They didn’t see our values and ethics, only failure and despair, the damaged and disillusioned who survived. It was necessary to hold the mirror up to our lives and then to turn away, smash the mirror and move on. The spread of the social burden that rolled forward, destroyed our world and culture: what was true was compromised. There is no way back.
How a person describes herself is interesting. There are multiple features, distinguishing marks, recognisable evidence of their history to choose forms that will stand out, that will be recognised by others in a crowd. In Celia’s case, her description was that she had very short hair and would be wearing a headband. No red carnation was offered to draw the eye, no proximal or locational directions within the room. With this limited view, Celia expects everyone to find her. I am sitting here waiting, thinking about what she is not saying, What will we all see when we find her?
The scent of camphor is strong as I lift and shake garments and linen, airing out cupboards, as small boxes fall to the floor most empty but a few rattling remnants of the camphor ingrained blocks. My mother told me that having good linen was like having money in the bank. Her financial opinions were rarely wise and never trustworthy, yet this homily has a sense of peasant logic, a truthiness and veracity that rejects the need for proof. My cupboards are penurious, holding frayed towels, thinned from many washes, unmatched pillowcases that have outlive their companion sheet, faded tea-towels.
‘Listening to a story recently, a terrible tale, and as the action unfolded in all its trauma and damage, the narrator ratchetted up the drama by saying the character took “a troubled leap into his own dark soul”. And it made me wonder, about the soul – mainly about whether souls nowadays have been discarded as irrelevant or if they’ve become a myth, like religions. There is a question in here, somewhere. I’m not asking if I have a soul, but generally, if souls are still being issued to the average person and, if they are, where can you find them?’
And one trembling leap forward took him into the conversation. The ice was finally broken; he had made her laugh. Now to follow up, and he didn’t know what to say to make her smile again. Each breath drawn in weighed him down, as he sank deeper into the strange, featureless being he was inventing as he went along. Seconds pooled around him like icy water, dense with weeds. He couldn’t move his feet; his voice slowed and deepened, words forming like links in a heavy chain, that pulled and slowly wrapped around him, squeezing and cutting off his circulation.
Attraction or repulsion to self-images is strange behaviour in humans, conditioned as we are to be self-aware. She thinks that only images she chooses and designs are real, but this isn’t true. I watch her in contexts she will deny. When I send her photos of an alternate view, she looks frightened, disorientated; as if the universe is teasing her, punishing her, spying on her. She displays herself to the world in selfies, but I have pictures of her getting out of a car with her dress stuck in her crack, of her sweating and tired, lonely and crying, frightened.
What one person looks through a window, for another it is as if they are looking into a mirror. The mirror distorts and displaces, misunderstandings; behind superstitions, miasmas of repressed fears and dread; and at the core, self-deception.
Familiar places around me interest and include me: this is my context, my culture, filled with people like me. Being part of a cultural majority, most of what I see pleases. This world gives me comfort, it rewards me. I challenge anything that disturbs my mirrored image, the strange and foreign. These only expose thoughts that sap my confidence and unsettle me.
I woke later today, wrenched from sleep, thinking about a desire for change. A seasonal thought. Each year about this time, as the rest of the world is rushing and fretting about this and that, planning when and where, hopping over and around all the others doing the same; fighting for the last, the best, the only, that will gain, get, garner them an advantage, as they step closer to where they want to be next time, my fractious, irascible self rebels. I have no enthusiasm for it. Yet I plan too, as the weight of anticipation obliterates the present.
I would like to draw attention to the phrase ‘getting to the next level’ as used by those who have access to our time and attention and on social media sites. It is used to excoriate readers, to whip them into action. Readers must catch up, get with the program, learn what everyone else knows; implying that common knowledge is flawed and needs to be superseded before a new intelligence can be exposed; readers must transition to a new level, where undeniable and objective truths reside. By imposing an unverified hierarchy on understanding, doesn’t this devalue all intelligence?
My mind is drawn elsewhere, away from the focal centre of my work, and I drift into territories where there are no descriptions, no shapes or patterns, filled with amorphous elemental impressions. There is no boundary or structure; here I drift, at peace. Ideas are born here but they do not grow. This is where thoughts and ideas collide, and gaps between words and images become canyons, coloured by emotions that flow or snag, sooth and irritate in turn. From here I extract my thoughts, writing streams of words punctuated into sentences that wrap and flatten onto the empty page.
To start with the ending seems counterintuitive, but when you hear my story, if you know how it end, you might understand what happened. At first life seemed spontaneous; I was in an adventure; I didn’t think about where I was headed. We don’t have, at least most of us don’t have, fairy godmothers directing our actions, putting down the missing stepping stones, setting you on the right path, guiding you to fulfil your destiny. Yet even then I sensed a presence, a helping hand, there was an unseen determining force directing my actions. I sensed I had a destiny.
Stories are always told looking back; it’s as if we only understand and trust a narrative when the ending ties up all loose ends, when it hatches, matches and dispatches the characters, when there is a message or lesson for readers to take away. We believe only by looking backwards and connecting. Then, in the light of reflection, we see that what happened was meant to be. The linear representation obliterates other options, obscures all points where we could have decided differently, ignores the accidental incidents we didn’t see, that would have changed our minds about where we are heading.
The seasonal pickling is underway and the kitchen smells of cider vinegar, aniseed, pepper and oranges. The hot oven sterilising the jars is raising the humidity, fogging up windows; the door opened to check and closed, opened again and jars and trays, filled with scalding water are lifted out and the water decanted. Pickling liquid bubbles nearby, seeds rising and falling in the gentle roiling, as the jars, steamed dry, are filled with brined sliced vegetables, drained and layered in. Hot liquid and spices are poured into the hot jars filled with sliced fennel, then sealed. And now we wait.
This isn’t paradise. Each came to this understanding as we arrived and attached caveats, qualifications, demerits to what we saw. Waiting in silence, our eyes shifted sideways, each critical of the pale reactions of our peers. There was no one single thing was wrong, it just didn’t feel right: our expectations were not met, our sense of equity had veered off. For all our work, this was an anticlimax, a disappointment. Yet, if we recalled the journey, we had achieved so much. Standing here, each person thought of other lives, other places, other friends they would rather have around them.
Between the metaphor and its symbol, we carve a harbour for the patchwork of ideas and impressions that have been gleaned from reality. Metaphors cover us when it’s cold, they light our way in the dark, through the lens of metaphor we see the world, painted and framed by our imaginations, and in which we shelter against raging chaos. Words and their sounds carry images to those who hear. We draw and our symbols seem more truthful, more redolent with meaning, than what we have represented. We turn away from reality, deaf and blind, as the world explodes around us.
Delivered with force the clap of resonating sound landed instantly and echoes persisted in her memory like a fear response until the next note arrived. She rocked back from the impact, retreating into a doorway, feeling sounds pass her by in thick waves, the ripples triggering rainbow spikes in her vision. Two days into her journey and already her progress was inhibited. She had to find shelter. Anecdotal stories from other explorers told of a cyclical pattern: from dawn, increasing in frequency and resonance during daylight hours the sound escalated at twilight before it lowered overnight to a faint pulse.
The Tip Jar