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On the movement of static things #4:
Static implies permanency: in permanency, the micro changes are absorbed and instinctively ignored. We resist change, imposing the illusion of a flowing river in which we travel, rather than imagining that over time we are ageing and degrading. The idea of life being modelled as a depreciating asset repels us; we are buoyed instead with the myth that all we lose, we regain more in wisdom and experience. In the river, we miss the jumps, the perception, the opportunity, to step out into the expected, into light that highlights our fractures, our growth.
From to one image to the next the leap is too great, as the film spooling through a ratcheting projector, it skipped a few frames. When she turned towards the camera and looked towards those filming her, in her eyes we saw histories, ages, eons, the heightened dimensions of her reality. Her tongue flared green against the florid screen colours, the back-light an aura shining through her writhing hair. She seemed too close and we crowded back in our seats, shifting and restless, as if the past had turned and seen us, had judged our world vapid and pale, colourless.
Taking flight, the distance is too great and halfway across as I am starting to fall fast, the impression of speed increases, rushing air pulling around me, fast and cold. I feel a lost faith. I recall an image of the flight and landing from my projected path; it resonates like an echo, as I scream until my throat is hollow and sore and I have no breath left; my mind has nothing to grip onto that reality does not confound. Still moving forward, falling, my path a downward veering arc into the void, time slows to a glacial pace.
The mechanics of how the sounds were generated was unclear, their sensors picked up and measured the strength of the vibrations around them. Filtered through their helmets what they heard was muted but they could isolate repetitions of some tones and phrases. Some sounds had started and seemed to cascade and resonate only when they entered the valley. Standing, each facing a different direction, they listened tried to triangulate the source, eliminate echoes. There might be multiple sources and layering recalled patterns of the call and response of birds, but they hadn’t enough information to even rule out geological origins.
I haven’t kept track of my waking thoughts these days, with the heat time drifts past unnoticed, yet my dreams, populated with images and people, with places I only see when I dream, have been vivid and disturbing. A sentimental attraction draws my conscious thoughts; this place is filled with love, regret, hope, life: this is my home. I move around easily, I know where roads lead, what I will see around the next bend, and as I walk, I think about when I was here last. Located in a context I cannot find awake; I wish to live here.
Life as documentary #7: To know life, you must analyse and explore love, but this cannot be done through objective research. There are many distinct types of love and each alters what it touches. Effective research data is found when you engage with and become involved in the experience, when you recognise how much love changes individuals: see how love is expressed and experienced, how love lives and dies. Love is a paradigm: when you perceive love, being without love becomes intolerable. Once felt you will be hooked: you cannot unknow love, you cannot go back, out of love’s reach.
And what after all is a paradigm but something to confuse and confound, a trick to convince us we don’t know everything, that we can’t know everything, and when we think we do, we are wrong. How can we compare effect and affect when there is nothing that can keep the two ideas in the same place at the same time, no relationship that will allow us to correlate results and plot them on a timeline? To say the answer is ‘either-or’, or that you can have one or the other, is wrong, because, if one exists the other doesn’t.
You can turn life into love in two steps: life, live, love. A game of transition, by changing one letter at a time. Seen in this phonically connected sequence, the words seem almost to have the same root, the same derivation. The problem is that there is a mix of nouns and verbs, some are static and others active parts of speech. Life is an unbounded static noun, live a verb, but love straddles the categories: “I love” - a verb, expressing action; ‘Hello, my love’ - a noun, static, bounded by rules and conditions to a time and place.
Doesn’t moonlight strike the sea and the sea project light back to us? Where do we get the idea that by combining these actions, this interaction, we can imbue moonlight with emotional warmth and passion? We see moonlight and emote the expression of love from the glittering light broken by the movement of waves, yet within those waves, light pours through to an elemental environment of carnage and predation, and above the moon is cold and lifeless, pockmarked with impact craters, unable to sustain life. Do we need to dissemble the actions of the universe to condone our human emotions?
I would like to draw your attention to the failure of politics to engage public sentiment: a growing number of those who are socially aware and active feel they are now politically adrift, cut loose from the central debates. I feel the elected officials, on both the right and left of politics, have breached ethical and moral constraints and are no longer trustworthy. The political centre has died. The ethical drivers for change and renewal and the pursuit of social good are no longer being taken forward by the elected political officials. Our civic duty is to rebel.
Objects #5: The use of string has fallen out of fashion and this lapse has reduced the tactile and sensory depth in our lives. Previously shops tied up purchases using paper and string, the string providing a looped handle allowing the customer to pick their package up with two fingers. The movement of the package gave a certain jaunt to their steps, a syncopated rhythm, the string allowing the package to hang freely and swing as they walked. String has a metaphorical resonance: as we walk home whistling, we imagine time and the sequence of our lives as a string.
‘Why is he so uncontrollable?’
‘You’re not looking at this right. Just relax; take a break.’
‘You aren’t here all day. I don’t get a minute’s peace.’
‘Chill out. He’s just a kid.’
‘I put up with this all day and then you come home and encourage him. It’s not right.’
‘I got away with a lot, and I didn’t turn out bad, did I?’
‘I wasn’t allowed to behave like this. He has to be taught it’s wrong.’
‘Let him have some fun.’
‘I don’t want to be the one always nagging him. You have to stop him too.’
‘What do you want? To stop him being a boy? He’s just letting off steam.’
‘You play with him for ten minutes when you get home and have had enough. I have this all day.’
‘Look, he’s not going to just sit quietly all day.’
‘I know that. But other children don’t want to play with him: he’s too wild. And the other mothers are scared he’ll hurt someone. I have to be there all the time to watch him.’
‘You make him sound like a little psychopath.’
‘He needs to learn to control himself. You need to teach him.’
The evidence of experience #8: Superstition manipulates preferences and erodes confidence equally. Belief in luck seems unassailable when logic doesn’t explain what happens. Wearing your favourite socks, one pulled up the other fallen down, you catch a passing shot and try for the net. No-one can tell you how the socks influenced the result, and you believe that if everything is the same, next time you would be lucky again. But the inverse is true too: if one thing is different, then there is no chance of success, no point in trying. Superstition is a flimsy platform to stand on.
‘Don’t be concerned. We’re just talking today, there’s no pressure.’
From his chair, he had an unobstructed view and could see her shifting restlessly and her discomfort.
‘But I have nothing to say.’ Her voice tightened, rising in pitch. The short sentence ended with a sense of finality.
‘Try not to think about it too much. Think of it as a game. It will get easier.’
‘What can we talk about?’ He watched her, making no response. ‘I suppose if I start, I’ll find something to say,’ she said finally. Her eyes shifted sideways as her voice heavy with disappointment.
‘It’s in the box,’ she said, her tone, leaning towards awe, has the edginess of an incantation, as if a spell had been cast. A page wafted down into the maws of the box in front of her. With a sense of finality, she folded the flaps into place, sealed the package, and returned it to her carrier bag: a task completed, a burden lifted, she could now stand taller. Filling a cup from the water cooler she drank deeply and sighed, then collected her bags and walked away. The photocopier next to the desk hummed quietly into the silence.
‘It doesn’t make a difference, raising your voice,’ Helen said. ‘If I heard you the first time, shouting at me and repeating it, won’t make it any clearer.’
‘You want me to jump to when you say something, ‘he said. ‘I heard you, and tell you what I think, and you ignore me.’
‘Jim,’ she said. He continued to read the paper and she waited. He flapped the paper, on turning the page, he looked at her. Thinking she had his attention, she continued quietly. ‘I heard what you said, I just have a different suggestion.’
‘Well, that doesn’t surprise me.’
‘If everything you know was put in a shoebox it would be so light it would float on water. You’re a light-head, you have a brain is filled with fluff and dander; you have no ballast, no density, nothing that connects you to gravity.’
‘I get it. You’ve said it all. There’s nothing in your cheap and easy jibs I haven’t heard before. In fact, it shows a distinct lack of originality. Your message travels along a well-worn path many travelled before and you all previous visitors missed the signposts, all failed to read the warning: don’t tease the livestock.’
You feel the environment shredding and tearing at your equipment. You have little redundancy, all you rely on for repairs, but can’t carry, is left behind. Without looking, you know that your base camp is becoming smaller, that your safety is running away behind you faster than you are travelling ahead: you travel downhill and each step away will need two or more and greater effort, if you decide to turn back, to return. And calculating, at your current progress, the point of failsafe, the last point of return and you pass it, each step is taking you further away.
How does it happen so often that when you are looking, and then you find what you think you are looking for, that your critical judgements lapse? You may be seeking an object, a physical state, a land of plenty, security; you might want to get somewhere, to escape and leave behind danger, to find someone without flaws. And when you think you recognise what you seek, you don’t question it, don't challenge it. We are easily persuaded with what we expect; we bow down meekly, waiting for the future to open its arms, expecting to be rewarded for arriving.
It is night but not completely dark; there is radiant light from the moon and light reflected from the water I hear lapping close by. My eyes perceive variations in depth, once the lenses have adjusted, seeing shades of black, differently textured material; a pale band along the horizon, the lacey edge between vegetation and the sky. Somehow projecting artificial light was distorting the landscape, making it shrink to the width of the beam. Now I can see across plains and to the mountains, above acres of stars. The path I am on is pale and clear ahead of me.
This will be the year I release once treasured objects back into the world for them to come alive for other people: clothes I haven’t wore 20 or 30 years, may have value as retro-fashion for someone; kitchen objects not used for many years, could be found by someone wanting to set up house cheaply; ornaments and objects that sit around collecting dust, that I no longer look at, freed to be found by others, who will look on them with new eyes and see the wonder in their design, who will give them a new place in the universe.
He had a real facility for using tools. Honed to a professional level, to those who saw him work, this was more than skill, it was a talent, an artistic expression that flowed through him. He knew the sharp edge and leverage of every implement in his toolbox and these tools made it easy for him to adjust and adapt to circumstances; his tools made it possible for him to get into and out of many situations. He could manipulate spaces designed for other purposes, converting them to exits and for egress, allowing him to appear and disappear at will.
And it is sparkies and plumbers today with their own arcane knowledge of how things work, each respectfully deferring to the other as their tasks cross hands and they perform the dance of installing a new water heater. There was the mandatory sucking of teeth, and the staged frown, as they reviewed the job and asked who quoted it: was it the young bloke, Derek? Reeling at the cost, I hadn’t asked his name. After three days of cold-water showers, I am sufficiently submissive, but I note their rituals, the courtesy when approaching and their jaunty steps as they depart.
You could anticipate an eruption; in advance of the shockwaves, there would be releases of high-frequency harmonics for the vibrations that started building as soon as the sun hit the buried pockets of gas. When sufficiently heated, the gas bubbled up and exploded on the molten surface. You learned to protect your ears and brace before the sound of the explosions reached you. When the full force landed it had a violence that could lift you off your feet. You were most vulnerable in the aftermath, as the echoes persisted and you were disorientated, from the showers of molten debris.
Having made many of them himself, the evidence of a mistake was not shocking; here was just a problem to resolve. As they go, this one was pedestrian, routine in fact, there were others that made you want to turn around and leave, not that he wouldn’t have a go, a try at turning things around. And just then he thought of another case where what he had misjudged and his attempt had precipitated the end. There was a solution he could try here; it wouldn’t get everything back but would stop the displacement and stabilise and restore the balance.
I have been decluttering, unpacking cupboards and sifting through their contents, boxing up ornaments and clutter resting on shelves and book cases, discarding and recycling lose papers, saved articles and notes that will not be looked at again, clearing rooms of neglected content. There is a whole room I need to unbury, unpack and empty. All this activity is a prequel, the next step is to re-configure my living spaces: re-distributing furniture, putting up pictures and curtains, customising and inhabiting my environment, to make it my own with designated areas for rest and recreation, creativity, isolation, and for social activity.
The carcase was small, an immature specimen at best and unusually alone. She carved out some meat to pickle with spices; when dried it was palatable. Time and scavengers would take care of the rest, leaving a hollowed-out shell that would be picked up and rattle across the ground in a light breeze. She had come across the like in other places and avoided more surprise attacks, learning to habitually check peripherals and scan beneath overhangs and the undergrowth. An aggressive predatory species, they were easier to dispatch if not forewarned and when they were not out hunting in packs.
For what it was, a birthday gift, it was useful and the cost minimal: you can’t ask for a better balance than that. We have a challenge, to find perfect gifts - beautiful, practical, functional - while spending the least amount of money. No wonder he is a misunderstood child, I have inculcated him with my frugal and parsimonious values and, when he succeeds in this self-burdened challenge, I feel an overwhelming sense of pride. When he chooses thoughtful gifts and spend very little of his money, I see my parenting skills have borne fruit, and know he will survive.
I would like to draw your attention to how works of translation into English, frequently fail to evoke the sense of the original language and how even works written in different English accents are diminished when the phrasing and tone are altered. Grammatical rules in English must be bent and twisted, even broken, to translate a work effectively, so that it retains the focus and intent of the work. Clauses too frequently preference the narrator, the subject, the action, to the detriment of the intent, the context, the inferred. English is too blunt a language to evoke nuance.
An exquisite torture: this planet revealed and called to our primal natures, it tricked our senses. There was unimaginable, indescribable beauty here. Before us, the sun rose and the landscape was wrenched again from a crystalline frozen shield, the cold penetrating into the planet's core, to an erupting, liquid surface. We couldn’t survive in this world without defences; we had no tools to defend ourselves in the extremes this world produced. Our only hope was to copy how the flora and fauna survived: either buried until the extreme edges had passed or they moved ahead of, or behind, the cycles.
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