25 June 2011

Systematic unpicking

Other people frighten me. I approach them and pull faces and they react and I back away slowly. Sometimes I’ll lie right up against the glass and trace their topography for hours, imagining they spent their childhoods hypnotised by the dirt clods that sprung off their bicycle wheels as they bounced over broken tarmac slightly faster than their reaction times dictated, and then I can almost feel the barrier dissolving.

Our lives are predicated on this underlying assumption that we are known, and that we can know others. We think that because we can agree to certain fundamentals that keep the motorway generally unclogged, we must also conduct more or less the same symphony beneath our shirts. But regardless of which parade we succumb to, amidst the props and paints and perfumes, the vagaries of continuity will invariably betray a lie that remains most invisible to even ourselves. I’m talking about our souls here.

Don’t get me wrong - I’m not a religious person. I don’t think you can peel away the pragmatic layers of a human to reveal the frightened inner specter of their gossamer truth. Life winds its expert fingers around the lip of our trembling essence and we emit a tone that answers in the only way that it can. Others glimpse our identity through a whirling zoetrope that blurs our static moments into a unified narrative, into a seamless 'you', until one day...

Well, one day I discover that you’ve saved every tissue your mother has ever sneezed into inside a desk drawer. And there is nothing in my toolbox of experience that can answer the 'why?' of this one anomaly. I’ve pulled a thread, and the entire fantasy of knowing you unravels and spools around my feet. A realisation swims up from the deep: You are not me. And, furthermore, I am alone. This gives me a terrific sense of vertigo, and then I must wait for the normalising properties of time + space to whitewash the graffiti this notion produced.

If ever you find yourself seeking your reflection in the shallow pool of someone else, instead see if you can appreciate the illusion that you’re not buried alive inside a fiction of your own making. Scatter the crumbs of your history and watch the birds make off with them, one by one.

22 June 2011

Not waving

I’m meant to be writing a blog for work, but it’s not happening just now.

How do you say "I had a strange dream last night" without a hundred ears tuning out before you’ve even gotten to the significant bit? Nightmares, wet dreams, dreams specifically about the listener – you might entice a few more ears to stick around, but not many. I’ll listen to your dreams, in as much detail as you can provide, because I enjoy the thought processes that go into the telling, and you can sometimes even glimpse a hidden feeling that marbles the convex underbelly of its imagery. Dream imagery is certainly more stunning than any I’ve experienced tangibly.

But I had this strange dream last night (goodbye, gentle readers, until next time); it was terrible, actually. My niece and nephew were little children again, and I could see by my tracking system that they were still on the beach playing, and specifically where they were playing (in the tide, and Christopher is only a toddler), so I went to check on them. I knew before reaching the shore that my nephew wouldn’t be there, and my mind scrambled to assemble the narrative - abduction.

I spent many hours crying and shouting and looking inside horrible containers, all the while knowing that he’d never be found. At some point he stopped being Christopher and started being Hartley,
and then I had to wake myself up.

Sometimes my dreams will trail their coattails through my waking life, and their details can inform things that I feel or think about. I once thought I was in love with a real person because of a dream, and I acted on it, and that’s the last time I will ever do something so foolish. If anything, now I worry that the symbolic sediment left to dry on the surface of consciousness may prove fatally prophetic, if ignored. I’ll tell Bruce to keep a more careful eye on Hartley or I’ll wait for the green man before crossing a familiar intersection, and I’ll still wish I’d kept everyone at home, wrapped in cotton wool.

On the flip side, real life issues can find monstrous architectural counterparts in dream threads that get woven into the fabric of one's psyche, so that you don’t always know if you’re awake or asleep or somewhere in between. Though life has a way of dispersing the clouds and making that distinction immediately, and sometimes even painfully, apparent.

11 June 2011

Killing tigers

I read somewhere that there are only 3,500 tigers left in the world. Could that be true? We haven’t even brought about the extinction of whales, and look how long we’ve been in the process of saving them. How did tigers manage to slip through unnoticed? Those blunt, vicious heads of dusty pumpkin whorled with salt liquorice, mouths open and dripping black gums – can you even imagine the absence of tigers?

Today on the bus, I watched Hartley sleeping and tried to visualise the world in another thirty years. It frightens me to think of all the things he might lose, even though I’ve only the faintest idea of what we’ve inherited from centuries of civilisation. What will he fear? What will he love, and how? His atoms will weld themselves to the circumstances of whatever shapes them until the two are indecipherable, and we will spend our final years palming that smooth obelisk without any hope of penetrating its mysteries a second time.

Last night I fell asleep thinking: The social media celebrities are the pied pipers of the counterculture, leading the rats straight to us - to the beating heart of our secret inner lives. When I woke up, I had an entirely different thought, which was: humans are essentially here to die and replenish the earth’s resources; we are this planet’s living fertiliser. Gee, thanks brain! I deprive you of alcohol for weeks at a time and you repay me with nihilism.

If you thought that children could throw mortality off your scent while you hid out in the countryside of familial paralysis, think again. Now you need answers faster than you can keep up with the questions, and each day that angelic clay you threw with such hope and abandon just hardens around the features of everything you still can’t account for. Your son is human, and one day he might never see a tiger. One day...

You try to pull back from these thoughts but you rub them in faster, and they explode into a million points of ink. You use that ink to write love poems in the dark, and you hope that it’s enough.

06 June 2011

Blog of Revelations

Have you ever gone to bed for a month wishing that you could just wake up a saner person? That happened to me today. It was awesome.

Unrelatedly (perhaps), I spent Sunday alone, and in spite of still feeling flu-ish (on top of the effects of a late night out) I managed to propel myself out of bed for breakfast and an early-morning film on television. I chose Un Poison Violent - a coming-of-age story that sounded a bit saucy (young girl explores her sexuality amidst family drama), but which actually turned out to be much better than it sounded.

The narrative explores themes of flesh/spirit, mind/body, old/young and the necessary tensions of these apparent dichotomies when called upon to behave themselves. Unexpectedly, the most poignant scene involves neither the young girl nor the dying grandfather, but the parish priest - a peripheral character that by rights should have had these issues tied up tight.

Early on, the film lays the groundwork for his impending crisis (he spends a lot of time silently ruminating in wet or dripping locales), and demonstrates that although he’s serious about his vocation, he’s also human, and especially invested in the mother (with whom he shares a [chastened] past) and her fast-blossoming daughter. You don’t see much evidence of his internal struggles until quite a bit later on, when he lies on top of his single bed and begins fervently praying for God to bring him peace, an activity that ends with him curled up and weeping.

The characters all spend a lot of time holding each other up to these rigid codes of conduct with varying degrees of dismay and alarm when expectations are thwarted, but with none so much as they reserve for their own perceived shortcomings (except maybe the father, who only seems repentant towards the end, after his father dies).

I suppose the idea is that no matter how good we try to be, not one of us is godlike in nature, and we are ever in danger of being thrown off our paths by these so-called sins of the flesh.