Cords of Support

 Posted by at 1:36 pm  Atelier, OUT in the WILDERNESS  Comments Off
Jun 262008

And in my illness,
the love and affection of friends, letters, messages, words of comfort
for when I am cast adrift, she said.

For Rosemary, which happened to be the same name as my mother and who also fiercely believed in writing, extinction was unimaginable, and there was no such thing as a final illness, so that when it came for her time she determined to be alone, taking herself off to a private hospital in Glasgow with only her notebooks and pens for company, no family, no friends, and after the operation so camatose from opiate pain-killers that no sort of conversation or any other kind of communication were possible.

Although it was difficult to accept for a long time, especially for those of us who also find extinction unimaginable, which, when one comes to think about it might be a very large number, and on Woman’s Hour today (BBC Radio 4) there was Susan Sontag’s son saying the same thing about his brilliant mother and writer of Illness as Metaphor and Aging as Metaphor, in denial as we say, but in the end for Rosemary and for Susan, both choosing to go it alone, adrift, there is now only love and affection.

Another Moment

 Posted by at 5:20 pm  Atelier, OUT in the WILDERNESS  Comments Off
Jun 162008

Yesterday, sitting on the cliff tops about half way between Soar Mill Cove and Bolt Head, I had the intense awareness of the sheer joy that is life, the giftedness that is life.

The air was clear, the sea a noble iron blue, the world accessible, distances condensed.

Today I had the thought that the moment (any moment?) is both totally empty and totally pregnant.

[Oh look at that. A woman, walking along the platform opposite where I sit, has a strange support on her leg – some sort of white covering (a bandage?) with a cross brace (metal or plastic?) It induces in me something like vertigo and it comes to me that there is an emptiness – no bone or flesh – that connects the functioning leg to the functioning foot. The foot must be operated by some ghastly memory of legness. She walks with the aid of two sticks and is somewhat overweight. A railway porter carries her case.]

On page 9 of the LRB 19/6/08 Terry Eagleton refers to Samuel Beckett’s life as devoted to silence, exile and cunning. Which makes one think of his time in the French wartime resistance. Easgleton later goes on:

“One must speak while preserving in one’s words a core of silence, in homage to the millions whose tongues have been silenced.”

Hope, he thinks, can still remain, but based on indeterminacy and failure. And that seems to me to link back to the cliff-top experience of joy and giftedness, in the sense that hope is simply an integral part of that particular package.

The problem might arise when we try to do manipulate that hope, to turn it into a washing machine, for example.

Just a Moment

 Posted by at 2:42 pm  Atelier, OVER and BEYOND  Comments Off
Jun 112008

Arriving into the moment with its complex of agitated cross-currents. Just a moment, we might say, but does a moment possess duration? Isn’t it rather timeless, a toe dipped into eternity.

Perhaps, just a moment, means: hang on, I just need to turn my mind around, to refocus, to readjust the complexity of ‘me’. Slicing through our inner world we would find various percentages of anxiety, excitement, conscious intention, shock of unexpected configuration of expected realities, an intimation of mortality, random thoughts and feelings, defensive strategies . . . goodness it might be an endless list, but one that we are making constant adjustments to, in order to keep our balance and deal with what life is giving us.

A moment is too vast to navigate and, anyway, I have to clear up the kitchen.

So what about mortality? Our omnipresent death; the deathbeat, heartbeat lending its accompaniment to our lives.

And how is he with dying? I asked. But it’s not something to be talked about. Turn a blind eye – though the art as Nelson’s story makes clear is when to turn the blind eye and when to see what is there. The risk with the blind eye strategy is the danger that somebody might blurt out the truth regarding the elephant in the room; somebody brave enough not to dismiss it as,

– Oh I don’t need to mention that
– Everybody knows about it
– It’s probably only my problem
– I don’t want to expose myself.

Within the heartbeat moments of our mortality there is a necessity to tell the truth. Or at least because telling the truth might be impossible and certainly is in any absolute sense (leave that to God), a necessity to allow ourselves, what shall I say, to lean towards the truth. Let the gravitational pull of love, tend us towards the light.

Small Talk

 Posted by at 11:37 am  Atelier, IN Conversation  Comments Off
Jun 102008

How are you today
About dying,
She asked,
I dont know,

Often afraid to go on,
The conversation,
With the heart
Closed down,

But this time, intentionless
Listened to the sweet-
bitter* sound of his own voice.

Brahmaviharapharanam for AA on learning of his serious illness

* the inversion of the familiar bittersweet; glukupikron, "sweetbitter", was how Sappho wrote it (fr. 130), and is the better sorting of the possibilities in time