An Episode beginning at Tate Modern on the Southbank and leading to Carlisle Lane, SE1, during which Mr Kirby Raises his Profile Aug2013 email (click to view).
Inert with a cup of coffee, the Barrowman opposite me begins raising his Profile, and I am reminded:
‘Thus one portion of being is the Prolific, the other the Devouring. To the Devourer, it seems as if the producer was in his chains; but it is not so, he only takes portions of existence and fancies that the whole.
‘But the Prolific would cease to be Prolific unless the Devourer, as a sea, received the excess of his delights.
‘These two classes of men are always upon earth, and they should be enemies: who ever tries to reconcile them seeks to destroy existence.’
William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.
The quotation is to be found at the beginning of ‘The Theoretical Model’ section (P. 19) of the book by Valeria Ugazio, whose ugly title in English translation I remain so reluctant to name. In Italian she is Storia Permette, Storia Proibito… , and who has become my constant companion this summer both at work and play, even falling into the bath with me once when I dozed off recently; as a sea, she rises over the high water boundaries and spills into the waking day.
The long conversation continues as follows:
“I am the Barrowman, if that is what you want me to be, or Charon the ferryman according to your other suggestion… the one who ferries you for a coin.”
“What you do is offer me reassurance,” I say, “It may or may not be well intentioned, I have no feeling about that. It felt as though I was being carried in a wheelbarrow from a church on a small knoll down through what seemed to be a valley.”
“During the transition period.”
“It is also called ‘a middle position’ according to Valeria U. It is a third position between polarities. She proposes a radical theory of language and community that diverges from the observations and the schismogenetic model as proposed by Bateson (Naven, 1936). She writes (P. 50), ‘It is constructed by conversational processes that are different from those that produce the two opposing polar positions’.”
“Heaven or Hell.”
“She says you can especially find this third position from observations made on the stories of the Balinese, in the way they tell their stories that is. This is what she writes about them (P. 55), ‘The person who begins the story will stop after a while, expecting questions and comments, and the whole story will wander about and become strongly conversational’.”
After a while, when I have paid for our drinks, we leave the Union Street Café and walk on through the Cut, then cross a busy road and go into Carlisle Lane. I point out the rusty street sign on the wall, and then we enter the long brick-lined tunnel, passing a small, white ceramic sign whose writing tells us about a series of mosaics that are to be found here - inspired by William Blakes’s work undertook during the 10 years from 1793 when he was living close by in Hercules Road.
The light closes in under the terracotta brick tunnel, and I am aware that under the arch of the tunnel is also feeling closer, and that I am also becoming increasingly cold. As a sea, I begin to feel the cold rising up my legs and starting to chill my chest.
“I am frightened.”
“How long does this go on?” You ask.
“I guess as long as it takes a barrowman to push his load along the track that gently slopes down one side of a valley, crosses over a small stream, and then up the other side.”
“To the next part of the story.”
“With your reassurance.”
“You have come out into the light of the summer’s day. The valley is a green expanse, and it is filled with a large, riotous and brightly coloured crowd of dancing and singing women who surround and welcome you on all sides.”
“And I am no longer afraid.”
“After the Tunnel episode under the pressing dome of clay – Valeria U describes it as ‘the disaster area of perfect harmony’ – No, you are no longer afraid. You have come through the edge of disaster (the ‘disaster area’ zone that is also to be found in the middle position as well as at the polarities).”
“At the crossing point.”
“For which a small charge is made in the tradition.”
“The reassurance to keep it real. Because at the edge of disaster which in this case is undifferentiated in the middle position, and the story is saying, ‘You do not exist’. Here (P.55) Valeria U refers in particular to the insights to be found in the writing of RD Laing (1961/65/69): ‘The disconfirmation, disqualification, tangential communicative manouevres at this point’.”
“The point of transition.”
“Intruding too far into waking life.”