In the beginning was the word. Was there ever not the word? The word having been ‘here and there’, everywhere forever. We understand this even if it crumbles the mind. Why not call it the infinite, a timeless zone, the uncreated, before, beyond, behind creation; a zone that is no-zone, a place that is no-place, a nothing in which everything exists and doesn’t exist. When I make a mark on a blank page there is repetition, a recreation of a primordial moment in which courage is all: a flight into space and time that is a wrench, a shock and let’s be frank, a trauma that is itself a beginning. Naked and shamed we shiver, hunted and haunted; how do we protect our loved ones? And at the same time forge a path into what, following convention I will call the future.
The wondrous warmth of that ruby red; I wouldn’t have thought of it as blood red, but somehow the idea comes to mind, some correlation between blood and red wine. But of course, then the connection flashes up – the Mass: the blood the wine, the wine is the blood.
I had to write the 13 of the year very slowly, with hesitant intention – what year is it? After the trauma, the catastrophe; after the dust has settled, some stability returned to the feel of the earth, then comes the pressing need to re-structure, re-formulate, re-build. Perhaps even some tenuous sense of identity grabbed and forced into use from the fragments lying scattered amongst the debris.
Probably it was merely a dream image, something snagged on a thorn, thought to thought. Why bother to read a book when you can watch a movie? Thomas Jones in the latest LRB is reviewing J Robert Lennon’s (I imagine he is a John Lennon but needed to not be confused with the John Lennon of Beatle’s fame) novel, Familiar. Jones quotes from a Lennon Tweet: ‘When I’m out walking alone and I encounter another man out walking alone I’m like what the hell’s that creep up to’. Familiar is a story that concerns what is and is not familiar, what happens when the familiar becomes unfamiliar. It sounds like sci-fi rather than literary novel. But I suppose that is part of what it is about. How do we fit the weirdness of our psychological world in with the quotidian hard rocks of how it is. To be a man out walking alone is to place oneself in dodgy territory. A man out walking alone is a poet and a prowler, already guilty of every unsolved crime listed in the local police station. Or perhaps even more so all those crimes that the victims decided, for whatever reason, not to report. When I’m out walking alone I have to adopt the garb of an innocent, of a decent law-abiding citizen merely out for some fresh air, to stretch the muscles, to exercise so that I don’t cause any grief to the over-stretched saints of ‘our’ health service. Not that it will be our health service much longer, sold off to corporate power to see what profits they can tear from it in their incessant drive to eviscerate the good. Presumably politicians are already getting over excited about the possibilities of privatising their own services. We discern in the entrails that there will be a G4S and Serco run ‘parliament’. Have no concern, the messy business of democracy will no longer be part of deal. It is so inefficient. Come on, come on let’s get down to the nitty gritty, the political class have made efficiency to the be all and end all of political programmes. This is caused not by leaves on the line but by the complete absence of any political imagination on their part and, as usual, their abject corruption. They have almost owned up to the totality of their programme as the further enriching of the already fabulously wealthy.
The rest of us better get used to the idea of endless austerity. In other words it’s back to business as usual, just as it’s been for the last few thousand years.
One last plea before it’s too late, please: can I move to somewhere warm, year round warmth. It’s not too much to ask is it. Oh and a bit of food please. Oh yes and while I think of it, a public library and free movies shown in the town square. OK? Just more thing – that glass of red wine. Thank you.
I promise not to cause any trouble.
I was there but I was not harmed, Mr Fox’s Story continues. Sunday a week before last I watched a hare drink beside a common pond*. It was late afternoon and I was in Cumbria over a long weekend with a group of men. We were twelve in all stood in a field, until the hare arrived that is, then we were thirteen which of course disturbed the perfect symmetry of our community you could say.
I came across her – ‘Her’ or was it ‘Him’? I couldn’t say for sure, but I felt her that way, hares being some of my special friends as I like to claim. Well, that is the way I see it, although I have to admit that the community of hares don’t always see it the same way about me. So when she saw me, she slinked off into the shadows of a stone wall.
And I followed as that was expected of me, stalking along the edge of the wall to trying to get up close, until she saw me and moved off again. As that was equally expected of her. And so the hunter and hunted continued, tracking along the square stone walls at the edge of the field, she allowing me close but no closer.
Until listening – there is the quiver of the hare drinking – “a sound sensitive fresh as soft rain upon a leaf” (Llewellyn Powys). I am also told that in a recent issue of the New Scientist it is reported that scientists have agreed that if we were able to stand outside our universe for a moment we would not only be able to see the whole of space and all the galaxies and everything else it contains, but also the whole of time, past and future, laid out in it in its totality in that instance.
Until the hare had turned another corner of the field and I had followed keeping tight to the stone wall so as not to lose her. Then turning the corner myself about ten paces in front of me sat her partner. He was the largest hare I had ever seen. He sat with his powerful back to me, ears erect and whiskers sensing the air, and I could see fine droplets of misty rain sparkling on his perfect brown fur like stars. Drinking.
Go Back, I thought but it was too late.
Drinking by a common pond, and listening to what is happening in the world since it goes on hotting up among us men. That’s the way it feels in ‘mitteleuropa‘ as we say; the pressure cooker is hissing furiously, and lifting her lid a little now and then to leak a little steam. For instance, I read that last Tuesday Cyclone Cleopatra struck the island of Sardinia, more than 440mm of rain falling in 90 minutes. 18 people were reported dead, many more injured and the President of Italy expressed” solidarity with the communities involved”.
And I am not done with…
And I am not done with my story.
*the common pond:
“I owe it as a human being… to stand here by the pond as a survivor and a witness. We have to cure ourselves of the itch for absolute knowledge and power. We have to close the distance between the push-button order and the human act. We have to touch people.”
Will you find me, will I find you, will you know me? Questions to perplex the weary and destitute. To language or not to language, that is more likely to be the question. Hamlet, Hamlet let’s sit down and talk about this. Look, I agree this is horrible and neither of us has any idea how to put this into words, into language, into this representational system of grunts and groans rendered into mysterious black marks on a white ground. Don’t go down that particular road Hamlet, it will only lead to despair and the mocking figure of suicide will beckon most attractively.
Paul Klee begins his Creative Confession, 1920: ‘Art does not reproduce the visible, it makes visible. A tendency towards the abstract is inherent in linear expression: graphic imagery being confined to outlines has a fairytale quality and at the same time can achieve great precision. The purer the graphic work – that is, the more the formal elements underlying linear expression are emphasised – the less adequate it is for the realistic representation of visible things.’
How to start things off? There’s nothing like a cataclysmic event to announce the new, but do we or can we accept the inevitable trauma of such an event or are we merely impotently helpless in the grip of its power and excitement?
How can Hamlet settle his mind to doing a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay after the trauma that has fragmented, blown apart his mind? At least he has Shakespeare to do his thinking for him, to carve the linear expression of his descent. How do we express what we cannot think in words or describe with other sorts of marks on paper. There is something so final about not being able to shape certain unformed thoughts into words or some other expressive art – painting or music, for example. How do we ever learn what the unformed potential of a person might have become after they have gone down the route of suicide?
By chance, a friend, an artist, pointed me in the direction of the work of Charlotte Salomon. A chunk of whose work is contained in a huge tome based on and focussed around her large scale work, Life? Or Theatre? A life story told in pictures and words. Charlotte was born into a wealthy, assimilated Jewish family in Berlin, 1917. Her mother committed suicide in 1926. Of course before that the European nations had savaged each other in an orgy of bloodshed. There are screams that emerge from the need to find a narrative that makes sense. The Russian Revolution offers a narrative of sorts and one that is fought for in Germany after the cessation of formal war in 1918, but this ends in failure and after the US/European financial disaster at the end of the twenties, Germany tries its infamous Nazi experiment that includes the demonising if the Jews. Charlotte’s life ended in 1943, murdered in Auschwitz.
Pimlico powercut, Snow is coming from the north. The men grunt silently. The women are streaming. It is the realm of fear and contrary to all the best scientific evidence I am still breathing. In fact I am breathing easily and the air smells curiously fresh. Ok the written word is proving difficult to use this week but the spoken word is rustling among the leaves. Put another way I am pressing The Keys One By One
Why do I assume a feminine presence?
Uncle Mel and Aunty Mel and all the little Mels, all with their heads down, hiding out until the pink one with the army of shotguns has finished blasting the night air. Meanwhile there is plenty to discuss, to while away the long hours. After the ancient bard Max Mele has finished his party piece recitation of Gerusalemme Liberata and there is always the favourite game of darts; tossing the arrers at Descartes pinned to the packed earth wall. And then they can all settle down to watch that grumpy old meles meles also known as the dreaded Paxman chatting with Russell Brand and causing a stir, coming out into the open and claiming that politicians are a waste of space, and probably merely a front organisation for global corporate power.
I thought it was warmer than it turned out to be. Though it may be that I needed a nap rather than forcing myself out again. Why bother? Mind you the coffee is welcome, my hands clasped round the cup to try to get some warmth into the bones. What am I to do when the cup is empty and I will be alone once more? I can’t do it, can’t manage. Maybe it’s too late to rearrange the world. The blood slowly freezing, sluggish; it can hardly be bothered to make the effort. What do we have to do to say, hold on, just hold on there. Put the brakes on. We’ve gone the wrong way. The aliens have taken over. Madness is a real possibility. Poor old Tasso.
I caught the bus the other morning. It was near empty. But it remains an ideal way to travel, leaving the mind free to travel down its own secret pathways. Occasionally dipping into an article I was in the middle of, such as the interview with Iain Sinclair in last Saturday’s Guardian. His new book American Smoke which hadn’t attracted me at all until I read the interview. I had tried reading Radon’s Daughters and Downriver some years ago but found myself not quite in sympathy with them but have, meanwhile, kept in touch with his thoughts through his articles in the LRB. And I liked the sense of how he keeps to his adopted roots of Hackney – radicals – roots. Roots? Roots suggest under the surface, invisible but it must also be about looking, seeing what’s going on; a two-pronged process of connection with the ground and seeing round the corners, prying and spying into the hidden. Perhaps we all have our own GCHQ/NSA tempora programme running; tapping into the fibre-optic roots of society. I have the intention of reading Simone Weil on roots but that’s another book I haven’t got to yet. Sinclair walks in preparation for writing. And the artist David Blackburn adopts the same discipline, walking on the nearby moors before the commitment of his studio.
Here is the puzzle of remaining alive and well and not falling into the surplus to requirements basket. We don’t want to give them a reason for a cull – shooting us and setting the dogs on us.
Melesmeles - Senori Tasso - Mr Badger is scorching the west country on his bicycle. Beware, Beware – Pedelare! Pedalare!
The peleton strings out behind him, those fine young men and women athletes, the pride of our youth and members of those famous racing teams in their matching lycra grinding up the gears to reach the of the moors and then sprinting downhill. The hunt is on and it is flat out all the way, never touching the brakes. But none can keep up with his furious pace. Old Melesmeles is one in a million, we say. Nobody betters him. Nobody can, and nobody ever will. Those few of us who stand our ground in the presence of that growl, those bared teeth, spumy chops and red eyes…
… like the gashed and gored heros of the ancient boar hunt of Pelion, pump out our life blood, and, descending to the shades, become invisible men and women. Lost.
O Melemeles! O Stavros (as we also playfully call him: like the grizzled and revered village elder of a mythical Aegean island, when he is not racing he is as gentle and friendly as a much loved pussy cat!) – the old and ageless wild beast.
And so there is much blood, Remembrance Sunday, red poppies, the state of emergency, and all the rest – ‘But what is the path that takes us from the Augustinian conception that good is everything and evil is only the lack of goodness, to an opposite view, such as that as Schopenhauer, that good is the absence of evil?
‘Between Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, on the one hand, and Schopenhauer on the other, is the philosophy of the “thinking self”, which introduces into the modern world view an “acontextual”, solitary, self-sufficient being who is capable of acquiring knowledge of the world “outside himself” with his own forces alone. I am referring once again to Descartes, to Leibniz’s “monads without doors or windows”, and to Kant, for whom the subject of knowledge can never penetrate the “thing in itself”.
‘The identification of evil with life and the idea of “abstinent” goodness are based on the individualistic conception of man, on the same homo clausus (it), on the same “self in a shell” on which freedom is based as independence from relationships… as I have sought to demonstrate… (she continues)’. Storia Permette, Storia Proibito, Valeria Ugazio, (tr 2013): Between Good and Evil, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders (Ch 4)- P. 178.
And then there is the barking of the dogs! Yes, the real fun begins when we hit the suburbs of atomised and sickening life in which the only story is “Whenever things get better, they get worse” … a story, as your reporter, Mr Fox, can confirm from his customary horizontal position, beneath, beyond and between (meaning that for the last few days I’ve been swinging my hammock among ‘Men in Sheds’, first the monastic community at Hartridge where the monks of the Buddhist Forest Sangha Tradition live in ‘kutis’ (=sheds), and today on the oriental express and London bound to attend the launch of the Mens Shed Association no less – or “Shedders” as they are perhaps unfortunately known).
The suburbs call Melesmeles and his peleton hunt by several different names – “The Grey Wolves”, “The Wild Bunch”, “The Evil One”, or even “Shiva and his Gang” (How wrong they are!), but usually it is simply “Terrorists”. Sensing their approach the domesticated pups raise the alarm, first an occasional bark, then all joining together in unison and general howling. The streets get cleared, and as the dark mass approaches woe betide any isolated car driver on his way to the betting shop, or housewife on her way to the supermarket. It is all about fear, fear among them permitting.
Mr Fox has seen it all for himself and will be telling all, or as much he is also permitted to, to the association of “Shedders” later today. Some may elect to join our pack, and become ‘our’ citizens, and or at least that is the absurd hope he also shares with Melesmeles.