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On the resolution of balance #7:
There are many types of scenarios where balance is required and the tools to determine and confirm this diagnosis are in many cases as blind and as biased as statistical analysis. Balance is an arbitrary measure and context-dependent. The method and tools used to determine balance often smooth over and make invisible the cracks and fissures. Balance can be established by manipulating the outliers along a range, using only extremes and ignoring the centre, thereby creating situations where the extremes give an unrealistic view of real life, a view of reality skewed by excess.
A pattern to my life is evolving slowing, revealing at each turn unploughed pastures and open vistas. There is a re-wilding to my days as my rambling takes me through literature and into the minds of writers ignorant of their readers and unworldly; writers who are riffling on hope and despair, spraying their thoughts across pages in isolation, believing they are unheard and unread. I don’t read uncritically and have been surprised and entertained, even challenged as I promenade through essays and articles, stories and novels. These words shower down like spring showers on fertile fields, encouraging growth and renewal.
Jugs have multiple uses and I have collected a number in a variety in shapes and sizes. Grouped together, outside of their functional purposes, they are displayed to expose their decorative qualities. When purchasing a new jug, the mix of functional and decorative informs my decision: having a jug that is too pretty to use diminishes the value. Although I see many highly ornate and fragile jugs in antique shops, these do not attract me. I hold to the tenent that without functionality, these objects are just dust collectors and should not have a place in any home.
I keep twisting and turning my financial spreadsheet hoping to shore it up from the fragility I know is hidden in the cracks and folds. Maintaining a budget is more than just being frugal and spending with restraint, it is an act of faith. Everything recorded on the page is history, recalling how money was spent in the past and what was tracked. Nothing measures what I held off buying, what are my long term wishes on where to spend my money, and how much I will hold onto that dream of ownership, in spite of the vicissitudes of fortunes.
The invitation was so absent-minded, I hardly expected him to remember back to when casually in the market, as we bumped shopping baskets and were apologising to each other, he had made it. No matter; I wasn’t going to forget. When he asked us to visit, it was as if a door had opened to the future I wanted to have; a future where I could expand and be my true self, unconstrained by poverty, convention, social barriers, even without even my own hesitancy and timidity. In that world, I would be listened to and my opinions considered without judgement.
The phrase, cyclical horror, had been threaded into my reading by way of an anti-racist treatise where Zadie Smith proposed that the history of humanity is a liturgy of ‘brutality, murder, mass extinction, every form of venality and cyclical horror’; an opinion and explanation for why her youthful optimism had changed to cynical despair. Looking back on history there is a foreshortening and it seems that the path is inevitable, but it doesn’t explain the future. And this is why we cannot let history’s example show us how to behave. We can do better and we can be better people.
I have been tracking words that have both active and passive states: one such found is ‘look’. The dual effect, like movement in a swiss watch, shifts the word between active and passive depending on context. This duality allows 'look' to tweak that sensitive nerve we all have that makes us laugh. My new favourite joke uses this ambiguity: What can a whole apple do that half an apple can’t? The answer: A whole apple can look round. And I defy anyone, once you get it, not to laugh. Even when you see the trick, it’s still funny.
There is more fear than yesterday. The news is spoken rapidly as they try and fill the nightly timeslots with the new stories and updates on the stories earlier in the week. We are given charts and interviews; experts breakdown the available information and explain where the risks lie in the knowledge gaps and query were their models predict areas of spread not yet found, the discrepancies indicating, not that their models are possibly in error, but that all the evidence and tracking data of the spread and reach has not been made available to all, thereby hinting at conspiracies.
If we knew everything, there is nothing to fear. Delve into the places that were hidden and are now are lit to reveal all and sense and reason walk out the door. In looking back through history what is revealed is foreshortened and we can easily see where errors were made and opportunities missed. In hindsight, history shows us that even history has an agenda, by drawing our attention only to details that support arguments and make them appear irrefutable. Having arrived at this view of history, I cannot imagine where else there is to go, except into the future.
Appropriation—I was looking for the word to describe why I felt so angry and this word wraps it up in a ribbon. There was a breach of my privacy and my idea and words were appropriated and misused. It was like having someone break into my house and shit on my belongings, breaking anything valued as they smashed their way out. That dropkick had only taken my ideas, yet I felt a sense of outrage. The act was intentional—my name had been inserted—it was provocative, filled with spite and jealousy. In future write your own damn words.
The evidence of experience #25:
Lived experience is impossible to capture, evaporating and changing as we turn to look back, even in the moment when we recollect, something is lost. Reasoning the source of this disparity, it’s clear that just as the experience is not linear, evidence is neither unique nor definitive: both are qualified by perception, mood and intent, and perception is coloured by our individual histories, by what we have interpreted or experienced previously. And yet, we crave original and spontaneous immersive experience, untainted by the effects of prior knowledge that changes what we feel in that moment.
The art of waiting is being polished up and revisited, stretched and drawing out the experience for everyone. Waiting is an expression of empathy, an acknowledgement where we sit in the flow of life and how we can contribute through attitude to making the world feel like a better place. This placid practice is a window to experience life without pushing, without stamping on the ground and making everyone anxious. There is more value in waiting than in easing life’s tensions; waiting is when you can sit back and observe details, catch connections, watch energy ripple and flow through life’s texture.
Sounds have become new again, probably because of a scarcity. Rather than suppressing them as noise, I listen to new sounds to identify their source and listen as they blend into or stand out from the music of the moving world. And birdsong is heard at all hours: pre-dawn there are birds calling and different birds answer when light appears. When the sun had melted the frost, I hear birds landing and jumping about on the roof of the verandah as they drink or forage for seeds or peck at insects hidden in cracks and folds in the corrugated tin.
This leaf of mine is turned and keeps turning even when every side is darned and mended. And I question the place of metaphor and how metaphors determine how I see the flow of my life. We are not trees; we aren’t given a bounty of new leaves each year or the ability to discard leaves when their usefulness has passed. But the idea of starting again, fresh with a newly opened canopy to face the world, appeals like no other. The trap is, that these new leaves are but flags of old hopes and dreams hoisted again, defying gravity.
‘Your room,’ he said, indicating a door. ‘In the briefing, but I’m sure you read up.’ He paced restlessly until noticing I was watching, then paused. ‘Get settled in.’ After six days, being observed like a research rodent, I had arrived and was about to be left unattended.
We had entered a large octagonal room with multiple doors on each wall; functionally fitted out, industrial rather than comfortable. The only decoration was a large sign that read: ‘If you choose to stay, we may not be able to save you’. And I thought again about why I had come here.
Fluorescent lights seem to fade as they age. This light emitted pools of pastel that blended and ran together like melted ice cream on the wet ground. Tonight’s sunset, red and orange sat like rind on the dark clouds low on the horizon and the remaining daylight seemed to run towards these molten streaks leaving behind only bruised blues and black shadows. I was standing outside the bar under the neon sign that fell like a waterfall pointing to a dark empty doorway. It was the only light in the deserted street. The sign was cold, flickering and buzzed quietly.
Life as documentary #27:
The antics of the collective ‘woke culture’ has caught my attention, yet my sympathies are conflicted. I feel both trepidation and admiration for all parties, especially those who front the barricades: trepidation due to the risk of attacking the vault of white male privilege and admiration for those who use any tactic to succeed. This army deems it fair to rage against, broadcast and expose behaviour that disadvantages, regardless of intent and in the face of any professional reputation or authority. This is an all-boots-in attack on privilege and on those who hold power over others.
‘Asking the questions in the right order is important. That is the only way to get to the right answer.’
I was aware of the implied criticism and could sympathise as it was not unusual to feel the imposition of an interrogation. The reason for her judgemental and obfuscating inclination was unclear: why wouldn’t she want to help me get the information I needed? It must have been in her best interest that I had the whole story.
‘Your help is needed, Mrs Greene. Can you tell me where I can start? What is it you have to tell me?’
‘We’ll seem a bit cold here. At first, the rules might take a bit of getting used to. Like, the heating doesn’t go on until 6 o’clock. Anyway, Dave will start cooking before then and can answer questions. He’s easy to talk to, and his kids know every inch of the place. I have to get back to work. If you get too cold hanging around, go for a walk. Just follow that track. To the top of the rise and back is about a half-hour and you can’t get lost. It’ll warm you up and the view is great.’
‘Discrimination is a breach of trust. How can I just go on as if nothing has happened? What this is, is basically theft.’
‘You can have the job. All along I wanted to give it to you. Tony wasn’t going to stay long: I knew he was going to move on. He was ambitious; reminded me of myself a bit, when I was young. He wouldn’t have stayed if I hadn’t given him the job.’
‘You’re weak and spineless. What you did, what you’ve admitted doing, was and is wrong. I hope you got some value before he left you.’
At the age of forty-seven, it seemed to him that he is still kicking goals and winning hearts and minds but doubt was creeping in. Forty-seven is an age, like all the other ages of man. Those who reach that pinnacle can stand proud and look back on their lives yet from there they see themselves above and apart from the rest. It is a platform like no other, when change is fixed, set permanent; there will be no going back or starting over. A life has passed at forty-seven and running at the rest is the only way forward.
A curious nostalgia adheres to writing in the inevitability of each word as one follows the other drawing out meaning. There is a sense that in writing’s slow reveal, that everything being told has already happened. Nostalgia, a coined word, welds the desire to return to a golden past, to a place of security, and the pain felt when you know there is no way back. Draped with tension and suspended in nets of fantasy, writing hovers above this pit of hell and we drive this bifurcated path deeper, burying truth in fictitious realities of where we want to live.
What happened here should be written up as the crib notes on how to break trust with those around you. People depended on you; we were willing to work and needed leadership. We gave you our trust because you have skills and knowledge that will inform your actions. All you have shown so far is unrestrained adherence to what will favour your own self-interest. We all like to be liked, but this seems to be the basis on which all your decisions were made. We are not going to get out of this mess coasting on the favours you’ve bought.
Who knew that planning ahead was a luxury? We just took it for granted that you could work out what you have to do and just go ahead with making arrangements without a second thought. The future seemed to be in control, we knew where the obstacles were and how to get around them. It isn’t loss of confidence, there is more to this crisis that that: we have been reminded how fragile we are and how much we survive on faith, now that the rules have changed. Plans are a luxury when life in the future cannot be imagined.
Imagine you become blind overnight and, at the same time, in the physical sphere you can no longer see, the height of steps changes and the stairs don’t always go up but can move in random directions taking you to, you didn’t know where, except you know it isn’t where you want to go. Up and down are meaningless; left and right aren’t directions—they describe the forces that repel and attract, that pull and push. This is how I find myself moving in today’s chaotic world, blind and disorientated, to the point where any action becomes a catastrophic mistake.
There is something about contiguous, seamlessly performed stories that seems false: we need to see our truths among gaps and hesitations. In life we present ourselves in the wrinkles and blemishes and we don’t need to explain these or apologise. They are to be worn with pride. Spaces leave room to breathe, they tell us there is room to expand, to unbuckle the belt, loosen a button, and relax into the joy of living. Gaps leave chances for the truth to leak in past the buffed and polished surfaces that repel and deflect. In gaps we can listen to others.
I’ve drawn a complete blank and have only myself to blame. Taking the blame is a bit of a cop-out really. What it means essentially is that I’ve given up and in the joust with the universe, I’ve failed. The more I try, the more it is just me against a universal force; where resisting only pulls me further away from where I want to be and what I want to be doing. It seems the whole of my life has become a conspiracy against my true purpose and accepting that takes my attention further away from my true purpose.
I wake on the brink of a precipice looking down into hell with no idea how I got here. Waking in this frightful place all I can think about is how I got here, not where I am going or what happens next; and as always, I see every step that brought me here is wrong. I can see now that any change might have halted this journey, could have diverted my descent into this disaster and might have taken me to a place of safety instead. Regret is rather a waste of time when I should be saving myself.
Time’s up. The pendulum has tracked the correct number of passes and recording the minutes the clock’s arm has reached the hour. A bell twice, chimes ring through the changes, and a hollow silence resounds. In that silence is held a long pause and I wait through it without breathing before the oscillated ticking resumes in regular and metronomic cadence. Time is carried forward again and I breathe again watching the dust dance in the sunlight. In the hallway gloom, the furniture shines. Only in the light streaming in through the high transom windows above the door does dust dance.
‘We’re fine, aren’t we?’ It was intended to be rhetorical; a jocular attempt drawing a line under what had happened, getting us to move on. But, given the circumstances, I doubted everyone was going to lie down and forget. Rhetorical was heard, everyone tried, but the lack of eye contact and distinct tensing, almost a suppressed flight reaction, made it clear they heard doubt. It was a fact that everyone had survived, but a bell cannot be unrung. Seriously in short supply are consensus and trust and without these, we will fail. What has been broken we must get fixed.
Coldness is an admirable quality and one I find I am drawn to. In fact, I withdraw from warmth, sensing a forcing, an artificiality about it, a neediness that hints of moral laxity. Warm building offends me. Warm places seem profligate; they are spaces that harbour and nurture germs and are filled with air that doesn’t refresh, that holds reduced levels of oxygen, that make people yawn. The belief that warmth makes people lazy, sleepy, is deeply ingrained in my belief system. Whereas cold is sharp and swift, it draws attention and pulls focus. A cold breath breathes like fire.
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