vanity

I want to be thought
cultured and intelligent
— there’s a myth to be
lived up to — stories I’ve told
myself again and again

The sense of inhabiting a fiction. The sense of utter inauthenticity. In my dream I was on the Thames Embankment talking hot air, trying to be witty in a contemptuous way, about nuns. The supposed joke revolved around some stereotype which I couldn’t even reproduce faithfully — the notion that nuns all drive a certain type of car, but I couldn’t remember the name of the type of car they were supposed to drive. Clearly relates to a conversation yesterday, about how Bob Geldof’s appeal for Africa is actually demeaning for the whole continent and only serves to reinforce stereotypes of Africa as needy and begging for charity. I suppose the dream (and the poem) asks who is the victim of a stereotype here? In my life, I stereotype myself as ‘cultured and intelligent’. In my dream, I’m stereotyping nuns in a very uncultured and unintelligent way. Vanity refers to the Book of Ecclesiastes (as in Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.). I’ve never read the Bible much. But when I spent my first night in Jerusalem in 1983, I found a Bible in my room and opened it by chance at Ecclesiastes. Stunning force of poetry.

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