Archive for January, 2015

moral

where do I get my
categories and concepts
concerning evil
versus good? — why do I live
gripped by their fascination?

I dreamed of Tim Watts, my Cambridge roommate, for the 2nd night running. He was a strong character and I realised after I’d left Cambridge how much I’d benefited from sharing college rooms with him over the previous two years. In retrospect, his Roman Catholicism took on an importance it never had while I was at Cambridge, although I did accompany him once to Mass during that time. Within a year of graduation, I’d decided to convert (from Anglicanism, in which I was brought up). While it’s true these memories kickstarted this poem, the poem isn’t really about Catholicism or even Christianity. Which is older? The idea of a good supernatural force and an evil one? Or the universal human tendency to find meaning in the terms ‘good’ and ‘evil’ to start with? Either way, these are mental processes which are surely much, much older than Christianity or any present day religion. I believe Nietzsche discussed these issues at length. I have never had the patience to read one of his books all the way through, and I am more interested in the utter mystery of where the power of these ideas (‘good’ and ‘evil’) comes from, and in refusing to take them for granted, than in having them necessarily debunked in the way Nietzsche seems to set out to do.

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bitter

I laugh at my own
joke — I’m a professional
schizophrenic
— he
baulks sharply — victim of his
own squeamishness, or kindness

Titus Alexander wrote a book in the nineties called Unravelling Global Apartheid, which I browsed curiously one day without really comprehending. A couple of years later, I heard about some sessions called ‘Seeds for Change‘ which were being run at Union Chapel in Islington in the run up to the Millennium celebrations. They were weekly discussion groups, run by Titus Alexander, and I attended quite a few of them. At that time, I was four years into my relatively new life as a ‘mental patient’ and still getting used to it. I was also unemployed, with little prospect of paid work in the future (as it seemed at the time). The exchange with Titus recorded above has stayed with me ever since. He was really quite upset and set about proving to me earnestly that I was not a professional schizophrenic. Last night I dreamed of an informal community of sophisticated university intellectuals from Germany or Scandinavia, among whom I felt neither quite at home nor entirely excluded. It set me thinking about the whole matter of whether I am overeducated, or just self-educated, or what? I never fit in quite anywhere, and wear my intellect with a curious mixture of fierce pride and furtive shame which seems to bear almost no relation at all to the world of academia where intellect is celebrated professionally. Titus is quite a maverick in his own way too. So that’s perhaps why we had that moment.

consume

fire — sweeping across
the land, uncontrollable,
an Act of God — and me —
what am I? — a fire sweeping
the landscape of my own life

Triggered clearly in the first instance by a routine visit at work yesterday from the man who inspects and services our fire extinguishers — I dreamed last night of some kind of horseracing track whose carefully cultivated grass surface had caught fire. The poem took considerable effort. It may be slightly laboured in the way it spells out the idea of interpreting a dream image by referring it to my own personality. In terms of verbal elegance however, it works quite well. I am mystified what the dream means at any deeper level. Maybe it follows on from yesterday’s post about pornography, with the fire obviously suggesting sexual passion and desire and concupiscence in the broadest sense of lust for life.

therapy session

while I talk, his eyes
have a habit of rolling
back in their sockets —
is he dozing? — or is it
his way of concentrating?

In my dream, I was seated outside a pub or restaurant and suddenly noticed I could see a woman’s reflection in the window and she was revealing all her most private parts. Although interested, I decided to close my eyes politely and pretend to doze. Awake, this reminds me of a Jungian psychotherapist I had for a couple of years 2006-08, and his habit of seeming to doze while I was talking — while I was presumably revealing all about myself. Yesterday I had my quarterly psychiatrist’s appointment. Oddly, although I regard medical psychiatry as a complete fraud and Jungian psychotherapy as something more like a path to enlightenment, I have a much better relation with my psychiatrist than I did with the therapist. I cannot imagine the psychiatrist ever dozing while I speak (to be fair, the therapist was well into his eighties). My decision in the dream, to close my eyes against the sight of the vulva, suggests some kind of choice in waking life. Negatively, it could mean a choice to avoid becoming conscious (of my own feminine side?). Positively, it could refer to the decision not to watch pornography. In real life yesterday, I was telling the psychiatrist of my hopes that perhaps now I will be able to give up dallying with internet pornography for good — since a couple of weeks ago I finally confessed to my partner that I’ve been suffering from such a problem every now and again, ever since I’ve known her (13 years). The secrecy did seem to be feeding the habit. So I am hopeful. But, hearing myself trot out this pious hope to remain ‘clean’ for the rest of my life — I did feel like a slight phoney. Or at least, as though I were somehow missing the point. As long as it still seems like the end of the world if I lapse, chances are, that in itself will be enough to ensure that I lapse. But also, the choice to avoid becoming conscious is a perfectly valid one. Sometimes conventional morality — even if it is a kind of sleep — works wonders.

aetiology

rewind all the way!
scroll back to the beginning!
— put me under a
microscope, reveal to me
how I became what I am!

The tongue-in-cheek implication (that ‘what I am’ is somehow equivalent to a disease) is maybe a bit clumsy. And the irony may not be transparent enough, or it may be too transparent. But overall, I like this poem. It seems to express how completely I am hypnotised by psychodynamic theory, and at the same time to leave room open for doubt. Satire, even. It was triggered by a poorly remembered dream involving a childhood friend named Max Landsberg whose website I was browsing last week. I knew him as Edwin, and we haven’t been in contact since 1978. Around the age of fourteen we became entangled in a bully-victim relationship where he was the bully and I was the victim, although earlier in childhood we had been close friends. I dream of him fairly often, and all I understand, concerning why that might be, amounts to very little. My poem this morning arose at the point where I started questioning for the umpteenth time, what is the message that lies embedded for me, in the figure of Max Landsberg? I gnaw at this question like a dog with a bone. My poem parodies the gnawing.

poems written in the last eight weeks

This morning I forgot my dreams completely. So here are the poems I wrote during the last eight weeks’ break from posting.

23 JAN

domus

without any choice
we’re born into this absurd
human family — 
bound by terms and conditions
never to leave home alive

22 JAN

dignum et iustum

there’s a deep knowledge
comes upon each one of us
— in that moment, we
know the rightness of breaking
the rules — who can explain this?

21 JAN

high spirits

something in the sheer
joy of his acrobatics
as he swings from branch
to branch, reminds me less of
a monkey — than a squirrel

20 JAN

obscure

what kind of tortured,
bourgeois genius was Brahms?
— I don’t know — it’s like
standing too close to my own
reflection in the mirror

19 JAN

male

the moon pulls the sea
— this is the law — and all men
without exception
dance to the insistent beat
of their own misogyny

18 JAN

Holy Trinity

one man’s transcendent
ultimate is another’s
sheer gobbledigook

17 JAN

humanist

bare, objectless faith
— just the fact of it, like some
vast, deep, broad ocean —
and Christianity one
small ship on the horizon

16 JAN

unus panis unum corpus

do I feel one with
the human race? — yes and no
— more yes, because we
are all possessed of the same
comprehensive ignorance

15 JAN

vessel

screw the lid down tight —
wait for the pressure to build
— exactly the wrong
image — mechanistic — my
soul a piece of gadgetry

14 JAN

vocation

the theologian
is a poet who lost his
way in the forest

13 JAN

bathos

I’m woken into
the grave — but it makes no odds
— here I am, still yet
the same bundle of desires,
yearnings and contradictions

12 JAN

ambition

since I only know
one tune — when I present my
connoisseur choice of
music on the radio
I’ll be a complete phoney

11 JAN

psychodynamic

how expertly we
all of us negotiate
the slippage between
our heroes and our villains
— without ever noticing

10 JAN

evolution

in what sense are we
absolute beginners? — this
surely must count as
the summit of all knowledge
— nothing else but this question

9 JAN

Liz’s shoes

the parental care
I myself never received
— is the care I give
freely from the plenitude
of my imagination

8 JAN

numbers

women — an oppressed
majority comprising
more than half the world

5 JAN

normal

I feel strangely trapped
between wishing I had led
a more normal life
— and resenting the normal
life I’m currently leading

4 JAN

to whom can I tell
my story before I die?
— the question haunts me

3 JAN

dead

it’s as if you’re gone
before you knew you existed
– cheated of your own
being and every given
truth you ever accepted

2 JAN 2015

insight

I love my mother —
is this true? — darkness listens,
silence answers — but
certainty obscures my heart
— how shall Love ever find me?

31 DEC

intangible

where on earth do I
source my beliefs concerning
myself? — what force leads
me to choose which self-image?
— whatever is going on?

30 DEC

divergence

sex and intellect
make mockery, each of each
— yet no-one’s laughing

29 DEC

onesidedness

father and mother —
the primary givens of
human life — please — how
and why did we twist these two
into one ‘God the Father’?

28 DEC

wave function
(for Liz)

evidence for the
veracity of Jung’s claim
that all psychic life
is generated by the
tension between opposites:

I can’t live With or
Without You — my Inferno
— my Paradiso

24 DEC

immersion

it’s part of being
human to ask yourself what
being human means
— unfortunately, no-one
can interrogate desire

23 DEC

evanescence

beautiful human
emotions demanding free
expression — witness
also how the emotions
flourish and die, just like us

22 DEC

Hatshepsut

on the Palace roof
Brian May performs God Save
the Queen — but the Queen
is dead — feminism is
dead, long live feminism

21 DEC

Christian Eucharist

profound urgency —
choreographed around the
logic of a dream
— premise and denouement both
equally impossible

20 DEC

temerity

repulsive creature —
bound, cowed, crippled and wholly
given over to
desire — how can I help you?
— I dare not lay a finger

19 DEC

Eden

a gentle stroll through
parkland — is this paradise?
— infinity glimpsed
against all odds — captured in
the shaped lines of a garden

18 DEC

diagnosis

depression — surely
the flip side of the ego’s
secret tendency
to spend time fishing among
its own thoughts for compliments

17 DEC

computer model

no-one can predict
climate change accurately
— what’s predictable
is that we’re going to do
nothing until it’s too late

16 DEC

man’s world

how would my world look
though female eyes? — the mind asks
meaningless questions
— maybe the cleverest thing
it has ever learned to do

14 DEC

avoidance

getting in touch with
my feminine side — we laugh
uncomfortably
— shielded by irony from
looking at what we’re saying

13 DEC

fresh blood

just purely the fact
that reality happens
— inexplicable
even without life’s way
of turning the knife in the wound

9 DEC

helpless

poor disabled thing —
the spider has lost its legs
— nothing I can do

7 DEC

who knows?

I have so little
idea what I’m doing
so much of the time

6 DEC

shadow

I feel like Sherlock
Holmes examining my own
past actions — as though
being here, now, were a crime
— all I need is the motive

5 DEC

sanctuary

a desperation
able to remain hidden
even from itself

Sinai

the desert welcomes
a person entire, without
distracting him from
the unknown parts of himself
— only a footfall away

In my dream last night, my partner Liz was determined that I should allow the poverty-stricken owner of a small cafe where we had eaten (in Spain I think) to take all my money when I wasn’t looking. Also, whatever country this was, its soil was remarkable for being such poor quality it was entirely sand — and yet the locals were somehow able to make it yield crops for subsistence. The sand led me by association (awake) to think of the desert. I went up Mount Sinai in 1984 and found it a strangely comforting environment. Nothing mystical. But I did feel a temporary release from my own chronic tendency to wallow in thinking for its own sake. And more able to realise how much of an unknown quantity my ordinary self is. From time to time throughout my stay in Israel, I felt tempted to imagine I was being visited by the spirit of the Boy David. I always knew him by the distinctive way my own foot would fall upon the earth as I walked — as though momentarily I was feeling how it would have felt to walk with his step. Light yet firm. An infinite store of gentleness and strength, beyond anything in my own known character.