Archive for June, 2015

otherness

if I could only
get beyond my own contempt —
I might see the world

I have been worried in the past week or two, to find myself remembering nothing whatever of my dreams each morning. In terms of organised religion, I am a complete dilettante — unable to derive satisfaction from religion at all, because my loyalty is spread so thinly between so many different ones. But if there were such a religion as ‘paying attention to one’s dreams’, then I would be a lifelong pious devotee. Hence my unease and even alarm when I don’t recall anything at all in the morning. Finally this morning I remembered a small fragment. I was playing soccer, dribbling towards the enemy goal. I encountered a boy named Stephen Venables (a contemporary of mine at school), but felt desperate to know if he was on my side or the opposing team. This unanswered question was left hanging.

This poem is about contempt, which is the only word to describe how I felt towards Venables in reality. He was much better at football than me. I was much better at schoolwork than him. His father was a vocal supporter of the school rugby team whereas I had made it into the team if anything despite rather than because of my father. It’s a question whether the contempt in this poem is mine or my father’s. And by the time I had thought about this for a little, it became a poem about a sort of generalised blind contempt with no object. I grew up dealing with (or not dealing with) my father’s tendency to pour his contempt onto specific people behind their back. Or indeed to their face, indirectly. My attitude to Venables mimicked my father’s towards various people. But how did my Dad get to be like that?

I saw former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks being interviewed yesterday, by journalist Andrew Marr. He was talking about how the Book of Genesis shows us how to recognise ourselves in the ‘other’ (Cain and Abel for instance). I was impressed with his sincerity compared with the general run of politicians and journalists who talk about politics on Marr’s show most of the time. In my dream, Venables is either ‘on my side’ or else on the opposing side — in which case he is by definition ‘other’. And so I can draw a moral from the entire experience of dream/poem, which amounts to this: Contempt is a defence against otherness. Like I said — paying attention to one’s dreams can be like a sort of religion.

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yes

question — is it true
I love you? — darkness listens
— silence answers — if
certainty is all I have
how shall Love ever find me?