Archive for November, 2015

demons

aspects of myself
remaining hidden for no
good reason at all
except that I cannot risk
entering the black darkness

It must be a couple of years now, since I re-read Dostoevsky’s novel The Devils.  It had been the 3rd Dostoevksy novel I ever read, back in 1987, and, unlike the first two, I’d found it quite inaccessible at that time. So I’d always wanted to revisit it, and happily now in my late fifties, I discovered a new translation which made all the difference. The translator was Robert Maguire and he translated the title as Demons rather than The Devils. My poem this morning is a very organic creation which for me has a quality of inevitability — I could almost believe the title was waiting for me at the end having already been decided without my knowledge. It arose from a dream in which a young man in his early twenties, who apparently belonged to some esoteric sect, was indicating in a decisive manner that I would not be granted access to the Mysteries (whatever they were: in the poem, I have interpreted them as representing the fact that I am a mystery to myself). In the dream, faced with this rebuff, I was behaving very mildly and humbly, and letting go quite successfully of my own spiritual ambition. I wonder now whether this might relate to a project I have on the go at the moment, of writing a talk to be delivered to one of the Hearing Voices Groups in London, on the subject of Spirituality and Mental Health. It’s a very exciting subject and I have found it difficult to approach without getting tangled up in my own spiritual pretensions. The temptation seems to be to use it as an opportunity to prove or demonstrate my own spirituality. Nice that the dream depicts me in a humbler frame of mind.

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nothing

there are so many
different kinds of power —
even self-knowledge
is power — I swell with pride
at the sweet fuck all I know

I want so strongly to believe I possess self-knowledge. The self-knowledge I crave consists in grasping how much of myself remains unknown, inaccessible, mysterious — and yet powerfully active at every waking (and sleeping) moment. Knowledge of the unknown self — what an amazing paradox that is. It’s why I’m still enthralled to depth psychology even after forty years of questioning the validity of it. In my dreams last night I was sitting at a computer keyboard trying to deal with a screen that invited me to change my password. Simultaneously I was grappling with the familiar temptation to view pornography, which spilled over into waking life for a period of about twenty minutes upon waking. It’s very curious that I continue to suffer in this way. I can’t think of circumstances in which surfing the internet would not be an exercise of power — even where it’s a compulsion and therefore an expression of powerlessness — power is still the issue. It’s usually helpful for me to remember this at moments when it might seem as though physical pleasure was the primary temptation in pornography.

WhiteMinorityEuropean #2

I keep rewriting my post from the day before yesterday — the poem itself isn’t one of my best — but the thoughts attached to it are worth clarifying, and that’s a process that improves as I keep revising the text.

moral

relativity –
where the light shines for as long
as the dark permits

Last night I dreamed of Darth Vader. Wasn’t surprised. It’s at least as good a way of conceptualising absolute evil as the Nazgul two nights ago. Am a passionate relativist and this poem pleases me as helping me towards understanding what I actually mean by that. It seems to be inextricable from another passionate belief, which I guess comes out in the poem – that darkness is more powerful than light. That may not be literally true. It may not even be philosophically true. But it’s something to bear in mind as a necessary counterpoise to the inane positivity that human beings generally tend to strive after, and which can never be anything but overloaded in the direction of the light.

WhiteMinorityEuropean

global apartheid
must and will collapse — my white
skin a mark of shame
once climate change has emptied
Africa of Africans

This is such a rubbish poem! It speaks with the voice of certainty — must and will — like some demented prophet. But I honour that voice, however ugly, and even if it’s my own. Some truths just aren’t very nuanced anyway. I dreamed last night I was one of a number of prisoners. We were being ‘sorted’ according to whether we could dance or not, and if we couldn’t, we had our hands marked with a fleck of white paint. Awake, it made me think of racial stereotyping (“black guys can dance”) — and it also led me into asserting in the poem that my white skin will be a mark of shame in a future society. Actually I don’t understand why it isn’t already. I don’t see what is wrong with guilt and shame. It’s white imperialism which has screwed up this planet. But re-reading my poem, I realise few people will feel comfortable with that sentiment (or with the guilt part of it). I can live with that. The poem also fails for another reason: it assumes runaway climate change. My vision for what it’s worth, is that, once Africa and South Asia and Central/Latin America are uninhabitable, then the remaining habitable part of the planet (Canada, Greenland, Scandinavia, Siberia, Antarctica) will belong to — ? ……To the majority of course — which will be black, brown, yellow or anything but certainly not white. Maybe they will start calling us ‘pink’. That would be a relief — to forget the word white altogether and, with it, the guilt. For now though, the guilt is real. While writing this poem, it hit me — routinely in my job, as part of our compliance with Equal Opportunities legislation, I quite happily use the term BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) — what the fuck??!!??!!?? The only ‘minority’ is us whites: 21st-century political correctness is ghoulishly Eurocentric. It inverts the global reality. Take a look at this YouTube video for the stats. The organisation who made it probably made it for all the wrong reasons. Whites have never — at any time, ever — been a global majority. They may hopefully die out altogether in due course. Surely in the end we will all be mixed race?

hope

absolute evil
if we can imagine it —
needs picturing as
capable of redemption
— but who can imagine it?

I achieved orgasm last night lying in bed viewing sexual images in my imagination, rather than on the computer screen. I have found that this incurs almost no guilt feelings at all, as compared with viewing pornography. Perhaps partly because although I am alone in bed, I can get a very strong sense of Liz’s presence at such moments. However I would still much rather leave my sexual urges alone completely when not with Liz. And my dreams last night contained a clear warning that all is not well even though I am avoiding pornography. One image was of an extremely ferocious mad dog attacking me — which recalls exactly the same image the last time I viewed pornography. I also dreamed of those messengers of absolute evil from The Lord of the Rings (called Nazgul). But there was hope in the dream too. One or two women friends behaving very much like angels. I am surprised that the poem works as well as it does. It’s really a piece of theology and that’s a bad match with poetry. Lots of humans of all shapes and sizes in all kinds of stories have been redeemed. Even very bad human beings indeed. But the principle of evil itself is deemed not to need redeeming, usually. Thinking this morning at 3am whether I feel touched by absolute evil because of my dream last night, I realised, just as we should be saying prayers in our churches for the soul of Osama bin Laden and Hitler, and for all terrorists everywhere — likewise we should be thinking a bit more about who needs redeeming more than anyone else. If you believe in a personal Devil, then it would be him, and hope would mean believing it possible. Who knows, maybe there is an ethnic fairytale somewhere that says this. But it ain’t Christianity.

I

calling my own name —
John — this simplest of all acts
— this spontaneous
ordering of the world — this
narcissism — this ego

In my dream I was calling my own name and expecting it to have an effect, on a bunch of people down in the well of a balconied courtyard (probably based on having visited the house of Cervantes’ birth in Madrid, which was just like that). It hit me, awake, that calling one’s own name is an act of narcissism. Yesterday I attended a talk about Sikh spirituality which I enjoyed greatly, and there was talk of ego as something bad, albeit something bad with a good aspect. When Jeanette Winterson’s book Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal came out a few years ago I seized eagerly on her mention of a psychoanalyst named Neville Symington whose books had been part of her ‘redemption journey’ (my term not hers). But then I drew a blank when I tried reading him. From Wikipedia I got the idea that Symington’s ‘thing’ is narcissism. This did chime with some elements in my own journey way back in the seventies. But for me narcissism was something positive, while Symington believes it to be the cause of all our problems, apparently. For me, the narcissism of the ego is probably what enables it to hold itself together in the face of all the other disintegrating tendencies of madness. At least, that seemed to be the lesson of a particular dream of mine, in the seventies, which was very helpful at a time when my life and ego were well-nigh fully disintegrated. My dream of calling my own name last night brought all these issues back for me.