Posts Tagged ‘Being’


a lot can be solved
by physical affection
— coming together
in mutually confirmed
blind ignorance of being

There were some terribly difficult dynamics at work, between colleagues, about a year ago. I found one person in particular above all quite problematic to relate to. Last night I dreamed I was with her, and that we were just on the verge of beginning to touch each other in a sexual way. I suppose you could call it flirting. Then I was being like that with a whole series of female colleagues, in the dream. It felt quite liberating. Earlier in my life for decades I was extremely uptight about touching women, whether sexually or just socially embracing. It’s so tempting to imagine I have made ‘progress’ in being more confident now. The dream kind of confirms this point of view. But I wanted to challenge it in the poem.



without attachment
there’s no possibility
of loss — without loss,
there’s no finding and without
finding — no world, no being

Almost the only image I could recall from last night’s dreams, was of a container full of papers. They were precious memories, mementoes, and they were being upended and scattered downwards into a bottomless void. I dislike the highly abstract nature of the poem, but there we are. I suspect there is some kind of connection with having heard Bowlby mentioned in a talk yesterday evening. I know little about Bowlby except he is famous for attachment theory.  And I don’t know much about attachment theory though I am disposed to believe it because it arose out of Freudian thinking. It’s very odd indeed to observe my own willingness to believe two utterly different sets of theories about attachment — Bowlby’s and the Buddha’s. Neither of which I can claim to have studied. I know somewhat more about Buddha’s ideas on the subject, and yet I have the sense of psychoanalysis as my true cultural home in contrast to the exotic, imported flavour of Eastern wisdom. Why am I so ready to accept an external source of knowledge (in this case, Bowlby and/or Buddha)? I feel I must be some kind of naive schoolboy, still, at heart. Treating the whole world as though it were some kind of academic test. Crazy. The broad difference between Bowlby and Buddha seems to be, Buddha claims attachment can be (and needs to be) transcended, while Bowlby does no more than observe how it actually works in practice. The idea that Buddha succeeded in transcending attachment altogether, leaves me simultaneously sceptical and excited. What a wonderful vision! The Tale of the Man Who Achieved the Impossible. I only know it’s impossible for me, and that I’m unable to accept on faith that it’s even a wise goal to strive for. Of course Buddha said accept nothing on faith. But how on earth can anyone strive for an impossible goal except through faith? But the vision stands. And I’m pleased with my poem as an attempt to capture that vision.


without God, there’s no
slightest possibility
of discovering
what I am in myself, right
now, at this given moment

I struggle again and again every morning, with finding a title for these poems. I usually end up being ironic, but without feeling confident that the irony will be transparent enough for anyone else to perceive. The word existential often seems to me like a mystification of something very simple. Likewise the whole of theology does. I dreamed last night of my teenage gay lover. In the dream, I felt in a very vivid, present way the full connotations of abuse which our particular relationship carried. He abused me psychologically: I am reasonably happy with that statement. Exploring that feeling of being abused leads into mysterious areas when the experience being explored is a dream — and where therefore the abuser is actually a symbol of some aspect of my own potential for committing, rather than suffering, abuse. God is quite an abstract rather than personal entity for me. And oddly enough I tend to believe in Him not so much as some massively powerful Being by whom I am loved, but just as a logically necessary complement to my own incompleteness. Human love must have a divine object. In other words the universe must be capable of receiving my love directly at the moment that it bubbles up in my soul. I guess I first thought of this proof for the existence of God about 25 years ago, but it probably originates much further back, in 1976, when I first came across The Cloud of Unknowing in the Penguin translation by Clifton Wolters.

act or reflect?

impotent sadness —
is that really all I have?
what’s the alternative?
— plunge into the infinite
bewilderment of Being

The starting point for this poem was that I dreamed I was struggling with computer technology — couldn’t get the hang of a certain piece of software. I fell to wondering if the dream arose from yesterday’s umpteenth example of my tendency to grieve when I see so many heads buried in technology when I travel on London Transport. The human race is incredibly clever, and computers prove it. In that case why are we rushing so blindly towards our own extinction (from climate change)? Clearly, information technology is not to blame. But just as a man staring at a screen misses what’s actually around him, likewise as a species, we are missing what’s happening to us. That’s how I see things, and in settling down to write a poem about it, I became aware how much of life provokes in me a response of ‘impotent sadness’. I see no solution to suffering. But maybe one can suffer more as a participant and less as an observer. They say apparently a man named Shakespeare wrote a play called Hamlet dealing with these themes.


so why do women
get put on a pedestal
by men? — it’s as though
we want to elevate them
away from their own Being

And incidentally, away from ours — away anywhere — just away. I’m afraid this poem is itself something of a defence/barrier against the unsavoury content of last night’s dream. The great love of my life, at least through my teens and twenties, was a girl named Anna with whom I never had any degree of physical intimacy at all. But in my dream last night she was focused, to the exclusion of all else, upon achieving physical intimacy with me. It felt very undignified, even in the dream: so it’s perfectly clear the dream is bringing her down off a pedestal. The poem tries to do the same thing but I’ve noticed a circularity in the way the capitalization of my final word Being somehow restores her to her pedestal even though the sense of the poem is arguing completely against this tendency. Das Ewig-Weibliche zieht uns hinan (the last two lines of Goethe’s Faust) is normally translated ‘The Eternal Feminine draws us upward’. But, via Google, I’ve found ‘Woman Eternal, draw us on high’ which seems better to me. Anyhow, either way, the fact Goethe chose to end Faust this way helps convey how deep-seated the whole pedestal thing is, in the male psyche.