Posts Tagged ‘homeless’

of course never

the dark element
in human nature threatens
us all equally —
Christ please when can I give up
playing heroes and villains?

Good and evil are the weirdest pair of opposites. They are almost more meaningful than light and dark — seem to be hardwired deeper into the core of our being and our perception. They also turn out without fail always in practice to be illusory, deceptive, slippery, subjective — an eternal temptation to be over-simplistic, to the point where they teeter on the edge of meaninglessness. Yet constantly resurrecting themselves anew. I was led to this reflection by last night’s dream where I was offering a homeless girl a bed for the night. I fell to thinking of how basic our human need for shelter is — for somewhere safe to sleep. Then I thought of the dangers that threaten. There are no wild animals. Just other human beings whom we cannot trust. Maybe the time will come when all human beings trust one another completely. And can do so with impunity. But how are we to reach that point? Will we ever reach the point where each individual human being has an internal awareness of their own capacity for evil, so rich, that it precludes doing evil in the outer world? I suddenly saw that I am constantly turning other people into heroes and villains, as a matter of habit. It’s not so much specific instances I’m thinking of here, as a constant predilection to experience the outer world in terms of good and evil, and thereby lose track of the good and evil within.

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grim truth

was I better off
homeless and mentally ill?
I possess enough
imagination — but not
the courage — to believe it

It’s a familiar thought. When I tell my story of recovery from mental illness, for an audience, I make a point of floating the idea that I was better off homeless, or at least suggesting that there was a loss involved for me, in becoming ‘normal’. But I never allow myself to believe it completely. In my dream last night there was a kind of lift shaft, but it was bottomless. Myself and a couple of others were perched precariously near the edge, at the top, and it was understood that someone had actually fallen. I chose to believe it might be possible that she would have landed in water and been able to swim to safety through an underground river. In writing my poem, I felt suddenly aware how protected from the fact of my own (and for that matter, other people’s) mortality I am, in my cocoon of ‘normality’, my bubble of safety and prosperity. That’s a terrible indictment of normality, safety and prosperity. And in that moment I briefly grasped what I habitually evade: it could be true quite literally, and completely, that I was better off in that previous era of my life when I was homeless.

love-hate

Christianity —
wildly subversive form of
primitive magic?
instrument of oppression?
— or simply a fairytale?

I dreamed last night that I was homeless or in transit, and using the Catholic priest’s house as shelter. There was confusion in the dream between an altar rail and a urinal, and I found myself pissing over the altar rail and then feeling guilty about it. My poem though is much more general and tries to step back from the subject of Christianity altogether. I’m incredibly attached to the Christianity of my childhood, in fact there’s scarcely any difference for me, between the determination with which I treasure my own Christianity and the determination with which I treasure my childhood. At the same time, I despair of anyone who can literally swallow the Gospel narrative as though it happened as historical fact. The most that can be said is that someone was crucified.

Yuval Noah Harari #3

someone please tell me
— how is it possible for
money to be bought
and sold? — what is this crazy
dream and when do I wake up?

Funny thing, I’ve been trying without success to remember back to the eighties and nineties, to establish how and when I first made up my mind, as a perfectly serious belief — that money should be abolished. I guess there were foreshadowings of this idea way back in my childhood, with knowing I was named after St Francis of Assisi (Francis is my middle name). Being unemployed and therefore virtually moneyless all my life to the age of fifty, and homeless for most of that time too — it’s hardly surprising there was a temptation to see myself as following in my namesake’s footsteps. I dreamed last night of a man trying to sell me life insurance with the option of cashing some of the money in my lifetime. I was a keen customer, in the dream. There was music and artwork involved in his sales pitch. My previous posts entitled Yuval Noah Harari are here and here. And there’s some information about his ideas here. I continue to live without knowing how it can be, that society as a whole fails to see the absurdity of money and in particular the absurdity of using money to buy more money, as stockbrokers do — and of selling money itself, as insurance salesmen do. Imagine my delight therefore to come across the ideas of Yuval Harari, who points out that money exists only in the imagination, and works only because everyone believes in it.

competence

really?? is that me?
a servant of the Dark Lord?
— behind the bumbling
idiot
persona lies
machine-like efficiency

It’s not my most elegant poem ever, but it does effectively pinpoint an issue which is a constant concern, never too far from the front of my mind — namely, that of my own competence or lack of it — competence not only in my work role, but as a partner to my beloved, as a family member, and just simply as an effective member of society. I had serious emotional problems as a teenager which meant my concentration was always impaired. And then I lived the next two or three decades homeless, in more or less total isolation, where those skills I’m talking about got no chance for exercise or development. So the last ten years have been a steep learning curve. In my dream I was moving swiftly and smoothly along the floor — clearly not employing legs for the purpose — in a manner apparently based on an evil snake character from Doctor Who. Although evil, this character’s competence (unlike my own) seems never in question. I have checked out the character’s name: Colony Sarff. And, well I never, sarff apparently means serpent in Welsh — an interesting point of continuity with yesterday’s post Lloegyr.

pencil scribblings #5

Christmas 1992 I was homeless, penniless, wandering around England and Wales believing myself shadowed every moment by the CIA. A day or two before Christmas itself I attended a church service in the town of Llangollen, North Wales. My attendance at that particular church was unusual because the service had a very Evangelical flavour. I was (or am) a convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism: so the Evangelical tradition has mostly passed me by, in my life, apart from one or two brushes with it. This was one such. Generally I can cope happily with Methodist and Baptist services but anything smelling even slightly of Billy Graham (is that still a name people recognise?) turns me off. Anyhow this particular experience of Evangelism was one of my best ever. It was more like a big room than a small hall , and there was lots of enthusiastic singing with which I joined in, enthusiastically. After the service, the Pastor took the trouble to quiz me. I felt he was “testing” me to see if I was of God or of the Devil. He was nevertheless genial and benign. “Do you love Christ?” He threw the question at me and I had to justify myself at that moment and find a way to reassure him. Of course there flashed through my mind the inconvenient fact of my disbelief in the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection. But he hadn’t asked me about my faith. And even though the name Christ begged the question of Jesus’ divinity (which I didn’t believe in) I felt totally able to answer: “I love Christ”, and to mean it. That man’s own sincerity had drawn forth a sincerity from me in return. I am grateful to him for encouraging me to declare my truth in this way. At that moment it didn’t matter that I meant ‘Christ’ as a symbol while he (most probably) meant to pin me down to literal belief. We somehow met and understood one another at that moment. By the grace of God.

multidimensional

surprise at my own
skill in capturing many
different viewpoints
within the single picture
— never the totality

Never the totality is the first line of a poem which I wrote in 1994 in the belief that, while writing it, I was in telepathic contact with the Dalai Lama. This morning’s poem describes my dream last night quite literally. I was looking through a collection of my own sketches, one of which showed my tiny bedroom in a night hostel for the homeless. I had somehow contrived to include within one drawing, several different angles upon the room. I feel very much again, that I am still processing Wednesday’s sharing of my story with the prison staff (see yesterday’s post). I’ve never felt more satisfied with my success in terms of having conveyed to my audience just how much I enjoyed being homeless in the 1990’s and just how much I even enjoyed being psychotic. In previous talks, I have sometimes related how I used to write poetry while in telepathic communion with celebrities (such as the Dalai Lama) — citing this as an example of times when the psychosis was positively fulfilling. My telepathic communion with celebrities used to be enjoyable for its own sake however. I would get an incredibly vivid impression of the person’s character and mindset. In the case of the Dalai Lama, multidimensionality was one of the most striking characteristics of entering his mental space. The feeling of acceptance of the flow, if you like, with no single fixed point of reference at all. I’m inclined to suppose this might have been valid and genuine up to a point — not as telepathy, but as an impression of his personality, and as a lesson I took into my own mind from his somehow.