Posts Tagged ‘ignorance’


what new horror lurks
in the near-total darkness
of Llandaff Road? — can
all this ignorance be mine?
— and time only compounds it

My sister commented to me yesterday that our mother has always been a drama queen. I know what she means. Yet I also suspect my dream last night took me back to Llandaff Road which was our family home for four years 1969-72, as an indication or a nudge to remember just how much drama there was back then.


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.

radical fallibility

I am the victim
of far more than just my own
incomplete knowledge
— suffering happens because
knowledge itself is suspect

According to the Bible, Adam and Eve ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. But good and evil are notoriously fluid categories. One man’s good is another man’s evil. In fact, no matter what the object of knowledge, what to me seems like my own knowledge, often appears to anyone else as proof of my ignorance. Self-knowledge in particular (the most important and significant type of knowledge known to man) is unreliable, provisional, eternally shifting and illusory. I’m sorry this is all so abstract. I dreamed last night I was wearing a weird, quasi-Victorian bathing costume. It was two-piece, consisting of a pair of trunks and a shirt cut down the centre to reveal my chest. Awake, I was pleased to realise this will have been suggested by going to Tate Modern yesterday and seeing a work by Evelyne Axell entitled Valentine. I can’t even begin to explore all the meanings of my dream. Clearly my dream locates me in space, as the Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, who is depicted in the artwork. I was attracted to the artwork, partly just simply as a matter of prurience, but also because I sensed the complexity of the issues being addressed. Apparently Axell was commenting ironically on the tendency of contemporary media, reporting the first woman in space, to focus on Tereshkova’s looks. See interesting article here.

infinite vista

within me — there’s more
wealth, more courage, more beauty
— more exquisitely
cruel ignorance — than my
soul will ever comprehend

I did try hard with this poem. Last night I dreamed of a girl and a guy on a blind date. The guy was clearly me — he had written some lovely music — and I exclaimed that this music was just like the music I used to try and write — only better! At one time in my life, in reality, I did entertain ambitions of becoming a composer. The girl was a girl to whom, in reality, I am attracted quite a lot. She is thirty years younger than me, so I tend to deal with my attraction in real life by denying it. It is painful to have to realise, thinking about this dream, that there is a much more pronouncedly romantic flavour to my feelings for her, than I am capable of holding properly in consciousness. The poem is about that contradiction — that discrepancy — between what the dream shows me, and what I am able to accept.

male gaze

all women — except
lesbians — are expected
to participate
in the male ego’s crazy
insane wish-fulfilment game

The title came after the poem. And I do not know much — or anything — about what ‘the male gaze’ means to Laura Mulvey who coined the term. In fact I first heard the phrase about 12 months ago and assumed it just meant the way men stare at women. I only found out otherwise by reading Wikipedia just now. The poem came out of a very poorly-remembered dream in which the revelation that someone was a lesbian seemed very important, and otherwise, I was hooking up determinedly with a variety of female strangers (i.e. women who weren’t based on anyone I know, or know of, in my waking life). Awake, I fell to reflecting on how odd it is that there are these two genders, male and female, and that all my life I have accepted the fact of heterosexual desire because I seem to have no choice in the matter. There must be a better vantage point. But I cannot reach it. I am a man in a world consisting of men and women. I have almost no understanding at all of what sexual desire is, or how it works, or what it signifies. In this I believe I am typical of my species. It’s theoretically possible that individuals other than myself may have achieved the understanding I lack. But all the signs are, that this is not the case, and that, if anything, I am unusual for being able to recognise my own ignorance. Most human beings seem unable or unwilling to feel challenged by the opaque mystery which is our own sexual behaviour, preferring instead to take it for granted as a given fact of existence.

all meaning is relative

map of Africa —
meaningless because drawn by
white men — a sense of
futility attaches
— and yet the borders remain

I spent a couple of hours last night writing a talk in which I say that, even though schizophrenia doesn’t exist, we might as well work with it — i.e. both with the word itself and with the people who think it refers to an actually-existing disease of the brain. I’m happy enough that my dream last night of a map of Africa — must relate to this idea of working with what already exists (whether linguistic terminology like schizophrenia or the random territorial borders of Africa) no matter how brazenly unjust the system of oppression embodied in the existing structures. And yet, and yet, and yet. It’s all too easy somehow. In the dream, I was shamefully ignorant of where on the map to locate a certain African country. Surely the true message of my dream is to do with my own ignorance. What I’m getting at is that it’s too easy to be right — about Africa or about psychiatry. In the dream I felt personally challenged by my own ignorance, whereas in the poem I am basically lecturing the reader from a position of superior knowledge and insight — whether as to the invalidity of psychiatry/imperialism, or whether as to the wisdom and inevitability of having to work within the existing system. To have moved like that from the personal to the pontifical is a serious loss and a serious failure.


….man…..desire — who in the world
has the foggiest
understanding of these things?
— or I am alone with it?

I like this poem for its angst, which I think comes across transparently. The answer to the two questions is that we are all united by the same ignorance, and that we each face our ignorance alone. I dreamed last night of a girl named Anna who was my first unrequited love. I fell in love with her when I was nineteen and remained in that state for about six years. Now at the age of 59, I want to know what is that force — call it sex or love — which controls us so mercilessly? Billions and billions of human beings, since the species began — each one, in some way or another, forced to ask the same question. Do we all get the same silence in reply? Voi che sapete