Posts Tagged ‘metaphor’

enlightenment

it happens daily —
the world turns, the sun rises
— my own blindness kills

This poem was born out of a feeling of regret. I dreamed I turned up to play French horn in an orchestra, but then realised I had no French horn. Awake, I fell to thinking of my teenage years and how lazy I was in regard to French horn practice. I now practice yoga on a daily basis, and because my body is old, I notice the stiffness immediately if I miss a day’s practice. I fell this morning into wishing I had realised the importance of practice. Who knows I might now be a professional musician. And this feeling of regret forced me to consider the totality of what we owe to this life or to ourselves by being alive. I suppose you could say I fell to regretting not having achieved enlightenment in this life. The subject of enlightenment was already fairly close the surface of my preoccupations since Friday night when a Buddhist friend used the term in a Buddhist sense and I found myself rebelling inwardly — I doubt whether it’s either helpful or meaningful, to accept enlightenment as something the Buddha achieved and the rest of us can only strive after in a futile sort of way. My poem wanted to bring back ‘enlightenment’ to the literal meaning of the literal light which fills our physical world. But of course I end up, in the poem, with a metaphorical blindness nevertheless.

absolute beginners

two men in a room —
one mad and the other sane
— we’re actually
paying them to occupy
those roles — what is wrong with this?

The doctor gets a salary. The patient gets Disability Living Allowance or God knows what. A relatively meagre amount — but payment all the same, made for no other reason than because of a perceived ‘mental illness’. See my post here about being a professional schizophrenic. When Bowie’s song Absolute Beginners came out, I remember not understanding the title or lyrics, and making a decision to think of it as referring to human civilisation as being still in its infancy (even though we tend to think of it as having reached a peak). I called this poem originally kindergarten. In a way, I would prefer to leave the ambiguity of the question (what is wrong with this?) intact. But whether the poem’s called absolute beginners or kindergarten, it’s just a way of saying in effect that you would have to be a two-year-old in order not to be able to see that something’s wrong with those two men being paid to occupy those two roles. My dreams last night were somewhat confused, but I had the feeling of being a psychiatric patient in hospital — a memory of the weekly ‘ward round’ where the psychiatrist reviews your case in the presence of all his colleagues. The power imbalance in those situations — particularly if you happen to be under ‘section’ at the time — is surreal. I had a conversation on Wednesday night with a colleague where I put it to him that the idea of the mind being ‘ill’ is simply a metaphor and nothing but a metaphor. He had great difficulty grasping this. To do him credit, he tried. I too had great difficulty, trying to grasp what was his difficulty, and trying to elucidate exactly what I meant. Even now, I feel like saying to him in exasperation: ‘How can you not see that “illness” (as in “mentally ill”) is a metaphor?’

appearances

a symbol is a
spiritual metaphor
— the material
world in its entirety
strikes me as probably that

I was eating pomegranate seeds in my dream. Then I was trying to decide whether it was advisable or even possible, to explain to people around me, what I believe about extra-terrestrial intelligence(s). This poem is my best effort this morning to do just that. The faculty of consciousness in itself constitutes the most impenetrably mysterious area of the unknown we are ever likely to encounter in our respective journeys through our lives. It may seem like a perfectly arbitrary belief, plucked from nowhere — but I do in fact believe that that unknown region at the very centre of our conscious awareness has to be some kind of portal where, unwittingly, we have the potential to know the cosmic ‘other’. It’s a moot point whether, in encountering our unknown selves, we are caught up in a symbolic enactment of an encounter with aliens — or whether vice versa (as Jung thought) the idea ‘alien’ symbolises ‘self’. Either way, by implication, those huge interstellar distances across the material universe have turned out to be an illusion and also a symbol, both at once. I can’t help wondering if — with so much congruence between on the one hand mystery in the form of ‘consciousness’ and, on the other, mystery in the form of the idea ‘alien’— I might just as well have done with it and claim them both to be identical. Maybe the drama of our lives which seems so human, is actually cosmic not just in a metaphorical sense, but in some literal sense as well. It sounds crazy to say we are aliens, but we just don’t know what we are. It seems quite plausible to me that each individual human drama here on earth could be having repercussions on the other side of the galaxy or universe, among some other race or community of races, where they are aware of each other and of us, mentally, even though we are not aware of them. In that case we would be members of a community of aliens without knowing it. In this I go further than Jung, although he thought seriously about these things. As well as his Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies, I just googled Jung UFO and found a scanned letter to an American in 1957 in which he says:

The problem of the UFOs is, as you rightly say, a very fascinating one, but it is as puzzling as it is fascinating; since, in spite of all observations I know of, there is no certainty about their very nature. On the other side, there is an overwhelming material pointing to their legendary or mythological aspect. As a matter of fact the psychological aspect is so impressive, that one almost must regret that the UFOs seem to be real after all. I have followed up the literature as much as possible and it looks to me as if something were seen and even confirmed by radar, but nobody knows exactly what is seen.

morning prayer

letting light into
a darkened bedroom – may I
perform this action
with proper reverence for
Nature’s raw materials

I attended Mass yesterday evening, and during the sermon found myself getting a bit emotional with love for the priest (Fr Tom Forde of Our Lady Help of Christians Kentish Town) whose sincerity and intelligence is really quite something. He made some reference to the idea of making time every morning and evening for prayer. It’s likely this may have led to last night’s dream of opening a curtain and letting the light in. Reverence for the light (and, I suppose, fear of the dark) is surely religion at its simplest and most basic. For Jung, the psychology of the unconscious seems to have been, in many ways, simply a logical extension of this. He constantly uses the opposites of light and darkness, conscious and unconscious, interchangeably — the word metaphor is far too weak to cover this interchangeability. It’s a metaphor which seems always, in my mind at least, to want to tip over into literalism. In some mysterious way I will never understand, I believe light and consciousness to be a single phenomenon.

metaphor

the nuclear bomb
explodes like an orgasm
— or like the words I
love you
— terrible beauty —
aching to be understood

Both these symbolic equivalents for a nuclear explosion (orgasm and ‘I love you’) have been part of my private system of symbols for longer than I care to remember. I’m still as bemused as ever, wondering just how many other people would have thought of the same idea, across the world during the last 70 years that we’ve had a nuclear bomb. It seems pretty important, as symbols go.

In my dream last night, a nuclear explosion was imminent, centred on Paddington in London. I was located first of all at the heart of where the bomb was (it seemed to be a secret police facility) and then by the time it went off, I had managed to escape up Edgware Road towards Kilburn. People had received a couple of minutes’ warning and were panicking, trying to get into shop doorways off the street. Piling like sardines into a holding area meant for rubbish.

The thought behind the dream seems to be this: whenever I watch pornography behind Liz’s back, and reach orgasm, the event of orgasm impacts spiritually on Liz like a nuclear shockwave. I don’t know whether this is true or not. But the dream articulates, graphically, a vague notion that is always at the back of my mind.