Posts Tagged ‘paradox’


the courage to do
wrong — all our very cheapest
stories recognise
— in some blind way — that nothing
makes sense like a paradox

My last night’s dream was really quite powerful and significant. It entailed my being seduced by Beryl Graves, the wife of the poet Robert Graves. Currently I am reading his historical novel Count Belisarius, and finding it a little bit tedious. Graves is an important figure for me. He captured my imagination in my mid-twenties, when I was struggling with so-called ‘psychotic’ experiences, and I made the journey to his house in Spain, in 1982, to try and gain enlightenment from the great man. I knocked on the door and was kindly entertained for an hour by his wife (then in her sixties) while Robert himself sat inert in a wheelchair. He was 87 and had retreated into dementia.



my own humanity —
it’s a fact, plain and simple
— how can this given
accomplishment I’m born with
be yet so hard to attain?

In my dream, my older sister had turned into a little girl about four years old. I was charmed and delighted, but also concerned about how to reverse the spell and get her back to being an adult. I’ve got hold of a truth, I think, that the little girl represents the most human side of me. I wanted to express the paradox whereby the supreme and ultimate goal of life (for me) is to become more human — while after all I simply am human anyway. So I’m striving after a goal which is right there under my nose. Yet it refuses to give up its unattainable and mysterious and just plain difficult character.


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.


the unknown goal of
the spiritual quest must
(if truly unknown)
encompass the very worst —
it must do, it has no choice

The tension between opposites is held, in Jungian psychology, to be what generates everything that happens in our minds. Or just simply everything that happens. Where did Jung get this? From Taoism? From Heraclitus? From Hegel? For that matter, he could have arrived there by applying symbolic thinking to the laws of physics — the positive and negative poles of the magnet. Or did he derive his insight originally, as a young man, from the alchemical texts which so absorbed him in his later writings?

Damnation and redemption are the key opposites in hellfire Christian theology. In real life we find a third way which is neither wholly one thing nor the other.

I dreamed I had my pockets filled with earrings and nuts and bolts — all kinds of odd bits of metal and jewellery. I emptied my pockets onto the ground and then got anxious that a woman would steal my bits of metal. Seems to connect with the theme of alchemy which is all about metal. From there I slipped easily into thinking about the goal of the spiritual quest. Goal-driven thinking and behaviour tends to involve a lot of one-sidedness. That’s hardly surprising, since a goal is almost one-sided by definition. So it’s a paradox to have both poles of a polarity in one’s sights simultaneously (one encounters this paradox in the alchemical texts) and to make that wide vision one’s goal. In Christian terms, it means hell would be a kind of heaven and heaven would be a kind of hell.


death is a journey
whose destination consists
in going nowhere

I felt convinced this poem was pretentious nonsense until I landed on the title, which does seem to lend it some semblance of coherence, an added weight and simplicity, beyond the facile toying with paradox in the poem itself. I had a couple of glasses of wine last night and woke late with a headache, my dreams impossible to remember properly. Wandering into my kitchen, I looked at the money plant on the kitchen table, and remembered I dreamed last night that it had entirely lost all its branches and was a mere stump. This was a gift from my mother when she moved about five years ago. It had been flourishing in her flat, but began dropping its leaves in mine. This summer I became so worried at its denudation that I moved it outside into the garden, where one night the foxes knocked it off the wall: so it lost several of its main branches. This seems to have been good in the long run, as it now appears to be concentrating its energies into new shoots. Despite telling myself it’s nonsense, part of me believes that when the plant dies my mother will die.


sex is never solved
by doing it, and never
by not doing it

I might add also it’s never solved by thinking about it, and never solved by not thinking about it. Altogether quite a problem. First draft of this poem was framed in terms of Adam and Eve and the Bible, but I prefer the simplicity of this final version. I dreamed last night I was making elaborate preparations for masturbating to pornography, a problem I have had, off and on, throughout my life which fortunately seems to be more or less leaving me alone as I’m growing older. Actually I’m not entirely sure my poem is truthful. I came closest to solving it during the period of seven years 1989-96 when I was totally celibate (which also happens to correspond to the period of my most obvious madness, believing myself a prophet). So I’m not entirely convinced that sex isn’t solved by not doing it. That said, I never felt as though it was me responsible for my own celibacy during this period. Something bigger than me was involved, something less like conscious determination and more like existential terror.


I have found there is
only one way out of hell
— and that is downwards

Annoyingly, I forgot a very long, powerful dream last night and the only thing at all remaining in my memory is the figure of Albert Einstein. I have dreamed of Einstein before, when I was in Israel 1983-84. Einstein is a kind of god when he appears in my dreams. I don’t have the brain to grasp relativity, and am attracted as much by his shaggy appearance as by whatever smattering of relativity I’ve managed to pick up through TV programmes etc. My first draft of this poem played with the idea that if you fall into the category divine, best thing is just to keep falling. Israel was a kind of hell for me, just because of where I was in my inner journey at the time. Lucifer was a kitten on the kibbutz where I volunteered.