Posts Tagged ‘power’


our journey towards
becoming human reaches
its consummation
in helplessness — power is
nothing but a falling short

I guess, for me, the definition of reality is somehow equivalent to human helplessness, while power is something thrown into the mix in order to throw us off the scent in our quest for ourselves. I’ve no idea how this poem came to be written, except that I dreamed of the word ‘Wednesday’ and decided it must be a dream about companionship (on the strength of association with Robinson Crusoe’s Man Friday). From there, I thought of Liz, my life companion (maybe ‘Woman Wednesday’?) and the way she rounds me out, adds another dimension to my existence, adds to my humanity. I love the idea of life as a journey toward becoming human, and the poem kind of wrote itself as I became locked in a desperate effort to complete that idea without sounding too lame.


problem solving

‘power and gender’ —
if we could even just make
a beginning with
some kind of approach to this
subject — everything would change

I dreamed I was locked in personal and professional dispute and antagonism with the CEO of one of the charities I work for. In real life I admire her very much indeed, find her thoroughly likeable, and have sometimes wished to get to know her more. Our paths seldom cross. I think, in the dream, I was more aware of her being a woman than waking-lfe professionalism allows. Once I’d realised this, the poem flowed from there. It’s a subject I feel passionate about. I have often felt as though I can see contemporary culture through a futuristic lens, particularly where gender politics is concerned. Surely in the future, people will be shocked at our lack of concern for gender, in the same way that these days we feel shocked at past ages’ lack of concern for food hygiene and/or sanitation. The stark simplicity of the given fact that the human race is divided by gender, apparently self-justifying, somehow blinds us to any possibility of devoting sustained creative thought and attention and study and care, to the implications. And we’re blinded and paralysed also because gender is associated with heterosexual desire and procreation, all of which absorbs so much physical and emotional energy, there is nothing left for the intellect. And indeed, the intellect can tend to feel like an unwelcome intruder in a region best left to instinct. With the upshot that our collective culture is forever falling short of proper awareness that gender is even a problem at all, let alone the unresolved problem of the human condition.


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.


calling my own name —
John — this simplest of all acts
— this spontaneous
ordering of the world — this
narcissism — this ego

In my dream I was calling my own name and expecting it to have an effect, on a bunch of people down in the well of a balconied courtyard (probably based on having visited the house of Cervantes’ birth in Madrid, which was just like that). It hit me, awake, that calling one’s own name is an act of narcissism. Yesterday I attended a talk about Sikh spirituality which I enjoyed greatly, and there was talk of ego as something bad, albeit something bad with a good aspect. When Jeanette Winterson’s book Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal came out a few years ago I seized eagerly on her mention of a psychoanalyst named Neville Symington whose books had been part of her ‘redemption journey’ (my term not hers). But then I drew a blank when I tried reading him. From Wikipedia I got the idea that Symington’s ‘thing’ is narcissism. This did chime with some elements in my own journey way back in the seventies. But for me narcissism was something positive, while Symington believes it to be the cause of all our problems, apparently. For me, the narcissism of the ego is probably what enables it to hold itself together in the face of all the other disintegrating tendencies of madness. At least, that seemed to be the lesson of a particular dream of mine, in the seventies, which was very helpful at a time when my life and ego were well-nigh fully disintegrated. My dream of calling my own name last night brought all these issues back for me.


who has the power?
who wants it? — and who for God’s
sake is desperate
for some way of shattering
the illusion of power?

Thought itself can be a kind of prison sometimes. Don’t we all think in cliche´s, all the time? Presumably Jung had something like this in mind when he started talking about archetypes. A cliche´ is just an archetype that has lost its dignity. I dreamed of a little animal which had been trained to hold a key in its mouth. I had several different keys and had to select the right one to put in the animal’s mouth: meanwhile the animal was getting excited because it could see the keys in my hand. Does the key have power over the lock? You would think. But if I think of myself as the key — then Liz, in my life, is like the one lock in the whole world which fits my shape, and in that sense she has power over me. That’s roughly what the poem is about. I noticed as soon as I had landed upon my first line, how desperate I was to challenge the terms of the question ‘Who has the power?’ But am I any less imprisoned by the concept of power if I think I don’t want it, than if I think I do? Is it possible to think about power without being hypnotised into believing in such a thing? We are hypnotised by our own tools of thought. By words. Magic.

Freud’s socks

a child’s inborn sense
of entitlement — stealing
isn’t stealing when
the victim is your parent
— God is that my attitude?

In last night’s dream, I was rummaging among Freud’s socks in his wardrobe, helping myself to several pairs, with only some very slight misgiving whether he would miss them or whether I had a right to them. I felt my need was greater than his. I’d helped myself to thirty or forty pounds’ worth and that was a small sum to him but a lot of money to me. Then because someone was with me who saw it differently, I found myself agreeing that my own behaviour was completely unacceptable, and I started putting the socks back, trying to roll back time and make amends. I have been thinking the past couple of days I would like to visit The Freud Museum again. I went there a few weeks ago for the first time in many years. It’s the house in London where he lived after fleeing the Nazis in 1938. There isn’t really much to see, except his large collection of Egyptian statuettes. I desperately wish I had more clarity what I think of him and where anyone who takes his ideas seriously is placed in relation to the vast mass of humanity for whom Freud doesn’t matter.


the Queen of England’s
power — a contradiction
in terms — the shadow
of history lingering
wistfully in broad daylight

A colleague wrote me an email yesterday using the term absolute relativism. Without going into what she probably meant, the context had to do with our work providing peer support alternatives to the existing dominance of medical models in the understanding of so-called ‘mental illness’. In my dream, the Queen was dismissing me as a crazy person or ‘nutter’ — almost as though she had been the voice of the tabloid press. It seems likely we will look back on the 20th century psychiatrist from the vantage point of the future, much in the same way that we look back on the absolute monarch of mediaeval times. I wonder whether, by then, we will be able to cherish the emasculated psychiatrist for the heritage he represents, as most English people do the Queen. It’s a serious comparison. The absolutism of a psychiatrist who believes in the objective scientific truth of his subjective judgements, bears direct comparison with the monarch whose absolutism means a belief in his or her divine right.