Posts Tagged ‘regret’


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.



there’s no escaping
— I want to go back and change
the whole of my life —
how absurd! — as if now I’m
any wiser than I was then!

Yesterday evening I worked late on my talk on Spirituality and Mental Health. Mulling over my teenage sexuality and the reasons for my incredible loneliness, for the purposes of the talk, seems to have provoked a dream in which I was given complete licence to express my sexual feelings — with great tenderness and love — and in great detail — towards the first girl I ever slept with in reality at the age of 22. In reality, I was completely overwhelmed and did not know what to do and ended up doing nothing. So it was a one-off with this particular girl. And for the next 20 years my sexual experience amounted to half a dozen one-night stands. Looking back, it does feel as though I missed out on the best years of my life. Both sexually and, perhaps more important, socially. This isn’t a new realisation. But the vivid feelings of regret provoked by last night’s dream are much more immediate than anything I normally allow myself to feel. And it turns out that it makes quite a nice, neat, simple poem.

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.


what a shame Scotland
didn’t go independent —
and what a relief!
— these opposites perfectly
balanced in my deepest heart

I love Scotland, as I do likewise the Welsh and the Irish and the Cornish. I have some Scottish blood I think (a great-great-grandfather on my mother’s side named Bell), and am a firm believer in Celtic ‘temperament’ — not just that there is such a thing, but that it’s inherently a loveable thing, perhaps the single most loveable thing about these islands. I’ve had a book on my bookshelf, unread for the past 15 years, called ‘Women of the Celts’. It seems to be about the theory that the Celts were matriarchal. I dreamed last night I had the power to create Scottish political independence for a trial run of a few days. There was also a strange dwarf or leprechaun in the dream, who was part Irish, part Scottish and part Jewish. I think the entity ‘Scotland’ in my dream stands simultaneously for both sides of the Germanic/Jewish antithesis I had been reading about, just before sleep, here It’s an academic debate about Wagner’s anti-semitism and whether it is separate from or integral to the music. Really interesting opinions of a certain scholar named Barry Emslie, who sees a dialectic in Wagner’s thinking, between Germanness and Jewishness: [Wagner’s] compositions are seductive not in spite of all the negative things implied (at the very least) by his theories, but because of them. They drive him to the heights. It seems to me he realises his grand notions of German art and German redemption (again, as he explains it) because he is ‘inspired’ by the antitheses. Moreover he is working within a dramatic and narrative form that makes antagonism necessary. Furthermore he is clearly intent on dramatising dialectical opposites. After all, just how many of Wagner’s great scenes are one-on-one set-to’s shaped by opposed world views?! As a result so much that is poisonous and so much that is elevating fuse in his creative work, and it is mere Pollyanna sentimentality (again) that reacts to this by saying that either the former is not there, or is purified by the latter. Above all you cannot get the poison out because it is an essential ingredient in the intoxicating potion; it is part of the magic. Like Isolde’s philtre it suffuses love with death; transcendence with unimaginable pain. Let me, in this wider context, quote Milton: ‘Good and evil we know in the field of this world grow up together almost inseparably; and the knowledge of good is … involved and interwoven with the knowledge of evil… It was from out the rind of one apple tasted, that the knowledge of good and evil, as two twins cleaving together, leaped forth into the world.’ And, one might add, the evil can taste good too, especially when the creative artist is seduced by it. Emslie is quoting from Milton’s Areopagitica (a section called ‘On the importance of even wrong ideas’; the Areopagitica is a pamphlet against censorship).


I wish I’d told him
about the gold light I saw
pouring from his eyes
— he died thirty years later —
and now these are merely words

When I was 21, I had a meeting with a senior figure within the Jungian world who happened to be analysing my mother. His name was Fred Plaut. Hallucinating gold light pouring from his eyes marked the beginning of a downward descent into madness from which I only began to emerge twenty years later. I dreamed last night I was stepping into his room. He holds a letter from me which he says he finds sad. I do dream from time to time that I’m having a session with him. He died in 2009.


….blind to where one lost
opportunity ends and
another begins

Usually I don’t think of myself as a particularly bitter sort of person, but here I seem to be feeling defined by my having missed out. Two dreams last night — both connected in different ways with lost opportunities. One was on a tiny scale: a lost window of opportunity for a car to move while the lights were green. The other I suppose concerns a major regret in my life: when I was fifteen I allowed someone to persuade me I didn’t have the talent to become an actor. In my dream I had some idea it still wasn’t too late.

Sunday 9 March

what kind of a man
sincerely regrets the lost
for committing an act of
sheer undiluted evil?