April 2009


Growing up on the fringes of society, there are those whose natural language is that of the North American therapy culture, with its assumptions of disturbance, disquiet and the need for healing, and whose gestures are those of psychiatric therapy. But such language, such gestures are not really sincere: they are trained, they are how people behave in the movies. At bottom they pander to the desire that lurks in every obscure soul to achieve significance through drama.

 

Such people may seem beyond healing, their problems chronic. Yet how kind life always is, providing little neighbourhoods, eco-systems in the demi monde, whose inhabitants can freely live out their flairs and flaws, their beliefs and fears.

 

For the most part they are paralysed by the dilemma of whether to concentrate on their problems, and so weigh escape against destruction, or to avoid their problems altogether, and so weigh destruction against escape.

 

The zeal with which propaganda is issued is surpassed only by the enthusiasm with which those, whose purpose it suits, receive it. Thus was Blake read in the 1960s, where his message, that reason restrains energy, eclipsed in inspiration any interest in his actual work. Like St Sebastian, he was thus butchered by arrows – but those of his own disciples.

 

A sentimental dabbling with religious philosophies is, in my observation, a hallmark of hardened atheism, anything but innocent, altogether a threat to the vulnerable and evil in its overall effects.

 

Why, when you’ve got the whole earth at your feet, cling to the inside of a ghetto? (Translation: “heart-tribe”.) And why is there always a prevailing regime of spiritual correctness? (Beliefs, such as We are your true family, You must never betray us, You must never go Straight, are transmitted wordlessly, in the hum of the huddle.)

 

Woo or woo-woo … an attempt at a definition: A superstitious hostility to rational and scientific thinking; uncritical acceptance of philosophies such as those supposedly derived from aboriginal or eastern cultures; proneness to ‘alternative’ or ‘New Age’ ideologies, practices and wishful thinking, as in attitudes to clothing, food, property, transport, the family, medicines and health-care.

 

Perhaps one should look on all this as a persistence of the pre-modern mind, a backlash of the conservatism that fears modernity. Otherwise, how explain the widespread popularity of these ideas, the range of the social spectrum of those ‘open’ to them? Some minds are comfortable with indiscipline, with legend, fantasy and make-believe, and will always fear the daily transformation of life by technologies they do not understand. Thus a hundred or so new religions are born each year.[1] And the scholastic mind was always happier trying to determine the dimensions of Solomon’s Temple or the location of the Earthly Paradise.[2]

 

 

 

 


[1] John Haldane, An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Religion. London: Duckworth, 2003, pp. 12, 13.

 

[2] See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prester_John

Advertisements

Les songes des anges

et des singes

sont mensonges

de la même façon

The sun is so weak it is more like milk.

All day the clouds have built up in layers

like bandages across the sky.

 

Life, once a continual emergency,

now seeps in as if through a keyhole.

Then comes an evening of prolonged radiance.

 

And can I, crabbed as I am,

open and cock part of an eye

before the bananas turn into leopards?

The wood is an echo-chamber for the woodpecker’s knocking

as it is for the down-a-well timbre of the cuckoo.

The day goes from mist to heat.

 

Dog and buzzard fail to spot the baby rabbit

hop to its elder behind the daffodils.

The day goes from heat to cloud.

 

Tiny birds note an errant strand of cypress

and alighting swing it further from the meridian.

The day goes from cloud to haze.

 

A spray of blossom like surf decks the youngest trees

but the upper tips too of some older ones flush sage-green.

The day goes from haze to heat.

The winds of autumn rise but do not divert

the sun steady everywhere.

 

I want to pick apples and bake apple pie

and make a fire in the evening.

 

The cereal tree at the corner is shedding its Coco-Pops,

tiny button acorns with a crusty chocolate complexion.

 

Autumn’s the best time for me.

It’s the walnut season now – we’ve missed it again.

 

The high flights pass under the clouds

needle and soundless thread of silver-white.