Older, but no wiser
Andy Borrows' musings on life and all its confusion, contradictions, richness and opportunities
Friday, September 30, 2005
The Vogons are landing...
Old-timers around here may have seen this one before, but it seemed such an obvious choice for this week's Photo Friday theme of Darkness that I had to wheel it out again, especially since I have little time at the moment to take anything new.
Not to regurgitate half-digested dogma we swallowed from parents or peers;
Not to set our thought-wheels on rails laid down by those whose intellects we thought were so much more developed that our own;
Not to sweep up discarded thought-fragments off the floor and bolt them loosely together into some creaking Heath-Robinson structure that sways and topples at the slightest breeze;
Not to pick favourite ideas from the idea-trees planted and watered by those who would channel the flow of our minds for their own ends;
To dissolve accretions of word-upon-word, thought-upon-thought, cemented together by assumptions into a congealed mass of conjecture;
To restrain the words which rush to fill empty space, joining themselves together like a chain of dominos, or old friends holding hands;
To weave instead an idea-cloth whose pattern had never before been seen?
(enough metaphors yet?)
I only ask because the experience must be so novel.
What would it be like?
A child might know the answer to that…
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
in readiness to do this tomorrow
As you can tell, I'm just filling space...
Sunday, September 25, 2005
“How can government be so successful at doing so much wrong?”
“I’ve wondered that too,” she said, “for a long time I’ve thought about that. I finally came up with the only possible answer.”
“Practice,” she said. “Tireless, unrelenting practice.”
~ Richard Bach, from The Bridge Across Forever
Saturday, September 24, 2005
It's quite a while since I posted anything for Photo Friday. Perhaps the themes recently have demanded too much in the way of interpretation for a simple mind like mine. At least this week's theme - burn - is nice and straightforward.
Friday, September 23, 2005
But in spite of moving through a number of jobs, I never got close. I had hopes, feeling that something good was only just over the horizon, feeling that there was something within me desperately trying to get out, an embryo of something valuable just waiting to be born. But that latter view didn’t seem to be shared by anyone; no-one in the immediate small circle in which I moved, anyway. And I hadn’t the grounds for faith in myself to fight through this uncertainty; on the contrary, I could find plenty of grounds for doubting myself.
Then, turning 50, there suddenly seemed to be no more hurdles ahead, no more corners to round. No life-and-death struggles of existence, just a long downhill run on the finishing straight to retirement; all I had to do was somehow, somehow survive that last 10 years. (Or maybe 15 or 20; my pension arrangements aren’t as good as they could be; like as not I’ll be working in some capacity or other for as long as I’m physically and mentally capable of it).
I’d given up. I pretended I hadn’t, made all sorts of excuses, found thoroughly valid and plausible reasons why those exciting ideas wouldn’t work – after all, if you look hard enough, you’ll always be able to find a cast-iron reason for doing, or not doing, anything under the sun. I went through the motions of searching for something new and better, even convinced myself at times that I was really considering some of those off-the-wall possibilities. Outwardly I still appeared buoyant, positive, hopeful and enthusiastic, but in reality I’d given up and in the deeper, darker layers of my psyche I knew that.
Pathetic, eh? I’m not proud of this state of affairs. What is laughable is that for a while I’d even been giving career counselling in a semi-professional capacity at work. Those that can, do; those that can’t, teach. (Sorry about the predominance of pessimism today, by the way. I quit counselling rather abruptly on Wednesday and a few things are catching up with me).
But the onion has many layers. I’ve abandoned for the moment the idea that there’s ever a core; however many layers you peel off, there always seems to be another layer deeper still. And so even though it feels today as though all the optimism is just a facade and there’s a deep layer that I keep hidden which has already given up, I can also sense beyond it another deeper layer where hope lives still. So perhaps rather say "I'd given up", I ought to say "I was living in a layer of giving-up-ness".
But what's beyond that? Is there an end to the layers? I wonder if bipolar mood swings are equivalent to moving through these many layers stacked one on top of another. What's really at the core? Or isn't there one; do the layers just go on for ever, a never-ending sandwich of hopes and fears?
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Last night I was quoting Richard Bach on dragons and knights, enchantments and adventures, and spent the journey in to work this morning engrossed in the opening chapters of his own real-life fairy story.
“The trouble is,” I thought to myself as my train pulled into King’s Cross Station “I don’t want to work. I want to live a fairy story. I want to believe in destiny, in happy-ever-after, in quests and battles and love-at-first sight; I want to have adventures, slay dragons and rescue princesses – even those that live in red brick houses instead of castles and ride trains instead of white horses.”
And there it was, right in front of me: a dragon, clear as day. A real, fairy-tale dragon, gaping mouth filled with razor-sharp teeth reaching out towards me, grinning fiercely, daring me to believe.
Heaven knows how it got there. A child’s toy Tyrannosaurus Rex, about a foot high, wedged between a drainpipe and the outer wall of the station at the side of the track where only rail maintenance staff would go, and directly in my line of sight. A tiny symbol almost lost amidst the bustle and grime of a 21st century working day.
Almost lost, but not quite.
“See? I’m real.” he seemed to be saying. “Your dragons, your fairy stories – they exist. All you have to do is open your eyes – and your mind – and look in the right place. Catch me if you can...”
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
“We think, sometimes, there’s not a dragon left. Not one brave knight, not a single princess gliding through secret forests, enchanting deer and butterflies with her smile.
“We think sometimes that ours is an age past frontiers, past adventures. Destiny, it’s way over the horizon; glowing shadows galloped past long ago, and gone.
“What a pleasure to be wrong. Princesses, knights, enchantments and dragons, mystery and adventure… not only are they here-and-now, they’re all that ever lived on earth!
“Our century, they’ve changed clothes, of course. Dragons wear government-costumes, today, and failure-suits and disaster-outfits. Society’s demons screech, whirl down on us should we lift our eyes from the ground, dare we turn right at corners we’ve been told to turn left. So crafty have appearances become that princesses and knights can be hidden from each other, can be hidden from themselves.
“Yet masters of reality still meet us in dreams to tell us that we’ve never lost the shield we need against dragons, that blue fire voltage arcs through us now to change out world as we wish. Intuition whispers true: We’re not dust, we’re magic!
“This is a story about a knight who was dying, and the princess who saved his life. It’s a story about beauty and beasts and spells and fortresses, about death-powers that seem and life-powers that are. It’s a tale of the one adventure that matter most, I think, in any age.”
~ Richard Bach, from the introduction to The Bridge Across Forever
Too many hours spent being way too serious. All work and no play; I’m becoming a dull boy. I sat down picking out favourite passages and thought: “Goodness, what luxury – I could actually sit and read the whole book if I wanted! How decadent, how self-indulgent, just to sit and read!”
So I shall. Princesses, knights, dragons and all. Maybe I'll even find some fairy-dust?
Saturday, September 17, 2005
Friday, September 16, 2005
No special reason, other than that I like the colours and textures. I haven't been taking any photos lately so was looking through the old files and came across this one.
ensconced in a favourite chair
before the window
muscles quiet but ready
waiting for the gun
before the day’s official start
against the low sun’s glare
feeling its power
and burn my face
(yes, even in September)
remind me I have senses
remind me I’m alive
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
But my act is definitely not together, to the extent that I managed to miss my stop on the train going to work this morning, and nearly did the same coming home tonight.
So if you haven’t a clue what I’m rambling on about but are curious, go follow the link.
Saturday, September 10, 2005
I think I might take down that self-portrait photo in the sidebar. I put it there a few weeks ago because I felt like being seen, stepping a little further out of the shadows, and to do that seemed like progress. I also thought it reflected a tendency towards becoming more integrated, less of a split Jekyll and Hyde persona.
But it also represents the conventional me, the me that everyone else sees, and all the self-limiting beliefs that are wrapped up in that representation. I'd like the freedom to move outside that particular box. Yeah, I know, I have that freedom anyway; all the same… I see that face with it's inscrutable half-smile gazing back at me and it sets an expectation, based on the things those eyes have seen, the words that mouth has spoken, and most especially all the rules and commands those ears have heard.
Maybe it'll stay, maybe it wont… But if you see it go, now you'll know the reason why.
I never said a word.
You didn’t have to. I can feel your reproach from here.
Look, I’ve got too much to do today. I’d like to stop and chat but…
How can you expect me to think deep thoughts when I’m up to my arse in the proverbial alligators? I’ve got a shower to fix, a computer to finish checking out, groceries to get, a thousand and one bits of necessary trivia to deal with before I take L. to college on Monday and enough other “issues” to keep me going for the next decade at least.
So living and deep thoughts are mutually exclusive?
Yes. No. Look, I know your game. You’re going to tell me that life is the stuff of art; there’s not a word written, note sounded, brush stroke made or flake of marble chipped that doesn’t derive from what we meaninglessly call “the human condition”. Well, I’ve said it for you, so you can shut up and go away now. I know.
You know what?
Sheesh! You don’t give up, do you? How’s a guy supposed to get on and do stuff?
Alright, if you’re so smart, you tell me this: I go through this life thing same as everyone else, but most of the time it just washes over me. It takes enough effort just to survive to the end of each day without taking time out to try and figure it out as well. Life may be the raw material which creativity takes and shapes into some kind of meaningful representation, but you can’t do that from inside; you need to take a step back and…
Whoa! Hold it there a minute. What do you mean, you can’t do that from inside? Where else are you going to be? Are you saying you need to float away in some sort of out-of-body experience in order to reflect life though any kind of creative expression?
No, don’t answer that; we’ll only waste time throwing abstract notions back and forth at each other, none of which take the dialogue any further forward.
Rewind the conversation a couple of minutes. See if you can spot the assumption that’s fooling you.
Oh, guessing games now, is it? You don’t get the message do you? I’m busy.
Would you rather I made an appointment for the next time you’re not?
Hmmfff… Maybe next year then. Okay, I take your point; go on, tell me now.
Who said you have to think deep thoughts?
Maybe you’re trying too hard.
Thursday, September 08, 2005
“I don’t feel like it – that is, I haven’t got anything to say.”
“If you don’t write, they’ll go away and leave you, y’know.”
“Ha! If I do write it’ll be more soul-less pseudo-intellectual crap and they’ll still go away.”
“The longer you leave it, the harder it’ll be.”
“Is that it? Yup?”
“I’m not going to argue…”
[tries a different tack] “Where did all that rekindled energy go?”
“It’s not as simple as that.”
“There’s more to it than being bouncy and wanting to write something.”
“I’m not going to bore people with the contents of my diary.”
“Bore them with something else then.”
“Any suggestions, smart-arse?”
“I only ask the questions – it’s you that has to give the answers, my friend.”
“Hey, don’t you go getting clever on me, this is supposed to be a joint effort y’know.”
“’S okay... so am I. I didn’t mean to snap; you touched a nerve.”
“I’m short of answers at the moment. Short of questions, too for that matter.”
“Is that why we’re sitting here thus engaged?”
“Could be, I guess…
Look, it’s like this. You know how I’m always griping about how frustrated I am with my job? Thoroughly dis-ed: disengaged, disenchanted, disillusioned, disempowered?”
“I could hardly have missed it, could I?”
“How I long for a job that would offer some meaning, in which I might feel valued, doing work that mattered?”
“Get on with it, it’s not as if we haven’t heard all this before…”
“Well, this last week has been different; I actually had a small taste of what I’ve been looking for – for the first time in a very long time indeed I’ve had work that has seen me hurrying to get in, eager to get going and where I’ve met some really nice people and begun to build what I hope turn out to be mutually fruitful relationships. Even been able to exercise a modicum of leadership.”
“Why do I get the feeling you’re not going to be telling me how wonderful that is?”
“Well, in some ways it was; I could actually feel proud of what I’d achieved. And I meant what I said about the people I’ve been working with; they’re a great bunch”
“But it had some unexpected side-effects.”
“I miss writing here. It’s not that I’m too busy and haven’t got the time. I can make the time, but I can’t find anything to say. It’s almost as if the frustration was what had fuelled my writing, such as it was. Take away the frustration and, without fuel, the fire that burned within dies. The irony of course is that I thought it was the frustration that prevented me from writing more; now it looks as though I got that completely back-to-front and inside out. The frustration was both generating emotion and forcing me to look outside the walls of the job.”
“Now I’ve tried both sides of the fence. If it comes to a choice, I think I prefer the other side. Can you believe that, after all that whingeing? I’ll take the frustration and anxiety and mild depression if that’s what’s needed to carry on writing. This side is too bland”
“So you’re saying you need to be a tortured artist in order to write? That can be arranged, you know…
Wait a minute, you’re saying something else too; didn’t you notice? The writing is actually that important to you?”
“I guess it must be.”
“What are you going to do about it?”
Thursday, September 01, 2005
But reading Jean’s post from Tuesday reminded me, so I had another go.
The only way I could record what was in my mind was in pictures; the thoughts hadn’t yet made it into the realms of words.
This represents me and my world. A blob (or is it a potato half-buried in the earth?)
This blob occupies a world of two different, seemingly mutually exclusive mediums, like air and water. An external one where the vast majority of the human interplay of everyday life takes place, - a world of facts and actions and small-talk, and an internal, hidden one - the realm perhaps where heart and soul reside, although I’m not sure the distinction I felt was quite as simple as saying that mind occupies the outer world and heart and soul the inner. What distinguishes these two parts of the blob, the outer and inner, is simply the very fact that one comprises all of those things that present themselves in the external world, and the other is all of those things that stay largely within the inner world. I spend a lot of time “in my head” – too much, perhaps – so this inner part often feels to me the more significant part, the nine-tenths of the iceberg below the surface. I’m conscious though that this might be a risky state of affairs when the great majority of life is lived out in the external world of work and relationships
But I get frustrated with a world where human interaction seems to operate on an inverted-iceberg model. All the action takes place in the external world – the so-called ‘real’ world - and the inner world of the individual takes second place, becoming a place of phantoms, of unreality, and any part of us that resides there is in danger of being shut away, isolated and lonely. Imprisoned, even – if people only want to make connections in that outer world, if people shy away from making those deeper connections then the inner world might just as well have bars around it.
(For the purposes of illustration, I've mutated from a blob to a triangle, and been joined by a couple more mutant blobs). This external world was the place in which I lived for a very long time. Indeed, I knew no other – it just didn’t occur to me that the inner world was anything other than a secret, hidden place known only to each of us individually, and that the only path for communication we could have was through the outer world, distorted by its filters and translations.
But thankfully along the way I discovered to my delight that is was possible to build bridges between each others’ inner worlds. And although the bridge may be built using the tools of the external world – mostly words, but aided too when the eyes fulfil their part as the window onto the soul - the connections that are made seem strongest beneath the surface. Invisible, unspoken for the most part except in reflection (much like that quote from Richard Bach in my sidebar), yet a source of sustenance, of power and energy, of life.
At this point, words run out of usefulness. Words may be mediators through which connections are created, but the connection itself exists and is sustained without them. Or that, I think, was what was in my mind when I drew this alternative view:
I think what I wanted to capture was the strength and importance of those inner –world connections, and how outer-world connections aren’t really connections at all. But as I say, the words fizzle out now. That’s why I didn’t try writing this down before; it wasn’t headed towards a Great Conclusion, or even a snappy punch-line. But I didn’t want to throw that scrap of paper away until I’d done something with it. I guess at least now I can say I’ve finished clearing up that chest of drawers.
Doh!! I forgot the most important part, the realisation from months back that had me scribbling diagrams on scraps of paper in the first place: we are all connected at that inner level, whether we recognise it or not. The real magic comes when we acknowledge that inner connection and allow it to flow through into the external world of our daily lives, or equally when we allow ourselves to receive that flow from another.
And by chance, I find that Christy is saying something very similar over at Ashley's:
"sometimes it has taken years (years, i tell you!) of knowing someone superficially to suddenly realize that the normal polite walls and doors between me, and that person, were just veils. not even veils, just fog in my eyes. that realization does seem to happen faster these days--always i think about our friend anne stadler's statement: "we have to develop the capacity for instant connection""
Thanks, Christy, and Ashley.