Sunday, 15 March 2009

Diary of an unborn writer #22

There were moments of jealousy in the time honoured way of matrimony – when the bonds are that tight you would expect a little give. And we gave - enough to hurt the other, make a game of fighting, ignoring, daring the other to make up first or realise it was a crash course we were on, each of us pushing our togetherness closer to the brink.

And I must say it was a wild ride for a time: we would erupt in huge conflagrations and passionate love making – the kind to make our downstairs neighbours chandeliers shake. There was also throwing things and laughing at each other because the aim was off and a frying pan sailed like a dove, unswerved by the window pane as it serenely crashed through. The frying pan was our comedy saviour that time but we mostly found something to cool the instincts and recivilise.

The passion was exhilarating and gave us both something to live for. In the early twenties there’s a lot to be frustrated about – the whole ground is shifting and you’re working out which way to best ‘make your life’ – nothing too extreme, we weren’t about to join Hamas and fight the Israeli occupation (though I know some who did) but radical enough to make a contribution. She chose human rights; I chose bohemia.

I decided to fashion myself on the whet stone of art. This was tricky. The most I had managed to that point were a few love letters and a faltering student drama career – becoming known as the competent supporting cast but never enough to land the lead roles. There was quite some talent there and members of the student company have gone on to quite some artistic and commercial success.

Jewel had always known a life in development was for her. With unswerving attention to the unfoldment of her plan she executed a path that in my dreams I had most wanted. The difference was that while I was dreaming – really imagining a future for the two of us as best I could, she was busy doing – scoring an outstanding degree. My degree was creditable, but lucky. And my carefully nurtured political rhetoric hardly correlating with the unforgiving reality.

Art was kind to me: showed me an area I could unfold, a tolerant crowd to express my attempts to define and describe the world. I joined a small drama group at the Forest Cafe – a community of alternative souls that also sold organic sandwiches and coffee. It was run not for profit and fulfilled its task diligently enough. There were times there that were pure dreamspell, others when the drudgery was depressing. The Forest Cafe fulfilled a need: the need for sensitive and caring people to express themselves, it therefore had to fulfil the need of sensitive and caring people for rigid social hierarchies and the complete avoidance of reality. I say this lavishly, and with the qualifier that I have known some of my most joyful, vibrant times in this place - filled with papier mache sculptures, murals of swirling comedy and political protest - but if the community had its downside this was it, and it eventually became too much. I mean seriously, the politics of the playground prevailed as they do everywhere and the tyranny of the popular dictated social discourse as much or more than concern for the well-being of fellows. If the latter was expressed it was shamefully superficial or else so mired in personal circumstance to be suffocating. This form of conversation, opening and sharing, was to show the other they could trust you. In practice it was merely dumping and I became as good at it as anyone. Hearing people’s problems became a kind of affirmation, amongst cups of coffee and vegan chocolate cake, that friendly conversation was tense, seeking an entry when the other would break so problems could be resolved, recycled and played out all over again. It was not the place to be emotionally mature but it did indulge a romance of freedom and creativity that I have seldom felt nourished elsewhere and if my judgment is overly harsh, it is because the Forest fulfilled its dream as nearly as you could wish.

The drama group was lead by a man named Ras Babi. Ras was Sudanese, who, by way of thirty years of travelling had made it to Edinburgh and become a rallying point for the lost souls. He would inspire with his very presence, never do what you expected but frequently astounded and beautified his surroundings. A man of the Rasta faith Ras Babi spoke every inch of his being as authentically himself. He cried for the home country and injustice in the world and in doing so, taught us to do the same.

Tuesday night’s drama club would begin with Ras Babi standing up looking to heaven and words emerging that would set the scene for the evening. From this, stories action and poetry emerged with stunning spontaneity and prepared pieces too. Folk trying to get to the core of things – at least fleetingly. It became a group healing in a very real sense and its cast of colourful – woven jumpers and torn trousers colourful – became people I respected and admired.

Each month we would put on a show, with such colours and rich imagining and also a descendent chaos that was beautiful to behold. The drama itself was backed by a band that could play the reggae of Kingston, the blues of Chicago and the bristling funk of Lagos. These were the highh times, what we lived for and sweet until divisive posturing and spearated ideals took us in different directions.

Jewel arrived back in Edinburgh when the Forest was still my social hub. She had come from far out of town – after a year in Chile and expected somehow for my life not to have moved on at all. In fact, every element of a life developed away from her was resented. Evidence of her non-presence and it hurt her as much as it hurt me that I couldn’t understand the reasons at the time. All I could see was isolation and miscommunication, a couple of glimpses of a love we had previously known but otherwise formalised and expectant. We were going through the motions and allowed none of the feeling to get in the way.

She had been in Chile working for Amnesty International. An intern in their office, she organised campaigns and made friends with young idealistic types – a beautiful crowd who were much like the Forest crew except willing to DO something about it. It’s just occurred to me while writing that maybe the Forest’s job was to show to me the outcome of dream-dreaminess rather than something more engaged after which I was ultimately to yearn.

Jewel came to my Edinburgh scene a year more mature and womanly. She was beautiful beyond my remembering and now with slight care-worn wrinkles around the eyes and a smile that killed, even more when it didn’t occur.

The move to Edinburgh was ostensibly an internship position but had the undercurrent of bringing us back together, making it year 5 of an enduring relationship – about the only constant I had known since snapping the umbilical cord at 18. I’d passed through a dozen groups of friends, theatre groups and debaucherous incidents and she had remained calm and ever herself. Fun-loving, wise, and did I mention?, beautiful. It was the long brown hair and strike of her hips, always at an angle. A voice fashioned from worldwide residence since the age of five that you’d have down as lilting American – though she’d grimace at the suggestion and describe with pride her East European roots.

But I’m straying from the chronology: she was back in my life when I was hardly in it myself. She’d returned as I recovered from depression, heard my whines of a life grimly lived and wondered how the one she’d left had wound up in this situation of denial, despair and constant self-criticism – sprayed liberally onto others if they came too close to cracking the shell.
How could she, trying to come to terms with the situation, not become closed? There was more. Her lover in years gone by had found another stream of devotion – he’d gone and gotten himself a Guru and spoke of her with obsession, as if it were the only part in his life. Dear lady, what else could she do but close.

Simon had yet to rise to the heights of compassion where he could see the closure and not take it personally. He cajoled his sweet heart into communication, knew she was holding back and wished for a second she would be honest with herself and him. It was a dangerous time of expansion: having been released from misery’s clutches, he was a wild animal uncaged and not as sensitive as he might have been to the needs of his lady-love. Indeed he was more interested in his own.

Awakening to him was everything and at the time, in fact still, anything seen to be getting in the way had to be thrown aside. The trouble was that anxious girlfriends in need of attention attracted derision rather than sympathy. It was the mental lock of a mind that’s telling itself it is not there – the height of arrogance that can only thrive in spiritual circles when everyone’s busy reassuring each other that their ego is not there, in fact murdered or subject to thirty years intensive labour. Our will to succeed was such that we could not admit we were all dreadfully mistaken, and a terrifyingly long way from home.

Jewel was more at home – through this she was a constant, although necessarily anxious about where the future was taking her. I admired her bravery, courage at taking the steps necessary. It was a while until I found my vacation in bohemia was a way to escape the problems of the world. Though, depression aside, I had quite a merry time along the way.

Beauty that tender and that fragile can only get derision from the arrogant mind. I couldn’t admit she was right and I couldn’t either see how much she loved me and her restraint was nothing but a fear of not having that loved returned. If anything, her love ran deeper than mine or was more honestly expressed, whereas mine was the kind that expected results and not knowing they would come, ultimately walked away.

This fragility of temperament did us in. Though I’ll admit from the other side there was jealousy, resentment and expectation that felt to me like so much baggage I could do without. There were things emerging in me that I could not express while around her. She hated to read my writing, mention of my guru was snuffed out and what I was discovering was written off as the ramblings of a crazed-obsessive. Not least because a) they were and b) they were taking me further away from her.

So you see now that not a single frying pan was thrown, though I wish it would, maybe dissolved our castles for a second, allowed for parlay and gentle company.

Soon after I was gone to India, had a romance with a Dutch lady; in what I was convinced was true love. It was certainly true passion or true openness – a love that closes up again once its consequences have been appreciated (you mean I have to share all their shit too?!). But that was not until we’d met up again in Edinburgh. I had decided in meditation on the banks of the river Ganga that Jewel and I were over. In fact I had decided the night before I went to Edinburgh – Jewel deciding that my taking twenty minutes in the shower was more important than a final night spent harmoniously. I was raging. Our final week had been horrendous. I had wanted to share in the grief of leaving but Jewel, as was her custom had turned to rigid stone. There was no give, no introspection and from this I concluded that never could we be together if she could not accept and forgive me for following a deep passion of mine.

As you can see I was at the height of arrogance, though I felt, well-reasoned at the time.

In India it was more reassuring myself I had made the right decision. She had become so catty. While I had retreated into bohemia, she had gone the way of cosmo chic. She had developed a Sex & the City twang and referred to me as another accessory to her lifestyle, a handbag or career path in the knowing superficial way our culture finds so sophisticated but disguises a deep disgust of its own insignificance. Of course this was a young lady finding her way in clothes society provided and she tried to make fit her. Shame that the clothes were ones I had ideologically arrayed myself against. I described her friends as corpses and couldn’t understand why she got upset.

In my meditations – supposedly diving into Truth – I was working out which woman would be better for me, my new-found Holland gem, or the Jewel. Sticking in my mind were two things. One, we had trudged to the train that would take me to the plane to India, moodily resenting the other, I for her brooding, she for my leaving. Abandoning her really, when she had come this far for me. What emerged as we left was a kiss that would knock the hind legs off a donkey as if our love rose up to remind us what was really going on. In my resentment, this first event baffled. The second was a repeat event, the blank tape that was re-recorded every night when we went to sleep. Whether sex or not, argument or not, loving understanding or cool miscommunication, nights were our haven and falling asleep and waking I was always more in love with her than with anything ever – our bodies glowed as one being, hearts fallen into synchronised rhythm over night. This wasn’t the outcome of time long spent together. I cannot remember a time when we were not like this.

If only we had been more faithful to this feeling during the day.

Returning to Scotland I was as free as the wind and going only where footsteps took me. I had felt as though karmically released, a history thankfully washed clean and a road that would go in the only direction I was going.

I finished things formally and finally with Jewel and enjoyed liaisons with a couple of other women, walking away as soon as it became inconvenient, including the one I had undyingly fallen for on the banks of the Ganga. I was rolling alone and getting quite a kick out of it. I would mourn for Jewel and know it was just symptom of our passing. We enjoyed intermittent meetings that were as passionate and loving as any time we could remember together. Unfettered by the chains of wondering whether or not we had a future we could be completely there for one another. It was then I realised how much she loved me and I her, but I was strong in the conviction that our time was up and different pastures awaited us both.

This galled her and she wept for months. Stranded in Edinburgh alone, at times she would refuse to see me. All through this I was certain I was doing the right thing. I still am. Though on the day of her leaving Edinburgh – ostensibly out of each other’s lives for good – in a moment of self-doubt I drew a tarot card to see if I was doing the right thing. On it was a shadowed mourning figure with a one word below it: ‘Alone’.

So now the wheel has turned and I’m imagining a life with her once more: desiring it profoundly – how can I rationalise that I was ‘right’? The move to leave was necessary to uncover and remind ourselves what lay within us. The pattern of resentment and jealousy in which we had ourselves locked needed somehow to be released, to be seen for what it was – deep fear that we could ever be apart. These tender loving hearts had become so scarred by being apart, they were tentative in coming back together and for all my prostestations of openness, I was as closed and scared as she was. For this we had to break.

And what opened up? Devotion, passion, living, immediate, uncomplacent, unexpectant, true real, thrilling love. It washed us clean and allowed wounds to heal, be opened up again and sluiced out. Bruises reborn, flesh unscabbed and hot flowing love to course through, renew and heal.

Of course it hurt but if we ever get back together these will be the times, of renewal, of hope, that sowed the seed of our re-imagining.

Which is what I am doing. Writing songs about contented suburban life, poems more romantic and erotic than I thought my sensitive, filthy brain could surmise. I want to grow old with her, be boring with her, go off the rails with her, find a way back to ourselves with her.

I want to share in ruins and mistakes and take on most of hers too. This is not the love that needs or possesses but demands total commitment from both sides to honesty, truth and love. A passion for our combined unfolding. Spreading wings and flying high all the while growing deep roots to shade each other and others, little saplings sprouting round.

The poems you’ll see from time to time on the Rosebush, but mostly they’ll be just for her. Sent in packages from unknown addresses with notes to spark and flame, bring my lover back again. I'm done with the searching, hoping, wishing. This is the end game. She'll be here by Autumn.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Diary of an unborn writer #21

I’ve been reading about fractals – a word I’d heard before but not sufficiently understood. They are a concept the same uniform motion can be infinitely repeated to form very concept patterns. Almost as when Brahma opened the cavernous abyss of his mouth and intoned ‘AUM’.
The concept is beautiful and unifying – shows how the smallest gesture can be on a great scale magnified and replicated – how you’re taking notice of a stranger, or some extra time for your mother can in some way improve international relations.

You think I’m joking, dear one. No. It’s been a long while I’ve ranted and raved at those who have dropped the significance of individual action in context of the bigger picture. It’s not in the way of ordering people to be holier than thou – an exhortation to conformity and the banal.
The simple reason is that circumstances pass before us as codes – to be recognised and deciphered by way of mindful action. These codes – such as dealing with a lover’s infidelity – as the self same situations and actions replicated at an international level.

It IS the same gesture to ignore the pleas of a beggar on your street – the one who sits daily by the cash machine, not to be closer to the money but to take advantage of the surveillance society, be close to the ATMs CCTV and avoid being beaten – as it is to restrain government purses in development aid.

It is the same to demonise Israelis and cherish Palestinians as it is to build a wall between them.
These codes, these attitudes all find their way into the collective mind and find expression in a grander form – infinitely replicated in a fractally logistic way.

Which means, dear friends, that the world around us – that we so despair and revel in – is nothing but a magnification of our own desires at one end and our nobility at the other.
Gordon Brown is as imaginative and inconsequential as the people he governs. Barack Obama as manipulative and coolly efficient as the societies he runs and the basking scar of Africa the collective expression of everything that we do not see.


We’re going on a philosophical trip because that’s where I’m ‘at’. Some ideas have been fermenting and experimenting with in the head for some time – a couple creeping into these pages – are finding expression in the words of others.

For a long time there’s been an idea that the subject of global cooperation is the same energy as that required to improve local participation. One will not come without the other. As we expand supernationally – and folks though it may take a different form it IS going to happen – we need to look more deeply into our communties and expand their participation. At some level we know this intuitively but the concept of fractals is so elegantly unifying it expresses what I’ve been thinking perfectly. If this words strike as irrelevant or confused, it’s because they have yet to find in me decent expression, still hovering before maturity.

It was a former professor of mine at McGill University, Montreal (I sound so grand to say it – but you know I am both educated and travelled) whose writings I’ve been unearthing that’s been working on the topic of fractals and global cooperation – himself concerned with moving on the conversation from the ‘dominator paradigm’ expressed so diligently by current executives (and, just you wait, ALSO by Obama).

Myron Frankman, short, grey bearded intellectual, would stand at the front of a class and mumble witticisms that could only be heard in the front row – even though his voice was amplified by microphone – and spend inordinate lengths of time on house keeping and describing homework assignments. His passion was for the power of the collective and he saw himself not as a dusty prof, but another member of the collective who could contribute equally, albeit with more erudition and insight than any of us assembled. And certainly with no less passion.
Arrayed in a lecture theatre, late teenagers and early-twenty-somethings would tire as he rambled about our latest assignment or dithered on his computer to find today’s powerpoint presentation. Just as heads would nod – Myron would produce, like a magician a chicken from his cloak, the most radical firebrand ideas to set minds fizzing and ardent revolutionary hearts alight.

World taxes, advanced critiques of the ruling order, dominator models, co-operative schemes to empower the disempowered. The ditherer became so alive and able to enfold all of us in his enthusiasm and passion – while still over 60 – he became one of my most cherished-remembered professors, even though he revealed the firebrand only two or three times in three months of teaching.


Myron was not the sole external factor – I’ve yet to write on here my involvement with an equally exciting NGO in Amsterdam – taking up my precious fifth day of the week. It’ll come in another batch of storytelling. In the meantime, stay well, stay ardent, passionate and above all, free.
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