Quest2016 A Synthesis Journey

A JOURNEY AND A DREAM

In a week I have travelled quite a long way. The other night I had a dream in which I was in a barred cage, and contemplated how I might escape it. Outside was sunlit grass, inside a naked floor under a covering cloth of darkness, the darkness of fear and self doubt. I took hold of two bars and found that I could part them with little effort and simply step out: the cage of myself.

Jeffrey’s invitation was to synthesize the common overlap between the three question. My first answer was to listen no longer to my own voice but what others ( and life itself) were telling me. (I am over familiar with the repetitive and bullying injunctions of my thuggish mind.’You ought, you should, and never shall you rest’) The next day I received a letter, a wild dog attack from my eldest daughter’s partner. I will spare you the content but just give the context. I have not had any contact with my daughter for seventeen years, all letters ignored, all overtures rebuffed.I have never met what might have been my grandchildren. I came face to face with the bars of that cage, it was the lingering hope of restoration.

What parted the bars was the end of such hope. The letter revealed such hatred that I had to recognise the past could never be restored, and never would be. Mother was over. I wrote a letter of farewell, and stepped through and into a different future.

Quest Week One

To the second question of how to devote a year committed to one question, I answered with a sense of liberty and time for what might prove rewarding by trying to plumb the answer to Shakespeare’s perennial and unending vitality. I would put into practice what I learnt by finishing a play.

It wasn’t until I answered the third of what would you commit to if you knew it couldn’t fail that the wheel came round full circle. Shakespeare was playing safe, and writing a play that couldn’t fail was terrifying, because it would be devalued by that condition, so it couldn’t really succeed either! I then realised that my cage had been constructed from the fear of other people precisely because my daughters’ rejection had injured self confidence fatally. Regaining it required me to ‘go public’ as an identity, as a writer, but mostly as vulnerable, and nakedly released.

Being a good mother was one thing I believed I had managed. Managing a divorce was predicated on that first and only imperative. Building a home for the united children (4) of two marriages, and having the ex and his new wife to stay frequently was part of that imperative and the generosity of my husband in accepting that demand was also an acceptance of the domination of ‘motherhood’ , although he did it with great generosity, and never distinguished between his and another man’s daughters. To ensure this continued he named my ex husband as his first child’s godfather  should the worst happen to us. We thought we had done it differently, and no harm could come.

What we could not influence happened later and severed us all completely. This week hope died.

What lies in the centre at the intersection, the purple patch?  It may come back to the play, whether for stage or not. Being seen not for a clever idea, but a deeper kind of truth, the dynamic intersection between an individual and the role we clothe ourselves to perform. I shall cast off an outworn motherhood, more than threadbare now, so tattered I wonder how it clothed me for all these years of hope, and turn towards writing what I know personally, maybe a memoir, maybe a portrait of my earlier family that generated the desire to raise lots of loving children (I had no father and no siblings and longed for companions) and within whatever it turns out to be find something universal. At this time of Christmas the ‘Family’ is a heaven, but can equally be a hell. Time to explore.

Quest2016 Penetrating Deeper.

The Self Searching Odyssey.

Debbie Millman’s Prompt on 5th December.

Your Quest2016 Prompt today:

How would you do business as unusual in 2016 if you knew – no matter what you chose – you would not fail?

Superficially this seemed easier but in attempting to answer it I recognised it might have eliminated my answer to Prompt No 2. Would I spend a year cozying up to Shakespeare by writing a play that might help me to understand his genius? That now seems entirely selfish. And safe.

William_Shakespeare_Chandos_Portrait

What today’s prompt elicited was the full confession ( to myself) of my terror in joining a group. #Quest2016 has been the first toe in the group waters. I tasted my fear of other people. I identified its roots in a lifetime of rejection from my father ( before I was two) and ever since, culminating in my daughters, now adult. I am terrified of other people. I have sheltered behind solitude, and having powerful ideas. Ideas rejected equally ( which made them precious friends, we suffered together!). Only ideas have kept me going; writing them has filled my years, reading them has comforted me. The very few who celebrated them are my only friends. I know no others.

Suddenly I feel stripped naked, and very vulnerable. (Old women naked probably all do!) I suspect that I need to discover whether that life might have been different, if I had been available to be liked, instead of retreating behind what I created. I know a fair bit about love; love of music, love of language, love of understanding, nothing about liked. Just ordinary liking. I once knew how to laugh. I have forgotten how to do that. So I get there by starting to like myself? Then see if anyone else shares that? It might show me a whole new world, and since I am assured it cannot fail it seems even better than Shakespeare.

Philippa at46

Finding the Quest2016(ion)?

Your Quest2016 Prompt (2)today: from Jonathan Fields

You wake up to discover a knock at your door. A wealthy uncle you barely knew has passed and left you a fortune. It’s more than enough to live out your days in glorious splendor, but there is a condition. To be eligible to collect, you must commit your full-time working energies to the pursuit of an answer to a single question of your choosing for the next 12 months.

You are welcome to continue that pursuit after the year ends, for years or decades if it warrants, but you must remain fully focused on seeking the answer until the last minute of the 365th day. A minute shorter, the entire inheritance goes to your annoying and equally long lost cousin, Philly.

The Quest2016 (ion)?

Tempting though it might be to assume the position of the long lost cousin Philly and just wait ( since I already have her name and am probably equally annoying) I realise this is a very pointed challenge.
My first answer to the first prompt was to find an aim for an arrow, a true North for the next year. To understand and reapply that understanding creatively.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery to whom would I play page and study in their footsteps? (Getting out from myself, you see)

Question to be answered

Why has Shakespeare never been equalled or surpassed in four hundred years?

(He invented a language? He used the language of drama with its deep roots in Greek theatre ( Tradition) to talk to his contemporaries about everything (Invention)? He trusted himself to make poetry out of the mundane? He managed to tread a careful line between patronage and independence. He gloried in every aspect of life, and mocked its conceits. He was endlessly inventive and able to work to a deadline. He remains anonymous).

Yes I know, as role models go, very ambitious if not presumptuous. How will Shakespeare help me for a twelve month? In a guided adventure?

It brings me back to ‘The Play’s the Thing’. I have a half written play which began a dissection of failure. I am anonymous, so nearly there. Patronage I know nothing of, nor deadlines, but independence is a familiar and talking about everything comes naturally. ‘Something in particular’ is more difficult. Mocking conceit comes like breathing and gets me into trouble. In a theatre you can just drop the curtain. The poetry of the mundane must be honed so it does not end up as mundane poetry.

If playing to one’s strengths is a good idea (and at 75 makes a virtue out of a necessity) I reckon answering that question by writing a play may be no bad answer. It will cover what I know a bit about; the sound of one hand clapping.You never know, I might hear a sound of two hands clapping.  It will do to be getting on with.

(I must attribute the original idea to a very good friend Brian George. I wasn’t listening when he spoke!)

 

 

A Poetic Definition of Love?

An unexpected visitor to my ‘other blog’ pulled out this post I had forgotten. Like visiting the drawer I had not opened for a year or more.

It seemed worth airing again.

The Poetic Definition of Love?

I have missed Friday! Sorry. Proofing a book to a deadline somehow collapses the passing days. BUT how can anyone ignore the euphoria occasioned by this enquiry?

‘I absolutely love this sonnet. I thought it might be one of Shakespeare’s but it sounds too new. Please tell me who the author is.’

I posted it to a thread on Linked In that asked for ‘Your poetic definition of love?’

Ergo…
If you bequeath me all your dreams unspent
that had their birth beneath the sheeted sky
Once dressed in music, they went penitent
Through gold and gorse, for you walk solitary.
If I can turn a page within your past
and my slow eye peruse your slow delight…
The landscape of your heart has found a mast
to lend perspective to its breadth and height.
I mapped your longing long before you thought
to give account of thirst, or dust or wine
I laid your blooms of hope amidst the grass of doubt
I spread your pasture, I reseeded time.
What can I know but what I recognise?
You are myself and yours are my own eyes.

Photo: Imagination of an ARTIST !!!!

Getting Up Close and Personal

The Book that Wrote the Life:  My amiable thug of a book to whom I unwisely said
‘I do’

 OK. Enough already. It is time to dig deeper and get up close and personal.

Why would anyone write a new ‘Divine Comedy’? Start again. Why would an unrecognised poet and a non scientist write a poetic history of science? Well I have said it was the book that wrote the life, and choosing was never done by me.

Levels of Hell- Botticelli
Levels of Hell- Botticelli



I am now going to ‘come out’ and tell you what this seeming whimsy really means. Involution has caused me to ponder very deeply on how ordinary life gives evidence of it at every level. I would have no conviction if every life did not reflect it. I wrote the usual autobiography, only mine started with emerging onto the Serengeti plains and came pushing on through civilisation(s). I spent time in Greece and I absolutely loved Florence in the Renaissance, after which things rather went down hill, until I found myself beached in modern life and wondering where we might gone instead. Hence the book to find out.

Oxford-001

‘Write what you know…’ that hoary adage implies that every writer collects a carpet bag of scraps, the better to fashion characters, places, and realistic situations. Then there is the other school of authorship, the so-called imaginatively fictional—what nobody thinks anybody knows, the fantasy, the Gothic steam punk, the sci-fi, the magic realism and mythological which are considered testament to what you cannot know but have the skill and versatility to make real and believable.  They claim to be the ones who make Blue Peter toy towns out of fairy liquid bottles, metaphorically speaking.

I put it to you ladies and gentlemen; these are both drawn from a single continuum. The first writes what we know you know (yes familiar, know exactly where she stands…that part of London so well…so convincing) and the second what you once knew but have forgotten (often more convincing, probing deeper, but less definable). The layers of the subconscious furnish dreams and also fantasies, they are timeless, otherworld- penetrating, overwhelming, sometimes interlaced with surrealist extravaganzas, sometimes openly mocking, or indeed puerile.  I believe that this web of connection that links each of us to one another, to those we have known in past lives; or met in dreams, finds the mouthpiece author to articulate and give them all new life  through the books that enshrine them. Writing is the urge to articulate the preciousness of individuality, and make meaning of our lives (and fold in paprika or saffron dreams).

Our first book is almost always autobiographical in a narrow sense, and probably should be discarded. It sharpens the author’s familiarity with themselves, the better to apply a more detached and thoughtful eye to the components of other lives instead.

The more I read of the books people write and their relation to that author’s life and interests, the more it seems to me that books find authors by shaping their lives. Not so much ‘write what you know’ but ‘live the book first’. Authors stricken by tragedy make sense of it by writing ‘my story’,( or starting a charity) successful entrepreneurs sell success, philosophers weave philosophy into the loom of fiction, the injured write revenge, the ingenious a perfect crime, the enlightened write obliquely since they have nothing to sell but belief. Or they channel inspiration like St John of the Cross, Kahlil Gibran or Rumi, and become immortal in the literary sense. Shakespeare had to be Prospero first to whip up a Tempest.

Christopher Plummer as Prospero in The Tempest. Photography by David Hou.

Living forever, the immortality that writing implies and seeks, is, I think, what lies at the root of its compulsion. The writing calls for a reader to make a deeper sense of the solitude that an author’s experience wraps around his lonely shoulders.

I now understand that every aspect of my life has been relevant to conceiving and then writing Involution-An Odyssey. Every scrap in the carpet bag was used, but I suspect past lives I do not consciously remember set the tempos to spend more time with Galileo and the Renaissance painters in Florence, with Kepler in Tubingen and certainly the scholastics in Oxford and with the Invisible College back in Oxford halls of open and vigorous dispute. They were all places in which I felt immediate familiarity. Just as though I had come home.

Old Library-only daylight
Merton Old Library-only daylight

My first ever day in Oxford (commandeered as a taxi for an elderly friend to visit her sister) gave me nine hours to kill. Without a guidebook I found the Raphael drawings in the basement of the Ashmolean, the Light of the World at Keble, the old library of Merton, and it was just like the visiting of old friends. My feet knew the way and those that awaited my re-acquaintance. It was much the same with Florence, where Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s House was open for airing, and Fratelli Alinari was having a sale, and Donatello’s David bowed his beautiful head; I was pulled by an invisible guide. All were being heaped up for this book. I sat down in New College Chapel for a rest and looked up at El Greco…

2.-El-Greco

…lengthened by attenuated grief
From the harsh world now mired in the real

Even a junk shop near the Duomo provided the palimpsest that backs the cover and the website, a single page of parchment torn from a mediaeval leather bound and gilded tome.  ‘Cinquecento lira, Madame …prego…’

IT was for this reason that I could not write just a scientific theory, because Involution has been a lived truth, not a theoretical one. The synchronies that penetrate ordinary life on a daily basis, the friends you know you had to encounter, (because you were waiting for one another), the improbabilities that seem so self evidently inevitable once they have occurred; all point to the evidence of Involution. The future is causative, it draws, because past memory demands restorations, enmity needs reconciliation, joy seeks a new encounter and thought creates the circumstances for each. We know we know.  The moment NOW is the space-time moment in which such synchronies occur. The clocks all stop. The  genius who reported that searched for the cosmological constant, and thought it had been a blunder. Simply because no-one else corroborated, and expansion of the universe prevailed. Now they are not so sure. The red shift that gave us expansion may be due to atoms gaining weight and not speeding away. The prevalent governs vision, which is another reason for Involution written for non scientists…giving it a breath of hope.

I think Einstein was struck by a mystical Damascus. Consciousness, simply the universal field of connection? If so where does fiction begin and end?

_44255708_final_washing

Writers weave that field, and live the lives encoded in their memory and contribute their unique colours to the cloth. Experience is their vat, their river’s washing stone, their linen, hung out in words taken by the wind.