from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Monday, 13 August 2012

what is the point?

Day five. I'm catching up on some sleep but wake heavy and puffy-eyed. I notice that I move around myself as I would around a shy or edgy animal, maybe a wild one: very calmly and slowly. Hmmm. I'm still feeling a bit anxious then – I don't give myself the slip that easily, more's the pity.

Lots of writing, lots of reading. Books are such good company! In a good one you'll find answers to questions you didn't even know you wanted, but now covet madly. I do know that without books my time here would be harder – they stand between me and myself, or my recent history, I'm aware, as well as being such a rich source of Mind. So in a way I'm cheating – full silence would mean too silence from others' thoughts, which is also an addiction of mine. They can run interference, as the Americans say, between oneself and How It Is. There are things, like the swathe of recent family deaths and the changes and reorientation they bring, that I'm not ready to face full-frontal, so to speak.

Oh and there are the little issues, like how do I want to live the rest of my life?

Jenny Diski says in On Trying to Keep Still, my first piece of reading matter, from the bookshelves  here, and to the neglect of the 8 books I brought with me – no, 9, but I'm reading no.9 now (a novel by my friend Sharon Blackie The Long Delirious Burning Blue) – that there is 'essentially only one question. It is "What is the point?" and in some form or another it is asked over and over again by those of us who have failed to mature enough to stop asking it.' She follows this by a list of people – writers, philosophers in the main – who exemplify this. I can't remember the others but I remember Nietzsche.

This makes me smile. Isn't this exactly why we write, one way or another? And maybe why we read, too?

And she says: 'Another question is what is it like when something or nothing happens? Something or nothing happens all the time.' I like this too. Except that I think that it might be something AND nothing, because I think they're perhaps ultimately the same thing; it's all in how you relate to it and whether you can buy paradox, or whether you prefer everything all lined up and neat and tidy in two distinct rows. This. That.

Anyway. This week's solo retreat for me is all about sitting in the middle of the quiet thrum of life that is somethinging and nothinging all the time within me and around me, and see how it is to share in that something and nothing and nothing and something without being driven to fill every moment with ways of not sitting here in the centre of... Everything. Nothing. In the heart of each moment. The Vast Abundant Emptiness, the Fertile Void. (And without being driven mad by eyeballing said vast emptiness.)

I'm sorry, Mr Kipling, but I reject the idea that I have to fill every minute with 60 seconds' worth of distance run, or jobs-to-be-done, or whatever. OK, it's taken me a long time to rebel against that one, but I am now. Rebelling. It could catch on. Take hold. My idleness, to misquote Montaigne, might mature and put on weight with the passage of time. You need to be careful, making Pronouncements like that. Just look what happened to poor old Moses, Abraham & Co and their injunctions from God, in the late twentieth century, in the hands of the likes of Richard Dawkins. (And he was by no means the first.)

There again, to be fair to Rudyard, it's true that I have no aspirations to 'be a man', however.

But it's in human nature to start counter-revolutions in opposition to well-meaning but rather didactic pronouncements. Then there'll be a counter-counter-revolution with its own brand of polemic. Then a counter-counter-counter – and before you have time to say 'If' you're back with those pesky rows of This and That, and any right-thinking person knows that of course the true path is straight down the middle, not looking to left or right. (Or perhaps I should say 'good-' or 'well-thinking' person so as not to seem biased towards the dexter rather than sinister. Which I'm not.)

And no, I haven't been drinking. That's what nearly a week of pure Dartmoor water (oh and a bit of solitary staring into the void) does for you.

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