Arriving at Another Language

A lot is made of what we say at the moment. We are made to choose our words very carefully. Saying the wrong thing can get you pilloried, abused, shamed or even fired in this day and age due to the immediate and vociferous reaction by online mobs who are only too happy and quick to reach for the torch and pitchfork. Both the left and right appear to have their demands on how sacrosanct language is and how it should be deployed and used; the Nu-Right delight in using inappropriate language, pleased when they offend by using racist or sexist slurs, complaining of political correctness gone mad, whilst the Left angrily demand all discourse be pulped through the fine mesh screening filter of tolerance and inclusion. Ironically the roles of both have reversed, the typically free and liberal Left demand control and censorious guidelines for discourse and the traditionally control loving Right dislike the control imposed upon their vocabulary. Some more sensible people would argue that the best method lies somewhere in the middle, that one side shouldn’t be so quick to clutch their pearls and the other should not so deliberately try and goad and insult. The trouble is the whole debate isn’t as cut and dried as this. Ironically both sides are guilty of the others sins yet are seemingly unable to recognise the deficiencies in their argument. Language (whether it be English, Spanish, Cantonese, Flemish or any language) is a strange and capricious beast that has been variously described, mainly in science fiction, as living creature, totem and even a virus. For a better understanding of how language can affect us on a fundamental level there is a modern treatise for just this topic in the recent film ‘Arrival’.

*Spoilers for Arrival ahead*

Directed by Denis Villeneuve and based on the short story ‘The Story of Your Life’ by Ted Chiang, ‘Arrival’ is ostensibly a science fiction film about invading Aliens. This is far from true it turns out when the Aliens try to communicate with us and by learning their language the lead protagonist discovers it has altered her perception of time. Events of her future appear as memories and events of her past appear as current. Whilst the film itself deals with determinism (an interesting source of intense debate in the field of physics as the Uncertainty Principle comes under closer and closer scrutiny thanks to developments at CERN) it is a profound indicator of how language, on a fundamental level, changes a person’s perception. A study by Georgetown University in America discovered that learning two languages and developing an increased vocabulary increased the Grey Matter in the brain but the European Commission published a study in 2012 that showed people fluent in more than one language suffered from poorer verbal skills because they carry two or more languages with them every time they speak thus creating difficulties whereby they use fewer words day to day and have more frequent tip-of-the-tongue moments as the brain tries to compute a vast library of sounds, this means being bilingual effects your speech on a lexical level but also a syntactic one. Therefore while being bilingual does effect your brain development, increasing the efficiency of the brain’s executive control system that looks after high-level thought, multi-tasking, and sustained attention, and the increase in grey matter, no study exists that shows links between bilingualism and executive intelligence, emotional intelligence and intelligence quotient, i.e. being bilingual doesn’t actually make you smarter (despite what a typically histrionic and poorly researched article by the Daily Mail may have said). What it DOES do, rather amazingly, is changes the actual physical structure of the brain and its processes. So on a very basic level we are defined by the language we speak and how often we speak it. When it comes to perception however things get even more interesting.

Much is made of ‘The Right Word’. Certainly as a poet this is always the bullseye you aim for but what it implies is how the wrong word can create a really deep shift in a discourse or simply total confusion. By omitting a word or clarifying clause to a statement, or simply emphasising the wrong part of a phrase, a jovial conversation can quickly become an argument. The joke of the little boy asked to go down the road and see how Old Mrs Kettle is only to return with the answer “78” contains an inherent truth that our moment is defined by the language we choose to employ. Time itself can be warped and changed simply by shifting tenses, something many note in the English and French languages as being particularly odd. Gone, go and going; past, present and future, if misused can create a strange logical time loop. “Where have you been?” when asked of someone not completely fluent in English, replied with “I go to the toilet” taken at face value means they are going to the toilet at that moment (and more importantly didn’t answer your question!). Of course we know this is malleable, especially when dealing with people who do not speak our language, but when taken on a broader scale we are essentially walling ourselves into our cultures with our given languages. In literature, particularly poetry, much is made of a translation because something written artistically in its mother tongue will be intrenched in cultural nuance, aphorism, argot, idiom and technicalities not present in the other language, therefore something is missing in transference, typically the inherent ‘sense’ of the original is lost. The first line of Albert Camus ‘The Outsider’ being a fine case in point. In poetry there is an oft ignored method called the ‘Version’ whereby you do not translate the poem necessarily but re-write it, hopefully capturing its essence, in your own tongue and hopefully impart that which the original did and it is this that creates the most interesting response to those who argue over language via the notion of language as response to perception rather than perception as a response to language and therefore a way of ‘translating’ an idea/poem/image so it is better understood in its nature by those reading/seeing/hearing it.

Nietzsche once said: “I am afraid we are not rid of God because we still have faith in Grammar”. Which feeds in well to the major political arguments surrounding the Left and Right’s demands on language; both sides are failing their respective battles because they both believe their language is the correct one and not the fallible creature it truly is. The flaw that Nietzsche, I think, is trying to wrestle with is that language indicates the way things are, not that the way things are informs language. As an example, if you were to see a four legged animal on a lead in the street you might say “that’s a dog” and you would be right, we have the word Dog so when it is said our mind immediately conjures up the image of a dog. The trouble is we then imagine a Platonic ‘Form’ of a dog, an ideal dog that doesn’t exist or is probably our favourite dog from real life or fiction, until we begin to describe it with an endless stream of adjectives: its a short haired, jack russell terrier, with a loud yip and a milky eye that farts when it sneezes and doesn’t eat dried food because… etc. Language does not account for the uniqueness of the dog in an instant when attempting to communicate this. We can see and absorb the individual nature of it but have to create a spider graph of words around it to lock down it’s reality in conversation or dialogue. An ideal language would be able to invent a word upon seeing the object that perfectly communicates its individual features, its nuances and its character, something that Ted Chiang and Denis Villeneuve approach in their story of a language that can perfectly communicate between species because it relies on an entire lifespan of the individual to find the correct instance or example of something that needs to be communicated as Amy Adam’s character does to the Chinese general which in turn saves the globe from intergalactic war. A language that communicates totally and completely in the briefest time would be incredibly freeing, imagine being able to gather all the nuance and empathy of a political argument in a sound.

Sadly we aren’t there yet. As Nietzsche said we are still ruled by our God of grammar, that god in our syntax that still says “It is raining”, “What time is it?” The magical IT or THEY that controls our structure of speech and ultimately our reality, or at least our perception of it. France even has its Conservatoire which perfectly maintains the French vocabulary so no foreign words can intrude unnecessarily, a true example of the tyranny of language personified as a loop; we define language, language defines us. Which, for me, is where poetry comes in. The poet Don Patterson described poetry as “A method of failure”, by which he meant poetry should always exceed its grasp, trying to capture the ineffable in a word or phrase, so that whilst it may fall short we do then have a more appropriate short hand for a given feeling, emotion, state of mind, place, time and so on. Shakespeare was the master of this, a neologist of such depth and complexity nobody goes a single day speaking English without quoting him. No one individual has done more for English communication and expression since. The notion, so beautifully captured in both the short story and film of Arrival, that every facet of our lives is defined not just by our experiences but how they are communicated is one that everyone speaking any language today should heed. With societal division at its highest in centuries the need for better communication, a more frank and nuanced dialogue, is desperately needed and – for me at least – that means: more poetry.

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Try and have Merry Christmas

I’ve been remiss on this blog this year but I mean it’s been pretty quiet hasn’t it? Not much has happened. Will try and pick up the slack next year but feel like everything I need to say is being said online at the moment, a lot. The internet is just becoming background noise to be honest. 2017 is probably the year we start getting back to the real world as it seems we’ve been neglecting it and it has turned to complete shit. In the spirit of that, here’s you annual Christmas Poem from yours truly:


Merry Christmas Mrs. May

With snow gently lilting to the ground

Christmas lights casting their pearlescent glow

And a brass band blowing their mournful sound

Now wreaths of holly hung from doors to show

a welcome inside from a gilded tree,

mulling wine, chestnuts and the mistletoe

then comes a knocking and outside we see

wrapped up carolers singing songs we know.

“Do you have a license? And the volume’s

too loud. Make sure that brass band doesn’t stay,

I don’t think that’s a British seasonal tune

either. And mistletoe’s poisonous! No grey

area there, best take down this holly

wreath too. Is that snow white enough to play

in?” Poor No.10 (it’s not so jolly)

But have a Merry Christmas Mrs. May.

 


Also I made a Christmas song with my friend Christiana you can download for free over on Soundcloud. Click here to listen.

Be kind to each other. Except the 51% and anyone who voted Trump. Fuck them. They’re wrong and you need to tell them so and importantly show the evidence why. They don’t have facts to back up their racism, homophobia, misogyny and xenophobia, that’s why it’s called ‘ignorance’. Fuck 2016, let’s try and make next year better.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Negative Capability 

This is my 100th post here on This Written River and I wanted it to be special. A celebration. Sadly, it cannot be. Everyday some new horror is visited on humankind by humankind and I’m finding it harder and harder to understand how we got here and, more importantly, why are things not getting better?

As usual the only way I can express this is in my writing. I have written a short story that was being published by SleepyHousePress.com today but I asked them to hold off for a week due to its closeness in subject matter to the recent tragedies across Europe and the middle east. In its stead here is a poem I wrote today.

Negative Capability

In our pocket world it is easily seen

The total story from sublime to obscene

We suck and curl, one wave of grief,

Of outrage, of anger, of disbelief

We know the who, the what, the where, the why

But when asked ‘what the feel?’ we shy.

Like the horse held in place beside the passing train

We should not rear and stamp at other’s pain.

Do not lie, you do. We parrot kindness

Our sympathies, as it’s required of us

But do you kneel on the floor and grab,

Blindly smearing blood on the concrete slab?

Do you feel the pennies placed on your eyes?

Or cold metal shudder at those you despise?

Do you smell the cobalt air and feel the sting

Of tears of guilt and shame, that fear could not bring?

Do you put a head, fearful, to a chest

And listen if a heart still beats in that breast?

We see Paris, Lebanon, through the pane of glass

Flat in our palm and wipe a finger to scroll the past.

If that window cracked and our hand fell through

To touch the fear, would our minds attune?

Would we understand it’s all too few

That, though we’re all in touch, feel for you.

A lot of people are blaming religion at this point but a great tenet of Faith has always been ‘Do unto others’. So today: Love thy neighbour. Stay safe.

P.S. Negative Capability is a phrase coined by Keats and is explained well here: http://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/john-keats-and-negative-capability 

The Platitudes of Tumblr

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When I was a fresh faced 18 year old, having just moved into my first house with wages from my first full time job I was living with my friend Russ. My dear departed Dad would stay once a week when he was in town and I remember him spotting something that Russ was reading and picked it up to have look. It was a book by the author Paulo Coelho. Russ is a good 10 years older than me and I assumed, being 18, that anything he read was sensible and grown up. I knew little of what Coelho wrote but knew it was often described as  “a bit new aged” and rather “spiritual”. My father being the ultimate tree-hugging hippy who does tai-chi in his slippers, I assumed would nod sagely at this choice of reading material. He didn’t. He flicked through the book and said “Oh dear that’s no good. These are just aphorisms” then followed that up with, “that’s dangerous.”

Now my father had many faults, he was by no means perfect but he was a very wise man. Maybe not  “smart” but a very gifted and wise man. So for him to describe a book of aphorisms as “dangerous” puzzled me at the time but I did not ask him to elucidate. Having subsequently read some Paulo Coelho I now know that Dad was right in that it is some of the most wishy-washy ambiguous new-age bullshit I’ve read but ‘dangerous’? Dad never knew me as a poet as he died long before I converted so I don’t know what he would make of my now career as I don’t really know if he ever had any interest in poetry himself. I never saw any in his book collections. But he did like to quote in conversation, something I have adopted. I like being able to site reference to other instances when talking or writing and I have a good memory for those sorts of things. Though my quotes tend to be more pop culture and cinema… Anyway, point being he was a user of aphorisms himself so referring to a book of them as dangerous still seems odd. Especially from a man who re-read The Celestine Prophecy numerous times.

Aphorisms in the age of the meme are enjoying a resurgence unseen since the Victorian era when sound bite witticisms and wisdom-isms were all the rage thanks to the likes of Oscar Wilde (who has many a meme circling the toilet bowl part of the internet). These manifest as graphic design images that get posted on social media. You know exactly what I mean. The Instagram post that’s a picture of a sun bleached field of corn with a carefully chosen font exclaiming “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves”. Some are profound (as that Edmund Hilary quote truly is), some are genuinely funny, most are banal, asinine drivel with all the depth of a puddle. Love them or loathe them they are everywhere. Memes themselves are slightly different and I confess I detest the word Meme due to the fact it was invented by a man who is the reverse of spiritual who I also dislike greatly but this trend for creating “CONTENT” (whatever the fuck that word means now) involving little to no thought or creative development that simply involves finding a free image via google and slapping any old collection of words on top of it, is actually the death of aphorisms.

A true and poetic aphorism, in the briefest amount of syllables and fewest words, should cut to the bone of a topic. Encapsulate all arguments and respond to all queries. They are the beautiful jewels of language that speak to us with an immediacy that can be mulled over and thought on for hours even days later. Especially when timed and deployed correctly. If Wilde was King of these Shakespeare was God: “Our enemies are our outward consciences”, “How bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man’s eyes”, “All glory comes from daring to begin”, “Nothing can come of nothing”, “Have more than you show, speak less than you know”, “Light and lust are deadly enemies” and the most appropriate “Brevity is the soul of wit”. Those can be chewed on for a long time and deserve to be. Few of those have been subjected to the above treatment for memetic usage and those that have tend to be in serif font on an old parchment backdrop to signify ‘Ye Olde’. No, now we use quotes possibly made up by the typer or quotes that are truncated or poorly sourced and most of the time not attributed, just simply encased in quotation marks like the grammatical version of holy water.

Tumblr is where these go to garner the most ‘likes’ and views but equally where aphorisms go to die. Few ‘good’ aphorisms make it through the Meme generator as they require thought and effort to understand, this is not what the internet at large wants. It wants something quick and easy to digest but then it is not an aphorism. Then. Then it is a platitude. And platitudes ARE dangerous.

The various quotes that are the currency of tumblr can be deployed at the drop of a hat. There is even a meme that states “All females have 50 screenshotted quotes waiting in their album ready to post when shit goes down”. What this means is their currency is inherently valueless, they become an echo chamber, a feedback loop. There is a quote or aphorism for any given emotion, topic or experience and for every side of the issue. There are even old sayings that contradict one another: “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” & “Out of sight, Out of mind” being the most obvious. The picture of a balloon with an instagram filter on it with the words “you let me go” etched in faux typewriter font is sat alongside “Society often forgives the criminal, it never forgives the dreamer” and both given equal worth because of their context. Your way of thinking can be bolstered by a meme quote even if you know you are wrong. When “shit goes down” it should be a time for contemplation, serious thought. If you have separated from the one you love being told that “Love is blind” by a friend can cause you to analyse both your own motives and the person you are separated from’s, as apposed to the tumblr  equivalent of “There are plenty more fish in the sea”.

Tumblr’s platitudes promote inaction and uncritical thought, they are affirmations that you were doing it right all along and that you should carry on as you are. This is wholly wrong. Aphorisms, true aphorisms, stem from the poetic mode of compression and that in turn requires personal involvement on your part. It should be ambiguous, it should stir questions not set you at ease. The reason I was riled to be so vitriolic and sweary in this post is that the kind of childish ill-thought out platitudes I see all over social media have now worked their way into speech and interaction not simply the passive aggressive posting on facebook etc. People use these meaningless non-quotes in conversations as cappers on an argument or discussion like that quote ends it. No! A good aphorism or quote should further the debate, should deepen the turn of conversation not end it because whoever the quote is attributed to says so. My father knew this and I now realise why he declaimed the Coelho book as dangerous, as they were not aphorisms, they did not challenge, they did not deepen or contradict your current thinking, they affirmed it.

In the film ‘The Rock’ by Michael Bay, Ed Harris is talking to Sean Connery and quotes Thomas Jefferson saying “The Tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants” to which Connery’s character replies “Patriotism is a virtue of the vicious” which is, of course, Oscar Wilde. In the context of the scene, for such a silly action movie, this actually gives something of a profound weight to both characters and their motivations in the smallest amount of screen time and even just reading them together would give one pause to consider the necessity of patriotism. That is what great language can do.

So the next time you see one of those, oh so pretty, like-baiting quotes over a pretty dull image shoved through an IG filter stop before liking or reposting just because you thought “Yeah! It IS like that isn’t it? That thing. Yeah.” Because that’s what the meme is for but it doesn’t help you or anyone else, it just exists as a digital water wheel, cycling round and round taking what it already had right back where it took it from. Then respond to that post critically, reply with your OWN quote, a more ambiguous one. The great people who said these things were challenging you to see the world anew not telling you everything is fine the way it is.

“To speak with another’s tongue, is to be silent” – Leo Cookman, 2015

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P.S. Checkout these tumblr parodies to see the absurdity of this pernicious trend. I laughed till I cried looking at them and the originals deserve our contempt.

 

An addition to the ‘Canon’…

Given how disgusted and appalled I was with the result of the 2010 general election you can probably guess my utter despair at the result from the weekend. My contempt for the Conservatives and their media “supporters” (read as: sponsors, legislators and best chums) now borders on that of the worst far right parties of history. After the last election I self-published a small pamphlet of poetry that raged against the dying of the light but that just seems too puny to fight what is apparently the national public opinion that right wing politics and selfishness is the way forward. But frankly it’s about all I can do now.

Below is my first of no doubt many anti-Tory/austerity poems and would love it if you could share it, particularly to people you might know who are inclined to the right. Written in the Victorian style Gove loves so much and using the Conservative Party font, I hope the message isn’t too subtle to sink in. Please share the jpg or the text, I’m not fussed about credit, just get it out there. I’ll be tweeting it too if you’re so inclined.

Keep the faith, people with a soul and consideration for others tend win through in the end. It’s going to be a looooong 5 years.

giantsofalbion

Awake

For the last two years I have written a poem for Christmas so here’s this year’s in what is becoming a bit of a tradition for me. As Christmas poems have a mixed history I’ve found, I did a bit of research this time and read a few of the notable ones, as well as Ms. Duffy’s latest addition to the ‘canon’. Milton, Tennyson, Betjeman, Dickinson, Eliot, McNiece, everybody has written Christmas poems it turns out and of wildly different styles and tones. Generally the earlier ones tend to be dour and severe calls to remember Jesus Christ and forsake the wanton revelry for sober reflections of our souls, whereas latterly they become misty eyed reveries for an almost entirely fictitious or at least nostalgic past.

My last two were very much half and half. One was a sad recollection on how I have grown up and how different Christmas is to me now, the other more of an abstract pondering on what christmas is and what it really means. So for this one I wanted to do something different, as Robin Williams said “we must constantly look at things in a different way”. My favourite Christmas poem is by one of my least favourite writers, Thomas Hardy, entitled ‘The Oxen‘. It falls into the former category of dour calls to worship but is done in a very oblique way. More than anything it is a vignette, at little snapshot, putting one tiny element of the nativity and the (then) present day under a microscope. As such, I nicked this idea and wrote this poem. I hope you like it.

Awake

There is none so dead, so still

As that Winter’s night. None awake

and snow let silt to the ground, a chill

White plain, a blank marshmallow lake

 

When your eyes break cover and draw

A shadow painting with that white

And bare feet press carpet floors,

A curtain hood unveils the night;

 

The cold desert with no manger,

The guiding star and her sisters

Shattered on the floor with no danger

of seeing that unspoken father

 

Arriving to fill stockings, empty

Before sherry, pies and carrots fed

A myth and gave plenty

with a weight at the end of your bed.

And as a special treat here is my improvised rendition of one of my favourite carols:

Merry Christmas everyone!

“‘Tis the Time’s Plague”

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I have recently read two contemporary novels that deal with the fallibility of memory. The more I thought about it the more often this theme occurred in various things I have seen or read. One of which was the incredibly dull novella ‘The Sense of an Ending’ which dealt with how a man remembered a previous relationship and friendship ending and how it actually ended, the disparity between the two being rather jarring in that case. It won the Booker, as most over written guff does, but to me it was not a revelatory notion (nor did I think it that well written) but I also read ‘Ocean at the End of the Lane’ recently which also deals with memory. Specifically it is told in flashback as a man remembers his childhood and a formative yet forgotten experience. Both are somewhat elegiac about youth but it does seem to be a growing trend.

Sigmund Freud once wrote (my friend tells me) the purpose of human memory is “To Forget”. We cannot possibly retain every ounce of detail about our lives or it would be crippling. We see this in action with the mentally handicapped, certain autistic people have near perfect recall of scenes or events. We see this as a clever ‘trick’ yet it is clearly part of the nature of the condition. The memory can only function in small doses. Yet when we see people with Amnesia this can be equally as damaging. As opposed to the more Hollywoodised model, simply look to patients with Alzheimer’s to see the destructive effect memory’s absence can have. My own great Aunt suffered and it was a crushing sight to see her ask where Uncle Dick was only for us to either have to remind her he was dead or lie and tell her he will be there soon until she forgot again. Similarly stroke victims are laid low sometimes not by the physical ravages but by the brain’s sudden inability to remember words, faces or how to sit down.

Motivational speakers, tumblr and the most hateful advert I have ever seen will tell you to “live in the now”. i.e. The moment in which we live is the only thing that matters. Technically this is true and yet we have evolved memory and recall so we might better understand ourselves, each other and the world around us. If we had no memory we could not read or write, nor build relationships or our civilisation. Neuro-Science has boiled down the ‘Moment’ to between 3 and 7 seconds. The things we remember fit in this small window. Naturally what you consider ‘now’ will not be now for much longer which presents the whole argument of how ‘Now’ is NOW. Naturally that notion is hard to grasp so the very purpose of memory is to be a coping mechanism for dealing with every moment we are alive.

I saw King Lear at the Globe for my Birthday last Thursday. It was a great production and I confess to not being that familiar with the play so it was good to get better acquainted. I noticed a few things. First off it is not as often quoted as many of Shakey’s other plays, “Blow wind and crack your cheeks” is about it. Second it is fundamentally about insanity, or as we would now have it ‘mental health’. The word ‘Nothing’ appears many times throughout the play. The absences of things are often linked to mental issues, someone ‘lacking their senses’, but more specifically an absence of a memory or recall. Lear puts himself into exile and wanders the country as nothing more than a beggar. Homelessness and mental health was a hot topic of the time, Bedlam was more of tourist attraction than safe house for the destitute and mentally ill. They were flogged, beaten, crammed together, starved and then – ironically – forgotten. Lear meets Poor Tom (the name itself shorthand at the time for someone deemed insane) who is in fact Edmund’s brother Edgar disguising himself to avoid detection. He is forgotten by himself forgetting. They are both easily distracted in speech and forget where they are or at least Edgar pretends to. Today we might diagnose Lear with late onset Alzheimer’s.

I read a tweet recently that was a quote from Nathan Filer who won the Costa Book award, he was a Mental Health nurse and it was the topic of his winning book, he said: “Mental health work is just firefighting now”. A cursory glance at the numbers provided by the NHS will show you how the numbers of patients admitted with mental health problems is climbing. The trend and public acceptance of having a “shrink” now is indicative of the nature of mankind’s sense of self and our appraisal of it. It would seem the mental health is getting worse or at least has become less stable.

I imagine you are wondering where these disparate threads are leading?

Did you ever see Black Mirror? If not FOR SHAME go and watch it now. The Episode entitled ‘The Entire History of You’ is a satire of modern social media’s process and its inability to let you forget. This ultimately results in a very destructive end, if you are unable to forget the past will not merely haunt you, it will remain present. There is a theory about time that everything is already happening at once and we merely perceive time this way, the fact we have developed memory and the abstract notion of linear time indicates this is not to our benefit to know.

Facebook has a timeline, it shows you a video of your year in review, photos are tagged with you, you have reminders on your phone for any event coming up, we photograph what we eat, we store our conversations via text, we hang pictures on the wall, watch home videos of old holidays, listen to songs to remind us of an old house, watch concerts through our phones so we can experience them later. We surround ourselves with aids, memorials, mausoleums to the past that may or may not have happened. Continually forgetting more and leaving it to our technology and ephemera to fill any gaps, deferring to Google to jog our atrophied memory. We could not live any less in the now than we are yet are so assaulted by it. The need for instant consumption and then its digital retention is the norm now. And yet this digital archiving of one’s self is just as fallible. Just as our real memory forgets and misplaces objects and people, files become corrupt, data damaged, images deleted, documents lost. Our desire for our digital and online selves to operate as a proxy for our memory and identity is just as flawed a model as our organic version. Yet never a conversation goes by without someone checking their portable device for the information someone is grasping at…

Philip Larkin wrote a poem called ‘Absences’ in the 50s. It is a seascape but its final line is a startling juxtaposition: “Such attics cleared of me! Such absences!” We clear our ‘attics’ of ourselves daily, there are such great absences in our minds. Just as ‘Nothing’ surrounds Lear. Just as fires are starting all over the world.

I remember lying in bed with the girl I loved. Clasped together like a padlock for hours. We were watching a film. She hit me in the eye and giggled and apologised and kissed me. Then I got mad because she said I hadn’t complimented her right. She trod on the carpet spikes and swore and I laughed so hard. Or was that when I got out of bed to find her watching television so fell asleep on her lap? And she asked to watch Star Wars and I told her no one will ever make me happier than she did that moment. And we were naked. And it was all lit by my bedside lamp. We were in my brothers spare room watching a laptop, it was our first weekend together and we were walking along the beach in the sunshine when she stopped me to kiss me when we were on the way to the video shop shuffling through the piled autumn leaves as I hugged her so tight in the freezing cold after I’d spent the day moving while we had sex on the floor under our sleeping bags. Then I turned around to look at her lying on her back reading and took a photo…

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Yes that was it! A photo, now I remember.

What was the purpose of memory again…?

 

(Credit to Dr. James Smith, as ever, for being sounding board and memorial aid)