Phantom Pain

“Here we go, is this it? Are we starting? Are you sure, because it doesn’t feel like my spine is straight. And my shoulder itches. And I need to swallow. Is swallowing allowed or does that count as moving the body?”

“…”

“My eyes are closed, but they don’t seem closed closed. I mean, I can see my eyelids I think. Is that ok? How do you close your eyes when they’re already closed?”

“…”

“Oh damn, I forgot to check the volume of the alarm. I could just go and do it now? It’ll undo all the good work if it startles me too much.”

“…”

“OK, point taken. Dum dum de dum dum de dum de dum de dum. Hey, what’s that song that goes ‘sometimes I feel like despair is my only friend…’? You know the one. It’s by The Mission, I think. Let’s go and look it up. It’ll take, like, two seconds and then I’ll be satisfied and you can have your peace, OK?”

“…”

Continue reading “Phantom Pain”

Everything and Nothing

Some people find comfort only in the most complex of situations. They will try to engineer the circumstances under which they believe meaning to arise; often destroying their relationships with others and leaving an ugly trash pile of rejected consequences in their wake.   

Life really is much simpler than that. Meaning has never been something to hunt down, for it is everywhere, all of the time. It cannot be detected using instruments and tools and mathematical formulae; what they create for us is at best a map. But meaning can be experienced through the senses, and they are our best shot at being one with the territory. 

Of course, meaning itself is a man made concept. It is not absolute. Repeat the word ‘meaning’ enough times and it loses all… meaning. And therein lies the trick. Surrender yourself to your senses, to the here and now, and you will soon find that meaning is in fact meaningless. Furthermore you will laugh at yourself for ever thinking otherwise. 

Everything and nothing, wisdom and folly: they’re all the same.

Staring at the Sun

On days like this I begin to feel that even those who I considered to be my kin are set against me. I look into their eyes and I see snakes coiled up and ready to bite. I have no choice in this case but to retract into myself, to find solace on my own beach of calm. I must soothe myself, heal the wounds imagined and real, and rebuild my tower of strength from within.

He is here, on the beach, as the waves lap gently at the sand. He is crafting a crown for me, smoothing out its imperfections and dents. There is no doubt in his mind that I should wear it, that I am worthy. In fact, he sees no other possibility.

“You can rule,” he says, “or you can lay down on the ground and turn to ash.”

I sit down on a lone deck chair beside him, closing my eyes momentarily and taking in a deep breath of cool sea air.

“When all seems misaligned,” he goes on, “it is madness to expect the rhythm of all that is beyond you to change. That is like swimming against the current and you will drown for sure. Better to take stock of your own beat. Take back control of your own frequency.”

He wears spectacles today, and clothes akin to rags. I wriggle my feet in the sand, watching as he polishes the metal and jewels on my headpiece.

Remember the periphery, I think to myself. I have been storming ahead with my focus, I have been bullish. But there is another landscape on the edge of consciousness that never ceases to exist; that opens up a whole universe of possibilities and versions of this. I just have to relax into it.

He looks up and smiles kindly, sensing my realisation.

“It is no use staring at the sun, you see. Not only will you risk becoming blind but you will surely miss the beauty in the shadows.”

He stands and stretches out his arms to admire his handiwork before passing it to me. “Here, try this.”

Searching for the Self: Somewhere

The beach. Where water meets earth. It is damp, flat, open here. There are steep, grassy cliffs leading back up to civilization. I think I’m supposed to feel something in this place: happiness, excitement, or humbleness towards our great planet. I think creativity is supposed to bloom here, born of a new found appreciation of the small things and just being. Of smelling the ocean air, of feeling the sand between my toes. But the truth is, I don’t feel any of that. Instead of beauty I think of soliloquies, Stephen Dedalus and sulking. I feel uncomfortable; my mind awash with greyness and a longing to be Somewhere Else.

I look along the coast to the bustling amusement arcades and eateries. That isn’t the Somewhere either. I’m starting to think the Somewhere doesn’t actually exist.

Children play happily on the beach. They don’t mind the cold wind that tangles their hair into impossible knots or the stony sand that clings to them head and toe. They don’t mind the long walk back to comfort that lies ahead of them, or the grains of earth in their sandwiches that they grip with their seawater-soaked hands. Is childhood the Somewhere? The mind of the child has experiences without the multi-layered analysis we all apply years later. It is a home no one can return to.

Run. Breathe. Centre.

A walk across the rocks. Find the balancing point, make a stack. All the colours, all the textures, all natural. Then the water comes forth; aggressive, ready to swallow up the manmade designs into its chaos. No more sandcastles, no more stone stacks. Keep it random, the sea says. Entropy will always trump empathy.

Abstract Expressionism: A Poetic Response

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I went to see the Abstract Expressionism exhibition that is currently showing at the Royal Academy of Arts. I find art exhibitions great for putting musings into perspective, and I have a particular love for abstract works because they offer something that bit more open to interpretation. Out of habit perhaps, I take a sketchbook with me. It’s what I was taught to do in art class, but I never really understood what I was supposed to be drawing. You see, my art is depictions of things that are inside, never objects from the exterior world, and I struggle to feel creative when sketching from life. But I do want to get that response down, that raw inspiration and mental illumination that happens when I react to a piece of artwork. So this time I spontaneously decided to make a written response to what I was seeing, and I did this without reading the accompanying information bites until afterwards to prevent my thoughts being influenced by ‘what you are supposed to think’. Here are some of the things I wrote.

Continue reading “Abstract Expressionism: A Poetic Response”

My NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is an annual challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. I decided to attempt it this year, because I thought having a more structured approach might help me to make a good start on one of the long form fiction ideas I have been carrying around.

I spent the last week of October planning out my approach. I made a timeline of events, scrutinised my ideas for plot holes, wrote character bios, and considered what I would write when. This all made me very excited about my novel at first, but quickly became more like work than pleasure. Getting technical was already taking the soul out of what I wanted to write. I found myself excluding aspects of the story on account of them seeming unrealistic once I had analysed them, or strangely enough the opposite; they were too realistic and therefore boring. I suddenly felt daunted. Continue reading “My NaNoWriMo”

Eldritch

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Do you ever feel as though you are looking directly at something, but it is just beyond your perception? An eldritch presence that you can sense through intuition and the hairs on your arms…

That is how I felt at the location of this photograph.

When I looked at it later, I saw a face in the bark of the tree left of centre. Then I saw two more in the same tree. Then I saw the outline of a figure by the tree on the far right hand side that looked ghostly or made of rock. Then I saw two or three shadows of people in the centre peering between the two trees. Each figure I saw felt more creepy than the last, because it had remained hidden for longer and therefore presented itself to me as more tricky and sinister.

This is the Pareidolia effect, which interests me so much I made a whole series of paintings to explore it.

Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon involving a stimulus (an image or a sound) wherein the mind perceives a familiar pattern of something where none actually exists. Common examples are perceived images of animals, faces, or objects in cloud formations, the man in the moon, the moon rabbit, and hidden messages within recorded music played in reverse or at high- or lower-than normal speeds

It is the brain searching for something familiar in the obscure. In this case, probably searching for something remotely sensible to which I could ascribe this feeling of oddness and otherworld. Eerie the thought that there are not only things that are unknown to us, but also things that are unknowable.

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Hanging on the edge
Of contact with the
Unknowable
It is the strangeness
That pulls you in
Not the phenomenon itself
But the eldritch aura it emits
It reels you in
The more you stare
The more it reels

To shake it off
Simply reaffirm
Your deep-seated belief
Of what is possible

To open unto it
Is to witness a thing
That will change you
Forever
Though
You may forget it

Instantly
(of course)
Due to its
Inherent oddity
That has no place
In a human mind

Allow yourself

To treasure

The peculiar

But

Allow yourself
To become fearful
And it will

Consume you