For those of you who have not read Alice Through the Looking Glass, or seen the Alice in Wonderland film starring Johnny Depp, the Frabjous Day will mean nothing to you. It is from the poem ‘Jabberwocky’ by Lewis Carroll and appears in the Looking Glass part of Alice’s adventures.
The Frabjous day is momentous because the Jabbberwocky is killed.
“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
It has all made me think of Scotland. Whichever way the vote goes, and I have nailed my colours to the mast, nothing will ever be the same again. If the Union survives, it will be different. It if does not, it will be different. Whichever way the vote goes, Scottish hearts will be broken.
I was cutting an onion earlier. The onion in question was not content to be a mere vegetable for supper, instead it wanted to send us a sign (well it is the Frabjous Day after all). I only noticed the message through my tears, just as I wielded the knife to cut through the very heart of it.
This is the top of the onion, intact.
Funny what you notice when you aren’t really looking for it.
I never used to know who I was; I used to just go round doing things.
That’s changed somewhat, over the years. Part of getting older, more experienced I suppose. Sometimes as a result of bad things happening. Some of this change is sedimentary in nature – laid down over time; some of it is more igneous – born of fire and flood.
Anyway, try as I might – I cannot get the balance right. I long to just be, but the world simply will not let me and when I try it – well it doesn’t seem to much suit my constitution. Perhaps there is a way of being, whilst still doing, that I still need to discover. Meanwhile, I continue to try not to overstep the tipping point on the seesaw of life. And fail. I fail a lot. So much so, (and after the lines by Samuel Beckett) perhaps I should perhaps consider it to be my strength. And I should start playing to it a bit more.
Yesterday’s post did not feel like my finest hour; I am not keen on admitting to having emotional reactions to washing lines. It made me think, does writing reveal the self, or does it just reveal whatever flotsam and jetsam happens to be floating through the mind, the psyche, at any given moment?
I can obviously only speak for myself. And I think that some ideas, reactions, moods are ephemera; given time they pass on by. You can buy ‘ephemera’ on eBay you know. I put my own on Amazon. If I write about these temporal phenomena, they are released on their way downstream and the process of making them into words allow me to stand on the bank, watching as they disappear. Other things are less easily worked through, becoming trapped in the whirlpools and eddies of my head. Round and round they go as my head becomes the body of water itself. Writing is, I suppose, a way of constructing something to hang onto as I am dragged by the current. A way of being in the whirlpool, without going under.
If there is a true self, then it is a slippery customer. It can be a narrative, a construct: linear, rhizomatic, tragic or comic – depending on your taste. It can be the sum total of your thoughts, or it can sit outside those: you are not your thoughts as various esoteric teachings have it.
That last statement has proved troublesome for me. When I first engaged with that possibility I found it terrifying… I was not my thoughts? But I liked my thoughts. I liked them rather a lot. I put the book down. Life flowed on towards the sea and the notion drifted onto my shores once again.
I am not my thoughts? Well surely that’s a thought in itself? That gives me a semantic problem. Is it what Wittgenstein meant when he said that ‘the limits of my language are the limits of my world.’? On the other hand, it would be nice to separate out some version of self, from the person who tapped out a small-minded post about the neighbour’s washing line. I am not my thoughts, indeed.
How can we know self then if we are to go beyond language, as it seems we must if we are to buy into this logic? What good is turning the thoughts in my head into words through the keyboard, when the words are the limiting things themselves? I can only say this: I think I have had brief glimpses of understanding beyond words and if that is where a version of the self is to be found it may be the real and elusive self that we obfuscate under layers of history, culture and ego. I think that to get to it, it is not thinking that is required, but listening. And not listening with ears either, it is listening with hearts.
I accept this may read crazy to some, those who like logic and reason. I like logic and reason! But my experience is: they can only take you so far. Wittgenstein twigged this in the end, after a life of logic and reason, butting up against the limits of language, saying, ‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.’ So, we may as well return to the silence of the heart? Here’s some empirical evidence for those who aren’t convinced you can listen with it e.g. your heart has its own network of neurotransmitters and around 40,000 neurons…allowing it to sense, feel learn and remember. Perhaps, after all, there is some logic to a form of knowing that does not just involve theory of mind.
As for my excuse for continually tapping away on this contraption, perhaps in order to truly know I am not my thoughts I must firstly think them all, and categorise them in writing, before letting them flow out into an ocean of collective consciousness where they will become indistinguishable from all the rest.
Here’s someone else’s thought. I found it on the wall under a railway bridge last week. It reminded me of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus’s quote
“Everything changes and nothing remains still … and … you cannot step twice into the same stream”
Actually, that sea of thought I mentioned before, well, you’ll find it in ancient Greece. Read Greek philosophy and one might never suffer from the thought delusion again. Not only are you not your thoughts, your thoughts are not yours in the first place…
P.S. If you’ve got to the end of this particular log jam of thoughts and words, well done, it can’t have been easy.
Both found on a wall near here. Some might say, graffiti ~ others, public art.
Don’t forget though, ‘every wall is a door…’
From the great enigma: new collected poems
Translated by Robin Fulton
The Outpost by Tomas Tranströmer
I’m ordered out to a heap of stones
like a distinguished corpse from the Iron Age.
The others are back in the tent sleeping
stretched out like spokes in a wheel.
In the tent the stove rules: a big snake
that has swallowed a ball of fire and hisses.
But out in the spring night it is silent
among cold stones waiting for day.
Out in the cold I begin to fly
like a shaman, I fly to her body
with its white marks from her bikini –
we were out in the sun. The moss was warm.
I flit over warm moments
but can’t stop for long.
They’re whistling me back through space –
I crawl out from the stones. Here and now.
Mission: to be where I am.
Even in that ridiculous, deadly serious
role – I am the place
Where creation is working itself out.
Daybreak, the sparse tree trunks
are coloured now, the frostbitten
spring flowers form a silent search party
for someone who has vanished in the dark.
But to be where I am. And to wait.
I am anxious, stubborn, confused.
Coming events, they’re here already!
I know it. They’re outside:
a murmuring crowd outside the gate.
They can pass only one by one.
They want in. Why? They’re coming
one by one. I am the turnstile.