Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pirate as nomad

I have been thinking about the conceptual framework for my pirate book. I had a good chat with Halina in which she urged me to think of a theme. Of course, I think my theme is "pirates are cool", but obviously a book needs more bubbling under it than that. It struck me that what is cool about pirates (in the romantic conception of them; the reality was rather harsher) is that they are nomads, and have the same sort of codes that nomads do. The similarity is not exact, but it's reasonably close.

Nomads are interesting because they offer a lens to view our world through. They offer different ways of organising ourselves, different conceptions of the world, different ways of relating to our gods (I wrote a (very long) essay about the input of nomadism into Christianity, in particular in the Satan story, here:

In many setting, the nomads despised and preyed on the settled. This is what pirates do, although for somewhat different reasons. They too are wanderers, and although they are tied together by greed rather than blood, they too have a code of honour, are deeply egalitarian, share power among themselves, must master their culture because they cannot transmit it.

In the end, my theme is something like "how is life made without a home?". With swordfights and buggery.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

one degree north

I don't know whether it's true to say that I need somewhere I can tell the truth to keep me sane. I'm not qualified to judge what is sane and what isn't, and to be honest, what does it matter? How it seems to me is how it seems to me.

I was not sane. That seems clear to me, at least. I felt wrong. I felt as though the way I felt about things was wrong, my feelings unmoored (you cannot say unreal, because what we feel, whatever measure we use to judge it right or wrong, is real to us -- I have always had a lot of difficulty recognising that, because when people report something that is very wrong, you cannot help thinking they must be lying or mistaken, but I am opening myself to the idea). Now I feel more like myself, but it's like I got drunk and crashed the car. Now I have sobered up but the car is a writeoff.

It's a good metaphor for where I am at, because I feel as though I can stop asking whether I can get the car to go again, and start to ask whether I could just build a new one, or even just walk, one pace at a time, until I like the view better. That's not easy. I'm still shaken and dazed by the wreck.


So I was reading the other day about vichara, which is a technique of enquiry, a sort of meditation, in which the seeker asks in every moment "who am I?"

I was reflecting on vichara, and wondering how I might incorporate it into my day to day, and it struck me, I can answer that easily. I am nothing and nobody.

Of course I am something to someone. There are people who look at me and think they see somebody. They see a father, a husband, a friend, someone they like or dislike, "oh, him", "that fucktard", whatever. But vichara is not about asking what someone else thinks you are. It is about asking what you are really.

I feel like "if anything" should be appended to that. It does seem obvious that we should be something. We are here. We live and breathe. We are sure we are substantial.

In some ways we are. But I feel most often like a being impelled from outside, a leaf on the wind. I can only feel anchored when I feel loved. And it is not enough for me to say, someone loves me. Some love is worth more than others.

I don't know why I feel like that. I've inquired, but there's no easy answer. I think I would change it if I could, because it is part of why I find it so hard to be content.

It's easy to believe in karma when you think it through. Because I am weighed down by the need to be real, and I sometimes feel I would be closer to contentment if I could be as insubstantial as others seem to be. If I could just let go...


Someone asked me today, are you happy? And I didn't know what to say, because you don't want to tell someone you don't know all that well that no, you are not happy. So I feel as though I lied. I find that now, every time I talk to people I don't know well, I end up lying, and I have nowhere left to tell the truth. That feels a lot worse than I ever thought it would. It is why I am going to write here. I do not mind that no one will read it, because the people I wanted to know me, to know the truth, did not respond to it as I hoped.

Maybe the truth is better whispered into the wind, and I should not feel burdened by the need to lie. I should think of it rather as a way to be better for others, kinder to them.

I feel as though if I keep lying, relentlessly and without thought of myself, I will eventually be able to lie to myself too, spreading the kindness to myself even, and I will feel happy at last.

Then the wind changes from south to north and I realise that that too is a lie I'm telling myself.