Purgatory

There is a city
Where
Everything must
Always stay
The same.
When the buildings
Decay
And collapse,
They rebuild them
In exactly the
Same fashion.
Nothing ever
Changes
And everything
Stays in
Stasis.
They must
Relive
The same day
Over and over
Again
For all of
Eternity.
They think
This is romantic,
I think this
Is ghastly.
I never want
To go to this
Place ever
Again.
Some would
Call it
Purgatory.
I would call
It
Hell.
I hope it burns
To the ground.
Then the
People who
Live in eternal
Torment
Will
Finally be
Free.

Advertisements

The Night of Crisis Part One

Of the themes I’m currently most interested in is the concept of the night of crisis or, the dark night of the soul. This is a motif that is extremely common across literature and mythology. This is an incident or event that subsequently leads a character on the path to greater realisation or the wholeness of being. When I was a child one of my favourite works was The Neverending Story by Michael Ende, and I also loved the film which incidentally Ende hated because he believed it deviated too far from his original novel and he attempted to sue the producers. Still, both the novel and the movie both address the night of crisis, and nonetheless, Ende said this:

“This is a story of a boy who loses his whole interior world, which basically is his mythical world, during the night of a crisis – a life crisis. It just disappears into nowhere and he has to face this nothing, this nowhere and that is what we Europeans, too, have to do. We have gotten rid of all the values we once had and now we have to face that, we have to bravely jump in order to be able to create something again, to create a new (…) set of values”

This is commonly occurring in literature, in everything from Dante Alighieri’s Inferno to James Joyce’s Ulysses, which subsequent entries will look at. Today however, is about what happens when the night of crisis doesn’t manifest itself in the atypically heroic way.

I regularly bring this up: one of my favourite movies is actually The Godfather III which I think for its faults which I don’t actually deny, is the most feasibly brilliant conclusion to The Godfather saga. I’ve mentioned this in at least one previous entry, and I believe have alluded to the fact on a number of other occasions. Michael’s journey in the series is the antithesis of most biblical, mythical and literary transformations, where a person will go through the dark night of the soul and reach a higher level of being. Michael’s journey does nonetheless however, lead him to the true nature of his becoming. In the first scene he is a soldier, a war hero in uniform. A chain of events will lead him to lose his uniform and assume his true face. The character of Kay, who he shares this first scene with is pivotal to understanding his becoming. Michael discusses his family, most notably his father and discusses the nature of power.

Michael Corleone: My father is no different than any powerful man, any man with power, like a president or senator.
Kay Adams: Do you know how naive you sound, Michael? Presidents and senators don’t have men killed!
Michael Corleone: Oh. Who’s being naive, Kay?

We will learn it is Michael who is being naive.

Later, his father will tell him:

Vito Corleone: I never wanted this for you. I work my whole life – I don’t apologize – to take care of my family, and I refused to be a fool, dancing on the string held by all those bigshots. I don’t apologize – that’s my life – but I thought that, that when it was your time, that you would be the one to hold the string. Senator Corleone; Governor Corleone. Well, it wasn’t enough time, Michael. It wasn’t enough time.
Michael: We’ll get there, pop. We’ll get there.

Despite Michael’s remarks at the beginning of the movie – and this will be a theme throughout the three movies – this is what is at the heart of his downfall: Michael strives for what he considers legitimacy. However, his notion of legitimacy is indubitably flawed by his failure to recognise the true nature of himself and he is fundamentally unable to grasp the gaping flaw in his own value system. Unless he is able to recognise this: that legitimacy and murder in his World will always go hand and hand, that the two notions in his mind are inextricably linked. Thus, Vito is actually always fully aware of Michael’s true nature, Michael is unable to recognise it. Vito ultimately succeeds as a result of his own self-acceptance and is able to die happily in his garden with his grandchild and family close by.

The character of Kay actually underpins Michael’s legacy. From the introduction of the two characters in the wedding scene, where Michael is fairly unremarkable, even appearing amiable and genuine. He does seem to have a genuine level of affection for her. This carries on up until the double-murder in the restaurant which is Michael’s unwitting realisation of his true nature and identity. Again, where Michael seemingly lacks self-awareness, Vito is at all times acutely aware of Michael’s true nature. Vito doesn’t want Michael to be involved in the family business. He had hoped he would become a senator. This has nothing to do with Michael not possessing a disposition or character entirely conducive to the family business. On the contrary. Again, at the very start of the movie, Michael unwittingly scolds Kay without any sense of irony for her naivety when she tells him senators don’t have people killed. Not to mention the Corleone family’s dubious links with political figures which are mentioned on numerous occasions.

The scene in Sicily where Michael is thunderstruck by the beautiful local girl is essential in order to understand the crux of his transformation. Apollonia is the shadow of his own Sicillian mother, who is quiet, clement and doesn’t involve herself in her husbands affairs. Similarly, Apollonia plays a quiet, unassuming and passive role in the background, such as when they are visited by the Sicillian don. She has no interest in involving herself in Michael’s affairs. Her virtue is in being a loving homely wife. After her death Michael returns to America.

Michael’s reaction to seeing Kay upon his return, couldn’t be more different. Kay represents Michael’s idealised image of the woman he thinks he should be with as an Italian-American immigrant living the American dream. As a person, this lack of realisation and acceptance towards his own his true-identity, and his relationship with Kay which can be read as actually using her to preserve his self-styled image as a family-man, and man of good-conscience is his ultimate pitfall. It’s also the thing which demonstrates his biggest contrast from own father. Vito, for all of his own failings within his business is loved, respected and actually admired as a human-being. Through his wife, Vito can acutely put distance between his family and his family. Although the waters may appear muddy at times, there is a clear distinction and his wife plays a pivotal role in this through her passive disinterest in the affairs of his business. For Michael, there’s no distinction, because Kay is not a woman of the same inclination, disposition or nature as his mother or Apollonia. When he has Carlo murdered, the lines between the interests of his two families are deeply and irrevocably blurred, leading towards Kay’s realisation in the closing moments.

On top of this in terms of relationships: his father quite obviously values and appreciates his wife. Michael can’t. After Apollonia and his return to America he is simply lying to himself, about who and what kind of man he is. As a result of his sense of self being completely corrupt through his own lack of self-awareness, as are his values.

This carries on into the third movie, and as an aside, in terms of contextually, Copolla’s ill fated decision to cast his own daughter as the naive Mary was beautifully meta. As Wilde said, ‘Life imitates art, far more than art imitates life.’

My favourite scene in Godfather III is Michael’s conversation with Cardinal Lamberto in the ornate garden:

Walking by stone pillars and fountains surrounded by pigeons, Michael explains his Vatican problem to Lamberto. Agreeing how this is scandalous, the priest reaches into the fountain and pulls out a stone. “Look at this stone,” he says. “It has been lying in the water for a very long time. But the water has not penetrated it.” He breaks the stone open, showing it to Michael. It’s dry. Michael motions into his pockets, then pulls them out, unsteady. Lamberto continues. “The same thing has happened with men in Europe. For centuries, they have been surrounded by Christianity. But Christ has not penetrated it. Christ does not live within them.”

Lamberto is describing more than Catholic Europe; he’s explaining Michael to himself. As Lamberto outlines Christendom, Michael collapses on a bench and loosens his tie. He whispers that he needs some candy or orange juice. Coppola begins this conversation in a full two-shot, then slowly moves in on Michael as he falls, not cutting away while he struggles to keep his breath, diminished to a child in oversized adult clothing. The candy and juice is quickly brought out, and Michael thirstily, with uncharacteristic desperation, quaffs the juice and shakily tears open the candy wrappers, eating ravenously, some residual pulp on his lip. He reaches to the Cardinal’s arm. “When I’m under stress sometimes this happens.” In the same way that John Cazale’s depiction of mental shame is achingly real, so is Pacino’s depiction of diabetic affliction. Lamberto points out that afflictions of the body and the soul are connected. “The mind suffers…and the body cries out.”

Coppola cuts to a close up of Michael, agreeing, then back to the sympathizing Lamberto. “Would you like to make your confession?” Michael is flabbergasted. “Your Eminence…I’m…I’m…it’s been so long…I wouldn’t know where to…it’s been thirty years…I’d take up too much of your time.” Lamberto keeps smiling. “I always have time to save souls.” By contrast, taking time to confess sins was something that Gilday joked about earlier in the film, when Harrison visited after Michael’s stroke. “Well, I’m beyond redemption,” Michael says. Lamberto waves his hand dismissively.

Michael’s diabetic affliction leads to his confession to Cardinal Lamberto.

Cutting to another space in the square, with an abundance of vines and pink flowers in the foreground, Lamberto enters the frame. “I hear the confessions of my own priests here. Sometimes the desire to confess is overwhelming. And we must seize the moment.” Cut to Michael, still walled away from anyone, the plants obscuring him. He voices his logic: “What is the point of confessing if I don’t repent?”

Lamberto humors Michael. “I hear you are a practical man. What have you got to lose?” An appeal to Michael’s rationality is the only way to break him open. Cut to Michael in close-up, the left side of the frame covered with dark plants, the plants in front of Michael in full color, texturing the angle on his face (and possibly suggesting Lear and the mad king’s crown of flowers). He forces a smile, looking at the ground. “Go on,” Lamberto says.

Both men are in full view on the outer edge of the pillars, buffered by sculpted vegetation. “I betrayed my wife.” “Go on, my son.” A distant church bell. “I betrayed myself.” A pause. “I killed men.” The church bell. Frontal shadowy close-up on Lamberto’s face from within the pillars. He nods. Michael continues, “And I ordered men to be killed.” “Go on, my son, go on.” A long pause. “It’s useless.” Back to Michael in a profile close-up, his eyes fluttering and his mouth agape. “I killed –” he stops a moment, refashioning his words. “I ordered the death of my brother.” Looking down, his face breaks up. “He injured me.” He looks up for air, beginning to weep. “I killed my mother’s son.” Cut to a two shot from within the pillars, the two men separated by a thick block of foliage. “I killed my father’s son.” Michael has lost his bearings. Lamberto slowly turns to him, not surprised.

“Your sins are terrible. And it is just that you suffer. Your life could be redeemed. But I know you do not believe that.” He issues the damning statement, “You will not change.” Cut back to the close-up of Lamberto from within the pillars. He blesses Michael. The redemption Michael seeks is right in front of him, but he, as a logical businessman, will remain dry as the stone in the fountain. Cut back to Michael’s head in close-up, the plants covering up his shame as he has buried his face.

This magnificent moment in Godfather III, so well played by Pacino and Vallone, and lushly shot by Gordon Willis, could be the focal scene in the whole trilogy. The parable of Lamberto transcends a Catholic priest’s lament. Closed off as Michael is, his pain is apposite. To fully absolve himself would mean to do something that he, as a “practical man,” could never do. Like the corrupt officials in the Vatican, he too will “play for time,” the “habit born of the long contemplation of eternity.” Stressing this despairing point, Coppola cuts from Michael’s face within the foliage-embraced pillars to St. Peter’s in Rome, where the Vatican is obscured by pillars from within. Bells signal the Pope’s death. The long contemplation of sin and redemption with the always-there abyss of eternity present can end too soon: as Vito discovered (and it’s a recurring idea in many other Coppola films), “there wasn’t enough time.” 

Later, Michael sits with Connie, his criminal enabler. He admits, “All my life I wanted to go up in society. Where everything higher was legal, straight. But the higher I go, the more crooked it becomes. Where the hell does it end?” While handling his insulin shot, Michael diagnoses the illness of Sicilian’s ancient culture, of murder for pride and family. As he injects, he tells Connie that he confessed his sins, something for which she chides him. She reminds him, perhaps full well knowing the truth of what happened in 1959, that “poor Fredo” drowned. “It was a terrible accident. But it’s finished,” she says. Michael’s illness must be confronted, not nursed with more duplicity.

The Christ that Lamberto refers to is of course a metaphorical one. It is recognition and acceptance of the self. Only after acceptance has taken place, can we change and rise anew. This is the metaphor of the crucifixion. It is only when Jesus recognises that God – the father – has forsaken him, at the point when he is at his most mortal and vulnerable can he transcend to the divine essence. This is the scene which seals Michael’s fate. After this scene, Michael has to die. He falls, in Sicily, quite literally thousands of miles from America and the American dream he sought, but in line with the archaic Sicilian values he would not recognise within himself, with no family in sight. Broken and withered. Without recognition of his true self, he won’t be missed.

I am a forest, and a night of dark trees: but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses.

Saoirse

We sit beside the fire side,
Purifying flames,
Surround us and fill our eyes.
Our ancestors survived famine
and oppression.
They strove for more.
Centuries of
rebellions and uprisings,
To escape the shackles of
Bondage, through sedition.
Some misled, died
In the mud strewn hell
Of Flanders.
Some walked through the
Mountains, the rain
And the storm,
To get to the roadside
To fight for the cause of
Liberty.
They died, but the cause
Will go on.
Some built the railways,
Some built New York,
Others, worked in shipyards
And the mines,
Descending and ascending
From the Gateway of Death,
Each day.
Ireland’s soul lives in her
Valiant daughters who
Through their sacrifice
And tears, supported
These
Small, but noble victories.
From the west coast of Ireland,
To the majestic north sea.
With each day that passes,
We get closer to the moment,
We can put our indelible
Mark on the world,
And turn away
From the fire side,
And witness
The rising of the moon.

Gordon of Eden

Part of a continuing series: stream of consciousness writing, part 3.

Aum, aum, aum. We stand before the mighty tree on the cosmic altar. Alternate cerebral reality of the divine insurmountable divinity. Blessed moon goddess of the eternal. We meditate before the altar. Tomorrow is the rising of the moon. Aum, aum, aum. Put your hands over your ears and you can hear the music of the universe.
– I once walked through a gallery and heard the music of the spheres, I said. I’m not joking.
Aum, aum, aum. We move through the chakras. We beckon to a higher level of conciousness. She stands and pauses for thought as she considers what next to say. Out of character for her. She smiles the biggest smile and says:
– We should take salvia.
Aum, aum, aum.
– We can reach higher conciousness without the psychotropics.
I tell her about my experience of kundalini yoga and my theory of the chakras. The lower chakras are the earthly ones, the sensory ones. The higher ones as the snake uncoils relate to an awakening of consciousness and I tell her about the snake in the Gordon of Eden. Aum, aum, aum.
– But if you want to do the salvia, we’ll do the salvia. I took the salvia once and had a great awakening. I reflect on it.
– We can’t chase the experience all of the time, we must have monastic discipline and kill our desires
– Just this once, she says.
– Okay, lotus take the salvia.
All of time and space transcends and unfolds. The temporal boundaries of reality uncoil like the mighty cobra. I see the rust above the window ledge. All is clear, all is bright. We wander along the great Silk Roads, we walk for 490 days and then enter the great chamber of the holy underworld. We walk through the labrynthine corridors down the swirly whirly staircase where we are greeted by a mighty sphinx.
– Good day, sphinx, I say, dia duit.
The big sphinx is silent and gives me a stony silence. Aum, aum, aum.
We walk past the big sphinx through a cacophony of music. It is the works of Rachmaninoff. The stony labyrinth has excellent acoustics. We continue walking down the steps until we reach a lift which will take us back to the upper tier. We take the lift and the music in the lift is now Chopin’s Nocturne. Up, up, up we go.
– Chopin is portentous, she says.
– I do quite like his Nocturnes, says I.
Up, up, up. We get to the well lit balcony on the great terrace. We are before the cosmic gates.
– This reminds me of The Neverending Story, she says. Will we meet the princess?
– I hope not, I’m a republican, I say.
The blonde haired woman stands before us surrounded by her shimmering nimbus of golden holy and divine light. She has many faces and many forms. She looks at us and then turns around and looks back out into the eternal. We are high above the world, and we can see all of its roundness and all of the clouds and it is very nice, I think to myself. All is holy, all is bright.
– We can see all of eternity from up here, she says.
– Isn’t it nice, I say.

Varanasi

Following on from yesterday’s theme:

Around the head of the bed are shining illuminous colourful orbs of light, the shakuhachi music fills my ears. The ghosts are singing at the door and the angels are at my head. Uncomfortable vicissitude of feeling. Unfamiliar sense of the illuminous. Negligible neon Tokyo nights. Wrestling with the indivisible. All is temporal and we are in orbit around one another ready to crash towards the visceral surface of ones other. It cannot be stopped now. Temporal vicissitude of the illuminous. Diamond mountain with gold embers above the still lake. Shining gold beacons upon the lotus leaves. Solitude surpassed into temporal becoming of the virtuous vicissitude. The indivisible illuminous. Anam Cara of the atom carry through into the unfounded nature of visible betwixt being. The voidious vacuum is filled with the nature of the surpassing of the temporal separation. The collision of atoms. Boom boom boom. Large Hadron Collider of the infinitesimal feeling. We are down the Ganges side and take the boat to the old abandoned cinema with the art and the paintings. We are here now and suddenly it has been repaired since my last visit. Temporarily temporary fixes but we can look at the paintings of the abstract artists. We have made it to the far shore surpassing all obstacles between us. There is no us, just the oneness of being. All that is temporal and divisible is now eternal and fulfilled. We are in the orbit high high above the clouds of separation through the atmosphere of tumultuous inconvenience we will quickly bypass and crash into one another. All that is temporary all that is eternal and we discuss the nature of our being, our becoming. All the gravity is surpassable but only in due time in due course now is not the time to insurmount the gravity of our situation. The images flow freely into my mind. Colourful squares of bright red and black light. I hold onto this image longer than I am used to. It is like a Mondrian. A red and black Mondrian.

I am ready to return to the fulness of being. I am pulling through the transcendental cosmic moment. My experiences of these last few days have been profound. It is when we see the divine and the godhead in all things that although we can never understand, we can have full acceptance of the essence of being. We are in timeless virtue of the divine. In full providence of the total essence. The totem reaches to us and we both grab it and hold onto it in full rejection of the external outliers. A painted white and red mask upon the shores of Varanasi.

Through space and time,
We go at Whitsun tide
To see the Earthly sublime
On the Ganges side

The fires and the butter lamps light up the river. Conciousness is acquiescing to the sublime essence. Ineluctable modality of the visibility, said Joyce. I hear your modulations through space and time, an infinite rhythm only I can hear, calling to me in totality. I am ready to take your hand I say. I am ready to take yours, she says. I tell her about the musical I am writing. I am writing it for her, for her only. It is a music only I can hear. There are no instruments yet invented that can play your song, but I will invent them so that I can listen to your music for all of eternity. The music of the spheres says I love you. It cannot be rationalised or reasons, there is no scale or tone, it comes to me in a music that can only be heard on a subatomic level. No musician or scientist yet has the tools to impart this profound music of being that only I can here. I know you can here it too I say. Yes I can, she says. I know there is a place that only we shall go. I can’t wait, she says. The day, the moment is fast coming, fast approaching. There is no going back now. There is a course of events in motion that will set us on the path to one another fully and in totality.

God’s Real Name was God

As I write this, I’m in bed watching a documentary called ‘The Trials of Henry Kissinger.’ This is based on the book of the same name by Christopher Hitchens. The proposition being that it is a case for a prosecution, charging Kissinger with crimes against humanity: The result of a man’s worldview being shaped by a desire for power, moulded through the destruction of innocent life rather than through acts of creation. Preceding this, I had watched a talk with Hitchens, which was mostly notable for his comments on the human condition in relation to religion, namely that man has a desire to be ‘told what to do.’ However, as Blake said, there are some who do wish to shake off the ‘mind forged manacles.’

As I walked down by the riverside
One evening in the spring
Heard a long gone song
From days gone by
Blown in on the great North wind
Though there is no lonesome corncrake’s cry
Of sorrow and delight
You can hear the cars
And the shouts from bars
And the laughter and the fights
May the ghosts that howled
Round the house at night
Never keep you from your sleep
May they all sleep tight
Down in hell tonight
Or wherever they may be

From this, I consider six paintings I had been looking at earlier in the day:

More than any other form of human expression, art is the barometer that lays bare a period’s view of reality, of life, of man. A work of art reflects its creator’s fundamental ideas and value-judgments, held consciously or subconsciously. Since most artists are not independent theoreticians, but absorb their basic ideas from the prevaling consensus (or some faction within it), their work becomes a microcosm embodying and helping to spread further the kinds of beliefs advocated by that consensus.

‘The Spiritual form of Nelson Guiding Leviathan.’ Man as a tyrannical warmonger in the biblical style. This one strikes me as being absurdly ironic. The destroyer as a saint. One could imagine a more modern inversion of this with someone like Kissinger. Incidentally, Leviathan appears in the Book of Job in the Old Testament. Job is an investigation of divine justice, which we will get to, momentarily.

‘Satan Smiting Job with Sore Boils.’ This is an interesting painting. God is the creator of all things. God is the creator of Satan. Thus, there can no good or evil, as all is the creation of God, and all of God’s creation is good. There is an interesting passage in the New Testament. One also, that the cynic in me finds highly amusing. Paul to the Romans 11:32. ‘God has imprisoned all in disobedience, so that he may have mercy on all.’ The concept of Hell, doesn’t appear in the Old Testament, it only appears in the New Testament. If there is to be a Hell, it can only be an extension of God’s creation and be entirely, mercifully of God’s own design. We move to the design image when we can begin to see God in all things. Further to this, Balzac said, Man is neither good nor bad; he is born with instincts and capabilities; society, far from depraving him, asserts and improves him, makes him better; but self-interest also develops his evil tendencies. Out of this, man created organised religion, which is a complete system for the repression of these very tendencies. It is also the most powerful element of social order. Curiously, therefore, from our view, Christianity can be considered both the best and worst thing to happen to the West. For example, Christianity created modern nationalities, and it is through Christianity that they are preserved. All the Gods have died of their temporality. So what will happen when these shackles of organised religion and the social order it brings are shaken off? History has shown, man will just create new ones in their place. This might be considered unfortunate. History is, or ought to be, what it was; while romance ought to be the ‘better world.’ For everything to stay the same, everything must change.

It was very big to think about everything and everywhere. Only God could do that. He tried to think what a big thought that must be; but he could only think of God. God was God’s name just as his name was Stephen. Dieu was the French for God and that was God’s name too; and when anyone prayed to God and said Dieu then God knew at once that it was a French person that was praying. But, though there were different names for God in all the different languages in the world and God understood what all the people who prayed said in their different languages, still God remained always the same God and God’s real name was God.

This is the inversion of the theme. Where woman is god and is responsible for all of creation and its manifestations. This one has its roots in the Garden of Eden, where the original sin was human consciousness. Woman as the giver of life is therefore responsible for the creation of consciousness. From reading the Old Testament, what I have taken from it is that Genesis symbolically represents the birth of human consciousness. Specifically, the tree and the apple represent the foundation of the central nervous system – further to this, consciousness and the ability to abstract is what separates man from nature, and that is the sin in the Garden of Eden. The separation of humans from nature via consciousness. We can try and impose order over nature with words and symbols but it isn’t possible to do so. Thus, ironically, it is our hunger for knowledge and desire to understand that causes us to lose touch with the essence. Incidentally this is also why I have an abiding interest in Taoism, because Taoism gives the reason why that it is. God is ineffable. It is impossible for any human to understand and know the divine source. We can only use symbols as a way to allow us a glimpse of the true essence of the divine. Hence in Taoism, once you refer to the Tao as Tao, it ceases to be the real Tao as words are purely man made constructs and symbols, thus they can never capture the true essence of a thing.

Here is more of my favourite theme: ‘The Promise’ and ‘The Sleeping Fool’ by Cecil Collins. Here we see the artist beneath the tree of life, the dawning of consciousness and the act of creation. Or, again, man as god or as the creator, through his art.

Here we have ‘Landscape of the Threshold’ by Cecil Collins. This one interested me as in this painting, the Holy Trinity act as a barrier to reaching the divine Godhead. Of course, despite the apparent protestations of the trinity here, the Godhead is always present. Heaven wheels above you, displaying to you her eternal glories, and still your eyes are on the ground. The Trinity appears across most world religions and philosophies. For example, in Taoism, the trinity comes in the form of the three treasures or, the three jewels which are compassion, frugality and humility. In Tibetan Buddhism there are three refuge formulations, the Outer, Inner, and Secret forms of the Three Jewels. The ‘Outer’ form is the ‘Triple Gem,’ the ‘Inner’ is the Three Roots and the ‘Secret’ form is the ‘Three Bodies’ or trikaya of a Buddha.

for sunshine after storm

“I would say that he has a rather limited and uncreative way of looking at the situation. You want to know if I understand that this is a mental hospital? Yes, I understand that. But, then how can I say that you are Don Octavio and I am a guest at your villa? Correct?” – Don Juan DeMarco

A few months ago I experienced something unusual. I was tense. I couldn’t think clearly. I couldn’t grasp my thoughts. A fog had descended over my brain. I couldn’t visualise or access the parts of my brain where all the interesting stuff was. 

I love reading and literature. I could read something but I couldn’t access the memory drive or whatever the technical term is for that, where I hold all the allusions and reference points to my previous experiences and all of the other shit I’ve read in my life to form a picture or an opinion or expand on, or even understand what the writer was trying to say (intentionally or otherwise). It was an incredibly frustrating experience.

I was stressed out from long hours. I was physically and mentally jaded. My brain and body had effectively hit the ‘safe mode’ á la Windows 98. All my body and mind was interested in was the basic functions of survival and protecting myself to stay alive. An ancient, hard wired evolutionary response.

Your body is designed for two primary functions: reproduce and survive. When you’re faced with stressful situations, the only parts of your brain you can access are the ones which perform the basic functions of keeping you alive. If you’re about to be lunch for a sabre tooth tiger, your mind couldn’t give a shit about the nuances of James Joyce’s Ulysses, only the threat at hand and keeping you alive. 

It actually took me a while, to regain my sense of self. I don’t like feeling jaded or having my mind clouded over. I enjoy the sensory aspects of living. How pretentious as fuck does that sound? I started trying to increase blood-flow to my brain and break the shackles of the stultifying fog.

I started looking for outlets and later it was by chance I became interested in playing guitar again. I don’t profess to be even a proficient guitar player. I’m working on it. However I became fascinated by the possibilities of the instrument and the creative process. I eventually started to think outside of the box again and started looking beyond the conventional idea of the instrument. If you’re playing an electric guitar, essentially, the guitar is actually the platform and your instrument is the amp. I started messing around with various effects pedals, which are actually addictive. I started looking beyond the guitar in the conventional sense of playing chords and became interested and intrigued in the various multi-faceted possibilities. Utilising the various quirks of the equipment to create interesting sounds, rather than spending hours tediously practising ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ to make it sound like it does on Led Zep 4, I thought it was more interesting just messing and playing around. Creating my own sound. I didn’t care. The stress was gone. This is freedom.

I had internalised the greatest lesson from James Joyce’s work, the creative process is essentially for your own amusement. Art brings stillness and fulfilment. It doesn’t mean shit if people like, appreciate or even understand what you’re doing, it isn’t a means to an end. You do not create for visceral reponse. It is an outpouring of spiritual repose.

Language and Death in Montreal 

After arriving in Montreal I decided to go to Irish language classes. I’m referring to the native language of Ireland which is ‘gaeilge.’ Not how to speak English slang in an Irish accent, “Tell yer man to stop givin’ out. Great craic like so it is. Get a caravan for me ma in periwinkle blue. Watch the dags.” Irish is a protected European language and one I’m actually fairly proficient in, as I spent a lot of time with my West Cork family growing up and also spent time in the gaeltacht areas where Irish is in everyday usage. My foray into Irish language classes was more to do with finding likeminded people. Whilst not a dying language gaelige is somewhat endangered, limited mostly to the declining gaeltacht areas mainly on the west coast of the island.

As it happens, I would have been better served taking lessons in Québécois. As it happens Québécois French is similar to French, in the same way Irish gaeilge is similar to Scottish gaelic. They’re effectively of the same genus, but it’s like comparing a German Shepherd to a Husky. They may look similar but the differences can be profound. In essence, languages like animals can be broken up into categories and sub-categories. A man and women may not appear similar, but they’re extremely similar when compared to a monkey. A man and a monkey are nigh on identical when compared to a dog, but a man and a dog are more closely aligned when compared to a shark.

French is a romance language and shares characteristics with other central European Romance languages which have evolved from Latin such as: Italian, Spanish, Catalan and Portuguese.

English is Germanic, as is Dutch and by result of colonialism Afrikaan, Swedish, Norwegian, Dane.

Irish shares characteristics with Celtic languages such as French gallic, Welsh, Scottish and the natively deceased Manx language. You can however find some commonalities with English if you know where to look (just showing off).

I find whereas French is quite formal, Québécois is much more idiomatic and certainly takes quite a bit getting used to as a result. Infact the idioms make it more difficult than speaking say, Spanish and then going to Catalonia. As at least the format of the languages in how they’re spoken are basically the same.

I find language a pretty fascinating topic. It’s interesting how much of an impact language has on how you think. This is why languages like Irish and others further afield were suppressed by English colonialists. It wasn’t simply a case of convenience, but an act of cultural defenestration enacted against natives. Including changing names/surnames. My own family name in Irish is Laighin, from Laigin. The Laigin were a population group of early Ireland. The name is actually an ethnonym denoting a distinct ethnic group. The Laigin also give name to the province of Leinster, which in Irish is actually Cúige Laighean (pronounced cooga layan) Literally, ‘Fifth of the Laigin.’ The Laigin are by virtue are also highly prevalent in the early cycles of Irish mythology, some of the oldest recorded on the planet.

The rebirth of my interest in the Irish language in the last few years was to do with reading stories and poems in their original form which as is often the case, do not carry over well when translated into another language. Again, Irish poetry and literature are amongst some of the earliest recorded. Thus, it is not simply a language that is endangered, it is a massive amount of cultural and literary history too. This is why I strongly believe in participation in the language and have such an interest in its perseveration.

There was debate during the Irish revival at the turn of the last century about its continued usage which I believe is quite pertinent, however not for the reasons set out. The great Irish writer James Joyce briefly studied Irish under Padraig Pearse the leader of the Easter Rising. However, Joyce who would go on ironically to be perhaps the greatest proponent of the English language of all time, found the Gaelic League’s revival of the language to be essentially ‘backward.’ I think he was essentially correct. There is and certainly in the case of the Gaelic League was very much a prevalent conservative instinct. Although I do believe it was well intentioned, I believe the same conservative instinct is prevalent in the well-intentioned people who are trying to preserve and save the language to this day. For a language to survive it must be allowed to evolve and grow. We’ve seen this with the English language which is almost distinctly unrecognisable from the time of Shakespeare. I recently watched Macbeth starring Michael Fassbender, anyone unfamiliar with the play may have felt like they were by virtue thrown into watching a foreign film. Evolution is healthy for language.

Joyce as he demonstrated with his later works was anything but backward looking with regards to language. Ulysses and particularly Finnegans Wake are imbued with linguistic inventiveness, playfulness and creativity. Joyce in Finnegans Wake in essence opted to invent his own language which was based around puns, English, Irish, Greek, Latin and drunken rambling. Far from being frustrating and unreadable, these are the works of someone having a laugh. My experience in Montreal furthers my conviction, that rather than being an frustrating exercise in unraveling idiomatic French or wishing for more formal syntax, it is beautiful to see a language thriving. Irish language enthusiasts and revivalists would do well to learn from theses examples. It is best not to be conservative when it comes to the rules of a language. A language lives and dies by its efficiency and ease of usage. Then the languages possibilities which aren’t finite may again wake [terrible, don’t care].

Double N.

I had walked along the Liffey. Upto Grafton Street. Before the Guinness would be flowing. Unknowing of the judgment that would fall later that spring evening. I recall vividly the tricolours flying. The crowds of people. I turned off unknowingly into Davey Byrnes pub.

Be still as you are beautiful,
Be silent as the rose;
Through miles of starlit countryside
Unspoken worship flows

The Shelbourne Hotel. Dublin. Five stars. St. Stephens Green. A building of historical significance. Never far from the most pivotal and defining moments in Irish society. Across the busy foyer. A Friday in May. There she was. I limped across. 5’9. Heels. A leather jacket. Black pencil skirt. Flowing blonde hair. Beaming smile. Her eyes were the same colour as the glistening spring sky of blue. Like an epiphany to all my foolish blood. On that gleaming marble floor, fleeting.