Saturday, 3 December 2011

The Old Crooked Track

Poor naked wretches, whereso'er you are,
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
Your loop'd and window'd raggedness, defend you
From seasons such as these? O, I have ta'en
Too little care of this! Take physic, pomp;
Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
That thou mayst shake the superflux to them,
And show the heavens more just.

King Lear, Act 3 Scene iv

Every night recently I have been leaving my house when it gets dark and walking to the top of my road where I go under a railway bridge into a park. From there I ascend the 200 hundred or so feet chalk escarpment and look out across the network of main roads and railways, floodlit football pitches and tiny houses that squat together in the valley. On each side of the main road the hills rise up, quiet dark animals rising out of the sulphur pools of light and noise, and my own hill, my own vantage a hushed animal back too, a place of refuge, a spine of chalk, a highway unlike those other highways of rage beneath, be they pathways fibre-optic or car-clogged. My highway I both walk on and inhabit with my imagination, (the chalk ridge a conductor of millennia of human activity across the downland of Southern Britain) feeding myself with its history and secrets.

 I go amongst the trees and sit on my haunches, squat down close to the mud and grass and feel that increasingly there is only this which heals, there is only this real connection with the earth to let me know that I am a body, not a disembodied disconnected ghost in the machine, not a consumer waiting to be sold to, not a user of products or technologies, a passive and aggressive participator in a game manipulated by others, themselves also manipulated in a grand project of disenchantment dreamed up by modernity. Just this person, now at this time, aware.  And the creation of this space itself a daily necessity, an act of honesty without which the riches of the day might make me bloated, filled up with others plans, unknowing of my own, distracted from distraction by distraction. But kept open to the skies outside, this space must not be one in which my own plans start to be made, or ideas hatched. It should be a place for listening, attending to the unheard.

And when they started to put tents up in the cities of the world, outside the temples of money and power, the eternal temples of stone of this age, and many laughed and said how pathetic and pointless the tents were, and how flimsy and confused were the ideas of those people, they missed the point. Those people who put up tents were creating a space for listening, for attending to the unheard, the still, small voices of the forgotten and forsaken. A prophecy here. These weak voices, these powerless and broken, if space is continued to be made for them, then the roar of the great machine of greed and disenchantment will not drown them out. Their humanity, unveiled, shocking, like a memory once buried but now remembered, will prevent the circle from closing in upon itself.

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