27th May 2015
It’s incredible, the violent reaction this title seemed to inspire. Perhaps that very fact goes towards explaining why we are so far from Eden now. The writers who wrote ‘In the beginning etc’ back then had already decided that ‘the beginning’ would be quickly followed by violence, and proceeded to write the first murder and occurrence of domestic violence.
The piece about domestic violence I felt was misunderstood by its markers. The twist was that the mother had been physically abusing the child. It’s a very difficult piece to read, especially for anyone with small children. The ‘Mummy?’ is placed so as to wrench out all the love and choking anger in our hearts. Though good and well worth reading, it made me feel like crying and I went in search of more optimistic responses.
What is it about considering beginnings which makes us turn quickly to violent endings? Beginning does imply end, but could we not be more T.S. Eliot about it? I can’t help but quote this passage from The Four Quartets here because it makes me so happy:-
‘Words move, music moves
Only in time; but that which is only living
Can only die. Words, after speech, reach
Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern,
Can words or music reach
The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
Moves perpetually in its stillness.
Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts,
Not that only, but the co-existence,
Or say that the end precedes the beginning,
And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.
And all is always now. Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Will not stay still.’
(T.S. Eliot, The Four Quartets)
(T.S. Eliot, The Four Quartets)
The winner of ‘In The Beginning’ told a tale of gentle music and gentle, poignant fragments of life, of piano-playing in an Alzheimer Day Care centre. It’s beautiful writing touching something real very lightly and could exist within Eliot’s rose garden, I feel:-
‘No my dear, I cannot disturb the dust on your china bowl of rose leaves. In the beginning you must have been a beautiful baby, but where we are going once this moment has departed, I cannot tell you. As we sing the old songs we form a circle, a feedback loop of awareness, a Daisy, Daisy chain. You are here because they say you have lost your wits - the clay grew tall and then it fell back to this moment, and these songs.’
Read it. You won’t regret it.
The first featured entry I enjoyed though I agreed with one of the markers that it was a little sexist. It was hugely well-written and entertaining though, and Eden is an undeniably sexist story anyway:-
because he said to me that I would have free will and all that stuff. I thought
He meant I could decide things for myself. Instead he has landed me with a
WOA-Man so that most of the things I want to do are made difficult.
For example, I like to do a bit of gardening so I built a nice little shed and put a few things in it like a comfy chair made out of sheeps’wool and a jug made out of a gourd so I could have a little drink on occasions.
Oh No! WOA-Man said “What do we need a shed for? We need a shelter when it rains and a store room for food” forgetting that we have acres of fruit trees and dozens of farm animals roaming around, so we can get what we want with a snap of the fingers.’
I think most of us have a fair idea of how it ends but do read Mr Pop’s unique take on it.
The other featured entry I loved for its structure and its continuation of new beginnings springing eternal from positive action, like baby ferms uncoiling from the parent plant. It’s a piece containing fantastic detail without getting bogged down in it, a rare skill. I’m a great believer in the benefits of action rather than no action, and this story is an illustration of this principle:
‘Walking through Reading at 9pm with the
Christmas lights on far past feeling festive. The most depressing thing about
an overnight stay for work is (the cleanliness of the sheets, the universal
hotel smell, the desire to return home when you know that really home when you’re
there is a completely different animal) eating alone so you decide not to
bother. You wander into a pub which seems unwelcoming but at least has a varied
clientele. You order a G&T but comment on their having Adnams on tap to a
man with chin-length black hair
A conversation about psychiatric care, on which you have no informed opinion and have not yet drunk enough to form one at random. He’s maybe 35, handsome now, but you can see the hair, unchanging in cut for40 years, greying and coarsening, the same hard-wearing red coat fading, still striding, walking, hobbling into this bar with its varied clientele who become more reluctant to listen to his monologues as the things he’s seen at work that he certainly can’t say in this conversation with a stranger embed more and more deeply into his eyes. He’ll look, frankly, weird. But for now he’s normal and interesting and sad, unaware that even now you’re more patient than most
Which begins …’ [etc]
Again, read it! It’s a diverse trio of life-enhancing reading experiences this week and I hope you enjoy them.
As a side-note, I’d like to see Non-Escalative Art take off, in much the same way that escalative art has done over recently years especially in film, television and literature. There’s been a desire to rush towards the conclusion of whatever the story is, upping the ante in terms of shock value at every stage. It doesn’t have to be this way; not all elements burn in order to complete themselves violently; some are stable, inert, noble, and some manage a good passing impression of stability. The shock of an almost-warm breeze in April is as moving as any murder. More to follow.
AI May 2015