Please wait while the eyes configure the windscreen.
But we who live in the body see with the body’s imagination things in outline. – Virginia Woolf (1)
What is that white blister with black at the edges?
What is this that observes it?
In a split second the nature of the object is recognised by remembered context.
It is also recognised by remembered behaviour, so it is assessed, then removed.
The soft paper that collects it is sent to some unplaced waste world.
The remains are removed by some chemical agent on a cloth.
The remains are washed off the cloth.
Water flows down the drain to some unconsidered underground sea.
What was the bird thinking of?
Am I some sort of waste ground?
Birds are careless idiots.
Don’t they recognise a Hyundai Accent
or a pin-stripe trilby hat
or a self-conscious bald head?
Humans are sufficiently ingenious to chase and discover the causes of events. This has made us powerful on the planet. It has also made us idiots on the planet, when the search for a reason recognises only the territory of our familiar patch. God put a black feather on my path to make me turn back. My dead mother appeared on the window sill as a blackbird. That the light changed in the middle of our conversation means I’m right in what I say.
But Birds are real idiots. All they do is get up in the morning, go to work and go home. They go to the same place on holidays every year, and they can’t explain how they get there. We don’t know how they get there exactly, but we have several theories. One of them, borne up by experiment, is that some birds orientate themselves from the North Star. A group of birds reared indoors with a simulated night sky took their travel route from Betelgeuse when that star was given as the central point of rotation rather than Polaris.
I have a picture of my life as a loosely touching collection of shards,
not pieces of a jigsaw,
a specie of saws jigging.
All falls apart.
Danger. We’re always trying to fend it off and find some equilibrium. Homeostasis is Happiness. What will be the consequence? Should I shit here or there? Where birds shit is of far less importance than where we (broadly speaking) shit. Our ‘shit’ is so complex in its components and constitution that we can cause real damage, for birds too.
The fact of your bed will not belie the outside.
It won’t matter how you disport yourself,
to wall or fall, to foot or head,
leave a window open, secured or not—
the storm will rise of its own discord
and knocknock. (2)
Whereas birdshit doesn’t essentially harm me.
In fact, the islands off the coast of Peru provide a superior income for the workers who are prepared to shovel some of the millions of tons of guano into bags for transportation to farmers on the mainland and beyond.
‘No enlightenment’ in what we understand as an applicable sense. No enlightenment that will resolve disagreement, because that’s too far along the track already oriented to a particular pole star. But enlightenment, perhaps, in a sub-linguistic sense, in the sense of opening a space wide enough to allow a world of possibilities.
“... no enlightenment whatsoever would come if a physicist tried to explain the war by saying it came about thanks to trillions upon trillions of momentum-conserving collisions taking place among ephemeral quantum-mechanical specks.” – Douglas Hofstadter (3)
Time dissolves into space and you can freely move.
The tunnel of obligation and expectation becomes an open field.
The openness is a meaning in itself
or a way of apprehending a particular dynamic,
a system based on question.
The small things, we now know, are the root causes of most events, but they’re often too small to be observed or linked. We look two ways—to connect with others in the meanings of the time (the common currency) and to connect with the inner events of a body (the underground economy). We could get lost either way.
You will open the door because no-one stays in,
and go the usual path. Four green bins felled,
a company of leaves, orange too early, too brown,
and down among them yellow blossoms too loose
to be true. What time of year is this? All that colours
is not young, says the grey pavement.
The remnant wind is strong enough to lie into.
It’s material for memory. Whistles at your back.
You could be a marcher with a harsh colonel.
These stirrings on this unquaking day are enough meat
for a supermarket chat,
insufficient cause for a new map. (4)
We worry about being passed over
(Hey! I’m waving my shirt here)
or being shat upon.
There are extensive ‘off-grid’ populations in the environs of the world’s large cities. They live above foul lagoons, beside dumping grounds, in shanty towns. They subsist from day to day. They have none of what we consider basic services, no security, no hope of change; what they do has small consequence. They often recycle the waste from the city proper. In a 2011 Scientific American article, Robert Neuwirth puts their number globally at 800 to 900 million. (6) He also points out that many inhabitants of those ‘crime-ridden’ localities are quite productive, with their street vending and minor entrepreneurship, and that, apart from evading taxes, most are law-abiding.
To be myself (I note) I need the illumination of other people's eyes, and therefore cannot be entirely sure what is my self. The authentics, like Louis, like Rhoda, exist most completely in solitude. They resent illumination, reduplication. They toss their pictures once painted face downward on the field.
– Virginia Woolf (5)
It must take a lot of initiative to survive in anarchy.
Two alternatives: either to make oneself infinitesimally small, or to be so. The former is perfection and hence inaction; the latter a beginning and therefore action.
– Franz Kafka (7)
It's been said that the act without a reaction is a perfect act. I don't agree.
If we see nothing happen, feel nothing happen when we raise our hand, we are disconcerted, dismotivated, and we need to be occupied with something
(even if it is to stay apparently still and con-template the inners),
whatever the consequences,
most of which we can’t predict.
As we wing our way back and forth, tethered to our designated stars.
Destiny Observed in the Tara Towers Hotel
My biro was the hand of God today,
lifting a ladybird from the green desert
of a fustian seat to the frozen sea of a window sill.
She scuttled to the edge of a crevice
and found herself prey to a spider
watching from the arched window frame.
There, between adulterate wood and retro-stone,
I swooped to save her, fended off the marauder
and took her to the sweet homeland of grass.
And so to her comrades, where her dance of story
might be no less accurate than ours when we tell each other
how the angel saved Isaac from his father’s sword.
The spider might believe her prey assumed into heaven,
and thereafter fear not to adore the red round back. (8)
(1) Woolf, Virginia: The Waves, London: Grafton/HarperCollins, 1977, p. 139.
(2) Medbh, Máighréad: ‘Just Another’, unpublished poem.
(3) Hofstadter, Douglas: I am a Strange Loop, N.Y. Basic Books, 2007, P. 179.
(4) Medbh, Máighréad: ‘Just Another’, unpublished poem.
(5) Woolf, Virginia: The Waves, London: Grafton/HarperCollins, 1977, p. 92.
(6) Neuwirth, Robert: ‘Global Bazaar’, Scientific American, September 2011, p. 42.
(7) Kafka, Franz: The Zürau Aphorisms, ed. Robert Calasso, transl. Michael Hofmann and Geoffrey Brock, London: Harvill Secker, 2006, No. 90, p. 89.
(8) Medbh, Máighréad: unpublished poem.