66: Darkness – Hurting

Is there not then, inevitably, always, almost always, a shortfall, a gap, a distance we cannot cross, between what we hope for, desire, wish, an­ticipate, yearn for and for which we may stretch forth pleading hands, and what our capacities as agents, in these bodies with these powers, at this time, hemmed in by this history, can actually achieve? Are we not doomed to disappointment? Even if we start off heading in the right direction, we nevertheless never see our journey through to the end we had hoped for.

Oh, such effort, such tiring effort that always fails.

Is this a petty, mean, peevish complaint?

What I had imagined for this world, for me, for everyone, remains forever in imagination. At best it may inspire and motivate actions that only ever go so far, then fail. Everything is a botched job, a crudity, a parody of the ideal that hope and imagination conjured in the bright sun beyond the mouth of the cave in which we are doomed to lie tethered to great iron rings, tightly bound by iron chains all our days … for in here, here in the des­perate darkness is the reality of things, the truth of how matters stand. There is no sun outside, just as there is no outside. The cave goes on forever, an endlessly recycling Möbius strip of disappoint­ment.

I do not understand why so few have noticed. They do not even laugh at the folly of their predicament, because they do not see any predicament. Instead, they think that money and power, status and possessions are actually important. They bask in the sunlight of their folly, when really, all is dark and useless, and soon enough hurtful.

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62: Mountain – Moving

With every awakening comes the same wish that things could be other than they are. Of things close at hand, the wish that amongst them be my purpose, and of things further off, that same draw­ing in of breath, a gasp perhaps, solicited by witnessing everywhere the sheer weight of suffering that bears down on others as much as it presses down on me, but also the fury, the anger and an­guish that much of this wretchedness is caused by something as simple and mean as the abuse of power. For there is that elite which rules this world for their exclusive benefit alone, that mighty elite, mighty in power but nothing else, who bend us all to their will, to make what happens exactly what they want to happen, for the indulgence of misery and the pure pleasure of exercising their power, like a child in the bliss of their exhilaration as they stamp on a mouse and taste the pure pleas­ure of their brutality.

But what is to be done? I do not know. Every few years we may, if we so wish, vote for the per­son we believe possesses more humanity and more decency than the others. Though, as likely as not, many will vote for their favoured candidate motivated only by their own self-interest, drawn in with the promise of tax cuts, or the hope of relishing a bit of bene­fits scrounger bashing in the form of policies that will drive the weakest and the most vulnerable to suicide, or take away someone’s means of sustain­ing themselves, so that they can­not sustain them­selves and die of starvation, alone and cold in the darkness of these hateful times.

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So I awaken to find that I am still alive, and I must live on through this horror. I would mend it. I would mend it all, but I do not know how. It is easier to move a mountain with a teaspoon, given a strong enough teaspoon and enough time.[1] But mend the evil of the world? It cannot be done. We must bear its onslaught and wish in utter futility for something different.

[1] If that were the deal, if God were to come and say, ‘Move this mountain four miles to the west, and here is the indestructible teaspoon that you must use, and I will end all evil on this world forever, and I will make you live long enough to complete the task,’ I would take the spoon. This would be my purpose, and I would set to with enthusiasm, concerned about only two things: will humanity be able to survive the intervening eons that must pass before I can move the mountain, and will the planet itself last long enough for me to finish the job? For the roughest of calculations suggests that moving a mountain with a teaspoon must occupy one’s every waking moment for at least a few billion years. There is also the concern that in moving a moun­tain with a teaspoon one will not avoid pulverising it to chip­pings and grains, and as quickly as one way try to heap it up again at its new location, will the wind not simply blow it away? Will God allow for that? Or must I forever chase downwind after the receding mountain and try to bring it all back again, and maybe find a way to cement it all together? When it’s all fin­ished, can I keep the teaspoon as a souvenir?

58: World – Impinging

I was awakened this morning by the not so distant sound of something banging, banging, banging, banging, banging, BANGING … then a brief pause, then … banging, BANGING, again. My heart was pounding, pounding, pounding in true shell-shocked fashion, maintaining a difficult counterpoint to the banging outside: three mighty heartbeats to every bang. I thought at first that what I was hearing was someone in a van sorting parcels and packets, tossing them vigorously against the sides of the van, turning the vehicle into a super-large tympanic instrument, and I fan­cied I could hear a furious voice fuming, ‘Where the bloody hell is the packet for number sixteen?’ But then I wakened further, and I realised that wasn’t it at all. Someone just round the corner is having a long and complicated renovation done, and what I was hearing was the builders tossing debris and rubbish into a skip … still a mighty tympanic booming, but this instrument had no wheels, and no one was searching for anything.

I am usually awakened by something of the sort breaking into my nightmare-riddled sleep, and my adrenal glands react like that man who suffered so awfully in the trenches who, ever after, jumps in panic at the slightest sound, who trembles under the bed with their head pressed hard against their knees, convinced that the postman’s knocking portends violent death at any moment. There is no knocking here, but an electronic doorbell that enthusiastically and in piercing, strident voice shrieks out some famous melody or folk song, mangling every harmony ever discovered. They play heavy rock music at super-loud volumes to victims being brainwashed, I hear. They should try my door chime device at ordinary volume. Success is guaranteed.

Some imposition always intervenes before my natural, or even unnatural sleep concludes. If I try to trick the world by retiring an hour or two early, with the intention of wakening before the day’s external activities break into my interior world, I always lose the game, and some idiot will perhaps raise and lower, raise and lower the bonnet of his car at 5 am. Or a door will slam, and heated voices will each try to shout down the other in tones by turn furious, frustrated, ferocious, infuriated, in­dig­nant.

And so the acrimony of the world fragments right across the globe, and these little shards of trouble and disturbance trigger my shell-shocked brain into telling my heart to go, go now, go like the clappers, for danger is here, and death is near, and these must be our last moments on earth, so beat out your final song until the beating breaks you, for that is all we can do. We have fought this foe, you and I together, for all these years, and we must cease soon. If not today, then soon, so beat until you burst. You sound out my terror as the percussionist beats out the composer’s anguish. Between us, we can bring a rhythm to The Scream, the painting by Edvard Munch. We can make the swirling colours of his sky and ocean throb and pulse with a universal hatred of all that vexation that need not be vexation but for the selfishness, stupidity, thoughtlessness of others. We will beat out the self-destruction of civilization, for that is our only song, now.

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And every morning I waken to a fresh hatred of the world which is so stupid, so insistent, so repellent. Of course my heart objects to it. Its beating is like the beat of a war drum, but I have no idea how to take this war to my enemies. Just pounding and pounding and pounding.

55: Riots – Erupting

AthensRiot7wikiAll night long, for hour after hour, in my dreams, I have been witnessing riots breaking out in cities all over the country. Running and shouting, scuffles and tear gas. Over the faces of the police, visors – over the faces of the rioters, expressions of desperation, delight, anger, fear, fury, and sometimes masks or scarves. I see banners bearing slogans and symbols – Kill the Bill, Women First, Tax the Rich, and more enigmatically, Out, Out, Out, and the raised fist of protest, rebel­lion and international uprising. I see disciplined rows of dark uni­forms sheltering behind long, plastic riot shields, armed with long, swinging ba­tons, advancing on a disorganised rabble armed with howls of distress and indignation, and a cou­ple of cardboard plac­ards that announce a fervent policy behind which all humanity may stand – those who retain their humanity, a dwindling pro­portion, I fear, as fascism rises again – No More.

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[The photograph of rioting in Ath­ens in December 2008, sourced from flickr.com, was taken by Murplejane, and is used under the terms of the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.]

50: Death Mask – Forming

Like a ghost upon the battlements, who will not rest until his revenge is secured, I pace the news­rooms and websites, TV sites and message boards, spying out the evil of this world.

For I will bear witness to it. It has become my duty. These are my times, and I am ashamed of them. My visage scowls within with such a rage of withering witnessing, that were that scowl trans­ferred to flesh and muscle without, it is that visage that would be viewed by the world who marvels that such a man could exist, or bear to be seen by others in such a horrid condition of distress. For however intense the suffering of he who witnesses, his pain is such a small slice, a flimsy nothing when compared to the deep, deep suffering that others heap upon others, that it may be regarded, in the ultimate ledger, as a mere scratch, a moment’s glimpsing of failed humanity. It is but a blink of awareness that is a useless prize, for what now for him, for me, who witnesses? Where is the tribunal that will hear our plea for those who suffer, where the judge whose mighty gavel can beat out new orders for the guilty to obey, to cease, to cast aside their cruelty?

We are powerless against those powers who will have their way today, and tomorrow, and all the tomorrows of that tomorrow, until the end of time, it seems. If only the shame of it could be moulded to a new power that could avenge the inhumanity of it and deliver a righteousness for all, for everyone oppressed, for even the slightest harm, for the single tear that dries on a child’s cheek.

We, who do not do these things, should pool our shame and raise a cry so potent that the earth will shake its vengeance.

But no … the reality of it is impotence, power­lessness and a permanent sickness of the soul that pulls and rends and lays my startled thoughts like little bits of wet bandage upon the death mask of this world. Such sorrow, such sorrow.

29: Power – Dominating

If others feel as I do, how do they manage to continue in their petty lives, concerned with trivia and stupid things, craving possessions and admiration, oblivious it seems to transience and the doom of death that awaits us all, no matter the glory that for some floods from their ‘success’ in dominating others and turning their exploited labour into one’s own private possessions with which to beat those al­ready long oppressed? How can anyone ever be content with that? How can domination of others ever feel so good? Why embrace that domi­nation with such a determination and commitment that political parties are brought to bear upon main­tain­ing its continued success, no matter what suffer­ing is heaped upon those who do all the work for the single purpose of satisfying the few who have that pernicious power to dominate?

The pieces of this puzzle will not fit together unless we add bully, persecutor, browbeater, sadist, tormentor, destroyer of lives. The nature of privilege is in the end nothing but the entitlement to abuse, to take from others and have for oneself, to own their labour and therefore own them as a master owns a slave. And, oh, this is a sickening thing. It is detestable beyond all words, words that could never capture its vastness and its vileness and its outrageous ugliness.

The rich, the powerful, our masters say that we are envious, and that really we want only what they want. They are so small-minded they actually say that. No. We would rather die than be like them or have what they have. All we want is to get out from under their dominion. We want our lives to have that character they would have if the overse­ers of our wretchedness had never existed. That is all revolution aspires to, to turn ourselves from this misery and face something less miserable.