I've not been here for quite a while but I had something to say (or write) - to 'share' even - and this seemed the best place (now I'm not on social media). Inspired by my dear writer friend Mary Smith, whose blog on her cancer 'journey' has been just that, inspirational for a lot of people over the past year , after her last post I felt, like most people, immediately devastated. But devastation doesn't help anyone, so I tried to think of something positive. Here goes:
Mary has written many times of spring bulbs. Of how last year she didn't know if she would still be alive to see the ones she planted in autumn 2020. Now, again, she's facing that same reality. Should she, or shouldn't she... and the resounding answer from many of her friends (real and virtual) is YES. Plant those bulbs.
It struck me that the planting of spring bulbs is in some sense an act of resistance (I don't do 'hope' but I do do resistance') - we cannot change what will come but we can, if not control, then make a statement. Another of Mary's friends described this as planting a 'Riot of Colours.' And so, yes, project 'ROC-on' it is.
My suggestion is that all who know Mary (and Mary herself) plant spring bulbs this autumn. Do so mindfully and with meaning. With love and empathy. And take pictures/video of the planting. Then when they come up in the spring take more pictures/videos. SHARE THEM. Do it not just in solidarity and love for Mary but for the people of Afghanistan whose own spring must be looking incredibly bleak right now.
Many people 'know' Mary from her writings about Afghanistan, indeed I first met her at a reading of her non fiction book 'Before the Taliban' way back when. So it seemed only right that we broaden the scope of our 'project' to make it a gesture, perhaps an act, to remind us all that while 'wee' people can't change the world, we can still have our voice.
Mary joined me in 2003 when we put on a 'Not in My Name' performance in Dumfries (which did NOT stop the war in Iraq) and for the 10th anniversary of that event I published the pieces by our fellow writers:
Jo Abbott, Jackie Baldwin, Mark Frankland, Vivien Jones, Mary and myself. I'm making that ebook available again for free for anyone who wants to download it HERE (pdf format - don't complain, I'm amazed I was ever able to find it in my hard drive of hell)
Time presses on. There's nothing any of us can do to really help Afghanistan, or to prolong our time with Mary. BUT rather than suggesting she does 'not go gentle into the good night' or 'rage, rage against the dying of the light' as male poets (Thank you Dylan) might suggest, how about we do something positive? If 100 or so of Mary's friends ALL commit to planting bulbs (and taking pics, sharing on social media for those of you who do that sort of thing) and commit to doing that EVERY year from now as a mark of our friendship with Mary, I hope that we might show her NOW, when it matters, just what she means to us all. Mary, however long you have, I promise that for as long as I am around to do so, I will plant bulbs in the autumn to contribute to a Mary Smith Riot of Colour in the spring. I truly hope that you'll stick around for the first act of this event next spring - but know NOW that it will go on in some form for many, many years to come, a legacy to and inspired by you.
My own two planting sites are already planned. I will plant (actually replant) some white daffodil bulbs (see earlier posts on this site) at two places.
1. The Family Trees. These trees feature heavily in two of my works: Brand Loyalty (2010) and All Moments are One Moment. (2020) I visit them every day. So from now on, every day Mary will be there with me in my thoughts. Part of the 'family'. I treasure Mary's comments during the editing of Brand Loyalty and her review on its publication. * see bottom of post.
So it finally happened. I got a smartphone. Still vastly against my will. However, when not trying to figure it out, I have been revisiting 2003 lately in my 'brain in vat' project and I came across (many) something interesting (things).
There isn't a point I can mark as the start of the journey but I'd say a significant point in the Return to YinYang Mountain was the first 'attempt' which came in the form of The Other Side of the Mountain. I wrote this around 2002 and it was performed a couple of times, once in 2003 as part of a Trilogy of my plays (along with Love is an Urban Myth from 1998/9, and When Time Stands Still dating from around 2000/2002). These were produced by me under the auspices of Bamboo Grove Theatre Company which I set up in 2002 in tandem to my work as Playwright in Residence. [Bamboo Grove ran its course after 8 years or so but they were 8 happy and productive years]
But The Other Side of the Mountain story started even earlier. I first started thinking about it in the early 1990s, with the initial inspiration being Scott of the Antarctic and my interest/fascination in the 'madness' descending on them as they sat in their tent, knowning they were dying. Quite when the drama morphed into a Daoist drama I'm not sure but by 2003 the Daoism took it over. And so, reflecting from another part of the moment, I suppose it was my first Daoist drama (indeed my first Daoist inspired writing). Perhaps I should label it as 'Daoist infused'.
This is all by way of an introduction to announce that as I move further into the Return to YinYang project, I've been revisiting my time with The Other Side of the Mountain and you can experience this journey too.
You can download the playscript here (as it was in 2005)
or view recordings of rehearsals from the two performances in 2003 and 2004.
Please bear in mind that the technology (and my skill level) were very different a couple of decades ago! But hopefully they still have something which may appeal to anyone with an interest in the Dao.
Some readings are coming up in February - a year after the publication of All Moments. These will be found in the new section available from 0102 2021 - Moments 2021
Reflections as the year turns. Attempts at Chinese which may not pass muster from anyone who actually speaks Mandarin... but you have to start somewhere... and when there is no beginning you just have to start!
My translation is: If you don't nurture, you have to repair.
Beginnings of an exploration of YinYang language... the 'birth' of a new theory and the work of the next part of life beyond All Moments
First the readings (4mins) which I'm 'disrupting'
Then my 'response' or start point... or something... which may become a theory of YinYang language. Or not.
Back in the day... the 1990s, I was also writing in Scots. Unfettered by the Scots Language (Leid) Police. Just how it sounded in ma heid. Here's a couple of pieces that (as far as I remember) never lived beyond this 'flash fiction' stage (I don't think 'flash fiction' existed in the 1990s did it?)
05052020 I reflect that my life is all stories now. The only thing that feels real is the moment I’m in, and anything ‘looking back’ is all stories. Some are true and some aren’t. And sometimes I don’t know any more. And I'm not sure it actually matters.
PARTS STILL WAITING FOR A STORY...
"Blethers". The auld wans aye said "blethers" as if it wis the maist terrible curse on the face o the planet. Ken, when ye wis a kid an chatterin an batterin on aboot some sich rubbish like "How comes I cannae stay up an watch the Miss World?" or "How can we no gang doon the terraces on oor own" yer voice raising tae a pitiful whining tone an "My dad sa-ays we could" - but "yer dad's no here" says yer ma as she clatters ye roon the lug. An ye didna feel ye deserved it but ye kindae kent that ye did. Cus yer dad niver said no sich thing tae ye. But yer ma couldn't ken that. They didna really ken iverthing, ma's; they just liked tae make oot that they did. You could catch them oot sometimes, when they weren'e paying attention.
But that wis ma's. Ayeway's ower reactin tae the slightest thing. An in the backgroon, calmer, but mair irritatin fer a that, wi a pesky singsong voice that went richt intae yer lugs, wis the auld yin wi her "blethers. It wis no like this in ma day."
An I thocht tae masel, an ayeways wanted tae say oot loud - shoutin at the top o' ma unbroken voice "An I bloody hope it'll no be like this in ma day either, nan. If iver I get ma day, fer this piggin shite heap o a life is sure no it." But I niver said it. But I wish I had. Fer things huv no got better than that, an I widnae huv minded ma ma skelpin me intae next week fer sayin that. I wid huv had a moment uv triumph over "blethers" anyways.
Noo Kelly-Marie wis nae much o' a looker but she could mak a stottin guid fish curry, an I cun fergive a lassie a lot fer that. I mean, they guid lookers may suit some guys, but I reckon they're mair fash as they're worth. Yer ayeways gettin intae fechts wi bonny girls. Other guys wantin tae rearrange yer pan, just cus some wee tart said she fancied ye.
Besides which, whit guid looking sortae girl wid wantae give me a second glance. Ony ane that did, I'd be fair suspicious of masel. She'd huv tae be wantin somethin mair than guid looks - an I've no got anythin tae offer a girl, no even guid looks. Accordin' tae Kelly-Marie I'm no even that guid in the sack, though I think she wis just sayin that when she had a mood on her wan day, cus she aye comes back fer mair. But I cannae help but wunner if she meant it. Cus Kelly-Marie's no gonnae find a pile o' fellas that'll gie her wan. Well, no sober fellas anyways.
From January 2000. Proof that I've been railing against the storm for a long, long time. Am I a sage/seer or do I just keep playing the same old record?
RULES FOR TWENTY FIRST CENTURY LIVING.
I am lucky because I am an outsider. In a world which places all its value on homogeneity and majority rule and consequently on mediocrity and sameness – I am different. I am an individual in a world of clones. McDonald’s is no longer just a place to stop and devour fast food – it is a state of mind, a state of being. One which I reject. And thus am rejected by that society. I am free. For most of the time it is as if I do not even exist in this world – and that is the only kind of freedom one can hope for these days.
It used to be said that money buys freedom, if not happiness, but money – the creation of the capitalist horror – is the arch enslaver. It destroyed community forever so that no matter how hard socialists or communists try, it is impossible for them to flourish. In order purely to survive they must succumb to one of the basic tenets of capitalism, the insignificance of the individual. A society based on money cannot allow the individual true rights and thus socialism and communism have inherent flaws until they reject economics. The Cuban revolution tried to restructure economics upon a new system, but you cannot tinker with economics to get a good version. Economics in its very existence is an evil. It is wrong thinking. Thus anarchism is the only possibility – the province of the individual.
Yet in the twenty first century, even anarchism is misunderstood as a result of the concept of individual having become corrupted. It has been corrupted into a vision of thoughtless violence against people when its very basis is of the primacy of people. It stands against property not people. It seeks to destroy systems not lives. It is an activity of morality not of mindless physical destruction. There is no inherent paradox, no selfishness in individualism. It does not deny community or even society. But to understand the kind of community or society it represents one has to travel outwith, either temporally or spatially, capitalism and its constructs. Firstly the individual must accept altruism – that while he is unique, every other being is also unique. And that it is the very uniqueness of the individual which is important. We are different and our difference gives us our value.
However, in the world in which we now live, every effort is made to encourage samenesss, to discourage individualism and uniqueness. It has gone so far that the mass of people now have no idea what true individuality even is any more. And certainly would not value it were it explained to them. For we are dealing with realms of morality in a world whose fulcrum is materialism.
And I have no illusion as to my power to change things, the status quo, the system, whatever. Greater men than I have died in the attempt. And for what? To save people who do not want to be saved. Worse than that, who cannot be saved. To wake up a world which has overdosed on capitalism and finds the concept of withdrawal worse than that of addiction. Which is why the only freedom is to stand outside. To learn how to live completely outside and to rid oneself of the vestiges of corruption which gnaw at the soul, the desire for external validation, for “success” in terms of that which one no longer respects. This is the paradox. Why seek this? Why expect that one will ever “succeed” to change a world that opposes everything you stand for. How expect them to welcome you into the fold, or even to set you up as a leader? You can see how they treat their leaders – sacrificing them Coriolanus style to the media or at best rewarding them with material excesses which are designed to corrupt the very morality supposedly applauded. There is no victory within the system. The only victory is without – and one cannot change things, one can only live and leave a record that one has thus lived. That one has not given in and “loved Big Brother” that one is stronger than that. That one is free.
One has to question everything. To upturn the value of everything. Take one’s “right” to procreate. In one’s own image. The biggest lie of all. Creating more cannon fodder. Another statistic. Mankind has got it wrong. It has gone past the stage when we can get it right communally. And so precisely because one cannot bring a new life into a better world, it is better not to contemplate the bringing of new life. Do you want to give birth to a slave? You enslave yourself by giving birth these days. With a child it is impossible to evade society and either you try to raise your child in freedom in which case it comes to maturity in a world even more corrupt, even more horrific than ours, with the ever present risk that it will reject individuality and become yet another slave, or you submit to the system and give up your freedom in the creation of a slave. Slavery is endemic in our world. You cannot create a free being. Capitalism dictates that. And do not be mistaken. Capitalism lies at the heart of all political and social structures of the modern world. All society is fundamentally capitalist in that all modern societies are based on a created reality known as economics. Perhaps personally, from a stage of maturity, it may be possible to largely steer clear of capitalist enslavement, but we are the last generation who will be able to do this. We have been mutated to such an extent, degraded to such an extent that it is impossible to rectify the situation. And no one even wants to try. Money was the demon which was let out of Pandora’s box and once freed, cannot now be caught. Money is the atomic bomb of the collective social consciousness.
Perhaps a new Pilgrimage to a new world is required? But the capitalists control the means of production, and the fruits of production and you cannot break into their world without coating your hands in their materialism. The only purity is purity of mind. So far they have not been able to totally destroy the capacity for free thought, but it is only a matter of time. It will come.
I used to think it was possible to influence others by example. Now I realise that the only result of ones example is that one is viewed as an eccentricity and even if people find that quaint, or charming rather than shocking or risible, they do not want to adhere to the same values. The best you could hope for is that they think they want to copy some of it, but then therein lies failure – for they are precisely copying rather than understanding the requirement for originality, for individuality. Mediocre people trying to be different are about the saddest kind. Sadder than those who have simply given up and are “the same.” If you do not feel your difference as a fundamental truth of your inner being, if your uniqueness and individuality are not the prerequisite of your existence rather than your goal, you cannot hope to succeed.
The tone of this has to appear nihilistic or downspirited in terms of all which is held socially acceptable. That it is viewed so is yet another example of how far we are from freedom. This realisation is in itself an expression of happiness, of freedom, of truth and understanding. One breaks from the shackles of trying to “fit in” of trying to “add value” to society. When one is in a corrupt society one has no responsibility to live up to the rules. To be pure in a corrupt society is simply to be corrupt by the standards of that society. To be alienated. Thus only in alienation is freedom. One does not court disapproval, or rejection, or oppression – one simply ignores their power. It doesn’t matter. Just live your life. Make your rules and question everything. Learn all the time and change and grow. As a free individual, an outsider. You may stand with your face to the window, but you do not seek to enter. You do not desire the sweets inside the shop, the warmth of the hearth on the other side of the pane of glass. The best you can hope for is to be left alone.
The utopia is to find others who understand this freedom. Like all utopias it is really a dream. They are few and far between and the commonality may be too slight. But it is possible from time to time to find others engaged on the same path. Few will stay the course, but you cannot be responsible for that. Take comfort where you can but do not outstay your welcome and do not give in to false methods. Many people think they are free. Make your own guidelines, your own test. Apply it rigorously to yourself and to others. Adapt it and reapply it regularly to make sure that you have not succumbed to the slavery of mediocrity and materialism. It is harder as you get older. There are so many more things to “have” to “be” and so much more “expected”. Both ridicule and praise will drag you down if they are from the wrong quarter. You will think you have succeeded and then you realise you have been cheated into slavery by external validation on the capitalist model. Only have respect for those who have no respect for the systems. Respect for the individual is paramount. Beyond that question everything. Hold nothing else dear. This is the reality of twenty first century living.
I am that one white daffodil.
Perfectly different, uniquely
Free from the yellowness
Of life's normality.
It's happened. I've moved. Not on, but moved. In a range of directions. My thoughts are now in other places than the immediacy of the text of All Moments and for this 'interesting' date 05052020 I decided to 'curate' 5 petals of a WHITE DAFFODIL. White Daffodil is now the working title of the thought project I'm embarking on, a selves/identity curation project. So, here are five linked pieces over time and space...
White Daffodil is 'named' 1997 ( a couple of poems from when I indulged)
Mind Dancing like it's 1997 (I'd forgotten how long ago I coined this phase)
Flash Fiction 1997 (or bits still waiting to find a home)
1999 Nothing Special (yes, foreshadows of Brand Loyalty)
2000 Rules for the 21st Century. The more things change, the more they stay the same!
Right now there's no explanations beyond the texts of these pieces, leaving the reader free to curate their own meaning. However, there are many explanations to be given. Happy to engage in comments/feedback.
Find out more about the theory, process and meanings - an exercise in creating a brain in a virtual vat.