Wednesday, August 1, 2007

any bird in flight

I was briefly reminded of William Morris’s News From Nowhere the other day in a conversation with someone about what life would be like if we didn’t have money or “work” as we know it. In Morris’s socialist utopia there is no such thing as private property and no division between art, life and work. I did read the book a long time ago and can’t remember who did things like empty the bins and such but presumably such a world would be greener than Green and committed to state of the art composting. Everything works on the assumption that our basic impulse is towards good will, and that this will establish itself given the right conditions. Anyway, the character in the story woke up and found Utopia had all been a dream.

I suppose we try to create, or hope for, a kind of utopia in our relationships and it’s either neurosis or unquenchable optimism that keeps us hoping for the best of all possible worlds. Occasionally one sees it: the fully-functional family, group of friends or work colleagues where people like and help each other and let each other be; we may even know a few individuals who are simply inclined to look and hope for the best in people. But just lately (and I don’t think this is down to having re-given up cigarettes) I feel as though I’ve been bumping up against an awful lot of dysfunctionality: nothing that comes too close to me personally, but I find myself steering a conscious path in order to avoid it.

I like to think that my own (nuclear bit of) famly are pretty functional, fingers crossed that my kids will look back and feel the same, though one can never make too many assumptions about this. In the wider extended family I have experienced both extremes and various bits in the middle. Nothing too unusual there, perhaps, but the dysfunctionality is something I still have to take into account, find the balance between leaving myself too open, without adequate defences, and being too defended, closed to possible change. On the whole, I think I have erred on the side of the former and I am, as I will never tire of saying, a very late developer.

But these days, like I said, I am steering a path, giving a wide berth to anyone on the “life is shit therefore you are bad” trip, which is a journey an awful lot of folks seem to be on. No wonder so many people seem to be locking themselves away with their computer screens for company – I’m not talking about artisticos like us, friends. Natch. But really, life is short and getting shorter each day. It used to be hip to say that one didn’t choose one’s mates because they were good. From where I stand (or sit), though, kindness and sanity rule ok. And here’s a poem I like, by Brendan Kennelly.

The Good

The good are vulnerable
As any bird in flight,
They do not think of safety,
Are blind to possible extinction
And when most vulnerable
Are most themselves.
The good are real as the sun,
Are best perceived through clouds
Of casual corruption
That cannot kill the luminous sufficiency
That shines on city, sea, and wilderness,
Fastidiously revealing
One man to another,
Who yet will not accept
Responsibilities of light.
The good incline to praise,
To have the knack of seeing that
The best is not destroyed
Although forever threatened.
The good go naked in all weathers,
And by their nakedness rebuke
The small protective sanities
That hide men from themselves.
The good are difficult to see
Though open, rare, destructible;
Always, they retain a kind of youth,
The vulnerable grace
Of any bird in flight,
Content to be itself,
Accomplished master and potential victim,
Accepting what the earth and sky intends.
I think that I know one or two
Among my friends.

17 comments:

Kahless said...

Hello Signs,
Yes, there does seem a lot of dysfunctionality around at the moment. And a lot of people to be avoided in RL who are just plain mean. Or bitter. Life is short, as you say.

I find in cyber-life, a kindness and acceptance that isn't so apparent in RL. But it must be there, because we are real-lifers too. Maybe it is just safer to be who we are in cyber-life, because ultimately we have our anonimity?

Btw, well done with the fag quitting. That is REAL hard.

Reading the Signs said...

Hi Kahless, I find myself quite taken by the term RL - for ages I didn't know what it stood for. But real life does have a way of creeping wherever you are, I think.

Yes. I did love the cigs. Sugar-free gum doesn't do it for me.

That's so pants said...

Hi Signs

I was a little bit worried there for a while because I was identifying with whole 'life is shit therefore you are bad' thing. Then I thought, for me it's really the other way around. People who bother me for money or give me crap service are bad and make life shit. So I feel okay now.

xxx

Pants

Reading the Signs said...

Hi Pants - I like to think that I have this virtue, that if ever I felt a trip like the one I mentioned coming on I would have the grace to lock myself away for the duration.

There are quite a few people bothering me for money at the moment, including the Old Bill (caught me speeding 36 mph - no comment).

Nicola said...

As I do too.
Thank you.

Reading the Signs said...

hello, Nicola - good to hear.

The Moon Topples said...

Signs: I have given you an award over on my blog. I assume that, like most people, you only blog to win awards, so I hope this pleases you.

cusp said...

I sometimes wonder if it's easier to be kind and generous in virtual reality rather than RL. There isn't the same commitment etc. but as Kahless says the kindness you do find means it must be out there in RL too.

Maybe the sort who e.g. blog in a non-profiteering/non-ambition way are just less grabbing and mean and just delightful people --- you know the sort of people who hover about all our blogs ;-)

Personally I avoid the 'Life is shit and then you die' or ' ..I'll get there before you..' people like the plague: energy sappers all.

Reading the Signs said...

Mr. Moon - I'm pleased as punch - the Nobel prize for blogging did you say? I'll be over to yours in a jiffy.

Hi Cusp - this is the new Real Life, or an aspect of it (the new hearth where we gather to tell our stories), and I reckon there is potentially as much weirdness or goodness. At least here we have the option to delete.

cusp said...

Oh I like the analogy of blogging being 'the new hearth'; great phrase.

Come on then, I'm sitting here in my tartan dressing gown on bath night with my mug of Ovaltine. Tell me a story Signs. I'm all ears..............

Reading the Signs said...

It's what we're doing here all the time, one way or another, isn't it Cusp? And - just to say - youtube counts too, you know - especially of Barbie frauleins that look like Dick Emery. Now that's part of your story. Har!

(it was a dark and stormy night and the cap'n said to his mate, "tell us a story". So he began: it was a dark and stormy etc.)

Kahless said...

Yea Signs, I like that phrase too...

this is the new Real Life...the new hearth...

Cool. Shame its not so easy to tell who's at home and who's out of a night though.

btw congrats on the nobel blog prize :o)

Reading the Signs said...

Ah, thanks Kahless. I'll try not to let it turn my head.

witnessing am i said...

Ah, the constant struggle. Damn this real life stuff.

I do love the idea of being in flight -- completely off the ground, surrounded by air, completely vulnerable, and yet looking ahead, enjoying the view.

Stay strong, dear Signs, on swearing off the fags and staying true to the Signs.

Reading the Signs said...

Still off the fags, David, and always RTS - thanks for the good wishes.

Edmond Clay said...

You're a breath of fresh air.
Being careful how I dare
To say the things you need to hear
And banish all the mourning fear.
So Nature gives its grace be toll'd
That rings the truth - be bold,
Stand tall and strong, do not bend
And lean ourselves into the wind.

Reading the Signs said...

Thanks, Edmond.