DAY 231: Ein kurzer goldener Zeit

November 30th, 2017 § 0 comments

We all consider the stream of time, or consciousness, as it flows past us, in different ways, we wouldn’t be different people if we didn’t; and a fine muddle we’d be in if we were the same people. But I’ve started digressing before I’ve even started. My theme today if I can stick to it is how we think about our lives, looking back at them; which I’ve been doing from time to time. Particularly since an exceptionally thoughtful Nablus student
(no, I won’t tell you who), who I was ‘testing for her level of English’ – so as to put her in the ‘right’ conversation class – asked me: ‘What was your most effective experience?’ This immediately turned the tables on who was testing who or whom or for what. After some disentangling, it became clear that she meant ‘experience which had an impact on your life’, and told me a story involving some sort of hallucination or

monsters

waking death or one of those things.

I’ve never had any such experience having steered clear for the most part of those substances with which many of my friends used to fuck up their heads (this is not meant in a spirit of criticism; and many of them went on to be professors or barristers or CEOs of indeed drug companies and good luck to them). Oddly, after about four minutes’ thought I concluded – at the age of 77, which I then was, that my most effective experience was that of becoming, with a group of mostly ridiculously young friends, involved in the already desperate situation of the refugees in the Calais jungle, and trying both to understand it (the situation – are you still listening?) – in all its ramifications, and to do something about it. And to watch it as the French and British authorities did everything within their power to make a crisis into a disaster. That is, my most effective experience was about three months back. Had I lived? ObviouslyI had, in spades: I won’t bore you with a list of the amazing people I’ve met, places I’ve been, the highs, the lows, the evenings at the opera in Verona or in intense discussions with tiny left groups,the failed attempts to make crême brûlée or makhlouba, the broken ribs and noses gained while climbing frozen fells under the influence of this or that, the unwritten papers on the shape of the universe, the nights walking up and down trying to get a succession of

migrant-628095children to stop crying,… Maybe my memory had mysteriously lost a large chunk; but maybe the most recent events had become for whatever reason hugely more significant.. And I cling to the belief that this is because they are; what is happening now is of huge importance and, however horrible it may be, we have to keep our eyes focused on it.

And (this is the significance of my title – for it does have one – that in all this mêlée of my life, the three months which I spent concentrated on the jungle, before it was destroyed, and before (rather earlier) my knees stopped working do stand out as a short golden age – the attentive reader will have picked up the reference to Azdak’s rule in Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle. Not as an age of justice, no one could claim that in those days – but as a time of friendship. I’m glad and lucky to have lived through that time; and when I meet others who share those memories, and who know how much worse it is now, and will be, and how much still to do, there’s a bond.

And you, reader? Because, obviously, your memories are at least as important as mine and I’d be happy to sit and listen to them if you’d only talk. The problem with a blog – do you have this, my fellow bloggers – is the constant sense that you are talking to yourself.  (What would have happened, I wonder, if the Wedding Guest had broken in on the Ancient Mariner: ”Funny you should say that, I had a similar
albatrossproblem with albatrosses myself..”) Isn’t it often more fun to be a listener? Which was your most effective experience? The protocols, I know, are many these days involving not interfering in others’ trauma, boundaries, and all that stuff. As Bob Dylan memorably said, I’ll let you be in my dream if I can be in yours.

At the Movies

Have I mentioned Sue Clayton’s really good film ‘A Case to Answer’? documenting the destruction of the jungle, and the chaos and dispersal and betrayal of the children who lived there. I saw it for the second time last week, and it improves. I contributed some pitiful amount of money to the funding, and as a result my name’s on the credits which is quite bizarre to me.

I’ve mentioned Bob Dylan; and here in a mood of unashamed nostalgia is his 1963 song ’Bob Dylan’s Dream’ (a riff on the classic Lord Franklin, of course); with its tribute to lost youth and friendship. It seems vaguely fitting.

 

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