Search results for "complex "

The Shape of Memories

Author: joe

Monday, 28 December, 2009 - 16:08

A magician wrote about how the natural course of healing covers over the wound as spiders' webs ultimately smother the bric-a-brac on a table in the corner of a long-locked room; yet he wished to not allow the wound to heal over, but every day pick it open and keep his pain alive, rather than allow the web of forgetfulness to conceal the rawness of his experience.

The extremity of self-knowledge is the pursuit of the only absolute foundation he could reach: "nothing is true; everything is permitted." My self-knowledge is bound to a foundation made, amongst so many influences, of my father and the unknowable depths of my psyche which are made from his history in my life. I recall my father as much to understand myself as I do to keep his memory alive.

Rowing boats, van-rides with Candy and souvenir mix-tapes; evenings in beer gardens, Neil Young in the car; yards with kids, playing action man in the street. Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick on Top of the Pops; kissing a girl on the school railings, AZED crosswords, tin of snails in the first university hamper. Sunday afternoons with 2p for the phone box; huge home-knitted jumpers with big striped colours; shopping for records on my birthday; black and white photographs of me and an old Wolseley.

Memories have shapes. Although they are recalled all at once, like frozen instants, they also unfold in time. They have a flavour and pattern whose tone and complexity seem to present themselves whole; yet they also play out their complexity, like stories retold. Each retelling allows some room for change - room to create new tastes and tones.

As I let each memory spin out I recognise a new note attach itself. It is an aftertaste of grief; there is a hint of bitterness - the reaction against tragedy; but also an intertwining of happiness and melancholy. Maybe grief imparts complexity the way a cask enriches the liquor aged within it. Perhaps the immediacy of the experience is lost; but perhaps as each year passes, there is an ever more rich emotional flavour to each recollection.

Perhaps the bitterness will round out; the joys and the sadnesses may mold themselves into familiarity; and perhaps rather than need to keep pain alive, it will be replaced by something other than the forgetfulness the magician feared. Another Christmas passes...

Categories: xmas, dad, grief, time, memory, complexity,
Comments: 1

Commonplace and Singular

Author: joe

Thursday, 24 December, 2009 - 14:53

The umber journey through bereavement reveals itself as the experience which levels everyone sooner or later. No-one is born who cannot expect to grieve a parent, except by reversing the calamity. Notwithstanding the silence we collectively smother over death in our discomfort and inability to handle one another's tragedies, grief and bereavement touch every but the most unlucky life. Mourning is a commonplace, a universal. And yet it is utterly singular, uniquely experienced and individually felt; an axis around which a life will eventually turn. Like love, it happens to us all, and when it does, we are the only lovers in the world.

It was around Easter this year that I decided to study the nature of creative expressions of grief. I knew earlier than that that I wanted to study how creative activity - whether journal writing, drawing, poetry, musical composition, anything - had a therapeutic dimension. I struggled wildly to find an ailment of the body that I felt I could talk about without feeling like a charlatan interloper from a soft science - a quack calling the advocates of hard science, "quacks". Choosing instead an ailment of the soul may have been a retreat from an anticipated "clash of civilisations" where science and hermeneutics meet, but it was an advance in terms of making the study my own.

The vernacular ear hears words like "complex" and "syndrome" as mental illnesses - this is of course because they are wielded by doctors and psychoanalysts whom we so often call upon only when we feel sick in mind or body. But complexes and syndromes are what we all are made of. What makes you you, and makes me me, are the respective complexes through which we see the world. Far from seeing the world clearly, we all have our own individual motes in our eyes which render the glass dark. Grief is another complex, another mote; grief makes me me. If grief is an illness, then everyone who has lost someone is ill.

A friend said, a few weeks after my father died, that over time the pain of grief would die away. His mother had died when he was young. "Now I think of her occasionally," he said, "And it's sort of... 'Oh yes... Mum! She was a person, a long time ago...' you know. It'll get better." I was sure he was right, but that only made it worse. I didn't want the pain to go if it meant that the memory of those I loved also receded and lost their significance. Surely this meant that they died twice: their lives ended both in their own death and the death of their memory. If it meant that the memory of my father would dwindle to the facts and material residue of his existence, then I did not want the pain of grief to end.

Grief is something I do not want to let go; but equally I know it is a phenomenon with its own logic and evolution which, if not allowed to take its course, will become more than a complex: a neurosis, a pathology. I try to write again, and each time I summon spirits of grief as though the words are a magic rite which revives memories, enriches them and brings my father closer. There is an interplay between letting go and holding on; between inarticulacy and making meaning; between forgetting and remembering; between pain and solace.

Categories: xmas, dad, grief, complex, meaning,
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