Monday, 6 May 2019

Parable of the tillers of the soil

Trodden with the cattle's feet
There are villagers, cleaving to the path of Cain, as tillers of the soil, who do not permit themselves to live close by to animals, nor to eat of animal flesh. They prevail over the difficulty of sustenance only accidentally and without grasping the action by which they achieve it. They do not know that they obtain the nutritional matter necessary to their continuation, and which is found only in animal substance, by consuming the unwashed vegetables that they have grown in the fields of their own dung. It is from the dung holding to the vegetables that their bodies take what is needed from animal life without the men knowing of it. And in telling of them, we see that the distant peoples of the distant villages have no need for knowing what we have a need for knowing. And it is also in answer to this need that we may bring before the mind’s eye the image of a worm which is the tiller of the soil in men. The worm begins by entering the most distant end of a man and moves upwards and against the passage by which he is rid of his dung. The worm goes on, and devours the soil of the man, and obtains the matter found only in the substance of animals, and returns it from the place of exile to the place of use, and changes it from motes of dung to motes of food. And in this way, as upon hearing tidings from the abyss, the man lives within the law, and is kept apart from animals.


Wednesday, 3 May 2017

The Curse Us
For we are the citizens of Tanis, silted city of the silted Nile.  No barges come to carry away the great carvings we have made.
You are always far from home. Your wellbeing rests always in the hands of your host.
To receive no reply from the expected source. To receive no reply at all. 
Your wound may be cleaned and dressed, but it will never heal. 
I search for the lost city only in arguments against its existence.
Nothing that is written shall ever come to pass. 
You arrived at the bend in the river. Nothing marked it as the end of your outward journey. Still, you turned back.
Cherry blossom, both fleeting and eternal. But with each passing year, more fleeting and less eternal.
Curse us if what was said could not be heard. Bless them if what was given could not be kept.
The Law has changed! What was done must now be undone. And what was undone must now be done.
As it is reeled in, the fish comforts itself with the fiction of the lure. It was never attracted by the hook.
I wanted to attack, but all the counters were glued to the board.
I don't gamble because I think I am going to win, I gamble because I want to impose an intelligible pattern on my losses.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Parable on a theory of the emotions

A demagogue desires to enrage the mob. Let him.
And the mob desires to tear him to shreds. Let it. 
And birds fly up before heavy footsteps.
A scattering of bodies at law's approach.

Let them. Let it. 

Saturday, 11 March 2017

On the baptismal destiny of the unevangelised

My name is Heraclitus. I've quit my job at the intellectual property office. I am walking across the town square. I feel good. It's a nice morning. On the other side of the square, I see the new witch outside the witch dwelling. There is as high a turnover in witches as there is in philosophers. They burn out and quit, or burn out and get fired, sometimes they just disappear or die. Any way you look at it, life is precarious when you are caught up in the knots of other people's desires. By way of introducing myself, I do what I always do when there is a new witch in town. I go to the witch's well and I throw myself in. It is a stratagem I stole from Thales. Because the water seeps into the well, because the water is deep in the well, because the water is still in the well, for that reason, it is never the same water in the well. The philosopher gives himself to the witch’s well as a challenge to her witch’s abilities. On this occasion, I throw myself in but I do not hit the arche. I am falling, and still falling. It is not dark, it is not green. I look closely at the stones in the wall of the well as I pass them. It is like the wall of a mountain, or a great fortress. I fall so far that I am no longer moving. I feel the embrace of a clear abyss. The light is icy, the air is sharp. This is not Ephesus. I am falling into the wintry stillness of the far North. I do not feel the urge to breathe, but the air is so cool and beautiful that I want to take it in. I inhale a deep draft of it. The air is not air, it is water. I am choking. I look up to the surface and see the witch's hand, like an anchor on an endless rope, plunging down towards me. It catches hold of me by the collar of my shirt and I feel myself hauled upwards. I am thrown out of the well onto the banks of the world, like a newborn, or a gasping fish.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Bad Parable

We sent a second search party after we'd lost contact with the first. When that too disappeared, we sent a third, but only to look for evidence of the second. A fourth was later sent to find the lost third. We sent many search parties, each instructed to look only for news of the one preceding it. We desired to meticulously reconstruct in our understanding the calamity that was befalling our community. Just as the entire body of an object has to pass through a point for it to have truly left that point behind, so we desired that the entire story of our endeavour should return to us, in the order it set out. Didn't the tail that was Telemachus continue the search for the head that was Odysseus even after he had returned home? Doesn't the ouroboros have to swallow all of its body before it may return again from its own maw? But as time passed, we began to consider whether the searchers' failure may not have been located in the first part of their task. Perhaps some, or indeed all, had made contact with their predecessors and only subsequent to this encounter did they somehow become lost to us. Then we were anxious before a different question: what if the problem was not so much that they did not find but that they had found and then did not report? Even as the numbers of our community dwindled, we resolved to follow after every successive broken link as if it were the first. And by this method, we sought to know everything about ourselves, from the nearest edge to the now distant centre.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Parable of the quarter pound

‪As a small boy I went to school with cotton wool plugs in my ears, a mother's boy-ridding measure against infection. And in the icy playground I met with other small boys also sporting such white ear tufts. And standing in the fog and damp that seeped into the soles of our shoes we responded from our noses with an oozing, permanent glacier-slow snot that crusted but never dried, a pearly mucus which retained a sort of waxing and waning quality keeping time with our mouth breathing. And it came to pass that the one amongst us with the most purulent of snots, a pouring luxury caramel snot, should also be the most generous and good hearted of our number. In a dilemma of the type that would be repeated in always more subtle forms across the decades of our maturation, we asked ourselves could we, should we, overcome our hesitancy before his prodigious suppurations, and take from his proffered, and ever-open but dirty, crumpled paper bag that contained a precisely measured sweetshop quarter pound? Should we accept just one more of his powdery but mud hard mix of chocolate and strawberry bonbons? He was boy whom we were ready to play out with, the boy to be encountered outside but not invited in. But in those days we were still prepared, like jays and magpies, to pluck the offered gift and then, in cruel revenge, giving full rein to both our disgust and our weakness, we would harry and laughingly swoop down upon him, pecking at him and mobbing. 

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

A chef

Sometimes I desire the return to punk rock as it was, as I participated in it. And by that I do not mean 'punk rock' as an episode in pop music. That I can live without. What I am referring to is a small gathering of youngsters sitting on the chilly floor of some provincial town's Bash Street youth club observing a punk rock 'chef' in a red and black jumper who is supposed to be putting on a cookery demonstration but says, 'I can't do this', smashes two eggs on the ground and repeatedly declares, 'it's not happening'. It was one of those things about which peple say 'it just doesn't happen', and it didn't happen anyway, or it was 'not meant to be' but all this doesn't, didn't, and was not meant to be also constitutes an occurrence in its own right. What didn't go ahead as a cookery demonstration was part of what we were about, or more than part of it. Maybe it was all of it. It was the sort of thing that became definitively 'what couldn't be'. For us, it was more the thing than the thing we had attended for in the first place. It was the thing to which everything else attached. A trauma, a misadventure, a failure. The flyers leading up to it. The correspondence. The bus timetables. The vague mutual acknowledgement of certain semi familiar faces. The early arrival of those coming from the mining villages. The introduction by the organisers. The old zines on the papering table. The gaze wandering over surroundings. Where am I? What am I doing here? I now consider that we really were a kind of gathering, a congregation of sorts, of all-sorts, but we also wanted to sit facing in the direction of an identifiably stage shaped space nevermind how rudimentary or improvised. We did not want to engage one another too much, we didn't have a lot to say for ourselves. We were useless and we were produced. We thought it was important to explore the historical dimension of this uselessness, even if we didn't set it out in those terms. Why were we so damaged in relation to those who had gone before? Or rather, why was our existential damage so qualitatively distinct from that of the generations that had gone before us? We wanted to flock together, like little birds at the airport, overcoming territorial instincts in exchange for 24 hour light and an extra degree of warmth. We gathered but we also desired to look in the direction of a comedian, a poet, an agitator. We were an audience, we wanted to react, we didn't want to be the act. Certainly, a desultory air hung over everything we turned up for, but for all that, this failure of the event was still more compelling than any conceivable realised content - if it had gone ahead, like some miracle, then so what? Our defeat, or generalised defeat, defined us. What didn't happen, the concrete non-event, was more 'us' than anything we might have seen through to completion which would only have been let down by the impoverished scale of its success. At the end of her or his non-performance, the chef recognised me as a non-regular and asked if I would like to buy a zine. I didn't but didn't say so. I understood implicitly that within the milieu a transaction was the major indicator of participation, just browsing would signal  outgroup proclivities. I asked her or him when the last issue had come out. She or he said 1997. I felt the stirrings of contempt. What interest could an old fanzine about punk nosh, maybe with a title like 'rabid recipes', hold for me? What had this so-called chef been doing in the intervening years when she or he was not serving up subsequent issues? It was only then that I realised that from the standpoint of this, our momentous non-event in the youth club, 1997 was still some time in the future - acid house hadn't happened yet. I took out some money to buy a copy of the fanzine only, like a conjuror holding my hands out (sleeves slipping back), to slowly unfold a red 50 I did not know I had from the crumpled blue five I thought was my only cash. The collective cry resounded, 'chips', and I knew I had just then become the next performance. All of a sudden, these people were expecting me to provide a slap-up feed down the chip shop. I felt an immediate and unfamiliar pang of regret at the prospect of others spending my new found good fortune before I had even adjusted to holding it in my hand. Even if I didn't know how it had got in my pocket, wasn't this money mine? For the moment, I couldn't come up with a believable excuse but it would have been difficult for me to deny in that moment that I didn't want to play my part. Just as much as they wished to be my friends, I now desired to give them the slip.