Gene Kelly may have danced; I just sat but with equal pleasure no doubt.
The place has gone Covid mad but the Club of my youth was always one to chain its members with a bewildering set of rules.
Man was born free, said Rouseau, but everywhere he is in chains.
Never were his words more appropriate and I find myself sitting under a canopy in the pouring rain wondering just where it all went wrong.
We forge our own chains, we make our own prison. In our minds and in our damaged world.
I am privileged in truth to sit in this beautiful, if rule bound, haven in Central London but I long, increasingly, for all manner of freedoms.
Perhaps freedom can be found in the depths of our mind but I feel, ever more urgently, a need for a different place. And to some extent I have found it. Yet always hanker for more.
Greater distance from my fellow man. An absence of noise. The deep peace of profound and remote nature.
Musing has become my life, meditation my default state, so easily do I slip into a very different frame of mind. Different indeed than that required to survive on this foolishly busy planet.
Today there is no one here. Today the flight paths are blighting some other part of the capital, and no Leviathan thunders overhead. Today the noises of suburban London and its multitudes are muffled by mist and incessant, healing rain. Perhaps dinosaurs walk up Ludgate hill, as Dickens once mused.
How differently have I come to think of late, how content with small things and silent meandering.
What quiet and deep pleasure I found in the company of my decent and kindly old father in law today. How much I enjoy quiet chats to random strangers who cross my path. A man from Burma, who had a decade on me, told me the other day of his birth in an Indian refugee camp in the 1940s and his long route to England.
People are decent, generally speaking, but crowded together like rats in a cage and forced to compete for scarce resources, this brings out a different and less gentle behaviour in us all.
Where does the answer lie? With quiet old men who dream of a better world or with people who build and do and strive and conquer.
Damned if I know, damned if I don’t but there has to be some better model where people can have what they need and leave the rest of us in peace.
What would this old dreamer have? Quiet, beauty, peace, thought and freedom from physical necessity.
For all. Such a dream ought to be possible in a universe as vast as ours. Room for the wearisome Musks and the Elons. The tedious Trumps and the Neronian Putins.
Or do such people need to own and dominate like the hungry ghosts of Buddhist philosophy. Perhaps they do, but they must leave the rest of us out of it.
As Greta Garbo once said “I want to be let alone”.
“Do such people need to own and dominate like the hungry ghosts of Buddhist philosophy. Perhaps they do, but they must leave the rest of us out of it. ”
I’m not sure anyone has a good estimate of the prevalence of the dark triad (narcissistic personality disorder, psychopathy, machiavellianism) in populations, but a figure around 5% is probably in the ballpark. These people share a key characteristic, inability to feel empathy, and they get their jollies from either getting us to admire them, or manipulating us for power or pleasure. In my experience in the public sector/academia/public health, these three groups devote their energies to seeking power, manipulation, adulation and are willing to spend more energy doing it that the rest of us are to resisting them. So unfortunately they do not leave us alone. And thats before we even take into account the normal difficulties of getting people with different values, personalities, goals to get along smoothly. I am now in the fortunate position of being able to choose not to engage with such types, at least to a much greater extent than when I was part of the workplace hierarchy.
I must admit I have taken the pandemic and the various social restrictions as an opportunity to spend more time on those solitary pursuits (meditation, other forms of training, some research and pondering) that I find rewarding. Though with a big downside, as I am unable to visit my 92 year old mother in Australia who is struggling with isolation (as nursing homes are more locked down than the rest of the community) and who is not coping well with it.
I was entertained to read about a Swede who posted on social media to asked when the 2 metre social distancing would end as he was finding it difficult and wanted to revert to his usual 5 metre distance.
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Hilarious Swede! And I thought they were supposed to be rather humourless like the German speaking Swiss. Yes, I suppose that 5% will always be with us. More is the pity. As you have seen my own remedy is to switch off and avoid almost everything. Sounds like you are treading the same path. I like people in general. I don’t like what the vicious competition for scarce resources does to us. And that is before the narcissistic psychopaths have begun their work. Probably I belong in deepest Alaska with no internet.
I am sorry to hear about your mother. Makes talking to my inlaws in the pouring rain sound like a walk in the park.
I wonder what a lierary agent wpuld think about gathering your essays into a book for a publisher he knows might be interested? Do you know or know of a literary agent?
The book might be called, ‘CHARLES LAMB REVISITED: New essays for a new age’.
Yours aye, *
*As my old General used to end his letters to people with whom he was friendly … He was Scots.
I don’t know any agents! I would love to meet one. What a wonderful idea, thank you Keith. Best wishes A
Learn something new every day if you’re not careful! I always thought the dear Greta said, “I want to be left alone.” And it kind of disturbed me. “Let” makes much more sense.
I did too. But google assure me it was “let” not “left”. But as to the truth?
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