Recently someone said to me “You’re a writer; what do you write?” “Notes mostly” I replied. Endless reams of half thoughts, beginnings of novels, ends of monologues, choruses of songs, diagrams, calculations, plans; fragments and seeds destined never to germinate cast as they have been on the stoney ground of my indifference. And that’s the good stuff: it’s mainly scribble. Here’s a selection.
Socrates said “I know that I know nothing” and for this chance remark – and if you are familiar with the sound of ancient Greek you’ll realise there’s a strong possibility he may have been coughing – the citizens of Athens condemned him to death. Fearlessly, I go further. I say “I know that you know nothing”. Then I wonder; what fate shall befall me? Must I go to Athens to find out?
Our knowledge, from afar, seems as like unto ein magnificent palace: awe inspiring domes; spires that soar to the very clouds and beyond; huge supporting columns lit bright by the blazing minds of countless geniuses. But seen close up, and from the inside, it is clearly nowt but scaffolding and rags, tenuous strings, the fragile and the flimsy piled recklessly one upon the other.
It’s a miracle it doesn’t come crashing to the ground – or rather it would be if it could stand up on its own. For round every pole, every crumbling pillar, are clustered the professors, and it is they – or at least so they suspect – that provide the vital support that keeps the whole wonky edifice aloft.
“I quite agree” sayeth the one to the other “You’re not wrong there” agreeth the other with the first. “Me too” sayeth a third, and a department is born.
When the wind blows – and it blows often, some say it never stops – parts of the structure shake and the professors get panicky. “Wrong post!” They scream at each other and there is much to-ing and fro-ing and waving of arms. Large sections come crashing to the ground and are trampled under foot, forgotten for generations before being rediscovered and resurrected in exactly the same spot.
From a distance the constant shaking makes the palace appear to shimmer, almost as if it were alive or glowing, adding to it’s attractiveness, and so this is where most people gather – at a distance. Close enough to appreciate the beauty of our knowledge, but not near enough to see its flaws, its gaps, and utter hollowness.
‘Tis said a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. It follows that the less you know the more dangerous you are, and at birth, when you know nothing, you are nigh on infinitely dangerous. Perhaps that is why they feed you; fear. Are not babies terrifyingly cute?
‘Twas William “I’ll Get You Butler” Blake that sang “the Road of Excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom”, but like all roads it leads both ways, to but also away from The Palace of Wisdom. And recently it has been discovered that there are other ways to get there: The Blind Alley of Piercing Insight; the Canal of Prudent Sobriety; and – as the Miller said – the Helicopter of Inherited Wealth.
Any wisdom I have gained I have gained on the road, and I am looking forward to performing at the Union Chapel, Islington on Saturday 2nd of June. I shall entitle my performance a Ten Thousand Mile Service.
At school I came second in a poetry competition. The prize was a box of paints; which sends a slightly confusing message to the child: “Well done, give up.”. But they cannae stop me. Here are my latest verses.
Beside every door
Where there was one bell
Now there’s four
Is the law
And we shall live in pods.
There was no early or late
When we were swinging on the old school gate
There was time, before time intervened
Or so it seemed
And it dawned on us with delight
That all words rhyme
With themselves at least
And we were singing
And we were swinging
And the headmaster came out
And told us to stop that immediately.
In the Garden of Gethsemene
I wonder were there swings?
Some reminder of childish things
But not forgotten?
And had the swings been torn to shreds by attack dogs?
I’m lying on my back – deliberately
Trying to relax with one eye on my begotten
Amidst the rubble and decay
Of a children’s play zone in South Tottenham
I think to myself
I could clear this place up
Sweep it every day
Set up a cafe in the corner
Offering organic carrot juice
In exchange for poems and minor chores
He said “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours”
I’m with him there
Unfortunately my God is Marijuana.