“I’m not saying that we should dismiss the past.
A part of identity is the knowledge of one’s own history
To be well today, we must know what we were yesterday.”
~Václav Havel, Czech dissident and writer imprisoned and persecuted for giving voice to human rights.
Beckett dedicated his short play, ‘Catastrophe’, to this man who refused to take the bait when he was offered release after years in prison on condition that he be exiled to New York (and to fame!) where his play was being produced, because it meant leaving his co-resistance fighters behind in prison. Afterwards, he became the first democratically elected president of Czechoslovakia in 41 years.
Ⓒ Erik Mons Larson 2015, Cambridge on the 4th of July
Indoors in the middle of a lightning storm. The patter moves in crescendo, the only other evidence a growing, exponential, trend of droplets on the pane, each time the night lights up
the spots, the scars, the sky-drawn tears
And sudden back,
gaps to contemplate.
I started off reading James Knowlson’s Damned to Fame, a biography on the life of Samuel Beckett, like a textbook – fishing for details with an eye to catch dates and places. More than 700 pages later, as the bibliography looms, it feels as though I’m peering into a mirror held up to my life, and I cannot go on. Can barely go on. The things one held, things at some point lost, things once hoped for.
It is a tribute to Knowlson’s writing, who blends a spectacular palette of narratives into one – a life – to reflect a story that, at some point, we recognise ourselves in.
One difficulty in writing the PhD thesis is reading your own work after a couple of days, and realising how much you’ve changed in that short span of time. And your writing changes with you. So looking back at last week’s draft often means making changes – sometimes drastic ones – in order to move ahead.
One thing I’ve learnt: Be fearless in making cuts.
Version II: I am not being coy. What I would like to do here is write about my journey, which at the moment coincides with the PhD, and speak about the challenges along the way, as well as my discoveries. I invite you to take what you will from these, and, if possible, find an echo in them.
Version I: The ambiguity found on this blog is not derived from a coyness that I wish to postulate. Instead, it indicates an openness towards the journey of learning that so many of us – dare I say “all” – are on, a willingness to embrace the uncertain delineations of meaning that words, writing and re-wording bring. This is not to adhere to the school of thought that entirely divorces the concept from the word (i.e. an absolute separation between the signifier and the signified), no, for otherwise what folly communication would be. Rather, it is to recognise the difficulties and challenges that belong to a framing of words, to the speaking of the self – and, such play!
Write your story, morning glory,
and burst forth to the day
For the one you tell shall be your knell
That lasts beyond the may.
For though tonight you weep your cause
To keep the secret true,
It won’t be long, my dear, be strong
When rue gives birth
wonderings that typify the short-lived musings of the long-term
uncertain of the if, what of the where,
whether the clay in my hands
will make a complete muck of it all
but one thing is certain
be almost certain:
that I am at each moment less than who I was
in this circumscribed interim, and more
than the sum of my tags.
uninspired with nothing to give so what do I have only a little left this empty balloon that’s gonna pop soon (just you watch out it’ll come without a doubt) filling the gaze (anxious me in a maze) and you’ll never know what’s going to blow behind the veil the screen the big ass machine – that’s when all the king’s men come tumbling down but you don’t hear a sound because only the winner takes the crown.
And sometimes the day was just nonsense
There are some things that put your day into perspective. Like death, and life. Like getting through life, and truly living. Call it what you will; the call does not cease. It finds you, the homing beacon, quick and relentless, as arrows after their aim. And once you’ve pricked your ears you are never, ever the same. Still, the choice remains: Hamlet’s burning quest/question.
I am glad your words were shared with the world, Abdul-Rahman Kassig.
You take centre-stage, just like that,
A sudden revolution, and there you are before me, bringing the dawn of a new day.
Your rays caress, to give me insight
No longer Icarus, I say, striving after
With waxen wings, goodbye Ptolemy who in a moment of pressure
Put too much stress on autonomy
And gave way to self-idolatry.
Your turn was sudden, unexpected,
Lighting my heart before I even knew
And as I walked I could not help but burn.