Refuse the family game

Refuse the Family Game

I would like my own exercise in witnessing to be taken as an admittedly exalted collaboration with the children who refuse the family game imposed on them, children who insist, in their play, on the foreignness of that game and on their determination to remain orphans.

Bersani, Leo. Thoughts and Things (p. 14). University of Chicago Press.

Red Tape

Red Tape

/ because the way they are behaving, and even more so their advisers, this is what we should expect if their dreams of removing ‘red-tape’ are ever realised /

Speechless

Speechless

For the foreseeable future I shall let stand together whatever comes to mind without worrying about sentences.

I’m sorry, there’s nobody there

I’m sorry, there’s nobody there

On Friday I rang my bank to ask about something and became stuck in a queue of other callers. As I waited a message kept repeating, and it ended with a mechanical-sounding woman’s voice telling me she was sorry for what was happening. ‘I’m sorry,’ she said, before mentioning something about what was going on. When my call was eventually answered I asked the man speaking to me who, exactly was sorry for what had happened to me.

‘We are,’ he said.

‘That’s not what your recorded voice says. She says ‘I’.’

‘Yeah.’

‘She isn’t real, is she?’

‘No.’

‘So nobody’s sorry. Could you pass this on to your supervisor for me,  please? How alienating it is to be told someone’s sorry for something, when nobody is?’

‘I can transfer you to the complaints department.’

‘No. I’d need to wait. Can you tell them?’

‘I’m sorry, but I can’t.

‘That’s ok. You’re doing your best.’

Keeping Cool & Carrying On

Keeping Cool & Carrying On

Occasionally people feel that they have noticed something about you, and may try to interpret it. There might seem, for example, to be a high likelihood that something emotionally draining in a person’s life could adversely affect their decision making.

What I’ve noticed, however, is that when people are aware of what is happening to them and they talk about it with someone who’s disinterested in the situation, they’re more likely to make better decisions, or at least ones they are more aware of and happy with, than worse ones. What’s liable to happen is that those looking on become affected by that situation and displace their own worry or unease onto the person having a problem … they worry about themselves without realising it. The trust they lose in the person they are observing might assume the proportions of their own, unrealised lack of trust in themselves.

I went through something like this recently and people close to me told me I’d be OK, to just stick to the basic things, to get on with life and not get caught up in other people’s dramas. They were right, I think, apart from the fact I forgot to tell people I was all right. If I’d been more clear, and spoken a little about how I was dealing with things, life would with hindsight have been far more simple. Keeping cool involves, perhaps, rather more than I used to think watching Clint Eastwood roll into town with something by Ennio Morricone playing in the background. The times when I was deciding to let off some steam, for example (which weren’t exactly moments where I lost control; on the contrary they seemed to leave me feeling far more in control: I threw a towel out of a window and was delighted to see it get snagged in a rose bush).

As it was, the possibility that I was aware of what I was doing, which wasn’t popular, was not taken seriously. That was to a large extent my own fault. Curiously, because the group of people I was involved with all had good intentions things worked out ok. A basic level of trust prevailed. That’s worth thinking about: how much can you get to trust people at the start of a project? I’d felt from the beginning a level of respect for the others, and attached to that there seemed to be a certain kind of trust.

I remember playing a game of cricket about 30 years ago and  worrying about a person in my team going out to bat who was in the middle of a deep personal crisis. I asked one of the other players if the man going out to bat was ok. ‘He’ll be fine,’ I was told. ‘He rang me for a chat last night and he knows what’s what.’ I was dubious and started to imagine what it would be like taking strike to one of the fastest bowlers I’d seen all season with so much on my mind. How could this man, the man with so much to deal with, cope? How could he even play cricket. Wouldn’t it seem so insignificant and pointless. Didn’t he look a bit brisk on the way out to the crease; a little ‘head-down’?

That man scored 140 and I was out for a very scratchy 2. I think I was worrying about something. I was so angry: what a waste of my afternoon. Traveling to the other side of the county for something so pointless only to get out cheaply and have to spend the rest of the afternoon pacing the boundary.

In my twenties there were quite a few things like that.

More Notes on Boredom

More Notes on Boredom

When I’m bored there’s a struggle going on. There’s something doing something to me: the effect in me of the boring thing; and there’s me doing something to me, which is similar in some ways, but not the same. The boring thing I am experiencing does its best to get into me and disconnect me from myself, and I resist by trying to keep being be me; me doing something to me involves me trying not to become disconnected from myself, and then disconnecting … for reasons I shall try and explore here.

Boredom is a stultifying process: one involving deprivation of freedom, frustration, negation, and neutralization. It is like a kind of anaesthetic. A sedative against the pain of me being overwhelmed by the boring thing, and against me being or remaining me because in doing that I might cause myself trouble. If I am bored there is somewhere a belief that I must resist, but at the same time an understanding in myself that resistance would prove dangerous. If I stand up and am counted I will be somehow horribly discounted.

Boredom is a form of self-contradiction: snuffing yourself out at the same time as trying to resist a boring thing snuffing you out.  Boredom will very rarely happen if you remain in touch with yourself. But if you do that, and let’s think about some potentially boring things, you may find yourself out of a job or a class, or a marriage. Boredom. An angry nuisance: me and it, the boring thing. Who’s to win?

Boredom is likely to fall upon those who cannot both abide by rules and also decide to break them. Unthought servility and unbound aggression offer the ideal conditions for boredom (on both sides: in the person being bored and in the boring thing). It isn’t surprising to find addicts often become bored before they use. Addiction is always an inability to think of something, and then of something else – which is of course the best way to avoid boredom.

There will always be potentially boring situations, for all of us. There will be more for those who have trouble consistently feeling themselves. ‘I don’t feel myself today’ might even be the first sign of boredom.

Evil

Evil

I find the idea of evil unbearable. It can’t exist – at least for me it can’t exist (as I can’t bear to think about it) in the way it is usually thought of: an excruciating, malevolent force in the world; something governed over or let loose by a higher power; a dark force. But without it we quickly collapse into mitigation: psychology, aetiology, sociology. Contributing factors become causes and responsibility goes wandering. We need to think about evil, what it is that gives rise to what gets called evil, because all the reasons why will not stop what is called evil happening. Perhaps this thing, this force is unstoppable, but we’ll only know about that after it becomes thinkable (and not simply left to be the work of the devil.)