I’m sitting in Pret listening to some kind of 80s mix of music, and realising that in the 1980s none of these tunes would have sat side by side like this: they’d have sat like a cat and a weasel. History without the necessary intensity … it happens all of the time. Disorder.
I was listening to Transmission, a piece of music by Joy Division, and as usual it sent a shiver through me. If I listen to Ceremony, by Joy Division becoming New Order, straight afterwards, then I shiver even more. Music in many ways kept me sane before I was 20. It gave me a shivering space where I could really feel something, and know that I’d felt it, when all the rest of everything seemed like a conveyer belt to narcolepsy. It kept me awake, sometimes all night; or when I was awake it helped me come down again. Nick Drake, although I can barely listen to him now, it’s too painful and too almost sincere. Thank God I kept clear of macho self-pity. There’s no hope in that.
Develop your outdoor-eye. That is, every day try and find something special: something you notice, a cat walking across the road in a particular way, a kind of a plant, or a part of a tree, or a strange bird in the sky, or a familiar little bird looking at you. Look into its eye. Life can’t happen without something special.
This is especially true if you’re stuck looking at a screen all day. Screens are predictable and demand your attention because of what you’ve been trained to expect … so look out of the window.
Real, Fake, Neither
Polarisation makes it easy to tell the news, I imagine: real or fake? But we must keep hold of ‘neither’. In neither lives the nuance which makes life beautiful, and it’s where we might find something approximating the truth. In neither I’ve found passion, glory and the truly sexy.
This reminds me of a conversation I had the other day. In neither we find what’s special. If we say neither then we have to ask: then where? And if we can’t honestly say real or fake (or whatever it is we decided to oppose) then where else do we go but the great unknown. Scary, but it’s a recipe for a life worth living, perhaps.
The Rhythm Section
I tend to do some things very predictably, very regularly, and in some ways constantly. When I was learning music, when I was very young, I realised what happened as soon as I played in a band or an orchestra and there was a rhythm section: I didn’t feel alone, which was annoying sometimes but generally very comforting; I could relax and play more freely, sometimes on my own and sometimes with others, and with a solid beat I could be more daring in what I played. There was a great sense of togetherness and I understood that there could be mystery and magic without secrets. Things could be communicated without me saying anything. All I had to do was listen, and to feel it.
And I remember a gig somewhere and listening to Simon Gallup’s bass line to ‘A forest’ and hearing Robert Smith improvise, and make noises on his guitar and with his voice that were very much more than what I could listen to on a record.
Or Miles Davis playing with Michael Henderson, but I never saw that.
Or Chopin’s left hand. I certainly never saw that.
There’s a run of bass notes in Mozart’s piano concerto No. 23, in the second movement, which you can’t actually hear on some recordings, or with some speakers.
I can’t do my life without its rhythms, and most of what I do seems to involve realising what these are, or that they can change. It isn’t addiction, it’s the kind of dependency that the tides have.
It’s been a long and complicated summer. I gave a paper at the Guild summer conference last week which seemed to sum most of it up; and now I am in private practice, in London, and realising this is very much where I want to be. I shall try to get back to writing something each week.
My ear hurts – my left one. Fortunately a giant man in leather, with a beard came, and stood between me and the speaker stack when S and I went to see the Psychedelic Furs last night. The last time I got that close to a band I had hair (how come the men in the bands I like seem to still have theirs? Mr Smith, Mr Butler, is it real?); and the last time, what, it may have been The Cure. I can’t remember.
Whoever it was, I didn’t enjoy it as much. We were all so young and awkward, and that was beautiful: but it had terrifying edges that many of us didn’t seem to want to go beyond, or didn’t know how, or thought that we couldn’t, or maybe we wanted time to stop still. It all felt for real, never a rehearsal for a life behind a desk, or whatever it was we felt we never wanted to get into.
It wasn’t just dressing up, it was a start outside of something I know my parents, many of the people I knew, felt I should be inside. What was that? A bubble of an idea of security that burst for me when I was very young. I realised, when I saw Richard Butler smiling last night, and I couldn’t stop myself doing the same, that my cynicism’s finally departed.
We’re here, those of us still standing and coherent. Psychedelic Furs, you were truly amazing. Here’s a clip from last year, which looks as if it was almost the same …
I used to run a workshop: Harnessing Your Anger. I think it was helpful to those who took part. If I did it again I’d call it Unhappiness and I think we’d get to the same places but perhaps less self-consciously.
I find it so important to recognise here and now dynamics in relation to the dynamics of traumatic situations my clients describe. Often a client will notice their relationship to power in the present more distinctly after experiencing something of how their agency was affected by a key event in the past and whatever lay either side of that event, historically. As Freud described, a conscious awareness of these kinds of relational dynamics, phenomena that a psychoanalytic psychotherapist might talk about as the transference, within what Nicolas Abraham wrote about as the ‘dynamism of intersubjective functioning’, can be transformational.
Resentment brings us back to incidents that we believe were unjust, so that justice may prevail. In other words you can have a lot of angry, repetitive conversations until you and whoever else feel you’ve said what you needed to, done your best, and been heard irrespective of the outcome.