Author: davekingsbury

Hi, I'm a retired teacher who now has more time for thinking, reading, writing, making music and blogging ...

Non, je ne regrette rien (3/3)

Brave title, huh? And what a carefree fool I was to fill the first two parts of a three-part series with random musings in the vain hope that I would somehow be able to pull them all together in the third. My cousin’s beagle springs to mind, that sad mutt who follows threads of criss-crossing scent in the vain hope of catching something significant.

Do I regret starting this wild goose chase? Not allowed to, am I, with a title like the one above? So, nose to the ground and away we go!

My confessed failure as a systematic thinker means that I set great store by the intense moments of revelation that James Joyce called ‘epiphanies’ where all is seen, felt and understood in a flash. Art has a vital role in deepening our receptivity to such moments – my previous examples were the Charlton Heston character watching Woodstock and Joni Mitchell’s characteristic flashes of insight, so what better than to bring the two together?


You had to be there, right? Well, no, Joni never made it to Woodstock because of the chaos on the roads. Frustrated by their absence from that epoch-defining gathering, she and Stephen Stills wrote this anthem while holed up in a New York hotel. It’s a song not of complacent hedonism but of aspiration and desire, the sources of its undeniable power. The future has yet to be found.

Just as great art is never an expression of unalloyed joy, so breakthrough science is not satisfied with untested hypotheses. We trust art when it confronts pain and we trust science when it battles falsehood. Fundamentalists of all stripes seek to limit the freedom and scope of art and science in favour of their own unquestioned nostrums.

Intolerant versions of all the major religions threaten to plunge the world into a new dark age of childish irrationality. Runaway nationalism threatens to raise the drawbridge behind the lucky winners, leaving the losers out in the cold. These are the twin evils of Ignorance and Want that Charles Dickens unforgettably personified as two poor children 175 years ago in his deeply moral fable A Christmas Carol.

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And behind all this – some might say, the root cause of these problems – lies the pernicious philosophy that humankind is no more than the sum of its wants and preferences as expressed in a global market place. Inequality within nations espousing these mean-spirited notions is as bad as it was when Dickens worked himself to death in a supreme artistic effort to change hearts and minds. A new dark age looms where there is no such thing as community, where price is mistaken for value and where austerity bears down on the poor.  Here children are taught that the only status they can expect to be conferred on them in life is as consumers. Their parents, hardly less brainwashed, pass on a model of lifelong infantilism where the only gratification is consumption of poor-quality products.

Forgive my intemperance. I’ve just been reading a newspaper article which exposes the shortcomings of neoliberalism. It’s long but worth the effort, in my opinion.

And tomorrow we look after our 3-year-old granddaughter. We probably won’t play with her shop-bought toys but instead devise scenarios using pebbles, sticks from the garden, string, coloured chalk and kitchen pans. This will be her idea. I just go along with it. She seems to know what she’s doing.

Oh, and clothes-pegs … she loves the Woodentops. She can impersonate that baby to a T!

What I would regret would be to leave her with a turbulent world in an unstoppable vortex of greed, ignorance and want.

Whatever happened to freedom, equality and solidarity?

And what on earth is so funny about peace, love and understanding?

Non, je ne regrette rien (2/3)

There are many things I ought not to have done in my life but, like Edith Piaf, I regret nothing. Those mistakes have made me the person I am today – more careful, more collected, more considerate than the callow and somewhat confused youth I once was.

Life, said the poet John Keats, is a process of soul-building – an extraordinary insight from one who had to cram a whole lifetime’s self-construction into 24 years. Terminal illness robbed Keats of his chance but sadly some young people with their lives ahead of them become so jaded that they toy with the idea of taking their own lives or even the lives of others.

My emergency message to them would be this Buddhist advice: don’t just do something, sit there. I’d follow that up with: hang on in there, my fellow-sufferers, give life a chance to work its slow magic and one day you too can reap the fruits that only time will bring.

To continue the metaphor: pick the blossom and the fruit won’t grow. Ripeness is all, as Keats’s adored Shakespeare once and forever put it. And as that famous modern philosopher Ian Anderson (aka Jethro Tull) once sang – and still sings – life’s a long song.

Ha, cue music!


I’ve said it before, but our certain knowledge that the tune comes to an end is what gives it sweetness. We share a common sense of its poignant, fragile beauty and if we have a purpose it is surely to cherish and nurture that sense in ourselves and in others. We cannot wish away pain but we can sometimes gain solace by subsuming it in the deeper communications of art. It won’t always be obvious what is meant because what is meant is sometimes too deep for laughter or tears:

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.

Unsettling it may be but then so is existence. That’s probably the reason kids keep asking us all those crazy questions – who, what, where, when, why? I’m still a kid. What I want to know is, why do they keep asking me stuff I don’t know?

Talking of big questions, this astronaut comes back from the red planet and all these scientists cluster round asking, Is there life on Mars? The astronaut replies, Only on Saturday night …

Ah, punchlines … as Terry Jones of Monty Python realised, Spike Milligan showed that if the sketches are funny enough (funny haha or funny peculiar), you don’t need ’em! Spike who, you ask? All is explained in my previous post (and lovesick fan-letter)

Where was I? Oh yes … art … as opposed to kitsch, perhaps. The difference? Kitsch is considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality, but is sometimes appreciated in an ironic or knowing way. Kitsch, in other words, is cliché. Whereas art seeks to give voice to what is yet unspoken – to discover the key to a once and future kingdom.


If anyone ever deserved to feel regret it was Pandora who turned a key in the forbidden lock and unleashed blind hate, conflict and ignorance upon the world. But without those awful furies how would we be able to picture the love, peace and understanding that underpins the still unwritten constitution of our new realm?

Do I regret embarking on this further raid on the inarticulate? In a word, non! Besides, there’s Part 3 to come, when all these disparate strands will miraculously weave themselves together into a set of new clothes fit for an emperor … whoops!



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Image: Totally Kathy 

Non, je ne regrette rien (1/3)

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till its gone?

Joni Mitchell’s ironically chirpy chorus seems to gain traction with the passing years. Big Yellow Taxi links her feelings of personal loss to the destruction of our common environment and thereby suggests a deep connection between private and public worlds. No man is an island, of course, and if you try to live in a bubble it will sooner or later go … er … pop!

That last sentence also summarises the story of The Omega Man, a 1971 movie which conjures up dystopian visions of a future where disease has triumphed over human ingenuity. We follow one survivor patrolling shockingly empty city streets, stealing into a movie house to watch a 1969 documentary which followed almost half a million people at the festival cheerfully billed as “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music”.

He appears to know only too well what he has lost. The significance of things, it turns out, only becomes clear when what they are not throws them into sharp relief. Value is comparative.

Sometimes the comparison can be painful. Often laughter acts as an analgesic. I laughed the other day when I heard a newspaper cartoon described on the radio: a mushroom cloud rises in the distance and one diner says to another, ‘Ah, to hell with it, pass the egg salad!’

Gallows humour, perhaps, but with it comes perspective. This isn’t that. Science in a nutshell. We might not know what this is but we know what it isn’t. A theory can only be proved false, not true. It might fit the observable facts but another theory yet to be invented might fit them better. And what if more facts come to light?

The same applies to beliefs. I might believe in fairies – might even tell you I’ve seen them – but I won’t be able to persuade you until you’ve witnessed them with your own eyes. Not unless you’re peculiarly pliable. Which you aren’t, of course. You need first-hand evidence.

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Convinced yet?

Your silence speaks volumes. Permit me to put words in your disenfranchised lips. You would rather be hung, drawn and quartered than give any credence to this ludicrous Edwardian fraud involving painted paper cut-outs.

In fact, you would go further and reject all photography as an unreal fabrication which reduces our beauteous, infinitely varied world to a grubby hall of distorting mirrors or a grotesque chamber of lifeless waxworks. A photograph, you maintain, is the lie at the heart of advertising and the fake news that blinds us to what is real. You warn that its glossy surface of just two dimensions can turn us from active participants into passive spectators, obsessed with appearances and hooked on visual cues to the detriment of deeper understandings. Those ignorant primitives who reacted to photographs of themselves with terror that their souls had been stolen were, you cry, not so ignorant or primitive after all!

Wild though your demeanour seems, you have a point. There are now so many photographs in the world that their value has hit rock-bottom. The problem is that they lack any kind of context and have become drained of meaning – much as all those washed-out photos of us with our long hair, wide flares and tank tops have leached colour. Interesting that the black-and-white pictures taken by earlier, less snap-happy generations seem to have retained their power.

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If black-and-white wins, perhaps it’s because it doesn’t pretend to be real. It offers a
representation of the world that allows natural light and shade to define relationship
without the distraction of man-made colour. Industry has a lot to answer for.
My text has slipped into an odd spacing, which may be a sign that the WordPress
household gods are angry. Time to wind this post up, methinks, with a promise – or
threat, perhaps – that there is more to come: childhood, creativity, context, character,
conservation, connectivity, collectivisation … and that’s just the words beginning with
I feel a three-part post coming on. I’m not a systematic thinker and depend on one thing
leading to another. When the trail goes cold, it doesn’t do to pretend you’re close to the
quarry. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
There’s no better way to end this effulgence than to quote my cousin, who ended her
latest e-mail with this confession:
My mind is like a crazed Beagle, following threads of criss-crossing scent.
I suspect there’s something in the genes … or in the water!
Ah well – nothing ventured, nothing gained! In the immortal words of The Little
Sparrow …
Au revoir!


Can You Sign For This?

The acrostic poem below could be regarded as a companion piece to my previous post, Twitter Feed. They were written in response to consecutive Daily Prompts – this time it was Delivery – and appeal to my instinct for creating something new from whatever happens to be around.

Without this I might lose my way in all the clutter. Oh well, when the script runs out it’s time to improvise. And while we’re searching dark clouds for silver linings, maybe there’s a longer post in all of that. In the meantime … and we live in pretty mean times … here is this:

D oom and gloom are
E verywhere and
L ove is on the run.
I ll the wind that causes dreams to
V anish one by one.
E ach of us could grieve apart and
R ue the day they're born. But
Y ou and I know better. Together we are one.


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To Live Poorly

An inspiring read that made me want to (a) reply and (b) reblog!

Autobiography of a Stranger

I am a car wreck that has just happened. The shock of the situation has yet to set in. I am dazed, confused, and attempting to take in my surroundings. I am aware of some body pain but yet unable to properly assess the damage.

I am just starting vacation.

This is how I feel and this last week at work was like watching the car wreck happen in slow motion. I have needed this vacation for awhile, feeling the pressures mounting at work, my fuse a bit shorter every week, absolutely nothing going right in work and in life.

I hate walking so close to the line, to tease myself with an anxiety overload or a burn-out. I am, after all, getting too old for this shit. This is the sort of rat-race best left to the younger ones – the naive ones who still believe they can do…

View original post 947 more words


The heat was on. Tiny movements made them sweat so they sat still as stone in the shade of their broken-down car, with the incongruous taste of antifreeze on their lips.

Another time they might have appreciated the irony. Later they would have laughed till they cried. But now their eyes only swept the horizon and beseeched that cruel, unwavering line to break and deliver up … oh, anything! … a truck, a camel, a cloud. The lizard raised one foot after another, as if to teach them his dance of life.

Shimmer, was it … over there?

Calm yourself. They didn’t notice.


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Image: Wallpapers