Reading some Alan Ginsberg poems, I was reminded of his memorable maxim: First thought, best thought. He was a huge fan of Walt Whitman, who also influenced DH Lawrence. Lawrence didn’t go in for rewriting, either, having a quasi-religious faith in the freshness of first inspirations.
So in the spirit of freewheeling abandon I’ll jump headfirst on a metaphorical trolley made of orange-boxes and old pram-wheels and head off steeply downhill … Holy smoke! Did I really do that when I was ten years old knowing full well there was a busy main road at the bottom of the hill – busy, that is, for 1959! – just to impress a few kids? Consequences were for cowards in those distant daredevil days – you could always use your trailing foot as a brake, even though your mum always complained about the terrible rate you got through shoes! One of her favourite words, that was, terrible …
I’m getting side-tracked already. That’s the trouble with metaphors, wheeled or otherwise, they can run away with you. This post is supposed to be about, er … well, my previous one was about nothing so perhaps I should continue down that unbeaten trail. My very first post on WordPress was about getting lost. Deliberately. Going off piste. That was the guiding spirit of A Nomad In Cyberspace. A kid heading off with no particular place to go …
Haha, cue song!
Now there’s a side-track for you, if ever there was one! We’re rushing ahead of ourselves. I haven’t even hit puberty yet. At least my youthful persona hasn’t and at this rate he never will, appearing only in extended metaphors which I’m trying to cut down for the sake of getting somewhere specific.
That’s better, Dave, you’re starting to sound more convincing … authoritative, even … eager eyes fixed on a worthwhile goal! Making sense. Nice work if you can get it. It pays to be serious these days. Perhaps I’m falling under the influence of my elders and betters … well, not elders, most of the British cabinet are younger than me … and as for betters, well, that’s a value-judgment beyond the remit of this post.
Remit? This post is remitless. New territory beckons. I’m continuing in the full knowledge that there’s now a wavy red line under the word remitless. Another. Ah, what the heck, let’s throw grammar to the winds and ride bareback into the wild and windy night like there’s no tomorrow!
Like there’s no tomorrow. Simile? Metaphor? Or ghastly reality?
The British cabinet in its venerable collective wisdom has just tried to heal present and future internal and external divisions with a phrase of incomparable genius – ambitious managed divergence. We are clearly not worthy nor ready – too young and inferior? – to comprehend such lofty concepts without help. Here’s Jonathan Freedland in today’s Guardian:
You’re not being fired. Heavens, no. You and the company are merely going through what we call an “ambitious managed divergence”. The torture Brexit inflicts on the English language escalates daily, the latest indignity being the euphemism coined after the tellingly named Brexit war cabinet had an eight-hour session among the whiteboards at Chequers on Thursday. “Ambitious managed divergence” was the agreed description for the planned future relationship between Britain and the EU, a phrase so blatantly designed to stitch together two clashing positions you could see the seams.
“Divergence” is there to satisfy the Johnson-Gove-Fox axis of Brexiteers, while “managed” is meant to placate the Hammond-Rudd rump of remain realists. “Ambitious” is the heroic attempt to dress up what is, in fact, a dollop of fudge chock-full of contradictions and likely to melt on first contact with the heat of trade talks in Brussels.
The phrase I like – nay envy! – is “an eight-hour session among the whiteboards“. Who hasn’t sat in a tedious meeting where a desperate team-leader eventually pleads for a summing up of deadlocked positions? ‘A form of words, that’s all we need, then we can all go!”
Go where? Home? Down the pub? To hell in a handcart? That’s the beauty of living in a free country, see, we get to choose? Mind you, according to the dramatist Pirandello – my latest minor obsession, see the previous post! – choice is an illusion. So is everything else, pretty well, including our notion of individual identity. How, he asks, can such a fragile construct survive …
” … the deceit of mutual understanding irremediably founded on the empty abstraction of words, the multiple personality of everyone corresponding to the possibilities of being found in each of us, and finally the inherent tragic conflict between life (which is always moving and changing) and form (which fixes it, immovable)”?
One hopeful note is found in the phrase “the possibilities of being”. Luke Rhinehart comes to mind, throwing dice to expand his range of life experiences. Couple that with the idea of life “always moving and changing” to discover the potential, at least, for continued human evolution. Technology may have stopped us evolving physically but it has multiplied our chances of cultural and social change.
Some people baulk at this, perhaps fearing the rise of a repressive society in lockstep to a prescribed beat. The following interview with Captain Beefheart, arguably the most creative and original performing artist in the colourful history of rock music, is a vivid reminder of both the dangers and delights of so-called popular culture.
I’ll leave it there for now. My next post will consider the value of originality at a time when unthinking conformity is, perhaps surprisingly, pushing us all further and further apart. Perhaps we do need to be ambitious if our divergence is to be, er, managed …