∞² Revival

I decide that the origin is clearly not what matters. It goes against my grain somewhat to accept this, because wasn’t that what got me onto this story in the first place? Wasn’t that the intriguing question: how did it all begin? Still, nobody knows, and no-one I met and talked to about it was able to give me any more hints or pointers. There’s the legend of the two guys in their twenties and their dare, and there is the tradition that has established itself over time, and that’s all there is to it. Does there need to be more?

Of course, everything has a cause and an origin somewhere, and probably this is somehow known: in the fabric of the common consciousness, unspoken, unexplained. It just happened, we all know it just happened, we kind of understand how it happened, and we’re all right with that. Or is it a case of avoiding uncomfortable truths? What could possibly be uncomfortable in a truth about an event as friendly and as inclusive and as welcoming and as joyful as the Boscombe & Bournemouth Nude Beach Stroll? I decide to let it go. This obsession with clear causes and rational effects. I’ve had, against all my expectations and severe reservations, a marvellous time in the unclothed company of strangers who turned out very much to be friends I hadn’t yet met. This belief I’ve held always, borne out by experience.

We are good people.

Yes, we do terrible things – the litany of our offences against each other, against the planet, against the animal kingdom, reads like a catalogue of monstrosity, and we’re never more than an inch away from some appalling misdeed or other – and yes our history is littered with catastrophic failures of humanity, and yes: you watch your news and you feel a moment closer to despair before you’ve had a chance to change channels, but… take a Sunday afternoon like this in almost any town in England, or in any country, really, and, away from the agitation, unstirred by some cause or other, some issue or concern, given a set of basic parameters – that the fundamental needs be covered, that the fabric of the community be intact and healthy, that the framework that allows human beings to feel safe and appreciated be in place and not threatened by crime or corruption or despotic politics – you will find us getting on with each other, pretty much. Across generations, across creeds, across ideologies, across gender, across ethnicity, across religion, across our own little preoccupations, and large ones too, across the spectrum. It’s not spectacular, and it’s not difficult. It’s human, it’s normal. And yet, it still feels amazing.

This, I decide to hold on to. As a thought, as a hope. I know some will find me naive and deluded, I realise at this time of confrontation and conflict and unbearable regression into isolationist rhetoric, simplistic solutions and the allocation of blame, guilt and shame, it may sound almost glib to say: ‘we are good people.’ But think of the alternative. Think of what it means if we decide, in the face of everything, that we are as terrible as the worst things we see? Then whatever makes whoever among us do wrong in whatever way will have won: we hand our worst version of ourselves victory over ourselves.

Because yes, the bombing of children in war zones, the dumping of plastic by the container load in the oceans, the burning down of refugee centres, and the shooting of students at high schools: they’re all done by us. People. Like you and me. That is the horrendous truth, but it’s also – and that’s much harder to comprehend and as difficult to accept – the reason there is hope yet. The people who do the most terrible things from which we recoil in disgust, they are not a different species. They are innocent when they are born and grow up with hopes and dreams of their own.

And then things go wrong. Over time, bit by bit, through circumstances, through personal choices, through the need to survive, through the culture we’re born into, through what behaviours are reinforced. Through illness. Through despair. For every person who does something destructive, violent, inhuman, cruel, there is also the person they could have become. May yet turn into, given the chance. And vice versa.

So if we give in to despair, surrender to cruelty, and accept violence and destruction as the norm, then we feed them. We give our energy to them, we make them stronger. We start to meet hatred with hatred, instead of with love. We start to build walls, instead of dismantling borders. We start to arm teachers, instead of disarming society. We crank up the tension, instead of defusing situations, we add fuel to the wildfire, instead of extinguishing it, and planting new trees. They’re simple choices, really: whichever version of ourselves we nurture will grow strong.

And so I take my leave of Boscombe & Bournemouth and its famous Nude Beach Stroll, on the last Sunday in June. I salute you, good people, there, by the coast: I thank you, you’ve given me much food for thought and made me see my world differently. I do wish you well!

Mercury

My mentality makes me leap as close to the sun as I may without being burnt, without floating adrift, without losing my sense of belonging, if not here, if not there, then in the universalness of it all.

There is something wondrous about being me, still, at this age, at this point, which is never a point only but always a wave just as much; at this juncture which is never a coming together only, but always as much a moving apart, through this phase which is never as much a beginning as it is also an ending, only more so, which means it just is; there is intemperance, folly, wisdom and wit to be found where there’s light, and there’s the mischief of knowledge: am I really just information?

Here on Mercury where a day lasts a couple of years at least by perception, my mind is blasted by solar winds, and I take hold of my wand, meaning to keep it. The power to lull the awake into sleep, to awaken those lost to slumber, to ease the agony of the dying and to quicken the dead. The quickness, the quirkinesses, the quintessentialness of it all.

I race around the sun looking out into space, and I enjoy the ride more than ever I did before. How come youth arrives at an age when it is all but gone? How come it happens twice? The first time with no experience on the fabric of sensations to handle it well, the second time with said fabric so worn that it feels all but threadbare? Will there be a third instance, maybe a fourth? Is it necessary, possible, even, to count?

My brain cells refuse to collapse, and my curiosity gets the better of me, so I keep carving open new synapses, firing new thoughts into a continuum that is already awash with ideas.

No time, no space, no respite, no rest, no melancholy here, no decay: this iron is liquid is hot is alive with pure energy, not organic, not systemic, not caustic, not quiet, not loud: effervescent in its potential. This place may be small, but its capacity to astonish is great, nay unlimited, nay infinite and profound.

Can lovers be friends? Can pleasures bedevil the heart that has grown to be kind? Can connections be the meaningfulness of it all? The essentiality? The reason? The cause? The spark and the fire, but also the balm? Can this toxicity heal as well as inspire? Can this generosity of spirit ask more than questions? What is there beyond the surprise, the delirium at having recognised I am able to speak? Am I the medium or the message or merely the conduit? Would I mind if I knew, could I know if I cared?

There are now too many possibilities, too many strands, too many fluctuations, and too many rotations; too many rules that like laugh lines adorn me for me to worry: care I may, yes, and consider; learn I can, and communicate, lend a gentle ear, sometimes, and a generous eye, and embrace the love that is not mere emotion, but more than instinct is intellect, and say yes: I comprehend. Not understand, perhaps, not everything, yet, quite possibly not ever—things move so fast, so all over—but I can take it all in. I can be it all. I can be little and insignificant and still mean the multiverse. That’s just what I wanted to sense. There is no mirror here on this planet, Narcissus has settled on Earth, and my ego today is not needy, nor never will be, no more: my eccentricity here is at its most extreme, at its most exquisite, most extraordinarily acute, and I’m comfortable with that too.

I call on my younger self to excuse my inadequacies, as I know my older self will be looking across to me now as I am and merely encourage, not chide, because I have here now forgiven my older self its obliviousness, its perfection. Its contradiction, in terms. This, for all its unreasonable demeanour, is maybe the best position I’ve been in. And I’ve been everywhere, but not yet. Soon this, too, must come to a premature end if it is to last forever, and that’s what it is.

The caduceus though I shall treasure…


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