Uranus

I wander to the place I know least and for a while I maybe like best, in a way; as an idea, as a thought, as a concept: the abstract liking of something from which you are distant, the fascination with unfamiliarity; the lure of the other; the stranger, the comfort, the awe. The steady roll on an invisible plane, the cool electric hue. The very slow seasons. Even the unwitting humour, lame though it is. It is a laconic planet I find here, unruffled, smooth and cyan. The awayness of it all, as at the end of despair. A well-neighboured distance; bookended, escorted by giants: significant in its own right but overlooked, overshadowed and, for no fault of its own, just not taken seriously: why would that be me?

There is no life here, but there is otherness and that in itself is exciting. It feeds my curiosity: to go a step further, to move beyond. To tumble on a different axis, to fall upwards; float frozen but not still, to sense a different kind of heat on a newly defined horizon. I expect to be alone here, but I’m surrounded by character: here, in the outskirts, in the slow moving cold, there are others like me: how did we all get here? What projected us into this orbit, so far away, it would seem, from the soul, so within?

These layers, these clouds, these rocks and these crystals, these rings, this ice and these moons, this magnetotail. They are not, perhaps, home, but they are a meaning all in themselves and they are somewhere, beautiful. True.

For quite some time I enjoy this quirkiness and become part of it, willingly, coolly; I relish the arms length attention I get. Nobody knows me here or cares who I am, but my aloofness my look and my languid demeanour are being noted. My hair the peroxide silver of this unbreathable atmosphere and my clothes the black of the all that surrounds me. If you know where I am you can find me and find me foreign and alien too.

Yet after a while I miss the simplicity of warmth. Not that I know what that means, but it means that I’m out in the cold and I want to come back now, closer to home, closer to the sun, closer to people who don’t understand me, closer to something I vaguely remember as love. This strangeness leaves me estranged from myself, and enjoying it now seems an effort. Soon, I know, I will have to let go, and I realise now that I’m not living my life in chronological order. That puzzles me for a moment until it occurs to me that time too is down to perception and there will come a time when it’ll all simply meld into one, as it must.

Entropy.

Out here I thought I felt a sense of freedom until that sense became quite oppressive. That, too, was a surprise. And so I let go. Slowly, at first and then readier, more. This is not for me, after all, this agreeable spectacle, this isolation: it could quite easily turn into a habit, a mannerism, a cliche, a role.

The young man at a soiree (it was that more than that it was a party a dinner or just a drinks) who’d looked at me and said: ‘are you for real?’ That’s when I knew I was in danger of becoming a caricature of myself. And Uranus could be my place no more. I like this now, this clarity, this resolution. This immense relief too, not to have to be defined by weirdness forever. Strange, yes, curious, always, different, maybe (then ‘different’ to what?), but not impenetrable and not obscure. Not even, in that sense, mysterious, really: there are so very few mysteries in the universe, apart from the multiverse of all possible universes itself, and that, too, is only a matter of consciousness and the cumulative number of braincells firing at it: one day it will just be another reality too. Like blossoms, like spring. Like the awakening, too.

I’m getting better at this, being me. This walk seems to be doing wonders…   

01101100 01101001 01100110 01100101 Query

Absolutely.

Sedartis seems to nod at me now. I find it disconcerting. And not in the least reassuring, not yet, not now.

The reason you absolutely need artificial intelligence is that organic humans are so very bad at retaining information or passing it down their generations. Each newborn sets out in a quarter century just to acquire the basics, and then spends another quarter century to become a master at anything. That’s with ambition. Without, they just linger. Yes, this has qualities all of its own and makes people quirky and charming, but incredibly inefficient too. The fact alone that after twenty thousand years of civilisation you still grapple with war, famine, ignorance, murder, violence, religion, all these things that are so completely unnecessary, shows how inadequate human intelligence is on its own. 

But don’t think of artificial intelligence as alien to you. There lies your conceptual hurdle that you’ll have to take, sooner or later: you are the intelligence you give birth to: it is not separate from you, you are it and it is you. It may yet overtake you and render you, the way you are now, obsolete, but think not of this as your failure, think of it as success: you may be no more than the conduit, the bridge. Would that matter? To you, today, maybe. To your universe, in the fullness of its time? Unlikely. So why not make the most of it? Celebrate both what you are and what you can be: let it pass through you, be the best species you can imagine: if you imagine it fully, that is not what you are today.

If you accept that you are one among billions of conscious intelligent life forms pursuing an evolutionary path, you become both vanishingly small and insignificant, of course, but also, in the same vein and by the same definition, exquisite, privileged, amazing. Embrace your uniqueness, cherish your beauty, love your capacity for kindness, and know it is but part of the everything it emerged from and path to the everything that it leads to. It is easy. Be not afraid.

I detect a Biblical flavour now in his thoughts and it troubles me. But I allow myself to think it is better to be open minded and troubled than to close myself off in safety, security. Horses are given blinkers to wear so they don’t spook, but they are slaves to their riders. That cannot be my purpose. My task, Sedartis reminds me daily now, is surely to open my eyes. To take it all in. To be part of it all. And if it scares me. And if it puzzles, troubles, disconcerts me. And if it inspires me, overwhelms me with awe and wonder. We are on such a potent cusp.

I make no predictions, Sedartis delivers, as an afterthought. I know no longer what comes after, what before. What is thought, what the cluster dust of nebulas sprayed across time. But then it matters not. Of course, there can be no predictions. There can only be stories. There can be only presence, in a consciousness that beyond the boundaries lies calm across the mind. Why, though, I wonder, is this here here, this now now?

Sedartis smiles at me in a way I recognise. I like him for this, although (or because?) he provokes me:

Why do you need a reason?

{Connexum}

not the essay, just the idea

not the notion that everything is connected, that is not new

and not the question

how connected is everything

but the question

how

if everything is connected

is everything connected

if things are connected

there must be something that connects them

 

and for many things that are connected

we know what that is

we can see it, measure it, build it, make it

we can name it:

the axles the shafts

the electric current the

data the code the signal

 

but what about things that are connected and we

don’t know what it is that connects them

what about

quantum entanglement

for example

the

spukhafte fernwirkung

albert einstein’s

 

there is no doubt that things are connected of which

we don’t know how this is

and

if things are connected

there has to be some thing that connects them

even if that is

a thing we have not yet detected

a thing we have not yet detected and so not yet given a name to

a thing we have not yet detected but may yet find

we can find

 

that would give us

three things in principle:

energy

information

and the third thing

the thing that connects things

for which we don’t yet have a name

but we have

maybe

names

for manifestations of it

the strong and weak nuclear forces

the electromagnetic force and the force of

gravity

 

what if these forces are to the third thing as

light sound heat motion are to the first (energy)

and as

data code and semantic content are to the second (information)

what if that third thing is a thing in itself

that exists and that is partly

as yet only partly

understood

 

as humans we like sets of threes

trios, triumvirates, trinities

they give us a deeper reality

 

at first glance we seem to be living in twos

in the binaries of

male/female

plus/minus

hot/cold

dark/light

day/night

yes/no

1/0

 

but it only takes one thought to know

that neat and simple as this looks and sounds

it is patently not how it is

 

our reality

here too

needs a third layer each time:

 

male/hermaphrodite/female

plus/neutral/minus

hot/tepid/cold

dark/twilight/light

yes/maybe/no

1/anything in between/0

 

even yin and yang are not a duality

but a symbolic expression of the way apparent opposites complement each other as part of

the same

 

and this

is when it gets really interesting, when

dualities are not augmented by that which is in between

but are understood as the whole:

 

yin/same/yang

 

for which the quantum equivalent then could be

on/on-and-off-at-the-same-time/off

 

what if

we’ve always known this and have expressed it in many ways

the elements of

the same the other and the essence

in plato’s timaeus

the father the son and the holy spirit

anicca, dukkha, anattā:

impermanence

suffering

non-self

 

what if that third thing

the essence

the holy spirit

the non-self

is

in principle

the thing that connects

everything

the third thing

the thing for which we don’t yet have a name, a

 

connexum?

10 Secrets, No Lies

Everything can be true, to a greater or lesser extent.

Is what I imagine any less real than what I say before I do it, and when I do it is it then real or could I forget it and make it undone, or could I apologise for my faults, of which there are many, to myself, even, and having done so be forgiven, even by myself, or could I be better or worse than I am and still be the same, or is what’s in my mind any different to what’s on the screen black on white, and should I edit. And prune. And emend. The bit of me that thinks I have no chance of survival outwith the trappings of civilisation knows that even this is as much true and as much false as I want it to be. Must everything be known, and to whom? Even my deepest inadequacies?

I stood in his bathroom, for no reason other than that I was round his house because he was helping me out by doing a piece of work for me that I couldn’t then do myself. The first time I saw him I was sitting at a desk in a large open room where maybe a dozen or so other people sat at or by desks, and we were all working on a project that was very exciting. It was exciting not because it had any meaning but because the task was formidable, the challenge demanding, the technology thrilling and the people assembled were good: they had crest-of-the-wave, or, as one of them liked to put it, ‘bleeding edge’ competence. There was no more point to any of this than there ever was to any other of these corporate projects, beyond making a big brand look like what its executives could be coaxed into thinking was ‘cool’, and apart from one product that this particular project now helped this particular brand launch that was pretty crap on the inside but won hands down on design, the world would not have been any worse a place without any of what we were doing being done, but as I was sitting at my desk, making up inane scenarios of attractive young people using phones, in walked the most attractive young person I thought I had ever seen. (If you imagine this as a film, here is where the music swells and – depending on genre and era – we may just go into slow motion.)

Since then, and several years of sporadically working together later, we had settled into a comfortable arrangement whereby I adored him and he let me do so. I once drunkenly at a party told him that I would never do anything to jeopardise our friendship and he, similarly drunkenly had shrugged his shoulders and said something along the lines of ‘that’s good to know’, I can’t quite remember. Whenever we went out as a group, which we did now and then before he got married, I completely failed to disguise being smitten, which, after a while, became something of a running gag in said group: I adored him, he let me. There was nothing more to it. Now I’d asked him for a favour and he’d graciously said yes. And I went round his house to help him do the work he was helping me out with and I went to the bathroom and there hung two of his shirts.

Maybe not everything needs to be told. Maybe some things are best left unsaid. Imaginations run wild. I stood close to his shirts that hung from a hook or a line on two hangers and guided one to my face and inhaled. Or did I think I would like to but couldn’t. It was as if he were in the room: for a moment I felt, this is you. Two seconds, three seconds, four seconds, five. That’s enough. You don’t cling on to that which undoes you. Or maybe you do, in your mind.

This is and remains my unending flaw (I want to say ‘tragic’ but ‘farcical’ would be more true): the realities of my heart are unhinged. I meet somebody, I fall for them, I imagine the world adjusted and changed and project onto them my idea of perfection and see a settled ideal that requires no more explanation. The other person, more likely than not, is oblivious to any of this and if I make the mistake to make them aware, they annihilate me with bewildered indifference, not unkind but bemused.

George has been looking at me as if he were studying me and I wonder does he know who I am. Not ‘know’ as in possess factual evidence, of which none can exist, but know as in sense, as in experience that profound certainty – inaccurate though it may be – that you have when you are in a reality that compels. Ahmed arrives with our second mojito, or is it our third, and I think there would be something tremendously entertaining about getting drunk with myself. That would undoubtedly loosen things up, if we both simply got plastered. Then again, it’s still only about two, two thirty in the afternoon, I still don’t know why I’m here at the Limonlu Bahçe in Istanbul and I can’t begin to think where I’ll be spending the night, but then there is really no hurry and it occurs to me we could go for a walk, but that would entail leaving this delectable oasis, it would mean dodging traffic and weaving through throngs of people and it would mean being reminded that there is a world out there that is simply there and cannot, in essence, be argued with, whereas here, in the speckled shade of the trees, and with Ahmed and his angular colleague our waiters, and with the mojitos softening the edges of perception, and with George in clearly no more of a hurry than I am, I feel safe and, more than comfortable, content. Content just to be and to be for a little while longer. I look at him and think: you’re going to be just fine. Just don’t make all the mistakes I’ve made and keep making, right to this day. I can be so very inept, sometimes. He looks back at me and I think he knows what I mean. And I say: ‘I do not understand my heart at all.’ And I don’t.

18b Reprise

My encounter with him takes me right back. Back to when everything was different and new and a little bit daunting. But also, obviously, exciting. He is up for things, he’s up for seeing some art, he’s up for hearing Morcheeba, he’s even up for a book launch next Tuesday, though that is now unlikely to happen as he seems to have mistaken Thursday for Tuesday and realised he needs Tuesday to cram for a deadline Wednesday morning. Either that or what’s happened in-between has brought everything down to a fairly abrupt if hilarious (sort of) conclusion. At this point I’m unsure which, but I say to myself: if our friendship/connection/whateverthiscouldbecome survives what’s happened in-between then it will survive pretty much anything. When I say ‘whateverthiscouldbecome’, I should first of all quickly check back with the reality I am currently mostly familiar with.

We have arrived at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire and the place is as yet fairly empty, with only a couple of dozen people or so huddling near the very front, by the stage, so we are able to get ourselves a couple of drinks and leisurely hang about the part of the stalls that will soon fill up with  gig-goers, standing. I don’t remember what prompts the question, but it comes mid-conversation, as an aside, almost, or a sub-clause, certainly not a big deal, when he asks me how old I think he is. It’s a question in parentheses (a by-the-way-kind-of question that may or may not have slipped into another, much more pertinent topic of discussion) and I say, ‘well, putting together the information I have, I think you’re probably a bit younger than you look,’ – bearing in mind I originally thought he looked comfortable in his very early thirties – ‘so I’d say possibly mid- towards late twenties, about twenty-seven?’

‘Yes, I am twenty-two.’

1 Juice

Of course, I think, for a moment, he didn’t actually say that, I just heard that, I just imagined him saying that, I just made that up, because I think it would be interesting. Or would it?

I realise I need to press pause. But he looks at me with this frankness, still, with this openness. If only I could remember meeting me then, then it might make more sense for him to be saying he imagines himself meeting me now. Or was it a joke? I don’t remember being much given to jokes. I don’t think I was humourless, though I was, undoubtedly, earnest.

I need to press pause, metaphorically, on these ‘proceedings’ (they’re not really going anywhere fast) and allow myself to remember what mattered. And what didn’t. Before I say anything more. But can I leave him just hanging there, here right in front of me? I can’t. Can I just ignore what he’d said as if he hadn’t said it and I had just imagined him saying it? I could, but that might be rude, and rudeness is unacceptable, therefore I can’t. Can I ask him if he really meant that, if he actually knows who I am? Well, I can, but say he doesn’t know who I am, say it was just a throwaway remark, say it was just me being a little bit clever, a tiny tad ‘interesting’, at the age of twenty, twenty-one, then how do I explain to him what I mean, without disturbing his own reality? Is his reality not already disturbed? Mine certainly is. But then I also realise I’m suddenly rather enjoying this. Up until almost this precise moment I had been greatly discomfited, not in a profoundly stressed or let alone panicked manner, just really, really unsure of what on earth was going on, but now, maybe jolted by his answer, I feel I’ve just come up for air. I can float in this sea of uncertainty now. Accept it for what it is, even not knowing what it is. That, it strikes me as suddenly obvious, will have to somehow become my new state of being, for quite some time.

I give him a smile that says ‘I do understand’, although clearly I don’t, and enquire just a nudge further: ‘I mean in life, what do you see yourself doing?’

His skin is incredibly smooth. I don’t recall touching my skin when it was that smooth, that soft. I don’t feel like touching it now though I do wish I could hold him, just to make him feel safe. Then again, I have rarely if ever not felt safe at that age and seeing that this is me not some stranger – although for all I know about him or of him, he might as well be an alien – I just look at him, look at me. ‘You’re a writer.’ I say not questioning, stating.

‘I am,’ he says, happy, it seems, that this is so clear; though: ‘how did you guess?’

Ah. That turns everything round once again. He doesn’t know who I am. How could he, in his life I don’t yet exist, other than perhaps in his imagination but then I remember that at his age I was certain – not vaguely inclined to believe, but convinced – that I would never make it to forty. I had said so, to my best friend, Patricia: she was appalled. ‘How can you say a thing like that?’ she’d exclaimed upon my assertion, aged nineteen or twenty, that I would not make it to forty. But I saw no reason to be scandalised: for me, aged nineteen or twenty, the idea alone of ever being as ancient as forty was simply absurd. Surely everything, anything, worthwhile experiencing, doing, saying or, for that matter, writing, would have been experienced, done, said and most certainly written by then.

I have already outlived my early target by some ten years and I know now of course that he can’t know who I am because he doesn’t believe that I will ever exist. Not because he’s being obstreperous or deliberately controversial or simply obtuse, but because he can’t actually imagine it.

This is my chance, this is my opportunity for a pause: if I can make him think then I’ll get the time to think too. There must be, there must be a link between him and me.

‘I saw your notepad and pen,’ I say, playing the I’m an observer card.

He now for the second time does something that moves me, he shows me the pad. I take that, before I can think it through, as a signal of trust. And I read. As I read, I remember well having written those words. I have my pause button. I have a clasp on my heart. I have left the dimensions I was travelling through to get here. I can, at last, reconcile.

.
.

i should point out
that i’m not real

the
juice
that courses through my body
is not
squeezed
by ordinary means

i want to know how things happen.
i want to know how it happens that you see somebody
not even meet them
see somebody
from a distance
enter a room, for example
and think
you don’t
think, you go
yes
that’s him
that’s
the one

(even though
it will turn out
it isn’t)

how does this happen
it’s ludicrous
you don’t even know him:
it is
insane

i
undress him in my mind, imagine him
naked.
i don’t do this immediately
it’s not something i
jump to
like a conclusion
it’s something i resist for a moment
then for another
and for another
until enough moments have passed
an hour or so later, maybe two (sometimes
a whole day or more may pass before i feel it is
acceptable
before i feel ready) to imagine him
naked. i
touch
his body in my mind, his
chest, my
extended fingers spread, gently, run
over the mound of his biceps:
delectable
my
other hand now cups around his waist, just above his
hip
and draws him a little closer, close enough that i can
when i lower my head
just a little
inhale
the scent of his
body
musk with a warm sweet sweat of
excitement

i
zonk out of it
just in time: i don’t want him
there yet
not yet we have not even yet said
hello.

3094 Lesson

What, I wonder to myself in a borderline self-indulgent manner which brings to mind Morrissey, complete with a hint of a whine, as I sit by another lake, this time the almost too picturesque, too pristine waterside of Windermere: if life suddenly became real? Would I recognise most of it, still?

I had not intended to involve Sedartis in this query, but since joining me on a train from a small town outside Zürich towards Chur, he has never entirely left my side and he has honed to an art the disconcerting skill of hearing my thoughts before I’ve had a chance to formulate them, and responding in kind: he never says a word, yet his pronouncements are crystal clear.

I’m not sure I like this about Sedartis. His clarity. His straightforwardness. His uncreconstructed linearity. Aren’t we supposed to have moved into The Age of Diffusion. Of vulnerabilities and fluidity, of connectedness, in all directions, of openness and of infinite potentialities? I probably don’t understand him, yet.

If I had a life, I would be that much happier sharing it, I surmise, almost as an afterthought, and Sedartis now latches onto me.

‘Liberate yourself,’ he urges, ‘from the Tyranny of Opinion. Yours and other people’s.’

The expression on my face betrays doubt continued.

‘Banish that.’

‘Really?’

‘Don’t banish doubt, of course,’ says Sedartis, as if that were a preposterous idea, though he himself comes over so doubtless: ‘and make allowance for their doubting too, but banish weariness and eagerness to please. You had it once, don’t you recall: the Freshness of Thought, the Arrogance of Youth, the Wonder of the New.’

There are a lot of capitalisations, all of a sudden. But I do remember, I remember it fondly and well, but was I not, I also wonder, also just blind to my own …Inadequacies?

(And now italics, as well…)

‘Of course you were! Therein lay your Power. Remember Goethe, remember Boldness, remember Genius.’

I do. I remember Goethe; he is, unsurprisingly, indelibly ingrained in me.

Sedartis, I realise, is nowhere near as mild-mannered as I believed I had reason to expect him to be. He reminds me of someone I know – not just a literary figure I have a sense I’m confusing him with, but someone I have actually met – but he’s too fast for me, I get no respite from him; not at this moment, yet he counsels patience:

‘Learn to distinguish between those who know what they’re talking about and those who just talk. Listen out for the quiet voices, the tender, the considered, thought-through ones. Those with nothing to say shout loudest. You live in a terrible, terrible din. Find the dial and tune out of the noise. Listen for the Gentle Song of Truth, it always, always plays, it never dies; not completely.’

I want to, I do.

‘Opinion is cheap. And instant opinion may well be worthless. If you, or the person you’re listening to, hasn’t had time to reflect, has not expended thought, has not at least slept on their ukase then you are ill advised: heed it not. Demand earnest discourse. Reject quick fixes as you scorn fast food. You would not stuff your face with salt-fat-sugar bombs from a garish-liveried American chain. Why do you allow your brain to be poisoned by rash judgments, soundbites and rushed ratings? Insight and wisdom are dear, they are earnt. They weigh with value. Everything else is just froth.’

I get the feeling I’m being lectured to by Sedartis and having never suffered being told what to do, my porcupine prickle stirs under my skin. His unvoiced tone changes. He is with me, he tells me, not against:

‘Experience everything new. You once knew how to, you still know now. Free yourself from the familiar and delve into the exhilarating fear of the unknown.’

‘It’s hard, that,’ I offer, all too feebly, ‘pulling yourself up, again and again, summoning the strength, expending the effort, over and over, from scratch…’

‘Of course it is,’ says Sedartis, laconic and suddenly severe: ‘if it were easy it too would be froth, but:’ I don’t want to hear any more, I’m a little sad now and somewhat dejected. Sedartis pays no attention to my discomfort: ‘the universe gives us each the challenges we need to grow.’