Friday, 17 April 2009
Tomorrow back to Mr Foster's book. I wrote the poem for daughter's wedding. Enthusiastically received, so it will be part of the service. Reading. Correcting details on my introduction for Tibor Déry's Niki for the New York Review of Books edition.
Tonight, C and I book a table at our local Thai. I have real fondness for the sweet-spicy that Thai does particularly well, and like the difference in textures too. Sometimes just biting is enough.
There we talk, as we do on such occasions, about others, ourselves, our children, about what we are, have been, and seem. I remember that friend N once said all men were autistic, and that I resented the consigning of my whole gender to the ranks of the sick, the abnormal, the less than completely human (how would she like it, I fumed, if I suggested that all women were hysterical?)
But now and then I do sort of see what she means: what that might mean. It doesn't mean, as is generally supposed, that one is simply stoppered, locked away in the self: on the contrary it means - in its own paradoxical way - being wide-awake to the world, like the artist Stephen Wiltshire who just flies over a city and remembers and draws every part of it because it is all streaming in and falling into place. He is, of course, acutely autistic in the full clinical sense. So while the world streams in it remains undifferentiated in kind, and that lack of differentiation does result in being locked off from the consciousness of other people. But that is not less than completely human. it is just another aspect of being human.
That, I dreamily propose to C, is a crucial part of every artist's being, and indeed of C's too. It is the casting of the cold eye. The splinter of ice in the heart. On the one hand, there is the social being, absorbed in personalities and communication and the whole sense of character or the fiction (as my autistic self might put it) of character; and, on the other, there is the particle of consciousness orbiting the universe like a speck of dust that happens to be endowed with a nervous system, one that registers everything almost equally, that constructs systems and patterns and remains forever stupefied by the sheer phenomenon of possessing a consciousness, of being an object in the universe endowed with consciousness, one that has no obligation, no moral sense, no history, no age, only the faculty of registering the extraordinary detail before it, forever absorbed in the practice of ordering the stuff that comes streaming in.
Meanwhile the socialised being, the being that loves, that registers obligation and pain and longing and history, is looking across the table at her, thinking how beautiful, how extraordinarily precious, how out there she is, (way out there, orbiting, just like myself) and how the sweet and spicy beef is slightly, deliciously crunchy, a pleasure to bite on. And she is out there together with all that we have been - character, obligation, pain, longing, history - with all the atoms of her concentrated into those eyes, that expression. Like people's expressions everywhere. Like my own, the one I can't see or read or even quite register.
I ask for the bill, hand over my card, get together some cash for the tip. Neil, our electrician, is sitting at another table with his girlfriend or partner, we nod and smile. It's quite cold out there. Figures moving down the street. Figures in cars. The boy across the street in the empty Chinese take-away is doing something at the counter. Further off and further off the whole grinding mechanism of the world. The world resolves into language. The rulers. The ruled. The poor. The lost. The parties. The gunmen. The sickbeds. The rough trade of consciousness.
Never mind all that. Here's a fine thing:
I far prefer commentary in a language of which I don't understand a single word. Best of all, just turn the sound off.