Friday, 17 April 2009

Out there

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.


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Coirí Filíochta said...

After a flight like that, a spam-ad to earth us.

A pals ex-common law wife with whom he had a daughter and met whilst she was training to be a teacher, ended up teaching special needs and explained to me how autisim is a spectrum within us all. Most have a touch of it, unoticed because its level of intensity is so low as to not be noticed, but still it's there.

The desire to obsess, repetitive thoughts, the part of the brain which is like the copper wire of the nervous system, more exposed to the sinew and flow of the inner light emanating from the pineal gland which the ancients had as the third eye and Descartes the "seat of the soul". The pineal gland is 8mm small, shaped like a pione nut or cone and is dead centre in the brain, tucked between the two hemispheres and it produces melatonin.

I think your wife had a point about men being autistic in the sense that they find it a more challenging experience to show affection (British men at least) to hug other men in puiblic, kiss them and generally be tactile, hold hands as friends and say "i love you, as a friend* to their pals.

If Wayne and the more macho guys of the soccer pitch, were to carry over there hugging and kissing onto the street: show us we do not have top be afraid of kissing our men freinds in public, the world would have a teeny bit more love in it, and British men could throw off their rather romantically dour image.

George S said...

First re: Anonymous: I'll leave this ad up there for now. The deleted comments before were the same message. I don't delete otherwise, generally. If you see a deleted comment assume it's an ad. I will indicate otherwise if that's not the case.

Second, re: BA. You often surprise me with your reading into such a wide variety of material, so thank you. You are always welcome here.

I should say it wasn't my wife who suggested all men were autistic but a lesbian/ bisexual female friend, and then she quickly made an exception of me for, I imagine, a variety of reasons, primarily because she didn't really want to call her host and friend autistic, and secondarily because of what she called my 'feminine' side,( though I took that to imply my 'good' side, my masculine side being, presumably, the 'bad' side).

It is the gifts of the autistic that I was trying to highlight, not the aspects considered to be negative, such as repetition and obsessiveness.

I would, in any case, want to make some claims for obsessiveness and for repetition (what is rhythm if not repetition, a form of patterning?), but it is the quality of alertness and openness, that allows information to come streaming in at such great volume and then be quickly patterned (obsessively, repetitively) that I am chiefly interested in.

In that respect it is the autistic element of the male imagination / mind - that is, if it is considered to have a more autistic character than the female mind (it's a big 'if')- that may well be responsible for the scope and, well, genius of certain men, and may, furthermore, explain why most of the extraordinary figures in art and science have been men. It is, in hesitant addition, a purely anecdotal observation that the women who have excelled and belong to the same group of artists / scientists, have often had a very strong element of what are regarded as male (autistic?) characteristics.

I am fully aware that one can reverse the argument, and claim that by pointing out the masculine aspects of genius we are using masculinity in exactly the same way as my female friend used it, just back to front, ie to suggest that, if something is good it must be masculine, whereas to her if something is good it must be feminine.

All these are 'if's and say nothing very concrete about the great majority of men and women except in terms of polemic and the claiming of social advantage or disadvantage.

I don't know how much hugging and physical contact have to do with this aspect of autism. Not all that much, I think. It's the more remarkable gifts and curses that are fascinating.

Gwil W said...

Stevens tells me you had no. 9 at the Thai,-

When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

"Further off and further off..."

George S said...

Or Adlestrop...

...And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloustershire.

Coirí Filíochta said...

Sorry to have left this response so late George, i have been out and about in town. Beautiful day, temple bar square full of jazz, tourists sitting on the flags, the magic bookcart where i chanced across a box of Basil Payne's the owner had been given after his death by the family.

He said it was the only new stock he had and let me have a few pieces. Payne was a poet, playwright, broadcaster and lecturer from Dublin who taught in American universities for a while and I had not heard of him until today.

Reclining Figure (Henry Moore)

Creator and created liquefy
In archetypal bronze to terrify
The mind with this bone-structure of the soul
Reclining ardourless, but in control
Of its self-chosen form; idenitity
Sprawls in immeasurable empathy.


The very big IF couched in qualifier and caveat that may "...explain why most of the extraordinary figures in art and science have been men..." first thought was not so much that this fact would be linked to any principle of autistic osmosis filtering into the Male; but that the reason for the extraordinary figures being mainly men, surely, would be down tyo cultural factors which only saw women get the vote less than four generations ago?


Last weekend i was, with the rest of ireland, immersed in the Heaney jamboree, the highlight of which was listening to him read Station Island in full and the TV documentary.

RTE recorded him reading all of his 11 collections and broadcast it on the radio, a full 12 hours you can buy for 75 euro on CD, but which is still available to listen to here.

I listened to Station Island and will go listen to another collection now, but after that, reading Stepping Stones and watching the TV documentary Out of the Marvellous (here), the student has been gifted a huge amount of material to ingest, which allow us an insight into the man behind the Heaney mask the books and majestically polished and eloquent prose present us.

And it was yesterday, reading and seeing a young couple of 21 year olds on their wedding day, which amplifies as i write here - that an obvious fact and plank in this presentation, lays itself neatly into view, and something which became obvious when reading Stepping Stones and was substantiated on watching the documentary.

Both of you have been married most of your adult lives and known the sort of life-long love my own (and many others) parents and those from their (your) generation, took for granted at the altar. It was an essential piece to the Szirtes-as-human being jigsaw easy to miss if not made explicit.

Indeed, it's only now as i write with the notion that the eighth year filidh method of *extemporisation from the tips (díchetal do chennaib) - of fingers and tongue, being harnessed -- that i have made the connection. Your daughter's getting married, hence your own natural reflection on your own marriage.


Robert Sheppard, who was the first academic-poet whose tutelage i fell under, by chance, when returning to education in 2001, uses a phrase *speculative discourse* quite a lot, which is really the idea of imbas forosnai (manifestation of knowledge which enlightens) of which díchetal do chennaib and teinm laída (extemporised chanting of song) are the two substrands which appear to make up imbas forosnai.

This is similar to the Frost ice-slide and in the same ball park as your own *secret levers of the universe* - in the sense that we start writing not knowing where it will go, and the right words come and like dot to dot, some design revealing the *knowledge which enlightens* is skated out as we stumble round the rink.

I am finding it a way in, to flag up what i blather as *speculative discourse*, a sort of riff which may fail and a provisional, exploratory position that may not be articulated, but in this small attempt, the linking of your daughter's wedding and your own - this is a minor example i suppose of imbas forosnai via the method of díchetal do chennaib - *extemporising from the tips*


I apologised for leaving it this late, as when i returned you had already whacked the Salford bruiser up and have read his article and a thought occurred which is related to where my current mind-view is stationed on the route to ollamh, in this the eighth year of study. It involves trying to see past, through, above or beyond the flow of dazzling ideas and word-chains, and into the Human heart and head. Trying to configure a plausible argument which elucidates the impelling kernel that sets off a piece of writing, and in E's case, in a speculative sense, is it legitimate to suggest, Amis is an unacknowledge hand in there, because Tel has arraigned Hitchen's as one of the two parties, along with Hawkins, who are both cast as aesthetic atheists representing the primary protaganist-planks in his case.


Thanks very much George, after reading Eagleton, I was struck by how he chains the abstract and so am attempting to imitate, skate and see what levers i can pull to rob my own note.


Gwil W said...

Numberless Adlestrop: Blackird Soup, is it?

George S said...

Bird's Nest Soup... Which I ate in Hitchin town centre many years ago in an English restaurant that must have got it out of a tin. They also served Shark's Fin soup.

Crazy. It was a small place. They could never have got a shark in there.

Gwil W said...

Unfortunately the shark won't be dining with you. They threw him back in the water minus his fin. If there's a greater torture inflicted by human on animal I haven't heard of it yet.

A sufferer said...

I am one of Bails Payne's 6 sons.
Whilst he may have a stroke recently and is a bit of a crock, he is defintely "not dead yet".
thanks for the thumbs up on his work though, I am working on getting his first book "sunlight on a square" republished on amazon.