The words to say it

Blossom breaking out, fields covered with dazzling small daisies. Good to see this on a day when I have no heart to read  world news. Through the sunshine and  lively buzz of  bees and sweet musical song of the Piet-my-vrou, our African nightingale, the dazzle of wild flowers and  scent of wild jasmine, through all this warmth and loveliness, I can feel the darkness descending. Horror each time I glance at headlines.


“If I could catch the feeling I would: the feeling of the singing of the real world, as one is driven by loneliness and silence from the habitable world.”

—  Anne Carson, Decreation



But on we go, and the world goes on turning, inexorably, beautifully. Reminding myself throughout of the day of the goodness of so many around us, human kindness, sanity, tenderness in a time when a death-dealing inhumanity seems to sweep through nations and  continents. We each have our weaknesses and  evasions that somehow add up to wider social avoidance and  obliviousness in the face of  violence and evil.  I think it was Leonard Woolf who said after his  wife Virginia’s drowning, “There is no limit to one’s stupidity and selfishness.” And yet, we go on doing our best and  trying to protect the vulnerable and  threatened among us, wishing we could do more.


Ladling out soup for  an elderly neighbour in severe pain and thinking about how we struggle to express the nature of  such pain and distress, how we  struggle to imagine and empathise with the pain of others. The languages of pain have a history, well, many histories and many languages, and none seem to suffice


Pain routinely tests the limits of conventional language. Yet words remain the principal means by which sufferers seek to make sense of their suffering; to lend some sense of order to the chaos that being in pain imposes; and to elicit succour and sympathy from others, not least from the physicians we all now routinely consult in search of surcease.

If the languages of pain have a history, pain itself has a story – many stories, in fact. In that sense, Bourke’s title is misleading, both in purporting to tell the story of pain, and in implicitly suggesting that that story is a simple progression from an earlier, pre-enlightened period, when we invested pain with theological significance and sought to soothe our sufferings with prayer and appeals to the Almighty, to an era of scientific progress, where we interpret pain naturalistically and medicate it into submission.


Sitting in meditation this morning, what I sometimes think of as my unquiet time, and  surprised by a splash of sunlight on the floor earlier than usual.  Dust motes like twirling ballerinas in the stream of  sun, a sight that enchanted me as a child, how the air around us is filling with dancing particles and airy creatures.


Gathering strength so that I take in that deep, deep breath and stand up, stretch and  begin again, find the  energy to go on, to keep reaching out, trying to understand,  finding better ways to  protest injustice and help those  in need. To understand what may be possible, what can be transformed. Via whiskey river


“Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habits, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work; there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.”

– D. H. Lawrence


Mildly disruptive

Workmen are replastering a chimney and dragging cables across the loft. As they stamp back and forth, fine streams of dust spiral down into the  rooms below, airy ballerinas of twirling dust motes. Dust slipping between the old heavy ceiling beams once cut from living trees and  stained with ox-blood, honey and a paste of pungent buchu. To repel flies, I suppose, back then in the  early years of the 20th century.

I over-complicate my life, worry too much. Hate intrusion, dread possible accidents — broken glass panes, dented cupboards, electrical fires, falls down the steep  loft stairs — conflict, escalating costs, the  sheer unpredictable quandaries of  any  building task. But this is  just another hurdles and  only I am  worried, tense, on edge. Everyone is laughing and  chatting and  making themselves at home.The workers overhead are happy and walk to and fro from the  cafe on main road, glugging down fizzy bottles of  Coca-Cola and  eating polony sandwiches, sheltering in the kitchen from a chilly wind. Clods of soot and chipped brick crash down the chimney. Mud is tracked across the floor. The dogs are asleep in a spare bedroom and delighted to be  left to do as they please. It will all be over by Friday. I may be offline for a day, but  perhaps not. Such noise and  excitement, such scaffolding, roofwalking, dismantling, rewalling!