one aim, one business, one desire

My Macintosh has a list of recently accessed files, but when I want to re-visit a file I have used earlier in the day it is never there. I have many folder windows open, but again the folder I was earlier working on is never one of them. This seems a sad measure of not multi-tasking but over-tasking, too many interruptions upon interupptions, too many disparate things and a singular lack of single purpose.

When I was in school we studied the Scholar Gypsy by Matthew Arnold. It is a tale of an Oxford scholar who foresakes his studies and joins the gypsies. As I always admired and desired the gypsy life this combination of the intellectual and nomadic appealed immediately. When Arnold writes it is 200 years since the scholar started his wanderings, but there are still occasional reports of sightings and Arnold concludes that his longevity is the result of his singleness of purpose, he has “one aim, one business, one desire”.

The stanza I still recall almost word perfect comes near the end as Arnold expresses his wish for this simpler life … and remember he is writing in 1850, not the days of email and IM:

O born in days when wits were fresh and clear,
And life ran gaily as the sparkling Thames;
Before this strange disease of modern life,
With its sick hurry, its divided aims,
Its heads o’ertax’d, its palsied hearts, was rife

film – waking life

Last night watched ‘Waking Life‘ a strange film all about dreaming

We ordered it from amazon video (their subscription lending library), but not quite sure how we managed to do it. Certainly when it arrived and I read the description it sounded a little too arty … I of course like James Bond and Famous Five!

However, it was very enjoyable and has most stunning animation. It looked as if it had been filmed live, but then, either by hand or using computer, reduced to comic book effect. It chronicles a young man’s day or dream as he discusses (mainly listens) to various people talking about the philosophy of dreams and reality – I assume taken from lots of real philosophers, but I’m not well read enough to recognise many! All of this in a constantly shifting animation as if each object were half floating. Sort of Disney meets Derrida.

Two things struck me … well actually many more, loads of lovely quirky asides, but I forget most already 🙁

First is how lacking in grounding so many of the philosophical ideas are; sitting somewhere between mysticism and reason. I’ve recently been reading Lefebvre’s Rhythmanalysis and got a similar feel there – lovely stuff for a novel, almost poetic … but without solid ground. An age that has forgotten or rejected God and lost faith in rationality, but struggling to find something in the void.

The other thing was a point when one of the characters said to the protagonist (I misquote!) “your sneakers aren’t real, your feet inside your sneakers aren’t real, you are a mental model” … the character is referring to the fact you are not real in a dream, but to some extent this is precisely the self we experience, my mental model of me is the ‘I’ I know, so (and this was said elsewhere in the film), to some extent aspects of dreams are as real as anything in waking life.

toes in the mediterranean

I am in Tirrenia, one of the resorts on the Mediterranean outside Pisa. February is not the normal tourist month and the palm trees are all wrapped in sacking or plastic to protect them from the rain.

It was overcast when I arrived and yesterday was bleak with heavy rain, but this morning the sky was open from edge to edge, the unfettered wind blowing the waves clear from the coasts of Spain.

Dabbling my toes in the waters edge, or wading deeper having to run as the larger waves threatened to wash me clear to my waist. Icy feeling, but I’m sure still just the chill of cool water, air thrown through the night, no Arctic currents penetrate here.

To my back are the shuttered beach buildings, and tall rectangular pillars of plywood I assume enclosing the summer showers. Also sprinklers along the beach edges. I’d wondered at these when I’d walked at dusk when I’d first arrived, but not realised they were along every beach side – presumably to dampen the sand and keep it from blowing and burying the resort.

The sand slopes steeply towards the sea, and on the water’s edge a huge driftwood log, like a seat deliberately placed to watch the sea, but now periodically half covered then left stranded by the flow of waves.

On the map it is an contained sea, the Mediterranean, but here I see open sea – if there are boundaries they are far away and the waves long enough to build and be as terrible and awesome as those that had crossed the whole atlantic a few months ago when I was in Brazil. These waves though are less uniform, not the slowly growing and breaking of surf beaches, but more a tumbling boiling ferment.

To the north the jagged edges of snow flecked mountains mirror the wave crests, sharp edged against the clear morning sky. Further north they will become the marble-shot mountains of Carrera from which the best stone in the world is quarried. Marble not unlike the frozen surface of these surf flecked seas.

The sun just breaks over the land. It must be a marvelous place for sunsets over the sea. Slowly as the orange edge rises over the beach buildings the first rays touch the white wave crests, shining above the grey troughs between, then gradually the grey surface turns slate green.

I retrieve my sandals from under the pile of flotsam where I’d left them earlier, then reluctantly turn my back to the sea.