Tuesday, 13 May 2008

No Wind In Cyberspace

I read, or heard somewhere - most likely heard, which is what fuels my apathy for validating the information - that a particular treatment for certain types of mental illness is to be driven at speed in an open-topped vehicle of some kind, with the face exposed to the rushing wind. The theory, or at least the version I've reconstructed in my mind, is that the sensation of the wave of air buffeting against their skin will in some way reinforce, redefine, or rationalise the boundary between their physical and psychological existence.

Many scraps of knowledge have, through my meandering interests, drifted past me, but I am always fascinated by the ones that resurface after years submerged in the deep-sea trench of my unconscious, and this is just such a snippet. Why it should bob to the surface now, I have no idea. Neither am I at all sure of the accuracy of my recollection of it. But the notion of defining one's existential locus through the galvanisation of one's physical boundaries is intriguing enough to ruminate over for a few paragraphs -  especially within the popularly alienating context of the internet. 

You see, one could argue that it is the internet that finally offers a kind of boundary-less malaise to all of us, irrespective of our metal health. This theory is given shape in Thomas de Zengotita's book, Mediated, where he argues that the post modern human condition casts us as narcissistic, temporary beings, who are so adept at consuming the web and the media in order to form our existences, that we appear set adrift in a bewildering sea of choices, made exponentially more numerous by the knowledge that whatever choice we make, we can always change our mind. 

This notion that we no longer have to stick with the hand that we are dealt, whilst liberating us and stimulating us, must surely depreciate the value of any choice we make. Ours is a generation of online, international window shoppers. Each of us endowed with the ability to instantly quench any craving for information we might have in the privacy of our own browser window. It is the antithesis of the era of permanence, 'knowing your place' and 'accepting your lot' that earlier generations grew up in. We have been handed carte blanche to develop ourselves into whatever we want to be, but this means the pressure is on us to be creative enough to conceive this ideal notion of ourselves. Creativity tends to bring out the self effacing, insecure side of all but the clinically egotistical, so can we really ever be happy with what we've made? 

In the [creative] industry that I work in, it is widely considered that a narrow brief is more stimulating than a boundless one. These restrictions act as the wind on our cheeks, something to resist and define our edges. Perhaps our personalities need the same kind of limitations. Rebellion needs something against which to rebel, and it is times of necessity and flux that generate a need for growth and fuels our creativity. So are the free and liberating conditions of our online emancipation fertile grounds for the formation of creative and sincere personalities at all? Or are we stabbing aimlessly in the vast vacuum of a limitless existence? It seems that the internet is expanding so rapidly that is gives us the sensation of speed, that our lives are hurrying along with it, but perhaps this is just an illusion. Perhaps it is only the internet that is moving and expanding, whereas we are just orbiting along its edge. 

So what, I wonder, is the remedy to this state of affairs? What vehicle do we board to ram our faces into a fast moving, life affirming stream of air? Well, curiously enough - considering my penchant for leaving my analogies and metaphors stranded above the tide-line of reality - I suspect by logging-off, stepping outside, and actually feeling the breeze against our faces, or the sun on our backs. Whatever makes us feel that merely existing represents a welcome respite from the endless hours spent at the helm of Facebook, sculpting our personalities.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Microscopic Pleasures - Part 1

I just lost myself. Only for a few moments in reality, but as is common in dreams and other types of reverie, my inward perception was that I was gone for hours. 

It's difficult to say whether moments like these constitute the happiest times in my life; their nebulous, ethereal nature makes judgement through rational means, and the subsequent ability to use this as a benchmark, virtually impossible. Just as the mnemonic scent of an past girlfriend's perfume, or some childhood aroma (always capable of provoking Freudian levels of latent emotion) will evade you the more you try capture it, any attempt to solidify these moments of pure unfettered pleasure will always prove fruitless. The perceptive life-raft drifts away, repelled by your own frantic attempts to swim toward it.

So what exactly was it that caused my unconscious mind to grab the tiller for a while? Well, despite the drama of my ramblings thus far, something deceptively mundane - a glass of Sangiovese and a plate of bruschetta. It was the kind of spring lunch that inspires you to open the window and holler to confused neighbours, a pledge to enjoy every remaining Sunday of your life in this way, politely ignoring your own suspicion that you won't. 

The bruschetta was a slightly adapted version, fried in golden olive oil rather than toasted, which gave the ciabatta bread the crystalline appearance of having been petrified in oil. It was accompanied by two slices of fennel seed salami, sliced into semitransparent discs overlapping each other on the plate like an old fashioned map of the world where meat and fat vie to be the most dominant geographic feature. Next to this was a ribbon-like pile of prosciutto so fine in texture it was difficult to believe that in a previous life it was part of a pig and not conceived and built by a team of craftsmen. Each mouthful livened my senses. My eyes closed and my perception turned in on itself. I shut out the world and drifted off into a place where the extreme highs and lows of my life were replaced by the nuances of flavour in my mouth. For a few seconds my real-world yardstick had been re-calibrated and I was cut free from the nagging concerns of everyday life. Yes! All this from food. 

And then there was the wine. Very much by chance it was one of those gestalt glassfulls that enjoys an almost symphonic union with the food with which it is served. Each slug de-glazing my mouth to re-ignite the flavours from the food and supercharge them with the complex flavours of the wine that develop and change as the liquid travels across my tongue. There is nothing quite like that pregnant moment as you suck a globe of wine into your mouth and hold it there, feel its weight and anticipate its flavour, placing unconscious bets as to the outcome, before releasing the sluice gates to your taste-buds.

It may seem gratuitous to describe common objects in such detail, but this precisely the stream of thoughts that wove their way through my mind with each mouthful, in real time - and this is what I treasure about experiences such as these - they slow me down and force me to perceive what I'm normally too preoccupied/lazy/busy to really savour. 

The idea of 'living in the moment' as a creed is certainly a banal, unoriginal and for most of us, an unobtainable notion, yet it still appears to represent and ideal state of affairs. A utopia where were are set free from the long-game of finance, career and relationships and can experience things in an untainted, innocent and liberated way. That all sounds great, but I think I'll stick with the demo version for the moment. It has certain limitations, but is much cheaper at the price of a bottle of wine, a loaf of bread and a few quid at the deli. Who knows, it may turn out to be a gateway substance and I may start losing myself in the genuine enjoyment of all kinds of things.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Fashionably late to the blog party

Blog. Why? There are plenty already in existence and, in fact, several of my good friends are currently weaving their threads into the world wide web in a far more useful way than I'm capable of. So I've decided to write one for no reason, and without any unifying theme or cohesive structure, or at least without one that occupies my conscious mind. I'm fairly sure some people might tell you that this mirrors my attitude to conversation. 

You see, I have always wished I was the kind of person who rationed out his pearls a little more conservatively. A man who, without affectation, conducts himself with an air of enigmatic quietude tantalising enough to lull those around him into hushed anticipation of the next enlightening hit. Unfortunately, I can't help myself. My verbiage amounts to the conversational equivalent of emptying my dustbin on someone else's lawn. 

I quite regularly find myself painted into an anecdotal corner, where suddenly the name or theme that inspired me to pipe up in the first place, evaporates. I'm fairly sure that I have all kinds of cultural or philosophical opinions that queue up behind my brow waiting to be despatched like paratroopers into a conversation, only to find that upon pulling the cord, they release a cartoonish stream of packed lunches rather than parachutes. Names, in particular, escape me. I can get almost all the way through a repost that was inspired by and pivots entirely on the identity of some writer, actor, musician or director, to find myself alone and blethering in the gap where their name should be. How can anyone take my contribution seriously, when all I can muster is "well, I think, like a lot of early 20th century American writers, he owes a lot of his rather choppy style, to... thingy, you know the one who wrote that book. A contemporary of that other guy". I kill conversations.

I've attended countless seminars pertaining to communication many of which have expounded the virtues of taking a breath and thinking before answering a question in order to give a calm and considered response - a tactic I have most certainly intended to employ. In reality, however, my proclivity lies more towards expressing myself almost always without thinking, often before breathing and sometimes even during a breath, resulting in all kinds of spluttered, wheezing nonsense. You see, I'm in an awful hurry. I have no real idea where I'm going, in fact, I'm not even sure if I'm going anywhere at all, but I just know I need to keep going, to keep processing.

This blog, then, is perhaps an attempt to slow the verbal spillage from my mouth and arrange in in front of myself, much as one would arrange Scrabble tiles, in the hope that I can divine some meaning from it. So, please just go about your browsing while I tidy up this mess.