The River

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Right where the river flows into the lake, see? That’s the perfect image of contentment. I do not think a human being can achieve anything more than what comes to the waters naturally, the release that is a completion of a journey the river is not even aware of.

You would not believe from the surface that my love drowned herself in the lake only a year ago. I should probably stop coming here every day, but the truth is that this is the only place in town that is truly peaceful. I never noticed it before, although I knew she liked to come here when she felt sad.

Sitting here I have too much time to think about her, and sometimes it feels like her spirit must still be in the waters with many others like her, looking at us from just below the surface.

She did not believe in her existence without the help of others, their gazes, their praises. No wonder she was unhappy. I realise now that I should have tried to make her find an existence of her own, but of course she only saw a reflection in my eyes, my words, my smiles.

But how could I have made her whole without ruining it all through my own perspectives, as much as I loved her? It is such a difficult thing to encourage someone so lost because she would have attached herself to any views I had of her. The hunger was too great, she was too impatient to find anything else.

Maybe I was too sure of myself and she should have been with someone equally lost, someone whose passion is not so overwhelming. It was never meant for someone like her, she was engulfed and disappeared into my love, and what first was bliss quickly turned into a total annihilation of hope. How destructive it is, wishing that the space between two people disappears. My boundaries should be mine alone.

But if anyone had told me then that my love was too great to heal her I would not have believed. How can love be too great? Now there is nothing left to do except to watch the river flowing and every now and then letting my eyes wander on the lake, not too often lest the dead might be disturbed or my mind becomes the blank slate it always should have been.

My passion has been spent now and yet I long for a release, not that of death but merely forgetfulness. I want to forget I existed, that there was indeed a journey which brought me to this place. Perhaps the river can teach me something. Listen, can you hear it singing?

Comment. This was written on the same day as the previous one. I can’t remember my intentions anymore, but in retrospect it looks like the two pieces could be connected, the same event seen from two different perspectives. The themes of disappearance, sacrifice and suicide are present in both, even if ostensibly they’re about love. It’s not supposed to describe healthy love, but rather this strange confusion of self-sacrifice and narcissism, which is fascinating while disturbing.

Simple Minds – Someone Somewhere in Summertime

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Another song of longing that yet feels like it’s for someone specific, with images and feelings that are so clearly defined that it’s almost like the loved one is already here. When there is already love within, the line between songs of longing and love start to blur.

There is something cinematic about this, and I associate the tune with scenes that felt like that. One is from the time I used to listen to this song a lot: a tiny street in a small town in Wales, the buildings looking taller than they are because the houses were so close, with just enough room for one person to walk and one car to pass, and the street curving so that I’m reminded of a maze, even if there wasn’t enough complexity to get lost. There one evening I was walking briskly in the rain when I saw a couple kissing, oblivious to anything that happened around them. The rain didn’t exist, and the drab little town was transformed into something special. The blue and the gray suddenly more vibrant, full of life, the rain all the more romantic.

I have seen a similar scene only a couple of times. The rain makes it special because it reminds me of what love can be like, how it makes us forget anything that we normally deem bad, like being wet and shivering, because we suddenly have the confidence that no matter what happens, there is someone near, someone who cares, holding hands or kissing. It doesn’t matter if the world is cold and people are indifferent to suffering. If there’s only one person, that is enough, “Burning slow, walking in the soft rain”.

It’s a simple thought: “Somewhere there is someone who can see what I can see” – whatever we see, there is the wish that we could share it. But it’s not at all evident that sharing is possible, because what we hold dearest may be something that others do not even see, at least not in its full significance. Be it kisses in the rain, an iridescent beetle on a forest path, the softness of moss, the shape of a stone perfect to hold, whatever we find beautiful, what makes the world meaningful, we want to share it. There might not be any intrinsic purpose, or even intrinsic beauty: it is all subjective, and thereby we cannot take for granted that others will understand our view. It is such a great experience to feel the beauty of the world, but right next to it is the feeling of loneliness if we are led to believe that no-one else understands, no-one sees it the same way, or even pays attention to it.

And that’s what the song reminds me of. The sounds, the scents of summer: they may be different in each part of the world, like all the things we find significant in the landscape. Some people look at the hills and the horizon, others listen to a blackbird, want to smell the bark of a pine tree. And the most significant thing of all seems to be the moment when you can share these things, experience beauty together. And when a relationship ends, one of the hardest things is that when you have got used to sharing everything, it’s difficult to return to finding significance in all these things in themselves, without the extra jolt from finding wonderment together, in the world, in each other, in yourself.

Golden lights, dreams so real they feel like memories of the future, of all the summers spent together, knowing not who it may be, what forms your journey of mutual discovery may take, where you might find all the beauty that this connectedness, this communication entails. The recognition of hope, intangible, though the dreams take specific shapes only to fade away. The thought remains that it must be real in some form: someone, somewhere in summertime.

Linda Perhacs – If You Were My Man (demo)

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The fragile dreams, the strength in tenderness. Waking up in the morning and knowing that the one you love is right there, even before you open your eyes. Feeling the warmth, the body close, the skin so smooth. And yet it is just the body. Waking up much earlier, I baked some bread rolls. And coffee. Waking up to a kiss, the first kiss of the day, the first kiss of the universe, for this is how the world begins, in a flash of love that stretches through the day, the dream that keeps on becoming life.

And yes, it may be an autumn day, gray and rainy, but it is made all the more lovely by the contrast when you are aware of the warmth inside, the gratitude; thank you for letting me love you. It seems too glib to say it out loud, or wrong in other ways. Love is a choice, and letting someone in is a choice. Thoughts and impulses are seeds that you may choose to nourish or wilt, and the tree grows into heaven, here in the bedroom, the mornings spent together, holding each other, whether it is for a long time or just for two minutes before the breakfast. It is a choice made each day, and yet it doesn’t feel like a choice but something inevitable because it keeps happening every morning until you can’t imagine a future without this intimacy that makes the world more colourful, the sounds brighter, the scent of the loved one incomparable to anything.

There are no demands at this moment, and gratitude of your existence, of your presence near me, of your willingness to stay beside me, is not a demand either. If such a thing as purity can be real in the human condition, it is this hazy mood, the feeling of surrender and the experience of our souls blending, the secure feeling of always having someone on your side which makes you all the more independent. Because you can dare to do anything, or attempt it, to dream, to fall. No requirements except the willingness to be loved. How ridiculous people’s demands seem: must have certain height, certain weight, a job with good salary, personality traits that are compatible with mine in some internet questionnaire. Yet this is all that matters, the humour of it all: the recognition of value in what we cannot value in ourselves, the shape of your hips compared to mine, the femininity, the masculinity, the different places of softness, the subtlety of shapes, and the sounds you make when breathing happiness, a kiss on the neck, fingers slow on the thigh, with no aim but to express this desire for unity, for connection. How the day begins. How life begins.

We discover each other, discover ourselves as lovable. This is what we could be. One is capable of feeling complete in solitude as well, but as a couple it is something more, shared completeness. The recognition of beauty in a universe in which all beauty is a subjective experience. There you are, opposite me eating the bread roll. Touching your hand, smiling. This is real. I am more real at this moment, being seen, being loved.

And all it takes is letting someone in, though it has to be mutual, otherwise there’s nothing. Touching the skin, but more importantly, touching the soul, how vulnerable it makes us feel, how complete.

Cliff Richard – Miss You Nights

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It’s not hard to understand why Cliff chose to cover this Dave Townsend song. The story goes that Townsend wrote the song for his girlfriend and recorded it on an album that was shelved by Island Records, which then recouped the cost by offering the songs to be covered. The arrangement on the original is pretty much the same as here, including the phrasing, but Richard’s soft voice and slight vocal emphases do make the song just a little bit more tender.

Cliff Richard is not only known for a long career singing love songs, but he’s also often ridiculed for being a vocal born-again Christian. This song seems to hit both spots. Even though it’s written for a partner, the arrangement makes it sound like a gospel song, a kind of hymn. And it’s not a huge stretch to imagine the “you” in the lyrics being God, something longed for, someone who knows all the secrets you have and still loves you.

It’s not an uncommon trope, but one I find quite fascinating because the writer must walk a fine line to retain the ambiguity between the sacred and the profane in such songs. It represents love as salvation and the ultimate meaning of life, a transformative experience that is our only possibility to transcend earthly worries. But it is not always described as pleasant. Some albums that come to mind are Leonard Cohen’s Various Positions and I’m Your Man, as well as Depeche Mode’s Songs of Faith and Devotion (the title itself a Cohen reference, I believe). These albums are filled with songs that are presumably addressed to a loved one, with slight hints of bitterness, while using the language of religious texts

In this song there’s no such bitterness, but some disappointment thinking about the world, the loneliness that is the human lot, and yet there’s hope that love offers salvation. Even if love is present, nights become long when you’re not connected. But what is really required for the connection to be true? I’d say that what you need is a connection to the love itself and not its object, a connection to your own feelings, being present to yourself and the surroundings.

The more sensual you are, aware of the stars, aware of the cold sheet, aware of the wind whimpering outside, the more you transcend earthly worries simply because you’re not focusing on yourself. Ecstasy, considering its Greek root words, literally means standing outside, which I gather means standing outside yourself, the concept of who you are. It doesn’t matter. And that feeling is something very close to what we can achieve with the loved one, feeling complete while forgetting ourselves, whether it is in the little unselfish acts or in the physical union, every touch, every kiss becoming a method of being more present in the world and less trapped in our thoughts.

Of course for many people such an experience is not easy to achieve because it requires surrendering. The layers of protection we place upon our being are too thick to just drop suddenly, so it may require practice. It’s as if the soul is permanently clinched around itself and needs to open up after all the insults, coercion and demands we often face when becoming adults. Protecting ourselves from unhappiness we also place barriers against happiness.

But it’s not happiness that would be waiting outside to enter. It’s happiness that is generated simply in the act of reaching out, sensing the world, smiling, seeing that smile returned, touching another beautiful person, getting to know all the similarities and differences there are.

This surrendering is essential, which is why these songs that hint at the sanctity of love are so touching. It is a shame that pop music in the recent decades has largely veered away from such expressions, preferring strength and defiance lest one is considered ridiculous, too mushy. But love cannot really flourish when there’s fear of being ridiculous. Love is the ability to be ridiculous because you are accepted, no matter how naive your actions may look to others.

And still. These miss you nights are the longest.

Never Enough

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The truth is that writing will never make me as beautiful as you, whoever you are, even though at times it almost seems possible to find a view that would not shift. If I write too much about love it is only because I feel so much and see so little of it, there is too much selfish desire and plain boredom.

You may say that you are not beautiful, that you should have even teeth and clearer skin, but when you give me a smile there is no other definition of beauty. Why then judge myself with different standards if there is so much to love about you and everyone else?

Maybe I simply want to avoid becoming conceited. I do not want to be proud of my mediocrity even though sometimes I admire it.

Even if I manage to discover a perspective, a sentence that brightens the room for a few seconds, the moment is soon over and I am left in the darkness again, scribbling blindly, unchanged except for the growing knowledge of how many ways one can fail to achieve what you can do without effort, the charm in speaking and hesitating and putting on your glasses to see better, although not me, unfortunately.

Words do not achieve anything, they only create impressions, but in the end – when your body is close to mine – all the words scatter into space, they are like stars and I see the vast emptiness between them. All impressions are false except for your fingers moving on my skin, my hand on your hips.

There really should be no reason to write anything, but there is not enough love in this world to turn the head of anyone who does not want it. But love is never taken, it can only be given, and if we are lucky other people have something to give as well. There is no acceptance or rejection either with love because it is not a gift as such, but an exalted perspective that may or may not be shared. And there are no real arguments against love, only rationalisations and empty words like “You don’t really know me,” which more often than not simply means “I don’t find you attractive enough”. But I find that when two minds truly touch each other then suddenly everything turns attractive, the oaks and the brown river and the foaming sea.

So maybe there is a need for words after all, they do not create or reach beauty in themselves but maybe they can help us see it in others. However, there is always a limit to how much one can achieve and at best I can try to change myself.

Have these words brought me any comfort? I already knew what you signify to me, the beauty of the whole world concentrated in one person. So nothing new there. It is what I choose to see, although the fact that it is you was not initially a real choice. I was always helpless.

I should let go of these words now, let them fly and scatter, they have failed to touch me, they always do.

Goodbye, I love you.

Reading this now I’m somewhat disturbed by it, which is good. The long paragraph is the most controversial. No acceptance in love? The feeling described is more about something universal, a mode of being rather than a mode of moving toward an object.

Paul and Paula – Hey Paula

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The real names of Paul and Paula are actually Ray Hildebrand and Jill Jackson, but their duo was named after the song. The melody and lyrics are simple, yet contain clever tricks that make it memorable. For example that repeated “Hey hey hey Paula” in the second line, an emphasis that is gentle yet creates a feeling of urgency, how “Paul” really has something important to say. Naming the characters Paul and Paula also creates a sense of unity, as if they’re almost the same person.

As such it represents a feeling that is common when a relationship is young, sometimes called limerence. It’s a feeling that you have found someone so special and complementary that you’re melding together. Some people find the emotion extremely distressing, because it also implies losing control and the sense of one’s boundaries. In fact, if one of the partners has a poor sense of boundaries it may feel like drowning or disappearing into the lover’s overwhelming presence. It’s one reason for fear of commitment, which manifests by creating distance to the object of love, constantly wanting someone, yet pushing them away.

But no such things here. Instead, we’re given a glimpse of a dream in which everything is resolved once people get married. In the song it’s a vision of people still at school, presumably high school, but often it’s people who are much older who find the song inspirational. It may be unrealistic to expect that life could be so simple: that there is this true love you find at school, then get marriage and share your life every day, and everything’s just swell forever. Yet growing older I’ve learned that unrealistic dreams are important. They’re visions that make us strive toward a future that wouldn’t be possible at all without the dream. No, everything will not go as planned, such is life, but without the dream things could be much worse.

The simple message may thus seem superficial, but I don’t believe cynicism would be any more profound. It’s just a different viewpoint in which such daydreams are given little significance. The claim of superficiality is rather based on the assumption that people aren’t rooted in reality, that they let fluffy dreams dictate everything they see. But that’s not self evident. Daring to dream of happiness can be a choice, it’s not a sign that one is incapable of other kinds of thoughts.

There’s also certain charm in the song not beating around the bush. We get straight to the point in the verse, whereas most songs defer the enunciation of the main idea until the chorus. This kind of song structure declined in popularity in the early 60s. It has a clear A and B section, but it’s not obvious whether there’s a chorus at all. The message and main desire is commitment, and it’s hard to find a modern song that would extol marriage as the highest desire.

I’m reminded of another song that also was a no. 1 hit in 1963: I Want to Hold Your Hand by The Beatles. On the surface it sounds just as innocent, but comparing these two songs, how they’re sung and how the argument is presented, it becomes obvious that The Beatles is a lot raunchier. They’re singing: “I think you’ll understand when I say that something: I want to hold your hand”. I don’t know how the contemporaries heard it, but to me it sounds like: “You must understand that holding hands is just a veiled reference for sex”. It’s so suggestive that it’s no wonder people had extreme reactions to it. And also it’s a part of the change in pop music, how first the veiled references were presented as the highest point of human experience, and then later some sexual act itself.

What’s fascinating about the age of innocence in pop music is that there was so much extolling of holding hands and slight kisses on the cheek, and the rest of it was just implication, so depending on your age and mindset you can interpret it however you like. It also would have been an age of censorship. But a song about marriage is undoubtedly wholesome although it also implies sex. It’s almost like sex is not mentioned, not because it would be wrong to sing about it, but because it’s a small thing compared to the feeling of unity that this song praises. It’s such a rare topic in today’s pop music that it feels almost rebellious despite being conservative.

A Beastly Comedy Canto 1.3

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An undated note from the time I was writing the book:

There is a danger that the author of a philosophical poem produces a work that is too philosophical to be good poetry and too poetic to count as philosophy, because it is difficult to keep a balance between abstract concepts and concrete images. Philosophers and poets both tend to make sweeping generalisations, but for a poet it is more acceptable merely to imply there is reasoning behind a statement.

To clarify:
A philosopher may ask: is this true? On what grounds? How is the truth constituted, is it a specifically human truth, or are all ontologies inevitably based on the viewpoint of humanity?

A poet may also ask what is true and wonder about its foundation, yet there is usually an attempt to state what is true in more definite and concrete terms, concreteness serving as the basis of metaphor. Even if that definite truth expressed is that everything is indefinite.

A poet’s truth is always shifting between different viewpoints, even if the poem is naive self-expression; regardless of the intention, it is the nature of language to be undecidable, each expression hovering in the air between different interpretations, big and small variations depending on the readers’ experiences, e.g. what kind of spruces they’ve known and what they’re able to imagine when a poet writes “spruce”.

For a philosopher this kind of ambiguity is generally not seen as a virtue. Philosophers may use obscure language, yet there is an ambition of clarity, if not of language then at least of understanding. It’s just that philosophers may feel that clear understanding requires overcoming the categories and ambiguities of language. And of course Derrida even made a point of using ambiguities. But he has a lot of detractors too, people criticizing him just as much for his style as what they think he said about the relationship between the language and the world.

Poets may aim at the root of being as well, but the primary concern or the method is not the same. Rather, it’s the whirlpool, the flux in which language and reality become muddled until you do not know where the subjective ends and the objective begins. Hence, for example, it is possible for a poet, or any author of fiction, to dive deep into subjectivity in the hope of finding something universal. Or also, as in the case of this work of mine, to embrace fiction, the false reality of my narrative, so completely that it becomes possible to examine truths that are too horrifying to face in a real setting. Namely the dark side of humanity.