Friday, April 06, 2007

A London derive

I spent the day in solitude, determined to get at least close to finishing the serenely told novel I have tarried with for two months or so (600 pages is too long a book for our times. I tend to agree with Ian McEwan that the novella must surely be the future). I walked from Camden to Primrose Hill, and sat and read, first in a cafe, then at the top of the hill.

A new tradition was in the process of being invented nearby: an egg rolling race. Good Friday is a day of eccentric rituals up and down the land, with egg rolling a feature in several places. The game is quite simple. You bring your own hard boiled egg. The one that rolls the farthest wins. People were dressed as rabbits and chickens. A man with a megaphone orchestrated events.

All around there were clusters of English, most of whom were drunk or drinking that way. I never feel so far removed from my people as I do when watching the English drink. It always seems to be borne of inhibition. As someone who has seldom to need an excuse (liquid or pharmaceutical or otherwise) to feel uninhibited, I've always found it hard to be surrounded by repression as far as the eye can see. Call it the Etruscan in me.

Alone, I imagined all the people I like and love around me, invisibly populating the space as a form of meta bhavana. It seems to me that embracing the invisible is a way in which to conjur up deep reserves of the imagination, and to assuage longing. We are never alone, for all we are is the coalescence of those that we have met, circling inside us, energies passing through. Nameless millions are behind us and in us and beyond us in this way. There are always others, to bring to presence.

And yet. There is always something unavoidably self-conscious about being alone amidst clumps of people, especially when they are a little lairy. Even with Indian classical music on the ipod and Rohinton crafting his tale, it got too much after a while. I sauntered south to Regent's Park, admiring the public space and diversities of activity. We have many forgotten Victorian battles to thank for so much well tended public space in London. Far off in a corner, veiled women were playing games with their young. A magnificently huge kite fluttered in the breeze. Eager games of tennis unfolded. A tranquil picnic in the sequestered space at the back of Regent's College. I found it impossible to think of Lagos ever regaining the public spaces it so desperately needs.

I came across a new concept while in the Dales: podwalking. The enterprising tourist people up there have got downloadable mp3's which you can use while exploring various trails. What an excellent idea for more general creative use! Imagine musicians creating pieces set for specific places and routes. Or podplays that one walks around the city listening to, against a shifting found-object backdrop. A whole new genre is set to burst forth methinks..

I read today that Gordon Brown said yesterday at a summit in Gleneagles that it is impossible to enjoy a good meal knowing that others are starving. It seems to me that this is precisely what humans are capable of, all the time. The image of Bruegel's Fall of Icarus comes into view. We don't just carry on regardless like the ploughman, we actively repress a sense of ongoing tragedy elsewhere. It is almost as if each society devises ever more insidious forms of self-organising collective denial, through religion or consumerism or desire, with epiphanies of empathy at appropriately self-contained moments (Mr Geldof is usually the conductor of the experiential orchestra). Charity repackaging guilt as the new carnival of our times.

As I crossed Regent's Canal, the question came to me: could a future humanity ever puncture this Mayan veil of illusion? Or, despite the increasingly intimate interconnections of technology, are we forever shackled to the illusions of pleasure and eschatology?

Later, I wandered along Marylebone High Street and through Fitzrovia, ending up drinking a Kasteel Cru in a quiet room at the Soho Hotel. Next to me, two men swapped stories and drank champagne, exuding smugness as they talked about their property portfolios abroad. There seemed to be an unstated competition between them as to who could tell the smuggest tale, or talk about the best property deal. Are these really the pinnacles of a life's achievement - to simply have amassed? I wish my ears have an off switch sometimes.

It was time to derive again, with Roy Ayers as accompaniment, starting with We Live in Brooklyn Baby. I moved through the crowds of beautified Soho men to my bus stop. Roy segued. Feel what I feel when I feel what I'm feeling?

Yes. Everybody does Love the Sunshine.

And yes, it was a Good Friday.


St Antonym 11:48 pm  

Jesus is dying for you and all manking and you're busy gallivanting around London. Shame on you Jeremias.

St Antonym 12:53 am  

That should be "mankind", obviously.

sushil yadav 10:07 am  


You have written about Solitude, Consumerism, Affluence, Pleasure, Deprivation and Starvation in your post. In this context I want to post a part from my article which examines the impact of Speed, Overstimulation, Consumerism and Industrialization on our Minds and Environment. Please read.

The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues.

The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature.

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.

Subject : In a fast society slow emotions become extinct.
Subject : A thinking mind cannot feel.
Subject : Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys the planet.

Emotion is what we experience during gaps in our thinking.

If there are no gaps there is no emotion.

Today people are thinking all the time and are mistaking thought (words/ language) for emotion.

When society switches-over from physical work (agriculture) to mental work (scientific/ industrial/ financial/ fast visuals/ fast words ) the speed of thinking keeps on accelerating and the gaps between thinking go on decreasing.

There comes a time when there are almost no gaps.

People become incapable of experiencing/ tolerating gaps.

Emotion ends.

Man becomes machine.

A society that speeds up mentally experiences every mental slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A ( travelling )society that speeds up physically experiences every physical slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A society that entertains itself daily experiences every non-entertaining moment as Depression / Anxiety.

Fast visuals/ words make slow emotions extinct.

Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys emotional circuits.

A fast (large) society cannot feel pain / remorse / empathy.

A fast (large) society will always be cruel to Animals/ Trees/ Air/ Water/ Land and to Itself.

To read the complete article please follow any of these links :




Makioka Sister,  1:41 am  

But Jeremy, denial is more than a river in Egypt, it's absolutely necessary to the human condition. Someone should tell Gordon Brown. We could never enjoy anything if we weren't capable of shutting out all the pain and shame. Btw I love your blog and never thought I would find "In Praise of Shadows" on someone else's booklist.

culturalmiscellany 3:08 pm  

I am not going to give up yet on the idea of a park in Lagos. Having recently driven around VGC I was pleased to see a small park having been protected and people enjoying it as I would see in London - a glimmer of hope ??

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