James Austen's Blog: The Letters of James Austen
May 10, 2016
I am by nature sceptical. I do not entirely trust the evidence of my own senses – if I did I would have been committed to some kind of institution (Church or Asylum) years ago. Rather than having beliefs, I entertain working hypotheses; models and maps for various applications. Therefore Carl Jung may be of interest when exploring dreams or strange coincidences, whereas B. F. Skinner sets the agenda for understanding behaviours. But do I actually believe either of them? Yes and no, though Skinner scores higher for credibility.
I see value in switching perspectives as appropriate, but faith in any particular viewpoint, is a waste of mind, burdensome and apt to make a fool of you. History proves my point, even the greatest of us have passionately believed in absurd and impossible ideas.
So we won’t be fooled again?
Yes and no. Here’s a belief I can never entirely free myself of. It’s quite esoteric, more crazy perhaps than faith in life after death, or invisible entities orchestrating fate. But I keep believing that there is only one perspective and this “I am” is shared by all of us, and the fact it is clearly irreconcilable back to one, is why this world of ours is like a hell.
No one in their right mind would take ownership for the world’s evil. Even loving your enemy as yourself is a tall order. But it is my crazy belief that until we can identify each and everyone one of us (not just human) as I, we are all doomed to suffer. As a statement of faith, it is more a shaky understanding of quantum mechanics than it is theological.
But, as I said, I believe in nothing. Me least of all.
March 4, 2016
I know that no one on earth is perfect. But for fun and maybe to make me feel better about myself let us pretend that I am.
I was born to an imperfect world where the dominant species is transitioning from wild animal to domestic pet.
Although magnificent and beautiful and though she bestowed me with all of her gifts, the planet was cruel and tested me harshly.
I became allergic to human society, human knowledge, education, authority, air, food, God and romance.
I was used, abused, tricked and discarded like dirt.
But I not only survived, I thrived. I taught myself music, writing, science, programming & art. I got better at handling my foes. I learnt how to love.
You could focus only my flaws and they are legion. But then you would miss the miracle. I am an expression of beauty. I shine.
I am Life.
February 11, 2016
I have been diagnosed with dyslexia twice. The reason it’s twice was because my parents thought I was pulling a fast one and weren’t having any of it. They saw I could just about read and rated me as an eloquent chatterbox. But what they did not know is that I could only read something proficiently if I had first had it read to me. Then I could see how the musical notes fitted the melody and then by an act of memory get it right. Even then though, if I looked too closely to the words I would start throwing in words that I somehow imagined should be there. But my parents thought they knew better and put my errors down to laziness.
So at my next school it was only because of my entirely wild and inconsistent spelling errors that the process started over again. This time I was given an array of perception tests and again diagnosed with dyslexia. Though my parents were grateful that this exemption got me through exams I was not allowed to mention it to friends or relatives. It was a source of shame.
When I reread the first novel I actually got through, as a nine year old, I saw I had mostly imagined the text. I think I must have been in some kind of medieval trance turning pages but dreaming my own story. But very quickly my reading improved. The trick, I have already alluded to, was using a kind of synaesthesia, seeing then hearing the words as melody. Still the first read through was slow and inaccurate, so when we had play readings I always had to familiarise myself with the text first.
My spelling, though much improved, remains atrocious. Thank god for auto-correct, I almost appear civilised. Though I still fall in obvious traps – manners, manors, don’t ask me. Depending on how tired or sober I am I can be okayish most of the time. When I truly concentrate on a word the letters literally dance and lazy or not it does my head in.
What I find interesting is the almost psychic element of reading. When I get an author, even a clever author like say Virginia Woolf or William Burroughs, because I can hear their unique authors voice I can read them quickly and accurately.
But then if I have to read something I am hostile to like legal documents or medical diagnosis I see all kinds of word that aren’t there. A lot of them very rude. Double takes can be quite amusing. And last time I voted I put my cross in the wrong place. At least I fear I did. Every time I do the mental replay it seems that way. (So I ended up voting for independence anyway). If I may return to music metaphor, when I can’t follow the melody, like modern experimental music it makes no sense to me and I am thrown. Then my mechanism for overcoming dyslexia does not work.
So why on earth should an obvious illiterate like me dare to presume he could be an author? My squirming reply is that I am a post modern back to basics type trying to go back to an oral tradition. Part of my editing process( and where I find my most amazing errors) is using text to speech software. I need to hear my words read back to me. And I can verify if you hear my voice you get me. Otherwise I am just talking rubbish.
But my parents goading does at least have a tiny element of truth, I am lazy. And right or wrong, as a life style choice, I recommend it. (I don’t count the writing thing I do as work – I do it because I love it).
January 26, 2016
I am a loyal little beast. Once you have won my love (and lets face it, that is easy) you will always have it. That love may eventually be silenced and buried, but nevertheless it remains, tricking me to tears when certain songs are played.
My last memory of being with him was at the after school dance group. I no longer felt special, now it was as if there was something very wrong with me. When other children elected me for a lead part he looked at me with horror as if I was poison. He asked everyone disdainfully if I was up to the task?
I had slipped a long way down the food chain. Once I had been talented, unique and loved. Those early grooming days were for me like a door opening to a larger universe in which I was to have a starring role.
Maybe the revulsion in his eyes was a reflection of the loathing in mine (or maybe by eleven I was too old for his tastes). But my emotions covered the spectrum. Yes I hated him, but deep inside the love was still there, like an infected wound.
December 20, 2015
Recently I have been trying to avoid PTSD triggers. While I accept that therapy and meaningful recollection offers a route out of this mess; all too often one seems trapped in a vicious circle of escalating anxiety as if I have acquired a new dysfunctional behaviour.
So while I try to avoid what has become a habit of victim mentality, I try to remain open to new insights and to understand what happened.
While I remember events, their emotional context is in a constant flux. Sometimes I get it, but mostly it remains chaotic.
So realisations that offer some kind of clarification are still welcome, but I no longer chase them.
Last night I remembered how teachers encouraged me to play the clown in school performances. In lessons my presence was seen as a challenge, not because I was naughty or disruptive, but more that my “cuteness” was a distraction. They put a silly oversized hat on me and had me play the drums with floppy drumsticks and looking suitably bewildered. It worked. The parents let out a collective “awww” and I learnt a little about the magic of performance art. I was mostly unaware at that stage of what this cuteness meant, but was learning to harness its magic.
I must emphasise that I did not see myself as in any way special. I was shy, but thrilled and surprised by my power. Last night I realised that this must have been why I was popular. Other children also found me cute?
I have often wondered what was going on in the mind of the paedophile deputy head who groomed and then abused me. The word cute comes back at me, like a curse inviting the evil eye. As a ten year old I relished my power over an adult. But a year later I was no longer seen as cute and actually felt his hate. Maybe I was still cute, but, as an 11 year old, too old for him.
This account is personal and could be misleading in understanding the sexual abuse of children. For most abusers, cuteness may only be a minor factor. Instead they target the vulnerable. I guess I qualified on both counts.
December 9, 2015
In an ideal world we should all be rounded up and shot. The firing squads would then turn the guns on themselves and the problems of humanity would be sorted. Nature, if it had a mind, might rejoice and give the birds and bees a chance. A few centuries or so and it would be like we were never here at all. As if Eden was restored.
I guess you are not liking that prospect. Unless, of course, you are utterly fed up and running out of options.
In the film If entirely sensible public schoolboys broke into the school armoury and declared war on their oppressors and anyone else who happened to be in the way. The film was made before the era of mass shootings and suicide bombers, so modern audiences probably view it quite differently to how it was seen at the time. The boys seem less sympathetic now.
The first time we heard of suicide bombers we were naturally appalled that anyone could feel so desperate that they could give up their lives in such a way. Previously Buddhist Monks had set fire to themselves as a final act of protest and while some were sickened by their actions, few questioned their integrity.
But now we are so alienated by the vicious antics of ISIS and such like that the tables have turned and any expression of empathy is outlawed; Ken Livingstone was recently condemned for describing the London Tube bombers as giving up their lives. As if acknowledging any sacrifice by the terrorists lends credence to their cause.
I am no apologist for terrorists, though accept that our Christian forefathers were responsible for this unending escalation of hostilities. Their only answer was murder. By comparison Saladin was civilised. And it is a lesson we, in the West, seem reluctant to learn. The fervour behind the crusades simmers below the surface ever ready to erupt.
Today we have modern Crusaders like Donald Trump whipping up the masses with the type of rhetoric that was in vogue at the time of the Third Reich. When faced by such polarisation between the moderates and extremists, it is tempting to abandon reason and seek the other sides total destruction. But I learnt one lesson from poetry.
“We must love one another or die…”
(Sadly the poet, Auden, was later to describe this as a lie.)
November 30, 2015
a frosty romance
a night time dance
one of us is human
the other a mask
crying tears of blood
speaking words of flesh
a lover from the flood
a pearl born in the sea
eating rusty children
spitting out flaming pips
quantum time is leaping past
the word puckers her lips
now would you nuke your Mamma
you know how she hates the cold
just you watch your grammar
your muscles are my hold
you breath my pelvic thrusts
you sleep within my darkness
I’ll eat you if I must
and pass you in my waters
my poor old nipples are glowing
you kick me in disgust
I’m teeming with life and meaning
astronomers dismiss me as fat
I’ve slept with famous poets
posed for painters nude
I’ve got It and I show It
I’m blamed for being a prude
I am your sewerage system
the machinery of your dreams
your life is a living stem
my magic makes things seem
I am a boat in a harbour
I am the consuming storm
I am the tree – the door
the clothes your spirit forms
knitting jungles and forests
a veil to bring me warmth
the body of the flower
the womb of the source
so shape me — break me
I’m as wet as raw clay
I emerge as a spiders web.
as dew crystallizes the day
words are cut away now
the snake has shot down his hole
we’re left with a pantomime cow
which Jack has foolishly sold.
November 5, 2015
Is the cell aware of the bigger picture?
Would you know if you were a cell in a larger being that also called itself I?
Imagine that the planet is a living being. It has grown a electro magnet skin we think of as nature. We are distributed components in a super computer. Our serial numbers, properties and capabilities are encoded in our dna. As we sleep we plug into the mainframe through the interface of dreams.
September 28, 2015
My childhood wasn’t spent in a constant state of embarrassment about my willy and bottom. Though when I tell my story, that is how it seems.
I knew what a normal childhood was. I guessed if families did bad things they closed the curtains.
But I did not like bath time and touch was dangerous.
Recently I started remembering what was going through my mind when the abuse kicked off again, aged ten. I don’t want to be graphic, there are some memories I prefer not to share. But this is how I felt. And this is how the me frozen in time still feels.
.Why must I show you my bottom? Why do you keep tugging on my willy, why do you never stop, are you trying to pull it off? I must be very rude, I must be disgusting if you want to do that to me. Your finger there, the rudest, naughtiest place poking and hurting me. I won’t pooh, I won’t pooh. Please don’t let me pooh.
If I pooh he might tell mummy, “Your son pood all over me. Please bring your children up properly.”
September 20, 2015
I don’t have many romantic memories from my teen years. I wish I had more.
Had one romance that was very sweet, even though it only lasted a day.
He was sixteen, I was thirteen. We had got to know each other in the school play. Although there was an age gap, I was treated as an equal and thought of as funny. I suppose at some level we knew we liked each other, but that only became apparent when the play was over.
In the school playing fields we did the impossible, left our age groups and started talking. We agreed to meet again at lunch. We spent two hours wandering around the school grounds. He told me everything, who he was, what he liked, what he hated, who he was going to be.
There was no hint or rumor of sex. At one point he put his arm round me, and I naively thought I had a proper boyfriend at last.
I assumed we would carry on like that forever. Walking, talking, swapping dreams. But at some point during that day some other boys noticed our friendship and…well I am sure you can guess.
The next day he cut me cold as if he did not know me. The invisible division between the age groups was restored. The bromance was over.