hey chubby last night i had a dream where i was in one of the many alternate universes in which i had stayed in wagga and in this one i was still with e. and we had four kids and two dogs and our lives were messy but we were happy ha ha and i was reminded of how she loved me with what the dutch call vanzelfsprekend, that’s when something has the quality of speaking for itself, in some cases it can be translated as ‘self-evident’ but it is also often used more in the sense of ‘naturally’ or ‘as a matter of course’ — and then you arrive at that lovely english expression which alludes to the course of a river, and how ‘a matter’ might be carried along by it and naturally arrive at a certain destination if it is allowed to proceed without interference. and this is how i ended up in an unconventional convent, south of the great rivers, not far from the belgian border. i don’t believe in destiny but i believe in destination, albeit one without intention, one which comes about of its own accord, not through a plan dreamed up by some supreme controller with illusions of grandeur.
the dream narrative must have been partly inspired by a french movie called ‘a friend like henry’ which i speed watched last night. i have this little keyboard with a key that will advance the movie by ten seconds so i kind of skip through it and watch it in segments of a minute or five or ten and i don’t have to sit through all the filler bits and i can watch a movie in like an hour and this is useful because i don’t have much time left. of course this only works for movies that are more of an entertainment, you wouldn’t watch ‘stalker’, or for that matter ‘shoah’, like that ha ha.
neil was also in the dream. there was a meeting of the staff of the art school and he spoke movingly about what motivated him to teach and i became quite emotional. afterwards i spoke to him and told him that in the first years i was teaching i wanted to inspire people and help them express themselves and make things which were worthwhile and which had something to say, art objects that would speak to people, but as the years went by i became cynical and depressed and i was just doing it for the money.
sometimes you just have to press the button and you did exactly that and you were the one who showed me where the button was ha ha i remember sitting in abdul’s in sydney with you when you had made the decision to leave the university and i was like ok, so this is how it works: you just do it.
mostly in this life i have allowed myself to be ‘a matter’ which is carried along by the river. i have gone with the flow, as the old zen masters told me when i was 20 but sometimes you experience a need to change rivers. it would have been so easy to stay with e. and to have four kids and two dogs and i would have been happy enough because she would have loved me no matter what and she wouldn’t have stopped. but i would have always wondered about all those other ten to the power of five hundred universes in which i changed to another river and allowed my-so-called-self to be carried to a different destination.
so i might die wandering but i won’t die wondering and i also won’t die wondering what would have happened if i allowed my-so-called-self to be a matter being carried along the course of a river which flowed back to europe, just as forty years ago i was carried by a river which flowed to australia, to sydney and melbourne and hobart and newcastle and wagga wagga, where i spent 36 years which is longer than the lifetimes of some of the people that have inspired me and/or that i loved and who did more in their allotted lifespans than i have been able to do with a life that was twice a long as theirs.
i guess you might say the pandemic has also been a kind of river and it has carried me here to this unconventional convent. i ended up here because i became homeless for the first time in many years, not in the sense of literally sleeping under a bridge, although in some ways moving into a little room at the back of your mother’s house is worse than sleeping under a bridge but i was like, this is delightfully ironic, to reach the grand old age of 60 and to be back living in the parental home, sitting at my mother’s table eating the food she has cooked, but you wouldn’t get your eighty year old mother cooking a meal for you every night if you were sleeping under a bridge ha ha
i stayed there for a year and half and then the pandemic came and everything changed, again, but that part of the story will have to be another letter so…
…to be continued.
ps i had another letter three quarters finished which was more considered and responding more to yours to me instead of this ponderous, meandering and self-indulgent narrative but i have not got around to finishing it and then this morning this just sort of more or less spontaneously emerged also because of the dream i am sort of still half in wagga ha ha but i will finish it and send it to you if this can be called sending but when time and energy are in limited supply and so of the essence you have to try and do several different things at once and also i am trying to write a book so i am almost always thinking about that when i write especially when it somehow turns into a thousand words.