Sunday, September 14, 2008

~ extraordinary things

Life used to be flush with excitement. Awesome things used to happen all the time.

But these days, not only is my existence monotonous, predictable and unexceptional, but I would fight tooth and claw to keep it that way. Sure, those ever advancing years are at least partly to blame. And yes, my life is probably a little more interesting than I make it out to be – but reasonable certainty that tomorrow will be pretty much like today is a large part of what keeps me together, helps me stave off depression, be a consistent father, obey the orders of my beautiful wife - and work.

If you’re writing a novel, you need to work pretty much every day, and for hours – in my case at least four. The days go by. The words get written. And I find I’m spending a good part of my mental life in the chaotic fantasy world of Nonesuch.

That’s how I’ve replaced the madness of my youth. That’s how I get my jollies these days. In the mind. The mind.

In Nonesuch. In Alastair Reynolds' space opera House of Suns. In David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. In my library, where thousands of books, accumulated over decades, emanate an aura of profound comfort and potential … I can go anywhere … what's more, in the next room, the internet, and you ...

Did you read the article about cognition and exercise last week? An experimental study strongly suggests that regular daily exercise leads to improved mental function. It makes sense to me, gives me even more impetus for my exercise regime. What's more, a few days ago I discovered
Dr Norman Doidge and the concept of neuroplasticity. The act of thinking actually involves synaptic growth and can even turn genes on and off. Believe me, I’m back doing my crosswords. I'm an immediate convert. No doubt, cerebral exercise is at least as important as physical. Particularly – as I repeat myself like a weary, warped, worn-out record – if the years are accumulating behind you.

They say your mind goes as you die from liver cancer. What a harrowing thought. I’ll have to put something in my will about that. I want to be turned off before my wits go. Just pump me to the eyeballs with morphine and let the sisters of mercy call down the birds ….

Lately, you see, I've had this thing with birds … And I feel I’m about to have a thing with fungus … It’s my way of going deeper, finding the Breugelian phantasmagoria beneath every rock, brick and decaying log … Imagine how much there is to learn about those strange growths … imagine knowing the name of even the humblest toadstool ... Who cares if they’re a hundred feet from the Monash freeway … My god, I’m shivering with excitement!

There’s a whole boring old suburb out there, full of boring old people; there are mundane parks and common species … but when you get into the detail, well, it can transform into a wonderland… That’s what I started out trying to say. I’ve learned to take delight in the little things. I'm learning to find community in the place I live, rather than where I go mental.

Howard Arkley, the artist who lived and died not far from here, was unearthing something similar in his work. Lounge suites, common as muck, burning with neon intensity. But when drugs intervened, then his sense of wonder was whisked away - and he was left with shabby old furniture and a rafter from which to hang himself.

Here are the lyrics to a song I wrote in the nineties. It was for Lynne, the woman who taught me that ordinary could be astonishing.


extraordinary thing

she likes terrifying things.
she likes death-defying things
beware her paperclip and her useless piece of string.
beware the texture of her skin.

he loves convoluting things
he loves interwoven things
M.C. Escher folds his hands under his chin
enthralled by the deployment of her limbs

that girl who lies beside you -
has got the strangest idols

she likes ordinary things,
but she’s no ordinary thing.

she likes mortifying things.
she likes nauseating things.
beware her laser beams and her paralysing sting.
beware her vanities and sins.

she likes aggravating things
she likes modifying things
she wants a murky world where logic is a sin
and where confusion reigns, she’s king.

that girl who lies beside you -
has got the strangest idols

she likes ordinary things,
but she’s no ordinary thing.

extraordinary thing
extraordinary thing

(From Sweet Secretions by Fact. Available in your local remainder bin or op-shop.)


A final note. I've added an important update to the post titled Blue Streaks of Paranoia

Stumble Upon Toolbar DiggIt!


edgar said...

Thanks for your blogs. I've also returned to Mt Waverley to raise a daughter after years of inner city life. I grew up knowing the Hardings at Holy Family,lining up for Bowie tickets at the MCG, shopping at Katies in the 70s, seeing the Ears at the Exford, Champion etc, partying at Berry St and Wellington St and so on and then finding soem comfort being back in Mt Waverley whilst decrying the new ugly units replacing the beautiful 60s style houses. All the best Edgar

Chris Boyd said...

My legs were likened to ski-poles in a poem in the 1980s. (I was a weedy boy once!) And my eyebrows (!!) to uterine spasms. Charming! :P