I have given myself the challenge of writing a blog in 45 minutes, a break-neck blog. The time is now 13.14. This is for two reasons – first I find if I allot myself a whole evening to write a blog the symbiotic evils of procrastination and self-censorship limit my output, because I am fearful of what I think and what the writing process might reveal. The second reason is more practical – I am going to the Respect Festival in Belmont Park, Exeter:
It is Exeter’s annual celebration of diversity and always a vibrant affair. Two years ago I was very taken with the musical talents of Dr Joel – an Indian performer who fuses an eclectic range of styles. Highly skilled, vocally dextrous, adept at numerous instruments, yet somewhat naïve sounding, somehow nostalgic and curiously sexually charged, he has it all. I implore anyone reading to check out his MySpace page, it’s not been updated for sometime but please listen to, what is for me, his greatest hit – “Ravenous Like a Tiger”:
Re-routing from that diversion, GPS reset, I will now head back onto the main path. Having attended the festival for the past couple of years I intend to volunteer this year, feeling it will allow me the opportunity to put something back, as it were, and become more fully involved in the community experience. I have been interested in taking more of volunteering opportunities in recent years. I think it must be my approaching middle age that has awoken a yearning in me to contribute something wholesome to my environment and in return by nourished by the stronger attachment to the community at large that I suspect I may yearn for. Last summer I started volunteering as a gardener at St Sidwell’s Community Centre, located in Sidwell Street, Exeter.
The centre has a sunken, paved garden populated by raised beds, and is found just off the main urban thoroughfare asSt Sidwell Streetgives birth to the high street. Charmingly secluded I can spend an afternoon happily enmeshed in a state of potter-fication – pottering about that is. Pruning this, watering that and planting seeds to grow various varieties of vegetable. Nothing of note has grown yet but I have had fun making my own cloches (polythene covered structures to enable protection and growth of vegetables during the winter months). These past few months a riot of plants have erupted from the cloches, fighting for the limelight. I don’t know what’s what, I have made some ill informed attempts at weeding. I can’t remember what I have planted, the writing on the plastic labels I have planted in the ground identifying my crops has been rudely rubbed out by the weather, but I hope for the best. In case that plan doesn’t work out I have recently planned a range of vegetables, sweetcorn, carrots, lettuce, broad beans, peas and so on. I have fervent hopes this year that I will produce results – if so I will be able to donate some of my produce to the community centre café.
Whilst gardening there I have made one special acquaintance. An 82 year old man called Clive, is dour and northern but has a quiet, contemplative presence that I enjoy. He no longer volunteers there, having fallen out with the management but we remain in touch. I even persuaded him to take part in my group’s entry for the Exeter Phoenix 48 hour film festival last year – and I discovered he had a natural talent as a silent film actor, physical and expressive. My friendship with Clive has fostered a realisation that age shouldn’t be a barrier to relating to another human being. In any case we all share the planet with all its inhabitants for such a short time that there is no real difference I feel between an elderly person and someone in their prime. Why not connect with as many nodes whilst we here as possible? Whilst on the subject of this realisation I have tried to think about life recently, all life, as one body. Rather than see myself as an individual I try to think of myself as one offshoot of a branching tree, a rhizome in a network of nodes. Why have I been thinking in this way? I think it is for the same reasons I am attracted to volunteering, I am seeking some deeper immersion in the world around me. There seems to be a level of expression that goes beyond the verbal, and intangible quality to existence that can only be experienced not conveyed. Which is why art has a place in society – rather than direct descriptive expression; as afforded by the traditional, Netwonian and mechanistic, world view of science – art allows a sideways, lateral peek at reality. Modern science on the other hand has become more mystical – quantum physics introduces uncertainty back into the realm underlying reality. In quantum physics the world cannot be understood directly, it is interpreted in counter-intuitive, counter-logical models of how the universe behaves. My recent reading of the Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra has advised me that Eastern Mysticism has a lot in common with modern physics. There too – understanding is not directly possible through verbal description, but must be understood by a series of puzzles that take the conscious mind out of the equation. Reality can only be accessed sideways – you cannot perceive it directly.
And my time is up, it was short and I am surprised at the direction I took but I quite enjoyed taking a little mental stroll. Please insert inspirational final thought here. If none comes – break glass with hammer and use emergency idea. I think there must be at least one pre-installed in the back of everyone’s brain.