The unravelling of the knot
The Gordian knot was not untied. Alexander took his vorpal blade and, snicker-snack, cut through that troublesome tight-twisted rope. He was a cheat and a better reader than his convoluted Hellenistic professors: I kill, I take. My new eye blinks and now I see the great Khan jumping at an opponent’s throat and laughing with joy as he severs the tendons in his neck: another knot unknotted. Violence, power and aggression: destruction. This is the reading that was lacking in the penitentiary! What pale and vapid cloud-stuff emerged from those prison schools where the young were taught to obey and get the answers right!
Limp Socratic teaching went bumbling towards a society that was supposed to be ever nicer and more tolerant, but was silent in the face of state violence against the poor and the dispossessed. The pseudo-wise turned their heads away from magnificent acts of studied cruelty unleashed upon the weak. Especially when they were in foreign lands. Especially when their leaders had moustaches and bushy beards.
I sit upon my bony arse. I’ve dug a pool in the centre of the garden where I can look down at the reflection of my moon face with its one lantern eye. When I blink I call Andrew the Scientist into view. I blink again and there is Max. Now Peter the Painter appears with his urgent need to foster creativity. Seventeen is a teenager and I still want to know what the pruning achieved. Behind me the clematis climbs the bower and I know the intricate evolutions of its climbing and branching cannot be subdued with logic: Alexandrine knife-work is needed. The snails crawl over my skin as I sit in still silence meditating on these questions and passing images in front of my one seeing eye.
The threads unravel from the navel of the world. Andrew opens a letter with his breakfast tea inviting him to a conference on the application of big data to genetics. DNA testing has unfolded like a flower. Hundreds of thousands of people pay for the swab test and their codes are loaded into supercomputers giving a previously unimaginable link between what we are and what we do. Behaviour, once the prerequisite of priests and novelists, has acquired a new significance in his radically secular world. Myths and legends melt like ice on polar caps. Movements of populations give the lie to hero stories. History gives way to archaeology. Salvation cedes to happiness measured by coefficients and algorithms.
“Who are you, Andrew, my friend? We have spent hours debating the way to see the world and I never got to know you. Can our friendship only exist in the interchange of opinions? I know you do not like the mysterious aura of vague uncertainty, but I wonder why me and why you. Is there not a secret mystery in that friendship across barriers of difference?”
He is looking out the window at a blackbird hopping across the lawn. His newspaper on the table declares the separation of Britain from Europe. A dark v crease is etched between his eyes and I know his mind is tempted to dark paths: let the scientists decide; why put up to the vote of ignorant, hollering yobs the future of a whole country, a whole continent? Only his liberal education pulls him back from the dark, Platonic brink of a Republic governed by the wise elite; only his intuited sense that this would be the creation of another priesthood of privilege and self-serving. He has been bucking against that since he was at school.
He doesn’t know Max. Their paths were never likely to cross without me as a bridge, separated by a chasm of difficult understanding. Max is walking across the park to his clinic where a wealthy banker is coming with an appointment for power meditation. Awareness, says Max, gives you a sharper sense of your animal self. You do not need to be the victim of your breeding and your biology; you can better yourself. Meditation and extreme sports enable you to sharpen your sense of what is happening around you. He promises a high reward to people who pay him big money to sharpen their sense of the now.
He only reads sacred texts.
As he is about to walk past the familiar beggar at his regular post in the doorway next to his office, I lean forward over the pool and push my finger into the water. He doesn’t feel the touch. His head is flooded with images. He looks down at the young man with his badly-written cardboard banner.
“I could sit here,” he thinks. He sits.
The young man eyes him suspiciously and makes space for him on the step.
“You can change yourself,” Max says.
“If I get enough money to eat…”
“No. I mean, you don’t have to be like this. I can show you.”
“Hahahahaha,” the beggar laughs. He stares Max in the eye. “You don’t have a clue.”
“It’s what I do.”
“I know what you do.”
“I open people’s eyes. I open the channels of energy so that their lives can flow.”
“You float around rich people making them feel better about being hard,” the beggar says.
“It’s not like that!”
“It’s not like this either! Why do you think you understand anything? What do you know about me?”
“I want to know.”
“You don’t. No one wants to know this. This sucks.”
“None of those rich fuckers who go into your office looks at me. They never dip into their pocket. I know about you. This is the first time you have even seen me. You open people´s eyes? What a laugh! You can only know about me from this position, from down here.”
“But you don’t have to be here. You could raise yourself.”
The beggar’s eyes light up with fire. “Listen,” he says. “This is the deal. You give me money and you feel better and I can eat. The deal is not that I have to put up with your shit. You want to know about this? Run away from those nasty rich fuckers and live on the streets. There’s no other way.”
Max considers this. The shutters come down. He gets up and goes into his office to meditate. By the time the doorbell rings he is certain he did and said the right thing. His energy is realigned and he is prepared to confront the banker.
The pool is a mirror. Night has fallen. Dew soaks the grasses; slugs and snails leave their silver trails across paths and plants. The moon is reflected behind my head, beautiful goddess of chastity and change. Ah Artemis, night huntress, can I be an acolyte? I cannot live with my neck bowed over this pool. Its reflective surface is no better than the idiot screens, my voice no more than cant if, even here at the centre of the world, I do no more than dip my finger to ripple things that cannot change. I stand. My legs are stiff. I arch my back and spread my arms in prayer as the ancients did. I turn my moon eye up to the sky moon and praise it.
Swift-footed Hermes comes tripping through the night. His golden sandals flicker with reflections of pewter light. He rests his back against my legs and dips his caduceus in the pool. My head is lifted to the moon’s wan light. Time seems to have slowed down so that all my movements are stuttering slow; Hermes is a fast one, but even the snails are moving faster than I. My throat is dry and I cannot articulate.
“Don’t talk,” he says. “You’re good here. We’ve decided you can stay. Just open your arms and stretch them to the light. Go silent. Look and look and you will see; listen and you will understand. Better not to talk though, better not diddle your pinky in the pool.”
His laughter erupts like the tinkling of bells. Coarse bark covers this wrinkled skin, follicles turn to stoma and hair to leaf sprouts.
“I’m taking the boy, already dressed him in his walking gear. Look! I am sending him across boundaries. He is crossing frontiers. He is better than you think he is. Not that it matters now, eh? He is breaking through and you are breaking out.”
As he says this, buds burst into flower on the weeping cherry in the centre of the potager beside the circular pool that is the navel of the world.
C falls in love with the tree. She likes to sit in its shade and relax when the heat of the sun is too much for garden pottering. It seems to adjust its leaves around her. Her husband is a roly-poly man of good humour who likes to giggle and eat. He only reads cookery books, chuckling as he thinks what he is going to put on the table for her.
Meanwhile, on distant plains J is talking to strangers. Around him the world revolves in its continuing cycle of cruelty and oppression.