Monday, 16 December 2013
Hopeland (Notes from Corsica): 23: Saudade
Every day I sit down with my guitar.
I take the time to reflect.
Time and a guitar; a comfort blanket and a dream catcher.
Songs come easily, but is the first thought necessarily the best, or is that lazy thinking?
I'd like to think of myself as an original thinker, but have come to know that I'm not, something that each new song confirms.
So I cut my cloth accordingly and work within myself, attempting to illuminate the mundane stuff that colours my everyday life, and hopefully present it in such a way that it connects and resonates with others, perhaps as a 'penny drop' moment.
Sometimes we don't notice the obvious.
The artist’s hope of presenting a singular vision has distorted many a creative talent, affectation parading as individuality. Sometimes individuality can get compromised in order to acquiesce to some third party’s sense of genre; others can too easily define our lives for us.
I do what I do because I’m inspired to write and am able to do so in my own sweet time; it makes me happy that I can produce something from nothing and on my own terms. This ‘gladness’ is a bi product of my labour and a rare pleasure.
It makes me mindful.
Genuine delight seems an uncommon commodity these days. Somewhere along the line ‘happiness’ as a right rather than an unexpected serendipitous gift. It’s become an expectation, as materialistic a demand as soap or shoes. TV shows us life’s possibilities, easy credit offers untold opportunity, but there is no labour involved in the acquisition, no pride in achievement or respect for the achievement of others, no real aspiration and ambition, just envy and frustration. Somewhere along the line it seems that we have diminished the ‘delight’ of flighty folly and have forgotten the pleasures to be gained from passing things on, handing them down. Possessions were once cherished, and then bequeathed. These objects connected us to the past. They told stories. Their inheritance invested them with unspoken worth, a silent reminder of those who went before. The potency of these objects cannot be underestimated; solid markers in an ephemeral landscape, they mapped out our journey and reminded us where we had come from. We kept these treasures in a biscuit tin under our beds.
The pleasure of treasure…
Now, fashions come and go. Labels change. Things break, we don't fix them, we replace them; it’s no surprise then that we’ve forgotten how to value things.
As children, with uniforms and chants of prayer, we were educated to conform. Now as self-defined ‘free spirits’ we find that we have painted ourselves into a corner, isolated and yearning for a past where we once ‘belonged’. We look under our beds and find nothing but dust, so we compromise our past imperfections by conjuring substance from the shadows. And so the rosy glow of nostalgia colours and becomes us; our personalities are redefined. Without the currency of 'developed' character, true individuality is fabricated not fostered.
You can have too many options, too much choice. Choice begets change. Change begets loss, but change and development are vital for survival, moving forward. Maybe we lament the things that we miss because we did indeed miss them, or worse, we didn't notice them at all.
And so we become wistful about the past, and fearful of the future; we don't live in the moment, we wrestle with the possibilities of what's beyond the moment.
There is a Portuguese word 'saudade' which is defined as 'a terrible yearning for a past that never existed.' Nostalgia is really a yearning to reclaim lost lives or missed opportunity, hence our sentimental connection to the things that have shaped us; our parents, our childhood, lost friends, music, books, TV and films of a particular era.
There is nothing quite as sweet as the grey warbling of a bird near extinction. We push things towards extinction, and only when we're fearful of their loss, do we cherish them. Why do we need to make things rare, when we should celebrate the common place?
Meanwhile as we respond to ever increasing stimuli we don’t necessarily relate to it. We see the shape of things, but not the texture. We know everything, but is there a genuine understanding? With so much data in the file we seem to have difficulty apportioning genuine value to things.
We are in danger of becoming sensually deprived; we don't know nature, our own nature, ourselves. The common ‘buzz’ of the 24/7 communications age has rendered us over-stimulated, our touchstones have become mobile phones and laptops; we have to keep checking for messages to see if we are valued.
It’s a bit like looking in a mirror to see if we are still there.
We have become too distracted to be happy, when happiness depends on us being present, in and of the moment. I think that we need to simply disconnect and learn to be alone again, to reconnect with our imaginations, to re-engage with our sense of wonder.
Someone once wrote "Wear your life loosely, it fits better that way." The past is the authentic fabric from which we are made; we define ourselves by how we cut that cloth. The filtering of memories enables us to come to terms with what we have become, how we have tailored ourselves.
I feel an increasing sense of emotional isolation. I internalize and only really release through song. I sense that we’re all increasingly looking inwards, taking pride in ourselves but lacking any sense of ‘place’, essentially denying ourselves the benefits of community.
The currency that keeps us vital is life itself, and our vital perception not just of life as it happens, but of our processing of that experience. Our value is not just what we could be, but what we are, what we have become.
The further we grow away from our histories, the more obvious their influence becomes, and the more we idealise and cherish that influence.
Reviewed and rewritten, our past becomes us.
With this benefit of hindsight, how can we be disappointed?
Corsica had gifted me a perfect day in the sun, now I needed to live beyond that day without corrupting or resenting the memory of it.
I’m learning to rekindle hope.
These fleeting cherry blossom moments in Corsica have taught me to cherish the past, accept and recognise its vitality, but not to live there.
When it comes to ranting about the transient joys of all things bright and beautiful, Keats got there long before me, but I believe that William Blake nailed it best when he wrote:
He who binds himself to joy
Doth the Winged life destroy
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise.