September 28th, 2009


To Speak is a Sin

"We've been around forever
Look at us now together
Ordering drinks at the bar..."

The Autumn turns, and a new chapter has begun. It has been a period of transition marked by richness, absurdity, stupidity, and, somehow, sadness. There is no list of ingredients for happiness. I have tried understanding accomplishment in the past when my expectations were met, and now when expectations and reality seem miles apart. In which other avenues does contentment dwell? Which contracting forces inhibit and repel? Perhaps I represent a wider cross-section and am just left with a little longer to think about it. What exacerbates the problem is having, in some fashion, the components to inculcate myself of something stronger, but without the means to access, control, store, and benefit. Reasons to smile become rings of great wealth which tumble all too swiftly to rest upon the frail crust of magma before promptly sinking beneath the incessant cornucopia of rubble too dangerous to excavate. The only hope is that they are heading for the core.

The most important dynamics have changed so much that I am out of my depth. Less than one week into the tenure at Feltham, I was escaping back home amidst a myriad of worries that I'd moved from one disastrous mistake to another. Having undergone periods of more extreme public and private, facets which themselves now constitute the majority of my professional thought, what I have struggled to come to terms with is the way in which relationships change at close quarters. There are no barriers to hide behind; exposure is full and unrelenting. Facebook statuses, journal entries et al. will be received, scrutinised, and reacted to not (only) by friends from a distance, but those from neighbouring rooms. The consequences elevate to piercing eye-to-eye exposure. What needs to be carefully aligned is that everybody has a personalised use of communicative tools: while some are painfully self-whoring (what is more public emptiness than a public speech-act to say that there is nothing to say?), some are used to say precisely the things that cannot be said in person. This is why friendship with newcassell is particularly inspiring; he understands my boundaries. The only option then is to be private: say nothing, by which no response can be induced, and by which there can be no judgement. But even personal privacy does not protect the inner bounds of sovereignty. Some of my family events can be acquired through background means; I do not know what may be said about me behind my back, even in the same room. I have to face it that there is no control over dissemination any more.

It is important to highlight what becomes the more important issue: that this is based somewhat more on paranoia than substance. The crashing loss of control started 12 months ago, and it has never really been regained. Loss of sanctity leaves a weak shell of a person. Having enough confidence, enough control, makes this much less a problem. To fail in this, and to actively believe in unworthiness is a catching private process, and it manifests itself in ways not always evident. I do not confess to knowing the symptoms in others, other than to empathise outwardly with those who deal with it introvertedly.

Three years ago, I stood in long lines for the enrolment process at Edinburgh, watching almost everybody retrieve sheets from their bags of obscure scholarships and international sources of funding, while I was clearly the plum left to fund himself through the obscenely high tuition fees. Despite this, the 130 mile commute, and not meeting a soul for an entire year, I had faith in my abilities, and thrived on postgraduate research. By the end of that academic year, all the financial and social negatives were more than compensated for by landing the amazing post in Geneva. This year, I turn up at the Royal Holloway English office in July to find answers after 17 weeks of answerless insecurity, only to look like a total imbecile. At the beginning of this month, I landed a 12-month scholarship, which had me flying, for a weekend: perhaps it went with a rib. Faith has not continued over the years. Last Wednesday was the postgraduate introduction day, and one of the most poignant. I placed huge emphasis on this day in my head in a desperate attempt to avoid two more years of social ostracism. (The disparate nature of postgraduate research results in fewer and fewer chances to integrate). Even on the train heading to university, I felt Smeagle and Gollum fighting again. The initial meeting with my fellow colleagues was sporadically interjected with nerves; the later party saw a display of social awkwardness barely matched during Bristol days. The next two years may yet be spent poorer for the consequences of such weakness that I saw no power to overcome.

Socially and emotionally, events over recent times have caused a regression. Like for Marvell's mower, glimmers emerge - the richness of parties, meetups, tuition work, project works - all of which I am scared even to describe because it highlights hope that is refusing to manifest itself, hence frustration at enigmatic forces making complete things incomplete. I had the best night I can remember in a long time on Saturday night at the stunning Hylton Hotel in Cobham (for which I owe immense thanks to the legendary myatt). It reminds me of the moderately cool, witty, fun-loving, and slightly insane 25 year old that I would gladly wear on the outside as the majority, not the exception. Perhaps elucidating on that night would prove hugely beneficial; right now, I am just too weary of false hope. Wednesday could see my PhD topic, one of the very few things left to call my own, altered to a degree that it is not mine any more. I must find the strength, amidst everything else, to ensure I don't lose the fight for control altogether.

"To speak is a sin"
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    Pet Shop Boys: To Speak Is A Sin