COMPASSION AND THE PAST

A long time ago someone I was close to started talking about compassion. They later apologised for their behaviour personally in, I guess, a ‘battle of the sexes’. It made me so angry though when someone both close to my heart and to my work, much younger than me, then suddenly started using that very same word, as if they had just discovered it, and they had done nothing wrong at all. As much as the words, or their own great life revelation on their behalf is that ‘life is unfair’! Tell me about it, but perhaps we should try a little harder. If I had been less vulnerable, perhaps I should have seen that we only understand what we can understand at the time, and all have our own roads, and ways of growing. Yet it suggested not compassion, but some kind of ghastly superiority, as they made me the most revolting person who ever lived. I should have been bigger than that. I think my novels are compassionate, and I think I have tried to be compassionate too, through a great deal of feeling and thought, and I have sometimes got it wrong.

But maybe we can all find a deeper and realer compassion for others and for ourselves. The sufferings around the world can be far worse than anything I’ve gone through. When I was in Rome I read and started blogging about Krishnamurti’s ‘Freedom from the Known’. If grief is fear and the draw of the past, then acknowledge it and stand in your own fear and ask why. When I was so alone, almost had everything meaningful a human being can stripped away, there were awful moments of fear, but also a sense of enormous light beyond all that, always there, always just around the corner. There still is, but it takes peace and forgiveness to see it, and to let it bloom inside you. Really it is the joy and especially real creativity that adults can lose.

I don’t like the gloopily religious, though I am interested in ideas of ‘God’ and faith, as much as rational and very irrational science, but I did find huge meaning in another quote used in Scream of the White Bear, from The Tibetan Book of the Dead, from a book on stories throughout literature called The Seven Basic Plots – “Recognize the boundless light that is your true self and you will be saved.” Saved from what? Not to me some revolting idea of a vengeful after life, but from the loneliness and the dark that can make a hell for the individual, in the here and now, and reflect the hells we sometimes see all around us in the ‘real’ world. An ex also called me ‘mad’ and ‘deluded’ and it made me touch real madness, which is only disconnection from the flow inside and out, because if you see a wound, surely you don’t pour salt in it, or kick a person when they are down. In my jokey way I blogged a long time ago that I was the guy ‘Who Mistook his Wife for a Publisher’. It was a reference to that very compassionate American psychologist, Oliver Sachs, who says so many fascinating things about art, the brain and consciousness.

A book I was strangely influenced by as a young man, apart from Steppenwolf(!), was John Fowles’s The Magus. He later backed away from an enormous best seller and seemed rather to disown it, for other novels like The French Lieutenant’s Woman. He also said something like ‘I don’t know all about this God thing, but I know Hell exists.’ Somewhere you can see exactly why, in the Magus, and in the question mark about the modern, liberated woman, in the two possible endings of The French Lieutenant’s Woman, the dark and the light. A writer’s danger is that they are one the inside, and the outside, if they are any good, and they write about experience as they perceive it, and it can catch them in their own lives. I know what my hell was, it was vacillation in that fundamental ‘fight or flight’ mechanism, and then losing true respect for the feminine and a connection with it, but if it is outside in the people we love, it is also inside Men too. Phoenix Ark really was started to try and find some connection in a world that can be very tough and frightening and with artists and writers supporting each other, and it will try to go on doing that. It was enormously important to me when I reached through all the politics of business and publishing, of agents and deals and publicity, and readers wrote to say how my books had touched them, because it restored belief in my own value as an author. Try and forget the self regarding man, and I’ll get back to storytelling, if the modern publishing world allows me to.

DCD July 2011

Erratum, getting a bit sloppy and overworked

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