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Posts Tagged ‘symbolism’

writer pasternakWhen the compulsion to write borders on the pathological, there comes a danger in valuing the time to write so much we resent anything that threatens to steal the writing time away. To sit, to think, fingers poised over the key-board, waiting on the favours of one’s muse, coaxing out the shape of our thoughts – this is the finest, the most intimate of things for the writer. But in every day life there’s always a list of other things that needs sorting out as well – instead of writing.

I have a tile missing from the roof of my house and the rain is seeping in; the toilet is taking an age to refill after flushing because of a leaky diaphragm on the siphon mechanism; the kitchen floor is creaking because of the way the know-it-all numptys fitted it, and all the handles are falling off the cupboard doors for the same reason; condensation levels within my house are causing an unsightly mildew problem on external walls, so the background is filled with the roar of dehumidifiers, and I am assailed daily by cars breaking down.

These are the distractions that spring to mind without much thinking. Many others would be revealed upon deeper reflection, but I’m not going there for now. All I want to do is sit and think, fingers poised. I want to write and when I want to write, I wish the real world would go away, because there are times when the real world is pale by comparison with the imaginary realms. The problems it presents, though on occasion deeply upsetting – even life-changing – are for the most part laughably trivial – just inordinately time-consuming. But I can only conclude that since they are among our most constant companions, such trivia must in some way be a vital part of our lives. And I am reminded there is nothing in nature that is superfluous.

Fortunately the writer, like the dreamer, has resort to metaphor and symbolism. Yes, even a leaky roof can be read symbolically, also my makeshift remedial actions consisting of buckets in the attic, ditto my failed attempts to get any tradesmen to turn up to put the tile back on the roof. Then I remind myself the roof’s been leaking since I moved in, fifteen years ago, and probably for decades before that. Until it brings the ceilings down, it’s out of sight and mostly out of mind. Now this,… this is metaphorically interesting and its translation yields the following insights: you can’t rely on others to fix your problems. Ultimately you will always have to do it yourself. Also, in the background of life there is always stuff going on we’re unaware of, and it pays to be wary of disturbing stones in case of what should crawl out from underneath.

The creaking of the kitchen floor is harder to read. I could extend the metaphor to include the astronomical cost of the thing and the slipshod service I received in return, but cynicism is never fruitful, since it tends only to root us more in the mire of an ordinary reality. It’s more interesting if I include the idea of a kitchen as the source of nourishment – and more so if I loosen the terms to include forms of nourishment beyond the physical. Something creaky about the place I obtain my nourishment? Hmm,… now we’re getting somewhere. This makes sense, though all to often I hide from the truth of it.

Problems with the toilet are more obvious. No, really. They suggest an issue with the means of disposing of that which I no longer need. Toilets feature in my dreams a lot, too. I wish it were otherwise. Were I able to choose, I would dream of orbiting on the ISS with Sandra Bullock, but what I get is toilets. So, there’s a lot of useless stuff I need to flush away. Well, I’m working on it.

Mildewy walls? Too much moisture condensing on cold externals? Hmm,… even drunk I’d find it hard to wrestle any metaphysical meaning from that one, but let’s try shifting our view a bit: corruption lurking in the hidden places, places that lack a decent airing? Now that angle is much more promising. It makes sense not to go poking about looking for problems, yes, but at some point hidden issues can spill over and become unhealthy, so it’s as well to be aware of them, then we’re not taken by surprise. Beware that lassiez faire attitude over the roof, Michael?

Cars feature large at the moment. There are five cars in my household: wife, two kids, two cars of my own, five, and problems with all of them. Metaphorical analysis: Car – a means of conveyance, of making way, and all grown unreliable – no, not true. The cars registered in my own name are trustworthy, but what sometimes falters is my trust in them due to issues of personal confidence, so I blow up minor faults into life-stopping disasters. Yes, this is a potentially lucrative field. I have the means of travel, but am less confident of the road than I once was. Conversely, in the days when my means of conveyance was patently less reliable, I possessed a disproportionate confidence and journeyed all over the place, though mostly with my eyes closed. Now I have opened my eyes a little and possess the means to go much further, paradoxically, I travel less. Yes,… this is worth thinking about.

I could go on:

Dealing with stuff can be exhausting. We resent the problems thrown at us. How can we be expected to write when the dishwasher needs emptying, the washing basket is overflowing and the clothes line is broken? Well, maybe we should just get over ourselves and think of it this way: if we’d no problems to solve, there’d be nothing to write about. Don’t think too literally here; nobody else cares about our actual problems – they have enough of their own – so don’t go whining on about how difficult your life is. We must exterminate the “poor me” at every opportunity. Problems, difficulties create within us an energy of reaction, and we can either direct it in negative, self-destructive directions, or positive, creative ones.

When we begin to think metaphorically, symbolically, even magically, we climb outside of the physical life and view it as if from a mountain-top. It doesn’t make our problems go away, but we discover there are insights to be had from them. Oh, I admit some of them sound absurd, but others undoubtedly ring true. Like reading an oracle, or the fall of the runes, when it comes to symbols, the unconscious mind will always guide us to those stories that are personally meaningful. And it’s by means of those stories the writer discerns the shape of things beyond the three dimensions of ordinary reality.

But then again we must exercise moderation and take care in how far we go with this kind of thinking or things can backfire. As a friend of mine once said – and referring back to that missing tile on my roof – in some parts of the world it is by no means a complement to be told one is leaking somewhere.

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