RIP Dominic Rahul Lucas

In memoriam immortal of MSN, and the genre of ‘adult alternative rock’ with quarter speed scrubbing and Dave Matthews ‘Crash into me’, the best album ever. Alongside the rise adn fall o Ziggy, obvs.

I would like to share some words of a dear friend, and my response, some  six years late, to them. Before I continue, I should put a trigger warning for depression, suicide, and caring for those who are depressive and/or suicidal.

The person in question is Dom  Lucas, someone I liked greatly from when I met him in my first philosophy class in 6th form. It was apparent at his funeral, that a deep and lasting impression was a response he often evoked, even in those who had counted him only as an acquaintance.

So, here is his ‘rant about life’…

Some in this world seem to cast huge shadows full of interest and spectacular events. It has always seemed that there are a select group of people who fly about making life as poignant as they can almost by accident. 
I know full well I am not one of these.
Yes it is my own fault in some round about way, and when I bring this subject up, people ask questions about what it is that I want to do, or what it is I see that makes this breed of person so spectacular. The truth of the matter stems from Pirsigian quality; some have quality in this life and like most I watch them with awe.
I have known for a long long time that I am more than averagely able to observe people and the world around me. It is something of a hidden facet of mine that I see much much more than I like to let on.
But here is what I actually want to bring to your attention, oh league; what is it, in your esteemed opinions, that makes any one life better than another?
Some among you will reply that there is nothing, but I urge you to quell this reaction and consider it before you speak.
What is it that makes one person able to tap a vein of wonder while another drifts in shadows, hunkering to obscurity? 
One argument may be talent, some are naturally more gifted at one or another of the great artistic endeavours available to humanity (of which there are many more than could fully be appreciated). But I know of such talented individuals who still feel they pale in comparison to the world around them. And I know of just as many with little appreciable talent that seem to grace this world with a disproportionate measure of the sublime energy of joy or humour.
Is it then a case of attitude? Does one’s outlook to life depict the way one manages to draw more deeply of the ‘pap of life’?
As many of you know I have a bi-polar disorder which often makes my own self judgement harsh and viciously unforgiving (I would argue this is justified), but gives me the opposite when considering others. ( I would ask for my own sake and the sake of your fellow league members that you kindly refrain from the use of personalised examples in any reply.) Many incarnations of the greatness and quality I speak of have similar dispositions, Mozart, William Blake, Issac Newton, Plato, Tim Burton, Vincent Van Gogh, Winston Churchill and a great hero of mine Walt Whitman. (I hope, league, that those of you who I know to have a similar disposition will take comfort from this list.)
But this is far from a definite point over the quality I speak of. I’m sure you are more than capable of populating your own list of those you consider great, with most being free of mental ailments.
Perhaps, for the sake of dwindling relevance and growing confusion, I should refine my question to you.
What does it mean to you to be great? To live a life of quality and achieve the creation of, what I hope you all to some extent strive to create, a thing of beauty or worth [with] which you leave to this world. What is this inimitable drive and ability that touches a wondrous few?

 

I first read that ‘rant’ some days after I had heard that Dom had killed himself. He’d written it a few weeks before, in a facebook group he created, called ‘the Extra-Ordinary Leaugue of Eccentrics’, which he proposed, similarly to Ronsil, would do what it said on the tin. He declared

“ As an eccentric I feel it is my duty to (in the least invasive manner) live a life that is by no stretch standard, to hold ideas based upon their merrit not fashion, to live by a moral code based entirely upon morallity and not convention, to listen to as much Yo-Yo Ma as Dave Matthews band, to read any book that suits my particular and multiple tastes and to generally not give a monkies if people want to heckle. 
In return I hope to one day produce something of value and quality that the world can feel has be[en] touched by the mind and hands of an abnormal yet worthwhile being.
If you feel even mildly similarly, please become a part of this league and create marvelous things for the sheer blody hell of it all. Or whatever, I’m not pushy…”

I regret deeply that his rallying cry for like-minded souls echoed emptily into the void of facebook, which at the time, I rarely used. When Dom spiralled into a deep depression by the end of that first term at college, we were close. I tried to support him not to drop out over the break up of a brief and intense relationship from those first weeks, including meeting his college tutor, who I could then not look in the eye for the urge to scream at him when he turned up to Dom’s funeral. But, once Dom had left college, to my sadness, we drifted out of touch. Knowing I might otherwise have contributed to Dom keeping his hope in life is something I keep with me, to keep tags on those I have worthwhile relationships with. Nearly six years on, time to articulate a might – have – been.

  1. If I had read this, when you had just written it,
  2. if we had still been in touch,
  3. we might have exchanged messages for hours,
  4. with my heart being wrenched by the dinging alert
  5. of another justification
  6. of your harsh self-judgement
  7. defending yourself against my insistences
  8. that you do make life poignant
  9. that your hidden facets of insightful observation shine through,
  10. and that I, like so many others,
  11. wanted you as a companion
  12. to unknot the mysteries of the world
  13. and tap those veins of wonder,
  14. and sense the sublime energy around us.
  15. I do not know if you would have heard me.
  16. You loved the pap of life, and that is how I knew you.
  17. When you could not draw on it, it broke me that I could not feed it to you
  18. When I heard you had given up on trying to find a way to live a life of quality, I was not surprised.
  19. You were unreachable in a black pit two years before.
  20. And that autumn you’d started college afresh, and if that did not clear the dark fog . . .
  21. The leaves were crunchy under clear blue skies that autumn.
  22. I believe your sense of beauty was too strong to be blocked out,
  23. and so I stretched my mind to comprehend the magnitude of your despair,
  24. so crushing as to outweigh all your awe and aspirations.
  25. When I let the rain falling down make me feel alive,
  26. I wonder if they did dig your grave shallow,
  27. and if that blanket of earth shut out less
  28. than did your own unforgiving self-judgement.

hoping for a revolution

  1. When a revolutionary moment arrives may you not gather to spectate

    the swarms of vultures are already foretold and they do not raise the dead they document.

    Fling yourselves far and wide

    to carry onwards and bring home the good tidings.

    Seek out the fertile soil in which to grow

    but also in the stony soil pass over as tumbleweed;

    scatter seed as the wind blows you and hope someday a shower will follow close on your heels to perform the alchemy of dust to green shoots to gold…

    2. When there is hope don’t smother it-

    draw it out even to the breaking point;

    shattered hope still dews the pavements on Monday morning

    when the carnival is over a hangover is not too heavy a burden to bear.

    There is sometimes some cause for hope

    some hope for a cause

    some cause

    some hope

    because if there is not,

    what is there?

Spring Cleaning

Metaphors in this song were first jotted down in spring 2012, my first in London. I lived sparsely, in the attic of a friend’s father’s house, and worked 9 – 3.30pm in a special needs school 10 minutes down a quiet road on a bike. Aspirational lifestyle – I had more time on my hands than I yet knew what to do with. A year later I had the opposite time problem, as I juggled three part-time jobs, and I picked up the pieces and made them into a song.

It’s my most reliable song to perform, and actually has a catchy tune and regular chord structure that other musicians can pick up.

Spring cleaning

When I lose touch with the moment I live in/ scum settles in my mind/scum and dirt and clutter, gets pretty obscene/I can’t see what’s before me til I scrub it clean

So much to untangle to much to say/all of these thoughts keep getting in my way/I’ll line them all up at the surface/cause then I can pack ’em away

 

Won’t you help me get my  tidy on? I got some spring cleaning to do

though in the end I’ve got to get down to it I’d appreciate some help from you

 

If I get into a scrub a dub dub I’ll stick at it til the task is through

but right up til I get into that zone it looks so hard to do

 

Dust down those cobwebs they’ve been shutting out the light/ take a deep breath’ sort out those piles of shite/ let the light shine onto that skeleton in the cupboard/once it’s seen the light of day I can put it away

A bit of tangled wool can chill in the corner/ I’ll unpick the knots some rainy day/it’s ok to have some shit that’s not sorted/as long as I can pack it away.

So won’t you…..

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The life-changing magic of tidying: book review

The Life-Changing-Magic of Tidying up: a book review

Marie Kondo is the most endearing guru I have ever had the pleasure to read, and ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying’ is her bible. Cathy Hirano translates from the Japanese for Vermilion books (pub 2014). Her Capitalisation Of Every Word in the contents does not come across as trite and patronising,  instead it prefaces Kondo’s direct, clear style.

Honouring the teacher is a widely acknowledged Japanese value, and Marie Kondo quickly convinces that she is an expert and an individual worth listening to. There is no Gilian Keith style pseudoscience, rather Marie notes an observation and proposes an explanation. Her ideas come from her childhood passion for housewifery, which developed into a ‘serious’ pursuit of tidying aged 15. This is not just another inbred descendent of Lakein’s 1973 classic ‘How to get control ofyour time and your life’ with a thread of softeness from Brene Brown’s ‘Gifts of Imperfection’.

In a nutshell, the Mariekon method consists of handling each possession, and considering whether it is a positive or negative emotional relationship by asking the intuitive question ‘does this spark joy?’. Joy is not widely used in contemporary English, which I think is fortunate, as it asks the reader to define for themselves what ‘joy’ may be in this context. My mind goes to Alice Walker’s ‘Possessing the secret of joy’ and considers what breadth and complexity of feelings may inhabit long disused objects.

I was evangelised on Marie Kondo by my sister in law while I lived in a house with a horrific ex-casino carpet and chronic damp problems under the bed. I bought the book, and read it with an initially skeptical eye before leaving for the summer. In the autumn I descended on my childhood bedroom with a vigor I have never before brought to tidying. Before, the end point was always a clear floor, which I could hoover, and a clear desk that I could wipe. This time it was to resolve my tortuous relationship with objects, and spring clean my soul.

One aspect of her language grated with me: her use of the term ‘feminine’ to designate a life lived elegantly. This is a knee jerk reaction on my part as an individual dedicated to queering gender concepts, and resisting all binaries. In act her book is based entirely on binaries, which are all connected to the replacement of mess with tidyness. This book is a manifesto for correctness from chaos. My family slogan was ‘Nature (and my family) abhore a vacuum’ and this was used to justify the absence of clear surfaces as a constant of life.

Looking around my room right now, there aren’t so many clear surfaces. But I am wearing a jacket that was disused by my friend, as it is a funny linen shape ‘Well, it’s good for writing in, but not really practical’ they explained as I handled it at their house-clearing party. And I am writing  on an impulsively downloaded app called ‘calmly’, and I have written an appropriate length of text that is roughly coherent, and it is now time to get breakfast before I tidy my room properly, for the sake of my mental health.

And it appears that light jazz is the appropriate soundtrack. Actually, scrap that, I’m putting on First Aid Kit. Or maybe I’ll do some gardening.

 

 

 

Writing for invisible audiences

I don’t like it anymore. Well, maybe I do, a little bit. But I don’t need it anymore, and I have a preference for writing for specific audiences. This blog has helped me write when I have lacked purpose for writing, to write for the sake of my need to organise and express my introspection.

Shouting into a true vacuum of space siphons off some thoughts, because nature abhors a vacuum [our family motto for our messy house]. But I want to direct my communication energy into networks now.

Something has changed drastically over the past three months in how my brain and body work together. I think I am better now than I was before.

I’ve  had a few diagnoses handed to me as bitter pills, syrups in silver spoons and disguised as refreshing glasses of water. I resist all of them.

Crasy, psychosis (gateway to schizophrenia), bipolar affective disorder, manic episode, borderline personality disorder, PTSD, none of these are what I want, tthough each offers a cloak to wear on different occassions.. Crazy means a good thing in the local slang, ‘jungle english’, which also has a catchall phrase for illness: ‘jungle fever’.

I’ll continue to struggle to beat the borders in my brain and along the way I might learn a thing or two about #junglefever

Giving up on teaching*

*[not all teaching. mainstream, qualified teacher status teaching]

I haven’t written about education for a while. I’ve spent a lot of the last two years feeling pretty overemotional around my feelings toward teaching. My new year’s resolution for 2016 was not to work in schools all year – and though I went in a bit of a bonus decision limbo tailspin last week – I have now finally officially withdrawn from my PGCE. When I get moments of inclination, I’ll be picking out ideas & reflections about schools & education to write up.

At the end of last summer I had a defined moment when I allowed myself to feel the depth of my disgust for performing to an audience that is coerced to be present and pay attention.

I’d woken on the Sunday of a festival with my head buzzing with possibilities. The night before I’d had hours of venturing, theatrically playing fantasy politics with friends and strangers, drawing out and empathasing with vulnerabilities over the scope of our power and our complicities in the face of global capitalist exploitation and injustice, then eventually finding a group of people to share music with until we were all too hoarse to sing and deadbeat tired to let our fingers co-ordinate on our fingerboards. They said my rarely shared, soul-baring songs were beautiful. I revelled in my capacity, in free forms of performance, to draw people to me.

I went to workshops that morning. First, vagina appreciation badge making. Then a speaker on an education development project, who described Freiriean pedagogy without jargon. The audience were rapt, if lacking active involvement – reminding me of Radical Education Forum’s strength in holding participatory space. Then a theatrical workshop on the museum of love, objects of love. I shared a letter, had deep connection with someone I’d met once before in a partnered activity, and recommended bel hooks’ All About Love.

After that, a spoken word artist spoke of a community and youth centre that, despite its fight, was closed for the lack of 35 000 pounds funding. The week after it closed 40 000 pounds worth of criminal damage was committed locally. His 9yrold son’s performance was testimony to his power as educator as well as performer. When he invited others to take a turn on the mic, I shared the horrors of the exploitation of unicorns with the audience, and it worked. Chatting after, I felt acknowledged by him as a person worth talking to, and we went together to catch Akala’s set.

Akala was giving a truly emotionally generous performance. Sharing his passion with the crammed tent. Believing that his audience was open to receive words against racism, against colonialism, against capitalism. I was rapt, and it seemed the entire audience’s attention was fully drawn in. His criticism of school as one facet of oppression struck straight to me. It focussed my awareness that compulsory schooling is not something children have any choice over, and many children explicitly resist it with everything available to them, only to be coerced by a whole spectrum of emotional and social manipulation backed up by the power of the state to partake in the routines, tasks and other expectations put forward by the school and implemented by teaching and support staff. And the disjuncture between participating in this coercion, and the ethics I live the rest of my life by showed starker than before. If I promote respect for all people, regardless of their position in any hierarchy, and consider consent to be a foundation for any meaningful respect, how can I have a relationship for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, with 30 people in which there can only ever be the illusion of consent?

The self confidence I had gained, from living the expressive, confident self that had been restricted to the margins by the PGCE allowed me to release the fear of finding myself purposeless and skill-less if I were not to complete it. This fear gone, my disgust at the oppressive system I had operated as part of drove out everything still tying me to the idea of completing the PGCE. Two years of my life dominated by it [for negative CV points]? Better not let it have any more. A second batch of student debt? Who says I’ll ever even earn enough to repay it. Less chance of being paid a decent wage in any area of education? Well, that’s pretty unfortunate, but y’know. I’ll deal. I have to admit that I failed to complete a PGCE because of my mental health? No, I do not, because although that was a part of it, it is not the strongest narrative: I am not finishing a PGCE because I fundamentally don’t want to occupy the role of teacher in compulsory schooling.

owl pla

still from an animation of an owl destroying a Professional Learning Agenda (PGCE paperwork)

About Glitter Action Group

Glitter Action Group is a serious project that I’m interested in taking forward, as an interactive art/ immersive theatre project that could take a range of forms. In particular I want to use the liminal spaces of parties and festivals, when people are emotionally open and a step back from their ordinary lives, to process political ideas and emotions playfully.

I wondered about going to the Anarchist Bookfair, to troll it with glitter, because there’s so many people there to take the piss out of, but also so many people there who are awesome. I imagined setting up a mini queer/glitter dance party, and get people involved and glittered up, which tbh would be a more fun way to spend time than most options round the bookfair, and then have some others of us break the terrible news that glitter is produced from the exploitation of unicorns.

Activism is a bizarre and conflicted practice. Many people become embedded in particular sorts of practice, which can develop cultures that make them hard for newcomers to access. Anarchist street demonstrations. V. language aware queer scenes. Ethical consumption. People become so invested in their political & ethical life choices that discussing them openly is incredibly fraught and sensitive. And dealing with the limits of our power living under global structures is difficult. The ways we maintain our sense of worth are varied, and though we can attempt to make choices that are coherent between our personal and political lives if we think we’re truly succeeding it’s going to be because we’ve got heads in the sand to some of the inevitable tensions and hypocrisies.

I had theatrical improvisational conversations with so many people on the theme of ‘Do YOU EVEN KNOW where your glitter comes from?’ – and people reacted in so many different ways. How people think about global capitalism comes across really clearly. From hysterical laughter at the idea of fairtrade redemption (basically anyone who is fucking fed up with liberal lifestylist consumption politics), to ‘We in the west really should be setting an example’ (sincere hippy girl with shit Eurocentric analysis but OMG SO EARNEST), to discussion of the ideal forms of worker’s co-ops, . And the bit I like most is the deeply emotional acknowledgment that it is fucking horrible to be complicit in exploitation and there is no way out of that under our current society.

I’d like to think about ways we can channel the emotions & strategizing & prioritisation of forms of action on the disgusting unicorn factory farms to transfer to real life issues. Like the Duvet Day theatre project where people were left with the contacts of organisations taking action on issues related to stories told in the piece.

I want to bring this project forward with a tight core group of people who trust each other’s politics, but who bring different angles to it – who engage in real-world politics in a range of different ways, with different priorities but shared core values. I want to develop a space where we can operate on a basis of assumed goodwill to call each other in, and make the space as safe and comfortable as possible for a wide range of people. I want the space to be one for mutual understandings and new emotional connections to develop.

I want it to be really fun, and nourishing to be a part of this project. I want us to be able to run an expenses (or more) paid crew who are having a better time than we would attending friendly commercial-ish events as punters (such as Shambala, where this project grew as an idea in my head) or to do it for shits and giggles and catharsis and whatever else we may get out of it where-ever seems a good place. Or to be paid real money to run as a room at a clubnight or arts event that has actual money. For me, I hope to have fun with a sort of project I haven’t tried to make happen before. I want to have time being a performance persona because I love it and have never yet formalised it at all. I’m happy for this project to tick over at a low level until such time as people have the capacity/energy/motivation to make it have particular incarnations. It could just be two people playing with it at a party, and writing it up. Maybe we could spin out the mythology and make an online presence entirely within our fantasy campaign. We could play out wars between radicals and liberals, or trots and anarchists, or clicktivists or those who think ‘identity politics are a waste of time’. We could develop workshops for different audiences. We could follow our noses and do things that feel good in the gut and see what happen …