Rooted here

I’ve never been constrained by any sense of what this site is supposed to be about. It’s always arisen from the urge to write a post, in the context of this moment in space and time. The topics have been innumerable, but after all these years I’ve realized there’s no need to index them, when you can search a word or phrase…

From the local hospital, October 2010

I’ve been hors de combat for a few days, still not fighting fit but enough sometimes to let my fingers walk across a keyboard. It’s time to explain what’s going on here at Wayfarer’s Notes. Some weeks ago I realized that its words, reader comments, links and pictures belong nowhere else but here. No e-book, no anthology in paper or hardback.

I’m slow to grasp what may be obvious to others, ever proceeding * by trial and error, obstinately persisting in mistakes.The fool who persists in his folly, that’s me. It’s the only way I know, but seems to work  in the end.

Just as man and all his fellow-creatures evolved specifically to live in the climates and land-masses of Earth, to migrate, mingle and multiply on terra firma, so did these writings evolve as a blog, discrete pieces each written to stand on its own, published across intervals of time. Occasionally they’ve reflected the seasons, or even world events; but I don’t see them as being anchored in time, merely parts of an ill-defined whole. They are rooted where they are: any attempt at transplant will only denature them. Why bother to migrate? Hannah Arendt asked a similar question, when space travel became a possibility:

The earth is the very quintessence of the human condition, and earthly nature, for all we know, may be unique in the universe in providing human beings with a habitat in which they can move and breathe without effort and without artifice.

There’s vanity in being a book-writer, I’ve not been immune to it, and see no reason to call it a vice, but a legitimate spur and provocation to take up one’s lance, to joust at the lists, or vie for a place on the best-seller lists. There’s ambition: to be rewarded for one’s labour with a bid for fame or fortune. Maybe a shot at immortality, a means toward the denial of death, as I proposed when reviewing Ernest Becker’s book of that name:

. . . he succeeded in repressing death himself, by attaining personal distinction, proving superiority to the others and attaining a kind of immortality. What else is a Pulitzer Prize?

I prefer to be realistic, and admit that I do this for immediate satisfaction. One committed reader is spur enough. Failing which there’s my own self.

I’ve loved printed books from an early age, sometimes in loco parentis,  when left with them in lieu of a baby-sitter. They have a longevity which we mistake for permanence. They have a physical presence: you can use them to decorate your walls, recall their content by scanning their spines. And then again, there is the Internet, accessible from a small device which can fit in your pocket. I imagine it’s here to stay.

So, having decided to stay here, on this WordPress blog (just as Karleen and I have long decided to stay here, in this house, this neighbourhood, these Chiltern Hills), the thing to do is to improve the place and make it more welcoming. It wasn’t till I’d transferred every post, plus many illustrations and comments, into a single formatted Word document§, that I started to grasp a clear sense of its existence as a kind of unity. There are certain themes which run through its lifespan. They are its life-blood. They convey meaning and intent, as veins on a leaf convey water and nutrients, rising from the roots of a tree through myriad capillaries.

Sunday July 29th 2007, near the prehistoric Ridgeway Path in Saunderton Lee: Karleen in front of a single beech tree, once part of a much-pruned hedgerow, then left to grow on its own

I’ve never been constrained by any sense of what this site is supposed to be about. It’s always arisen from the urge to write a post, in the context of this moment in space and time. The topics have been innumerable, but after all these years I’ve realized there’s no need to index them, when you can search a word or phrase. Come to that, WordPress offers the option to feature links to related posts, determined without human intervention.

Recently I set up a “console” showing a set of themes which in my judgement have permeated the writing of every post since the first in April 2006. They weren’t consciously chosen, but discovered retrospectively. Together I think it’s fair to say they are the reason I write. They link my life in an Ariadne’s thread of meaning.  Until I started, I had no idea where my thoughts would go. Following your nose like an excited dog takes you places you might not reach by other means. When you have no plan, and go where the feet take you, or let your fingers do the walking on the keyboard, you find answers to the question “Who am I?”. This gets us to the heart of true knowledge, as opposed to the hearsay we are taught. Ramana Maharshi says it’s the only spiritual path needed. When I know who I am I can be it more single-mindedly, not waste my life trying to be someone else. Nor should I side-track myself into pursuing any other ambition. Let my loyalty be to the moment. There can be nothing more strenuous. The reward is freedom. Everything else is escapism.

Freedom allows us to start again as often as we wish. As I proposed in a recently updated post ^,  true learning requires us to set aside preconceived ideas, and begin afresh. Every day a new beginning.

* in “Adaptation
from her prologue to The Human Condition, 1957, quoted in “Hannah Arendt on Action
from “The Denial of Death, by Ernest Becker
§ 2,500 pages, 682,000 words, 416,000mb. Couldn’t upload it to Kindle Direct Publishing. It frequently crashes during updating. Compared to the native blog, it’s riddled with compromises.


5 thoughts on “Rooted here

  1. I read this, and re-read ‘Beginnings’, and it all speaks of knowing happiness, and the roots of happiness, and in your particular case, the routes of happiness. Treasure indeed.


  2. Dear Vincent,
    You would know that I had the same urge of getting published. I would have seriously pursued it too and by now would have published myself. But being a journalist, my works get published everyday and I see my name almost everyday on the page one of my newspaper. I can touch my words, smell them, caress them and as a result has realised the meaningless of it all. The reader just doesn’t care about who has written it.
    Admittedly, it is very different when it is your ‘book’. But I am sure writers also grow out of this and realise the meaningless of it all. First book is probably like the first byline for a journalist and nothing more.
    What I realised is that every writing, story etc. has a life of its own and it finds its readers rather than the opposite. So, if there is vitality in your writings, it will survive and thrive. Case in hand is Yoshida Kenkō, who never wanted anyone to see his writing. And of course, you have your own writer saints who didn’t want to get published, or didn’t get a chance to publish. But their words are the most celebrated ones these days. How does it matter, my friend, book or not?


  3. I tried to write that new post but it didn’t work out, so must tell it here. I recognize very well what you say, not least because there is already a paperback in the world with my name on it: a volume worthy in its way, at least I’m not ashamed of the workmanship. It was commissioned, it doesn’t count as mine. It faithfully transcribes someone else’s life and thoughts.

    Yes, it is meaningless, but it could be worse than that. One might vaingloriously get something published and then regret it. That’s the beauty of e-books. They cost nothing to launch, unless you pay someone to help you. I can’t remember how many times I’ve done that, or sent free copies of some anthology to a few people. The beauty of it is, you can unpublish them, the moment the doubts creep in.

    What I observe in myself is a creative impulse that’s satisfied in small things. It’s very demanding, like a household pet—or a baby. It drives me to little projects, perhaps tiny improvements to the house. (I’m so glad you have one now.) Or things you do that please someone.

    The flip side is when you can’t get it to work, and blame yourself. This is what enslaves me sometimes. To take a mundane example, I download an album on .mp3, when it’s the cheapest way to get a CD. (Sometimes you can buy them second-hand for less.) I know these days you can listen to .mp3 more directly, from a memory stick or stored on a device. But I need to see them physically, so I print labels on them and on the jewel-cases, with all the detail I can get. This is where the mind can go crazy.

    I’m still using a Windows 95 version of CorelDraw but it doesn’t work on current Windows, so I keep an XP partition for it as well as the templates for CD labelling. But now I’ve lost the ability to print from XP and have to convert to jpg and it comes out the wrong size , but I thought I had worked that out too. I wasted a couple of hours this morning on it.

    The album is well worth the trouble. But what led me to it was reading about Leonard Cohen’s novel Beautiful Losers about which Wikipedia says this:

    Cohen wrote most of the novel during two concentrated eight-month periods in 1964 and 1965. He wrote using a typewriter in a house in Hydra [a Greek island] while listening to a portable record player, on which he listened to his favourite Ray Charles record, The Genius Sings the Blues.

    I can never myself write while listening to music, but I thought it must be good if he could listen to it over and over. So that’s how I’ve been wasting hours: expressing my private homage to these two musicians. At least I’ve held back from acquiring Cohen’s novel. I don’t have the curiosity, because I’m reading Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet, whose narrator purports to be composing it on an unnamed Greek island. From what I know of the subject-matter and the (avant-garde) style of Beautiful Losers, it sounds like an echo of Durrell’s.

    But the satisfaction of completing a project successfully (a theme which I’ve labelled “making”, as opposed to art which would be pretentious for what I do) is nothing compared to the simple joy of walking in the fresh air and letting whatever’s there touch my soul. Yesterday I drove to the supermarket (I used to walk, but the strength is scarce and precious these days. Every encounter was a joy, especially as I arrived at the hour when mothers had picked up their children from school. They were delightful. I went again today. There’s an in-store Amazon locker there, it works like magic for picking up things you’ve ordered. No children in sight at that time but as I walked across the car park I saw everyone look beautiful. It reminded me I don’t have to do anything. The best things are simply given.

    Lawrence Durrell would have put it in vivid language, in such sensuous and psychologically acute detail that it could take you there, or something better than that. For you would see through the eyes of a poet. He had it in him, if he hadn’t let it out what would have become of him? I hate to think.


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