Saturday, January 12, 2008

12th January 2008
Its late, I can't sleep. just back from the Lyceum, for the opening night of Tennessee Williams' play.
The Glass Menagerie: I don't want to attack it, it's beautifully written, nor grumble about the production. It was done with real sensitivity and skill.
Every time I go to the Lyceum now I sit in the audience and I look at the stage and I try to imagine what i want to happen there.
This play is so beautiful in so many ways: and yet, at the interval, sitting eating my ice cream.. I suddenly felt a real dread of what was to come.
Of the suffering about to be so skillfully portrayed in the final half.
Is that the effect i want? Suffering?
And it happened, as it had to: the mother, Williams own mother, so embarrassing it made me cringe.
I remember that feeling, it was a very brief time, when i found my mother a huge and shameful embarassment.
I grew through it, I think. Williams obviously didn't.
And to portray her like that, on a stage, where she saw... he must have hated her.
And his sister's suffering, so sensitively portrayed...
At the very end, riven with guilt at his leaving her, he asks her to blow the candles out.
And she does.
I suddenly remembered the end of my Playing With Fire: all the lit candles on the stage have been put out, one by one, and the Devil tempts Justina with the very last.
She could put it out, too, so easily: and she refuses.
And then she hears the singing of the birds.
She looks up: and the candle's no longer needed, because the sun has risen.
A greater light has come.
And i think: I'll stick with lit candles.


Sunday, January 06, 2008

6th Jan 2008
Looking back over the New Year.
I went on a 5 day retreat organised by the local Buddhist sangha of followers of Thich Nhat Hanh (see
I imagined that regular meditation would bring a sense of peace... but it doesn't always seem to work that way.
I seemed to spend ages struggling simply to keep my mind from wandering. To stop myself from falling asleep.
It's as if the practice clears the surface of the mind... and that can allow monsters to arise.
Or at least that's how it was with me.
The first full day I was there I was overtook by the most difficult memories of Susie's dying.. at around new year of that terrible time.
A couple of days later I had got myself muddled and forgotten we had a meditation period between 7 and 8 in the morning.
I had left some beans on to cook.. I could think of nothing but the possibility of the beans burning.
I couldn't bear it, and had to leave the room to check the beans.
All was well, it seemed someone had turned my beans off and left something else on to bubble away.
So i went back, reassured... but not for long.
Soon I was intensely anxious about the other pot.
Convinced I should have turned it off.
I was caught up, I think in some dreadful memory of school.. feeling I had done something terribly wrong, that no-one would ever like me again.
It was so terrible this feeling, I started crying..
and then became worried I was disturbing everybody, and felt worse...
I could only struggle to keep myself breathing through all this..
and then at 7.30 the person responsible for preparing breakfast left... and I realised that not only was my grief absurdly trivial (over a heap of beans) but also utterly unnecessary (because if anything was wrong my companion was there to deal with it...)
I began to wonder how much of my suffering, however deeply felt, was in reality like this.
Trivial in its cause. And utterly unnecessary.
And then how much this might be true of human suffering in general.
And cried more than ever.
Because we still feel it so deeply...

At the end of the hour, I felt I had lived a lifetime.

And now I'm home, it's as if these struggles have had a purpose.. there does seem to be a clear and serene spot inside myself that I can enter and maintain perhaps fractionally longer.
And so suddenly it's become possible to meditate twice a day. Morning and evening.
It feels more than a little miraculous...


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