Monday, November 08, 2010

Not long ago I dreamt of Susie.
There she was, my late wife, back in the house.
In Merlindene, in Fife, where we had our commune.
It was a scruffy cold house then; but now it had been smartened up and there were new carpets everywhere.
And Susie was back, and in her chair in the living room, and she made it seem like a throne.
She was better, and strong again, and was going to return to work as a journalist.
She said she though I should start working as a journalist again too.
And I protested, I said I was perfectly happy doing what I am doing now.
I didn't see the ned to start going back to work on newspapers again.
And then it was time to go to the bedroom, and the carpet was filthy, so I went off to look for a hoover.
And then I woke up.

Reflecting on it afterwards, I can't help noticing how intensely my preoccupations are personal these days.
To do with living as a transsexual, with the intense and wonderful relationship I am engaged in...
But also I can't help thinking this has to do with a growing sense of despair at the wider world.
A deepening sense of futility at engagement with it.
A sense that no matter how angry I get it will not change the cruelty and vindictive folly of the present UK government...

And yet I need to engage... and also understand and appreciate that everything I say or do is also in its way and expression of engagement.
And that's why i dreamt of Susie again, and in that amazing house where we tried to live as a commune because we wanted to change the world.
Because we thought: The Personal Is Political.
And we believed it too.

And it's appropriate I should be feeling and thinking this now, right after going to the turbine house at Tate modern in london and seeing Ai Weiwei's installation there.

Which looks like nothing when you first see it. Visually, I was far more interested in all the people looking at it and crawling under the little barrier with their cameras to take close-up pictures of it. There was a wee girl there with her dad and every time he went on all fours to do it she clambered on his back and crawled all over him, laughing.
I actually wanted to film that.
i squatted at the edge of the barrier and thought about it.
It took some time.
One hundred million porcelain sunflower seeds.
A dear friend of mine has just come back from China, and she spent some time in a city in China of 38 million inhabitants.
It took 8 hours to cross it.
And this wasn't even one of the biggest cities there.
And I feel insignificant even here... and helpless. And struggling against conformity.
I must be sunflower seed number 67,459,321, buried quite deep, and I barely catch even the smallest scrap of daylight.
And yet I do matter.
We all matter, even if all we do is make up the mass.
And I am diminished when one of us goes.
And the sunflower seeds are all uniform... and yet hand pained, and different.
And the sunflower seed is an image of conformity... but of nourishment and kindness too.

it was all so intensely moving an invitation to reflect on our humanity.
Wonderful to be seeing it with my daughter Katie.
We giggled and talked and discussed things and shared our looking at the world together with such love and pleasure.

Something so important me and Susie did was have our children.
Not just the decision to bring them into the world, but how we chose to care for them.
Deciding to share their care as best we could. Knowing this was an intensely political, as well as an intensely personal, decision to take.
susie dedicated much of her intellectual life to developing an understanding of citizenship.
Citizenship in its fullest sense; citizenship which involved personal life choices alongside political ones.

And very wonderful to see that the artist, Ai Weiwei, believes this too.
That the way an artist lives matters.
I know that. i have known that for a long time.
It moves me so deeply to see a fellow artist, in a different continent, in a different art form, putting all this into practice.

Because it is true: we all do belong together.

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