online: 16 march 2005
modified: 17 march 2005

16 march 2005 never ending conflicts

Today i visited my 1500 or so books 'as if for the last time'.

Taking shelf, book, page, by chance i arrived at page 15 of African Folktales selected and retold by Roger D Abrahams (Pantheon Books, New York 1983) from which i learn that African folktales are about

...certain parts or relationships which are so central that their playing out is necessary and never ending: between father and child, man and woman, husband and wife, wife and co-wife, humans and witches, life and death. The idea of having a strong sense of resolution then, to which Westerners are so accustomed, seems strange to an African, an anathema.

This statement (though only part of strangeness and liveliness of things African) is enough to set me going... I feel immediately encouraged, even inspired, by a release from unity and finality ... and fascinated by that unexpected word: anathema ('accursed', 'assigned to damnation', or 'devoted to divine use' in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary)

Does this answer, at last, a question that i have been thinking about for much of my life:

What kind of fiction would i like to read - seeing how much i dislike materialistic realism or fantasy fiction or science fiction or even utopias?

I think this (idea of unending conflicts) is the answer. Yes - i can begin to imagine a story in which no one expects conflicts to end, problems to be solved, unity to be found and permanently enforced, no unhappy beginning or happy ending, but a new/old liveliness of life as it is, fascinating and inexplicable, of greater range than any mind or explanation, and beginning here and now in the midst of everything as it is... yes, this has to be it, today's installment:

And so, after writing that, i look inwards to imagine what is happening...

...but nothing comes to mind until i look outwards - at this web page - this public writing place on or in which some words beyond these will soon i hope appear...

Evening: i try to imagine a new culture in which my own resolutions of prevailing conflicts begin to come apart...

You should realise, Mr Jones, that such ideas as radio simplicity, the experimental city, creative democracy, even softopia itself, even this website, do not belong in the world of never ending conflict... this is because your schemes are all attempts to eliminate conflicts, to replace them by unity, or intelligence, or other such ideals, close to death, close to dullness, and lacking life as we know it...

...somewhat shocked by this rejection of all he has struggled for over the years, the writer pauses, feeling a rare sense of headache, or worse... but he does not reject this undoing of his work for he feels that it is in some way appropriate, a new/old condition into which he must enter, slowly, cautiously, with some curiosity for as yet there are no concrete images of whatever has begun to happen on this webpage and perhaps everywhere... so he looks for a friendly face...

John bach, says the voice of his grandmother (from the photograph he keeps nearby) are you still attempting to change the world, to make it your plaything? - it's more serious than that and it's more difficult than you think - but also more enjoyable. You need to re-dream your ideas in the company of others and to risk exposing your inventions to the roughness of life.

John bach, relaxing now in the presence of his dear Nain (as he calls her) is surprised at her grasp of his thoughts and vocabulary and decides not to continue the story until he wakens from the sleep she recommends...

Next morning:

...he remembers the time when, seeing him on tv, Nain asked 'can he see us now?' (she was born in the 19th century)


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