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monday 18 : self/no self

To say reality or the self is empty is not to say that it does not exist. It simply means that it lacks a discrete essence, something that makes it what it is independent of what makes other things what they are. This is most evident when it comes to the self. To be an individual is to be in relation to others. There is no self independent of other selves.

From : Julian Baggini - 10 Schools of Philosophy that should be better known (in the West) - Granta 146

saturday 16 : RIP gillian freeman

the obituaries in the times are sometimes intriguing detailed mini-biographies. the story of the awesome life and death of someone you’ve never heard of, often accompanied by an interesting photograph.

today it was a writer called gillian freeman.

amongst the highlights :

In 1967 Gillian Freeman wrote a comprehensive study, The Undergrowth of Literature, revealing a broad knowledge of bondage, domination and rubber fetishism. Her book was widely commended for its nonjudgmental insights into the psychosexual needs of a section of society and for its compassion, candour and humour.


In the 1970s Anthony Blond, who enjoyed hoaxes, commissioned her to write a novel purporting to be a diary written by the wife of a photographer working in Goebbels’s propaganda ministry. It was originally published under the title The Diary of Elisabeth von Stahlenberg and the MP Alan Clark said it was indisputably genuine . . . a contemporary document of the highest importance to social historians”. The American publishers offered to double Freeman’s advance if Elisabeth” would tour the US. But her cover was blown in the Evening Standard. Many years later, the diary was nevertheless quoted 19 times in an anthology of genuine wartime diaries.

but of course, it being an obituary, it always ends with a stark paragraph in bold type :

Gillian Freeman, novelist and screenwriter, was born on December 5, 1929. She died from complications arising from dementia on February 23, 2019, aged 89.

friday 15 : the untimely death of a dutch poet

tomorrow in utrecht the presentation of klaar’ by f.starik with marieke lucas rijneveld and a host of others. i wrote this for/about him (and myself) in english unfortunately — my dutch being goed genoeg to read him but not to write in … https://www.dropbox.com/s/msxwc28bxdvb3oa/The%20untimely%20death%20of%20a%20Dutch%20poet.pdf?dl=0

thursday 14 :

i am a coltsfoot
on a bare riverbank

i am a persian speedwell
on the muddy edge of a cornfield

i am a dandelion with teeth
like a lion lurking somewhere
waiting for clocks.

apologies to derwent may

one of my old radioshows from wagga.
ha ha … this reggae special went out live to air late one night in 2001 or 2002


the rado signal reached just to the highway on a clear night so if you’d been driving from sydney to melbourne (or melbourne to sydney) and searching the airwaves for some weird local shit to listen to whilst you were driving like i used to you might have picked this up for a while…

wednesday 13 : being barry

He said he also found comfort in belief in an afterlife. I was thinking he’s going to be there, in heaven, before me,” he said. It gave me a lot of comfort knowing Barry was there.”

I am in favour of consolation, of people being comforted by something or someone when they’re sad, a teddy bear or another human or by believing Barry is in heaven.

Science doesn’t do consolation. The fact that another 300 million (or was it 300 billion? not that it matters) new stars have just been discovered — that is to say, they were there already but they’ didn’t know that the stars are there’, and now they’ do and so apparently this means that we’ do too — is of little use if you’re sad.

But a belief like Barry is in heaven’ can also also a problem. It prevents you from thinking about the difference about what is real and what is not. And as my imaginary friend Sören Kierkegaard may have said, it prevents you from experiencing the angst and doubt and despair that could propel you to make the Leap. There are innumerable other ways to do that as well, like looking for new stars and well where do I start…?

I used to make myself work late by saying, if I finish this I’ll get a pizza for dinner, but then when I’d finished I wouldn’t have it. But I never thought, oh but the last time I worked late I didn’t get to have pizza.

By all means imagine your brother to be in heaven — in a sense, he is. He is free from worry and pain and the ongoing struggle between being and not being. The countless particles and waves which temporarily constituted Barry have dispersed back into the ten to the power of five hundred universes and the eleven dimensions and they are still doing/not doing whatever it is they do/don’t do, more or less — and in this sense there is an afterlife. But do the countless particles and lightwaves continue to resonate and interact together to be Barry as we knew him and loved him. Well clearly, they don’t. And that’s OK. Can you find a way through your grief where that is OK? It doesn’t diminish in any way the significance of Barry, it’s just that language doesn’t offer a way of thinking about Barry in a timeless way, in a non-binary way. Something or someone either is or isn’t, maybe they were but now they’re not. And this is very sad because you want them to be now, you want to have them to be there for you.

The fact that Barry was, that his being is safely locked away in time, that no one can deny his existence, it is difficult to find a satisfactory way to acknowledge that. Yes but he is not here now, you say, and we keep coming back to that and it is important to fully experience the grief of that, the impossibility of that, because that is the human condition.

You have lost something, a being, that was of great importance to you, that gave your life meaning perhaps. But it is not in a temporary connection with other transitional beings or things that a meaning which is not subject to time can be found. It is in your connection with the infinite, with the impossible if you will, that you must find meaning.

I am so sorry.
I wish you strength and courage in the difficult time to come.


sunday 10 :

it was incredibly intense. i was tearful and simultaneously filled with this almost overwhelming sense of joy.

i recognise this.

In 2016 Alec Soth had a full-on mystical experience. He recounts having the sudden realisation that everything in the universe is connected and the self being somehow separate seemed utterly absurd, an illusion. He finds it embarrassing to talk about. https://t.co/o7QMMJ2Ux8

— johannes klabbers (@johklab) March 10, 2019

thursday 7 : separate not seperate

are you one of those people who doesn’t know how to spell separate’? i used to be one of those people.

and what is worse, i was one of those people who thought they knew the difference between seperate and separate (i thought one was the verb and the other was the adverb) but seperate’ is not any kind of word! it’s simply a misspelling.

grammarly says seperate’ is a word that has no meaning but this is of course total bullshit. whether you say separate’ or seperate’, no one can hear the difference and everyone knows what you mean when you write seperate’, you just don’t know what the correct spelling is! what a bunch of fascists.

anyhoo this might come in useful when remembering the trick to remember how to spell separate’ : there is A RAT in sepARATe — because what use is a trick if you can’t remember it? you could say you need two seperate … oops separate … tricks : the trick itself and a trick to remember the trick. perhaps only A RAT would say seperate’ has no meaning.

i’ll go now.
you’re welcome.

i am a lesser celandine
and you are a primrose
and you… you can be a bluebell
but look out! here comes
the fucking winter heliotrope.

apologies to derwent may

tuesday 5 : a boy and his dog

With Leksie, 1960.With Leksie, 1960. Until a week ago I didn’t know this picture existed. If I stare at it for long enough I get the feeling that if I call her she will turn around and walk towards me.



the last time i saw him was in 1995 and then only briefly, at my grandmothers funeral. i’d emailed him when i first got back as part of a general lets-see-which-members-of-my-family-are-worth-spending-any-time-with. he replied that it would be great to see me again after all these years and that he would be in touch t.z.t. — an acronym beloved of dutch bureaucrats which means something like in due course’.

two and a half years later he was the only one left on my list. i had to be in the town where he lives for another reason and i let him know. i thought perhaps we could meet for coffee but if you are not interested, i said. or you don’t have time, that’s ok exclamation mark. he invited me around for dinner.

it was an exceptionally windy winters night but enfin it had stopped raining. his apartment looked like something from an ikea catalogue (including buddha) c.1995. did ikea exist then? never mind. i know it did because ikea, like instant noodles, is from the same year as me — can you imagine a world without ikea, without instant noodles and without me? i can’t, for obvious reasons, but if you are young enough and you eat your veggies you may well find yourself in such a world — although there will always be instant noodles and ikea. and my book omg. thank god i managed to write a book.

the radio was playing loud classical music. a belgian voice spoke in between tracks. i considered whether, when you’ve been in the apartment of someone you haven’t seen since 1995 for all of ten minutes, you can ask them to turn the radio down. my ears said : yes yes yes for fuck sake — but the superego said no. and half an hour later it was still saying no.

dinner was lukewarm noodles, although not instant, and two kinds of mixed vegetables cut into very small pieces with most of the life cooked out of them; perhaps because when he asked me via email whether i had any dietary preferences i explained that i am in between dentures’.

i said : do you like cooking? — not really. i wanted to say, i wouldn’t have guessed! but i didn’t.

we ate and he told me at length about his research without much apparent enthusiasm. i nodded and smiled and tried to ask an interesting question or two but then he asked me an interesting question : whether i felt like i’ve inherited any of our grandmother’s personality traits. we talked about our grandmother whom we both loved for some time and that made me happy. i realised i spent way more time with her than he was able to because he lived a long way from her. i said, she was like a second mother to me — but don’t tell my mother!

my answer was yes, her courage. she was not afraid of anything or anyone, or she knew how to act and speak like she wasn’t. she deserves to have a movie made about her life, my grandmother, but there is only one person who could do that and i don’t have time. in another one of the ten to the power of five hundred universes and the eleven dimensions i would make time.

en… vind je het wat, het leven? —je bedoelt…? heb je er wat aan? vind je het leuk? —ja. (met een doffe stem) en jij? wel ik weet niet of leuk’ het juiste woord is, het is meer een kwestie van interessant, of intriguing — hoe zeg je dat in het nederlands? intrigerend? eindeloos intrigerend. elke dag gebeurt er iets dat mij intrigeert — is dat ook een woord? vandaag ook? — ja! zeker. (als hij het zou weten, als ik het zou zeggen… eigenlijk zou ik het moeten zeggen…)

the highlight of the meal was dessert but then i did bring it. he ate it all but didn’t say anything. perhaps he doesn’t like chocolate (some people don’t or so they tell me) but he was too polite to say so?

when i said, at ten to nine, i should go — was that relief i saw flashing across his face briefly?

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