Since I am a specimen under scrutiny here and I have promised that this blog will reveal some of what is invisible via the webcam, let me tell you about my emotions.
Looking back over the last few days I think I went through a slightly dark phase. Grappling with all kinds of practical issues in the Tower, the strangeness of the situation and the kind of tone to take in this blog, perhaps I slipped into hermit crab mode. One of the aspects of the hermit in the popular imagination is of the crusty old misanthrope, snappy and impatient with the ways of the world. His retreat is a kind of rejection of society.
I’ve deliberately played on that image to some extent in putting forward this idea of destruction. It’s a challenging, wrathful kind of energy. I think I may have got carried away by it myself. Now I realize I may have been a bit rude to people who have been kind enough to post comments on this blog. In particular I think I should apologize to Henry McGhie, Curator of Zoology here at the Museum who I roundly berated last week, and who I haven’t heard from since. Henry, and indeed anyone else at the museum, if you’re reading this, which I doubt, I’d just like to say that your views and knowledge are extremely important.
We have moved some way beyond the priest-scribes of ancient Egypt, or the high caste Brahmins of India or shamans with access to hidden knowledge, but nevertheless experts are still important. In the age of Google and Wikipedia and the hyper-fragmentation of specialized knowledge, experts have a new function to play. And in an information democracy they have a new kind of accountability. This means that the role of the Museum and the Academy is also changing. Manchester University Museum is clearly aware of this change, which is why it’s willing to lay itself open in the way that this project does. My job as an artist is to put some challenging questions but I’d like to put them without being abusive. Forgive me if I sometimes wobble over the mark.
I felt a deep regret while meditating this morning so I thought I should say something. I take it as a sign of progress. It’s a funny thing, meditation. Very difficult to know if you’re doing it right. It’s very simple but also extremely difficult. The job is to try and stay with the truth, but I’m so beset by delusions and confusions that it’s often difficult to know if I’ve taken a wrong turn. The only way to really measure oneself is by an increase in loving feelings. This is a sign that my habitual self-centredness must be dissolving slightly and I can start to see things from other points of view.
It’s not something you can create or fake either. If you get on with the main work of patient observation diligently, it just seems to happen by itself that a spring of generous thoughts begins to seep through the ground. It’s very easy to be sitting there daydreaming, or circling round and round selfish or delusional ideas – and I’ve done that. The only way to know if you’re on the right path is if spontaneous kindness starts to break through. Makes you feel happy. Which in my experience makes it quite likely that crabby and irritable is just round the corner…