Home and Away
Well, I’m back in my tower for one final night and I have to say I was completely unprepared for the depth of emotion I feel.
In the last few weeks I’ve been camping and playing at music festivals, walking and fishing in the Highlands of Scotland, relaxing in the bosom of my family, stimulated by the hustle and bait of London… but only now, back in my familiar tower, do I really feel at home. I feel my soul can expand.
Is it simple nostalgia or familiarity? Or do I detect a vibration in the space itself, in the floors, the walls, the way the light falls, the shape of the sounds, the rhythm of the stairwell? I feel so comfortable here, though there is hardly anything here but an empty room. The intensity of what I experienced here still reverberates.
I almost don’t dare to, but I can’t help thinking of the Fritzl children. Are they really glad to be rescued? Do they long for the routines of their old home?
Yesterday, in London, I started rehearsals on an upcoming project. A play called ‘Life is a Dream’ which will be on at the Donmar Warehouse. Its central character Segismundo is locked in a tower all his life apart from one day when he wakes in a sumptuous palace. The following day he finds himself back in chains. Suddenly, now, I think he must have been a little relieved to have been locked back up again.
Then there are those sad stories in ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ of the old prisoners who do not know what to do with their freedom.
I wonder if, in my time as a hermit, I have closed myself down or opened myself up. Who can judge?
I feel much freer here than in any of the places I have been in the last few weeks. I have time and space to think and feel. But should I be the only judge? What about my giving away of myself? My promise to serve?
Am I chained to the world? Are you to judge me? Or some higher power? What duty might I escape?
Now there is no camera unblinking at me. My movements feel different. I wonder who I am talking to.
Many of the feelings that have been hanging over me like a fog over the last few weeks have begun to clarify themselves in the last few hours, as I drink a cup of water alone, go to the toilet, lie on a mat, sit in a corner. It is as though these spaces hold the work I have done previously. I can feel my body settling beneath me, into the foundations of thoughts that have accreted over the many previous times I have done exactly the same actions in the same surroundings. Here I am sedimentary.
The spirits of this place conspire with me. Our rhythms align so that this time I can carry on, build on what has gone before. Now I understand the purpose of the past. Although those spirits too have changed themselves, they continue to grow. There are new piles of dust in the old corners, filled no doubt with new families of microscopic creatures I cannot see or hear. There are two daddy-long-legs in the toilet. They bring autumn. The air, unwarmed by my body, feels slightly cooler, though all of Manchester is bathed in the same rain. But all the spirits remember me and have held my place. Like infinitely solicitous servants they invite me to carry on where I left off.
So, suddenly, I realize the deep root of my sadness. I am mourning the loss of my self. I have so many aspirations. They may even be considered noble, but ultimately they are just mine. Things I want for myself, tasks I want to achieve, understandings I strive for, learnings I want to hold. Books, instruments, knowledge, all my work for enlightenment is a collection for my use. I may temper this truth by saying that I want to share what I collect, it is for wider benefit. But ultimately it remains a collection of myself. A heap of me.
What I undertook to do at the end of my forty days was to serve. This is the hardest thing of all. The monastic vow of obedience is terribly unfashionable in a society of self improvement, self realization.
Paradoxically, to fully walk the hermit’s path it is necessary to leave the hermitage.
Marriage and fatherhood teaches me how self-centred I really am. No relationship is perfect because I can never have all that I want, can never be free to do exactly what I please. To devote oneself to the welfare of others means to give up my own aspirations.
My own selfishness consists of dreams glamourized by my own nostalgia. I want to work on my own body, to make it stronger, healthier, more beautiful, I want to capitalise on my own talents and have the world gaze in admiration of what I have achieved.
Anyone who finds themselves in a situation in which they have companionship without ever having to compromise on their personal aspirations and ethical choices is very lucky. They never need to experience the sadness of this particular realization. There are many blissfull couples. Or at least there seem to be. Perhaps people from more conventional backgrounds, or the same unconventional backgrounds, can find close fits with one another. I know I am a misfit however, an immigrant torn between cultures, continents, languages, disciplines. I pity the person who is just as driven by all the same obsessions as me. I’ve never found them.
Since leaving the Tower, as I have tried to test my arty conceit against the real world, I have been overcome by a despondency it has been difficult to grasp. Only now, returning to this place, which feels like home, can I see it. I am mourning the person who must die.
Bereavement is the most difficult enemy, tainting everything, impossible to escape. To give up what is familiar, what I relied on, what I based myself on, to let it all be washed away and to be swept up into the ongoing world is very, very frightening. What if I don’t like it? What if I am never happy again?
I’m not really sure I can do it. I feel such rage and resentment at the obstacles between me and my muse. In this artwork of my life I have vowed to devote myself to that very obstacle. To kill myself trying. This is such a difficult thing to do. And yet I am also laughing at myself, my earnest conflation of art and life. Why not just relax, stop being so up myself?
Anyway, now it is time to stop. I have to clear up this Tower, remove all trace that I have been here, and then attend the meeting of the Museum Collections Development Panel to finally draw a line under this project.