Thursday, 12 March 2009
The Flying Scotsman that carried my mother and me southwards to England was one of the fastest steam engines of its generation and therefore an adequate symbol of our escape. I sat gazing out of the window while my mother, always talkative, conversed with the other passengers. The rackety rack of the carriage wheels as they sped over the unwelded rails entranced me; this was excitement, this was adventure. Past Berwick-upon-Tweed my mother unloaded our carefully packed sandwiches as if to celebrate her return to England; because although she had been born in Scotland she never hesitated to point out that her family's roots were English and furthermore, as if to add ammunition to her claim, she had been born a Hogarth and was therefore distantly related to Charles Dickens. Whether or not this was true or merely an unfounded boast, hardly matters; it was her belief that counted. We took a taxi from Kings Cross to the Ivanhoe Hotel , close to Russell Square, where I spent a couple of sleepless and fretful nights because of the noise of the traffic. Two days later we found ourselves in a dismal boarding house in one of the burgeoning suburbs of London.
Tuesday, 10 March 2009
We exist in a state of paradox; on the one hand we are told by science that matter consists of a considerable emptiness and that what we judge to be solid to our touch consists of atoms separated by space and held together by unseen but detectable forces and that solidity in the everyday and practical sense of the word is an illusion. The discoveries of the 20th century with their accompanying concepts created an existential unease since we are part of this objectified world and bound by laws which we barely comprehend. We were forced therefore to confront the immateriality of our own substance and the realisation that the old separation between Man and the material world was an outmoded conceit.
We are increasingly reminded of the interrelatedness of everything; that our presence in the world affects its reality so that even our most innocuous actions are part and parcel of its continuous flux. This expansion of consciousness which should be a cause for celebration is more often than not turned into a source of fear. Where previously we felt secure, we are now shown the incalculable effects of our actions and our appetites - from the polluted environment to the present collapse of the global economy. The existential anxiety which manifests itself in myriad form is the result of living within an unresolved contradiction - between the alienation created by a capitalist society which has thrived on fragmentation and a mixture of threats and promises and an underlying urge towards a cooperative Humanism in which the individual is valued for himself within a collective and not merely as an expendable peon