I write my posts in my head before I write them on paper. The words come as I’m falling asleep or when I wake up, in the early hours of the morning – and it is only later, in the act of writing, that they arrange themselves into sense.
Sometimes there’s so many different thoughts jumping around in there that it can be hard to see where, how, and, even, if, they will intersect. This post is kind of like that.
A few months ago, I went to hear Ben Okri read from his latest book, ‘A Time for New Dreams’. I was going to write, at the time, about his deconstruction of “success” (will come back to that) – but it is his exploration of the closely linked adversity that has been playing on my mind. The fact that we rise and fall –
“All things in life are governed by the law of cycles. There can be no rise without a fall, no fall without a rise.”
1 &2, The Romance of Difficult Times
There is nothing ground-breaking about this insight but what struck me, during the reading, was that Okri applied it to both personal experience and the experience of civilisations. We have our own ups and downs but there’s a whole ‘nother level of ups and downs going on over our heads. Think economic crisis or even Okri’s example: the fall of Troy.
This relationship between macro and micro interested me. I have thought about how we connect with people through the personal experiences and the small things that we share; less so about how we are bound together by circumstances far beyond the day-to-day experience of life. It seems so obvious now that I write it –
Anyway, so I was thinking about the notion of rising and falling, and then about the post that I wrote yesterday about friendships, when I realised that there are some times in our life when it feels like freefall. When we are so isolated that there are no hands to catch us. Or when we cannot see – or seize – the hands that are there. Or when the fall is so rapid and unexpected that it is very difficult to be caught
It is hard in these positions to imagine that we will rise.
And so, because I have been there in the past and because I imagine there are other people who can’t see or don’t have hands reaching out to hold them, I wanted to acknowledge the times when the fall is not softened and the patching together takes longer. To recognise that, at some points in our life, it leaves us winded and takes time to find the strength and courage to get up again –
Okri reminded me that the world goes in cycles. Sometimes, holding onto this notion helps. It also helps when you start understanding where any part of the experience might make you strong, which was something else I took from his talk.
A few days ago – and this is the last part in my random-thought chain – I was sitting in a bar with my friend talking about life and stuff, and she said (and I paraphrase): “I was reading your blog a few months ago and it made me laugh because the very thing that you were talking about learning was something that you had suggested to me three weeks before”.
There are some things that we can only learn ourselves and by experience.
Some of these lessons are great but some of them hurt like hell.
Some of them are learnt once, and that is enough; and some of them have to be experienced a few times.
The rising and falling thing probably comes into this bucket and I guess it has taken me 620 words to work out what I have been trying to say: that each time we get back up again, we create something to cling onto the next time that we fall.