“We revenge injuries; we repay benefits with ingratitude. Even our strongest partialities and likings soon take this turn. ‘That which was luscious as locusts, anon becomes bitter as coloquintida’; and love and friendship melt in their own fire. We hate old friends: we hate old books: we hate old opinions; and at last we come to hate ourselves.”
I had originally intended to write a little about the experience of running a roleplaying game for my brother’s stag do (a far jollier subject!) but I find myself pre-occupied with another topic. I find myself unemployed and homeless and newly single. I don’t know how important context is in this situation; things change and it is just unfortunate for me that a great many changes followed on from one another. After having quit my job and ended my tenancy I moved to a new city to live with my partner. We had already been living together for two years prior to that and I went at her invitation. I took a leap of faith only to have the other side fall out from under me; I walked from a situation that was becoming loveless.
Thankfully, I have kind parents who will put up with me even at 30. Normally I prefer to focus this blog on abstract minutiae but I am now having to think about the future which leads to a shake-up in the tone around here. I tend not to write in a colloquial style because I am not very good at it! But I digress.
I’m a cool guy and I read philosophical tracts on lunch breaks. The opening quote is from a collection by Hazlitt called ‘The Pleasure of Hating’. It’s not the best essay in the book (that goes to ‘The Fancy’ I think) but it is easy to see the culmination of human interaction to be contained within those words. (It is fair to ask whether Hazlitt, a satirist, was entirely serious, but I am taking it at face value right now). Affections, like all things, crumble and are forgotten in time.
The handy thing about quotes is that when your own words fail you, the words of others can step in to do the work for you. That is the foundation of culture, and of society: I can’t do this alone, but I have others to help me. Sad to say I am not so good a component of society; I form few bonds and loosely if at all. With the termination of my relationship I am once again a bit at sea.
I imagine myself a shipwreck after (forgive the melodrama) treachery. One would hope to be a Prospero or Edmond Dantés, discovering wealth or power on my figurative islet to strike back at those who have wronged me. Had I the means, in what manner would I choose to revenge myself? I have been wronged and no amount of gold offered me could expiate the injury done me.
There are, however, more words to help me out. It would be easy to take Hazlitt and from that develop a Hobbesian perspective of suspicion to the whole world and, to be honest, I mostly do. I don’t believe everyone is out to get me so much as expecting extra effort on the part of others outside the betterment of their own situation without extensive persuasion is a fool’s wager. But even if (and I don’t sincerely believe this) people were uniformly and universally out only for their own betterment, this saying helps me out:
“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
This is a Fake Buddha quote (he never said it, although a conversation about anger from the C5th has something similar) but that doesn’t make it any less helpful. There’s no point in staying angry, it’ll just waste your time and energy (no matter how many apologies people write for poor old Socrates). It’s much better to, if not move on, keep moving. I fake my death; I choose defeat and walk away.
I was originally going to call this blog-post something about keep walking the road: it would tie in to the blog’s title and I would be able to allude to Walk the Line. But time is perhaps easier talked about as a river that keeps on rolling. Dwelling on anger and the past would be like standing in a river and trying to catch my reflection. Think of Walter Benjamin’s Angel of History:
“His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed.”
If I stopped to be angry, the river would carry on without me and I’m just left tearing at things I can’t touch. Time is merciless and it will go on with or without me running my hands through phantoms.
Let go my anger and I’m left with the situation. I am in a bad position at a bad time to be in it, and that’s no joke. I am tremendously fortunate to have a strong support network in the form of my family. I genuinely dread to think, in today’s political climate, what my situation would be: unemployed in a strange city I just relocated to. Fortunate again that Britain’s rail network is still a bit robust and my parents have room. It could have been (and a few years back would have been) far worse.
There is probably a strain of thought that looks at my completely unattached position and thinks “Opportunity!” It may be deficit in my character or ambition but I don’t see this! Perhaps if I could drive or had been better at saving. To pre-empt the former criticism, I was pretty poor before I quit my job to move across country. The driving is a fair cop; I’m nervous behind the wheel and have made multiple excuses to avoid overcoming it.
It would be easy to pretend bravery: plenty more fish in the sea, world is my lobster, all the time in the world. Not to get too soppy but I am at a low ebb right now. There’s a ton of habits I have to unlearn, and things I have to get used to. I don’t have a direction to push in in the short-term, and long-term plans are right out. The questions I have to ask are very much of necessity. Things like: Where will I live? What will I do? An oddity of life is that when I start applying for jobs I will have to explain to complete strangers how I got to where I am. As I need to be in a position where I can talk briefly and painlessly about it, I have to take the time to heal, which truncates any further options. While jobs and commitments feel limiting they also grant us a context to dive in to. I genuinely did not like working for RBS but were I still there I would have work to occupy myself with. All I have now is time. Those friends I had are in Nottingham and Portsmouth (where I was born) but I’m not fond of either city; Nottingham in particular would be a bitter pill as memory would reach up to claw at me. I would drown in the river (figuratively).
Temperamentally I am the kind of person who likes to have a plan. I have no problem changing plans but I like to have one in the first place. Realistically reviewing my past plans I think a fair analysis would say that I might like having plans but I’m weak at executing them. A few years back I planned to do a Masters but I never did.
I was speaking with my father about this, and about Granta’s ’40 under 40’. I harbour ambitions to be an author and, vain devil that I am, I am of an age that I could just make the cut for the next tranche of selections if I catch the right eyes. My dad, being who he is, said that could be my plan. It’s not a plan though, there’s no step by step to follow, but I suppose it is a worthy goal.
I can at the very least set to work on something small and immediate. I have my writing; it’s not something to fall back on but something to occupy myself with as I try to find my place in the world. While in Salisbury I had been putting the finishing touches to This Grave Kingdom, my story of betrayal among the dead, and I had hoped to self-publish by the end of August. The mood in the air suites post-apocalypse, young adult female focused fiction. Whether it will be by the time I am finished is another matter.