A blog of endless curiosity
I’ve always been a bit shy. Or rather, I’ve always felt a bit shy. What one feels isn’t always an accurate representation of the reality of the situation, and how can one ever really know how one outwardly appears – because one can never be outside oneself. I’ve always felt that I’ve never known the right things to say, never felt witty enough when in large groups of people, always felt terribly awkward. I’ve always preferred to have just a few close friends or, as I did when I was a kid, just a few imaginary friends to go on all sorts of imaginary adventures with. This is one of the many reasons I’ve always loved reading, because books are like fuel for the imagination freeway.
As a teenager these feelings of awkwardness and shyness and a love of imaginary worlds can sometimes translate into somebody who thinks that they hate most things that most people do. Somebody who is unsatisfied with going to all the ‘cool parties’ where all the ‘cool people’ are making out and then bitching about each other behind each others backs. No I preferred to find just a couple like-minded people who, most of all, shared the love of escaping to imaginary worlds part. At first things remained innocent enough, just the swapping of stories and reading and watching movies together on the weekends. Then, now it feels like it happened in a great big gust but who knows now how quickly it actually happened – these things tend to happen over time and one thing tends to lead on to another, it turned into smoking joints and going to all sorts of imaginary places, giggly, soft, comfortable, melty, munchie places. Then it turned into smoking bongs and doing all sorts of other substances and going to imaginary places, yet these imaginary worlds somehow, at the same time as being totally imaginary felt so much more real and tangible. I remember one time smoking bongs (or billies, or beugs as the really bogan people would call them) under a bridge on these really high rocks above the river, we’d made the bong out of a coke bottle and didn’t have any water so we used coke and after smoking I felt like I was stuck in a painting looking out at the rest of the world and I couldn’t function like a normal human being for hours afterwards because I felt like my brain was too carbonated and fizzy and everything felt so fragmented and jolty. One thing I came to learn about that world is that, despite starting off in what seems like completely innocent places, the places you can end up in are some of the scariest places in any world, imaginary or real. And it is precisely because they are imaginary that they feel so real.
So wanting to leave those imaginary, real, scary places and people behind, where would one shy recluse turn? Well right back to where they started in the first place, the imaginary world of literature of course. The circulatory reasoning here is not lost on me, escaping the real world to the world of books, to escaping that world to the world of substance abuse, then escaping that world back to the world of books and literature! – What an argumentative fallacy my worlds have been!
This is about the time I discovered my first Virginia Woolf story, ‘The Mark On The Wall’. A story where the author is sitting in an armchair in a room staring at a mark on the wall and pondering all the different things it could possibly be. Remembering when she first noticed the mark on the wall, in the wintertime, January of the present year to be precise. Could it be from a nail while trying to hang a picture? She thinks about what picture it might have been, the people who previously owned the house and how they were the type of people who chose “an old picture for an old room” and how she thinks of them often and where they might be. She rules out the nail theory because the mark is too big and round for it to be that. Her mind then moves on to thinking that she could get up and look at it to determine what it is but then “ten to one I shouldn’t be able to say for certain; because once a thing’s done, no one ever knows how it happened. O dear me, the mystery of life! The inaccuracy of thought! The ignorance of humanity! To show how very little control of our possessions we have – what an accidental affair this living is after all our civilisation.” The way her mind wanders is the most curious and fascinating thing! To go from not being bothered to get up and see what the mark on the wall is to end up at the ignorance of humanity is just so… great. She goes on to list just a few of the things lost in a lifetime of inhabiting a house that would be gnawed at by cats and nibbled by rats. Her comparison to life being like “being blown through the Tube at fifty miles an hour – landing at the other end without a single hairpin in one’s hair! Shot out at the feet of God entirely naked! Tumbling head over heels in the asphodel meadows like brown paper parcels pitched down a shoot in the post office! With one’s hair flying back like the tail of a race-horse. Yes, that seems to express the rapidity of life, the perpetual waste and repair; all so casual, all so haphazard…” She goes on like this for the entire story all the while pondering what the mark on the wall is, pondering and at the same time asking these big life questions all so casual and haphazardly, simply to end up at the mark on the wall being a little snail! Her train of thought is the most wonderful thing that ends up in the most simple yet exciting places.
One does not read Virginia, one consumes her every word, or in my case, stands in front of her in complete and utter awe at the delicate beauty that is her mind. To me reading Virginia feels like, you know that feeling when you’re a kid of being really uncertain, uneasy, and scared about the world and then your mom runs her hands through your hair and strokes your head? Well Virginia is that hand, that affectionate stroke through your hair that tells you everything is going to be all right. Her words are my new drug. I hang off of them like a junkie hangs off his dealer. That Velvet Underground song ‘I’m Waiting For My Man’ is really about me waiting for my next fix of Virginia; $26.00 in my hand (or whatever the price of a paperback is these days)! Perhaps she is the reason why I decided to leave my old world and go back to uni and study literature and philosophy. That way I can learn about the things I love and all the imaginary worlds and ask all the big life questions I want. As all lit students are escapists at heart, that’s why its so damn hard to make friends with them, they all have they’re Virginia’s and they’re book worlds they escape to while the people here in the real world who are trying to make friends with them get left to escape back to their worlds. It’s a vicious cycle it is – so all lit students should just have a big book orgy and everybody can make friends that way! But really… I go out, I try other things, I go on other adventures but every time I come back to Virginia I feel as though I’ve come home from a long journey – wonderful and exciting journeys in their own right but Virginia is home and she is bliss! Consuming her words, her mind is the true definition of ecstasy. If literature is the blood of life, well then file my teeth and call me the hungriest vampire there ever was!
I am, dear Virginia,