Through the eyes of others


So, I was pondering the sense of futility that seems everpresent these days. What is the value of what I do? What is the point of this existence? But then, on Thursday night, we had a work function after work when we went to the same bar I went to a few weeks ago with JV. Drinks were laid on, and tapas and the atmosphere was convivial. I had 3-4 drinks and spoke to different people, but more most of the evening was in conversation with my new manager.

I’ve mentioned before what a lovely bloke he is. He’s a cracker. He’s a couple of years short of 60, originally a Malaysian Chinese who’s been living here for about thirty years, and about a foot shorter than me. We’ve always got on quite well, but now our relationship has changed. I find him a straightforward and decent person to work with. Judging by our conversation on Thursday he’s quietly fascinated by me, and quite chuffed to have me on board.

When he interviewed me first, he hadn’t seen my CV, but obviously, he’s caught up with it since. He began to ask me about aspects of it, commenting on what interesting experience I’d had, and how strange it was that I had experienced both senior positions, and junior – I’d confessed to him how I’d started out there working on the phones.

It was not the time or place to give him the full story, so I skimmed over it, but it was enough to intrigue him more. As an individual, I’m very different from him. He’s always been the modest, hard-working family man, whereas he sees me as quite the adventurer – and approves of it. At the same time, he’s obviously excited to have me join the team. He realises that for the price of a middle-ranking role he’s got an experienced, and competent senior candidate. I’ve opened his eyes to possibilities, and suddenly he sees opportunities ahead.

It was almost endearing to see how enthusiastic he had become. He was like a kid believing in Santa Claus again. He’s encouraged me to do my thing from the word go, and the results are fascinating to him – almost as if he’s been made to think another way, and it’s revitalised him. To be blunt, I think he sees me as a bit of a meal ticket, though not nearly mercenary as that. He’s happy to ride in my wake and, as I’m always am when given my head, I’m happy to forge ahead. It so happens, as he is very conscious off, that with the senior Digital Manager leaving things are in flux, and the chance to stake out new territory is there.

I went home that night on the train reflecting on that. It was flattering to be seen in such a light. I knew I was capable of what he hoped from me, but it seemed particularly ironic considering what I had felt just the night before. I struggle to find meaning for myself, but here I am with my manager finding meaning in me.

Then yesterday. When I interviewed for the role I ultimately had to knock back, there was a woman involved. I hardly knew her then, but am now working close to her, though we work in different areas. She’s a lovely lady, kind, and obviously very smart, and takes every opportunity to be friendly to me. Yesterday we happened to be in the kitchen together at the same time. I don’t know how it started – perhaps she asked me how the job was going. Anyway, she said she thought it was a really good fit for me and that I’d be good at it – she’s like that. But then she said, “you’ve got a very interesting CV”. She said it positively. I was surprised and murmured something about having sought variety. “Variety is good,” she said.

So, in the space of 24 hours, I’ve had two different people basically validate my professional self, and express even how interesting that self is. It made me think about what I want. Did I want for me what my manager hopes what I can enable? The answer always is yes – I always want more, because more is interesting, and because it is better than less, and because what I never want is the dull, old status quo. But do I really want those roles? My ego does maybe, and probably my bank manager. I don’t need it, though.

What I want, I realised, is the room to be myself. I’ve been denied that, here, and in years leading up to this, but in the years before that was the source of satisfaction. I could feel myself, could be myself, without constraint, so much so that I took it for granted. My step-sister always said she’d never met anyone as comfortable in their skin as I was – but I felt that too, without knowing it.

My life was comfortable then. I’d achieved a level that made things simpler, but while there was comfort in that, the joy of it was not in the achievement, but in the freedom to achieve. I was given space, and I took it. Maybe the secret then is the doing, not the being. And maybe, judging by what others see in me, there’s another journey in me.

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The epoch of the mass-man


I’m reading a book at the moment called Diary of a Man in Despair. It’s by a German author who recorded his thoughts through the rise of the Nazis and the second world war. His name was Friedrich Reck, and ultimately they caught up with him, and he died at Dachau.

It’s a fascinating, entertaining read. Reck was a highly educated man with distinct opinions and a voice all his own. He’s haughty and derisive, he has a patrician air but is not above the occasional gossipy aside. His attitude drips with a delicious, acid disdain. He deplored the Nazis, as much for their uncouth manners as their politics. He was a proud German who saw decline all about him, and predicted disaster, and was right.

Throughout the book, he launches into scathing dissertations on the state of the world about him, like a grumpy old man, but he knew what he spoke of and describes it in coruscating detail. Reading, I could imagine him in his far ago hunched over his diary inscribing his bitter words. It was the end of everything, he knew, and he wanted to record it.

There are many memorable sections in the book, but there was one the other day that resonated with me. It could be said that I’m a bit of a grump too, and I’ve not been short of a bitter word or two in this blog. I can sympathise. But then I read this section, and I realised how little changes. What appeared true to him back then I could endorse equally today – and have, more or less, but in my own words.

He writes of ‘Mass-man’, who:

“…buys the products of technology in complete mindlessness, without involving himself, or even taking an interest in the intellectual work that made these things possible…

I do not believe this ‘New-Adam’ has the faintest idea of how completely dependent his existence is on the products of technology. I have an idea that at a beginning of the end of world he will want to know how the government proposes to hold next Sunday’s German-Sweden football match on schedule. His fate appears to me certain and unavoidable. The coming Second World War will be the beginning of the end: the end of an epoch in which rationalism was dominant, and the legacy of which – assuming the planet is still capable of regeneration – will be ‘X’, a new mode of life based on the nonrational.”

He wrote that in 1937. Eighty years on the technology has become omnipotent and dominates our life, though clearly, the strains of its insidious influence were plain even then. The ‘mass-man’ he writes of here is pretty much the same as what we see now, and perhaps it has ever been so. The only difference I can see is that he speaks of the end of rationalism, whereas as far as I can see, it’s been long dead in this modern era. But then he goes on to say:

“…the masses sensing they are doomed…will, no doubt, strike out against everything that is not masslike, but is, simply, ‘different’…”

Substitute mob for mass and this is the state of affairs in much of the western world. The mob – the degenerate mass-man – voted in Trump and in favour of Brexit. The low rent appeal of it swayed the election here, and it has adherents in every nation. It takes aim at everything different and not sanctioned by the mob – refugees and muslims, different coloured foreigners and clever elites, and whomsoever they are directed at to despise.

The problem is, we live in an age of intellectual torpor. Our critical faculties have withered. Too much easy living, too many low-bars, has made us soft. Great herds of consumers get carried away on social media over febrile linguistics, on inconsequentialities while the great things elude them. Outrage is the lingua franca of our times. The educated mind that once led curiously on is a rare thing these days, existing only in intellectual ghettoes, under siege from the commonplace politics of populist leaders who see danger in independent minds and urge their followers to the same. In the face of such hostile opposition, intellectual rigour has fallen away. The questions that should be asked are asked rarely, or not at all, lies are accepted as truth, and too much that once would have left us shocked has now been accepted as normal.

It all sounds very Orwellian – and me an awful grump. I find it hard settling in a society where the lowest common denominator rules, and sometimes I wonder how I found my way here, high and dry. Those of us who think similarly have been disenfranchised. We are part of the problem, not the solution – but the solution makes for greed and prejudice and a nation of drones.

Gloomy as I sound, I’m always hopeful that it will change. I’ve always believed that, but more and more I feel as Reck did, retiring to my ‘estate’ as he did, though mine is made up of books and old movies and music and good wine, and the occasional rant, like this. He knew his time was over. Though I know the pendulum will swing, I wonder if my time is done too. I suspect I may not be around when it corrects, when the educated mind is valued again, and independent thought encouraged. Of course, we might all be burnt to a crisp by then…

Singing along to Elton John


Since the election, I’ve become quite cynical. That’s what comes of being so drastically disappointed. The worst part of it is how I’ve come to see my fellow Australians. I meet people, and I wonder. There’s a fair bit of the side-eye going on, wondering if this person or that was one of the cunts who voted for the cunts. I can’t get over the fact that so many people did. I’m sure I’d be shocked to discover some of those who did, and it’s probably better than I don’t – but it leaves me free to speculate.

Last night I went out for dinner and drinks with JV. His wife’s away and he wanted to make a night of it. We had a beer at a bar before heading to an Italian restaurant for some wood-fired pizza. We were in a quandary after that: where to next? There was a possibility we’d adjourn back to his home or mine for a bottle of wine while watching the footy, but it was too early for that. We ended up going to another bar a few metres away, where the pianist who’d performed at his wedding had a show. Turned out to be a great decision.

It was the most fun I’ve had for a long time. It was an intimate upstairs bar full to the gills. Most of the crowd there were women, maybe 60%, and the rest mainly middle-aged couples. We were probably the demographic outliers amongst that lot, but it didn’t stop us from enjoying the show. We found ourselves a handy spot to listen and watch-on while we hopped into one drink after another, spirits for the night.

The pianist was great. He was a slick musician, and he was also a great showman. He worked the crowd firing it up and engaging in different parts of it, all the while taking requests and singing a bunch of old classics everyone knew. Naturally, everyone sang along too. There was a great and happy vibe there, and I was caught up in it too, sipping on my drink and watching the antics of the hyped-up audience and singing along loud.

At one point, I found myself thinking how good music is connecting people. It’s its own language. In a way, it was surprising to find everyone as attuned to the music as I was, and the knowledge that they knew the words as well as I did, and that these songs had been as much a part of their life as they had mine was a simple, but profound realisation. We shared this. We were a community. In that room, last night, singing along together, we were all happy and all a part of something together.

As I thought that I realised that among the crowd would be some, I have come to describe as cunts because of their political beliefs. And though that was a simple realisation also, it was shocking in a way too. How can someone vote for those cunts and still happily sing along so joyfully with the rest of us?

I would guess if there were a survey of the room most would’ve voted the same, or similar, to what I did. We were smack bang in the middle of the CBD after all, and the crowd was probably more ‘latte-sipping’ than most given the venue and the show. But, naturally, there would’ve been a few there who passionately voted for the others. What did I make of that?

You might think that the realisation sharing a sing-along with them might have mellowed my beliefs some. But no. There are some things you can’t excuse away just because you belong to the same club. These are awful times we live in, and I’m disinclined to glad-hand those who aid and abet the people who wilfully do awful things. Just because you sing along to Rocketman with me doesn’t mean we’re brothers.

That’s not to say I didn’t learn anything from it, though, more truly, it wasn’t anything I learned so much as was reminded of. Half the people who voted for the others did so I reckon from ignorance and apathy, and a few more out of greed. There are few true fascists between them. And even they take pleasure in the same things as the rest of us (and probably a few other things besides). People don’t wear horns. Sometimes you can guess at these things, but they’re no signs that give it away 100%, and the friendliest, most affable people you can meet can, sometimes, in their spare time, be the greatest bigots. You can have 90% in common with someone, but that 10% difference is telling.

Did I learn anything? Maybe I can’t be on my guard all the time and that there’s no point going around giving people the side-eye because I’m not going to know, and it’s done anyway. That doesn’t mean I forgive the cunts. This is our life. It’s too big to forgive.

An untainted heart


Google popped up with a memory this morning dating from 2013. On this day back then I was visiting Lords, in London. A few days later, I flew home, and I haven’t been abroad since.

I knew it had been a while, but to be confronted with the facts like that was disturbing. There was a string of about twenty years when if I wasn’t away every year then certainly I would be the year after. They weren’t just ordinary trips away either. There were a few long trips to Europe, a couple of extended breaks in Asia, another through North Africa, some working trips here and there, as well as the short holidays away to places like Bali and Fiji and New Zealand.

I’ve said it before, but this regular travel made up a part of my self-identity. I never felt more myself than when I was away. I’m someone who, in general, embraces change and difference. I’m naturally curious. I like to get beneath the skin of things and feel myself in it. There’s a restless inquisitiveness in all that, but also a desire for authentic experience. And I like to live by my wits – as a western tourist you’re a member of a privileged class, but I was always aware of that and sought to catch the same busses and trains the locals do, and eat the same food, go to the same bars. And I always did it off my own bat, bar once for a brief period, organising things myself and following the restless whim where it took me. Gee, I miss that.

At work yesterday, I was a part of an exercise in setting SMART goals. At one point we had to note down the things we hoped to have achieved by this time next year. I could’ve written down a hundred things. What I did write related to my writing – getting two books submitted for publication by then. But I might easily have put down more practical goals, of which I have many. An outcome of achieving some of those would mean more money and the hope that I could get back to travelling sooner rather than later.

I’m aware that writing about these things might sound a little whiny. Believe me, in person, I’m anything but whiny. I give myself some grace here. This is my private space. And these things are real. These are the things that pass before my eyes, the thoughts that occur to me. And, you know, I like to understand, and the act of writing helps me do that. That’s why I write in general, I think, the desire to parse experience into some more meaningful. This is a record, and I want it to be true to my experience.

I’ll give another pretty innocuous example.

Last night I was in bed reading, and a poem by Rilke is in the text. I read the poem and appreciate it, but something is off in me. I’ve always read poetry, if not frequently, then at least regularly. Rilke is one of my favourite poets. I pause in my reading, wondering how things have changed. As I lay there, I realise that I was a different person when I read poetry before. I was never a dilettante, but I read from a position of comfort and security. Poetry was a pretty thing in my life full of pretty things. It was just as poignant to me then as it is now, I was sometimes moved and occasionally inspired. It would warm me. But then I would go off and live what was, generally, a pretty life – and that includes the easy travel.

I read these things differently now. Last night I began to articulate it to myself. Looking back, I was hardly innocent, but I was undamaged. I was worldly, but I had the easy expectation of things falling my way and the general belief that all I aspired to would, in due course, become mine. There’s a kind of innocence in that, really, and I’ve lost that completely and it changes the way I experience and see things. It’s a great loss.

This explains the general sense these many years. I am burdened when I wasn’t before. I’m healing, but I’m damaged. Where I was light previously and easy, I’m now hard. I wish so much it wasn’t the case. It feels tragic.

I’ve said occasionally that I still don’t feel like I’m living a ‘normal’ life. I don’t know if what I think is normal is long lost and unreasonable to expect now, though I tend to frame it in simple terms. I realise my life was privileged before, that what for me was normal was likely abnormal for most. I would like to return to that but have no expectations. I’m happy to expect the same as anyone else, that normal will do me.

I will get to that, I think, and perhaps beyond it. Unfortunately, in the time between – my lost years – the things I fully expected to attain, I know will never be now. I won’t be a father now, I may never become a husband.

In the end, it’s not about dollars or cents, but state of being. I want to be carefree again, to be part of the world without having to struggle, to be just another person. I’ll never reclaim my innocence, but I’d be happy to read poetry again with a heart untainted by loss.

Places of the spirit


Of course, there are things that run through my head all the time. Often I think I must write about that, but mostly I never get around to it. Until there’s such an application that taps directly into my mind that will be the case.

Today I want to specifically reference the fire that has consumed Notre Dame, in Paris. I feel for the French, and the Parisians particularly, for whom this must feel like a blow to the soul. It feels an unreal event, an affront to nature, something that could never happen and should never happen.

I first walked into Notre Dame about 21 years ago. I’ve been to many cathedrals in my time, but this has always been my favourite. I’m a history buff and knowing that so many momentous events had happened right here was a thrill in itself. There was a deeper, darker connection than that though. I remember standing beneath the high roof surrounded by the immense stone columns and peering at the beautiful stained glass windows and feeling humbled by the meaning of it all. It felt a great spiritual moment.

Places like Notre Dame are living reminders of the wonder and mystery of our existence. We live in the moment so much these days, but Notre Dame had stood for almost a millennia. It teemed with life and history. With luck, it might have gone on for another millennium, or more. I guess that’s true for many such buildings and there are dozens of others who have left me just as impressed – but not so spiritually engaged. Notre Dame felt like a living place to me, not just of history but of humanity as well. I think of only one other place off the top of the head I felt so moved, the Pantheon in Rome.

Notre Dame has not been completely destroyed they say, though the spire has fallen and no doubt the wondrous stained glass is gone – as well as the old, middle-aged wooden structure. It will be rebuilt, as it must, but will it be the same place?

Update: it appears that while the roof and spire have gone and much structural damage otherwise, the bulk of the stonework has been saved – in fact, photos from inside are almost eerie with the area around the altar a pile of blackened ruins tumbled from the roof, while most of the nave seems untouched. Most importantly – and almost miraculously – the famous, magnificent rose stained glass appears undamaged.

Old photos


What I have done in the last few days: I fixed a faulty clothes dryer; I dealt with a creditor after having referred them to the ombudsman; I’ve begun my ‘spring’ cleaning in the house, as well as in the garage; I had a blood test and sorted out my medical appointments; and, naturally, I did some writing. On top of all that I started scanning some old, pre-digital photos into the system. All and all it has been a satisfying week so far.

Digitising the prints yesterday was an interesting experience. I started with pics taken in the early nineties. I didn’t scan every print – there are too many of them – just those I thought worthwhile or, as Marie Kondo would have it, gave me joy. There were a lot of memories, naturally, and familiar, much-loved faces now departed.

I remembered that time so well but there was a disjoint. It was all so real, yet these people were gone and that time lost to me. It was real, I remembered it, but it felt unreal also. I looked in my face, surprised to find myself so handsome. This is me, I thought, that was me. And now here I am today.

There was a sense of how time slips by, how it changes. I posted something to Facebook about how one day its sunshine, next day rain, and it seemed true. Looking back it feels innocent and even looking at how I was then – open, smiling, a fine figure of a man – I was surprised at the difference, though really I ought not to be. What you realise is that it was all ahead of you then and now it’s mostly all behind you.

I caught up with a friend in Prahran last night to catch a comedy show. I caught the train in sitting by the window quietly brooding and listening to old songs from about the time the photos were taken. I had a refreshed sense of self. You walk around oblivious most of the time, ignorant of anything but the moment and the self you represent at that time. But I had perspective yesterday. That was then, this is now. That was who I was, this is who I am. And what I had knowledge of was of all that has happened since.

I was in love when these photos were taken, though it had gone bad. Not that you can see that in my face. I look like a nice guy. But then there was a journey after that and most of it was fine and if not fine then it was interesting and me throughout, the one constant, but changing in ways I never understood.

I got off the train and stood waiting for a tram. This felt familiar, as did the locale. I’d lived a few hundred metres up one way, over Dandenong road, for a year. And the other way, in South Yarra, I’d lived in my own apartment for about seven years in total. I lived there when the photos were taken, and this street, Chapel Street, the shops and bars and restaurants, I’d paraded by them for years on end, stopping now and then, going in here and there, indulging in this and that, part of the streetscape myself.

Now I got on the tram. I was the same man near 30 years on, the same holiday beard now as I did then, hardened now, more cynical perhaps, less forgiving, certainly less open.

How things might have been different. What if I’d made up with the girl I loved and married her as we had spoken of? What then? But we didn’t, she went on to die of her own hand, and here I am today.

It sounds sort of bleak but I didn’t feel that. I felt robust and full. I’ve made my way, I have my style, this is who I am – this is who I became. But at the same time were highlighted things that I otherwise overlook as just being normal. I had looked at my handsome face and wondered why I wasn’t more aware of it then – but I always did okay, as the saying goes. And I have ever since, more or less, but in a certain way that felt stark to me standing on the tram.

I’ve always been sexually driven, so I thought, but I wondered how I was then. And I was then too, but I was also romantic and impossibly tender. I was a good man. Since I’ve been with I don’t know how many women, hundreds, and a part of me has been closed off and even if I have charmed often in that period or seductive and interesting I’ve been the man women would happily fuck but not necessarily settle down with (with exceptions). And I recalled a woman telling me how I intimidated her – not in any harmful or nasty way, just my surety, my lack of doubt, my invulnerability.

Later, after a few drinks and a show, I sat there and there was another woman I wanted to fuck, no different to any other time. It’s fine to feel virile but is there always a point to it? You could argue that sex is a nihilistic act. It’s a moment in time in which you bury yourself in another. Then it’s over. That seemed the point sometimes but, even so, the urge returns all by itself.

I didn’t fuck the woman last night. There was no chance of that, just a passing whim.

I still have a lot to offer. I’m still presentable. I’d like to be more how I was then, regardless of how formidable I’ve become since. I don’t know if that’s even possible or, if it is, how I do it.

On the road


I’m officially on leave from work as of last Friday night. There was no sense of anticipation last week. I was busy, there were things I had to tidy up and hand over, but I was disappointed not to feel that gentle rush knowing I was about to be three weeks away from work.

I still don’t feel it really. Perhaps that’s because it’s unlikely I’ll be doing anything much. I had various plans, all speculative and contingent on available funds. Unsurprisingly, the funds aren’t available and so it’s three weeks at home – which, at least, is better than three weeks at work.

I went out for red wine and cheese with Cheeseboy Friday night hoping to force upon myself some sense of being off the leash. It was a cool, drizzly night and though the wine was good and the cheese plentiful I felt more weary than joyous. The most I can look forward to is the potential visit of an old friend, but let’s see if that eventuates.

Now it’s Monday morning and rather than sitting at my desk at work I’m sitting at my desk at home. I am at liberty. Among other things I hope this time away from work will allow me to clear my head and replenish some a weary body. I still don’t feel that uplift, but I sense my mind is slowly turning to a different perspective. My focus is shifting from the practicalities of the working man – making sure my shirts are ironed and my myki topped up, mindful of the clock and of the ongoing projects at work that occupy the mind, as well as the many petty frustrations. None of that is relevant at this moment and so I have turned off that part of my mind.

Last night I read some poetry and then thought a bit about it. I will read poetry now and then and almost always feel drawn into it. It’s a welcome sensation as if in that time I am exposed to a subterranean world of depth and meaning. It exists outside of me, in the world, if only we knew how to find it; and within me also. I sense it finally, this well of deep, curious feeling and with it a trembling, inquisitive, sensitivity. It’s a fine feeling as if now you can pick up frequencies unheard before, and let into a world of true wonder.

This time I am aware of my awareness. Because I have time before me my mind has space to indulge in the meaning of this: not just the poetry itself, but the meaning of myself in this poetry.

I woke this morning wondering, as I have many times before, about the contrasting attributes of my soul. I was always a creative, imaginative kid, but made my way in the relatively ruthless world of business. I thrived there because there were elements in me that came alive in the challenge. I was competitive without meaning to be, and ambitious because it was always so much better to do than not do. I was smart and so made my way up the ladder and a good communicator; but I was also hard and unyielding. I took pleasure in my success in much the same way a warrior celebrates his conquests. There’s little poetry in that though – yet there is poetry in me.

It’s hard to judge yourself in these things, but if I was to characterise my defining attributes I would say they are intelligence and determination, independence of mind and spirit, and defiance – which sits on the defensive side of belligerence. By and large, these attributes served me well (if we are to overlook the elephant in the room). I went further than I would have otherwise because I willed it, because I wouldn’t back down because I always wanted to be better. All of this made me formidable – though less so now.

And though all of this is true enough so is much that seems the obverse of that. I remain the creative, imaginative soul I was as a child. I am just as sensitive as I always was. I have a searching and restless mind. I am moved, mightily at times, by all manner of things, from a piece of music or poetry to the great and terrible events of our times. Despite everything I am romantic and have ever been the idealist.

This is what twitched at me this morning having read poetry last night, but it’s a recurring twitch. One of the things I seek to do in this time is to re-align myself in the hope that I will find a lifestyle more rewarding to me, both morally and financially. For me, mostly, that’s been about seeking a better angle in my career. I can still do it all, I just need to find a way back in. But then it occurs to me – should I have followed a different path? Can I still? And that’s the path in which I can be entirely my gentler self, the creative, sensitive man inside this crusty exterior.

Again, this is a question oft asked. There was a time when I could afford to answer yes – but not now, I think.

I have observed of life, as well as of myself, that little is all one thing or another. Life, and people, are much more complex than that. It’s silly to draw conclusions based only on what is visible, and it’s clear that contradiction is a law of nature.

As a thoughtful person, I find this fascinating and I’m glad of it too – it makes the world a more interesting place. Still, it’s not something I’ve ever really been able to reconcile in myself – as if reconciliation was possible. I search for a meaning or logic to it knowing there is no meaning or logic. That dissonance plays on my mind and I can’t let it go.

It’s one of the things that made me write, I think, the attempt to investigate and understand – and order – these things in the written word. These conversations go on in my head and if I parlay them into a fictional world that reflects the world I know then perhaps something of consequence can be made of it. And, you know, I find a lot of my understanding comes from putting it down on paper. It’s not quite automatic writing but often I find understanding in the act of writing, in drawing up as if from a deep well a sense not free to me otherwise.

One of the things I’ve discovered in my writing are my themes. I used to think redemption was my theme. To a degree it is, and I’m fascinated by stories that pivot on that. It’s a classic theme. But then, I’ve come to realise, my real theme is identity – self-identity. It shouldn’t be a surprise having read this journal but it’s surprising how long you can be oblivious of a thing. In my case that quest for enlightenment will often overlap with redemption – aren’t we all searching for that in some form?

I’m reading a book about Homer at the moment and I realised halfway through that the protagonist of the novel I’m working on now would fit easily into a Homeric tale – but I think that’s probably true of many. Homer’s tales touch upon so many classic tropes, much as Shakespeare does, that much of modern literature could be said to share.

In this case imagine an Achilles who has survived the battle and lived to middle age, to a time when he questions what he was and what he did while at the same time mourning for the vitality he has lost in the years between. Achilles was always a complex character, a ruthless warrior and sensitive spirit, but he was also an instinctive beast who cut a swathe with his unquestioned might. He was said to be invincible until the moment the arrow struck him in the one place he was vulnerable, his heel.

But what if he had survived all that, the battles on the plains before Troy and then the sacking of that city? What then would there have been for him? And after that? Where does it all go – ultimately, what does it mean?

I think all of us come to an age when we look back at what we have done and wonder at it. For so many years we just did it. Like Achilles, we go into battle because the battle is there. But then reflection grows on us, and some wisdom if we’re lucky. The battle slows, or has past.

For many, for most, it is enough to be husband or wife, and parent. There is meaning in that. We subvert something of ourselves for the greater meaning of the family unit.

That’s not been an option for me but, even so, I don’t know if my independence would be so easily satisfied. And if Achilles had become husband and father, would that have been enough? Only if he can reconcile the sensitive spirit he is with the ruthless warrior he was. That’s the journey he must take, pitfalls along the way and doubt and uncharacteristic confusion because instinct no longer counts. He must come to this a different way, where might is irrelevant. That’s the quest, the road to enlightenment and redemption if he can find it.

That’s the story I’m writing pretty much, but it’s my story too. I’m searching for that road, but at least I know it exists.