It’s a month since the UK government announced lockdown. The Husband and I began our personal self isolation a week earlier on March 16, so, five weeks and counting, we’ve pretty much adapted to our new routine. The only thing missing for me is I’m not writing.

I don’t think I’m too disturbed by that; I tend to be the sort who only speaks when I have something to say, and at the moment what I thought I wanted to say has been somewhat overshadowed by events. My head is buzzing, but when I sit down in the morning with my pencil and notebook I can tease out nothing creative. All I write is what I remember of the previous day, which is often not much. But I’m keeping the faith and am sure my unconscious is still working away in the background, like an internet cookie.

When this has happened to me in the past I’ve fretted, but the writing has always returned in the end, usually once I’ve stopped worrying about it. Thus I’ve decided to chill and use this time to listen and, hopefully, learn something.

As I’ve said a zillion times before my main, perhaps only, interest is solving the problem of eudaimonia. Often translated as human flourishing, I prefer to think of eudaimonia as universal flourishing. I don’t believe humans can flourish if other things, dandelions included, don’t. We are part of the eco-system, after all. I’m still working this out, but I rather see eudaimonia as the art world’s equivalent of physics: Big Bang; String Theory; Quantum Mechanics, and all that. As teams of physicists work out the details of the how of the universe, eudaimonia needs teams of a more abstract nature. It’s a similarly long term quest, that has occupied philosophers and artist for centuries, and is far too big for one person. I think it needs all of us.

Volunteers planting trees at our local community woodland last year.

And I do mean all of us: past, present and, probably, future. That includes the guy in Michigan protesting lockdown because he just wants to be able to buy grass seed (‘I mean, come on!’), and his fellow protester who’s being driven to insanity by not being able to get her roots done. Not to mention the billionaires who are playing them. Everyone has a part in this, even if that part is just feeling that their fears and needs are understood and being taken into consideration. I think it’s got something to do with us all feeling our own equalness. I know I’m not going to be a key player here, and I’ll be long dead before the problem is close to being solved, but I hope I can add something, sometime, and am pretty sure that will be in the form of fiction: a novel, or a collection of short stories. As I don’t seem to be able to write at the moment I’m trying to absorb the creative outputs of those who have gone before me. Usually I’d do this by going to major art galleries, but as that’s not possible at the moment, I’ve found another way.**

As mentioned in the last post, I had a birthday recently, and for that birthday the Husband gave me a set of wireless headphones

Image: PC Mag **

I’d been wanting a pair since this time last year when I got a new phone that has no headphone jack. But I had no idea how much they would add to my life. They are, quite frankly, one of the best presents I’ve ever been given. They’re comfortable enough to wear for hours on end, I can roam the whole house without any interruptions to the sound or faffing with devices, and the noise cancelling means no outside interference. They are for listening what super-fast broadband is for working from home. But that’s not the best of it.

I’ve long gasped at stories of artists who are able to listen to music as they work, whatever that music is; I’ve always favoured silence. And I’m invariably amazed when some kid on University Challenge can identify a piece of classical music (and the conductor!) in point seven of a second. I assume that music has been part of their life since birth. I imagine them as toddlers padding down the stairs in the morning, entering a vast, book-lined sitting room, the sun streaming through open French windows, and Beethoven’s Pastoral emanating from pitch-perfect speakers. I didn’t have that kind of childhood, the music in our house tended to be jazz and blues (my dad) and big band (mum). My mother did lead in the church choir, and I remember marvelling at her Ave Maria on one very special occasion, but I don’t remember any classical music records in our small collection. And, I don’t know why but music, for me, has always been like maths: incredibly desirable, but way beyond my grasp. Just as I would love to understand Andrew Wiles’s equations, I would love to know Mozart. I’m extremely unlikely ever to comprehend how Wiles solved Fermat, but the headphones have provided just the ticket for getting to know Mozart, and as I type this I am listening to his Concerto No. 3 in G Major.

I don’t have a huge music collection at all, leave alone on my phone, so I decided to take advantage of Apple’s free three month music trial.*** There’s no way I’ll be able to afford the tenner a month they ask to subscribe after that, so I have three months to swim in these waters, and I’m hoping that in that time I’ll get to know as many of their currents as possible. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to name things like key changes, or even keys, but if I listen enough I reckon I’ll be able to feel them, understand them in a sensual way. And my hope is that that bodily apprehension will somehow feed my own creativity. So much of writing is, after all, about the sound of the words: the rhythms, the stresses, the timing and tone. These things convey meaning as much as simple denotation does.

I’m not writing at the moment, but because I’ve found a way to immerse myself in an art I’ve had little engagement with in the past, I’m doing the next best thing for my practice: learning.

Header image: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Cvi_jy5XgAAMcK1.jpg

*Reading is a given.

**Note: mine are black and a slightly later version, which has Google Assistant built in. My grappling with that particular feature will need a whole other post!

***Not all good, I can only get it to play anything new on my phone. The albums appear on my computer screen (as normal), there is a ‘play’ button, but when I click on it nothing happens.

6 thoughts on “Unlocking

  1. Not writing – fiddlesticks, I’ve just read a seriously reflective piece, full of interesting observations and information. Must think about some headphones!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m fine, thank you, Scarlet, if somewhat unmoored. I seem to have developed a new routine that incorporates nothing of my pre lockdown life. I will pop over and see you right now! XXX


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