Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Cultivate Serendipitous Connections

As so often, I stare at the screen and the widget stares back. Less intimidating than a blank piece of paper, its white space nevertheless conveys the sense of expectation to be filled with something.
As a piece of A4, ruled with a margin and faint blue lines is less forbidding than a truly blank sheet bearing no marks or implication of structure, the widget's friendly buttons for the addition of pictures, links or videos, hint at some kind of encouragement to put one's thoughts in a coherent manner within the space indicated. Once begun, the words come more easily, the space no longer being empty and the fear of despoiling it largely overcome.

And so, I wonder briefly why such spaces exist anyway. Why, all over the world, are people tapping away their days, writing thoughts profound or inconsequential, into small white spaces on a computer screen? Is it a form of narcissism? Possibly. Hypergraphia? Certainly words and concepts announce themselves to me, and hence compel me to release them upon a largely indifferent world. Perhaps the motivation does not bear too much scrutiny. Maybe we should just let the thoughts coalesce into words and see what happens.
Personally, it balances me to write here. The words I wield are tools which are refined through use, but also they are the currency of our internal dialogues and any improvement in our language and articulation must surely provide some commensurate improvement in the quality of our thinking. And goodness knows I need that!

A book I flicked through, by an actual writer, about the process and craft of creative writing, suggested we should "cultivate serendipitous connections". I think he had a different meaning in mind to the one I took from it, but isn't that my own connection? I take it to mean exchanging ideas with people who see things differently to myself. People. Yes, the people make the party, so to speak. In a roundabout way, I shall arrive at my thoughts on this, mainly because, until I have written them down, I won't really know what they are. Only that there are many and I need to explain this to myself on this rather difficult of days.

Today, I find myself beset with a heavy sadness with which I do not want to infect the world. Other peoples' moods are their concern and perhaps it is arrogant of me to think I have any effect on them whatsoever. However, the human condition does contain a large component of empathy (in apparently 98% of people anyway) so I hope my melancholy is not too contagious.

I have to go to a funeral in a little over an hour; a funeral of one taken very young as he was just taking his first steps to an independent life as an adult in the world. I shall not dwell on the details, only that he was as talented and magnificent a young man as one could ever hope to meet and that he succumbed after a long illness which I consider a very unjust stroke of fate. It goes without saying that this is a tragedy for all who knew him and also for the world which, given his particular gifts, would surely have benefited from his participation in it.

I remark to myself how I came to know him, through my son's Greenpower Racing team. Such a tightly-knit and wonderful group of kids working together to make and race an electric racing car, with parental help and signficant, very enjoyable, social activities. It was one of those activities that brought together unlikely alliances of people who would otherwise never have met. As such, it was a very fertile and productive environment that benefited us all, I think, in ways both obvious and oblique.

And I recollect all the places I have been where I have met people who, in other times, in other ages, I would have had no opportunity to know. All that we are derives from what we begin with and the subsequent unfolding narratives of our lives. How people and events act upon us to produce who we are right now is unfathomably complex, weaving, in some cases, a rich tracery of intricate threads.

Other places I have met people are virtual. They may not exist in any physical geography, but the connections I have made there exist like golden threads through actual space, the kind an atlas can signify. These threads connect me, in my mind to places all over this globe, to people who have opened up my understanding of the world, brought perspectives I could not have otherwise had any conception of, shown me ideas I had not even suspected existed.
These people close and distant, are points on my spatial map of humanity. It makes the world somehow more accessible and the ideas in it available in a way they weren't when I lived in a small village whose only link to beyond the visible horizon was the news, the papers and the library in the next town.
I feel the richer for these threads.

Some of those virtual spaces I have left. Some forums, for various reasons, I have closed my accounts on, shut down my presence. Some had passed on, falling into disrepair and neglect, some I left for different reasons. But in my head, the map of the world is still populated by pins with small flags on, and though some of the threads may be now indistinct and sagging, the influence upon me as a person will remain.

People come and go in your life, through consequence, location and ultimately death. But whilst we are here, it's the other people who we surround ourselves with, with whom we correspond and share ideas, they are the ones who make us to some large extent what we are. And I am grateful to all of those who have left their mark upon this personality that I inhabit, good and bad, for surely both had some value. The people really do make the party.

In just over an hour, I will attend a funeral for one much younger than me. And it is deeply sad for all involved, but better he lived a short life and showed an example to some, which he so surely did, than never have lived at all. He passed by my aquaintance and left a mark. A good one.

Rest in Peace Alex. I am glad to have known you.


Sonia said...

I'm sorry about your friend. I know what it's like to have the noonday demon possess one's spirits. Take care of yourself.

PerlNumquist said...

Thank you Sonia. It is, I suppose, life unfolding. But while we are alive, the mosaics of our own characters have colourful pieces added by those we know and knew. That is what I try to take away from it all.