I’d like to say something about “obviousness”.

And I’ll start with a scene.  I’ll start with a scene because everything has its roots in the dampness of what happens.

Fourteen years ago or so, there was I and there was Caroline, the two of us wrapped up in an attempted relationship that we could never seem to make work.  I’d followed her out to Japan where the two of us taught English for a few years.  We were young and lost and found ourselves one minute reconciled with each other and then the next minute at odds, together then at war and then together again.

And all the while I was being torn apart inside by a raging quest for meaning and for answers and for a self that would last for more than three days.  If ever there was a time when I was close to suicide, it was sometime during those strange, tortured years in Shikoku.  I used to feel tortured.  Tortured by life as much as by Caroline, though looking back now, I must have hurt her so much. 

In the end it was all that either of us could do to somehow throw ourselves backwards from each other as if off the opposite sides of a boat, so another instinct could take over and take us away in the current.

One afternoon, we were cycling up a slope through paddy fields and Japanese bungalows, the mountains ahead and our home behind us on a stretch of level land that finished off in the sea, her in front, me behind slowed down with heavy preoccupation and frustration.  Finally I threw it out. 

“I just cannot figure out why I am here!  What’s the fucking purpose of it, Jesus shitting Christ!” 

I was in so much pain, or so I thought.

I didn’t really expect any answer from Caroline.  Any past attempt I’d made in sharing the importance and urgency of these questions with her had utterly failed.  There just was no meeting point it seemed.  But just as quickly as I’d blurted out my latest encapsulation of “the question” she answered right back, with as much ease and matter-of-factness as if she was describing the appearance of the fields on either side of us, or the feeling of the bicycle seat beneath her.

“For me it’s so simple.  My purpose is to be me.  Your purpose it so be you.  That’s it.”


I don’t know what I found most striking about what had just happened; the ease with which she said it, the absence of all contextual, philosophical prior reading on her part, the utter completeness of it, or the fact that she’d never made any comment like this before in all the years I’d known her. 

I tried to delve in for more, but there was none.  And I had to accept that what she had just uttered as easily as if we’d been discussing a shopping list was utterly true and yet utterly unrepeatable.


You are on no firmer ground than when you are speaking from what is directly obvious to you.  Furthermore, and please bear with me here…what is obvious is not and can never be known.  Yes, what is obvious is forever in the unknown.  What is obvious does not need to be known, does not need to be held in the known.  It comes directly out of life and falls directly back into life and never needs to be abstracted nor recorded nor espoused by authority. 

And everything we believe ourselves to know is really everything we don’t know at all…and all the effort in the world will never get you to that starting-and-ending place.

That place where Caroline had idly peddled, all those years ago.



My curiosity now turns itself away from fulfillment and instead towards the degree to which life unfailingly “unmeets” my expectations, creatively finding new ways around my hopes and fears and in to being real on its terms, not mine.

I Dare (Part 2)

My paradise is knowing
That everything, everything is noteworthy,
And also, from the very outset,
That mine is the right to be idly available
To whatever insignificancies choose to reveal themselves within my secret days.
Paradise, for me, is knowing that there is no guidance on how I spend this time,
No priorities, no authorities, no urgencies, nor waiting consequences.
It is the sheer luxuriance of my own curiosities and fancies.
It is the stunning fact that I have no clue when this will all be over,
And the corollary that I need not know as it makes no difference for how long this lasts, for there is no addition.
My paradise is knowing of the terrifying amount that you and I have in common,
Of our shared standpoint in this,
And shared disassociation with every label.
Not particularly human, nor particularly alive,
But the realness, yes, the realness…
That is paradise.

The time is 5.52pm. The room is very nicely lit with late afternoon sun and the messy forsythia just outside is all ablaze.

But I’m writing to say that between exactly now and exactly 24 hours ago, I have made absolutely no progress.

I have not managed to affect even the very slightest improvement on my drift.

I am exactly where I was a day ago.

My guilt is exactly the weight it was, as is my unclear optimism.

I have precisely the same balance of insight and blurriness,

The same blend of success and failure

And my destiny is as up in the air as it ever has been.

The day has passed me all by, slipped over and around me

And there is not a single thing I can say differently than before it began.

If this past day was an opportunity for me to somehow comprehend, consolidate or secure something,

I have to say I have totally squandered it.

I truly couldn’t be more unimproved, unchanged.


Work-Life Balance

As unexpected, as unseemly even, as it might be for me to say, my friend,
There is work to be done, we should make a start.
Whatever horizon your sights are set upon,
There is work beyond that, to be done.
Perhaps today is the day.
The day when you and I will get on with it, 
Get on with the work, yes work, the work of living.
Have we not deliberated far more than necessary?
And anyhow, complexity cannot complexify itself to simplicity.
Yes, there is work to be done, important work, real work.
But the work is not the kind that splits.
Not the work of weekdays and regrets, carrots and sticks, dreams of rest.
No, this is the work of living itself, and it is everything and endless,
Bearing no relationship to any preceding endeavours.
You and I must hold hands, my friend, like children now
And step into this phrase of life sooner or later, without shadows,
Conscripting ourselves willingly, for as long our strength lasts,
As enraptured servants to the whimsical import of every instance.


The upturned tupperware on the dish rack perfectly reflects the grey light of an overcast Saturday. A few white bowls sit to the side, one within the other, so that the smooth curved underside of the uppermost one holds still the light through the kitchen window, a square stretched over the bend. What else? What else? Nothing flinches nor shies away, moves away first, nothing that is, but me. Everything vies for my attention, meets me with an ontological confidence. Yes, I see you. Just as yesterday afternoon, driving slowly down the hill through the nearby shops, in the flow of traffic, I saw you…the man getting off his bicycle by the lamp post, my eyes rolling over the curve of his face as I drove past and he looked on, staying with his life for a few more moments. There are no questions here, no incompletenesses…only things, in idle suspension.