Friday, 26 December 2014
In December 2004 I was living in a converted cotton factory on Shacklewell Lane. I was drunk mostly and when I wasn’t drunk I was working in a job that I hated beyond measure, doing market research for an IT magazine that no one wanted. I was drunk, unable to change my situation, dissatisfied and aimless- with a vague notion that I was a bit like someone from a F. Scott Fitzgerald novel yet much less interesting. Quite frankly, I was bored- the kind of gnawing boredom that permeates everything. I would cry when I watched musicals and on one particularly terrible comedown felt like killing myself while watching an aeroplane fly through the dawn.
Modern malaise. So what? The Tsunami passed me by the same way September 11th did, I had no grip on the world around me. I saw the images and they went through me, I couldn’t connect with it- depression is a different kind of horror. Living in a permanent state of crisis makes it hard to be empathetic, my immediate life was far enough away.
It was in this state that I was watching TV one morning, and saw a programme that was asking different religious leaders what meaning the Tsunami had, how could we make sense of it? They started with some Bishop talking about how we can see it as an opportunity to love each other more, to help out neighbours in times of hardship. Another guy came on to talk about perspective. One by one these big shots came on, telling us how to feel. I watched with one eye, the other in my cornflakes, until one particular man spoke. He was a Buddhist and when the presenter asked him the question he just said:
‘None. The events are entirely meaningless.’
These words changed my life. And it wasn’t so much the content, because I’d read all that- we all do, when we’re 15. It was the way he said it, and the contrast between the other answers and his. It was the calm in his voice, the lack of posturing and his matter of factness that got me. The events are entirely meaningless.
I started going to the Buddhist Centre in Holloway Road to do a course on Buddhism and to take part in group meditation. It was OK, not my thing really- a lot of the people there were pretty annoying if I’m honest, but it was a shift. I learned about the Eternal Round and saw my situation more clearly that I had before. I slowly gave up drinking and started to look for people who didn’t rely on booze to become who they thought they were. A few years before I had made a song with a friend that I thought was pure and good so I went to a payphone and called him, with the wind rustling the trees.
Well I hadn’t seen Danny for a long time but we decided to try and make some more songs. He was getting better too and this common ground was a tenet for us as well as a difficulty, but what came out of the story was beautiful Flora. Our daughter made me a nicer person, more real and connected than ever before. Flo and I have lived together for nearly nine years and she has taught me how love works, that I don’t live in a film or a book but in my own meaningless life- which is so much more interesting than either of those could ever be.