Back to the world again, after 10 days of total media de-tox: no internet, no television, no radio, no newspapers, nothing but those quaint cubical constructions of paper and ink known as books.
I would highly recommend one of those cubes to anyone interested in elucidating the cultural, political, social, spiritual, and psychological bedevilments that inform our bruising and battering age: The Master and the Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, by Iain McGilchrist.
For me personally, the book has been not only a richly fecund field of new insights and connections, but also, in many ways, a ricorso, a thunderclap of return to some deeply-felt intimations and understandings of Being that had once — in their rough, inchoate, unrefined early forms — seemed to be moving me in the direction of a deeper, more holistic engagement with life, if I may put it that way. I lost most of these intimations along the way somewhere, wandering away from the deep, swift, churning river down many dismal, swampy by-paths, pushing through murk, tangled in vines, anxious, fearful, diminished. It’s strange to have stumbled suddenly out of the undergrowth to catch a glimpse of the old river, still there (though not the same water, of course; never the same water), still surging, still alive.
Whether I can hew my way down to the water again is another question, of course; the vines are still thick, the murk is heavy, and the spirit and flesh much weaker than before. But I can hear the river again, for now; I can feel and scent its vibrant air. I might just make it yet.
In the light of these revelations and returnings, I might be writing in a somewhat different vein in the future, at least at times. I think that in many ways I’ve come to — or am coming toward — the end of what I can say about these hideous and harrowing times of ours. Or rather, I have a great deal I can say; I just don’t know how much I can fruitfully add.
I started this blog for two main reasons. One was the fact that I knew my weekly Moscow Times column wouldn’t last forever, and I wanted to have an arena where I could still spout my opinions — and, less glibly, where I could work out what I really thought and felt about the issues of the day. I’ve always had to write things out in order to know my own mind. That was one reason.
The other was one that I’ve mentioned frequently over the years: the burning desire — or rather the compulsive need — to bear witness to the monstrous horrors and murderous hypocrisies of the age, most especially those being committed by the rampaging empire into which I was born. I just wanted to make it known that I had seen these evils and had not stayed silent, had not acquiesced, but had spoken out against them, in public, for the record, in my own name.
Well, I’ve borne that witness, in print and on-line, through wars and atrocities and changes of power among imperial factions, for the last decade. No one who cares to know could be in any doubt as to where I stand. But I feel more and more that I have reached some kind of limit with the analytical approach that I have taken for these many years. I think that I have made clear all that I can make clear, all that is clear in my own mind, at this point in my life experience and my learning. I think I need to experience more and learn more (learn much, much more), open myself up to new perspectives — and regain some old perspectives. So, as Boris Pasternak once put it at a somewhat similar point in his life, I may be writing badly for a time — clumsily, searchingly, groping for a new way, starting over.
That’s not to say that I won’t continue to catalogue the atrocities of the age. I think, deep down, that I can’t not do that, even if I tried. But I also hope to be thinking through and writing through to some different understandings. Anyway, we’ll see.