Sunday, 25 January 2009

Five favourite albums I’ve heard in the last twelve months

Boris – Rainbow
Scott Walker – Scott 4
Hector Zazou – Sahara Blue
Various – Tango Around The World
John Barry – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Five favourite poetry books that I’ve read in the last twelve months

One Secret Thing - Sharon Olds
Pablo Neruda - The Captain's Verses
Leaves of Grass (1855 edition) - Walt Whitman
Poems from Guantanamo - Ed. Marc Falkoff
Collected Poems - Michael Hartnett

Five favourite novels that I’ve read the last twelve months

Zazie in The Metro - Raymond Queneau
The Catcher in The Rye - JD Salenger
The Good Soldier - Ford Madox Ford
The Girls of Slender Means - Muriel Spark
Betty Blue - Phillipe Dijan

Friday, 23 January 2009

Five least favourite books I’ve read in the last twelve months (all genres)

Jorge Luis Borges – Labyrinths
Henry James – What Maisie Knew
Don DeLillo – MAO II
Pablo Neruda – Memoirs
Leonard Cohen – Selected Poems 1956 – 68

Not saying I hated them, just were my least favourite..okay, okay. I admit it I really hated the Borges and James books.. but you can’t like everything.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Addiction and The Artist

Each morning I sit for half and hour or so and a coffee and think about things in my notebooks, I've done this pretty much every day for the last seventeen years, and with even more regularity when I do 'The Artist's Way,' to bring me back to purpose. It is very rare that I share anything from my notebooks, as the writing there outside of the poems and stories which go on to be published are entirely private.

Recently I've been thinking about addiction a lot, perhaps as a result of the UK governments ceaseless efforts to keep us hooked into the worst of human tendencies and credit usage to feed the empty bloody machine of the economy. I have also been thinking about how for the artist, it is easy to indulge addiction as it is both part of the image, and part of being open that one can fall into things firstly as a comfort or protection, or outward show; then these habits grow deep and take over.

I make no apology for my belief that the true artist is 'the top of the tree' when it comes to place in society.

I'm publishing this here I guess as a set of thoughts that might be interesting to explore further

from my Journal then...

Addiction and The Artist

Addiction is the highest form of procrastination, a way of numbing ourselves from pain and difficulty. Very often the original roots of something which becomes an addiction are quite understandable: loneliness, personal disaster, fear, betrayal, difficult circumstances, lack of belonging, or a lack of voice. For some addiction is existential, for others it is a way of staking a claim or carving out an identity for oneself. Whichever of these things it is, it is a fact that the neural pathways in the brain develop with the progress of the addiction to keep the addict hard wired to their problem, whilst the addict suffers from varying periods of wishful thinking, shame, fear and contrariness.

The beginning of a cure is two fold:

First is for the addict to have the honesty to admit there is something which needs addressing, admit that they are hiding from life, and from there they can begin to develop mechanisms to help they engage again with their true life. Keeping busy or simply avoiding sex, alcohol, porn, drugs will not solve the problem. When the term true life is used, it is meant to represent a genuine movement of spirit within the person, as opposed to the idea that society, or family or friends telling the person they should be what they think they should be. Often family and friends are right, but the addict has to find their own ‘spiritual’ ground and motivation.

The second aspect is the giving up of shame. Learning to understand that there was a viable, needful reason for this starting, and that the addiction is not the person, it is a symptom of something deeper. The addict must accept where they are and begin from there. No one can start ahead of where they are no matter how much they would like it to be otherwise. As in the first statement, this honesty with themselves is the interface of reengagement with their true life.

Both these aspects take great courage. Along the way the addict must ask for help; meditation, learning to sit with themselves and god or the higher, whatever one wishes to call it, engaging with the genuine spiritual aspect of life is essential. This does not mean becoming religious, it means asking for help from outside of yourself to the reliable aspect of the universe. There may also be a need to embark on a programme of therapy or finding a support network outside of friends and family.

There is no real need to go in depth into the outcomes of addiction here as they are essentially the same for every addiction: shame, belligerence, distorted thoughts, lack of connection, loss of hope and dreams, destruction of self and family and relationships. The addict reinforces their problem as these things kick in by attempting to take solace something they see as reliable, the very thing that is the outward expression of their addiction, drink, sex, porn, drugs, another person, money, the internet.

The key is to find something that is actually reliable. Human beings have fluxes of circumstance and so are not reliable. Good people may try their best to help the addict but even then it is not their place to fill the place of pain in the addict, cure their emptiness. That is the job of life. It is life itself that fills these places. The addict attempts to bypass the field of play, the addict may see themselves as superior, spiritual, they may believe they are special, misunderstood, different for others around them. This attitude of avoiding the obstacle course of life leaves life unlived. Obviously people are different from each other and some people do have a higher purpose, for them it is harder as they are set apart by their gift, but they still have to enter the field of play of their own lives just like everyone else. The obstacles they find there are not impediments but life itself, just as much as any joys or victories. The higher purpose individual may take the time to study, reflect and map their terrain, they may even set goals and timeframes and have strategies, yet the field of play has to be entered, crossed, lived, as life passes whether they do or don’t. All the journaling, talking, studying, intellectualism and debate do not take one into life, but using the perspective gained from reflective activity may make for an aware and interesting crossing.

John Siddique
Hebden Bridge
January 14, 2009