Words are little things. Small on the screen or page. Evocations of a hand that is itself small, relative to the great infinity of things and not things. Nevertheless words can do a lot, be a lot, say a lot. As long as Yov don’t burden them with worldly responsibilities or give them banal tasks to perform. The things with words is, they are not things but rather springs, birds, events and explosions. R.S Thomas compares a busy mind to finches in a hedgerow.
This week Yov became free, or freer, or free for a little while. Yov finished a job that has gone on for almost a year. And there, on the other side of it, was a day when Yov felt free. Freedom for Yov is free to leave the house when Yov wants. Free to take any bus or ride a bike into or out of the city. Free to explore, look at the city, its history, buildings, street plans, buildings, markets, and its people who are still mixed, complex, wild and random, crammed together into tubes and buses, getting by and rubbing along with all their differences, mostly through their combined decency, tolerance, leniency and understanding. That is the marvelous achievement of the city. The tower of all towers is the tower of the peoples’ respect for each other.
Difference is a sliding scale. Yov has a gadget. It’s called a ‘Radio’. Yov can hear all kinds of voices, people, music, debates and sports on their. This week Yov heard ‘The World Service’ Yov likes The World Service because, although it is British at heart, it gives Yov the feeling that, on the Radio Yov are out of this world, in a stateless realm where there are no countries to stay in or to leave. There is just a world, like the dial of the Radio that slides from station to station, grinding through the noisy, unclear areas in between (pre-set digital Radios don’t do this anymore but jump to the next station they can find, missing out all the crunch and fuzz.)
On ‘The World Service’ there was a programme about ‘How Many Genders Do We Need?’. Yov liked it so much because it first used the model of a Transgender person, and their increasing visibility in our progressive society, and then showed that these people, with especially difficult, brave and challenging and rich and interesting lives, are influencing the medical profession and science. As a result, a doctor whose job it has been to decide on the sex of some babies who are born with uncertain or both sexes claimed, very confidently that “all sex and all gender is in fact a sliding scale, there is no gender binary”.
Yov thought this was great, liberating. Why? Because the implications for Class, Race, Nationality etc. are all so profound once you clearly dismiss binary thinking and replace it with a “sliding scale”. Please think about this. Yes, Yov always knew this, and had thought about it often, but it was great to hear a mainstream medical practitioner talk about identity in what would once have been such a radical way. And somehow THAT made it more true, more real, more constructive.
Identity is a “sliding scale”. Life is a trombone, a fretless bass or a violin. Words may be like stations on a radio, points at which we stop for information, while between words there is that silence, that hesitation, that white page or blank screen. With a pencil Yov can communicate words and lines between them, articulating that space between or even widening the space between words to emphasise the silence, the gap, the other of words.
Then again (fortunately there is always a ‘then’ and an ‘again’), Yov may be able to write in such a way that Yovre words do indeed become a “sliding scale”, a kind of continuum like a glissando, up or down the smooth neck of a violin, or the sustain of a piano chord overlain with another chord or a single note picked out against the background.
Yov checks the wordcount at the bottom right corner of his WordPress screen. Yov is not a gender, a nationality, a class, a race, an age, a sex. Yov is a word chasing a cursor, a cursor that never seems satisfied but blinks continuously, coming in and out of sight, in and out of existence, a bar across the future of writing, the crook of a shepherd that keeps Yov from rushing into danger.
5 thoughts on “73. The Crook of a Shepherd”
When I was in jail, they allowed me to have a small radio. I listened to the World Service, Radio Moscu and a programm that only transmitted underground music. Radio was my beacon.
I was among the many detained without trial. The radio glued to my ear, very low, so nobody would know what I was listening to. Short wave, a window to the world.
Does identity also have to jump between harmonics (as on a trombone) or strings (fretless bass or violin)?
I think anything that any of us who know (a lot or a little) about music and musical instruments can play a part in extending this metaphor.
The most important image here, to me, is not so much the musical, and not so much the ‘scale’, as the ‘sliding’, gliding, between, over and without stops/frets/words/concepts that we might habitually use to articulate identity.
Of course stops/frets/words/concepts may well describe life/music too, as in a certain rather percussive insistence implied by the phrase ‘being a man’.
However, once (influenced by the computer) we bring these words together into the portmanteau ‘beingaman’ this draws attention to the (now compressed or cancelled) space between the constituent terms, thus calling into question each of the consituent terms: ‘being’ ‘a’ and ‘man’, as well as the grammatical organisation that contributes to their meaning i.e. their cultural currency or value.
thanks for that!