It’s a slightly damp and cold Sunday morning. As I’ve written here on this blog previously, Sunday’s retain a special atmosphere, even for non-religious people and a postmodern society that no-longer seems to have religion at the heart of its weekly and daily routines but rather orientates its time largely around work, shopping and social media.
I live near to a tyre shop and usually on Sunday morning there’s one or two cars and their drivers parked outside with flat tyres. They made their way here in the ‘small hours’ and are now waiting for the shop to open. The cars are usually pretty fancy, but sadly lamed by a puncture that renders all of their gleaming technology, glossy bodywork and powerful engine redundant, now just a ton of useless metal, glass, plastic, and leather seating, until one crucial tyre is replaced and they are back on the road.
Like those cars, it only takes one thing to go wrong with me and my routines, my ways of working, for me to have to face-up to realities that I usually keep at bay by constantly ‘driving’, or at least working hard and in a way that makes me feel like I’m progressing. Sometimes, when I am forced to stop however, I might come to question the very idea of my ‘progress’ and begin to doubt the reasoning, the ‘rationale’, the logic of my work and life, the work that I like to think ‘is‘ my life – but is it? It’s hard to imagine who or what we might be, given another and very different social and economic system against and within which we might contextualise ourselves and find a purpose for our time alive.
I once watched interviews with East Germans who talked about how much they loved the excellent and equal educations they had received as citizens of a communist state. It quickly became apparent that their motivation for ‘success’ was fundamentally different from that of someone living in a capitalist society, and yes, it was very alluring and, in a way, beautiful and strangely humanised.
The sense of the self as striving always and only in the service of a collective, rather than feeling isolated and channelled into a private and personal pursuit of satisfaction and recognition, came across in their moving words and the nostalgic passion they had for their lives and works prior to the reunification of Germany and the assimilation of East Germany into a capitalist system.
This post is not simply advocating communism however. I also suspect there might be some truth in some of the horror stories (if not scientific histories) I have heard about the potential failings or follies of a grand, modern, collective state that strives for equality above all. The point, I think, here is rather to discuss how to use occasional lapses in our everyday routine when we are unexpectedly able to step back and notice the ‘bigger picture’, the broader perspective, the underlying attributes of the context in which we are working.
Today is a Sunday, which, as mentioned above, still seems, for many, or perhaps for the majority in this society, to be a ‘day of rest’. Also, this week, in my role as a lecturer, I have been on strike. I nevertheless can’t help but continue to develop my own works, writing new books, making music, as well as trying to rest or taking short walks. Given time away from our routine we have an opportunity to think more deeply about what and why we are doing, who we are and what we do. But ultimately, we can’t think TOO deeply about the meaning of our lives and works. Instead, we must learn, at some point, that we ‘never get to the bottom’ of ourselves or of the deepest questions about ourselves and our works.
Hence, we go on, always in a state of semi-consciousness, half-knowing, always processing that strange urge we feel to represent, to create, to re-think, and also to ask and strive and even plead for recognition or reward for our creativity. But time on strike, time in a sick bed, time by the side of the road with a flat tyre are all part of the same life and same journey, providing crucial moments in which, and from which to reconsider before moving on.