Feb 21, 2021
6 mins read
IN RESPONSE TO THE PRAXICAL POETRY EXERCISE
I wrote the poem around which this praxical exercise is based during an impromptu nine day fast, whilst renting an old shack in the bizarre beach town of Zipolite (See TIME TRAEVLLING) this past November.
After posting it to my social media accounts it was met with a pretty confused response, both because I never publish writing of any sort and because of the apparent challenge it presented for readers, particularly with respect to the explicit reference it makes to an apparently surprising amalgam of thinkers.
I also sent it directly to my mother in WhatsApp. Disappointingly, it took a long time to hear her response. So I video called her.
"Hi mum. Still waiting to hear back on the poem. When your son suddenly out of the blue sends you some writing he clearly sees as important, there's some expectation that his mother would actually, at the least, acknowledge receipt of it." I say frustrated, albeit in a largely light hearted way.
"Yeah sorry Jess. Just trying to process it. It's pretty challenging to understand. Needed to look up the authors you're referring to. You haven't made it easy for the reader." She looks unnecessarily worried.
"Well yeah. That's part of the point, I guess. Not that it was done intentionally. The poem just came out automatically in speech and then in writing. But it requires the lay reader to spend some time reading around it. Too much of our consumption of art is just passive these days. People just want the answer given to them." I'm speaking quickly and somewhat indignantly, she is concerned for all the wrong reasons.
"Can't you think of a way of making it easier for people?"
"Perhaps, but that kind of defeats the whole point."
I forget the rest of the conversation. But it ends with my mum making reference to some negative aspect of RD Laing's life in an apparent ad hominem attempt to dismiss anything he said. At this point I give up and say goodbye.
Unfortunately from the very beginning, my mother's intrigue for the writing was a thin veneer for a persistent pathologisation (the irony of which is revealed in the poem no less) in which the unexpected transformation of her son into one compelled into creative acts was understood as indicative of psychosis or mania. Indeed, it didn't take long to hear (and not for the first time) the cry "you sound like your father". A man she had similarly treated incoherently as both mentally ill yet somehow responsible for his unntoward behaviour to the point of literally imprisoning the poor fucker during my youth. A man who tragically remains forever institutionalised by psychiatry even outside of the institution. Indeed, had I been within her clutches and that of the British state the same would have had happened to me.
Whilst visiting a former best friend's family on the coast of Guerrero where I had a similar explosion of creativity (as well as the most beautiful experience of my life swimming with pilot whales). One day whilst working on a variety of of other projects (including DAY NIGHT), I came up with the idea of making the poem interactive. I quickly remembered that YouTube had the feature to link to other videos within a video. I consequently came up with the following:
The Answer Is Hidden Here
Amongst The Beauty Of Free
Medium Change Is The Direction
Open Your Mind To This Affection
1. Open The Primary YouTube Link Below (See EMPOWER THE AUDIENCE)
2. YOU MUST TURN OFF (AND FOREVER LEAVE OFF) AUTOPLAY IN YOUTUBE BEFORE PROCEEDING
PHONE: You Will See A White Play Button Switch In Top Middle Of The Video Screen
COMPUTER: You Will See A White Pause/Play Button Switch Next To The Captions Button
3. Pay Close Attention To The Top Right Hand Corner Of The Video Screen Where A White Box Will Appear During The Main Video
4. These Are Links To Secondary Videos That Correspond To Parts Of The Text
5. Pause The Main Video When A Link Arrives
6. Click The Link
7. Watch The Linked Video
8. Return To The Main Video
9. Replay The Main Video From Where You Left Off
10. Repeat For All Links
After getting it finished quickly and being extremely excited about it, I think it appropriate to call my mother. After all, she was the one who said to make it easier for the audience and it seems I have found a compromise: make it both easier and harder at the same time. It's a reasonable hour in England, so I make a WhatsApp video call.
"Hi Jess. What's up?" She answers, again looking concerned.
"Can you do something for me right now?"
"What is it?"
"You just need to look at a video. It will take about 30 mins. But I need you to drop everything right now and do it. " I say with a clear anticipation that she is going to refuse.
"I'm in the middle of cooking dinner."
"This is more important. Can't you just pause what you are doing for thirty minutes? Look if you don't stop what you are doing right now, I will never speak to you again."
"Okay. Yeah. All right."
"So you'll do it?" I see her walk into the other room, where her partner has clearly overheard the conversation.
"No. I can't do it."
"So I'll never speak to you again then. That's your decision not mine. How can you not stop the bullshit consumption that you are doing for thirty minutes for your own? Who is sick here? Goodbye." I hang up and have not spoken to her since.
Quickly after, I contact my younger brother via WhatsApp with the same request. He also refuses, albeit with a better reason than "cooking dinner"; he's with his young daughter and can't get away, albeit from what I recall being surrounded by his wife and her family. I don't understand how this warrans an unwillingness to not drop everyday things for something someone in your family feels willing to end the relationship for. It's a cruel exposure of the madness of our contemporary condition.
Frustrated, I quickly call my father. And already think to myself, why I didn't start here in the first place. He answers immediately.
"You ´right, Jess." He says with his aging slightly-Yorkshire twang.
"Can you do something for me right now? It'll take like thirty minutes. I just told Mum I would never speak to her again because she refused to do it." I'm speaking in a perhaps less volatile way than with my mother.
"Why did you do that?"
"Well she just treats me like I'm ill constantly. I'm tired of it. I can't do it anymore."
"Understandable." He says with complete, first-hand comprehension and empathy for the sentiment.
"What is it you need me to do?"
"Just follow some instructions and watch an interactive YouTube video I put together. But you need to drop what you are doing and do it right now."
"I'll do my best. You know how I am with technology." Despite being an early adopter of the home computer, he has never adapted to smartphones with much success.
But it's his no questions asked approach that leads me reassured of the genuine love he has for me, rather than whatever it is you want to call this "concern" masquerading as love that my mother and brother appear to have. It doesn't seem like rocket science to me, if you are unwilling to drop everything no questions asked for someone there is not meaningful love in that relationship.