In the final stages of my animation for History Month-help! Gathering all the audio clips together and hoping it all works.
Last Tuesday, something happened. This was unusual in itself; nothing usually happens on a Tuesday. I was therefore unprepared for the eventuality that something might happen on that day.
Of course, when I say nothing happens on a Tuesday, I’m being slightly facetious. Obviously lots of little things happen – I get up, I wash, I eat, I drink, I smoke, I look out the window, sometimes I go outside, mostly I stay inside, I write, I draw, I spend time with my significant Other, that kind of thing.
What I actually mean to say is, nothing important usually happens, on a Tuesday.
Last Tuesday was different.
I had no sense of the numinous, no instinctual clairvoyance that A Thing would happen. Nothing to set this one Tuesday apart from any other Tuesday. It was like any other Tuesday; any other day at all, in fact.
But then, it happened.
Some Thing occurred that shook me from my usual stupor, some Thing that was so out of the ordinary that I could no longer pretend it was a Normal Day. As soon as The Thing occurred, it would be difficult to ever pretend again.
Where once No Thing important or noteworthy happened, now some Thing had. That was a state of events I was unprepared for, being as generally this was not the case.
When the Thing took place, I had to check myself to ensure my faculties were appropriately intact, that my sensory input was all working correctly. It was definitely not a dream; I was aware of being awake. Not in the way that sometimes in a dream you can feel sure that you’re awake and that it’s actually happening, even though that is proved to be patently false, either by the introduction of some ridiculous, nonsensical event that pushes the limits of the reality of the dream too far, or by the horror of the dream (and they are, mostly, horrific in some fashion or other) becoming so much that fight or flight sends you reeling from the world of sleep to awake into your sweat-heavy pillow. Not in that way.
In the way that even though the World is full of things that seem ridiculous and nonsensical, we’re usually aware of the rightness of the fact that we are not sleeping or dreaming when we are, in fact, very much awake.
Nor were my faculties dulled or enhanced by anything stronger than instant coffee and Golden Virginia. I had no hallucinogens, no amphetamines, no drugs of any kind in my system, save the coffee, the tobacco, and also an SSRI, one which basically took the nervy edge off being awake and not dreaming, but nothing so strong that it would convince me that a Thing was happening when it wasn’t.
Checking myself in this manner, I quickly (and I mean quickly, these kind of checks take no time at all, really, since we’re usually already sure of the results, even if we have that momentary fillip in our gut where it becomes necessary to just be on the safe side) concluded that the Thing was definitely happening.
Given that, the only thing to do was to form an adequate response. Since the situation was otherwise ordinary – the scene and setting just that of any other Tuesday – it seemed only right to not panic, to not act out in a manner unbecoming of a Tuesday, even though this Thing was definitely changing the tenor of the day in a way that could not be ignored.
I carefully assessed the Thing, taking in the nature of the event from as many angles (physically and philosophically, if you take my meaning, which meaning is complex when considering the nature of the information I’m relaying to you now) as I could, moving slowly to experience it without becoming involved with the Thing, as such.
It was important to me to maintain the sense that the Thing was occurring in an otherwise humdrum environment, that its nature was its own boundary, the fact of its occurrence part of the uniqueness of it, and that to get, as we say, up close and personal, might alter the nature of the Thing in such a way that it would no longer be the original Thing, but some other Thing, tainted by my interaction.
This is not an easy task, as you might be aware. Without getting into quantum physics, which I couldn’t even if I wanted to, as I’ve not the mind for more than the merest understanding of such, it’s almost impossible to witness a thing, any thing, without becoming in some way involved, and that was certainly true of this Thing, perhaps more than any other, so obviously contradictory was it. The more I studied the Thing, attempting to remain detached, the more I was changed by it and, I could only presume since it seemed perfectly natural to do so at the time, was it changed by me.
The results of these changes were subtle and ontological; once, there was no Thing, no Important, New Thing in my existence, and therefore in my memory or my experience, and now there Was. My brain was already adapting in ways too subtle to recount, too subtle for me even to be aware of them exactly, save that I experienced that existential sense of something being different in me. Watching the Thing, I could sense that somehow the same was taking place for it.
Simple shifts and shudders in its totality seemed definitely to me to be a result of it having been experienced. There was no way for me to directly engage the Thing in discourse, as it was too unusual and out-of-the-ordinary, as one might say, to even know how a rapprochement might be reached.
That is to say, in less obtuse language, that the Thing was of such a nature that I wasn’t even sure I could communicate with it in any way. Although I was able to experience it, and know the sense of it having experienced me, I was completely unable to discern its nature. It was a Thing, completely other from every other Thing I had ever experienced.
How does one engage with a Thing when it is of such a new nature that one has no context for it?
Its very existence was contrary to everything else on that Tuesday, its being delineated only by its opposition to the natural, normal mundane day that was pushed aside for the space of its being.
It was there, but only in a negative fashion.
It could only be experienced as that which it was not – normal, mundane, everyday, Tuesday. Me.
For while I was definitely experiencing the Thing, I felt sure that it was not Of Me, not something I had begotten, not something created by me, nor willed into Being.
The Thing had independent existence beyond me, which in itself was not unusual (I’ve seen many things that existed independently of me – toast, newspapers, coins, dust), yet the fact that it was independent and yet unlike every other independent Thing I had witnessed in my time on this planet made it not only unique in and of itself, but also contrary to not only my experiences but also the limits of my imagination.
With no context to ground its existence, my continued study of it became a battle of some kind, my ground disappearing inversely with its continued presence – the longer it stayed here, contrary, existing despite its unusualness, the further I slipped from certainty, from the safety of catalogues and concepts.
I quickly rebelled at the Thing.
What was it? Why was it here? What did it want, if wanting was even a function of a Thing so distant that the mind could barely contain its existence except by rebellion and opposition?
My initial attempt to not interfere was dashed against the need to define the experience of the Thing somehow, to contain it in my head along with every other thing, thing or Thing, I’d experienced, to own it, the knowledge of it, to conquer it and say, this is smaller than me, it can fit within the meat of my brain, my neurons can make light work of this. I am clever, as far as it goes, and experienced, broadly, if not fully, in many things, and know the world around me, and I’ve conquered Every Other Thing, but not this.
As earlier presumed, my interaction with it was changing its nature, but instead of becoming more solid, more real, the way places do once you go back there a second or third time, once they have made space in your head, this Thing was becoming even more elusive, more distant, formless, bigger and yet smaller? or further away.
I raced with it, running alongside the essence of it, chasing down the reality of the Thing, desperate now to have it, to be one with it, to know the nature of this Thing that demanded to remain UnKnown. I stood still, but travelled highways of a topology I no longer recognised, nor knew how to process. The further it ran from me, the finer my enquiry became, now squeezing itself violently inside the very being of the Thing, lacerating it mentally, pressing myself inside ontological wounds that instantly rejected me and resealed themselves.
It was playing with me.
The Thing was enormous, size beyond comparison, distant in a way I could never break down enough to measure. I was exhausted by it, by the dance it led me, knowing that the faster I ran, the further it got from me, and in that exhaustion, I felt a strange kind of abandon, that I might never know it, and that I was now becoming too tired to care.
It was no Thing to me. Just a Thing, unusual in itself, but too remote to have meaning, meaning applied to No Thing, and I was happy now to see it go.
A Thing such as this does not ‘go’ in the way one might see a loved one ‘go’ as they walk down the street to work, or how a train or bus might ‘go’ as it leaves the station, or how oneself might ‘go’, with purpose, from one place to another, or even being still, go through time, and yes, space, as one’s going or not going is barely predicated on purpose, and just a function of being here, as the planet turns and swoops through the strange plasticity of Spacetime.
Instead, a Thing like this, or maybe just this Thing, who am I to judge the nature of Other Things based solely on the experience of this one, goes differently. In going, it comes, in leaving , it arrives. In becoming No Thing, it remains indelible – that is how it is catalogued. The memory holds the space of it, those boundaries of opposition, that which it was Not, instead of that which it Was. Not burned in memory, the burning is the experience of the Thing and all that’s left after is smoke, the memory of smoke, the concept of smoke, smoke produced without a real fire.
In going, it reveals that it was never gone, will never go, will always be here, and every Tuesday, and every other day from now on will be changed beyond the ordinary by its presence and yet, and yet, never remembered, never understood, never…
So I’ve got my head down this month putting together the final animation for the LGBT History Month Cultural Commission. Last week’s launch at the Tron was great – I had to give a short talk about the project and I was terrified beforehand (anxiety and public speaking is a toxic combination for me usually), but I got up with my notes, told the audience I was nervous, and just did it.
I also got to meet Zoe Strachan, Louise Welsh and some of the other writers involved in the OutThere book that was last year’s other commission, caught up with Michael, Lucy and Sophie and some folk from Leap Sports and Pride House who I hadn’t seen since summer, and met Annabel from Lock Up Your Daughters. I’ll be showing my animation alongside her new short, ‘High Heels Aren’t Compulsory’, at Summerhall in Edinburgh at the end of the month.
While I’m kind of disappearing off the grid slightly, I thought I’d post some irregular updates of ‘dailies’ from the animation, mainly just rough run throughs so folk can see what I’m up to.
Here’s the first: