Richard Pierce

Life, Writing

Day 202

During therapy yesterday afternoon, and afterwards, several things coalesced in mind.

The first, that I don’t really belong in this world at this time. I am too naïve. I take things at face value. I do not expect people to bend the truth, to manipulate the truth, do not expect them to lie, expect and assume that I am always being told the truth. Unfortunately, it’s not like that. I just don’t know who’s telling the truth and who isn’t. I belong in more innocent days.

The second, that words are the root of our unhappiness and misfortune, or, more precisely, the abuse of words, and the formalised use of words. It is when we try to formalise what we think the meaning of life is that we descend into unhappiness. Philosophy is a science, not an art, and the precision – and dogma – of Philosophy is what makes us unhappy. What’s the point of putting our thoughts on life, and the meaning of life, into narrow compartments, of trying to define so precisely, and to the exclusion of exceptions and fluctuations, what life is? What’s the point of categorising them in descriptors such as determinism, idealism, realism, nihilism, existentialism, stoicism, hedonism, logical positivism, relativism etc etc? I remember a poem (though not the author) I read in my youth that included the line “Love is lost the moment ’tis possessed,” and this could easily apply here, in paraphrase: the meaning of life (and happiness) is lost the moment it is defined.

Philosophy puts blinkers on people, much like formalised religion. We need to live without trying to formalise, without thinking there are boundaries between certain ways of feeling and thinking. We need to stop creating obstacles to happiness, to living peacefully. The meaning of life is to live it; it’s as simple as that. Perhaps that’s what Aggie is all about. But only perhaps. I don’t know yet where she’s going, and she probably doesn’t either.

I might even go so far as to say that it is Philosophy which breeds lies. Let’s just live.

Pause.

I wrote the above at lunch time. I’ve been pondering it ever since. And reading more of Zorba The Greek which seems to play into this in one way or another. Maybe it’s what set me off on this train of thought, the fact that Zorba says the “pen pushers” write about life but don’t live it. Maybe I need to temper slightly what I said. I should perhaps have said it’s the formalisation of philosophy into Philosophy (two deliberately different spellings) which breeds lies. I watched one of the cats walk across the brown lawn this afternoon, and it struck me there, too. Does a cat think about placing its back paw in exactly the same place it did its front paw? Has its gait become formalised to such an extent that it considers how it places its feet when it walks? I don’t think so. It just does it. There.

 

AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 155

Still Lilibet sleeps, although the story’s finished, a beatific smile on her face, body swaying this way and that as they fly through villages and then empty stretches of road, and another small villages. Aggie ignores the Slow sign painted on the tarmac however many years ago. She asks herself what roads are really for, if the world wouldn’t be better off without roads so that things would have to move slowly, leisurely, so that armies couldn’t transport their deadly cargoes so quickly, so soon, too soon, Her eyes are of glass, and she stares at the blinking fragments of landscape and pays no heed. The pictures in her head vanished as soon as she finished the story, and now she has nothing left to say. Now she just has more to think about. And she thinks, and is sure of it, that the story, the pictures, the memories, up to that time she was lying out there in the snow, wherever there might have been, are real, and that the possibility of false memories only started when the mentor picked her up and carried her away, to yet another unknown place, to yet another secret place, and either did or didn’t implant falsity into her mind. And she doesn’t care now if the other memories, all those memories of Anna and her, of the mentor and her, of the interminable chess games and tortures, are true or not. What she really needs to know, wants to know, is how the little Agata came to be in that village in the first place, where she came from before then, and how she came to be in that nameless village, ignored by most people, until Petra took pity on her and taught her to speak, and how she came to hate Petra despite her kindness. And what she really needs to know is why love is so cruel.

‘But maybe that’s not real love,’ Lilibet says, sitting up now, wide awake.

‘What?’

‘The end of your story. Perhaps that’s not real love, although the girl thought it was, whatever it was she felt for that man. Real love doesn’t hurt, doesn’t abuse.’

‘I know that now,’ Aggie says, surprised she can’t yet see the top of the Minster. But then the land is mercilessly flat here.

‘But do you?’ Lilibet makes a small indeterminate sound at the back of her throat. ‘You expect me to hurt you, don’t you?’

Aggie shakes her head, blinks away the tears that seem to be coming for no reason.

‘I promise I will never hurt you. I swear it on the life of my children.’

Aggie nods, and the tears still won’t stop. ‘I believe you. I promise the same. I think it’s life that will hurt both of us. And the longer we go on in this fight with Valentine and whoever else, the more likely it is.’

Lilibet puts her right hand on Aggie’s thigh. ‘But then we’ll, I’ll, have died doing the right thing. And that’s fair enough. There’s no point worrying about it now. We can fear it, maybe, but, ultimately, there’s not much we can do about it, except to keep doing what we’re doing.’

‘Ah, the true warrior speaks.’

Lilibet laughs, smoothly, softly, face creased. ‘Not really. Just saying what I feel.’ She looks round. ‘Are we almost there?’

‘Yes, we are.’

‘How fast?’

‘Fast enough.’

Lilibet squeezes Aggie’s thigh. ‘Tell me, damn woman!’

‘Please, no more! I can’t take the pain.’ Aggie feels happiness welling up. ‘Half the time it took us to get there.’

‘Mad.’ Lilibet laughs loudly and roughly this time. ‘It was dark when we drove up there.’

‘That probably explains it.’ Aggie slows down, turns the car this way and that, until finally the Minster is ahead of them across a street of cobbles, and she can finally pull the car to a stop in front of Robert’s house. As she folds herself out of the car, Robert opens the front door.

‘You’re back sooner than I expected, my dear girl,’ he says, avuncular as ever.

‘You’re in good humour,’ Aggie says, glances across at Lilibet who’s stretching her back.

‘Yes.’ Robert smiles. ‘The damndest thing happened. Martin escaped.’ He winks at her.

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