Talking of Which, 14.09.23
My Arm, The Space Adventure and the Egyptian Middle Kingdom
Ideas are Cheap
Ideas are cheap. So you’ve got a good idea, very good. Soon you’ll be able to feed it into AI and bingo, a fully realised movie that mashes King Lear up with Star Wars, or that sets Blade Runner in the Egyptian Middle Kingdom. Will it be any good? No. Because ideas are cheap. Consider King Lear itself, which was not an original idea, the plot of which was lifted from Raphael Holinshed. Or consider Les Miserables, one of many superb novels the central idea of which is an unoriginal mix of external sources. Because ideas are cheap. Or consider the idea of Bartleby the Scrivener, or of Niels Lyhne, or of Lucky Jim; it sounds like nothing, because it is. Or consider Tristram Shandy, or Breakfast of Champions, or The Holy Mountain, or Withnail and I, or Waiting for Godot, or any one of innumerable other great works which cannot be reduced to ‘an idea’ at all. Because ideas are cheap. Or, try coming at it from the other side, and consider any one of near countless books and films the ideas for which sound OMG amazing, and yet are worthless. Or consider the last time you saw a brilliant film, or watched a great film and recommended it to someone and they said ‘what’s it about?’ and you kind of felt your heart sink, because to offer a mere idea would cheapen it. Why? Because ideas are cheap. I’ve got millions of ideas. Do you need any? I have plenty to spare. Because ideas are cheap. And if any of my ideas are stolen, so be it; I like to be acknowledged, of course, that’s only right, but you can’t steal the whole thing, and that, the whole thing, that is not cheap. And that is what we lack.
My Arm Fell Off
On the way to work this morning my arm fell off. It was quite painless, but it was awkward as I had to hold it in my sleeve, not wanting to alarm anyone in the street. When I got to work though I took it out and put it in my locker. I thought that people would remark on my altered appearance, but they just pretended nothing had happened. They were ill at ease around me though, and so I didn’t want to say ‘my arm has fallen off’ because I thought it would be more awkward, so we all pretended I still had the two arms, and I even said, during tea-break, ‘I bought a guitar last weekend’, which seemed to make everyone relax, and we all discussed the guitar under the assumption that I am a normal two-armed player and not a monotonous strummer of a single, detuned chord. But then, as we were talking, my other arm fell off, and then both my legs, and then nobody could pretend it wasn’t happening and so they took out their phones, filmed me for a bit and then left, leaving me there alone, until, about half an hour later, the room fell off.
It’s All My Fault
It’s not the fault of capitalism, the ‘system’, the ‘human condition’, God, the devil, the Americans, the Indo-Europeans, my genes, my wooden leg, ‘bad luck’, my parents, my lover, my job, or any of the circumstances of my life. Its not the fault of my teachers, the media, the neighbours, the internet, the bankers, the police, the corporations, the people or the politicians.
I did it. All the horror of the world, all the injustice, all the cupidity, all the violence; all the cold hard separateness, the peaceless restless need to acquire, the greed for a dream of security, the crude blundering destruction of delicacy... I did it. It’s all my fault. It was me.
And I’m the only one who can put it right.
A survey conducted every year by a young girl’s mental health charity, Girlguiding, reveals an ever more horrific picture of young minds here in the UK.
This kind of thing is normally greeted with a tut, a sigh and a shake of the head, rather than the world-shaking outrage and anguish it should provoke. Plenty of similar — and indeed far worse — statistics can be found on the state of young minds both here and in other countries. What will it be like in five years? Ten? One thing’s for sure, those lines aren’t going upwards. Do you know any young people suffering, suicidal, dead inside? I do. Lots.
If you are a parent of a young person — God help you — but if you are, the only solution, as far as I can see, is to get them out of school and get smartphones out of their clammy little hands. I know, I know… easier said than done. In some countries it’s even illegal to take your kids out of school (Germany, Japan and, surprisingly, Sweden), but where it’s not, it isn’t easy; although easier than getting their minds unplugged from those damned devices and fused with forests and meadows. Nevertheless, that’s the only way to ensure they don’t grow up broken.
For my part, I have written a guide for young people to help them understand the world; but this is nowhere near as clear or as powerful as it could be. I intend to start working on a new, simpler and more beautiful, version, one I would like to widely publish. If you would like to financially support this endeavour, or translate it into your language when it appears, please get in touch.