Transportation (or lucidity by degrees)

One day last week a five-kilometre car journey to work took an hour and forty minutes. I could comfortably have covered the distance on foot in less time. Normally I would take simultaneous advantage of two more sophisticated forms of transport: the bus and a good book. I suspect the era of privately owned motor vehicles must soon come to an end.

If queuing in traffic for a hundred minutes was folly, so was the task I had set myself once at work. I had resolved, with two colleagues to run an extra-curricular workshop, during which students foolhardy enough to attend would build a musical instrument from rubbish and then play it, not only in physical but in virtual reality. A crazy idea undeniably but not the senseless folly of the earlier commute; this was folly of underlying good sense. There was method in the madness.

Our small but intrepid audience reported having a very enjoyable time. As we had hoped, they remarked on having felt transported, in three ways: out of their daily routine, beyond their existing capabilities, into an unexplored virtual realm. Could we please tell them when the next workshop was to be?

This then was pre-meditated folly, of good intent. Though a successful outcome was by no means guaranteed, we worked purposefully and conscientiously towards it – we thought our actions through. Rays of light penetrated the quotidian gloom.

Robert Schumann Op.6 Davidsbündlertänze No.XVII

I return home, daylight dimming – a transport of delight. The penultimate of Schumann’s Op. 6 dances is playing. Though the light of day is gone, that of the music is bright and limpid; no burdensome reason dulls it. Time stands still.

I’m in my study now, pencil in hand, drawing the goddess Hygeia. I have come to her face. A plan of action forms in my head but I pause. If I think through every step, as I did the workshop, the outcome will surely disappoint me. I must let my hand be my guide. I shut out all thinking and my head is lucid with movement, form and colour. Gesture and thought become one.

Some time later, I don’t know exactly how long, I am looking at Hygeia. Her eyes are dark pools of intense concentration with a trace of ruefulness. Her hair is plaited, some loose strands playing around her cheek. The corner of her mouth suggests a smile. I feel weightless.

The clock in the hallway chimes the hour and the lead-weight of gravity re-descends. I re-enter the sullen world and see that dawn is less than four hours away.

Moments like these are rare – I treasure them for the lucidity and calm they bring. Only later do my thoughts catch up. Much of my time otherwise is spent in the opaque folly of misguided logic by which all our lives are habitually driven, thoughts running ahead in agitated clamour, vying for attention but unable to be fulfilled.

I have sometimes to step away, release the creative from its rational stranglehold and, through the act of making, let gesture formulate thought, not vice versa.

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