Yesterday evening my time in Phuket unfolded as expected. Perhaps more precisely, my time unfolded as I had predicted. I ate dinner in the restaurant that I have frequented over the past few nights. I followed through on my desire to have a chocolate ice cream sundae for desert. I walked around the local market which was small with next to nothing to see. The remainder of the evening was spent writing in my apartment. The creative time was punctuated with time spent relaxing on the patio, cigarette in hand.
I did not experience loneliness. I never do. That is I never feel alone. Rather, my brand of loneliness is existential, a fact that was once pointed out by one of my health professionals. Recently I have re-read Bachelard’s “Poetics of Space” as it was meant to be read. I mean that I read it as though the question of an ontological reality remains a real question. Existential loneliness. To be alone in terms of one’s existence. This fact has import for my stay in Phuket. I am in this world but not of it. I am outside of the goings on that define the days of the other tourists.
That reminds me. The unhygienic couple were once again at breakfast. Again, no nationality to be provided. The behaviour of the woman was once appalling. She continually used a paper napkin to wipe her mouth and her nose. At the end of her meal, she wiped down the table with the same napkin before filling it with the left over sausages. She could not have done more to spread the coronavirus had she been trying to ensure that, should she be infected, then she would infect others.
The time is approaching 10.30 AM. Soon I shall repair to the relative peace of my now favourite café where I will first order an iced latte followed by an iced mocha. My time will be spent, once again, watching the world go by. My thoughts will roam freely as only holiday thoughts can do. There will be nothing to distract me, nothing with which I need to be concerned because I have all but forgotten the Covid-19 virus and because the trivia of the day to day are of no concern to my holiday self. I shall be able to repose in the moment and to reflect on my current, emerging, perhaps half-formed philosophical thoughts.
I shall consider what Bachelard had to say on the resonance and reverberation of the true poetic image. The images that allow us to dream. Those images that provide us with the means to achieve freedom. The freedom to become and ultimately to be should we find ourselves able to dream sufficiently. Bachelard’s “Poetics of Space”. A most difficult book, for me at least. I mean that I know that it is considered to be a philosophical classic and yet I struggle to reach the final pages. This is not because I fail to understand the writing but because I seem to find it difficult to remain interested in what Bachelor had to say about the nature of our spaces.
I wonder, as I always do, whether the fault is mine. Am I failing to read the book in the right way? Perhaps I am too hasty, too intent on coming to the end of writing. After all, a significant strain of thought in “The Poetics of Space” concerns dwelling upon poetic images. To put it another way, one must be able to simply “be” with an image over an extended period of time, perhaps contemplating the image in the peace and quiet of solitude. Contemplation is not one of my strong points. Rather I almost speed read the words in Bachelard’s book.
This capacity, to speed read I mean, serves me enormously well in my every day work life. I can absorb vast quantities of information in next to no time. But speed reading does not serve me well when reflection is required. Reflection requires a slowing down. A willingness to be present, to be in the moment of the reading. Yes, the point is repose. To repose in the words. I have just had a very different thought that has arisen as a result of how I have felt when researching news stories about the Covid-19 virus. I can, quite literally absorb these stories with little or no effort, synthesizing the multiple perspectives until I arrive at an understanding of the day’s Covid-19 news. I find this endeavour far more satisfying than reading Bachelard.
I must now overcome a slightly odd, out of place, feeling of reticence with respect to leaving my hotel apartment. I know not from whence it comes. Nor do I really know what the feeling means. It is not quite fearfulness but it is something of the sort. I might refer to apprehension along with a desire not to be known, not to interact, not to show myself to the world. Perhaps not to be in the world. No. The meaning is opaque, hidden away, deeply seated in that part of myself that I do not know. Perhaps a part that cannot be known. I laugh at my own absurdity. The trials and tribulations of taking a short walk in order to partake of coffee.
So much thinking. So many thoughts. I might refer to neurosis but I already have far too many diagnoses to be able to countenance adding another mental health issue, however slight and insignificant, to my extensive stock of challenges. I return to a point that I made in earlier posts. The controlling nature of my days. The desire, the imperative to know in advance what will most likely unfold across my days, such that there will be nothing unexpected in my forays into the world. I would still maintain that my self discipline is going to serve me very well no matter how the Covid-19 situation unfolds because I will not be subject to the irrationality and emotionality that defines the lives of the masses. I will think, plan and control.
Ensuring that I remain virus free will obviously be the core focus of my planning. However, my time in Phuket has reminded me that my life needs to be defined by writing. To state the matter alternately, all other aspects of my life must take second place to the primary aim of writing. However, I sense that the focus of my writing might change. More exactly, I might add another dimension to my writing, that dimension being writing about the Covid-19 virus. In taking this direction I believe that I would be exploring the possibility of developing a new form or writing. Perhaps it is time to change to a real world focus, one focussed on trying to make sense of Covid-19.
First Published March 1st, 2020