Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Count to ten!

The legend surrounding the Gordian Knot is one of those powerful stories whose power lies in the fact that the story embodies an essential key to the human psyche.

This thought occurred to me when I went onto the beach today . This was a momentous event as, since I have been in the house, I haven’t ventured onto the sands at all. I think that it was a sort of temporary aversion put in place by my unconscious to ensure that I did some work on the house before the start of term.

Anyway I set foot on the sand, plunged into the sea and instantly wondered why I hadn’t been lying in the sun for the past three weeks. The damage has now been done and my visitors better be prepared to be supine sun worshipers because the beach is where my temple is going to be.

I noticed a boy on the beach, standing by himself and working at some intricate activity involving string. At first I took him for a fisherman mending his nets (which shows what a romantic view I have of the seaside resort in which I live) until I realised that he was trying to disentangle what I assume was a kite string for his younger brother.

He was patience personified. He was holding what looked like a dripping stalactite of pale spaghetti which was the chaos of string that he was attempting to unravel. He studied the mass, he turned it this way and that and gently drew threads, sometimes tracing them carefully through the mass. You mustn’t think that I was staring (which I was) but the whole time that I was on the beach, whenever I looked up, he was there unmoved (physically and mentally) working in isolation at the three dimensional problem with which he was presented.

When I was younger, my patience for such unravelling was almost zero. My technique was to look at the twisted mass, select an ‘end’ and tug vigorously in the hope that, rather like a conjuring trick, the knots would magically disappear. This was a technique not without merit because it sometimes worked (especially with shoelaces) but more often than not (yes, the pun was intended) the force of the pull rendered all the knots sleekly impossible to undo.

With age (and the accretion of electronic leads and earphones) I have dredged up reserves of patience and now work the problems through with a minimum of teeth grinding. There are limits to this patience and the Alexander solution with the Gordian knot is never far from the surface of my attempts.

I remember when trying to sort out my mother’s jewellery after her death that one of my friends offered to untangle all those tiny linked gold chains that ladies seem to accumulate. This really does test the patience and I am sure that some firm somewhere (probably Microsoft) uses a box full of tangled thin chains as part of their selection procedure.

The Knot does separate people. There are those who make no attempt to undo; some who make only a cursory effort; those who try and try and then give up; those who try and try and then throw the thing away as if it were a snake; and those who go on and on and even ‘put it by’ to have further goes later.

I am sure that there have been studies on the relative persistence in untying knots in different groups of the population – and I am sure that it was money well spent.

I am still virtually prostrate after getting Carles’ ball back from the next door garden. As the gentleman who lives next door is of the French persuasion I assayed a conversation in that language. I am still trying to interpret the look of blank amazement that he gave me as one of joyful recognition of a fellow speaker rather than wondering who this evangelical speaking in tongues was.

One of his friends was so impressed with my French that he immediately started speaking English. Result! I should think.

The book situation is now becoming acute as shelf space is rapidly running out and the number of full boxes still in Bluespace does not seem to be diminishing. However, I am trying not to think about reality and am instead thoroughly enjoying the ‘discoveries’ which come with every opened box.

The nineteenth century is now filling the shelves and some of my more excessive reference books are now proudly flaunting their spines inviting my itching fingers. Unfortunately with so many boxes yet to be ‘released’ I have no time to read. But sometimes it is impossible to meet an old friend who has been in the lock up for three years without doing him the courtesy of showing some interest – but it does slow me down.

Three more boxes before I can call it a day. A librophile’s work is never done! (And yes, I do know the more orthodox word.)
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