Friday, October 15, 2010

Fantasies and nightmares

Back in 1994, sixteen years ago, I settled down in Choranche. Mystified by the spiritual prospects and potential of my future hermitic life, I had nevertheless imagined, in the back of mind, that I might be terrified by the idea of living all alone, particularly in the dark and ominous silence of the middle of the Alpine nights. As things turned out, happily, that was not at all the way the Chinese cookie crumbled (to borrow a silly metaphor used by the radio Goon Show of the '50s). On the contrary, I came to acquire, rapidly, such a psychological domination of my territory at Gamone that I soon realized that it would be a relatively easy task to resist the onslaught of real invaders such as mercantile Gypsies and Jehovah's Witnesses… not to mention brain-damaged individuals such as Stéphane (the most pernicious specimen ever, for my ex-neighbor Bob more than for me), who once suggested that it would be good if an old-timer such as me were to give him freely my fields at Gamone, so that he could raise hogs or God-knows-what.

These days, I take pleasure in wading through the swamps of both my fuzzy dream-time fantasies and my murky nightmares. The liquid realities of the former hover constantly over the image of Alison, in blue ribbons and white lace, in the precincts of the cathedral in Grafton, where our humble adolescent bodies might have come into magical fusion in a celebration of the Almighty. I say "might have" because I never in fact (for the records) got around to screwing my first great school friend… even though I certainly imagined hazily this kind of relationship. I can even recall, most clearly, an evening when I dared to allow my eager hands to stray upon her adolescent breasts. Alison promptly put them back in place (my hands, not her breasts), and celebrated this moment of interrupted ecstasy by telling me the most amazing trivial "joke" that my naive ears could have ever heard, let alone imagined. A guy happened to get into bed with his wife in an upside-down position, and he said to her: "Darling, you must shave your mustache." Today, half-a-century after having heard this joke, I would be a liar if I were not to admit that I didn't know what the hell was funny in Alison's joke, which I didn't understand at all at that time. In other words, at that stage, I hadn't yet discovered (unlike Alison, apparently) that humans grew hairs around their penises and vaginas. On the other hand, I'm still amazed retrospectively that Alison, at that early age, might have already gained "carnal knowledge" (what a delightful expression) of the famous 69 position in the Kama Sutra.

In the domain of nightmares, I had imagined that I would be beleaguered at Gamone by terrifying visions of cliffs. After all, I'm surrounded by such entities, and they continue to impress me immensely by their constant presence, twenty-four hours a day. There again, I'm surprised. My nightmares at Gamone are rarely associated with the local topography. On the contrary, I dream horrifically about the silly phenomenon of corporate computing activities, maybe in places such as Paris or Grenoble. Those are my regular nightmares… rather than the nice idea of being pushed off a Choranche cliff.

Conclusion. This situation suits me fine. I shall continue to think of corporate life as Hell, and of Gamone as Heaven. Meanwhile, Alison will remain forever as my Vestal Virgin. And Mary MacKillop is being beatified. What more could Saint William ever hope for?


  1. Wish they'd hurry up with the beautification - we're sooooo sick of reading about it here in Oz.

  2. The processes by which a deceased person acquires the status of a saint in the Catholic Church are quite complicated. Several abstract terms come to mind: glorification, sanctification, beatification, canonization, etc. I like the new one you've added spontaneously: beautification.

    I would imagine that the media atmosphere in Australia is excruciatingly papal and catholic this weekend. It's surprising how certain happenings can go rapidly viral in Australia… in ways that would be unthinkable here in France. When I returned there in 1985, I was amazed to discover that two novel phenomena had apparently gone viral, to such an extent that even schoolkids were talking about them in their casual conversation: repetitive stress injury and sexual harassment. At the time, after too many years living in Paris, I was quite naive and ignorant concerning these two social afflictions. More recently, I've noticed that the concepts of bipolar disease and carbon footprints have also gone viral in Australia. When this happens in Australia, it's amazing to discover that practically everybody seems to be saying more or less the same thing. Through being talked about by everybody, a viral entity becomes common knowledge from one end of the continent to the other, but it doesn't appear to become any more profound or better understood. The spread of a viral idea is quantitative, but rarely qualitative. My aunt often used to preface her news on such-and-such a viral topic by saying "All the women at the golf club are talking about X". The fact that viral entities rarely get handled in an in-depth manner is probably an outcome of journalistic traditions in Australia. I'm not sure that the media have the habit of organizing heavy-weight conflictual debates on viral phenomena that arise. They merely contribute to their proliferation, rather than trying to analyze what's happening.

  3. Apologies for my error in adding a 'u'.

    You are so right about the viral syndrome.

    Sometimes it's hard to be the one dissenting voice at the golf club or other gathering. Easier to keep one's peace or simply not attend.

    Now we're waiting for our PM to do something. She keeps getting shaken by negative comments and setting up review committees. Time to bite the bullet, methinks.