26 Fruits

A state of interdependence

A two-day workshop in Cornwall last week for a group of 16 people. It was described by one of them as a two-day mind gym. It’s always amazing that strangers can come together and get to know each other so well and so quickly through words and stories. The stories are individual. But they work because the emotions that connect us to them are universal.

The writers support each other because they don’t corner themselves into a specific kind of writing, a narrow interpretation of purpose. It’s always best to avoid the divisions that come with a narrow focus on a particular tribal genre. The most fractious time I ever spent with writers was when I was on the board of the Poetry Society, where poets seemed to relish divisions between different kinds of poets and forms of poetry. The narrower the tribe the more fractious the groups within it and the more intolerant of other views

Thinking back to my own childhood I grew up in a family that believed in the need for unions – trade unions. We would know the words of the Internationale before any flagwaving nationalistic anthems. That’s my legacy and I still adhere to the value of finding common ground at the highest level. I really would flee the country if the UK Independence Party came to power; I would need to take my last refuge from the scoundrels of nationalism.

I’ve stated before that my favourite quotation is EM Forster’s “Only connect”. Last year for 26 Words I wrote “Everything is connected”. John Donne’s “No man is an island” is one of the most beautiful pieces of English prose. Writers are cast as solitary people but they seldom are in my experience, they know the bonds between each of us. Good writing aims to include not exclude.

I believe writers should do all they can to make connections. Between one word and another, one thought and another, between one writer and one reader at a time. As Jamie Jauncey and I explored in our book Room 121.

Jamie and I cannot agree on one thing at the moment. Jamie is all for Yes and Scottish independence; and I don’t get a vote in it. It’s a vote that will make a bigger difference to my state of being and personal identity than any other in my lifetime but I won’t get the chance to cast my own vote No. I am always positive not negative by inclination so I find it strange to be cast onto the negative side of an argument. But I feel positive about my preference for union not division, connection not separation, interdependence not independence.

Next week Jamie and I will remain good friends as we run the next Dark Angels course in Andalucia. The connections remain strong. I’ll leave you with one, the words of John Donne, written nearly 400 years ago:

No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

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3 Responses

  1. Paul murphy says:

    John
    I think I am with Jamie on this one. Interdependence and Union can only really work if all partners respect each other and co-exist as equals. All I see from the “no” side is the use of the weapon of fear to win their argument. It also frankly scarese when all 3 mainstream parties are so united on one issue. If the vote in Scotland is “yes” expect a fascinating few days In Spain. The Spanish Government are terrified of a Scottish “yes” vote. Catalonia’s desire to have a referendum on Independence will increase. Spain has been a United Kingdom since 1492. It could be the catalyst to spark even more unrest in a country that is already divided by the regime of austerity in place.
    Don Quijote may have to saddle up again soon…
    Paul

  2. I have lived in Scotland for 24 years. It is home to me. It is where I and my partner chose to raise our children. This place has shaped me. I came here as British and discovered I was English. I settled and I have lived, loved and worked here for most of my adult life, but I have never felt so foreign as I do now. It saddens me that we are re-erecting ancient borders in the name of progress. There is no utopia in disintegration. Whatever the short term gain I cannot see it as other than a retrograde step. If it is yes a great cheer will rise up north of the border. Only Nigel Farage will cheer in England.
    Simon

  3. Jamie Jauncey says:

    The juxtaposition of opposites is neat, John, but I don’t believe they have to be mutually exclusive. Even though divided by government we would remain united in friendship and family affection. Even though politically separate we would remain connected by the fact of language, geography and a common border. And even though independent (which after all is what very human being strives for throughout their lives) we would be interdependent in trade and social exchange. Of course your wish for continued union is positive, it comes from the heart – I know that. And how much better a case the No campaign could have made with that honest sentiment than with the barrage of negativity that Paul refers to. In any event, you and I will be connected, united and thoroughly interdependent next week in Andalucia and I’m looking forward to it! Jamie

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