K., who works with S., comes up from Norwich and drives us to Southwold on the Suffolk coast. We eat dinner in a pub and walk down the dark damp pier, chilled to the bones. The yellow beam from the lighthouse sweeps through the fog, over the black water, the houses along the road, the mural of George Orwell (who lived and wrote here), giving things an eerie greenish hue. It’s like the last scene of a film, says K., where a spy gets picked up, a couple have to say goodbye or someone drowns tragically. We amuse ourselves by making up increasingly absurd scenarios for movie endings, probably to relieve the hostile atmosphere of the place.
Except it’s not a setting for anything, is it, I think as we walk back to the car – tragic or comic. It’s nothing but itself: a cold dark coast, neither benign nor hostile.
Only one real thought, however kitschy it sounds: how to live in the face of the impersonal. Not to cover it over with your own stories and emotions but to accept it and yourself with it. To keep the world’s indifference to you open in your life, like Kierkegaard’s wound: ‘Keeping a wound open can also be very beneficial: a healthy and open wound; sometimes it is worst when it skins over.’
Freeing! Consider the nightmare of living in a world covered up entirely by stories – or worse, one story – that all are required to accept: where every thing, act and thought must conform to a certain end; where no chink is left open in the armour of the everyday for the impersonal to show us, if only for a moment, the smallness of our stories and our true powerlessness and power.