Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Restless Spirits

For some of us from that time, there’s a dust in our hearts that’s never settled. Our spirits are restless, always scanning the horizon, chasing a remembered depth of friendship, love, or fulfilment that’s always just over the hill, round the next corner, or a plane ride away. It’s hard to articulate this malaise, but its there, real as hunger pangs.

Maybe there’s just too much mental energy still racketing around our minds. It could be we read too many books, spread our love and friendship with reckless abandon, or drank from the well too deep. Leaving that bubble coterie marked me with a profound sense of my aloneness in the world. Even through the mellowing of adulthood, the hunger persists. 

Sometimes the small work triumphs, shallower new friendships, and sane, pragmatic relationships of now hold up like a faded photocopy compared to those bright, shining times, idealised in recollection. Rhodes was heaven and hell, but sometimes I brood, and wonder if I was at my best in those years, with those people, in that place.

6 comments:

Jeannie said...

It's hard. You're in a place where everyone is at the same stage of life as you, and not only that, they are all bright, questioning, hungry to learn about EVERYTHING, not just what's on the syllabus. Every day is a new experience, and every new experience, good or bad (and there were some terrifyingly bad ones) bonds you closer to people you've only just met, and who, if you hadn't made that big move away from home and the known, you never would have met... I think we started it then.

The time we were there didn't help us to settle either. Do you remember how EVERYTHING was changing? The political climate, the government, the social structure, the possibilities... It was as if as we expanded our minds the world expanded with them, in a very real sense. I voted in the first free elections in South Africa's history in Grahamstown. I remember it so well; I had the radio on and they said they were opening polling stations that evening for everyone, not just for the aged and disabled. We rushed off and stood in a line, and I watched a huge orange full moon rise over the cathedral, and felt as though I'd been drinking champagne. I watched Nelson Mandela being sworn in on a TV during our Transpersonal Workshop near Knysna - we'd blown our minds that week and now the world was coming back into our lives in a different shape than when we left it a week earlier. Is it any wonder we felt as if we were somehow shaping it?

Then we left. And found that there's always something missing in the real world, or should I say, the wider world. The general run of people "outside" are not as interesting, or as clever, or as eager as you could wish. Friends you make tend to be based on shared circumstances - work friends, gym friends, other moms from the playgroup - rather than on that instant flash of recognition of a kindred spirit that so characterised those years at Rhodes. There isn't time, often, to explore deeper, as life has you rushing about all over the place, but that urge, that need to go beyond the mundane, well, that just doesn't go away. It gets sublimated, and occasionally you catch a glimpse of it when you read a book, or hear a song, or see a face you recognise from 15 years ago...

And then we travelled, because we could. The international community opened up for us all; no more isolation, no more sanctions, no more wistful yearnings to see other places, meet people raised in towns thousands of miles away from our homes. We did it, we went. Some of us stayed there, some of us came back, but once you've been, well, as my husband says, we've seen the elephant. And now we'll never be totally settled in one place ever again.

I don't know about you but Merryn's photos posted on the group made my heart give a strange quiver. They are just so evocative of the time. I'm having a run of days where I know I've not realised all that potential, and I'm restless as hell. I wish I had time to write more, hell, I wish I had more of interest to write about, and I wish that I could recapture that sense of the numinous possible that seemed part of the air we breathed. And I WISH I didn't feel so guilty about wanting all these things - the 1950's housewife in my head is scolding me violently!

Ah well. I should really have blogged all this rather thaq cluttering up your comments. Coffee!

fush and chips said...

Jeannie,
You hit the nail on the head. Far better than I did.

We were spoiled for friendships, love, and ideas then. For me, life since then has sometimes been a slow comedown.

Jeannie said...

I was forewarned... My Mom was at Rhodes in the 1960's, again a period of major upheavel and change, and she told me before I went. Drink it in, revel in it, drown in it, because you will never again, in all your life, be surrounded by so many people who think and feel like you do, are stimulating and challenging and funny and wonderful...

I am going to write more about it on my blog, as you started up a train of thought that's filling up my head. Follow me over there sometime soon.

fush and chips said...

See you there.

squonk said...

Your words got it just fine, mate. Justin in greyed out London

Shiny said...

I linked to this post (and another) from my blog because, well, you just say it so much better than I ever could. I'm not sure what the etiquette is with linking to other peoples stuff so I hope you don't mind! If you do, let me know, and I'll take it off, pronto x