Brexit means Brexit according to the UK Prime Minister. Theresa May. Chief architect of the hostile environment for immigrants at the Go Home Office. The bloody-minded midwife of the Windrush scandal. The dancing queen of disaster who has turned humiliation into an art form on the national and international stage.
It’s a neat slogan. Brexit means Brexit. Easy to remember. Nicely packaged. And designed to appeal to simple minded optimists and deluded idiots alike. Sadly no one bothered to work out in advance what it actually means in practice. And when you get down to brass tacks you are immediately confronted with a brick wall. That’s the problem with meaningless tautologies. They don’t take you very far. And you end up going round and round in circles till you’re so dizzy that you just want to lie down in a dark room and throw up.
Time is fixed in the photograph which you remember so clearly as if it was yesterday. The photograph provides a window into the past. Opening a portal between now and then. Taking you back to previous lives and times. Like time travel on the cheap. Before time travel has been invented. Past and present are reunited, like long lost friends, as if there’s no barrier between them. And time collapses, as if it didn’t really exist at all. And yet, when you try to remember what happened immediately before or after the photograph was taken, your mind stutters and draws a blank. The exact details, if not forgotten, are hazy and indistinct. If forced to remember, you will find yourself inventing a storyline. Filling in the gaps. Because not knowing what really happened is shocking and offensive and too terrifying to admit. But the photograph itself leaves such a distinct impression on your mind. The impression of an abiding memory. The reality of the past at a fixed point in time. A life lived and a life remembered.
Where does that leave us? No further forward I’m afraid.
Buddhists believe in a never ending cycle of births and rebirths called saṃsāra. You can escape the cycle of rebirth by attaining Nirvana. But that’s something which requires a lot of effort, dedication and hard work and seems really rather difficult to achieve for most people, on account of their inherent laziness and fallibility.
I do not remember any previous lives. But you could remember your past lives in some detail, and talked about them often. You remembered being a boy in one life and dying young. In another life you lived in poverty and recalled the memory of hunger and starvation. Further back still you remembered living as a rich and powerful woman, a cruel aristocrat responsible for the death and suffering of others.
Some days start off this way. Perhaps after deep and unsettling dreams. Or after a night of heavy drinking, prescription painkillers or tranquillisers. It’s a familiar feeling but one which is always startling and profound. That moment when you first wake up and remember that you are alive, and that you are who you are, and exist in the world as a conscious being. And simultaneously, that one day you will no longer exist and will never wake again. In that fleeting moment of conscious awakening, the joy and the agony of life seem fused together in an indivisible unit, and we dimly recognise the mystery of existence and acknowledge the strange hinterland that we sometimes inhabit between being and nothingness.
William the I of England, better known as William the Conqueror, and sometimes also as William the Bastard was a vicious thug, a paranoid maniac and a homicidal despot. Slaughter, mayhem and tyranny were the tools of his trade and his greed and cruelty were legendary.