In 2012 Nikolai Raisov, a Menshevik of uncertain age, died in Dublin.
He was found with notebooks of various quality containing writing of varying clarity on his person and in the two bags he carried.
In one of the older notebooks this poem was found-
Trouble in the peapod
It’s cramped in here
Not enough room for all of me
As it should be
When the telephone rings,
great ugly black bug of a thing,
the whole place vibrates.
but the phone will ring
in the peapod
and shake up everything important.
It keeps the spark ignited
between the world outside
and the things that drive
In another notebook this was found scribbled in the margin in German-
“If this had been the ruling way
Who knows what
I might have done.
My thoughts are easy led astray
by any shining sun.”
Thanks to Detective Sgt. Connor O’Connor for access to the records. This book is dedicated to him and to Nikolai Raisov.
Copyright Hovel Press 2013
Preface (remote and intimate causes)-
It can safely be stated that there is no such thing as an individual human being.
I understand that this, as a first sentence, does not promise a riveting plot but bear with me.
Whether we look at the supposed individual from the physical or the mental perspective we quickly find, with only the least effort that the illusion of selfhood falls to pieces in our hands and turns to dust.
Physically we are not just a collection of limbs, of systems, of tissue, organs, cells and genes whose functions and interactions are impossibly fluid and multiple but we are also home to colonies of microorganisms. These organisms enjoy a particular kind of environment and they seek actively to create and reinforce it. They influence the choices we make in order to maintain the conditions they need to thrive within our bodies. Could we be simply vehicles for these tiny creatures?
Think of the nervous system; that wonderful electrical and chemical dance of the CNS. The volume of information that our Central Nervous Systems can process is vastly larger than the amount of information of which we can be consciously aware at any moment and so the CNS is making most of our decisions before we become aware of them. It promotes the feeling that our consciousness is being created “elsewhere”- perhaps in a shed in the garden next door or in your shoes.
Even that celebrity of modern times the brain turns out to be only A brain and to have competition from a similar collection of cells in the gut.
In traditional Chinese medicine the brain is referred to as “The Sea of Marrow” and appears to have little function. Most of what we think of as the work of the brain is carried out in this paradigm by the Liver and the Heart.
From the point of view of the consciousness the actions and functions that make us who we are happen too fast and in too complex a manner for us to understand.
We run along behind all this trying to piece together a story from the best available evidence like characters in a fairytale chasing crumbs and trying to create another, discrete individual from them- a golem of bread perhaps.
The imaginary individual we are dealing with here was called Connor O’Connor and he was as unaware of the factors that caused him to be Connor O’Connor and act in a Connor O’Connorish way as the rest of us are.
He woke without an alarm and from the same dream as always. He never remembered the dream, he never knew he even had the dream; all its effects were in his body.
If you had asked him he would have told you that he awoke with a Tom Waits song already playing in his head- the quality of Waits’ voice and the concept of time mixing together to make him feel disoriented and somewhat sad.
He looked at the alarm clock and shook that mood music right out of his head. “It’s time..time.. time..”
As he sat up he stretched and clicked his jaw, removing the split he wore at night to stop him clenching his teeth. No wait, nothing stopped him clenching his teeth but the “fully adjusted hard occlusal splint” stopped the painful side effects in the teeth and gums, mostly. One good side effect was that he had very large Masseter muscles, which made him harder to knock out. Perhaps there was some rationalisation there.
He winced slightly as he put weight down on his left leg and felt a little bolt of electricity shoot up to his hip.
He straightened up and began the joint mobility exercises he did every morning if he could. Rolling all his joints in turn from this neck to his ankles gently feeling all the cracks and pops.
In the kitchen he made coffee that he put in a blender with butter and coconut oil. This was a variation on the traditional Tibetan Yak ‘s milk tea. The idea was that the fats in the oil and butter caused the elements of the coffee to be absorbed more slowly.
This was often the kind of thing he thought about and yet he also wondered if he should expend energy on thoughts like this.
He remembered a poem by Leonard Cohen that he had found in a book that belonged to his mother. He remembered being shocked; when he had found the book in his parents’ home in his late teens, that his mother should have such a book. It was a short poem:
“A person who eats meat,
wants to get his teeth into
A person who does not eat meat
wants to get his teeth into
If these thoughts interest you for
even a moment
you are lost.”
At the time he had felt the poem was surprisingly glib for Cohen. However as he got older he began to feel more and more that it had something to say regarding the ego and the proper use of energy.
Life was full of these contradictions or paradoxes, one opening into the other like a labyrinth that stretched exactly as far as you wished it to go and opened back into the world with a shake of the head, mostly.
Then he mixed up some oak meal with peanut butter and cinnamon.
He put the coffee and the oatmeal on the table and drank about half a litre of water before he sat down to eat.
After breakfast (energy, inflammation and brain function dealt with orally to begin the day) he took the hottest shower he could take. He looked in the mirror. He could get away with not shaving for another day or two. It was winter and a cold one and he liked to grow as much of a winter beard as his job would allow.
He looked out a window at the street. Grey and dark and cold- even for October in Dublin. A good place to set some kind of detective book.
A deep breath and time to go to work.