Sunday, May 25, 2014


Falling into the Sea

I have been very lackadaisical at updating my blog recently. I have so many things to do and I haven't been doing them. These things-to-be-done generally have deadlines and I know about them long in advance. It's nice, however, when something that isn't expected happens, something spontaneous that gives one the impression of taking a sudden detour and passing a few unplanned hours in new and invigorating surroundings before the detour joins up again with the intended path and the schematicized trudge of normality is resumed.

Amy Sharrocks is an artist and film maker. I had never heard of her before last week: now I am a fan. I had a phone call from a friend, "Would you like to fall fully clothed into the sea as part of an art project?" Yes, that seemed like a good idea on a sunny day. I hurried down to the rendezvous location. The random group who had volunteered for this quirky baptism were already mostly gathered. Together we went down to the beach and walked into the sea holding hands. But this is Wales: disorganization is an essential part of our function. The line refused to be straight but wriggled like a sidewinder snake towards the surf.

The phrase 'thin red line' comes from an incident in the Crimean War, when the 93rd Highland Regiment held back the Russian cavalry at the Battle of Balaklava. The line of scarlet jacketed soldiers refused to break or bend. In truth it was two men deep. Our own line wasn't at all like that; the taste of fear was considerably less, but it was indisputably there. I am a weak swimmer and for this project we were all required to fall into the sea. Not jump or dive, but do a flat-as-an-ironing-board collapse in the style of the silent slapstick comedians.

As it happened, Amy went first and set the standard, the tension broke, and the plunge turned out to be delightful.I was asked afterwards what "falling" means to me. I know that the idea is to embrace the concept of letting go, to relinquish control, to abandon temporarily the petty human illusion that we can influence the bigger picture of our lives by exerting detailed dominance over the small things. It is a Zen ideal at odds with the way most of us actually exist and operate on planet Earth. I keep my collection of books in chronological order. Therefore the world outside will be a little more ordered and comprehensible for me. That is the fallacy of sympathetic magic.

But I am a climber, so falling is something I try my hardest to avoid and something I regard with dread. I can't abandon control in this regard so easily. It's too catastrophic a concept. There are, of course, less literal and more desirable ways we can fall: we speak of falling in love, for instance, with the implication that there is no choice available in the matter. It's a curious fact that most of the great peaks of the world were first climbed by mountaineers who had recently come painfully out of relationships. Having fallen in love and landed with a big emotional splat they now had learned successfully not to fall again.

(All photos courtesy of Swansea Museum)

Comments: Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]