THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN

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At last, Sarah knew that she wanted the answers to some urgent questions: where did art come from, do people really die, what are the mechanics of change, what was that cry in the night? She would go anywhere to find answers, and her quest had led her to some outlandish places and to some very peculiar people: the orange-clad mystic who could conjure wristwatches out of thin air while fumbling with the nether regions of his disciples: the media star who believed that the power elite was really comprised of very large lizards: the historian who, with eyes ablaze and hair askew, was about to tell her, really tell her, why downtrodden people rebelled and what resources they needed. The men she went to hear all liked to explain their theories to a wide audience, and they had all seemed feasible enough at the time. Sarah had thought they were what she had been waiting for: but in the end her eyes glazed over, and she came to realise that the answers she sought could not be found by being told. Not at all.

How to progress? By standing on her head and seeing everything differently? No: it wasn’t that simple. And then it came to her in a flash. It was not people who needed to be turned upside down: it was everything else. A volvulus was needed. All the litanies of common sense, all the wise sayings which structured everyday life, simply needed to be reversed. And so Sarah came to see that paradox was the royal road to enlightenment. Babies created mothers. Prey created hunters. Your worst enemy was really your greatest teacher. There was no such thing as dead matter. Roots were more important than branches. The sea was not on the horizon: it was inside you. Males were weak and females were strong.


The real issue was joy. It visited the undeserving as well as everyone else. It seemed to be intensified by the possibility of loss: it almost came roaring through the gates of death. And its little moments always came unheralded: the slow-worm in the evening light, the knowing glance of a lover, the book that somehow changed from heavy to light. These were objects or events that could burst your heart with happiness. Joy was there, there: hold your breath! But Sarah knew joy would not come at anyone’s behest. It had its own pace and utterance: “look for me, desire me, then: but let me bide my time.”