My last blog was, perhaps, an exploration of new shoots: whether that be a metaphor informed by the new season of spring, or perhaps just a factual reflection of my new role and obvious ignorance in this ‘digital’ space. However, this week I’ve been chewing on a feeling of naivety… which may well be the next logical step from infant stupidity in a chain of personal growth. Maybe a series of blogs? The stupidest one in the room, the most naive man on earth, artless in Hamilton, etc? But it is naivety that gnaws at me today, and here I am.
Yet, lets us skip back to when I was, or where I were.
I remember the time and place where I first learnt of caste systems. I would have been 25 years old and walking along the footpath on the corner of Grey and Bridge Streets in Hamilton East. A well read and erudite woman of middle age and permanent presence was speaking with my (then) wife about social issues and used the phrase “caste system”. I interjected, superior and haughty, “oh yes, you mean class system”. The well read woman was as delicate as a brain surgeon excising a tumour from a humming bee in her suggestion that the two were, perhaps, similar. But I nevertheless can’t extirpate the horror in my mind of that moment. With the benefit of hindsight, even my understanding of a class system was completely misinformed! I thought it was a useful social metric scale one could apply broad brushed over society: generationally unemployed - lower class; has a job and a house - middle class; has a lot of money - upper class. I didn’t know caste and I sure didn’t grasp class.
I remember the time I truly saw a caste system in play. I was interviewing a lovely and dedicated Indian couple, twenty times my own net worth and immeasurably more driven. And this is important only to inform the caste tale, but not to define them: but they were dark, calloused, worn people who despite their brilliance and vigour wore a life of hard work on their shoulders. During the interview, an Indian colleague, woman, beautiful and majestic, fair, embodying the characteristics of a lioness walked past the open door my glass walled interview room. The couple I was interviewing scowled, nearly audibly growled and were for a moment the harried scene of menacing jackals, all for a second. I was shocked and utterly lost as to the context of their snarl, but carried on my interview. After I had finished, I found an opportune time to ask the lioness if she knew my interviewees, or if she understood any reason why they would have shown her such vehemence. She was wonderfully ignorant. It took a well read and erudite onlooker to interject, and suggest I had just seen caste hatred in play.
As for class… an email I once sent to the author Elizabeth Knox probably best sums that up. An email I submitted via the ‘contact me’ link on her website, and as such is lost to me for ever. But her reply (which I reproduce without her permission) “What you had to say about class was quite striking to me” reminds me that I was raging in my missive to her. I remember I had roared at her about my own class realisation. I arrived in England in 2010 (28 years old), utterly unaware of its true class system, totally naive. And I immediately betrayed myself, and over and over again for the next four years as I adopted a belief that it was important and valid, this feudal nonsense. I bullied up a tenuous link to the middle class, telling clients of my Granny and her Papa the Major. And then in the same day, just at another meeting, broadly swaggered through my working class credentials, being a boy from a mining town dontchaknow. I remember reading Ms. Knox’s novel, After Z Hour, and being so monstrously offended by scene in which a well to do gentleman extracts an honest Kiwi from his drawing room, as the Kiwi and his broad language sullied his wife. That monstrous offence being realisation as to my own betrayal.
So why this dive into caste, and class? Because I feel as though, that to have reached the age I did without any understanding of either, exposes my naivety quite wonderfully. And why now? Well, that’s a little harder to explain. Maybe if we leap back to the top of this page, where I hint at my new work environment… Maybe that helps. Yesterday I found myself in deep conversation, massively out of my depth, with a wonderfully animated and mentally thrilling colleague. The sort of conversation where I am spending so much energy remember key terms, things I want to google as soon as they’ve left, subconsciously rueing that I really don’t know what existentialism means, no matter how many times I’ve read the term in my well e-thumbed iPhone Oxford Dictionaries app… The sort of conversation where I’m just holding onto to fragments of my dandelion mind, mirroring the other parties body language and nodding lots… The sort of conversation where I feel soo naive, …and there we have it. That was the trigger. Sirjana, Simone de Beauvoir, existentialism, Zen, Hinduism, and my own clanging fear of not letting on that she was in a conversation with herself and a marionette moving only on strings of interview training.
But that can’t just be it. Sometimes I have those meetings and conversations three times a day. There must be more.
Yes. Today, sublime coffee, and barn-cum-real-food aesthetic at Walton St Cafe, Te Awamutu. I found myself uttering the words: “I was so wonderfully naive” in context of my own personal development as framed by my companion’s drive to positively impact childrens’ lives. There’s another arrow to the quiver of what pushed me to write.
And then tonight, 33 “GOD” by Bon Iver on near constant loop on my stereo, with Talk Show Host by Radiohead played alongside as I feel they’re related… And me imploring Mme. L. to agree. These two songs coercing me into a brainspace which says TYPE. Yet, they’re also more, savage reminders that I was only musically aware so late in my life. Music sage Peter Paphides tweets about his tweenage daughter making links and leaps through deep music realisation, say the development of The Beatles and different pressings of the same record. New Zealand treasure and utter well of sincerity, John Campbell interviewed about what he’s listening to, talks of his own teenage daughter addressing the lyrics, depth and meaning of Anderson Paak… Yet I remember the time I blithely blustered: “oh I love all of Bon Iver’s records” afore an aghast record shop assistant. She was left stumbling five ways over how to tell me there (at that time) was only one release. Bon Iver - the quantum of my musical naivety measured.
So it is that I am here, train of thought typing and spouting my records of naivety to the world. But yet, it is that here I am. I am one so effected by my external environment, the grown man unable to talk to elderly people for fear of crying at them. Ignoring my own utterly cherished Grandmother because it would involve running the gauntlet of other old people to make it to her room in her new rest home (ed: yikes, massive guilt reflection and deep exposition of self alert). Here I am. Unable to do much more than scroll up and down the Guardian’s international news page, certainly not able to pause or read more than a headline and byline… for if Alan Kurdi, or Omran Daqneesh, sear my eyes and wrench my mind again I’ll almost not make it out of bed. Here I am… so effected by the world that I disengage from most of it and find my naivety, sublime. In as much as it allows me a sort of protection from the opposite of ignorance.
At the top of the post is a photo of me, in my favourite t-shirt, head tilted to one side, my infant daughter adopting the same position, mirroring my body language, as I expound in energetic terms, some great realisation of life… Or maybe just starting vapidly into her face, as I find myself doing rather a lot of the time. Here at the top of this post, is this photo. I find myself at a cross roads of decision. To allow Mlle. F. the sublime wonderfulness that is the ignorance of caste, class, sexism, war, ills, evils and wrongs. Or to help her become aware of these things, so that they might not enrage her or embarrass her, later, as my own silliness has in this life? I’m hoping she’ll choose her own path, I did, it wasn’t for lack of brilliance and influence in my life that I became the lovely daft and slapstick puppy of a man I am. I willingly eschewed the advice of mentors. I’ve knowingly dumbfounded well intentioned teachers, preachers, parents and friends. I just need to make peace with that.