Radio Days: A dash at politics
Till Death Do Us Part

We don’t need to understand everything

Michael Dom 2
Michael Dom - “I have no idea what it means to readers, I just write the stuff down to appease the voices in my head"

PHILIP FITZPATRICK

TUMBY BAY - Bernard Corden recently observed in PNG Attitude that when singer-songwriter Don McLean was asked what on earth the lyrics in the song American Pie meant his response was: "It means I will never have to work again."

Bernard’s comment followed a discussion about what on earth Michael Dom’s poem, The Man in the Mirror actually means.

Michael unhelpfully intimated that he wasn’t sure either and that he just wrote “the stuff down to appease the voices” in his head.

To me that was quite a satisfactory answer.

Some readers may remember the Stanley Kubrick film, 2001 A Space Odyssey. Apart from a meditation about what the space age might mean for the evolution of humankind, people have been puzzling over the meaning of the film ever since.

Literature and art have a long history of avoiding meaning.

One of the main reasons people enjoy reading James Joyce’s Ulysses is because they haven’t got the faintest idea what it’s about but really enjoy the rich language and imagery.

Lack of meaning is an explicit effect and technique that annoys and delights different people in different measure.

Meaning may often be in the eye of the beholder. One piece of work can have multiple meanings depending upon the reader or viewer.

At other times any sense of meaning can be entirely absent and beyond the comprehension of even the most astute and discerning.

That doesn’t void the work at all. The mystery and titillation becomes the whole point of the work. The more obscure it is the better.

Not knowing can be a delightful effect to take away from such a work.

In this case it is far better to relish the style and imagery rather than worry about its meaning.

In literature and art there is no such thing as fear of the unknown.

There is a real skill in avoiding saying what you mean in literature. Poorly conceived and executed, your words can descend into simple gibberish.

There are plenty of examples of mindless gibberish in literature, just as there are in other walks of life.

The line between well-delivered meaninglessness and unacceptable gibber is very fine.

In the hands of inexperienced writers, something meant to be mysteriously deep and meaningful can end up as pointless mishmash in a nanosecond.

There is nothing more disappointing than finding out that what one enjoyed as a delightful mystery has a simple and mundane meaning.

Not that I believe that Don McLean wrote American Pie simply to make money. As a poet and songwriter he just got lucky.

In the cases of Kubrick’s film or Joyce’s novel, there have been millions of words written about their putative meanings.

For some reason some people cannot leave even the best mysteries alone and insist upon unearthing obscure and unlikely reasons for them.

Even Samuel Beckett’s absurdist play, Waiting for Godot, which explicitly sets out to be meaningless, attracts these purveyors of mindless logic.

Reading the stuff about Kubrick, Joyce and Beckett can be decidedly depressing.

I’m sure neither the film maker, novelist nor playwright intended that such nit picking should occur.

All those religious types who insist that life has some sort of meaning will ultimately be disappointed, I’m sure, when they discover that it’s actually meaningless and it’s the living of it that is the real point.

With that in mind, don’t worry about what the voices in Michael Dom’s head are trying to say – just enjoy the poem for what it is - and isn’t.

__________

ManThe Man in the Mirror

Michael Dom

One day when I opened my mouth to speak
I heard a language I did not understand
I went to the bathroom to take a peek
At my reflection in the sky-roofed mirror and
To my relief the face was my very own
So I said, "Oh it's you,
I thought for a moment you were gone"
And mirror-me smirked back through
The thin looking-glass veneer
"Yes, it's me, you know I'm no voice in your head"
So I replied with a sardonic sneer
"That's ok, come on out, I won't tell till I'm dead"
Then mirror-me smiled and looked back eye-to-eye
When he said, "Back to work boy", his lips moved, not mine.

rror

MICHAEL DOM

One day when I opened my mouth to speak
I heard a language I did not understand
I went to the bathroom to take a peek
At my reflection in the sky-roofed mirror and
To my relief the face was my very own
So I said, "Oh it's you,
I thought for a moment you were gone"
And mirror-me smirked back through
The thin looking-glass veneer
"Yes, it's me, you know I'm no voice in your head"
So I replied with a sardonic sneer
"That's ok, come on out, I won't tell till I'm dead"
Then mirror-me smiled and looked back eye-to-eye
When he said, "Back to work boy", his lips moved, not mine.

Comments

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Philip Fitzpatrick

It seems that it is only with old age that one finally realises the vast breadth and depth of all we don't know Garry.

Not to mention all the stuff we've got crammed into our memory banks that has become so difficult to sort through.

william Dunlop

Chris. Re your Yorkshire saying; Have a look at the achievements of one James Tyson Australian born, of Yorkshire stock early 1800's.
Started out on shanks's pony, Graduating to rail and steamships as his means of travel, Australia's first cattle and Sheep Barron. Passed on at Tinnabura Toowoomba 1897.
Stated that there were Tysons as landholders at the mouth of the Humber long before William the Conqueror arrived in England.
An acquaintance of Flora Shaw.
See Banjo Patterson's T.Y.S.O.N. and Morant's poems.

Garry Roche

We do not need to understand everything. My own experience is that when younger I thought I understood everything or almost everything.

It was as I got much older I became more aware that I had made many assumptions that later proved to be merely assumptions.

At the same time I believe that keeping an open mind and a sense of curiosity is healthy.

I went to New Guinea as a naïve young missionary, and I left it as a naïve older missionary, but perhaps with a slight increase in wisdom along the way.

Stephanie Alois

So true....humans have the tendency of wanting to know and understand everything.

We sometimes get obsessed with uncovering mysteries and finding answers that we failed to enjoy the beauty of life just as it is.

Also, life has infinite perspectives and so does literature.

Don't worry about whether people understand you or not keep expressing yourself, Michael Dom.

We all are unique and have unique perspective on life and everything around us.

Michael Dom

We may start off with a kernel of truth and there's often two ways the work can progress, we can either beat the work into submission or flow with it and help it express itself as a creation.

Sometimes we have a good grasp of what it was about sometimes we don't.

Hey, wait a minute, that sounds like life.

Bernard Corden

Even the late Spike Milligan proclaimed he had a certificate that verified his sanity.

Chris Overland

Humans are programmed to seek out or impose patterns upon what they perceive via their different senses and to categorise their perceptions and experiences.

This categorisation process allows the construction of an mental frame of reference by which to understand the world around them.

In this context words may be conceived of as a string of abstract symbols which are collectively understood to have one or more meanings, depending upon the context in which they are used.

Poems are thus really a series of groups of abstract symbols to which the reader attaches meaning based upon his or her intellectual and experiential frame of reference.

Thus it is possible for Michael's poem to be interpreted in many ways because each reader sees and understands his words in subtly different ways.

This helps explain why there can sometimes be strikingly different understandings of the same words and, more broadly, the world at large.

At the extreme, a greatly disordered mind can create a frame of reference that is so seriously at odds with what most people perceive as objective reality that we categorise them as mad.

All this is summarised by the great Yorkshire saying that "there's nought so queer as folk".

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