Welcome to Letters From Quotidia – , letter number 46, a podcast by Quentin Bega for lovers of music, poetry, and the Crack- that most Irish of nouns which may encompass, news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.
What is the plan, now? Have you ever heard this? In some meeting, in some relationship, in some internal conversation you have had with yourself or perhaps as part of a cognitive behaviour therapy session you are undergoing? I knew there was something wrong with me from the mid-nineties. I had banging headaches, nausea, an inability to think beyond tomorrow and a contradictory belief that I was invincible, somehow. Meeting with an old friend who was living up Sydney’s Glebe Point Road in an apartment, I celebrated my return to Sydney from North Queensland in 1995 by getting horribly drunk and raving like a lunatic.
This was not perceived as being particularly out of order because my life had been, for so many years, constructed out of just these bricks of self-destruction. Why they did not crash down upon my head? I have had reason to reflect upon it in the years since. So many times I have been, because of my affection for the demi-monde and, particularly, alcohol, in situations of considerable danger. Now, I could cite a guardian angel as the reason for my survival- but I know that is part of this whole magical thinking phenomenon. We all live till we die. Nothing will alter the fact that there is a limit to life. Do you want to live forever? Not me, but, given the choice, I don’t want to go just yet! So much to do; so much to see; so much to… you get the drift.
I know that I have dodged death so many times. A gun pointed at my head in Belfast; a confrontation with a brace of violent men on a secluded road; a miraculous save from a road accident in Warrawong- I could go on- as I am sure all of you can. Lots of times we don’t even know that we have dodged a bullet, because nothing happened. Luck, Lady Fortuna, Serendipity and Synchronicity are terms you may well be familiar with.
But what do you think about this insight into the nature of perception: In contrast to an epiphany, an apophany does not provide insight into the nature of reality or its interconnectedness but is a “process of repetitively and monotonously experiencing abnormal meanings in the entire surrounding experiential field”. Such meanings are entirely self-referential, solipsistic, and paranoid. If I knew what that meant, I would tell you. But I think you are way in front- an apophany is just absolute nonsense, the opposite of what James Joyce famously termed as an epiphany.
Yet, just about everyone I know; everyone who has spoken to me about the deep and meaningful stuff, has, at one time or another, talked about “a sudden spiritual manifestation, whether from some object, scene, event, or memorable phase of the mind–the manifestation being out of proportion to the significance or strictly logical relevance of whatever produces it.” And here’s the thing: I hate listening to others wittering on about their meaningful objects, scenes, events, et cetera. And yet I’m going to do just that.
As the millennium was drawing to a close, my eyesight began to fade, I was feeling dreadful- beyond hangover, which I was habituated to. I felt mortality pressing down on me more than usual and the dreams of death were becoming tiresomely frequent. I knew I had extreme idiopathic hypertension in 1996 when my doctor told me not to return to work the next day (as I was in danger of dropping dead at any second) and sent me on a round of tests and dosed me with a large number of pharmaceutical products that finally got the blood pressure under control. But this was new, and yet another test revealed that my blood sugar was through the ceiling. The joys of ageing- in my case accelerated by what is referred to euphemistically as lifestyle choices.
So then, what is this apophany I’ve been talking about? Well, I have to bring up another neologism at this point- patternicity. Michael Shermer, founder of the Sceptics Society, coined this one in 2008, when he defined it as, the tendency to find meaningful patterns in meaningless noise. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this what happens in just about every meeting in the workplace today? Someone spouting arrant rubbish in multisyllabic torrents as nodding heads around the table give assent to the madness. So, I nodded with the panic dwarfs and waited for too many years until the mortgage was finally paid off and the government decided that it could pay me a stipend, called the age pension, for the rest of my days.
What was this apophany? Listen: I have repetitively and monotonously experienced the feeling that I count for something. And that you do, too. Insane, isn’t it? William Blake put it in these terms, To see a world in a grain of sand/And heaven in a wild flower/Hold infinity in the palm of your hand/And eternity in an hour. And once again I ask the question, where would we be without our poets?
Now to the song, which is a portmanteau composition. I started writing Everything Goes, shortly after learning that I was not bullet-proof in 1998. I was dissatisfied with it and couldn’t work out why so I left it and started to write a pean to music and love, entitled Restless Paces, which was also OK , but about which I remained less than satisfied. And then, one afternoon, I put them together with a linking musical line and-voila- in my humble opinion, it worked! [insert song]
In the next letter I put forward the modest suggestion that all writers are gods, we visit an intergalactic auction where we will bid, perhaps, on Lot 354, recite lines from Bruce Dawe’s wonderful poem about suburban man, so bring along that little paddle with your number on it, so you can make a bid.
Credits: All written text, song lyrics and music (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.
Technical Stuff: Microphone- (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter)
Microphone (for many of the songs) Shure SM58
For recording and mixing down 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used
Music accompaniment and composition software- Band-in-a-Box and RealBand 2020 as well as- for some 20 of the songs of year 2000 vintage- I used a Blue Mountains, NSW, studio. Approximately 48 Banter folk songs and instrumentals recorded live (“in the round”) with a ThinkPad laptop using the inbuilt mic.