The title of this post is a sign the hangs in my office. It seems to have a profound effect on people who read it. Of course, anyone coming to my office is either looking something to change or looking for ways to keep things from changing.
It’s often painful to watch how we hold onto the “nothing” with such tenacity. We brace against the inevitable change that happens irrespective of our desires. And perhaps that’s why, when change brings down the walls of our sanctuary, we feel our desires have been disrespected. We become emotional hoarders – stashing away the rubble of having loved, the bricks and cobblestones of defensiveness that justify how we have acted or what we believe is true. It lends strength to our belief that security is possible, a belief that the world is real in a tactile, concrete sense.
The lead to the poem by Carol Rumens is worth reading here:
“Reconstruction” is a reminder of the lost spaces and faded memories into which the robustly renovated city may almost disappear. Perhaps the physical re-building has replaced memory, or has displaced the mental rebuilding that memory is? Subtly, the poem seems to revise the old saying, that the more things change, the more they stay the same. It whispers, delicately and disturbingly, that the more things stay the same, the more they change.
These days you forget how the bricks
were piled up all over again,
their edges just where they were before
as if nothing had happened.
As if nothing had happened
they hold the shop-fronts up, the bricks
under stucco and paint again
making a surface as they did before
the words fell down.
The words fell down
and nobody knew what had happened
to the places that bricks
were not the edges of. Making them again
meant bricking up the way things were before,
so that nothing could ever be different.
Although it is different
you forget it, looking down
the street where if you happened
not to know you’d never see where new bricks
are mortared to the old. The walls are here again
but the air between them changed before
it could be sealed inside a memory,
for if you build around a memory
words come first and walls follow. It’s no different
from how it was, the plaster smoothed down
over the gap of what might never have happened.
The sky glows on an outline of bricks.
You open the window wordlessly. You shut it. Again
the room shifts another breath from what it was before
whatever it was that these days you forget.
Thank you for practising,