Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.

What does it profit a man, all his labour under the sun?
One generation passes, another generation comes, but the universe abides forever.
The sun rises, the sun sets, and rushes to the place from whence it came.
The wind blows south, then turns about to the north, whirling continually, returning in it’s circuits.
All rivers run to the sea, yet the sea is not full. Into the place from whence rivers come, so they return again.
All things are full of toil, man cannot utter it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, the ear not filled by hearing.
The thing that has been is that which shall be, and that which is done is that which shall be done, and there is no new thing under the sun.
Is there anything of which it may be said “see, this is new”? It has already been of old, in the time that came before us.
There is no memory of former things, nor shall there be memory of that which is to come in those who come after.



You spend a lot of time playing with different narratives. You always mused that this freedom in narrative was something of a skill in itself, the ability to look past narrative as fact and consider it as purposeful.

Now though you wonder if you did not go too far. Truth is completely elusive. Sometimes for a moment you think you might have a clue, that there are shades of validity – some narratives right, some narratives wrong. But you find it all to easy, in a moment, in a conversation, while reading a book – to step outside the subjectivity of narrative and consider another. No longer is there anything that you can grasp, nothing solid, nothing that doesn’t melt and transform into something else when you tilt your head or rub your eyes.

Narrative is very socially useful, it binds us together, binds societies, families, cultures.

You can play that game, enjoy it, be a part of something. Rail against the other, join in with the narratives of the group. But all it takes is a second alone… a tilt of the head, a blinking of the eyes. The crowd fades into the background, the noise, the camaraderie, the belonging.

You are alone again, looking down on them all, observing and analysing, their truths are not your truths.

Always the bridesmaid never the bride

You have always been on the peripheries of everything you have been involved with. It’s somehow just how it always plays out. Because of this your sense of self, of who you are, has developed into one in which you identify strongly with “the observer”.

This identity is comfortable to you, to stand outside, above, on the edge – to look down, or in toward the centre. To observe the players and their game. To assess their motives, their choices, their ideals, their actions. And never to act yourself.

You take pride in being detached and dispassionate, though if required you will play along with the game, in your soul you stand outside, you know that these bodies and other bodies are all just bodies in motion, and in your own subjectivity you are apart from all that, the stationary body around which all motion occurs.

You are of courseĀ not stationary. And there cannot be an objective observer, save perhaps – and it’s a big perhaps – God. Like a photon detecting an electron, every act of observation has an effect – and like Marx said in his longwinded German way, every action creates and transmits information.

There can be no such thing as the observer. Maybe you should take solace, you have always guarded a secret desire to do more than just watch, to be a part of something, to sacrifice your sense of specialness, of superiority, for the warm soft comfort of belonging.

But decades of identification are not easily undone, especially when you sit at the edge of the graph and no-one else has any desire to increase your centrality.

In sickness and in health

She tells you that she thinks she has some terrible disease. She worries out loud about maybe having been cursed or being attacked by some invisible entity.

You respond, but you cannot really respond. You’ve been here before, you know nothing you say will get through.

So you give one word answers and hope she gives up. You know the terror she feels cannot be reasoned with. Tell her to take her meds, and then leave her alone, because even when you are there with her, she is alone.

You are sure there has to be a better way, but you don’t have any clue what that way might be.

Reaching out

You catch yourself feeling desperate. You reach out over the wires, over the fibres, to someone, to anyone.

“Validate my existence” you shout at the seething mass, too shy to direct your need at any specific individual. In return you hear the echo, voices, millions of voices crying in refrain “validate us, tell us we mean something, that we matter”.

You walk down the street, get on a bus, sit and watch the people. Eyes downcast, trying to avoid catching a gaze. Burying themselves in books and magazines or walking briskly with purpose, eyes dead ahead like a protective shield.

Then you catch one, a pair of eyes outside the window, frozen in horror to be noticed, just like you. The bus moves on, the eyes accelerate away from you, relief is followed by regret.

You should have smiled. Made a connection. Let down the barrier.

You go on your computer and send words to anyone and no-one and swear next time you will reach out to someone real.


A tragedy occurs, it’s on the news, no-one you know was involved. You look around you as people commiserate one another over the dead they didn’t know existed before today.

You watch them as they proclaim anathemas on the perpetrators, as they wring their hands about the “social issues” that led to this “terrible event”.

You think they are faking, they must be faking, they put money in a collection box for survivors they have no connection to, they shake their heads, the mood in the office is subdued, conversation steers itself toward the inevitable “isn’t it awful”.

You’re at home, holding your lover, watching the news after the watershed, images of a little girl whose face has been smashed in flash across the screen. You catch in your lover’s eye the glisten of a tear, genuine sadness and regret. “What is wrong with humanity” they say “why do we do this to one another?”

Blank emptiness fills you. You do not understand. How do they care for this girl they never knew? Mere pixels on a screen as far as your experience is concerned. You think of the grieving mother and father and recognise the suffering it must cause them. You recognise it is wrong but you cannot feel sorry, no tears find themselves in your eyes. No anger at mankind for it’s hatred and violence. “There must be something wrong with me” you think.

Turn to your lover though, anguish and love flow through your heart like an open faucet. You touch your lover’s head and wipe their tears, awed by their compassion you find it, a single tear of your own. A moment of care by proxy.

Then the words return, and with them the emptiness.