If you were a child in the 80’s, transcendence was everywhere. He-Man had the power of Greyskull, Superted went from being a common-or-garden teddy bear to being a superhero, Bananaman had bananas, Kay Harker could go small enough or swift enough to bring down a wicked heathen with demonic intentions, Gwydion Gwyn was gifted his sister’s scarf and along came Arianwen and a whole load of trouble and magic, the Pevensey’s walked through a BBC wardrobe into wintry Narnia/Scotland, Pazu and Sheeta destroyed Laputa, and Esteban went from being an urchin in Barcelona to flying a golden falcon/Boeing 737. The possibility for transcendence went hand in hand with magic, and this was the promise made to our generation.
I’ve spent my life looking for transcendence. For a time that was through my voice as a prodigal singer before that went wrong (remember Chapter Four of Fairytale?), but it the quest for it always took me down the road of music. It still does, but I know that exploiting my (now) limited singing talent isn’t going to change my life.
Then came sex/love. I’m not sure which was alpha and which was omega. But I believed that the pursuit of sex and love would change me, that I would somehow become more of a person the more of them I experienced. Then I learned that that particular route is dangerous, as the more sex one has with more and more people, the more likely the threat of disease, violence and annihilation is. Love on the other hand, does change us, but apart from the early magical days of love, love becomes less about thrilling magic, and more about peace and generosity of spirit and tenderness. It makes us adult, it makes us animals, it makes us human. But it doesn’t make us different from everyone else in the world. It doesn’t give us that adventure that nobody else was picked by magic to experience.
I looked for transcendence in marijuana and that did it occasionally. One time my friend Coral and I smoked some Thai ‘grass sticks’ in hr back garden on a warm Summer day. Her garden overlooked a wooded valley facing west, and the sun began to set on the other side of the hills. In the field next to her garden a white horse was grazing, and now completely stoned it looked to me like a unicorn, and then I was in Legend. But when I made weed a daily part of my life all it did was make me experience suppressed feelings of loss, despair and terror – all built up from a traumatic adolescence, and I had my first breakdown.
Then came languages. My early childhood was spent in Wales where I spoke more Welsh with my friends than English. I won the silver medal in the National Eisteddfod for my performance of ‘Ymson mot y ci’. I was bilingual then, but when we moved to England I was bullied relentlessly for my Welsh accent and I blocked the language out of my mind. When I learned to sound English by copying my parents I was then bullied for being too ‘posh’. Seaton really is a fucked up town. My brain, however, was wired up to be bilingual, and my whole life I’ve felt a dull ache whenever I hear other languages spoken, a voice inside telling me inside that I should understand them and that I was a failure for not being able to. As an adult, I thought that if I dedicated my life to studying languages then I would have so many adventures that other people never get to experience and therein would lie the transcendence. I never completed my language studies because whenever I tried university I would become deeply Depressed. In pursuing them, it felt like I was giving up the space in my mind and in my day for writing. CUE HEAD FUCK.
When mental illness took root in my mid-twenties I underwent a sort of transcendence, but unlike Esteban or Lucy Pevensey or Bananaman, I had to completely fall apart first. When I moved to Australia I was completely lost in translation. I was literally like an alien to the people I met there, even in Pom terms. Every role I’d carved out for myself was obliterated by small mindedness. All the things I allowed myself to be were torn apart by a society that thought I was a freak. Every defence I had built up to cope with the many, many things that had gone wrong for me since we left Wales in ’91 was removed, and what was left was real me – raw, lost, sad, broken. It took me four years to become a fixed person again.
Now I know that transcendence isn’t something you can really go looking for. If it’s meant to happen then it will find you, and you don’t always know what form that’s going to take. Blah blah blah. But the real truth is, at least for me, that not only transcendence but also holding onto the promise of that magic is possible if we re-connect with our imagination. When I connect with my imagination, worlds beyond worlds open up. All that magic we were promised comes true, because by opening up the imagination it all becomes possible.
Recommended tools for re-connecting with the imagination:
1. Listen to music as if you are looking at art.
If you’re not lucky enough to experience synaesthesia naturally, that’s OK. Just use your imagination! Sound can have colour (if you have to then just pick a colour). Sound can have texture. Does that guitar lead sound like it’s scratchy or does it feel like smooth metal, or like cool water, or like running your hands over a freshly mown lawn? Sound can have space. Pick out all the different sounds in a piece of music and you soon build up a landscape. Some things sound closer than others, some seem to rise up then float back down. Some just sparkle briefly like a butterfly that flits in and out of view. Give the music that you listen to colour, texture and space and you create a world of your own.
2. If there was something you enjoyed doing as a child and wish you could do it again -JUST DO IT.
It may be something you have to do in private, but if you don’t honour the things you once loved and the person you once were then you limit who you are now. We can’t just block out a part of our life that has passed. If we did then we’d forget every moment that made us who we are. If running across a field pretending you were an aeroplane gave you thrills as a child, do it now. It will unlock memories you have forgotten and your mind will be looser and freer.
3. Never stop watching the movies and TV shows you loved as a child.
When you go back to them you’ll be surprised how those children still look like your contemporaries. You’ll still see them and yourself as you did back then, and you’ll connect to a ‘self’ that encompasses more than just the present.
4. Drink a £15+ Margaret River Shiraz and/or high quality, peated, Single Malt Whiskey (in sensible quantities and NEVER in the same sitting).
A good Shiraz from Margaret River has so many flavours and textures (and spaces) that if you hold it in your mouth for ten seconds, you’ll feel like there’s a rainbow in your mouth. A good Single Malt will taste as golden as it looks, and the peat will literally transport you to the wild mountains of Western Scotland. Wales’ Penderyn whiskey will do the same, giving you a taste of Snowdonia and the Cambrian mountains.
5. DON’T LET YOURSELF EVER LOSE TOUCH WITH THE MAGIC YOU FELT AS A CHILD.
This is good mental health advice.