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Once upon a time there was a quote...
SSar's Beast
that appeared in my NZEST exam; it was something about tragic literature, and it was so good and so right that writing an essay to discuss it was like being given a mathematical proof to do. I knew that X did equal Y; and the task was to find the most elegant path between the two.

I loved that exam. It was the best exam I ever sat. It was the only exam I've ever deliberately failed. I don't know if that says anything about me or not. It sounds as if it should. But I don't think the two things - the quality of the exam and the fact that I failed it on purpose - were related, after all.

I spent an extravagant amount of time in that exam trying to memorise this poem, too. (Shouldha stuck to telephone numbers)

(for Richard Ryan)

'I am just going outside and may be some time.'
The others nod, pretending not to know.
At the heart of the ridiculous, the sublime.

He leaves them reading and begins to climb,
Goading his ghost into the howling snow;
He is just going outside and may be some time.

The tent recedes beneath its crust of rime
And frostbite is replaced by vertigo:
At the heart of the ridiculous the sublime.

Need we consider it some sort of crime,
This numb self-sacrifice of the weakest? No,
He is just going outside and may be some time -

In fact, for ever. Solitary enzyme,
Though the night yield no glimmer there will glow,
At the heart of the ridiculous, the sublime.

He takes leave of the earthly pantomime
Quietly, knowing it is time to go.
'I am just going outside and may be some time.'
At the heart of the ridiculous, the sublime.

From: Derek Mahon, Selected Poems
(London, Penguin Books, 2000),

now we have a bit of fake lofty-minded rubbish about me...

But back to theories and equations. Looking at some recent memes, I wondered what single word might be used to describe me - it appears as a question on a quiz. That's tough, but 'innocent' might not be so far off after all. I don't mean "Babies DON'T come from storks?!!!!"-type innocence. Knowledge of sex is only one part of innocence or its loss. I believe that innocence is better determined by how much one knows about pain, the darker side of human nature, and the appalling things we do. The dictionary, in its shrewd taciturn way, backs me up. "Innocent" derives from the Latin for harmlessness, for one who is blameless or does no harm; the dictionary describes an innocent as 'untainted by evil'.

Lucky me. I'm untainted by evil. I'm very lucky.

It fits, too. Deep down I have very sweet fluffy ideas about how people will all turn out, how easy life ought to be, and so on.

I am innocent. Why then am I deeply afraid of people?

To some extent we all are. There are different forms. Terminal timidity. Preference of solitude. Insecurity. In my case, it's not because I've been hurt by people, really.

However, while I don't have other people's experience of 'evil', I do have a general knowledge of nastiness. To use an extreme/bizarre example, we all know about the episode of cannibalism in Germany. (Germany, wasn't it?) We all know about this kind of stuff.

Girlfriend dumps boyfriend. Boyfriend: "OW!" People around him: "Ow." People around the people: "Yeah, ow..." Etc. Pain travels outwards in concentric circles. Therefore I may come to know of pain without experiencing it, and thus come to fear it.

Then I have imagination. Imagination allows me to imagine pain. Imagination allows me to project pain into my future and fear it.

I am innocent, meaning I have no practical/close experience of deep pain; however, I have an intellectual understanding of it and this is the root of my fear. Quod erat demonstrandum: I am innocent, yet I am afraid of people.

On a much more chipper note: I have a coffee coke (light on the coffee) with a whole lemon squeezed into it! I'm drinking it! Squeeeeee-eee.


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