If people truly can outlive their physical lives through their writing then thank goodness for Mike’s writing. It’s really the only way I knew him, having only met him a handful of times but having talked extensively over Facebook chat.
It was Mike’s funeral today and although I considered going, I felt it wasn’t my place. I met him in person fewer times than I could count on one hand. But a mutual friend told me he was a fan of mine, which means a lot, and it was mutual.
Obviously a brief knowledge through writing is a knowledge of a person that can be only in fragments. But they were fragments of enough quality to make it obvious that he was a worthwhile, intelligent, funny and interesting person, that I found to be a person of meaning in a world of meaninglessness, and what more irony therefore than the fact that he himself struggled to find meaning. It does seem that is the way. Here are some of the fragments of the things he wrote so that I can find them again.
From private messages:
“The only cure for [a writing style that is stuck in a rut], if you think it needs a cure, is lots of wide reading – from trashy magazines to Tolstoy.”
I’ll take this forward and do it. But I’m not sure I have the clarity of thought to ever become as clever and insightful a writer as Mike was.
“I think you have to be generous with yourself and not judgemental. I find it’s easy for me to be very hard on myself and counter-productive because I end up feeling its all a bit pointless. I tend to lose myself in the past – looking at old newspapers, old TV clips on You Tube from my childhood. It’s a kind of comfort blanket from the cold out there.”
Someone else has also recently been teaching me to be compassionate towards myself, and I won’t forget that Mike told me this a long time ago nor that he recommended finding the right comfort blanket.
Finally from his recent blog that I don’t want to forget:
“Death itself is quite the best thing I’ve ever known for focusing the mind on life, particularly the specifics of being alive. The colours of autumn are that bit more vivid, the cold more bitter, the sun slightly more intense. There is so much I want to do, to write, to experience, to see – I hardly know where to start.”
I don’t like it, I don’t like any of it, I don’t like to think of this person who despite everything, wanted to live, and who is not doing so. I don’t accept it. I don’t like it. I want to keep the autumn colours vivid and the sun intense and not waste being here. I want to be here.
I occasionally sent Mike choral music fragments as I knew he used to sing, and as choral music soothes me profoundly I hoped it might help. So here is some absolute, pure beauty out of the darkness; Palestrina on a theme (totally meaningful to me as a complete atheist) of humanity crying out from the darkness in the name of hope and joy and redemption. There is beauty in us, and we can hold to that even when we know in the midst of life’s cruelty that there’s nothing else, and that’s why we must look for those moments of human beauty.