Silent as light

The Antiquary: “is preoccupied on every level by the relation between past and present.”

Mary Midgley: “These doctrines are often bizarrely over-confident and over-simple”

George Orwell in Why I Write: “… one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s own personality”

Raymond Tallis in Summers of Discontent “There are several things to be noted about emotions. The first is they fill the world with meaning”

Kenneth Calman in Makars and Mediciners:  “It is perhaps here that the role of literature and the arts generally can have an advantage, by the author exposing poor health choices and behaviour patterns, in ways which are more powerful and effective than that of the medical teacher or professor. The writer’s imagination and expression can change things. The word can be powerful.”

Nathan Filer in The Shock of the Fall: “I think that’s what I am doing now. I am writing myself into my own story and I am telling it from within”

Andrew Greig: “He knows fankle from bourach.”

Raymond Tallis in Defence of Wonder “When we are in love we see the ordinary things about another person for what they are: not in the slightest bit ordinary.”

Gilbert K. Chesterton: “The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder

“She makes sunlight dim” (Sian)

Thomas Tranströmer to his lifelong friend Robert Bly: “In this climate it`s all or nothing. Anybody not 100% for is “self-evidently” 100% against. Have I given you a little picture of the climate? All you can do is Follow your own crooked conscience, wait for the moment of truth and hope you won’t need to be ashamed one day of how you lived through these years.”

Raymond Tallis: [Philosophy is a return] into that nearest, which we invariably rush past, which surprises us anew each time we get sight of it”

Tomas Tranströmer: “Balansnummer is ‘balancing act.’ The poem is partly a protest-poem against the prevailing mood in Swedish intellectual life. What I say is that finding the truth, being honest etc. is a difficult individualistic act of balance, you have to put off the rhetoric, all slogans and moustaches and prejudices and . . .”

Stephen Bann, MIDWAY: Letters from Ian Hamilton Finlay: “I recall saying once to Finlay that the special feature of the letter as a literary genre was that one never went back on the first draft to produce a fair copy.”

Nathan Filer in The shock of the Fall: “I have approximately 7.4 x 1027 atoms in my body”

Ian Hamilton Finlay: “Sometimes my wee best seems just not good enough”

Richard Holloway in Leaving Alexandria: “The toughest lesson life teaches is the difference between who you wanted to be and who you actually are. And it can take a whole life to teach it”

Robert Louis Stevenson: “Letter to a young gentleman who proposes to embrace the career of Art”

A. S. Byatt in Possession: “He put little slips of paper in the entries that made up his fragile narrative or non-narrative”

Adam Nicolson in Sea Room: “I’m wedded to this plunging-off form of thought, and to the acceptance of muddle which it implies”

Mukul Kesavan in Looking Through Glass: “Like all chroniclers of the relatively recent past, history ran out against the present”

Julian Barnes in The Noise of Time: “He bought a large scrapbook and pasted ‘Muddle Instead of Music’ onto the first page.”

Ronald Ross: “Science is the differential calculus of the mind, Art is the integral calculus; they may be beautiful apart, but are great only when combined.”

Walter Scott in The Antiquary (in Oldbuck’s room) “Amid this medley, it was no easier to find one’s way”

Margaret McCartney in The Patient Paradox: “The conclusion that variability is bad is distant from the much simpler observation that patients are all different.”

Robert Crawford in Young Eliot: “Leafiness suited him”

Alexander McCall Smith in Chance Developments: “His one and only book, ‘The Future Lies in the Past’, eventually published”

Patrick Deeley in The Hurley Maker’s Son: “I sensed the sun, beaming from a place that was higher than the world”

Penelope Fitzgerald in The Bookshop: “The sky brightened from one horizon to the other”

Hanya Yanagihara in A Little Life: “You made art because it was the only thing you’d ever been good at, the only thing, really, you thought about between shorter bursts of thinking about the things everyone thought about.”

John Berger in Here is where we meet: “To find any sense in life it was pointless to search in the places where people were instructed to look.”

Edmund De Waal in The White Road: “He writes a letter about how things are made, but it is actually about compassion.”

Alice Hoffman in Faithful: “No one could count all the stars. There are far too many.”

Madeleine Thien in Do Not Say We Have Nothing: “So familiar to me, like an entire language, a world, I had forgotten”

John Steinbeck in Of Mice and Men: “Both men glanced up, for the rectangle of sunshine in the doorway was cut off”

A lot of hot air

This Radio Scotland Broadcaster in this clip suggests that we need a film about the Great Nadar:

A lot of hot air from omphalos.

Fortunately I made the following film a few years ago:

Nadar from omphalos.

"The Great Nadar" by Adam Begley can be purchased here.

[I made my film before Adam Begley had published this book]

Gardens of the Mind

I have put together this post in my appreciation for Geoffrey Jellicoe (1900 -1996).

Jellicoe was an architect, landscape architect, historian, traveller, lecturer and author. He has been a lasting inspiration for me.

When I studied landscape Architecture at the University of Edinburgh it was Jellicoe who was the guide for my mind’s eye. Without Jellicoe, I feel certain that I would not have gained distinction in all subjects along with the award of the Scottish Chapter prize. I was not a good draughtsman but I had ideas; uncultivated ideas. Six years of training in Medicine (at the University of Aberdeen) had rather stifled my creative and imaginative self and I was altogether rather too tight and rigid. In good part, I feel this a consequence of the unhelpful, and really too strict division between the so-called ‘two cultures’.

In what follows I have “borrowed words” of my betters, taking three quotes from a number of my favourite authors: marginalia and fragments that for me somehow seem to say something about Jellicoe and the ‘two cultures’. Interspersed are a few short clips of Geoffrey Jellicoe talking about draughtsmanship and gardens of the Mind.



 

Epitome of current medical literature

This film takes as its title the opening section of the British Medical Journal of the last century.

The idea behind this film is to question what may be considered as “medical literature”?

I have deliberately placed myself at the centre of this film. What may appear as “monomania” is quite deliberate! I don’t know about you, but I read for pleasure and also because it gives me access to the lives of others. Literature opens up new worlds for me.

In this film I surround myself with some of those authors I have enjoyed reading and who have helped me to grow as a person and as a doctor.

We must remember that we are all subjective. We cannot put ourselves into the minds of others and truly share their lived experience.

This film also suggests, by including reference to the “modern ruin” St Peter’s Seminary in Cardross, (built in 1967, the year I was born) that we pass through time and that we age. I have included consideration of passing time as literature reminds us that medical science cannot ignore this.

In short this film is an artistic expression of the so-called “two cultures”.

Music credit: Spem in alium – Thomas Tallis

Locations:
(1) The Pineapple, Dunmore
(2) Mossgrove, Bridge of Allan
(3) Old Stirling Bridge

Backdrop:
Authors whose words have featured in my films.

How did a statue of Beethoven end up at the back of Renfrew Street, Glasgow?

How did a statue of Beethoven end up at the back of Renfrew Street, Glasgow?

Can this tell us anything about the relationship between science and art, objectivity and subjectivity? And might it possibly (or indeed impossibly) say something about the effects of illness and ageing? This wee film asks such questions.

  • Belle and Sebastian suggested “meeting at the statue in an hour”.
  • A. S Byatt talked about the Harmonium Museum and the “bird-coop of the muses”.
  • Julian Barnes  said that “music escapes from words: that is its power, and its majesty”.
  • Gabriel García Márquez in “No one writes to the Colonel” observed, almost in passing, that “a keyless pianola did double duty as a desk”.

The keyless pianola did double duty as a desk from omphalos on Vimeo.

“Pathological” language: on what basis and decided by who?

This post is about our use of language.

Recently I made a film called “language is the dwelling place of being” about the poet and artist Ian Hamilton Finlay who is recognised as one of Scotland’s most internationally renowned poet’s.

Language is the dwelling place of Being from omphalos on Vimeo.

In his letters, Ian Hamilton Finlay describes, without fondness, several periods in hospital. Ian Hamilton Finlay’s earlier periods of psychiatric hospitalisation were described in “Selections” by his son Alec.

In middle to late life, but not right up to the end, Ian Hamilton Finlay lived his life in exile, in his kingdom of “Little Sparta”

18_ian_hamilton_finlay_for_

Hamilton Finlay was an artist and wordsmith. His ideas were conceptualised in the form that he termed “concrete poetry” which he defined as: “a model of order, even if set in a place full of doubt”

Hamilton Finlay’s creative ability with language developed into a whole new form of language as an art form in itself. Such ideas, explored with other poets and artists were developed in Poor.Old.Tired.Horse. a journal published by Finlay.

POTH-5

I have often wondered what my colleagues in psychiatry made of Ian Hamilton Finlay. My suspicion is that they might have designated his language as “pathological” I say this as I was taught in my medical training that “language disorder” can be a cardinal feature of mental illness. Indeed in psychotic illnesses, one form of this “disorder” is described as “loosening of associations” and another form, the making of new words “neologisms”. I once heard an eminent professor and his wife, who had met R D Laing at a conference, say “well we think he was mad, he used to Clang a lot”. To Clang is another form of “pathology” and is defined as: “a mode of speech characterized by association of words based upon sound rather than concepts”

Hamilton Finlay used to describe his garden “not as a retreat but an attack”. I now wonder if he was attacking the “pathological” view of psychiatry and/or medical reductionism. If this is the case, I for one, welcome Hamilton Finlay’s attack.

POTH21

A year or two back, I attended an NHS meeting that had a mixture of senior medical staff and senior managers. I struggled at this meeting to follow some of the language of medical and managerial discourse. I gave up trying to understand and thus simply recorded (as much as I could bear) the language used in the meeting:

“Sign-off the work done to date and migrate into RAG report”

“We need to use the same mapping & gapping analysis”

“It is all about generic input with cognizance of those factors that tie-in to the Work Plan or GAP analysis that we have agreed in the Improvement Team. I am happy to populate that.

Below is a short extract of text from Julian Barnes novel “Talking it over”odd-word

I would argue that this sort of language could also be considered “pathological” but those at the meeting would surely resist any label of “mental illness”.

My own pet-hates are mechanical metaphors which are now everywhere in “healthcare improvement work”: toolboxes, dashboards, kits, route maps etc. These words imply that we can be treated as machines.

I am wondering if the language of my profession is changing to become more detached.