In my early twenties I lived in Acton, courtesy of the Polish mother of a good friend of mine at a time when my hedonistic habits were at their most pronounced.
The mother was a notable Polish historian with whom, despite my wayward ways, I struck up a close friendship unimaginably unique for its tolerance and understanding given the wide gap both culturally and ideologically that divided us.
I was unemployed and spent my spare time chasing women in coffee bars, then the places to meet, and the rest of the time indulged in a morose sort of writing. One piece in this sequence of writing, A Pause Among the Graves, was typical in its gothic, over-the-top, possibly hashish-induced imagery:
I thrust at the gate of the dead and walked in the lair of ghosts with lurid face and broken heart. I entered the placid cemetery where the bitter secrets of many poor souls flapped as leaves in the wind.
The phantoms of life, like the nocturnal beasts, quit their dens in the darkness of the night.
They terrified men of feeble heart and abducted their will to a hell of dumbness.
These creatures are the slaves of humanity – the slaves of their passion and enjoyments.
I stepped along the clumsy, sinuous parts and stumbled on the skulls and bones of the wretched people who had died under a veil of pain, love and patriotism…
I sat in the place of rendezvous where I could mourn my beloved and kiss the earth she dwelt in.
I sat and heard the floating whispers of the soft breeze swaying with the flowers mutant with reverence and awe…
There I bent over the grave of my spirit and watered the lilies, the symbol of her soul, with a flood of tears – tears of the fragrant blood of the victims of love.
There was much else in the same vein but the words were signposts on the road to maturity, however obscure the goal remained. In Acton, while I sat for many hours reading and writing, I also pondered philosophically. Were we predestined to follow a given path? Or could we truly be masters of our own destinies, irrespective of time and place? I asked the questions repeatedly. Was a person, cast into the wilderness, ever likely to achieve the small measure of success as someone born into a thriving society which offered opportunities every step of the way?
What could have become of me in Nazareth? Could I have lived happily near to nature and survived the vicissitudes of everyday life as my grandmother and great aunt had done in the past? Times had changed, I argued. Their sort of Spartan existence – pitted against the elements, winning nature’s benefits only through constant struggle was no longer regarded with the same degree of respect and admiration.
At least my tendency to dwell on these things sharpened my awareness and made my mind more analytical. All the time I was adding depth to my perceptions of beauty and ugliness, which to me represented the poles of good and evil. Their contrasting differences were another dimension that I needed to dissect if I were ever to understand the true meaning of life.
The morbidity in my writing sprang from the noticeable change in my lifestyle that happened with my move to Acton. I was perceiving things through the perspective of jazz music intermingled with the occult. It was a weird period in my life when I was lost between distorted imagery and the real world. The one thing I knew was that nothing was forever. The world’s conventional forces must eventually compel one to turn back towards conformity. How this would happen I could not foresee.
Looking back, conformity gradually happened organically, without my being aware of it. The road was rough, but I got there eventually and gained some wisdom as the journey became clearer with the advent of maturity.