In the Borderland, the alien presence can be felt everywhere. This week our friend and the founder of Foolish People, John Harrigan, takes us on a journey to the shores of Eden. Away from the fixed and familiar, into a state of transition. One of suffering, creativity and truth. Grief is a poison bullet. Only with art and ritual can we navigate through this void. Just remember, lean into the art, when you can’t hold the weight of your own body.
John is a writer, director and filmmaker. He utilises the mediums of ritual and storytelling to explore our relationship with the numinous haunting the liminal spaces of humanity and culture.
I haven’t been back to the Cemetery since the day after I lowered my mum into the ground with my own hands; did the ritual end or begin when cold dirt fell through my fingers onto her coffin?
I haven’t been back to see what happened to the mounds of flowers. Are they still there? Smothered in condensation, wrapped and trapped within plastic?
I haven’t been back to see if the ground has sunk down upon the small cupboard that my mother’s body shrinks within. Is the earth ready to receive a headstone, with words I’m not capable of even considering?
I don’t know what I’ll find when I visit her grave on Sunday.
Grief is a poisoned bullet.
I heard the crack of the chamber, felt the wind on my neck and I ran, hard and fast into the act of creation. Six years of punches pulled, six years lost in this maze of a disease with my mother. Six years of never having enough time, focus or energy. Emotions held back by an immense wall of suffering.
I had a head start. For a long time now, I’ve known that the only thing we have, is ritual. The ritual never ends. The ritual will save us all. Lean into the art, when you can’t hold the weight of your own body.
This ritual is the most complex tapestry of meaning. It contains the loss of my mother, David Bowie’s exit from the stage, Brexit, the resurfacing of xenophobia in England. A feature film, created from start to finish in five weeks. The ritual takes place upon a grand and desperate altar. It excavates the relationship between this land that I came into existence upon via my mother’s grace, the lives of my children and the resurfacing of great Albion. Such elaborate secrets.
Bowie’s death was announced the morning after the hospital informed me that I should expect my mother to die. One of many nights I expected my mother to die. When she did finally die in an immense feat of self-deprivation, my prison sentence ended. In my mother’s own way, this was her ritual. Her strength enabled her to put everyone’s needs before her own, even if it meant damaging the recipient with her generosity. I will never be as strong as my mum. Never. She had enough love and caring to overwhelm you.
Her final feat was to make the world turn once again.
It was terrifying to witness, someone deciding to stop existing in this way. My mother starved herself to death because she would never be so selfish to ask her son to end her suffering. Or perhaps Alzheimer’s forced my mother to starve herself to death, the meaning behind each event changes, depending on who you talk to.
My mother’s death was the starting pistol on this ritual, the year of the Borderland. Of creation as trespass upon the shores of Eden.
I don’t know if this ritual is a celebration of life or a celebration of grief.
I’m lying. I know everything that it is and isn’t. I’m just making it sound more human, so you’ll accept the unacceptable. That the truth. Real and absolute truth is alien. Something very few of us ever experience.
The Borderland opens, secrets scatter and clatter down to earth… I never knew how much more there was to see and experience.
In the Borderland, the alien presence can be felt everywhere.
The strangest aspect of both creativity and life itself is just how much remains unknown, hidden beneath the surface of meaning. Glass on the shore of Eden, ready to cut you open.
Does it matter? Any of it? I’m not sure it does anymore. I don’t think I returned from Eden.
Art is a saviour sickness. It wakes us in the night like a virus, forcing us to do its work. To wring the words from the meat so we might experience peace.
I know everything, I know nothing. The closer we get to the truth. The less able we are to understand it.
Do you remember the dream where you visited Eden?