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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Friday, January 30, 2009
    Tolerating ambivalence on Queen's Drive
    How can you hold together in your psyche two apparently conflicting perspectives, at the same time? I'm not sure, except I know that I can, and this week I've enjoyed exploring, with others, the work of psychologists who say that such a thing is not only possible, but it is a sign of a healthy psychology (and correspondingly, according to Susannah Izzard, a healthy spirituality). Tolerating ambivalence. "I'm glad to see you and I wish you hadn't come", "I wish you would recover and I wish you would die".

    Tolerating ambivalence. I found myself doing this today on my second successive evening shunt along nasty, smoking, three-lane Queen's Drive. On the one hand, my eyes surveying the mass of seething rush-hour commuters around me in standstill at a crammed junction, our fingers drumming steering wheels with impatience, our feet tensed over accelerator pedals, our eyes reflecting the red from tail lights and traffic lights, the words of Eliot (almost inevitably) came to me,
    We are the hollow men
    We are the stuffed men
    Leaning together
    Headpiece filled with straw.
    In my head I'm reciting this in the style of Coil: I'm creating doom-music, a soundtrack to suburban ring-road apocalyptic. But on the other hand, and at exactly the same time, I'm also in a quiet reverie, thinking 'I'm at home here, I belong, in this crowd of people all pulling together to ease our journeys home. Flowing together, holding the line for each other. We're at one. After you, my friend.'

    Tolerating ambivalence. Or maybe I'm just cracking up. It has been a long week.