Sunday, 16 October 2011

Only Connect

A few nights ago, one of my regular clients booked me for an overnight. Usually we see each other for an hour once or twice a week. Very little of the time is spent talking, so consequently I knew very little about his private life. An overnight gave us the chance to get to know one another rather better, and I learned a good deal more about him. Of course I am not going to divulge any of the details he gave me of his private life, but what surprised me was how unbelievably complicated it is; to my mind unnecessarily so. It got me thinking about why or how people allow their lives to become so muddled.
The muddle my client found himself in started almost 30 years ago, it would seem. I have no doubt, that when the situation started, my client, still a young man, got drawn in by the thrill of concealment, lying to hide his tracks, and enjoying the subterfuge. Anyone who has ever had an affair will know that there is something intensely exciting about those first weeks or months of an illicit union, but that novelty soon wears off and pretty soon you are lying not only to protect yourself but to avoid hurting those you love, and eventually you are left with a muddle that satisfies absolutely nobody. The longer it goes on, the more difficult it is to extricate yourself from the situation, but there are times when the truth comes out and, what seems like an impossible situation is resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. We second guess people’s reactions, and find that actually we underestimated them. Having one’s worst fears realised is not as bad as we thought it was going to be. I sincerely hope that my client manages to sort out his present predicament, as it seems likely that the truth will have to come out one way or another.

I was reminded that muddle, or rather a dislike of it, is a pervading theme of the novels of E.M. Forster, whom I studied years ago when doing my degree. In almost every one of his novels, the characters become embroiled in muddle and mess, until the strands are unravelled and some sort of harmony is achieved. The wonderfully satisfactory and harmonious conclusion to Howard’s End only comes about after a series of cover ups and muddles. The plot involves three families from completely different backgrounds (class is also a pervading theme of Forster’s novels), who become inextricably linked. At the beginning the Wilcoxes hide from the Schlegel sisters a letter from the dying Mrs Wilcox leaving the house Howard’s End to Margaret Schlegel. However after a series of misunderstandings, muddles and messes, Margaret does indeed end up living in the house. The motto of the book is Only Connect.

Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.

How wise. If we can only connect the disparate elements of our lives, then our lives will be the simpler. I once thought it necessary to keep separate the various strands of my own life, but now see that they are all connected. Experience in one area often heightens our experience in another.

Most muddles stem from the fact that we are hiding something from someone. The bigger the muddle, the more we are hiding from different people. I don’t like muddle. I like my life to be simple. Consequently I prefer not to hide things. I am totally open about who I am and what I do. If people don’t like it, then that is their problem, not mine. I remember this being my attitude very early on. Once at a party, someone sidled up to me and said, with a knowing look, “I know you. I’ve seen your photo.” The statement had a definite ring of “I’ve found you out.” My response caught him off guard though. “Oh right. Would you like to know my rates? I think I have an opening later this evening, if you’d like to make a booking.” Blushing like mad, he slithered away muttering something unintelligible. No doubt this guy was hoping his approach would cover me in confusion, but he could not hurt me. It has taken me some time to appreciate this, but by owning what I do and who I am, I keep my life simple and avoid as much as possible muddle and mess. Only connect seems a very good motto to me.

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