Matthew Scurfield I COULD BE ANYONE, all rights reserved.
He awoke, bolt upright, like he’d shot out of a deep cold lake onto the shore… freezing, his feet jumping on the hard floor, torso shivering… was it the adrenaline, the fear, cortisol, rocketing through his adrenal glands that had disturbed his slumbers… what was it, where was he, how did he land this way, why here…?
A tide of voices… fly, my arse, win some, lose some, that’s life old friend… I hear you're out today… stay good, keep it together, see you next time around... you’ll be back soon enough, eat, sleep and drink bird, that's how it goes for a lag like you…
No, it’s not, he thought, you’re better than this…
He was about to knock on the warden’s door, to collect his release papers, when the inmate, who’d cornered him in the library, a few days previously, approached and said -
With that salutary lesson in wonder hanging in the air, the young recruit turned on his heal and was gone.
A few minutes later, papers and a change of circumstance in hand, he stood alone, harnessing courage, inside the vast tomb of the gatehouse, waiting for the boss in charge to release the locks. No goodbyes here, no fanfare, or sentimental title tattle, just a nagging dread for what lay ahead, playing havoc in the pit of his stomach and the sound of his heart echoing back through the corridors and hallways of his home for the past decade.
While his future jostled with the past, for favour in the present, the deadlock suddenly sprang to life.
Like a lid plied from an old coffin, one of the big gothic doors, Victorian in birth, now electronically controlled, creaked open, guided by steel wheels that rattled along an iron track, embedded in the cobbled paving. He moved cautiously toward the arched gateway, hoping in some small way his misdemeanours would be purged, if not forgiven, so he could at least meet his ancestry, on the other side, with a humble, peaceful, disposition.
Determined to keep his feet grounded, he stepped into the out.
Gazing ahead, stock still, he savoured a deep breath… the air was fresher than he remembered, the light brighter and the trees had changed. Apart from an old guy, some way off, sweeping the road and a couple of vacant cars parked in the lot, the place was deserted. The oak heavy door behind him rolled its way back toward the limestone carcass, this time accompanied by the added sounds of clanking and hammering, which he put down to a mixture of modern day mechanics, clashing with the antiquity of the building. The extraneous noise grew more persistent… his ear attuned… a thumping rhythm, drumming, louder and louder, as increasing numbers of inmates and lifers reached out between the bars of their cell windows, clutching metal bowls, mugs, anything that came to hand, each one adding extra ballast to the symphonic chorus, beating out a resounding score against the grey stone walls and steel bars, with such magnitude, it would have made the hardest heart dissolve.
The dam burst, and a desert turned wildflower green…
He wiped the tears from his eyes and on considering the new world to the south, a whisper of why they couldn’t have given him his due, when he’d needed it most, came to mind… fear, pride, perhaps, a belief that someone else will have the upper hand if you don't?
In the brush off, they gave me the quiet I craved, an oasis for learning I so desperately needed, if ever I was going to change…
Somewhere in the distance a bell tolls, on and on, the old knell, one that rings out the arrival of some ominous impasse, at the fairground of repetition.
He walked and walked, then walked some more…
A few miles down the road, far beyond the prison walls, in the bright light of day, he turns a corner… a cold breeze nips at his face… the stately buildings and grand townhouses seem familiar… he hesitates… takes a few steps, then stops in his tracks… paralysed… stunned by the judiciary… he… a stark injustice screams out in the face of this lunacy… they’re all lined up, in a parade, ready and waiting to chastise and revoke his seed.
Now, now, must be now… I’m not a dud, I’m capable, more than capable…
Not that way, this way…. coaching the child ever forward, the lady’s words sang out…. round and round the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush….
The surface that was silky smooth to the adult, seemed rough and tangled to the toddler.
This is the way we wash our face,
Wash our face,
Wash our face.
This is the way we wash our face
On a cold and frosty morning.
In the child’s defence: Over a continuum of managed time, on an incline of extenuating circumstance, he was coerced, if not punished, in the belief that life’s rewards are just, well worth the sacrifice. His character and affirmation, were challenged, overruled, overlaid… broken… by the adult's conviction that their gateway is the only opening worth pursuing.
And, if you don't do what you’re told!
And the barker’s drum keeps getting louder… step right up it’s the main attraction… game’s the same, just a different name… forget the old deal, this is the new deal… a golden key, served up on a sovereign platter, a throne of unsolicited power, tempered and fixed, in a secure, unending, future… yours for a steal… tell you what I’ll do, I’ll give you one for two… I’ll throw in a warranty, subject to contract, you’re not the mad hatter, you’re full of tricks… bingo, you hit the jackpot… chosen wisely… this one’s for real…!
The child is a child, securing a foothold in a profession, becoming top dog in the field. The number one priority, above and beyond the wonder and mastery of life, is to see eye to eye with their ‘betters’ and settle a score… the apparent god-
The enticement of work, driven by payback/reward, warranting a chase, in for the kill, sees most of us eking out a living, from day to day, in a vacuum of insignificance and isolation, far from the foothills of a secure dimension… angry… don't be, don't rattle the cage, stop making a fuss, keep your head down, out of sight… countries and governments can be offended, betrayed, plot, scheme and go to war, but not you… you bark too loud, you’re liable to get your head shot off… that's democracy…
Are we just manikins in play, at the beck and call of each other, only to be judged, tried and gobbled up by another if so desired?
The fact remains that whatever the occupation, however successful, however powerful we may feel, are seen to be, the roleplay can never make us fundamentally secure, because it is a minuscule fraction of the whole… the self… the nature of the world.
The sun peeks above the horizon, we attune for the day, begin to go about our business in a certain, knowing, way… then night comes, blows out the light and we’re handed over to another place… a place of unknowing… healing and solace… the sun, the moon, night and day, procreate… a coin with no sides… one exists for the other… death, like a fallow field, seems void, fruitless, is there for life.
On any scale, from humble to gross, invisible to visible, there are infinite possibilities between what things seem to be and what they supposedly are. What we once considered, to be the texture and flavour of a home, for instance, can be transformed if a baby is born there, or someone close to us dies within those walls… such circumstantial intervention, can change our outlook so radically, our original conception and foresight of the home, become unrecognisable.
At the top, the bottom, or somewhere in the middle, whichever way life’s plan is sold to us, wherever we end up… however clearly, we think we grasp something, whatever age, young, or old, whether it’s looking down the lens of a microscope, or witnessing a panoramic view from the top of a mountain, the trajectory of our journey colours where we are, who we are and what we take in. The influx of stories, our age long sensory intake, coerces and articulates our awareness… if we are tired, at the peak of fitness, short or long sighted, a few weeks old, or on our deathbed, any number of neurological and biological factors, flush the prism of senses, shifting the boundary of what is thought to be…
The grownup flips a coin, nature turns the tide and the child sings a curious tune… some escape, even those at the centre of death and destruction, to retain their enthusiasm, with an open innocent, excited, view of the world…
Picasso takes the brush to canvas a certain way, Van Gogh another… through the lens of their intellectual window… their emotional and physical journey, rooted and manifested from the day they were born, dictates, weaves, angles, light, shade and colour, to reflect the beauty, recreate the marvel of a simple chair, identical in design, yet convey it to us, as something totally unique, inspiring and different.
An architect, with the tools at their disposal, their scientific know-
Using the scientific exactness of the camera, chemicals in a darkroom, or the digital trickery of the computer, a photographer, given the job of selling a product, will make informed, decisions regarding the preconceptions of the clientele and how they might be persuaded. The original product, if we can define it as such, must capture our senses. Presented in a certain, deliberating way, the object can become unrecognisable, even to those who work alongside the photographer, as they polish and refine the image, for the process of marketing. The methodologist and fantasist, as one person, sown in from the helter-
Whether it’s in the studio, the laboratory, or out in the field, the artistic and scientific premise remains the same.
Scientists may seem more precise, focused on their need to keep to the facts, however, like artists, they too reflect, sustain and breakdown barriers, between what is and what we perceive life to be… that doesn’t mean the artist that paints a greater likeness, to what you or I might see as a vision is the best, or that the scientist’s latest breakthrough is the final say on the matter. As an artist Van Gogh died in obscurity, with no money and no idea how influential he would become… Picasso on the other hand, was a celebrated painter for most of his life… this didn't mean one was better than the other.
On the hoof, with passion, ad hoc, or deliberately wrestling the other’s persuasion, science and art, driven by the tsunami of rhythms, melodies and smashed cup, of a child in time, for better or worse, challenge perceptions and change minds.
When a scientist dares to let go of dogmatic reference and walk among their kind, susceptible to vulnerability, unlabelled, enlivened and not knowing, as an artist might, the prevailing innocence and optimism, will bring light to dark, open new ground at the cutting edge of our perceptions, where the fundamentals of a given reality, return a difference far greater than than ever imagined.
The majority of scientists instrumental in procuring the atom bomb, under the umbrella of the Manhattan Project, took a curve dive into a quagmire of doubts; haunted for life by the outcome of their work, which over two consecutive days in August of 1945, saw two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, killing thousands upon thousands of civilians.
After the War, in full view of those fateful days, the American theoretical physicist Robert J Oppenheimer, credited as being the father of the atom bomb, one of the leading lights of the Manhattan Project, linked arms with Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, Joseph Rotblat and other prominent figures of science and academia, to establish what would eventually become the World Academy of Art and Science.
The Academy was founded in 1960, with the premise that those in powerful positions heed those voices blasted in on the wind… a child cries, man down, the thought evoked, an idea born, atoms collide, a deed done and the consequences are forever…