Tomorrow morning (28 October) marks the ten-year anniversary of a nasty incident that shaped much of my adult life.
The day still permeates the calendar, though at least what it caused has subsided. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to address the case personally.
At the end of a recent conversation with someone I trust implicitly, a thought from old crept into my head. “It’s like…” – I paused, fumbling for two inauspicious coins in my pocket – “one of these is a circle of need, the other a circle of asset love.”
A glimpse of the days of naivety, characterised by crackpot ideas and instability.
The strange thing about it was that I could talk much more easier about many other matters, but this felt so embarrassing.
Why does the past so often bring about shame?
As a more closed person by nature now, perhaps a reminder of times defined by committed openness – the kind that wields vulnerability and elasticity of response – feels like a reopening of old wounds.
This analogy of circles, a personal philosophy for me back earlier in the decade, was something that went right to the core of my being.
I left the conversation feeling vulnerable, which was, paradoxically, reassuring. The danger in becoming stoic is that it makes a return to sentiment surprisingly challenging.
I am glad for Renaissance support for my circle appreciation. George Puttenham’s The Arte of English Poesie (1589) considers the suitability of geometric shapes for literary form (or ‘proportion poetical’, as he terms it):
The most excellent of all the figures Geometrical is the round for his many perfections. First because he is even & smooth, without any angle, or interruption, most voluble and apt to turn, and to continue motion, which is the author of life: [he] … for his ample capacity doth resemble the world or universe, & for his indefiniteness hauing no special place of beginning nor end, beareth a similitude with God and eternity.
This figure hath three principal parts in his nature and use much considerable: the circle, the beam, and the center. The circle is his largest compass or circumference: the center is his middle and indivisible point: the beam is a line stretching directly from the circle to the center, & contrariwise from the center to the circle. By this description our maker may fashion his metre in Roundel, either with the circumference, and that is circlewise, or from the circumference, that is, like a beame, or by the circumference, and that is ouerthwart and dyametrally from one side of the circle to the other.
With this in mind, it is impossible not to recall John Donne’s A Valediction, Forbidding Mourning with its central conceit of twin compasses and its self-reflexive ending:
Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th’ other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.
To reach full circle is always to return. To achieve full circle must be a form of harmony.
I source early modern literature in hope this week. Circles return – as time returns – to an incident that has had telling influence since October 1999.
I do not expect a valediction, nor an absence of mourning, but I would like to find something to celebrate about this event in the hope that it wielded a moderately decent human being at the end of it all.
[He who knows does not speak
He who speaks does not know
And I go round in circles]