I don’t know why they took down the streetlamps up on the West Way. They did it a couple of years after I first started driving, back when petrol was cheap enough that I’d occasionally go for a drive in the early hours of the morning for the sheer, unadulterated hell of it, thundering through the city with the windows down and Sorrow of the Angels blaring through the stereo. The effect was nonetheless powerful: the West Way rose up out of the city, headless lampposts lining the way like the decapitated statues that adorn the cave behind the Falls of Truth. Whenever I drove there the faraway city-glow hung in the air, rising up from below before dissolving into the night, sharp car headlights carving their way through the semi-darkness. While the blare and bustle of the city undoubtedly carried on far below, I rose above, supremely disconnected from any such tawdry goings-on. My sense of transcendence was so complete that I made a CD called A40, specifically for that road, full of music that smoothly and beautifully rose above. It never failed to move me.
The other night, driving there once again, it occurred to me that I’ve lived most of my life in this way. Though life undoubtedly erupted all around me, I always remained a little aloof. I detached myself from the blare of metropolitan existence, even convincing myself at one time or another that my eyes were set upon more glorious heights. In fact, it may just have been my overwhelming shyness that separated me from society; I remember one occasion, for example, when I wanted to speak to someone and found myself physically incapable of moving. I berated myself viciously at the time. But, one way or another, I found that I had become increasingly disconnected, that the lights of my world had become more and more faint. I used to think that this was like flying over the West Way, a beautiful and transcendental experience, but driving there once again I came to realise how empty my world had become. As the lights faded away hope was torn from my body, piece by piece. Eventually I was left only with that eviscerating kind of despair, as though my guts were being ripped out through my throat. The light faded to black and the headless statues loomed up all around me.
Light is a reoccurring theme in most of what I write, comprising a huge symbolic significance. I once wrote that I envied the Master, who was denied the light but granted peace, but this no longer seems right to me. No, now I want to emulate that priest whom some people miscalled Shukaku – to carve receive into my left hand and heart into my right, press my palms together and pray. I suppose that this gesture proves more than anything else that there is a chink of hope left somewhere within me.
Image captured from Naruto: Shippūden, episode 245.