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The marginal and the imaginary

For years I have been writing a book of essays in my head. I used to keep a written list of their titles on my desk, but otherwise made no other notes: The Happiness of Bees, The Name of the Machine Is Money, Why Socks Lie, Sentences Spoken By Grass, Dead Matches On A Stove and so on.

Books and assorted things

Somewhere in there, hidden in the chaotic uncatalogued library of my mind, are also essays on books and on music, with titles such as You Got The Tambourine Wrong And Now My Whole Life Is A Misery, Joe Strummer’s Geographies, Why Writers Eat People, A Biography of Tintin’s Parents and so forth.

There are essays on the weird books I used to read as a child when I had nothing else to read; on the character of the sentry Francisco in Hamlet who speaks the second line of the play, speaks five more times, and is gone by line 18 never to be seen again; on my Blundstone boots that took me seven years and my two favourite workplaces to wear out; on a forgotten unused condom I found in my top drawer; on the first and last entries in Roget’s Thesaurus (‘Existence’ and ‘Temple’) and so on.

In my head I can write and write without fear of censoring myself, without worrying about commas or colons and other troublesome forms of punctuation, even though Fernando Pessoa says somewhere in The Book of Disquiet, that even touching the feet of Christ does not excuse us from punctuation.

Another essay I had once planned to write was on opening sentences of books, and where I had been when I had first read them, and what had they come to mean to me. I remember going into a fly-by-night bookshop in an arcade in Brisbane’s CBD, a bookshop that sold only crates of remaindered books, and picking up Adam Phillips’ Equals, turning to the first page and reading, ‘If the best thing we do is look after each other, then the worst thing we do is pretend to look after each other when in fact we are doing something else’, and feeling that something had fallen into the pit of my stomach and was jumping around there. All my imaginary essays were attempts to be enamoured of the particular instead of the timeless, the mundane instead of the transcendent, to trace the memory of random experience and wrought circumstance.

If there were a PhD in Looking for Books At Flea Markets, I’d probably get an instant credit. It’s one thing to order something at Amazon, and quite another to spend an hour trudging through a weekend market grubbing through cardboard boxes that look like they’ve been sitting at the back of a particularly seedy garage for three decades. It’s a mistake to glance at a box full of discarded Dan Browns and Tom Clancys and not go through it. Amazing treasures will be hidden there. Count on it.

Histories of the finding of the texts of the ancient (Western) world reminds us that what has come down to us, from the millions of volumes of the past, are derived not from the great centres of power, but from marginal locations, from garbage dumps, forgotten caves and so on. The centre of power always ceases to exist because it is untenable, and what remains is traceless and fragmentary. A centre of power is that which does not acknowledge that ‘lives burst apart’, to use Paul Auster’s phrase, and that it is their nature to do so. The margin is a narrow wandering and also a wide open space. Margins can be places where surveillance can seem to be tight, where things are cramped and difficult but where ruptures take place, and all of a sudden the centre of power, which seeks to govern all discourse, doesn’t look quite so inherently monolithic anymore.

I once taught a four-year-old boy whose baby brother was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. Two days after the child died, a year later, lying in bed at home between his parents and his brother, I was asked to give a lecture to a group of students in early childhood education at a university in Brisbane. I called the lecture ‘Three Things I Learned from Finn’. I listed them as: lives burst apart, everyone dies, happiness is possible.

‘Power politics’, the only kind of politics that seems to exist these days, appears to me to be a flat denial of these three things – and much else besides. The disjunction between our daily lives with their immediate and profound concerns of love, mortality, grief, solitude, struggle and friendship, and the politics of spin, is so vast in terms of what it says about differing ideas of humanity that you’d have to seriously worry about the mental health of almost everyone in Australian political life, if we weren’t too busy trying to deal with the fallout of their bizarre decisions.

But there are cracks in everything, where some kind of generative thought can be played out. The politics of marginal space is all that is left to us, all there has ever been really, and fortunately, in a way, that’s the space where most of us are given the chance to live.

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Stephen Wright’s essays have won the Eureka St Prize, the Nature Conservancy Prize, the Overland NUW Fair Australia Prize and the Scarlett Award, and been shortlisted for several others. He was writer-in-residence for the 2015 Mesmerism new music festivals. In 2017, he won the Viva La Novella Prize. His winning novel, A Second Life, was published by Seizure, and also recently won the Woollahra Digital Literary Prize for Fiction.

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  1. Stephen, some more inside-outside > side-/by-side thoughts here, to stretch out our conservation from your previous blog entry. In particular power centres-with-margins >> shifts to wide open space where life happens. Cracks in things is the beginning, but, but still suggests ‘whole-ness’, ‘proper-ness’ and ‘perfection’ and thus always has positions and negations, but could there be a way to live where cracks and not-cracks dissolve into positive, generative difference?

    Can you comment more about trauma in this, espeically given you background in working with trauma and kids for instance. I imagine you’d say the power centre dynamic works at the level of society as well as the individual/self. And I think some ‘spiritual’ and even ‘vocational’ disciplines could be ways to move from personal power centres to a wide open way of living. But this is a choice perhaps we make, but what of the severely traumatized person, whose life is ‘turned upside down’ or ‘burst apart’ as you say? Instead of ‘putting things back together’ and ‘getting my life back in order’ etc (which might not even be possible), is there a way to just have a sense of the bits and pieces of one’s life as existing side-by-side, in a wide open space where life can happen? I mean, is trauma a way into this as well or is it just too traumatic for this to happen at all?

    And do you think there are government and political models/modes/ways of doing things that aren’t just another version of the power centre that is blind to the margins and differences it creates?

    Walking about, sniffing through second hand book bins etc seems like a way of being nomadic, ala Deleuze & Gauttari. Is this the model? Or, to be a devils advocate, just the way to write the next great novel since great art probably comes from the margins too (although it doesn’t tend to always stay there).

  2. This reminds me of Jeanette Winterson – a writer whose work I’ve always loved. She would visit old bookshops as a kid, hiding novels she managed to get her hands on, under her mattress. The stories within the pages provided her with a reprieve from her traumatic childhood.

    What strikes me most, however, about your post is the comment regarding ‘power politics’. So many of the decisions made by politicians – decisions that produce the structures on which our way of life is based – occur in order to please the masses, when the masses are so often not fully informed, or are struggling to get their own difficulties heard, that it feels as if we have ill-informed people at the helm. That’s when I hate democracy. But I’ll stop right there, before my tangents become intangible.

  3. Thanks Luke. Anything else? Cracks, Trauma, Deleuze and Guattari, power and margins. Ok, lets go. Firstly, your comments on cracks. from the point of view of the power centre, the activity we call marginal appears in cracks. From the point of view of the marginal it’s a wide open space and as you say, generative. An analogy I have just come upon (well it didn’t start out that way, I’m turning it into one) is that in the 1980’s all skateboarding and retailing of skateboarding equipment was totally banned in Norway. Weird but true. The skaters however just repaired to forests where they built sites and skated unobserved.

    Trauma is a very interesting phenomenon, as you get two levels of trauma when stuff goes down: the remembered experience, or the encoded experience if it’s not consciously remembered, and further unconscious traces of the experience which exist in different ways and forms. I am not an expert on trauma, but it is an event which is very evocative to me. My opinion, in relation to past personal observations of young children anyway, is that trauma can cause the power centre to become more rigid, more stuck, more congealed, more repetitive. So for example the traumatised child repeats behaviours etc, over and over, which become very resistant, even though they are attempts at self-cure, ie: to maintain structural integrity when things keep threatening to, or actually do, fall apart. The thing about trauma is that it blocks any way into marginal space because marginal space is terrifying. As far as governments go, and similar models, they are concerned with the power nexus and not much else, and repeat weird traumatic behaviours over and over, the traumatised inflicting his or her trauma on others because he or she can’t contain it, but at the same must maintain solidity.

    I wonder too, if trauma on some level actually creates the power centre, that is, it is central in creating what we might call identity. That would fit with some psychoanalytical theory anyway.

    I am a bit of fan of Deleuze and Guattari, inasmuch as I know what they are talking about. Which I often don’t. Except their jokes. But in their idea of rhizomes, spelt out in their great intro to “A 1,000 Plateaus”, it seems to me that they are saying something very interesting. Mark C. Taylor also has some relevant stuff to say about margins and liminal wandering in his book ‘Erring:A Postmodern A/theology. I’ll dig it out later and post some quotes if I can.

    In terms of writing novels, I think of Fernando Pessoa whose great book ‘The Book of Disquiet’ is composed of disordered individual notes someone found in a box after he died. Not only that, it’s also composed under a fictional identity, something Pessoa was fond of using. There is no definitive linear sequence in which the writing that make up ‘Disquiet’ can be placed, even though attempts have been made. I also think of J.L. Borges who wrote reviews of imaginary writers, and W.G. Sebald who wrote a kind of fictional non-fiction. But of course they are all part of the canon now, so the canon would presumably have to be destroyed for them to regain their marginal position, but either way, maybe I’d like to write something, a ‘novel’, that was written on scraps of paper and scattered in alleyways. Or write a book under a pseudonym, publish it and then kill myself off. Or work out a way to continually experience my identity as not having any true centre at all, and have the way I did that evaporate after me.

  4. I love this post Stephen, the way your thoughts wander and weave. This is beautiful writing and very moving. I liked this:

    ‘All my imaginary essays were attempts to be enamoured of the particular instead of the timeless, the mundane instead of the transcendent, to trace the memory of random experience and wrought circumstance.’

    And I’ll be interested to hear your response to Luke’s question, especially about whether you think there are political modes/ways of doing things that just aren’t another version of the power centre.

    By the way, have you seen the post in response to your last one on James Bradley’s City of Tongues blog? ‘Is it possible to write good fiction about climate change?’

  5. Thanks for the posts Finn and Jane. Yes, I’ve seen James Bradley’s post (Overland people sent it to me)and had some good discussion via email with James about it. In my earlier comment reply to Luke, I wrote: “I wonder too, if trauma on some level actually creates the power centre, that is, it is central in creating what we might call identity. That would fit with some psychoanalytical theory anyway.” Anyway, I went to bed after that and was reading Jacqueline Rose’s ‘The Haunting of Sylvia Plath’ and lo and behold she says virtually the same thing in the chapter on Plath’s late poem ‘Daddy’. So I guess there is something going in how we construct identity and so on, that is a kind of power politics in all its paranoia and desire to control. I suppose that power politics, as practiced by politicians, maybe doesn’t try to please the masses (ie: us) but tries to con us into thinking that their agendas are other than they are. And to be lavishly praised for doing that, which seems somewhat perverse, bit not too different to the way personalities are often made as we grow up.
    And strangely, (or not) Jeanette Winterson and I lived only a few miles from each other for at least part of our childhoods.

  6. Stephen, thanks for your replies.

    you said:

    “The thing about trauma is that it blocks any way into marginal space because marginal space is terrifying.” and that trauma might produce power as much as the other way round.

    So how do people (eg the children you’ve worked with) get out of trauma? Would the point be that: If margins are terrifying then let not see margins any more, but removing the centre (and thus removing the margin)… but is the wide open space (no longer a margin) terrifying as well, or it is grace?

  7. Thanks Stephen. I actually wrote my comment (think it got junked then posted) before you wrote yours in reply to Luke about trauma + power centres, how you wonder ‘if trauma on some level actually creates the power centre, that is, it is central in creating what we might call identity’. That blows my mind. Also interested in the Plath connection and your mention of Sebald, was thinking of him last night in relation to this post.

    There is so much here that fascinates me – it is so far from my current project that I can’t let myself wander too far into it but come July … I’ll be following up all your leads. And looking forward to further posts and to finding scraps of your ‘novel’ in alleyways. I live in a web of alleyways.

  8. Luke, as far as I can see trauma is the thing that has to have some kind of meaning made out of it, the thing around which new meaning can cohere. That is, the meaning has to be MADE by the traumatised person in relation to his or her relationship to others, rather than he or she being made by the trauma. I just use trauma as a metaphor and as an understanding because it makes sense to me and has been helpful to me, the past ten years or so, in making sense out of a whole set of things. But it is just a method to talk about a problem, or a set of problems: how we are who we are, why becoming a person is so fraught, why identity seems such a solid thing but doesn’t behave like one and so on.

  9. I want to jump back in and say thanks for this post as well. I not only thought my comment (like Jane) had been bumped but after reading your post more carefully, Stephen, and Luke’s and Jane’s comments, I’ve concluded my mind had been bumped on the first read as well. This caused me to miss the vital point about how struggle, in all its guises, adheres to, or interacts with the imaginary; that it may be separate in content, if you like, but can never be separated from the self within which the imaginary lives.

  10. That’s very adroitly put Finn. Its my words coming back to me with more wisdom than I put in them.

  11. I’m so interested in your discussions of trauma Stephen, keep thinking about it. Especially to your suggestion that trauma might on some level actually create ‘the power centre, that is, it is central in creating what we might call identity.’ I think of all those who struggle to create an identity at all, the marginal. All those who struggle with ‘I’.

    You seem to talk about it at a literal level, about the traumatised having to make meaning in relation to others, rather than their meaning being made by the trauma. And then you say you’re using trauma as a metaphor. When did that leap take place? When you extrapolate from individuals to politics and ‘the power centre’?

    Read this in David Shields’ ‘Reality Hunger’ and thought of your post: ‘It is out of the madness of God, in the Old Testament, that there emerges what we, now, would recognize as the “real”; his perceived insanity is its very precondition.’

  12. Thanks Jane, that’s interesting. I was actually thinking last night about this, and thinking that the trick that trauma plays on us is, is that it makes us believe that we have been shown the ‘real’. That is, when something of the traumatic takes place it destroys our capacity to think and seems to show us the naked world that we, on some level always believed was there for us.
    Traumatic experience can also be passed on through the generations. This is well known in the literature on holocaust survivors and so forth, but also on a more ‘ordinary’ level if I can call it that, where we become haunted by the ghosts of others as it were, of historical experience. So it becomes a kind of metaphor. I started thinking of it on a political level around the whole border protection issue: the bad must not be allowed to penetrate within us, the bad is out there and so on. It is a terrible paranoia, a paranoia of the things inside us, the sign of an absolute rigidity which is also a desperate cover for a kind of fragility, (No-one is so absolute as the fragile)a contempt for the weak in ourselves, of the weak we were once were perhaps.
    And you are the second person who has mentioned ‘Reality Hunger’ James Bradley quoted it I think. So I guess I’d better chase it up.

  13. You are pretty much articulating all my thoughts and the subject/area of my next planned project. The passing on of trauma on a more ‘ordinary’ level. The haunting by the ghosts of others, of historical experience. Which takes us back to your last post and indigenous dispossession. As does, perhaps, the idea of making meaning in relation to others rather than from the trauma – which made me think of the side-by-side vs outside/inside discussion.

    And that’s intriguing: when the traumatic takes place ‘it destroys our capacity to think and seems to show us the naked world that we, on some level always believed was there for us.’ That resonates.

    Yes, going on your two posts I think you’d probably like ‘Reality Hunger’. It’s fittingly fragmentary. And apt. I’m looking forward to James’s post on it. (I bought it on whim, for the title.)

  14. Stephen, a simple question now, but I am having trouble imagining this one: how do you make meaning of/through trauma, as opposed to trauma making meaning of you? ( I paraphrase, so maybe I’ve got this a little skew).

  15. Hi Luke. To me it seems like this: the traumatic rupture disorganises me much that I lose my capacity to think. The trauma and my response to it, then continues to govern me, because so much of the experience is ungovernable, and can’t be processed or understood, and keeps leaking in to my daily life and thought. Which is what makes it trauma. If, through a long process of some kind of understanding, I can begin to make some new, previously uncreated personal meaning out of the experience and its effect on me, then the trauma is no longer making me.
    Its not surprising I think to find that artistic endeavour is not unusually an attempt to make meaning out of something not easily comprehensible. That’s not an attempt to pathologise artistic creation, but a way, I think, of deepening our understanding of it.

  16. Ah, so the practice of collating and ferreting out texts and snippets in the margins, and then doing something artistic with them, is an example of the logic of trauma>genera?

    Power centres produce lots of margins, marginalia and marginality, and one thing artists do is pick up on these and re-weave some form of meaningful engagement — so the margins are no longer margins (ignored, degenerated, absented) but are taken up as belonging to the wide open space of (artistic) material possibility. Cage’s 4’33” (the piece where the central musical instrument is silent in order to give way to attending to the surroundings) is highly instructive here. So too many others – the ‘marginalia’ differ, and so too what is done with them.

    And that’s the trauma at the societal level — the margins etc produced by consuming too much at the expense of our biosphere (ala the climate change crisis), and the margins produced by invading and setting up camp in others’ territories (ala the indigenous crisis).

    Artistic practice of this margin/trauma >> wide open/genera kind could be an exemplar of useful caring practices of being human, and it might also it is small way actually produce such care and change.

  17. Stephen, I’m also wondering about your ideas on trauma producing power centres and vice versa…

    There must be a way of growing up (at home, at school, with friends etc etc) that produces centers and margins — is this what you call building an ‘identity’? And another which hopes out of this into the wide open side-by-side space?

    It’s easy for me to look at various schooling models to critique in terms of building insides and outsides, but surely I do this at home as parent and friend of my own children. How to do this? My daughter (5 years old) is just starting to hold and pick up our new twins (2 months old) and seeing her move them about in such angular and awkward ways (not still and calm like an adult might hold a baby) which nevertheless the babies seem to like and which has not been unsafe yet, produces such a strange reaction in me — I laugh and feel gutted at the same time — it feels very much like my own identity and also my projection of my children’s identities are being wrenched apart — how does this relate? somehow my daughter is holding them in ways that move and grove sideways and it is psychically disturbing. Our attempts to ‘correct’ her holds have revealed to me a power struggle (ie, as parents we end up speaking rougher and with less grace and patience in telling her how to hold them). Somethings I want budge on (especially concerning how the twins’ necks are held) but this is such a minimal requirement that my daughter interprets in positions and holds quite foreign to me…

    • Jesus, you don’t ask easy questions do you? I don’t know what ‘doing something artistic’ would mean. It seems to me that we invent ways of making meaning, that’s what humans do. Because being a human being, getting born and individuating is basically traumatic, the meaning we work out partly comes out of that. If being a human being was struggle free, completely blissful all the time I bet there’d be no art as we know it. In individuation we always have to search the margins, find the ways in which we might surprise ourselves, because we reify identity, make it solid, or try to in order to survive. But that solidity means that we always avoid what will challenge that solidity. Which is a problem, because the margins of our identity, our blind spots are where the interesting stuff is. Which is why parapraxes (‘freudian slips’) are so intriguing and so common. Babies and so on, next comment.

  18. A bit slow getting back to you onthis one, as I was up late reading on my new Kindle (early birthday prez), and reading Jonathan Lear’s ‘Radical Hope: Ethics in the time of cultural devastation’, eerily relevant to almost everything I have blogged about.
    Anyway, your babies and 5yo.(i’m on safer ground as its within my professional capability, as opposed to the rest of the time when I’m just making stuff up). Its a really interesting question you have asked. In regard to your 5yo, obviously you want to, and are, putting some boundaries around here appropriately (don’t pick them up by the neck etc, and in relation to this you might want to ensure that 5yo isn’t alone with twins just yet. Not that she is cruel or whatever, but elder siblings are often very normally ambivalent about new younger ones). As for your own state of mind, the question is what could happen if you could just sit and contain it and watch it? I can’t give you a way thru it, because it is meaning that only you can make. But it sounds as though something very interesting is going down. Most significantly, you may in fact not just be dealing with your own stuff, but actually carrying something for your 5yo (ie: her feelings around all this sudden eruption and change) and if you that’s so, and you carry it for her for a bit, by containing, watching, and sometimes giving appropriate direction, all will be well.

  19. Stephen, it’s probably a bit late to respond to this post, but I just found it so eloquent and moving. Also, mournful, in a sort of Proustian mourning of time lost way. What are we looking for when we burrow through those grubby discarded garage sale book boxes that everyone else walks past? Are we searching for answers – or for consolation – on this lost time? Similarly, your book that would investigate the first lines of books and where you were when you read them would be such a journey. Rereading a first line of a book one has read long ago can quite shockingly transport one to that long-forgotten, long left-behind place and self; to be reunited with this seemingly lost time is almost beyond the material value of the world.

    Can I reassure you that all of the imaginary essays you had brought to life in your head – that they weren’t a waste and that you hadn’t necessarily overlooked the more important universals in life? This is because the timeless and transcendent is actually present in the particular and the mundane. Our daily throw-away conversations with our kids, for instance, often have so much unappreciated poignancy and meaning. They go to the root of all that we are here to do. It may be a case of us just being open to them, to see properly. Another example: the energy and beauty of the essay form comes from the fact that it works its magic by tracing the transcendent and universal through the particular or seemingly trivial.

  20. Hi Betty, its never too late too talk. I am a bit of a Proust fan as it happens, and I too wonder what it is that we are looking for when we go looking for books. I think there is a lot of acknowledged mourning in the way we live our lives, and we try to shore ourselves up in so many ways, plugging the spots where the capacity to mourn gets exposed.
    I have also worked with children a lot, and transience is a more acknowledged part of childhood (for children) than it is for adults I think.
    And the essay is a neglected form. There are a zillion poetry comps in Australia, and hardly any for essays. The meandering, contingent essay probably doesn’t have much of an audience among publishers. Which is why I am grateful to Overland for the chance to write an ephemeral mini-essay once a week.

  21. Stephen,

    I greatly enjoyed this post, which was recommended to me. Your imaginary essay titles are great and remind me of a verbal juxtaposition of the real and imaginary in much the same manner that Nick Bantock’s images do, combining to create a place that doesn’t exist, though it’s plausible, and should.

    I’ve been thinking about this post, and the great comments that followed, for some time now, mulling it over. There was something here for me; I just wasn’t sure what it was. My thoughts follow; you’ll forgive me if I restate some of what you’ve already stated.

    We assume, possibly incorrectly, that there is understanding inherent within a given situation (trauma); an understanding and meaning that should be self-evident if we were but capable of seeing it.

    I suspect though, after many years of pursing this oft-illusive beast, that understanding is less a function of the situation (trauma)—inherent within it—and more a matter of perspective (developmental level).

    Trauma, by its very nature, implies a situation beyond one’s ability to cope or make meaning, the trauma having shattered one’s world, identity (container), or perspective of both. One becomes arrested, trapped, within the situation/trauma, unable to progress, and attempts to find or create understanding from within the situation—essentially, the trauma encompasses and contains that aspect or element of the individual, informing them (unconscious/neurotic reactions) rather than the other way around.

    Whatever understanding or meaning is created in this manner will be less than and contained within the trauma rather than encompassing or transcending it—a whole understanding or meaning-making—Einstein’s you can’ solve a problem with the same mind that created it.

    It is not until one is able to go beyond the trauma, typically by going through it—the marginal spaces…am reminded of Aragorn’s journey on the Path of the Dead in LOTR—that one is then capable of finding or creating understanding and meaning that is inclusive and encompassing of the trauma; an identity or self which is capable of holding the trauma rather than being held by it.

    To make that jump, you must be willing to give up both your ad hoc understanding, as it is, and your desire/hope for understanding at this level, which would only reinforce the ad hoc/adaptive understanding, meaning-making, and identity.

    In essence, the adaptive identity created within the trauma is an identity which will be less than the trauma itself—contained within it— and therefore unable to effectively create an encompassing and unifying meaning or understanding of the trauma and self; at least not till the perspective or sense of identity has transcended the trauma and contains it rather than being contained by it.

    This whole thing has been terribly interesting and enlightening to me and I thank you for your time and effort.

  22. Hi
    Thanks for this more detailed summary than my blog probably deserves. I found it very useful. As far as my thinking goes, trauma gets reshaped when it is worked thru as well, and becomes something else. Your example of LOTR is an interesting one, if one thinks of the effects of trauma as being haunted by the past. To repeat trauma’s effects, which is what we generally do, would be the equivalent of entering the path of the dead and getting lost there, or perhaps entering again and again, or maybe just being haunted by the thought of its existence. And the one doing the entering is then the marginal wanderer shattered by his past etc etc etc seeking to regain a central place as director of the narrative and so on.
    Oddly I have had some of the thinking in this blog on my mind this week in regard to the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla: a nation in a state of traumatic panic, going over the same old stuck psychotic response to its trauma, over and over ad nauseam.

  23. Stephen,

    I’ve found myself treading old ground and digging up this post to read it again, having stumbled upon the work of Peter Levine and his interesting ideas on trauma (http://www.traumahealing.com/somatic-experiencing/techniques-to-work-through-and-treat-trauma-memory.html)– namely that it is the product of a frozen or interrupted fight or flight response. Your example of being lost on the path of the dead is surprisingly spot-on with Levine’s description of trauma.

    I have just started his book, “In an Unspoken Voice,” and am surprised at how much it is resonating with me. He writes: “Anyone who has suffered a trauma knows,first, paralyzing fright, followed by the bereft feeling of losing your way in the world, of being severed from your very soul.”

    These days I find myself standing things on their heads and I wonder if your marginal spaces aren’t the traumatic spaces themselves. Taking that a step further, might not the power politics (at the center) be the attempt(s) of others also traumatized to control and regulate this interior trauma/marginal space? It all quickly becomes very Through the Looking Glass-esqe.

    Levine also makes a direct correlation between working through trauma and a higher sense of spirituality, which is inimical to power, control, and those who have mistake the traumatized/marginal space for normality.

    Thank you once again for this post, as well as all those who commented, it has been most helpful.

    • I had completely forgotten I’d written this.
      I think it’s true that marginal spaces are often traces of trauma. I don’t think that’s a law of nature, I suspect it’s a rule of the economic and political spaces we involuntarily inhabit.

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