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Monday, 3 August 2009

On the Beach


File:Brighton Beach, Melbourne 2003 (91593941).jpg

The storm has ended and death steps back
Into the waters once more. All our troubles
Are behind us once and for all.
The moon looks down in single glory.
The apocalyptic view of the world
Supposes things do not repeat themselves.
But they do. And they do. And they do.
The sky clouds up. A new storm comes on.
Apocalyptic thinking presumes
All this has never happened before
And will never happen again. I know,
As the moon beams down on the photo-plankton,
All this will never happen again, too.
Wisdom is cold and to that extent stupid.

Brighton Beach, Melbourne, after the storm: photo by Beau Wade, 2003


Anonymous said...

What a perfect definition of the present:
"All this has never happened before
And will never happen again"

Pinkerbell said...

Lucy, yes, that what is happening is unique and yet it's something which will keep on happening, like the tides of the sea.

TC said...

Yes, isn't that sense of uniqueness (never before, never again) at once the saddest and most joyous thing about the present? And that feeling of infinite repeatability, at once the most crushing and yet most consoling?

One ponders in great humility the mysteries of DNA, for example..

Things do repeat themselves. And they don't. And they do... And nothing we can do about it. The best we can do it seems is try to stay a part of it. And then I suppose, learn when to let go so that it can continue on without us. As anyway it will...

Human life has a curious Last Chance Saloon feeling about it which I don't suppose applies to the way life is felt by other creatures, even those with the briefest of mayfly lives, born this morning, gone by evening, no argument, just get on with it and don't miss a moment.

Now if we could simply get outside ourselves and identify with the returning of the tides or the plants and seasonal things that expire and yet are renewed...

Pinkerbell said...

Ah you bring me to my favourite saying, although I forget who first said it:

"You can never stand in the same river twice."

I suppose the same could be said of the tides of the sea?

I think it's the loss of religion TC, coupled with the loss of community in so-called "developed" societies. The search for meaning has become individual, whereas the answer as you suggest is to be found in being a small part of something bigger.

TC said...


'Twas Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic.

Yes, "in being a small part of something bigger" would seem to be the idea.

I fumbled with this idea a bit, trying to say it in

After the Squall

Mariana Soffer said...

Hi tom, how are you doing these days?Hope life is treating you ok
The photograph is lovely, I like all those cottage painted in different colors. The cottage of that beach are gorgeous, I want to change myself in one of those, at least once.
The poem is really dark compare to the colors that are kind of bright. Nice contrast I see in that

I love this sentence:
"Wisdom is cold and to that extent stupid.". I would infer that wisdom is stupid, which is a paradox if you watch it from a logical side.
Take care my friend

Jon said...

interesting intertext with Neville Shute...

but I'm not sure what he'd think about the jellybean changing rooms... would there have been room for that on his beach?

like the blog... will drop back again one day...

TC said...


Many thanks for coming over. I've just had a celestial experience at A Blade of Grass. Thank you for that as well.

I suppose the jellybean changing rooms would have to be shot in bleak shades of grey to make a proper fit for the Shute remake. No wonder it was the first American-made film shown in the Soviet Union. Though of course a reversion to the authentic hopelessness of that original book and film--set in this same location as you point out--would be impossible today. Even though things now are perhaps even more hopeless, everything would have to be in superenhanced colour. Ah for the good old days when it seemed the whole human race might be wiped out in an instant. Now we know it will be slow, slow... and jumped-up, tinted, twittered and tucked. (And no Ava Gardner.)

Stu said...

Was it really the first US film shown in the Soviet Union? Wow.

I saw it half my life ago, but there are still pivotal scenes I remember vividly: the submarine expedition and the up-periscope, and the poor guy suiciding in his car. There's a certain bleakness/sadness that can only be done in B&W. Or am I over-romanticising?

'All this will never happen again, too.' Yep, this led me back to Heraclitus too, while the talk of things repeating themselves led me back to Plato's forms. Both pivotal scenes from my former life as a student of philosophy (although once a student of philosophy...)

I have passed by Dendy St Beach in Brighton a number of times, but it's not my chosen spot (a little too 'posh' - but at least it has sand, unlike its English namesake). Although I'm no surfer, I like the rough surf beaches. The Bay is lovely, but give me the ocean any day!

TC said...


Thanks--"And this just in, from our reporter at the scene..."

The radiation slowly spreading from the northern hemisphere to the south, leaving those in Australia to await certain death, has interesting parabolic resonance. If there's any justice at all, this is the way the world will end anyway. I'm reminded of the line in one of Bacon's Essays, "Let my death come from Spain." He meant that in the 16th c. it took a good six weeks by boat and post horse for a letter to get from Madrid to London.

The film affected me too, though I liked the book better and went back to see the film again, and noted--the astute eighteen year old critic mind you--turgid passages. I also remember feeling that Fred Astaire and Tony Perkins made curious end-of-the-world casting choices. Gregory Peck was at his most wooden, that I do recall. But yes, that periscope sighting for life that had vanished... spooky.

"Although once a student of philosophy..." would make a wonderful opening sentence for a dark twisted little short story we ought to write, Stu, perhaps after the manner of Cortázar?

(A Collection of Althoughs?)

TC said...

Looking back, I blame the turgid passages on Stanley Kramer. Shute's book, I thought at that tender age anyway, made a cracking good read.

Alva Svoboda said...

I have to admit that while Heraclitus and Nevil Shute make perfect sense as referents for the discussion here, my first resonance is with the lines "All this has never happened before/ And will never happen again." being a take on Battlestar Galactica like your genius use of Pulp Fiction in a poem some years ago.

TC said...

The poem is actually about a bad El Niño winter.