We have been privileged to meet many people, many viewpoints, as we gather The Homeless Library. Some of the conversations have stayed with me for weeks afterwards. In the following interview, Paul describes the wonderful sensation of dissolving into Nature, which never judges you, never preaches, it just is. But he also describes the relentless driving force that pushes him out there, and his struggle to find the root of it.
If I get depressed I go walkabout, maybe I had aborigine blood. I went to the Himalayas, India and Tibet a year and a half ago when me and my partner split. I was having trouble seeing my kids, trying to reevaluate, rediscover myself, find the fundamental flaw I have in my character. Whatever happens to me I always feel it's my fault. I'm always self-evaluating.
Some of the kindest people I've met have been homeless. Maybe they've got one little bit of tobacco but some people will still share it. Then there's another school who will become more selfish, become more introvert. Two different responses to the situation.
|view of Kinder Scout in the snow. (photo Lois Blackburn)|
I was picked up by ambulance recently. I was found half-dead on Kinder Scout (mountain in Derbyshire). Been walking several days - if I'm really depressed I'll walk 'til I collapse. I could quite happily smash things, but I prefer walking. I love nature; spiritual when you're out admiring the beauty of a valley sunset. Spirituality is an appreciation of the things we take for granted around us, the subtle things. A lot of people go to church but I find inspiration in nature. Hues, colours express relationships. The different moods of the ocean: the more I appreciate them, the more beautiful they are. I like the impersonal nature of nature. You kind of know what you're getting. When you're in the pouring rain you don't take it personally. I think nature is just another word for God.
The problems I have and others have got a cause. Sometimes it's apparent and sometimes it isn't. I'm very sensitive to light, sound, noise, people's feelings. It's why I don't like being around people too long, I can't bear the company of people too long. You know when a plant gets scorched by light? It's not very macho of me, but it's like that. I find people don't appreciate the subtlety and that depresses me too. I'm not better than anyone else, it's just different. If I was brought up in a different household maybe it would be a corresponding different experience. Different soil has different nutrients, minerals and PH. People are human plants and where you're born affects you.
In some ways people are more acquainted to plants than animals. Have we got any more innate worth than plants? Everything is here for a purpose. Nature is mathematically perfect. Sometimes the design is so perfect we overlook it, the simple is the most profound. Because humans are drawn to complexity we overlook that simplicity. I think the best science copies the patterns inherent in nature. A telescope is a copy of the nervous system. A cup is an organ holding liquid. A television is a copy of the retina. Nature is the oldest designer and everything we make is inspired by it. How long would we have taken to invent a plane if we didn't see birds flying? Leonardo was attentive to nature.
|view of Kinder Scout in the distance (photo Lois Blackburn)|
Am I free? It depends on what plane of consciousness you operate. On the highest level, free spirit would be a perfect vacuum. In scientific terms, only that which doesn't change can be perfect. Even though it breaks Newton's laws, I believe the universe comes out of nothing. This cup I'm holding, most of it is nothing. Without the cavity of the cup it would be formless. We only appreciate music because of silence. I can see you because I see a background behind you. Space is one of the simplest and most complex things in the universe. To me it is more real than the hard matter we think of ourselves as. To me the deity, if it exists, would be a vacuum, The point where all the different individualised expressions of life become one, from diverse expressions into one stream of life.
When you are in nature you get close to it. You don't judge it. The same life animating a tree makes my heart pump. The same energy, that great in-breathing and out-breathing of God. The big bang, the source.
The Homeless Library is a project devised by arthur+martha to document the heritage of homelessness using interviews, artworks, poetry. It is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.