Friday 4 February 2011

Britten, childhood and home

Benjamin Britten's music has always fascinated me. He uses very simple patterns which are almost childlike and naive - it portrays a kind of 'melancholic innocence': a feeling which takes me back to the roots of 'home': security, privacy, intimacy. What is it to be in a place all of your own.

Privacy and intimacy are not features of social technology. Facebook and the like are precisely about popping the bubble of intimacy. What is lost? Britten reminds us. The world of social action and politics take us away from the intimate world. Even the sexual roots of intimacy are to hand (!) online as a public performance. No mystery.

Home may be the root of all mystery. It is where concern and love combine in the chaos of daily life. Where no dogma or ideal can survive the unpredictabilities of individual behaviour. Yet home is where we care and love enough to keep on trying despite the continual (and sometimes joyful) frustration of our expectations. Home doesn't enframe us, we continually make it;

The web is not home. We may use it to explore our ideals and pretend to be the people we would wish to be. But precious few care enough on the web to set us straight by showing us what crooked timbers we really are. And if someone really did care, they wouldn't express that care through the web!

But the transparency of information available through the web can drive concernful homely action. We can pick up signals of those around us which might help us to care for one another better. And in leaving signals for others, we can teach how we feel and what we think in ways that might help us to look after others by bringing the example of our own personal being to-hand. But more importantly, the agency of expressing personal things online is a way of making pointers for ourselves, helping us to chart our own psyche with little pointers for memory of how we were and how we changed. Technology does something to our memory.

But much as all this is good, I am not home online. This is a subtle distinction which I think is very hard to make sometimes. I think I use my being online to explore 'home' within myself: the childlike, naive, secure, private and intimate are always there...

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