A Return of the Village Cinder-eaters


Sometimes the thought comes, pristine and unlovely. A distant empty field recognizable in its ambiguity. The nothingness of things. It is the continuing form that becomes unfamiliar – the dresser, the lampshade, the worn-down chair. They exist in the outer quantum dimensions of heavy daily existence, slowly becoming invisible and disregarded. I have spent more time with objects than people, lived more breaths with my coffee-table than I have my girlfriend. My bed has witnessed my despair, witnessed and said nothing of it later. I am grateful for this.

Human beings have a tendency towards self-obsession, it is well documented. But what of the objects? They inhabit the same dreary space as us, seemingly without self-consciousness. I often wonder if my chair has growing concerns about its structural deterioration. The day will come my friend, when your capacity to support is undermined by your aging weakness. On that day, I will cast you aside and find another.


As a recluse, there is the obvious reality of inhabiting certain spaces. My lounge is, for example, where I spend most of my time yet I never grow tired of it. Though my interactions with it are limited, due to its insistence to be nothing more than a space. If it had a personality and a way of communicating I think I would surely love it less. It bothers not so I hate it not.

There are the inevitable churning worries. Having read of child brain development and neuroscience I recognize in myself the symptoms of one who was born into dangerous surrounds. I am prone to anxiety and quick to leave situations of chaotic interaction. But more than this, I have the consuming and pervading sadness of a poet. It is unfortunate and tragic-comic that I have not the poetry to accurately frame the sadness. Ah, the endless cycle of inarticulate despair.

I have frequently been accused of extreme aloofness. I can’t deny it, it is at least partly true. Though more accurately, I am unable to look at things close up. I must view all things, living or inanimate, from a reasonable distance in order to focus on them. This is apparently a sign of childhood trauma – an inability to fully engage with external features. Though I reserve my judgement for obvious reasons including, but not exclusively, a deep love and sympathy towards my family.

But sometimes the thought comes, pristine and unrecognizable.

download (6)

As a child I dreamt of an abandoned house. Four people lived in the upstairs without electricity or running water, sleeping on mattresses laid upon the floor. In the way of dreams, I had access to their collective feelings. They were happily-miserable, defined by their ceaseless mourning. Like a lament, their misery gave them purpose and an overarching dignity. As strange as it is, I remember feeling comforted by this dream.

Years later, after buying my first car and driving around the fringes of the city, I took a wrong turn and ended up on a back road that ran behind a small industrial zone. And then there it was – the house I had dreamt of. I sat in my car for an hour, just staring at it, transfixed by its immediacy. Sometimes it’s impossible to defeat emotion with reason and while I knew that it couldn’t be the actual house of my dream I truly felt that if I just went inside and climbed the stairs I would find those people living there still, cloaked in sadness and sleeping on mattresses upon the floor. The mind is a strange beast, so prone to subjective quasi-logic and misguided linkages.


Among some of the old tribes there were the ‘cinder-eaters’, people whose role was to sit in the cooking fire-pits and, literally, eat the cinders of the burnt logs. This was a ritualistic and symbolic act – the eating of the cinders represented the consuming and destruction of the bad-luck and sorrow of the village. The cinder-eaters were chosen for their natural melancholic feelings and deep capacity for empathy and were cared for collectively by the others in their tribe. They were considered an important part of the social order, valued for their sacrificial ‘taking upon themselves the negative forces of the tribe’. Perhaps there is a need for them again in our modern age, where suffering has no enemy and compassion no monetary value.

field image source: nevseoboi.com.ua

old chair photo source: christian-richter.deviantart.com

abandoned house image source: abnf.co

viking fire pit image source: www.hurstwic.org


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s