Comparisons are odious

The old school magazine came through the post this morning and plunged me into depression. Normally it goes straight into the rubbish bin, but this time I intercepted it and that’s when the damage is done. I started looking at how former classmates are doing but then found myself caught up in comparing myself with them. But as Dogberry says in Much Ado about Nothing: ‘Comparisons are odious.’  What is it about this drawing of ourselves into competition which is so compulsive, and yet also depressing – except perhaps for the winners. I console myself with the thought that only 3% of my contemporaries had a mention it it – and that the most interesting and touching stories are probably hidden in the margins. It’s a bit like the worst sort of Christmas card round robins which are full of successes but say little or nothing of the struggles which is what, ultimately, make us more human.

Life on the margins is great!

I was touched, after leading workshops on margins at the national Quaker meeting in Warwick, to receive an email from Carolyn Matthews. It seemed to me to be a great example of how, when we accept our place on the margins, life becomes so much easier.
We move from fighting to try to be at the centre – a fight we can never win – to being centred: being ourselves, which is a very different experience, with a sense of healing and wholeness.
This – with her permission – is what she wrote:

Hi Chris

I was at your Margins event at Yearly Meeting and it really spoke to me.  I had already worked it out, but I wasn’t describing it in quite those words but thinking about life in these terms makes sense.

I have always been on the margins. I found life difficult and I couldn’t work out why I didn’t seem to be quite like other people.   I was somehow all wrong,  and suffered a lot with depression, anxiety, stress etc. Despite trying very hard, I couldn’t get into the mainstream.

Then, a few years ago, things went from bad to worse.  I had a serious cycling accident, I was unconscious for several days with skull fractures, brain haemorrhages etc.

So now everything really was wrong, but I felt that I had to find out what on earth was happening and I started on a steep learning curve, doing research and to cut a long story short, last year I was diagnosed (in my mid-sixties!) as being on the autistic spectrum.  I have Aspergers Syndrome!

Gradually, everything began to fall into place and make sense.   I will always be on the margins (I’m not going to be anywhere else with Aspergers and the after effects of a brain injury) but now I don’t care that I’ll never be mainstream. I’m so much more confident now I know what my problems are, it has made such a difference, and I’m happier now than I’ve ever been.

I just thought I’d write and let you know that life out here on the margins is great!  

with many thanks


Art on the margins

I recently held two margins workshops at a national Quaker Gathering at Warwick University. I’d planned for 20 people, but 60 turned up to first workshop, and 50 to the second.

As always, I was fascinated by the mix of stories and knowledge I gathered. One person (unfortunately I don’t have their name) introduced me to a form of art of the margins called Thomasson or Hyperart Thomasson.

It was developed by the Japanese artist Akasegawa Genpei in the 1980s. It refers to a useless relic or structure that has been preserved as part of a building or the built environment, which has become a piece of art in itself. These objects, although having the appearance of pieces of conceptual art, were not created to be viewed as such. Akasegawa deemed them even more art-like than art itself, and named them “hyperart.” In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in Thomasson, especially since the publication of Akasegawa’s work on the subject in English in 2010.

The term Thomasson comes from the professional baseball player Gary Thomasson, who was signed by the Yomiuri Giants for a record-breaking sum of money, and spent his final two seasons with the team (1981-1982) coming close to setting the league strikeout record before being benched. Akasegawa viewed Thomasson’s useless position on the team as a fitting analogy for “an object, part of a building, that was maintained in good condition, but with no purpose, to the point of becoming a work of art.

A few examples are given below:


A margin of land as a place of decision

‘Last night I was transported to a thin bar of sand in the middle of the ocean. The sand could only just be seen above the surface of the water; different currents pushed from east and west. The motorboat came from the east. Once on this margin of land would I take another boat and go onto the west, into the unknown, or seek to return to the east the way I had come? This margin of land represented decisions: how small, often marginal, changes can make all the difference.’