His Internet presence is known as Diskgrinder. I never thought to ask him his real name; possibly for fear of his response which would be so clever with his razor wit that I would be reminded that part of my fascination with him is his likeness to a grownup version of that kid we all knew in high school who could level you with one of his witticisms; but ahhhhhh if he liked you, it made you feel special and as witty and charming as he was.
You know the kid I'm talking about. The one who could even intimidate the teachers, the Principal of the school, the traffic cop who stopped him for a moving violation. He made the girls blush and the boy envious of his intellect, his feigned apathy, his extreme and unique coolness, and the creative spark that fired his interest in getting to the bottom of what he considered outrageous socially accepted norms. He was a mirror to our own insecurities so we kept him at a distance; far enough away to feel comfortable without the need to actualize ourselves; but close enough to garner the treasures he revealed.
I first found him on Twitter where we traded clever and terrible puns. Unlike many punsters, he is not a bully and often reveals his softer side; although, make no mistake, it sometimes takes spelunking to find it hidden in a cavern where fish are blind and echoes remain from the ancient ones.
We traded visits to each other's websites. I considered him somewhat bizarre, prone to swearing a lot, an artist, a musician, a perceptive observer of the human condition, a loving father, and most of all, an adult who never forgot how to play, and play with total abandonment of any worry of looking foolish to others. I'm not sure, but I think he considered me a 63 year old woman who possibly smells like Ben Gay, but one who also knows how to play.
I issued a "call for papers" to write about a hermit, mystic, or eccentric person and Diskgrinder responded with a wholly-unique Diskgrinder view of the eccentric known as Reg. It is an exercise in absurdity, irony, and reveals perhaps more about Diskgrinder than it does about Reg.
Impartial journalism can be a wonderful thing; but give me personal observations any day of the week. Sidney Jourard, the Humanist Psychologist, remarked that "disclosure begets disclosure." The limited expressions of Diskgrinder on the web consists of a few hundred often mysterious blog entries, a few YouTube videos, several scores of Flickr photos which is certainly not enough to fill out an accurate biography, not that the world is waiting with bated breath for a Disgrinder biography, nor is that my intention.
What I do note however, is that through Diskgrinder's description of Reg, the Hermit, and Diskgrinder's enigmatic presence on the web, the eccentric nature of the author himself is revealed and it makes the world a much less lonely place where we too as readers can be brave enough to reveal our own eccentric selves.
Reg said, "Most people think of the mind as being an intangible halo around their head, from which they call facts from the hot sponge in their skull. Like the brain is a bunch of liquid and dirty meat that keeps track, but the mind is this pristine glow that sees the track. But a recent theory is that the mind is Extended into legs and arms and maybe notes you write on the fridge, thinking's done within a yard. Your mind is in your fingers when you touch, in your local motion when you walk, there when you sniff. Which is why scent evokes memory." As Reg once said, "If your mind is in your head, why do you see everything outside, and not contemplate scenes inside?"
Back in the early eighties, when I was variously unemployed (an unemployed labourer, railway trackman, kitchen porter, painter) I met a man called Reg. He was an artist. He lived in Somerby, Rutland and refused electricity or gas, preferring instead to light his house with Gales honey jars filled with paraffin with a wick poked through the lid.
He was a mystic and a hippie, which in eighties East Midlands bitter bleakosity was unwelcomed by most (remember that the Vale of Catmose is in the lee of Lincolnshire, flat panned reclaimed fens where the wind is directly funnelled from the Urals).
He was a fellow of the Royal Academy, and once drank an oak tree*** off a high shelf with Craig Martin.
His paintings were abstract, and fairly fucked philosophically by his insistence on parallels with eastern mysticism and overdosing on cough medicine. Had he referenced Lacan, structuralism and maybe the decentered self he could have been successful. As he claimed his inspiration came from Kundalini, Gurdjieff and kif, he was deeply unfashionable.
But still he had a kind of scrawny integrity. He was a mountaineer, a painter and spliffster; a Barnsley ugly man with a feeling for colour, but no taste for the wank of art criticism.
I think he had a daughter, who lived in an inaccessible valley in Wales; inaccessible to him at least, as they were estranged.
***an oak tree: the text
reproduced by Ian Grant, Cambridge 8/7/2002 Michael Craig-Martin. An oak tree, 1973. In a room at Tate Modern there is a three-quarter full glass of water on a high shelf. It is a work by Michael Craig-Martin called An oak tree. Beside it there is the following text:
Q. To begin with, could you describe this work?
A. Yes, of course. What I've done is change a glass of water into a full-grown oak tree without altering the accidents of the glass of water.
Q. The accidents?
A. Yes. The colour, feel, weight, size ...
Q. Do you mean that the glass of water is a symbol of an oak tree?
A. No. It's not a symbol. I've changed the physical substance of the glass of water into that of an oak tree.
Q. It looks like a glass of water.
A. Of course it does. I didn't change its appearance. But it's not a glass of water, it's an oak tree.
Q. Can you prove what you've claimed to have done?
A. Well, yes and no. I claim to have maintained the physical form of the glass of water and, as you can see, I have. However, as one normally looks for evidence of physical change in terms of altered form, no such proof exists.
Q. Haven't you simply called this glass of water an oak tree?
A. Absolutely not. It is not a glass of water anymore. I have changed its actual substance. It would no longer be accurate to call it a glass of water. One could call it anything one wished but that would not alter the fact that it is an oak tree.
Q. Isn't this just a case of the emperor's new clothes?
A. No. With the emperor's new clothes people claimed to see something that wasn't there because they felt they should. I would be very surprised if anyone told me they saw an oak tree.
Q. Was it difficult to effect the change?
A. No effort at all. But it took me years of work before I realised I could do it.
Q. When precisely did the glass of water become an oak tree?
A. When I put the water in the glass.
Q. Does this happen every time you fill a glass with water?
A. No, of course not. Only when I intend to change it into an oak tree.
Q. Then intention causes the change?
A. I would say it precipitates the change.
Q. You don't know how you do it?
A. It contradicts what I feel I know about cause and effect.
Q. It seems to me that you are claiming to have worked a miracle. Isn't that the case?
A. I'm flattered that you think so.
Q. But aren't you the only person who can do something like this?
A. How could I know?
Q. Could you teach others to do it?
A. No, it's not something one can teach.
Q. Do you consider that changing the glass of water into an oak tree constitutes an art work?
Q. What precisely is the art work? The glass of water?
A. There is no glass of water anymore.
Q. The process of change?
A. There is no process involved in the change.
Q. The oak tree?
A. Yes. The oak tree.
Q. But the oak tree only exists in the mind.
A. No. The actual oak tree is physically present but in the form of the glass of water. As the glass of water was a particular glass of water, the oak tree is also a particular oak tree. To conceive the category 'oak tree' or to picture a particular oak tree is not to understand and experience what appears to be a glass of water as an oak tree. Just as it is imperceivable it also inconceivable.
Q. Did the particular oak tree exist somewhere else before it took the form of a glass of water?
A. No. This particular oak tree did not exist previously. I should also point out that it does not and will not ever have any other form than that of a glass of water.
Q. How long will it continue to be an oak tree?
A. Until I change it.
As I understand it, this text is not in itself the work of art, so I am at liberty to reproduce it here. Ian Grant, Cambridge 8/7/2002
And that is the end of words about Reg. Let us now return to Diskgrinder.
As you all know. Each of you have your own spiky thorns in your metaphoric pants. Clearly, you need to divest yourselves of the spiky-thorn-pant thing. How should we do that? I hear you ask. In fact demand.
Here's my to-do list of GTD spiky-thorn-pant issue resolution:
* Download the latest GTD application to your iPhone
* Fiddle with that for about an hour: set some contexts; pinch some overviews; swipe some goals; above all, do that lip-sucking typy touchscreen thing inputting all your to-dos in before you realise it syncs with OmniFracas
* Download OmniFracas
* Marvel at its intuitive interface
* Don't open it for a month; shit, now it's expired
* Zero inbox your inbox
* Read every email in the trash
* Print out the tiny list paper foldy thing to-do list
* Realize you're not a twat
* Screw it up and throw it in the fire (if you wrote anything on it you will get a MOMENTARY sense of closure)
* Send yourself increasingly sweary post-dated emails
* Stack bills behind the biggest ornament you have on your mantelpiece
* Keep on keeping on
* Occasionally apologise for not having done whatever the fuck it was
Oh, and change your pants
There is all of that before it is time to say goodbye for another week.
Indeed, his boys will say that. And they will also say that they grew up in a house full of magic and full of love.