As a child, O held a deep fascination for me. It was its symmetry, its simplicity. There was a warmth and consistency and a reliability to it. It was full and it felt safe. I remember vividly how I sat on the floor as a child beneath the bridge of a frayed piano stool, my thin legs straight and ankles touching, goalkeeper gloves removed and neatly placed. My elbows barely reached its surface, upon it a scrap of paper and in my hand a pencil, ready to undertake a pressing experiment. I drew in the deepest breath I could, one that filled the hot air balloons of my lungs. Cheeks bullfrogged like Gilespie’s pouches, I quickly checked that the coast was clear and exhaled the word ‘so’ as slowly as I could, elongating the ‘o’ so that it became the body of this centipede of a word, its squat head the ‘s’. As I breathed the word into existence, I noted ‘o’ after ‘o’ after ‘o’ until I ran out of breath. There it was. ‘Sooooooooooooooooooooooooooo’. Proof. There were 28 o’s in ‘so’. It was only in adulthood that I saw the flaw in my experiment; that the number of o’s depended on the length of my exhalation and also the speed of how quickly I could write down multiple o’s in that lung of time.
Huw, well done! This was so peripatetic to read, and took me so many places. Ha and in a piece about connection, you just kept connecting ends of undone cords - it felt like "click," "click," "click," clicking into place. Also, your talk on panopticons got me thinking about Steve McAffrey's "Panopticon" from 1984 https://bookhugpress.ca/shop/author/steve-mccaffery/panopticon-by-steve-mccaffery/
I really enjoyed this. I don't drive and therefore do a lot of walking around Bristol in linear paths, A to B and back to A again, but when I am back in Herefordshire walking in the countryside it feels unnerving to not walk in a circle.
The pirate fact is really cool. The notions of circles and community got me to thinking about our self-directed education project. Everyday we start and end with a sociocratic meeting in a circle. As they are young people and want to test boundaries sometimes people decide to seat themselves in the middle of the circle. It feels jarring, like they have disturbed the feng shui of the space and it feels wrong on a primal level. I wonder if it may be literally that, or if the knowledge that they know that they are deliberately being contrary has buried itself within and resurfaces carrying with such emotions. Cultural or primal, or maybe a bit of both? Who knows. What I do know about our circles is that whilst we have procedures to keep them "kind, connected and... open", when they grow to be larger than 15 people the connectedness goes. The circle gets too big and the bonding that you write of becomes harder to maintain.
However, when there are conflicts that we have to resolve we sit in a linear line. Not facing each other in a line between, a line that draws us into me up and against you, but a line with aggrieved both facing the same way on either side of the mediator. I view this line as a symbol of the infinitely large circle; it says as we sit by side that we are a potential circle waiting to be closed, just as your conflict is a circle that needs closing before you too can move on. The power of working in the physical space of circles is really something to behold.