I know posting this image is unfair: it is so ubiquitous that it is entirely unsurprising.
But I couldn’t help but wonder if the woman is listening to Fear of ghosts by The Cure:
and the further I get
from the things that I care about
the less I care about
how much further away I get…
I am lost again
with everything gone
and more alone
than I have ever been
We all do it. I do it. Endlessly scrolling through irrelevant content, somehow missing the fact that it makes no difference. Again, as I’ve posted before, the content is not important. We do it to avoid other people because we are petrified of having to interact with each other.
In the 2000s I used to hear all the time about “Anti-Social Behaviour”. Now, despite being more connected than we have ever been – whether measured through transport modes and nodes, whether through telecommunication types and interactions, whether measured through the number of people we claim to know – we are also more alone than we have ever been.
That is not a paradox because of vanity: we measure our success in how important we are, how popular we are, how busy we are. The further we get from the things that we care about, the less we care about how much further away we get.
I studied medieval history at sixth form college. After starting the course, a book called The Medieval World appeared on my father’s bookshelf. This was odd, I remember thinking at the time, because my father preferred more recent history. It stayed there on the bookshelf, unread.
Only now, 24 years later, I realise that my father bought it for me – but never told me. So now I’m reading it.
It features chapters about different sections of medieval society – monks, merchants, mothers, soliders. I imagine there’ll be a chapter about pilgrims.
Pilgrims went on journeys to see relics, on the offchance that they’ll be on the receiving end of a miracle. Despite arduous journeys full of lice, dyssentry, banditry and interrupted sleep on meagre rations with no employment, pilgrimages were a triumph of irrationality: none of that mattered. What matters was that they had a shot, because there were no other chances.
Think about that: what matters was that they had a shot, because there were no other chances.
Apply the same logic to people who buy lottery tickets, or gamble, or pile up enormous debts on credit cards and consolidated loans. In post-crisis UK, what matters is that we have a shot because there are no other chances.
Each time I stumble across this mosaic in Birmingham city centre I’m a) reminded that I’ve already seen it b) confused as to why I’ve forgotten about it and c) notice that it is disintegrating rapidly. There are several of them in the city centre – they were usually in the many subterranean walkways under the ringroad; sometimes redevelopment of those walkways has meant the mosaics have been relocated, most notably the JFK memorial and the Great Western Railway mosaic.
The Horsefair mosaic is no doubt waiting its turn for some redevelopment scheme to pay for its repair and relocation. No doubt they represent a problem – they remove too much active frontage at street level – no shop windows, no office doors, no advertising space – and putting them above street level brings additional problems. At least they’re still here – I remember the murals on the walkways around the Bull Ring which only survive in photographs now.