Aude Conventionem Despicere

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“There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.”
From William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Act 4, scene 3, 218–224

Today is my birthday, so after another dog-haunted night, it is perhaps inevitable that I should have started the day’s proceedings by surrounding a satanically hot curry for my breakfast, a repast that rarely fails to enliven or else banish what has always been my habitual waking torpor.

In recent times, I’ve been plagued by a debilitating and maddening dental ailment, from which I can find no respite and which has made me far less communicative than I once was. It’s also had the effect of making me less productive as far as my writing’s concerned, so after what can generously be described as a fallow year, it is in keeping with human nature for me to reflect on what might otherwise have been at this point in my life.

Many of my contemporaries from my far-off school days long ago went on to occupy the stratospheric heights of finance, politics, journalism, the law and similar noble callings. I doubt that they would have persisted in these careers had they not found them deeply satisfying and rewarding, so I am happy that these people found their true vocations. Life would be a very unsatisfactory affair if in our heart of hearts, we found ourselves yearning for some other existence or identity denied to us through timidity, lack of the requisite talent or else an inability to turn back the clock and relive our time here on Earth.

I suspect that most people grow into their chosen careers, having somehow become aware of their ultimately chosen path and found it to be one that suited their temperament and skills. One example that comes to mind is that of Jim Morrison, a young man who was studying at UCLA and who planned to become a film maker before he bumped into Ray Manzarek on Venice beach in California at some point in August 1965. Morrison sang a few of his songs to Manzarek, the result being that these two men went on to form The Doors, whereupon Jim Morrison flourished and blossomed as a poet, performer and singer without equal until his untimely death in Paris in 1971.

By contrast, I suspect that fewer people find their callings as a result of some Damascene moment or other revelation, but on balance, this is a fair description of something that I experienced in the late 1970s after I’d left school and it came about while reading a book entitled The Hell Fire Club, by Daniel P. Mannix; coincidentally, a man from a naval family as Jim Morrison had been.

Early on in the book, I learned of how Sir Francis Dashwood, the founder of the notorious Hell Fire Club, had appointed as members some of the finest minds of the day, then had purchased Medmenham Abbey on the Thames for his group’s revels. In addition to its other highly unorthodox features, the abbey contained a Roman Room where the Hell Fire Club held their uproarious devotions, above the entrance to which Dashwood had the phrase Dare To Despise Convention inscribed in Latin.

As I described in my autobiographical A Tale of Sound & Fury, this struck a profound chord somewhere inside me and it became an exhortation I followed ever after, with results that have sometimes bordered on the catastrophic, but which have otherwise been deeply gratifying. It would be nothing short of inane for me to assert that a sound, conventional career prohibits anyone from exploring something more exotic in their holidays or other spare time, because this is patently not the case.

However, while they may well exist, I’m not aware of any careers that allow those following them to take leaves of absence to work in an occult bookshop for year, to sing in rock bands or to tour Europe, Scandinavia and Russia on a mediaeval jousting tournament, as I once did, while as part of this Devil’s Pact, I had to learn to come to terms with any possible consequences and to enjoy the experiences and subsequent memories to the full.

There is a pronounced down side to all this, which I wouldn’t deny for a moment, but on balance, I believe it’s more than worth it, something I’ll try my best to illustrate in A Tale of Sound & Fury II or else in the pages of Otherworld, a work that has my attention as I compose this brief post. In the meantime, I hope you all thoroughly enjoy the rest of your day, as I intend to do.

Dennis

“I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my soul”.
Henley, Invictus.

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