Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Wednesday, 6 January 2016


Water from the Moon

Between us, there was
“a claustrophobic intimacy,”

but is all fear bad
or does it just set
the limits
of what we can handle?

And what are we afraid of?
The truth, perhaps?

30 October 1986

Both “a claustrophobic intimacy” and “water from the moon” are quotes. I suspect the latter is from the 1982 film The Year of Living Dangerously. The expression is used by Javanese PKI-member Kumar and when Guy Hamilton asks him to explain it he responds, “It's an old Javanese saying. Means something one cannot ever have.” In his monograph (which he actually entitles Water from the Moon: Illusion and Reality in the Works of Australian Novelist Christopher Koch) Jean-Francois Vernay quotes from chapter 14 of Koch’s novel where a slightly different definition is given: “It means: anything impossible.” Apparently Koch heard this first from his Indonesian assistant when he was working for UNESCO in Jakarta and for a while it was the working title for the book that finally became The Year of Living Dangerously.

For the record:

On 24 September 2009 Science magazine reported that the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) on the Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) Chandrayaan-1 had detected water on the Moon.


Lunar scientists had discussed the possibility of water repositories for decades. They are now increasingly “confident that the decades-long debate is over” a report says. “The Moon, in fact, has water in all sorts of places; not just locked up in minerals, but scattered throughout the broken-up surface, and, potentially, in blocks or sheets of ice at depth.” The results from the Chandrayaan mission are also “offering a wide array of watery signals.” – Wikipedia

The other expression I’m struggling with. Many, many writers have used it over the years and I can see why; it’s a good expression, evocative. No idea where I first heard it or read it.

The poem’s deliberately vague. It’s a bookmark for my memory. It takes me to a place and a time and resurrects feelings I’ve long lost touch with. It reminds me of a me I’ve not been in a long time and rather wish I’d never been. I have little doubt that others will find ways to apply it to their own lives.

Fear is a warning. Fear is a reminder—“Have you thought this through? Are you sure this is where you want to go? You do know there’s no coming back”—but that’s all. Like pain it can be ignored but always at a cost.


Kass said...

"Claustrophobic intimacy" seems a contradiction in terms. If we are truly intimate with some one or thing, there is a melding that is expansive and liberating. Close physical proximity can be oppressive if personal space is invaded....but I still like the idea put forth here just because it is contrary, as is Water From the Moon (the name of one of my favorite fanciful shops in Heber, Utah).

Jim Murdoch said...

I can agree there’s something oxymoronic about the expression, Kass. I think what I was getting at here is that intimacy exists on an edge and it takes very little for a hug to turn into a crush, for a squeeze to become a chokehold. You meet an old friend in the street, someone you’ve not seen in years and they go to embrace you. The gesture is welcomed and you hug back. One second. Two seconds. Three seconds. How long is appropriate? Five seconds? Ten? There are degrees of intimacy. There is a ratio of give and take. How much are you willing to give? How much will you let someone take? And it doesn’t even need to be physical. Intimacy can be about opening up, sharing secrets. Quid pro quo as Hannibal Lecter said to Clarice. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours. Truth or dare. Spin the bottle. Don’t be shy now. What have you got to hide?

Ping services