Guestblog: ‘When Atlas Dropped the World’ by Lucy Saunders

It was just another day, nothing special, Atlas said.  After all these years, I’d got the job sussed – I could do it with my eyes closed, and frequently did.  It’s a matter of resting individual muscles, one after another, without losing position – if you look, you won’t see me do it, relaxing and then tensing.  The trick is to get all round the body, be fair, don’t miss one muscle group out, even ones that don’t seem obvious.  Just because a muscle isn’t telling you its in pain doesn’t mean it is capable of staying in the same place all the time.  Muscles are designed to be various, to change their state from extended to relaxed.  So I have to do that within a pose that requires my stillness.  Of course I do move a bit, but very slowly, you’d probably never notice.  Its not like I do big stuff – I never change the side my head is under the world, for instance.

The original pose was something that came naturally to me, I do wish now that I hadn’t left the toes on the foot on the extended leg touching the floor – because that’s where the vulnerabilities come in, where you stop the blood in its journey and create pain.  Its any point that bears weight eventually.  Even if you were standing straight up on the ground, normally, not carrying anything, eventually your feet would talk with pain until you moved.  We are naturally moving creatures – and the situation I was in was an unmoving one, for all time.

Meditation helps.  You send your mind elsewhere, detach yourself from your thoughts, feel the universe within, the inner darkness like the space between stars.  Time doesn’t have much of a meaning in a situation like that.  Walter Benjamin was right, boring tasks free the imagination.  I would divide time up, have times when I thought furiously about concrete things, like maths, statistics, science, even who said what to whom back in the day, and other times when I would shut down thinking, reaching for just existing, which was a hugely challenging skill, because once you’ve realised that you’ve achieved it, you are just existing, then you’re back thinking again aren’t you, its like some tricky fairground game.  Giants, like humans, need input – if it doesn’t exist, your mind creates it.  there’s me, kneeling in the eternal void, forever, carrying the world on my shoulders, and all I’ve got between me and madness is my brain.  Its an entertaining thing, a functioning brain.  This was in the days before headphones or iPods or audio books.  I rather envy anyone who gets in the same position now, they’d have all that entertainment on tap.

You ask the big questions, in such a situation.  Forget about the obvious, like why you are here – is it worth wondering about?  No, I thought more about what was specifically giant, human or god, what was the stuff of life.  What was death like.  As an immortal, I am never going to know, it’s a mystery, something that living things do so easily, they just stop breathing, they just stop the chemical factory going – well, the chemical factory keeps going, it breaks down the body into its atoms eventually – but that little strand of electricity, that spark, has gone.

Anyway, it was a day like any other, no better, no worse, and from deep down a yawn emerged – I tried to control it, I held my jaw together, but it was topped by a sneeze so I lost it, and once I’d started losing it, I lost it more and more and more.  It didn’t take much to knock the world off its place on my shoulders, it rolled away like a drunken marble, I just had time for a quick stretch and rubbed my eyes, then I was after it, like a dog after a rabbit.  It was damaged, once I’d caught it, of course it was, but its an enigmatic little thing, it is full of ingeniousness.  Once I’d parked it up again, a bit twisted round so Africa wasn’t in the same place anymore – well, once we’d got that far, a change of view for me seemed reasonable – I could get to thinking about how it would all turn out.  Just a few millennia and life will be buzzing around the planet.  I wonder what they’ll call this moment.  The Precambrian happening p’raps.

Published by esther bunting

Performer, artist, writer

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