I went to look at the “Revolution” exhibition at the V&A museum yesterday. “A rousing and pertinent excavation of the revolutionary spirit of the 1960’s”
I did think that the 60’s revolution seemed to meet fewer barriers than my journey to get to see it. First book my ticket on-line. This took at least three attempts since each time I typed in my card details they mysteriously morphed into something completely different on the screen. Eventually my computer and I agreed on a number. Stage one complete. Than go to the station, guessing at the time of the next London train. I guessed fairly well giving myself enough time for a cup of coffee. On to Marylebone where I spent another five minutes checking and double checking my route. Then 20 minutes on the tube, anxiously counting off each stop in case I was West not East or vice versa. (Which is quite ban apt metaphor for the whole 60’s scene.)
Eventually I got to the V&A where there was a statutory bag search. This completed I could go to the exhibition via the sculpture hall. Rodin and a host of other sculptors were on show. What fascinated me was how much they gave a sense of perspective and history. Rodin’s work (which always moves me) did not come out of nowhere. It stands in the context of thinking about how people are. What do our bodies say about us and the way in which society views us. This set the scene for me for the Revolution exhibition which was about change, development, values and perceptions. As well as great music, wonderful fashion and nostalgia! But most fascinating was seeing students in their 20’s making copious notes about the exhibits. What was so interesting about seeing Mary Quant’s dresses? Or reading about the posters about Vietnam war protests. This was my youth.That’s all. I was lucky enough to have been a teenager in the 60’s. My wife grew up in a later decade with different values which shaped her. But neither of us see our era as historically important to anyone except ourselves.
When I interview a new patient I always take a history going back to grandparents if they are remembered. Patterns emerge and when I comment on them my patients often looked surprised. “I hadn’t thought of it like that” is a frequent response. It’s also often the small details that can tell a lot. So one patient remarked almost in passing, that they had asthma as a child. I commented on this and wondered it might be a clue about their early experience of family life. They looked at me as if I had asked if they had been to Mars. But in the context of their history, this was a hint about some feelings of being unable to breathe sometimes. As George Santayana observed
“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” So with this patient there were times when they felt being at home to be a suffocating experience. A pattern that repeated itself in their adult life.
So in taking a history I’m not merely asking out of curiosity. I’m asking to help me find a bridge between their past and their present. In the same way that “Revolution” was reached by history so much of my patients material is hinted at-indeed formed by-their early experience. So, I enjoyed the exhibition and found it odd to be an observer of my own history.But that is a good image for the work of counselling. It gives us a space to step outside ourselves and think about our history. As Eliot put it, “In my end is my beginning.” or that both time past and time present are, perhaps present in time future.”
Finally,a note on the link below. It is mainly an excuse to promote one of my favourite songs from my youth. But it also has something to say about revolutions which are as much an internal process as an external one.