The other evening Celina and I started watching a new Scandinavian TV drama series about a criminal psychologist, Maja Angell, trying to get inside the head of someone she assumes to be a serial killer. Not family entertainment you understand but filmed around Kautokeino in northern Sweden, so the scenery is stunning – if you like mountains and pine forests and lakes and more mountains and more pine forests and more lakes. There is an added dimension; it’s high summer and there are 24 hours of daylight!
Some way into the drama Maja is retracing the probable route of the killer with a male colleague, who’s driving. She encourages him to start thinking like the killer: “You’ve picked her up, you’re giving her a lift; she’s pretty and you start imaging what could happen. You’re male, so think of sex at every opportunity, hundreds of times a day, and here’s this young woman, in your car …… you feel horny, do you? You think she’s ‘up for it’? Come on, Claus; start thinking like the killer might.” (Note 1) After a pregnant pause, Claus obviously engages his brain and the two of them start making real progress. This is great television, subtly encouraging audience cerebral participation!
Certainly got me thinking about some of our base human emotions and behaviours. Could someone who is not a sociopath and/or psychopath think like one? (Note 2) Surely one’s own values and morals would prohibit certain threads developing? Do we have an innate sense of whom or what we are, about what goes on inside one’s head, about good and evil? These thoughts occur to me in the middle of a savasana, a yoga posture when you lie still on the mat, completely relaxed, immobile. It is about an hour into my 90 minute hot yoga session, sweat dripping, my mind wandering … about the posture, the class, the other students, the fact it is Sunday morning, about the rather empty bus in from Hove.
This sequence is described as a ‘conscious moving meditation’; one’s mind is meant to be completely focused on one’s breath and that imaginary spot between your eyes, the ‘third eye’. Sometimes I achieve it but more often than not my mind drifts. Monkey Mind is everyone’s enemy; difficult to still sometimes, when life gets out of control. For instance it’s a challenge to shut out the sounds of one’s own body as its systems work to digest, process, absorb, circulate or pump, not to listen to the vague sounds from outside the studio or those of the heating systems blowing hot air into the room.
The teacher’s voice interrupts my thoughts; Ah! Yes! Concentrate on the breath! My eyes look at the pipework on the ceiling, my slight OCD needing to move one large 40 centimetre pipe about 5 cms to create a proper right-angle! Sad huh? Fortunately most of us generalise what we observe, so avoid information overload; it’s just pipework!
Still in savasana – this one’s about 20 seconds – it’s amazing where your mind will go in that time. “What is this thing that I am, this collection of molecules, cells that form together ……. dust to dust, ashes to ashes ……. a collection for a period of time ….. and then? Now that would be good to know; what then?” I appreciate in the hot room my senses are more challenged, particularly, obviously (!), my awareness of temperature; I feel I am radiating, my sweat glands open, dripping onto the mat. Then there’s the smell. I expect we’ve all been to a gym at some stage – when you’re exercising you’re focused and don’t smell the combined odours in the room. Here I think I smell of Digestive biscuits, so not unpleasant but curious, unlike the whiff of unwashed dreadlocks or garlic carried on someone’s breath from last night’s Indian curry.
I was back in the Hope Café this week, able to write in the warmth of a familiar space. You may remember it was closed last week due to Covid and Duncan has used the time to install a limited number of charging points and WiFi – with a proviso that you have to spend at least £5 to gain the password, which will change each day. Clever huh! These places are an attractive alternative from WFH, the collective buzz you can’t get in your spare bedroom, the sights and overheard conversations about life that give you a lift. I see the chap who a few weeks ago was reading John Grisham’s ‘Sooley’ (see PC 258), sitting in a corner, having just been given a second cup of coffee by Susie. This afternoon he’s reading Grisham’s latest ‘The Judge’s List’.
I mention it here as the central figure in the fictional tale is a judge who, whilst outwardly successful and prosperous, is a serial killer. Grisham weaves together many threads that detail the efforts to identify his victims and to eventually apprehend him.
So, the contrast between yoga and its peaceful beliefs of self-actualisation (Note 3) and the actions of a serial killer couldn’t be greater; the celebration of life and someone who wants to take it. All inside one’s head, where these thoughts start and finish.
Richard 21st January 2022
Note 1 These are a synopsis of the actual script, not verbatim by any stretch!
Note 2 I am at last reading the Italian Chemist Primo Levi’s ‘If This is a Man’, first-hand observations of his eleven months in Auschwitz (1944-1945). He experienced and saw humanity at its most basic, in survival mode. Life had little value, unless it was your own but then some just gave up that will to survive, the will to live. Serial killers of course simply want to take life for their own gratification.
Note 3 Ernie Zelinski, in his book ‘The Joy of Not Working’, defines these as being self-confident and secure about one’s position in society, being able to create one’s own purpose in life, not being addicted to material possessions for self-esteem and being able to accept other individuals’ points of view. (A hot topic in 2022!)