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The quote below is from a 2002 email I never sent. It was for an email discussion group which was trying to put together a special issue of "The International Journal of Therapeutic Communities" devoted to therapeutic communities in both the United States and the U.K. The special issue itself didn't materialise:


When I began work as an archivist here I was sent to talk with Maxwell Jones in Canada about the future of his archives. My response was "Maxwell who?" But that was also my response when sent to talk to the son of George Lyward: "George who?" By which time I had been living and working with disturbed children in a residential therapeutic community for very nearly ten years. The Archive has now been here for thirteen going on fourteen years. The apparent depth and breadth of the field continues to expand; each new interview, each new archival accession, and to some extent the material coming into the library, pushes the foundations for the work beyond and then beyond again the received view of the field's history and boundaries. There is a small part of me that gets angry: "Why didn't I know about this before?" "Why didn't someone tell me this before?" I get upset about the lost connections, the people who have disappeared from the canon, who are occluded by the compartments in which people do the work (at least over here), including, perhaps most forcefully, the past-devouring compartment of "the present". I don't think I would get upset if it didn't matter, if it weren't so dangerous. If the Ignorance hadn't effectively destroyed so many therapeutic communities over here; as it seems to have done in the States.



This is from a longer poem by my historian/museum curator brother:

"The thinking earth squeezes to the surface only bits of death and stone.

We pocket what we can, imagine the rest."


He follows this with the last two lines of the poem:

"But what frightened us back there is this:

In real life nothing is lost."


I'm with him in the first two lines, which come at the end of a poem called "A Meditation on Time (with a group of fossil hunters in the McCullough Peaks Badlands)". But - and I will have to ask him about this - that final line. The poem cracks along from truth to truth, and then...real life?

Unless 'nothing' here is Sartre's, in which case, wow. An invisible comma: a grammatical pause between life and nothing. An abyss of transition, visible in the spoken word but unheard in the written.


I wonder:

"In real life


is lost."


 (Listen to the knelling bell of that structure.)


« L'homme est l'être par qui le néant arrive au monde »




"One of the things we recognised quite some time ago in the Archive, and one of the things an archive can help to do is, is build in a reparative function, re-establishing relationships, creating new communication..."


I'm proof-reading Helen Moore's excellent transcript of the recordings of the day-long "Celebrating Us" event with which the Planned Environment Therapy Trust marked its ending back on November 24, 2018.

There is a specific context for this comment - a former child from a children's therapeutic community speaking about how damaging it was to leave the community, to be severed from it and all the deeply-built relationships he had developed there. So I responded "Can I just say, that's one of the things we recognised...."

I was emotional and not at my most articulate, but I went on to say, with editing, "We have people here who can speak better about this.... And we need to go to lunch, I know; we also probably need to get warm [quiet laughter][it was a cold day, in a cold marquee] ...but there are people here who, who have found this place ("Yes"), and I’ve learned from them that has a reparative function." And ended  "one of the things that I discovered, and discovered precisely what you've said, that that severance is really incapacitating …



[In the process of sorting masses of personal papers and digital files, I occasionally come across odd notes and memos to myself. This is one from September 28, 2004]


But I would also like to challenge anyone to tell me what the past is, if it isn't the Present; and what there is left of the Present when you whip off the future. I'll go further. It is so difficult to get therapeutic community people to talk about the present precisely because they are so consumed by the present; and will continue to be blown away by the present until they have control of their past, and an enthusiastic (or do I simply mean active?) relationship with the future.