My wife has got me watching a comedy series on the BBC iplayer about metal detectorists. I regard this as a splendid find, despite its unlikely subject matter. It's a gentle comedy, and on a first glance you might feel inclined to switch it off, and forget it.
I would encourage you to stay with it, because despite this unprepossessing subject it is a gem worthy of Samuel Beckett. In fact, he is the writer who comes immediately to my mind. The situation our metal detectorist heroes are in was ably summed up by one of the characters, who, musing on a glitch in the smooth running of their pointless existences, said (and I may be paraphrasing slightly here) “We were quite happy finding rubbish, and talking bollocks.”
A self-awareness one can applaud, because what else are we doing caught in the inscrutable stare of the great puzzle of existence? As I might have said before, given that there is nothing on the planet that has a meaning other than the one we have given it, and that the evidence for a super-being who might have meaning tucked up his all-powerful sleeve is, to say the least, non-existent, a meaning of life is the last thing we are ever likely to find.
The detectorists have a sort open day in one episode. They have a variety of artefacts on display, one being a table full of ring-pulls. Needless to say this is a stunningly unsuccessful event about which even the emptiness of the hall looks a bit embarrassed.
But heroically they refuse to give in. There they are the next day, waving their detectors over ground that is unlikely to oblige with a coin-hoard of staggering proportions or beautiful object lost sometime in antiquity. There will, of course, be ring-pulls. Even better ones perhaps, for their next open day. There is the allure that one day they will find something that brings them fame and fortune, and in between there are the usual complications of love and betrayal, and life going about it's daily business in a sometimes interestingly absurd way.
I don't expect detectorists spend all that much time thinking about fame and fortune, certainly poets don't, it's hard enough just keeping things rolling forward in a more or less convincing way. The odd publication here or there, an occasional reading, and a sense that you are doing something that rises, albeit in meagre fashion, above the dead weight of existence.
These days I think of life as a process, something you can ignore, but to be really alive you must participate in, and in some way direct. I think of poetry as a way of expressing the process, taking the world apart and reassembling it so that it says something you hope means something, and hopefully leaves people with the feeling they have shared the experience with you. It certainly demands effort and awareness, and it might even entail a certain amount of progress, and, of course, the occasional ring pull. I expect this is the delusion of hope, but it's enough isn't it.