Monthly Archives: June 2009

Leaders

X has found out what he needs to do, he tells me. He needs to kill his idols, hunt down all his Buddhas and kill them, leave them dying by the side of the road. He needs to stop being such a toady, he says, stop looking for a leader to show him the way. Because who needs a leader when we’re all in the same boat on the same endless sea, he says. Then again, he says, isn’t that precisely when you need a leader the most, when you’re in the lifeboat with no land in sight? That’s when you need a leader to step up, and that’s what he needs, he says, a leader to tell him what to do, how to survive. If you leave your idols gasping by the side of the road, where do you go? he says. Shuffling down the road to nowhere, that’s where, he says. Then again, he says, maybe we’re all on the road to nowhere, even leaders of men, maybe especially the leaders of men. Maybe they’re just leading the way down the road to nowhere, he says, and in that case why would he need a leader? What does it matter if he sits down to starve in the boat or puts his faith in the leader, sits down in the ditch or trudges after the leader?

Giacometti quotes

 Life is only an abyss.

I no longer understand anything about life, about death, about anything.

Art is only a way of seeing. Whatever I may look at, everything is beyond me, everything surprises me. I don’t exactly know what I am seeing. It’s too complex.

It’s impossible to do a thing the way I see it because the closer I get the more differently I see it.

The human face is as strange to me as a countenance which, the more one looks at it, the more it closes itself off and escapes by the steps of unknown stairways.

I paint and sculpt to get a grip on reality… to protect myself.

The more I work the more I see things differently, that is, everything gains in grandeur every day, becomes more and more unknown, more and more beautiful. The closer I come, the grander it is, the more remote it is.

Artistically I am still a child with a whole life ahead of me to discover and create. I want something, but I won’t know what it is until I succeed in doing it.

All I can do will only ever be a faint image of what I see and my success will always be less than my failure or perhaps equal to the failure.

It was always disappointing to see that what I could really master in terms of form boiled down to so little. 

Basically, I no longer work for anything but the sensation I have while working.

Only reality interests me now and I know I could spend the rest of my life copying a chair.

– Giacometti

X talks too much

He should talk less, X tells me, he talks way too much. The sheer torrent of stupidity that gushes out of his mouth undermines anything of value he might have to say, he says, it’s like a splattergun of verbiage that may or may not hit the target, whatever the target is. He’s well aware of it, so how does he stop it? he asks. If only I’d say something, he says, anything, put him in his place, shut him up. But, no, he doesn’t want to stop, that would be the end of him, he says. He talks to put off the misery he knows is waiting for him to stop talking, and besides, he likes hearing himself talk. It’s his way of proving to himself that he’s still alive, he says, even if he has to disown everything he says. And at least I’ve got things going on in my head, unlike you, he tells me, look how many interesting thoughts I have and how many words I know, at least there are some gold nuggets in the torrent of shit, there must be. At least I’m not too cool for school, he says, I’m living and learning from life, and life is messy as they say, it can’t be helped. At least I’m expressing myself, what’s so bad about that. Still, he says, you’re right, I should talk less, I’m like a teenage girl, I’ve got – what do they call it – logorrhoea. It’s mental masturbation, he says, it gets in the way of true understanding, it distracts him from the Sublime Unknowable that lies behind every careless word he spouts. This isn’t an American sitcom after all, he says, this is serious, he should stop distracting himself with all his blabber, stop tarnishing the Silence that surrounds us all. He should be more uncompromising, he says, more true, like Giacometti or Béla Tarr, or Jandek, become a silent recluse who lives out his stark, obscure vision until the bitter end and doesn’t care what anyone thinks, become the real thing.

Uncompromising

X has found out what he needs to be to give his life integrity, he tells me. He needs to be uncompromising, he says, that’s the key word, like Beckett, Jandek or Margaret Thatcher. He needs to just do his thing and follow through without caring what people think. This will give his life meaning and continuity, he says. But first he needs to find his thing, he says, the Thing he can follow through to the bitter, glorious end without caring what all the morons think. You know me better than anyone, he tells me, what’s my Thing, my uncompromising vision?

Chill out

Maybe I just need to chill out, X tells me, or chillax, isn’t that what the kids say? That’s how people get laid, isn’t it, he says, by chilling out and staying cool, taking life as it comes, que sera sera, if one thing doesn’t happen something else will. Those are the people who have all the sex and success, he says. If only he could learn how to chill out like them, how to stand effortlessly at the bar and let people come to him, then everything would fall into his lap, because you only get what you want if you don’t really care about it, if you’re too cool for school, that’s just how it works, he says. Leave me alone, he says, let me chill out. Or better yet, teach me how you do it.

Kitsch

How can he get rid of his kitsch, X asks me, who should he turn to, since I won’t help him? Maybe he could turn to the English, he says, to learn to repress his feelings. Or maybe he should start reading political philosophy and learn to be more impersonal, get some perspective. Or better yet, science, maybe he should study science and evolution, that would take care of his kitschy religious yearnings into the bargain. Or maybe he just needs to get laid, he says, or get a guinea pig to care for, in other words start living like a normal human being and stop thinking the world revolves around his feelings. Because that’s what you think, isn’t it? he asks me. But you’re useless, he says, I don’t expect a response from you.

A lost desert nomad

X tells me he dreams of a life that’s erased as it’s lived, a life of forgetting. Like desert footprints that are erased by the wind, so you don’t know where you’ve been or where you’re going, he says. A lost desert nomad, that’s what he’d like to be, he says, except without the heat and discomfort, he says. Or camels, he doesn’t like camels.

X’s dossier

X tells me that one of these days someone’s going to show him his life, and it won’t be pleasant. Someone will come to his door, a man in a black suit will knock on his door, wordlessly hand him a dossier marked CONFIDENTIAL in big red letters and go away. The dossier will detail all his life’s failures, he says, all the stupid things he’s ever done, with pictures. He’ll look around in horror and run down the street, he says, but the man will be gone, of course, and he’ll stand in the middle of the street, holding his dossier.

Possibilities

Think of the possibilities, X tells me. The birdsquawks outside, the seeds flying through the air, music down a windy street remind him that there are still possibilities, he says, maybe even for him. He could travel, see the world. He’s seen some of it already, he says, but what does it amount to? A grain of sand. And it would all be different now, he says, nothing ever stops, seeds keep flying and growing and each possibility is pregnant with possibilities. Maybe not so much for him, he says, but how good to know they’re there all around him, despite him. Imagine how they’re living in Paris right now, he says, with their baguettes and their flirting, it’s summer there too. Or in Rome, he says, with their mopeds and ice cream. The seeds are flying there too, he says, through the sunlight and onto the ruins and cars. Consider Mongolia, where they’re probably driving their Ladas and throat singing in the dust, he says. What season is it there? He could go and find out, head for the Trans-Siberian railroad and get distracted on the way by a thousand people, a thousand sights and accidents. And even they would only be a grain of sand, he says. How good to know that each possibility is so ripe and rife with possibilities, he says, and that each possibility in turn slips away from him into other possibilities. And to be both inside and outside possibility, which is life, he says, the continuance of life which is never already here but always waiting to be rediscovered or reinvented and therefore is an affirmation of death in the same breath, of death in life and life in death, as he slips between possibilities, always and never ending, always becoming and leaving what he was, appearing and disappearing.

The summer of death

We are at the heart of creation, absent from the All, in the marrow and moire of Absence, with the Void for recourse, for a means to be and to survive. So that, in the creative act, we are and even surpass the Void facing the restoring All.
   Book rejected and reclaimed by the book. The word, for which I was pain and meditation, discovers that its true place is the non-place where God lives resplendent with not being, with never having been.
[…]
   Death is of this world. It is on our planet that we will live death, along with plants and days.
   Where I go, night overtakes me.
[…]
   Ah, the sun will catch me, in my disturbing transparency.
   What am I but an awareness of the dark, forever?
   And yet
   I am certain I exist in the crystal of writings whose luster I could keep in check if I wanted. The world is within me, and I exist through the world.
   Did I know, when I let the first sentences of the book invade me, did I know that it would lead me from threshold to threshold to the summer of death?

– Jabés, The Book of Questions (trans. R. Waldrop)