Monthly Archives: May 2011

Surrender

A shadow hangs over us. A long shadow, from the cloud that appeared when we first dared to address God. How long is the shadow? How far must we go to get out from under it? Likewise, a shadow hangs over you. A long shadow, from the cloud that appeared when I was born in you. How long is the shadow? How far must you go to get out from under it? But I’m telling you there is no getting out, only surrender will let the light through, will make life light. To get free of God we must first surrender to each other. A mutual surrender. But how hard even that is!

Running

But the rages were the worst, like a great wind suddenly rising in me, no, I can’t describe. It wasn’t the violence getting worse in any case, nothing to do with that, some days I would be feeling violent all day and never have a rage, other days quite mild for me and have four or five. No, there’s no accounting for it, there’s no accounting for anything, with a mind like the one I always had, always on the alert against itself, I’ll come back on this perhaps when I feel less weak. There was a time I tried to get relief by beating my head against something, but I gave it up. The best thing I found was to start running.

Beckett, From an Abandoned Work

A noble death

You longed for the days of heretics, for the days of revolutionaries, didn’t you? When there was still such a thing as heretics and revolutionaries. As long as it was a quick death, you said, a quick chop, a merciful end, you wouldn’t care if it was noble. Sometimes you even longed for a death at the hands of a criminal, didn’t you? Take whatever you want, you’d say, just make sure you kill me. Or the police! I don’t care what you think I’ve done, you’d say, spreading out your arms, shoot me just in case, shoot me now.

‘We ought to get away from here’

‘Andreas. We ought to take a trip somewhere. We ought to get away from here. It would do us both good.’
‘I want so much to say yes.’
‘I want to say l’ll ask Elis to lend us the money. At the same time, a wall grows up. I can’t speak or show you I’m happy. I know it’s you, but l can’t reach you. Do you understand?’
‘I understand very well.’
‘I’m outside that wall. I’ve shut myself out. I’ve fled. Now I’m so far away.’
‘I understand. I know how strange it feels.’
‘Yes, it is strange. I want to be warm and tender and alive. I want to make a move. But you know how afraid – ‘
‘It’s like a dream. You want to move but can’t. Your legs and arms are as heavy as lead. You try to talk but can’t.’
‘I’m afraid of humiliation. It’s an everlasting misery. I’ve accepted the humiliations and let them sink into me. Do you understand?’
‘Yes, I understand.’
‘It’s terrible to be a failure. People think they have the right to tell you what to do. Their well-meaning contempt. That brief desire to trample on something living.’
‘You needn’t – ’
‘I’m dead. No, that’s wrong. Melodramatic. I’m not dead at all. But I live without self-respect. I know – it sounds ridiculous, pretentious. Most people have to live without a sense of self-esteem. Humiliated at heart, stifled and spat upon. They’re alive, and that’s all they know. They know of no alternative. Even if they did, they’d never reach out for it. Can one be sick with humiliation? Or is it a disease we’ve all caught? We talk so much about freedom. Isn’t freedom a poison to anyone who is humiliated? Or is that word a drug the humiliated use to be able to endure? I’m past living with this. I’ve given up. Sometimes I can’t stand it any more. The days drag by. I’m choked by food, by the shit I expel, the words I say. The daylight that shouts at me every morning to get up. The sleep which is only dreams that chase me. Or the darkness that rustles with ghosts and memories. Has it ever occurred to you that the worse off people are, the less they complain? In the end, they’re quite silent. They’re living creatures, with nerves, eyes, and hands, vast armies of victims and hangmen. The light that rises and falls heavily. The cold that comes. The darkness. The heat. The smell. They are all quiet… We can never leave here. I don’t believe in moving on. It’s too late. Everything’s too late.’

– Bergman, The Passion of Anna

The future

I would sum up my fear about the future in one word: boring. And that’s my one fear: that everything has happened; nothing exciting or new or interesting is ever going to happen again… the future is just going to be a vast, conforming suburb of the soul.

Ballard

Suburb

There was a suburb, wasn’t there? A suburb under a lifeless Scandinavian sky. Laid out in a grid once and for all. The suburb where your parents’ house was.

There was a wet black path through a darkening grove that seemed to take forever to walk through. Nothing stirred. A sort of eerie stillness over everything, resisting feelings. A standardised suburb in the middle of nowhere, managed down to the ground: a conquest of spontaneity. Words meant so little in a place like that, could do so little, so why talk? It was hard to explain to people, wasn’t it? Along a clean empty lane, in the gloaming. Nothing, said the dusk each evening. Wasn’t that where your dusk dread began?

Day desert, dusk dread.

You walked through the grid, towards the forest, with me trailing behind you, or pulling you along, or hovering above you. You’d sit on your damp bench by the pond, the forgotten bench that was hidden behind the reeds, that you had to negotiate your way through the tall wet grass to get to. You’d open a beer and when you’d finished a couple it would be made clear to you, as to a child being taught a lesson, that you were only half alive without them, half a person, two bottles behind. The fact of your half-existence sat before you, alongside me, like a hypothesis.

I won’t betray you, I said. You hit out at me but hit only air.

A long time

You always thought you’d live a long time, didn’t you? As if you sensed that life wasn’t short but long; that life stretched out before you, vaster than you or I could know. Yet now, as you get older, as the signs of age start to show, as I get nearer, it seems a little less likely, doesn’t it? You’re a little less sure, aren’t you? Time still stretches out, to be sure, but does it stretch out for you? Can you measure your life against it as it drags out towards infinity, passing you by?

Head in the sand

You stuck your head in the sand so no one would see you. Isn’t that what a friend once told you? One of those people who’d managed to make a smooth transition from his childhood to his adulthood and thus had made them both his own. Who laughed at stupid jokes, enjoyed the company of anyone, who seemed to float right through his life. The kind of person who could sleep anywhere. And he was right, wasn’t he, you were hiding your head in the sand, you saw it almost as clearly as him. Almost. Was that what they meant by lack of perspective, this almost?

Everything was already in place for the future, or rather out of place. Always almost out of touch, almost out of reach. Tired of being tired. Bored of being bored. Afraid of being afraid. Every accurate statement about yourself by definition kitschy, therefore by definition suspect. That was your future, wasn’t it, stretching out ahead of you…

You hated me, didn’t you? I was your future, I was what stretched out before you in silent meaningless judgement. And now? Now that the future is here, now that these words have finally come, which were out of reach then?

You knew they’d come, didn’t you? How much did you know? But that’s a pointless question, isn’t it? You already knew everything and nothing. You were your future, the future that was already gazing at you from afar. And me? Am I not your future come into its own, made slightly less alien, slightly more controllable, as you knew it would, eventually? You were old then, older than you should have been.

Some people stunt their lives by pre-empting them. I’d been born, there was no getting rid of me. To what degree were you complicit in my birth, didn’t you think it was your fault? Didn’t you think there was something fundamentally wrong with you? There was, of course, and you knew it. Why else would you hide, why else be afraid of everyone, afraid of every echo down that hall? The terror of knocks on the door, as if you were some subversive in a police state, how ridiculous! With me watching you every minute of every day. Ridiculous!

I passed judgement on you. Was that my function? I reached out to you, this disgusted you, just as you disgusted yourself. Your nerves were raw, no wonder you drank, no wonder you took everything you could get your hands on.

It soon started, didn’t it, the advice? How could it not? Everyone has something to say, everyone knows how to live. You almost preferred me, didn’t you, to all that advice that you forced yourself to take seriously yet couldn’t act on? From friends, teachers, strangers… Years were wasted like this, years are still wasted like this. Listening to you, you say. I only want to help, I say.

Bad seed

The closest we can get to a beginning is a kind of disaster. Is that too strong a word? A break. A black hole in your memory, and in mine. Do you remember the moment I was born? A series of moments, of footsteps. There was a concrete path in a courtyard full of thick green thistle. You said goodbye to your father and were left alone and all at once time slowed down, you started walking beside yourself and I was born. All at once your life changed, didn’t it? Became strange. On your way to an anonymous room, your assigned room on a hall full of strangers speaking a strange language.

You’d been a bad seed, hadn’t you? Wasn’t that why you were sent to boarding school on another continent? Was I your punishment? It seems that way, doesn’t it? Or perhaps you were my punishment, have you considered that?

There are states of mind in which time slows down as in a dream, just as survivors of car crashes report that seconds seemed to take ages. Though this was hardly a trauma.

In those moments began a year of cryptic silence. Your future was being laid out, something was already happening without your knowing it. Or did you know?

There remains an obscure part of you, something working through you that even I don’t understand. Forming or deforming you to some obscure end. Sometimes you think of it as a devil, sometimes an angel.

How often you’ve tried to imagine what your life would have become if those moments hadn’t happened, if you hadn’t suddenly dropped out of your own life, if I hadn’t appeared, hovering above you, within you. Something leaked out behind you as you walked back to your anonymous room. Perhaps these words themselves were born in those moments, only now to be written. I was born, your friend and enemy, and everything took on a double meaning.

Bored of boredom

I was beginning to realise that I had lost control – what little of it I had had in the first place, that is. No – that I had never had control. Boredom had left me behind, I had succumbed to its weight, its unheard-of centre within me. I had embraced it and it had completely consumed me and now I was bored of it. I was bored of boredom. There was nothing I could really do about this. I was like everyone else: I needed something to fill the gap, the time that dragged us, and it, along with it, to return me to the ground beneath my feet and hide away from our gaping hole like everyone else.

– Lee Rourke, The Canal