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Life in the desert

Everything that theology has thus far become must now be negated; and negated not simply because it is dead, but rather because theology cannot be reborn unless it passes through, and freely wills, its own death and dissolution. […] A theology that is open to the future must first exist in the present, not a present which is an extension of the past, but a present which is a culmination of the past, and hence for us a present which is a moment of vacuity and meaninglessness. […] Ascetic virtues can arise from the nausea and the ennui of life in the desert; a new ascetic may arise whose very weakness will give him the strength to say no to history. If our destiny is truly one of chaos, or if we must pass through chaos to reach our destiny, then we must abandon completely the cosmos of the past.

— Altizer & Hamilton, Radical Theology and the Death of God


My room is scattered with empty cans. Fragments of conduit. Each one is a segment of a pipeline that I am building, to tap and channel the subterranean currents beneath the pavements. I take my part from the current; part is expelled as breath, thought, writing, sex — clouds of alcohol breath and smoke — the remainder pours back into the subterranean rivers, through porcelain, then earthenware, finally into brick-lined catacombs. The city is an economy of liquids. Talk drips, describes liquidation of capital, flows of traffic and people, of capital crystallised into buildings tapping other credit streams. The cornucopia is filled, not with fruit, but the decayed ferment of it.

Liquid reflects; this is how we recognise ourselves in it, gazing back at us. The recognition acknowledges that we can see ourselves where we are not, but this is not what is recognised. It shows us that there is a place within us, too, where we are not.


The vast night

Often I gazed at you in wonder: stood at the window begun
the day before, stood and gazed at you in wonder. As yet
the new city seemed forbidden to me, and the strange
unpersuadable landscape darkened as though
I didn’t exist. Even the nearest Things
didn’t care whether I understood them. The street
thrust itself up to the lamppost: I saw it was foreign.
Over there–a room, feelable, clear in the lamplight–,
I already took part; they noticed, and closed the shutters.
Stood. Then a child began crying. I knew what the mothers
all around, in the houses, were capable of–, and knew
the inconsolable origins of all tears.
Or a woman’s voice sang and reached a little beyond
expectation, or downstairs an old man let out
a cough that was full of reproach, as though his body were right
and the gentler world mistaken. And then the hour
struck–, but I counted too late, it tumbled on past me.–
Like a new boy at school, who is finally allowed to join in,
but he can’t reach the ball, is helpless at all the games
the others pursue with such ease, and he stands there staring
into the distance,–where–?: I stood there and suddenly
grasped that it was you: you were playing with me, grown-up
Night, and I gazed at you in wonder. Where the towers
were raging, where with averted fate
a city surrounded me, and indecipherable mountains
camped against me, and strangeness, in narrowing circles,
prowled around my randomly flickering emotions–:
it was then that in all your magnificence
you were not ashamed to know me. Your breath moved tenderly
over my face. And, spread across solemn distances,
your smile entered my heart.

— Rilke (trans. S. Mitchell)

Better than ourselves

At bottom we are better than ourselves, since we abhor our misdeeds.

— Strindberg