Either woe or well-being, sometimes I have a craving to be engulfed.
______________________________________________ --- A Lover’s Discourse, Roland Barthes
(1) By A Matter Of Degree
By a matter of degree, I find that there are more ways than one to shiver in the heat of the moment. It is over 100 degrees, and yet I find myself shivered at a single moment of pleasure. This is a muted pleasure, one that is caused out of resistance to its being, but all combinations of physical and mental situations cause a precise reaction precisely because it is unique. I cannot choose this reaction any more than I am able to recreate it absolutely. Each moment is unique, by a matter of degrees, and that fact instills in us a certain anxiety. I don’t want to feel this again. Damn, how to I get this feeling back? It is not unusual for us to constantly tread the waters of the past in order to relocate a lost sensation – as an attempt at recreation or confirmation of its loss. Our actual loss is that of newer, less muted and more concrete pleasures: the ones that create ourselves as living things and not, simply, a library catalogue of finite memoir.
(2) Early Morning
There are few times more trumped with possibility than early in the morning. Whether by choice or not, there stills there in that quiet zone an arena of possibility that does not quite elsewhere exist in a given day. We awaken and are incessantly confronted with the challenge: which side of the bed am I to get up on? Do I quaff at possibility as a form a resistance, a fight, by curling the covers up over my head even though the heat means that will surely not last long as an option? Do I jump out of bed and into a cold shower, squelching the notion of desire by flooding it down the drain and yet still remain refreshed?
Do I pour myself another cup of coffee and stare out the window until it becomes time to either jump out of it or just walk out the door?
This is the space where action meets action. The sun shines brightest then, and by doing so we are blinded, unable to see things with any amount of clarity. We are too busy with the day-to-day business of being alive and living in a world where others are also alive. This is literally a retarded notion. Of course we are alive.
To be otherwise would render all meaning moot.
(4) Late Night
This is when all of the day’s exclusions come to a front like a bad habit. All of our worst habits tend to manifest late at night. Our fears succumb to darkness where the most salient fears lie; where our tenderness reaches out for a likewise cuddle and can be dismissed as a sheer pointlessness because our cuddle does not really love us just as we feared. It is the time when most of us grope and fondle the darkness as if there was something there on the other end of our reach. This is meant as much mental as physical, though physical reaching tends to happen the most at night. When our others sometimes come and call us for a drink and – as opposed to spending another night in – we accept and tremble and are disappointed. There is nothing about love that isn’t disappointing. It is our acceptance of it this that makes it true.
(5) Private Image-Systems of Solitude
Our own anxiety is private, and yet we always seem to manage to make it public. The need, nay, requirement to announce it so it can be shared shapes our own feelings about it in a form of a fiction, almost a farce. This isn’t really me I’m talking about! as if there is truly a difference between “me” and “I”. Others sit and nod and share similar experiences to make us feel better, and thus also shed themselves of their own anxiety. And we all sit and sip beers and smile at one another as if looking into a mirror, hoping or begging for the reflection to be a reality.
This natural image-system is one of pure solitude. There is no other there to reflect on as we are too removed from reality to respond to it. It is there, surely, we see it, but we do not respond to it in any useful way. It is like seeing the image of a person swimming in a magazine and thinking to oneself Yes! I have done that before and I know I still can!
The trouble is in moving from the image to the thought to the actual action.
Things are easier thought than done. This idea makes everyone a conceptualist at heart.
All images tend toward a masturbatory impulse. Therein proceeds an impulse at action, of pleasure, of the desire for what one sees. It is an action that relegates the image to that of a totem, a thing to proceed upon or reject entirely. The heat of this moment of purpose lends itself to a multitude of errors: why did I do this for this reason? why did I react in a way counter to my own intuition? why did I simply just sit there?
The image-system is a fraud. The blind are no less human than the image seekers, and are hardly blind to suffering or anxiety. The very act of not seeing what is in front of you is both impossible to comprehend for most and yet, somehow, oddly comforting.
(6) The Neutral Adjunct
If we demand our sorrows to be heard, we are left with nothing but a selfish self. This, in a way, makes us totally neutral. We are offering our heat, our anxious self our to the other in order to be seen, to be heard, to be felt. It is in feeling that we can acquire an essence of being even if that feeling of being is a phantom to our own selves. There is no sincere absolute to the being neutral, or natural. The fluidity is as natural as a turn of the head when your name is called out into the air. As a neutral person, you suffer four times over: because you blame yourself for a lack of feeling; because you feel within yourself for a lack of feeling a distance from the world that is feeling so much around you; because you have become the subject of recourse to those around you who feel they feel more than you do; because you are crazy, aggressive in your crazy, and yet, common.
(7) Bad News
It happens all the time. Within time, we’re more able to deal; yet that doesn’t make it any easier. But here there are always risks when dismissing or even accepting the bad news. Either will elicit a specific response within; a tear or a bounce or an unfortunate trip.
There is usually only a single appropriate way to deal with Bad News: to wait and see.
(8) Deaf, Blind and Dumb & Crazed
In August, 2004, I moved to San Francisco to attend graduate school in poetics. While an aesthetic world expanded to me in huge horizons, my personal world was in a mix of eruption, corruption, and loss. There was change, all around. The ability to function within that change made me anxious, as the fog rolled in and things became far less clear than there were a year ago. No, that is incorrect. The anxiety was always there, had been for years, and it was only the shock of the new to make change happen.
I wasn’t listening to what was being told to me. I wasn’t reacting in any reasonable way, like a child who stomps around when candy is not only not offered but also actively denied. I heard what I wanted to and wished it to be true.
I didn’t see the things that were so apparent a monkey would call me a monkey if he had the words. There were instances where the newness seemed fresh and adored with possibility, and yet that possibility included within it the things I did not desire. The things I did see – the things I liked – were gorgeous; those I failed to see were devastating.
I made mistakes. I made mistakes. I made mistakes and mistakes and mistakes and then I stopped.
I threw myself into the possibility, no longer anxious – the heat had been subsided by the fog, which only later cleared and now, in essence, left one with a mid-coast climate that was comfortable. There was an air about it that seemed crazed – more the person I used to be compared to that which I had become. I filled each hour with absurd nonsense – all the way along the street up the hill and into the park and back again. I learned how many fingers I had on each hand and how best to use them with strangers. I ghettoized my folk-self and turned a cosmopolitan tipping of the hat towards the East, for better or for worse. There was an entirely subjective bag of tricks in my lap.
The embrace of change had led to a minor of paranoia that does not tend to go away.
(9) The First Minor of Paranoia
The body was divided. On one side, the usual suspects: the bones, the skin, the guts that gurgle; on the other was a remainder, a voice – a purpose that has no need to shit out that what it no longer needs; it actively collects it, as a reserve. This divide was hot with anxiety – the first body wanted nothing but to rid itself of its old skin and did so every night; the other body was skeptical of the loss and worried the first body was out to consume it, to flush it down the toilet and seep it off into the Hudson River and the rest of the world thereafter. The second body was a minutia of paranoise spending the nights keeping itself clean so as not to be discarded, yet only further making itself utterly consumable, and therefore, disposable.
(10) The Structure of Freedom As an Absolute
The structure of freedom as an absolute is basically: I like this, I don’t like this. And this is of absolutely no relation to anyone outside of those who speak it. And yet we speak of freedoms as if in code – our own free desires, if similar to yours, will make us free to be friends. But this, then, obliges us to accept the things we don’t like in another that we call friend. If you make too much noise, your are impinging on my freedom as a way to alter your own. We can still have lunch together, I just won’t talk to you.
This attitude makes me anxious within myself as it does within others. This is where the body becomes apparent: are we friends with the body of another or is the body simply the vehicle for friendship?
The quote: If you cut off my head, what would I say? Me and my head, or me and my body? What right has my head to call itself me? is not only true of the one body, yours, but the other one as well.
What right does a you have to call another body a friend?
(11) A Few Other Things That Matter By Degree(s)
The risk of speaking about yourself is that you’ll be heard.
A young couple comes to my apartment, sits down, and wonders to themselves why I am alone. They speak to one another in the tone of those who have spent many hours together and know how to maneuver a conversation together in a way that that will both agree upon, later, as being totally appropriate and useful. Their worry, they worry, is totally justified because I am not them and therefore must be filled with anxiety and heat and regret and a host of other notions they claim to be void of. And good for them. Each of them told me, privately – which I am now making public – that the other fell, drunk on the sidewalk outside my door and slapped him while he denied her oral sex back in the place they were staying. The combination of companionship and sex is a messy kind of hot anxiety indeed.
Pornography justifies itself because we desire it, men more than others.
Narrow-mindedness is a matter that makes anxiety more anxious. We all feel our own thoughts are as broad as they could be – the broadness being the limit to our consciousness. But this is simply not so. Those of us who claim “open-minded” or “up-for-anything” are, in fact, kidding ourselves to the facts of the case. We all have our limits of endurance and are not afraid to say so when confronted with something that we simply cannot handle. This, though, functions less of being narrow-minded, any more than those whose limits of mind reach less to our minds than that of those whom we call our friends.
There is no narrow- or short- or broad- to the minded as such: there is only the minded.