Microagression

Cuando estaba sentada al atardecer a la puerta de mi casa, acertó a pasar un joven. Me miró, volví la cabeza. Me habló, no le respondí.

Quiso acercárseme. Cogí una hoz apoyada en el muro y le habría hendido la cara si avanzare un paso más.

Entonces, reculando un poco, sonrió; y soplando hacia mi  en el hueco de su mano me dijo: “Recibe este beso”. Y grité, y lloré tanto que acudió mi madre.

Agitada, creyendo que me había picado un escorpión. Yo lloraba: “Me ha besado”. Y mi madre me besó también llevándome en sus brazos.

Pierre Louÿs, The Songs of Bilitis, Pedestrian.

 

Binaries

There’s an established way, in literature and in pictures, as epitomized in Maugham’s The Moon and Sixpence, of portraying artistic passion as an inescapable, self-destructing, unstoppable, amoral urge to create.

Two films I’ve recently seen conform to this pattern. La Belle Noiseuse (Jacques Rivette, 1991) tells the story of a painter. It’s three hours fifty-eight minutes of painting. A naked model, for your information, who must surely hold the record of more time nude in a single scene. Not that the film’s great —but it conveys the passion, the need, the insanity.

A little more morbid but equally effective is Philip Kaufman’s Quills (2000), which freely portrays the Marquis de Sade at the mental asylum he was secluded in sometime in his life, privileged as an inmate as long as he’s allowed to write, until that comes to an end.

P.S.

PUZZLE (2018), directed by Marc Turtletaub. Not the typical tale of a woman realizing her potential, but rather a subtle, and remarkably not moving, portrayal of the different natural ways, good or bad, useful or harmful, in which ordinary men and ordinary women see the world around and interact with it.

You can also take the symbolic path and see here the story of Adam and Eve, retold, with the divine retribution being that of I’ll make it harder for you male to understand female, and for you female to understand male.

Round Trip

FLANDERS. I got there last December. Brussels, Bruges, Ghent —very fine. They’re too loud, though. Quite a thing, the Atomium, by the way. Cold, but that’s OK. What it isn’t is the sun —boy, it seems incapable of rising more than thirty or thirty-five degrees each day; rather a self-conscious sun, you would say. Beautiful bleak landscapes. I found Brussels about ten or fifteen years behind cities in Spain —that’s a lot of room for it to become further spoiled at the hands of dutiful city-planner officers and political modelers. Got a little surprised at myself with an unexpected, and not necessarily welcome interest in paintings, statues, buildings and that etcetera I never had found myself genuinely interested in. As a matter of fact, afterwards and from the comfort of my desktop I spent several afternoons virtually visiting the museums I didn’t have the time, the money or the will to visit in situ.

MY PEN. I bought a fountain pen and started writing with it. When I saw that was the thing to write with, I got myself another one for work. Cheap ones, I mean —priced between twenty and thirty euros; I wonder what a 1 500 euros’s one could do for me that these ones don’t. If someone knows please tell me in the comments.

A month ago I found my pen at work missing. Someone had obviously taken it. I’m happy with myself about how I handled the matter. Experience has taught me 1) There’s always a kleptomaniac at every workplace; 2) The typical reaction is to highly voice the subtraction in an indignant way 3) Which only makes the innocent (all of your workmates but one) feel offended while leaving the culprit frolicking now that everyone else’s a suspect.

So instead I said nothing. No fuss. It was part strategy and part, knowing 1), penitence —I should’ve known better. I started collecting my things at the end of my workday and locking them inside my table drawer —I knew only one person would notice.

Last day when I sat on my table I saw my fountain pen waiting for me there.

 

The Sobering Process

CATHOLIC CONFESSION

Within the Christian body, for which repentance of sins has from the beginning been the critical religious act, healthy-mindedness has always come forward with its milder interpretation. Repentance according to such healthy-minded Christians means getting away from the sin, not groaning and writhing over its commission. The Catholic practice of confession and absolution is in one of its aspects little more than a systematic method of keeping healthy-mindedness on top. By it a man’s accounts with evil are periodically squared and audited, so that he may start the clean page with no old debts inscribed. Any Catholic will tell us how clean and fresh and free he feels after the purging operation.

ABOUT THE NATURE OF EVIL

On the whole, the Latin races have leaned more towards the former way of looking upon evil, as made up of ills and sins in the plural, removable in detail; while the Germanic races have tended rather to think of Sin in the singular, and with a capital S, as of something ineradicably ingrained in our natural subjectivity, and never to be removed by any superficial piecemeal operations.

THE EPICUREAN AND THE STOIC

The difference between Greek pessimism and the oriental and modern variety is that the Greeks had not made the discovery that the pathetic mood may be idealized, and figure as a higher form of sensibility. Their spirit was still too essentially masculine for pessimism to be elaborated or lengthily dwelt on in their classic literature.

Stoic insensibility and Epicurean resignation were the farthest advance which the Greek mind made in that direction. The Epicurean said: “Seek not to be happy, but rather to escape unhappiness; strong happiness is always linked with pain; therefore hug the safe shore, and do not tempt the deeper raptures. Avoid disappointment by expecting little, and by aiming low; and above all do not fret.” The Stoic said: “The only genuine good that life can yield a man is the free possession of his own soul; all other goods are lies.”

Each of these philosophies is in its degree a philosophy of despair in nature’s boons. Trustful self-abandonment to the joys that freely offer has entirely departed from both Epicurean and Stoic; and what each proposes is a way of rescue from the resultant dust-and-ashes state of mind. The Epicurean still awaits results from economy of indulgence and damping of desire. The Stoic hopes for no results, and gives up natural good altogether. There is dignity in both these forms of resignation. They represent distinct stages in the sobering process which man’s primitive intoxication with sense-happiness is sure to undergo. In the one the hot blood has grown cool, in the other it has become quite cold; and although I have spoken of them in the past tense, as if they were merely historic, yet Stoicism and Epicureanism will probably be to all time typical attitudes, marking a certain definite stage accomplished in the evolution of the world-sick soul.

PATHOLOGICAL MELANCHOLY

We have seen how the lustre and enchantment may be rubbed off from the goods of nature. But there is a pitch of unhappiness so great that the goods of nature may be entirely forgotten, and all sentiment of their existence vanish from the mental field. For this extremity of pessimism to be reached, something more is needed than observation of life and reflection upon death. The individual must in his own person become the prey of a pathological melancholy. As the healthy-minded enthusiast succeeds in ignoring evil’s very existence, so the subject of melancholy is forced in spite of himself to ignore that of all good whatever: for him it may no longer have the least reality. Such sensitiveness and susceptibility to mental pain is a rare occurrence where the nervous constitution is entirely normal; one seldom finds it in a healthy subject even where he is the victim of the most atrocious cruelties of outward fortune.

William James, Varieties of Religious Experience.

Aunque sea un instante

deseamos descansar. Soñamos con dejarnos.

No sé, pero en cualquier lugar

con tal de que la vida deponga sus espinas.

[…]

Se olvida

pronto, se olvida el sudor de tantas noches,

la nerviosa ansiedad que amarga el mejor logro.

 

De En una despedida:

Tardan las cartas y son poco

para decir lo que uno quiere.

Después pasan los años, y la vida

(demasiado confusa para explicar por carta)

nos hará más perdidos.

 

De Amistad a lo largo:

Ahora sí. Pueden alzarse

las gentiles palabras

—esas que ya no dicen cosas—,

flotar ligeramente sobre el aire.

[…]

Detrás de cada uno

vela su casa, el campo, la distancia.

 

De Contra Jaime Gil de Biedma:

¡Oh innoble servidumbre de amar seres humanos,

y la más innoble

que es amarse a sí mismo!

 

De Antes de ser maduro:

Envejecer tiene su gracia.

Es igual que de joven

aprender a bailar, pegarse a un ritmo

más insistente que nuestra inexperiencia.

Y procura también cierto instintivo

placer curioso,

una segunda naturaleza.

Jaime Gil de Biedma, Antología poética.

Filed under Beautiful excerpts #4.

2020

There’s a film, Zombieland (2009). It’s fun and well-done. In a land populated and terrorized by the walking dead a young man with a set of survival rules (Jesse Eisenberg) meets an older one with a set of craves (Woody Harrelson), who later meet a young woman (Emma Watson) with her thirteen year-old sister (Abigail Breislin) who as a team keep on conning them once and again.

Little Rock’s (the teenager) dream is to go to an amusing park in California she vaguely remembers from his childhood, where everything will be fine and zombie-free. Her sister intends to get her there no matter the cost (here the cons) to please Little Rock, but of course she is fully conscious of the delusional character of the matter. When she tells about it to the young man, he understands her motivation and says, as way of justification: It’s hard to grow up in Zombieland, to which Wichita (the older sister) simply replies: It’s hard to grow up.

M. comes of age this year.