He had given up trying to buy her presents. Although they were always graciously received, they went unworn into her cavernous wardrobe. He had always tried to choose things he thought she might like: a turquoise silk sari, a heavy Bishnoi skirt, purple jackboots, and she did admit to liking them very much, yet in practice it seemed she did not like them enough to wear them. It was as if his choices were just sufficiently off-target to make them impossible for her. He tried to imagine her wearing them, and failed. It felt like he could never get it exactly right, never make that perfect choice. The very fact that it was him who had chosen automatically made it wrong. He yearned for a lost perfection.
He felt like this in many other aspects of his life, these days. Where once they fitted together perfectly, now he felt he was obscurely the wrong shape. She patiently observed his wrongness without comment. He had evidently failed in some way and he could not identify it. Months of living with this sensation had changed his face, or so it seemed to him. He appeared permanently disappointed, a vague expression of confusion around the eyes. He felt old and wrong and discarded by life.
Before, when things were good, when they were both in full flight from circumstance and society, when they dared to come together despite the mounting avalanche of consequences, then they felt alive and perfect. It was the usual temporary madness of course, but it had made them feel immortal, capable of evading every hindrance and snare. In reality they were in freefall, blithely ignoring the ground that was rushing up to meet them, the jagged rocks of divorce, separation, child-custody, grief and regret. The impact when it came broke him to pieces. He had had to rebuild himself bit by bit, and even now he felt he had misplaced some vital parts of himself, whether by accident or design. A thing that has been broken and then mended cannot be as beautiful as when it was whole. He felt the stitching showed all over his character, too tight, constraining easy motion, a stricture on grace. Moreover, he could no longer trust his judgement: he doubted his passions, his hesitancies, the simplest act could be the wrong act. He felt crippled from head to toe.
Some deeds wreak a violence upon the person that is irreparable, and the shattered being remembers what it was like to be whole with nauseating regret. How does a broken soul move on? Some lift up their heads and continue as if nothing untoward has happened, be it through shallowness, selfishness, or exceptional force of character. But what choice do the rest have? To makeshift, repair, cobble a personality together from the fragments. The person that he once was still determined how he felt, acted, reacted, but the catastrophe in him gave him no right to those old determinations. It was as if he was trying to follow an outdated rulebook, operating to obsolete laws in a foreign country. Too fixed to abandon his old self, those fragments jarred and ground against each other, hindering any attempt to walk freely.
He had diminished himself in his own eyes. The workings of guilt are subtle and insidious. Forgive yourself, the smug scribes say. What right did he have to forgive himself? There was no higher power he could seek absolution from. If he discarded his own guilt, then he discarded his own agency, he reduced his actions to nothingness. His ego was too strong for that. To lose his guilt would be to doubly betray the people he had hurt. He would sooner bear the weight of responsibility - I hurt people and I care that I did - than to shrug it off with a so what? His sense of badness had become attached to his sense of self, his punishment was his validation. As for the duration of his punishment, he could not see so far ahead.
He knew what he should try to do. He should try to be more than his own guilt and brokenness, to remake himself alongside himself, to give himself somewhere to feel good, renewed, to diminish that corrupted part of him by growing a new self. But it is so hard. He tried to be generous, kind, patient, responsible, but his doubts nagged him constantly. He felt worthless, and arrogantly refused the good esteem of others, what little was offered to him. Perhaps he was self-indulgent, refusing to move onwards due to fear, comfortable in the familiarity of his torment. Perhaps he should make little of his guilt, even though that would be the final punishment: by diminishing the catastrophe, diminishing his part in it, removing the polluted glory of it from his spirit he could then, rightfully diminished, walk onwards. To move towards nothingness and then pass through it. To force himself to drink bitter humility and accept what he had done. But there is more than accepting the bad - the good has to be accounted for also.
The root of his fault was an overwhelming desire for the feeling of potentiality, that all things were possible, that there were an infinitude of lives he could have had. He made the mistake of allowing that sense to become real when he should have curbed it. The attraction of otherness, variety, plenitude captured his sense of judgement. He was addicted to the sense of new universes unfurling around him.
What led to this feeling? A high mood, grandiosity, delusion. An honest sense of feeling trapped in his life. An irresponsible sense of escapism. A genuine shock of ineluctable desire. In short, he was at high risk of falling in love and he did. The sensation was all-powerful, and he abandoned himself to it: it felt like a moral imperative to his existence to abandon himself to it. Chains snapped, the world turned over, calamity and disaster was symphonic music to a grand passion. The illusion of meaning had seized him.
There are some who would interpret this medically, some morally. His nature tended towards the latter. Both options were demeaning. The first said his nature could not be trusted, the second says his heart could not be trusted. There was an immense positive force propelling him in those days: it felt that he was choosing a good path, that his actions were all for the best, that the explosion that was happening inside him was glorious and illuminating.
At his most honest he wanted to become two people, maybe more. The self strives in two directions and ends up tearing itself. The part where he now resided had left part of himself behind. When he saw his children, he communed imperfectly with that lost part.
We cannot sustain these flights, and eventually reality painfully reasserts itself. If he accepted that he acted at the time under an impulse of good, no matter how it subsequently appeared to him, then maybe he could stand up and get on with life. Glorious stuff happens and shit sticks to the soul. But this world is made of blood and shit. Glory in it, and move onwards.
We are the sum of our actions and experiences. We were always destined to fall one way rather than the other. We may believe we will fall one way, and be surprised by reality. In the end all that can be said is: "I thought I would rather it had been so, but it turned out it could not." With that acceptance, one can allow one's heart to give again, to believe that one's heart has love to give. The choice is not positive acceptance or negative acceptance, but a true accounting of both sides.
It is a dreary process. Everything that was a life-affirming positive has to be reversed, like pulling the nails out of a coffin in which the humid corpse of marriage is slowly deliquescing. The eager anticipation walking up the aisle becomes a grim trudge through the threefold process of filling out arcane forms that seemed designed only to rub it in that you should really have the funds to pay a solicitor. It doesn’t help that you’ve managed to achieve a civilised separation, that you’ve even remained friends, that your children are happy and at ease with both of you, in conjunction, and apart. No, the Petitioner and the Respondent, like two jousting knights, are forced into a simulacrum of battle, when all that should be exchanged is a smile and a sigh.
SCENE: A dark room, intermittent whining. Single bulb illuminates chiaroscuro.
I: I’ve been bitten again.
D: Where this time?
I: Left eyelid.
I: And my left buttcheek.
D: Serves you right for wearing those hot pants.
I: I only wore them to please you. You always say how you like a curvy cheeky buttock peeping.
D: Did I? I may have been drunk. Does it itch yet?
I: No. I think I’ll take my pants off in the forlorn hope I get bitten precisely on the clitoris, because that would be, like, so hot, man.
D: The insertion of the proboscis into your tender nubbin, like an inverted fuck-possession?
I: The very thought makes my quim twitch uncontrollably.
D: So, shall we go and see the latest Beckett production?
I: No. I need a poo.
Nothing of any art-value feels important anymore. I have read all the novels and stories, and anything new is just a rehash of something old. Every image I see deafens me with the echo of others I have seen before. Every outrage on the planet is just deja vu. Perhaps all this means it is time to die. What else to do apart from become a Diogenes, irritating everyone, just because one can? I want to live in a world where the concept of hope (that evilest of evils, according to the Greeks) is alive again. But there is no hope. This world is dizzy with the acceleration of the vortex as it flows down the plughole of its own arse.
Well, I went and sat through the five hours of back-to-back screenings of Lars von Trier's tormented ejaculation last night. From the oblique musical nod to Funny Games at the beginning, to the wonderful auditory shorthand of the ending, this film plays every trick with the weariness of a carcinogenic card-sharp suffering from delerium tremens. That's enough film-critic parody. A few brief notes.
Audience demographic. Male. Age-range, evenly spread. Over-representation of hipster-beards. Female. An inverted bell-curve. Many students, all curls and bobbly scarves, and some wise old birds, elegant in their understated attire.
Humour. It is a very funny film, but that depends on your sense of humour. It was often hard to tell if the humour was unintentional - it being LvT, I found myself generous enough to give him the benefit of the doubt. Self-parody is taken to new heights or depths.
Sex and filfth. There was nothing I hadn't done and had done to me, therefore there was nothing that widened my eyes. I may be broad-minded, or perhaps I'm a disgusting pervert, or just honest, but I would imagine one would have had to have led a very sheltered life to find the sexual content challenging or shocking.
Shock. Two scenes did punch me. They didn't involve sex. (In fact, boringly, they were mindlessly referential, but worked brilliantly.) The first made me speak out loud, involuntarily: "O Christ, Lars, not again." to general sympathy in my neighbouring rows of the auditorium. (It was a fair bet most of the audience had seen all of LvT's previous films.)
Positives. I was first to the bar in the 15 minute interval. Stacy Martin's arse. The audience.
Negatives. Charlotte Gainsbourg's voice and enunciation. Great performance, body-doubles and all, but a voice-double would have been better.
To sum up. Any LvT film is worth it because he is a consummate piss-taking anti-nihilist with no answers. No matter how he postures under his cloud of bitter, twisted, despairing bile, the gleam of an innocent childlike hope beams through. Don't go to see this film if you lack empathy or a sense of humour.
Not much to ask is it? After four years of love and sturm and drang? Just a little token. Just a statement that on this feast-day I will voluntarily say "I Love You", and let's forget the shit.
Well. No. We can talk about the late-capitalist commercialisation of the Day till the cows come home, and hopefully get well-fucked by their bull. Wrong season. Or we could talk about the socio-philosophico-ambient-spacialness of the concept of the Deme(a)ned within the the Demen(e)se. Or something
But on Valentine's Day, poor subjugated martyr, I just want my lover to say I LOVE YOU.
What a pain they are! They don't think like you, they don't see like you, they don't hear like you, and they certainly don't feel like you.
The other is the attraction. The otherness of the other. But there is the cosy part of yourself that wants your other to be similar. I can only put it down to a conflict of ape and aspiration.
Still makes me want to tear my own head off and drink the spurting blood from my neck-stump into my gaping maw held between my own bodily loving hands.
Bloke walks into a bar. Bar reconfigures molecules and they perform an incredible material synthesis that even Feuerbach would approve of. Ok....
Confessional, that's it isn't it? The joke is dead. Ok, hands up who has ever tasted their own poo? I see a few hands courageously creeping towards the ceiling - ah, they're going down - too late in the 2nd row, your girlfriend saw you, didn't you darling? Ok. In that case hands up who's tasted their own pee-pee? Ah many more hands. Good - an honest audience. For the fella - every partaken of the bleachy-fish-teaspoon? All of you - very good. I applaud you. No - I applaud you - you don't need to clap just because I am. Girls ever tasted - oh we fellas know you're all filthy cats. Of course you have. Put your hands down! Are you proud? How can you be Madonna and whore without the whore bit edited for the sake of the children? No, Madam. Not that Madonna.
Anyway, that's as funny as Gary Numan at a hen-night. Actually that is funny. Or (Frank Skinner) Jimmy Savile at a school disco, or (that Carr twat) Osama Bin Laden at a 9/11 memorial, or (someone else) Iain Duncan Smith at an Auschwich reunion.
Problem with comedians, for immortals like me, is that as soon as you get the tone, you know every joke. Shock wears thin. How can you tell your sisters started her period, etc. The tragedy of comedy, is that nothing is very funny in this world. The act of laughter, when we consider it, is absolutely forced. Is life different for you? I wonder.
Pray, forgive me my ponderings and questions. I'm in a confessional at the moment as a never-Catholic-enough to call myself lapsed. I'm a locally entropy-reducing material complexity with a net-decrease in wider entropy thing. It's called life. We build to destroy more utterly. We condense for the ultimate aim of making everything bland.
In other words, true freedom is the realisation that it does not matter what we do, and the courage to accept the deal. So, let's just go along for the ride.
I am not myself today. Anthracite poisoning? Well, just dirty old housecoal really. I just like the word anthracite. So, let there be anthracite. And the heavens and the waters separated and it was jolly good of course, despite Beelzebub.
But still, waking naked with the sick realisation that my teeth were about to break, and that I had consumed half a lump of coal. I wasn't even drunk, more's the pity. My guts have felt rather rotten all day. Not looking forward to the scratchy poo.
I burned what was left of the lump.
My head has been going strange. I am still well enough to notice the cracks, chasms, rifts, slits in time and space, but not well enough to understand how or when I am crossing them - oh tricksy tightrope of cunnilingual nonsense! Yes I get scared sometimes, though I can inspect myself (O brave clinician!) but that's no use for the crevasse wanking.
Strange lycanthropic leprosy of the mind. Lunacy not idiocy. This world disgusts me. I'm sure it was seeing that inevitable ghastly headline about that poor Edinburgh toddler finished me off last night.
Plan. Boys are delighted to be allowed to cook. Everyone needeth bathing, baptismal batholitic scrubs and operations to be as white as snow wash me in the water you washed your dirty daughter in... Clean clothes for school. Tainted world.
Looked down a well today, guess what it told me? Crammed with invisible corpses of course. What else shouldn't be in there?
I reflected on the last six years last night until I held them in my mouth like a worm-blushed plum. And then verily I lost my clothes and ate coal and I don't know how I got there.
Firstly I realised (an utterly unbiased opinion) that there is some rather fine writing on here, so decided it may as well be public again if it helps anyone in a hole.
Secondly, the Atos gits still haven't got me in for a medical and the file is growing, involving MPs, the relevant minister, and all sorts. Fight, not flight, even if that is ill-advised. Bring it on, Nazis!
Thirdly, I remembered today what a lifeline this old blog was in some strange times. Thanks to everyone who contributed.
Lastly, strange times never go away. We just get better at navigating. Anyway, enjoy, and if it helps someone, somewhere, then that is all to the good. Dx
And if I laugh at any mortal thing, 'Tis that I may not weep; and if I weep, 'Tis that our nature cannot always bring Itself to apathy, which we must steep First in the icy depths of Lethe's spring Ere what we least wish to behold will sleep; Thetis baptized her mortal son in Styx; A mortal mother would on Lethe fix.
~ George Gordon Noel Byron ~ Don Juan, Canto IV, 4.
It is thus that the few rare lucid well-disposed people who have had to struggle on the earth find themselves at certain hours of the day or night in the depth of certain authentic and waking nightmare states, surrounded by the formidable suction, the formidable tentacular oppression of a kind of civic magic which will soon be seen appearing openly in social behavior. - Antonin Artaud