24 July 2017

Who deserves this?

Dear diary,

First I'll throw Twin Peaks: The Return in the can. Warning: no spoilers ahead. After watching the eleventh hour when it aired last night, I say that the third, fourth, and eighth are still the only sublime ones. There's nothing more worth talking about: the show is lousy. I see that people online are thrilled with every new episode, and that professional websites dedicate entries to "decoding" the mysteries and meanings of this catnap. Such energy would be better spent on other films. Somewhere out there is a daring young artist who has, whether finished already or waiting to be made, her own Eraserhead, her own Ronnie Rocket, her own Blue Velvet, her own Mulholland Drive (plus, say, her own 1990's Twin Peaks) yet who is relegated to obscurity because all audiences are fixed on the bloated, blunted, barely inspired late-projects of Lynch. Lynch is a master, but gol darn the art world needs fresh blood.

We should demand that creators entice us, before spending our time filling their blanks.

What's the secret to making great, lasting art? There is no secret; and a zillion things conspire, both in front of and behind reality's drape (things that are in one's control and things that are beyond one's control), to bring about magic. But it seems that nothing that truly comes from the heart can fail. So the secret is to act from the heart, and with earnestness. Anything will succeed, even wit or cleverness, when part of an earnestly heartfelt impulse.

Yet when I say that an artwork will succeed, what is my definition of such success? "Great and lasting"? Why not "small and ephemeral"? Well I like small art, especially in the sense of unobtrusive. And even ephemeral things at least can seem... what, relaxing? But is soothing really a quality to be striven for? Maybe because we mortals, when considering the vastness of the infinite realm in which we find ourselves, feel small and ephemeral; and this frightens us, and we crave relaxation from the pressure of necessity—"you must strive" and "you must end"—so we value two very different kinds of art: that which offers us repose from life's connate terror; and that which is great and lasting: rare, unlike us. Or not unlike us entirely, but like our best qualities and unlike our worst. And what are the best and worst qualities of humankind? The best are our tendencies toward harmoniousness: the way we can preserve and even foster our strangeness as individuals while yet achieving and maintaining a type of oneness via the mind. I hadn't re-read Breton's manifestoes of surrealism until recently, and right away, in the first one (from 1924), I was pleased to be reminded that he too centers upon the imagination, just like my personal savior Blake (I only joke about salvation to ease it of its cumbersome weight: it has become a millstone necklace when it should be a lucky break like a cool breeze or a rescuing-from-the-workaday), although Breton reaches this core by way of his concept of freedom. It's unfortunate how besmirched that "f"-word has become in early 21st-century U.S.A., but I can dust off the term for the sake of...

Here, I'll copy a short poetic burst in praise of youthful nonchalance, and then I'll give the passage about freedom and imagination.

Children set off each day without a worry in the world. Everything is near at hand, the worst material conditions are fine. The woods are white or black, one will never sleep.

I now realize that I myself am the opposite of nonchalant, at least its etymological root. Having chosen that word to describe the above, I wondered if I was using it passably; "non-" is a familiar and obvious prefix, so I was curious to know the origins of the second element—here's what my dictionary says:

Chalant is the Old French present participle of the verb chaloir, meaning "to be concerned." This in turn came from the Latin word cal─ôre, which from its concrete sense "to be hot or warm" developed the figurative sense "to be roused or fired with hope, zeal, or anger."

I am nothing if not fired with hope zeal AND anger. I am non-nonchalant. Totally uncool. And I realized the other night, when we went out to eat with some friends from my sweetheart's music store, that I swirl my hands incessantly when I talk; thus I began worrying, after the evening was over (which is the best time to worry), that people will assume, because of this wild rambling way of speech that I exhibit plus the accompanying hand motions, that I am a fan of our current president. So I want to stress that I am not. But our current president does, I admit it, in his manners of automatic speechifying, remind me of a surrealist gone bad. Rotten apple. Rogue agent. But here's the paragraph that I really wanted to share, so that when our galaxy goes the way of the Pequod and this weblog becomes its Ishmael, whoever or whatever appears afterwards to puzzle over these remains might find in them something like that gem from Hart Crane's poem "At Melville's Tomb": a silent answer creeping across the stars.

The mere word "freedom" is the only one that still excites me. I deem it capable of indefinitely sustaining the old human fanaticism. It doubtless satisfies my only legitimate aspiration. Among all the many misfortunes to which we are heir, it is only fair to admit that we are allowed the greatest degree of freedom of thought. It is up to us not to misuse it. To reduce the imagination to a state of slavery—even though it would mean the elimination of what is commonly called happiness—is to betray all sense of absolute justice within oneself. Imagination alone offers me some intimation of what can be, and this is enough to remove to some slight degree the terrible injunction; enough too, to allow me to devote myself to it without fear of making a mistake (as though it were possible to make a bigger mistake). Where does it begin to turn bad, and where does the mind's stability cease? For the mind, is the possibility of erring not rather the contingency of good?

I love this. It lures me to conclude that what we revere as Science is a mental dead-end. Not that Science is useless (on the contrary: it is not nearly useless enough!) or that we should cease to revere it—as it is written: Hurrah for positive science! long live exact demonstration! [...] Gentlemen, to you the first honors always! / Your facts are useful, and yet they are not my dwelling, / I but enter by them to an area of my dwelling. ("Song of Myself" again; sec. 23.) We simply put too much trust in empiricism nowadays. There is more to heaven and earth than is contained in our philosophy. And the choice to expand oneself with the humanities need not necessitate abandonment of Science Technology Engineering Mathematics; so why do those S.T.E.M. academies excommunicate the Arts?

I share enthusiastically Breton's aim towards POTENTIAL ("Imagination alone offers me some intimation of what can be...") — that is in fact what I tell passersby was my constant goal in writing all my half-sensical books. I never had any overarching intention, but you could call that my overarching intention. One can't represent energetic possibility with what is already known – in order to evoke it, you have to break forms and abuse them. The weakest act is to abuse your fellow beings; the strongest act is to abuse conventions of thought. I will not cease the mental fight. And Breton's last insinuation here: "For the mind, is the possibility of erring not rather the contingency of good?" – this is marvelous: it soars beyond good and evil by transvaluing the terms, as Nietzsche showed us the way. What we think of as the trunk of the problem, its birthplace or singularity, is that early story in Genesis, where the first humans stretch forth their hands and take and eat of the fruit of the tree of wisdom: they partake of the knowledge of all, from good to evil. They ignore the pre- and pro-scriptions of those master-slave terms. Note that this act, which their overseer labels a "sin" or error, is actually what relieves them of their serfdom to the LORD.

*

You can call this entry done now, but I gotta complain about some stuff. All the above I wrote yesterday morning; then I got a message from my mother saying that she wants to meet and have lunch. And my sister would show up later in the afternoon, too.

There's no bad feelings between any of us, and no arguments or clashes of any kind ever happen, but I have to admit: I've reached a point where I simply cannot communicate with my mother or my sister anymore. It's nobody's fault; we're just different species of being.

My mother was most concerned about her church's pastor's wife – I can't remember the woman's name, so I'll call her Christina, for that is basically Christ with an ina at the end. My mom said: "The ladies," meaning apparently certain regular churchgoers, "don't like the fact that, right after the election, Christina went out to one of those women's marches instead of supporting our new U.S. president who is a bible-believing leader chosen by God." Now, for my part, not wanting to ruin our relationship, I realized (after a few exasperated attempts) that it was impossible for me to respond to this without malice; so I silently seethed.

You know what? I don't even want to note for the record how credulous my mother's political beliefs have become. She doesn't even possess any religious or spiritual beliefs anymore: it's all become political jingoism. I'm embarrassed for her.

And my sister cares about only one thing in the whole wide world; and that is: dating. She told us that all she wants is for us to ask her about her so-called love life; at any given family gathering, if no one asks her about her so-called love life, she goes home angry. This she admitted in the spirit of righteous indignation. And there was nothing light or comical about her admission.

My sister used to date this guy, but now this guy is dating this other girl; and back in the day when my sister was dating this other girl's current date, this other girl happened to be dating the guy that my sister just went on her most recent date with. That's the big news. My sister is really interested in this latest date because he possesses behind-the-scenes info about my sister's previous date. And my sister cannot stand her previous date. Only her current date is the right date for her.

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