Sunday, November 29, 2015

This forgetting is our curse

As I lay in bed earlier, I considered the distance between thought and action, whether that action be creative expression or just cleaning the apartment. At times, it seems a chasm. And the undone actions gather an almost romantic anxiety around them. They become distant and forbidding peaks of mountains ever out there on the horizon. Cloud capped castles of an opium laced dream. And I am left here in my sweat soaked bed impotent to take even the first step towards them. 

I think of Colin Wilson's Mind Parasites. What was and is still a revelation to me about that book was the day to day truth of its central conceit: that there is a parasite feeding off out our vital energies. I feel this. Of course, I feel it as an aspect of human nature and not an alien being attempting to domesticate and harvest our energies for their own use. But in my moments of paralyzed lassitude, of black depression, even the most mundane of actions seems a Herculean - better not to do it all. 

However, the instant I take action, a clarity comes over me and I see how I had been making mountains of molehills, how I had lost perspective, making fundamental errors in reasoning. The question - which I believe is at its heart a religious question - is how to keep the hold on perspective. 

This forgetting is our curse, the essence of our tragic condition.

Don't--don't hang back with the Brutes!

The apartment that where I am living is an apparent chaos of books, open boxes, papers, stacks of files and hundreds of antique shaving mugs. By these last - an inheritance of sorts - I make my livelihood. As I thread the path through it to the kitchen, I wonder if this also is a sign of the sickness, this certain disorder in my dress? A cluttered room of memory that would scandalize Simonides.

As I am heating the milk and honey, I consider that Simonides was right there in my back pocket. That's got to be a good sign. I smile at the irony that one devoted to memory practices attributed to the wily Greek might forget that name. And for the millionth time, wonder about the metaphysical mystery of Shakespeare's Young Man. That the Sonnets have, as Shakespeare himself
predicted time and time again, endured through hundreds of years as a testimony to the Young Man's beauty, but his name and identity have not.

Watched Tennessee Williams' / Kazan's Streetcar Named Desire last night. Williams is always entertaining and quotable but oddly opaque, as if the innermost watchsprings of his characters are a mystery also to him. Like Tarantino, he writes great dialogue, but to what end? It seems enough that Stanley Kowalski and Blanche Dubois are classic American archetypes, wound up to spin around the drama. But I wonder about this winding: MacGuffins stand there where primal totem poles should be, not to be questioned and existing only to power the plot along in the most entertaining way. That being said, I enjoyed the film immensely.

"Maybe we are a long way from being made in God's image, but Stella--my sister--there has been some progress since then! Such things as art--as poetry and music--such kinds of new light have come into the world since then! In some kinds of people tenderer feelings have had some little beginning! That we have got to make grow! And cling to, and hold as our flag! In this dark march toward whatever it is we're approaching. . . . Don't--don't hang back with the Brutes!"

It is just after midnight

I wake up after only a few hours of sleep. The dream is trembling there, just on the edge of being forgotten. If I keep my consciousness as still as possible, it seems as if I might be able to recollect it. I am in the middle of a room with millions of spider web threads, each connected to me. The slightest movement, difference will sever them. The intentionality of my awareness is the focused energy of a lighthouse. I try to keep it as dim as possible, but it burns through the gossamer threads of the dream, vaporizing them instantly in the light. I lay on the bed staring at nothing, the dream utterly dissipated. As it is with every other thought these days, I wonder if I am losing my mind.

I recall the first Sonnet. Recite it in lazy silence to myself, starting fast.

From fairest creatures we desire increase
That thereby Memory's Rose might never die
But as the riper should by time decease
His tender heir might bear his living...

And here I realize I've made an error. How many thousands and thousands of times have I recited Sonnet 1? Without every making that error? Beauty's Rose. Beauty's Rose. So that they quatrain finishes with "bear his living memory." That odd rhymed coupling of "never die" and "Memory." How could I forget? It is a synchdoche for the entire Sonnet sequence, a self-evident axiom, as impossible to forget as 2+2 = 4.

The dread thoughts of sickness and disease step from the shadows like a host of cartoon wolves, jackals, hyenas, snakes, foul worms and maggots. All have been down there in the rag and bone shop of my mind, gorging upon the memories that make up my mind. The totems of the Sonnets, ritually placed around the clearing of my being, have served their purpose. Like watchmen on the towers or canaries in the coal mines, by their alert and alteration, diminishment or decay, I know the Memory Worms have now arrived, those eggs of disease have now hatched and the maggots are voraciously feasting upon the essence of all that I am.

I return to the presence of Sonnet 1 and recite that entirety without error. With a sign of slight relief, as that relief one feels after checking that the doors are locked on a dark night, I rise from the bed to begin my day. It is just after midnight.