Thursday, September 4, 2008

Here and Elsewhere

Life is elsewhere.
graffiti seen by Milan Kundera during the Paris uprising, 1968
There’ve been times when I’ve been in a beautiful place, with good friends, at a show, spending time with someone I want to get to know better...and I’ve thought "man, it’d be cool to be here...doing this."... The logical fallacy isn’t exactly hard to see...but the problem remains that life, often enough, does appear to be hopelessly elsewhere...and experienced by someone else....

Depression does get boring after a while...I have of late but wherefore I know not lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercise; and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory....yeah, yeah yeah, tell it to yer goddamn shrink, Hamlet...no shrinks in Elsinore?...tough break, but maybe just as well...as a million despondent teenagers sing along with their Pink Floyd mp3's running over the same old ground, of how we found the same old fears....

History is a nightmare from which I’m trying to awake.
Stephen Dedalus, Ulysses

Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it, but any student of history can see that’s often just as true of those who remember it. The past holds on tight, those memories from growing up that everyone tells you to treasure often as not taking the form of wounds...no matter how many yogis and Buddhists say it’s nothing but illusion...which is not to say that they’re not right...in most cases, the only walls that matter are those in the mind...but that’s not to say they’re easy to get over....

I work a few hours a week tutoring recovering addicts in reading. How amazing it is to see an adult go from having a handful of very basic nouns at her disposal to reading full sentences...even if she never gets to the point where she can read Dostoyevsky, it means a lot...far more than any particular words on the page...then, how great is it to be writing this right now?...skipping through thoughts and experiences, messing with words and meanings...lines from Shakespeare, Joyce, and Wish You Were Here...or even to be reading it, even if you think it’s all pretentious, boring bullshit...you can enjoy thinking what a dickwad I am...life given to words is itself miraculous....

12 comments:

Juliet said...

I don't think you're a dickwad. Enjoyed your musings as always.

Mr. B said...

Love the words, 'remains that life, often enough, does appear to be hopelessly elsewhere...'
nice job will attempt to read on a little later!!
MR B.

Lydia said...

Fascinating post. Hits home in such a strange way for me. Nearly 23 years ago I checked myself into detox then a 28-day treatment facility. I hadn't realized it, of course, in my years of haze but I'd stopped reading in my mid-20s after having loved it so all my life. I don't think many realize that alcoholism/addiction does that to people: robs them of reading.
It was a shock in treatment when we were seated around a table with the counselor who guided us, paragraph-by-paragraph, while we read out loud in turn from the AA Big Book and other literature. Those who had difficulty reading were easy to pick out. They were all of us, those who were barely literate anyway, and those -- like me -- who struggled to give voice to words on the page for the first time in so long.
When I got out the first book I read was Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher, then some Moliere, then Dinesen's Winter's Tales, then....never stopped.

AngieSS said...

I agree that "the only real walls are in the mind" and I feel like I've spent a lifetime trying to tear mine down. I actually enjoyed the depth of your words and I don't think it's "boring bullshit" or that you are a "dickwad"!

p.s. I loved what you said on your About page. Thanks for the chuckle!

Tiffiney said...

Some deep stuff....I agree with juliet you don't seem the dickwad type..lol...your line, Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it..has always been in the back of my mind. It was on the wall of my ninth grade history teacher..the man was crazy..but the line will stay with me forever :)

aviva dv said...

Excellent post. I love your evocation of the moment when you're somewhere wonderful and think that you'd like to be there at that moment. I think the way we--maybe only some of us, I don't know--narrativize our lives as we go along, making meaning out of everything, is both to blame for that feeling of "life is elsewhere" and, somehow, allows us to be able to enjoy those perfect moments long after they've occurred (even if they're tinted with nostalgia). Which is, of course, also the power of writing (and reading). Life as a dog (and I'm presuming, perhaps unfairly, that dogs do not experience life as a narrative, but rather as a series of moments), might be more in the here and now--the rush of excitement when you see a squirrel, the joy of eating, the pleasure of being scratched behind the years. Living in the here and now like that must be rewarding, but only in the here and now. And then it's gone. Until the next moment. Of course, if we were dogs, we wouldn't know the difference anyway.

Meka said...

You express yourself in a good way. Its nice that you are teaching to recovering addicts. Nice blog too.

Lana Gramlich said...

"Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it, but any student of history can see that’s often just as true of those who remember it. The past holds on tight...no matter how many yogis and Buddhists say it’s nothing but illusion...but that’s not to say they’re easy to get over."
Ain't THAT the truth! And even if you get over some of them, you find yet more you hadn't seen before!
Kudos to you for tutoring others with reading. That may be the best kind of help a person can get, really. What a world it opens up!

Lily Hydrangea said...

You are far from being a dickwad,though I'm glad you wrote that because you made me laugh and it made for a very interesting, insightful, & honest post too.
Did I mention the name of your blog is pretty great?

Honour said...

interesting thoughts.
buddhism is actually kinda hard to apply in everyday-western world context, especially re: depression.

when we're trying to recover from our past, the current practice is to delve deep, explore it, name it, talk it out, talk it over -

and buddhism says - feel it fully and it will dissipate ... know it and it will not know you.

the crazy thing about that approach is you can't tell someone how to do it, you just have to do it.

i'm now looking over my comment to see if i have a point - but i don't. i just enjoyed your posting, that's all.

The Clandestine Samurai said...

How about this? I'm not going to say that you're not a dickwad. I'm going to say that I also am proudly a dickwad as well.

Yes, some people use words and meanings in a pretentious way. But then, if it's in the name of pretention, those words don't have meaning. They become all filler, no killer.

It is my life struggle to make people see the importance of words. No one can truly know themselves 100%, but a little bit more of themselves is expressed everytime they write, draw, play sports, whatever. That woman may not be able to read Crime and Punishment in the time of your company, but the revelation of the meaning of words and what they can do for the soul and psychology sometimes reveals itself much later in life.

Catarina said...

Thank you for putting this into words in such a brilliant and elegant, yet humble and simple manner.

I've read a handful of your posts by now and feel as if I'd wrote them myself.

It's strange how that seems to comfort me. Even cruel. It's comforting to know there are people who know my pain out there, how fucked up is that?

You are no guarantee I'm not an insane thought a fool once had yet when I read your words it sort of validates my own experience.

So, even in the darkness, we turned on a light. And that's good. That I know, whatever "I" and "know" means :)

A big hug