Thursday, August 20, 2015

i did it all to entertain myself

damn, another two-edged epiphany. this came about a few moments ago when i questioned the true nature of success. maurice sendak, the children's illustrator, didn't like discovering he was gay. would the knowledge ruin his career? tomi ungerer, another children's illustrator, lost it all when mothers discovered his pornographic work. even now, after a great life, he dreams every night of being arrested and wakes in a sweat. 

the list goes on. just watched a movie on Bert Stern, an acclaimed fashion photographer. Divorce, drugs, marilyn monroe, it all haunted him. and now he has closets full of famous pictures. tons of them. and what will happen to them? alas, eighty seems the age of reckoning for all these guys. growing old seems to be the major failure. success certainly didn't prevent it. 

i think of emily dickinson wrapping up those slips of paper, saying, 'who wants fame, baying in a bog like a frog all day long?' even the grandson of diana vreeland, editor of vogue magazine, couldn't escape by becoming a monk. he loved photography, yet surrounded by glamor, he had his epiphany. ah, those masks everyone wore! he ended up in tibetan monastery in india. eventually his close relation with the dali lama led to him be appointed an abbot. and now it was all about politics. 

who else has there been? oh, vivian maier, the photographer discovered as she was dying and beyond knowing. all the experts ask, 'how could she take thousands of photos, hundreds of rolls not even developed, and show no one?' her discovery an amazing mistake of history. and it really is a puzzle. i guess someone  can do great work simply for oneself. 

and there comes my own discovery. questioning the nature of success, i contemplated the times i've been applauded in theater. and i realize i didn't care about the acclaim, only satisfied when i myself knew a piece worked, the audience feeling a sense of completion. poor al jolson,  he would have died without an audience. their hand claps meant 'they love me.' and i'm sure much of striving comes from the desire for love. 

suddenly, i glanced at a picture on my iphone. beautiful, i thought. and there i realized i'd spent my whole life entertaining myself by making pictures, writing poems, travel, and even, shame to be told, love-affairs. nobody delights in one of my works as i do. and all this has kept me from being bored! maybe that's been my life's goal, to escape the monster of ennui, all the while hoping i could help someone else out of the dungeon. 

my first psychic told me i'd had too much responsibility in past lives. i'd helped develop the power that blew up atlantis, l'd been a black magician in druid times, and a spiritual native american trying to make up for it. "this lifetime you get to play." well, i can't say it's always felt like fun. ah, now, i see why i've been so lucky. "take care of the present," wrote henley, "and the past will take care of itself." i like that. nothing about the future. truly, i'm stuck in time.

"I began my comedy as its only actor, and I come to the end of itas its only spectator."
                          Antonio Porche

Thursday, August 13, 2015

the mystery of personal possessions


that ruthless mood, it came over me again. in three days i threw out four pickups loads of stuff, much of it accumulated over half a lifetime: knick-knacks, books i knew i'd never read, even beautiful clothes i'd become too shy to wear. it was savage, an assault on my storage space, cottage, and old magazines at the lookout. 

this morning, back at the tower, i felt a sense of loss, for a moment. i'd kept a lot of stuff thinking it might be of interest to some researcher someday when i became posthumously famous. hah! my friend peter has a whole studio of art-work he's done, large illustrations for Moby Dick and Tin Drum, wild pictures for a bestiary, stacks of large workbooks full of outstanding nudes. he's older than i, and where will it all go? probably into the garbage-can.

maybe we human beings are simply too creative, plastic bags covering the earth, the sky full of junked satellites. the tool-maker outpaces the refuse collector and the latter doesn't know what to do with crumbling cars and Styrofoam earplugs. i'm still in a quandary, as i saved twenty boxes of personal pictures and papers. it's hard to let go of the illusion they might mean something. after all, i've digitized a lot of finished work (and unfinished). 

do i still believe in the exoticism of the handwritten? yes, my definition of human beings fits this conjecture: an animal species using language to accumulate energy. the ancestor who wrote in the sand: this too shall pass, is my hero. then why do i insist in holding onto a temple bell, my ukelele, the bright indian bag to hang on the wall? do i need these things to confirm my identity as long as i'm walking upright? 

i am convinced consumerism and its satisfying therapy (until i take it home and it loses its shine) trying to buy an individual identity in a vastly over-populated human world. and its an instinct. for example, my youngest sister when being adopted out of the german orphanage fiercely protected anything my parents gave her, especially a comic book. and look,  a city will surround itself with landmines to secure its grocery stores. 

all this frenzied activity set off when a friend said she couldn't take care of my will and pull the plug for me if necessary. i really don't look forward to being a vegetable, even if i didn't know i was. i did realize i had too many meaningless possessions. simplify, simplify, shouted thoreau from the treetops. and if i've learned anything, i've learned he's right. 

i suppose i should give myself a lesson in how to have an identity without possessions, yet i think it's really difficult. i guess i have to tell myself: make them small, nothing i have to feed or take care of. too many friends have lost children early to have that be a secure option. i've been very reluctant to gain a sense of self from others. alas, i can't say i've succeeded. i've always needed friends. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

experiments in science-friction

drat! i'm aghast at having done nothing to prevent the human species from destroying itself. nibble, nibble, nibble, the earth being eaten away. after a fairly long life and lots of attempted creativity and a fountain of ideas, i've come up with nothing to add. truly, i'm overwhelmed by the number of human beings in existence, much as i try to forget them.

i do have a sense of responsibility, though it may merely be an example of vainglory, the desire to be a god. let's say it's genuine. my mother kept telling me when i was little, "you are destined to be great, to make a difference, to make me proud." i suspect the last her real motive. that said, i took it at face value, hoping i'd live up to her expectations. 

alas, a prescription for failure, if i've ever met one. though i've played king of the mountain for over fifty years, i've done little more than call fire! fire! a variety of crying wolf. when one of the fire kids asked what i'd gleaned from watching the skies so long, i spontaneously answered, 'enjoy your job, and if you can't, find another one.'  practical for the individual, but for humankind? 

sure, i'm convinced we are being used by the species for its own ends (survival), each  pushed into a corner  where we dig ditches for the whole. on the other hand, a species can be too smart for itself. take the lemmings. what on earth possesses them to run for the cliff? 

anyway, i do have a version of salvation, yet it could backfire. from my laboratory at the bottom of the sea, i could release a powerful anti-depressant which would bond with every oxygen molecule in the atmosphere. being happy and satisfied with themselves, people would dance instead of slit each other's throats. i'd do this completely anonymously, like an act of nature, so no other idiot would think to counter-act my action, attaching bad drugs.

to change the fate of humanity, i would alter the atmosphere in which it lives. sounds pretty cool, pretty easy. unfortunately, my plan might backfire. when i took too much dopamine enhancer, i lost all empathy for others, a tight knot of anger. damn right, scared myself. and when i took too much serotonin booster , increasing my sense of well-being, i had three dangerous falls. i lost my instinct to preserve myself. 

Heraclitus said, 'everything arises from contention,' and Taleb said, 'more progress has come from wars than peace.' maybe this new world of cooperation would lead to the warriors being turned into swine. as it is, EVERY HUMAN CONFLICT, LARGE AND SMALL, A DISPUTE OVER TERRITORY. the emperor grabs the kingdom next door, the child sneaks into his sister's room and breaks everything he can. 

the rational person says, 'if human beings lived in peace, they'd die out from ennui.'