December is the time that people meet up with characters they have ignored all year, find themselves holed up in coffee houses or for brunches, to catch up or confess, to tear the fabric of habit and find momentary asylum in the rabbit-hole born of sly solicitations. It goes as quickly as it comes, and afterwards it is not spoke of again. I live in those frigid, fringe Decembers - and hibernate the remaining months of the year.
There are seasons to our whims. Wisdom comes from knowing these patterns, like the habit of hunger, knowing when to eat, when to sleep. So too, underground unspoken patterns, synapses surfacing til suddenly I must enter the world again, or give it words. To act out of season can be taxing: you hunt when the conditions are just so. There is a season for sex, for fantasy fugues, for drinking with friends, for being a father, and for solitary walks.
Know your seasons and the seasons of the world, there is a harmony to be found. Never stay too long in one place nor find yourself too comfortable living in someone else’s idea.
The pangs will come with time, developed from a repertoire of experiences, until you feel the pull of a right decision, or the true meaning of art (people seek art in art yet we pass it between us unceremoniously like germs - you may as well frame the air of music, the spaces between words).
For awhile there I had pretended to know what art was, the fireworks of it. The repertoire had, by then, not adequately developed and I knew only the surface of things (education is pretending you know until you do know). So with enough time, at some uncut juncture of my life free from the canonizing will of memory, the season of art was recorded. Part of what makes the experience of art so potent is the slightly out of focus is it or isn’t it, then overflow, then what is happening, quiver of it all.
The seasons of knowing spirit themselves according to some long gone almanac. It is up to you to rewrite it.
Then you shall know the right way to masturbate and the right way to hurt.
From my first philosophical entries up to the latest poetic musings, two themes have kept recurring, defining me in a feverish way: the necessity of ethics and the sanctity of the individual. I suppose I tend towards these themes so forcefully due to their lost importance in this out of whack world of politics as predatory sport and academic rigor mortis. Even the locked-in devices from which I strive to compose my thoughts provoke some response. Ethics and individualism are quickly eroding away, a battle taking place inside of me as much as out. The modern world is not all bad of course, and to an extent I accept what it gives as inevitable and sometimes necessary agitations, to be the gadflies stirring me awake lest I become too fanatic about my solitary ideas. I live in the world I indict, let the record show I am aware of this surface hypocrisy, but in my defense, asceticism is not an option, not an ethical one at least. One cannot help but speak the language provided and get caught in its web (when you play by their rules they have already won).
Every so often I break down and need to establish a perimeter of words to (however naïvely) preserve my sacred space. And so the rant goes…
At some point it was no longer a question of having something to say and someone to process it. It is still language, it is still talking and writing and reading, but what has changed is the goal: where once the text mattered, the subtext now dominates. Each utterance has become a territorial pissing that taunts the yet to be expressed to do the same. Like pups stepping over each other for the same teat, to be there first, we pivot our value around the concept of outward acknowledgement: the more followers, the more reblogs, the more likes, and then the next day you start over again, you keep going back daily, hourly, at speeds incommensurable with quality or craftsmanship - just be there first. We go at these speeds not because we have so much to say, but because we feel the need to remain relevant, as if we would dissolve entirely without a status update. With no time to cultivate an inner life outside of the exhibition, a whole generation has been raised in this accelerating culture, and, if nothing changes, they will raise the next generation in the only manner they have been taught, refining away any semblance of the individual. It is in the hesitations, the individual resides.
The flaw we bear is not recognizing that it is a choice, and how this choice comes to inform not just our online personas but our perception of what is valuable, and ethical, and reasonable in every facet of human activity. It is simple but so rarely given voice: you don’t need to prove yourself to the world, if anything the world needs to prove itself to you. If it has value, it should radiate inside you and ask nothing more than that you find your own path of least resistance. Find happiness irrespective of how minor it may seem.
To some this is self-delusion; to me, self-clarity. There is a seductive inclination to be defined one way or the other, supplant one narrative for another: if not the academic marvel than the starving artist, if not the wealthy than the ascetic. It is considered a slight to call someone a jack of all trades, to weave through life without a pliable narrative that may be socially digested. The flaw is in thinking in regards to a narrative foremost, being overly concerned with how you are read, rather than reading yourself out and editing away to your own familiar voice. Abandon all narratives and follow your childish instinct to play. Use whatever capacities you have to offset roadblocks to this pursuit. Rather, see more clearly your goal, how little is required to be happy once you have whittled away the antagonisms (competition and antagonism reduced to sport). A clarity of self sees that one lives every day through peaks and valleys of relative satisfaction, that one lives in the crevices of stories not the well-rehearsed anecdotes and finding a way to live pleasurably in the immediate and not the secondhand account ought to be the true occupation of your life. This kind of thinking may derail the ten year plan, the jockeying for position if such a position is in service only of keeping you busy and hungry for the carrot dangled in font of you. So be it. Defy the anecdotal life.
The pleasure of life has become secondary, what good is it to fight for a future when the present goes unopened? Why forfeit the now, and the ability to ferret out the good in every moment? A resourceful inner life stays with you no matter the climate, protects you better than an army. But here the rhetoric begs an antagonism I must step back from, for it is not either/or, but weaving through with a part of you always alive and playful, being the justification for any pursuit for higher level petitioning, having something to show for, something to call upon rather than empty rhetoric. When you say life is important, dignity is important, basic human rights are important you should not meme the idea, but hold yourself up as material evidence. It is so easy to become the ghost haunting a body still alive, to ghost all values in pursuit of some nominal gain. It is scary how easy it is to cease to be a person and become a personage: the body dies and people can see it, smell it; when the life inside it dies it can go a lifetime unreported so long as a rudimentary set of outward markers are achieved.
Take pride in being a slacker, a jack of all trades, a melancholic, a resigned member of a society that is in such a big hurry to say nothing long enough for you to forget there is anything else to think, feel, or be. A toast to all the thoughts left unsaid, and to those thoughts that if uttered, would still go unheard.
Eighty pages from the end of The Idiot, and I need to say something about the Russian novel, or rather, the Russian novel as idea, for what can I honestly say about the Russian novel - I am not Russian, know not a word of the language, and have only questionable translations of Dostoevsky to rely on. Still with something akin to childish naivety I wish to tell you about this idea.
The Russian novel is how the world should be. I refuse to believe it is contrived, rather it is this world that is contrived. In the Russian novel there is primitive emotion, primitive in a good way: there are people speaking forthright, interfering with the social etiquette of the times. Perhaps it is the poor translation but characters are often agitated by the slightest of news into cries and peels of laughter, there is something indelibly human about it. And the characters wander about in a pastoral poetic way from one heated conversation to the next, chugging hot air like locomotives until each conversation reaches its fevered pitch - chugging hot air because I imagine steam emanating from their mouths as they wrestle with their philosophies, a hot bonfire of words dissipating in the frigid winter backdrop of Mother Russia. And there’s so much love and loathing. Characters confess and blush, and never in an artificial way: there are no clean crisp confessions, but meandering rigmaroles, like real people make, without rhetoric, rhyme, and hardly with a solid point, hardly with a point at all, but to make noise and release something from inside. These are my people! And how they love, their love is incommensurable to our ventriloquism. They love through souls, and only in the Russian novel does the soul make sense.
But I call these emotions primitive and sacred in harsh contrast to the pageantry of the modern Rococo we endure, with its muddied palette of emotions that can express nothing without parenthesis. Modern society is a caricature of the Russian novel society, made on a whim and out of control with sequestered disgust and genuflect kindness. All human expression has been modified, homogenized and packaged for us, and I feel far less a person than a personage, some device to keep property moving.
I see the Russian novel in everyone I love, because they are not caricatures, and we exist as fictions to a world that has become an estranged idea. And so what I consider human is inversely considered by this world to be fiction, and like Dostoevsky’s Prince, I exist as an idiot in these pages. I feel my idiocy with every new year endured, in every social gathering, every group meeting, every monetary transaction. I understand the Tolkeinites, the Trekkies, people who invent new languages and stay indoors.
I have lived thirty-six years and in all my time on this planet the closest I have ever felt to another human being was through a bit of fictional prose in a Russian novel. I declare this in defiance of the obvious indictment that I am neglecting to mention the romantic love of my life. I have not neglected it, nor am I making a facetious point of this. As an individual I feel a greater kinship to myself than to anyone, because I have endured the longest time with myself, the bond is deeper, there is a certain righteousness in narcissism. I do not see myself in Lina in any specific way, and so do not love her because of her reflection of myself, but love her as an antithesis to me, which is, as most will understand, that which I long to be, for what else could one want but to be something else. Lina is this desirable other-world that I thoroughly love being a part of. To speak of a like-minded communion down to the marrow of my soul that understands the nuance of my life there is simply no comparison: I was born on the wrong continent, at the wrong time, in the wrong medium.
you get by by forgetting the good-bye of a lifelong call
you get by by forgetting the soupy dark of the swamp
you get by by forgetting the ancient spiders in your skull
you get by by forgetting the defects blooming inside
you get by by forgetting the obscene thumps in the attic
you get by by forgetting the chewing of the ants
what a practiced madness to being alive
in spite of the conditions
to be here daily
standing your ground
a nimble dance
a kept momentum
a child’s make-believe
a panic prayer
a place to go
where the words
may take you
“Freud saw the gift of the melancholic as not prophecy but selfunderstanding, an unusually perceptive and tragically accurate critical insight: “… [the melancholic] has a keener eye for the truth than others who are not melancholic … [and] for all we know it may be that he has come pretty near to self-knowledge; we only wonder why a man must become ill before he can discover truth of this kind.”
I wrote a book, it’s worldly famous. It’s called Melancholics Anonymous. Below you will see my son reading it (Hayden calls it a “taut, tour de force ” – at least I think that is what he said)
Those of you following me will have seen much of the rough drafts that are herein polished and properly realized. There are pictures, poems, rants, prose all about and for melancholics. Not the romanticized genius nor ostracized lunatic of popular lore but a type far more common yet underrepresented. The character that, as if stirred from some biological revolt, flees the maddening crowds, compelled by what Max Pensky calls a “resigned interiority, brooding over the very conditions of the impossibility of action themselves.” I wrote this as a call out to the Bukowskis, the Pessoas, the underground men, and too, the Plaths, the Sextons, the adaptless women, in hopes to draw them out and, in the confines of a book, briefly forge a loneliness together.
Now most importantly: how to buy a copy or six…
It is published through Blurb so click the link: http://www.blurb.ca/b/3981803-melancholics-anonymous
You can purchase e-book versions for $4.99 and softcovers for a little more, and while the option for hardcover is listed, I don’t think it is necessary. I mean they look swell and all but, let’s be honest, this is no Tolstoy epic. Melancholics Anonymous is a kind of lean pamphlet manifesto (albeit a plump pamphlet at 92 pages!). Best to own it light and keep it handy in your back pocket for constant access. Finally, audio-books wherein I narrate the great adventure are extra and far too costly for the likes of you.
All proceeds go to the philanthropist fund, Leave No Blu-Ray Behind.
If you reblog and tag as melancholic or melancholy I would appreciate it.
Onto the new year and the new language.
Thanks to everyone for all the support, you have no idea what it means. It is a cruel world out there.
P.S. I’d rather be read than make money, if you are on the fence, curious but not sure you want to pay, just private message me, I am more than happy to send a free one to you (what can I say I am a lousy capitalist). Follow the link you can preview some of the book if you need more coaxing.
“I persist in solitude because of a taste for it, so people think. No, it is from distaste, disgust, from shame at my own need of others, shame at confessing it, a fear of passing into bondage if I do confess it.”
Henri Frederic Amiel - The Intimate Journal