“There must be different kinds of loneliness, or at least different degrees of loneliness, but the most terrifying loneliness is not experienced by everyone and can be understood by only a few. I compare the panic in this kind of loneliness to the dog we see running frantically down the road pursuing the family car. He is not really being left behind, for the family knows it is to return, but for that moment in his limited understanding, he is being left alone forever, and he has to run and run to survive. It is no wonder that we make terrible choices in our lives to avoid loneliness.”
-Charles M. Schulz, You Don't Look 35, Charlie Brown!
The image in today's post is from This Charming Charlie. This genius series was birthed from the mind of Lauren Loprete - replacing the captions in text bubbles of Peanuts comic strips with song lyrics from The Smiths.
“Error regarding life necessary to life. - Every belief in the value and dignity of life rests on false thinking; it is possible only through the fact that empathy with the universal life and suffering of mankind is very feebly developed in the individual. Even those rarer men who think beyond themselves at all have an eye, not for this universal life, but for fenced-off portions of it. If one knows how to keep the exceptions principally in view, I mean the greatly gifted and pure of soul, takes their production for the goal of world-evolution and rejoices in the effects they in turn produce, one may believe in the value of life, because the one is overlooking all other men: thinking falsely, that is to say. And likewise if, though one does keep in view all mankind, one accords validity only to one species of drives, the less egoistical, and justifies them in face of all the others, then again one can hope for something of mankind as a whole and to this extent believe in the value of life: thus, in this case too, through falsity of thinking. Whichever of these attitudes one adopts, however, one is by adopting in an exception among men. The great majority endure life without complaining overmuch; they believe in the value of existence, but they do so precisely because each of them exists for himself alone, refusing to step out of himself as those exceptions do: everything outside themselves they notice not at all or at most as a dim shadow. Thus for the ordinary, everyday man the value of life rests solely on the fact that regards himself more highly than he does the world. The great lack of imagination from which he suffers means he is unable to feel his way into other beings and thus he participates as little as possible in their fortunes and sufferings. He, on the other hand, who really could participate in them would have to despair of the value of life; if he succeeded in encompassing and feeling within himself the total consciousness of mankind he would collapse with a curse on existence - for mankind has as a whole no goal, and the individual man when he regards its total course cannot derive from it any support or comfort, but must be reduced to despair. If in all he does he has before him the ultimate goallessness of man, his actions acquire in his own eyes the character of useless squandering. But to feel thus squandered, not merely as an individual fruits but as humanity as a whole, in the way we behold the individual fruits of nature squandered, is a feeling beyond all other feelings. - But who is capable of such a feeling? Certainly only a poet: and poets always know how to console themselves.”
-Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits
There are days when I hesitate an explanation of the offering I present. There isn’t a single song, poem, art project, quote, or passage on here that can’t stand on it’s own. I should shut up, but I ramble on.
I absolutely love Gregory Corso. Perhaps Shelley’s influence on his work is what does it for me - making him my favorite of the Beats. (I once memorized most of “Bomb” for a poetry class in 1999. That’s something I’d like to revisit. For what purpose, I’m not sure - to impress and/or bore folks at dinner parties?)
“Last Night I Drove A Car” is a heartbreaking piece that is weighted with self-interest, lust, destruction, and a careless existence. It hints remorse but ends with untroubled emotion that refuses to be held accountable for a narcissistic future.
My entire present was born from the fruition of egocentric being. I look back at all those I knocked down and my heart is full of sorrow.
A good friend of mine gave me a small gift in 2011. It was an audio book of short stories from the artist Miranda July titled, “No One Belongs Here More Than You”. I was unfamiliar with Miranda’s work and researched her before reading - discovering that she was either fawned over by the uber-hip crowd or despised by the hipper-than-the-uber-hip-crowd. I was somewhat impartial to her work - a bit irritated but still impressed by the effort, the drive, and the volume of it. Maybe I was a little jealous too.
That was with her visual work though. The book was another story. I was hooked from the first line and listened without a pause through the end. I was overwhelmed with the desolation and the heartache. I was amazed with her ability to create such amplified fictional characters that somehow blurred the line between the heroic and the mundane. The stories were so exaggerated but so real and so believable. At the time, I couldn’t relate to these haunted tales. I certainly can now.
A wonderful excerpt from the sixth story in the book, “This Person”, can be read here.
Order your own personal copy here.
Instant gratification below:
“If you are sad, ask yourself why you are sad. Then pick up the phone and call someone and tell him the answer to the question. If you don't know anyone, call the operator and tell him. Most people don't know that the operator has to listen, it is a law. Also, the postman is not allowed to go inside your house, but you can talk to him on public property for up to four minutes or until he wants to go, whichever comes first.”
“Are you angry? Punch a pillow. Was it satisfying? Not hardly. These days people are too angry for punching. What you might try is stabbing. Take an old pillow and lay it on the front lawn. Stab it with a big pointy knife. Again and again and again. Stab hard enough for the point of the knife to go into the ground. Stab until the pillow is gone and you are just stabbing the earth again and again, as if you want to kill it for continuing to spin, as if you are getting revenge for having to live on this planet day after day, alone.”
“This person mourns the fact that she has ruined her one chance to be loved by everyone; as this person climbs into bed, the weight of this tragedy seems to bear down upon this person’s chest. And it is a comforting weight, almost human in heft. This person sighs. This person’s eyes begin to close, this person sleeps.”
“I don’t believe in psychology, which says everything you do is because of yourself. That is so untrue. We are social animals, and everything we do is because of other people, because we love them, or because we don’t.”
“We had loved people we really shouldn't have loved and then married other people in order to forget our impossible loves, or we had called out hello into the cauldron of the world and then run away before anyone could respond.”
“In the recurring dream everything has already fallen down, and I’m underneath. I’m crawling, sometimes for days, under the rubble. And as I crawl I realize that this one was the Big One. It was the earthquake that shook the whole world, and every single thing was destroyed. But this isn’t the scary part. That part always comes right before I wake up. I am crawling and then suddenly I remember: the earthquake happened years ago. This pain, this dying, this is just normal. This is how life is. In fact, I realize, there never was an earthquake. Life is just this way, broken, and I am crazy for dreaming something else.”
-Miranda July, No One Belongs Here More Than You
“God, but life is loneliness, despite all the opiates, despite the shrill tinsel gaiety of "parties" with no purpose, despite the false grinning faces we all wear. And when at last you find someone to whom you feel you can pour out your soul, you stop in shock at the words you utter - they are so rusty, so ugly, so meaningless and feeble from being kept in the small cramped dark inside you so long. Yes, there is joy, fulfillment and companionship - but the loneliness of the soul in its appalling self-consciousness is horrible and overpowering.”
-Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."
I went to visit a friend at an AirBNB last night. After that, I had dinner with him and four other friends. When dinner was complete, I stopped by the home of two other friends to pick up some belongings I had forgotten the last time I visited. When I returned to my house, I received a text from another person inviting me to a formal dinner for eight at his elegant home next weekend. Then, I picked up my amazing daughter from a late shift at work. We went home and had a pleasant hour together before retiring to bed.
It sounds like a pretty good night, huh? A night full of loving people who are quite delightful to be around and who sincerely care about me. But all the while, I have this cloud in my soul that just looms and prevents me from experiencing joy.
In the darkness of heartbreak, I've had no happiness and I don't expect to ever truly be completely happy. I'm not "speaking" that into my life. It is just a fact. I don't think anyone can be completely happy. You've probably seen skits involving actors where someone off camera will be directing the subject to show emotion and say something like, "Think of the saddest thing that's ever happened to you." All of us can think of the saddest thing that's ever happened to us and it will prove to take you to an unhappy place. Understanding the difference between happiness and joy is something I have to work through. Right now, I don't think I have either. My perception is that happiness is something that is beyond my control but joy is a choice made through some type of connection.
I laughed last night. Those moments were glimpses of joy. My problem is that I am so hyper-aware of it that I immediately analyze that occasion and dislodge it by choice with my looming heartbreak. It is extremely important for me to nurture connections with my children, my family, my friends, my passions, and most of all - my God who (if I allow it) will, through joy, heal this broken heart.
My personality has always been one of resistance. It is evident in every aspect of my life. Maybe I'll surrender one day and be able say, like the great Percy Bysshe Shelley:
“I have drunken deep of joy,
And I will taste no other wine tonight.”
But for now, after the lights are out and my whimper to God must translate as angelic tongue - I remain Mr. Lonesome.
"I may be a lost cause, but I thought if you loved me, it needn't matter."
-John Osborne, Look Back in Anger
I had a great vinyl stash that I regrettably sold off durning the CD revolution. My greatest loss from that poor decision was the collection of singles from The Smiths that are kind of hard to come by these days. You can find them but you're gonna pay to re-incorporate them into your life. I held on to a few of those records and picked some up here and there over the years. When I was sent away from home, I had about a dozen that left with me. I wanted to listen to them and contacted a friend of mine who had recently opened up a vinyl shop in town. He got me set up with a pretty fabulous sound system and an addiction had begun. It became an extremely important part of my daily routine. I discovered that the act of listening to music that demanded attention and commitment was very therapeutic for me. As far as addictions go, it isn't a bad one to have.
On one of my record hunting excursions, I came across the album "Sea Change" by Beck. I had purchased this on CD when it was released in 2002 but it didn't do anything for me. After one listen I traded it in for credit. It was a quite a departure in style for Beck that didn't settle well with me at that time in my life. I was still pretty rigid with my musical tastes and did not give it a chance at all. Knowing that my tastes had changed I thought I would give it another try.
It was definitely due to my condition - the moment the needle resonated the first note on the record, my heart sank. I related to every single song on this album. Beck wrote this album after the end of a nine-year relationship. It is full of heartbreak and desolation and executed beautifully.
Of all the songs on the album, "Lost Cause" is the one that I keep coming back to for more, simply because I am absolutely tired of fighting for a lost cause. Heartbreak sucks and begging makes it worse.
"More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid" and "The Wages Of Sin" (1987); photo from Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts
I've been a visual artist since I was old enough to understand that a magic marker could leave an indelible mark on the carpet of my parents rental home. I knew that mark-making and creating visuals was important, but I did not know why. I don't think my journey to understanding art started until 2010.
I was in a frustrating place in life. I hated my job and I hated the routine that I had allowed to creep into existence. This was, in fact, the period in my beloved's life that, according to her, she ceased to love me. I made a decision to leave the comfort of a life I didn't really want to be living and applied to graduate school. At the time, I was fanatical about a group of Los Angeles artists who had made a huge impact on the art world in the late 1980s and early 90s. But, among this group of rebels who would, by the nature of pop-culture become the establishment (that included Jim Shaw, John Miller, and Paul McCarthy) was the great Mike Kelley. Mike was my favorite artist ever. I'd never come across work that was so intellectual, so well crafted, and so cool - all at the same time. I knew it was smart work, but I didn't understand it. I applied to Art Center College of Design and was eventually accepted into their Graduate Fine Art program where Mike Kelley was a professor. My beloved wanted me to leave the family behind and get through graduate school alone. I had no interest in leaving the family behind. My daughter was 9 at the time and my son was 15. So, the family went with me. I would guess again that this was perceived as some form of control by my former wife.
The first day of class I was walking around everywhere desperately trying to find Mike Kelley and hoping that he was going to be a key figure in my education. I couldn't find his office. I was unable to locate him in the directory. I finally asked another professor about Mike (who could see my embarrassingly star-stricken posture) and he informed me that Mike had recently left Art Center. Needless to say, I was pretty bummed about it. It turned out to be a wonderful experience though. I was privileged to be studying under some of the greatest minds in the art world at that time. These film makers, critics, curators, philosophers, and artists were the best of the best and helped to shape and form a new direction in my life. And, there was icing on the cake when Mike came to talk to my class one Tuesday evening. Just one year later, Mr. Kelley committed suicide. So heartbreaking.
Concerning "More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid", Mr. Kelley said:
[It] wasn’t even about stuffed animals, it was about gifts…There were these Utopian ideas being bandied about [in the art world]: “Well, we can make an art object that can’t be commodified.” What’s that? That’s a gift… It’s going to escape the evils of capitalism. Well, of course that’s ridiculous, because if you give this thing to junior, he owes you something. The most terrible thing is that he doesn’t know what he owes you because there’s no price on the thing. Basically, gift-giving is like indentured slavery or something. There’s no price, so you don’t know how much you owe. The commodity is the emotion… I said if each one of these toys took 600 hours to make then that’s 600 hours of love; and if I gave this to you, you owe me 600 hours of love; and that’s a lot. And if you can’t pay it back right away, [the interest] keeps accumulating… That’s more love than you could ever pay back. So what? You’re just fucked then.
This piece has haunted me since August of last year. The "beloved" decided to move out of town. Today's post is already way too long so I won't get into all the strange details of that situation. But, the short of it is that I helped her pack and vacate her house. She had divorced me a year earlier and we still had not rummaged through or discussed our life's accumulation. She was in a strange hurry to leave town and I was pretty much left alone with the task of packing up every item in her house and taking it to storage. I took a week off from work and hurriedly made about a dozen trips between house and storage space.
I've made weekly visits to this storage facility since August to sort through things. I've made many trips to donation centers, filled up countless bags of recyclables and pure junk. I've mailed packages to my son in Los Angeles and boxed up sentimental items my daughter plans to take with her when she leaves home. There was not a single thing in there I wanted and it is all waiting my former wife to claim. Since she no longer has any contact with me, I struggle with knowing what to do. I still make a visit about every other week to see if there's anything else I can discard or give to the kids. But I don't want any of it and I'll feel guilty if I just quit paying for the space.
Every time I open the doors, Kelley's piece pops into my mind. I know it's all temporary - material junk. I know it's all "moth and rust". But it is a lifetime of memories. How many hours of "love" are in that unit? I honestly think that my former love is void of any sentimental attachment related to anything in that space. But, I could be wrong. Maybe she just leaves it in my hands because if she were to open that door then she too would be faced with the question of how does one repay 26 years of love. I certainly realize it is just stuff. When it comes down to it, it means absolutely nothing. But visually it remains a haunted testimony of our life together and the tragedy of love lost.
“I believe in everything until it's disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it's in your mind. Who's to say that dreams and nightmares aren't as real as the here and now?”
“Which is the true nightmare, the horrific dream that you have in your sleep or the dissatisfied reality that awaits you when you awake?”
“Your nightmares follow you like a shadow, forever. ”
-Aleksandar Hemon, The Lazarus Project
“This pain, this dying, this is just normal. This is how life is. In fact, I realize, there never was an earthquake. Life is just this way, broken, and I am crazy for dreaming of something else.”
-Miranda July, No One Belongs Here More Than You
After I realized that divorce was actually happening, I went into panic mode. I don’t think I ever completely abandoned that condition. Another nightmare about a broken marriage last night is evidence of that. I often wonder what she dreams of. She was quite a dreamer when we first met but as the years went on, I don’t remember her retelling dreams often. She would sometimes tell me what she thought I was dreaming about based on my movements or ramblings. I guess I was an uncomfortable person to sleep with.
Something stirred memories last night. I can usually pinpoint the source but I was caught up in a project and don’t remember what it could’ve been that sent my dream production company in the direction they took it.
This episode involved an argument concerning notes I had made for our two children as they were growing up. This was a real practice that I’d do each morning as part of the ritual of getting ready for the day. And, I still do have that very large collection of usually very strange illustrations paired with equally bizarre dialogue. The whole family loved it. I loved drawing and writing them, my former adored these little pictures and would excitingly tuck them away in her perfectly designed and packed lunches eager to hear the kids reaction to them on their return home from school. But in the dream, I was collecting those notes in a scrapbook out of a pile of ephemera. They were haphazardly placed in this jumble with no concern for preservation - some were torn or bent, some had objects stuck to them…it was a laborious dream with me organizing these notes with the intent of cataloguing them for the kids.
It wasn’t a completely unpleasant dream. I did wake sad because it elicited the same response I would have had if I were to sort through the real lunchbox notes - something I have done and cried over in the recent past.
I remember so many of those little notes, but what burns in my mind is my beloved’s beautiful smile as she would stand there, reading them in her robe, on our always cold kitchen floor - probably tucking her flax hair behind her ear. I miss those days. I miss her. I don’t think I’m wrong in assuming that as much as I wanted, more than anything, for us to make it better and become husband and wife again, she wanted, more than anything, for us to make it better and become best friends - retaining the divorce status. Being friends only was something I just couldn’t do. That type of a relationship is beyond my ability to comprehend. It’s something that happens in a script or a commune. I don’t want to hang out with her and her new lover. I want her as my best friend but I want her to be my wife. For me, that is one in the same. She would see that as me wanting to control her life or dictate who she should be. Maybe she isn’t wrong, I don’t know. I do know that I love her and that she was my life’s focus. I don’t think she believes this.
So, alone I shall remain. I’ll keep rummaging through piles of memories knowing that we once loved, we laughed, we cried, and suddenly love died.
Once your broken heart has had a good cry, follow this link to hear Butch (from the Little Rascals) give a hysterical delivery of this song.
“A silence so intense that it sounds like Niagara Falls in my ears. Alone, with a tremendous empty longing and dread. The whole room for my thoughts. Nothing but myself and what I think, what I fear. Could think the most fantastic thoughts, could dance, could spit, grimace, curse, wail – nobody would ever know, nobody would ever hear. The thought of such absolute privacy is enough to drive me mad. It’s like a clean birth. Everything cut away. Separate, naked, alone. Bliss and agony simultaneously. Time on your hands. Each second weighing on you like a mountain. You drown in it. Deserts, seas, lakes, oceans. Time beating away like a meat ax. Nothingness. The world. The me and the not-me. Oomaharumooma. Everything has to have a name. Everything has to be learned, tested, experienced. Faites comme chez vouz, cheri.”
- Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer