kafka: ‘in a different realm’

“It is conceivable for a writer to take the pulse of his era and make it come alive in language and images, yet still be out of his depth when it comes to palpable engagement with the world, although this constellation is exceedingly rare. Far more often someone who is truly at home in two worlds is misunderstood as being ‘out of touch’ in the public, social cosmos, which he shapes and endures in combination with others, and in an interior psychic space dominated by feelings, dreams, fantasies, associations, and ideas, which he inhabits alone. Anyone whose experience inside his head offers as vast and constant a stream of impressions as the world outside cannot stay focused on the here and now. But where is he then? In a different realm.

An individual who appears to be out of touch with reality is rarely in the privileged position of being able to open and close the subtle locks between inside and outside at will. The vortex pulling him inside his head is always palpable, but the reality principle demands that he remain perpetually alert; people expect him to limit himself to things that can be communicated. Anyone who starts talking about daydreams on the street, in a store, or at the workplace alienates people, no matter how intense and meaningful those daydreams are. He remains alien because he understands and acknowledges a second world, and for the most part, and to his detriment, he remains just as alien in that interior world for the same reason. He is present, but neither here nor there.

That condition can culminate in insanity, and Kafka justifiably feared winding up insane throughout his life. But it has little to do with the accomplishment society expects of the individual. Someone who is alienated from the world might function perfectly well as a craftsman, attorney, teacher, or politician, or as a vice secretary of an insurance institute, and his struggle to balance himself—poised like a man with one foot off the ground—can easily remain hidden from view, without a trace, as it probably has in thousands upon thousands of brains.”

Reiner Stach, Kafka: The Years of Insight

george trakl’s snowy descent

Fascinating critical essay on Austrian poet Georg Trakl and the influence of cocaine and other intoxicants on his work.

(via Public Domain Review)

words and music from john fahey

“All I have ever done with music was to depict various emotions in an organized and coherent musical language, especially hate, fear, repulsion, grief, depression, or feeling nothingness.”

John Fahey, liner notes to The Legend of Blind Joe Death (1996 reissue of his first record Blind Joe Death)

 

Fortunio Liceti’s De Monstris (1665)

De Monstris

Click image to see more ‘monsters’.

Found lurking in my RSS reader, courtesy of the always fantastic Public Domain Review.

Full-text of De Monstris available at Internet Archive.

light | dark

Light Dark Light Dark Light Dark Light Dark Light Dark Light Dark Light Dark

Light Light Light Light Light Light Light

Dark Dark Dark Dark Dark Dark Dark

LIGHT

DARK

DARK

LIGHT

[narrator leaves house, unpacks moon-viewing instrument]

LIGHT LIGHT  LIGHT LIGHT

[the ‘light’ from the moon is false — it is a reflection of the sun]

DARK DARK DARK DARK

[narrator adjusts focus, lets in more light]

LIGHT dark light

LIGHt dark lighT

LIGht dark ligHT

LIght dark liGHT

Light dark lIGHT

light dark LIGHT

[narrator goes inside, observes black ring around eye, laughs bitterly]

DARK light DARK

[narrator watches solar eclipse on television, loses vision in one eye]

one eye: DARK DARK DARK DARK

other eye: LIGHT LIGHT LIGHT LIGHT

[other eye compensates, dilation lets in more light]

LIght DARk LIGht DArk LIGHt Dark = dark | LIGHT

[narrator freaks out at giant pupil peering back out of mirror]

LIGHt dARK

LIGht daRK

LIGHt dARK

LIGHT DARK

[narrator takes sedative, falls asleep]

D-A-R-K

[narrator sleeps for days, dreams about moon]

D–A–R–K     l-i-g-h-t

[narrator stands on moon in dream, looks at sun, falls asleep in crater]

D_A_R_K

[narrator feels hot, wakes up on sun, quickly returns to sleep, wakes up on earth]

L_I_G_H_T

[narrator applies eye shadow, begins collecting shiny objects]

light light light light

[narrator sprouts bushy tail, gathers nesting material]

dark light dark light

[narrator curls up in ball, falls asleep in nest]

DARK DARK DARK DARK DARK DARK DARK

[narrator dreams about the sea]

LIGHT | DARK

[narrator wakes in forest, burrows deeper in nest, falls asleep again]

DARK | DARK

[narrator dreams of monks self-immolating, twitches in sleep]

L__I__G__H__T | dark

[narrator wakes, crawls out of nest, forages on forest floor]

L–I–G–H–T

[narrator lies on a rock, soaks up sunlight]

LIGHT LIGHT LIGHT LIGHT

[narrator leaves dark, enters light]

L____I____G____H____T

inside a person another one

this life in parallel there’s always been, inside a person another one, what do others do, deny it i guess, or maybe it’s not there, for them it’s not there, and i see it all before me what will never come but what has happened, what is happening, inside a person another one, it’s been there all along, and it keeps growing, keeps expanding, so many layers, painstakingly detailed scenes, every time some spark strikes, the line of tinder crackles, the fuse is lit, i can’t put it out, i could never put it out, there are ways to try, and i know some other ways i’ve seen others try, each one ends the same way, we all know how it does, yes, we do, and do you know how when you’ve done things so often, day in and day out, and then one day you do something a little different and it throws you off, it pushes you off onto another track, but not enough to shift you into the parallel life, no, not that far, just enough to make you stop for a minute and think about it all, about that other life and where it’s going, the people in it, the way they’ve come into being, likely so different than how they are in this life, the way you act, the way they act, whatever happens, and what if the two converged even for a day or just an hour, what then, what then for the person inside the person, the two people now, who looms larger, a dried-out husk of aloofness wraps around the hot soldering iron trapped inside, look out, fire hazard, i smell smoke, i’ve seen the others burn themselves up, i know how it all ends, it’s near halfway and i see the hazy shapes down below resting on the sea floor, so many split halves, so many discarded broken parts, a graveyard of misshapen lives.

enter title here

As a child, Ravel’s Bolero touched me deep. Something about the repetitive melody building as it does to a climax. The drumming particularly struck me, so primal, stripped-down, staccato. And isn’t life so like this for a bit, at least. A crescendo to a climax, but then…a plateau. And what then, what then. The topography of the flat plain bewilders. The plain en plein air. The air all comes at you at once, with no rises to slow it, or alter its trajectory. This tundra is of our own making, sculpted and smoothed over time. Or is it. Maybe it is a figment of a voracious imagination, one that eats a life up one slavering daydream at a time. Perhaps this merits further examination. Or not. This isn’t some academic treatise. No one peer-reviews this blog, that I know of.

I drove past the flea market today and they had a new professional sign installed atop their sign pole. It read: Internet Sweepsteaks. I remembered a couple miles down the road that I had my camera but I did not turn around. Hence I can offer no proof of this gaffe.

I have a memory of lying on my bed as a child, listening to Bolero come through the wall from the hi-fi in the living room. But let’s not get all Proustian here.

I chased a bird today. I said I would not do that but I did. So I didn’t find it. I did find model airplanes. And in one of my phagocytic daydreams I shot them down with my model machine gun. A kingfisher objected to the model airplane. Well, of course. It flew overhead, calling in fussy agitation. In my head I am flying a model fighter jet from the cover of a waterbush. My jet is fitted with tiny model machine guns operated by tiny model soldiers. My tiny model army shoots down all the other model planes and I continue birding in peace.

Someone is singing fake opera down the block. This is unfortunate. I am listening to Nine Inch Nails for some unknown reason. Ah, I remember now. I came upon a NIN album in the car’s CD player. I turned it up loud as I drove slowly down The Avenue with the windows lowered, like I was 17 again. So I’m listening to that first NIN album now, because that was a big one back in the day, I won’t say which day because we’ve got to keep our occasional secrets haven’t we. And I’m trying to drown out the fake opera, but it is persistent fake opera and it refuses to be put down. Also, I’m finding that I’m not really into this album now, especially when he kind of fake-raps. In fact, I would postulate that this was a grave stylistic error on his part. But we all do things in our youth that we later come to regret. And so, perhaps this fake opera singer is also young and will undoubtedly come to regret the torture she put us all through one late September day.

And to paraphrase a sample from a Man or Astroman? song, “well, that’s all over now.” I took a break, between last paragraph and this, during which various events occurred. For example, I watched an episode of the new BBC Sherlock Holmes series. Oh, and I went to the arboretum with Farley. Now it’s just crickets, I’m afraid. Crickets and slugs, as per usual. Plinking out some tunes on my alphabet piano.

I enjoy aggressive music as much as I enjoy quiet melancholic music. It’s essential, you see, to achieve a balance. To be stale, it’s the yin and the yang. But really, each person has its halves. Call it what you will. Semantics notwithstanding, let us not deny our dark sides, or for that matter, our light ones. I embrace both, though it may not be obvious to the general populace. But I am not concerned with them. I am concerned with touching the thing inside. It requires a delicate touch. And it is finicky in what type of delicate touch is required.

I used to go to parties. In my experience, that was a mistake. End of story.

I am now listening to Teeth Mountain, a defunct local band whose tribal drumming and frenetic guitars I enjoy. Again with the drumming. One or two classically trained musicians were involved, I believe. Now said musicians play in another band, Horse Lords. I am interested in musical noise that transports one’s headspace into alternate galaxies. I support purveyors of such racket. I support many things, quietly and unobtrusively.

This may be over?

yes to sloth reincarnation

I see everything. It’s staggering. Many things are ugly and sad. A few things are beautiful in a superficial way. Some things are ugly in a beautiful way. Or sad in a beautiful way. Or neutral seen through a colored lens of your own choosing. Re: The sky is a lovely shade of cornflower blue / The sky is boring, why is it always blue, but sometimes white / The sky makes me sad / The sky overpowers me with its vastness / The sky enrages me.

Flaws are necessary. Imperfections abound. Everything is so strange. I don’t understand what people are doing. How they are living, existing. Where comes the drive for them to do something. I think I need more sunlight. The darkness slow-kills me with eight-hour stab wounds. My daytime cave smothers me. Who are these people. Don’t tell me. Maybe I need them. I’m not really in a rush.

I can no longer walk ten feet without writing something down. I keep waiting for a lamp post to approach me with violent intent. The suddenness of everything happening around me is electrifying. I’m a festering open sore and the world is my penicillin. But wait, I am allergic. Look out, I’m rejecting the transplant. Maybe I like being alone in a crowd. Maybe the reincarnation is almost complete. Routine comforts and horrifies me. I want it to be different but I’m afraid.

Today was the ice cream social at work. A group of awkward people convened to eat ice cream in a cramped meeting room. Our leader thanked us for doing a good job. It was uncomfortable. We ate our ice cream in silence. Some small talk scratched a flint but the kindling never caught. But there was vegan whipped cream! And organic vegan sprinkles! And vegan chocolate sauce! I ran outside when it was done! It was too late for cigar-smoking man. But expose-her-shoulders-to-the-sun girl was out there. And some bike messengers. I secured a good seat, read another piece in Zone 3. I took the sun and held it close.

As I rode through the supermarket parking lot on the way home, I saw a hearse. Its back window was painted in a colorful stylized manner with the words Girls & Corpses. Soon after, I saw some young runners. I felt a thrill. I felt the sun leave me. This is a true story.

~ FIN ~

catbird chatter

I returned early this morning from a work-related trip to San Francisco (photo post to follow). While I was gone, the catbirds skulked back into the neighborhood and resumed transmission of their esoteric messages from the protection of the now fully leafed out trees and shrubbery. I am happy to hear their secretive broadcasts once again. While out walking Farley, I also heard a House Wren singing on the next street over and a Yellow Warbler singing a little farther afield. Word on the street is that I missed a couple of stellar days of migrant fallouts in this area while I was gone. So I’m a little disappointed about that, although I did manage to pick up a few Western North American species on my trip that were lifers. On multiple occasions, I also saw and heard some of the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, which was really cool as I’d watched the documentary about them not too long ago.

For my trip reading, I took along Anne Tyler’s Celestial Navigation. I like most of her older books and Em El particularly recommended this one. It did not disappoint! I finished up the last few pages over lunch today and was struck by this passage below. It’s certainly not cheery reading, but much of what I read and enjoy is not. For me, it’s all about the shadows.

Being good was not enough. The mistakes he reviewed were not evil deeds but errors of aimlessness, passivity, an echoing internal silence. And when he rose in the morning (having waited out the night, watching each layer of darkness lift slowly and painfully), he was desperate with the need to repair all he had done, but the only repairs he could think of were also aimless, passive, silent. He had a vague longing to undertake some metaphysical task, to make some pilgrimage. In books a pilgrimage would pass through a fairytale landscape of round green hills and nameless rivers and pathless forests. He knew of no such landscape in America. Fellow pilgrims in leather and burlap would travel alongside him only long enough to tell their stories—clear narratives with beginnings, middles, ends and moral messages, uncluttered by detail—but where would he find anyone of that description? And think of what he would have to carry in the rustic knapsack on his back. The tools of his craft; Epoxy glue in two squeeze tubes, spray varnish, electric sander, disposable paintbrushes. Wasn’t there anything in the world that was large scale any more? Wasn’t there anything to lift him out of this stillness inside? He fumbled for his clothes and picked his way downstairs. He made his breakfast toast and ate it absently, chewing each mouthful twenty times and gazing at the toaster while he tried to find just one heroic undertaking that he could aim his life toward.

shadow forecaster

The wind rises and scatters my attention span. How to greet a late January day warmed to the low 60s on the Fahrenheit scale? I feel a twinge of guilt enjoying it, knowing how unnatural it is and wondering much of this is our fault. Birds are migrating sooner, only to find food not yet abundant in their summer haunts. Southern insects are expanding their ranges northward. [Gardeners, take note!] Mother Nature’s long-established cues are failing her denizens. Are these little and not-so-little signs of impending ecological collapse? Perhaps. It would make sense. And surely we deserve it. Too long have we moved at the speed of profit, with blinders plastered to our fat heads. Our slavering consumerist jaws know no bounds. We think with our wallets, and we don’t remember any other way. We forgot how to mend and learned instead how to slide cards through readers. The problem is colossal in scale. The solutions too little, too late. So maybe all we can do now is pull up some chairs and wait for the end of this chapter of life on our planet. Bleak, perhaps, but it could just be my shadow speaking out again. Some days I let it do all my talking for me, and I just sit back and stare at the clouds.

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