Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Old Romantic Truth

(Paul Peel)

I woke up empty and soulless.  I knew beyond doubt that it was true.  Everything I have ever done has come to this, and there is nothing to do about it now, now way to go back even if only to fuck it all up one more time.  It is one thing to wake to a life you question and think you have time to fix it.  And then there is the other. 

I shot with a model last night with whom I had no connection.  Zero.  None.  It had never happened before to such an extent.  I was already dead before she came, tired, worn, full of self-doubt.  I felt as though she threw the first shovelful of dirt on me.  It was a shoot without texture, without joy.  I felt it from head to toe. 

I read this in a book review this morning:

"What the hell is happiness?” Simpson quotes Berryman saying to her “with a happy laugh” when they had been married just a short time. Then, she writes, he asks “more uneasily, ‘Should a poet seek it?’” I thought that was a question worth pondering.
I grew older, bade farewell to the romantic notion of the accursed genius at war with society, and became aware that life spares no one. Still, for a long time I could not shake the belief that these poets, all of them dead before their time from madness, self-neglect or suicide, paid a noble price for their pursuit of truth and beauty. For the artist, self-destruction was a commonplace peril, just as injury or death was the risk run by firefighters and soldiers. There were people who worked with measurable particulars — most of humanity — and then there were artists, who labored at nothing in the realm of nothing. Mental and emotional disintegration into nothingness was the price they paid for creating intangible and invisible certainties out of nothingness. That was heroic.
The author says he agreed with that twenty years ago when he first read it in "Poets in Their Youth," written by John Berryman's wife, Eileen Simpson.  He says he doesn't agree any more (link).  

There are so many assumptions in that statement that must be understood. . . but whatever.  I don't remember reading this passage particularly, though I have had a copy of "Poets" since its publication, but the pursuit of happiness part. . . well, it has been a constant question for me since I was in my twenties. 

This morning in my dread and gloom, I was envious of the smiley people, those who surround themselves with groups of other smiley people, the ones you see on Facebook who keep up with "their crowd," the ones who know what is happening to all of their "friends."  But why do I use quotes when I write certain terms?  Surely it is telling of a bitterness and envy. 

It is a quarrel, I guess, that I will never win.  With whom is the quarrel, I ask?  Is it with myself?  Or is it some endless competition with talent and beauty, a fool's game I am never to win?  And then I think, no, it is probably only a chemical imbalance, something I've done to myself in search of that old "romantic truth." 

Today begins something new.  I am determined to partake of fewer toxins.  They come in many forms.  I don't want to trade places with the Dali Lama, but I don't want to end up Bruce Jenner, either.  What the hell is happiness, anyway?

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