Aphorisms XXIV

Can’t hear this suggestion to live among the dead, a la Machiavelli and Montaigne, without also taking into account that this was their way to relax after a day of politics, making it doubly twisted.


It’s such a human feeling, or feeling of the human, to have your brain scramble for excuses as to why you have failed, or why it is unjust that you should suffer like this. And you watch it like a toddler in tantrum, and when it stops for a moment you ask – are you done? And it screams NO! Or stops, tired out. There are good reasons to despair sometimes, but when this kind of thing happens, you know there are no good reasons involved.

If you fail in love, and feel everything crashing around you, and think, this is the end, I’ll never X again, this is an example of that grasping after straws. It is so hard to be your own parent, to pick up your toddler-brain and say – it’s okay, don’t worry, let’s go get something to eat and maybe you imagined it all, but even if you didn’t, you’ll definitely meet someone new.

This might all be a little harsh, but our world really encourages us not to care too much. Searching for someone who will be special and care for you like a breathing comfort blanket, this is all well and good. But we should be careful not to undervalue ourselves. Again, the base of this kind of despair must be a lack of self-confidence. (Insofar as there isn’t an economic or material side to love – but of course there very much can be.)


One of the hardest aspects of job hunting is the consecutive building up and then jettisoning of a series of futures based on fantasies of having that job, whilst you wait for the interview, or the outcome of it. That imagining takes so much energy, as does its active obsoletion after failure.


The image has always been front and centre in cultures, and now with our phones, our image making devices, it has begun to overload culture, over determine it. Just like a tangled forest. Everything is an image of an image, or bumps into and blends into other images. Other images of others condition our images. And to escape from it is impossible – without intense self reflection. And who wants that.

For example, I see studying in a sense has been superceded by the image of study. I see students taking photos of themselves, looking great and studying. Or maybe this is it, wanting to look great, being the complete package. But then, wanting to do something has always been an ideologically conditioned act.


My mind is so introvert coded that I get a kind of ecstasy just observing hundreds of faces. I get it at gigs sometimes, or waiting in a library reception. Each new face is a joy. But I would never approach them, talk to them, at least, I wouldn’t have before.


The monster wakes – thinking of the awakening of Frankenstein’s creation, taking the representations which have seeped into the cultural miasma, you would think of it as violent, as loud. It’s alive! shouts the doctor, screaming with the monster as lightning strikes. Or its moaning, half verbal noises as it rolls around on the stage, in Cumberbatch’s national theatre performance. But in the novel, as I listen, the creepiness comes from the quietness. The eyes, simply opening, in the quiet, then (the next night?) the monster pushing back the bedclothes, speechless, noiseless. The doctor leaves the monster to wake, slowly, and goes to uneasy dreams. Life has taken, and fate moves. Things that have been done, cannot be undone, even if they are quiet, like the dropping of a small vial into a puddle reflecting grey skies.


What does a ghost do when it isn’t haunting? What does a ghost look like when it’s not haunting? Horrific enough answers haven’t been found to these questions.


When you’re making a painting, you should trust the eye to bring things together – the colour which ties two tones together needn’t be exact. Just so long as the lines and gradients align, the eye-mind will help you along.


Climate change intrudes into my mornings. I stand despondent in my dressing gown, looking out at the unseasonably warm and bare forest and think: oh no.

Isn’t it horrifically privileged to have as a central worry, the slight depression brought on at the thought of unseasonal weather?


Trying to leave poetry I imagine is roughly analogous to trying to leave Hill House.


Note to poets – treat poetry and those who like it, as if you have been marooned with them on a desert island and intend to make the best of it.


Reading Auden on Reading – he mentions the hooliganish defacement that readers tend to perform to the text. I remember being a child and having a sudden realisation that every character in the book could have a red party hat on. I started to imagine this, then got frightened that I’d never be able to imagine otherwise. All the characters in all the books I’d read would stride onto the stage in a big red party hat. Thank god that didn’t happen. Sorry for implanting the idea in your head.

This brings up an unrelated childhood fear, connected only in its foreverness or absoluteness. I would be afraid to go to sleep because I held it as literally similar to dying and I knew I wouldn’t wake up the same. Each night a person died and a new one was born in the morning. This one still gets me on an odd evening.


I, too, like it – Marianne Moore disliked poetry, or said she did, once. Ben Lerner wrote an essay about it. But I kinda like her poetry. And I kinda like his. The thing is, there’s nothing poetry is reaching for in general. It’s just a thing you can read, learn a bit from, get some enjoyment from, or a nice image. An arresting concept. This ideal thing that poems were taken to be reaching for is a kind of ontotheological hangup. A sparkly crystal poem from beyond the grave. But we have to make do with paper, which is extremely beautiful in its own register, sometimes. But also, there is pulp fiction, which we don’t ask to change us. Just to tide us over.


Knowing that politics as an embodied process either involves compromise or becomes violent, does not mean that as a political subject, you should have compromise as a conditioning factor to your action, as such. The system should do the compromising for you. Or at least, your forceful expression in the system will condition the final compromise.

There is another way that the political system subsumes some concerns, in that, the socialist frame of the system, the state infusing cash into the economy through state enterprise, becomes the base of a kind of right wing boorishness – ‘I am happy and free!’ – ignorant of the state support of their lavishness. The left socio-economic answer can encompass the right-wing emotional structures and concerns, in the sense of allowing them to exist under the system, but not vice versa (I’m talking about Radical Social Democracy.) This is one of the reasons why the socialist ideal is the best solution to the problem of government.

2 thoughts on “Aphorisms XXIV

  1. That last sentence doesn’t follow. Socialism is a scam for authoritarians to centralize and then abuse more power than they’re legitimately supposed to.be in possession of, especially in America, where such centralization and authoritarianism is recognized as a threat to individual rights and freedoms.


  2. It’s a really big question to approach here… but individual rights and freedoms for whom, is the key question. I live in Britain where we have had socialist elements of the state since 1945 and before. We haven’t suffered for it, specifically – I have multiple times benefitted from free healthcare for life threatening problems. I have the right to be healthy, and the freedom not to worry about the costs. And we have freedom of the press and assembly here, more or less. The cost to the country as a whole is many times less than it would be with a private healthcare system, meaning that we can use that money which would be absorbed by health insurance, on other things. Though here in the U.K., Socialism tends to mean Social Democracy, which is a relatively open democratic society where utilities and some services are nationalised, rather than a centrally planned economy. Nonetheless, the point I was making was that the socialist base to our democracy, allows a certain freedom to people which they sometimes take for granted in advocating for anti-social measures.


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