Books

Wednesday 19th September

Dear (in all likelihood) myself,

I finally have a table in my hut and so I am writing something down properly finally. I have been sitting in my humid termite mound of a hut for a fortnight ingesting words. I promised myslef that I would expunge some of these words on to paper (and now onto pixels!), when I had the means, a poor put off for writing activity, as you can obviously write without a table.

I will begin my word bulimia;

What it is I know not,

But with gratitude,

My tears fall.

Speed, here, God save my American hide, means nothing whatever to me.

Two quotes from J.D Salinger’s Raise High the Roof Beam Carpenters to start us off. I read here in Africa, its what I do.

Being in a foreign country means walking a tightrope high above the ground without the net afforded a person by the country where he has his family, colleagues, and friends, and where he can easily say what he has to say in a language he has known from childhood.

Milan Kundera – The Unbearable Lightness of Being

I thought I had walked the tightrope before by moving to America from the UK, but moving to New York was a stroll on a sidewalk compared to my current escapades. PAVEMENT! There are no pavemeant/sidewalks here.

I must now apologize, for I worry that my literary nausea will induce vomit to fill your own throat, for I am now going to put down on paper some existential quotes. BARF!

We get into the habit of living before acquiring the habit of thinking

Strangely, here I seem to put more effort into living, whilst being able to devote more time to thinking, or rather thinking for thinkings sake. I have become more habitual in my living necessities, due to circumstances dictating that I remember them as necessities. Keeping clean is something that must be planned and can only be acieved when certain conditions are met – daylight, available water, weather, and time (things here take longer, much longer). Yet i don’t have the distractions from thinking here – no TV, films, radio, or internet, and for some reason i rarely listen to music on my ipod. I can sit and think for a good half hour, sitting on my own, mulling, stewing, marinating. I don’t mean to give the impression I am solving lifes great quandaries. I’m not. Moe likely I am taking myself on an imaginary shopping trip for an elaborate dinner at a high shelved supermarket. Food to a worrying degree dominates my mulling mind.

Like great works, deep feelings always mean more than they are conscious of saying.

I won’t say anything because then it will mean something. Or some such logical thing.

Mere “anxiety”, as Heidegger says, is at the source of evrything.

Sometimes I get anxious that I am not anxious enough, then I get self reflective enough to realise the fallacy of that train of thought. I then relax, which leads to anxiety about being relaxed. And so it goes.

The three previous quotes are from Albert Camus – The myth of Sisysphus. BARF!

He will never surrender himself either to lust or to ascetism; the bourgeois.

Herman Hesse – Steppenwolfe

I live as modern day ascetic – I live in a hut, I eat mainly rice and millet, I drink water, I have an ipod, I have a kindle.

There’s not much scope for surrending yourself to lust in my village.

Tolstoy related a Russian fable about a man who, being chased by a monster, jumps into a well. As the man is falling down the well, however, he sees ther’s a dragon at the bottom, waiting to eat him. Right then, the man notices a branch sticking out of the wall, and he grabs on to it and hangs. This keeps the man from falling into the dragons jaws, or being eaten by the monster above, but it turns out there is another little problem. Two mice, one black and one white, are scurrying around and around the branch, nibbling it. It’s only  a matter of time befor they will chew through the branch, causing the man to fall. As the man contemplates his inescapable fate, he notices something else: from the end of the branch he is holding, a few drops of honey are dripping. The man sticks out his tongue to lick them. This, Tolstoy says, is our human predicament: we’re the man clutching the branch. Death awaits us. There is no escape. and so we distract ourselves by licking whatver drops of honey come within our reach.

Jeffrey Eugenides – The Marriage Plot

Russian old world knowledge – the hard difficult facts of life softly told by an American.

In New York I had a hosepipe of honey cononing me. I licked, but it lost its sweetness.

Here you are more aware of the monster and the dragon. But the drop of honey -oh so sweet.

Why is it the more a human (brain) knows, the faster it works, while the more an artifact (computer) knows the slower it works?

Thom Wolfe- I Am Charlotte Simmons

It depends. The more I know of existentialism and easy American literature the more deliquescent my mind becomes. However, I just used deliquescent in a sentence – no indicator of speed or rationality I realise, but I am going to see it as a victory nonetheless.

Richard Dawkins may have phrased it ost pungently when he argued that everybody is an atheist in saying that there is a god – from Ra to Shiva – in which he does not believe. All that the serious and objective atheist does is to take the next step and to say that there is just one more god to disbeleive in.

Christopher Hitchens (I’m glad not to quote Richard Dawkins directly – WANKER!)

“Does no one want to know the truth here Mr Archer? The real loneliness is living among all these knid people who only ask one to pretend.”

Edith Wharton – The Age of Innocence

The nicest thing here is you don’t have to pretend with your fellow peace corps volunteers. You can actively be brutally honest about how shit you feel your existence is.

Wisdom cannot be passed on. Wisdom which a wise man tries to pass on to someone always sounds like foolishness.

Knowledge can be conveyed, but not wisdom. It can be found, it can be lived, it is possible to be carried by it, miracles can be performed with it, but it cannot be expressed in words and taught.

Hermann Hesse – Siddartha

What I write here – in this journal, in this blog – is foolishness, bare foolishness.

No, it is impossible to convey the life sensation of any given epoch of ones existence – that which makes its truth, its meaning – its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream – alone.

Joseph Conrad – Heart of Darkness

 

Thus – you don’t know me

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