adorno on the decay of human relationships

“The fear of the secret decay of relationships is almost always caused by those involved allegedly or really finding things ‘too hard’. They are too weak in the face of reality, overtaxed by it on all sides, to muster the loving determination to maintain the relationship purely for its own sake. In the realm of utility, every relationship worthy of human beings takes on an aspect of luxury. No one can really afford it, and resentment at this breaks through in critical situations…“…If the subject is deeply involved while the relationship’s outward aspect prevents him, with good reason, from indulging his impulse, the relation is turned to permanent suffering and thus endangered. The absurd significance of trivia like a missed phone call, a stinted handshake, a hackneyed turn of phrase, springs from their manifesting an inner dynamic otherwise held in check, and threatening the relationship’s objective concreteness. Psychologists may well condemn the fear and shock of such moments as neurotic, pointing out their disproportion to the relationship’s objective weight. Anyone who takes fright so easily is indeed ‘unrealistic’, and in his dependence on the reflexes of his own subjectivity betrays a faulty adjustment.

“Only when one responds to the inflection of another’s voice with despair is the relation as spontaneous as it should be between free people, while yet for that very reason becoming a torment which, moreover, takes on an air of narcissism in its fidelity to the idea of immediacy, its impotent protest against coldheartedness. The neurotic reaction is that which hits on the true state of affairs, while the one adjusted to reality already discounts the relationship as dead. The cleansing of human beings of the murk and impotence of affects is in direct proportion to the advance of dehumanization.”

~ Theodor W. Adorno, Messages in a Bottle

michelle mcgrane – things that a bond girl should never leave home without

A double entendre,
a steady gun-arm, a failproof
recipe for Béarnaise sauce,
a kick-ass lipstick,
‘Five of a Kind’.

Contortionist training,
a reservation at Maxim’s,
a magnum of Taittinger Blanc
de Brut 1943 and twenty
Morland Specials.

A stolen copy
of Hogan’s Power Golf,
a smouldering silhouette,
a commando dagger,
a cyanide tablet.

Sagittarius rising,
a Côte d’Azur suntan,
opera glasses, life insurance,
fifty rounds of ammo,
a contact in Japan.

A bluff and a bikini,
a Triumph convertible,
a parachute, a silk peignoir,
a concealed blueprint,
an escape route.

Previously published in Magma 50.

arlyn culwick – on death

Image: Inflected Landscape by Arlyn Culwick

So, young Death, what could you be?
Even my father’s cancered body
brought me no sightless terror at eternity.
I suspect you have no sting.
Perhaps you, old splinter in the heart of love,
never were more than mirage,
though love would need you –
necessary certain death –
as a nail for a cross,
and cross and nail and Christ and
resurrection
are all love –
the ever-dying eternal life of all.

If so, where would you go,
you much-maligned seed of beginnings?
Youngest purveyor of life,
always exactly zero years old –
ever painted Grim Reaper,
thief of loved ones,
skeletal with age and demon-haunted.
You, unknowable ultimate horizon,
ear-whisperer of the infinite terror of endings,
do not impart any evil
except perhaps deluded dread.

You would go to a greater whole
of which you are inseparably part,
for shapes without space,
age without time,
or nails without crosses,
have no significance.
Thus you, youngest innocent death
are as much your own as the terror of
a darkened room:
mere mirage,
as seemingly all-powerful
as its infinite inscrutable blackness
and the child-fantasy it feeds.

You are love’s very vehicle.
Flesh for sacrifice, in dying,
is meaning-embodied matter –
is substance made significant –
surrendered, emptied, dissolute,
but never for itself, nor for nothing;
always for all,
for everything made sign;
spirit, soul, and soil pervaded
by kindest, complete kenosis,
all-originating, all-resurrecting.
Only silliest oldest humanity,
children trembling sightless in their beds,
give shadows a scythe and empty eye sockets
and forget the bedroom’s sturdy walls.

Check out Arlyn’s blog HERE.

divine madness: can creativity kill you?

Superstar at home NYC, 1968 by Diane Arbus

During Diane Arbus’s funeral, the photographer Richard Avedon turned to a friend and whispered, ”Oh, I wish I could be an artist like Diane.” The friend, Frederick Eberstadt, answered, ”Oh, no, you don’t.” Their brief exchange – as recounted in Patricia Bosworth’s biography of Arbus – raises the charged questions surrounding the tormented, even self-destructive, creative artist. Chief among them is where reality ends and mythology begins.

Arbus personified the artist whose inner turmoil – depression, dislocation and a taste for risk bordering on a death wish – fueled her creations, those moving and disturbing photographs of drag queens and hermaphrodites, celebrities and Siamese twins. But Arbus was also a woman defeated by depressions so debilitating she often could not work and, ultimately, chose not to live. Finally, Arbus represented an artist who gained more fame, who was indeed romanticized, more for living on the edge than for the artistry she brought back from that emotional frontier.

It is no wonder, then, that Arbus – that the entire issue of the ”mad artist,” as the awful cliche has it -should both attract and repel, as it has for literally thousands of years. Aristotle spoke of ”divine madness,” Renaissance scholar Marsilio Ficino of the ”Saturnine temperament.” The playwright August Strindberg declared that few people were ”lucky enough to be capable of madness,” and the poet John Berryman opined, ”The artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not nearly kill him.”

Read more of Samuel G Freedman´s text here

federico garcia lorca – the passing stage of the siguiriya

Among black butterflies
goes a dark-haired girl
next to a white serpent
of mist.

Earth of light,
sky of earth.

She is chained to the tremor
of a never arriving rhythm;
she has a heart of silver
and a dagger in her right hand.

Where are you going, siguiriya,
with such a headless rhythm?
What moon’ll gather up your pain
of whitewash and oleander?

Earth of light,
sky of earth.

(translated by Ralph Angel)

La Seguiriya – A flamenco form with a mixed compás – combining 3/4 and 6/8 time (a feature that drives music experts to despair). The seguiriya takes its name from the Castilian ‘seguidilla’, a musical style to which it is related, literarily at least. It is considered the quintessential style of ‘cante jondo’, for its solemnity, the minimalism of the lyric, and the wailing ‘quejío’ associated with vocal performances.

“The Gypsy siguiriya had always evoked for me (an incurable lyricist) the endless road, one without crossroads, which ends at the pulsating fountain of the girl-child, poetry, the road where the first bird died and the first arrow rusted.

The Gypsy siguiriya begins with a dreadful cry, a cry that divides the landscape into two perfect hemispheres. It is the cry of dead generations, a poignant elegy for vanished centuries, the evocation of love filled with pathos beneath other winds and other moons.”

Read the text of a fascinating lecture by Lorca on the historical and artistic significance of Canto Jondo (“deep song”) HERE.