rainer maria rilke – from “requiem for a friend” (1908)

… That’s what you had to come back for: the lament that we omitted. Can you hear me? I would like to fling my voice out like a cloth over the fragments of your death, and keep pulling at it until it is torn to pieces, and all my words would have to walk around shivering, in the tatters of that voice; as if lament were enough.

But now I must accuse: not the man who withdrew you from yourself (I cannot find him; he looks like everyone), but in this one man, I accuse: all men. When somewhere, from deep within me, there arises the vivid sense of having been a child, the purity and essence of that childhood where I once lived: then I don’t want to know it. I want to form an angel from that sense and hurl him upward, into the front row of angels who scream out, reminding God.

For this suffering has lasted far too long; none of us can bear it; it is too heavy — this tangled suffering of spurious love which, building on convention like a habit, calls itself just, and fattens on injustice. Show me a man with a right to his possession. Who can possess what cannot hold its own self, but only, now and then, will blissfully catch itself, then quickly throw itself away, like a child playing with a ball. As little as a captain can hold the carved Nike facing outward from his ship’s prow when the lightness of her godhead suddenly lifts her up, into the bright sea-wind: so little can one of us call back the woman who, now no longer seeing us, walks on along the narrow strip of her existence as though by miracle, in perfect safety — unless, that is, he wishes to do wrong. For this is wrong, if anything is wrong: not to enlarge the freedom of a love with all the inner freedom one can summon. We need, in love, to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily; we do not need to learn it.

sulamith wolfling – the little mermaid

Are you still here? Are you standing in some corner? You knew so much of all this, you were able to do so much; you passed through life so open to all things, like an early morning. I know: women suffer; for love means being alone; and artists in their work sometimes intuit that they must keep transforming, where they love. You began both; both exist in that which any fame takes from you and disfigures. Oh you were far beyond all fame; were almost invisible; had withdrawn your beauty, softly, as one would lower a brightly colored flag on the gray morning after a holiday. You had just one desire: a year’s long work — which was never finished; was somehow never finished. If you are still here with me, if in this darkness there is still some place where your spirit resonates on the shallow sound waves stirred up by my voice: hear me: help me. We can so easily slip back from what we have struggled to attain, abruptly, into a life we never wanted; can find that we are trapped, as in a dream, and die there, without ever waking up. This can occur. Anyone who has lifted his blood into a years-long work may find that he can’t sustain it, the force of gravity is irresistible, and it falls back, worthless. For somewhere there is an ancient enmity between our daily life and the great work. Help me, in saying it, to understand it.

Do not return. If you can bear to, stay dead with the dead. The dead have their own tasks. But help me, if you can without distraction, since in me what is most distant sometimes helps.

[Translator: Stephen Mitchell]

adrienne rich – diving into the wreck

adrienne richFirst having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers
the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his
assiduous team
aboard the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone.

There is a ladder.
The ladder is always there
hanging innocently
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.
Otherwise
it is a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment.

I go down.
Rung after rung and still
the oxygen immerses me
the blue light
the clear atoms
of our human air.
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
will begin.

First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power
I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element.

And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
lived here
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
and besides
you breathe differently down here.

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or weed

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.

This is the place.
And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body.
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he

whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-destroyed instruments
that once held to a course
the water-eaten log
the fouled compass

We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.

__

From Diving into the Wreck: Poems 1971-1972. W. W. Norton & Company, 2013

marie curie on supporting researchers

Humanity also needs dreamers, for whom the disinterested development of an enterprise is so captivating that it becomes impossible for them to devote their care to their own material profit. Without doubt, these dreamers do not deserve wealth, because they do not desire it. Even so, a well-organized society should assure to such workers the efficient means of accomplishing their task, in a life freed from material care and freely consecrated to research.

— Marie Curie, scientist, Nobel laureate (1867-1934)

søren kierkegaard on boredom

Idleness, then, is so far from being the root of all evil that it is rather the true good. Boredom is the root of evil; it is that which must be held off.

Will Cotton: "Cotton Candy Clouds". Oil on Linen, 2004

Will Cotton: “Cotton Candy Clouds”.
Oil on Linen, 2004

Since boredom advances and boredom is the root of all evil, no wonder, then, that the world goes backwards, that evil spreads. This can be traced back to the very beginning of the world. The gods were bored; therefore they created human beings. Adam was bored because he was alone; therefore Eve was created. Since that moment, boredom entered the world and grew in quantity in exact proportion to the growth of population. Adam was bored alone; then Adam and Eve were bored en famille. After that, the population of the world increased and the nations were bored en masse. To amuse themselves, they hit upon the notion of building a tower so high that it would reach the sky. This notion is just as boring as the tower was high and is a terrible demonstration of how boredom had gained the upper hand. Then they were dispersed around the world, just as people now travel abroad, but they continued to be bored. And what consequences this boredom had: humankind stood tall and fell far, first through Eve, then from the Babylonian tower.

— From Either/Or (1843).

happy 195th birthday, karl marx

From www.threadless.com

“The Communist Party” – A t-shirt design from http://www.threadless.com

“The fact is that labour is external to the worker, that is, it does not belong to his intrinsic nature. In his work, therefore, he does not affirm himself but denies himself, does not feel content but unhappy, does not develop freely his physical and mental energy but mortifies his body and his mind. The worker therefore only feels himself outside his work, and in his work feels outside himself.”

(From Estranged Labour, 1844)

“Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks. The time during which the labourer works is the time during which the capitalist consumes the labour-power he has purchased of him. If the laborer consumes his disposable time for himself, he robs the capitalist.”

(From Capital, 1867)

danielle leduc – the anti-preneur manifesto

adbusters_106_antripreneur_SI don’t want to be a designer, a marketer, an illustrator, a brander, a social media consultant, a multi-platform guru, an interface wizard, a writer of copy, a technological assistant, an applicator, an aesthetic king, a notable user, a profit-maximizer, a bottom-line analyzer, a meme generator, a hit tracker, a re-poster, a sponsored blogger, a starred commentator, an online retailer, a viral relayer, a handle, a font or a page. I don’t want to be linked in, tuned in, ‘liked’, incorporated, listed or programmed. I don’t want to be a brand, a representative, an ambassador, a bestseller or a chart-topper. I don’t want to be a human resource or part of your human capital.

I don’t want to be an entrepreneur of myself.

Don’t listen to the founders, the employers, the newspapers, the pundits, the editors, the forecasters, the researchers, the branders, the career counsellors, the prime minister, the job market, Michel Foucault or your haughty brother in finance – there’s something else!

I want to be a lover, a teacher, a wanderer, an assembler of words, a sculptor of immaterial, a maker of instruments, a Socratic philosopher and an erratic muse. I want to be a community centre  a piece of art, a wonky cursive script and an old-growth tree! I want to be a disrupter, a creator, an apocalyptic visionary, a master of reconfiguration, a hypocritical parent, an illegal download and a choose-your-own-adventure! I want to be a renegade agitator! A licker of ice cream! An organiser of mischief! A released charge! A double jump on the trampoline! A wayward youth! A volunteer! A partner.

I want to be a curator of myself, an anti-preneur, a person.

Unlimited availabilities. No followers required. Only friends.

~ Danielle Leduc

First published HERE (thanks to Emma Arogundade for sharing it on Facebook).
Note from the author:
I actually didn’t write this as an ‘anti-preneurial manifesto’ – it was more of a poetic rant written in frustration from combing through the online job market. I meant it as less of a takedown of capitalism and more of a critique of how we are told to sell ourselves as brands, to self-promote, in order to make it in this world, and as such we allow our job titles to define us to a certain extent. I think all of us are many of the things I listed towards the end, but these things don’t appear as marketable skills in a neoliberal economy with a tight and precarious job market. We are not our resumes, is all.

thoughts on meaningful work, 14 november 2012, 5:38 a.m.

What follows is something I wanted to blog from Turkey in November but was unable to due to lack of an internet connection at the time. I woke up very early one morning, typed it into my phone’s notes app, half asleep, and promptly forgot about it. The incredibly tedious work I am currently doing (editing an MSc thesis on anthropometric measurements for office chairs) reminded me of its existence. So, two months later, here it is.

Turkey 2012 492a

Arif Cerit with the farm dogs, Shanslar (Lucky) and Beyaz (White), at Pastoral Vadi. Photo: Rosemary Lombard.

Last night I had a profound conversation, in my bad Turkish and his bad English, with Arif Cerit, a guy who lives at Pastoral Vadi, the organic/permaculture farm near Fethiye in South-Western Turkey which I am visiting – working in exchange for food and a bed. It’s a very comfortable bed, in a neat, well-appointed cottage designed and built of cob (straw and mud) five years ago by Ahmet Kizen, an architect passionate about sustainable living and ecotourism who bought this farm 14 years ago and opened it to visitors about 7 years back. No maintenance has been necessary since the cottage was built, I’m told. The thick walls keep it cool during the day and surprisingly warm at night.

So, back to what I wanted to blog about, which has resonated for me with my friend P‘s latest gier on Facebook, which involves a sort of Dada/absurdist attempt to animalise interactions. Having been away and in limited contact with everyone, I haven’t had a chance to ask him more about it, but, basically, instead of clicking “like”, he types animal noises. “Baaa, baaa”, mostly. For me it draws attention to the essentially animal nature of human interaction, which we have become unconscious of and detached from, as we live large swathes of our lives online, “denatured”, unquestioning.  “Like” has become a capricious yet ubiquitous form of social capital. Facebook’s shady manipulation of this currency of late has triggered consternation and outrage. They’ve put in place algorithms that restrict the “organic” (terms such as “organic” and “viral” in the world of virtual memes are interesting in their ironic detachment!) reach of posts on the network, requiring one to pay (“real” money) to secure an audience greater than an arbitrary sliver of the profiles to whom one is connected… Just when I thought it was because I only had a sliver of die-hards who actually enjoyed what I post anymore, I realised that most of my Facebook friends no longer see my updates in their news feeds. What a relief (?). The virtual landscape increasingly resembles a targeted marketing environment more than it does a communal hangout, a place for exchanging ideas and thoughts, as it used to. Now it’s mostly about Profit. By monetising the prominence of posts, equal access is effectively being stifled. Concomitantly, freedom of association and meaningful interaction are withering.

That’s another aside, or, rather, more context. ANYWAY. So, what I gleaned from my conversation with big, friendly Arif was that he had been a taxi driver with a fleet of cars in the west coast city of Izmir for 21 years, before dropping everything and moving here to the farm. He sold his business, gave the money to his brothers and left it all behind.

He says that the city is a big jungle, very dark, very dense, very dangerous, full of artifice and chemical poisons. People are a species of animal, he says, like all animals… In cities you have to be a predator to do well. If you are not a predator, you have to live your life very small, like a rat, to survive. Your mind is very important, he says. The chasing after money and things that you need to do to live in the city takes up all your time and your thoughts. Money is a cancer. TV is the morphine you need to kill the pain at the end of the day: the pain of your mind being eaten away.

Out here on the farm, life is real, he says. There is space, there is ground, and air, and the smell of greenness. Animals who are not predators can live happily, widely, openly, productively.

Turkey 2012 467a

Processing pomegranates by hand to make nar ekshili sos (pomegranate reduction). Photo: Rosemary Lombard

Sticky, crimson pomegranate juice is running down my arms and dripping off my elbows. I’m stained with the joy of manual labour. It’s so satisfying, this repetitive bashing of crates and crates of halved fruit to knock out the arils, then the squeezing in a bag to extract the juice, which is then boiled over a fire for ten hours to reduce it to a dark, tart syrup, then strained through muslin into bottles.  It’s slow-going, messy, tiring work. I have blisters, purple palms. But, at the end of each day, I can see the results of my time spent. It’s nothing like the virtual world of work I mostly inhabit, where I shut down my computer and a sense of the hours and hours I have spent shunting pixels around evaporates.

For so long now, my life has felt paper-thin, no, thinner, as if I barely cast even a shadow of influence in the world, and I realise now that it is largely because of the intangible nature of the work I have been doing, which mostly involves cleaning, tidying and correcting other people’s writing, or recording their work, or facilitating their conversations… It’s all work towards actualising goals that I have deemed worthwhile; nonetheless, these are goals which are not my own. I have tried to frame them as my own, tried to see my part in the whole as indispensable, my purpose as contiguous with that of the projects’, my place as “a tiny cog in the great wheel of evolution” – that was how Billy Wilder put it, writing the words of Ninotchka played by Greta Garbo in Ernst Lubitsch’s wonderful 1939 satire of the same name.

Alas, my heart just hasn’t been convinced. I haven’t been able to shake this unbearable sense of lightness, of the unnecessary breaths I’m taking, of the lack of any other humans who truly require or desire my existence, irreplaceably, here on Earth. All this needs to change if I am to remain sane when I get back. Living with a heavenly purpose is too far beyond me. I’d be satisfied to have done with consumption, thanks. I started this blog in an attempt to make something indelible of the ephemeral. I need to do more. I’m starving.

“If I had an orchard, I’d work till I was sore.” ~ Fleet Foxes – “Helplessness Blues“.

Fethiye-20121113-01327

Sweet! A break to drink some freshly-squeezed pomegranate juice. Photo: Rosemary Lombard

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audre lorde on the erotic

The erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognised feeling…

Of course, women so empowered are dangerous. So we are taught to separate the erotic from most vital areas of our lives other than sex…

The principal horror of any system which defines the good in terms of profit rather than in terms of human need, or which defines human need to exclusion of the psychic and emotional components of that need — the principal horror of such a system is that it robs our work of its erotic value, its erotic power and life appeal and fulfilment. Such a system reduces work to a travesty of necessities, a duty by which we earn bread or oblivion for ourselves and those we love. But this is tantamount to blinding a painter and then telling her to improve her work, and to enjoy the act of painting. It is not only next to impossible, it is also profoundly cruel.

. . . [O]nce we begin to feel deeply all the aspects of our lives, we begin to demand from ourselves and from our life-pursuits that they feel in accordance with that joy which we know ourselves to be capable of. Our erotic knowledge empowers us, becomes a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects of our existence, forcing us to evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within our lives…

During World War II, we bought sealed plastic packets of white, uncolored margarine, with a tiny, intense pellet of yellow coloring perched like a topaz just inside the clear skin of the bag. We would leave the margarine out for a while to soften, and then we would pinch the little pellet to break it inside the bag, releasing the rich yellowness into the soft pale mass of margarine. Then, taking it carefully between our fingers, we would knead it gently back and forth, over and over, until the color had spread throughout the whole pound bag of margarine, thoroughly coloring it.

I find the erotic such a kernel within myself. When released from its intense and constrained pellet, it flows through and colors my life with a kind of energy that heightens and sensitizes and strengthens all my experience.

Lorde, Audre. “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power.” Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Freedom, CA: Crossing Press, 1984. 53-59.

north korean children play stupendously creepy music

I found this North Korean children’s ensemble performance disturbing yet also fascinating… Maybe it’s due to my Western bias towards self-determination, but the regimented – no, automated – nature of this; the youngness of the children; their forced smiles, really upset me to watch. Everything is rote, down to the last tilt of the head. It also makes me wonder how much “childhood” they have – how heavy this weighs on their tiny shoulders… Or do they even feel it as oppressive at all? Maybe if you grow up where play (of the spontaneous sort) is not on the cultural menu, you never yearn for it, never feel alienation or exploitation?

Thanks Justin Allart for passing this on.