It was early summer. I was 22, sitting outside, listening to Beethoven's Spring, and reading DH Lawrence. Specifically, his study on Thomas Hardy. And what grabbed me from that work wasn't really just his analysis, but his intro. When he describes the lush vitality of red poppies, and segues into this lifeblood, by ascertaining what a "death in life" is.
I'm telling you this because I didn't post last night. And for that, you have my apologies. I didn't post because I was too depressed. And even "depressed" seems like a trite word to use for the overwhelming sadness, hopelessness, self-critique, which is really self-hatred, and anomie, which ensued. Perhaps as this blog progresses I'll detail more what's happening to my immediate family (my folks, and sister and brothers). Now, I just want to vocalize the horrendous quality of a "death in life."
A death in life really happens when there's an aspect of you still vital. Something beneath the surface begging to be let free. A character in my second novel lives by the affirmation that people don't change. That, all we do is put on different masks, but at our core, there's still the same vulnerability, the same perception, of a child. When people stray too far from this, and let the mask overwhelm so that it does become a makeshift core, they lose everything that makes them vital. And become instead a reflection of the resistance between shadow and sun. When you experience a death in life, you do become a mask. You become the mask that thinks it can't do anything, the one that self-berates, the one that makes you feel death would be better than persisting. Because, even as the taste of living is still there, even as you've eaten your share of apples, it's just that, something at the core you can forget. But will incontrovertibly remember; because the forgetting is superficial, its' the remembrance of vitality that makes this dying all the worse. So things lose value. And you're left in the insistent clutch of anomie.
I'm trying to figure out how to come to a new valuation, from this. Like nihilism, it eradicates worth. But also embodies it, because you know a change must come about. I think the most tragic characters, in history, and literature, and film, are the ones who think they can change their core, but cannot change the mask. There are maybe a few I can think of. Orpheus, for one. For those of you unfamiliar with the myth, he had the most beautiful voice, a voice you think would come from the stars in song. His love, Eurydice, was, I think, bitten by a snake or something of that sort and sent to Hades. Orpheus was so distraught, that he went there, and was told he could lead Eurydice out with his song, but couldn't look back upon her, to see if she was following him. When he looked back to see if Eurydice was there, I used to think it was because, with such a conception of possible demise, he desired the lifeblood of her eyes. Now, I'm resigned to the thought he was only making sure she was following; which, yes, does preserve his vulnerability, but also eradicates the trust, another endemic trust fund set up by our core. He wears the mask of distrust, and this overwhelms him so much, he loses grasp of the beauty of his voice leading Eurydice out, of Hades, the beauty of his love, so she ends up going back to Hell and he is devoured by Maenads.
Really, what could be more tragic than that?
Masks can be many things. Ideas. Images. Persona. I think the blight of our Western culture is the fact it has become so image based. People care so much about how they appear to others, I'm a victim... conspirator... of it, when I was on Prednisone and my face took on that "moon shape" quality and I gained a lot of weight, I didn't want to go out. And, eventhough some of us may recognize our inherent vulnerability and trust, it is often assassinated by those who have abandoned it, to pursue the mask of "beauty" and hubris.
So, what is beauty? To quote Gregory Clare, from my first novel, it is at best elusive and is its own design. I think collectively our culture has so misconstrued beauty's core. We've taken things like beauty, and have made masks for it, much like we fashion masks for ourselves, and pretend these masks are our core. But, I'm more on the slant of Gregory. I think it isn't something we see. And it does elude us; it's meant to. It's like the nothingness I spoke of in my previous blog. The "neverness," if you will. I have this thought that there's an invisible aspect to all of us, and I don't mean the "soul." I mean, we are a fruition of nature, natural processes. And beauty is really the core of these processes, something we'll never understand. Life can grow from the primordial, yes, but the primordial can never grow from life.
Beauty is scope and impact and retraction. It is that feeling we get when the first Spring flowers bloom. Smelling Convallaria (Lily of the Valley). Feeling the coolness after the rain. So much evokes pleasure, and beauty is in many ways pleasure, but it's a pleasure that exceeds our trite and superficial cultural conceptions of what's considered "beautiful." It is, as Cordelia Riley says in my first novel, the interconnectedness of nothing. It's that pulse that binds us, and gives us so many masks, so many charms, like the ones just listed (flowers, rain, etc.,), so our greatest sin is not recognizing its elusiveness. Is, in fact, taking it and making the masks it wears, without recognizing the slippery core.
Do forgive me if I seem to be at all pedantic or didactic. I'm just spouting my beliefs. One friend said I seemed to be on the verge of Sufism, at one point. Though I had said different things to evoke that reaction. Still, if you do anything for the remainder of today, just think about this. We are all really the nothing of something. It's when we reverse those roles, make ourselves the something of nothing, that we become... dead.