Words on Words - MaRCH 2, 2020
"Only the very young and the very old may recount their dreams at breakfast; dwell upon self, interrupt with memories of beach picnics, and favorite Liberty lawn dresses and rainbow trout in a creek near Colorado Springs. The rest of us are expected, rightly, to affect absorption in other people's favorite dresses, other people's trout, and so we do."
Joan Didion "On Keeping a Notebook"
I love Joan Didion, and I don't really know why. Our backgrounds couldn't be more opposed. There is something about the conciseness and wit of her viewpoint and style that I try to emulate. I love the first line of this quote where it talks about recounting dreams at breakfast. It reminds me of the scene in the Lois Lowry's The Giver where the inhabitants of The Community are forced to tell their dreams at the breakfast table in order to enforce conformity.
Didion's reference is far more healthy and makes me want to be at breakfast table talking about dreams with someone very young and someone very old and then me finishing the meal by telling them about the dreams I had before I needed a sleeping aid to fall asleep.
I also love the phrase "other people's trout." What a mind that can come up with something like that. It makes me have this hidden desire to play a game of chess with Joan with the game ending with her kicking over the board because she spilled wine on it. We both laugh, and I say, "Well, that's what comes of speculating about other people's trout."
Damn, did I just say that out loud?
"The people who watched Faustus dragged into the horrors of the serpents and the adders, the burning and the other tortures of hell, would not only feel scared, they would go away relieved.
All of the inner activity is a deeper level than morality. This underlying experience is the cathartic power of myth."
Rollo May "The Cry for Myth"
I was greatly disturbed by the movie The Joker. It was such a visceral, powerful movie that I almost walked out of the theater. I got home that evening and when I turned on the television, the Stephen King series Mr. Mercedes was coming on. I swear three images from that movie followed me home: 1) the murderer in a clown wig 2) A scene where a woman tells the killer that it was okay because his victims were snotty little rich people 3) the bloody footprints of the invisible clown walking down an empty corridor. It was quite disturbing.
I can well imagine the shock of seeing a performance of Faustus for the first time with the doctor being dragged into the depths of hell. May says that it had to give the audience pause to think about the trajectory of their own lives. I have been reading about Greek tragedy a lot lately and have learned that the Greek playwrights often used it to explain the idea that it is man's own ignorance and belief in pseudo knowledge that is complicit in creating the conditions of tragedy and fate.
I don't why the people who created The Joker felt compelled to create such a dark vision of life, but I do know that when I turn on the television everybody seems to be piling on the doom and gloom from the news anchors to the people trying to sell us deodorant. Seems like everybody wants to point out that human life is nothing but a tragedy, but if we just kick back and let them handle it, we all can all eat our popcorn in peace and not have to worry about getting splattered with blood, and we can just sit back and enjoy the living shit out of our own little virtual reality.
"What kind of hedonism is the pleasure we take in tragedy, which depicts not just suffering and death, but the ghostly porosity of the frontier separating the living from the dead? Is the greatest aesthetic pleasure the theatrically distanced experience of pain?
Tragedy, The Greeks, And Us
This ties into the other quote above. After watching The Joker ( I'll admit the only way I stayed in the theater was to take down notes in order to write a review of the movie) I have had disturbing sense that something bad is going on around here. The constant insanity of the political bickering that we are being subjected to has led me to reach the conclusion that we are all being forced into being spectators of an extremely tragic theatrical production.
Is it by accident? Or, are the people in power producing this play for their own nefarious ends? I see of no reason why people can't get along better than we do. In fact, I see no tangible evidence that we don't.
Then why is it that all we see is a culture designed to trigger us into thinking that we deserved to be punished for our sins. Hell, we have presidential candidates whose only really platform is that we are all a bunch of miserable fucks who deserved to be dealt with by a deranged Joaquin Phoenix in a clown suit.
And if Critchley is correct in stating that we secretly love the vicarious experience of pain (and if you don't think he is, explain female MMA fighting and the Kardashians) as long as we we can leave the theater and take our kids out for ice cream later, than maybe we really are a bunch of miserable shits who deserve to suffer.
The problem is that someone is going to ridiculous lengths to tell us that this is the only vision and the only path, and pretending that there is not an easy antidote which is believing that life has some kind of real meaning that we don't fully understand yet. That, and turning off the damned TV, putting down the devices, and maybe taking the kids out for ice cream before the movie and deciding afterwards not to spoil the experience by watching thirty-forty people getting decapitated by a fictional psychopath in a fucking clown suit.