Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Uncharted territory

I'll keep this one brief.

I just feel great disillusionment when no-one - or, rather, very few people - is willing to explore 'uncharted territory.' This has to be the main source of grief to me. And, as this blog demonstrates, a lot of things grieve me...

I'll probably sound very, very pompous by using my own measly stories as an example, but... I feel that my stories of late have really matured. The hard thing is getting people to read them in the first place. I've never particularly cared all that much about this in the past, but now it's got to the point where I desperately crave feedback for my work.

Looking at the world objectively, everyone has different interests. An architect may bemoan to me that no-one wants to look at designs he has so painstakingly laboured over. A mathematician would go haywire over my ridiculous innumeracy. A scientist may cover his arms over his brow over some of my deficiencies when it comes to basic scientific logic.

Still, to me, what matters most - more than the need for philosophical inquiry, which I think is marvellous - is transcendence. I think everyone has the faculty for this. Many people may be overcome by a full moon. If they are the urban type, they may prefer the sight of a massive skyscraper rather than gazing over a beautiful hill-top. We can all be transcended.

The places where I find transcendence seem to baffle most. A person once asked me, baffled, why I liked the film Blue Velvet so much, saying it was "nothing special." In a film module I took, two film students said they 'hated' (that's a really strong adjective!) The Double Life of Veronique. Seeing that they were film students, this surprised me. There are different ways to get around film-making, different ways to construct music and different ways to write fiction. Although I find transcendence in these places, it seems to irritate others beyond belief.

So, every time I explore 'uncharted territory' in my stories (and now I use this word subjectively - it is uncharted to me as I write it...) I understand that most people won't think likewise.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

How do you weigh "success"?

The commonly held view that 'success' is something to vie for really bugs me. Many times I am asked the question (and, considering that I speak to very few people, if I were a social animal I would probably be asked this every day...) "what are you going to do after university? What career do you want?" I am always far too embarrassed to say that I want to be a writer, so I just say "librarian."

Women often want men to 'grab the day' and, instead of marrying someone with an interesting personality and interesting views, they will go for someone with career ambitions. The education system a lot of the time, instead of teaching children about the value of education, will inculcate in them the need to monger after a high-paying job. This is also the attitude of politicians and people who legislate important decisions - work harder, stop moaning about our inept decisions and mistakes, make it big and be successful. The number of societal circles who believe this is limitless - we could go on and on and on.

This view of 'success' pretty much consists of the idea that you will 'play a role in society,' 'make it big' and 'earn money.' I had a squabble on the internet with some people and someone hit me back with "with these thoughts you have, you won't get anywhere." Ok, but so what? I have no interest whatsoever in 'getting somewhere'; that, to me, is completely meaningless.

In my book, I would consider something a success when I am fulfilling an interest or brining a project out to fruition. Say if I write a story I am pleased with, or if I were to complete a satisfactory novel - if I am happy with it, then I would consider that to be a success. I wouldn't care if the piece of work would be garlanded with praise by critics or academics, or if it were to sell a vast amount of copies. It has to be something that pleases me and that it's a confirmation that I have developed and matured my writing skills.

The counterargument to "success" is "happiness". To me, that is equally dubious. It does not certify quality or imagination in any way possible. Phrases such as "money doesn't buy you happiness" are completely meaningless to me. A rich mogul may have a large mansions, a number of cars, a yacht, etc. He may be happy, but so what? It is a completely superfluous happiness since he may not be getting to the core of things, nor is he accomplishing anything fulfilling in any way or form. A peasant may be living in desperate conditions and also may be happy.

In a creative endeavour - be it the writing of a novel, the study of scientific processes, the construction of a symphony, etc. - happiness means as little as success. You sometimes subject yourself to torturous agony just to unearth whatever it you want to unearth.

I would not want either of the following: have a reputable job, earn shed-loads of money and build a successful career; nor would I want to live in a comfortable house with a wife and family, settling for endless days of stupor. I would want to focus on personal projects (and perhaps a little political activism every now and then on the side), writing works of fiction and looking out for informative books. Society might view me as a 'failure' etc. but I would know that I'd be doing something right.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Thoughts on love

I remember walking through university, minding my own business, when this girl came up to me and asked "Would you like to walk over here and write what your thoughts are on love? It's a charity to raise awareness yada-yada-yada..."I felt like shooting her, though I politely declined.

At the time it sounded smalchy - it still sounds like that... I am disgusted by the notion of 'universal love', 'universal peace', etc. If there's own overriding energy I have, it's anger. I've always hated hippies for that reason; even though they claim to 'love' everything and everyone, deep down they are onanistic. They just want to have orgies. Ditto to new age mystics.

When I think of it in more detail I realise that it's not that black-and-white. I do love certain things. Though it's not 'universal' love, it's usually very specific things and entities.

In essence, matter can only work through love. The universe is a massive wasteland - masses of black matter, worm-holes forming and diffusing, etc. When 'love' is in place, things start to function, molecules begin to fizz and stars are formed. (If any Physics graduate reads this - and I know for sure that someone with an astrophysics degree reads this blog - they'd be probably dismiss this as babble. Nevermind.)

So, only when things work is love in place. Voids of nothingness lack this.

To me, this world is like a void. When I see an opportunist like Boris Johnson warming the hearts of hypocritical leftists, this angers me. When people are disinterested in what I have to say, this angers me. When I see economic graphs detailing the staggering disparities in income, this angers me.

Though I find love in remote places. I have often 'fallen in love' (I just found myself cringing) with girls I know nothing about. I know nothing about their personality, I just find their bodies overwhelmingly attractive. So I begin to obsessively think about them. They are just one person out of billions, yet my mind - involuntarily - fixates itself on them.

Yet this nebulous 'love' I feel for this seemingly - and superficially - frail person isn't in the slightest bit wholesome. It is crazy, irrational, bordering on madness. So, I don't sense 'love' in the way those hippies and new age mystics do. It's an extraordinarily aggressive feeling.

Likewise, when I hear a piece of music I like, it's not some sort of passive, gentle love. When I hear Varese's Ionisation I feel a kind of love for this soundworld. Yet, again, it's an aggressive kind of love. Perversely, I feel this for the so-called 'gentler' classical repertoire - for Bach, for Schubert, for Beethoven, etc. A rock song like 'Middle Mass' by The Fall provokes the same reaction.

The world is a void which angers me... But when I cherry-pick what I like, it stimulates me and gives me room for hope. If I had been brought around to writing something for that cheesy charity, I would have written this (in a truncated form).

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Thoughts on Tarkovsky

I will now try the impossible - try to explain, in some kind of fluid and coherent prose, why Andrei Tarkovsky is my favourite director. Invariably, when I write these kind of appraisals, I cop-out with gushing superlatives. I am going to try as much as I can to remain objective and to put my finger as to why Tarkovsky means so much to me...

Tarkovsky's role in the Soviet Union was ambiguous. Whilst not overtly critical of the regime, it is clear that his films do not align themselves with the authorities. It is clear from a film like Andrei Rublev that, for Tarkovsky, the role of the 'artist' is to create, inquire and discuss in the face of oppression. The rigid atheism characteristic of the Soviet regime was also completely discrepant to what mattered mostly to Tarkovksy - spirituality and the need for the individual to reflect on his place in Earth. Tarkovsky's films look 'inside' rather than 'outside' and, in such political surroundings, it is a small miracle that his films were made.

The painter Andrei Rublev can only create within a society in a state of turmoil. Set in 15th century Russia, around the time the country became Tsarist, it is clear that Rublev is dependant on the carnage and exploitation surrounding him to unearth his mural paintings. Continuously brooding and rationalising everything, he turns to orthodox Christianity to give him some sort of moral compass and purpose. An invasion of the Tartars, which completely devastate and maim the community he has lived in, leads him toward a vow of silence. He devotedly keeps to his word, only until the construction and casting of a bell makes him review of his decision. This bell has been built with such scrupulous craftsmanship that he is awed. It becomes clear that the creation of art, in its most crafted and disciplined form, can lead to transcendence and resolution. When the bell clangs toward the end of the film, Rublev knows it and the audience knows it.

Another clear theme that runs through most of Tarkovsky's films is memory. It is an illusory concept, often leading to grief and misconceptions. This is beautifully explored in Mirror. The structure of the narrative generally pans out in accordance with the narrator's notions of past and present. Scenes transpire in relation to what the narrator is actually going through in his everyday waking life. His tormented issues with his mother, his estrangement from his son, the fractured relationship with his wife, dream recollections, etc. All these elements ebb and flow as he tries to make sense of his broken family relationships. The narrative is seldom linear because of the wavering nature of memory and human thought. I have seen the film three times now and each viewing is different and revelatory.

Having spoken of dream sequences above, I'll just make the small remark that they are the closest I've seen to real dreams in any representational art. Some people say that the surrealist visions of Dali, Bosch, Ernst etc. are dream-like, but to me they really aren't. The dreams in Tarkovsky's films often take place in enclosed spaces and scenes often shift from one place to the other. Natural elements - fire, water, snow, etc. - often feature. (In a scene in Solaris, the protagonist visits his father, gazing into the home from outside his window pane. It is raining within the house, rather than outside. This is a warped logic often characteristic of dreams.) He certainly is a director who manages somehow to pierce into your skull. Three or four months after seeing my first Tarkovsky film, Solaris, I had a series of dreams influenced by the film's atmosphere.

A tangential theme of interest is that of the characters' wishes and what exactly these wishes mean and involve. There is often something hazardous in the Tarkovsky film about striving after an impossible goal. In Solaris, the planet where the astronaut resides in, the nostalgia for his deceased wife leads to her resuscitation. They are impermeable to one another and the film constant reminds the viewer that his wife is unearthed because of his unstable mind. The possible radiation (it is unclear in the film if this is the case) that the planet emits destabilises and fractures the lucidity and rationality of his waking thought. Likewise, in the flabbergasting film Stalker, the three characters become crazed by the toxicity of 'The Zone'. It is a place capable of unearthing their innermost wishes, but the locality drives them toward insanity. In the end, they are few yards away from the room granting them their wish, but they are unable to walk in. This is not only because it might be too dangerous, they are unable to confront the inner demons and fears that reside within their quixotic and yearning minds.

Another reason why his films mean so much to me is the constant recurrence of nature. The scenes depicting wildlife, plains, fields, swamps, forests are irresistibly shot. Tarkovsky could be considered a modernist in the sense that his films can often be structurally elliptical and theatrically undramatic. However, he is a romanticist in the way he turns to nature for inspiration and the way the reflection of nature helps as individuals and our purpose in the world. Most modernist 20th century artists turned to urbanity and the hoopla of living in a high-octane community. Tarkovsky jettisons all that and returns to the object of fascination of Wordsworth and so many other 19th century artists - the immensity of nature and the reflectivity it provokes.

His characters are often populated by children. (Most notably with the child protagonist in Ivan's Childhood.) A scene that I recall is in Mirror when the protagonist's son leafs through a large book. It seems to invoke the feeling of raging curiosity and inquisitiveness. Children feature throughout Tarkovsky's film because they know less. As a result, they perceive situations and concepts far more vividly. Too much knowledge seems to be very perilous indeed to Tarkovksy - just look at what it leads  The Writer, The Scientist and the Stalker toward in Stalker...

So, above I provided a few notes as to why Tarkovsky's films mean so much to me. These are themes that I personally connect with and inform my sense of purpose in the world...

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Party politics

There is nothing dubious about having an ideology. An ideology should not be something you choose but, rather, a label that best describes your political views. Someone that is an amalgam of two views might hyphenate two separate ideologies together. Someone who skirts all political thinking is a free thinker.

What I do find dubious is party politics. Unlike an ideology, it does not necessarily represent your thinking. Rather, it represents a cause you work for.

What first and foremost annoys me about party politics is that a member of a party will not speak for what he has to say - he speaks for his party. This strongly unsettles. There is no room for latitude. Whatever topic is at hand, you give the opinion your party has opted for. I'm not necessarily talking about politicians here, but I'm taking staunch defenders of political parties into account as well.

Those party members who do not agree with certain policies will either quarrel a lot and there will be many heated discussions. Members may simply try to "make a change" and try to work against the rules of their party, which works to no avail.

In many so-called 'democracies', the parliamentary political system seldom works fruitfully. Invariably the same parties dominate. Invariably these parties will be practically identical. It all hovers around centrist politics. As such, backlashes of extremism often surface. For example, the Weimar Republic in Germany was one of the most advanced and pluralistic societies of any day and age. Within ten years it degenerated into Nazism, the lowest humanity has ever sunk.

I saw the Monty Python film Life of Brian (which is, of course, very funny) recently and, rather than striking me as a satire on religion, it struck me as being a political satire. Particularly of the left. It is often in the nature of hard leftist political parties to bicker and quarrel mercilessly. Most socialist groups, for example, heatedly diatribe against the ruling powers but, when it comes to the crunch, they will seldom revolutionise.

What capitalist political systems often demonstrate is that they often lead to monopolies and corruption. The presidential elections in the USA cost billions of dollars, a sum that could quite easily be boosted into the economy to promote growth. The political parties in themselves do not offer solutions to the problems afflicting society. They also have a hard time legislating any policies they may have. (Such as Obamacare, something that should be an entitlement to any citizen of any country.)

As a result of all this, no real democracy emerges. Like in an earlier post I mentioned, the public is sedatised and deprived of free thought. It is the party political system and state power that prevent real democracy from truly flourishing.