attempts at living

to make a system out of delusions

Tag: beauty

The stoic as pessimist

The Stoics held that thought was the cause of all suffering, while others like the Buddha, Schopenhauer, Zapffe, Cioran (the whole pessimist gamut) held otherwise. Life itself, existence in this form, this conscious modality, is the cause of all suffering. This is the veil of tears. This is the thesis that seduces many into a subjectivist nihilism, or a resignation. This is the first, the only, noble truth. And from whence does its nobility spring? Are we to think that because it fell from the Buddah’s lips that it is noble? No. It’s nobility is not that of the highborn or the superior, it is the nobile of ‘gnobilis’, the knowable. It is what we come to know. It is the irrevocable knowledge that precedes the writings of any and all traditions, that precedes the production of a system of notation to inscribe meanings on page, on rock, on skin. It is knowledge that precedes even the birth of meaning, and which survives it in death. It is noble because it is always and everywhere the first knowledge; it is what life necessarily comes to know. The neonate’s primitive scream; the President’s tears after gunshots in an elementary school, and the children who ran to hide; the battle fields, the urban squalor, the inherited evolutionary itch to fight, to flee, to erect dwelling and cower (in comfort admittedly) from the elements. Suffering is what life comes to know irrevocably.

Some would say the function of art, and all aesthetics maybe, is to deliver us from suffering- to provide a salvic operation on what we have discounted as our ‘soul’. Beauty is born to soothe us, to raise us above the murk and mess and mulch of darkness, pain, and the compacted rot of corpses we call our history, our present. And I won’t dispute that. What do I know that those greater minds didn’t?

But the Stoics. They refused to characterise existence as suffering. We suffer to the extent that we acquiesce to the events that we take as the external source of our suffering. Writ large: we suffer because we don’t know how to be indifferent to the fact of life, to living. It was this that allowed them, or at least some of their contemporary interpreters, to make the illegitimate move of thinking that life is, in the words of one such modern Stoic, ‘amazing, incredible, wonderful’.

But then, it’s undeniable that beauty is produced by suffering. This isn’t to say that all who suffer produce beauty (and nor is it to say that beauty transforms  suffering- the beautiful and the merely pretty don’t necessarily coincide). It is simply to say that suffering appears necessary for the beautiful to emerge in conscious life.

So what have we said? That life is suffering. That the living suffer. That suffering is the fertilizer of the production of beauty. That the beautiful might elevate us, however fleetingly, from our condition. So don’t we have sufficient ground to say with the contemporary Stoic, who is surely exceeding his ancient Masters, that life is amazing, incredible, wonderful. In short, beautiful. Beauty, after all, is not opposed to ugliness but to the bland.

The pessimist  can find in life, in death as idea and as materiality (as corpse), some beauty. Likewise the pessimist need not be viewed as the dour and miserable or the cold and distant. The pessimist is overwhelmed sometimes by the world, not just in its aspect as source of suffering but also as source of beauty- because that is the same.



on the production of poetry

Today i felt poetic before getting to work
and i sent a poetic message to my lover
something like
-and work is a means to steal the energies of pleasure
but i had meant to say something like
the indolent energies of pleasure, and maybe
something about the innocence of fallen angels.
at any rate, i know that all i was doing by feeling that way
was trying to make my nervousness beautiful.
maybe all poetry is the product of anxiety, of panic, of terror.

but i have pictures

what am i now
and where
i could wait outside your door
like a stalker
a psychotic with grim designs

sometimes i wonder
what is the value of a human heart
excised of love
excised of pain

i’m a waiting man
who doesn’t know how long he’ll wait
or who he’ll find
when her shadows lift

i miss you here
on the moon’s dry lakes
i don’t even breathe now

is it cold where you are walking?
i see you’re still performing
smiling for the camera
so beautiful
but still so vacant?

i miss you here
this is not a place
without you
and it may never be again

i just don’t know
if you’re ever coming home

time for

being captured
and time for revealing
the labour of beauty

time for misdirection
to eject last minute

in the scar that’s
slowly forming
i can see the strata
of the slowest

and its never going
to be that way

who am i
in this
to you?
to decipher
these fragmenting
if this
is the pause
two acts
or the drawing
of the final

i’m in executioner
the axe to my
own head
and i’ve
been reading
all about
role procedures
and how
to sit and watch
without naming
monsters monsterous
or angels angelic

i keep a reel
of live sex
all spliced and cut
as by the
hours wandering
a lost pair
of shoes
sleeping silently
out into the

and confessions
make me sick
as i sit
concerned face
posed a rictus now
and forgetful
of the commonplace
in front of
amidst the company
of others
in their own
leaking little vessels
and stare
until i can’t see
or hear
or think.

who am i now
despite my flaws
and mistake
your perfect imperfection
you’re indelible
in heart and mind
a welcomed
invading army


Note: This is a poem I wrote a few months ago. I posted it before on one of my other blogs. I’m reposting it because it still feels like the best thing I’ve written in a long time.


barely able to breathe and holding tight in darkness. clawing almost at the skin. what secrets under and inside. hidden from casual glance. mining one another. this is new. and all stilted, all broken stagger; words.

I’m an evil person, she says to him and to the dark.

a night of flashbulbs. a might of exploding automation. sculpted by designer, correographer and that history of emptying beauty.

I’m always performing, she said.

And so am I and so is everybody else, his tattered reply. his tattered modesty. skin on skin. tighter.

A night of exploded spending, hyperbolic drinking, laughing grotesque at all the rest. forgetful of their coming duties. a night of slow unravelling and urgent frenzy. bruises. writhing. the volcanic necessity of sweat. ripping under and inside. clawing at what is hidden. transcedence in and through the flesh. blurring bodies and separation turns to falsehood. his teeth become her flesh. little scars to come. each marking the other. a new relief of desire corrupting smooth surface of that boundary. arranging one another in a bestial space. primal contortion. an atavistic geometry. a violence desired and given. throughing off their humanity; overturning the orders of brutality and tenderness.

a night of whispered truths and Anaphylaxis. they confess themselves. this scene. a perfect act; separated from those other plays and vignettes only by the exclusion of the audience.

I don’t have to pretend with you, she says. And this too is a pretense. A genuine pretense, he tells her. Her perfect body wrapped in his; a cocoon and a plea for protection, savage and all sweet softness of that embrace. and soft kisses in their confessional. he circles her darkness.

two voids, he thinks,

two voids in resonation.

they have clawed to break the surface things and the horrific things come rushing out. not disturbed but seduced by this; a terrifying beauty. and her perfect body in revolt against itself; kept in its perfection by compulsive logics and deranged desire in troubled equilibrium. is it resistance or collapse? He holds her tight and listens.

Earth and insect. Galaxy

and slime mold. Life itself and torn


the solar winds.

on the cusp of her. the edges of her reason. held inside her. headlights. paroxysm. tongues and tits give way to more. both of them travellers jettisoned from some distant event; heat-death, earthquake, the end of things, some perverse apocalypse. scarring each other to leave their marks. and she would cry. or nearly cry. and he would hold her. without classification or signatories; for a moment sharing in that silence a cease-fire with the world and

for a moment more than

their mere symptoms.

fear and flesh and guilt and recrimination. as if an eden upturned. the moment of the fall usurped by its own reversal. tiny scintilla spark between them. tomorrow it might be all erased. irrevocable disavowal or forgetting.

Everything is Temporary, one of them says.

but that night all crystalline. that night all exposing. a night to live inside of. to repeat a hundred or a million times until the count crumbles under its own weight. and she burns a cold fury. and she burns a gentle, warming flame. what is the one without the other? locked then in that direction, the orbit of his desire synchronised to her core. to the thing that seems to make her more. the thing that she mistook for absent in its withdrawal. just as he has so many times. and all the others do. have mercy on their beating hearts

their tiny magnificent gestures

and have mercy on us all

though there is none who might grant it. and they drift in to sleep, aethetic bodies kissing maybe even as they dream? no destiny and no fate. and all the more because of this. accident. urgency. and writting now, leaving one place for another, he hopes to sleep soon; to become a spectre until they again incarnate and throw away their distances. remembering a night of flashbulbs and wild passions and her vicious beauty and the swallowing of him into her and the arching of her back and of something opening. something delicate and small, all joy and misery, all pleasure and denial: a night to repeat. he sinks into the coach’s chair somewhere between the two cities.

orange blur and

glare outracing shadows

 across his

face. looping engine noises.

the gale wind of each

passing car.


 bodies in heavy sleep. he sinks into his seat,


the little wound

she left on his lip.

her teeth

become his flesh.

this is



framed by industrial barriers
shirt revealing the top of chest
and tight midriff
angled with daring in a pink dress
turned side-on to face the anonymous gaze
autumnal hair telling breeze
against the cloud-worn sky
looking up at you from the foot
of granite steps
digital preservation of that scene
and i look upon it
and the other with the bandstand
slightly out of the frame
with locks flowing in undulations
your arms stretched above your head
a face full of vague indifference
a challenge and a provocation;
i’m at peace looking at you like this,
the best i have in your busy absence,

and forget the horror and the darkness
the continual brutality of this world
seeing only an infinity of beauty
that for some reason i’ll never understand
gives itself in the day and night
to me.

ambivalence is a contemporary virtue

some kind of ode 

I’m hovering
over the post
b u t t o n
but what if
r e p l i e s
? If they do
then know it
could end in
fists and all
that blood-
pulp mess but
if they don’t
have a clue
it’ll only just
keep growing
inside and i
s a y, o h
how beautiful
oh in-decision
how beautiful