Sunday, August 26, 2007


I was having breakfast with this guy who wanted to hire me for some job for which he was willing to pay me a lot of money, when we got to talking about this and that and he told me he was currently dating this nice lady - and that there was no such thing as love - just the physical act which was sometimes nice, sometimes not so, and that performance depended on not indulging too much in that bottle of red as he could not hold his liquor and too much tended to knock him out. (OK, do I get the prize for like, longest sentence ever?)

I wanted to beat him up:

"That is such a, such a...reductionist view of love...I mean, what about the sublime, what about transcendence? We're not just physical creatures! We're not just a collection of chemicals and hormones!!!!!!"

He was taken aback by my violent reaction. After all, we were engaged in a slightly academic, rather cynical discussion about the state of politics in Malaysia.

Where did THAT come from?

And I left feeling that slight deflation that comes after interacting with someone who does not believe in art, beauty or poetry, who persists in seeing the world through their own messed up shades of grey.

Maybe he was right. Maybe I was the one who was unrealistic. After all, I sleep which a bunch of healing stones on the side table, near my head - rose quartz, carnelian, hematite, what have you...when I take my aura picture (yeah, I actually do that!) it usually comes out purple - magical - my sister Jackie took to calling me leperchaun briefly.

I exist in a world of magical realism. I swoon over poetry (but mostly the Romantics, whom, in defiance of three years at university, I continue to adore). Van Gogh can make me weak in the knees. And sometimes words or phrases disengage themselves from books and settle in my heart. And sitting alone at Coffee Bean, I am horrified to find myself weeping and trying not to be too obstrusive about it.

I do not belong to this place or these people...

Then I picked up The Treehouse by Naomi Wolf, a sort of memoir about her father as well as an essay about how we've disconnected from the sublime in our lives and how embracing your own creative vision is all that can save you:

He believes that each of us arrived here with this unique creative DNA inside us. If we are not doing that thing which is our innate mission, then, he feels, no matter how much money or status we might have, our lives will feel drained of their true colour. He believes that no amount of money or recognition can compensate you if you are not doing your life's passionate creative work; and if you are not doing it, you had better draw everything to a complete stop until you can listen deeply to your soul, identify your true heart's desire, and change direction. It's that urgent.

And then she talks about the members of the postwar generation who were looking, not for conformity, but for the magical power of art:

They wanted to demonstrate how in America anyone can live a creative, individuated life. These young men and women longed to find a transcendence implicit in everyday experience.

And there it was. I reeled back, stunned. A transcendence implicit in everyday experience. Bet Leonard Wolf wouldn't think we're chemicals reacting to other chemicals.

We're artists. We're creators. We're full of colour and song and poetry.

That's what we are. I knew it, I knew it, I knew it!

And then I came across this description of what books used to mean to people - quoted from the memoirs of one Anatole Broyard, a critic: 1946 in the Village our feelings about books - I'm talking about my friends and myself - went beyond love. It was as if we didn't know where we ended and books began. Books were our weather, our environment, our clothing. We didn't simply read books; we became them. We took them into ourselves and made them into our histories. While it would be easy to say we escaped into books, it might be truer to say books escaped into us. Books were to us what drugs were to the young men of the sixties. They showed us what was possible.

It's nice to know there are/were others like me at least once upon a time. And I'd rather hang with their ghosts than conform to this prison block gray everybody seems to have going.

Forget about fitting in. I never will.



Nessa said...

Now I know what's wrong with me. No one I know personally believes this. I live in a dessert. I am crying.

Anonymous said...

well, my existence feel justified now. thanks jenn.

Jenn said...

Nessa: That's why you're such a hot blogger...:)

Bo: You! You didn't need me to justify your existence - you always knew you were right and the rest of the world was wrong...

Anonymous said...

I kept typing one response after another. Backspace, backspace, delete, delete, delete...

Sigh. Good one, Jenn.

I wish for more genteel times. I really don't fit in to this Blackberry-toting, designer-baring, hyperpop world.

Annette said...

thanks, jenn, for the quotes. they really strike home, don't they? and isn't it interesting how words will find their way into our lives just when we need them the most?

that girl in pink said...

yeah baby!!!! :D

Jenn said...

Marge: You're a member of the tribe, dontcha forget it.

Antonia: I know, there's a void, you pick up a book, not just any book, just the right book, and voila, the answer...

Pinky: Yeah...