Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I Will Devote

"I will devote my first lecture to the opposition between lightness and weight, and will uphold the values of lightness."

Italo Calvino, Six Memos For The Next Millennium

* * *

When you are fucked everything becomes heavy, thick, slowed, lugubrious. Your thoughts move like tree sap in winter. Everywhere there are reminders of lightness, movement, zeal, which only further serves to slow you down and eventually stop you. You envy birds and you mourn for the wings you never had.

Misery, self-pity, jealousy all point to a rupture in how the fucked refuse the basic, ground floor reality of our days: things change with or without you.

In Calvino's last, great work (he'd planned six lectures on the virtues he would give to writers of this millennium - Lightness, Quickness, Exactitude, Visibility, Multiplicity and Consistency - but died before the sixth could be completed) he outlines a view of literature that speaks to the same ideas I am working with here: it is the active mind, the active life, the mind engaged with life not swamped by it that creates meaning, that creates the world.

In writing about the great medieval Italian poet, Guido Cavalcanti, a contemporary, friend and rival of Dante's, Calvino names Cavalcanti as the poet of lightness. In talking about his poems, Calvino says: "In short, in every case we are concerned with something marked by three characteristics: (1) it is to the highest degree light; (2) it is in motion; (3) it is a vector of information."

Now take this and overlay it on the fucked life, your fucked life. It is its opposite.

Your fuckedness, your stuckness, your unwillingness to recognize change is to the lowest degree heavy - you want to stop the world from spinning because you are in pain, you are hurt or suffering. The ball and chain required to stop time is something more than weight and you manage to stop only yourself. The world moves on without noticing you've stopped.

You no longer move. Motion is a betrayal of your misery and longing. Only by standing as still as possible, preferably flat on your back, can you remain faithful to whatever it is you are trying to hold onto. Should you stand and put one foot in front of the other, your fidelity to your fucked life is shattered.

Weighted down, motionless, you are a cipher, an emptiness. There is no information forthcoming from you. In Calvino's terms you are a vector of absence.

Is your fuckedness, your stuckness so fine a thing that you would reject the life you do have?

* * *

In his lecture on "Lightness," Calvino writes about Cyrano de Bergerac. He says:

"In pages where his irony cannot conceal a genuine cosmic excitement, Cyrano extols the unity of all things, animate or inanimate, the combinatoria of elementary figures that determine the variety of living forms; and above all he conveys his sense of the precariousness of the processes behind them. That is, how nearly man missed being man, and life, life, and the world, the world.

You marvel that this matter, shuffled pell-mell at the whim of Chance, could have made a man, seeing that so much was needed for the construction of his being. But you must realize that a hundred million times this matter, on the way to human shape, has been stopped to form now stone, now lead, now coral, now a flower, now a comet; and all because of more or fewer elements that were or were not necessary for designing a man. Little wonder if, within an infinite quantity of matter that ceaselessly changes and stirs, the few animals, vegetables and minerals we see should happen to be made; no more wonder than getting a royal pair in a hundred casts of the dice. Indeed it is equally impossible for all this stirring not to lead to something; and yet this something will always be wondered at by some blockhead who will never realize how small a change would have made it into something else."


When you opt out of the ceaseless stirring you are fucked. But know this as well: even the smallest change will begin the precarious process of unfucking your life.

Your call.

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