Can We Look Away?

It is one of those mornings when I put my fingers on the keys and stare a few moment as my hands. The pattern of blood vessels on the back of each. Ropey and bluish, like a coarse crochet work. There are still things these hands will learn to do, or learn to do better. They are the rough beauty of solid machinery. They are their own “back in the day” and still going.

They are the touchstone for earned wisdom. Sometimes offering the touch that frightens young and old alike. Where bones become stone, and foreshadow everything overwrought in our poems.

As here.

I wonder what it would be like to live without mirrors – without looking at oneself, or pieces of oneself, as a constructed and staged other.

I would like to live off the grid – in a world where social connections were forged over the time it takes to build a fire and boil water for tea. To cut the bread and soften the butter. Hell, I don’t know how to do any of that. But I do think I was meant for a slower life. One that didn’t come with the expectation of networking, of planning and anticipating the potential usefulness of people, to willfully stitch together the meaningful moments in a kind of half-formed contract of mutual obligation.

I know this is a fairy tale nostalgia.

Maybe I would have grown strong enough to live with gratitude had I outgrown my obsession with usefulness. Maybe I would have valued life differently. Maybe I can still learn to do that.

I doubt it, actually. Don’t we all want to be seen, even when we fear it? My mind keeps returning to Paulus Berensohn.

You see, there is a paradox in his idea of art as behavior rather than art as achievement. I don’t believe anyone who says that the former isn’t valuated by the later.

It would require unconscious art. And it seems to me that art is always intentional – either on the part of the creator and the viewer, or on the part of the viewer only.

So how does this work, really? Is a work of art a beautiful thing while it’s hidden on a shelf in the pantry? Or only after the estate is sold and the work “discovered” and the name written down with the romantic sparkle of “posthumous fame” and the virtue of humility intact.

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it…

Paulus Berensohn was an adherent of deep ecology. There: see? I’ve typed his name again. Guru in life, a name rattling around the internet servers in death.

I wonder. What would happen if we could harvest the mushrooms that grow on the graves of our gurus. Grind them into a fine power with the long bones that fed them. Boil the water for tea.

2 Replies to “Can We Look Away?”

  1. Perhaps that’s why we are where we are – because we don’t like the networking, the manipulations and machinations. But then, if we need all those to be what others, and we, might term successful (artists and people), is that price worth paying? I think not. I, too, wish for a slower life, Sundays spent pottering about rather than striving to do more and more and more and more. I love that final para – genius.

  2. I had this thought, looking into the ocean from above, into a world that never stays in the same place for very long. Comforting and frightening at the same time.

    Then I thought, Fish don’t waste time with thoughts like these. Swim, just swim.


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