I have been lonely a large part of my life. Correction, I´ve felt lonely. You can be the first without the other, and the other without the first. Feelings are not always dependent on outernity.
The things we do for love, sang 10cc. Well, what about the things we do cause we feel lonely? For some of us loneliness is so awful that we do almost anything to flee this hungry wolf.
Clearly, those are not the lone wolfs among us.
Others are more hardy and can take more loneliness — before giving in to digital drugs (tek). Oh, how well the peddlers, I mean pushers, of “social media” understand loneliness… What would they do, I mean how would they earn their millions, without lonely people sitting by themselves in front of electrosmog spewing computers, managing their “friend lists” and updating their “status”?
The Beatles asked: Where do all the lonely people come from? Where they GO nowadays is no mystery.
One of the strangest phenomena of our Brave Digital World is unboxing. A sort of technological strip-tease, only less sexy.
YouTube is full of this strip-tease. I wonder if it could be some strangely Warholian impulse that has caught on? “Let´s look at something really boring for a change. Not somebody sleeping for five hours but something more up to date and nerdy. Look, he is opening the box now! He takes the scissor… he unwraps…. the laminating machine… Far out! It´s out of the box!”
Some of us have too much time on our hands. Me, for example, even writing about this.
This song with Andrea Bocelli is… how was it we used to say? Spinning on my turntable? Well, nowadays it´s the CD that is spinning, or the invisible bytes in the MP3-player. Anyway, this is what I am listening to this moment.
Two things: how nice to liken someone you prize or love to a poppy. As the Andrea, I will have much more to say about what I´ve learned from him.
Of course this is written by somebody who sits a lot. As to other simple pleasures I recall Henry Miller (or if it was Arthur Miller) saying in a TV program that urinating was one of the great pleasures of life. I, a romantic, poetry reading teenager was shocked! Later I realized that yes, it could be that.
Back to walking. After a number of hours of sitting, reading and writing I hitch a hike with a friend to the nearest town. When I step out of the car it strikes me: Wow, what a pleasure it is to move my legs, to walk, stroll and promenade. The feel of trouser against leg, cloth against skin, what a sensual, simple joy — one of the many free pleasures in life.
I will come out of the closet and admit that when I go the dentist I often feel like Superman. I practically never ask for anaesthetic. Last time she carved around in my mouth for some hours, still I asked for no injection.
Another dentist told me that strong somatotonics always want anaesthetic. They seem so strong, these body-builder types, but it´s guys like me, thin cerebrotonics, who can really stand pain.
There, I have now confessed my pride.
Maybe I should say arrogance as well, for who out of us two can take pain best? How often does my dentist pain occur? Twice a year, for some hours. But what about your pains? You are a woman, you have periods, something I know nothing about. You have headaches, migraines and all kinds of other pains. I have none of that.
Put my rare dentist pain beside your often recurring pains, and ask who can bear them best. That will be YOU.
This insight came to me the other day when I for some reason had severe cramps in my stomach for several hours. I thought, “God, is this what is feels like to give birth…?”. Possible not, because giving birth can go on for days.
I don´t want that pain back, but I thank it for the insight it gave birth to; the question of “weaker sex” is at least debatable, more probably upside down. At least when it comes to the capacity to bear physical pain best YOU, my dear, are the stronger one.
Thus is the first time I have addressed Your Readership in that manner. Intentionally I have tried not to really address anybody here. Today I will do exactly that.
For there are two of us, me the writer and you the reader. And so, what are we doing here, you and me?
Let me start with myself, and try to be really honest. (As I just wrote in another text, I think honesty is the real “talent” (unit of weigth) of Man, on a much higher level than “truth”, which is often just a convenient excuse to get in a fight, verbal or actual, intellectual or bloody.)
Why am I here, writing? What am I doing?
I now realize that I am basically writing columns. I have been working for many years as a columnist and this has almost become second nature, definitely a habit, with me. Possibly a bad habit.
And even if it is good, why on Earth am I writing free columns on the Net? Trying to prove something, am I?
The answer, as usual, has several facets. It is important for me to formulate myself. To form sentences and build logical/ poetical palaces is a vital need, even stronger than playing or composing music.
— However, that can be done writing regular books. Why do it on the Net?
Instant reaction and appreciation is part of the answer.
That would be logical if there WAS reaction and appreciation. When there isn´t another part of the motive needs to be looked at:
Writing here is way to survive, to get through a difficult patch in life. It helps me to feel alive and at least verbally kicking. So there is a therapeutic motive, probably somewhat narcissistic as well.
So much about me. Now what about you? Why are you here? What are YOU doing here? Let´s have a little soul-searching, shall we.
I know that rather few people are reading my texts. There´s a good chance that you and I know each other, maybe even intimately. This leads to some questions to the unknown, as well as well known, visitors of this page:
Why are you so seldom making your voice heard? I´ve had perhaps 2-3 real comments here, but most visitors leave without leaving a visiting card.
I understand that one needs special motives for writing a comment; I seldom do that myself.
However, you could also write me an email? That might feel like an even more dramatic step than leaving a comment. But way back, around -96 when I launched my first “home page” I got lots and lots of mail from interesting, happy and angry, strangers. Today, 20 years later, I hardly ever see mail from strangers. (Instead lots and lots of strange spam.)
The roles have changed. You, the reader was not so long ago sitting, figuratively, in the same coffee house as I. You sometimes came over to my table to discuss this or that, or maybe suggest that I “remove my shit from the Internet”.
Here is one memorable e-mail from that happy time.
Date: Wed, 11 Jun 1997 14:14:51 -0500 From: email@example.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: your webpage
Believe it or not, that mail made me glad; somebody actually took the small trouble to tell me that my webpage sucked!
Talking of which I will tell you, dear reader, how I nowadays see our relationship.
Not as a two people sitting in a coffee house making small talk. No, I feel like a stripper in a cheap porno joint, dancing behind a glass wall where you can see me, but I can only imagine you. You leave a small trace behind, enough for the statistics to pick up, but not for me to understand. What you see, think, understand and feel, not to mention who you are, remain mysteries.
I am kind of stuck with my question: Why, if you know me (and even if you don´t!) aren´t you having a conversation with me? In this our brave new communication society of ours.
Why don´t you open the glass wall, stop being an invisible observer and rise to the level of participator, thereby also raising my status from a Thing Clinically Observed to interligent interlocutor?
How far will we let voyeurism go? You could say that exhibitionism, of which I perhaps could be accused, invites voyeurism. No, it can just as well invite discussion, conversation, dialogue, simply sitting down for a glass of IRL wine. “Hey, tell me your reasons for letting it all hang out, will you…?”
Voyeurism does not need exhibitionism, it can observe and distance itself from most anything. Exhibitionism is an outstretched hand (as in The Who´s Tommy; “See me, feel me, touch me”) while voyeurism is the hand that says No-no, let´s do this in a hygienic way.
The view of Samuel Butler starts to take hold. Today I had a most enjoyable hour together with Salamon Ödön. He died in 1903 but is living his “true life” now, sometimes with me.
We met in a bookshop, where I picked up (for 390 FT) a slim volume called “Minden jóra fordul, de későn” (Everything turns out for the best, but belatedly),
A book of aphorisms, of course. Aphorisms very easily lead to satiety. Imagine a jar filled with magic peas. The magical thing: each of them can expand so as to fill the entire jar, if not burst it. Now imagine eating five or ten of these peas. You will be more than full.
I opened the book from time to time, took out a few magically expanding morsels and saw that they were good. Once I took out a morsel that was so good I almost threw up. The goodness about it was almost — lethal. Moving in the land of “Gloomy Sunday”, that supposedly suicidal song, — no, it doesn´t kill itself, but those who hear it, if you believe it, and I don´t; it is regularly played in the cafés of Budapest, and if it leads to suicide it is of the delayed kind that cannot be distinguished from ordinary death — I have come to believe in the lethal powers of, as I said, not songs but certain sentences.
One of them was contained in this slim volume.
It was not just an expanding pea but more like a fish-bone that gets stuck in your throat and wipes you out by cutting off your air supply. Clearly there was MUCH power in that small book!
Today I picked it out again and tried to find the dangerous aphorism. (I usually bend the top of pages that contain something special but there was no clue.) Finally I found it, but didn´t read it. I read many other aphorisms, though, too many for my digestion but I couldn´t resist them, they were so good. How good? So good that several times they brought a broad sunshine smile, beyond Duchenne, to my face. Now that´s a sign of being in good company.
I will not share the dangerous aphorism with you, but here are a few others. Before that I should say a few things about the author. I know little, and am content with little. I mean, when you have a really good time with someone, the first thing you do after parting is not looking him up on Google. That´s how I see it. But I know that he lived a relatively short life, 39 years. He spent some time in Paris and worked as a journalist. I think that is enough really.
Now for some expanding (exploding) peas.
Hátunk mögött semmi, előttünk minden: ez legyen minden nagyra törekvő jelszava.
Angyalok sem szoktak soha beleizzadni a munkába.
A mai versenyvilágban a szerénység halálos mérge a tehetségnek.
Meg akarod tudni a jövődet? Add össze múltadat a jelennel, vond le ebből a konzekvenciákat, és előtted áll a jövőd.
Már sok óvatos ember járt úgy, hogy a veszélyt mindig elkerülve, oly hosszu utat választott, amelyet kijárni nem tudott.
Néha, hogy életban maradhassunk, új életet is kell kezdenünk.
Az ember regénye ma a kiadás és bevétel közti külömbségből áll.
Tavasszal jobban hiszünk barátainkban.
Mennyi balsorson kell átesnünk, hogy a boldogságot megbecsüljük.
A művelt férfiak kesztyűben és frakkban teszik egymást tönkre.
Csodálatos sajátossága a pénznek, hogy éppen a zsenilális emberek zsebébe unatkozik legjobban.
Ugyan ki törődik azokal a patkányokkal, amelyek a süllyedő hajót nem hagyják el!
Gyermektelen szülők figyelmébe ajánlom azt a körülményt, hogy legtöbb kisgyermeket a tengerparti vidéken láttam.
ONE SIMILARITY between Sherlock Holmes and me is that people probably think that we live fascinating, or at least very interesting, lives, while we are terribly bored most days of the week.
I sure am. And not only in the week, I would say most days of my life.
My friends, especially those few who have nine to five jobs, might protest. “Let ME tell you about boredom…!”
We probably talk about different things. The boredom of a steady, monotonous job is alleviated, perhaps every day even, by “entertainment”. You put your day job aside and do things that are fun, relaxing or at least somehow different. You probably also see other people at work, which I don´t. Most of my days are lonely (lonely can be wonderful or terrible company) and I can´t say “No, I am not a composer and writer, that´s just myjob.”
Anyway, I am on to this great insight that I am bored most of the time, and that boredom is a central factor in my life. There are so many things I´ve done in life just not to be bored — and so many other (often productive and useful) things I didn´t do, only because they were boring.
Boring is like a traffic sign, and in this case I have been law-abiding.
Of course everything said in French sounds fancier than in English or Swedish but the pangs of “l’ennui” or “spleen” might have been just as painful as ever banal boredom was. Especially for sensitive folks like Baudelaire.
I begin to realize the strength, the acid strength of it. Thinking back on my life I have been severely bored, probably as a child but even more as a teenager when moving to Sweden. Ursäkta Sverige, but there is so much boredom and boring things in Sweden that if I could exchange the moments for coins, I would be a millionaire… in a country of millionaires. (I am certainly not the only non-Swede to feel this way.)
There is even a Latin word for fear of boredom: thaasophobia. Boring.
What is less boring is to slowly realize what a dark and truly heavy cloud boredom can be, how it weighs us down as lead. I am especially thinking of a friend that suffers a lot from this disease. He goes into heavy depressions which I think come from lack of stimulation.
I used to say that there is no excuse for being bored; you are doing something very wrong then. Not so sure about that now. And we don´t need to talk about depression. There is an everyday, “normal” level of boredom. Some common antidotes are
sitting at a sideboard café (my personal favorite)
Another non-boring observation has to do with enthusiasm. I believe it can be a reaction against boredom, even stem from fear of boredom. It need not be a wholly positive energy, it could be based on a running away from-impulse.
Another one: Folk wisdom has it that “one needs to learn to be alone*”. Yes, yes, we´ve heard that one before. Silly thought! One = alone. One is the loneliest number, as Three Dog Night sang.
I believe that many a “one” accepts loneliness, and boredom, far too easily. One can mistake this acceptance for strength or “stoicism”. How noble! But what if one is just wasting precious time, throwing away one´s life? Perhaps non-acceptance is the only wise choice.
Enough, time to put down my pen.
No, I wasn´t ready yet.
What makes Sherlock bored is the lack of a juicy mystery to sink his teeth into. I cannot claim the same excuse; I have mysteries galore to wrestle with, am presently knee deep in one of them, the dark side of music.
No, there is more to it than lack of mystery, probably lack of company.
More needs to be said about boredom´s relation to loneliness. Much depends on the quality of our circle of friends. If they are not stimulating, and we see them a lot, we will cherish loneliness. If they are stimulating and we see them seldom, the opposite.
With the possible exception of those rare hermit personalities I believe there is almost a self-poisoning mechanism in action here. Being “all by myself” for a long time makes me rust. Even a short visit to Lotz Terem makes me fresh again — for a while.
Variatio delectat, but more than that. Change (an important part of which is company) may be not only delightful spice but a basic staple need for humans, at least most of us. Surely for me and maybe even for Sherlock. I mean, he always had Watson to turn to and solving mysteries involves meeting a lot of people. It´s the wait that is lonely, not the hunt.
I will go so far as to suggest that loneliness can kill. Not being lonely, but feeling lonely. In that sense I believe Facebook can be a kind of medicine. And, just like other modern medicine men, Mark Zuckenberg (the sixth richest person in the world, even richer than the Koch Brothers thanks to Facebook earnings) sure knows how to cash in on the disease, this widespread loneliness of our modern world.
A friend of mine some years ago critically called the Internet “one big cry for help”. There is a grain of truth in that exaggeration. Maybe one should say a cry for company. But luckily we need not expose our solitary nakedness. There are smart and sophisticated ways of saying “I feel lonely”. Like posting a picture of our yummy dinner or a cute pet. Or writing a blog post.
Trying to understand “Mind” (in the sense that Tolle and others are using the word) and trying to distance myself from it is one of the most important items on my shopping list.
Why? Conflict of interest. Mind has its own interests and agenda, it very often fucks up my life (but not only mine, it is generous…).
I notice that Mind is an “out-thinker”. It thinks out things, ideas. These ideas seem smart and intelligent (to mind!), but seldom lead to harmonious results. For one thing, they are stubborn and inflexible. Much more like stone than water, the favorite element of Taoists.
Mind writes in stone and has a real hard time changing or erasing the writing.
“But stability is supposed to be a good thing, no? Look at skyscrapers, they must be very stable to withstand strong winds.” (says Mind)
But skyscrapers don´t go down with grace. They collapse and explode, while softer, more pliable things just f l o a t to the ground with hardly a scratch.
“Here lies one whose name was written in water”, the epitaph of John Keats, points to the real strength of water (even though Keats probably saw writing in water as a weakness). Far better for a poet to write in water than in stone.
“They stoned him with a memorial” said a clear-sighted writer, an observation applicable to many an artist that has floated to the surface, like cream. Whipped cream.
But let us not slander stone. It has its place, its beauty and its love. Let me just remember, and remind Mind, that I am flesh and blood and ether, not rock.
The title of this entry is not really understandable unless you know the royal motto of the current Swedish king: För Sverige, i tiden — For Sweden, with the times.. (I am also working on a book titled “Ur Sverige, i tid”, which is another story.)
But let´s forget about Sweden and think about food. My close friends know that I have a somewhat peculiar relationship with it. Some people are almost religious about food, and most at least see it as one of life´s great enjoyments. (I have it from a trusted source.)
My personal thoughts about the subject is “What goes up, must come down” and “What goes in, must come out”. That´s an irreligious attitude.
But I really do enjoy food from time to time, at least a couple of times a year. Especially when there is a rich palette of taste involved. And when it moves in time.
Some food is very still, it just sits there on the plate, like a meditating monk. You take one or two bites and you know the whole story: how it starts, continues and ends. Easy: it ends just as it started, because there is no development and definitely no surprise involved.
It´s like entering a city and already having the entire map of it operated into your head on a microchip. Wherever you turn you meet the already known, the already expected. Just more of the same, nothing else.
Anyway, this is poached eggs à la Café Vian, one of the dishes that have found favor with me. At least on Sundays, which happens to be today.
I have eaten it on enough occasions for the surprise effect to wear off. But it still moves in time. And it almost talks to me:
“Don´t just sit there on your chair, you sluggard. Show some development, surprise us! Don´t let the end be like the beginning…”
Sometimes when our minds (or is it mouths?) relax, word order gets mixed up. Not a big problem, it can create funny situations.
The other day an acquaintance said to me: Jag hoppas du söker det du finner (I hope that you seek what you find). She caught herself and immediately corrected herself. We both laughed a bit and that was that.
Talk about unintentional Taoism.
I hope you find what you are seeking, the usual hackneyed phrase, presupposes that we seek something worth seeking, which is not necessarily the case. The thought contains both more wisdom and humour when turned on its head.