‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’ – Unknown
(Due by end of the month. I miss doing this. I’m a shit, I know)
‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’ – Unknown
(Due by end of the month. I miss doing this. I’m a shit, I know)
A man walked up to me and smiled and handed me a book,
Told me if I cared about myself to take a look,
Said that it had helped him and its wisdom he’d pass on,
Before I could say ‘thank you’, well this mystery man had gone.
[classic twiddly Western Cowboy guitar riff here]
I turned over the cover and flicked through to the first page,
The edges worn from fingers touch and yellowed through with age,
Inside I read the message that must have moved that man so,
It said “In this book is everything that you already know”
[same funky country guitar riff here]
The book told me to love all life, all creatures great and small,
To appreciate the smells and sounds and empathise with all,
For everything you see, you see was made up in a star,
And stars all came from one thing too if you look back that far.
[twiddly riff, you get the idea]
This book wasn’t the Bible, the Torah or the Quran,
The message was the same but it was here for everyone,
“If God is all then we are God” that much now seemed true
I realised I was God, so was that man, and so are you.
[do a different riff here, ooooh shaking things up, maybe a fast strumming riff while sliding down the neck – surfer style]
That man gave me the tools to see but I had to choose to look,
Now I’m awake and so to you I pass on this here book,
With the wisdom of these words, here son, enlightenment I gained,
I saw the calm on that mans face, and now mine is the same,
Take it, read it, love it, learn from life the one thing true,
Is that we all are one, but that truth you already knew.
I’ll admit, I read a lot of books because they were recommended by boys I liked. This meant I always projected the characters of those between pages onto the flesh and bone that stood before me, usually apathetic about discussing the nuances of an author’s art. I fell in love with whatever persona had been moulded on pulp, in ink. I assumed since they’d come recommended, they would be emulated. I’d assumed incorrectly.
Since fifteen, I’ve found that boys in books were always better. And by that, I don’t mean Edward. I mean Winston, washed-up varicose-veined Winston, able to keep a straight face and regulate his breathing while scrawling illegal memoirs onto forbidden pages. I mean angry, ultra-violent Alex, fascinating in his ability to make me rationalise his right to be evil. The kind of boy I’d pretend I’d never be interested in, but deep down I know if I had milk with knives in it I’d no doubt be anybody’s. I mean Holden, who held me rapt in his retrospective adolescence and summarised all of my opinions about the adult world. Hoping I’d moved on, I read Catcher more recently, and realised that I’d become one of the phony morons I hated, with Holden.
My whole life, I’ve felt odd. My friends are all freaks and I have rejected countless clones. The pages gave me new reasons to roll my eyes at others. Elitist ideals about population control were met with snide questions about whether or not we’re living “A.F.” Thank God they hadn’t read Huxley or they’d be able to counter with questions about my own soma holidays, rolled up in Rizlas. Dorian Grey’s decrepit portrait kept me seething in smugness, quite convinced that the beautiful people who fucked me over would one day be faced with the ugliness of their true selves. Camping trips lead to bizarre relfections on who was the Ralph and the sad realisation that I’m probably more of a Jack. Trying too hard, needlessly bossy and laced with a rich sense of entitlement.
I’d like to think I’ve seen a fair bit, but the world is a big, old place and the pages take me there. Any conversation about the American Civil Rights movement is laced with thinly veiled lessons from the Atticus Finch playbook. Really, any questions about being a good human render me Scout on the knee of the father of the Century. Hangovers and seive-like bank accounts leave a bitter-sweet taste about my beauty and damnation. New York in the roaring twenties would have fit mine just fine, as would have a Fitzgerald-style fall from grace. I have never been good at remembering dates so History in school had been less than satisfactory. Thanks to a bunch of corrupt pigs and the tragedy of a betrayed stockhorse, I have a pretty clear understanding of 20th Century European politics. Challenging stereotypes and what was supposed to be a pleasent dinner party is easy when you have Golding and Thompson tucked away in the back of your brain. The complexities of the geisha culture, steeped in ancient tradition as ritualistic as tea ceremonies are charming compliment to the social rejects who became the world’s most notorious biker gang. I would be too scared to actually strike up a conversation with them, but after all, that is the point of a gonzo journalist, and thank God for that.
As for the dark side I’ve always had a fascination with, the most interesting people are disfunctional, the characters who captured me were often broken. There have been moments when I must admit, I’ve been worse than Curley’s wife. Reckless and desperate and shallow and cruel. I’ve felt sympathy for the most disgusting of creatures, skin crawling to realise that Humbert Humbert had burrowed into my heart. Every homeless person these days looks like Orwell, down and out. His listless wanderings through Paris and London only romanticise himself and those bitterly cold cities further in my intrepid mind. Far from making me feel fearful or loathsome, substance abuse between the pages only makes me wonder if I’m missing out on the freakier things in life. Let the record show that I’d never say no to a roadtrip.
And what if the worst were to happen, and Bradbury was right? Historically, burning books has occured as a way of exercising power. A book bonfire is a great way of crippling passion, limiting knowledge and smothering sympathy for freaks. These days they don’t really need to burn the books, people have stopped reading already. If I had to hold one book in my brain forever, because every paper copy had been cremated, I would have to go with Winston, and his author Orwell. The power of words, and fear, and individual thought cannot be understated. Especially in a world where everyone watches the movie instead of reading the book, the media sensationalises death sitting on supermarket shelves and pseudo-individuality is cloned in so many identically ironic sweaters.
WAR IS WAR, FREEDOM IS FREEDOM, KNOWLEDGE IS STRENGTH. BIG BROTHER WAS NOT INVENTED BY A TV PRODUCER SO YOU COULD LAUGH AT D-GRADE CELEBRITIES.
There are sneaky and not-so-sneaky references to 16 of my favourite novels in this post. How many can you identify?
“The best books are those that tell you what you know already.”
– George Orwell
I wanted to be entirely honest with myself, so first I tried to find him.
Was he the chap frantically trying to come up with content to write for this beyond-delayed blog post? Was he the guy pacing around my brainbox trying to come up with a witty retort to Elise’s latest chastising for not having written anything yet? Was he the guy in the background beatboxing on repeat some ridiculous bassline from some 90s hit that no one has heard in eons? (This baseline changes often, but is always dated and always shit.) Was he the train of thought that was deciding what I should eat for dinner tonight? Or the self who wanted to point out that itch in my toe, how vital it was to scratch it right now, and how insufferable he would be if I didn’t?
Was I the guy analysing the guy typing this out, making sure his spelling was correct? (My Meta-Self if you like) Or The Critic, checking to see if we could have used a better word or come up with a more pithy phrase?
Maybe I was Regret Guy, the slice of self that hides in the shadows of the other selves’ thoughts and then jumps out with a “Surprise Bitch! Remember that time you got pantsed at school and everyone saw your penis?!” or “Hey Friend! You haven’t thought about this awkward sexual encounter in a while!”
Or I could have been Imagination Guy, the creative one who thinks about what it would be like to fly super fast, or go trampolining with ewoks, or live in a marshmallow (exhilarating, hilarious, and super comfortable).
I thought about myself and became my self watching all of himselves unfold with perplexedness emblazoned upon my face, and truthfully I couldn’t be true to myself, because I couldn’t find where I was, I didn’t know which one I was.
Every facet of myself was fleeting, every description denoted something temporary.
Maybe, I was all of these guys at once, and maybe none at all. If all the qualities I could use to define myself were impermanent and changing, then I was impermanent and changing, I am impermanent and changing. Maybe there isn’t actually a thing to call the ‘self’, no absolute ‘I’, and so true honesty with oneself is a misnomer; a cunning and unachievable quest we are sent on in order to realise that, as the perennial observer, void of absolute descriptions and qualifications, ever changing, we just do not exist. At least not how we think we do.
And that’s that.
Be honest with yourself: Sometimes you have to pretend. You have to act like it was worth it, that choices you made about the paths you chose, led you to where you want to be. Honestly, you’re so happy.
Tell yourself the truth: Sometimes it’s best to live a lie. You were young once, for a time, but that’s faded. Don’t freak out, you’re better at masks these days, anyways. No one will figure out the truth if you’re honest with yourself about the fact of your facade.
Trust me. The people who will make you happiest are those with the power to hurt you. They can slice you open while you’re singing along to all the shitty love songs that never made any sense before his smile and strange heart. Don’t pretend. It is far better to find someone who leaves you comfortably numb. Chain yourself to the soupy dishwater to avoid the scorching scars of genuine fire. Believe me, you don’t want the bitterness that is the inevitable aftermath of real heat boiling over.
Face facts. If you cry, the cascade of tears will make your make up run. The world isn’t kind to ugly people. It is better to cover up. Don’t associate with souls who can work their way under your skin. They might see through the veil of vivacious charm and bold honesty. Friendship is best when it’s light, and frothy and thoroughly lubricated. Talk about the world, not your world. Be frank about your inoffensive opinions and keep the challenging ones tucked away. Truthfully, to reveal them would offer no advantage. Let them twist in your gut as less earnest people brazenly force their misconceptions down your throat.
Be realistic. You can do anything but you can’t do everything. The white, upper-middle class snob in you does not want to sacrifice the white, upper-middle class snob parts of you, for the sake of something better. There are better things but they aren’t as easy and they never last and then where will you be? You must prioritise. Will it be comfort or chaos?
Tell the truth. Chaos makes a good holiday, when you can pretend to be crazy for a fleeting moment, when honestly, you’re a hermit crab. You can’t keep up the pretense of prioritising free love and firelight. When the embers burn low and you’re covered in soot you’ll soon realise your lies. His lies. So, will it be sweet sorrow, or security? Don’t lie. You love pretending to languish, crave fruit you’re well aware is rotten. Truth is, no one can prove your vehement longing is little more than scripted sighs to break the boredom of safety.
Believe me! Safety, though it preserves everything to the point of souring it, is what you want. Keep yourself from sadness by going stale. Melancholy is always preferable to the pain of melodrama. Slow decay is the superior alternative to sudden combustion caused by torrid passion.
Be honest. It’s better to pretend that you’re an honest woman.
“Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise. “