Empty Days

Saturday, May 28, 2005



Moscow blackout.

Holy shit... It turns out the whole city of Moscow and nearby towns experienced a complete blackout this Wednesday - I had no idea. That would be upwards 15 million people. Hospitals lost electricity, people were blocked in elevators, freezers stopped working in supermarkets. traffic lights went off. trolley cars stopped in their tracks. 43 subway trains were paralized underground and 20,000 passengers had to be evacuated from the tunnels. the whole immense subway went dark... It's scary - because the subway is very deep and spacious, and walking up to the surface without the escalators must have been a huge effort.

Apparently this was resolved quickly enough and the whole thing was due to a fire at one of the hydro stations.

*

The newsource from which I got this information also offered a time-line of other major electric blackouts throughout history. What I found strange is that it mainly included the history of such blackouts in North America. Knowing Russia and how self-centered it's always been (no less than USA), this struck me as unnatural and highly inconsiderate - yet it simply means that those who compiled this article simply searched through the internet and of course found a lot of US sources and none for their own country. Such is everything "new and modern" in Russia these days - highly expedient and utterly careless.

This does explain the wave of nationalism I've been witnessing lately on the russian internet. It's clearly reactionary yet there are plenty enough monstruosities in this new-russia to be reactionary against. I can't say I don't understand where it all comes from.

Friday, May 27, 2005



Well, perhaps I should mention that I spent about three days at a friend's home in Toronto. It was "nice" but we had little to say to each other. Her kid is in its 4th year, a very lively spoilt little creature, her husband is growing preposterously old and cranky, her home is expensive and situated in a pretty upscale neighbourhood, she brought me to her yoga class, we had burgers and fries.... She's a very good friend in terms of loyalty and generosity, but we really can't talk at all anymore. This is due to her changing social status (and mine too, I guess - in the opposite direction) - she has to be very protective of her intellectual claims, what with being a university professor - there is no more place for easy peer-to-peer discussion - or maybe she thinks I shouldn't be authorized to challenge her. But it's been like that for ages anyhow and I don't mind anymore. Whatever. We haven't seen each other in two years and somehow it just doesn't matter - whether we see each other or not. Which is sort of strange but also natural in the present situation. In fact, it is perhaps best that we meet rarely - at least there is a chance of safekeeping an illusion of friendship if not much else besides :-/




Yes, I am still going to Russia - but for the moment I feel a strong urge to forget all about it and enjoy the purely literary moment that has suddenly descended upon me. I couldn't really read at the clinic - even though there was nothing better to do - mostly because of close proximity of other people and mental constriction resulting from this. Maybe if I had more practice with being in a crowded place I'd be able to abstract myself completely. But I am too well used to being alone.




De Quincey is especially good at such observations as this:

The reception one meets with from the women of a family generally determines the tenor of one's whole entertainment.

Here he talks of small facts of social life; but the same keen eye is applied to facts of inner life and suddenly we find ourselves in the presence of a great psychologist.

Btw, this portrait of his somehow corresponds exactly to the impression I got from reading him.




The value of literature.

A long while ago it occured to me that when it is impossible to live life in the moment and to the fullest of possible emotion - as animals do - the only other way of filling the void of passing time would be "literature" - or the ability to record as precisely and as fully as possible whatever juice and gravy one is still able to muster from such emotionless futile existence.

Literature does not substitute life - it records and recreates tenfold something that was barely worth living when it happened. It is a powerful weapon against the flight of time which is like water sinking through one's frantically clawed fingers. The ability to write down the sum of one's experience is the last recourse against the lack of any fullness of experience - it is a way of combatting that hunger for life which is never satisfied in all of us.

All in all, literature is a very perverse and unnatural thing - but it is also the best thing that ever happened to such a perverse and unnatural being as man.

*

John Updike has a wonderfully rich writing style. One could only guess how low on calories his life had been. But he was able to supplement himself from writing.

Literature is very unlike music in that sense - though both are classified as "art".

(in response to Rozanov)

*

Or think of that moment when Montaigne sat down to write his Essays.




To my critics.

Or should I say - my readers. It's amazing that I have any but apparently I do. In fact I am so nonplussed at this profusion of readership that I am almost inclined to see it as one person mimicking a crowd of many (not at all rare in the virtual realms, as a matter of fact). On the other hand, I lay my guts so very open for everyone to see that anyone would be naturally inclined to valuate, pass judgment, and give advice - at the sight of this endlessly sinking boat which is my life as I paint it.

So what do they say in such cases... "Oh gentle reader" etc. "do not begrudge" and some such other. In fact, I am not very good at taking advice even when it is plain and obvious to everyone but me that I should finally try something else than my own paltry wits and use other people's experience and expertise by proxy - just to see what happens, at the very least. But my attempts at this have shown conclusively and many times over that following advice ends badly for me - and I think I even know why. It's simple: my actions and non-actions, my line of thought, the whole sum of my behavior - no matter how counter-productive - constitute an intricate whole based on my past history and my current values which I hold sacred quite despite myself. Whenever I try to follow another's man advice, I fall out of this fullsome circle of causes and effects, and act blindly without understanding where it comes from and what sum of experience it is based on. As a rule, even when such advice appears at fist as very sensible, I end up screwing it up big time - and only redress the situation by reversing to my previous ways and means, which usually contributes to completely annihilate all the possible beneficial effects of the said sensible-advice. I guess people who are very good and skillful at following advice are those who are able to "act externally to themselves" - or act according to their reason alone, without all the muddled rest of the human organization. This is something I can't do at all - I can't just trust my reason as if it were a perfect calculating machine and all I had to do was to first devise and then apply to a T a certain complicated mathematical formula of behavior. I've seen people do it but I am always amazed at their trustfulness: how can they surrender to perfectly exterior rules with such abandon? Yet they usually succeed and I usually fail - so I guess in a certain sense their approach is more effective and generally more sensible than mine. On the other hand, I can never help wondering if this success is not simply due to most other people being that way and thus most of the human world being rigged towards such behavior - so that it naturally finds favor and resonance with the human universe and turns things their way. There may be something to that: it is also true that people who are able to make small talk fare better in the social world than those who can't.

So in the end I certainly I do listen to advice but I never follow it anymore. Or rather - I wait and see how it might apply in some future circumstances, when it would naturally evolve from the course of my own life - and then I sometimes recognize in these new actions of mine an advice I've been given a long time ago by somebody who had already lived through similar combinations and trials and was able to understand something I had yet to arrive at on my own.

The moral of all of which would probably sum up as something like: let the boat sink til it hits firm ground.

(P.S. I've been reading some De Quincey at the clinic - which explains the funny style - and where else and why else would I practice! :)





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