Do you know what brings me great satisfaction? Seeing the precious commodities of Camden, buffed to within a sheen of gentility, carrying around bags of dog shit. It’s exquisite.
Men in the prime of their careers or gone into the never-never land of retirement gaily swinging their pet’s excrement by their side. And this is all sanctioned by their wives, you know, and collaborated by their well-educated children, now middle-aged and fending off bouts of depression when their favourite show is cancelled and moments of euphoria when their credit line is extended.
Women do it, too — carry dog shit. But they are more discreet. Make it look like they have a new Prada handbag. Although you can see the disgust in their sad eyes. But that is maybe from being sexually unfulfilled by husbands who work at the enlargement of the bank account than anything else. And the women don’t swing it. They simply draw it close to them as if it was a little excrement of truth: that maybe their perfect lives are not so exemplary. And you should see them place it into the bin. There’s a bit of reluctance, an apprehension, as though they might be throwing away their last hope at redemption.
The men simply toss the shit. Brashly heave it into the trash. Which is telling. In a metaphorical way.
And how I love Van Gogh’s paintings, no matter how universally appreciated they may be and would make me into a laughing stock in the hallowed halls of every art school worth its graphite and oils.
But I don’t give a fuck. Whenever I see his work, be it the Sunflowers or Starry Night or The Potato Eaters or his room at Arles or any of the others, I’m in awe of not only the man’s understanding of colour and what he can make it do but also his vision. There’s no one like him. Full stop. And I have read snippets of his letters. He’s also a damn good writer, too. Not afraid to pry open the self to reveal the long dark tunnels of confusion or the occasional glint of diamond truth.
And that’s just the rub, isn’t it? Everyone could be just like Van Gogh if we could free ourselves from the constraints of society and responsibility and simply explore the deep mines of the self with nothing more than our feelings and thoughts. But how? We’ve become so entrenched in this fabricated reality that we can’t even think, let alone imagine, anything different. But the irony is we could have so easily created an alternative. This is not the only version of life yet we cling to it like it’s the only twig in the great surging river of life. How parochial. How unimaginative. How sad. How egotistical. How ludicrous. Humanity is so confident that this reality works that we’ve become utterly dead in spirit. We’ve allowed the body of evidence, of facts, to prove it’s all just and right and cannot get any better. We’ve all been hoodwinked by a mob of megalomaniacs who desire that we see the world the way they have envisioned it solely so they can reap their own rewards. Should a truth become a truth simply because the collective say so?
Ok, I’m convinced that the Earth revolves around the sun. But how do I know it? Have I actually witnessed the event? No. It’s solely a faith in others creative work in science. What I’m trying to say is that the entity called me will never know for certain the truth of whether this planet rotates around the sun, it just makes more sense to my own personal experience than say that the Sun revolves around the Earth or that there’s an Olympian discus thrower out there in the cosmos tossing all the planets about in a trajectory that registers with the scientist experiments because the thrower is really a mathematical abstraction who likes to be seen as a physically fit man with bulging biceps. a
And who is to say that somebody at some later time doesn’t prove that the Earth and Sun are not moving but are being pedaled around the universe by an itinerant peddler of the bizarre.
Thing is, we never really know, do we? It’s all an enigma no matter how much we explain until our Earth shrinks into the confines of our limited minds. But artists make that mind limitless.
I wish I had my own personal Theo. Wished I could be left alone to think and create. But that’s the role of the genius, for it is he or she who figures that out. The rest of us have to make do as best we can with the polarity of life.
Fuck, though, it must be so amazing to be allowed to be so visionary and have space and time bow down to your wishes. It’s a gift, I guess. Or a sense of being chosen. And someone would always have to suffer for your visions. And the thing is, I’d be too conscious of creating that suffering, and maybe to exist like Van Gogh you have to be blissfully ignorant of personal suffering but tap into the universal, the mythic suffering of mankind. I could do it, but something holds me back. Is it fear? Or is it failure? Or maybe I simply lack the right kind of atomic jangling of my soul to exist like that.
The wild artistic spirit lives in only a few, I think. For the rest of us, we must continually cup our tiny flames in case they get blown out and thank those few who, like Prometheus, had the guts and nerve to steal the fire away from the gods so that man could have a chance of living a life that wasn’t just one of enslavement to some indifferent god but one of love for our brittle humanity.
My next work of short fiction is going to be about the cold war between man and woman. (And you thought the Cold War was over!) The story will be set in Rockport Harbor and it will revolve around a Russian man, dutifully called Uncle Vanya by his particular other (and me as the omnipotent narrator did not miss the immodest Chekhov reference). He will be cruel, insisting that his over-sized American wife make absolutely sure that she frames his Slavic mug just as he wants it. The small black train behind him should reinforce his strong masculine revolutionary spirit. By no means should she frame him under the feminine shadow of the dainty cherry tree. He will even frame the shot himself. Waiting until his partner takes the camera in her shaking hands, praying that she can still hold the pose, not deviate by even a hair’s breadth. And some of the dialogue will go like this:
“Uncle Vanya, how much of your Cyrillic hair should I include?”
“As much as Stalin used when he said ‘Long live the state!’ ”
“Do you mind if I click before or after you unzip yourself?”
“It doesn’t matter. I will always be the same man.”
“Uncle Vanya! Uncle Vanya! You’ve come out blurry!”
“What? Didn’t I tell you never to express yourself. It is forbidden for you to be anything but my Western friend. We can never, never become intimate.”
“But Uncle Vanya, I love you.”
“No, child, you can never love a tyrant only fear them. Now, make sure the train’s big wheels don’t make me look too capitalist. I’m still in a constant state of anxiety from owning a Ford. And make sure you get my whole face. I don’t want it looking like the Baltic states after the fall of the Motherland.”
Czar of wonder, Czar of night, Czar of royal beauty bright.