Finished

April 3, 2017

Bare interior.

Grey Light.

Left and right back, high up, two small windows, curtains drawn.

Front right, a door. Hanging near door, its face to wall, a picture.

Front left, touching each other, covered with an old sheet, two ashbins.

Center, in an armchair on castors, covered with an old sheet, Hamm.

Motionless by the door, his eyes fixed on Hamm, Clov. Very red face.

Brief tableau.

Clov goes and stands under window left. Stiff, staggering walk. He looks up at window left. He turns and looks at window right. He goes and stands under window right. He looks up at window right. He turns and looks at window left. He goes out, comes back immediately with a small step-ladder, carries it over and sets it down under window left, gets up on it, draws back curtain. He gets down, takes six steps (for example) towards window right, goes back for ladder, carries it over and sets it down under window right, gets up on it, draws back curtain. He gets down, takes three steps towards window left, goes back for ladder, carries it over and sets it down under window left, gets up on it, looks out of window. Brief laugh. He gets down, takes one step towards window right, goes back for ladder, carries it over and sets it down under window right, gets up on it, looks out of window. Brief laugh. He gets down, goes with ladder towards ashbins, halts, turns, carries back ladder and sets it down under window right, goes to ashbins, removes sheet covering them, folds it over his arm. He raises one lid, stoops and looks into bin. Brief laugh. He closes lid. Same with other bin. He goes to Hamm, removes sheet covering him, folds it over his arm. In a dressing-gown, a stiff toque on his head, a large blood-stained handkerchief over his face, a whistle hanging from his neck, a rug over his knees, thick socks on his feet, Hamm seems to be asleep. Clov looks him over. Brief laugh. He goes to door, halts, turns towards auditorium.

CLOV (fixed gaze, tonelessly):
Finished, it’s finished, nearly finished, it must be nearly finished.
(Pause.)
Grain upon grain, one by one, and one day, suddenly, there’s a heap, a little heap, the impossible heap.
(Pause.)
I can’t be punished any more.
(Pause.)
I’ll go now to my kitchen, ten feet by ten feet by ten feet, and wait for him to whistle me.
(Pause.)
Nice dimensions, nice proportions, I’ll lean on the table, and look at the wall, and wait for him to whistle me.

(He remains a moment motionless, then goes out. He comes back immediately, goes to window right, takes up the ladder and carries it out. Pause. Hamm stirs. He yawns under the handkerchief. He removes the handkerchief from his face. Very red face. Glasses with black lenses.)

HAMM:
Me –
(he yawns)
– to play.
(He takes off his glasses, wipes his eyes, his face, the glasses, puts them on again, folds the handkerchief and puts it back neatly in the breast pocket of his dressing gown. He clears his throat, joins the tips of his fingers.)
Can there be misery –
(he yawns)
– loftier than mine? No doubt. Formerly. But now?
(Pause.)
My father?
(Pause.)
My mother?
(Pause.)
My… dog?
(Pause.)
Oh I am willing to believe they suffer as much as such creatures can suffer. But does that mean their sufferings equal mine? No doubt.
(Pause.)
No, all is a –
(he yawns)
– bsolute,
(proudly)
the bigger a man is the fuller he is.
(Pause. Gloomily.)
And the emptier.
(He sniffs.)
Clov!
(Pause.)
No, alone.
(Pause.)
What dreams! Those forests!
(Pause.)
Enough, it’s time it ended, in the shelter, too.
(Pause.)
And yet I hesitate, I hesitate to… to end. Yes, there it is, it’s time it ended and yet I hesitate to –
(He yawns.)
– to end.
(Yawns.)
God, I’m tired, I’d be better off in bed.
(He whistles. Enter Clov immediately. He halts beside the chair.)
You pollute the air!
(Pause.)
Get me ready, I’m going to bed.

Endgame
Samuel Beckett

your own real feelings

March 20, 2017

“Do you love me?”

“Yes,” said Boris, making a face.

“Why do you make a face like that?”

“Because – oh, you annoy me.”

“Why? It isn’t true that you love me?”

“Yes it is.”

“Why don’t you ever tell me so yourself? I always have to ask you.”

“Because I don’t feel like it. It’s all rot; it’s the sort of thing that people don’t say.”

“Does it annoy you when I say I love you?”

“No, you can say it if you like, but you oughtn’t to ask me if I love you.”

“It’s very seldom I ask you anything, darling. It’s usually enough for me to look at you and feel I love you. But there are moments when I wish I could get at your own real feelings.”

“I understand,” said Boris seriously, “but you ought to wait till I feel like it. If it doesn’t come naturally, there’s no sense in it.”

“But, you little fool, you yourself say you never do feel that way unless somebody asks you.”
Boris began to laugh.

“It’s true,” he said, “you put me off. But one can feel affection for somebody and not want to say so.”

Jean-Paul Sartre
The Age of Reason

the womb of the millennia

December 2, 2016

solitude

If you comprehend the darkness, it seizes you. It comes over you like the night with black shadows and countless shimmering stars. Silence and peace come over you if you begin to comprehend the darkness. Only he who does not comprehend the darkness fears the night.

Through comprehending the dark, the nocturnal, the abyssal in you, you become utterly simple. And you prepare to sleep through the millennia like everyone else, and you slip down into the womb of the millennia, and your walls resound with ancient temple chants. Since the simple is what always was. Peace and blue night spread over you while you dream in the grave of the millennia.

Carl Gustav Jung
The Red Book

Tears and night

December 1, 2016

on-the-stairs

December. This heart full of tears and of night.

Albert Camus
Notebooks

sharp boundaries

November 21, 2016

book2

Philosophy aims at the logical clarification of thoughts. Philosophy is not a body of doctrine but an activity. A philosophical work consists essentially of elucidations. Philosophy does not result in ‘philosophical propositions’, but rather in the clarification of propositions. Without philosophy thoughts are, as it were, cloudy and indistinct: its task is to make them clear and to give them sharp boundaries.

Ludwig Wittgenstein
Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

Reaching you

November 18, 2016

fog

Half of what I say is meaningless; but I say it so that the other half may reach you.

Kahlil Gibran
Sand and Foam

A kernel is hidden in me

November 16, 2016

trees2

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labour is holy. Out of this trust I live.

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.

Herman Hesse
Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte (Trees: Reflections and poems)

Poetry predates history…

October 30, 2016

snow-field

Let me begin with three crucial observations about the art of poetry. First, it is the oldest form of literature. Indeed, it is the primal form of all literature. Poetry even predates history because it not only existed, but flourished before the invention of writing. As an oral art, it did not require the alphabet or any other form of visual inscription to develop and perfect a vast variety of meters, forms, and genres. Before writing, poetry stood at the center of culture as the most powerful way of remembering, preserving, and transmitting the identity of a tribe, a culture, a nation. Verse was humanity’s first memory and broadcast technology – a technology originally transmitted only by the human body. In Robert Frost’s astute formulation, poetry was ‘a way of remembering what it would impoverish us to forget.’

Frost’s pithy definition is usefully ponderable. He calls poetry ‘a way of remembering,’ which is to say a mnemonic technology to preserve human experience. He claims the loss of what it preserves ‘would impoverish us,’ which is to say that poetry enriches human consciousness or, at the very least, protects things of common value from depredation. Finally, he asserts that poetry maintains these virtues against the human danger ‘to forget.’ Here Frost acknowledges that the art opposes the natural forces of time, mortality, and oblivion, which humanity must face to discover and preserve its meaning. As Frost said elsewhere, one of the essential tasks of poetry is to give us ‘a clarification of life…a momentary stay against confusion.’

The second observation is that poetry is a universal human art. Despite post-modern theories of cultural relativism that assert there are no human universals, there exists a massive and compelling body of empirical data, collected and documented by anthropologists, linguists, and archaeologists that demonstrates there is no human society, however isolated, that has not developed and employed poetry as a cultural practice. Most of this poetry, of course, has been oral poetry. Many of these cultures never developed writing. But the fact remains – and it is a demonstrable fact, not mere opinion – that every society has developed a special class of speech, shaped by apprehensible patterns of sound, namely, poetry. Cognitive science now suggests that humans are actually hard-wired to respond to the sort of patterned speech that verse represents. Like the songs of birds or dances of bees – but on a higher level of complexity – poetry reflects the unique cognitive capacity of the human mind and body. Why humanity universally needs this special class of speech is another question entirely, which will be considered in a few pages.

Third and finally, poetry originated as a form of vocal music. It began as a performative and auditory medium, linked to music and dance and associated with civic ceremony, religious ritual, and magic. (The earliest poetry almost certainly served a shamanistic function.) Most aboriginal cultures did not distinguish poetry from song because the arts were so interrelated as to be porous. Nor did the classical Greek or Chinese cultures two or three millennia ago differentiate poetry from song. Verse was not spoken in a conversational manner, which was an early twentieth century development. Poetic speech was always stylized – usually either chanted rhythmically or sung, sometimes even sung and danced in chorus.

Dana Gioia
Poetry as Enchantment

curse

‘Come here. On the couch,’ I ordered her.

She obeyed. She stretched herself out and I sat beside her. The odour of her body was distinct. Perfumes spread a clever gloss over the woman smell, the bitter salt odour that stirred from between her closed thighs. I smiled, for the logic of this illusion grows entertaining. But I had decided on experiments. My hands stroked her hair, feeling of its strands. My fingers pressed at the skull beneath the warm skin of her head. Then I held her breasts, that had once seemed to me like two little blind faces raised in prayer. But imagery no longer decorates my thought. My hallucination is no longer a weaver of magical phrases. But stark, real its heart beating under ribs, its skin glowing with perspiration, its nipples standing out. As I caressed her I heard her say:

‘Yours. Yours. I am your woman.’

Her thighs opened and her arms that had been held toward me fell to her sides. My hand slipped between. There was warm flesh. Yes, it was flesh to my mind. And I sat for moments allowing the illusion to stir a passion in me. I would throw myself on this thing, hold it in my arms, give myself to it. Where was the wrong in that, since it was only myself I ravished, a phantom mocking me behind my eyes?

Ben Hecht
Fantazius Mallare

Sing again soon…

October 17, 2016

rain

What is a poet? An unhappy man who hides deep anguish in his heart, but whose lips are so formed that when the sigh and cry pass through them, it sounds like lovely music…And people flock around the poet and say: ‘Sing again soon’ – that is, ‘May new sufferings torment your soul but your lips be fashioned as before, for the cry would only frighten us, but the music, that is blissful.’

Søren Kierkegaard
Either/Or