Sunday, June 07, 2009

But Always At My Back I Hear...

E@L was walking alone, painful step by painful step, from Novena to his apartment along Newton Rd. He had picked up a book on Galileo ('Galileo Antichrist' - links to come in a few days) at the store there and was pondering that great man's efforts - this book, as does David Foster Wallace's 'Everything and More', point out that it was more than just his evidence-based belief in Copernicus's heliocentric system that upset the Church. Infinity, the domain of the only infinite being - God! So long ago, but the arguments continue, even though mathematically they were solved 100 years ago. So dead now, the good GG, not mention Dedekind and Weierstrass and George Cantor. Passed away. In all passing. Everyone is dead, or they are dying. E@L is not feeling so good himself - his stupid feet have those shooting pains going into his toes again, he thought that had cleared up.

Along the avenue, a blustery winds tosses the leaves at E@L from the tall, diagrammatically perfect trees. (Singapore's trees, amazing.) The wind seems to have a spooky aliveness to it, not merely the rush between two air-pressure differences, but something malevolent and unhappy. It seems that suddenly as he is aware of his body failing, growing old and decrepit, there is this rush, a precipitous falling away of his useful years, the charge of his approaching demise. He anxiously buys books to build a wall of protection against the winds of time - "When we buy books, we imagine we are buying the time to read them," said Schopenhauer, a quote spoken exclusively, one would think, for E@L. Buy time. To seek for a little bit more before the inevitable, is that such a crime?

Another man, in even more pain than him comes out from a side street, his wide buttocks bounce to the limp from both his bad hips. Even at E@L's hesitant pace he soon overtakes this not really so old man. He is aging too, faster than E@L, but does he think these thoughts? Is he cursed with such lonely musings on inevitability, inexorability and the incredibly short time that is left, for himself, for the man with bad hips, for this kid coming at them on a pushbike (OK, a bicycle!), for anyone... compared the vastness of eternity to come, and the 13 billion years gone. "In the long run we are all dead", said Keynes. In the short walk too, almost. In the blink of an eyes, the human race evolves, grows, crashes, taking half the planet with it...

Scattering leaves tossed at him again, the wind, always this rush, but this sensation of nothing worthwhile left to do (but his presentations went so well this week, were well received, considered so amusing the people thought he was an entertainer more than a trainer - why obviously so well liked does he feel this way, this dullness, as though of hemlock he had drunk) and there is such a short time to do it in... Down he flows, downstream.

"The only question left for the modern man is whether to commit suicide"... Camus. No wonder DFW topped himself (find something to believe in, don't shoot yourself in the head at 45, he says in "This is Water" ) at 46. It's a rational response to his deep and unrelenting pain (depression, not bad feet [well, I am guessing about his feet]). Seek happiness, or seek to avoid pain - Aristotle's choice. Which is our rationale? Epicurian or Stoic? Epicurus or Zeno (not of the paradox fame)? With no libido, there is no point in being a pleasure seeker: what would E@L do if he found it. Options are trickling away... But in face is the breeze, gusting, as if throwing itself at him again, trying to hold him back, while still continuously coming on, streaming, as if to pull him into it, physically and psychologically, to flow over him with something of the grumbling pettiness, sordid and dismal of the ultimately lost...

What to do... Paraphrase Rilke? And so he keeps pressing on, trying to achieve it, trying to hold it firmly in his simple hands. The magic of his existence, the most fleeting of all... Just once are we here, just once for all things, and then no more.

E@L walks on, slowly, what's the rush, takes another step, a small step for man, a baby step. Then he takes another. And another another. After so many anothers, so many steps, he is home. Astounding. He drops the books on the table. He sighs. Ah, the impossible distance covered: Zeno(the other one)'s paradox of limits overcome. Such is the set of all steps from there to here...

The apartment is empty - Izzy is on Sentosa, where she seems to live these days. MJ comes in tomorrow. And shit, that's right! With a flush of air-conditioning, he snaps out... He has a party to go to... Dozens of people who like him a lot. E@L, let's do it!


But first let's check the email...

One of E@L's good buddies from Oz had a minor brain-stem "incident" a few years ago that cleared up, but left him at "high risk" and put him in a legal place where he could no longer work at his stressful old job, or he'd lose his work-cover insurance (which paid his ongoing medical expenses, and test, etc.) So he took up art. He paints, he sculpts, does weird artistic things, grew a ponytail. He has a portrait of E@L (copied from a photograph) on one wall, btw. He send today this picture of one of his amazing statues. Apparently it is going on the cover of some coffee-table book...

And when I opened the jpg, I had a chill that scared me to the quick. This was exactly the sort of Lovecraftian creature whose wicked haste I felt was behind those weird feelings I had with the wind this afternoon...

He says it is a mixture of Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush from Pirates of the Caribbean.

To me it's the "Rushing" spirit of Time and Death. And in typical E@L ironical fashion, it made me happy to look at it. To see my friend enjoying a modicum of success, but more importantly, existing completely (as Rilke urges) in his art.


(sorry can't correct any more typos - gotta get up early for golf on Batam tomorrow, need sleep!)


savannah said...

everything all at once again, sugar? and now, how long do we have? yes? no? *sigh*

the sculpture is incredible looking. i'd love to see more of his work, if possible. xoxox

Dick Headley said...

See if you can find a copy of Ingmar Bergman's 'Wild Strawberries', get smashed, put your feet up and away you go.

Lost in Melbourne said...

Too much contemplation is not always productive. We can be in danger of disappearing up our own backside.

Get out on the bike more often now that you have the seat options sorted. There are few things more liberating for the soul than feeling ahead of others and I imagine being able to move a little more freely on your bike would give you that. With the double benefit of the exercise and thumbing your nose at uncle and the other's plodding along to the tune of the dictatorship, it has to be a winner.

Always enjoy the parties though, they move along so quickly.

Momentary Madness said...

I detect a slight pensive, if not reflective mood?
I like it. That tells me you’re feet are somewhat on the ground, considering they will be sooner than we think under it.
” ……buying the time”
Yes, making/creating time to kill it.
Funny we can’t get our head around time, even when we know there is only now, and you’ll always get an argument similar to that of a non believer who in fright of his life (and otherwise) utters ”O God!”
To be or not to be?
I would like personally in this life to befriend the unknown/death; see it as a beginning of what rationally has to be the greater of what e are a part of.
We live, and die do we not. There is no to be or not to be; there is only both.
Meantime, give yourself a lash, things to do; places to be, and don’t be late.

Indiana said...

You've got lots of if you could just work out how to ride your bike and read at the same time you would be able to kill two birds...

expat@large said...

Sav: I have more, but not of his ironwork, that I'll save for another appropriate post.

DH: it's on my bucket list. (Actually think I might have a copy, looks, no, sorry, that's Autumn Sonata. And the laugh a minute Seventh Seal.)

Scott: I should not be left alone without an MP3 player in my ears distracting my mind from these thoughts - actually, the impression of the rushing wind and approaching death was a brief and black humorous moment only - stretched for rhetorical purposes in the blog post to build up to the statue pic. All the literary references crept in because, hey, it was me writing (I actually removed a few, unless you got the absolute first draft in your RSS feed...)

MM: Very pensive, actually I was thinking more of fellow blogger Creepy at Church Of Lost Souls, who is genuinely in a REAL funk! I was mainly stretching that up with a few other episodes, but I do get in a funk when I'm by myself too long. I've never ever thought of suicide though, just wondered why others have.

Indy: dude, I know. BTW, did you look after that vodka bottle last night for me? Tapping that arsehole bartender on the freaking head with it would have been a good start. $200 bucks for a bottle worth $50 and then only 2 juices and 2 sodas... FMD! Grrr, freaking think out of the fucking box, Singaporeans! Sorry folks, private story. He wouldn't give us 3 juices and 1 soda, oh no, that's not the RULES! E@L had to keep a low profile after getting a case of irritable ang-moh syndrome and grabbing him by his wrist (!no-no!) as he leaned forwards towards me...

"Security!" (No, not called.)

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