Monday April 6, 2020
Freedom/Spontaneity – Rigor/Discipline
Individuality – Community
Content/Theme/Story – Form/Technique/Style
Pleasure – Sacrifice
Past/Tradition – Present/Future/Breakthrough
Silence/Contemplation – Voice/Argumentation
Fiction – Theory
Tuesday, April 7, 2020
It is clear to me that I can be self-centered. Perhaps even a kind of narcissist. Intellectually, for example, I have a tremendous anxiety to give my opinion on everything and the opinions of others anger me, either because I consider them wrong, or, if I agree with them, because they have said it before me and/or better than me.
This weighs on my spirit, my mind, my soul: The eagerness to speak, to climb on any platform and grab the microphone.
The correct or virtuous order is inverted in me and I suspect in so many. It is no longer: I identify a phenomenon that I want to understand, I do research, I form a critical opinion, I formulate my opinion (this last being always expendable). Now it is: I identify a phenomenon on which I want to give an opinion, I do only the research necessary to be able to give an opinion, I formulate said opinion. In short, everything is aimed at arguing and not at understanding.
And the dizzying speed and overwhelming multiplicity of information (or not even information anymore: stimuli) turns us all into absolute thought reactionaries. Like logopathic hyenas, or better yet, like flies because flies are more frenzied, more populous and more annoying than hyenas, we throw ourselves on any smelly crumb to weigh in, to voice our opinion as soon as possible.
Patience extinguishes like a candle light in a gale, when patience is what we need most – paradoxically – urgently.
Because true discernment, true discussion, the dialectic movement that underlies all authentic change, needs time to mature.
I suspect that this all-encompassing social phenomenon in the hyperconnected space is behind much of today’s unbridled polarization. If we all want to talk, who is listening? In a realm of speeches, applause and jeers there is only noise.
That’s it. We are a swarm of flies with a thunderous buzz. And I, the opinion-botfly, wish for silence. But for this I must exorcise much of myself.
Wednesday, April 8, 2020
John Coltrane says: “My music is the spiritual expression of who I am. My faith, my knowledge, my being. I know there are evil forces. I know that there are forces that bring suffering to others and misery to the world, but I want to be the opposite force. I want to be a force which is truly for good.»
Today I saw Chasing Trane, a documentary about John Coltrane, and I was struck by the radical difference between his and Miles Davis’ story, despite the fact that artistically both followed similar paths, even in the fact that during their last period, after their greatest successes, they experimented to the point of alienating a good chunk of their audiences.
But the point that struck me is: Coltrane came from the racist south like Miles, but also from a poor family and his childhood was surrounded by death. He also fell into drugs, however once he quit, unlike Davis, he quit for good. From there on their biographies diverge completely. Miles Davis was the typical self-destructive, authoritarian, macho and violent male genius. Redeemed, yes, or at least I think so because he was aware of it. Because he repented and it seems that in the end he changed. I understand his flaws, his cruelty, his addiction, as an extension of his thunderous humanity. Regardless, he still fits in that well-worn mold of the great male artist. Coltrane, on the other hand, was a good-natured husband to pianist Alice Coltrane and had a close relationship with Naima (for whom he composed the delightful ballad of the same name). He was a good father and generally a good person. Religious and spiritual, but also of a great intelligence that we could call logical or mathematical.
You can be a decent person and at the same time be great at your art. It is obvious, but in practice it must be difficult. How to reconcile loneliness, seclusion, self-absorption, the self-centeredness inherent to the creative process? Is egocentrism inherent in creativity?
In my case I see a double nature. There is a clear selfishness – which I despise and circles my head like a cloud of mosquitoes – that makes me want to always be the one who has the ideas and who shares them. I the one to make the «discoveries» (of a movie, a book, etc.) and recommend them. But at the same time there is also a genuine desire to share. All my life, since I was a child, nothing makes me happier than sharing something that has filled me with amazement, joy, emotion, with someone who can appreciate it equally. But that’s where my totalizing ego comes in again, wanting everyone to feel and think like me because if someone doesn’t love something I recommended to the same degree as me, I get frustrated beyond measure.
I don’t think there is necessarily something bad or pathological in this dual nature. I must find a balance. Learn to channel that energy. It’s fundamental. I suspect that my entire creative future depends on it because the original question is hidden in the center: Why do I write?
I also suspect that to find that balance I must learn (and it will be difficult) to read, observe and listen before I write, describe or speak. He who talks about everything without knowing anything is perhaps also moved by an honest desire to share, but what he shares will be worthless. And that someone is me and all of us these days. Social networks have democratized megaphones, but not the minds behind the projected voices. While in academia the famous formula by Alfonso Reyes: ∞/0 persists, in daily public discourse the reverse operates: 0/∞. And what happens is that the zero is stretched to cover apparently a lot when we are all more or less on an equal footing with our ignorance.
Yes. I am ignorant. Atrociously ignorant for someone who wants to be a writer and is 27, almost 28 years old. I am not, let alone an expert, not even reasonably educated in anything. Not in what I claim to love: not in literature, not in the movies, not in jazz. Not in anything. And in every book I open, every line I read is already inundated with the deafening noise of hundreds of other books I haven’t read.
How to balance rigor and discipline with spontaneity and the organic growth of readings and knowledge?
The origin must be love for the art that I have chosen.
But do I love it? Do I really love literature if I can barely conjure the concentration to read torn by the voices that overwhelm me? If I almost never write? I don’t know anymore.
I have never been a happier reader or writer than when I was reading Harry Potter and writing my surely horrendous little fantasy novel in grade school. Never like when I first read Cortázar and wrote undoubtedly cheesy short stories for my blog.
I’m lost, it’s the truth. How to get back on track?
I would love, like John Coltrane, to believe in something greater not only than me, but greater than everything. An ultimate reason and a mission.