25/1/2023 0 Comments
On anger and buoyancy
I have been wondering how to think about anger as a positive emotion, given the way it can be denied or refused in ourselves or in others, because of the damage we are afraid it can do. I used to think of it as what allowed you to fight, and so a useful feeling to draw on in fighting for your rights or for justice, but often these fights are better managed cooperatively, working out alliances of values or objectives. I've been interested in the way anger can be turned inward and experienced as depression, and how guilt can be turned outward and experienced as anger, and the connection between anger and depression makes me wonder about the relation between anger and joy. If the refusal of anger gives rise to depression, mightn't the free play of anger give rise to joy? I think it does! I have been reading Olivia Laing's Crudo, reimagining a life story for Kathy Acker taking her into 2017 and giving her a husband she marries in the course of the novel, and for a story in the voice of one of the original Riot Grrrls it is wonderfully buoyant, but then the Riot Grrrl movement was buoyant, buoyant and jaunty. It is partly the minimal use of commas, partly the pace of the narrative that makes the book so jaunty and so much fun to read, but it is also the flaunting of negative emotions, and one of the most jaunty scenes in the book, and the scene that makes you think this is a good marriage, is a scene about anger. In this scene the husband has been shortlisted for a prize and so is nervy and cross all day, a simmering anger that explodes into a tantrum when he is given a parking ticket, and although it might seem reasonable to be given a parking ticket when you have in fact parked on double yellow lines, he is outraged, furious, that he should get a ticket for parking on his OWN STREET. This is narrated by Kathy, newly wed to him, and I think what makes it feel so celebratory is how much she seems to relish the comedy of his unreasonableness, while sympathising with his bad temper, and then she goes out in the garden to fiercely behead some dahlias, before, later, complaining to him about the architecture of fear and anxiety he is building in their home. I like how she can enjoy his own anger and be undiminished and unthreatened by it, even as she is affected enough by it to snap off the dahlia heads and complain to him about it, and I like how later, when he wins the prize, they are both as happy as each other. Anger, I think, is a kind of self-assertion, and it makes sense he is angry to be shortlisted for a prize he didn't ask for, given how this places him in the position of being judged by others rather than by his own standards, how he is made a supplicant by this shortlisting he hasn't sought. And thinking of anger as self-assertion makes sense of all the scenes in YA fantasy where the protagonist discovers magical powers they didn't know they had at the point when they suddenly access a powerful rage that has been building in them and finally finds release in a fantastic, pyrotecnical display of the impossible.
23/1/2023 0 Comments
On consciousness and context
I was sitting in the sun, waiting for a friend who was buying vegetables, watching children who weren't my children, feeling very much in the moment, thinking this is my life, waiting for Lisa, but thinking also, that what made this moment the moment that it was, was everything around the moment, everything I wasn't experiencing in the moment but which gave the moment its meaning - that I was waiting for Lisa, that I've been caught up with family crises, that Simon is at home in Wellington, that Johnny and Elvira are who they are, that my hair is as it is (always too short or growing out badly), that I had been reading the book I had been reading. It was a few years ago I felt for an instant what it would feel like to believe in the idea of consciousness as residing in the world, in the objects perceived, rather than in the perceiver of them, but I've never been able to hold on to that idea for long and this was the opposite of that feeling, a powerful sense of how the consciousness of a moment is never simply a whole lot of perceptions about the world but is part of a narrative, or, rather, is experienced in terms of a sense of self, and I thought that, in a way, reading a book is what does allow you to live moment by moment, more than when you live in the moment you are living in, because the moment you are living in belongs to the whole context of your life, but when you read a book that context of your own life is set aside and you are in the context of the book's narrative which is revealed to you more linearly than your own life, the narrative of the book unfolding in the moment to moment of reading it.
These are paragraphs without essays or books to go in.