Saturday, June 13, 2015

Sometimes "real" life looks more like a painting.

My friend Marcus asked me how I was doing last week, and the first thing that came to mind was, "I think it's better to not think at the moment". 


Lately, when I meet with my photography group, I feel utterly clueless, as if I have no real understanding of anything they're discussing. As if I have fooled myself into thinking that I know what I'm doing. I hate those moments of insecurity. And they're the nicest people. Last week I blurted out, "I have no idea what you're talking about! I can't believe I even keep doing this." I got a few awkward stares.


I went to church last week. I was in the worst mood when I left. It was a mix of anger and sadness. It was on her birthday. Every year, the feelings come, even if I don't know what day it is. Even if I don't know.



Right now I hear frogs croaking.
I smell lavender and spray paint.
My back aches.
And my mouth tastes like toothpaste.


Sometimes the most painful thing is to lie to yourself.



-FJ said...

Like in the book of Job, events "literally" have no meaning. And it's the meaning that we later construct to 'represent' it that can make it a painful lie to ourselves. The 'reality' in the event may not have been painful at all. As in Freud's "Wolfman"... the boy witnessing his parent's act of coitus had to "invent" reasons for the scene he had witnessed. He didn't understand the 'real' (symbolically consistent) meaning behind the act.

And uncertainty/ absence as to meaning never helps. It keeps the event 'alive' in our minds until we can somehow 'achieve' an imperfect symbolic consistency of meaning in our minds through apllication by trial and error of various seemingly explanatory 'imaginaries'.

In the absence of meaning in 'reality', it's truly a wonder that we don't doubt ourselves and/or our competence at every moment in our lives. And therein enters "Belief'.

-FJ said...

Every year, the feelings come, even if I don't know what day it is. Even if I don't know.

The same thing happens to me now, every year around April 1, the anniversary of my "psychic-break". One of these days, I'm almost sure to "lose my grip" upon 'reality' again. :(

Jen Brimmage said...

Fj, you really struck a chord here. I'm going to let it all sink in a bit. Thanks for the feedback.

Jen Brimmage said...

And I think there's a lot of muscle memory involved with traumatic events. Maybe a type of ptsd? My body won't allow me to forget, or even have a reprieve from the memories. I know it's well researched,but why should I look further into it? It just is.

Thank you for sharing your experience with me.

Ducky's here said...

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
--- Søren Kierkegaard

Your photo o that peeling stucco wall seems to indicate you know
what your doing, at least instinctively.

Jen Brimmage said...

The same thing happens to me now, every year around April 1, the anniversary of my "psychic-break". One of these days, I'm almost sure to "lose my grip" upon 'reality' again. :(


When my daughter was diagnosed with type one diabetes last summer, it felt like the ONE THING that I fear the most. I was faced (again) with what I have decided is the one worst thing (losing a child). I think that's maybe why it felt physically and psychologically traumatic to me. Nearly like being in a bad car wreck.

It's why I tend to come back to the idea of "acceptance". So much of life is totally out of our control. So much energy spent fighting against something that just IS. Suffering willfully, almost....

funny how even coming to some type of mental acceptance doesn't automatically ease the tension.

sometimes the only thing that really seems to help is to look at the moon at night or watch the clouds pass overhead. to stop trying to figure it out and just be.

Jen Brimmage said...

Thanks, Ducky. My instincts are my best ally in photography, I guess. It's no small thing, I know.

-FJ said...

Sorry to have been so insensitive to your loss. I knew that it was behind this post, and I inferred that it needent have been painful, knowing full well that it had been, and was. I just wanted to bring out the 'absence' of any "real" meaning attributable to it.

I find that in tragedy, however, we can look for 'positive-symbolic' redemptive meanings and choose to believe them in our translation of events and seek to avoid or escape that pain. Zizek tries to find some of this in his exploration of the Shoah. And it's also an example of Zizek's that stays with me, one of two Jewish boys killed by the Nazi's, that allows one to avoid thinking of the 'real' pain and suffering of the actual event and substitutes a symbolic life-affirming 'encouragement' in its' place. The story is as follows:

In his The Cattle Truck, Jorge Semprun reports how he witnessed the arrival of a truckload of Polish Jews at Buchenwald; they were stacked into the freight train almost 200 to a car, traveling for days without food and water in the coldest winter of the war. On arrival all in the carriage had frozen to death except for 15 children, kept warm by the others in the centre of the bundle of bodies. When the children were emptied from the car the Nazis let their dogs loose on them. Soon only two fleeing children were left:

The little one began to fall behind, the SS were howling behind them and then the dogs began to howl too, the smell of blood was driving them mad, and then the bigger of the two children slowed his pace to take the hand of the smaller... together they covered a few more yards... till the blows of the clubs felled them and, together they dropped, their faces to the ground, their hands clasped for all eternity.

-FJ said...

One can easily imagine how this scene should be filmed: while the soundtrack renders what goes on in reality (the two children are clubbed to death), the image of their hands clasped freezes, immobilized for eternity - while the sound renders temporary reality, the image renders the eternal Real. It is the pure surface of such fixed images of eternity, not any deeper Meaning, which allows for redemptive moments in the bleak story of the Shoah. One should read this imagined scene together with the final shot of Thelma and Louise: the frozen image of the car with the two women "flying" above the precipice: is this the positive utopia (triumph of the feminine subjectivity over death), or the masking of the miserable wreck the car IS in reality at that time? The weakness of the final shot from Thelma and Louise is that the frozen image is not accompanied by the soundtrack depicting what "really" went on (the car crash, terrible cries of the dying women) - strangely, this lack of reality undermines the very utopian dimension of the frozen image. In contrast to this scene, our imagined filmed scene from Semprun would fully assert the Platonic duality of temporal empirical reality and eternal Idea.

What this means is that, without shame, in conceiving art, we should return to Plato. Plato's reputation suffers because of his claim that poets should be thrown out of the city - a rather sensible advice, judging from my post-Yugoslav experience, where ethnic cleansing was prepared by poets' dangerous dreams (the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic being only one among them). If the West has the industrial-military complex, we in the ex-Yugoslavia had a poetic-military complex: the post-Yugoslav war was triggered by the explosive mixture of the poetic and the military component. So, from a Platonic standpoint, what does a poem about the holocaust do? It provides its "description without place": in renders the Idea of holocaust.

Recall the old Catholic strategy to guard men against the temptation of the flesh: when you see in front of you a voluptuous feminine body, imagine how it will look in a couple of decades - the dried skin, sagging breasts... (Or, even better, imagine what lurks now already beneath the skin: raw flesh and bones, inner fluids, half-digested food and excrements...) Far from enacting a return to the Real destined to break the imaginary spell of the body, such a procedure equals the escape from the Real, the Real which announces itself in the seductive appearance of the naked body. That is to say, in the opposition between the spectral appearance of the sexualized body and the repulsive body in decay, it is the spectral appearance with is the Real, and the decaying body which is reality - we take recourse to the decaying body in order to avoid the deadly fascination of the Real which threatens to draw us into its vortex of jouissance.

-FJ said...

I don't have any answers. Tragic events need not be redeemed. And PTSD is most definitely what we experience.

@ ducky - Soren definitely had something going.

Jen Brimmage said...

FJ, I didn't think you were being insensitive.

At this point, 13 years after her birth, I don't look for answers as much as I used to. It's a horrible thing to think that there is some divine reason, or worse, punishment, behind a tragedy.

I see now that my dissatisfaction with organized religion began soon after my daughter died. The church's response to a child's death left me...frustrated, to say the least.

I do remember one thing that helped. I was reading a book by a woman who had lost a child, and she wrote (to some effect)...that for a few years she kept asking "why me?", and it only led to more suffering. Then one day, she asked "why NOT me?", and things began to change. It helped me, too.

This very issue is at the heart of much of my struggle with religion. It's also why I don't fall in line with evangelicals, like I once did.

As far as tragic events being redeemed....I agree with Kierkegaard. These events help shape us (hopefully for the better). I believe that beauty can always come from tragedy, but we have to be willing to see it.

-FJ said...

Not to belabour this topic... but the pedant in me can't help myself. :(

ps- It's a rhetorical post. It doesn't require a response.