“you know” fatrick said, “every random group of people contains a certain percentage of morons – some higher, some lower, never zero. every random group. astronauts, whale watchers, immigrants, flamenco lovers, inuit, vegetarians, argentinians, christians, homosexuals, geography teachers, homosexual geography teachers, buick drivers…”. “i think i got it!”, i interrupted. he looked me in the eyes for a second, then he started grinning mechanically, nodded in satisfaction and continued.
“in return, every random group of people contains a certain percentage of cool guys – some higher, some lower, never zero. astronauts, whale watchers…”. while he continued his mantra he put his hand into the sore depth of his massive triple chin, covered it in a disgusting mix of sweat, aged sebum and burger sauce and splattered all on the back of a young mother pushing a bram. she didn’t notice, turned the corner and i faced fatrick again. “homosexuals” he muttered, “geography teachers, homosexual geography teachers, buick drivers”. “so, the racists are wrong”, i went.
“very wrong”, fatrick replied, looking at his balloon hand drying in the afternoon sun. he was right, i thought later. seyfried swears by this guy.
“it appears like an innocuous illness. monotony, boredom, death. millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. they work in offices. they drive a car. they picnic with their families. they raise children. and then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death. some never awaken. they are like the people who go to sleep in the snow and never awaken. but i am not in danger because my home, my garden, my beautiful life do not lull me. i am aware of being in a beautiful prison, from which I can only escape by writing.”
anaïs nin, diary, winter 1931/32
and here we are, again, waiting for the shock treatment…
“one day you’ll be thirty-six. let’s hope you’re still alive and did not become one of those. if you can’t remember who they are, its too late.” (diary, 1997)
found it a couple of weeks ago and kept it for this very blogpost. now, a week away from my 36th birthday i’m afraid i have to confess that i actually became one of “those”… of course i still know who “they” are – the people i hated the most back then: the traumatized, the boring, caught in a robotic daily life routine… still alive though.
there has always been this kind of literature in which, yeah, nothing really happens – no perceptible action but exhaustingly long and detailed descriptions of inner or outer circumstances, dialogues or monologues. paperized boredom. no surprises, no sudden movements, no signs of life. in short: the proustish breath of death.
most of the literature classics are still appearing insanely boring to me but there is a bunch of living aspiring disciples that gained my attention within the last couple of years: per petterson, nils-ove knausgard or andreas maier, just to mention a few. at first glance, their books are as mind-numbing as proust’s, joyce’s or tolstoi’s. but there is something different with contemporary boredom literaturewise.
so far, i wasnt even able to go beyond the 10 page threshold really. there was this severe resistance from somewhere inside me. being forced, my body reacted with fatigue or aggressivity. that’s no longer the case (already finished two of petterson’s books). such books even taste like nothing less than the next step on the ladder. so what happened? apparently i got more tolerant of going through life in first gear.
not really daring to call it maturity or to give age credit for this (i’m still only 35 after all). but it really feels like major life questions being answered, the principle lessons learned, macrocosm explored and future comes along with all those microcosms. let’s check back in 10 years. meanwhile i am reading maier and seeing myself as only guest in a cute little pub the middle of the godforsaken wetterau, having a glass of apple wine and slowly but steadily dissolving and merging with the nothingness surrounding me while singing happy melodies.
“as long as you’re alive, live!”, the admiral advised. “you can write later”. the moment when life leaves is not necessarily tantamount to death – but to stagnation as the lack of the unpredictable new. “everybody finds himself sitting at home one day wondering whats left to gain and if that’s really it. this is the sacred moment when you should either commit suicide or start writing a book”. creating the “new” thats no longer offered was the best chance to stay alive, he said, when “most of life lessons are learned, experiences are made, repetition rises towards ultimate divineness”. in his opinion the vast majority of people does nothing like that but follow entrenched habits facing a mechanical simulation of what they still call “life”. the lucky ones are too dumb to realise, he said. 20 year old me was impressed. the admiral sounded wise and right.
he never told me his real name and not much about himself in general. all i know is, that he was a former naval officer who ended up as a homeless dude, living in the park after some “bad decisions”. we had several great and valuable discussions in the early 2000s and i still have to think of him quite regularely. some of his pearls of wisdom were clearly made or caused by alcohol abuse, some still remain. one day he was gone without any warning or indication… i wonder if he’s still alive.
the “sacred moment” he mentioned pretty much is a max-frisch-moment as i found out a few years later: “i say to the american public: life is monotonous, i gain experience only when i write.” (montauk)
i spent many thoughts on every “life lesson” he taught me… on this one i wrote back in 2001: “i think my sacred moment comes in my 40s; when i experienced a completed apprenticeship, earned enough money, had enough sex, travelled enough, experienced fatherhood, marriage and divorce. the moment when kids are old enough to have left parental care already and i am sitting there in my one-room apartment with a bottle of schnaps after having sold the house i once built, facing the shadow side of a bukowski future”. still a future moment though…