Saturday, June 11, 2005

Commonplace Book Excerpts #1

I apologize for the dearth of posts in the last two weeks. Despite having ample time to write, I've lacked the inclination. The same is true of painting. Whenever I prepare to work, it's as though my hands won't cooperate with my mind; the process becomes frustrating.

I assume that both creative struggles are linked to my still nameless illness. After several blood tests and many “negative” results, I know only what it is not; it is not Epstein-Barr (or “mono”), CMV (cytomegalovirus), Hepatitis A, B, or C, or West Nile virus. All these ailments were suspected at one time or another, but have since been ruled out.

To date, I've missed eleven days of work at my laboratory job and, though I plan to return to work on Monday morning, I don't expect to work an eight-hour shift for some time. Even a simple cat-sitting job just six city blocks from my apartment exhausted me such that I slept from 2:00 until 6:00 PM today! Not surprisingly, alcohol is prohibited, as is exercise until July 1st. If I’m not socializing (and I’m certainly not), I don’t feel the need to nurse a beer, but not being allowed to run or work out is particularly frustrating. My arms and chest have atrophied and everything seems to sag. I've lost nearly ten pounds in the past few weeks.

At any rate, because I want to remain active on Hungry Hyaena, but seem to have trouble focusing for long enough to compose coherent rambles – the “Fairy Tale” post took me three cross-eyed hours to write – I've decided to add a new “feature” to the blog, one which suits my temporarily scattered state. Beginning today, I will sometimes present quotes or anecdotes without commentary. I keep commonplace books, journals filled with images, quotations, and notes of all sorts, some of which are really beautiful, but too often forgotten by me as I continue to add more.

- Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), Italian philosopher and alchemist; burned at the stake in Rome for heretical writing and pronouncements, including his faith in Copernican astronomy. “Man is no more than an ant in the presence of the infinite,” he wrote, and upon receiving the death sentence for his beliefs, he is said to have stated, “Perhaps you, my judges, pronounce this sentence against me with greater fear than I receive it." While he was burning, the customary crucifix was presented to him, a chance to repent, but he mustered the strength to push it away and look towards the sky.
- The German city of Hamburg was fire bombed by the British Royal Air Force for several nights in July of 1943. Below is a selection from Hans Erich Nossack’s account of the bombing and the days that followed.
“…the convicts in striped uniforms who were called in to clear away ‘the remains of what had once been human beings’…could reach the corpses in the air-raid shelters of the death zone only with flamethrowers, so densely did the flies swarm around them, and so thick were the floors and steps of the cellars with slippery finger-length maggots. Rats and flies ruled the city. The rats, bold and fat, frolicked in the streets, but even more disgusting were the flies, huge and iridescent green, flies such as had never been seen before. They swarmed in great clusters on the roads, settled in heaps to copulate on ruined walls, and basked, weary and satiated, on the splinters of the window panes.”

I include Nossack’s writing not only to highlight the atrocity of war and our own human tendency to prefer neat history to the real mess, but also because I find the passage curiously beautiful, in the same way that a Hieronymous Bosch depiction of Hell might be. In all the copulating, feeding, and general excess, nature is at work, cleaning up what is, in effect, an all too natural mess, horrible though it may be.
- Lastly, the image that leads this post is a stunning photograph. Unfortunately, I don't know the photographer or the year. It is taped into one of my journals, presumably before I began to keep track of provenance. At any rate, I thought it a nice companion to Nossack’s description of Hamburg.

1 comment:

Mikhail Capone said...

Take care of your health! Hope you get better soon..