Thursday, June 16, 2011

What Makes the Clock Tick?

I have landed in another of those troughs of inactivity which make me wonder what I am without swirling occupation and how I shall survive the exposing tranquillity which unmasks all the hidden paranoia. One mustn’t confuse lack of occupation with preoccupation. Preoccupation is a malaise from which I have always suffered, what less charitably is called a complex, a fixation or obsession, or just plain and unglamourous worry. But what I am talking about here isn’t a trance, rather a tolerable state of desuetude, a pause so to speak. When the commotion of life subsides it is akin to being thrown upon the beach from the vortex, an instant relief from the ruckus. But the change is so peremptory as to promote a sense of being orphaned and vulnerable.

All my life I have been intent upon accomplishing an assignment, often to the point of exploitation and overwork. When at last the objective is achieved I am jilted as a machine which has been unceremoniously unplugged, stopped in my tracks precisely where I left off. It no doubt speaks to my entire lack of imagination that without a prescription for commitment I am once again at sea, though aimlessly floundering instead of purposively fighting the current.

It is popular among artists especially to hear that it is the act of creation, not the product created, which fulfills them. Likely it isn’t a huge stretch to suggest that the even the lowly entrepreneur is elevated by the performance of his or her professional duties. It amuses me to observe that my rude undertakings include not only my private avocation but also collateral exigencies which similarly require personal attention, like property management, public service and even socializing. In short the ingredients of my life, though largely unimpressive, create the flavour I relish. Granted I “out-source” many of my obligations, but that is more choreography than neglect, what I prefer to think of as creative use of one’s diminishing resources.

We bash the businessman for never being happy with any amount of capital accumulated. We can therefore usefully stop to assess the situation, to value what has transpired, to derive some pleasure from what has taken place not just from what is to come. So forward-thinking are we that the past (even yesterday) frequently escapes our attention. Sadly we dampen the enthusiasm by doing as J. Alfred Prufrock did, by measuring out our life with coffee spoons. Measurement is apparently what it’s all about these days. The proliferation of computers and the internet ensures that every trivial detail can now be recorded, as though doing things “on-line” somehow enlarges the significance of otherwise insipid particles of information. Calculation of facts now happens so automatically that one can easily become overwhelmed by the process to the point where the numbers matter more than the substance. In this environment augmentation is the goal, a mad race to get from here to there without savouring the details along the way.

Numbers however are only one more element in a line of trappings from which I seek to disengage myself. I hope my aspiration doesn’t sound as scheming as that of the disenchanted husband who one day without notice leaves and never returns. My objective isn’t so much to run away from things as to distance myself from inutility. In that respect my purpose, while somewhat bland, at least has what I hope is the benefit of simplicity, economy and all those other good things which come from low level maneuvers. So much of my life has been spent complicating it with superfluous distractions. Now I am trying to dissolve those bugaboos. I have initiated the process by removing the weight of as many material objects as possible. It is bad enough that I am daily reminded of the disintegration and decay of my person, much less the persistent rotting and breakdown of all the things which surround me. I don’t mind telling you that as many as thirty years ago it was my ambition to own a concrete condo in Key West and work washing dishes in a local beanery, with the vacant hours of the day spent blissfully sitting on the dykes at the beach, watching the crashing sea, smoking Turkish-blend cigarettes and sipping a bland American beer from a bottle. The odd thing is that such a life of abandon and approaching poverty has a contemporaneous appeal. How strange it is to confess that no thing any longer holds charm. What remains however is the need to produce. Production takes on a new air when it is unrelated to consumption. It would be specious to suggest there isn’t an objective, that one is driven merely by the thrill of it, but the goal is far less transparent than usual. In fact the purpose of life becomes an intoxicating subject, removed as it is from palpability.

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