pessoa on work & boredom

 

We may know that the work we continue to put off doing will be bad. Worse, however, is the work we never do. A work that’s finished is at least finished. It may be poor, but it exists, like the miserable plant in the lone flowerpot of my neighbour who’s crippled. That plant is her happiness, and sometimes it’s even mine. What I write, bad as it is, may provide some hurt or sad soul a few moments of distraction from something worse. That’s enough for me, or it isn’t enough, but it serves some purpose, and so it is with all of life.

A tedium that includes the expectation of nothing but more tedium; a regret, right now, for the regret I’ll have tomorrow for having felt regret today—huge confusions with no point and no truth, huge confusions…

…where, curled up on a bench in a railway station, my contempt dozes in the cloak of my discouragement…

…the world of dreamed images which are the sum of my knowledge as well as of my life…

To heed the present moment isn’t a great or lasting concern of mine. I crave time in all its duration, and I want to be myself unconditionally.

—from Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet



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autumnal thoughts


I find it impossible to keep this first stanza from repeating itself in my head when I leave work on a darkening fall evening…

 

Easter, 1916

William Butler Yeats  

 

I have met them at close of day

Coming with vivid faces

From counter or desk among grey

Eighteenth-century houses.

I have passed with a nod of the head

Or polite meaningless words,

Or have lingered awhile and said

Polite meaningless words,

And thought before I had done

Of a mocking tale or a gibe

To please a companion

Around the fire at the club,

Being certain that they and I

But lived where motley is worn:

All changed, changed utterly:

A terrible beauty is born.

 

That woman’s days were spent

In ignorant good-will,

Her nights in argument

Until her voice grew shrill.

What voice more sweet than hers

When, young and beautiful,

She rode to harriers?

This man had kept a school

And rode our winged horse;

This other his helper and friend

Was coming into his force;

He might have won fame in the end,

So sensitive his nature seemed,

So daring and sweet his thought.

This other man I had dreamed

A drunken, vainglorious lout.

He had done most bitter wrong

To some who are near my heart,

Yet I number him in the song;

He, too, has resigned his part

In the casual comedy;

He, too, has been changed in his turn,

Transformed utterly:

A terrible beauty is born.

 

Hearts with one purpose alone

Through summer and winter seem

Enchanted to a stone

To trouble the living stream.

The horse that comes from the road.

The rider, the birds that range

From cloud to tumbling cloud,

Minute by minute they change;

A shadow of cloud on the stream

Changes minute by minute;

A horse-hoof slides on the brim,

And a horse plashes within it;

The long-legged moor-hens dive,

And hens to moor-cocks call;

Minute by minute they live:

The stone’s in the midst of all.

 

Too long a sacrifice

Can make a stone of the heart.

O when may it suffice?

That is Heaven’s part, our part

To murmur name upon name,

As a mother names her child

When sleep at last has come

On limbs that had run wild.

What is it but nightfall?

No, no, not night but death;

Was it needless death after all?

For England may keep faith

For all that is done and said.

We know their dream; enough

To know they dreamed and are dead;

And what if excess of love

Bewildered them till they died?

I write it out in a verse—

MacDonagh and MacBride

And Connolly and pearse

Now and in time to be,

Wherever green is worn,

Are changed, changed utterly:

A terrible beauty is born.

 

extreme weather and impeding workplace tragedy, with special reference to ufos and hitler

 

from the these are the moments that break up a dull day department:

 

It is currently raining so hard we cannot even see Toronto Island from our boardroom. Plus the roof is leaking! How can I conduct ideational sessions under these conditions? Right now this office is noisier than Hitler’s Berlin Bunker, April 1945 (a judgment I make after careful viewing of the Time-Life WW II video library) — and possibly even more hazardous, given the amount of water pouring onto our desks and into our computers. Of course, Hitler was no longer in the bunker: the bodies of the suicides were actually executed stand-in doubles for him and Eva, who were by that time at the secret Nazi base in the Antarctic (ferried there, according to the Internet, by the Nazi’s anti-gravity saucer-shaped flying disk). But you, gentle reader, you already knew that. Unless you’re a fuckwit who believes the “official story” in matters corporate or political . . . but my argument is simply that one cannot profitably labour at one’s vocation whilst water enters one’s computer by means both diverse & sinister. Meanwhile, deadlines loom. Truly, count no man happy until he is dead!

 

working wisdom

 

It is not required of you to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.

 

—Rabbi Tarfon

“shit, money and the word”: personal crap to be mulled over later

promotion made official.  found out my antics have inspired my co-workers to nickname me the heart-break kid. like gawd hisself, i will not be mocked: they will get theirs, the bastards! now more money is coming in… to do what with? no time to travel. maybe feed a kid in africa. clone my dogs. clone myself? ugh.

sadly, unless something drastic happens, i will continue sleep-walking through life until henry james’ “great good thing” comes for me.

got rid of 55 banker’s boxes of books last weekend: stuff like musty old penguin translations of tolstoy and dostoevsky, law books, the complete works of rick moody (first editions), about 2/3rds of kingsley amis’ output, books by alexander cockburn, robert fisk, christopher hitchens, econometrics, multiple sets of doris lessing’s the children of violence series and her canopus in argos: archives series…. When and where did I get all this stuff?… goodbye my never read various abridgements of gibbon, goodbye lesbian art in america, you were so good to me!, goodbye betty page books, bye-bye the novels of william gibson, au revoir screenplays by harold pinter, derek jarman and richard price, so long multiple copies of robert musil’s five women, good riddance my omnium gatherum of philip roth — goodbye, p-ro, you one shot wonder! admit it, you blew your wad on portnoy’s complaint… please stop writing novels about your dawning realization that you too will one day be dead… goodbye, my first edition of in cold blood, which my dogs pissed on, goodbye, 10 years’ worth of the new yorker (in boxes littered with mouse shit)….  goodbye all 1625-odd of you! you’re off to be reincarnated as toilet paper…. Shit! After all the money I spent on you over the last 30 years …  you put me in mind of pynchon’s famous “shit, money and the Word”:

 

The money seeping its way out . . .   what stayed at home in Berkshire went into timberland whose diminishing green reaches were converted acres at a clip into paper — toilet paper, banknote stock, newsprint — a medium or ground for shit, money, and the Word. . . . Shit, money, and the Word, the three American truths, powering the American mobility, claimed the Slothrops, clasped them for good to the country’s fate.

 

 

books, work, and the sons of erin

lunch with colleague today. she has published two short stories and has an agent shopping her book around.  urges me to write, but i insist i don’t have the discipline.

in the process of removing about 4,000 books from my garage. at some point i may have to stop buying books — perish the thought.

as for the job, the shame of having to work alongside the irish catholics! thank god grandpapa didn’t live to see this…

the opening of platonov’s surrealist masterpiece the foundation pit

Bookseller Photo  

 


On the day when he reached the thirtieth year of his personal life Voshchev was discharged from the small machine factory where he had earned the means of his existence. The dismissal notice stated that he was being separated from his job because of his increasing loss of powers and tendency to stop and think amidst the general flow of work . . .

The tavernkeeper was readying his establishment, winds and grasses swayed around Voshchev in the sun when he reluctantly opened his eyes, filled with renewed moist strength. He had to live and eat again; therefore he went to see the trade union committee, to defend his unneeded labor.

The management says that you were standing and thinking in the middle of production," they told him at the trade union committee. "What were you thinking about, Comrade Voshchev?”

 

"About the plan of life."

 

"The factory works according to the plan laid down by the Trust. As for your private life, you could plan it out at the club or in the Red Reading Room."

 

"I was thinking about the general plan of life. I’m not worried about my own life, that’s no secret to me."

 

"And what could you accomplish?"

 

"I could have thought up something like happiness, and spiritual meaning would improve productivity."

 

"Happiness will come from materialism, Comrade Voshchev, and not from meaning. We cannot defend you, you are a politically ignorant man, and we don’t wish to find ourselves at the tail end of the masses.”

 

Voshchev wanted to ask for some other work, even the feeblest, just so that he would earn enough to eat; and he would do his thinking on his own time. But how can one ask for anything if there’s no respect for a man, and Voshchev saw that those people had no feeling for him.

 

"You’re scared of being at the tail end of the masses; naturally, a tail’s the hind extremity. So you’ve climbed up on their necks.”

 

"The government gave you an extra hour for your thinking, Voshchev. You used to work eight hours, and now it’s only seven. You should have lived and kept quiet! If everybody starts thinking all at once, who’ll do the acting?”

 

"Without thought, there won’t be any sense in the action,” Voshchev said reflectively.

 

He left the trade union committee without getting help. The path before him lay in the heat of summer. On either side people were building technical improvements and houses where the masses, homeless until now, would live in silence . . .

Andrey Platonovich Platonov (1899-1951) was the son of a railway worker. The eldest of eleven children, he began work at the age of thirteen, first in an office, then in a factory, and finally as an engine driver’s assistant. He began publishing poems and articles in 1918, while studying engineering. Throughout much of the 1920s he worked as a land reclamation expert. Between 1927 and 1932 he wrote his most politically controversial works, some of them first published in the Soviet Union only in the late 1980s. Other stories were published but subjected to vicious criticism. Stalin is reputed to have written "scum" in the margin of the story "For Future Use," and to have said to Aleksandr Fadeev (later secretary of the Writers’ Union), "Give him a good belting—for future use." During the 1930s Platonov made several public confessions of error, but went on writing stories only marginally more acceptable to the authorities. His son was sent to the Gulag in 1938, aged fifteen; he was released three years later, only to die of the tuberculosis he had contracted there. During the war Platonov worked as a war correspondent and published several volumes of stories; after the war, however, he was again almost unable to publish. He died in 1951, of tuberculosis caught from his son . . .

 

—from http://www.nybooks.com/shop/product?usca_p=t&product_id=8831