The Mess of Love

May 1, 2007

It’s been so long I couldn’t even remember my password when I tried to access dotDecay. Perhaps I should just have left it at that. A monument of nothing special decorated by the faces of two American eccentrics. One of them a celebrated natural philosopher, the other a hated serial killer. But then I was inspired by the poem of yet another American eccentric, inspired to share his forbidden thoughts with you. And so, with no further ado:

We’ve made a great mess of love
since we made an ideal of it.

 The moment I swear to love a woman, a certain woman, all my life
that moment I begin to hate her.

The moment I even say to a woman: I love you! –
my love dies down considerably.

The moment love is an understood thing between us, we are sure of it,
it’s a cold egg, it isn’t love any more.

Love is like a flower, it must flower and fade;
if it doesn’t fade, it is not a flower,
it’s either an artificial rag blossom, or an immortelle, for the cemetery.

The moment the mind interferes with love, or the will fixes on it,
or the personality assumes it as an attribute, or the ego takes possession of it,
it is not love any more, it’s just a mess.
And we’ve made a great mess of love, mind-perverted, will-perverted, ego-perverted love.

(D. H. Lawrence, 1929)


Huts ‘n’ Nuts

January 25, 2007

 

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I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

 

*

 

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Freedom means being in control (…) of the life-and-death issues of one’s existence; food, clothing, shelter and defense against whatever threats there may be in one’s environment. Freedom means having power; not the power to control other people but the power to control the circumstances of one’s own life. One does not have freedom if anyone else (…) has power over one, no matter how benevolently, tolerantly and permissively that power may be exercised.

 

*

 

Ankerhus

Like Thoreau I believe possessions to be a cancerous growth at the back of your head.

Like Kaczynski I believe in causes but can’t stand movements.


“I can’t go on, I must go on, I can’t go on, I will go on”

January 2, 2007

New Year’s Eve saw hundreds of frenchmen protesting the coming of 2007. They urged world leaders across the globe to stop in their tracks, and keep the clock ticking in the last few seconds of 2006. We need time to think! we need time to live! they seemed to be shouting. But Time was as relentless as ever, and come midnight the last digit of the calendar flipped over once again. Back in France a new chant began. Hopefully 2008 is gonna be the year never to come.

Yesterday was the first of January, and I didn’t even have a hangover. I had tried really hard to have one, though. The previous night had been one big mix of beer, wine, champagne, spirits, strange liquers, and mead. Cigarettes, too. But nothing came of it. Not even the mildest of headaches.

So there I was. Sprawled on the bed like a waking corpse in a coffin. Outside the wheel had stopped turning. Wind was all that was blowing. And somewhere in the distance I could hear the faint creaking of tomorrow. The sensation was one of absolute horror. I junked all the tranquilizers in the world. I junked sleep, I junked tv, I junked junkfood. In the end I even junked my own wakefulness. Sitting up till five in the morning, shoulder pressed hard against the wheel of time, hoping for it at least to crush me when it started turning. And of course it did, and of course I fell asleep, and of course it just rolled plain over me like a ball of snow picking up everything in its way.

Today is a new day in a new year. My attempts at keeping the world outside at bay is getting feebler by the minute. Even out here on the homegrown little grounds off town people are venturing out of their huts and houses. They’re strolling the dirt roads of a dream marooned on a ship somewhere in their own backyard. I’m trying to keep my head down. I don’t have any curtains. But already my neighbour has spotted me. He waved at me when I was in the bathroom. I pretended not to see him, but not even that works any more. Not on the second of January. He’ll be over for a cup of coffee in no time.

And so it happens that even I have appointments to keep in the New Year. A few days from now I’m meeting up with a guy I’m guiding through the process of writing a roleplaying scenario. Then it’s an incognito job at a storytelling course that I’m supposed to start teaching later this year. And finally I’m taking a bunch of my stories to a sound studio to have them recorded and made downloadable for a small fee on the internet. And that’s only January. And that’s only what was already planned for last year.

2007 sure is gonna be one hell of a ride. You forgot to buy a ticket, too? Don’t worry. Once they’ve let you on, they’ll never let you off again. Only chance is unbuckling your belt, and taking a dive in the big loop somewhere around mid-june. If all goes well, see you there, see you mid-air.


Working Man’s Death

December 23, 2006

Thus the title of Austrian director Michael Glawogger’s epic 2005 documentary about hard manual labour in the 21st century. I just returned from the very last screening of the film in Copenhagen. At least for now. And I do hope that it reappears in cinemas next year. If nowhere else then in the Danish film museum (which is a whole lot less dusty than my mentioning of it might seem to indicate).

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Working Man’s Death is monumental. Focusing on five extreme work places across the globe – interestingly 1 in Eastern Europe and 4 in Asia – we follow the daily routines of the workers, mostly on but also off duty. Predictably, conditions are horrifying. Yet this isn’t a film fighting the working man’s cause. Rather, it is a film bemoaning his death. Not as a hero of the masses nor as a victim of the system. If anything, perhaps as a curiosity.

“Is heavy manual labor disappearing or is it just becoming invisible?” Glawogger asks on the movie’s home page. Whatever the answer, it sure is hidden away well off the beaten track that leads off the beaten path. An illegal coal mine deep in the mountains of the Ukraine, a renegade slaughter yard somewhere in Nigeria, a boiling sulphureous volcano in Indonesia, and so on. It almost seems that whereever you would not look excruciating physical work is being done.

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An underlying – and perhaps obvious – theme in the film seems to be that the only reason people perform this kind of work is out of necessity. One of the Ukranian coal miners directly states: “I work to survive. No more, no less.” And it made me wonder, how about myself? Would I work if I didn’t have to? Probably not in any money-making sense of the word. Sure, I’d still be here writing, and sure, I’d still be lending a hand when my friends needed me to. But as for getting up on the bike and riding to yet another brainstorming session for yet another commercial project, I’m not so sure.

It’s true I don’t perform “heavy manual labor”, but I do perform heavy mental labour. And it’s true it doesn’t wear me down physically, but it does bide away at my time, and it does distract me from the things in life I value most, such as delving deep into whatever concerns me in my own personal life.

On his latest album Modern Times Bob Dylan sings:

The whole wide world is filled with speculation
The whole wide world which people say is round
They’ll tear your mind away from contemplation
They’ll jump on your misfortune when you’re down

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So – if I may take the liberty of saying so – the biggest difference between hard physical and hard non-physical labour in the world today seems to be the status it offers (and, of course, the money as well). The working man hasn’t disappeared, he’s simply changed. The primary goal of work has been removed from bread on the table to status in society. And without exagerration the two things have become equally important. What good is a well-prepared ecological meal if you haven’t got anybody to impress with it?

My greatest fear is my greatest paradox. To me, being a worker is the same as being just another bolt in the wheel of society. However, evolutionary speaking, it would be really hard for me to assert that I’m anything more than a bolt in the wheel of nature. Yet I strive to be something in my own right, and whenever I work I try as much as possible to work for myself. Not out of disdain for my fellow man, but out of respect for myself and the life that I’ve been given – or rather, the life that has been forced upon me.

So let my response to the call of “Workers unite!” be “Workers go hide!”. This is the true implication of Glawogger’s vision. The working man is dead, long live the working man!

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Woodcutter’s wisdom

November 17, 2006

A father and his son left the city, and went to live in the wilderness. They found themselves a cabin high up north by a quiet lake. The days were growing shorter and winter was fast approaching. The boy was sent out to cut firewood, and every day he returned with a cartload. Soon the pile grew almost as big as the cabin, but still his father urged him on. One day his body was so tired and sore that he couldn’t get out of bed. His father gave him a worried look, and told him to take the day off.

Later that day the father crossed the lake to the Indian village at the other side. He asked to be taken to the village elder who offered him a seat by the cosy little fire in his tent. The father knit his brow, and asked the wise old man if he thought it’d be a cold winter this year. Oh yes, the old Indian said, I think it will be a very cold winter. And so the father returned to his son with the sad tidings, and once again the son had to leave the cabin to cut firewood in the forest.

A week or so later, neither father nor son could cut or stack firewood anymore. Their backs hurt, their arms hung limp by their sides, and the look in their eyes seemed dead and empty. Still the father wasn’t sure whether they had gathered enough wood to last them through the winter. Afraid of what he might learn, he nonetheless once again set out to cross the lake, and visit the wise old man in the Indian village.

He arrived just the day after a big party in the village. The old Indian had a bad hangover, and when the father asked him if he still thought that it was gonna be a cold winter, he got the same reply as before. Yes, it was gonna be a cold winter, even colder than he had thought before, yes, perhaps even one of the coldest ever. Distraught and almost about to give up the whole thing, the father once more returned to his son with the depressing news.

The next day both father and son went to the forest, but they couldn’t cut anymore. Instead they just picked up whatever branches they found lying on the ground. At the end of the day they hadn’t really gathered that much, and as the days wore on, they gathered even less, next to nothing, just a few twigs and leaves. It was clear that they couldn’t go on like this, and one day the son told his father that he would join him on one last trip to the Indian village across the lake. And if the village elder still thought that they needed to gather more firewood, they would have to call the cabin quits, and return to their comfortably heated New York apartment.

When they neared the other bank they could make out the wise old Indian sitting cross-legged by the lake, smoking a pipe. The father greeted him with waving arms, sore from cutting and carrying. When they stepped away from the raft, their feet felt heavy and dragging. Please, they implored of the old man, please tell us that the winter isn’t gonna be any colder yet, please.

But the old Indian wouldn’t hear of it. No, he said, no I’m afraid I can’t help you. It is most definitely gonna be the coldest winter I ever laid eyes upon.

How come you be so sure, the father replied almost accusingly.

Isn’t it obvious, the old Indian said, it’s gonna be the coldest winter ever in my life, because never before have I seen white men cut so much wood. But what about you? What do you think?


A new beginning

November 6, 2006

Ankerhus


Now

October 2, 2006

It’s the end of the line for Runestone. I’ve spent the last year and a half writing plotlines, characters, and backstory for the company’s first title. Seed was intended as a Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) focusing on storylines and social interaction rather than monster-bashing and treasure-hunting. And the game actually did launch, and it even had an energetic though small community of players and supporters.

But in the end it just wasn’t good enough. A lot of the story content and story structuring we had in mind for making the game one of its kind was never properly realized. We struggled to the very last, but with the economy spiralling downwards I guess nothing could have prevented this final curtain call.

So, now I’m a free man, as they say. Free to do whatever I chose as long as it doesn’t involve spending any real money. Different projects have cropped up in the back of my head over these last one and a half years, and the time has come to wrestle some of them to see if they will yield to my ambitions and capabilities. Wrestling, however, is going pretty slow at the moment. I’m still dazed at the prospect of going from a full-time job to nothing at all. Especially since it stopped being a prospect, and became naked, relentless reality.

Still, I feel somehow back on track. A run-down yet functioning cottage house is waiting for me in Copenhagen, I’ve already turned down my first job offer, and the Danish storytelling society BestTellers has contacted me with an as yet undisclosed proposal. What I really want to do is of course start typing some words, and have them come together into some kind of a text. Over summer my blog has satisfied some of this need for writing about the world, its inhabitants, and the curious lives they lead. I intend to keep on blogging, but I also intend to take my writing further. To be honest, I can’t really see any other way to go. I’ve travelled, I’ve studied, I’ve worked – but without the writing to tie it all together it just doesn’t seem to add up to anything much.

”How many roads must a man walk down before you can call him a man?” Bob Dylan once asked. What I want to ask is this: How many roads must I walk down before I can justify putting pen to paper? Sometimes I find myself wishing I was a very old man looking back on a long life of toil and trouble, only then to let my cauldron boil and bubble. But the truth probably is that I’ll never get old enough to be certain about anything. As long as the road continues ahead in front of me there will always be one more turn to take, one more experience to be had, before I’ve seen it all. It never stops. And then one day you file for bankruptcy, and it’s all over.

I’m right here, at this particular point in space and time, and this will always be the point from which I observe, from which I write. All I can do is comment on the trip while it lasts. When it’s over, I’m over, and then it picks up again with a new paying customer. As someone just told me the other day French writer and enfant terrible Michel Houellebecq says that ”in the midst of time there is the possiblity of an island”. It sounds cool and promising, but I’m not so sure. At least not in any concrete sense of the term. If there is an island, I’m on it right now, and no matter what I do it’ll keep drifting down the river of time until it ends at the shore, and blends in with the rest of the landscape.

It’s time to start writing. It always was, is, and will be. The time to not start writing doesn’t exist. There is a place and there is a time, and there is no other place and there is no other time. This is it. Let’s do our worst.