Art in the 21st century

“Despite all its powers, society cannot sustain the artist if
it is impervious to the vision of the artist.” – Henry Miller

What is art today? More precisely, what does art convey? Art has become an adornment, mere embellishment to our mechanical society. It is what you hang behind an office desk, in the hallway of a bank, in the solitary confines of a museum. It is what is read while we travel between two points, what is listened to while we drive to work, what we assist to in moments of laziness and passive submission to entertainment. It is that which is viewed askance, situated in the periphery, unobtrusive to the real function of society: business.

Art is no longer an expression of a deeper vision of reality; and if it is, we, at least, no longer perceive it as such. It is aesthetic, no doubt. But it is not beautiful enough to secure a prominent role in our routines. As far as we are concerned, it is pastime, an elegant but inferior activity in life. It conveys no truth or doubt to the spectator. Life is predetermined and already decided; art is solely an amusement, even if it constantly fights against modern life. It exists as a hallucination, a sort of intoxication that can easily be dismissed as unreal and irrelevant. The serious business of life cannot be questioned; it has no room for the artist and his or her artwork that challenges the unconsciousness of its drives.

And yet some artists do become idols in this culture and their art known universally, but is their artwork studied as profoundly as we study engineering or business administration? The artists’ message, their restructuring of our understanding of reality, their incessant re-questioning of our basic assumptions, remain quite below the general level of public attention. We all recognize the dripping clock of Dali or the visual massacre of the Guernica, some will recognize the dreamy seascape of La Mer or the cavernous sorrow of the Adagio for Strings, the name of Humbert Humbert or Harry Hope may be familiar to a few, a minority will recall The Waste Land or a Season in Hell; but what is noteworthy here is that recognizing these works of art by their name is no sign that we have delved in them and studied them profoundly. We care only superficially of what they imply, what the message is all about. There is no understanding that an artist is a transformation of the human being and is attempting a redefinition of what is to be alive in a mysterious universe. We assume art as a gift to culture by one and the same kind of individual that already lives in that culture.

Art has now been banalized, it has become a career and today there are flocks of artists that operate as businesses, as factories manufacturing objects to be bought and superficially enjoyed. The true artist is rare these days, he or she is muted and oppressed by this contradiction. How to bring forth a genuine work of art in this spurious world that is driven by money? The voice of art is being drowned by the roar of commerce and trivial entertainment. Society has absorbed art; and the artist has docilely submitted to his or her new harrowing role of ornamentalist. The commandments of art are now thus: you shall entertain, you shall impress, you shall produce the beautiful, you shall be famous, but under no circumstance should you dishonor your loving parent: society. Society does not want individuals to think and act differently, to produce controversies that may outstrip the authority of the status quo. Art may produce change insofar as it remains within the parameters of the socially digestible.

The artist is no longer an artist. He or she has forgotten that divine calling of making of life an experiment. The artist must suffer eternally, must wrestle with the incongruities and absurdities of living and dying, must explore the unknown realm of the spirit and  (in the words of Rimbaud)become a seer. The work produced thereafter will be only an inkling, an announcement of vaster realms accessible to all, it is an opening at the roof of an abyss for those who dare plunge into it. The experiential adventure of consciousness is now going extinct, there are few enthusiasts left. It is a form of wisdom that society ignores and lumps together under the heading “esoteric mumbo-jumbo”, or more spitefully, “madness”. (Hasn’t history shown that many great artists were deemed mad in their time, only later to be proclaimed visionaries?). And yet this wisdom is no particular statement or philosophy; it is an active engagement with the mystery of creation, what once was the domain of the artist and religious fervent. Today art as well as religion is downplayed as historical curiosity, still operating as long as they leave intact, and even follow, the new order created by the God of modern civilization: money.

a study of consciousness


I am a self insofar as I remember my past. I am a perspective. Would I been born without the hippocampus, or should my memory vanish in a quick flash of nothingness; I’d become holy boundless present: unaging infinity. To exist boundlessly as an immeasurable universe without tribulation in its acts, because in such scenario nothing is feared – the future would not have been invented. A vast field of vibrant being; the most outlandish, yet, innocuous dreams would take place every moment – a placid sleep within the robes of existence.

 

Nihilistic Poetry

initimations

Eternity poem 

How it happened exactly I will never know. Suddenly everything became worthless, everything human per se, that is. This veneer of generic pleasures and conventional raisons d’être became illusory, life taken at face value, submission to the established order; well, I was done with all that long ago. The magic began when my intuition fumbled upon a veritable prospect of infinity. How many different orders of life are possible, how many universes made of other realities must exist simultaneously, in such way, I began to break the biased assumption that this is the only world there is. What an experiment this life here is, to emerge from a field of interconnected activity, full of evolutionary processes. Humans begin to appear unreal and yet beautiful in their playing out the habits of their biology and history, their customs in this unique, relative mode of being we know as ‘life on earth’. From the way we speak, sleep, drink, dress – a rare collection of revocable attributes, a lonely arrangement in the infinite spectrum of eternity. I caught a glimpse only. Glimpses of just one dream unfolding in a god’s sleep; a god that never dies. That god has had an infinite number of dreams in the past and shall have an infinite number of dreams in the future, no two alike. In this ephemeral presence how can I regard anything as immutable, or ultimately, even as real? The very foundations of this world, with its geometry and physical laws, its life forms and civilizations, its space and time, are nothing more than an evanescent chapter in the phantasmagorically boundless ground of being.

So here I stand as raw nothingness, the happiest nothingness to ever breathe the cold air under a yellow winter sun, amidst the foundationless relativity of this dreamlike existence.

The rest I will never know.


 

Nihilistic Poetry

killing time

Killing Time

 
 
 

 

Feel the beating of the prison heart? Time deals the future as cheap junk. I’m an addict just like you. No need to run, there’s no escaping. It’s useless to be optimistic or pessimistic about it. Everybody wants to change it, but who’s ever watching it? It is a remarkable thing to be a body. A body of evidence, who knows how many millions of years of evidence. The evidence points to mediocrity. If you have ever witnessed a murder, then you must know how I feel when I witness human nature. It’s atrocious. Everything is tangled up inside, confused by language, made insipid with repetitive thoughts and drives, full of sadness if you want to hear the truth. The valiant acts of art? Muddled self-pity, if you ask me. Art is a sweet kind of poison, but it is still toxic. Life, culture, art, all of it once made me sick to the bone. I am learning to deal with it now. A feeling of disgust is merely a form of disguised utopian mentality. If existence is unbearable, we are assuming or hoping for some kind of alternative worthier reality that is being spoiled by the current state of affairs. But there isn’t any and if there is, what makes us suppose we will be the ones to solve the conundrum when so many others have failed in the course of history. We wait for our time to pass, often fixated with a future state of well-being. It’s a compulsion but it does the job. It kills time. There is just too much of it and we’re running out of ideas. Take this loathsome piece of prose or art or self-pity; whatever you call it. I’m just killing time.

 

 

Nihilistic Poetry

A modern crisis

a_modern_crisis

We were born after a whole deal of postures and attitudes had been tried and dismissed. It seemed to me that this was the first time in human history when life was unbearable even while we have all the basic conditions for survival and a surplus of commodities. We live in the absence of a raison d’être and our very lives could actually be defined as the search for that sacred reason. We would and probably will travel around the globe and consume every possible experience in search of that elusive understanding that could justify and make sense of all the seemingly senseless gyrations between birth and death, hunting for that catharsis that would erase our feelings of inadequacy and insufficiency.   
If I am allowed to make a stand on the current emptiness that governs the modern rebel (and I must state that this rebel is even reluctant to assume this label), I could place him or her within a crisis of value. Let’s formulate this crisis. The ‘fortunate’ human being that is born in a middle-class or higher family is bestowed an excess of leisure, which is occupied with an endless parade of distractions, vague and short-lived entertainments that do not provide deep-rooted satisfaction. This repetition of material hedonism is deceiving and can engage the individual in a merry-go-round of renewable pleasures that are futile in their long-term effects. What an overwhelmingly urban and global society presents as the content and purpose of leisure is more often than not a distraction, a veiling of our impoverished consciousness. The value crisis in which we are situated stimulates thus, within the rebel, a sort of antagonisms against life in general and humanity in particular. Is this a wise human race encumbered by trivial pursuits?
The rebel stands in an existential agnosticism. What can replace the insipid routines, what solution can one offer to resolve the dilemma of human baseness? If leisure represents the time humans can delve in their purpose, our reasoning would lead us to suppose that the average human lives for unchallenging and ready-made experiences. What about the higher fields of art, music, religion, love? Have these been explored sufficiently by the modern man? Do they offer any comfort? All questions with no ready answer, the rebel is obliged to ask without answering, merely pointing to the emptiness without offering a substitute.
The rebel doesn’t conclude hastily but is eager to explore any alternative. The contemporary paradigm is of a successive development from school to career, love to family, wealth to belongings, material accumulations to distractions; yet all this is seen as a deception, a reductionism of the natural potential for a human life.  The rebel is apt to adopt a cynical skepticism towards the replacement of one mode of life for another. Life becomes an experiment, a lonesome journey through the limbo of uncertainty. Could religion fill this gap, could music appease this anxiety, could art express this loneliness, could love heal this wound? The experimenter enters them all and many others with caution but will urgently surrender if any of these would deliver him from the surrounding emptiness. Yet traps abound, the guinea-pig rebel still has within the seed of conformism, soon things lose their depth and life abandons its impetus. How to keep the zest for life awake without returning to the dullness of a repetition-ridden soul?
It may seem we are doomed, that any experience by force of repetition becomes insufficiently satisfying for the abyss of hunger that grows inside. 
These reflections surge from a modern crisis. A crisis from our lack of meaning, our absence of value. This, in other words, can be called a spiritual crisis. But the themes of this crisis are not god or original sin, it rather belongs to practical ontology, that is to say, a transforming of the quality of being, producing a reality that becomes not only bearable but powerful enough to sweep away the myopic awareness of normal human life. A new understanding might be wanting, a new wisdom of what we understand human life to be, what we do and what we aspire to; a journey that requires a mixture between philosophy and adventure, a compendium of revolt, daring and openness.
 
 
Return to homepage of Nihilistic Poetry

Coherence

 

It is impossible to remain coherent. It is an effort beyond human ability – and wonderfully convenient, it is only humans that desire coherence. Life, if you allow it to be, is too intense; and if you look for the words to describe or preserve it, then this intensity travels from wonder to monotony. There is not one single day that is ordinary – only because we are so intimidated by existence that we willingly enter that repulsive state of awareness called “normality”, which is to say, a trivial encounter with known and familiar objects. So, hours may seem like pleasant arenas, where nothing may occur too unexpectedly; but certainly the night comes, or leisure, or what bothers us immensely: waiting comes and hours turn into monsters, ordinary things into blasphemies. We then need to escape, leave this desolate stability; we need chaos, disorder, frenzy! Why? Because all along we’ve faked our pretty little ordered world. We did not want to see things too deeply, we ignored them so we could continue our 9-to-5 placid existence. So, when our hypocrisy is too heavy to bear, we desire madly to return to the world we ignored – we want to embrace the enigmatic, to unite with what is becoming and does not yet bear a name. So we rush away from ourselves only to wake up the next day sick with regret, as if we betrayed ourselves by indulging too much in the irrational. We bounce from one end to the other, grasping for complete coherence on the one hand and on the other, we strip ourselves naked for our plunge into unadulterated confusion. We are unable to leave permanently the false illusion we’ve created, but we fear to stay too long at the other shore, where laws, customs, languages, thoughts and egos break down.

Beyond Language Blog

Indulgence: our common road

Materiality is the common road. We tread its trail; we pursue the scent of rock. We are — these two words so inappropriate — herders of demise, we are bearers of disease. For what delicious goal we repeat the nausea of our desire, for what exhausted orgasm we repeat expectations for the future. We are really bound to this world of rock and air, we are truly sterile penises focused on ejaculation, while knowingly incapable of delivering results. And however putrid the atmosphere of habits may be, we continue in them, we wallow in boredom – because someday, we like to imagine, our collected decay will metamorphose into beautiful bliss. That day will come, we say hollowly to ourselves, when the sacrifice of wasting time will pay off and we can excuse ourselves by declaring: I had no choice but to wait.

So, what are we waiting for? We are – again these silly words – nagging children passively waiting for chance or fate to transform, deliver, or elevate this all-too-familiar playground into something we are not ashamed of, something that is more dignified than us. This is clearly shown by the regret and emptiness felt after festive events, after the euphoria of drinking and eating, after the ecstasy of sex, after the pleasure of spending – what’s left is only a longing that comes from a weakened being, somehow mutilated by its indulgence in these material things. And this road that we’ve fashioned for our descendants is barely challenged; we dare not look straight into the eye of our times and threaten these irrational and immeasurable cravings. We will always find alibis to justify our lack of concern, we will be too distracted, too immerse in this playground of pleasure to be blamed for our negligence. Yes, we care for matter too deeply, we’ve placed it at the center of our consciousness…

and we will burn for this……….

 

 

 

 

Modern Disgust

indefinable being

indefinable_being_21st_century_poetry

The last remnants of this bitterly afraid body, this ambiguous mind, this capsule in which the entire universe seems to exist – and outside, beyond the surface of this inexplicable skin, a blank void, a dark emptiness, a vicious silence. What in the end is the point of this unending preoccupation to make sense of what is finally unspeakable, to exist in a vast and profound space with miraculous shapes and forms, to breathe and beat a heart relentlessly while the plot of an unwritten play unravels — before these eyes full of wonder? However vainly the hours may pass, oblivious of the impending death of my surroundings, the death that will also come to this entity that strangely calls itself “I”; vain attempts to forget the inevitable, to resist the irrevocable. Had this self been able to escape permanently from the entanglements of disaster, had this ego renounced a borrowed language and survived brutally naked without philosophy, without history, without tales, without spoken love. Somewhere within the entrails of this phantasmagorical reality lies a reflection, a foundation upon which all things past, present and future are sustained, nurtured and consumed; it is a realm powerfully un-human, destitute of qualities and because of its effortless existence it remains sovereign above all things that strive. And maybe it is a joke, to conceive or imagine some sort of reality that will remain after all of us are gone, some sort of metaphysical ground by which our passing away seems less painful, less tragic. There might not be any foundation for the fear, the awe and the effort; every act, every thought, every failure is essentially groundless, and we are and will always be an unnamable race, an indefinable being.

Beyond Language

The beauty of traffic

 

 

I had to give up the futile attempt of telling the story of alienation; of describing an uncharted state of confusion – newly born since today is new and has never before been lived.  Only recently I had begun to understand the system into which I was born, spontaneously thrown into a configuration which is perceived as bizarre shortly after one is capable of analysis. And I am baffled to discover that the very faculty that has allowed me to unveil the absurdity of these circumstances is the cause of the environment I find myself in. The sharp razor of analysis, calculation, planning, prediction… the distinctiveness of our species, the pride of our ancestors: Reason itself, master and artist of modern civilization, creator and ruler of this world of laws and symbols. So powerful, yet so deadly. I had thrust myself into the arms of such deceitful guru, only to become prisoner of a disease… caged in thought, lost in chatter. With the torch of reasoning I explored the corridors of the modern world, I studied the interior of today’s machinery, and I probed the shallowness of our desires. Horrified by what I found, I stood still…. a sun slithered down the gilded sky, cars followed a steady line… waves of intangible information flowed by.

The world is changing. It is evolving before our very own eyes. We are carrying out a plan that we inherited – a plan that has no foreseen outcome but is continued only because of an illusion, perhaps the hope of progress, or some euphoric moment of fulfillment awaiting us in some distant corner of the future. Or is it comfort and laziness, fear of challenging what was given to us? Inertia compels us to accept the system, a system that is clearly cruel, indifferent and disheartening but at least it gives us survival, a chance to carry on with our lives without suffering too much. Nonetheless, this system is expanding beyond our control, we cannot see an end to our technological societies, feeding endlessly from our endless desires.  We submit to a system we don’t understand but is presented as trustworthy, worthy of the highest respect… the ultimate goal of collective existence: civilization. And why? Why should I accept this intricate system of highways transporting money-seeking creatures, why should organization be preferred over chaos and spontaneity?

I’ve learned that any set of beliefs is relative to tradition, an environment endowed with the authority of time (or feigned timelessness), a community of believers that reinforce the belief with repetition, indoctrination, in short, education… and based on what, the authority of their opinions, their convictions based on the solemnity of their forefathers’ expressions, and so on, until the very necessity of proof is vanished because tradition has been instituted and a full circle has been completed. Tradition contains the “truth” and that truth was begotten by the unchallenged belief of generations which granted tradition the authority of timeless revelation. I’m not only thinking of religion which is of minor concern nowadays. Tradition in the form of greed, individuality, progress, happiness; any principle by which we can govern our lives. Doesn’t it make sense that our calculating minds, striving for one fulfillment after another, have adopted this behavior after years upon years of learning the same old ways of our immediate forefathers? And can we continue using the moral imperative of “ought to”, we ought to be happy, we ought to be successful, we ought to be reasonable; in modern terms, we ought to be well off. How can we again insinuate some sort of collective ethics, when every purposeful ideal is always biased, wrought by individual preference and thus, completely inadequate for generalization?

In universal terms, in the metaphysical urgency triggered by poetic insight, in silent contemplation that destroys the metanarrative of cosmic history painted by science and rationalism, when the grand picture of the universe is captured in one unified indescribable awareness… in that state which is short-lived but long-lasting… and to view a queue of cars, the sidewalk wet by rain, the sun tainted by clouds, the air still, all these and yet none of these. When nothing seems like a necessity, anything can be challenged, overturned, changed — beauty that has no structure, no rationale

…. a sun slithered down the gilded sky, cars followed a steady line… waves of intangible information flowed by.

Beyond Language BLOG 

An undesirable confession

An undesirable confession

 

                (or lack of conformity)

There are no guidelines. Understand this sentence, remember it daily – it is essential to the journey of life. There have never been any guidelines. If ever a semblance of direction has been portrayed by some ideology or religion, it is only an attempt at a guideline. It is not certain, not even provable. Every faith in a transcendental code by which we can live our lives is today being un-made, perhaps only because it was originally man-made. We are lost, forsaken in the remote chaos of a lonely planet, with no guiding hand that would lead us to any certainty – to any firm truth.

 

I set these words forth not in the spirit to challenge those that are able to find comfort in this oppressive world; on the contrary, I report only the widespread experience of constriction and confusion that is rooted in the mind of 21st century Homo sapiens. I am wholly willing to commit to the idea and passion of a benevolent god or cosmic purpose, something which will deliver the long-sought peace that most of us have been searching for. Yet, the more intense the search, the horizon of faith turns darker and frailer. How can I believe in something I don’t feel? – this is the question that exiles us into metaphysical orphanage. No matter how fervently we search for that ultimate reality, the journey is always daunting, constantly haunted by self-doubt, fear and irrational panic of that impenetrable unknown which is the substratum of our everyday lives. So the desire of guidance, the search for something greater than one’s self, is suspended and there remains only a perception of enclosure – a trap in which we all belong.

 

So, once the awareness of the impossibility of escape is made clear, should we assume our defeat? Should we not analyze the environment of our perplexity and express the conditions of our despair?

 

What exactly is our trap, what constrains us to impotence? I am only one more man lost in the maze, able only to postulate wild theories of decay. But here are my thoughts:

 

Insecurity shapes our early life. We depend extensively on the care of our parents until we become sufficiently independent to take care of ourselves. From the very start we look for something beyond ourselves to help us deal with our hostile environment and to give us the comfort of control; control over the unpredictability of the world. By the time we reach the age of reason we are accustomed to depend on other sources, whether it’s our parents, god or social institutions. Naturally these fall short from achieving this and we return to our capsule of solitude. Even the most passionate advocates of religion shudder in fear – didn’t Jesus himself before his death utter words of irrevocable loneliness? (My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?)

 

Now, what I’m about to expose may seem far-fetched, perhaps there are a few arguments I have skipped to reach the end. The emptiness felt from this lost of trust in the original sources of comfort (parents, religion, social/political establishments) needs to be fulfilled. That’s when a new monument is erected; an indestructible idol substitutes our previous dependence and consolidates itself as the last resort. What is this new idol?

 

Very simply: a rôle. We fashion a rôle for our lives, an identity of what we should be that is safely kept within and no longer outside. A phantom so powerful it literally controls the direction of our lives. But how did we substitute external comfort for internal obligation? Weren’t we already terrified of our loneliness that we begged for a new sense of communal belonging? We coil within ourselves because we feel disappointed about the outside world, finding it untrustworthy. We need to believe in something and the only thing that came to fill this part was our artificial identity. We created a set of standards, goals and principles by which we guide our lives, something that could not be shaken up very easily and could stand the erosion of change.

 

Our subconscious harbors this identity which is so elusive we suddenly lose track of its agenda – our original choices are forgotten but they mark the remaining course of our lives. We become slaves to our rôle which was initially fashioned to give us comfort but now only oppresses us with the urgency of its fulfillment. It is a double-bind, we are trapped by our desire to feel valuable, significant or united to something greater than us but we have not found this in our modern lives. We then submit shamelessly to the commands of a career which mortifies us with achieving more and more; exhausted by the end of the night our lives feel empty, confused, lost in innumerable desires.

This sense of urgency comes about from the competition we experience every day. Competition for a better role, a more reputable identity. Deep down we are all celebrities to our own egos and because of this we yearn to become as celebrities to others. Frankly, however, we wish others to see us as we want to be, but not as we truly are. We compete blindly with each other to create the “better” person, whatever this is. There are no universal standards by which we can judge who is a better person, it is relative to the values of each human being. 

 


This competitiveness is best seen in large cities. Cities are breeders of competition, urging its inhabitants to outrun each other. The conveniences that a city provides to its dwellers are irrelevant compared to the pressures and hostilities it creates. A decisive change of perspective is urgently needed: that of de-urbanization. How long can human beings last in a state of high tension, when large concentrations of men and women fight daily, physically and psychologically, to be on top? The greatest concern is, do they even know why they are bustling about?

What if this is true? We regard ourselves too highly during the day but then return unsatisfied to bed; panicky with the feeling that we have no control and even our goals in life are to be doubted. The idol of the ego must inevitably fall too, leaving us naked in despair, gagging with the question: who am I?