Art as efficiency-porn

In recent weeks, I’ve been becoming increasingly dependent on art to get me through the day. My actual life is bland and featureless; working on things I believe in and care about intellectually, but boring myself silly doing it. The only way to con myself into concentrating is with a kick of words or music or pictures. Then 20 minutes of hand-waving ecstasy, settling down to a lingering vague sense of meaningfulness, that can easily be transferred to whatever dreary task I’m supposed to be working on. It feels somehow nastier than achieving the same effect with caffeine or self-discipline; like using manuscripts as firelighters or something.

Particularly useful is anything implying that the current moment is somehow important, that there’s some reason to be emotionally focussed on now, rather than listlessly comparing it to tomorrow. So there’s the line from _Possession_, for example:
“when I go away from here, this will be the mid-point, to which everything ran, before, and from which everything will run. But now, my love, we are here, we are now, and those other times are running elsewhere.”

And when that’s too bleakly romantic for me, I look back to Alba De Cespedes’ poems of love in Paris ’68, in a last night of closeness before normality is restored:


Encore un soir,
le dernier,
nous serons entre nous:
les fous d’amour et de révolte.
Cette rive sera encore
la nôtre;
à nous seuls, prison, ghetto,
léproserie.
One more night,
the last,
we’ll be together:
delerious with love and revolt.
This bank will still
be ours,
ours alone: prison, ghetto,
lepers’ colony

Similarly, on Sunday I went to see a friend playing in a small band. What really shook me were the support band. And then not musically, but because the singer was obviously in the midst of some fairly serious depression**. Being able to spend an hour staring at somebody in that state was — terrifying? powerful? horrifying? All the little traits that I can normally only see in isolation, blending together into self-reinforcing patterns.

* necessary guilt-disclaimer that, for all this talk about work, I’m not in fact doing a huge amount of it.

** or yes, maybe it was all an act. If so it was simultaneously an impressive feat of acting and not at all suitable for a gig.

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