Break The Pretentious Mould
Prententious = Attempting to impress by affecting greater importance or merit than is actually possessed.
A break from the blog for a week or 2 to reassess its purpose and questioning if I am keeping to the constraints of the title ‘Why Short Stories?’
Its the way for me. Short dialogue has become the preferred method of communication. I believe age is the reason. Less time to live than lived makes each moment more precious.
Life? Its an series of experiments. The human experiment. Theories, outcomes, failures, success’s, happiness, love, lovers, relationships, enemies, poverties, wealths. Important or not, remembered or forgotten. In the final sleep no reflection…Silence.
A week ago a friend Gordon spoke with warmth about a book with a cold subject. ‘Now Let Us Praise Famous Men’ (James Agee ‘writer’ and Walker Evans ‘photographer’). A long read for my tastes. The first pages are a series of photographs – wait a second I’ll count them – 58 pictures which depict the poverty of America during the Depression. The majesty of the pictures goes beyond the subjects. The warm toned precise images are a testament to the fortitude of the human psyche.
The book was written in the 1930’s. Its 2015 and we are still progressing. Out of one poverty into another. Fear of starvation taken over by the fear of death by natural causes.
Sure enough the book twists an imaginary focus ring in my mind. And random people enter in and add to the meditation.
Yesterday I spoke to a woman who reeled off a list of famous artists and photographers. She was almost overwhelmed by their fame. It seems to have an exhibition of their work is evidence of their capabilities. Is she right? In her mind she is. This writer does not question her opinion. Indeed it seems to be the way of the majority…Adoration. ‘Now Let Us Praise Famous Men’?
This morning I’m asked to make a contribution to a charity. I lie, saying I will have a look at the the nicely printed begging letter. Its the usual 3 pounds will feed a 100 starving children for 36.7 seconds. I wonder if the messenger is really attempting to pacify his own conscience. I want to say “You look like a rich man sell your possessions. Sell them to show a commitment. Set the example commit your whole life to poverty” Yeh! That’s going to happen.
When the next person asks me for a donation I’m going to make a contribution to my strength of will by saying “I’m all out of compassion the kids will still starve in spite of your work” I’m wondering about charity and its real effect. Surely a man who gives his ‘last penny’ to a pauper becomes one?
Does your mind shift from one thought to another? A chain of events. The thoughts within will not out? Do you speak them? Write them? Exorcise them? I used to be in fear of my truths and the fear of the madness within them. Now I write of them wishing the insanity would return. In the times when I’m crazy there is no care for others. Theres no malice, for malice need a design, a premeditation which is nurtured with a desire to cause pain within another. Malice is a prison sentence, a punishment for the victim. A sign of the dangerous nature of its architect. When I say to the beggars accomplice “I will not give to your charity” Will I be judged as mean, cruel, without compassion? Of cause I will, my intentions will be mistaken.
Walker Evans’s photographs are effective. The subjects in them now in their final sleep. Their poverties, pains and memories silenced. Evans was commissioned to take the pictures and Agee wrote of what he saw. What was the outcome of their collaboration? Did it contribute to awareness of the plight? I have no idea.
The farmers and their families who are the subject of the documentary are tenants. As I read I reflect upon the futility of acquisition. Many times those who attempt to own property often fail in their quest, and where does the desire to have ‘title’ to land come from? It can never be theirs, in the final sleep we own nothing.
I research and see many became bankrupt by act of god. Drought, storm and disease taking the profit from their crop leaving them destitute. The inevitable follows. The theft of their land by banks who take everything for a few dollar loan and the use of government authority to enforce the pursuit of the settlement of their debt is a madness I cannot resolve.
This way of material slavery continues. Nothing has changed, nothing learned. The poor take a chance to get out of their poverty. They secure a loan for some equipment to cultivate their domain. The plan fails or the crop is ruined and they are punished for their attempt. In truth they should be applauded for their bravery.
Charity awaits like a demon to deepen poverty. Dependance as addictive as heroin Poor choice habits become moments of release. Orgasm breeds the child into poverty. Drink and drugs cultivate crime. Certain degradations are the impoverished mans revenge on the rich. Wrecked housing estates, marital violence, petty inter family hierarchies which become feudal like war. Does this effect the conscience of the wealthy? In truth the rich man hides his contempt for the poor. He throws a penny into the charity pot and claims to give a fortune! Cynical? No an exercise in truth. My Truth.
Is poverty pretentious? The question sounds nice. Its an intellectual style question. Superfluous – nonsense – not worth further thought.
Anyway I’m pleased. My mind wandered and Gordon introduced me to the book. Agee’s writing to my liking. Footnotes, lists, short observations. Walkers pictures sharp, detailed, effect emotion.
Does generosity or fame reveal a mans character? Do we give or keep what is ours? Is charity overrated? Should we worship the famous? Is one action of kindness enough to colour a whole life’s achievement?
The answers are of no importance to me. The randomness or exercising of my mind is.