Sunday, November 27, 2016

"Out of Sheer Rage" - not the least bit political

The perfect life, the perfect lie, I realised after Christmas, is one which prevents you from doing that which you would ideally have done (painted, say, or written unpublishable poetry) but which, in fact, you have no wish to do. People need to feel that they have been thwarted by circumstances from pursuing the life which, had they led it, they would not have wanted; whereas the life they really want is precisely a compound of all those thwarting circumstances. It is a very elaborate, extremely simple procedure, arranging this web of self-deceit; contriving to convince yourself that you were prevented from doing what you wanted. Most people don't want what they want: people want to be prevented, restricted. The hamster not only loves his cage; he'd be lost without it. That's why children are so convenient: you have children when you are struggling to get by as an artist--which is actually what being an artist means--or failing to get on with your career. Then you can persuade yourself that your children prevented you from having this career that had never looked like working out. So it goes on: things are always forsaken in the name of an obligation to someone else, never as a failing, a falling short of yourself. Before you know it desire has atrophied to the degree that it can only make itself apparent by passing itself off as an obligation. After a couple of years of parenthood people become incapable of saying what they want to do in terms of what they want to do. Their preferences can only be articulated in terms of a hierarchy of obligations--even though it is by fulfilling these obligations (visiting in-laws, being forced to stay in and baby-sit) that they scale the summit of their desires. The self-evasion does not stop there: at some level they are ashamed because they realise that these desires are so paltry as barely event to merit the name of desires and so these feeble desires have to take on the guise of obligation.

--from pp. 126 - 127 of Out of Sheer Rage [Wrestling with D.H. Lawrence] by Geoff Dyer

It's been several vacation days of not-really-reading but I read this bit the other night and found it somehow relevant to some things that had been discussed earlier in my friend's kitchen. Typing it out now, a few days later, I see that it's really a very bitter attitude / perspective / view of humanity that Mr Dyer has, and I find myself wondering which of his friends had children and thus ruined their relationship with him. That notwithstanding, however, I think that he's got the root of the matter in him: much of the time people embrace their excuses [not the word I want]--those circumstances that interfered with their ideal existence--without being willing to admit that that's what they're doing. God knows I am aware of my own tendency to stack up obligations; now I have to ask myself what it is that I'm denying in doing so.

Anyway, it's an odd book, is Out of Sheer Rage, but I'm enjoying it while also wondering how it's possible that I'm reading yet another work of non-fiction. I've not been myself, that's all I can say.

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