1. i had another session with the artist before Christmas. In the first painting, he made me look like a 60-year-old Ashkenazi Jew. In the second he made me look like a gay Puerto Rican dwarf. It was so horrible i refuse to disseminate it.

Every salient detail seemed exact – the nose, lips, eyes – it looked very vaguely like me, but somehow totally different. As diplomatically as i could, i put this to the man responsible. He said it’s not only hard to portray distinct features (e.g. the nose), but he also has to put them in the right relation to each other. So the nose, lips, eyes, are all correct, but not in exactly the right relation to each other, and so i look like a gay Puerto Rican dwarf, like it or lump it.

i guess this second part is harder, because subtler. To represent a complex form (e.g. a face) you have to accurately picture each component (e.g. a nose), but also to place each component in exactly the right place; so if the bottom lip is accurate in itself, but placed just a few degrees or millimetres out of the true, you look like a gay Puerto Rican dwarf.

This helped me understand the way our bodies and personalities change, from life to life. Apparently, i look like my last life; i don’t see it myself, for in most respects we look totally different. Perhaps it is that the patterning logic of our faces is the same, that though my nose is longer, my ears bigger, etc., these components stand in the same relationship to each other as do his, to his.

In the same way, a man’s lives can seem very different, yet there is a deep and subtle continuity. The essential nature acts like a hinge about which many lives can turn, often with enormous surface variation. For myself, knowing something of my “hinges” helps; i won’t take the same grim path as in my last life, but nor will i go too far the other way, and be too nice, in an effort to please. As i get older i feel this is who i am and i shouldn’t try to make doomed compromises with idiots & Southrons.

2. i taught the Kid again today. He passed his initial air traffic control exam (47 out of 5o applicants failed) and faces a tougher test in 3 weeks, in which he will have to chat with strangers to observe his social skills, and read & paraphrase texts. i wanted to find an article about airports but the McLingua PCs were all in use, so instead i photocopied a page from Ian Donaldson’s life of Ben Jonson and told him to summarise it. He did an extremely good job in under 10 minutes. i suggested that in the test they might purposely distract him from his task, e.g. two supervisors may talk about sex orgies to confuse & bewilder; and that i should therefore try to distract him from future exercises. He agreed so on Monday i’ll give him some articles about airports, planes, prostitution, and ask him to summarise them while i talk loudly about horrible orgies with anyone i can cajole into helping me. i will also stride about the room making pointless remarks about dwarves and then rummage loudly about in my bag for Puerto Rican pornography.

3. Three of my students, in different groups, have asked if i’ve thought of acting or doing stand-up comedy. i thought they were joking but it seems not. The latest was an intelligent, thoughtful woman at a large German company, she remembers bits & pieces of another life so we have some odd conversations and she made me ginger lebkuchen for Christmas. When i realised she was serious, i said that i feel no interest in performing for money, for people who expect me to make them laugh. My lessons often cause mirth, as i enjoy setting up Frank Keyian roleplays and grimly narrating my various torments & afflictions & hatreds, but i wouldn’t want to do this for money, with the expectation that i will always make people laugh or i’m back on the streets hustling for pizza crusts.

She argued that if i marketed myself as a comic i could have a bigger audience. Putting aside the sheer improbability of my being able to break into what i imagine is a very tough circuit, i don’t want a big audience. It seems to me that the more one tries to appeal to a broad spectrum, the shriller & louder one becomes, until one is nothing more than a man standing on a box shouting into a megaphone made out of leftover cereal packets and posting one’s CV on the internet. There is no need for an audience. To quote the 80s classic Robin of Sherwood, nothing is forgotten.

4.  i once wanted to be published, to get money so i could (maybe) escape a lifetime of minimum wage data entry jobs. Now i have a bearable job that just about pays enough to live, i am content to write for myself. i am wary of representation. Any representation will fall short and the better the attempt, the more likely it is to be mistaken for the thing itself. Human consciousness is fundamentally to do with representations (language, metaphor, art). It is natural to wish to represent reality, and to try to apprehend reality through representations; it makes me profoundly suspicious and prone to destroying my own writings and, if i could, others’.

Even now i don’t like the idea of being read by too many people. i am a northerner, suspicious of big city types. They are all damnable Southrons, belly-patting fools and apple polishers. The terrible fire will come upon them and consume them as the dry leaves are consumed by a sudden blaze, and they will cry, ah, ah, we are eaten in the flame, we are stricken, we are devoured, our guts spill out. As dry leaves in the furnace the Southrons will be burnt up, none will come hence, none will remain.

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