“Imagine a world in which your choices about where and how to work were not determined in the context of white-hot rage or crippling fear over the inability to simply feed yourself.” ~ Kristin Dombek, from The Help Desk (July 29, 2014)

Kurt Schwitters EN MORN, 1947

“En Morn” (1947, collage)
by Kurt Schwitters

I wonder sometimes who we have lost to employment in the finance industry—how many great, world-changing climatologists and astrophysicists and doctors and molecular biologists and teachers and composers and househusbands and architects and urban planners. We’ll never know . . . ” ~ Kristin Dombek

When I read the following, I could not help but think of my son Brett, and all of the things he has said so similar to what Dombek is saying. It’s probably one of the best essays on life that I have read in a very long time, so much so that I really really really wish that I had written it, but I didn’t. The words are cutting and blistering, and infused with equal parts truth and grace, and every point Dombek makes is completely, unmistakably valid.

Kurt Schwitters 1942-43 Difficult

“Difficult” (1942-43, collage)
by Kurt Schwitters

It is a rare thing to come upon someone who writes in this way, someone who loves words and appreciates all that they can do to illuminate the mind, and how they can fill up all of the holes in the soul, an individual for whom writing is akin to aspirating and expirating—effortless and filled with precision and thought and care. I think that I’m going to have to make her column mandatory reading for myself.

Do yourself a favor, read the whole thing. It’s too long to repost completely, but I’ve provided a link. Enjoy . . .

Reposted from nplusonemag.com

The Help Desk is a monthly advice column from Kristin Dombek. Advice-seekers may submit questions to askkristin@nplusonemag.com.

Hi Miss Dombek,

I have a question that pretty much sums up the core theme of my adult life. In my youth, as I began to take jobs and find my way, my confusion at the meaninglessness of most employment took the form of amusement; dull, exploitative labor was an odd feature of American life I noticed and playfully railed against, almost imitating the kind of things you’d hear real, working adults say. Now, as I approach my forties, this confusion has become a white-hot festering rage that runs at all times in the background of my day to day.

Miss Dombek, is there something wrong with me that I find regular employment to be the most soul-oppressing thing I can imagine? How can someone undergo the spectrum of emotion and concentration necessary to create something beautiful—a real and full life, even—while holding down work enough to survive? Aren’t we really all being exploited to one extent or another, with largely menial, unimportant posts (except for maybe those on the tippy-top), just to keep this whole thing going? How can I choose not to be a part of this construct and still eat?

Sincerely yours,

Bank-robbin’ in Brooklyn


 

Bank-robbin’ in Brooklyn:

First of all, Marx didn’t call it alienated labor for nothing, dear. It’s not called “nose to the grindstone” because it feels good. It’s not called “keep your head down” because it’s wise to look around. You have been trained from childhood to think that labor, in and of itself, is both a right and one of the most important goals of your life; you have been told that your “career” is the same thing as “who you are in the world.” Yet like most employed people in the United States, you work jobs that you consider to be banal, brutal, or both.1 For this labor you are supposed to be grateful, since work is increasingly hard to get: if you lose your shitty job, you’ve got only a one-in-five chance of finding a new one, and if you’ve been unemployed for six months or longer your chances are one in ten.2 While you look, there is hardly a safety net; Boehner’s shredded it. Follow the logic of this drive to profit on the back of shitty labor (the difficult labor that is either necessary or not, but purchased by employers for less than the value it creates) and bullshit labor (often in industries invented to distract, placate, and endlessly “connect” us and imprison us in debt while we work shitty or bullshit jobs) and you will find the same drive to create wealth for those on the “tippy-top” that has us hell bent on fracking until California burns and New Orleans and New York and Miami drown. This is no longer some unimaginable possible future, it is happening now: the West Antarctic ice sheet has begun to split apart.

Kurt Schwitters Hitler Gang 1944

“Hitler Gang” (1944, collage)
by Kurt Schwitters

Is there something wrong with you? If you are unusual, it is because you are refusing to keep your head down. Why do you keep looking around? There’s so much to distract and comfort you, if you could just keep your head down, that is, in your computer. Keep your head down; Solange Knowles has kicked Jay Z in an elevator. Keep your head down; James Franco has 2 million followers and he has taken off his shirt and seems to be pulling down his underwear. Keep your head down; Ryan Gosling is still wearing his T-shirt but it has a picture of Macaulay Culkin on it wearing a T-shirt with a picture of Ryan Gosling on it, a three-ton great white shark has been eaten either by an even bigger great white shark or possibly by the Leviathan, and Bill Murray has crashed another wedding. Are you not entertained?

Should you learn to do a better job hiding your soul from the oligarchs and make what is beautiful on nights and weekends, if you can get them, when you are not too tired, and have not drunk yourself into numb oblivion? Or should you sacrifice years of your life to educate yourself, incur massive debt,7 and “put in your time” to qualify for a job that might feel more like “creating something beautiful,” only to risk turning that very beauty into “the most soul-oppressing thing [you] can imagine,” too?

You don’t seem to be entertained, Bank-robbin’; your white-hot rage festers. It probably doesn’t help that you live in Brooklyn—this place where in the last ten years rent has spiked 77 percent while real median income has dropped,3 where the rich (the top 10 percent of earners who, as is well known, control 80 percent of the wealth) and their children live right on top of some of the worst poverty known to this country, while 20 percent of Brooklynites survive somehow below the poverty level,4 such that the widening income and wealth gap5 becomes achingly visible here. I could advise you to leave Brooklyn. But I don’t want you to leave Brooklyn.

Everything is upside down. Your life is sold to serve an economy that does not serve your life. So should you turn to crime, if you haven’t already? Do whatever it takes to avoid participating in this “construct,” risking hunger, imprisonment, or dependence on people with real jobs, who’ve learned to keep their heads down?6 Should you learn to do a better job hiding your soul from the oligarchs and make what is beautiful on nights and weekends, if you can get them, when you are not too tired, and have not drunk yourself into numb oblivion? Or should you sacrifice years of your life to educate yourself, incur massive debt,7 and “put in your time” to qualify for a job that might feel more like “creating something beautiful,” only to risk turning that very beauty into “the most soul-oppressing thing [you] can imagine,” too? Should you try to work harder, save more, get your hands on some capital, even though the game seems impossibly rigged, so that if you do work out how to make a profit, it will be incredibly difficult to do so without replicating the system of exploitation that enrages you?

article continued at link . . .

                   

Music by Staind, “Outside”

“The people dreamed and fought and slept as much as ever. And by habit they shortened their thoughts so that they would not wander out into the darkness beyond tomorrow.” ~ Carson McCullers, from The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

Charles Camoin Window overlooking the Port of Saint-Tropez - the Artist's Studio 1963

“Window overlooking the Port of Saint-Tropez, the Artist’s Studio (1963, oil on canvas)
by Charles Camoin


I always use what remains of my dreams of the night before.” ~ Eugene Ionesco

I’ve noticed something: when I’m away from home, I do not have the vivid dreams that I have here. I have no idea as to why that is. Perhaps it’s because whenever I’m away, I never quite settle, so my mind cannot drift the way that it does here. Anyway, I had a really wild one last night.

First, I dreamed I went to a tattoo parlor to get three tattoos: Two very small ones: an eternity symbol and an anchor, both on my wrists. Then I wanted a large tattoo of a swallow on my left shoulder. I talked to some people when I went in, and the friends who were with me were called back, but I kept waiting and waiting, and no one came to help me. Finally, I wandered into the back and shouted, “Is anyone going to give me my tattoos?” Two guys came up to me and said that they would do my tattoos.

Andre Derain Effect of Sun on the Water, London 1906 oil on canvas

“Effect of the Sun on the Water, London” (1906, oil on canvas)
by André Derain

I wanted plain black ink tattoos, but the artist who was going to do the swallow said that it would look better as a white tattoo. I didn’t want a white tattoo. Then we walked to another part of the parlor that was actually outside. As I was walking, I said, “Wow, that’s a great view.” The guy said, “what view?” I said, “the water, you can see the water.” He wasn’t impressed. The other guy said that he thought that the compass that I wanted (the anchor had switched to a compass) would look better on the nape of my neck. I said that I didn’t want a tattoo there. No one seemed to be listening to what I wanted.

Then the dream shifted to me being at my parents home, and I was reading the Sunday paper. I was so depressed because the paper was so small; all of the sections were folded into just one section. The death of the daily newspaper really bothered me.

Anyway, that’s about it for today. Just a note about the song: In my younger days, I did a Rickie Lee Jones thing, with the hat and the leather coat. Then the other day, this song popped up. Serendipity.

Music by Rickie Lee Jones, “Bonfires”

                   

In Memoriam

In the early afternoon my mother
was doing the dishes. I climbed
onto the kitchen table, I suppose
to play, and fell asleep there.
I was drowsy and awake, though,
as she lifted me up, carried me
on her arms into the living room,
and placed me on the davenport,
but I pretended to be asleep
the whole time, enjoying the luxury—
was too big for such a privilege
and just old enough to form
my only memory of her carrying me.
She’s still moving me to a softer place.

~ Leo Dangel

“For if I try to seize this self of which I feel sure, if I try to define and to summarize it, it is nothing but water slipping through my fingers.” ~ Albert Camus, from “An Absurd Reasoning”

Fremont Ellis The Summer Rain acrylic on canvas

“The Summer Rain” (nd, acrylic on canvas)
by Fremont Ellis


Two for Tuesday: Kevin Hart

Armin Hansen Monterey Bay and El Toro Mountain 1921

“Monterey Bay and El Toro Mountain” (1921)
by Armin Hansen

The Word

Say wood and everything is clean again.
The word is all around you, like the night,
Impossible to grasp. Your mouth is dark.

A splinter found its way into your quick.
That old tree slit by lightning won’t be moved.
Last year’s thin rain froze hard inside a trunk

And now a honey flesh shines through cracked bark.
Your mouth is dark. Go far into yourself,
Let quietness gather there, then say the word.

                   

Emil Nolde Still Sea 1936

“Still Sea” (1936)
by Emil Nolde

Here

In a bare room where light pours in from the ocean
You are still sleeping
You are still here

And nothing more happens except the sound
Of a page turning
While you sleep on

The sound of a story turning and the ocean stirring
Near our thin room
With you asleep

Perhaps with the thought of a storm much later on
When you awake
In this bruised room

Two people still here perhaps with ocean light
Fragile and turning
Dark as your voice

That lives in the air and mirrors here. But look,
You are awake;
I am still here.

Music by Michael Giacchino, “London Calling” (extended version, from Star Trek: Into Darkness)