I went to see the Giacometti show at the Tate yesterday and found all the fear of the world in most of the things he made. I recognised, in my own unease as I walked through the gallery, the soul-substance of TV and the Internet. The many special forms of fear that drive viewers or users: jealousy, envy, competitiveness, loneliness and misogyny, each with their awful textures, like kinds of intention I could almost separate into different painful, hateful senses of space, time, distance and intensity. I saw the actual forms of television sets and computers in his sculptures. There were also his tiny figures, framed so much like we are these days, in no broader context than a screen, and sometimes a very small screen. Not the Silver Screen but the greasy, smudged thing on a phone. I’m glad I didn’t go on my own.
I have no right to be a parent. I have no right to be heard or loved. Life is contested, every moment. If I forget this I overlook its fragility and betray you.
Think of the small marks we make on the world and imagine if they rose up at once, almost an orchestra of dispossession and abandon. A pair of trainers worn because someone found them beautiful in some way. The skirt with its fringe. A ring given by someone who has gone. The boarded windows of a shop, a failed enterprise I can see from its name would fail. Often the last thing I am interested in is success. I love the things that struggle to thrive because they mean so much.
It’s curious, but Theresa May appears to enjoy being disliked. I can’t see how she could do a better job than she is of making herself not so much unpopular, as unlikeable. Perhaps she feels more comfortable being ‘difficult’ and prefers to deal with that than the horror, to her at least, of being loved.
I’ve been thinking about narcissism lately and ended up watching Now, Voyager yesterday and selected excerpts form the Alien films this morning. None of this ran together in the way I have just written it until I began writing the words ‘narcissistic feed’, but there we go.
Narcissism isn’t necessarily a bad thing: thinking about what you like to eat, wear, say and do; if I didn’t I would, in an awful sense, disappear. There’d be nothing of me on show and no return from that in the world to give me a sense of having a life that’s mine. Of course narcissism can be overdone and, from time to time, most of us overdo it – unless we underdo it, which I might come to at another time: underdo as in written our of life or written over someone else, no doubt a particularly egregious narcissist. We forget that we don’t actually know better than other people, or that we know them half as well as we might imagine. All kinds of narcissism rely on a feed from the outside world, from the kind of ‘that’s a nice hat’ comment to the more disturbing ‘you’re mine’ behaviour which characterises those egregious types I mentioned.
If you want to see what happens when narcissism becomes a difficult thing watch what happens to Charlotte Vale, or the crew of the Nostromo in Alien. Narcissists take a dim view of those around them trying to assert themselves: it interrupts the feed. Charlotte or Kane could have stayed in their cabins, but instead they went looking for adventure.
Differentiation, the move from a ‘we’ to an ‘I’, recognising the other, will always in some way be worrying (not being comfortable as an ‘I’ leaves you feeling anxious). You know you’ve got a problem when someone insists on ‘we’, not necessarily if they get worried about the ‘I’ … we all do that.
The ‘I’ demands a leap into the unknown unless I believe, secretly, we really are always a we, inseparable and conjoined. Wilfred Bion wrote about Experiences in Groups, not ‘experiences of groups’. Groups are an experience rather than an entity – as The Three Musketeers would have done well to remember.
I got worried about something like this yesterday. When I was a boy hooked on watching Sunday afternoon matinee films Now, Voyager had only existed for thirty years … rather like the relationship between now and another film I love: Withnail and I. And so I was reminded that I am 50 again. The ‘we’ of Tom Tomaszewski, me in all of my incarnations, still hasn’t quite become used to this ‘I’, the 50-year old one.
Catastrophia: To be distracted by a cat and lose the thread of an utterly brilliant, perhaps visionary piece of thinking and / or accompanying poetic sensibility. Only a cat can do this. Closely related to Coleridge’s ‘Person from Porlock’.
So the story runs that one week the Whitehouse is being investigated for links to Russia that undermine its national security, and the next the president who was being accused, who has instigated a course of action that seems to lead him into direct conflict with Russia, says that relations with Russia are at an all-time low. Is this really possible? It may be, but asking how might be illuminating.