Wednesday, 13 April 2016
Melancholic angel [fiction]
There is a passage in Kafka, in the diaries, where he says that if you were gifted the ability to review your whole life with the eyes of the present, like watching a movie, the most depressing thing would not be revisiting all the mean and contemptible things you had done, but the realisation that all the ostensibly good things were in fact done for mean and contemptible reasons. You would be robbed of your experience, and you would realise that strictly speaking you had gone through life not knowing what you were doing or what you were thinking, unaware of your guiding desires.. that you had walked through life in a dream. When I think of this melancholic angel, who sifts through the stock of a life and finds only the hidden thread of negativity, who is repelled by everything that once seemed noble and good, who rewrites a biography as a blind man’s ruin, I realise that for a long time this angel was none other than myself. That is, I was able to look back on my experience only days or even hours afterwards and be disgusted. I would review my actions, my speech, which I had enjoyed so much at the time, and see only a fool’s pantomime. I would rewrite farce as tragedy and tragedy as farce. But this melancholic angel have I long since banished, for it was less an angel than a life-denying demon, a demon of the negative. I asked myself how it arose. And it arose, in my case, by thinking of myself as a pure soul who could only breath the air of the possible. This pure soul, this man of the possible, can only be compromised and debased by the world, by flesh and matter, by every externalisation of himself, because anything actual only corrupts and debases the beautiful realm of what might be. Whether it be writing out his thoughts, whether it be friendship or intimacy, he comes away feeling stupider and spoiled because the delicious possibilities that teemed inside him have now been annulled and replaced by something final. But this pure soul does not exist. Our soul is no milky ghost dreaming of daybreak, but a living thing distributed through our words and deeds without surplus. The 'pure soul' is only a bolt-hole from life. To exit this error, the error of the pure soul, what you need is a deed, a deed from nowhere, a deed that takes you by ambush, a deed that shows you possibilities that the pure soul could never even have guessed at.