Life is Elsewhere

Gustav-Klimt-Garden Path with Chickens.vibrant.JPG

I'm reading Kundera's Immortality right now. It's about the runner-up version of immortality. The one we believe we'll have to settle for. Tend to think we have some control over. More a writerly kind of immortality. A notoriety. A survival in men's minds. 

In one of the story's threads, Goethe and Hemingway become buddies in heaven.

Schiller (a fellow German poet, playwright, pretty boy) was best friends with Goethe in life, but Kundera says this was probably just a default result of the fact that Schiller was *there* in Germany -- at the right place, right time. It's no surprise he preferred Schiller since it would be a century before Hemingway was even breathing.

The tragedy of would-be friends parted by centuries reminds me of the scene in Good Will Hunting when Robin Williams's psychiatrist character asks Will, played by Matt Damon, "Who challenges you? Who touches your soul?" 

Damon thinks for a moment, then says, "I got it. I got plenty. Shakespeare, Nietzsche, Frost, Locke.... "

"That's great," says Robin Williams, "but they're all dead."

Yes, they are dead, but then who? Maybe Will is more self-aware than Williams-as-therapist gives him credit for. And this means Kundera's right: Aliveness is a shame of a requisite for befriending people who'd invigorate us most. Sure, someone else might challenge us, but sometimes conversing with our contemporaries binds to the dialogue of our time.

I just got a new phone and I hate it.

Yesterday, I typed "*no*" and it turned into a Norwegian flag. (???) Guess I'm the only one left who wants to say "no" with a bold kind of emphasis (*no*) without stooping to the obnoxious, more shouty "NO." Clearly more people are now dropping Norwegian flags into their conversations.

I was so annoyed at being forced to abandon my *no* (and in the course of learning I couldn't type this anymore, unwittingly using a short-cut for an emoticon -- ick!) that in a bit of prove-a-point, protest (yes, a protest only I would understand, I know) I peppered my next few text conversations with completley extraneous flag icons from various countries (*uk*! *ir*! my global patriotism abounds! woo hoo!).

My Czech father got a *cz* in his text.

"Wow!" came his response. He's an engineer and he thought *cz* turning into a Czech flag was "A nice feature!" 

"Oh dear, non-verbal engineers really are the ones designing these things... aren't they?"

Images supposedly contain more content than words. But I see the strings of emoji and it reminds me of trying to communicate with Pac-Man. 

Accessible and more holistic people say. That's the argument. But if Shakespeare wrote in hieroglyphics, in emoticonography, who'd challenge Will Hunting? Kundera would have nobody to pair Goethe with in heaven. But maybe we're beyond that kind of profundity.

Julie is this lovely author I met recently who wrote a beautiful book about a learning-disabled girl called Lucy. You'd think this would make Lucy's speech all stunted and strange and cryptic -- kind of cringe in her limited misunderstanding of things -- but rather than the disability hindering her expression, her articulation is fresh. Eye-opening. Julie says the voice of Lucy came to her, and she feels like the voice of Lucy is really our collective unconscious speaking. 

With all this happy jappy endless-image emoticon nonsense going on, one would think our collective unconscious would be content with nothing more than images surging forth and receding. But linear words help us *understand* what we see, pin down what we feel. Language is a kind of self-knowledge... enables self-knowledge. A self-knowledge that can be passed on. So that we know the life that came before. Can know what our lives were. 

But of course expressing what our lives are - what they were last week - has been hijacked by a different bid for immortality: the high-res image, the instagram (for this cultural minute), the (self-executed!) selfie. 

And if we're lucky, selfies with people who may be more immortal than we are....

I'll have you know that in the course of taking this pic, Ciara & I totally bonded over mutual Blackberry nostalgia. (Much to Hanna's dismay -- she's our connection to "One, Two, Step" Ms. C... and the Swedish pouter in the top right-hand corner  -- as well as an almost-peskily insistent stumper-advocate for the iPhone).

The non-selfie image at the top is Klimt's Garden Path with Chickens. Time-frame-wise, we can think of Gustav Klimt as sort of a Goethe-Hemingway intermediary. I bet they all would have been friends. Chagall could paint the selfie. With a chicken. And a Norwegian flag. Peace out.