Tag Archives: melodrama

Presence

I have been absent. This blog hasn’t had much of an update in some time, and I have no illusions that this is a bad thing.

Then again, I consider myself a writer—or at least I aspire to be a writer—and a substantial part of being an active, contributing artist in our modern society means having a presence.

Of course, that primarily means an internet presence. The flashy artists, the ones who show up in trendy magazines or are renowned in the lit scene, they live in big cities and can attend live events, buy drinks for fellow poets, or have a one night stand with that cute up-and-coming singer/songwriter. More than anything else they do, they show up.

More than anything else I do, I don’t show up.

I have a measly internet presence. Years ago, a woman wearing too much make-up laughed at me. How the fuck could I even be human if I didn’t have Facebook? It was a naïvely idealist view, at the time. Something I could roll my eyes at and dismiss. But since then, it has become more and more true.

Not that I feel any less human. In fact, in the past year of neglecting the internet—after too many years trying to coyly join in on the party—I feel more alive than I ever have. But then again, as the Millenials say (and let’s face it, Millenials will become the dominant force as Baby Boomers vegetate & die): if you did it but didn’t record it, did it happen at all?

None of it happened. Because life never happened. It is happening, or it is not. Anything besides what is currently happening is either memory or imagination. Life itself is an existential experience, a matter of the present—of being present—of presence—and there we are again, with that goddamn pejorative.

What really gets me about presence is Definition 1.1 in the Oxford Dictionary: “A person or thing that exists or is present in a place but is not seen.” That is essentially internet presence, although of course, with the narcissistic twist that the internet produces, this usage gets confused with 1.3: “The impressive manner or appearance of a person.”

The first definition speaks to something beyond the self, something beyond the senses. The second speaks to ego, the self, the senses. The way we interact with the internet is that: it’s beyond the senses, beyond the self, beyond the ego—and yet it engages the senses, the self, and the ego. It’s an empty egg, and we’re subsisting on an imagined yolk.

I prefer the first definition. I even take it to heart and let it expand: “A person or thing that exists or is present in a place but is not seen, heard, felt, smelled, or tasted.”

Then what is it?

I don’t know. Maybe that is what I am endeavoring to find out.

L’Etincelle

Am I really doing this? Am I really starting a blog with an entry on blogs? Am I really starting that initial meta-blog with a series of overdramatic questions?

I tend to easily disappoint myself, which is probably a central reason why I have been so reluctant to start a blog. I am a split human being (which you may read more about as we traverse time and kilobytes), and part of that split resonates in my reasons for writing—really, the writer’s eternal struggle between writing for writing’s sake, and writing to be read.

In a completely unstatistical analysis, I believe I have a 10% chance of being read by anyone, and an approximately 0.001% chance of being read by someone I don’t know. That is a small chance that extends beyond this blog. The chance that the thousands of poems I’ve scribbled, or hundreds of short stories I’ve penned, or half-dozen novels I’ve written will ever be read is so minute that I often wonder why I bother at all. That’s when the <<l’art pour l’art>> side of Jack’s mind comes into play.

But communication is meant to be heard—art is meant to be experienced. Sometimes, that experience is deeply personal. Which begs the question: is that art or therapy? Not a question I will tread on right now. What I mean to say is that even the babbling homeless man on the corner of Yonge and Dundas is heard, even if no one is listening. His expression becomes a part of the landscape. Blogging may be a similar method of communication. Similar to Twitter, I feel like most of my communication on the internet is to no one; it is there to populate the landscape.

There is something deeper to the written word, though. Unlike visual or acoustical art, the written word is meant to traverse time in a more fundamental way. A song fades away quickly, and pigments fade over decades, but manuscripts are as good as the paper or fabric they are written on. If you have read my novel, Onwards & Outwards (I know you haven’t), you might remember Henryk Zdicz relay a story about archaeologists who found ancient Buddhist manuscripts in Tibet (which is a true story, of course). A short discussion follows, which you’ll have to read yourself. But what is key to my point here is that there were monks, hundreds of years ago, who wrote manuscripts in caves and hid them there. That’s it. They weren’t meant to make money, or to become famous, or anything else. The act of writing was sacred in itself (which echoes back to l’art pour l’art)—but what was written was meant to be read as a sacrament. This duality should be what a writer strikes for, and not a competition between the two extremes.

Easier said than done. But I say it nonetheless.

Didn’t Hemingway say something like the only way to kill the writing habit is death? That’s probably true. It is absolutely true in my case. And I harbour a not-so-unique idealism that after my death some living relative or maybe adoring grad student will find my work and want to bring it to the world, just like those Buddhist manuscripts. I call myself ‘histomanic’ for this reason—the time I spend writing is justified by my manic stages where I see my art mean something to history (I made the term up, don’t bother verifying it).

And so it’s in a manic stage that I am starting this blog. I dare to populate the internet landscape with my thoughts, to babble on a busy urban corner, to write secret manifestos to some future archaeologist. And if you are reading this, well, I guess you have just enabled my mania. Thanks.