I was just at Whole Foods getting some groceries. It’s been a week of middle distance gazing and a bit of crisis around who I am and what I am doing. I sometimes think 25% of art is this crisis, which is maybe more readily described as trying to understand the relationship between purpose and meaning.
I wandered the whole length of Whole Foods once without really taking in what I was supposed to be doing, which meant, like a typewriter, I had to fling the return back to the beginning and start my traverse all over again; the Whole Foods as blank white paper with the partially dressed LA glamorous hiding in the margins.
In moments like this the sights of the world can feel a bit like tennis balls bounced off a practice wall during overly hot summer days.
My current condition made me think a lot of a movie I had just watched, Another Round. The premise of the movie is that a group of friends decide they are going to spend the day partially drunk in an attempt to prove whether human beings are meant to operate with a constant, slight elevated BAC.
What was interesting about the movie is that the protagonist, played by Mads Mikkelsen (who on recently hearing his name from a friend declared, “How’d you come up with THAT name?!?” as if it was fictional), comes to this experiment in a moment of unoriginality in his own life: his relationship and career are steady, but steady in that way that stagnant water in unkept parking garages is also steady; he is lonely and slightly used feeling: a penny abandoned on a highway, still currency but battered and with no sheen.
He is adrift.
The movie reveals the exuberance that drinking brings back into his life as well as the downfall that comes with the eventual excess. But neither the upswing or downswing is total. It is jittery and unfinished, bouncing between the good and bad without showing moral certainty; a bouncy ball down attic steps, but ending up always in the attic. What I loved about the movie is that it put a vice (alcohol) in relationship to the constrictions we create in our own life. The vessels that we hold ourselves — relationships, career, spirituality — can be filled with the infinite or can be filled with a poison that will sink us.
Much like a wine glass the containers of our lives can bring joy or destruction depending on how they are utilized and what practices we make around them. The movie made me think about how much we condemn vice while never looking at the more broad cultural constructs that lead us to them.
In a way, containers (ones of vice or culture) can be mechanisms to view the totality of something: something that tears us from our multitude to see only a single vision. “I believe in X so this means I am Y”. But instead an infinite can be seen in any container. Much like Henri Bergson or the like talk about a number being made of a unit of measure, where the number is this multiplicity as well as the object itself, the way we decide the units of our containers, change the density and countability of those containers. One hundred can be made of a hundred singles or one hundred can really be two hundred made of what we think of as halves.
Carl Jung said, “A decisive question for man is: is he related to something infinite or not?”.
I think in days like today, where a pandemic draws a box around my experience, I feel a certain dryness in the last years of my creative practice, and my friends (and wife) are cast at distances which now are harder to travel, it is easy to loose the ability to see the infinite. The imagination seems to be at a place where it actively discounts the parts of life that give it a multiplicity; or maybe fixates on what is missing. I think William Blake had something to say about this in relationship to his idea of Ulro.
I once dated a woman with a heavy french accent (a great tongue twister for a heavy french accent, “Terry Richardson lives in a wardrobe”) who wrote me a long email about the pain of living in a world that had, among other things, Nazis and social security numbers. I think she was maybe talking about boxes of different types; containers. And I still look to her with inspiration for the fearlessness that became her box, so tightly wrapped around her, as she flung conventions to the way side, pounding on the doors with those eye slit openings and used ammonia not to clean her studio but cook crack.
We need to be aware of our countable containers. We need to find ways to see their edges. And then step half the distance and half that and half that… and finally just see the infinite steps.
As I finish my second pass in Whole Foods, a woman in fashionable layers, with skin and thin fabric on a date to some desert rave, walks a small dog through the canned goods aisle and I watch it sniff and pee a little on a can of beans.
I buy some anchovies and pasta and head back home.