15 July, 2008

No Hesitation

I'm into this idea that all one's drives in life converge to produce the bizarre amalgam that ends up being the unique contribution we leave in our wake, whether we know of it in life or not. The phenomenon is something of a longhand version of how an identity gets formed - and formed in this instance is to be firmly understood in the past tense, since identity must necessarily remain incomplete until we die. The shorthand version of identity formation is largely, maybe entirely, a fantasy - one that has the ready potential to expedite the final accounting of death.

Some readers will see my enthusiasm as a extension of my developing position on the philosophical and practical futility of identity-making, individuation, selfhood and such other notional work-arounds to the empyrean pleasures of unity. Still, in the same way that we use the grant of a life to work falteringly back to the wisdom with which it was originally endowed, that being a merging out of and back into unity, the stuff of life flows like water in the direction of convergence.

The stuff of my father's life was many sided and resistant to convergence. He was educated as a musician, spent a short time in radio, was a waterman and ultimately surrendered all of his art to the making of his family and a solidly remunerative profession. His profession offered nearly no space for his art, so it emerged from him at home, usually when things were most difficult for him personally, and only in small snippets. In summer he would take every opportunity to putter about the harbor rooting for little necks and cherrystones, drop hand lines for flounder or cast for bass. He also spent 20-odd years perfecting a short nocturne a few notes at a time, going through two pianos in three decades before he died in his early fifties of nothing in particular (and everything generally). One of his last delights was to meet Fin and have her translate the Marlene Dietrich songs he'd listened to since the 50s.

I have wondered over these past two decades since his death how much the fencing-out of his art contributed to the shortening of his time on earth, for his line was and is still pretty long-lived. As great, present and dutiful a dad as he was, and as much as he indulged all his children's artistic dalliances, he didn't permit himself the same life-giving tonic. I recall a pervasive air of frustrated self-regard marking his death most clearly, and if I preserve a sense of my father's identity at all, meaning the one that he left at the end, however inadvertently it would be that of a frustrated artist.

One of the signal happinesses of my life has been the convergence of so many of my drives and passions. Even those that don't clearly flow into others at least do not dam the general progress and merging. Not so long ago I might never have guessed that bringing what one does together with who one is could be so important. Until I stirred my pathological fondness for aesthetics with the latent artistic impulses of my life's partner, seasoned that generously with the unstinting visions of countless other creatives and wrapped the entire fecund lot in the old news of my kink, I might as well have been half alive. I don't doubt that I would have been a great candidate for that vague ennui so characteristic of our age and culture, and so characteristic of my father's last years.

The unexpected result of all this fiddling was a new and deeper channel being carved, one in which my remunerative work modulated to accomodate itself to a broader vagueness, a more refined uncertainty, permitting chance opportunity and movement while at once, apropos this journal, finding its locus around a single thread.

Of the chance opportunities there have been many in the fine arts. In the coming weeks I will be posting some betokenings of my collaborations with a artists here in NYC and elsewhere whose work I esteem well beyond my association with them.

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