Irish poet Máighréad Medbh describes Savage Solitude: Reflections of A Reluctant Loner (Dublin: Dedalus Press, April 2013) as “a dramatised internal conversation in the mind of a ‘reluctant loner’, and takes the form of 303 aphoristic colloquies and fragments, incorporating 202 quotes from a variety of sources … There are three voices: One; The Other; and I. One is the voice of instinct. It is fearful and only hears itself. The Other is the voice of the larger world in the form of quotations—from scientists, poets, fiction authors, artists, philosophers, psychologists, mystics, loners. The third voice, I, is the rational portion of the self, and the only voice that also listens.” Excerpts from Savage Solitude have been published in Axon, an online journal about the creative process; you can read some of those here…
A flock of birds traverses the silent sky. Today, it is the only event that has made impact. For a moment One knows what it is to be borne on the wind, unasking.
‘Only that day dawns to which we are awake.’ —Henry David Thoreau: Walden
Birds fly without thought. I, being human, must think. Alone, I carry thought as a burden. If I were to empty my mind, would I be bird, and is that bliss?
The limpid silence is a land without carp, censure or discernible danger. Neither crop nor creature inhabits; there is no haven or prison. The terrain is pathless. One looks to the sky, waiting for the pole star to rise, but it is not that world.
‘A human being is spirit. But what is spirit? Spirit is the self. But what is the self? The self is a relation that relates itself to itself or is the relation’s relating itself to itself in the relation; the self is not the relation but is the relation’s relating to itself. A human being is a synthesis of the infinite and the finite, of the temporal and the eternal, of freedom and necessity, in short, a synthesis. A synthesis is a relation between two. Considered in this way, a human being is still not a self.’ —Søren Kierkegaard: The Sickness unto Death
We are fired up by relevance, created by context. A single point in a dark universe might as well not exist. Even two points are without context. Create a triangle and we have pattern, the force that drives our minds. In the brain, the map is the same as the territory. I must begin to draw.
105. synthetic passions
‘We live in a society whose whole policy is to excite every nerve in the human body and keep it at the highest pitch of artificial tension, to strain every human desire to the limit and to create as many new desires and synthetic passions as possible, in order to cater to them with the products of our factories and printing presses and movie studios and all the rest.’ —Thomas Merton: The Seven Storey Mountain
As a lone child, One felt nothing such as they call happiness or unhappiness. There were phenomena like grass, attractive objects, strong-smelling animals, midsummer blue—and a face that lived in them.
The search for the essential self in a society of constructed selves has echoes of Sartre’s distinction between the being which is en soi (in itself) and that which is pour soi (for itself). The en soi is unselfconscious, the pour soi reflexive. Very few people have never wished for the reflexive faculty to be stilled, just for a moment.