'I am nothing. I must be everything' MARX
In The Tower, this quotation sits as the front cover of some old magazine or another that I have not moved from a shelf for some time. In this way, I am constantly remindind of the leftist project to be All. Materialisticly, this may make some sense in a world where the richer ones continuously take from the poorer ones. In every other sense, I have no desire for all, for total perfection or for conclusion. It's a beautiful sentence from another time in the world. Despite the horrors of capitalism, we are never merely 'nothing' for we have always been more than that. I'm not sure you can really act from nothing. Our refusal of alienation must stem in mind and body from always knowing and feeling that we are more than mere 'nothing'.
What seems to bother me more in this tradition is the insistence or the contest to be everything. I have learned to rid myself of the use of the word 'should' and all it's striving. 'I must', 'I should'. ('I wish' even?). Why? Because it's a path to failure. Because it's likely to be one-step removed from desire, or better, from will. It's a kind of negative energy. 'I must do something about....', I should learn HTML...'. The pains that result from the failure to do something you 'should' have done are heavier than the wry failure of not doing something you 'want' to do. Often, we only think we 'should' do things that really we have little real desire to do.
Similarly the notion of being 'everything' can be criticised. Within the pages of 'SUCK MY THEORY: A Journal of Busty Marxism', two 'lesbians' paw each other while they both annouce: 'I am nothing. I am everything' in refutation of The Master's dictum. When this page was shown to someone (over)interested in Marxist theory, they replied 'They should be saying 'I am nothing. I must be everything''. Obviously a journal of Busty Marxism was not for them. This may indicate why I have no wish to be everything in Marx-ist society especially when I am trying right now to grasp the deep reality that we are all already everything in this very moment. This is manifest anywhere where we play, act, bond and share in moments of autonomy, the project and actualisation of our self-creations. Perversely, in these limitless moments, we feel the beautiful weightlessness of being nothing. Of being collectively nothing.
When we 'go to see' (see Part One) what we see is all and it is nothing. We see object, we see history all around, we see poems written underhand. We may see mystery, for poverty undermined. We may look for spirit and matter at a harmonious level. We may be on the look out for the reflection of the sights all and nothingness on ourselves.
'As I walked down Baker St one night I actually looked for Sherlock Holmes address forgetting completely it had been just a fiction in Conan Doyle's mind'
Jack Kerouac 'Desolation Angels' (1956)
Here Kerouac forces himself to be all when it's more pleasant to just look (in joyful and silly hope) for the residence of Mr Holmes. A few months earlier on 8th August 1956 on a Californian mountain top Kerouac was waiting to see 'the face of reality', almost insisting that his present time and space, solitude and thoughtfulness would be the right conditions for some such revelation, that he 'should' under these circumstances see what was real. In the end, his fantastic thought (immanent reality) was 'eat your prunes...you have been forever and you will be forever' which is why looking for the home of Holmes makes perfect sense.
Everything and nothing for all.
Like the fragments of The Tao that are necessarily returning in these times within radical politics and philosophy, we have to move towards the feeling that we have NOTHING TO PROVE, as both individuals and collectively. Being nothing, not 'this' or 'that'.
(So, maybe, I move towards you as neither 'lover' or 'friend', but as something that we do not know what it is...and maybe never will).
What could actually be better than 'I am everything and I am nothing' in the realm of possibilities for all our amusing subjectivities. For consuming and then devouring in playful fashion all the identites we want to be. I want to destroy the encodings of identity that are so tricky to escape. Or I want to decode them as a game we all play.
Who are you today Ruinist?
Today, I am still The Ruinist.
(In this sense, what I write, what I have to say here, is not 'true' but is still part of how I think and feel.)
And again! What could actually be better than 'I am everything and I am nothing' against the striving logic of coherence, linear living always towards the impossible perfection of an EVERYTHING. Career? Relationship? Security?..but more so 'being happy', the mythical state of 'All' that denies turbulence, feedback, multi-versal realities. (So if I approach my books in this way, it feels more like the process of living with it's twists and turns and dead-ends than some simple A to Z map. In trying to grasp what is being said by 'thinkers' there's more fun to be had in the grasping than in the ticking off of theories digested and completed, any Eureka moment. The wry line from 'My Philosophy' by KRS-1: 'So you're a philosopher. Yes..I think very deeply' is a good joke on not seeing that life itself, in actuality, is the deep that we blur by thinking too much about it).
In terms of alienation, I want to be NO THING. On the addiction to 'I", I want to EVERY 'I'.
It is often asked: 'What do you do?' What can you say? 'I am a writer'. I am not a 'writer' except that I 'write' in this one moment of pressing keys on this shonky keyboard.
I have now substituted my proud and snotty teenage answer to this question, 'Nothing', with the far better, 'What Do You Do?' - 'WHY, EVERYTHING!'
'We must find a way of getting in touch with the self - looking, feeling - already that puts us in touch'
'Aren't you afraid of getting bored in the long run?'
He laughed heartily
'I'm quite accustomed to that; being bored isn't so very boring'
Simone de Beauvoir, "The Blood of Others' (1945)
This cute exchange seems to be apt in some weird to many of the above themes and ramblings, although not immediatley. It follows on from a nasty slag off where a character flushed with pride from addressing a crowd of trade unionists is brought down by the comment...
'Look at her, she thinks she has done something'.
But this too seems also fitting to these themes if we are too escape the miserable trap of who we are as what we do.
Every Exit Made Possible...
Our Exodus, our way out of this, is not in striving, is not in setting up contest.
More famous and from the same Marx essay referred to above, is his one-liner 'Religion is the opium of the people'. I grow poppies on my balcony in the same spirit as I 'go to see', with numerous reasons and intents.
The poppies on my balcony have already been and gone I'm afraid (but are captured here on my own perfect visual insistence). They are gone as plants but remains as decorations in house, as seeds for next years growing, as poppyheads for soothing drinks, as memorial delights, as Marxist metaphor, as connections to great books, as longings for absent friends...
Next year, I hope you will 'go and see' the poppies on The Ruinist's balcony because one day the pretty flowers appear overnight and then just as quick they are gone...like ourselves, as everything, as nothing.
'Close your mouth, block off your senses, blunt your sharpness, untie your knots, soften your glare, settle your dust. This is the primal identity.
Be like The Tao. Itcan't be approaches or withdrawn from, benefited or harmed, honored or brought into disgrace. It gives itself up continually. This is why it endures'
Lao-Tzu, 'Tao Te Ching (The Book of The Way)', (4th Century BC)