Monday, June 27, 2011

1) The Go-Betweens, "The Wrong Road". There probably isn't a better way to express a fundamental, if non-specific, sense of despair and gloom than repeatedly drawing from that state to conjure up telling couplets and images. Which is what I think happens here, because even if there isn't a single story (that I can tell), there's certainly a message underlying the many quotable lines in this one. The ending clinches it, with the exasperated admission of defeat when he realizes that no matter which way he expresses the feeling, its truth and implications are unchanged. The song may alleviate the burden for a while, but it cannot erase the condition itself.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Even in the early stages of the vague, hazy sense of gloom that characterized a certain period of my college days (perhaps unsurprisingly, the one coinciding with my most prolific period of writing), I remember having a sense that the affliction was temporary. I could almost imagine looking back on that period five, ten years in the future, and writing it off as some form of insanity that one must go through. Of course, I couldn't project perfectly in the future, else I would have been able to use those insights to cure myself then and there, but there was at least a belief that things would look up. And it is true that that particular brand of nihilism has all but been dispatched with, and that pondering weighty matters on the meaning of everything leave me largely unharmed nowadays. But I sometimes think that whatever unhappiness that has accompanied a certain study decision is really not that different from what ailed me back then, being somewhat unspecific yet very pervasive. And given that it manages to affect me in all my glorious maturity, it's of a far deeper, more unsettling nature.

It probably sounds trite, but you can't discount the element that time plays in these mental battles. In earlier times, there was at least the sense that some full life was out there waiting to be met, no matter how miserable a prospect it seemed at the time. Having tasted some of this future and having studied my reaction to it understandably downs my hope quite a bit. Realize that I had once thought myself cured of all this drama, and had forged an idiosyncratic path to something resembling good standing. But the time since then has been unkind, and it is only a slight exaggeration to say that I have declined physically, intellectually, and worst of all morally. I look back with sadness at the person I used to be, and while I used to feel disgust at what I have become, it is now just a numbness and state of disbelief. "Started out Oliver / Ended up Fagin."

Why the sudden resurrection of my past troubles? Because of a bookshop, actually. One thing that struck me today is I can scarcely remember the times when I felt impossible joy due to some piece of perceived beauty, invariably an album or a book. As these were during formative years, et cetera, it is naive to wish for similarly passionate reactions today. But nowadays, the passion doesn't arrive not because things don't move me; it's because I seem to avoid the arts altogether. The very act of reading or listening to music used to be comforting, as it invited me into a familiar, known space that provided hope. While I wince at contemplating the possibility, it must be said: my inability to set aside time for these things nowadays seems to be partly borne out of a wish to spare those hopeful things the sullying contents of my psyche. There is something magical in them, no doubting, but I do very much doubt that they will escape unharmed by the malaise that I've got cookin' inside. Better that they sit quietly, waiting for the day that the clouds part and things seem more hopeful.

Or maybe that's just tripe, and I ought to actively seek to do away with such adolescent theories about the interaction between art and the mind. I did mention that the bookstore got me thinking about these unpleasant matters, but this was only after I got a taste of the forgotten pleasure of reading. I take this as a cause for some hope. Of course, it isn't as if this will make things all better - it didn't back in the day - but good God do I need more sources of positivity in my life. I don't think that can hurt when trying to find a way out of this dark.

Writing all this down has definite mental (if zero artistic) value. I am reminded of the fact that no matter how cringe-inducing my earlier writings were, they at least solidified my concerns at the time, and helped shoulder the burden a little. Perhaps silence is the worst weapon for this battle.

Monday, June 20, 2011

I'd like to think that even if one disagrees with the conclusions of Carr's The Shallows, one can agree that it does a good job of laying out the argument for the negative effects of technology and the internet without coming across as being just another tirade of a curmudgeon or luddite. Me, I'm at least one, probably both those things, so I often worry that my shared distrust of the internet is a product of something fundamentally irrational. But Carr manages to take many of my concerns and really get to why they should worry the society at large.

What's sad is that he seems to have relatively few supporters in his own generation; mine is of course beyond hope, and the one after will most likely bring about our ultimate destruction. It's remarkable how quickly society seems to have totally embraced the internet, rightfully praising its conveniences but too quickly dismissing what it loses when compared to technologies past. (I can almost picture the book being nonchalantly sunk in my lifetime, for example.) Being of the generation that came of mental maturity at the same time the internet did, it's hard to say whether the seeds for this societal shift were already in place. Maybe it's a convenient myth that people used to care about deep reading and all that in generations past. The internet may just be allowing people to indulge in frivolities that they used to indulge in through other forms. Who knows, maybe I was on the fringes starting from childhood...