Viollet-le-Duc ya cargaba contra esos arquitectos que “‘involucran a individuos privados y organismos públicos, que les confían obras con enormes gastos; que no estudian los requerimientos materiales para su ejecución práctica; cuyo objetivo es más bien edificios que les darán fama que cumplir las condiciones impuestas por las necesidades y hábitos del presente […] para hacer de la arquitectura un misterio, un arte encerrado en sus métodos convencionales, que los profanos no pueden ver ni comprender, puede (es cierto) que sea el medio de conservar una especie de monopolio para los que lo detentan: pero ¿no es de temer que la iniciativa quede aislada con sus misterios?”. Retraducido del inglés, así que no aseguro precisión.
En el programa de radio de Ágora Sol Mentes Corrientes, sobre huertos urbanos.
In Broken Images
He is quick, thinking in clear images;
I am slow, thinking in broken images.
He becomes dull, trusting to his clear images;
I become sharp, mistrusting my broken images,
Trusting his images, he assumes their relevance;
Mistrusting my images, I question their relevance.
Assuming their relevance, he assumes the fact,
Questioning their relevance, I question the fact.
When the fact fails him, he questions his senses;
When the fact fails me, I approve my senses.
He continues quick and dull in his clear images;
I continue slow and sharp in my broken images.
He in a new confusion of his understanding;
I in a new understanding of my confusion.
[… but they didn’t get it… well, I admit it was a gamble. We were asked to reflect on ourselves as writers taking into account what other students had written about themselves. And what I found all over (and I read a few) was this mixture of fear and pride, of being, even boasting of being, great readers and insecure writers. Most of all, the tension between the twin fears of revealing and and not managing to reveal oneself, one’s self. Very well explored in Ralph Keyes’ The courage to write. And an additional layer of “I always feel insecure writing in English” for most of us non-natives. So I took all that. Then there was a nice cultural detail (the Folon reference) that I found in one of the texts. But we were asked to be engaging, and use vivid details, well-placed concreteness. OK, so I wrote away, trying to weave those themes into a piece of fiction… and got very bad assessment from my fellows. Serves me right, I suppose. And that’s the final fear: will they get it? Will they like it? Well, no and no. And I don’t blame readers: it’s always one’s fault. Nobody said it would be easy.]
We spies cannot give ourselves away, but neither can we ever avoid saying every bloody thing about us. That’s what’s scary. Lying is easy; the trick is how to really, frankly, hold-my-eyes not lie when lying. What if you met me at this reception (awful champagne, excellent caviar, as it’s always the case in these new Eastern countries whose name rings no bells back home)? What if you asked me about my job or home, or my first love, and my answer was hesitant (not out of shyness or pride, mind you, but the fraction-of-a-second, I-didn’t-cram-enough type)? No, we need to have lived a life, a whole, complete and almost real life. One you can really, sincerely regret not having had instead of yours. We need to provide details, and details that match. Oh, yes, dear, I went to school at St Julian’s, near Bedford; and if you ask me, no more evil teacher has roamed the earth than Mr Montgomery, who once misquoted Shakespeare in class on purpose so that he could flunk us when exam day came. I swear to God his lips twitched with delight, as though finally tickled by his wiry moustache, when reading out (for the first time ever) our grades.
There is a St Julian’s in Bedford; I have seen pictures of a drab building with strangely small windows for its Georgian style, and I can almost remember myself panting along the steep path from the dormitory to the lecture building in December. I have also never been to Bedford, and I am gambling that they will not check teachers’ names from thirty years ago. They might, though. That’s the edge, and it’s you that will bleed: just don’t give them a reason to check too thoroughly. They call it “suspension of disbelief” in drama, and in intelligence you rely on it for your life about ten times a minute.
You cannot think of all that on the spot, of course. So we are told to write down a full biography in advance, to imagine vividly things that never happened, and have them at the ready in our minds. “You cannot stumble upon your cousin’s first name, Rogers!” Lehman, the instructor, never relented on this. “Rogers, if you yourself can tell the difference between your lie and the truth, you’re not being good enough, and you’re putting the country in harm’s way”. Well, I didn’t believe him, and I should have.
So we are constantly in fear of saying too much, or too little. We may blame it on language, or skills, but it’s really about how you deal with your false self until it feels truer than the one you used to be. And then add a layer of linguistic apprehension: are we really bilingual? I mean, what do you mean by that? Language is not a means of expressing something else, a canal that lets water through, it is the reservoir itself. “When you’re that beautiful men surround you like Folon’s men!”, she had quipped when the reception was almost through, and it was my testing time. Passing or flunking for this self-professed journalist, whose job credentials checked out a shade too quickly, too flawlessly. She was intelligence, I was pretty sure of that, and a good one. And those credentials had me French through and through, so if that Folon thing was a reference that any French person my age was sure to get, and I didn’t, it was I that was sure to be got. Perhaps someone coming behind me when you open your car, sinking his fingers in the back of your arm just painfully enough to show he means business. “Please, Monsieur Laforêt, come with me back inside”.
Folon’s men. Christ. She was looking at me like foxes must do when they see the rabbit they pursue limp: even with a hint of disappointment for too easy a meal. Was that a high-brow thing I could humbly cop out? “Oh, is that a new author?”, with a fake anxiety hopefully covering my true anxiousness. Folon’s men. “Yes, excellent French, Rogers, but is your life French? Or rather, has it been?” Were Lehman’s lips also twitching that day at the Rio Verde facility in Texas? But he was right, my life had not been French enough, although my mother had certainly been too French for my native Iowa’s taste. You fear what you say as much as what you can’t say. Being raised in a country means a lot of telltale signs for the trained ear: certain types of bad food everybody loves for some reason, and things you’d never do in sex and things you always do, and supermarkets that used to have a kind of ring in their cashing machines that all recognize, TV series whose main characters…
TV. Summer time in Reims, with Nana. Summer nights…
“Ha, yes, that little animation at the end of day in Antenne 2. They looked like angels as painted by Magritte, right? Both Belgian and melancholy… the music, too”.
In her lips, a fake smile. But no twitching.
Live to see another day, writer. I mean, spy.
I don’t like being wrong. I am also not used to being wrong: I usually get things quickly and (you may smile wryly at this, but you can take my word for it… it’s all you’ll have) almost always correctly. It is part of my stance, of my bearings in the world: knowing things, being right about things, makes up a lot of the value I assign to myself. I can do a lot of things, wisdomwise. I almost wrote that I can do a lot of tricks: here, toss me a question and I’ll jump higher than the rest to answer it. Yes, I have read it, or remember it; I can quote the author, and pronounce her name close to the real thing; I can speak the language, or (if it’s English) fake it very well. Even in everyday matters I can decode how appliances, software and tax returns work. Just give me time and the booklet with the instructions.
That’s why writing is so hard for me.
You probably guess where I am going with this. Writing is a blind journey, you see. Perhaps not completely blind, but certainly seriously astigmatic and myopic. For one thing (and this is emphasized in this course, for goodness’ sake), you don’t really ever know if it’s going to work. There is, we’re told, such a thing as an audience. Yes, the theatrical metaphor works too well; but let’s walk through its bone-chilling dimensions. We write, we submit (what an ominous word) the text. We walk slowly, with fear-frozen lungs and cramped legs, onto the bare stage. And there they are: the audience, the masters, the reason you’re here… but they are blackness. There is a kind of silence that speaks of cruel smiles and disdainfully curling lips beginning to form. You are hopelessly blinded by the lights, you’re highlighted, like a grammar mistake in shameful fluorescent marker; you’re exposed, and may I remind you that you may die of exposure. You are watched, and now, by all means, go ahead and try to please them, try to show them you know your text, the one that you yourself wrote expressing clumsily what you feel, think, believe or hope. Just give us your soul, quickly, and we’ll see if it works for us. The words you learned by heart (but already fear you forgot), and that are, in fact, you, an extension of you, connected to you by vessels and raw nerves. Just give them the words, and they will give you theirs, like whips: cloying, pretentious, misguided, bookish, plodding… if they are kind. If they are not, if you failed before you started, they won’t ever notice you came onto the stage in the first place. But you won’t have a clue. To take some pressure of you, dear, just keep in mind you won’t have another chance.
My whole being writhes in fear at this image. And yet this is who I am. I am a writer. Just a cowardly one, one who won’t write. So I am not a writer.
What’s keeping me? You see, I think I know the trick (ma’am, I do, I know, ask me!), I’ve read about it more than is healthy. All you have to do is play the believing game for a while, they say. Write a first draft, no matter how clumsy, no matter how pathetic. Hide it while it grows from the inner critic long enough, and then it will be too late for him to stomp it out of existence before it exists. It will then be his chance to prove he can really find the flaws, and move the paragraphs around, and discard the sentences, and yes, omit needless words (ha! but which are they?). So?
So here is my secret hope: that this time I’ll be witness to the magic, and won’t forget it. I’ll write in fear, and edit earnestly, with an honest frown, and then begin to feel the absurd hope that I can do this again, that those waiting and watching in the dark will not despise me, that they will be, in spite of themselves, enthralled or intrigued or in any other way compelled by my arrangement of word and phrases to read on and at the end, perhaps, smile.
That was a perfect ending, and I should have grabbed it. But there is one more thing I need to say, and without it the story, the roots of the fear of writing, will not be drawn, and this exorcism may not work.
I am a reader. In fact, if this were truly a story, it would start when I was four and I read the Odissey. Seriously. Why would I lie to you? To make my false life mesh with the journey theme of the assigment? No, I won’t lie to you if it’s about reading. You don’t lie about the sacred. Yes, I read the Odissey when I was four, and ten years later I was still in the library, reading everything and speaking to no one if I could help it. There were enough words in my books, and they were better words.
So, if I came to define myself, this I would say: I read. When I am angry at everyone, I picture myself in some kind of monkish dormitory, and I am in bed, surrounded (defended?) by towers of books (my Kindle hasn’t achieved symbolic stature), and I read and my heart is content. And there, in reading peace, I don’t even hate myself. So when I say I am a reader, think more of a species being classified than an activity being described.
And that is also why I can’t write.
Because I know how the song should sound when the song is beautiful, I cannot (I will not) sing with this poor voice. Because I know what the words can do when the words are worthy, when they make you tremble in both pain and awe, when they keep you awake because a new world was made to exist out of nothing, and given as a gift to you if only you keep reading, I look at these words and I have to stifle over and over the desire to crumble the page (again, our symbols and literary images haven’t kept up with the times: will you accept “select all-delete” instead?).
So show me. Show me how I can write something resembling what I read and admire and breath. Tell me how to choose among the maddeningly endless possibilities at the start of the blank page and the blinking cursor. Will you take my hand and guide me in this journey?
You see, I’m blind.
Donde X forma parte del siguiente conjunto: cambio climático, deforestación, desaparición de especies, peak oil, peak everything, especies invasivas, crisis alimentaria, acidificación oceánica, zonas muertas en la desembocadura de los ríos, agujero de ozono, lluvia ácida, riesgos a escala global (pandemias, geoingeniería), aumento brutal de la desigualdad, desmantelamiento del Estado del Bienestar, desestabilización de los ciclos del nitrógeno y el fósforo, crisis del agua, contaminación por compuestos químicos como los disruptores endocrinos, pérdida de la diversidad cultural y lingüística, sometimiento de la vida a las corporaciones (incluidas las patentes), etcétera.
Ya, pero ¿qué se puede hacer? Pues mire lo que ha recopilado Gene Sharp (“La lucha política no-violenta: criterio y métodos”, vía este artículo del imprescindible Café Steiner):
Formas de acción no violenta.
1. Alocuciones públicas
2. Cartas de rechazo o de apoyo
3. Declaraciones por parte de organizaciones e instituciones (declaración de los sacerdotes en la Francia de Vichy contra la deportación de judíos)
4. Declaraciones públicas firmadas
5. Declaraciones de acusación y de revelación de intenciones
6. Peticiones en grupo o en masa
Comunicación dirigida a públicos más amplios
7. Eslóganes, caricaturas y símbolos (grupo judío Baum en Berlín, 1941–42)
8. Banderas, carteles y otros medios de comunicación visual
9. Octavillas, folletos y libros
10. Periódicos y revistas
11. Grabaciones, radio y televisión
12. Escritura aérea y terrestre Continue reading