blog

FOUR HUNDRED AND SIXTY

By Billy-Ray Belcourt (2017), via Matthew Ogle’s Pome.

Towards a Theory of Decolonization

1. forget everything you’ve learned about love.

2. investment is the social practice whereby one risks losing it all
to be part of something that feels like release. lose everything
with me.

3. indian time is a form of time travel. a poetics of lateness.

4. i never liked goodbyes, but some of us aren’t here to stay.

5. superstition is a mode of being in the world that keeps ghosts like
me in the living room.

6. the afterlife is the after party: a choreography of mangled bodies.

7. i made a poem out of dirt and ate it.

FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY EIGHT

From Varlam Shalamov’s “Forty-Five Things I Learned in the Gulag,” in Paris Review via Kottke.

7. I saw that the only group of people able to preserve a minimum of humanity in conditions of starvation and abuse were the religious believers, the sectarians (almost all of them), and most priests.

8. Party workers and the military are the first to fall apart and do so most easily.

9. I saw what a weighty argument for the intellectual is the most ordinary slap in the face.

12. I discovered from experts the truth about how mysterious show trials are set up.

13. I understood why prisoners hear political news (arrests, et cetera) before the outside world does.

14. I found out that the prison (and camp) “grapevine” is never just a “grapevine.”

17. I understood why people do not live on hope—there isn’t any hope. Nor can they survive by means of free will—what free will is there? They live by instinct, a feeling of self-preservation, on the same basis as a tree, a stone, an animal.

18. I am proud to have decided right at the beginning, in 1937, that I would never be a foreman if my freedom could lead to another man’s death, if my freedom had to serve the bosses by oppressing other people, prisoners like myself.

19. Both my physical and my spiritual strength turned out to be stronger than I thought in this great test, and I am proud that I never sold anyone, never sent anyone to their death or to another sentence, and never denounced anyone.

30. I discovered that the world should be divided not into good and bad people but into cowards and non-cowards. Ninety-five percent of cowards are capable of the vilest things, lethal things, at the mildest threat.

44. I understood that moving from the condition of a prisoner to the condition of a free man is very difficult, almost impossible without a long period of amortization.

45. I understood that a writer has to be a foreigner in the questions he is dealing with, and if he knows his material well, he will write in such a way that nobody will understand him.

FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY SIX

Sarah Gerard via The Creative Independent.

Do you think stories are things that exist empirically in the world?

Yes. I think they’re already somewhere in the world waiting to be discovered and told. They’re like independent, autonomous beings. I’m a medium. [laughs] Yeah. My editor’s partner is a neuroscientist. He can separate out an individual neuron, or a series of neurons, and make them do something. He can send an impulse through them. If he stimulates them in the same way each time, he gets the same reaction. So he has this very input-output view of the brain. I don’t have that. I think of my brain like a pasta machine.

FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY FOUR

Takashi Murakami via the Creative Independent.

“It’s always easier to think about it as an analogy with the game of baseball. Think about a baseball player hitting a home-run after standing at the batting mound for just a few seconds. To achieve something in those few seconds they train every day. They train and meditate and try to shut out the noise of other players and the audience. Athletes are training their spirit and body and completely organizing themselves so that during those few seconds when they are at bat, the body automatically moves and in that moment, they can achieve something great. I think it’s also the same for an artist. I have to create that condition. So it’s not just about painting with a brush for hours and hours, it’s about creating that athlete’s few second condition where an artist can generate something new.”

FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY ONE

From “Infinite Exchange” by Geoff Manaugh, found in full on David Masel’s website, reprinted from Black Maps: American Landscape and the Apocalyptic Sublime, Steidl, 2013 (and originally discovered via Jacob Remes).

In a 2011 paper on the medical effects of scurvy, author Jason C. Anthony offers a remarkable detail about human bodies and the long-term presence of wounds. “Without vitamin C,” Anthony writes, “we cannot produce collagen, an essential component of bones, cartilage, tendons and other connective tissues. Collagen binds our wounds, but that binding is replaced continually throughout our lives. Thus in advanced scurvy”—reached when the body has gone too long without vitamin C—“old wounds long thought healed will magically, painfully reappear.”1

Given the right—or, as it were, exactly wrong—nutritional circumstances, even a person’s oldest injuries never really go away. In a sense, there is no such thing as healing. From paper cuts to surgical scars, our bodies are mere catalogs of wounds: imperfectly locked doors quietly waiting, sooner or later, to spring back open.