“To hell, to hell with balance! I break glasses; I want to burn, even if I break myself. I want to live only for ecstasy. Nothing else affects me. Small doses, moderate loves, all half-shades, leave me cold. I like extravagance, heat. Letters which give the postman a stiff back to carry, books which overflow from their covers, sexuality which bursts the thermometer! I’m neurotic, perverted, destructive, fiery, dangerous – lava, inflammable, unrestrained.”
I have been completely absorbed in the works of Anais Nin for the past week or so, finding huge amounts of inspiration and resonance with her words.
While I am not one for New Year’s resolutions, it just so happened that my desire to recalibrate certain areas of my life coincided with the turning of the calendar year. Maybe it was the extreme frustration that the holiday season dumped onto my head, but I started feeling very caged by the constructs I found myself participating in -constructs which fly in the face of everything I believe in.
Social media, email, distance, the severing of authentic interaction —the irony of a technological grid which we feel connects us even as it is causing enormous disconnects. I am talking about the “social media” which is rendering most human beings into antisocial zombies. I am talking about a general lack of passion and the voracious, blind embracing of passivity. And I’m not speaking from a pulpit here; I am guilty of falling headfirst into the trap.
For example, how did I find myself near-addicted to social media when I absolutely detest it? The core of my being views social media as perfectly antithetical to everything I believe in. Yet, there I was in the middle of it. So, I ditched my last social media account: Twitter. After I left, I went back to view it with an objective eye and was flooded by observations of the loneliness, the narcissism and the disconnection inherent in the platform.
I watch brilliant poets photographing their afternoon coffee to share with strangers. I see people with beautiful thoughts distilling them down to fit 140 characters. I see lonely people reaching out in the middle of the night saying basically “Hello? Is there anyone out there?” and waiting for a stranger to appear on the screen with a clever response to a witticism or random observation. I see photos posted that seem to say “Look. I was here. I am alive. I am important. Notice me. Instead of expanding our minds and enriching our forms of communication, we are basically all trying to fit into a culture of small talk and senseless prattle.
I strongly believe our minds and hearts are shrinking as fast as our perceptions are dissociating. See, I am an avatar, an icon, a girl in a box who is surrounded by words. How real am I to you? In this space, I am a character, a voice, an object. I am a ghost. (Insert tangent about online bullying and how it relates to all of this here).
Afternote: I did eventually return to Twitter, but with a different eye. I cannot cut myself off from this new world entirely, but I can try to work with it in a way that feels authentic to me.
To put it bluntly, it’s fucking sad that our modes of connecting with other human beings have been so extensively whittled away. The big problem is that it is easy. It’s convenient. It’s safe. We desperately want to connect with each other, but the mechanisms for doing so authentically, richly, deeply -they are frayed. We are working with what has been given to us and with what has become easy. Shallow becomes normal if it is easy and convenient; Everything does.
I miss all of my friends who have disappeared into their computers and smartphones. I miss the potential deep communions that get traded for split-second soundbites. I miss relationships that have been replaced with attention spans only capable of tourism (I have had my fair share of tourists). I am not interested in soul tourism. I want passion and engagement, not passivity. Anais elaborated on this best.
I will not be just a tourist in the world of images, just watching images passing by which I cannot live in, make love to, possess as permanent sources of joy and ecstasy. -Anais Nin
I truly believe that the degree to which you resist is the degree to which you are free. It is my goal in this life to constantly evaluate where I am and am not free. Where I am not, I am not resisting enough. We are constantly being pulled into participating in myriad levels of bullshit which are being dictated by the popular culture. For example, I do not participate in any holidays because I refuse to participate in bullshit. This means that I have to rearrange my life around the holiday season in order to avoid participating in the slightest. I have given in and participated in social media because it is almost impossible to connect with people if these shallow platforms are abandoned. Now, I am realizing that the goal of my life is to stop making concessions to my convictions and to stop making concessions based on how dramatically the culture is devolving.
I have never married, never had children, refuse to adhere to monogamy, refuse to accept a sexuality label and never followed the path of least resistance because resistance is not futile. I have not made any exceptions when it comes to my personal ideas of freedom and the desire to live as authentically and as passionately as possible. It is not the easiest path to travel, because this space can often be a lonely one. Most people are conforming in some way and I constantly feel like I am talking to people from behind the glass of a prison visit.
Enter Anais Nin: I am completely on fire. Her words rush through my veins like kerosene, place the spaceless and name the faceless. She lived authentic freedom and understood the great beauty that occurs when we refuse to make concessions. This one piece sums up everything I fight against and the fluctuating awakening which truly saves me from death.
As I have been diving in and out of the works of Anais Nin, I am finding that she is helping me find the inspiration to stick to my resolutions and to stop making concessions. I firmly believe that human consciousness is devolving because our connections to depth are wearing away in the tide of what is “easy” and “convenient”. It is easier not to care. It is easier to tour each other than to truly get to know each other. It is easier to send an email than to pick up the phone. It is easier to die a slow cerebral and spiritual death than it is to live. Dying is easy. Living is hard. I want the beautiful, complex difficulty of being human.
The frenzied passion that drives my art is seen less and less in the external world and I have found myself frantically scraping the bottom of every tiny pool to try and find it. Where are the people who don’t spend all day on Twitter? Where are the people who are so intoxicated with living that they can still weep at a sunset? Where are the people who can take the time to write a beautiful letter instead of sending a Facebook message? Where are the people who are not afraid to love, fuck and dream? Where are the people who refuse to participate in what they do not believe in? Where are the people who are not afraid to jump into each other? Where are the people who remember what they were before the world came in? Where are the people who are not trapped behind a screen, a wall, a face? Where are the people who are truly living out their passions? I know there are many of you. I want to know you. In my dreams, I am surrounded by libertines. Let’s make a planet where the only rule is that you must live life.
Living never wore one out so much as the effort not to live. -Anais Nin