SMALL CRAFT WARNING
This began as a run-on sentence begging to be a poem. Usually I resist such pleadings as I don’t know good from bad, poetry-wise, but it won me over, sorry. Of course, it then morphed into and 880-word rant, sorry again. Then there happened a doodle in the very same journal, but that refused to morph in to a post-able drawing, I tried three times, but I could not create a sunset reflected on water from my imagination. But after looking at Belinda Broughton’s latest haiga posts, I gave up over thinking and just traced (wacom/photoshop) a scan of the doodle; I added some grays which I converted to color with gradient map and replace color; added the haiku and there you have it. The rant is below, if you care to read on.
The aging artist / reflects, seeks inspiration; / draws only mosquitoes. Damn, a haiku! But in no way poetry, he can’t do that, only prose. In the illustration his small craft is cleverly named the “Betty Black,” A bete noire, get it? Double meaning for craft and reflect too. Please say you appreciate this kind of humor.
So what’s the black beast? Two, actually, (or just two faced?) named Love and Respect. They are imaginary beings often conflated with real doings, sex and conversation. He misses conversation more than sex because he had better luck with that when he was younger.
For him, sex abruptly became unavailable 25 yrs ago and after a couple of foolish and accordingly rejected attempts he stopped trying to regain it. Was Love ever present with it? Would he have known? If recognizing Love something you have to be taught; he wasn’t paying attention that day. If it is something so obvious anyone can see it then he’s not anyone.
Conversation—what happens when there is mutual Respect—ended differently, not as harshly as the rejection from sex but smoothly almost imperceptibly. Verbal intercourse persists, but it’s not what it was—not that he remembers it right. He remembers exchanges of thoughts and feelings (for the most part) sincerely communicated by words and gestures. People listened back then, he remembers; now they just talk.
Now, conversation is almost all commercial. All participants seem to be selling themselves. They are all trying to get money, time, approval etc. from each other. And if there isn’t something to be bought or sold, there is no time for a “chat.” Polite, formulaic exchanges continue, but they are kept as brief as possible and woe be to anyone if they try to extent that, because in this hyper-pragmatic world even conversation is commodified. If the cash value of every exchange is not willfully being figuring by the parties involved; it is certainly being done unconsciously.
And our artist is losing his exchange value; he is much less useful as both employee or spouse—the contestants in the respect and love arenas—than he was even a decade ago. Now, hardly anyone he deals with finds him worth their effort beyond the above mentioned formalities. But now loneliness confounds his necessary alone time as much as the others did; he can’t seem to win.
He had a career and marriages but he ignored the signs that they were not as advertised. With his career he replaced the missing respect with fantasies as needed to keep up the illusions until fantasies were all that was left. But with his marriages there was nothing to hang any fantasies on.
Faith,“…the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11: 1, KJV) He’s lost that for the things called Love and Respect He’s realizing slowly and not without relapse and hesitation that anger and sadness of imagining then failing it realize such “things not seen” or “things hoped for” was his projected then introjected bete[s] noire. And that making peace with could be a real “vocation.”
So he’s not angry/sad, OK just a little, but not as extreme as espoused above, he’s getting more and more resolved to acceptance to both career and marriage failures. Yes, he sold his soul the company store for a bit of security, hence his (late) middle life crisis when he bought the role of suffering artist instead of the usual fast car. And then there’s marriage: there is a big component of right time right place—and right person—in a successful one. He’d like to think he was simply never in the right place or time but he suspects its because he’s not a right person, for that endeavor, anyway.
So, there you have it, nothing left to do but admit guilt—to the extent fair, but no more—and move on. To where, though? To begin with, past the fantasies of both a successful career and marriage that were based on stories told by the Old Ones that were perhaps possible “back in the day” but certainly not at the end of the 20th century let alone these days.
To where there might be a few others out there who could be old-school style friends, kindred spirits with similar enough histories and circumstances to make conversation possible, but they are no doubt widely dispersed so the finding of them will be nearly impossible and even if found they will be are far away and have more important things to do. There could be occasional emails or blog comments, so all is not lost.
To where there’s art. Art is the one thing—unlike career and marriage—that doesn’t require others’ advice and consent. Art, both the doing and the being of it, persists independently of all else besides you and it. He doesn’t know why, it just does.
And to where he can work to put those painful conflicts—his bete noire—between what could be and is, those ideas that truth isn’t happening to, aside. With art and possibly friends helping he can do this because he knows now that he doesn’t need an excuse to get into his craft at sunset to contemplate and maybe illustrate yet another bete noire.