‘The Bar’ by Maurice de Vlaminck

Painting was an abscess which drained off all the evil in me. Without a gift for painting I would have gone to the bad. What I could have achieved in a social context only by throwing a bomb, which would have led me to the guillotine, I have tried to express in art, in painting, by using colors straight from the tube. Thus I have been able to use my destructive instincts in order to recreate a sensitive, living and free world. Maurice de Vlaminck Great thinkers often complain about the status quo. After all, what else is there for great thinkers to do? There would be no cause for that symbolic action called thinking if the

human world were perfect. The Almighty Deity, the First Cause, the Absolute One certainly has no cause for discontent. Would not Perfect Bliss on this planet constitute death? Must not Pain slightly outrun Pleasure just to keep us going? I think the self-conscious human mind provided for the intelligent organization of our lives is a sort of Trojan horse or Pandora's chest, don't you? All sorts of ills are released for our evolutionary good, and we are, regrettably, held responsible for them. Not only are we conscious of pain and pleasure, we are conscious of the individual self and its inevitable extinction on this plane of existence. The selfconscious mind is, in a sense, the reflection of a disease at the radical root of our civilized discontent - we have Reason, to be ashamed of our natural selves. Therefore Psyche, goddess of the arts, presides over mental illness. Man has long wondered at the enthusiasm or god-possession of talented thinkers and artists. We rightfully fear their intuitions and effusions, for art is fundamentally revolutionary. One might say that art is an effort to tame the wildness evoking it, to master the overflowing power - to dance - to sing - to ponder - to fly. And sometimes art flies too far beyond its basis in the community. Not only do overtly active men and women overdo themselves, but men and women of symbolic action often think too much for their own damn good - they might ascend to exhilarating but painfully alienated heights, then pine away in mental hospitals, or join criminals and saints on scaffolds or in dungeons, or perhaps starve in garrets and gutters. Moreover, from the lucid perspective at the metaphysical summit above the dirty details, some great authors, authorities in their own right, blinded by the highest authority, have lept to doom instead of faith. I think we understandably hide our faces from the Sun lest we realize too soon the scorching brunt of the absolute truth about ourselves.


Pardon me for my elitist approach to the empyrean heights as if only great artists and brilliant authors truly suffer the awful truth of the human predicament! Of course they are not the only sufferers. They simply sum it up and throw it back at everyone who cares to listen. At the crux of human existence, no one is any better or any worse than another, for each one of us is exalted and debased at the same time. We are naturally uneasy although unaware of the source of our discontent in the bipolar crisis along the time-space continuum. We might be, individually or en masse, on the verge of a violent outburst or nervous breakdown. 'Malease' or "bad ease" was once the English term for the vague, uneasy feeling one has before the obvious symptoms of physical disease appear. Surely there must be malease before mental disease has its destructive, obvious indications such as suicide, serial murder and war. Do we not have a vague feeling of impending doom, a sense of being set beside ourselves, on the one side as worms and on the other side as gods? Another term, the French version of malease, comes to mind: 'malaise', a word once associated with romantic artists dissatisfied with their leisure, and with writers suffering writers' block. Now that love of money is the rule, 'malaise' is a term often applied to stagnant economies just before economic depression or mania. Yes, 'malaise' could be used to vaguely indicate the underlying, unconscious mental disease plaguing modern society. Well, sort of; as a frustrated nosologist, I want a more precise term for the modern sickness as I define it - mind you, as a layman I am entitled to some latitude. If we have the right name for our malaise, maybe we can find the right therapy before people start running amuk en masse again. Let's just call the ailment paranoia. Since professionals have abandoned the term as too vague and ambiguous for clinical


practice, we owe them our thanks for the broad license to practice with it. But what do I mean by paranoia? Our paranoia is a delusion, on the one hand, of persecution, not only by malicious conspirators competing to put us down, but by things in general. After all, modern science teaches us that we are effects of Causes which are out to get us. We would be our own causes but something always goes wrong no matter how much went rightly. The most glaring example: death. Moreover, while living we moderns want to be self-made: each man would be the captain of his ship, the king of his castle, the anarchic monarch of his royal realm, the dictator of his democracy of one. But we are imposters and we know it: alas, the world is out to get us: the world always wins in the end - well, we find some little comfort in saying the world passes when we are the ones passing while it sticks around. After all is said in done, we are merely "subjects" in the sense that we are "thrown under" the feet of royalty or reality to eventually be trampled into the dust. Unfortunately, theology does not avoid or cancel our paranoia: it merely calls the king God instead of, for instance, nature with a small "n." Yes, indeed, we are being persecuted by God and nature. No, we are not at the center of anything except our persecution. The universe is out to get us. Nevertheless, we have our delusions of grandeur. Even in our insignificance we are grand, for why would people or the universe be out to get us unless we are important? I for one am astonished by the grandeur of my own insignificance, aren't you? How is this possible, if I am not grand, that I could be so eloquently humiliated? I shall then compete to be the most humble man, to win the grand prize for humility and be proud of it. Besides that, and given the unleashed power of human imagination, we are are actually gods and kings and free subjects of at least our diminished domains. Yes, I know: the world, even our wives, husbands, best friends, belie our royalty; but to heck with that, for inside somewhere there is a free space where our rule is absolute,


where Nothing rules All by virtuous negation; therefore, fear not Nothing: if the real self is Nothing, then let us praise Nothing. All right, let us call our predicament between persecution and grandeur "paranoia." Now then, what is a paranoid person to do, besides getting professional help when he realizes his grandeur is confronted by persecution? Well, he might become a full-fledged paranoid schizophrenic, grab an assault rifle and have at it. Since he is really killing parts of his grand persecuted Self, he might as well make sure he is the last one to be murdered, and finish himself off in the end. Is he really insane? Of course he is. Sometimes I think anyone who is sane would immediately kill himself - why bother to waste time avenging himself on others, for he really is the others themselves; that is, he is the world unto himself. And why not have mass suicide to prevent mass murders - world wars? Mass suicide seems inappropriate. Is there not some viable alternative to such outbreaks and breakdowns? I mean besides the occupations that have lead people to their derangement? Besides watercoloring and handicrafts, how about a course in creative writing to bring the mind to order? Has anyone noticed that quite a few so-called paranoid schizophrenics who go on killing sprees have much in common with frustrated writers? They want publicity; they want fame; they want to make a statement, or have written a manifesto and want it published. Unfortunately, they often want to kill others to save them from the horrible truth they have finally discovered. Murdering others is a form of suicide, and these deranged people take their suicide seriously. They have submitted to the so-called death instinct. They love death because they want to start all over again. It occurs to me that religion has the same ascetic theme in mind, but the suicide is virtual instead of real, thank God - if you have one. At the very core of predominant religions, we find the practice of virtual suicide, the giving up of the world and its things that are persecuting us with


temptations and big disappointments. Not to be out done, most philosophy is a death or virtual suicide cult. Ironically, we live longer as a consequence of the civilizing restraints. With that in mind, I believe it might behoove society to convert the potentially insane, especially those who are not ready to commit suicide or murder yet, into famous writers, assuring them of at least bare subsistence - the discipline of poverty alone might be therapeutic providing subsistence is guaranteed. If they were only recognized and confirmed as Somebody, perhaps they would be at peace with themselves and would be of no further danger to themselves or society they would become more productive members of society and many gifted writers might arise from their ranks. What they need is publicity and recognition, and given our advances in technology, why cannot they have it? Open publishing on the Internet might be the ticket to a more sane society. After all, almost everyone has had some aspiration to be a famous author. Surely there is enough room for all on the Internet. "You are published on the World Wide Web!" But alas, that wears off, for given the abundance of supply, literally hordes of uneasy people who need to be Somebody, very few writers become recognized or famous. Despite the advent of open publishing sites on the Internet, we are left with the modern disease, paranoia. The serious cases need immediate attention or all hell will soon break loose. Eureka! Opportunity knocks! What is called for is the right niche for maximum exposure of paranoia, a special magazine for serious cases of frustrated fame in dire need of immediate therapeutic publication and recognition. Heretofore the Media, owned and operated by They, has prohibited the publication of anything not in accord with its maddening agenda, but now those who are most frustrated with the persecution of their grand selves can have an appropriate outlet where they might be relieved of their death wishes and become famous at the same time!


As I envision it, the new Ezine and its free street edition would fill the awful void that causes so many people to kill other people and themselves, by giving them a single question to focus on and answer, "To be or not to be." Camus said it rightly: in this absurd, apparently meaningless modern world, that must be the first question to be considered and answered one way or another; it must take precedence over all the other categories. In fact, our modern disease is aggravated by the proliferation of categories everywhere: for instance, the divisions of labor and the production of a bewildering chaos of garbage, trash and junk. A simplified life is called for pursuant to the reintegration of the disintegrated Humpty-Dumpty personality around the ultimate question. I have a title for the magazine in mind: Suicide Someday - for those who are not ready yet. I am very excited by the prospects. I am confident Suicide Someday will not only provide the few moments of fame demanded by paranoid people, but will be an enormous commercial success as well. Therefore I must leave off here and proceed to draft a business plan.


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