W e b l o g -- Charles Bernstein
 |||| ||UB Poetics EPC


Charles Bernstein

EPC Author Page

What I Learned in School Today: A Soliloquy of Sorts

Human nature is supposed to exist, subsist, between the irreconcilable dualities of good and evil, restraint and decadence, moralism and hedonism, reality and artifice, substance and surface, truth and falsehood. Fashion personifies these tensions: although we are born nude, we are propelled by society and necessity to cover up, to literally “hide” ourselves.  With the birth of fashion comes the problem of existence: our endless futile desire to express our inner “truth” via our outer “false” appearance.  The inefficacy of fashion is a symbol of the limitations of all language, of all efforts at communication between persons. Attempts at talking through our images and through words are always rendered through a web of misunderstanding; the requirement of a medium in all communication always necessarily dilutes and warps the message. This is manifest in the earliest states of human recognition, found first in the fundamental disconnect between our inner cognition and our image in the mirror.

All inner and outer life finds itself eternally irresolvable.

Why try to dispute or ignore these polarities? The idea of control becomes the one human faculty that provides the fantasy of possibility: either the gain of complete control, or the loss of complete control.  Extreme asceticism is proposed by one group, extreme aestheticism by the other; again, the solution is posited as moralism versus hedonism.  Those who take the “middle way” are seen by the extremists as weak, normalized individuals. Perhaps. Or perhaps both of these options, extremity of choice or resolve, are flawed.

The mysterious beauty of life and art is located within the irreconcilable poles of human nature. It is only in the very search for meaning that we find meaning.  Out of visibility is born the possibility of invisibility.  Without the drive to communicate we find no reason to live.  The simultaneous adoration and hatred of beauty is the only true expression of love; in order to express love we must participate both in the annihilation and the proliferation of ourselves.  When we “give” ourselves to each other we ultimately “take” from each other as well.  Nietzche has said that “acts of love always take place beyond good and evil.” Love does not need names, it does not need faces, it resides in feeling alone, in the sensations of the present and the impossibility of this presentness.  Time does not pause, but love does.  

Ultimately, love is fatal and impossible; it is the embodiment of the human search and its meaninglessness. But without this desire to express, to love, to create and to destroy…we come to a standstill. In order to have knowledge we must leave the garden. It is in this beautiful misery of our condition that we must find the seeds of happiness.  Impossibility is possibility. The most passionate and creative love is that which is doomed to exist among constants, forever fettered to the diametric forces of life.  This love exists indeed a realm beyond reality, but without it we have only our ticking mortality and our impenetrable fate.

Therefore, don’t just live for the moment, or in the moment, be the moment; embrace doom while doom embraces you.

Track List:
Metal Heart, Cat Power
Spring Hall Convert, Deerhunter
Instrumental 2, Windy & Carl
We Can't Be Contained, Love
Mote, Sonic Youth
Killing all the Flies, Mogwai

(Mixtapes are better than Manifestos).

Emma Bee Bernsein
March 23, 2008

link    |  12-24-08

Electronic Poetry Center