Saturday, July 21, 2007
2. "There exists a 'deifugal' force. Otherwise all would be God." (Simone Weil)
I saw this image about a year ago, driving somewhere out beyond Mudgee and Orange in central western New South Wales, looking for locations for a short film I plan to make called "Air". I can't remember any more exactly where this place was; it was on a day of random driving through back-roads, and while I noted down locations of relevance to the film, this was just a "stop-the-car, did-I-just-see-that?" moment. And how lovely, and odd, it is. I'd love to know more about it, but figure I may never.
It's all pretty flat out there, but this was an area where I was winding up and down hills. This image was a long way from anywhere, on a rock face, close to the road, on a bend. What is it doing here? It's the kind of image you'd find stencilled around the inner city - close to an art school, perhaps, an obsessive little motif scattered in back alleys. But not all alone, a hundred kilometres outside of Mudgee. And what is the flying man doing exactly? Or thinking, on his lonely central western vigil? And are those wings? And is he wearing a suit? The shoes make me think so. And is that a signature? A "D"? And a kiss?
Right now I'm in Paris, and that road trip seems a long time ago. I've been reading "Gravity and Grace" by Simone Weil; this appears to have been just the right July, just the right hemisphere (Freudian pun), just the right Paris in which to read something really challenging - I have to concentrate, hard - that opens out, now and again, into these flashes of recognition. But it comes to you quite calmly. Reading Weil, it's like you are picnicking with astonishment. I mean, you spread the blanket, you open the picnic basket, and look - astonishing bread, astonishing knives that glint as you cut.
"To strip ourselves," she says, "of the imaginary royalty of the world. Absolute solitude. Then we possess the truth of the world."
Later: "We have to go down to the root of our desires in order to tear the energy from its object. That is where the desires are true in so far as they are energy. It is the object which is unreal. But there is an unspeakable wrench in the soul at the separation of a desire from its object."
This morning I had breakfast with my friend Maria and her fiancé J-F the fireman, at his apartment above the fire station at St Sulpice. Then Maria and I rode bicycles across Paris to her apartment in the 18th, and then down to her dress shop, elegantly minimalist, in the 3rd. which she had to open around midday.
Eleven years ago I had ridden pillion on the back of Laurent E's moped, as we careened through this city that was everything he knew and loved. This was a bright time for him. But he never quite made it through, and died last year, far too young, and troubled. The last I saw him, eighteen months ago, he had run out of the café, crying with shame at where his life had gotten to. Perhaps my unexpected arrival had brought back for him memories of what once was. This week I will visit his grave, at the cemetery out near the Porte de Pantin. The first time, perhaps, I've understood the concrete necessity to say goodbye.
And yet today, whirling through Paris, trailing Maria the navigator, just as eleven years ago, watching the city unfold over Laurent's shoulder, what I experienced was a kind of flow. Which is nice, because for various reasons, these are stop-start times, and flow is not a given.
Weil: "In general we must not wish for the disappearance of any of our troubles, but grace to transform them."