Thinkbox: Self-Realisation in the UK (Read Your Way to Freedom)
Presenting graffiti statements of self-realisation from the United Kingdom; a densely populated area with many roads and cities. Ask yourself when looking at this evidence, what the spirit of these messages represents. A mocking bohemia, or unremitting nihilism?
For me, these sprayed-on social commentaries resonate with the perceptual challenge presented by Gustave Flaubert in his delineative book: 'The Dictionary of Accepted Ideas.' A new graffiti piece could aptly be lifted from it – such a hurried mural would be a wonderful sight, would look so powerful, high on a grey inner-city wall that's magnetic with pollution. Flaubert's slim volume, set out in A-Z format, conveys a caustic comment upon the unquestioned ideas, blindly repeated by middle-class philistines, that Flaubert overheard in cafés over many years. Flicking through the pages these examples among many jump out:
Authors. One should “know a few,” never mind their names.
Document. Invariably “of the highest importance.”
Fever. A sign of the strength of the blood. Caused by prunes, melons, the sun in April, etc.
Furniture. Be apprehensive – every kind of mishap can happen to yours.
Globe. Genteel way of referring to a woman's breasts: “May I be permitted to kiss those adorable globes?”
Hysteria. Confuse with nymphomania.
Imagination. Always “lively.” Be on guard against it. When lacking in oneself, attack it in others. To write a novel, all you need is imagination.
Machiavelli. Though you have not read him, consider him a scoundrel.
Olive Oil. Never good. You should have a friend in Marseille who sends you a small barrel of it.
Otter. Created to make caps and waistcoats.
Pillow. Never use a pillow: it will make you into a hunchback.
Wagner. Snicker on hearing his name and joke about the music of the future.
Our city walls can teach us a lot, as can this book – at once impavid entertainment and the perfect new friend for any fine mind that likes to sleep in formal clothing. It might convince you to become less affected, and to stop reading newspapers... to try looking in as a double outsider.
Plus there are many more books with a similar message, from Henry Miller, to George Orwell, to Andre Gide – books that threaten the platitudes of life and grab at something deep inside you; books that, once opened, could mean you'll never be the same again. Shut that newspaper for the last time, and read your way to freedom. Believe me it's possible! Here are some teasing tasters from those delectably corruptible books that aren't for undiagnosed nitwits:
'Everybody around me was a failure, or if not a failure, ridiculous. Especially the successful ones. The successful ones bored me to tears.' (Tropic of Capricorn)
'It was a bad experience because it taught me how to live a lie. It taught me to smile when I didn't want to smile, to work when I didn't believe in work.' (Tropic of Capricorn)
'If one could earn even ten pounds a week at begging, it would become a respectable profession immediately. A beggar, looked at realistically, is just a businessman, getting his living, like other businessmen, in the way that comes to hand. He has not, more than most modern people, sold his honour; he has merely made the mistake of choosing a trade at which it is impossible to grow rich.' (Down and Out in Paris and London)
'A slave, Marcus Cato said, should be working when he is not sleeping. It does not matter whether his work is needed or not, he must work, because work in itself is good – for slaves, at least. This sentiment still survives, and it has piled up mountains of useless drudgery.' (Down and Out in Paris and London)
'Any work that isn't joyful is wrong, I thought [...]. I wanted to give every one of them all that leisure without which nothing new can develop – no vice, no creativity.' (The Immoralist)
'Their faces, once so bright and youthful, already seem lined by toil and vice and sloth. What vile labours have wrecked these fine, young bodies? Such ruin. … How respectable careers make pigs of us!' (The Immoralist)
All this may seem outrageous. In that case I suggest you keep your protective guard up and carry on spilling cold cups of coffee over yourself at your sneezy workstation. But watch out for an article next week about how to drink a hot beverage whilst walking and attract the envy of your counterparts. A performance such as that could change your standing entirely.
And on that note, good readers, let's end with a short reminder of a film that screams “Think for yourself!” with all its heart.... and of the courage of a certain John Keating in believing in his own beliefs. Click here.
It's time to turn the lamp on. Good evening...
[The nitwits scatter off to bed before midnight, when the best metatonic projects begin]