A while ago I subscribed to Nick Cave’s “Red Hand Files,” where he answers questions from fans when the mood strikes him. The latest one is so good that I thought I’d share it here. I don’t think Nick would mind; this is the kind of message that begs to be promulgated.
Following the last few years I’m feeling empty and more cynical than ever. I’m losing faith in other people, and I’m scared to pass these feelings to my little son. Do you still believe in Us (human beings)? —Valerio
You are right to be worried about your growing feelings of cynicism and you need to take action to protect yourself and those around you, especially your child. Cynicism is not a neutral position — and although it asks almost nothing of us, it is highly infectious and unbelievably destructive. In my view, it is the most common and easy of evils.
I know this because much of my early life was spent holding the world and the people in it in contempt. It was a position both seductive and indulgent. The truth is, I was young and had no idea what was coming down the line. I lacked the knowledge, the foresight, the self-awareness. I just didn’t know. It took a devastation to teach me the preciousness of life and the essential goodness of people. It took a devastation to reveal the precariousness of the world, of its very soul, to understand that it was crying out for help. It took a devastation to understand the idea of mortal value, and it took a devastation to find hope.
Unlike cynicism, hopefulness is hard-earned, makes demands upon us, and can often feel like the most indefensible and lonely place on Earth. Hopefulness is not a neutral position either. It is adversarial. It is the warrior emotion that can lay waste to cynicism. Each redemptive or loving act, as small as you like, Valerio, such as reading to your little boy, or showing him a thing you love, or singing him a song, or putting on his shoes, keeps the devil down in the hole. It says the world and its inhabitants have value and are worth defending. It says the world is worth believing in. In time, we come to find that it is so.
The Judgment: Returning. Success. Going in and coming out without error. Friends come without blame. To and fro goes the way. On the seventh day comes return. It furthers one to have somewhere to go.
This hexagram is one of the twelve calendar hexagrams based on the coming and going of the light of the sun in the course of the year. Here the single line that has entered the hexagram at the bottom represents the first increase in the altitude of the sun since the winter solstice, hence its name, “Returning.”
The Sage defines the theme of this hexagram as returning to one’s original nature, and to unity with the Cosmic Whole, through splitting apart from the ego.
Returning also indicates the direction in which the path of development leads: back to the person’s original nature. It does not lead forward, through cultivating virtues or becoming something we are not, but is a process of continuous subtraction of what we have falsely added, thus to allow the true self to resume its path toward maturation. Each step on this path leads to increasing light and relief. One takes this path through ceasing to look outward for the solutions to problems, to look inward instead, to the choices that have been made.
I Ching: The Oracle of the Cosmic Way Carol K. Anthony & Hanna Moog
“Being beautiful in itself, youth needs no transfiguration: in its abundance of strong life it is drawn to the tragic, and is happy to allow melancholy to suck sweetly from its still inexperienced bloom.”
I recently finished Nabokov’s autobiography Speak, Memory. I feel like I understood most of it. With Nabokov there’s always a vague sense of embarrassment, even annoyance, that his writing in English — which is not even his native language, mind you — seems to be pitched at people with a level of literacy above my own. Forget about feeling in any way competitive with him as a writer; I’m talking about the struggle for basic comprehension on a survival level.
And then you come across a paragraph like this one, and what can you do but shake your head and bow in reverence?
Whenever in my dreams I see the dead, they always appear silent, bothered, strangely depressed, quite unlike their dear, bright selves. I am aware of them, without any astonishment, in surroundings they never visited during their earthly existence, in the house of some friend of mine they never knew. They sit apart, frowning at the floor, as if death were a dark taint, a shameful family secret. It is certainly not then – not in dreams – but when one is wide awake, at moments of robust joy and achievement, on the highest terrace of consciousness, that mortality has a chance to peer beyond its own limits, from the mast, from the past and its castle tower. And although nothing much can be seen through the mist, there is somehow the blissful feeling that one is looking in the right direction.
Space is generated by need. Let’s say you’d like to take a walk. You simply project in front of you the necessary space which you walk across as and when [you need it]. The same with time. Just as a spider secretes the thread down which she climbs, so you secrete the time you need to do whatever you have to, and you proceed along this thread which is visible only behind you but usable only ahead of you.