A comparison between “the agony and sweat” of emotional conflict and “the… anguish and travail” of possible end
“There is only one question: When will I be blown up?”
- William Faulkner, from his Nobel Prize Speech, delivered in Stockholm, Sweden on December 10, 1950
Presented during the opening years of the Cold War, William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize for Literature acceptance speech referenced the standoff, the international turmoil laden with fear of what many thought to be an eminent nuclear war. He recognized the pall’s effects, how it detracted the younger writers, experiencing this constant trepidation towards the United States’ deteriorating relationship with the Soviet Union, from writing about “the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself”. Isn’t it strange that Faulkner found it preferable to experience the onslaught of sentiment, something he proved difficult to bear for Lucius Priest III in a novel detailing the challenges of his coming-of-age? And yet, Faulkner has “only one question: when will [he] be blown up?”
Fear is a powerful thing. It is a motivator, one of the few things that draws out the carnal, animalistic nature that humans readily suppress—fight or flight. Faulkner acknowledged fear’s ability to hinder understanding, whether or not it was in consideration of one’s mortality or otherwise, but in his speech, he expressed a slight nuance that cleaves between those two categories. I suppose that they—fear of death and fear of the end (subjectively speaking, being two very different things)—are comparable, not exactly reflective or parallel, shooting off in the exact same direction or mirroring each other, but they begin at separate places before they converge and, as all things do, diverge. And they constantly bend at perfect angles, and they constantly curve, defying our comfort and veering away from what is natural. The unknown hangs above it all, uncomfortable, waiting. We give dubious consent to be blinded, following along while clutching a rope so we do not fall away into the unknown, but how is a writer able to accomplish anything novel when this fear lies so heavy in his chest? Faulkner does not consider human accountability. He expends all of his air on long-winded sentences that reiterate the same points again and again, just trying to push for comprehension, just some inkling of understanding so the writer finally reaches that epiphany, just that “Oh!” before he is slammed in the face with a simple sentence, short but no more lacking in meaning, and he can write on the human heart, on its struggles and failures and successes. That is “worth the agony and sweat.”
But then, Faulkner’s audience stops, sits back, trying to understand just what is “worth the agony and sweat” that eclipses the uncertainty that Faulkner recognized, because that very same audience, so young and draped in diaphanous innocence, struggled with the concept of their mortality as they constantly pondered “when [would] [they] be blown up?” There is this sense of isolation that sprouts from it, from the fear, and then anger directed inwards at that isolation, carefully avoiding blame on others. Faulkner understood—when young Lucius, no longer draped in diaphanous innocence, sat and just thought, an outpour of anger welled and welled and he “hat[ed]… it all, hat[ed] [everyone] for being the poor frail victims of being alive, having to be alive” (Faulkner, The Reivers 170). He had been afraid, but it morphed into shame, and finally molded into hate. Yet that is all part of the process, Faulkner says, that the young writer “must teach himself that the basest of all things I to be afraid”, and Lucius “was afraid…” yet “no: not afraid, that wasn’t the word; not afraid” (Faulkner 170), and there was a culmination of base emotional response that just spills out, not “the old verities and truths of the heart” that Faulkner scorns, but pity and compassion and even sacrifice. For Lucius, it is a defeat where he loses his naivety, something of value, and he cannot bear to think about it, fearing the unknown in the future. He hopes to forget, he hopes to find a way to forget, because he knows how to live his life with no regrets, for God’s sake, he is still a child, but Grandfather tells him that he cannot forget anything that has happened, because “[n]othing is ever forgotten. Nothing is ever lost. It’s too valuable” (Faulkner 170). Lucius does not understand, not at first, and he spends time wondering “[w]hen will [he] be blown up.” And yet, he learns, Grandfather taking upon himself the writer’s duty of “reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice”. For Lucius, for Faulkner, for the writer, the poet, for the young audience, that is the scales falling from their eyes, thus becoming “the pillars to help him endure and prevail.”
Faulkner, William. The Reivers. New York City: Vintage, 1999. Print.
Faulkner, William. Nobel Speech Prize. Stockholm. December 10, 1950. Speech.
Cataclysmic ringing & ringing & whispering & words
can’t cover the brutal Beethoven crashing through
my eras. Trumpets blast in my head, this drama
exploding & announcing the Four Horsemen. What
is quiet? Solace? Peace? I do not know if any
of those comforts are real. There are some days
when I can separate these sounds that meld into each
other and hear voices sing out discordantly—they
challenge the horns & cannon fire of Tchaikovsky,
echoing & reverberating within the confines of my skull.
In a dictionary that defines words through sensation,
this is cacophony.
Sleep does not equal relief. It is not escape.
It is immersion into the maelstrom that
only consciousness can repress. Freud would be
so delighted, high off of cocaine yet able to
use my mind as proof & further study of
psychoanalysis, (most definitely meaning repression,)
no matter how outdated. Everything passes, consumed with the
end. And the entropy creates the template for
beginning. Ouroboros circles above, mocking me
for trying to cast off these scales on my eyes
to watch time spiral on & on. I sometimes wonder
why they teach history, because no matter
how much we learn, humans are blind. We
are victims of repetition.
Sleep brings regret. It carries my burdens, fluttering
closer and closer as somnolence bears them, heralds
them not unlike the way the winter creeps and
exhales sleep & death. Soft & weak, yet they are
cannons buried in flowers. Does Gilgamesh still turn,
restless in his watery grave in the riverbed? Does he
still damn himself, staunch in his misery, in eternal
mourning? He tosses and turns, the gleam of morning
barely filtering through the shifting water. Does he
see Enkidu’s face, contorted in torment, in the evanescent
vignettes that fall before his unseeing eyes? He
knew Enkidu’s end was coming, and now his soul is
blue-black with the sorrow and the grief. I
sometimes wonder if this pain is the way the world
I’ve spent so long bent over fragments that, no matter how much I try, refuse to stick back together. My fingers are scarred, and every session wasted in an attempt to superglue them to each other only results in fresh wounds over healed ones. Now, I stitch these old wounds clean. I know that it’s useless, considering the rate at which new cuts keep appearing.
My knees are so swollen, a constant purple-black from kneeling over myself like a mother mourning her stillborn child. I ice them over and over again, twenty minutes and then within the next forty-eight hours, I use heat to treat them. But I’m just treating old bruises and new bruises improperly because I don’t know which ones I should pay attention to, and I just…I feel such loss, yet I’m at a loss.
My life is a puzzle that’s missing far too many pieces for me to complete. I go searching in other boxes to find them but always return with one far too small or far too big. I overturn the pieces in frustration, only to go crawling back and murmuring useless apologies while trying to make everything okay again.
Again. What a strange concept. It’s hard to think of a past, when, and where, everything was okay.
"I even hear the mountains
-"Consummation of Grief" by Charles Bukowski
the way they laugh
up and down their blue sides
and down in the water
the fish cry
and the water
is their tears.
I listen to the water
on nights I drink away
and the sadness becomes so great
I hear it in my clock
it becomes knobs upon my dresser
it becomes paper on the floor
it becomes a shoehorn
a laundry ticket
climbing a chapel of dark vines…
it matters little
very little love is not so bad
or very little life
is waiting on walls
I was born for this
I was born to hustle roses down the avenues of the dead."
the entire lord of the rings from the rings perspective
hand hand river dirt gollum hobbits pockets pockets finger envelope fire hand neck neck finger hobbits neck neck neck pocket finger LAVA
it’s amusing that I number
each poem hours before I lay down
on a bed that I pretend is yours and
cover myself with sheets that I pretend
are yours. I’m already aware of this
impending insomnia that strikes
when I beg for some relief from
it’s all so predictable. I keep waiting
for something to change,
for some god to rescue me out
of this den of hungry lions that crave
for something other than the loneliness
that I’ve fed them for so long.
"Life is like watching Fast and the Furious 6. It’s not easy, most of the time it’s just dumb and pointless, everything is fake, there is a lot of noise, but if you close your eyes and picture yourself in an open field or a quiet forest, you can maybe make it to the end without killing yourself."-Jon Lajoie (via asterisk-)
it’s late, but maybe it’s early.
none of that really matters because
I can’t sleep anyways.
whenever I try to, I just find myself
imagining what your lips,
what your skin would feel like.
and lately, I’ve had to look,
every night, in the mirror for a visual
reminder of myself without you.
tonight, i pray that i will never wake up, that i
will drown in the welcoming sea, and that the
final release will be as sweet as it had always
promised to be.
tonight, i pray that my cerebral cortex will
sever, that each breath passing through my lips
stop, and that the pulsing agony will stop emanating
from my chest.
tonight, i will lay down my unclean head on a clean
pillow and dream of a life not lived, of the pain
i would not have suffered had i been naught but a
In a sea full of people, I am completely alone.
I see the faces that fall before my eyes, leaving naught but the impression of burning, consuming flames that glow in their eyes. Their souls—souls that could be eliminated with the slightest breath—illuminate only for that single moment. Even the strongest fire has a weakness.