Take back that look. Close the door
To that shuttered room.
The thought of what we left, forget.
Those shadows, too, that let
Such thirst for what we said not, in.
Those beads of memory you tell
Tell no more. That perfume still,
The subtle drug and wine.
Cover you. Put glasses on
Feign, conceal, lest we begin
What well we know must end. So, so,
No last lamenting kiss, but go.
Wangechi Mutu on failure via Art 21
"In a sense, failure is a tail that’s chasing me. I’m running away from it, but it’s attached to me. It helps me project myself forward. It keeps me from looking backwards too much. At the same time, my work has grown bigger and moved further than I thought it would because I make mistakes along the way. For example, I’ve been making collages for years, but something will happen in the process of making a new body of work, and it will seem to ruin a piece. Sometimes it’s from over-flowing ink or over-spraying a section, basically doing something I didn’t mean to do, that forces me to look for a new trajectory, a new solution. I really do believe that embedded in a mistake is the next new idea, which is to me a metaphor for life and for death. That thing that kills a piece will grant life to another body of work. And the longer you live, the closer you come to dying, and the more you have to keep generating new ideas and new reasons to be here, to be useful, to be important, to be a living being."
Image: Wangechi Mutu, Once upon a time she said, I’m not afraid and her enemies began to fear her The End, 2013; site-specific installation; dimensions variable. Courtesy the Brooklyn Museum
in leading my life
around society’s ideals
of “never looking back.”
Every few moons,
I look over my shoulder—
just long enough
to serve as a humbling reminder
of how far I have come,
and how far I’ve left to go.
A letter from Akira Kurosawa to Ingmar Bergman in honor of the latter’s 70th birthday. Originally published in Chaplin film magazine, 1988.
One of the oldest and most universal moral precepts is the Golden Rule: Treat others as you want them to treat you. That mandate shows up in Confucianism and in the Code of Hammurabi. It was reiterated by Seneca and by the Buddha. It appears in the Bible, as the command to love thy neighbor as thyself. It might possibly have been taught to more people than any other notion in history.
It is also, on reflection, a little weird. For a guideline about how to treat others, the Golden Rule is strikingly egocentric. It does not urge us to consult our neighbors about their needs; it asks us only to generalize from ourselves—to imagine, in essence, that everyone’s idea of desirable treatment matches our own. As such, it makes a curiously narrow demand on our imagination, and, accordingly, on our behavior… .
Middlemarch breaks with this tradition. Morality does not start with the self, Eliot insists; it starts when we set the self aside. “Will not a tiny speck very close to our vision blot out the glory of the world?” she asks. And then: “I know no speck so troublesome as self.” What a killer line, and what a memorable image. We dwell in moral myopia; literally and figuratively, we are too close to ourselves.
[George] Eliot never stops resisting the autocracy of the self; what Copernicus was to geocentricity, she is to egocentricity.
Girls know perfectly well that structural sexism means they can’t have everything they’re being told they must have. They are striving to have it all everyway, striving to have everything and be everything like good girls are supposed to, and it hasn’t broken them yet, for good or ill. That’s is one reason young women still do so well in school and at college despite our good grades not translating to real-world success. It’s one reason we’re so good at getting those entry-level service jobs: we are not burdened by the excess of ego, the desire to be treated like a human being first, that prevents many young men from engaging proactively with an economy that just wants self-effacing drones trained to smile till it hurts.
The press just loves to act concerned about half-naked young ladies, preferably with illustrations to facilitate the concern. Somehow nothing changes. And maybe that’s the point. Maybe part of the function of the constant stream of news about young girls hurting and hating themselves isn’t to raise awareness. Maybe part of it is designed to be reassuring.
It must be comforting, if you’re invested in the status quo, to hear that young women are punished and made miserable when they misbehave.
“I wouldn’t be the person I am, I wouldn’t understand what I understand, were it not for certain books. I’m thinking of the great question of nineteenth-century Russian literature: how should one live? A novel worth reading is an education of the heart. It enlarges your sense of human possibility, of what human nature is, of what happens in the world. It’s a creator of inwardness.”
—Susan Sontag, born today in 1933.