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epiphany on epiphany

The day wore on like that, with lots to eat and drink, the sun out strong, a car to tote us around, cigars in between, dozing a little on the beach studying the cunts passing by, talking, laughing, singing a bit too - one of many, many days I spent like that with MacGregor. Days like that really seemed to make the wheel stop. On the surface it was jolly and happy go lucky; time passing like a sticky dream. But underneath it was fatalistic, premonitory, leaving me the next day morbid and restless. I knew very well I’d have to make a break some day; I knew very well I was pissing my time away. But I knew also that there was nothing I could do about it - yet. Something had to happen, something big, something that would sweep me off my feet. All I needed was a push, but it had to be some force outside my world that could give me the right push, that I was certain of.

I couldn’t eat my heart out, because it wasn’t in my nature. All my life things had worked out all right - in the end. It wasn’t in the cards for me to exert myself. Something had to be left to Providence - in my case a whole lot. Despite all the outward manifestations of misfortune or mismanagement I knew that I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth. And with a double crown too. The external situation was bad, admitted - but what bothered me more was the internal situation. I was really afraid of myself, of my appetite, my curiosity, my flexibility, my permeability, my malleability, my geniality, my powers of adaptation. No situation in itself could frighten me: I somehow always saw myself sitting pretty, sitting inside a buttercup, as it were and sipping the honey. Even if I were flung in jail I had a hunch I’d enjoy it. It was because I knew how not to resist, I suppose. Other people wore themselves out tugging and straining and pulling; my strategy was to float with the tide.

What people did to me didn’t bother me nearly so much as what they were doing to others or to themselves. I was really so damned well off inside that I had to take on the problems of the world. And that’s why I was in a mess all the time. I wasn’t synchronized with my own destiny, so to speak. I was trying to live out the world destiny. If I got home of an evening, for instance, and there was no food in the house, not even for the kid, I would turn right around and go looking for the food. But what I noticed about myself, and that was what puzzled me, was that no sooner outside and hustling for the grub than I was back at the Weltanschauung again. I didn’t think of food for us exclusively, I thought of food in general, food in all its stages, everywhere in the world at that hour, and how it was gotten and how it was prepared and what people did if they didn’t have it and how maybe there was a way to fix it so that everybody would have it when they wanted it and no more time wasted on such an idiotically simple problem. I felt sorry for the wife and kid, sure, but also felt sorry for the Hottentots and the Australian Bushmen, not to mention the starving Belgians and the Turks and the Armenians. I felt sorry for the human race, for the stupidity of man and his lack of imagination. Missing a meal wasn’t so terrible - it was the ghastly emptiness of the street that disturbed me profoundly.

All those bloody houses, one like another, and all so empty and cheerless-looking. Fine paving stones under foot and asphalt in the middle of the street and beautifully-hideously-elegant brown-stone stoops to walk up, and yet a guy could walk about all day and all night on this expensive material and be looking for a crust of bread. That’s what got me. The incongruousness of it If one could only dash out with a dinner bell and yell “Listen, listen, people, I’m a guy what’s hungry. Who wants shoes shined? Who wants the garbage brought out? Who wants the drainpipes cleaned out?” If you could only go out in the street and put it to them dear like that. But no, you don’t dare to open your trap. If you tell a guy in the street you’re hungry you scare the shit out of him, he runs like hell.

That’s something I never understood. I don’t understand it yet. The whole thing is so simple - you just say Yes when some one comes up to you. And if you can’t say Yes you can take him by the arm and ask some other bird to help you out. Why you have to don a uniform and kill men you don’t know, just to get that crust of bread, is a mystery to me. That’s what I think about, more than about whose trap it’s going down or how much it costs. Why should I give a fuck about what anything costs ? I’m here to live, not to calculate. And that’s just what the bastards don’t want you to do - to live! They want you to spend your whole life adding up figures. That makes sense to them. That’s reasonable. That’s intelligent. If I were running the boat things wouldn’t be so orderly perhaps, but it would be gayer, by Jesus! You wouldn’t have to shit in your pants over trifles. Maybe there wouldn’t be macadamized roads and streamlined cars and loudspeakers and gadgets of a million-billion varieties, maybe there wouldn’t even be glass in the windows, maybe you’d have to sleep on the ground, maybe there wouldn’t be French cooking and Italian cooking and Chinese cooking, maybe people would kill each other when their patience was exhausted and maybe nobody would stop them because there wouldn’t be any jails or any cops or judges, and there certainly wouldn’t be any cabinet ministers or legislatures because-there wouldn’t be any goddamned laws to obey or disobey, and maybe it would take months and years to trek from place to place, but you wouldn’t need a visa or a passport or a carte d’identité because you wouldn’t be registered anywhere and you wouldn’t bear a number and if you wanted to change your name every week you could do it because it wouldn’t make any difference since you wouldn’t own anything except what you could carry around with you and why would you want to own anything when everything would be free?

And if they tell you that these things had to be, that things could not have happened otherwise, that France did her best and Germany her best and that little Liberia and little Ecuador and all the other allies also did their best, and that since the war everybody has been doing his best to patch things up or to forget, tell them that their best is not good enough, that we don’t want to hear any more this logic of “doing the best one can”, tell them we don’t want the best of a bad bargain, we don’t believe in bargains good or bad, nor in war memorials. We don’t want to hear about the logic of events - or any kind of logic. “Je ne parle pas logique,” said Montherlant, “je parle generosite.” I don’t think you heard it very well, since it was in French. I’ll repeat it for you, in the Queen’s own language; “I’m not talking logic, I’m talking generosity.” That’s bad English, as the Queen herself might speak it, but it’s clear.

Generosity - do you hear? You never practise it, any of you, either in peace or in war. You don’t know the meaning of the word. You think to supply guns and ammunition to the winning side is generosity; you think sending Red Cross nurses to the front, or the Salvation Army, is generosity. You think a bonus twenty years too late is generosity; you think a little pension and a wheel chair is generosity; you think if you give a man his old job back it’s generosity. You don’t know what the fucking war means, you bastards! To be generous is to say Yes before the man even opens his mouth. To say Yes you have to first be a Surrealist or a Dadaist, because you have understood what it means to say No. You can even say Yes and No at the same time, provided you do more than is expected of you. Be a stevedore in the day time and a Beau Brummel in the night-time. Wear any uniform so long as it’s not yours. When you write your mother ask her to cough up a little dough so that you may have a clean rag to wipe your ass with. Don’t be disturbed if you see your neighbour going after his wife with a knife: he probably has good reason to go after her, and if he kills her you may be sure he has the satisfaction of knowing why he did it. If you’re trying to improve your mind, stop it. There’s no improving the mind. Look at your heart and gizzard - the brain is in the heart.