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As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh, Susan Sontag
yirt_studies

Love

I valued professional competence + force, think (since age four?) that that was, at least, more attainable than being lovable “just as a person.”

Can I say: I am disappointed in Irene. She is not what I thought, believed she was (is)?
No?
Why not?
Because she got there first – she is disappointed in me.

When Irene + I came together, I promised always to find her “marvelous.” That was one of the terms of our contract, and any violation of that was a betrayal, an assault, a rejection. But think what one would have to be (what condition of one's ego, etc.) to make that a condition of a relation. Limiting the free exercise of the other person's mind.
And how it fitted into my neurotic set. How I'd always wanted, longed to find someone marvelous! All my life. And no one had ever helped me enough (made me) do it. No one had ever explicitly denied me the right to “see” them, to stand at a distance from them, to understand them, to find fault with them. Everyone (I knew) always wanted, somewhere to be seen, to be understood. (Even my mother, even Philip.) Now, I longed for that interdiction! (Don't see me. I'll see you.) For someone with the arrogance, the certitude, the talent to enforce it.

It's less mad to fall in love often (less inaccurate for there are many wonderful people in the world) than only two or three times in one's life. Or maybe it's better to always be in love with several people at any given time.


Family

Irene was jealous of David because that was the one part of my life she couldn't completely take over.
If I hadn't had David, would she have stayed as long as she did?
If I hadn't had David, would I have survived 4½ years?
One thing I know: If I hadn't had David, I would have killed myself last year.

Mother:-
My acute anxiety + dread of her growing old, looking old – at one time, I even wished to die first because I wouldn't be able to bear seeing that – It would be something like “obscene.”
Why was that so terrible? For one thing, because her beauty was her one quality I genuinely admired. When I told her how beautiful she was, I really meant it. And I was so glad, so grateful to be able for once to say something to her I really, wholeheartedly, meant.

I identify with David, he is the boy I wanted to be – I don't need to be a boy because he exists. (Bad consequence of this: it would upset me if he became homosexual. I'm sure he won't. But I shouldn't unconsciously forbid it.)


Time

My loyalty to the past – my most dangerous trait, the one that has cost me most.

I'm so stuck on the “was” of people –

Angelic apprehension of the past – neutrality –
All one's experiences are equally important, singular (psychoanalysis teaches one to jduge one's experiences, judge one's past)


Art

Modern aesthetics is crippled by its dependence upon the concept of “beauty.” As if art were “about” beauty – as science is “about” truth!

“Art” (+ “work of art”) are categories as arbitrary + artificial as “nature” - a painting + a novel have little in common – no more than a mountain + a running brook.


Sex

I experience the writing as given to me – sometimes, almost, as dictated. I let it come, try not to interfere with it. I respect it, because it's me and yet more than me. It's personal and transpersonal, both.
I would like to feel that way about sex, too. As if “nature” or “life” used me. And I trust that, and let myself be used.
An attitude of surrender to oneself, to life. Prayer. Let it be, whatever it will be. I give myself to it.
Prayer: peace and voluptuousness.
In this, no room for shame and anxiety as to how the little old self rates in the light of some objective standard of performance.
One must be devout about sex. Then, one won't dare to be anxious. Anxiety will never be revealed for what it is – spiritual meanness, pettiness, small-mindedness.

I am left with a complete paralysis of my sexual life – she rejected me because I was no good in bed, I am no good in bed – and a terrible anxiety about taking from people (even cups of coffee) except when it appears to be totally impersonal.

I come each night around 2.00 or 3.00. The NY Times is my lover.

The longing to touch / be touched. I feel gratitude when I touch someone – as well as affection, etc. The person has allowed me proof that I have a body – and that there are bodies in the world.

I love anyone – at least a little – who touches me. Anyone who touches me gives me something in that instant: my body.


Intelligence

I don't care about someone being intelligent; any situation between people, when they are really human with each other, produces “intelligence.”

Intelligence is not necessarily a good thing, something to value or cultivate. It's more like a fifth wheel – necessary or desirable when things break down. When things go well, it's better to be stupid...Stupidity is as much a value as intelligence.

I like to feel dumb. That's how I know there's more in the world than me.

David isn't as precocious or creative as I was as a child, + this bothers him. He compares me at age nine with him at nine; me age thirteen with him now. I tell him he doesn't have to be as bright. He has other satisfactions.

I'm not ambitious because I'm complacent. At five, I announced to Mabel (?) I was going to win the Nobel Prize. I knew I would be recognized. Life was an escalator, not a ladder. And I also knew – as the years went on – that I wasn't smart enough to be Schopenhauer or Nietzsche or Wittgenstein or Sartre or Simone Weil. I aimed to be in their company, as a disciple; to work on their level. I had, I knew – I have – a good mind, even a powerful one. I'm good at understanding things - + ordering them - + using them. (My cartographic mind.) But I'm not a genius. I've always known that.
My mind isn't good enough, isn't really first rate. And my character, my sensibility is ultimately too conventional. (I was too much infected by the Rosie-Mother-Judith-Nat drivel; just to hear all that for fifteen years ruined me). I'm not mad enough, not obsessed enough.
Do I resent not being a genius? Am I sad about it? Would I be willing to pay the price for that? I think the price is solitude, inhuman life such as I now lead, hoping it to be temporary. Even now – I know my mind has gone a step forward by virtue of being alone the last 2½ years without Irene, don't have to package + dilute my responses because I share them with another person. (Inevitably, with Philip + with Irene, they were reduced to the common denominator, the consensus.) The impact Jasper has made on me – the new intellectual thing in my life this past year – would not have been possible if I were still with Irene.
But why do I want - + what good is it – to go on pushing my sensibility further + further, honing my mind. Becoming more unique, eccentric.
Spiritual ambition? Vanity? Because I've given up on human satisfactions (except for David)?
I've got this thing – my mind. It gets bigger, its appetite is insatiable.

I started thinking using my mind, because I'd never seen anyone do it. I didn't think anyone had a mind except in the Pantheon (mostly dead, foreign) – Mme. Curie, Shakespeare, Mann, etc. Everyone else was like my mother, Rosie, Judith. If I'd known about the middle ground – all the intelligent, thoughtful, sensitive people, who knows? I might never have gone on + on + on with my mind. For partly I did that because I thought no one was taking care of that at all. The mind needed my help to survive.

Intelligence [on a list of “qualities that turn me on”] means having a sensibility (articulatable, verbalizable) that if not really original has at least a definite personal signature. That I can be thrilled by things a person says.

I'm suffering from a lack of intellectual stimulation. I've exaggerated, over-reacted against the academic milieu in which I was completely submerged in my youth. That was an exaggeration. Then, starting with Harriet, I began an equivalent exaggeration in the opposite direction. It has become more and more extreme, so that in recent years I have spent almost all my time with people with mediocre minds. - However they pleased me (because they were warmer, more sensual, more sensitive, had more experience of “the world”), they didn't stimulate me. I thought less and less. My mind got lazy, passive. I gained a lot but I also paid a big price. And it's that price now that humiliates me. I find many books difficult to read! (Especially philosophy).


Change

The only transformation that interests me is a total transformation – however minute. I want the encounter with a person or a work of art to change everything.


Politics

I haven't learned to mobilize rage - (I perform militant actions, without militant feeling)

Women don't die for each other. There is no “sororal” death as there is a fraternal death.

I am a militant feminist but not a feminist militant. (D)


Literature

I realize, rereading that essay [on Paul Nizan], how important Satre has been for me. He is the model – that abundance, that lucidity, that knowingness. And the bad taste.

The interesting writer is where this an adversary, a problem. Why Stein is not, finally, a good or helpful writer. There is no problem. It's all affirmation. A rose is a rose is a rose.


Solitude

Mad people = people who stand alone + burn. I'm attracted to them because they give me permission to do the same.

I must learn to be alone – and what I've discovered is that being with David isn't being alone (despite my acute loneliness). It's a whole universe of its own, to which I adjust. With David, I become a different person than I am alone.
What I liked about being with Barbara is that I felt more adult with her than with most people.
When I'm alone – after a while – I do begin to look at people. I don't, with David (he inhibits me? I'm distracted by him?); I don't with Elliott (his interests, their specificity, confuse + distract me).
These minutes, writing this in the lobby of the Ambassador – at a table spread with a white cloth, by the open doors on a fine Saturday morning, having just finished a big breakfast (two boiled eggs, Prague ham, roll with honey, coffee) and alone, alone (David upstairs, still sleeping) – watching the other people in the lobby, on the terrace, passing on the street – have been the first moments since the beginning of the summer in which I've had some sense of well-being.
I am alone – I ache – the novel is bogged down – and so on. Yet for the first time, despite all the anguish + the “reality problems,” I'm here. I feel tranquil, whole, ADULT.

I used myself as another person...Ivan says it's all in “The Pornographic Imagination.” (Or Death Kit, I would say.) But I didn't know it. I didn't look down, but rather marveled at those curious, morbid, extreme thoughts I had – and thought myself lucky in not having to pay (in madness, in thickening despair) for being their vehicle. Lucky!
I was afraid of going mad. Now I've looked – I'm there. I'm not mad. I'm not even depressed being alone night after night in the apartment.

To feel the pressures of consciousness, to be informed, to understand anything, one must be alone. Being with people, being alone – like breathing in and breathing out, systole and diastole. As long as I'm so afraid of being alone, I'll never be real. I'm in hiding from myself.
The depression I feel when I'm alone is only the first layer. I can get beyond it if I don't panic. Sink down – let it happen. Listen to the words.


Personality

I perceive value, I confer value, I create value, I even create – or guarantee - existence. Hence, my compulsion to make “lists.” The things (Beethoven's music, movies, business firms) won't exist unless I signify my interest in them by at least noting down their names.
Nothing exists unless I maintain it (by my interest, or my potential interest). This is an ultimate, mostly subliminal anxiety. Hence, I must remain always, both in principle + actively, interested in everything. Taking all of knowledge as my province.

What I want: energy, energy, energy. Stop wanting nobility, serenity, wisdom – you idiot!


Ethics

Irene falling down from our fine flights of intellectual fantasy with a paranoid thud whenever a hint of ethical demand entered (as it naturally did for me).


Illness

Death is the opposite of everything.

Patient at Memorial: “Physically I'm fine, medically I'm not.”

Woman in Chicago (Jory Graham – columnist for Sun-Times (“A Time to Live”) - sidekick in my cancer minstrel show – telling (on Kup's show) how she was recently on a plane that lost an engine – how she panicked, though she tried to convince herself she was better off dying now, in 5 minutes, than going through the smelly, slow, agonizing hideous cancer death that awaits her soon – she wanted not to crash – she wanted her own death, the one she'd been working on, living with, getting reconciled (accustomed) to.


Philosophy

What we call nihilism (now) I simply thought. What thinking doesn't lead to nihilism?

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