Ain’t No Saint

by Yule Heibel on November 16, 2005

Two people recently observed, after we first chatted about the weather and dogs and the cost of living, that I haven’t been blogging lately, and then this morning Stu Savory sent an email with the same observation…

Hi Yule,
long time no write.

Unlike yours truly, Stu is a man of few words, which he, however, manages to crank out at an even clip, accented in full Scots, no doubt. I, on the other hand, am usually wordy. When I get the way I have been lately, though, I seize up entirely.

Making up for the terse comment, Stu sent along a very cool map by Timothy Stotz, which diagrams influences in European art. Thus:

Thank you, Stu, for checking in and for sending that great diagram!

Funny getting that link sent to me today, though, for I had been trying to remember a somewhat similar (if simplified) diagram showing modern art connections, which I had concocted while at UBC. I was inspired by other (still simpler) diagrams that tried to explain a “genealogy” of art, but my diagram was far more complex than those (if less complex than Stotz’s). I remember the backroom study-carrell section of the Fine Arts Library, and I remember carefully unrolling what was essentially an oversized scroll to show my friends, who were thrilled by it. I remember, too, that it was drawn like a tree with roots and branches going out in various directions, but with many connections and influences implicated through the various leaves and twigs — and fruits on top, worms and critters below!

But I can’t remember the actual content, except that it was focussed on 19th and 20th century art.

So… I called this entry “Ain’t No Saint” for a reason: I haven’t been writing because I have been getting too angry to write anything without sounding like a creep. I’m having one of those Dorothy Parker or Karl Kraus moments (“I love humanity, it’s people I can’t stand” — something along those lines), except that this is threatening to turn into more than a moment. I’m so angry at someone I deal with, for example, that I’ve developed nearly chronic lower back pain, which I attribute perhaps to poor ergonomics, but more particularly to pure hatred. Let’s call said individual “X.” If X were a simpleton, X would be forgiven, for I am not unkind. But X is a very gifted individual, possessed of great intelligence, yet X is manipulative and devious and unnecessarily cagey, and so I hate X. X is not a dumb animal, but a political one. X is best avoided, but due to various commitments, I cannot avoid X. I am so chagrined by X that it only takes a slight trigger — an email, some reminder — to set me off and have my free mental disk space whirring and humming with thoughts of mayhem.

In addition, there is so much going on right now — and with my murderous designs on X oversaturating my mind, that “so much going on” looks increasingly vicious, as though it were a mirror reflecting my imbalances back to me. I should be meditating and tinking happy tawts, but instead I’m building a kiln in my backyard to fire the bricks that will raise my prison higher.

The particular way this has infected my blogging is to make me realise that even my critical writings here (not to mention my rants or wide-eyed “gosh!” type musings) were all based on what essentially is a kind of optimism, or at least a confidence in myself, and that my X-ed out joy has diminished my ability to feel confident in any sphere whatsoever. It’s as though the colour has gone from things, and everything is gray on gray, which is very strange because just before my path was crossed by X, I felt very confident about extending connections between what I do online and what I do in my immediate world. I had even begun communicating (virtually, via email) with someone nearby, a person associated with an organisation I’m associated with, about building online communities and what it means to link them to real people and projects “on the ground,” having those communities overlap. But I feel now that very often the online world is the “saintly” one where you have virtually pure relationships with people, while in the real world, real people’s baleful will to power, fixed on real objects, intervenes in a way that can’t compare to what happens virtually. Bad things do happen online, too, but there’s nothing virtual to compare with real breath breathing down your real neck.

At least that’s how it feels right now. Perhaps all that time in the UBC Fine Arts Library — not to mention the endless hours in all the Harvard Libraries (Fogg, Houghton, Widener, etc.) — has rendered me unfit for the “real” world. I’m happier with ideas, and diagrams of influence, with books and all those other trappings of virtual reality (of which books and art are prime examples).

And so, while saints don’t wear socks, but we non-saints do, I shall try to pull myself up by my socks, put my runners on, and hightail it back to all things virtual. Maybe that’ll help me to snap out of my “crossed” X-ish mood.

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