How great your appetite for life was, then! Existence seemed so rich in new possibilities.
—Michel Houellebecq, Whatever
You imagine that fatal moment, the moment that we never think about, the one when it all stops. Then you begin thinking about all those silly goals you had, publishing that great and terrible novel or the philosophical tract that would truly change and disturb the world of thought, and then you realize it will never happen; and, why should it? Why fill the world with more words? Have the billions of words spent already truly changed things for the better? Look at all the works published in our time, an ocean of words that seem to cry out for someone to read them, think them through, incorporate them into one’s ongoing projects. One would think that the earth itself were crying out to the universal silence seeking answer form the indifferent gaze of all those dead stars. As if a hundred million voices through all those books were saying: I’m here, I exist, I have something you must hear, must understand, my realize… listen to me, I know what I’m on about.
Yet, after years of reading, of plowing through the great dead, the classics, the patterns of light and dark, the hollows of real and unreal you begin to understand that no one truly understands a thing. How could they? What is there to understand? We’re born, we grow up, we study, we learn, we work, we raise our families, fall in love, do what humans do, and the all too early we decline into these bodies of death, these monstrous aging things that suddenly give way, fall apart, flow back into the cosmic dust. Then you realize that you’ve become a computer, processing reams of information, books, essays, academic treatises, music, reports, political and militant tracts – a thousand and one notes to the void. It’s too much, too many pieces of information, the complexity overwhelms you and you realize only a real machine, an intelligent machine with an infinite amount of time and energy could process the sea of words, this endless desert of words…
So you put that task down and return to the few books that mean something to you, spoke to you, gave you comfort, or disturbed your world just enough to terrorize your days, fill them with dread and horror. Books that made you anxious, the awakened you from your stupor, caused you to tremble before the meaning of life, the human condition. And, you were frightened, not because you could not find a meaning, but because the meanings you did find were so pat, so secure, bound to traditions of religious consciousness, philosophy, ethics – to the past… that sea of endless dead whose wisdom your supposed to succor, receive, make you own, incorporate into your flesh and blood. Become intimate with to the point that it and your are one. But this bothers you, makes you want to forget the whole enterprise. Why? Because you will never be yourself, you’ll never be unique, you’ll always be this multitude of others, this world of the dead walking in you. And you wonder if you are not already dead.
So you seek out books and people to forget yourself, forget the whole need for meaning, books and people you can hide in, lose yourself in. But what you discovered was books that broke your habits, made you realize just how automatic and repetitive your life had become, how you seemed to say the same trivial things – clichés of the moment to your friends, loved ones, office workers, etc., not because you didn’t care, but because it doesn’t matter, even to them. You discovered you were not you, you’d never even existed, you were a walking cliché – a creature filled with ideas and notions picked up from all those others, those dead who now inhabited your body, fed your soul, fed on your life, lived through you. But then it hit you: We’re all alone even in the midst of others, not being anyone we are everyone and no one. Then one day you meet someone, contact someone, touch the core of someone and realize a secret, an open secret. We are not alone, we are able to touch the core of an other, and this other is neither mirror or lamp of ourselves but unique in her own right, separate, alive. Through this realization you discover you do after all exist, you exist for an other. There in those few moments of intimacy, between this thing you are and that intimacy with the other, those moments when you and she open up and suddenly find yourselves in a new field of awareness, a new sphere of being as if together you were forming and shaping a new creature, bringing something into the world for the first time: a friendship, a love, a life.
In those moments something indefinable but real happens, something that cannot be put into words – a distance is overcome, an intimate contact with the core of an other. Is it an illusion, another of life’s delusions; or, is it real, actual. What is this strange event between two people, this break of the shell of being in two, an opening of one’s vulnerability, a weakening of the security web we all build up around us as protection from the pain of the world? What is it? How define it? Is it real? Is intimacy the open wound between two people that will not heal, a connection that remains allowing the blood of one’s being to flow freely in-between, comingling with the other forming and shaping an existence that is closer than time or breath? Do we not suddenly become ourselves in the other’s eyes? Shaped by a desire so innocent and real that it can never be undone? In that moment can we not say we truly exist for the first time?