I’m not sure where I was when I cut cut and pasted the following into my mind map:
“Acedia is an occupational hazard among men of learning that takes the form of a gradual withdrawal of motivation for research and an increasing alienation from science.
During the Middle Ages acedia had only a religious meaning. At that time the word stood for sloth, the fourth cardinal sin, the state of not caring about one’s salvation. With the separation in the Renaissance between scholars, clergymen, and artists, it becomes appropriate to speak of secular versions, a scientific acedia, and an artistic Acedia.
The assumption that acedia is primarily a sociological phenomenon has been made by Robert K Merton, who treats it as a case of anomie; it is retreatism. The man affected by acedia, in this view, becomes the hobo of science; he rejects both the cultural goals and the socially acceptable means to achieve them.
The affected can keep the image of creativity for an equally long period after the onset of his acedia; the light from the dead star is seen on earth a long time after it has actually faded. If the acedia is cured in the meantime, few people may ever have noticed it.”
Luckily some attachments linger, strut and fret for attention given a moment’s leeway. They don’t vaporize or ghost. They phone. They text out of the blue and one is moved or one is urged to contribute, to communicate, to join the fray. To make a showing, a mark, to invest, or one might just disappear. At least as a hermit when you do go out people aren’t utterly sick to death of the sight of you.
I’m still seizing up when I begin to write, an unpleasant tension. A shortness of breath comes and a sense of vastness too, of impending task. perhaps senseless. The sunny day is chopped up into a chore list for the sense of control that gives, for the betterment of things and the future of things. Hear the revving of power tools and devices as we shunt each hour through scanners and customs for viability. Do not consider the denials and rebuttals and dismissals at the borders of consciousness.
The best music is spring bird song, the music of territory and courtship, thrall, full, instinctual engagement. I feel that thrall when I paint, but not when writing. When I write I too often feel a measure of disdain, become a misanthrope observing myself touching up a selfie. I indicate sensitivity, self portray intensity, chart refinement, fever, chill, corruption, monotony, besottment. I focus too much on the object and not the background that composes it. I weigh here the literally pronounced written persona against the one implied by the visual diary.
I sometimes feel like I am putting all of what I feel and know about the earth into painting a part of it, mark making in my cave. A painting is a little reality I can for awhile inhabit and control. Looking at it later, finished, I recall my retinal sensations, a general mood.
I feel like I’m painting with liquid money when I paint in oils. For the last year or so I’ve pared back to working only in monochrome with pencils and black and white acrylic gesso. These were grey paintings, without lustre, dry surfaced, their only luxury an unevenly utilised, obsessive, luxury lot detail.
I try to avoid the saccharine, false sweetness, also the entertainment contrived to shock, to appoint a shocking virtue in myself. One is perhaps living a full life of sins of omission.
The inherent gesture, impulse, at any given moment of mine, painting, is to replicate, or to equate. To create a sensual equivalent.
I’m always aware of the chaos threatening the paint table, the precarious colonial French easel.
Not having to share studio with another artist means I don’t get to share studio with another artist. The flourishing, the drawing back or away, the pouring and draining.
Solitude in safety, in comfort, is luxury. I’ve acres of room alone, winter stillness, the boughs and the thread of vigilant smoke. I’m always conscious of wax and wane and remembering to clear the solar panels. The archaic fire and the old fashioned chores. The ram and bull of the snow plough. The phones sucking the light out of the sockets. General knowledge. The bird book, the farmer’s almanac, Carl Jung and Proust. The shovel and the axe and the ice and the clanging propane tanks
I got so I couldn’t answer an email, some of you know this. I wrote a blog post called “I could have disappeared” and I never posted it for the longest time.
A grown man, I still sit at dusk in the summer and hear a single car roll by on the main road; it takes a couple minutes.
My grandparents first places are a few gravel roads away. We pass the graveyard, their last places and mine, on the way into town sometimes if we take the fingerboard road.
Still here then. You have to beware of nostalgia, sentiment, the tendency to romanticise the past. Better to seek current sensation and reasoned feeling.
I listen to “Settin’ the Woods on Fire” remembering first hearing the song as a child, old Hank Williams, lonesome and blue. I can see the 78 rpm album spinning and hear my aunts sing along, practicing the yodelling hiccup he’d perfected, the catch in the throat, the arrhythmia of excited heartache and precarious affection.