You know how in the previous post I said I’ve been through a crisis induced by seeing a Beckett play live? I never really got out of it and that is why my blogging has been so scarce, as has been my writing of poetry and fiction. In Happy Days, the protagonist keeps talking to her empty surroundings, with no one to hear or care – except the audience, who gradually realise to their horror that their own lives are just as insignificant and meaningless as the life of the woman trapped in the desert. Although this production (Young Vic, February 2014) was fantastically staged and acted, I can’t say the experience was worth the £35 the ticket cost. Beckett is not to blame alone, but seeing this play was a major trigger for the spiral of nihilism I have spent the last few months in, on and off. Working in retail doesn’t help, either; I regularly succumb to brooding how useless it is for me to have to work every Sunday just so that other people could go shopping on Sundays and buy stuff they don’t really need and so that I could pay for my train fares to get to work and buy stuff I don’t really need and pay rent for a lovely flat with a beautiful large kitchen I can’t even sit in on Sundays eating pancakes and reading the Observer, and the further I allow this brooding to go the more likely I am to reach the conclusion that nobody’s life is worth living.
However, I have recently found some solace in reading the French existentialist writers; this brings together my francophilia and my anxieties, and reading Simone de Beauvoir in the original is great language practice. One thought that really struck me was by Jean-Paul Sartre, who reckoned (and I heavily paraphrase as I can’t find the actual quote) that we are condemned to have free will; the only thing we have no choice over is that we have responsibility over our lives. In other words, nothing in life is predetermined apart from the fact that nothing is predetermined. This is quite a scary thought, to be honest – if this is the case, you can’t blame an external force or destiny for anything. You can’t give up on your dreams by saying “It wasn’t meant to be,” because there is no one there who did or didn’t mean it to be. No one is out to get you (unless there’s an actual person you’ve pissed off – I mean metaphysical entities) and the perceived reality is all you’ve got to go with. And whether life is really worth living is beside the point; forget these philosophical questions and the sun will still rise tomorrow and everyone will still die in the end. Until then, we can’t escape the scary fact that we have free will.
(Speaking of francophilia and dying, I’ve translated the rest of Baudelaire’s beautifully necrophile poem A Phantom.)
The live poetry and music night Until the Light Goes Out is on again the 7th of July, featuring James P. Honey and We Used to Make Things. I’ll keep trying to write a new poem to read there :)