The man of the world lives in nuance and by degrees, he lives in a mixture of light and shadow, in confused enchantment or irresolute mediocrity: in the middle. Tragic man lives in the extreme tension between contraries, going from a yes and no confusedly merged back to a yes and a no that are clear and clearly preserved in their opposition. He does not see man as a passable mixture of middling qualities and honest failings, but as an unendurable meeting of extreme grandeur and extreme destitution, an incongruous nothingness in which the two infinites collide.
But how does man become tragic man? And what does he gain by it? What he loses is evident: ease, forgetfulness, tranquil malaise, dull pleasures, a tender inconstancy, and an almost agreeable nausea, neither truth nor lies, but the illusion of both—a mystified life that some might charge is not a life, but that is a life of appearances one will do anything not to lose. But tragic man is one whose existence has suddenly become transformed: from a play of light and shadow it has become both an exigency of absolute clarity and an encounter with heavy darkness, the summons to a true speech and the trial of an infinitely silent space. Finally, it has become the presence of a world incapable of justice and offering only derisory compromise when it is the absolute, and the absolute alone, that is required: hence an uninhabitable world in which one is obliged to dwell. For tragic man, everything has instantly hardened, everything is the face to face of incompatibilities.
Geography tells its own story. Few ever listen to the countryside. Left to the devices of the city the electronic whirrs and the sounds of traffic, the countryside can seem uneventful. Rural areas force its residents to learn how to observe their surroundings. Such things happen gradually. Uniformity is important. Hence the matching clothes, the abandoned buildings, and the deep valley. Without updates it feels ancient. Humanity helps it gain a worn down feeling.
Light machinery keeps these places humming. Of course few hear the hums or recognize what it means. The individuals carefully tending to the locations off the beaten path notice. Barely used off the beaten path places require usage of the road less traveled. Yes it makes all the difference for an outsider. For the insiders the road less traveled remains the only road traveled. They were never given a choice. Born into a world without excitement the idea of excitement can be far too much. Individuals hide away forever in the emptiness of the land hoping to hide in plain sight. Due to conference goers the hiding ones succeed. It is easy to hide when nobody is looking.
Villages celebrate their dead. Given nice proper gravestones the villages fail to acknowledge the living. Many times the living try to make themselves heard in these quiet locations. Raising their voices is not necessary. The quiet is enough that a simple statement goes a long way. Without noise to cut through it can be an inside or outside voice it does not matter. Urban dwellers cannot handle such great marks of natural beauty. A mountain shocks an individual who spent a life in the city. To any city dweller the idea that nature can dominate is a foreign concept. Humans have spent millennia trying to subvert nature. Only in a few places have they succeeded. The land rules the land in the underpopulated villages of the planet. For the underpopulated villages have to listen to the land they have no choice.
Authentic is a real experience. Individuals who listen to what is true are considered authentic. Unfortunately authentic is a word that has been misused over the course of history until it has reached its present day meaning of successful marketing campaigns to reach key demographics. Rulers have tried to hit that authentic sweet spot opting to enforce their own sense of fairness. Out in the country money means little. Communities have come to form specific sets of rules outside the usual to create ecosystems rather than the typical extraction of value.
Pulses of the cities become saw tooth in the countryside, dulled by transmission waves. The awareness is impossible to ignore when given enough silence.
Thank you Beach Sloth.
There might be a copy or two left of “Cambium”. If you would like to read it, I can send you a pdf.
Sara or The Existence of Fire (Horse Less Press, 2014)
Art by Aidan Koch.