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Amber Paulen

Stand Behind the Line

Ever since I began to whisper the word artist to myself I understood that from out under this word would come the ultimate explanation: for eccentricities, for will-driven daring, for misdirected rebelliousness, for great solitude, for social-misfittings. The word artist would work like a panacea and make all the idiosyncrasies more palatable to the average person. Not that I’ve indulged in name calling with any seriousness, I have only yet been a novice until I won’t be anymore. Though I have held a keen interest in breaking and re-creating certain “rules.”

This is the artist’s duty, I believe. It is the artist who ushers in new waves of thought years, even centuries, before certain philosophies hit the main stream. That is why writers such as Dostoevsky are timeless and those such as Henry Miller will always be writing about the present state of the world. Artists are immune to trends, even in their own genre; artists do not listen to what the critics say and if they do it is with inherent derision; artists trust nothing of rabble-opinion, the fleeting raptures of the masses are but natural phenomenon, like lightning. Artists, by dealing with their favored medium, cut with unusual patience, to the quick of life where there is nothing of greater importance than life itself.

The opposite of the artist would be, of course, the business magnate, the greedy-palmed politician and other such selfish-egoists of lesser rank: anyone who craves the sadistic pleasure in power (read: money) at any cost. These people, instead of cutting to the quick of life, cut off life at their own expense and the dear expense of those clamoring under them. Here it is the artist, I wager, who plays hero. It is the artist and other peaceful life-worshippers who can restore the good flow back to the source of life.

The artist is able to accomplish this incredible feat through the perpetual process of self-analyzation. It is the very near examination of one’s most subtle thoughts and feelings in relation to whatever may spring up as a trigger that can be applied like a balm to where the power-mongers and death-wielders have done the most damage. This is also an action of egoism but it acts as the negation of the selfish, for it is truly selfless.

There are many “rules” that greedy and self-inflated persons have erected, all clustering around the premise: No! You can not! This control is held over people by the conjuring of fear, which must make those at the top pat each other’s backs at how easy control was, after all. One of the rules divides and separates the world into us and them and moreover dictates where we can and can not go, how long we can stay, etc. Being a Westerner I don’t have it all that bad; but being a Westerner with itchy feet like a flame under my ass, I take it as a right that I may move freely place to place.

Where would Henry Miller be without Paris? DH Lawrence without Italy or Taos? Hemmingway without Spain? John Cowper Powys without the USA? Such is the great tradition of the wandering artist. What does it matter if I hole myself up and write for a couple years?

Documents! Visas! Papers! That’s what it matters. A bunch of fodder for the fire that don’t mean a thing.

Not like I bother with the “legalities” while I’m here, but in a week I’ll be stepping out and I want to come back in. After all, Bracciano is now my home. Not that my history points to this glitch being a problem, it’s just that the scare-mongers with their fear tactics have gotten my stomach worked up into an occasional flutter.

“Ha! I’ll show them,” my trusty gut still shouts. “I’ve got my powers of self-analyzation to quell any fear!”

Am I getting old? I wonder. Have I lost that fiery defiant spark? Have my ideals been traded in on a bad bargain? Am I getting comfortable? Comfortable. Comfortable. What’s wrong with feeling comfort? What’s wrong with my quiet happiness? Why does it slip in my mind’s eye, slip, slip away? Does it slip away? What of what I feel actually comes from me?

When I used to pass through immigration my nerves made no motions to quiver. I was an invincible entity who was simply enacting my duty as I felt my duty to be. I did not think of consequences. I had very little I was attached to. I was convinced in the transitory nature of everything, even myself as I came and went, came and went. If something happened it was meant to happen and who was I to reckon with divine causes and effects. I saw myself as a very small part of what happened to me, I knew that it came out of me, but my conscious living seemed detached from the important swirlings that were going on below my surface.

Now my ideas are nearer towards harmony. That sub-conscious swirling has calmed down, calmed enough for me to write, to feel pleased and content. The transitory nature of things does not fit when I’m working on a very real monolith, like a book; or when it does fit, it fits very slowly, very deliberately, like the gradual ascension of the sun to its summer zenith, barely noticeable day by day, but greatly satisfying after a warmer and warmer month. My time is ripe here, it is not time to go.

And this is the scare-mongers’ nastiest fear-tactic: the potential dissolution of one’s comfort.

What is comfort? Is it what I see around me day to day? The apartment, the cats, my typewriter, the solidity of my books, the old and crumbling building out my window, the view from the sentinella of snow peaked mountains? No, these sights and things are not comfort. Then comfort must come from within me. Yes, it reaches out and holds onto the things I see everyday and through their habituation do I gain a calmness in my being that has made my time here so ripe. The calmness can reach out to anything once it’s there and grow with anything. It can still hold the calm memories like the lake perpetually holds the sky. If I were to leave, this place would still be here and I would still be here with it.

I will invoke my old ways as I wait in the immigration line and stare down the power-mongers with eyes of defiance and under that defiance I will go one better and know that there is nothing, nothing that anyone can take away from me. Needless to say, my nervousness did not last long and has been instead replaced by an anger at how stupid it all is. Documents! Visas! Papers! Mama mia! We would do well with a world-wide bonfire.


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