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Saturday, October 18, 2008


I must break with my pattern for a day. Israel may come tomorrow. I wish to think out loud.

There is a phenomenon that is common to all great works of art, be they books, or paintings, or games of chess. I do not think this phenomenon has a name yet, so I will give it one. I shall call it the Detritus Phenomenon.

When the great statue stands, finished at last, so real it nearly breaths and so glorious it blots out the sun, it is surrounded by cast-off, by waste, by small pieces of rock, or clay, ground into the floorboards by the passage of uncaring boots. This cast-off material, this detritus, is endless. The weight of it grows greater until it fills the nest of the creator and he no longer bothers to throw it away. A thousand lost sentences for every one published, dried paint scraps and ruined prints, expensive ink and paper discarded because they were not good enough, were fouled by dust, or were touched by the ghost of impurity. In the end, to create greatness, we must also create detritus.

A spotless home, a swept floor, a well-organized desk, even a clean background check: These are the greatest tragedies of mankind. Does man believe that this detritus goes away when he discards it? If you move it from one place to another, does it mean you have become clean, or only that your mess becomes another’s? It takes so much energy to move detritus, so much time, that we must eventually choose between two imperfect options.

We may leave the detritus be and become mad,

Or we may move it away from us, and become less.

Let us embrace the schizophrenic dorm room, the scraps of paper covered in dust, the scattered notes, the books bent out of shape, the unmade bed, even the wastebasket overflowing with tissues, used condoms and junk mail. Let us embrace the studio apartment with more paint on the floor than on the canvas. Let us embrace the worst writing of man, left scattered across the four winds of the internet, assaulting us at every turn. There is no escape.

To create beauty, you must embrace madness.

Insanity shall be our gift to man.

Detritus defines us.

1 comment:

Marcus Tullius Tiro said...


I shall never cease to be amazed by your ability to so eloquently defend the act of wallowing in one's own filth.

It is funny to see, though, that many a great art exhibit has been composed entirely of the detritus you describe. Only, there, the detritus is presented as a means of better understanding the creative process, of how the artist came to what we know and love. Funny, how we can often learn more about people by what they throw away, rather than what they keep.