Spreading fear and mayhem in the visual arts.

Das Leben der Anderen

Posted in Interna by Suzanne on December 18th, 2008 | BBC Wikipedia

© Suzanne G.

Why is it that when you're at work 11 hours, commute 2 hours each way (30 mins walking, 30 mins standing body to body, nice, 40 mins sitting, thank you, oh generous FirstCapitalConnect god, 20 mins trying in vain to squeeze into tubes/trains and having to give up and wait for the next one), you still don't get 9 hours of sleep?

Is it because you need to do all these pointless things like eating meals, unlacing shoes, unbuttoning coats, brushing those scary two lines of off-white pebbles stuck in your mouth called "teeth" twice a fucking day, putting eye drops in your reddened eyes that will go blind eventually, or cutting the nails of toes you feel so incredibly alienated from because you never ever look at them?

I really don't get it. Arithmetically, my life should be possible, yet I feel exhausted and increasingly jealous of other people's spare time. It's been months since I had coffee with my friend (it doesn't help that she lives on the other side of the Channel, of course), I can't go to the cinema without thinking I am wasting my time (which, sadly, is mostly the case), and going to gigs is just not an option anymore because I work on weekends.

But what pains me the most is that I can't go to exhibitions anymore or spend hours on end exploring the riches of old museum collections until being thrown out by a warden and crash on their timeless, majestic cold stone stairs, realising you've been walking around in there for 6 hours, feeling hungry and sickeningly dehydrated and breaking down in a flood of tears because of all the wonders you've just absorbed with your little, modern day eyes and understanding that this was only a tiny, tiny fraction of all the marvels your anchestors have crafted so skillfully and wisely. And at last coming to terms with the fact that mankind will never be able to create such work of ethereal beauty ever again. Because, we're like successfully extincting everything around us and eventually ourselves and stuff. I miss this roller coaster of emotions so dearly. I refuse to believe that some people find museums boring. There's absolutely nothing on earth that moves me and makes me tremble with awe more. Museums are the real churches.

Anyway, I commuted to most jobs I had in my life - sometimes up to 6 hours a day - but never into an insane hellhole like London. Maybe my body is still adapting, but judging from the long-time commuters' zombiesque appearances and watery eyes, it never will. I know how extremely fortunate I am to have a job in an industry (ha, don't I just love referring to the arts as "industry"!) where I want to spend pretty much the rest of my life, but it's frustrating when your robotic lifestyle doesn't allow you to be more creative. My mind has always been an insanely imaginative vessel - to the point where it puzzled and often even scared me. I'm incapable to feel boredom, just inspiration, amusement and excitement, and if my mind is left in peace for a little while, it turns into a creative and imaginative fireball. But when life turns automatonlike, these tendencies get silenced and sadly, that's what has happened to me and I'm left with the frustrating feeling that people around me fulfill the things I wanted to achieve in my life before me and conquer the exact same territories I planned to invade and stick my flag in a long, long time ago. But alas, my disadvantage is that I simply have no time and too much work. Possibly the two worst excuses in the history of mankind for not doing what one truly came here to do.

Ever since early childhood, I infused empty-minded friends with colourful ideas that they could then develop further and thus pretend to figures of influence or authority like teachers or elder students that they had an imagination of their own. I never minded it the slightest - I guess because at the end of the day, people with empty minds deeply frighten me for they're so susceptible to the wrong/extreme/violent kinds of ideas. Later in my teens, I turned into a proper idea machine, and it took me a long time to understand that at this point a few (now distant) friends profited vastly and financially from me.

Yet, I couldn't switch myself off. At the age of 17, I left home to spend a year abroad (about 20 mins from where I live now, strangely enough) and I made a drastic attempt to try to turn off my brain by going on a bizarre hunger strike that made my imagination even stronger, because I was so weak that I now also had to deal with hallucinations, insomnia and schizophrenia. Once the childish hunger strike had turned into a persevere anorexia, my mind even started to overproduce sensations and I vividly remember eating a Nairn's oatcake (a day) and my brain would fire away trying to analyze the million flavours of it and come up with a detailed analysis by the time I went to bed. My dreams were more esoteric, arcane and obscure than ever before and I felt almost like a walking mind attached to a ghostlike body. Close to the end of my stay abroad, I began to understand that one of the very few things that made my brain not overreact but actually calmed me down tremendously was reading dictionaries. 'Tis was the time I turned into a self-taught etymologist and decided to study archaeology. Because both of them seemed strictly historically determined, standardized and had a defined terminology. They didn't need my creative input. They made sense. So back then, I understood etymology as the archaeology of words and archaeology as the etymology of man-made things. But as always, I was oh so wrong.

And at this point, I must admit to you, my beloved reader, that I completely lost track of where I intended this little article to go. I simply can't remember. All I can remember right now is my German literature teacher giving me a really bad review on an essay I felt was the most emotional, innermost, most vulnerable thing I've ever written in my short life and I can still hear his voice saying (in German, obviously) when we analyzed what went wrong together: "Look... I know you can write. But there are too many thoughts in there... you need to focus, hold on to one thought at a time and drag it down with you before catching the next thought balloon. If you're really so afraid of losing one on the go, let me tell you that you might end up losing them all if you're not careful" and I walked out, sat down on the shore of Lake Lucerne and cried. Because there was more truth in what he had just said than anyone had taught me in decades. And I'm still struggling with it.

I always had the dream that when I'm old, I'll be one of those calm, quiet, wise women - full of knowledge, with a constant distant smile on my face. But I'm now realising that in order to get one's mind to such a state of reflective meditation, you need plenty of time for introspection and cognitive self-research. Not just when you're old, but throughout your entire life. You need distance - from others and from yourself. You need new, unseen places, new, untouched shores, new, unheard voices, new scents and tastes. And I so desperately want to meet them all.

I miss you, but I haven't met you yet...

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13 comments to " Das Leben der Anderen "

  1. Gravatar

    le vertico says:

    ...you are not alone...

    December 18th, 2008 at 8:14 pm

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    mordicai says:

    I can vouch for New York working out for me. I've got a place in Brooklyn, & my two long-term jobs have been at opposite ends of the spectrum. For the first I elected to walk to the right train, rather than transfer-- about a 45 minute commute. Now I take a local train direct to this job, rather than much about with transfers-- 40 minutes. The first example I was going againsts the commuter traffic-- always plenty of room. Now I go with the rush in the middle of rush hour, but I get a seat 99% percent of the time. I frankly like getting a chance to read.

    December 18th, 2008 at 9:19 pm

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    Troy says:

    Wow, didn't notice you on the boat, this S.S. employment-sucking-joy-out-of-life.

    I hope you can find some way of making it work. The world would be an immeasurably lamer place without your work.

    December 18th, 2008 at 9:24 pm

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    mooky says:

    mhhhhhhhh weisst du mein kleines, ich denke, dass du immer noch zuwenig zu dir selber sorge trägst. du musst den anderen dingsern nichts beweisen. dieser welcher deiner blog geht nicht kaputt wenn du mal nicht gleich jeden tag 7000 neue ausstellungen reinmachst. das teil mal zu vernachlässigen wär mal ein anfang.


    December 18th, 2008 at 11:20 pm

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    Thomas Anderson says:

    do you have any projects in mind that you would work on if you had the time?

    December 19th, 2008 at 1:20 am

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    Mer says:


    I don't know what to say except that you are one of the most luminous, wise, hilarious and thoughtful people whose brain I have ever had the pleasure of licking (if only via remote satellite). It hurts my heart more than I can say to hear you sound so exhausted and forlorn.

    Please let me be one (I would assume of many) to remind you that your hard work your ability to curate and share such a keen sense of wonderment, your self-portraits, your animated gifs and your whimsical storytelling, have ALREADY left an indelible mark on countless readers, friends, kin. That is not something I have ever taken for granted. I doubt anyone whose mind is not empty could ever be anything but profoundly grateful to have you in their life.

    You're just getting started. You are still vibrantly young, brilliant and full of joy and wonder. You will accomplish much, much more in your lifetime, I don't doubt it for a second.

    Sending gobs and gobs of pickled platypus hearts, deep abiding love and respect, and a cavalcade of singing, dancing rodents in tutus to you from across the sea.


    December 19th, 2008 at 2:48 am

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    Helen G says:

    Thank you for this post; you articulate brilliantly the soul-sucking, energy-draining monster that is living/commuting in London.

    I hope things improve for you.


    December 19th, 2008 at 12:23 pm

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    James Shearhart says:

    I've been hitting a few walls myself lately, and I have to say, you're not alone. But take comfort in the thought that your work here has meaning to many, that there are some that would never be exposed to the work that you present here, that someone somewhere woke up one morning and opened your blog and saw something that triggered an explosion of inspiration, and they immediately chucked everything and sat down and started to create....

    December 19th, 2008 at 3:31 pm

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    Suzanne says:

    Thank you all so much for your kind words. Long-time readers will know that I'm not very good at replying to comments, but rest assured that at least half of your comments have made me cry and wishing I could sit down with you lot with a steamy soya latte and talk the dark and cold away. There will be strength in this body and mind again - and it's thanks to people like you. x

    December 20th, 2008 at 12:21 am

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    peacay says:

    Museums are the real churches.


    May your crassMess be tolerable and your transport speedy. And/or vice versa.

    December 20th, 2008 at 4:17 pm

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    Cathy says:

    I totally "get" it. I "get it" because I also live it here in the states. The mind-numbing day-job that sucks the soul out of creativity. Rest assured it will get easier to strike a balance - I'm 53 and still going strong - I know you can do it! Holiday Hugs to you and Alex!

    December 20th, 2008 at 6:48 pm

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    Jessica says:

    Dearest Suzanne
    Listen to Mer, she knows of what she speaks.
    Even when brutally overworked you have a magnificently glowing brain seething with beauty and shooting off bright sparks. Even before I knew *anything* about the person whose lists of links I was devouring, you changed my life by bringing so many new and magical artworks into my world. What you are doing *matters*, deeply, to many of us...and what you WILL do, what you will accomplish, matters even more.

    December 22nd, 2008 at 12:36 am

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    snoring says:

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    August 23rd, 2013 at 6:43 am

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