The Portuguese custard tarts turned out looking clumsy and homemade, but tasted very good. Not as good as I remember though, that way in which the recalled is always elusive and unreachable. Theme of The Great Gatsby, a film that for me will always stay a book Can nostalgia be filmed?
“And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning——
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
The Great Gatsby, like Tender is the Night, is also a book about Scott Fitzgerald’s nascent alcoholism and the loneliness that lies at the heart of all kinds of emotional illness and addiction:
Fitzgerald: “You see I usually find myself among strangers because I drift here and there trying to forget the sad things that happened to me.”
While drinking hot coffee to ward off ice in the air this morning, I came across an article on loneliness, The Science of Loneliness: How Isolation Can Kill You and met up again with an old friend, Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, perhaps one of the wisest women who ever lived. This article on her work and attempts to show that loneliness and rejection can kill you just as smoking can kill you is so good I wish I could copy it out line by line.
Among analysts, Fromm-Reichmann, who had come to the United States from Germany to escape Hitler, was known for insisting that no patient was too sick to be healed through trust and intimacy. She figured that loneliness lay at the heart of nearly all mental illness and that the lonely person was just about the most terrifying spectacle in the world. She once chastised her fellow therapists for withdrawing from emotionally unreachable patients rather than risk being contaminated by them. The uncanny specter of loneliness “touches on our own possibility of loneliness,” she said. “We evade it and feel guilty.”
What characterises true loneliness is the inability to be close to another person, to let others get close to us. The fear and secrecy, the dependence on a substance that comes between us and others, the terror of intimacy that might lead to rejection or betrayal, the distrust of any kind of closeness and emotional claustrophobia, the sabotaging of ties and burning of bridges when faced with the possibility of intimacy, the unfamiliarity with sustained intimacy because we never knew it as children. Think what might go wrong! Intimacy is all about risk and that is why it is so hard. Social isolation, however. will kill us.
Fitzgerald: “I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others–young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life.”
For writers, loneliness is an occupational hazard — we spend too much time in the giddy unreal playhouses of the imagination, we depend too much on the vagaries of memory. I often think of the reticent poet Elizabeth Bishops writing to another poet Robert Lowell, ‘When you write my epitaph, you must say I was the loneliest person who ever lived,’ Matter of fact, not melodrama. The solitude needed for creative work can become a solitary prison with invisible walls. Fortunately in these days of the Internet, writers and poets find one another across distances and space: we can touch lonelinesses, as it were.
The hardest time to reach out is of course in times of crisis and I read newish bloggers on recovery and see that struggle. The old patterns of withdrawal and denial go so deep in all of us.
Fitzgerald: “The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.”
And to find intimacy often means change. I once went to speak with a spiritual director, an elderly priest who was ‘kind to a fault’, as others said. I must have touched a live nerve in him because he listened to me and then said brusquely: ‘Change your life. You’re frittering it away and spending too much time with people who don’t want you to change. Get some reality in there.’ Neither of us spotted the spectre of alcoholism, but I went away and simply tried to forget what he had said. What could an elderly celibate know about relationships? I put up the safety chain and lock on the front door of my flat and curled up on the sofa with a good book. And by destiny’s nudge or chance, I had picked up Rilke to read and this time I heard the command.
“Archaic Torso of Apollo”
by Rainer Maria Rilke
translated by Stephen Mitchell
We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,
gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.
Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast's fur:
would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.