There are a number of things that have changed within me in the last 5 years. One was, of course, my break with religion and my slow reach towards agnosticism. I thank Joyce for that. ‘Portrait’ was the one thing that empowered me to destroy my old beliefs and build new ones – it is a thing because it is not simply a book to me – it strengthened me paradoxically like some weaker strain of religious conviction. I gave up on the god idea for humanist aesthetics at 21. And I thought I would be like that forever. That I had concretized my being into some definite enduring form.
But that was not true. Even my aesthetics, and my love of it, were subservient to something else – a politics. Re-learning, or perhaps unlearning this as well was another step. To relearn is something beautiful. To re-see, to revisit your old convictions and be embarrassed that you once held them so firmly, that you once thought that way, is precious. Quite often, we think we can define people analytically but we do not understand that people change and that change is absolutely natural and essential. Change is deep too and it isn’t explained in a few terse lines or a disposition. One must know why they’ve changed and defend it.
More than a year ago, I was casually Left, or Liberal-Left, if it suits illustration. Somehow I think I owe Noam Chomsky and Noami Klein for that. They were essential reading at the university. I also have to thank those traditionalist Eurocentric aesthetics, beamed into me since I was a small boy, for keeping me firm. These made me such that I couldn’t stand materialism and “contemporary corporate art” (I still can’t, often enough). In that way, I suppose I came to the political through the aesthetic. My scepticism about the merits of certain aesthetics kept me from subscribing to the overall political framework which engendered it. I am very glad.
Perhaps my anti-materialism was a remnant of my orthodox Christian beliefs. If so, I am very grateful to have known it. As I write this, I think of all the Christians who busy themselves chasing after shoes, looking up dresses and trying new cars and touching phones and who do not look on Christ the Cynic except for ceremony. Like many other followers, they practice and are satisfied without the theory. They are devoted to the floating symbol of their faith, not its message.
Anyway, another chapter has begun now. Re-discovering Marxism has been a spiritual journey, or rather a journey of the Spirit. Many people ask me how I can say that about something so cold, mechanical and exacting. They don’t seem to understand the basis of it. It is a way to help people; it is a way to help my people. It lays emphasis on the local and contextual and not some abstract globalism. New Marxism undermines prejudice and ancient manacles. It is the only system which gets down close to the “lowest of the low”; it is about justice – which for me – is emotional and spiritual.
Now I am re-discovering all the great art works and songs and poems and films by Marxians and I keep asking myself – where were they hiding all this while? It is me, of course, who like many others never gave due credit to these giants nor even knew about them because they were crowded out by the more self-loving and flamboyant (and thus marketable) heroes of the (mostly) Anglo-American pantheon. Actually, even many heroes I had from the old days were extremely political people but these are never things we should talk about. We should simply read and wonder about the word-smithy, about the narrative and the character development and should forget about their many-a-times Leftist politics.
Right now, this change is there, it will add another layer to my life further. It will deepen it. Having not learned my lesson, I think this is how I will remain for the rest of my life.